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Word up to my girl Mandy who performed beta duties and calmly pointed out that Miss Patty and Miss Sally are not one and the same.
"I don't think about it," Chris says.
"I think about it all the time," Toby says.
Chris leans his elbows on his knees, clasps his hands between them. Across the desk Sister Pete is looking at him, expectantly, waiting for him to elaborate. He smiles. She doesn't smile back.
They are doing this again. His sessions with Sister Pete have an alarming recidivism. One step forward two steps back - the Toby dance.
Which is fine by him. He could talk Toby all day.
"Not - seriously..." he says. "You know - at night when I can't sleep?"
She arches an eyebrow. "Fantasy?"
"Yeah," he nods. He has fantasies that would blow her mind. "Yeah, fantasy."
"I had this dream," Toby says. More like a nightmare. He meets Chris in a back alley behind a seedy bar, the kind the mob used to run in the fifties. There's broken glass and something that looks suspiciously like blood on the sidewalk. He's trapped between Chris and the wall with his pants open and his cock in Chris's hand. Chris jerks him off, bites his shoulder, devours his neck. In the dream Toby is screaming and he can't work out whether it's in terror or delight. It ends with lights shining on them and it might be the cops or it might be Genevieve. The dream doesn't last long enough for him to find out.
He can't even get off in his dreams. Not surprising.
"Everything is like it was on the outside - only Chris is there and a part of me knows he's not supposed to be," he says. "It never ends well."
Sister Pete looks sympathetic. "Dreams have a habit of turning on you. One moment you're somewhere peaceful - somewhere in your memory that's safe and familiar - and then suddenly you're at school in your pyjamas."
Toby laughs. "I used to dream of showing up for meetings without my files. I'd be in the middle of a presentation and I wouldn't know what I was talking about. Thank god, I was never a trial lawyer."
Sister Pete leans her head to one side. "Did you ever want to be?"
"Sure," he says. Every law student expects to be in court one day. He imagined it was something he'd experience in the future, after he'd made his millions in corporate law. Maybe then the law would give him purpose, make him something more than a cog in the machine. "I guess so."
"We're getting off the point." Sister Pete rubs her temple, looks at the notes in front of her. "What I'm getting at is, have you thought about what would have happened if you met Chris Keller outside of Oz?"
"I met lots of guys like him," Chris says.
"Educated?" Sister Pete says, sounding disbelieving.
"Lawyers," Chris says.
Sister Pete rolls her eyes. "That's not surprising."
Chris has lost count of how many lawyers he's met. He met his first lawyer when he was fifteen. He fucked his first lawyer when he was seventeen - pretty girl who pleaded for a suspended sentence and cried when she (he) didn't get it. She told him she'd come and see him in prison and she did for a while. Within a year she was gone, never heard from again.
He met another lawyer in a bar. A very good lawyer, it turned out, and Chris knew how to cultivate a friendship. He called on him whenever he got into trouble - which was often - and paid his bills with sexual favours. He was a sick fuck too. Used to like watching Chris fuck his secretary while he drank tea served on a tray with a single stemmed rose in a small vase. Always a rose. Always tea. Different folks, different strokes, Chris supposes, but there's something a lot more honest about good old fashioned one on one.
His last lawyer was court appointed. Not very pretty and not very smart. Hence the result.
"They're not as smart at they think they are," Chris says. "Except Toby - he's smart."
"Yes, he is," Sister Pete says. She pauses. "And so are you."
"Yeah," he says. It's not like he's unaware of how good he is at fucking people over, but Toby has words, power at his fingertips. "Toby does stuff - he makes things happen. I could've used him at my trial - might have ended up somewhere a lot nicer than this."
"Then you would never have met him."
"Yeah." Chris laughs. "Ironic, isn't it?"
"Toby isn't a defence lawyer, anyway," Sister Pete says.
"So I would have met him somewhere else," Chris says.
"A bar," Toby says. "The 7-11, the gas station... This guy I knew from college runs a community law centre. He meets guys like Chris all the time." Toby met Larry in bars frequented by his clients. He wore jeans and Toby wore suits and they looked like old friends whose lives had diverged - which they were but it looked more clich than it was. Toby's success was mostly superficial and Larry's ethics were shady when it came to payment. He wasn't above taking cocaine as tender for his services. Especially when he knew where to sell it for top dollar.
Once, Larry asked him to take a client. "Pro bono," he said. "Looks good on your resume."
"I'm not a defence lawyer," Toby told him.
Larry waved a hand dismissively. "Criminal law, civil law - It's all about keeping your client out of trouble. You just do it in a board room instead of a court."
He laughed. "That's not true and you know it."
"The foundations are the same," Larry said. "And I'd hate to think you'd forgotten everything about criminal procedure since you stepped out of Harvard."
Deep down, he knew Larry was right. It wasn't experience holding him back.
"Six degrees of separation," Sister Pete says, interrupting his thoughts.
"What?" Toby blinks.
"The idea that there's only six degrees of separation between any two persons. I'm sure that number reduces if you live in the same city."
One degree of separation. Toby to Larry, Larry to Chris - it could have been that easy.
"There was a bar around the corner from the law centre," he says. "They poured the bourbon straight from the bottle. No measures. Larry handled the bar's legal problems and in return they managed his liquid needs."
He imagines Chris walking through the worn wooden door of the bar, pushing it open saloon-style, like he's in a Western. All heads turn to check out the new arrival. He nods at Larry, catches Toby's eye and smiles that smile of his that tells you he's up to no good but you're going to like it anyway.
"So you meet him a bar," Sister Pete says. What do you say to each other?"
Chris says, "Nice suit."
Toby says, "Thanks," and his hand drifts to his thigh, unsure of whether to protect his wallet or his balls.
Chris isn't overly suggestive but there's an unmistakable directness in his manner, the way he looks at Toby even when he's talking to Larry, the way he takes a swig of Toby's drink, frowning as he tastes cheap bourbon.
Toby is defensive, caught off guard in his curiosity. He's nineteen again trying to catch the attention of the pretty History major with the dark bangs and the thin-lipped smile. A good thing Genevieve was more nervous than he was or she'd have lost interest before he could ask her out.
He was confident in other areas. He devoured lesser corporate legal types for breakfast, washed them down with a fine merlot and a cigar. He didn't think of himself as a sexual animal.
"He picks me up," he tells Sister Pete. "But he makes me think it's my idea."
She nods. "He gets inside you."
"Like a shrink."
Sister Pete waves a hand dismissively. "He likes to be the show - not the audience."
Toby understands. Chris is a narcissist, constantly watching himself reflect off those around him. Still, Toby feels the need to defend him. "He's patient," he says. "He waits."
"He is." She nods, conceding the point. "Tobias - you were married for ten years. In that time were you ever adulterous?"
He broke up with Genevieve twice before they were married. He dated other girls during that time. He slept around, found there were plenty of women willing to spend a night with a well-dressed and successful young lawyer - girls who demanded nothing afterwards, just the thrill of an intellectual conquest. He was promiscuous once, but he was always a faithful husband.
"No," he says.
"So you meet Chris in a bar? Do you change all that for him?"
"Adultery," Chris says. "Sounds like where you keep your adults."
"Were you faithful?" Sister Pete says. "When you were married?"
"Sure," he says. Sister Pete raises her eyebrows. "You don't believe me?"
She runs her finger across her chin, thinks about her answer. "I'd be surprised," she says, evenly.
Chris grins. He likes to surprise. "You religious types - you think sex only takes place in the bedroom. You know, behind locked doors."
"As opposed to...?"
"You can have sex with anyone anywhere - but you can only ever be in love with one person at a time."
Sister Pete looks skeptical. "So you're saying, you slept with other people while you were married, but you weren't in love with them so it didn't matter?"
Chris wants to tell her sleeping had nothing to do with it - but that's too obvious. He contemplates telling her that he never did it for his own selfish pleasure. He used sex as bargaining tool, sex as a weapon, sex as a point of reasoning. Bonnie understood, Kitty knew a thing or two about sex as a weapon. Angelique, however, was a demon when she was in a jealous rage. She burned his leather jacket once - set fire to it in front of him while he was trying to watch TV. When he tried to put it out, she went to the fridge, took two cans of beer and poured one after the other on the blaze. It worked. He was angry but she was unapologetic. She stormed out and stayed with her sister for a week.
Angelique was a hellcat with long legs and small tits. It makes him hot just thinking about her.
It would never have worked with Angelique. Angelique lived in the middle of her own soap opera. Too much like him.
"You make it sound so dirty," he says.
"So you're in a bar," Sister Pete says. "And you meet Toby - happily married with three children. Would you ruin that for him?"
"He's not happy," Chris says.
"He's a fucking drunk," Chris says. "He's not happy."
He meets not-so-fucking-happily-married Toby some time after his sixth shot of Jack Daniels. He meets him in a bar he used to go to when he needed to fuck someone or fuck someone over. He likes money and influence. He likes women in suits with black lingerie underneath, men who flirt with him and buy him drinks. He dresses up real nice sometimes. He doesn't wear a suit but he puts on a leather jacket and wears tight Levis and they thinks he's some fag's boyfriend - pretty, but not bright enough to be challenging. He doesn't mind. He's their weakness and it works for him.
He is drawn to Toby - maybe because he's drunk, maybe because he knows a pushover when he sees one. Maybe he sees something that no one else can - something about to spark. Toby is alone. Drunks don't care about company. He looks like he could be waiting for someone or having that one last drink after a friend has left. He fits in, no one wonders why he is here or questions the fact that he's here every night.
Chris parks next to him and says something. Maybe he asks after some name he's made up, something innocuous that will become inconsequential fast. Toby looks at him like he's surprised to hear Chris speak. He tells him he's never heard of Chris's made up friend.
Chris says something along the lines of "Well I guess I'll just have to wait - mind if I sit here?" Toby moves in worldly circles. He'll wonder if he's being picked up but he'll be too numb to do anything about it. Chris draws him out, makes him talk about himself. Toby talks about his job, his wife who doesn't understand him, his life which seems out of his control. Chris makes him feel like he understands.
"So let me get this straight," Sister Pete says. "You just walk into a bar, start talking to him and he goes home with you."
Chris shrugs. "It could happen."
"But it doesn't?"
"Not like that."
He asks himself if he would have loved Toby if he hadn't so defiantly survived in Oz, fucked off the number one fucker in the place and lived to smile about it. Would he see that in the drunk in the suit, nursing his Jack Daniels like it's a childhood toy? He knows this is what Sister Pete is asking him; whether it's the situation that made them lovers, or something else. Something enduring.
"How does it happen?" Sister Pete asks.
An hour or two later he touches Toby's arm, makes it clear that his intent is more than just a friendly drink Toby looks at him, looks at the place where Chris is touching his arm. Says, "I'm not into that."
He says he's not into that either - or maybe he doesn't because this is Toby and everything is different with Toby. Chris tightens his grip, does something stupid that frightens Toby away. Maybe he tries to kiss him, touches his neck or hair. Toby recoils, looks at Chris with eyes wild. A warning: Don't fuck with me.
Chris lets him go.
The next day he watches from outside, waits to see if Toby shows up again. When he does, he turns around and goes home. He does this for a week, maybe two. Waits to see if Toby comes looking for him and leaves him alone when he does.
"He has to want it," he tells Sister Pete. "It has to be worth wanting."
When he finally does follow Toby inside, he'll notice the relief on Toby's face when he sees Chris, the way he breaks into a smile for a moment and then quickly hides it away as he tries to keep his desire concealed.
He'll say, "I wondered if you were coming back," and Chris will smile and sit down beside him at the bar.
"He plays games," Toby says. "Push-me, pull-you, streets and lanes, sidewalks and buses..."
"Swings and roundabouts," Sister Pete says.
"Yeah," Toby laughs, wryly. Chris would be the kid in the playground who continually spun the roundabout while the other kids sat back and enjoyed the ride. Of course, one day he wouldn't show up and everyone would be painfully aware of how they couldn't get by without him. He is selfless only when it is self-serving. An irony of ironies.
He meets Chris in a bar and before he realises what he's doing, he's working out ways to meet him again. Chris is an enigma, beautiful, confident and intense. There is no one like Chris in his world. No one with his ease and purpose, the way he says something like, "how about you buy me dinner?" and knows the answer will be "yes."
Toby tells himself it's just dinner, two guys bonding over something to eat. He's always been good at rationalising his behaviour: he drinks because he's under pressure at work, because he's letting off steam at the end of the day, because his clients expect him to have a good time at their expense or because he needs the boost it gives him. Because it's his money and it's his own fucking business what he does with it.
"You haven't answered my question," Sister Pete says.
"I'm sorry." Toby blinks. "What were you asking?"
"You're a faithful and loving husband, Tobias. Would you give it all up for him?"
It's the wrong question. The real question is whether he would remember he had a wife once Chris hooked him in. Toby's life before Oz was a daze, a monochromatic dream he woke from the moment Kathy Rockwell hit the windshield of his car. Chris is a beacon, a bright light above a solitary doorway saying, "This Way Out."
"In a heartbeat," he says.
He takes Chris out to dinner, takes him somewhere his friends would never be seen, somewhere with generous portions and proprietor whose husband is out the back in the kitchen preparing today's specials. It would be intimate and warm and completely without pretension.
Afterwards they stand on the sidewalk out the front while Toby contemplates his next move and Chris kisses him, right there where everyone can see.
They go to a hotel because they both have wives. Toby pays cash and the desk clerk doesn't blink.
And there will be a point, somewhere between the lobby and the room that Toby will say, "I've never done this before," and Chris will smile and kiss him again, hands either side of his neck, thumbs brushing against his lobes. He'll say, "I know," and it will make everything all right.
"Tobias," Sister Pete says, wearily. "At what stage in this fairytale romance does it dawn on you that this man is dangerous?"
The image of he and Chris alone in a hotel room disappears and he is replaced by and image of Chris and Schillinger in the gym waiting for him, killer whales waiting for the krill to swim into their jaws, laughing the whole time.
Sister Pete leans her head to the side trying to catch his eyes. "Toby?" she says. "What happens then?"
"You think he can't take it?" Chris says. He scratches his chin, rubs his fingers against the stubble, enjoying the feel of wire-sharp hairs stabbing his skin. He needs a shave - needs a shave, a shower and if he's lucky a few moments alone to jerk off while he remembers Angelique. No chance of any of those things happening in the immediate future - unless Sister Pete takes a toilet break. "You think he'd go running home to the safety of his wife and kids - lock the doors, change his cell number, disappear somewhere so I'd never find him? You think he's that scared?'"
"You never saw him when he arrived," Sister Pete says.
Chris wonders if she's right. He remembers Sister Pete never had a complete account of his activities on the outside. A sensible man would run if he found out, and on the outside Chris has friends and enemies alike who would ensure Toby found out.
"Maybe he'd run," Chris says. "At first."
Toby would disappear out of his life for weeks, possibly months. Chris doesn't chase him. He waits, kills time by seducing someone who reminds him of Toby, someone important - a Senate candidate maybe. He fucks the candidate in the bathroom of a diner right next to his office, collecting two one-hundred dollar bills in the pocket of his jeans for his trouble. He never asks for money but he never says no.
Maybe he goes crazy, seduces anyone with a pulse - bartenders, nurses, firemen, tourists, politicians, drug addicts - anyone who's game. He lets it happen, lets whoever wants him, have him and it doesn't bother him if they're Jane or Jim because it's Toby he really wants and Toby changes everything.
And then Toby comes back - pounds lighter, his hair lank, a three-day growth instead of his usual clean-shaven jaw. Toby is a desperate man, full of addictions and compulsions. He is single-minded with his eyes constantly on the prize. It makes him a great lawyer. It makes him an even greater lover.
Toby comes back to Chris, defying the voice of reason in his head that tells him Chris will be the death of him, the same voice that tells him he shouldn't drink and drive.
He has Chris out of the bar and into the nearest hotel, a "no room service, no questions asked" deal, and he doesn't even notice the cigarette stains on the carpet or the 40-something hooker who passes them on the stairs and winks at Chris.
Toby throws Chris on the chenille covered bed, gets Chris's jeans to his ankles faster than Chris can reach for Toby's tie and pull him into an open mouthed and hungry kiss. He fucks Chris, his eyes fixed on Chris's cock as Chris strokes himself to his own climax.
"He comes back?" Sister Pete's voice cuts into the fantasy. "Eventually."
Chris shifts in his seat. His thoughts have shifted his libido into 'drive' and his cock is nudging his jeans, vying for a less encumbered position. He wonders whether Toby will be in the pod waiting for him when he's finished.
"With both eyes open," Chris says.
"I don't care," Toby says.
He doesn't fucking care.
He doesn't give a damn where Chris has been, who he's been with, what he's done and to whom. Chris is like bourbon, warm and dark and encompassing. It's the thought of him, the idea that doesn't lie even when he does. There is nothing in his life as real as Chris - never has been, never will be. That's fucked up right there but he knows he couldn't stop if he wanted to.
"I don't believe that," Sister Pete says.
Toby laughs. Sister Pete is completely transparent. She wants him to see the peculiarity of his situation, to remind him that one day he will walk out of Oz and he will need to remember who he is on the outside.
The things is, there isn't anything to remember. A haze clouds his thoughts every time he thinks of the drunk he used to be. Underneath the haze is the knowledge that he was soulless before he lost his soul.
Maybe this is who he is: this guy. In Oz. "Maybe you don't know me as well as you think," he says.
"I know you love your children," she says. "Would you want someone like Chris in their life?"
"I love kids," Chris says. "Bonnie always wanted kids. I wish I'd given them to her."
"You want to be a father?" Sister Pete says.
"Sure," he says. "Why not?"
"What was your father like?" Sister Pete says.
Shrinks. Always have to bring it back to the parents. "I don't know. He cleared out. Left me with mom." Mom remarried a year after his father left. His stepfather beat the crap out of him. Chris stayed at school, stayed with friends, hung out the front of the corner deli with a group of kids who had similarly unpleasant domestic situations - anything to avoid going home to a stepfather who punched him about the face and a mother who didn't care. Eventually he stopped going home altogether. Never looked back. "My stepfather was an asshole," he says. "But you probably figured that."
"It's a common scenario amongst prison inmates - yes," she says. "But you can see how important the parent's relationships are to the future development of the child."
Chris tries to imagine meeting Toby's children, little wide-eyed miniature Tobys looking up at him expectantly not sure whether to speak or wait until they are spoken to. He'd give them candy and tell them to go play outside while he fucked their dad - or something to that effect.
When he imagines having kids with Bonnie he imagines a child of about eleven, a kid with street-smarts and attitude who looks up to his father when he looks up to no one else. To this kids he's dad of the fucking century. Pure fantasy of course. He was never going to feature prominently in some kid's life. Best thing he could do for any kid is get the fuck out of the picture. Maybe that's what his dad was thinking.
Toby isn't like that.
"I'd work it out somehow," Toby says.
"Toby, do you really think..."
"You keep telling me people can change. You just want me to change your way." He throws up his hands. "What the fuck is this all about anyway? Chris and I - we're not on the outside - we're in Oz. Who cares what happens outside?"
"You do," Sister Pete says. "You have responsibilities on the outside. You're up for parole soon and you're going to be released. You know this."
Freedom is an abstract idea. Something Toby refuses to think about while there's so much in Oz that needs his attention: the Brotherhood, Schillinger, Chris. Easier to fantasise in the small hours of the night when he's awake, listening to the sound of Chris's breathing. Easier to invite scenarios that are completely without foundation. Chris against a wall, his jeans open, his cock in Toby's mouth and his hands in Toby's hair. His knees are either side of Toby's shoulders and he's rocking slightly, saying, "Fuck, Toby, Christ..."
Isn't that what fantasy is all about? Anything to get through the night. Cross the parole bridge when you come to it.
"What do you want from me?" he says.
Sister Pete doesn't tolerate his being obtuse. She rolls her eyes. "This is about what you want."
"I don't know what I want."
"He figures it out," Chris says.
"He does?" Sister Pete looks sceptical.
"Yeah." Chris says. "Or maybe it figures itself out. Some things just work, you know?"
Sister Pete raises her eyebrows. "Like destiny?"
"I don't believe in destiny," Toby says.
Sister Pete drums her fingers on the desk while she thinks. "So you think you make your own fate?"
He's not sure he believes in control. He's not sure he believes in chaos either. "Maybe it's a combination of events - you set some in motion and others sort of fall in your lap."
"Sounds like luck," Sister Pete says. "Or lack of."
"Yeah," Toby grins. "That's what makes it special."
The lunch buzzer sounds and Toby automatically gets to his feet. "That was fun," he says. "We should do this more often."
Sister Pete waves him out, "Give some thought to your parole, Tobias. I mean it." He hears her sigh as he walks out.
He finds Chris in front of the televisions watching Miss Sally. He takes a seat behind him and leans forward to whisper in Chris's ear. "Miss me?"
He leans back, turns his face toward Toby and grins, his body language inviting Toby closer, welcoming him into his private space.
Toby imagines seeing Chris in the street, catching sight of him walking by as Toby left the office for the day. Would Chris's head turn? Would he notice Toby watching? Would he be captivated by the way this stranger's eyes promised trouble? Or the way he walked like the whole world was watching?
"How was it?" Chris asks.
He doesn't believe in destiny, but Chris Keller makes the impossible happen.
"Fantastic," he says.
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