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Beta: Fantastically, encouragingly and speedily beta-ed by Dorilon. Thanks!
Copyright: Edgar C. Gambodge, Elizabeth Lightbody and Martha Grosbeak are mine. Sadly so are Father Michael and Gruner.
Warning: In my Oz universe, many of the events from the last two episodes of Season Six are fictitious.
Settling the Bill: Chris is on the Up and Up (7/17)
"I was afraid I was going to push you over the edge," Toby admitted at last.
"You pretty much had," said Chris. "I was going to jump."
Chris's expression hurt Toby deeply. There was no game face there. No mask. Instead Chris looked as if he were about to implode. He was barely maintaining. They kept a careful distance between them.
"You must be crazy, Chris," Toby said, "I'm not worth that."
"I'm crazy for you, Toby," Chris insisted.
"It'll be different once you're out," Toby said, with a small, mirthless smile.
"No, it won't," said Chris, "'sides, I finally have a lawyer who's not an idiot. He'll get your parole reinstated."
"Who've you got?" Toby laughed, "Edgar C. Gambodge?"
"Yes," said Chris. "I officially retained him this morning."
"How did you manage to get him?" Toby demanded. "The governor can't get an audience with him and I happen to know that he probably couldn't afford Gambodge's hourly rate. What kind of a deal did you cut with the FBI?"
"Well, Toby," said Chris with a ghost of his old cockiness in his manner, "it's who ya know. A little investment of mine finally paid off."
Chris proceeded to tell Toby a story that was as fantastical as his tattoo stories, but Toby suspected this had a ring of truth about it. This realization made him think twice about the tattoo stories too. Chris, in his usual way, did not divulge any details about names, dates or places, while explaining that before coming to Oz he had been an independent contractor who contracted for organized crime. Toby was aghast.
"You worked for the Mob?"
"I never said it was the Mob. Anyway, lots of people work for organized crime - you may have."
"I certainly haven't," Toby began, but checked himself.
They've worked for you, `wise guy', he remembered.
"Did you carry out hits?" he asked instead, thinking of how people who were in the way tended to die around Chris.
Chris remained inscrutable.
"I organized things, took care of problems, damage control, clean-ups, conflicts of interest, labor disputes. Can't divulge details - client privilege."
Chris relaxed a bit as he thought about his old life. Toby was reminded, looking at him, of how different his life had been from Chris's and how little he really knew about Chris. Organized crime. Phew. Chris was explaining that he had been organizing quite a lot of things for a certain crime boss, when he discovered the crime boss's son had a penchant for pain. Other people's. The violence escalated and the son ended up killing someone. And asked Chris to help him get rid of the body. Chris obliged, figuring anyone could make a mistake. Only Junior had boobed again and had demanded Chris help cover up again. Chris saw that the kid was getting a taste for blood and realized he was turning to him, not only as the hired help, but also because he saw Chris's sexual persuasions were flexible. Toby couldn't help wondering exactly how Junior had come to see Chris's persuasions as flexible and in what way. It made his skin crawl.
"I think he wanted a partner because he was shit-ass lazy and didn't want to clean up after himself," Chris mused, in the center of the pod, standing like a classical statue in modern clothes. Real and yet not real. Flesh and stone.
Chris had indeed cleaned up after Junior, but had abstained from any further involvement, other than to collect some bits of evidence on the sly. For future reference.
"Body parts?" demanded Toby.
Chris gave him a withering look.
"'Course not. They decompose. Pictures, fingerprints, amongst other things. I checked out what would count as evidence in court and got that."
"The pictures," Toby interrupted with horrified fascination, "were they during or after?"
Chris studied him for a moment.
"They were enough to get him convicted," he replied. "I put all the evidence into a couple of safe places and then went to his father. We reached an...agreement. I would keep quiet about Junior and get away with my life. If I met with any unfortunate...accident, the evidence would go straight to the Feds. Not what I'd hoped for, but kinda like an insurance policy."
"So what changed to make you go to the FBI?" asked Toby with a growing sense of dismay.
As much as he wanted to know what happened and wanted to believe Chris was not a serial killer, he wasn't enjoying this new version of the events at all.
"Daddy-o died. Diabetes. O'Reily found out and told me yesterday. I had a card I hadn't been able to play yet. Ol' Dad had a younger brother who wanted to take over the family business. He's wanted Junior outta the way for a long time. Too much of a liability. Bad habits. Might want to take over from Dad. And I knew just how to help him. He hired Gambodge for me."
"How do you know the brother'll let you walk?" asked Toby.
"He owes me." Chris said. "He's also reimbursed me for any inconvenience I've suffered fending Spanky off."
"How much did he pay you?"
"500K a year for each year I've had to protect Junior. But I talked him up to double that for pain, hardship and fucking inconvenience. He was only too happy to cough up. It's a bargain for what he's getting."
The lawyer in Toby came out.
"But where has Junior been all this time that you've been locked up? I mean, if the FBI had found more bodies while you were here, they wouldn't have kept on your case."
"The Feds only...found Tibbetts, Lewis and Karachi. He's killed more than three people in more than three states. Don't know what he's been up to since I've been in Oz, but I bet I could guess. Junior'll be real mad at me, but he's unlikely to make it to trial, from his uncle said. And the Feds are real happy to learn about the other vics. Other than Taylor, that is."
Toby hesitated and then took the plunge.
"What about Ronnie Barlog?"
For once Chris didn't evade the question or pretend ignorance.
"If he'd rolled on me, I'd have had to roll on Junior. I've seen first hand what Junior was capable of and I know the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I know their influence reaches even into Oz. And I know what he and his Dad would have had done to me if I'd rolled. `Sides, I had my investment to look after. I trusted Ronnie and he grassed on me. Ronnie was a fool. He didn't realize he only had a couple of pieces of the puzzle."
Chris studied Toby a moment. Toby's face was a bit slack, but he was bearing up pretty well, under the circumstances. Chris decided not to dwell on the details of what Junior actually did to his victims. He didn't really want to go back there himself. It had given him nightmares for months until he'd stopped remembering his dreams altogether. He'd seen far more of it than he'd let on to either Toby or the Feds. The crystal meth had helped keep him numb to the whole experience before his marriage broke up and he'd hit that goddamned bodega. He decided to clear up a couple of other things instead.
"I was sent to Death Row because my idiot lawyer wouldn't let me take the stand and I was actually seen dumping one of the bodies. The rest of the so-called evidence was entirely circumstantial. But people only see what they believe. Basis of any con. Anyhow, I'm retiring from crime. Organized crime pays. Disorganized crime doesn't."
"Shit," Toby said, starting to pace. He stopped it and leaned against the wall, banging the back of his head lightly against it.
"You had no problem with the idea of my being a serial killer, but you can't handle my contracting to a crime syndicate? Sex crimes turn you on, huh?" Chris attempted jocularity, but his heart wasn't in it.
He still remained immobile, watching Toby, his eyes dark and unreadable.
"Why on earth would you want to try and kill yourself if you've just had your 88 year sentence commuted?" Toby asked at last, sitting down again on the lower bunk.
"I can't face life without you, Toby, and your hating me just kills me. Forgive me for fucking up your parole, Toby. I'll make it right. I promise."
Part of Toby thought "let's see how things change once you're free, Keller". The renegade part of him wanted to absolve Chris of everything right there. Take away his pain. Forgive him. Wash him clean.
"I doubt even Gambodge can get me out of here," was all Toby could bring himself to say.
"He will," Chris said, confidently. "But Murphy won't give us forever. Kiss me."
With Chris, that demand was almost always a request in disguise. A request for reassurance. Sometimes a dare. Right now it was a plea, concealed under bravado that didn't quite hide his brittleness.
"I hate Plexiglas." Toby muttered to himself, standing up.
Chris, newly kissed and stronger-looking, held onto Toby until the last possible minute and Toby somehow forgot about his qualms and the audience of inmates whose comments he'd have to fend off later.
"Keep the beard - no one'll mess with you. The Aryans won't be a problem. Just stay away from Schillinger and stay close to O'Reily," Chris said, as Murphy came up to the door of the pod. "Don't forget me."
"How could I forget you?" asked Toby, his head spinning.
From downstairs in the common area, Murphy watched Keller go up to Beecher's pod, thinking that he should go up with him. He was right. Beecher started yelling almost instantly. Murphy couldn't really blame him. He put his hand on his nightstick and started towards the ramp just as they both exploded from the pod, clawing at each other. Rebadow put a hand on Murphy's arm.
"Leave `em to sort it out," he said, "it'll be okay."
"Did you hear it from God?" asked Murphy.
"No, O'Reily," said Rebadow.
The scuffle on the landing ended almost as soon as it began. Murphy watched Beecher and Keller disappear into Beecher's pod again. He took his hand off his nightstick and glanced around at the common area. A number of the dinks had stopped what they were doing and had turned to watch the next episode in the Beecher/Keller drama. Some of them had found seats that offered a good vantage point of the pod. Murphy shook his head. It was like frigging reality TV.
"Should get a pool goin' on those two. Make a bomb," said Redding from behind Murphy, "every fuckin' week. Kinda missed havin' `em both around."
"Don't get used to it," said Murphy.
"Yeah," said Poet, "give `em fifteen minutes and one of the motherfuckers'll be in the Hole. Who d'ya think it'll be this time?"
Murphy decided to keep Keller's good news to himself for now and just gave Poet the hack-eye. But Poet was already taking wagers about the Hole with Rawls. Murphy trained his attention back on the pod.
"D'ya think there's going to be any action?" asked Urbano, who was playing backgammon nearby with Pancamo.
"Nah, they're just talking," said Pancamo.
"Hey, look, Beecher's moving," said Urbano.
"D'ya think he's going to kiss Keller?" wondered Fiona.
"I think he's going to shank the motherfucker!" said Rawls enthusiastically.
"Fuck, he's just leaning on the wall," said Poet.
"When are the evictions?" enquired Torquemada, yawning.
Beecher and Keller were clearly trying to ignore the audience, some of whom had now turned their chairs away from the TV to watch them better.
"What's he sayin'?" asked Rawls.
"I - hate - Plexiglas," said Poet, reading Beecher's lips with difficulty from afar.
The odds had risen 50 to 1 against Keller and Beecher staying together and, if Rebadow's hunch paid off, he stood to make a lot of money. He said they'd stay together because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This time even Busmalis disagreed. Everyone was asking O'Reily for information. He was letting it out a fragment at a time. He let it be understood that things were going to change permanently, but he did not say how. This immediately let loose an excited stream of questions about whether the change would involve shanking, breaking limbs, smothering, slitting throats, burning, burying or drowning in the toilet.
"Nah," said Ryan laconically, not moving from his table, "this time, it's Splitsville. I know."
That gave everyone pause for thought.
"You mean they're gettin' divorced?" clarified Kenaniah, as Keller moved in for a kiss.
Time to go, thought Murphy, starting up the slope again.
"Come on, ladies," he told them, "break it up. Keller, get your stuff."
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