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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: Toby Struggles on (9/17)
(Thanks to Riley Cannon, for the use of Bonnie's new married name, Luttrell.)
Toby was in the winding cafeteria queue, waiting with his tray for his lunch time slop, when he heard a deep voice he really didn't want to hear at his shoulder.
"You're a dead man, sweet pea."
"Sooner or later, we're going to make you pay for what your double-crossing bastard of a boyfriend tried," Schillinger continued in Toby's ear, his pale eyes on the look-out for hacks. "And when we do, it's gonna make what happened to Adam Guenzel look like fun and games by comparison."
Toby felt sick to his stomach, but he resisted the urge to push his way out of the cafeteria. He remembered Chris's instructions to keep the beard and stay close to O'Reily. He hoped that by following Chris's advice, he wasn't showing blind trust. But he didn't know what else to do.
"Yo, Schillinger," called O'Reily from behind the counter, his ladle busy in the midday glop. "Mom's thinking of trying `The Wizard of Oz' next year. Why don't you try out for the Wizard?"
Schillinger turned his baleful gaze from Toby to O'Reily, amid snickers and taunts from the surrounding inmates. O'Reily grinned at him.
"You better hope, O'Reily, that your mother lives to next year," was all he said before turning to merge into the crowd, with his entourage.
"Remember you have only one place to eat round here and you gotta eat sometime," O'Reily said quietly to his retreating back.
Schillinger didn't break his stride, but Adenauer, his new right hand man, turned back to O'Reily, his teeth bared.
"Remember we're looking for a replacement for your brother," he snarled.
O'Reily's face darkened momentarily, and then he went back to ladling out food, with a smile.
"Bon appetit," he murmured.
"Don't worry," said O'Reily to Toby when he got up to his part of the counter.
"I am worried," said Toby, holding out his tray for a ladle of stuff. He didn't know what the stuff was and didn't care. "We can't escape them for ever. Sooner or later, one of us is going to be alone in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Shit."
"The Aryans won't be a threat anymore," said O'Reily. "It's all been taken care of."
"How?" blurted Toby. "How's it been taken care of?"
"Next!" called O'Reily. "Get it while it's hot!"
Somehow Chris wangled a last "goodbye" visit with Toby. Chris already looked different, with the prospect of freedom, even though he'd always behaved as if being in Oz was just par for the course. He seemed more naked somehow, more hesitant. Softer. Toby, feeling as if he was seeing him properly for the first time, wondered if Chris's hardness and anger hadn't maybe been due to despair. Toby had been so weighed down by his own despair that he hadn't ever really paid attention to anyone else's. He had often thought of Chris, when Chris was in Cedar Junction, but only in terms of how much he needed Chris and how unhappy he was without him. Never really wondering how Chris was doing. Chris always seemed so strong, so impervious to pain of any sort, that Toby realized he tended to see Chris as invulnerable.
Toby couldn't help thinking of the irony of this farewell scene. Him and Chris, saying "goodbye" again. Lopresti looking on again. Only this time it was Chris leaving. And Toby felt as confused as ever. Part of him wanted to push Chris away and tell him never to come back. Get him the fuck out of his life once and for all and to leave him alone. Another part wanted to hold onto Chris and never let him go. Toby wasn't sure whether this was because he felt isolated and terrified or because he loved Chris still, despite everything. The confusion made him feel more hopeless than ever. Chris was holding Toby to him, cheek to cheek, chest to chest. Toby was trying unsuccessfully not to think about groin to groin. Chris put his forehead against Toby's and tried to look him in the eye, but Toby couldn't do it.
"How you doin' in there, Toby?" asked Chris gently, as he always used to speak when they were alone and not fighting.
Toby half-glanced at Lopresti, wondering whether he'd noticed the secret Chris Keller enter the room. Apparently not. Lopresti just saw what he always saw: a couple of dinks with a screwed-up relationship.
"Not so great," said Toby.
"Yeah, O'Reily told me about Schillinger in the cafeteria," Chris whispered in Toby's ear. "Don't worry about the Aryans. They won't be a problem to you."
Toby started to jerk away, with a hiss of "what do you mean?", but Chris held him still, his plaster cast behind Toby's neck.
"Never mind," he whispered. "Just do as I said and you'll be okay."
"Break it up," said Lopresti, "that's enough. This isn't a goddamn motel."
Toby felt Chris's back stiffen. Part of him wanted Chris to attack Lopresti, just to see what would happen. Watching Lopresti get decked would be good enough. Chris ending up in Ad. Seg. with an extended stay-over in Oz on the eve of his release had a certain charm too. But Toby held onto Chris. Chris relaxed and smiled without his eyes. Toby relaxed too, under a wave of sadness.
"Soon," said Chris to him, cupping Toby's face with his good hand.
"Yeah," said Lopresti, "probably real soon. Maybe even sooner than you, Beecher. Like a fucking homing pigeon."
A rumor spread around Oz that Beecher was nuts again. No one knew how the rumor started, but soon everyone was saying so. No one wanted to be near him except Idzik, who kept sidling up to him, asking hopefully: "You don't want to kill me, do you?" After a couple of weeks of this, Toby wanted to say "yes". He wondered if the rumor was just due to the beard, but he suspected O'Reily had something to do with it, because he soon found himself moved to O'Reily's pod. Being crazy had its advantages in Oz, of course, so he dredged up some of his old nursery rhymes to recite at key moments, just to play it safe.
Toby also decided to do some investigating of his own. He did what he knew he should have done in the first place when Chris gave him those numbers and addresses for Bonnie's medication. It had been easier for him not to get involved with Bonnie when Chris had asked him to get her the drugs and he'd simply gone to fetch the medication, without checking any details or even arranging that Bonnie's husband collect it instead. Chris, of course, had been counting on that.
Now, long after the fact, Toby finally got Angus to find Bonnie Luttrell (previously Keller) and to check on her health. Angus pointed out this was a bit like closing the stable door after the horse had bolted, but Toby needed to know the truth. It wasn't difficult to reach Bonnie. Nor was it difficult to ascertain that she was in blooming good health and cancer-free. Chris had made it all up about the ovarian cancer. Probably got the drug names off the Internet or from a newspaper article.
Toby had sort of suspected this all the way along after being arrested, but having it verified was quite another matter. His numbness gave way to anger at himself and Chris, which in turn gave way to a slow-festering resentment. And when Chris came to visit him, he refused to meet him.
It was an ordinary day in Oz's mailroom. The Aryan Brotherhood, under the watchful eyes of three hacks, was hard at work checking and filing mail. The prisoners got a surprising amount of mail, considering that they were largely forgotten by the outside world. To the uninitiated eye, the Brotherhood might have resembled surly, overgrown Santa's elves, busy sorting at the workbench and stuffing goodies into pigeonholes. Some of them were hauling grayish mailbags out of the loading zone. Others were studiously reading other inmates' post to make sure it was legal. Their friends' mail always was.
Adenauer, who not only had taken over Robson's post as Vern Schillinger's right-hand man, but had also inherited Wolfgang Cutler's position as pigeon-hole stuffer L to Q, was interrupted in his alphabetizing by Gruner, who pushed a parcel into his hands.
"Hey, Adenauer, check it out. You got a package," Gruner told him.
No one was allowed to open his own mail while on mailroom duty if Schillinger was around, but luckily he'd set off for Unit B with his squeaky cart.
"Hmm," said Adenauer, turning the package over in his hands, "no name, no return address..."
Both Gruner and Adenauer looked around them surreptitiously at the other grim elves for any of Schillinger's toadies who might grass on them. All clear.
"Rosie's not back yet," said Gruner.
The two foot soldiers shared a bold smirk at the appellation. They always found it funny when Vern was called that, although they seldom expressed their mirth about it amongst the Brotherhood.
"I'm not expecting any parcels," said Adenauer, tugging off the paper.
"Weird!" said Gruner.
Adenauer pulled a jar of white powder out of the box and held it up.
"What the fuck is this?" he inquired, squinting at it.
"I don't know," said Gruner, "ya think it's coke?"
"Soon find out," Adenauer told him, grinning as he unscrewed the top from the jar...
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