Through his tear-blurred vision, Beecher could see that his lover was talking to Said. A strange pairing, to say the least. They weren't arguing; he could see that. But what the fuck were they doing? What could they possibly have in common to discuss?
"But you can't tell Beecher this," Said remarked, half-guessing.
Keller nodded his head. The tear was gone; he was back to his good old faithful, stonehearted self. "You know, the fucking is great—."
"Don't start that again, Keller."
"Just hear me out." Keller gathered his thoughts a little, then continued. "The fucking is great, but the love. Man, I don't know anything about love, never did. But this is something I've never felt before. Being with him."
"Keller, I must admit, you baffle me. This is a totally new side of you."
"Well, I've had lots of time to think in here, over the last few months. Actually since me and him first met. It's almost like things are right with us again, you know? It's like he just completely forgave me. For all this shit I put him through."
"That is love." Said smiled, for both of them.
Keller nodded barely.
"Why this sudden spiritual side of you? What happened to bring this about?"
"You know Beecher's got parole coming up."
Said agreed. He seemed pleased with this statement.
"He's surely gonna' get out," Keller continued. He thought for a second more. "I know I have to let him go. It'd be better — for both of us."
"How do you know for sure?"
"I just do. Besides, that's not the only thing."
"What do you mean?" Said asked with an inquisitive gaze.
"When I was shot those months ago, I died twice when they were working on me. I fucking died in the hospital twice. That shit, it just scared the hell outta' me. And I'm not somebody who's scared of much."
Said looked at him. Everything about his face — strong cheekbones, somber eyes, piercing smile, a golden, almost African complexion — sent waves of comfort through Keller. He realized that suddenly. He could understand why Beecher liked this man.
"What else is keeping you from moving on?"
"Me and Toby, we're okay now. Hopefully we'll stay that way. But me and my life; that's never gonna' be okay."
"You mean, the deaths of those men."
"You know about it?"
"Just whispers. The rumor mill of Em City," Said replied. He wanted to place a hand on Keller's shoulder, but wasn't sure how it would be received.
Keller seemed extraordinarily sad. The usual fire in his electric eyes had become mere embers, dying out behind a bruised spirit.
"I'm going to die soon," Keller shot out. The words were hushed, and sputtered out of him. Said was devastated. The words sunk into him like a shank. He wanted to take the man's hand, or to hug him, comfort him in some way, but he was sure that Keller would have none of that. Keller took no notice of Said's glances. "And who's to say that's a bad thing?"
Said, in his larger frame, couldn't move. Keller's statements had frozen him. The sadness in his face, in his heart, was enough to break him apart. He was unutterably sad, for Keller, for Beecher, for this love that they shared. He had witnessed the disintegration of his love with Patricia Ross, and now he was forced to watch the dying love of another couple.
Keller rose from the table, his shoulders slumped in defeat. "See ya."
Again, the desire to reach out and touch the poor soul across from him, to pull the man back into his protective arms, but no. Said decided it was best to let him go. It was obvious the conversation was over. He also realized how difficult it was for Keller to open up like that. Especially with him.
Why hadn't he told these things to Beecher, though?
"I'm worried that Keller is suicidal." The words broke the silence like a siren. "I'm worried that something awful is going to happen."
Sister Pete gazed out in disbelief. As far as she could tell, Said and Keller never even spoke, let alone shared revelations such as these. She was skeptical, but she was listening.
"What makes you think this?"
"He only told me as much." Said sighed, frustrated. "I know this is strange coming from me, but I worry mostly about Beecher and his mental state. I worry about the love that these two share."
"I worry about them too."
"And Keller worries about it too."
"Oh, come on."
"I know, I know. I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't been there, just sitting like an impotent idiot. I didn't know what to tell him."
"So you came to me."
"He likes you."
"He lies to me."
Silence. It felt like the air was sucked out of the room. Said felt an awful weight on his chest.
"Keller doesn't strike me as the suicidal type," she continued finally. "He's a sociopath, a liar and a killer — he lashes outward, not inward."
"I'm telling you, as someone who is skeptical of everything that man has done since he came to Oz, that something bad is going to happen."
"Alright, Said. I'll have a talk with him. We'll see how receptive he is."
"That's all I ask."
The pod seemed darker than usual. He could hear Keller's light snores — fast asleep. He wondered what they could have talked about, Said and Keller. It certainly was a strange time, with strange pairings and stranger outcomes.
Whatever they talked about, it crushed him that Keller could not talk to him. That he would rather talk to someone he barely knows, or barely bothered to know, than his own former lover. Good old Toby. Sweet, innocent Toby. What was he afraid of saying to me, Toby asked himself.
Restless, he tossed and turned half the night. Finally, he slid off his top bunk to grab some reading material. Maybe he could read by the soft lights outside their pod.
He whirled around, shocked that his bunkmate was awake. "Hey," he whispered.
"Can't sleep again?"
"Come here," Keller said. "I can't see your face."
Toby knelt beside him. He placed his hands on the lawyer's face. Such a soft, delicate face. After all he had been through, Beecher still looked angelic to him. Sure, Toby had more lines on his face, but so did he. In the soft commons light, he looked pale, serene, stunning. His eyes appeared to glow. He brought the face to his own, and they shared a kiss.
He could taste the bite of the overnight breath on Keller, but it was wonderful. He had grown accustomed to the different tastes, smells and touches of men. In here, it was as sweet as candy. Especially with Keller.
Keller's hands worked their way down Beecher's slim physique, and wrapped tightly around his waist. Keller stood up, and brought Beecher to him. He pressed their two hard bodies together, their groins meeting at their core. The heat between them was compressed; it grew.
Deep tonguing he had called it once. Something he wanted to do with Vern's son, Andy. Something he had done with a lot of men over these past months. Keller probed his mouth deeply with this pink fleshy device, and Toby longed for it to be his other pink fleshy device. His own soft pale hands ran through Keller's beautifully tousled hair.
Keller's own hands had gripped the bottom of his lover's shirt. His lovely lawyer. He peeled the nondescript shirt up and over the man's defined but not overly muscular torso. It ruffled his hair as he pulled it off, but their mouths only parted for a few brief seconds. The shirt fell softly to the pod floor.
Mouth to chest, Keller deposited a trail of kisses from collarbone to navel. Beecher tasted slightly of sweat and cologne. A perfect man- mixture. The bottom bunker backed away for a second, admiring the man's smooth textured chest. His hands wandered over the various ripples, then rose to grip him under his arms. Hair there danced in coiling patches, dark blond and moist with anticipation. Keller pulled lightly at the underarm hair, which made his lover jerk.
Being felt up was such a turn-on. He hadn't felt it in so long. Keller's strong hands rubbed him all over, finding the tender parts of him and exploiting those, enjoying those. The bottom bunker dropped to his knees again, grasping Beecher's boxers firmly and yanking them down to his ankles. His stiffening member was a pale staff, even in the darkness. Beecher felt so self-conscious, his naked body glaring. What if someone could see? After several times with Keller, he still could not get used to being naked with these awful glass panes around them. Keller licked his lips.
His hands were still exploring and enticing, which made Beecher's organ all the more engorged. The blood pulsed and surged through his cock. Keller surrounded the device; his lips touched the soft coils of dark blond hair at the base. Base to tip, he made several slow sucks. With each one, lawyer boy felt he could faint. Such perfection. He backed himself against the rear wall, and Keller followed suit, not missing a beat — or a suck, as it were. Back and forth, his mouth raced along Beecher's rod. He could tell the man was close; his hips began their telltale gyrations.
Keller inched back off the dick, a trail of saliva and precum stuck to his lips. He looked up at Toby's pleasurable, grimaced face and gave him a sly grin. The salty white-blow slid effortlessly down his throat. Sucking dick didn't even bother him now. He thought back to when he had such a gag mechanism, back to when Vern broke him in up at Lardner. God, Vern had force him wide open. So brutal, so unloving. Nothing like him and Toby. Him and the other queers, outside of prison.
Beecher breathed harder, gasped quietly. He grabbed his cock and worked the mixture of saliva and cum across the lengthy shaft. Keller helped him down to the floor, with him. The bottom bunker threw himself onto his bed. He pulled his cock through the hole in his plain white boxers, and gave himself a few loving tugs. Not that the fully erect dick needed it.
He could take a hint. Beecher leaned down and took Keller's cock in his mouth. It tasted familiar, a blend of soap, skin and sweat. Then again, Keller's natural smell was enticing enough. His scent was musky, healthy and real. No artificial smells from him. Though not as accomplished a sucker as Chris, Toby had gotten quite good at it over the past few months. After sucking several cocks and fucking several asses, you start to learn things. Keller's hips moved in unison with his tongue glides. He didn't talk; he only made short little sounds of pleasure. Something like in those pornos Toby had seen before. So many years before. "Fffff… shit." A bit of salty goo joined his saliva. It served to lubricate the cock, and make his lips move even more smoothly across the shaft.
The head. That was Beecher's favorite part. He teased, mouthed and tongued it. He felt like a cobra, flicking his tongue. It was a similar motion after all, flicking the tongue to get a feel for the environment. He wanted to finish Keller off.
As much as he wanted to ejaculate, the bottom bunker pulled his spit- glistened shaft away from his lover's soft lips. He shucked his boxers finally, no easy feet with such a tremendous hard-on. Beecher helped him pull the shorts off and threw them to the side. He dove for the cock again, but Keller had other plans.
He pulled Beecher's frame up, working his cock back to its engorged state. They looked at each other as Keller did this — eye to lustful eye. "Spit on it," Keller said. His voice was a throaty whisper.
"Spit on your cock," he explained.
Beecher gathered some spit in his mouth, and then spit down. Awful aim, but some did hit the shaft. Shaking his head, Keller leaned up and over. He took one long suck on Beecher's cock, leaving some of his spit on it as well. The bottom bunker worked the spit-cum mixture over the length of Toby's pale shaft. Such a beautiful cock. The length was probably 7 or 8, and the width, well, it was plenty.
Keller guided the man's cock forward, spread his legs, and pushed the erect device against his rock-hard buttock. In the crease of his ass cheeks, Keller urged Beecher to massage his device. The slick tool spread some of its lubrication over his asshole. Toby pushed down on the top of his prick, and continued massaging it against the tense curves of Keller's ass.
Push. Grunt. Love.
The device slid in and out with ease, as it always did with Keller. They fit perfectly together now; it had become an easy thing between them. Toby glanced down and watched his pale rod appear, disappear, backward and forward, inside Chris. He grasped the rungs on the top bunk for leverage with both his hands, and bore down into Keller like a pro.
Looking to the side, Keller grabbed his pillow. His hands squeezed and wringed it. He wasn't in agony at all, just simple unutterable pleasure. His breath was reduced to short, huffing pants as Toby pumped into him. It wouldn't be long now.
Keller furiously worked his cock. It erupted, finally. Globules of man juice splattered his chest, neck and face, and he massaged the last spurts out of his device. The semen ran down his fingers; Beecher noticed him rubbing it in on his chest.
Another explosion shocked even Beecher. He must have cum a little bit inside Keller. He could barely pull out before he blew strings of cum across Keller's chest, groin and legs. Mimicking his earlier action, he placed his right hand on top of his cock, then ran the cock along the tensed nerves of Chris' ass. For what seemed like hours, his prick shot and shot.
His ass stung, and his insides burned. Beecher must have cum inside him a little before he pulled out. As nice as Toby's dick was, he didn't like that burning sensation. It felt like his insides were being torn apart. But the pleasure overwhelmed the waves of pain. He was happy now, just to be with this man again. Their labored breaths died down, and Keller pulled Beecher's naked frame close to him. They kissed passionately, two drained pricks squeezed between them.
Beecher rolled over and lay beside Keller. They glanced at each other and down at their bodies. Scents of sweat, semen, and hormonal manliness pervaded every corner of the room.
"I love you, Chris."
"I love you, Toby. I always have."
Beecher shuffled the cards, and placed them in a solitaire configuration. He hadn't bothered to step out of his pod much today. He wasn't particularly hungry, and he didn't feel very sociable.
Chris was gone. Again. He had been gone a lot lately. He seemed much more distant since they made love all those nights ago. Something was up, but Beecher didn't know what to do, or who to ask.
Two soft knocks sounded on his pod door. He looked up and saw Rebadow waving to him.
He motioned for the older man to come in. He ambled over to Beecher, the door clipping shut behind him.
"Did you hear the news, Beecher?"
"No," he replied using his I-could-really-care-less voice.
"What?" Beecher jumped up from his bunk; the cards spilled over the side. He didn't care. "What do you mean, disappeared?"
"He didn't come back to his cell for lockdown yesterday evening. The COs are searching everywhere, but there isn't a trace of him so far."
Beecher wanted to smile, a malevolent and deeply satisfying smile, but he refused. After he paid Pancamo to have Hank Schillinger killed, he had done his best to ignore that Nazi fuck. Putting everything about Vern and those awful experiences behind him was part of his talks with Peter Marie and Said. He had tried to get on with his life, his prison life, and Vern seemed to ignore him too. Schillinger had no sons left. No one to carry on his name. Beecher did not feel sorry for the fuck, though. He understood the feeling all too well. His son was dead. No one would carry on his name now either.
He knew it was preliminary —- there were plenty of ways to hide in, or escape from, Oz -— but he felt a tremendous relief. The mere thought that Vern could be dead overwhelmed him, and he felt faint suddenly. His body wobbled a bit; Bob caught him under the right arm.
"You alright, Beecher?"
"Yeah, yeah. Just dizzy suddenly." He seated himself on the bottom bunk. "Any ideas about what happened?"
"The COs think some of the homeboys from his cell block may have done him in."
Beecher did grin now. His eyes glazed over with an uneasy contentment. How could he be so happy? No matter what Schillinger did to him, how could someone's death please him?
I'm not the same man, Beecher thought again. His thoughts weighed him down. I'm not a better man.
Such cold, dead eyes. They shone a lovely hazel under the austere interrogation room fluorescents, but there was no fire behind them. These FBI types. Keller gave a restless sigh.
"Mr. Keller, we need to have a little chat."
"You know what."
"Oh, that. Yeah. You know what? I'm going to make it real easy for you." He swallowed hard. "I did it. I killed those fags. I fucked `em and I killed `em." Underneath the solid oak table, Keller's leg bobbed up and down. He was nervous, but his face reflected nothing.
"Wait a minute, you're confessing to these murders?"
"Yup," Keller nodded. "I fucking killed them, and I need to pay for it."
"You realize what this means," the FBI man continued. His eyes held a skeptical gaze, his head cocked sideways.
"It probably means I'll get the Chair or something."
"Yes, it could very well mean that."
"That's alright. I'm ready."
The agent motioned for his assistant to come into the room. "Agent McIntyre, take this man to retrieve his things from Em City, and transfer him to solitary until we can schedule a hearing."
"Can I see McManus first?" Keller asked.
"To say goodbye."
The Fed shot him a pained, impatient look. "I don't see why not. Make sure he's escorted the whole time."
The agent nodded, and they walked out together.
"You're telling me that you confessed to the murders."
"And you realize that with Devlin's campaign over and won, he's going to try to cut you down. You will most likely get the death penalty."
"I deserve to die for what I did."
McManus sighed, sadness filling his heart. Though Keller was no model prisoner, he was a helluva lot better than some of the other inmates were. And he worried about what this would do to Beecher.
"What, um—." McManus paused, shaken. "What can I do for you?"
"They're sending me to solitary until a trial can be arranged."
"Yeah, well, I wanted to tell you." Keller stamped his feet into the cement-gray floor. He wasn't sure what to tell him, now that he was in here. "I want you to watch Beecher."
"Yeah, watch out for him. I don't want anybody touching him. Especially now that that fuck Schillinger is missing. Those Aryan fucks'll probably come after him."
McManus nodded. "I'll do what I can."
Keller returned his nod; McManus knew that meant `thank you.'
"You know, Beecher's like a brother to me," Keller told the agent as they walked to his pod. "If it's alright, I'd like to have a few minutes alone with him."
"Nah, nothing funny."
The agent looked him in the eyes. "Alright, but I'll be watching." Keller nodded.
All eyes were on Keller as he strode through Em City. Maybe they all wondered where he had gone the past few days, as well. Or maybe they knew what was going on already. The rumor mill in Oz was always chugging along.
The door to their pod swung open, and Beecher came out, a worried look in his eyes. "Chris, where have you been? And who's the suit?"
"Toby, let's go inside for a minute."
The myriad sounds of Em City disappeared behind them as they stepped into their pod.
"What's going on? Where have you been all day?"
Keller nodded. "Yeah, thinking, talking. Making important decisions."
Beecher could tell what he was going to say before he even said it: "You confessed to the murders of those men." Tears welled in the corner of his eyes, making them two shiny orbs.
Keller hung his head low, afraid even to nod in agreement. "Yes," he said finally.
"Chris, the state is gonna' kill you."
"Probably." They stood in silence, staring stupidly, for a few seconds. Beecher's eyes were flooding with tears, but he was fighting to maintain a veneer of calm. "Beecher, whatever happens, I want you to know that I love you. I really do. And—." Keller choked back his emotions, but a stubborn tear came rolling down his cheek anyway. "And everything I did I did because I thought it was the right thing to do." Beecher was sobbing lightly at this point. "And I know I don't know anything about right and wrong, but still."
"Oh, Chris." He collapsed into his lover's arms. He had already fallen apart — may as well make it official. The warm tears poured onto Chris' undershirt. They moistened the material and felt oddly satisfying on his skin.
So many tears. So much pain. Chris turned and saw Said standing just outside the pod. He turned back to Beecher. He cupped the top bunker's head in his right hand, and ran his fingers through the soft tufts of hair.
No relief. No end to this pain. Beecher was devastated. As Chris embraced him, and stroked his hair lovingly, there was no comfort. He knew he would never see this man again. All the pain, guilt and despair melted instantly, and he was left with the deepest sadness, the sadness he felt when he lost his son only a couple of months ago.
"All the loves in my life are going away from me," he sputtered out among the tears. Keller brought his face back and gazed longingly into his beautiful, tear-stained eyes. He placed his open hands on Beecher's cheeks, wiping away some of the streaming tears with his thumbs.
"I hope you understand some day, Toby. This is what I had to do."
"But why?" Beecher looked so childlike as he asked the question.
"You're moving on with your life, and mine is as good as over." The lawyer shook his head, refusing to believe the words. "Toby, listen. Listen to me. I have to make this right, make up for the shit that I've done."
Beecher rubbed his eyes furiously, shaking the tears away. He had to get a grip. He couldn't go insane again. He could tell how hard this was for Keller, even though he looked remarkably well composed. He choked back his sobs long enough to continue their conversation. "I'll never see you again."
Toby coughed a few times, fighting to get a hold of his emotions. Strange how he had more emotions now than he did when he went into Oz. He hadn't cried so much in his life. He rubbed his aching eyes.
"I don't have a lot of time, Toby."
The lawyer nodded. He gazed deeply into those blue eyes, bright as an azure sky. "I love you Chris."
"I love you Toby." They embraced again, this time breaking only to partake in a kiss. It was foolhardy, both of them knew it, but they did it anyway.
Any moment, the FBI agent or some CO would burst in to break them up.
But there was nothing. No one disturbed them.
The lovers kissed passionately, sharing tongues and scents, enjoying each other for the last time. Toby was weak in the knees. He thought of the conjugal he had enjoyed with his wife all those years ago. No more love, no more tenderness. Would he ever know these feelings again?
Keller began collecting his few things from the pod, and Beecher collapsed onto the sterile prison floor. After he finished, Keller helped the man to his feet. They hugged again, and Keller stepped out into the Em City commons. The lawyer just kept staring out vacantly. He was crying fucking rivers.
As Keller walked to the Em City gates, he looked back for the last time. It seemed brighter in here, lighter than usual. The inmates all stared at him. Rows and rows of faces staring out — from pods, from behind their game tables, even as far back as the computer room. Keller noticed McManus watching him from the CO post. Did he have something to do with the uninterrupted kiss? Probably so.
Beecher remained still for hours. He didn't move at all. He was sprawled out on his top bunk, still crying. He thought he could die. It was as if part of him had died. The best part of him. Like the other news in Oz, this latest development was just another disappointment. It could all be traced back to his big mistake, killing Kathy Rockwell.
Then again, if he hadn't killed that poor girl, he never would have met Chris in the first place.
Another gentle rap at his pod door. He didn't move; he couldn't move.
The visitor helped himself in.
"Beecher," a tender voice offered. Said.
"Beecher, if you need to talk."
Still no movement, no sign that he even realized someone was in the room with him. The tears streamlined his cheeks, forming glistening lines down his soft face.
Said took the man's smaller, dead-limp hands in his own. He squeezed them with passion and empathy, brought them to his face, and kissed them both delicately.
No reaction. Said turned to leave the pod, hoping to be stopped before he made it back outside. No such luck. He stepped into the commons.
"How is he?" Rebadow asked. He was seated at one of the game tables, alongside Hill, Busmalis and O'Reily. All of them wore sad faces.
"I've seen him better," Said replied.
"What can we do?" Hill asked.
"Pray." Said worked his way back upstairs and into his pod. He dropped to his knees there, and prayed to Allah.
"I don't think he should sleep alone tonight," McManus said plainly.
Sister Pete nodded in agreement. "But eventually he has to get used to being without this love, you know? As much as I hate to admit it, what he shared with Chris was… amazing. It wasn't always healthy, but… he'd be lucky to find it again, in here or on the outside."
"But we can help him."
"Definitely. We can't let him break apart this close to his parole hearing."
"Agreed, so I guess I can talk to him, ask him who he wants his roommate to be."
"Why don't I talk with him? He has opened up to me many times before."
"Hello, Tobias." Sister Pete had tiptoed into his pod. Was that subconscious? What would that help? His blank stare disturbed her. She saw his head turn, but his eyes did not look at her. His beautiful face was dull, lifeless. The tear flow had stopped, but only because his body had no more moisture to give. She had cried that much, when her husband died. It had been years ago, but she remembered it like it was yesterday. She cried so much that she became dehydrated. Everything about her ached, worst of all her heart. It felt like she had been run through with a spear. Pete ran him a cup of water from the basin.
She handed it to him. No response. "You should get some fluids." He shook his head. It wasn't a real reply — more like an automatic response. At least it was something. She placed the cup in the sink, and turned to face him again.
"I know it's soon, but—."
"I didn't cry this much when my wife killed herself," he interrupted. His voice was hushed, broken. "How fucked-up is that?" He grinned, but it was more of a grimace.
"Well, sometimes it depends on where your head and heart are at the time."
"Yeah," he said, "and sometimes it depends on how in-love you are."
"May I?" Pete asked, sitting at the foot of his bunk.
A silence. This was the longest silence Pete had shared with someone in years. They must have sat together for more than an hour.
"I feel," Beecher said finally. He searched for the words. "I feel like… like I just lost a limb."
"Tobias, he's not dead."
"Yes, Pete. Yes he is. He will die for what he's done. He will die needlessly." His voice had mustered some strength and gained some volume. The word needlessly echoed in his fragile mind.
"Tobias, did you love Chris more than your wife?"
"I think so, yeah. There was more passion, more intensity, you know?"
Pete nodded. "More at stake?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, think about it. You're in prison; you search out love. However rare that is, you find it. You're in this horrible place, where men shut down their emotions and feelings even more than the outside world. People doing horrible things to one another. You search out solace, peace of mind, and sometimes you idealize it."
"Sister Pete, I know love. I love Chris dearly."
"I'm not saying you don't love him."
"Then what are you trying to say?" He had raised his voice to her. He didn't mean to, but he felt betrayed by her questions.
"I'm trying to say that maybe you don't love him more than your wife. Maybe you focus on him more than your wife."
"Maybe you were trying to prove to yourself that you could make this work, that despite all the wrong with this relationship — with all the wrong in Oz — that you could make a loving relationship work."
"So, you're saying that I was the woman of this relationship?" He smiled, and Pete almost bought it.
"Yes, that's what I'm saying. Perhaps this love has refocused your attention."
"Maybe I've learned more from this relationship than from years of marriage."
They exchanged a glance. Pete didn't have a response. She remained silent for several minutes.
"McManus and I are concerned about you. We would like you to take another roommate for a few nights, at least until you're feeling better."
"Whoever you want."
"Said, if he will." Sister Pete seemed pleased with his choice. "At least we know he won't put the moves on me," Beecher continued, flashing another weak smile.
"You're always there. I appreciate that. Despite the fact that you hate my attraction to Keller, you've always been supportive."
"Beecher, you're a man searching for answers, as am I. We've both been on tremendous journeys, had many experiences. We've both had these -— attractions -— that are forbidden by others. I admire you for your courage to seek yours out, and see it through."
Beecher shed a few more tears, and they embraced again. Said's warmth was a great comfort to him. His body was fit and firm. Deep down, he was attracted to the man. Of course, nothing could ever come of that. He mustn't break their trust.
They seated themselves, Beecher on the bottom bunk and Said on a cheap plastic chair.
"I miss him," Beecher said. "It's only been a fucking day, and I miss him." He wiped away another tear.
Said smiled wholeheartedly. "Tell me something you miss about him."
Beecher thought for a moment: "His openness." The term made him smile. "He just didn't give a shit what anyone thought about him. Or me. He would touch me openly, out in the commons. Grab my crotch, touch my face, caress my neck — just express his loving at any time. I would have liked to have had his openness at times. To just not give a damn about anyone around me, especially what they thought of me."
"Yes," Said remarked, his husky voice permeating the room. "Patricia Ross had that same openness, as well as an innocence. She believed that love was always pure, and I admired her for that."
They sat, soaking in the stillness of the pod. Finally, Said rose to get ready for his nightly prayer. "Beecher, would you like to pray with me?"
The lawyer smiled. "Yes, very much."
They knelt together, against the solid Em City floor, and prayed. The prayer had eased his mind, and Beecher slept better that night than he had for weeks.
"Mr. Beecher, please have a seat." Judge Thomas Moreland —- Beecher recognized the man immediately. He had met him years ago, at some fundraiser. He wondered whether the man remember him or not.
The judge was stern in manner, but he had a lovely brow, soft brown eyes and delicate cheekbones. Two other men, both handsome suited creatures with hawkeyed stares, flanked the judge. Must've been lawyers.
Beecher sat in the stiff plastic chair. He arched his back, trying to get comfortable. It didn't work. The lawyers seated themselves after Beecher.
"I guess you know why we've asked you to come."
"You wanna' know about Chris Keller?"
The judge nodded. "We're trying to get an idea of what type of person he is."
"How long have you known Mr. Keller?" the lawyer on the left asked.
"A couple of years."
"Were you and he ever intimate?" the other lawyer asked.
"Did you have a sexual relationship?" he clarified.
Beecher cleared his throat and twisted in his seat. He wished again that he had Chris' openness. "Yes, we did have a sexual relationship."
"Would you say you had a loving relationship?" left lawyer asked.
"Yes, I would say it was loving."
"But this man broke your arms and legs?" the other lawyer stated.
"And yet you say he was a loving person?"
Beecher nodded again.
"How can you explain that?"
"It's hard to explain to someone who has never been in prison."
"Try us," the judge chimed in.
Tobias sighed. "Chris owed a person a favor, and that favor involved breaking me."
"That person was Vern Schillinger, right?"
"You and Vern have had a very violent relationship, haven't you?"
Beecher shifted again. "I'm sorry, am I on trial here?"
"No, of course not. We just want to know how you could love a man who was friends with your former abuser. Your arch enemy, if you will."
The top bunker sniffed and licked his upper lip. "I'd like to know how I could love him too, but I just know that I do."
"And Mr. Keller loves you to, right?" the right-hand lawyer asked. His scornful tone annoyed Beecher.
"Yes, he does." Beecher looked earnest; he was telling the truth. They did love each other. No half-wit lawyer or judge would convince him otherwise.
"Did Keller ever exhibit any violent tendencies?" left lawyer asked.
"You mean, besides breaking both my arms?" Beecher said with a sadistic smile.
"Yes, aside from that incident."
"Listen, Mister—" Beecher said, channeling his cynical lawyer personality.
"Mr. Klein, this isn't the fucking Club Med. If you don't exhibit some violent tendencies in here, you're either dead or somebody's bitch within a week."
"Fair enough," Klein said. "How about," he looked up at the plain ceiling, as if he were plucking the words from thin air, "did he exhibit any unusual violent tendencies during your time together?"
"Unusual? You mean psychopathic?"
"Psychopathic or antisocial. Violent behaviors that reflect a lack of remorse, or a disconnection from the human feelings of regret or guilt?"
"I never saw anything like that." The words popped out before Beecher could stop himself. He was on autopilot now. He was lying through his fucking teeth.
"Mr. Beecher," the right-hand lawyer said. "Would you identify Mr. Keller as homosexual?"
"At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we're in prison. Men have needs, some of them can go without sex, and some of us want it — need it."
"Sex, yes," the lawyer pushed forward, "but you said that you and he are in love. Homosexuals separate themselves from the act by saying that they love men, not just have sex with them."
Beecher stared at the lawyer. It was a good question. "By that definition, I would have to say yes, he is a homosexual."
"And by that definition, you would also be a homosexual, wouldn't you Mr. Beecher?"
"I don't see how I would be much good to you."
"We're trying to get a better picture of Chris Keller, Sister Peter Marie. Please," Judge Moreland said, pointing to the red plastic chair. "Just a few questions."
Sister Pete sat down reluctantly. "My confidentiality agreement as his psychologist takes precedence here."
"I agree, but your deposition can shed some light on his life."
The left-hand lawyer looked at her now. "Flipping through his file, it would appear that Mr. Keller has had a bumpy ride his whole life. In and out of prisons since, what, 17 years old?"
Pete nodded. "Yes, he was at Lardner by 17."
"Would you consider his behavior here at Oz satisfactory?"
"Is he a good prisoner or a bad prisoner?" the lawyer clarified.
"I'm not sure I can make that distinction."
"Well then who could?"
"Alright then, how about this: Is Keller a good person?"
"He's a murderer and a thief. You tell me."
"Sister," the other lawyer said, annoyed with her shifty answers. "During your sessions with Keller, did he strike you as a trustworthy person?"
Pete wanted to laugh. "Trustworthy? You've read his file. He's a manipulative liar."
"Okay, but did he open up to you during these sessions?"
"Somewhat," she answered with a skeptical look in her eye.
"And did he appear to be telling the truth when he opened up?"
"Yes, he did."
"Sister, did Keller ever show remorse during your sessions?" the laywer on the left asked.
"Remorse for what?"
"Anything. His actions, his life on the outside, his abuse of fellow inmates, including Tobias Beecher."
"I really only spoke with him about Beecher, but he did seem to have remorse, yes. I believe he genuinely felt remorse for what he did to Beecher."
"Let's talk more about his relationship with Beecher," the right-hand lawyer said.
"What do you want to know?"
"From your observations, was it a loving relationship?"
Pete shrugged her shoulders. "From what I saw, they seemed affectionate with each other."
"But they did have problems."
"Every relationship has problems," she retorted quickly. "In prison or out of prison."
Both the lawyers and the judge seemed to stiffen at her obstinate attitude. "To your knowledge, did Keller ever threaten Beecher's life?"
"No, not to my knowledge."
"Is Keller a homosexual?"
"That's confidential. Something from our sessions."
"Well, I'm not asking if he's confessed as much to you, Sister. I'm merely asking for your observation."
"Sorry, that's not something I will answer." The lawyers glanced at each other, then at Judge Moreland. Moreland seemed to accept her refusal.
"Okay, Sister," the other lawyer spoke again. "Is Keller a happy person?"
"You've met him; what do you think?"
"Honestly? I think he's a self-loathing homosexual. I think he's a calculated, unemotional killer who, despite getting fucked around his whole life, has done nothing for society."
Pete stamped her feet into the floor. She was nervous and angry. She had already revealed too much about her knowledge of Keller, knowledge that wasn't supposed to exist outside of their sessions.
"Alright, Sister." Judge Moreland flashed her an artificial smile. "That's all, for now."
"Tim McManus, Emerald City unit manager."
"Yes," McManus said sheepishly. The three men, all with ominous stares, were seated opposite him. They bothered him.
"Tell us a little about Chris Keller."
"Well, let's see. He's not a model prisoner, but there are a lot worse out there. He's had some incidents with his podmate Beecher, but mostly he's been a quiet guy."
"Tobias Beecher keeps popping up in our depositions, Mr. McManus. Why is that?"
"They were very close, those two."
"How close?" the left-hand lawyer asked with intensity.
"You mean, were they fucking?"
The lawyer nodded.
"Yes, they were. Everyone knew it. They didn't hide their affections for each other."
"And who was more vocal about this affection?"
"More vocal? Probably Beecher."
"Mm-hmm. And who was more physically open about this relationship?"
"Geez, I don't know for sure. Keller seemed to want to hold and touch more, at least in the commons and stuff."
"Was Beecher embarrassed by his affections for Keller?"
"I don't know. I don't think so." Tim wondered where this line of questioning would lead.
"You separated them from each other several different times."
"Well, a few times."
"So why keep reassigning them to the same pod?"
"Beecher asked me to move him, most of the times."
"So Keller never came to you wanting back in the same pod as Beecher?"
"No. But he never refused to move either. I try to move people only if both parties agree to it."
"To your knowledge, has Keller ever tried to hurt Beecher with the intention of killing him?"
"No," McManus replied quickly. "Aside from breaking his arms, I don't know of any significant incidents."
"From your observations, are Keller and Beecher in love?"
"I'm the wrong guy to ask about love," McManus snickered.
Cold stares and lonely nights. That was Keller's world now.
He sat across from the judge, the person who would tell him how long he had to live. The person who would soon judge him, condemning him to die or to live in prison forever. Keller wasn't sure which was worse.
On his right sat the state-appointed DA, Thurston Goodmore. He was a sad-looking yet handsome little man who squatted over like a hunchback. He constantly muttered to Keller that it would "be okay."
But Keller knew better. The presiding judge had been harsh throughout his entire hearing. "Mr. Keller, please rise. This court has come to a decision. After talking with numerous persons regarding your case, your behavior and your past, this court has determined that you should not be put to death."
Keller let out a sigh of relief, though he couldn't explain why.
"However, since you are obviously not fit for life outside of prison, and there is no case for temporary or any other insanity, your present sentence is hereby changed to life imprisonment, with no possibility of parole."
Thurston patted his client on the back, but it was no comfort.
I can't stay here for the rest of my life, Keller thought. Somehow, this sentence seemed so much worse than 50 years. His life would've been over in 50 years anyway, wouldn't it? But this. This was no good.
continued in Part 3