One Good Deed - Chapter 2 in English Thriller by Utopian Mirror books and stories PDF | One Good Deed - Chapter 2

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One Good Deed - Chapter 2

ARCHER GOT OFF at Poca City seven hours later and too many stops in between to remember. People had gotten on and people had gotten off. They’d had a dinner and bathroom break at a roadside diner with an outhouse in the back, both of which looked only a stiff breeze away from falling over. It was
nearly eight in the evening now. He stood there as the bus and the rube with
too many queries and the remaining nervous folks clutching all they owned
sped off into the night chasing pots of gold along dusty roads with nary a
helpful leprechaun in sight.

Good riddance to them all, thought Archer. And then, a second later, his
more charitable consideration was, Well, good luck to them.

We all needed luck now and then, was his firm belief. And maybe right
now he needed it more than most. The point was, would he get it?

Or will I have to make my own damn luck? And hope for no bad luck as a
chaser?

He put on his hat and then his jacket and looked around. He was in Poca
City because the DOP said it was here he had to serve his parole. He
dragged out the pages he’d been given. In fat, bold typeface at the top of the
page was “Department of Prisons,” or the DOP. Below that was a long list
of “don’ts” and a far shorter list of “dos.” These rules would govern his life
for the next three years. Though he was free, it was a liberty with lassoes
attached, with so-called legal conditions that he mostly could make neither
head nor tail of. Who knew prison could stick to you, like running into a
spider’s web in the morning, flailing about, just wanting to be free of the
tendrils, while alarmed that a poisonous thing was coming for you.

Archer had been released from prison well before he served his full
sentence due to time off for good behavior and also for passing muster at
his first parole board meeting. He had ventured into the little stuffy room
that held a flimsy table with three chairs behind and one chair in front and
him not knowing what to expect. Two burly prison guards had accompanied
him to this meeting. He had been dressed in his prison duds, which seemed
to shriek “guilt” and “continued danger” from each pore of the sweatstained fabric.

Behind the table were three people, two men and one woman. The men
were short and stout and freely perspiring in the closeness of the room.
They looked self-important and bored as they greedily puffed on their fat
cigars. The woman, who sat in the middle of this little band of freedom
givers or takers, was tall and matronly with an elaborate hat on which a
fabric bird clung to one side, and with a dead fox around her blocky
shoulders.

Archer had instantly seized on her as the real power, and thus had
focused all of his attention there. His contriteness was genuine, his remorse
complete. He stared into her large, brown eyes and said his piece with
heartfelt emphasis contained in each word, until he saw quivering at the
corners of those eyes, the false bird and fox start to shake. When he’d
finished and then answered all her questions, the consultation among the
board was swift and in his favor as the men quickly capitulated to the
woman’s magisterial decree.

And that had been the price of freedom, which he had gladly paid.

The Derby Hotel was where the DOP said it would be. Point for those
folks, grudgingly. Its architecture reminded him of places he’d seen in
Germany. That did not sit particularly well with him. Archer hadn’t fought all those years to come home and see any elements of the vanquished
settled here. He trudged across the macadam, the collected heat of the day
wicking up into his long feet. Though the sky was now dark, it was still
cloudless and clear. The air was so dry he felt his skin try to pull back into
itself. Archer also thought he saw dust exhaled along with breath. A pair of
old, withered men were bent over a checkerboard table incongruously
perched in the shadow of a large fountain. The thing was built principally of
gray-and-white marble with naked, fat cherubs suspended in the middle
holding harps and flutes, and not a drop of water coming out of the myriad
spouts.

With furtive glances, the old men watched him coming. Archer shuffled
along rather than walked. For long distances in prison, meaning longer than
a walk to the john, you had your feet shackled. And so, you shuffled along.
It was demeaning, to be sure, and that was the whole purpose behind it.
Archer meant to rid himself of the motion, but it was easier said than done.

He could feel their gazes tracking him, like silent parasites sucking the
life out of him at a distance, him in his cheap, wrinkled clothes with his
awkward gait.

Prison stop. Look out, gents, ex-con shuffling on by.

He nodded to them as he and his filthy shoes grew closer to the cherubic
fountain and the bent checker-playing men. Neither nodded in return. Poca
City apparently was not that sort of place.

He reached the harder pavement in front of the hotel, swung the front
door wide and let it bang shut behind him. He crossed the floor, the plush
carpet sucking him in, and tapped a bell set on the front desk. As its ringing
died down, he gazed at a sign on the wall promising shined shoes fast for a
good rate. That and a shave and a haircut, and a masculine aftershave
included.

A middle-aged man with a chrome dome and wearing a not overly clean
white shirt with a gray vest over it and faded corduroy trousers came out
from behind a frayed burgundy curtain to greet him. His sleeves were rolled
up and his forearms were about as hairy as any Archer had ever seen. It was
like fat, fuzzy caterpillars had colonized there. His nails could have used a
scrubbing, and he seemed to have the same coating of dust as Archer.

“Yes?” he said, running an appraising glance over Archer and clearly
coming away not in any way, shape, or form satisfied.

“Need a room.”

“Figgered that. Rates on the wall right there. You okay with that?”

“Do I have a choice?”

The man gave him a look while Archer felt for the wrinkled dollars in his
pocket.

“Three nights.”

The man put out his hand and Archer passed him the money. He put it in
the till and swung a stiff ledger around.

“Please sign, complete with a current address.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“It’s the law.”

The law seemed to be everywhere these days.

Archer reluctantly took up the chubby pen the man handed him. “What’s
the address of this place?”

“Why?”

“Because that’s my current address, is why.”

The man harrumphed and told him.

Archer dutifully wrote it down and signed his name in a flourish of
cursive.

The man eyed the signature upside down. “That’s really your name?”

“Why? You mostly get Smiths and Jones here with ladies on their arms
for short stays?”

“Hey, fella, this ain’t that kind of a place.”

“Yeah, I know, you’re all class. Like the naked babies set in marble
outside.”

“Look it, where you from?” said the man, a scowl now crowding his
face.

“Here and there. Now, here.”

The man slid open a drawer and pulled out a fat, brass key.

“Number 610. Top floor. Elevator’s that way.” He pointed to his left.

“Stairs?”

“Same way.”

As Archer started off, the man said, “Wait, don’t you have no bags?”
“Wearing ’em instead of carrying ’em,” replied Archer over his shoulder.

He took the stairs, not the elevator. Elevators were really little prison
cells, was his opinion. And maybe the doors wouldn’t open when he wanted them to. What then?

One thing prison took away from you, hard and clear, was simple trust.

He unlocked the door to 610 and surveyed it, taking his time. He had all
the time in the world now. After counting every minute of every hour of
every day for the last few years, he no longer had to. But still, it was a
tough habit to break. He figured he might actually miss it.

He checked the bed: flimsy, squeaky. His in prison had been concrete
masquerading as a mattress, so this was just fine. He opened a drawer and
saw the Gideon Bible there along with stationery and a ballpoint pen.

Well, Jesus and letter writing are covered.

He took off his jacket and hung it on a peg, placing his hat on top of it.
He slipped out his folding money. He laid the bills out precisely on the bed,
divided by denomination. There was not much there after he’d laid out the
dough for the room. The DOP had been stingy, but in an effective way.

He would have to work to survive. This would keep him from mischief.
He wasn’t guessing about this.

Archer took out his parole papers. It was right there in the very first
paragraph.

Gainful employment will keep you from returning to your wayward ways,
and thus to prison. DO NOT FORGET THIS.

He continued running his eye down the page.

First meeting was tomorrow morning at nine a.m. sharp. At the Poca City
Courts and Municipality Building. That was a long name, and it somehow
stoked fear in Archer. Of rules and regulations and too many things for him
to contemplate readily. Or adhere to consistently.

Ernestine Crabtree was her name. His parole officer.

Ernestine Crabtree. It sounded like quite a fine name.

For a parole officer.

He opened his window for one reason only. His window had never
opened in prison. He sucked in the hot, dry air and surveyed Poca City.
Poca City looked back at him without a lick of interest. Archer wondered if
that would always be the case no matter where he went.

He lay back on the bed. But his Elgin wristwatch told him it was too
early to go to bed. Probably too late to get a drink, though number 14 on his
DOP don’t list was no bars and no drink. Number 15 was no women. So
was number 16, at least in a way, though it more specifically referred to no
“loose” women. The DOP probably had amassed a vast collection of statistics that clearly showed why the confluence of parolees and alcohol in
close proximity to others drinking likewise was not a good thing. And when
you threw in women, and more to the point, loose women, an apocalypse
was the only likely outcome.

Of course, right now, he dearly wished for a libation of risky proportion.

Archer put on his jacket and his hat, scooped up his cash, and went in
search of one.

And maybe the loose women, too.

A man in his position could not afford to be choosy. Or withholding of
his desires.

On his first day of freedom he deemed life just too damn short for that.