“Lock Down in Lock-Up”
“With a painted-on smile
And laughter like a shield
When it hurts the most
I make a joke to hide the way I feel
Nobody wants you when you’re down
But everyone loves a clown
I balance between
The truth and what lies hidden up my sleeve
And when it all gets too hard
I just play the joker card"
-Sung by Beccy Cole
(“The Clown Song”)
We instantly got rid of everyone we didn’t know.
Clearing the officers from the cellblock was not as easy as you might thought. We had to pull them back to the next check-point. We couldn’t leave the jail’s inmates without proper oversight. Luckily, our prisoner was in the farthest-removed corner of the area. We could keep him separated from the rest of the population without moving him anymore.
He seemed even more skittish after the removal of the body of the dead officer to the morgue, and when the injured one was taken to the infirmary.
“He won’t talk to anyone,” the head of the prison unit told me. “He had been telling us that he had done nothing wrong and why didn’t we just talk to the director. We asked him who that was and he couldn’t tell us. We had a couple of volunteers who said they’d sit with him till you got here. Another officer was delivering him some sheets when he came across the assault and sent out the alarm. We were able to save the second officer, but the first was already stabbed in the eye, through into the brain, with a fork. It wasn’t pretty.”
“How long have the officers been here before tonight?” I asked.
“They were both new,” he admitted, “I hadn’t seen them before. We are looking for their records.”
That was more than expected. I left him and walked down the hallway. The other inmates were surprisingly quiet. There was a weird vibe in the whole place.
I entered the last hallway and then went in to talk to Pressman, who didn’t seem to trust me.
I tried to start out easily. “What do you need before we begin?” I nudged.
He just looked at me for the longest time. His eyes darted back and forth between me and any other officer present.
Finally he stammered, “I could use some coffee?”
I turned to the closest policeman and nodded. He looked questioning back at me, but after I gave him a stern look he rushed off. Seconds later he returned with a paper cup full of steaming hot brew that would taste vaguely reminiscent of coffee.
Pressman didn’t take it from the cop. When I took it and offered it to him he hesitantly accepted it.
“Lawrence?” I asked him as he blew on the coffee, “How long have you been a follower of Walter Simonson?”
After a quick sip he looked up, slightly more sure of himself, “Ever since he promised me $10,000 for doing what I was trying to do when I got caught. I never bought into his bullshit.”
“He paid you to kill those people?”
“Kill? Hell no!” He proclaimed, “It was a movie! They handed us the guns full of blanks and sent us in to do a movie scene. He was giving me a chance to start again, as an actor. I didn’t kill anyone!”
He was telling me the truth, I could tell it in an instant.
“You didn’t check the ammunition?”
“I was told, ‘Don’t question anybody. It’s a big union thing. The guys who give you the guns, build the sets, the other actors all can make legal problems for me if they think you are getting in their business. So, for that money, I could go without asking questions,” He finished the coffee and crushed the cup, “I just thought everyone was doing their jobs great. The squibs, that’s what they call the explosions planted to look like bullets hitting people, they were looking great. The actors were really believable. I only got worried when Marv got shot. He hadn’t talked to me about him having that in his part! But, then again, what did I know? Maybe that was a way to make sure I reacted right? For that kind of money I just went with it!”
“So you haven’t talked to Simonson since you left?”
“No, everything was set up. I got a letter with my instructions on it and showed up. People were there to check me into a hotel in Omaha and drive me to the theater tonight. They gave me my gun and costume so I could change before I left for the drive. I thought people were over-reacting at the hotel, but, I guess they get all worked up about Movie Actors.”
I stood up and backed away.
He reacted to my face.
“Oh, hell. You telling me that was real?”
I nodded. He was understandably upset; then I found out why.
“You mean I won’t get paid?”
I almost laughed.
“Damn you, Walt! You and me are going to have some kind of talk when I see you again.”
I agreed that Simonson needed to answer some questions. But I wasn’t going to wait. I was going to see him now.
© C. Wayne Owens