Harsh Consequences

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Chapter 10

After leaving his lesson on prison protocols, Mitch wandered to the opposite end of the central recreation area, where he came across a competitive game of pool taking place. Two lean built, heavily tattooed inmates, one without any teeth, talked up their skills as pool players to anyone interested. Their expectations clearly outweighed their capabilities.

He found it lightly entertaining how each player loudly cursed every missed shot— of which there were plenty — often using a colloquialism for the female anatomy; an overused word in prison vernacular.

The more Mitch watched, the more he learned about life inside. The pool game was boring, but the actions of those gathered to watch enlightened him. Inmates openly wagered bets among themselves on the game outcome using the accepted prison currency – cigarettes.

Before the marathon game ended, a blaring PA announcement alerted inmates that lunch was being served in the tea room. The two players didn’t hesitate in dropping their pool cues onto the pool table to make their way to the lunch room.

Judging by the way inmates moved when called to dine, meal time was a priority over all else, even heavily wagered pool games.

Mitch quickly returned to his cell to drop off his paperwork before making his way to the servery.

With meal tray in hand Mitch entered the tea room searching for an available seat. His focus was elsewhere when he heard a voice to his left call out.

‘Dunny…’ The voice called.

Mitch turned to the voice. Fitzy from the gym sat at the end of a table with eight other inmates. Fitzy gestured to the empty chair opposite him. Mitch placed his tray on the table and slid into the seat.

Some of the inmates at the table glared at Mitch, others didn’t appear fazed by his presence.

One inmate with a bald head and wearing a tight full face beard seated opposite and three down, paused during mouthfuls to say in a monotone voice, ‘Seat’s taken…’

Fitzy leaned forward and glared at the loudmouth. ’You’re right…it is taken…by him…’ Fitzy punctuated his firm comment with a held glare.

The bearded man shrugged and returned to his dining. ‘Whatever,’ he said.

Mitch motioned with his head. ‘Friends of yours…?’

Fitzy scanned the table of inmates. He scoffed. ‘Not on your life, mate. I told you…I keep to myself in here.’

’So, that was keeping to yourself…?’ Mitch lifted his chin to the bearded loudmouth. ‘That could’ve got ugly...’

’I don’t go looking for trouble, but I don’t let any of these idiots think I’m a soft touch, either. Get that sort of rep in here and they’ll never leave you alone. Sometimes you have to take a punch or two and give some back for them to leave you alone, but you do what it takes. If someone throws down on you in here ... you have to hurt ‘em real bad, so they won’t try it again.’

‘So you’ve had a few blues in here then..?’

‘Not yet…And hopefully I won’t. But, if it happens, I won’t be taking a backward step. So that is why I say, I keep to myself. If you’re smart…you’ll do the same.’

‘Oh don’t worry. I’ve already worked that out for myself.’

‘A word of advice…’ Fitzy began, in between shovelling food into his mouth. ‘Do not trust anyone in here…unless you know them well. They may appear to be your best mate…but the reality is…they don’t give a fuck about you.’

That was the second time Mitch received this advice from another inmate.

‘What about you…’ Mitch said. ‘Do I trust you…?’

‘How well do you know me…? Do you know if I‘ll have your back in here…?’

’I don’t know you…’

‘There’s your answer,’ Fitzy said. He forked some food into his mouth. ’Until you do know…’ he said with a mouth full of food. ‘You trust no one.’

‘I understand.’

Mitch was a little confused if Fitzy had a message in his comments. Was he trying to tell Mitch he wasn’t interested in being mates in here? Was Fitzy saying to Mitch that if the situation arose, he would throw Mitch under the bus to save himself? Was there a cryptic message in all of this? He wasn’t sure so he simply chose to eat his lunch in silence. Fitzy did the same.

Fitzy didn’t fit the prison stereo type. He appeared to be an educated man, unlike many of the other residents in the unit. He was sharp, intelligent and his athletic physique indicated many years of looking after himself. He was a loner type with a strong personality.

Mitch was curious what Fitzy did wrong to wind up in jail. He remembered the advice he received about asking inmates what they were in for, so he didn’t pursue it any further.

Fitzy wiped his mouth on his serviette. He sat back in his chair as he regarded Mitch, allowing several beats to pass. Most of the other table occupants had finished their lunch and left.

‘What work did you do on the outside…?’ Fitzy said.

Mitch sat back in his chair. He took a sip of his O.J. while he considered if this was an acceptable discussion topic in here. He checked over both shoulders. Mitch had no problem discussing his job with Fitzy, it’s just that he didn’t know if it was protocol, or not.

‘It’s all good. It stays with me…’ Fitzy said.

‘I worked in advertising…media advertising,’ he said. ‘I was promoted to G.M. a couple of weeks before they put me in here…’

‘A couple of weeks…’ Fitzy repeated. ‘Ah, that explains it…You’re on remand…I knew you didn’t seem like the typical jail type…’

Mitch nodded. ‘Correct. What about you…?’ Mitch said. ‘What work did you do…?’

‘I was in the ADF,’ Fitzy said.

‘Which one of the Forces were you in…?’

‘Army…’ Fitzy said, quickly followed by, ‘Are you from down Geelong way…?’

Mitch frowned at Fitzy. This was getting a little too personal for his liking. He was not comfortable in sharing this sort of personal information.

‘Your advice was not to trust anyone, until you get to know them…’ Mitch said.

Fitzy nodded. ‘You listened. Well done…’ Fitzy said. ‘I only asked because prisoners have a way of finding things out.’


’See...word has filtered in through the bush telegraph that someone from Geelong was coming here on remand for killing two Sudanese guys…Blew ‘em away with a shot gun, apparently,’ Fitzy said. ‘Or so the rumours go…’

Mitch held a vacant stare at Fitzy. How the hell did this sort of information get leaked? He did not feel comfortable discussing the crimes for which he was incarcerated, not even with Fitzy, so he never let on it was him.

‘If you look over my left shoulder you will see four African guys seated at a table,’ Fitzy said. Mitch’s eyes lifted to the table, as instructed. Fitzy continued. ’They are the only Africans we have in this unit. They already know someone from Geelong is in here on remand for killing some of their kind…They just don’t know who it is — yet. They take things like that as a personal attack on their race. Just so you know. If you are from Geelong…and you are on remand…keep that to yourself.’ Fitzy emptied his glass. He stood from his chair and lifted his tray.

Mitch took that to be a friendly and direct warning.

‘I understand…’ Mitch said. He also stood and lifted his tray.

Both men returned their tray and dishes to the kitchen servery.

Mitch woke early Thursday morning. He showered and shaved before they opened his cell door. Today was the first day since he arrived where he showed any interest or excitement. He had good reason.

After purchasing his supplies on Tuesday, Mitch returned to his cell to complete his visitor applications and telephone call list. Neither list of names was lengthy. Alison sat atop of both lists.

When he submitted the completed applications on Wednesday, prison staff told Mitch he would be clear to make telephone calls and receive non-contact visits anytime from Thursday onwards.

Until now, Mitch had not been able to speak with Alison since he was arrested last Friday night. That’s six days without speaking to his wife; his rock. That’s six days without being able to tell her he loved her and that he was OK and that’s six days without knowing how she was coping.

With all the isolation and time to think, his mind’s eye kept re-visiting how distressed she looked at the remand hearing, when he was being led away.

He was excited at the opportunity to hear Alison’s voice again. He scoffed down his breakfast, scraped and returned his plate then quickly made his way to the telephones in the recreation area.

Mitch sighed with relief when he arrived at the telephones; he was the first there. His heart raced with excitement as he keyed in his PIN. Following the prompts, he pressed the number one, for Alison being first on his list.

He could hear the phone chirping. He didn’t know why, but for some reason the pit of his stomach churned and his heart pumped heavily.

Mitch heard Alison answer his call. He could hear a pre-recorded message inform Alison she had a call from Port Phillip Prison. The message informed Alison of the rules she was required to follow, if she was prepared to accept the call. She was instructed to hang up if she did not want to obey these rules, or if she wanted to reject the call. Alternatively, she was instructed to hang on the line for the call to be connected. The call connected.

Mitch listened to the silence. He was unsure if the call had been connected. ‘Al…?’ he said. ‘Are you there…?’

‘Yes, I’m here Darling…Oh, it’s so good to hear your voice. Are you OK? I miss you so much. How are you holding up in there?’

A smile filled Mitch’s face. He could listen to her voice all day. Images of Alison filled his mind as she spoke. Her voice took him to his happy place.

’It is so good to hear your voice. I have missed you so much,’ Mitch said. Alison started sobbing, which caused Mitch’s eyes to well up. ‘It’s OK, Al…I’m OK. You’ll make me cry if you keep that up…’ Mitch checked over his shoulder. ‘And blokes don’t cry in here, Hun…’ he said, albeit with a hint of flippancy.

‘I just want you home with me…’ Alison said.

‘I will be soon…Don’t worry. I’ve done nothing wrong. It will all work itself out, eventually.’ Problem was, he didn’t believe that himself.

‘Yes, but in the meantime…you are in there with…all kinds of horrible people.’

‘Hey…I’ve filled in an application form so you can visit me in here,’ Mitch said, intentionally changing the subject. ‘Initially, the visits will be non-contact…until they conduct background checks on you, then we can have contact visits. Everything is explained in the information they’ll send you, apparently.’

‘I can’t wait to see you,’ Alison sobbed.

‘Me too, Hun. Me too,’ Mitch said. ‘How are you though, considering everything?’

‘Work has been great. They’ve giving whatever time off I need, so I’m taking it.’

‘So you should…This is equally as traumatic for you, you know…’

‘It’s horrible Mitch. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.’

‘I know Hun, I’m so sorry for putting you through this. How’s Mum coping…?’

‘She’s not good, Mitch…as you would expect. I’ve been spending a fair bit of time with her since Friday. I asked her to come and stay with me, but she didn’t want to leave her home. But no, she’s not too good. She’s pretty heavily medicated…’

Mitch rubbed his forehead. He was close to his parents and loved them dearly. After losing his father so tragically, it distressed him greatly to hear his Mum was struggling, even though deep down, he knew she would have to be. How could she not?

‘That’s not good,’ Mitch said. ‘I’ll give her a call later. Can you let her know you spoke to me and that I am OK in here?’

‘Of course…It is so good to hear your voice again.’

‘My thoughts of you are what keep me going in here, Al. Thoughts and knowing that I will see you again, soon…’

‘Did you get the money I sent for you…?’ Alison said. ‘Frank Morgan contacted me and told me that I could deposit money into an account, or something, so you can buy things you need in there…’

‘Yeah, I got it. Thanks. That’s how I’m able to call you today. We need a phone account before we can make calls. No money in the account…no calls. It costs about twelve bucks for each call that goes for the maximum time limit allowed.’

‘I’ll make sure I keep your accounts topped up,’ Alison said.

‘Thanks. That’ll be great. So, have you been in contact with work to let them know what happened?’

‘Oh, yeah. I forgot. Is it Rob from your work…?’ Alison said.

‘Yeah, Rob…Rob Baker. He’s the CEO.’

‘That’s him. I rang on Monday to let your work know what had happened and that you won’t be in for a while. Rob called me on Tuesday. He sounded quite nice, actually. I told him everything I knew about…what happened. He told me not to worry about anything. He asked if there was anything he could do to help.’

‘Yeah, he’s a good bloke…’ Mitch said. His eyes fell to the floor. It suddenly dawned on him. Could his incarceration on remand jeopardise his employment? He never considered it until that moment when Alison mentioned Rob’s name.

Mitch checked the time remaining on the phone display. ‘I’ve got about two minutes left, Al…’

‘Only two minutes…?’

‘Yeah, calls are limited to twelve minutes. Twelve bucks for twelve minutes…Bit of a racket, I reckon. But I can call back as often as I like, as long as I have money in my phone account and there is a phone available.’

‘Oh, Mitch…’ Alison wailed. ‘I hate this. I hate that you have to be in there…I hate that I can’t hold you…and I hate that you are being treated like a common criminal…’

Mitch could hear her sobbing. It was distressing knowing he was the cause of her upset and not being able to do a thing about it.

‘I hate not being able to hold you too, Al. I love you so much and I miss you,’ Mitch said.

As the numbers on the phone’s LCD display counted down to single figures Mitch said his goodbyes and ended the call with a promise he would call back as soon as possible.

Mitch hung up the phone. His eyes welled up. A sense of emptiness washed over him. Once again he was alone; a world away from his beautiful wife. A tear escaped and ran down his cheek. He did his best to disguise wiping it away as he glanced behind to see three inmates waiting to make a call.

Mitch feigned scratching his temple to hide his emotions as he moved to the back of the queue to wait for the opportunity to call Alison back. Twelve minutes was not even close to enough time to talk to his wife.

While waiting in line, the sense of helplessness was overwhelming. The justice system whisked him away from his wife and from his life. The prison system dictated when he could call her, when he could see her. He no longer had a life, he had an existence, devoid of the independence he enjoyed before that fateful night last week.

Throughout the course of the morning, at various intervals, Mitch called Alison a further three times. With each call costing $12, by the end of the fourth call, he had spent forty-eight of his allocated fifty dollar allowance.

Before they ended their last call, Alison said she would send further funds as soon as she hung up, so he could call back tomorrow. At least that would give him something to look forward to.

His last $2 was used to call his lawyer. During the brief call, Frank told Mitch he would contact the Prison to book a meeting with Mitch for tomorrow afternoon, to discuss the case and their defence.

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