Cleo. Cleo. Cleo.
She was all I could think about.
It was driving me crazy.
Was she safe? Was she doing okay? I heard that she had to be evaluated about her mental state, but she should be able to ‘pass’ that evaluation with flying colors. She was the sanest person I knew. If everything went alright, she should already be back home in the cabin.
God, if we just had had another day together, the three of us, we would’ve marked her and she’d be able to tap into Kieran and I’ mindlink, allowing us to communicate with each other without actually speaking.
We’d be able to help each other get through this, but instead, we’re completely on our own.
I don’t even have Kieran here, in the holding cell, rather he sits in the one adjacent from me.
Sometimes, if I tried hard enough, I could detect Cleo’s feelings and how she was doing. It was kinda like she was broadcasting a signal and if I searched hard enough, I could tune into her feelings.
Ever since we all were arrested, she has been radio silent.
It worries me, that she’s out there, somehow blocking everything from me and Kieran. I knew that he felt her isolation too, and that if we could just feel that she was okay, it’d ease up the pain brewing in our chests.
The light above me flickered occasionally, casting an ever changing glow onto my head. It was somehow damp in the cell, and humid, making me shrug off my jacket early into my stay here.
Upon the one metal bench I sat, next to two rickety bunk beds, the top which held my cellmate. He had been here before me, sleeping so soundly I wondered how many holding cells this guy had been in.
A few hours had passed before he suddenly stirred and rose onto his elbows. He was an older guy, heavily middle aged, with thinning black hair and tan skin. A tattoo of a rose lingered on his right cheek, the petals of the flower being the only color in the entire tattoo: they were bright red.
Flipping his legs over the edge of the bed, the guy mumbled, “When did you get here?”
Clearing my throat, I replied, “About three hours ago.”
The guy hopped onto his feet, a soft thud echoing throughout the entire room.
He chuckled, walking over to the edge of our cage and leaning against it. Now I caught sight of his tattooed arms that were the size of tree trunks. His muscles strained against his chest as he crossed them, the tattoos stretching to comply with his movements.
“I can tell this is your first time,” Banner deviously grinned. “You stop carin’ ’round your second time.”
“How many times have you been here?” I kept my eyes to the floor, not exactly knowing if this guy could be trusted. Especially since he acted like getting arrested was nothing, like this happened every other day. This was my first - and last - time ever being in this position. Never again would I let this happen. Not since I have a future to worry about now.
“I think this’s my third time. First time, I was just like you. Nervous, scared outta’ my wits ’bout my future, but you’ll realize that once you’re in here, this is the only future you ever gonna get. Might as well have some fun with it.” Banner sucked in a breath, mumbling something about missing his cigarettes. He leaned slightly towards me, his jacked up teeth curved up into a sinister smile, saying, “What’d you do?”
“Nothing. I’m innocent - being falsely accused.”
At that, Banner bursted out laughing.
“I said the same shit during my first arrest, pleadin’ my innocence, claimin’ that I didn’t do it, even when I could clearly recall bashin’ those fuckers’ heads in.” I glanced up at Banner, seeing his eyes cast away to the side. In a way, me and him were the same, technically, I did commit the crime I was being accused of. Of course, there’s more to the story than just the crime, and there’s the whole ‘mate’ thing that made the whole crime within reason. If we hadn’t intervened in Cleo’s life, she’d be states away with those Elisons, who were actually kind of crazy. If anything, we helped her.
“What did you do?” I asked. The curiosity was killing me.
“Durin’ my first arrest or s’ last one?” He asked, leaning his head back to stretch his corded neck. His speech dialect slurred a bit, but I knew that this guy was anything but drunk. I figured it must’ve just been how he spoke.
“The first one.” I clarified. His eyes locked with mine; an unknown emotion swirling in his irises.
“I ’spose if you wanna know I might as well explain why I did what I did.” Banner briefly stopped, clearing his throat. “I got charged with seven accounts of aggravated assault and one attempted murder charge.”
My entire body froze. Shakedly, I looked back at my cellmate. This was a mountain of a man whose crimes matched his appearance completely. Of course I’d share this holding cell with a murderer. Kieran was probably over there locked with a consistent jaywalker.
“I -well, my daughta’, Rose, she has never been one to make good decisions. She got mixed up with some shitty gang folk that ended up- ended up hurtin’ her. She wouldn’t go to the cops, she was too damn scared, so I took it ‘nta my own hands an’ beat the shit out of every one of those gang members that ever laid a finger on her. An’ in that moment, all I saw was red, almost killed one of them had the cops not pulled me offa’ him. Those bastards ended up callin’ the cops on me! The nerve of those fuckers. Rose still wouldn’t come forward and accuse them, so I got arrested.” Banner stilled, his eyes momentarily glossy. His story, though I did ask for it, seemed that it was not over, for he opened his mouth back up again. “While I was in the clink, those guys went after my Rose again for me beatin’ the shit out of them. I wasn’t there to stop them.” He took another breath though I knew it was just a way for him to regain his composure. “I don’t know why I’m tellin’ you all this.” He mumbled.
“No - continue. As long as you’re comfortable, I want to know.” This man was pouring his worst life moments into my hands and I wouldn’t be the one to kick him while he’s down.
“Well, I guess if you’re listenin’ I might as well tell,” Banner eventually decided. “Rose was terrified, but she managed to get away before they could really hurt her again. She fled, not even botherin’ to tell me where she went. When I got out, she had disappeared, and she was pregnant, too, one of those fuckers had fucking raped her and she kept the child. Last I heard about her was that the grief about her attack was too much and she gave up the child. For all I know, my Rose could be dead.”
My heart clenched for this poor man, a man forced into a prison life just because he had to protect his daughter and avenge what had happened to her. I glanced back up at him, seeing his clenched jaw and his tattooed cheek.
For the daughter he may never see again.
I guess I was wrong for immediately assuming the worst.
“The worst part,” Banner continued. “Is that d*mn child Rose put into the adoption system. That kid will never know his actual family since Rose is out there, possibly, and I’m just a recurrin’ guest at this f*ckin’ jail, sitting here with my thumb up my a*s, worried about a child that shouldn’t mean sh*t to me. But I can’t help but wonder if I could’ve claimed it if I hadn’t been locked up, and gave that child an actual good life. Ya know?”
Nodding, I said, “You did what was right though, beating up those guys for your daughter. I would’ve done the same.”
“You have a kid?” He asked.
“No.” I shook my head. But I have Cleo.
If Banner was confused by my half response, he didn’t mention it.
“Man, all of that shit happened ’bout, what is it now? Fifteen, no - sixteen years ago. I just hope that my Rose, if she’s out there, managed to get her life together, and that kid,” He crossed his arms. “I hope that kid found a home.”
“Me too,” I said. And I really do.
The sound of my jail cell being opened woke me from my sleep. I slowly rose up from the bottom bed, my sore back screaming in protest, as the metal frame was not what it was used to sleeping on.
A police officer had opened the cell, and I squeezed my eyes shut when he flashed his light onto me.
It must’ve been five or six in the evening. A small ray of sun escaped through the one window in this entire room. Me and Banner ended up spending a good portion of the day talking. If we ended up going to the same prison, we could honestly be friends.
“Mr. Loughty,” the officer holding the flashlight said. “On account of new evidence and details, you are free to go.”
“What?” Shocked, I almost fell off the bed. “What?”
“You are free to go. We discovered that some of the evidence used to incriminate you had been tampered with and/or false. We also had a witness come forward defending you.”
I couldn’t believe it. I had barely spent half a day in this holding cell, and everything somehow worked out. This - this was amazing.
Stepping to the officer, I glanced at the cell adjacent to me, where my best friend was sleeping.
“What about him?” I pointed.
Following my finger, the officer cleared his throat. “Mr. Sallow is cleared of his kidnapping charge but still faces his assault. He will remain here.”
Crap. This was almost even worse. Kieran was still being charged for attacking Mr. Elison. He would go to prison and no last minute miracle would save him.
This was better, and it was worse.
“Let’s get you signed out,” the officer stated, exiting the cell and motioning for me to leave.
I headed towards him, but stopped in my tracks. I glanced behind me at the top bunk, where Banner was now sitting up and awake. I shot him a glance that said “told you I was innocent” before turning back around, but Banner’s voice stopped me before I could leave.
“Guess I’ll see you ’round, kid.” He coughed once before continuing. “Do me a favor, while you’re outside these walls, if you catch wind of Rose or her kid, tell me how they are, or what happened to them. Her last name is, or was, Bahar.” Banner stopped, but at the sight of my unsure features, he resumed his request. “I rather know everything than be haunted by the unknown. I think I’ll be moved to Franton County jail. Visit me there if you hear anything. Please.”
In these short hours that I’ve known Banner, I never took him as someone who begged, or pleaded. So when he did those very things in hopes of hearing something about his lost daughter, I lent my heart out to him.
Nodding, turned around, hearing him mumble ever so slightly. I think Banner meant for me to not hear it, but due to my werewolf hearing, I was able to pick it up.
“Twenty three guys I’ve told about Rose, and twenty three guys who have never come back to me with any news. Here’s hoping to number twenty four.”
And then I followed the officer out of the cell, past Kieran, and into the connecting hallway.
“You’re good to go now,” The officer said. It was a slow process, and even though I was leaving Kieran behind, I was relieved to not be considered a felon anymore.
“Is Cleo okay?” I asked the officer, not caring at the slim fact he was that familiar with my case.
“That’s that dark haired girl, right?” I nodded, and he continued. “I was with her earlier. Took her downtown to the psych ward myself. Name’s Mendez.”
Officer Mendez glanced around him, leaned further into me, and lowered his voice.
“I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I heard she got diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome and got hospitalized. Some crazy shit, huh?”
“What?” I half-yelled, not realizing that that was not a good idea. I immediately lowered my voice and matched my eyes with the officer’s. “How can she be diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome if she was never kidnapped in the first place?” I figured that Cleo had ‘passed’ her evaluation, I never even considered that she had been locked up like us.
“Huh,” The officer pondered. “Never thought about that.” He grabbed his phone out of his pocket, flipping the screen to dial a number. “I’m gonna have to call the hospital. Something isn’t right.”
“No,” I agreed. “Something isn’t.”❀