56 Days

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Chapter 4

I don’t remember falling asleep, or sleeping. The next thing I do remember was being awoken by the familiar and now friendly clunk of the cell door. It was morning. I had made it through the night.

As I strode across the wing to the servery, the euphoria of making it through the night quickly subsided as my thoughts returned to the bail hearing that lay ahead. I collected my breakfast and returned to the same seat I had sat in the previous day. The two inmates who had warned me the day before gave me a nod of approval.

I glanced back to my cell just as Jock was emerging. He was easily six feet tall and heavily set. His muscular arms strained to burst through his prison issue t-shirt and his whole demeanour screamed danger. Conversations hushed as he descended the metal staircase. Heads dropped as he passed each table. It was clear that Jock commanded universal respect.

“Morning Jock,” chirped a heavily tattooed inmate.

Either Jock didn’t hear, or he simply didn’t care. He ignored the greeting, and also the queue at the servery, but no one seemed to object. Silently, and armed only with a polythene bag of Rice Krispies Jock joined me at my table.

“Did you sleep OK?” I nervously inquired.

“Yeah, nae bad,” he said through a mouth full of cereal. “Did ye enjoy yer smoke last night?” he added with the hint of a mischievous grin.

“Um, yeah.. it kind of knocked me out,” I replied, mirroring his grin.

Jock erupted with a deep belly laugh, “Good man.”

“Time gentleman please,” bellowed the screw. “Back in your pads please.” As the inmates began to filter out of the servery, the screw reeled off a list of surnames from the clipboard in his hand who were to wait behind. His list included mine.

The screw told me that my bail hearing would be at 3 pm that afternoon, and that I must wait in my cell until then. I glanced up to the clock on the wall: 830 am. 3 pm was still six hours away, that meant I would have to spend at least six more hours alone with Jock. As the screw led me back to my cell I took a deep breath. Last night had been an ordeal but the next six hours were going to be just as bad, if not worse.

Once inside Jock asked me where I’d been. I told him about the bail hearing and expanded on the brief answers I’d given him the previous day. As I shared my story I could see he was captivated. I told him how I hadn’t done anything wrong and that I was missing my children terribly. I detected a hint of humanity in his usually wild and vacant eyes.

Satisfied with our exchange I retired to my bunk and fixed my gaze on the television. Plumes of spicy smoke began to waft up from the bunk below. I closed my eyes and willed for time to pass quickly.

A loud thud woke me from my slumber with a start. I opened my eyes and glanced at the cell door. It was still shut. Confused; I sat up. If the door was still shut, what made that noise?

Jock was pacing back and forth, he looked agitated. He turned his wild eyes to mine as I sat up.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, unsure if I really wanted to know the answer.

“I’m out of smokes,” he snarled. “I called for the guard half an hour ago and he’s still not fockin’ here. If he dunnae come soon I’m gonnae go fockin’ mental.” He turned and delivered a volley of punches and kicks to the cell door.

“Ye got any smokes?” he demanded.

“No, I’m all out,” I apologised.

Jock grimaced and let out a primal scream. Incensed, he walked over to the television and in one fluid movement swept it off the cupboard. It felt to the floor and smashed. Thick shards of glass now littered the cell floor. He looked at me with a feral smile. I nervously smiled back dreading his next move. I was now locked in a cell with an agitated and unrepentant attempted murderer who now had a variety of glass weapons at his disposal.


Instinct told me to run but my legs disagreed, besides there was nowhere to run to anyway. I thought back to my children. Would I ever see them again? Jock returned to the cell door and commenced pummelling. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and began to pray.

Behind Jock’s thunderous pounding I thought I could hear the faint rattling of keys, or was my mind playing tricks on me? No, it was definitely keys and Jock’s assault on the door paused momentarily. A voice boomed in to the room with comforting authority.

“Get on your bed Jock,” the voice ordered. “Face down.”

“Fuck ye,” Jock spat back.

In a flurry of activity the door swung open and three screws rushed in. The first two pinned Jock down on his bunk whilst the third swiftly applied the handcuffs. Now restrained it still took two screws to frog-march him out of the cell. The third screw turned to me and told me he would be back in a minute to clean up. As the cell door closed I could hear Jock’s vitriol fading gradually in to the distance. I flicked my gaze back to the shards of glass on the cell floor, scarcely able to believe the carnage that had just taken place.


Within ten minutes one of the screws returned.

“Time for your hearing now Smith,” he said.

I jumped down from the bunk and carefully negotiated my way around the shards of shattered glass on the floor. The screw handcuffed me and escorted me out of the wing. As we crossed the forecourt a prison dog snarled and strained at it’s leash. Despite my fear of dogs it barely registered. I was still haunted by what had just taken place and fearful of the hearing that lay ahead. We entered another faceless building, through two security checks and in to a waiting room. The screw removed my cuffs, deposited me and left. In no time at all a female screw entered the room and led me out of the waiting room and down a dimly lit corridor.

The corridor had several doors lining each wall. The screw opened the last door on the right to reveal a small cubicle with two grey plastic chairs. Opposite the chairs was a small wooden desk and a television screen which for now was blank. The screw guided me to sit in the chair to the left, she took the chair to the right and fixed her gaze at the blank screen, so I did the same.

After a few moments the blank screen flickered in to life to reveal a court room that I recognised from ten days earlier. The presiding judge sat at the front of the court room, to his right: the prosecution, to his left - a familiar face. It was the same solicitor that had spoken with me whilst I was in police custody. The same solicitor that had represented me in the very same court room just ten days earlier. It was only ten days ago, but it felt like a lifetime.

The judge introduced himself and explained the purpose of the hearing. The prosecution spoke first - just as before - and delivered a scathing assessment of my character. The judge was told that I was violent and dangerous, and that my ‘victim’ was terrified of me. Their recommendation was that I continued to be detained until the final hearing.

After digesting this information the judge turned to my solicitor. I crossed my fingers under the desk and could feel that my palms were saturated with sweat. My solicitor spoke well; he countered the prosecution by stating I had no previous convictions and that the crime I had been accused of was a non-violent one. He suggested that if I was released I would not pose a threat to anyone. The judge then turned to me and asked me why I thought I should be released.

Nervously, I began to speak. I echoed the words spoken by my solicitor. I also told the judge that the last ten days had been terrifying. I assured him that if I was released I would not try to interfere with either of the witnesses. I told him that I was scared and I just wanted to go home. I could hear the desperation in my own voice.

The judge advised that the court would now retire to consider what they had heard; they would be back soon to deliver their verdict and with that the television screen returned to black. I wringed my hands, turned to the screw alongside me and nervously enquired:

“How do you think that went?”

She could see that my eyes were filling with tears.

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” she said, “It shouldn’t take too long.”

I turned my attention back to the blank screen and tried to stay calm. After an eternal and painstaking wait the screen flickered back to life. The judge began to speak. I felt my chest tighten and my heart race. His words were barely audible above the sound of my own thunderous heart beat.

“The court has decided that providing you live only at your home address and that you do not contact the witnesses - you will be released until the final hearing in 45 days time. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I mouthed, but no sound came out. I tried again..

“Yes your honour, I understand. And thank you. Thank you so much.”

With that the screen returned to black. I turned to the screw. I was euphoric, but emotionally drained. Her eyes were now full of water too and she was smiling back at me. All of the pent up emotion tumbled from my eyes. Instinctively, I leant forward and embraced the screw. For the first time I could remember I felt safe. After a moment the screw backed out of the hug.

“OK, we have to take you back to your cell now. You will be released later today.”

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