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Joseph 'Ciao' Canto was a double lifer.
Never released. He would die in Prison.
Twice over, which to Paul Liddell seemed rather superfluous.
His nickname was 'Ciao' because he was always saying good-bye to people as their release dates came around. He being stuck there!
His never realised. He didn’t seem to faze him though. That cruel fact!
Their freedom guaranteed at some point from this most modern, depressing Prison.
The old bloke sauntered up to Liddell. Nodded his head.
This made Liddell nervous.
He was that close to his release date and for his entire stay, 'Ciao' had always left him alone. Never once taken the time for a natter, although Paul suspected that the one and only time where a 'Heavy', a Jail 'Enforcer' was ordered in to squeeze Liddell’s private space, it had been on the orders of ‘Ciao'.
To suss him out.
To let him know who was really running this Prison.
As though Liddell couldn't suss that out for himself!
"Ya learnt your lesson? Knowed now how to stay away from this place?" He muttered, not looking at Liddell.
As though he was the Reservation Clerk dutifully noting the state of vacancies available within the salubrious walls.
Liddell nodded his head slowly.
"A light wallet and a heavy head." He stated by way of explanation.
Rather cryptically expressed. Liddell could find the humour of the comment. It seemed to go over the old bloke’s head. He obviously not into obtuse, cryptic comments.
"That was it. Still can't remember the night that changed my bloody life, I was so pissed. Six with a non-parole period of four. That’s what I got for a bloody mistake! With the problem that caused my drinking problem, still there. In my head. I reckon that it will still be there when I get out...and I reckon that I still won't be able to handle it! Though I know that the turps won't solve it...or make it any easier for me."
The old bloke looked up at Paul Liddell as though this gem could solve the world's problems.
Maybe it could. Maybe it couldn't.
'Ciao' Canto wasn't into the world's problems.
He'd had enough of his own, so he thought. Controlling his ‘Business’ from inside required a lot of thought and nous.
Liddell felt his life was full of problems. The difference being that he always thought that he could resolve them to make himself a better person. That was a little difficult while he wore away the time inside. But still….
Problems to fill up a bucket with tears, so he would explain, though that wasn't it, really... just the turps and a need to drown out the sorrows of another mate taking his own life. Another of the Squad gone for no good reason that Liddell could fathom. Some guys just need a little more mothering. Liddell feeling guilty that he could not provide that assistance when needed.
That's what had got him into this joint.
He figured though, that now he'd get out with a clean slate. Like a brand-new baby. Or that is what Liddell hoped in any case.
The old bloke shook his head sagely. As though he knew shit from clay. If the truth be known, he couldn't care less. He was a Lifer. Never to be released. The prison yard was his personal serfdom.
- - - - -
Liddell was nervous.
He'd stayed out of trouble.
Didn't get involved with the Prison politics or the ever-changing, for-ever challenged pecking order. When one of the heavies attempted to work him over; to see what he was made of, the Heavy reported back to Ciao with a dislocated shoulder blade. In record time. The Heavy's steroid pumped, slow-minded explanation was that he tripped down some stairs. This, so as not to lose face. From then on, the Heavy gave Liddell a wide berth...and so did the other boys wanting to advance up the pecking order.
There were always weaker ones to pick on, to gain that 'inside' reputation! And Liddell seemed not to want to be top dog in the yard, in any case. That was for someone else, as far as he was concerned. If the fool thought that a couple more scars was a good look to go with the position, than he would leave it be.
He had less than three months to go on his sentence and with good behaviour, he was likely to be out in weeks.
Liddell hadn't wasted his time inside.
He was what the Prison doctrine would proudly proclaim as one of those rare success stories. He'd taught prison classes in English Essay and Comprehension. General Grammar. Spelling. At the same time, Liddell had achieved his Professorship in English Literature. If he was lucky, a University Lectureship could be his if he could leave the prison record behind. At worse, maybe an English Teacher, tutoring spoilt brats the finer points of the Queen's English, though he was still unsure on that statement.
"Paulie? You do an old man a favour." The old man's croaky voice broke into Liddell's muses.
It was a request that didn't have a yes/no option to it.
The old bloke was like that.
He looked up at Paul Liddell, squinting his eyes in the bright sunlight. Gave a grin that could have been mistaken for a snarl, like a Wolf warding off family while he had first digs at the bloody cadaver.
"I hear ya leaving us soon. I been here far too long already. My family have long stopped coming to see me. Ashamed, I guess. Can't blame them, I suppose. It's not a good place to come visiting. My missus? She'd have trouble walking to the Letterbox and back. My girls and my boys. There's be six of them...and the grand-kids. Though that's been reduced by two deaths some years back. A sad accident. A car accident." He again squinted up at Liddell to see whether the younger man was still paying attention. "Can you check them out, for this old bloke. When ya get out. Come visit me and tell me how they're doing..."
Liddell glanced sideways at the old man who was not used to having his requests refused, so the prison gossip implied.
"…and Paulie, if ya do that for me, I'll make it worth your while on the outside..."
A quick grin crossed his face as though it was running from something. Yellow teeth and a bad breath were left behind.
"And if I decide against the request?" Liddell quizzed deadpan. Glancing sideways at the old man.
"Arrh...Paulie, this ain't a request, my young friend. But if'n ya do decide not to do this for this old bloke, then things could go mighty wrong out there...if ya get my drift."
Said in a soft voice with no menace or threatening infliction.
That made it even more worrisome.
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: