"Mr. Eddowes, you're late. Again."
Ah, Filbery Picket, the head warden. Just the man I wanted to run into after missing the last Stea-Flo out to the island. It took thirty minutes just to convince a tour ship to pass by Cierce on it's way to the peninsula, and now the good ol' warden had me caught dead in his sights.
"Late, which is surprising," the old man continued, "Considering that lovely time piece,"
He was eyeing my most prized possession, a classic watch handed down from generation to generation. When my father died, my mother gave me the watch without even waiting for the will. I brought my hand up to my lapel, where the pocket watch rested. "Unfortunately, good watches don't always guarantee promptness," I say, smiling.
"That's true," Filbery said, "Some people prefer to use them as fashion statements," not so subtly hinting that I, Leo Eddowes, was one such flagrant fashion victim.
"What a waste," I reply, nodding my head at the decrepit killjoy. I was late to work, so what? Who could it hurt? The prisoners would still be there, staring aimlessly at the rusted metal bars.
I paused. Filbery had that particular look on his face that told me he had a very special way in which I could make up for being late. The kind of look that made me think I would regret missing the last Stea-Flo. "Mr. Eddowes, you are certainly not your father,"
Here we go.
"I deeply respected the late warden, he had a clear-cut way of doing things. Treated every issue with a firm hand."
"Well, Leo, you have more of… a soft heart. Good for handling certain problem cases."
So that's where this was headed. He was foisting the juveniles on me.
Not a single sub-warden wanted a juvenile case. They were either boring (petty theft), tragic (homeless), or too disturbing to even mention. Most of the childrens' crimes were symptoms of how they were treated by the adults in their lives. I couldn't stay far enough away from these cases.
"Warden Pickett, perhaps I could-"
"No, Leo," Filbery cut in, "I really think you're the best man for the job. You relate to them better than the other subs."
Filbery had managed to push every barb he could into the conversation. Yes, the truth is that, at twenty years old, I am much younger than the other sub-wardens. What can I say, my father got me the position before he passed a year and a half ago.
This meant that not a single person respected me. Not the regular prisoners, I was too green. Not the juveniles, I was too close in age to them. Most of all, not the other sub-wardens. They treated me with the most disdain.
I mean, a select few took me under their wing, but even they gave up after a while.
"Alright," I sigh, "Lay it on me."
"Good boy," Filbery grunted, handing over a leather folder. It was surprisingly thick for a juvenile case. "He's already in your office."
"Already in my…" Fantastic. Filbery had locked some juvenile delinquent in my office, where the little pest was probably making a mess of things. Fine. I nodded at Filbery and waved the case folder as I turned and walked down the hallway towards to the intake offices. The other sub-wardens were probably having a good laugh over this.
Intake Office 30, my home for seven hours of the day (eight if I come on time, which is rarely). My father, the previous warden, had bestowed the window-side office to me on my eighteenth birthday. I probably would have suffered a lot more grief for the preferential treatment if he hadn't died only three months later. However, he had made Filbery promise that the old fool wouldn't fire me, once he took over the warden position from my father. At the very least, my future at the prison was secure.
Not that I particularly enjoyed being here. Cierce Prison sits squarely on an island, which means no little nips down to the corner store during breaks. We either bring our own lunches, or eat the gruel served to the prisoners. Perhaps, on somedays, I wouldn't mind gruel. However, that usually never happens.
So, besides the isolation, working on an island also guarantees frozen fingertips, little in the way of a view, and the ever present knowledge that if a riot were to break out, there was no where to run to.
I stare at the nameplate under the office number. INTAKE OFFICER LEO EDDOWES, it says. Officially, all of the "sub-wardens" were called intake officers. Our job was to review the individual case files in the presence of the incoming prisoner, and then decide where best to place them. We called ourselves wardens because our responsibilities didn't end when the bars slid shut on our prisoners. No, we were then considered their guardians, responsible for all of their actions.
My father actually devised this system. He let the intake officers handle the "day to day" while he took care of "bigger matters", whatever that meant.
Sitting behind this door was my next charge, some juvenile. Hopefully he had done something insignificant, such as petty theft. The last thing I needed was a complicated case. With a sigh, I bring my hand to the dented knob, and turn it.
He was draped over my office chair like a shameless prince. Of course, it was all attitude, his clothes were miserable. "Hello," I say, shutting the door behind me, and then placing my lunch down on the vast surface of my oak desk (which was inherited from my father).
He smiled. Smirked, more like it.
"Do you mind?" I ask, gesturing towards the chair usually reserved for incoming prisoners. He tilted his head, and then shrugged. I could have strangled him.
This type of boy, this was the worst. They're the type who know the rules of the game before they're even old enough to play. They never make it easy on intake officers, no matter how unruffled we act by their "scrappy" confidence. My situation, being so young, made the process even more laborious.
The older intake officers could fake wisdom, you know, tell the boys some sound advice about surviving in the rough and tumble world of J-Hall. Eat or be eaten, Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, etc.
Kids hated when I gave advice. Which makes sense, I suppose. I give terrible advice.
"So," I say, flipping the leather folio open. If all else fails, just follow protocol. "Name?"
Already a lie? This was going to take a while.
"Pentecost, I have your file right here," I look up at the delinquent. He's still smiling.
"Then why did you ask?" he says.
"I need to hear you say it out loud."
I agreed, but I wasn't going to tell him that. "Stupid or not, it's the rules,"
He didn't answer for a moment, so I waited for him to decide if he was going to continue playing hardball. I ticked a few boxes on the sheet, things that didn't really necessitate an answer from the prisoner.
"Fine, my name is Pentecost."
Looking up, I see that he has finally averted his gaze from me. If anything, this made me wary. "But, you go by West?"
"It's better than Pentecost, isn't it?" His mouth was set in a firm line. Maybe he'll trust me if I concede a small bit.
"I'll just put West Pentecost, alright?" I say, all smiles. He just shrugs again, and stares out the window.
I'll let him stare, then. Looking down at the file, I slowly scan it's contents. He's fifteen, only five years younger than myself… what a difference those five years make. Charged and found guilty of…
"You cut a magistrate?" I strum my fingers on the desk as I ponder this. "They don't like when we put the violent ones with the rest of the juveniles." Would they notice if I did? Putting him in an adult ward just seemed like overkill… maybe if I put him in the nonviolent adult ward?
"Aren't you going to ask why I did it?"
I look up at him again, this time he's staring straight into my eyes with an expression that unnerved me. I'm not a serious person, in fact, I've been called shallow to my face, on several occasions. The seriousness in this fifteen year old's eyes made me feel somehow… small in comparison.
"I wasn't planning on it," I reply. I start writing my recommendation for J-Hall. "I'm sure you had a good reason,"
"Are you serious?" He sounds almost incredulous, as if I were the shameless criminal.
"I wasn't the one who cut a magistrate…" I continue writing.
In the end, Filbery would probably decide to move him to the adult ward. I'm not even sure if recommending J-Hall is the right idea, there's no way to tell how much this kid leans towards violent tendencies.
"You don't give a shit," he says after a few moments.
In general, yes, this was true. "That's not true at all," I say, feigning concern. "As your intake officer, I-"
"Save it," he cut in, "I've heard it before."
"You've been in prison already?" This wasn't in his file. What I thought would be an immense past record, turned out to be an overly-analytical psych evaluation. Someone had put a lot of effort into making this kid sound crazy. As I continued to skim the contents, words such as "escalation," and "delusions" kept cropping up like madlibs.
"Sure," he replied, obviously not willing to expand further now that he knew I didn't have a clue as to what he was talking about. I let it go.
"Why do you wear gloves?" he asked, trying to sound off-hand.
I look down at my crisp, white gloves. "It's part of the uniform," I reply. The one upside of this job, in my opinion, were the uniforms. Clean. Stylish. Sexy. They definitely helped me look more authoritative than my twenty years would normally allow. They came with a silly hat, but I happened to "lose" mine on my first day, and happened to forget to file a request for a new one.
"I like them," he says. I'm not surprised, his clothes looked like the previous owners were a nest of rats.
"They are quite nice." I'm finishing up with his file, there isn't much to question him on. Well, the psych eval is troubling, but a little too earnest. I couldn't help but think that if the doctor felt this strongly about Pentecost's mental state, than he would have come and talked to me about it.
That's when I noticed. The doctor named in the evaluation was not the in-house psychiatrist. "West, after you were indicted, was there anyone who asked you a lot of weird questions?" He opened his mouth to speak, but I held up a finger. "Don't say me,"
He smiled again, genuinely this time, I think. "There was a guy, at the courthouse."
"Not here?" I ask. He nods. Funny, I've heard of pre-evals, sometimes. However, I have never known a prisoner to pass through the intake offices without getting fully analyzed by Doc Waller. I would have to ask the good ol' doc about it.
"Did that coat cost you a lot?" Turning around, I glance at the leather trench coat hanging on the door.
"It didn't cost me anything," I reply. Another heirloom from my father, the coat had been hanging from the door since the day he died. He wore it during his tenure as an investigator some thirty-odd years ago, making the worn out thing embarrassingly out of style. "Do you like it?" I glance back at West.
He's staring at me now, "Are you rich?"
"No," I lie, why not?
"You dress rich," He says this as an accusation. "And you talk rich, you act rich. I bet you went to Karrington."
He was talking about the school that all of the magistrates and tycoons send their children, which made sense. From what I've learned about the street children of Austrene, they hate Karrington students most of all. "I did not," I reply, which is true. "I went to Pimber,"
This excited him, the only tell being a small flash in his gaze. "Pimber? Isn't that where they train the Stea-Flo captains?"
"Amongst other things," I shrug, looking down at his file. I need to wrap this up. "West, I'm sending you to the juvenile wing, known as J-Hall. You'll be there until your eighteenth birthday, at which point you will be reevaluated, and a decision will be made about possible probation."
I look up to see how he took this. Still sitting languidly, he seemed unfazed. "As for schooling, it is mandated that you attend the education center until you're seventeen." I paused for a moment, wondering if he'll listen to any advice that I might give. "I strongly suggest you keep going to the education center, and learn as much as you can. You'll be an adult when you leave here, and there won't be any aid. The best idea is to pick up a trade craft."
"Is that it?" he asks, "You tell me to read for three years, and your job is done?"
This kid would not let up. "Exactly," I reply, "What more should I be doing?" I admit, I wasn't acting professionally. However, he had stabbed a political figure… and with a personality that's been deemed to "escalate," I just wanted him out of my office.
This was the test. Either his tough exterior would break, and I'd have a sobbing teenager in my office, or he'll decide to push through, and pretend that he didn't care about being locked away for at least three years. Whichever happens doesn't matter to me, but I wished he would make a decision quickly. Taking a look at my watch, I realize we've only been talking for ten minutes.
"Do you think I'll get killed?" He seemed vaguely curious, as if he were asking what time of day it was.
I wasn't expecting that. Clipping the watch back to my lapel, I sigh and sit back down. "We've had deaths, only a few though, and none while I've been working here." It takes me a moment to realize what I should say next, but suddenly I knew what this kid was planning. "The best way of getting through this is blending in. Just be one of the pack, you know? Don't single yourself out."
He smiled at me, this time his attention fully centered on my eyes. "Be a coward?" is all he says.
We sit in silence for a moment, and it occurs to me to be shamed. But why? My advice was sound. With a sigh, I reach into my lunch satchel and pull out the chocolate chip cookie my mother had the cook make for me. "Here," I say, handing West the cookie.
"Really?" He looks amused, and I find myself blushing from embarrassment. All I could do was hand this kid a cookie, that was the extent of my ability. He takes the cookie anyway, as if he felt bad for mocking me.
"They're going to start wondering what the hold up is," I trail off.
He nods, and stands up from my office chair. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Eddowes," he says, holding out a hand.
"Right," I reply, without complying with the shake. I may not have been on my game with this particular case, but I definitely wasn't going to let him control how we end it. "West, remember, you can ask to see me anytime. If you're having problems, or what ever."
Heading to the door without waiting for a response, I find a guard waiting for West on the other side. I look back to find the teenager staring at me. He's not smiling anymore. "You really don't care why I cut him, do you?" he asks.
It's my turn to shrug. "West," I say, nodding towards the guard, "It's time to go."
Stuffing the rest of the cookie in his mouth, he walked slowly around the desk, and stepped past me. I hand the file over to the guard with a nod, and then watch the two of them walk down the hallway. As I was about to shut the door, I remembered that I wanted to speak to Doc Waller.
I found him in the med-wing, methodically sterilizing his stethoscope at his desk, the clanging, scraping sounds of the prison seemingly flowing over his head without notice. Doc Waller didn't really have friends in the prison, but he and I got along just fine. Who knows what that says about me.
"Mr. Eddowes," he says, as if stating a fact.
I sit down without invitation, and lean forward. "I just had an interesting juvie case."
"I haven't inspected any juvies today,"
With this, I have earned his curiosity. He sets down the stethoscope, and honors me with his eye contact. "What do you mean?"
"He was examined by someone at the court house, and the was an order in his file saying that examination by the prison will be bypassed."
"Only a magistrate would have the power to do that," the doctor says, scratching his nose.
The kid had cut a magistrate… I wonder if that man was involved. "The file said the kid had delusions,"
"Then he shouldn't be here," Waller responds, "He should be at the asylum." Doc Waller usually had one foot out the door of every conversation, but this time he seemed to focus on the subject at hand. "Leo, if this worries you so much, I can raise a stink and see if I can see the kid,"
I laugh. It would be nice to think that Waller was doing anything for me, but I knew he was offended by being left out of the loop. Especially if the prisoner is insane. "Thanks Waller," I say, and stand to leave.
"What did he do?"
"Cut a magistrate."
Waller actually looks shocked by this, the first time I had ever seen any kind of expression on the man's face. "Magistrate Grames?"
"How did you know?"
He throws a newspaper that had been sitting on his desk at me. I unfold it to find the portrait of Magistrate Grames staring disapprovingly at me. 'CHAMBER LEADER IN SERIOUS CONDITION' the headline stated with shock. No one ever dared attacking a chamber magistrate, no matter how much the people hated them.
"It's curious, though…" the Doc says, staring at me.
"The paper doesn't say that he assaulted. It says that he was in an auto accident."
Chapter 1 of my Nano project.