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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Enjoy Chapter Three of The Candle in the Window--a Fan-Fiction Tribute to T-Bag from Prison Break!



Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell, convicted murderer, is released from Fox River Prison to help Michael Scofield, whom he once swore a blood feud against, in Scofield's efforts to bring to justice one "Poseidon," the CIA spook who incarcerated him and married his beloved, Sara Tancredi. Scofield even funds a new prosthetic hand for T-Bag, a beyond-the-top-of-the-line marvel that behaves just like any normal one but is many times stronger.

But that isn't the greatest gift Scofield gives him. For T-Bag has a son, one he never knew he had. David--"Whip"--had been Scofield's cellmate while both languished for the past five years in a brutal prison in Yemen.

The plan is hatched, the play unfolds, and David dies just days after Theodore finds out about him. Enraged, he once again lets the demon light the candle in the window of his soul, and kills the CIA spook responsible.

We leave Theodore Bagwell in his cell back in Fox River. His new cellmate is none other than Poseidon himself. This is where we rejoin him and his efforts at redemption. This is where the candle in the window waits to be re-lit.



Chapter Three
The Trip to Troy
~~*~~


“If this be your judgment against me, Lord, then forgive me for playing the part to the best of my ability. I resolve to be your servant and your soldier. Allow me this point of pride. I won’t let you down again. You have my final, fatal word.”

   He sat back on the pew and stared at the golden altar and the high, arching stained-glass window behind it, one with the cross of the crucified Christ in its center, which looked just like the prison’s. He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to empty.

   Before coming here, he had spent the day at O’Doole’s, which was one of Chicago’s fancier men’s clothiers. There he let the tailors outfit him with three new suits, new ties, and new shoes.

   It’s right to look your best at your funeral, he thought as the men worked around him. They treated him like a king, and he let them. He tipped them well on his way out.

   He’d spied the hair stylist—Loyola’s Doos—a few weeks earlier while shopping with Ximena, and walked in there next. The women greeted him like royalty as well, took his fancy new duds and hung them up in the back room, poured him some gourmet coffee in a fine porcelain cup, sat him down and went to work on him: new haircut and goatee trim, even a manicure for his organic hand. The pretty young thing filing his nails took great interest in Vice, staring at it in rapt fascination. He brought the back of it to her cheek and gently stroked it. Her eyes widened. “It isn’t even cold!”

   “Maybe you could give it a buff, darlin’, when you’re finished with the non-mechanical one ...”

   “Yes ... yes, of course, Mr. Bagwell. Of course.”

   She lovingly buffed it with soft cloth, giving it her complete attention, and he watched and felt that demon stir deep down. But it did nothing but growl in satisfaction. He smiled with fatherly warmth when she glanced up at him, and felt like a king.

   Ximena had agreed to this large outlay of cash the night before. She was a shrewd woman, bless her, who didn’t mince words.

   “It’s right to look your best at your own funeral,” she said, and began crying. He held her while they lay in bed.

   “Just promise me, Teddy, that you’ll do your best to come home to me. Promise me, please!”

   He kissed the top of her head. “There won’t be a moment, darlin’ bride, after I set foot out that door, that I won’t be like that terminator fellow. Nothin’s gonna stop me from gettin’ back to you. That’s my resolve, baby, have no doubts.”

   He had purchased the finest suede leather gloves money could buy—black. And for his final purchase, he bought a new pair of Barton Perreira shades, reflective, with silver frames. They matched Vice perfectly.

   He thought he should buy a gun, but no ex-con would ever be able to get one legally, and he wasn’t about to try to obtain one illegally. He was determined to fly right, and reminded himself for the umpteenth time that he was almost certainly being watched.

   The day before he was to leave he logged into his computer and bought the Greyhound ticket to Troy.

   He could have taken Ximena’s nice, new Corolla there, but decided against it. “It might be my funeral,” he murmured, “but I ain’t gonna make it easier for you assholes to get me.”

   A bus would be full of passengers—witnesses. A bus would make things messy. And besides, Ximena had worked hard for that gleaming bit of steel in the garage below their apartment; and it was a sure goddamned bet that whatever hell he got himself into once he parked his ass in Troy would destroy that steel sooner than later.

   Buses were seen by most as transportation for bottomfeeders. But if the hell of his life had taught him anything, it was just how fucked up that perspective was. No, it wasn’t a corporate jet, but he had once hitch-hiked his ass all the way from Panama back to San Diego. In the most brutal way possible, he learned to appreciate just how nice wheeled, heated/air-conditioned transport of any kind really was.






The next morning, taxi waiting, he held Ximena at the door. She wept silently into his shoulder, though she had promised him she wouldn’t. He gently pulled her head back and kissed her teary cheeks, then her soft lips. He was going to miss those lips. Aside from Susan, he hadn’t been faithful a damned day in his life. Even more than Susan, Ximena elicited that homey, settled feeling from him. He really did love her.

   “There was always gonna be a price, baby girl, for me and you and bein’ free from the walls of Fox River. We both knew it. This is that price. But I promise you that I will do everything in my power to make it back here to you. I’m cunning, you know? And if I don’t let that demon out to play, if I don’t let it light that candle, I’m smart,” he added, tapping his temple emphatically and winking. “I’m smart as anybody, and I can get outta just about any trap those bastards lay for me.”

   He could see the determination reflecting back in her eyes, and damn well appreciated it. If she harbored any doubt, she hid it well.

   “Come back to me, Teddy.”

   He kissed her again, holding his lips against hers for an extra moment, stroked her wet cheeks, grabbed his bags and walked down the hall towards the elevators without another word. He turned as the doors rumbled open and gazed at her, his bride, one last time. The doors closed and the elevator descended towards the ground floor.






Troy, Michigan, was a little over four hours away by car, but six by bus. He didn’t care. He found a seat in the back, pulled out his cell-phone, and called her an hour into the trip. She had calmed down considerably.

   “I did as you asked and sprayed Raid all over the place again for those nasty roaches.”

   “Kill any?”

   “I didn’t find any, no.”

   “Good, good.”

   “Spraying Raid” was a euphemism for looking for surveillance bugs in the apartment. To date, they hadn’t found any. He had checked his phone again, and it too was clean.

   “Do you have the bolt?”

   He reached into his coat pocket and procured the bleacher bolt Scofield had sent him with the riddle. “Got it right here, darlin’.” The silver of it complimented the rich black of the glove covering Vice. He put it back into his pocket.

   Both he and Ximena were convinced that he needed to bring it along. Since receiving it, he had kept it near or on his person at all times, certain that its importance was greater than that of being a mere bleacher bolt. He had inspected it extremely carefully. By all appearances, it was indeed a bleacher bolt. There was a number under the hexagonal head, followed by a letter:

23904-a

   They were very tiny, nearly illegible. He had gone through every single possibility concerning them as he worked on Scofield’s maddening riddle, but nothing had come out in the wash. By all appearances, it was a single, solid bit of mundane stainless steel.

   One that he was still convinced, nonetheless, was absolutely vital to whatever was coming next.

   Three hours later he called home. “Just thinkin’ of my bride and already missin’ her.”

   “Where are you at?”

   “Comin’ into Kalamazoo,” he answered with a long emphasis on the zoo. “Goin’ Eastern Time. I’d forgotten to factor that in. Hopefully that won’t bite me on the be-hind later.”

   The bus stopped for half an hour once there so that passengers could stretch their legs and get a snack at the concession counter inside. It was a cold, gray day, and he was becoming increasingly anxious. He was going into a potentially deadly situation nearly totally blind, and found himself once again calculating possible scenarios and responses to each potential problem.

   As an answer to his jittery nerves, he took a grinning selfie just outside the depot’s front door and sent it home, with the message:

Here comes the teddy bear! Watch out, world!

   She must have been scanning the phone just then, because he got an answer back within a minute:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I got a guy
(in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo)

I love my teddy bear.

   He smiled.

   He used the toilet, bought a bag of chips and coffee, and made his way back aboard the bus. A few minutes later it was merging back onto the highway.






On the run from the law, he had spent three nights in Detroit. He remembered those nights like they had taken place just last week.

   He was wired on coke and e and half a dozen other illicit substances. He’d just robbed a liquor store in Hazel Park and gotten out with $170, but also with his mug on camera. He’d cased the place thoroughly beforehand, but had missed the camera in the back left upper corner near the economy-sized bags of corn chips and the rack of rubbers.

   It was that camera shot that eventually wound up with him in handcuffs. It was the one Susan saw when she turned on America’s Most Wanted.

   Susan. He hadn’t given her more than a passing thought in almost a year! He wondered for a moment how she was doing, how the kids were doing. He held no rancor for her, no bitterness ... in fact, no emotions whatsoever. Almost as though he was a different man now.

   He put his head back against the rest and closed his eyes.






He woke when someone bumped Vice. It was a young, pretty teenaged girl who had sat next to him. She must’ve gotten on while he slept.

   “Sorry,” she said, and turned her attention back to her phone, which featured her and several other friends at a birthday party. He could just hear the cheers and laughs and thumping music issuing from her headphones.

   The demon stirred. She was a cutie, all right. Smiling, he licked his lips and closed his eyes once more.

   Half an hour later he heard, “Troy, next stop. Troy, Michigan, next stop. Please gather your belongings and have a nice day.”

   The girl had already gotten off.






At the depot, he texted Ximena (“Here. On my way. Here we go ...”), then hailed a taxi. Light snow was falling, and the sun had disappeared, making the waning day feel wintry and lonesome. A taxi pulled up and he hopped into the back after loading his bags into the trunk. “1465 Axtell Road, my good man.”

   The driver nodded, punched in the address, and pulled away from the curb.

   He glanced at his watch—4:16 P.M. Hopefully this place—this “business,” if it even were that—would still be open. It was possible that whoever was there already knew he was coming. He had no idea how thoroughly he and Ximena had been watched these past months, but it seemed foolish to assume they hadn’t been.

   His phone rang (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “It Ain’t Me,” telling him it was his beautiful bride); he pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.

   “Was just at church praying. Please be careful, Teddy, and call me as soon as you are done!”

   He tapped in: “Almost there. Let’s hope the Good Lord is in a good mood today,” and turned the phone off before putting it back into his pocket. Ximena at this point was a distraction, and he’d need to be at his all-time sharpest for what was coming.

   The taxi slowed, the driver signaling for a left turn. He glanced out the window:

Axtell Road

   The sign was partially covered in fresh snow, which now came down heavy and wet. The driver accelerated for a short moment, then signaled another left at the same moment he announced, “1465 Axtell Road.”

   Theodore already had the fare ready. The taxi slowed to a stop in front of five large, well-lighted square windows beneath the sign

Clover Hill Associates

   “And here you go, sir,” he said, handing the driver the fare. “Keep the change.”

   “Have a nice evening,” the driver said after setting the luggage down onto the sidewalk, and got in and drove away. Theodore watched him leave, then turned towards the windows.

   From here it looked like a hardware store. Several of the windows were blocked by actual bleachers; an electric-blue OPEN sign hung in the middle of the middle window; and the two right windows were partially blocked by signs announcing various sales from “KASten Supports—1/3 off!” to “All Painters & Stripers ½ off!” along with store hours, which, he noted, implied that the store was just a few minutes from closing for the night. He’d just made it.

   (He had tried using Google’s Image Search to scope out this place many times before, but all it ever offered was a satellite view of the street block.)

   Leaving his bags between the hedgerow and under the windows, where they wouldn’t be spotted or get wet, he closed his eyes at the big glass double doors and took a steadying breath of soggy air.

   “Here we go.”

   He pulled the left door open and walked inside.






A large, bald bulb of a man waited in the back, beyond rows and rows of tools, screws, bleacher bolts (of course), shovels, and, along the left wall, small orange tractors and stacks of bright cones of the same color. No one else was in here. The man stood at the counter under which was posted CUSTOMER SERVICE. Theodore approached with an affable smile.

   “Good evening,” said the bulb, very businesslike. “What can I do for you?”

   Security cameras ... all four corners. One above the sign. Cash register on the left counter. Panic button under the drawer. Left hallway likely leads to a back exit.

   His mind had seen all these things in mere moments, registering them almost unconsciously.

   “I was lookin’ for a replacement for a bleacher bolt, and was told you good folks were the ones to come to.”

   He pulled the bolt out of his pocket and put it on the counter.

   The man took it, turned it upside down, and inspected the tiny numbers under the head:

23904-a

   He lowered it slowly. “Will you wait a minute, sir? I’ll need to check in back.”

   His face had become deadly serious.

   Theodore refused to let go of his smile. “Thank you kindly.”

   The man turned and marched through double swing doors, disappearing with heavy footfalls, probably to call the henchmen who would be here within minutes, silencers and bone saws and a body bag at the ready.

   He thought of Ximena. What was left of his cash wasn’t a lot—just a shade over $95K—but it would make for a small pittance she could use to get on with her life. He loved his pretty Panamanian, and wanted her to be happy. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths to steady and ready himself.

   The man pushed through the double swing doors a minute later and came to the counter, where he lifted it at the hinge. “Come on through,” he said in a deadly monotone.

   Theodore’s smile had gotten too heavy to continue holding. “All right ...”

   He followed him through the doors into rows of darkened shelves loaded down with all sorts of metal in labeled boxes. The man was so large that on occasion both sides of him rubbed against the boxes, making them rattle. Theodore guessed that despite his size, he knew how to handle himself in a fight.

   Who else besides him is waiting back here?

   A solitary white light waited in the back. It hung over a card table with nothing on it save a laptop computer. The laptop was open, the blue screen casting its ghostly glow on the far wall, where saws hung menacingly.

   “Have a seat,” said the man.

   Theodore sat. The laptop’s screen was completely blank. Not a single application was on it. The laptop, he noted, was also a little ... different. Slightly bulkier on the bottom, thinner on top. It wasn’t plugged in, which meant it was running on batteries. He glanced up at the man, who regarded him coldly on his right, bleacher bolt in hand.

   “We didn’t think you were going to make it.”

   “What would’ve happened to me if I didn’t?”

   The man didn’t answer. He handed him the bolt instead. “Go ahead.”

   Theodore was about to ask, “Go ahead and what?” but stopped.

   He sat at a computer. An odd computer.

   He glanced at the bulb, and then again at the bolt, and then one more time at the computer, and then at the EXIT sign just visible in the very back. He took the bolt and, leaning to the right, gazed along the computer’s right side. Where normal USB ports should be was instead a single round hole—the exact size of the bolt.

   He pushed the bolt into it. The fit was snug. The bolt stopped maybe a third of the way in with a sharp click. The screen went dark. The large man next to him crossed his arms.

   The screen came on suddenly. Filling it was a face—a hawkish face. Sharp nose. High cheeks. Quizzical brow. Eyes that didn’t miss a thing.

   He hadn’t seen that face in years. “Well, I’ll be ...”

   “Hello, Theodore,” said Alex Mahone.


~~*~~

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