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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Enjoy Chapter Five 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 Five
Lee Ann and Carl
~~*~~


Theodore stared at the screen. “And what do I call you?”

   “I do not have a name. Would you like to name me, Theodore?”

   The computer’s voice sounded like a distant voice from his past ... one that belonged to a woman he used to fantasize almost daily about as a young teenaged boy, clear back before he dropped out of school: the principal’s secretary, who, now that he looked back on it, couldn’t have been more than twenty-one or twenty-two years old. Barely a woman.

   He pursed his lips. “How ‘bout I call you Lee Ann, darlin’?”

   “My name is Lee Ann, Theodore.”

   All this wiz-bang technology! He glanced at Vice, then back at the screen. “Tell me, Lee Ann: You wouldn’t happen to have been manufactured by the same fellows who made my prosthetic, would you?”

   “I was,” answered Lee Ann. Her voice was so similar to the original’s, with the same cheerful Midwestern accent!

   “Would you mind tellin’ me who that was?” he asked, stroking his goatee.

   “L&S Enterprises,” replied Lee Ann.

   “Who is ‘L’; and who is ‘S’?”

   (Certainly, he thought, ‘L’ had to stand for Lincoln, and ‘S’ for, of course, Scofield.)

   “Unfortunately, I cannot tell you at this time,” the computer answered.

   “Because L&S—” he almost said “Lincoln and Scofield”—“Enterprises is connected to this mission?”

   “Yes, Theodore.”

   He held his tongue. “And that information is something our enemies are after and might be able to beat or torture out of me?”

   “Yes, Theodore.”

   He continued stroking his goatee. “I see.”

   The computer waited patiently in the silence that followed. Though it was a large machine—he assumed all these cabinets surrounding it were part of it—he could hear no humming or clicking or anything else to indicate that it was powered up.

   “So tell me, Lee Ann: what are the chances I complete this mission successfully?”

   “At this stage, approximately one chance in one thousand four hundred seventeen.”

   He chuckled without mirth. “ ‘At this stage...’?”

   “This stage represents your greatest chance of survival, and is the greatest chance anyone connected to the mission has. The probability will likely dwindle toward zero as you proceed through the mission.”

   It didn’t surprise Theodore in the slightest to hear that his chances of making it alive to see the mission successfully concluded were tiny. By all rights, he should have been rotting his bony ass in solitary in Fox River the rest of his miserable days. But Pretty got him released—again—and here, right here, was where the bill was coming due.

   “Freedom ain’t free,” he murmured.

   Lee Ann didn’t respond.

   He glanced around at the room, then stood and walked to the little apartment in the back. He reached around the doorjamb and found the switch and flicked the lights on, which were homey and yellow. He glanced around. “Can you hear me from here, Lee Ann?”

   Her voice responded almost directly above him, startling him. “Yes, Theodore.”

   He glanced above the door frame. A small, almost completely camouflaged speaker was there. It had to be top-of-the-line; the sound was full and real and plenty loud.

   “Tell me, Lee Ann: Are there bugs in here? Listenin’ mi-cro-phones? Tiny cameras placed here and there to watch me?”

   “Yes, Theodore.”

   “And who exactly is watching me this moment?”

   “Only me, Theodore.”

   “You don’t have to say ‘Theodore’ every time you answer. Maybe every four or five times. Got it?”

   “Understood.”

   “Can anyone but you access the bugs and wires in this joint? Why are they there?”

   He had gone to the bed and sat. It was a queen-sized bed, very comfortable. Clean sheets and pillowcases, a comforter bedspread, and three white pillows waited in an organized heap in its center. He thought of Ximena, his heart aching.

   “They are there so that I can respond to you from anywhere in this space. No one else has access to them.”

   “Should I trust you, Lee Ann?” he said with a sad smile.

   “I hope to prove myself trustworthy over time, Theodore,” answered the computer. “You should trust no one, not even me.”

   He gazed down at the floor. “Good answer. Good answer.”






He wasn’t in any hurry to get this “mission” going, so he searched the cabinets for food, finding only a shelf stocked corner to corner with every seeming variety of cup o’ soups. He microwaved three and sat at the lonesome table across from the bed and ate them. When he finished, he threw the containers away and checked his watch. It was just after 8.

   Back home, he and Ximena would be settling down after dinner for some TV, and then head to bed.

   “I miss you, darlin’ bride,” he sighed. “I’m back in solitary. Don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.”

   He wondered what she was doing, and wished that he could call her. But that, quite clearly, was against the rules. Doing so would, apparently, endanger her. And he didn’t want that.

   Still ...

   He stood and went back to the computer. The screen still displayed:

SubMISSION OVERVIEW—“2”

   “Lee Ann?”

   “Yes, Theodore?”

   “I’ll submit to this ‘sub-mission’ in just a little while. For now, why don’t you display the sche-matics on that there entry pad that lets me into this joint.”

   “It would be my pleasure.”

   The screen cleared; an instant later the schematics for the entry key pad came up. He sat and began looking them over.

   Few people in prison or out of it knew that he was a skilled electrician. In fact, before he lost his mind and went on that killing spree, that was how he made his living. It was how he got close to those kids. He was invited inside their homes!

   While in Fox River, he didn’t read novels, but devoured the latest on chip technology, advanced circuitry, and advances in hard-drives, making sure no one knew about his particular skillset in case he needed it in the future—as he did now. He probably wasn’t an expert compared to the top-shelf folks, but ...

   He grinned as he studied the technical diagrams.

   “... I ain’t bad; I ain’t bad.”






At midnight, and after changing out of his clothes down to his skivvies and finding some frozen snacks to munch on, he returned to Lee Ann’s Room, as he decided to call it. There, next to the seat that measured his ass gases, he did a hundred push-ups and a hundred crunches—just as he did three times a day in solitary.

   He sprang to his feet, his forehead beaded with sweat, and sat at the computer. “All right, Lee Ann. Get me up to speed on this ‘subMISSION 2’ bidness.”

   “Your first mission, Theodore, is under the file name ‘subMISSION 2,’ ” announced Lee Ann unnecessarily.

   “I know that, honey-bunch. What is it? What do I have to do?”

   He heard a click—to the left.

   One of the cabinets on that side had opened. He rose and went to it.

   In the drawer, in foam-fitting silver styrofoam or something similar, was a silver .45 handgun with silencer, and three boxes of bullets stacked behind it.

   He stared down at the weapon without picking it up. “If I get caught with a gun by any law enforcement, I’m back in Fox River, you do know that, don’t you, Lee Ann?”

   A second drawer, just below this one, clicked and opened. He pushed the first almost closed, pulled the second one out.

   Official paperwork and various identifications, all with his mug on them (where did those pictures come from?), were arranged neatly. He picked up the top ID and inspected it, then snorted.

   “This is no good, Lee Ann ... it has my real name on it!”

   Indeed, it did. And his real birthdate. And his height and weight—both accurate.

   “Your past record has been largely redacted and sealed. Authorities will not harass you should you be required to identify yourself, and you are carrying the assigned weapon.”

   “ ‘Largely’ redacted and sealed?” asked Theodore, who had since picked up the .45 and was inspecting it.

   “Hence this first sub-mission,” said Lee Ann brightly. “You are to complete the final redaction and sealing of your records.”

   “And how do I do that?” demanded Theodore.

   “By terminating the warden and lieutenant warden of Fox River Federal Penitentiary,” said Lee Ann with that bright, cheery voice.

   Theodore started laughing.






He was still chuckling half an hour later. He had since gone to the table in his room and had taken the .45 apart and was cleaning it. (Cleaning supplies were under the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink.) He wanted to think and let all of this settle into him slowly, so that he could approach it coolly and calmly.

   “So this ‘sub-mission number two’ is to go and kill my former jailers?” he asked as he put the weapon back together again.

   “Yes, Theodore.”

   “And how am I going to do that, exactly?”

   “By pointing that weapon at them and pulling the trigger.”

   He glanced with a grin up at the speaker. Ximena had such a sense of humor: she’d state the obvious as a way to lighten the mood or make a point. Though Lee Ann was just a computer, the effect came off the same way.

   “Good one, good one. What I mean is: How exactly am I going to get close to these fine vermin? You don’t expect me to waltz my way into Fox River, now do you?”

   “Part of my programming involves Advanced Strategic Planning and Implementation Software for the Lone Asset Working in Prohibitively Hostile Field Conditions, Both Prior to Initiation and After.”

   “Meaning—you can help me?”

   “It would be my pleasure to assist you, Theodore.”

   “And everything else is taken care of—cash, transportation, resupply...? I know research is good to go; anything else I may have missed, Lee Ann, darlin’?”

   “Your mission objectives have been streamlined as much as possible to ensure the highest possibility of success. Resource management has been optimized to the greatest degree possible. May I suggest that you bring the laptop and desk into your safe space, Theodore? They have been waiting outside the entrance for some time now.”

   He’d forgotten about the laptop, and his bags, too. “Oh! Yes—yes, of course.”

   He put the silencer down and went to the entrance and opened it. The laptop and desk it sat upon waited just outside the door. The rest of the large room was dark, with only distant red and yellow lights on the far wall giving any sense of depth to the space.

   He glanced at the keypad and smiled, then went about bringing in the desk and laptop.

   The desk barely fit through the door. When he got it completely through, he was sweating. “Sure could use a cold one right about now.”

   “There is an all-night liquor store just three blocks away on Cahonga Boulevard,” Lee Ann informed him. “What is your pleasure?”

   He licked his lips. “A nice four-pack of Guinness Stout, big bottles,” he said, pushing the desk into the corner and checking to see if the laptop was all right by lifting its top and gazing at the screen. It had nearly fallen on the floor during the toughest part of getting the damned desk in here, and had been jostled plenty.

   It looked fine. Lee Ann, who had gone silent for more than a minute, suddenly announced, “The Guinness Stout four-pack, large bottles, are waiting, Theodore.”

   He glanced at the big computer in the cul-de-sac of black cabinets. “Say what—?”

   “I took the liberty of ordering your requested beer at the all-night liquor store on Cahonga Boulevard. It is waiting for you to pick it up. The funds necessary for its purchase have been disbursed.”

   “Well, I’ll be,” he said with an incredulous chuckle. “You can do that, sweet Lee Ann?”

   “To ensure your survival and personal thriving, I can do many things. This was trivial.”

   “Well, all right, then,” he muttered. “I think I’ll go and get me some beer.”

   The angry lug who ran the supply store had also leaned his bags against the wall. He went and retrieved them, taking them back to the little apartment and opening the larger one, from which he pulled out a coat and put it on after dressing in a sweatshirt and denims.

   At the back door of the supply shop, he hesitated. What if he opened it and triggered an alarm?

   Nah. The fat man would have thought of that.

   He reached for the handle, twisted it, and pushed.

   The door opened without incident. As it closed he turned and glanced above it. A security camera watched him.

   He made a mental note about it and went on towards the liquor store, tapping his left ear when the building was out of sight. “Can you hear me, Lee Ann?”

   “I can hear you perfectly, Theodore. Can you hear me clearly?”

   “Comin’ in loud and clear.”

   Lee Ann had directed him to a third drawer, a thin one that clicked and opened, revealing all sorts of micro-tech, including bugs and this earplug, very tiny, that he now wore. Its range, according to Lee Ann, was “anywhere in the world.”

   She had instructed him how to get to the liquor store as he dressed, assuring him that “enemy combatants” were very likely nowhere around (“The chances are less than one in five thousand”).

   He set off after getting his bearings. The streets were completely quiet, the night still and cold. Snow had fallen to the tune of probably four or so inches; his footfalls crunched as he made his way along the sidewalk, crossing wet, black, shiny streets that had been cleared.

   This was a “business park,” so named for all the squat, ugly, large warehouse-type businesses and supply shops and storage lots and so on crowding every block. Orange lights glared down on everything, giving the structures and shapes a malevolent, indifferent sheen. The snow had fallen wetly at first, as he recalled; it must have been later that the air cooled enough to allow it to accumulate. It weighed greyly down on everything, as did the night sky, which hung low and oppressively. His breath trailed him as he walked.

   The liquor store came visible in another block. It was across the first street with a stoplight, one that was blinking red in all four directions, and catecorner to him. He crossed the first street, then crossed the perpendicular one and entered the store’s empty, overlarge parking lot. Bright white lights illuminated every corner of it.

   The store itself was small and tucked back into the far left-diagonal corner. He got to the door and pulled it open. An electronic ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! alerted whoever was here to his presence.

   A muscular middle-aged man in a tight-fitting plain blue T-shirt came out of a doorless office to his right and up to the counter. “Can I help you?”

   Theodore approached. “I ... I mean ... a friend ... ordered some beer for me ... over the online interwebs?”

   The man glanced down at his computer/cash register. “You Bagwell?”

   “That I am.”

   “Just need to check some ID, and you’ll be good to go.”

   Theodore had remembered to bring ID along—but not his old ID. He’d taken one from the computer drawer, and presented it to the man now, who glanced at it, gave it back, and said, “Be right back.”

   The cashier returned a minute later, four-pack in his hand, which he stuffed into a brown paper bag and handed to him. “Here you go.”

   Theodore studied him. “If you don’t mind me sayin’, you look familiar. You from around here? I get a slight hint of Southern accent.”

   The clerk, who looked maybe forty or so years old, shook his head. “Jackson, Mississippi.”

   “Jackson, eh?” said Theodore. “Knew some good folks down there. I was born and raised a few miles outside of Vicksburg.”

   “Ever hear of Marion Pruett?” asked the man, his expression dark.

   Theodore had. Back in the day—the late 70s into the early 80s—Marion Pruett had gone on a mad killing spree that had the nation’s law enforcement on the hunt for him. He was eventually caught, tried, and got his arm stuck in the late 90s, if Theodore remembered rightly.

   “Everyone down there knows about ol’ Marion,” answered Theodore with a mirthless smirk. “He scared the bejeebus out of an entire country back then.”

   “I’m his bastard son,” grumbled the clerk.

   Theodore pulled back. “You don’t say.”

   He thought of his own killing spree, one that was less a spree than a well-planned, well-executed trip into perversion that left six teens raped and murdered. That was well after Pruett had his moment in the evil sun, but not too long before he was executed. He thought of how small this goddamned world was, and how reminders of his sordid past were never too far away. He stared at this man, this bastard son of a monster who was no worse than him at his worst, and glanced down at the counter between them. He thought for a moment that he might tell him, but chuckled instead. “And here you are working graveyard in a liquor store. Ironic, doncha think?”

   The man knew what he was talking about, telling Theodore as much by nodding gravely. One of Marion Pruett’s last victims was a graveyard-shift worker at a 7-11 in Fort Collins, Colorado. He went to kill the clerk after taking the cash in the register—not even $35 measly bucks—but the fucker had seven black belts in karate, and even though he was bleeding mortally from two close-range shotgun blasts to the chest, damn near killed him before bleeding out. Pruett barely escaped before the cops came.

   It was then that Theodore got a flash of inspiration, one so strong it caused tingles to race up and down his spine. He gazed up, blinking, into the man’s lifeless eyes. It was the lifelessness that had inspired him, not to mention the man’s strong build. He very well might be of help.

   “What’s your name?” he asked.

   “Carl,” the man grunted.

   “Carl Pruett,” said Theodore.

   The man waited.

   “You look like you could snap me in half, Carl Pruett, if you wanted. Ever serve in the military?”

   Carl shook his head.

   “Ever do time?”

   Carl hesitated. “What’s this about?”

   “How much they payin’ you to mind the store during the wee hours of the night?”

   Carl grunted, “Not too fuckin’ much. Why the questions?”

   Theodore stared at him for a long time, the gears in his head spinning with increasing speed. “I might just have a small ... let’s call it an employment opportunity ... for you, Carl. Lots of money. Loads of danger. In fact,” he said, going all in, “you probably won’t come out the other side alive.”

   Theodore gazed around at the liquor store, and couldn’t think of a worse place to be other than a jail cell. Carl probably wasn’t making a dime over minimum wage. He was forty, or close to. He had no future. Here he was in fuckin’ Troy, Michigan, in the dark and cold and the dank, forgotten corner of a grey and forlorn business park. He was without a doubt an ex-con, so he knew the score. And he looked like he could handle six men in a fight.

   Carl Pruett gazed for a moment at the security camera, then back at him.

   “Whatcha got in mind?”


~~*~~

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