If you saw the "sneak peek" I posted nearly two years ago, this is pretty much that with some minor touch-ups for flow and context. Yeesh. I can't believe it's been that long since then.
I'll be taking a few days off from this for the Genshiken chapter and then I'll be back with the third prologue. Enjoy.
Alice in Jails - Prison Episode
Color Pages & Epilogue I
Chapter 1 Front
Chapter 1 Back
Chapter 2 Front
Chapter 2 Back
Chapter 3 Front
Chapter 3 Back
Chapter 4 Front
Chapter 4 Back
Chapter 5 Front & Back, Connecting Chapter, Remaining Chapter
Alice in Jails - Streets Episode
Peter Pan in Chains
A Bar's Underground Suite
You wanna know about a prisoner who moved from the joint I worked at to Alcatraz?
Aha, I see. Yeah, I guess you wouldn't want to talk about something like this in public.
...But I have to warn you, I wasn't anything special, just a normal run-of-the-mill prison guard. You can't expect me to remember all the schmucks we watched over. We used to call them by numbers, you know, not names. But... I guess if it was someone who was bad enough to take a trip to the Rock, I might be able to remember...
That bastard, you mean! Yeah, of course I remember him. His number was easy to memorize, and besides. Between you and me, I don't think I could forget him if I tried.
Yeah, I know his name. It bothered me, see.
It was Ladd... Ladd Russo, I think.
They say he's Placido Russo's nephew. Yeah, him, the don of the Russo Family over in Chicago.
I think he was brought in for murder, or robbery... I dunno, something like that, but honestly it doesn't matter to us. To us guards, prisoners are just a string of numbers. Don't matter if you were a mass murderer or a petty thief or some king of the underworld outside. Inside, you're just a number... Well, that's how it's supposed to be, anyway.
How was it really? I dunno. That's different from prison to prison, and it's something I'm none too eager to stick my nose into. See no evil, hear no evil, right?
But you don't really care about that, do you?
You called me here to hear about 302010... about Russo, right?
Aah, you're thinking to yourself that I'm too bright an' perky for my own good, aren't you?
Back when I was still a guard, I tried to be the kinda guy who's silent and efficient. The menacing, grim kind, you know? Buh-but, I'm so different from what I was like then especially because we're talking about him right now, got it? Yeah?
When, when he first came to jail, I gave him a rough checkup. Yeah. It's meant to drive it home that they're criminals, that they're not anything special anymore. To teach 'em that from that moment on they need to beg forgiveness for the crimes they've committed against society.
Uh, no, the other guards don't go that far. Though it is important to make sure the prisoners know their place.
I kinda strutted around a little more than the others. Just a little.
You understand, don'tcha? I just thought it was pretty neat that no matter how bad you were on the outside, once you stepped past those gates, I was the boss. A guy can be forgiven for showing off a little, right. It's not like the prisoners could say anything about it.
Anyway, so, yeah.
I told you before, but I'll say it again. The reason I'm being so breezy right now is to try and get as far away from the me of back then as I can.
You don't understand?
...No, well, yeah. I'll tell you later. Later.
So yeah, about Russo.
He was unusual in a lot of ways.
The look on his face when he stepped through the door right then made you think he was walking into a hotel.
I thought for sure that he was some sorta big cheese who'd slipped some money to a lawyer and thought he'd be in and out in a flash, or maybe he'd got into some trouble with another Family and he'd gotten jailed on purpose to hide from them.
Well, yeah, I guess you could hide in jail for a while. Though if you pissed off someone powerful enough, I think he'd just send an assassin in to slit your throat while you slept or something. Ain't like we have any way of telling that sort of thing, y'know.
But anyway. I asked the other guards and it turns out, he ain't like that. He just felt suspicious, you know? Not the guy himself, but all the details on him just didn't match up somehow. They said he started something on some train... but in the end, they covered it up so that nobody even knew it'd ever happened.
Nah, I dunno either. I'm telling you, I don't know a thing about what brought him to us. If I had to guess I'd say there was even someone high up in the government try to hide everything about what happened on that train from the rest of the country, including Russo. But I never thought to look into it deeper, and he didn't exactly come up to us and offer to tell us his story.
Yeah, he was a quiet one.
I mean, he looked lively enough, but he didn't talk much. We let him make calls outside from time to time, and even then he didn't really say much that could be a problem.
He did what we told him to do. I guess you could've called him a model prisoner.
He had bandages wrapped all over one arm, like he'd gotten hurt bad... Well, it was actually a prosthetic. We checked it carefully, to make sure he didn't have some sorta escape tool in it or something, but there wasn't much to it. The joints didn't move. It was a pretty simple thing. The only thing about it that was strange was that it was connected directly to his upper arm, to his bones or something... Nah, that's the first I've heard of something like that, too, but from what I hear they just riveted the damn thing straight onto the exposed bones. One of the guys who gave him a medical checkup said it gave him the willies.
I thought maybe it'd get infected and he'd die, but somehow he managed to stay healthy.
He didn't make any trouble, just spent the days as a prisoner. Actually, he even volunteered for prison labor. Yeah, a real model inmate. I know he didn't start anything because we kept close watch over him, just to make sure he didn't use a screw from his fake arm to pick a lock or something.
But he really didn't do anything to stand out, and time passed.
It was just a few months ago when he changed... no, I guess it'd be better to say that he showed his true colors.
It was right around when Alcatraz was changed from a military prison to a normal one.
I think you know about it, so well, yeah. Not much to say, is there?
It ain't a normal jail.
Nobody ever goes to the Rock straight from the street.
That place is a jail for people already in jail.
An island escape on the west coast, specially set aside for the worst inmates of every other prison in the nation.
Anyway, the worst of the worst at the joint I was working at then was... yeah, this guy called Gustavo. Gustavo Bagetta. He was the most dangerous guy in there, no question.
You know the Runorata Family, right? They're one of the bigger organizations around these parts.
Bagetta was one of the higher-ups there... but he musta caused some trouble and got himself arrested.
He had this huge scar around his neck, big enough that you'd think it shoulda killed him, but just like Russo, it seemed a wound like that didn't bother him one bit.
And he was a troublemaker, too. If the guards even tried to rough him up a little he'd snap his goddamn cuffs in two and calmly say, "Oops, they just came apart. Could've hurt somebody. Gimme a new pair, why don'tcha."
And then the big goon would just smile at them.
Of course he stirred up trouble in there a buncha times, and I can't tell you how much of a headache it was cleaning up after him every time.
Tell you the truth, there wasn't an inmate in the place who could beat him in a fight, and they were all so scared of him they couldn't tell the guards about the shit he pulled. I guess he was sorta like a king behind those bars...
Until one day.
Bagetta started a ruckus in the mess hall. Said the guy sitting in front of him had laughed at 'im or something. Started a fight over that.
We took our clubs and surrounded him and he calmed down. Not that he was scared of us, but there were warders stationed at the firing windows behind him with their sights on his back, so of course he'd simmer down.
I decided I'd say something.
I know I was being an asshole, but what the hell. Ain't like they pay us to be nice, right? So yeah, anyway, uhh, I kinda swaggered up and talked down to all of 'em, feeling pretty good inside.
"You want to take a trip to Alcatraz? Any of you guys wants to run wild on an island with no books, no newspapers, then be my guest. Keep on exercising all you want, and I'll personally see to it you're sent on a one-way trip straight to Frisco."
Yeah, like that.
Anyway, I'm betting Bagetta knew the rumors about that place. Some of the others who'd been watching did too, I think, 'cause they shut right the hell up and went pale as sheets.
Yeah, up till then I was walking on clouds.
It was great. I almost felt like the world was my oyster.
And then it happened.
A man started walking toward me.
Yeah. It was Russo.
"What would you have to do to get carted off there?"
I was actually a little surprised. I didn't even think a model prisoner who always kept his mouth shut'd suddenly decide to chat it up with a guard who had his club out.
See, usually we tried to keep talk between guards and inmates to a minimum. Some prisons banned conversation outright. But I gave him a reply. Russo looked like he didn't know what Alcatraz was, and I thought it'd be a great chance to scare some of the dumber inmates who didn't know either.
So I told him. About what a scary place Alcatraz was. I exaggerated a little.
I'm telling ya, I was still feeling good then, watching how he shut up...
"So anyway, we’re thinking of sending the worst inmate over there. It's nothing that cowards like you need to worry about--just keep your heads down and stay model inmates, got it?"
That’s what I told him.
And then, well... umm... what happened was…
It was a real ear to ear thing. Like this, like he couldn’t keep the excitement inside him...
The hell is this guy? I thought. The moment I laid eyes on that smile, I got a real bad feeling.
He wasn’t even looking at me anymore. He turned around without a word and went back to his seat, finishing up his food like Bagetta’d never started that trouble.
I tell you, right then, I felt something… a real bad feeling, in my heart. Really, it was like... I can't even describe it. It was just a bad feeling inside me. Like that feeling you get when you're standing on a really high bridge and suddenly think, "Shit, what'd happen to me if this bridge suddenly disappeared?" The way your whole body kinda shrivels up on itself.
But I wasn't on a bridge, not standing on a roof. Just inside a prison. He was an inmate. I was a guard. I shouldn't have felt scared like that, but...
No doubt about it, I felt terrified, seeing his smile.
It was that night when the terror I'd felt turned into reality.
I heard there was another big fight in the mess hall, so I grabbed my club and ran over.
Whaddya think I saw?
...He was just sitting there.
...Eating his food.
Russo was sitting there quietly, eating his food. It was mealtime.
I thought I'd go crazy right then and there, I was so scared.
What was so scary?
Well, you see... what I'm trying to say is...
He was eating his food.
Russo was eating, alone, surrounded by dozens of inmates, all of them laid out and moaning in pain!
The hallway connecting the mess hall to the cell block was filled with the inmates who'd known to get out of the way, all trembling with fear.
The guys who'd been standing guard were all frozen where they stood, just staring at Russo like they'd seen something outta this world.
"Hey! What the hell happened here...?!" I shouted to the other guards.
You can laugh at me if you want, but I didn't wanna talk to Russo himself. It was too scary... The sight of that guy just sitting there eating in a situation like that gave me the creeps.
There were already guards who'd come after hearing about the fight like me, standing at the firing windows with rifles ready... but they were just looking at each other. Can't blame 'em. I mean, who were they gonna shoot?
Usually, when there's a big prison fight, the guys who win beat it to their cells and try to come up with an alibi or something. Say that that was how it went down, and Russo just came in after the fight was over and decided to start eating, 'cause he was slow in the head, 'cause he didn't get what'd happened... Yeah, wouldn't it be great if that was the case?
But think of it. To beat up dozens of inmates like that, you'd need more'n one or two on your side, too. And it didn't look like they'd all beat the shit outta each other and everyone knocked everyone else out at the same time or something...
Yeah, I know. I know whatcha want to say.
I thought the same thing the moment I saw it too, see.
I thought, for just a moment, that Russo, the guy who was sitting and eating his food just as calm as you please, had clobbered all the rough-looking guys scattered around him.
I told myself there was no way that could've happened, over and over, but the scene before my eyes just didn't change. No, not just the sight in front of me. That smile he'd shown me earlier that day made that impossible conclusion float up in my head. I couldn't help but imagine that smile on his face as he beat up everyone else by himself.
And then... something happened that only served to support that crazy thought.
Suddenly, a huge shadow burst up from among the fallen prisoners.
"Rraaaaaaaaaaagh! You fuckin' brat!!"
Didn't even need to look at 'im. Wasn't an inmate in the place big as that, except for Gustavo Bagetta.
He was huge, but still fast, and strong as an ox too.
Seeing him running at Russo, I couldn't imagine a scarier sight. A charging bear would've been cuddlier than Bagetta right then.
He lifted a nearby table with one hand as he ran.
Can you believe it!
A table, I'm tellin' ya! A goddamn table!
You call a guy who can swing around a chair one-handed strong. But what the hell do you call a guy who can do the same with a table? The bastard just grabbed a long table made for seating four, and waved it around like a stick!
I could hardly make out what he was yellin', but he lifted that table and then swung it down straight at Russo, just as he finished the last of his soup.
Then Russo's head would crack open like an egg and that'd be it for him. All that'd be left was for the guards at the windows to shout a warning, and once Bagetta stood down we'd beat him up with our clubs. If he resisted we'd give him a few more breathing holes and that'd be that.
...That's what I should've been thinking, but try as I might I couldn't even start to imagine it.
Besides, that isn't what happened, anyway.
I heard this splintering noise. The table in Bagetta's hand snapped in half, like a pencil. Clean in two in the blink of an eye as it hit the floor.
But Russo wasn't there anymore.
He'd darted in... between Bagetta's body and the table. Getting hit by that table would've been deadlier than taking a bullet, but he just smiled that smile he'd shown me earlier that day and dodged it like it was child's play.
And then, he... he grinned.
What? Wasn't he grinning before? Well, yeah, but...
What I mean is... his grin started getting wider.
Bagetta stopped dead, surprised at seeing Russo suddenly appear right in front of him.
It was a golden opportunity for Russo to put him down, but he didn't take it.
He just shrugged, palms up, and looked over to us.
"This counts as self-defense, right?"
After that... well, tell you the truth, it was over in an instant.
Bagetta must've taken it as a personal insult. He raised his other hand--I can still remember the veins pulsing clearly on the back--and at that moment, Russo's fist found its way to his solar plexus.
And just like that, he belted Bagetta.
Bagetta must've weighed at least twice what he did, but Russa punched him square in the stomach and, just like that, he sent him flying.
I'm not exaggerating. Bagetta actually flew.
He went shooting a few yards through the air and came crashing down, and then he threw up a ton of blood and stayed still where he was.
I'm telling you, he didn't move.
That guy was built like a bear, and Russo knocked him down and out with just one hit. Just one punch.
At first I thought for sure Russo'd used his metal arm. Then we could take it away from him and the world'd make sense again.
But... but, goddammit.
He hit Bagetta with his right hand. The normal one, not his prosthetic... Now that I think of it, there's no way he'd be able to hit someone like that with a fake arm. He would've dislocated his shoulder.
Yeah, so then what happened was...
He walked slowly up to me, as I stood there dumbfounded, and said, "Life is long."
He said it like I was a friend he'd known for years!
According to the rules, I should've raised my club and shouted at him not to move. If I had a gun I might've drawn it. Yeah, I know, even though all he'd done was walk up to me.
"Life's a long thing! You think so too, don'tcha?"
I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying--no, shouting, in a voice that echoed in the hall.
I wondered what he was trying to say. I wasn't curious, though. I was scared out of my wits, and it scared me even more because Russo wasn't acting like I expected. If I had to describe it, it was like a primal instinct inside me was warning me to be afraid of this man.
Run away, it told me. Run away run away run run run run run run run run.
"I've seen a lot of guards around here, and I've got to say. Out of all the guards in this prison, you're the one farthest away from death. Wouldn't you agree?"
He talked slowly, his words creeping over me.
Every time that voice made my eardrums vibrate, the warning alarm inside me rang right along with it.
It kept telling me to run run run run run run away! Run away, or you're gonna die!
The guards around me looked like they were waiting for my signal. Dammit, like I'd have the composure to do that! You chumps with the rifles, shoot already! That's what I was thinking right then, but I know that all he'd done was walk to me. If they shot him there'd have been news articles all over the place about human rights or something.
...But y'know, even now, after all this time... I think that it still woulda been better if someone had just shot him dead right then and there.
...Shit, take that part just now out of the recording.
Mmm, where was I... Oh yeah. So he walked up to me and started analyzing me aloud.
"No, don't think I mean you're destined to live the longest or anything... What I'm talking about is your state of mind. It's like the thought of dying is really far away from your brain... You think you rule this place, don't you? You think you hold the lives of the prisoners in your hands, never thinking that the same might apply the other way. You think you're safe. You think you won't die. The other guards look like they're constantly on edge. Like they know they might die at any time if the prisoners start a riot or something. But you. You walk around this place like you own it. You deserve a commendation!"
He didn't hate me. He wasn't angry with me, but... dammit, he wanted to kill me.
I felt it in my bones, that murderous feeling.
"You know what my hobby is? It's waking up people like you."
I'm gonna die. He's gonna kill me. My head was filled with those thoughts, but I couldn't do a thing, not a single thing! I was so scared! I couldn't... couldn't move! My legs wouldn't listen!
As I stood there, unable to move a muscle, he smiled again.
He, he leaned close and whispered in my ear, all friendly!
"It's teaching people like you... that death is a lot closer than you think..."
...Ah, sorry. I lost it for a bit there.
I still can't stop trembling, whenever I think of it.
If you just hear about it, it sounds like a stupid threat from some goon, nothing to be worried about. Normally I would've dismissed it without a second thought. But coming from his mouth it was... well. It felt real. Yeah, that's it, it felt real.
It was like he wasn't saying it to scare me. He was just saying what he honestly thought was true. Like a kid would.
Huh? So what happened?
Of course he went to solitary. Solitary punishment, that is, stuck in an empty room with nothing behind the door except a toilet. No blanket, of course. Compared to other jails, our solitary was on the comfortable side--it even had electric lights. But that didn't mean it was a hotel suite or anything. A week in there'd have you climbing up the walls.
Ladd Russo spent ten days there.
But I quit my job before he got out.
Almost like I was running away from him. It usually ain't so easy to quit being a prison guard, but I told 'em I'd been sick for a while and argued my way out.
I wanted to get the hell outta dodge before Russo got out no matter what it took, see.
Him? I hear he ended up getting shipped off to Alcatraz, just like he wanted.
You know about Al Capone? Yeah. Russo entered Alcatraz almost together with him, so I guess you could say he's an old-timer there... though it's only been a few months, even then.
I don't know how much time he's got left in there. If he doesn't get any murder charges added onto his sentence, he might be out on the streets in just a year or two!
So that's, that's, why.
That's why I'm so scared.
Hey, do, do I, do I look a little s-s-scared?
D-do I look like I, I'm scared of dying?
I-it, it, it feels like he, him, that guy, Russo, he's c-c-c-coming, coming for me...
Look, answer me!
I'm-I'm scared, ain't I!
I mean, who knows? I might die tomorrow! Isn't that scary? No, wait, I might die right this moment. I look like I'm scared I might die right now, right?!
If I don't think like that then he he'll come he'll come for me he'll appear in my goddamn dreams with that goddamn smile and he's gonna smash my right eye! My left eye, too, dammit! My legs! Arms! Body! My head! Even when there's nothing left anymore he won't be satisfied he'll crush something! Something that don't even have a form anymore though my body don't even exist anymore he'll smash it and smash it and smash it and what the hell is he hitting anyway! Please forgive me I'm scared I'm scared I tell you I'm gonna die I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared an' no matter how much I scream and scream and screamscreamscreamhiseyeshisvoicewontleavemyhead-
...Yeah. I've calmed down. Sorry about that. I'm okay.
Booze. Gimme some booze.
What? Come on. Read my lips. I need booze. Alcohol. Liquor. Booze, booze, booze booze booze... booze... what? Too much drinking is bad for me? You goddamn idiot, there's no way drinking could ki-
...No, you're right, it could kill me. No, I mean, I'm sure it'll kill me.
Yeah. Death is terrifying. I'm scared of dying, I'm so fucking scared... I'm fucking terrified. Aren't you? You are, right? Right?
Prologue II End