Teen cops a time for red.., p.8
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       Teen Cops 'A Time for Redemption', p.8

          
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Chapter 7

  After the excitement of the basketball season had died down, the Warden turned his attention to the Mount Hood band project which he’d been hearing so many good things about from Mr Gardner, the music teacher. The warden had the bright idea of assigning one of his guards to help develop the project, as a kind of mentor he put it and not a babysitter as I said. The guard’s name was Luis Villa and Luis had previous experience of working in the music business as a young and hungry A & R talent scout for a major label. That was before he got busted for drugs possession, putting an end to his music career. It was while serving his community service sentence working at the local prison that Luis realised this was the vocation for him. Luis had been a prison guard for 8 months now and his new life had kept him away from the temptation of drugs. He was only 21 and would make a good fit as the sixth member of the band. Luis still had plenty of contacts in the music industry, which could come in useful when we got released. We welcomed him on board.

  Luis and Warden Ellis sat through band practice that evening to observe us. We kicked off the session with a cover version of Jailhouse Rock to amuse the warden, followed by a couple of chart favourites, then one of our own songs to mix it up. Yes we’d been busy writing our own songs as well and the Warden was very impressed.

  ‘Thank you very much,’ I said in a poor Elvis impression.

  ‘Well done all of you,’ said the warden as he applauded.

  Luis sat beside him making notes. Suddenly Warden Ellis jumped out of his seat with excitement at what he called a ‘eureka moment.’

  ‘I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we take the band out on a tour around Oregon’s other correctional facilities, a sort of break out tour, but with a difference?’ he said.

  It would certainly provide the warden with the ideal opportunity to showcase just how successful the Mount Hood project had become and it was also kind of exciting for us.

  ‘How do you all feel about the idea?’ the warden asked.

  As the tour would include both juvi centres and prisons we stopped to think about the implications. How would the more hardened criminals take to a teen band? I guess we would just have to suck it and see. Besides I doubt we actually had any say in the matter as the warden’s mind was already made up.

  ‘Good, that’s settled,’ said Warden Ellis as we all nodded and smiled.

  The warden congratulated Mr Gardener on a fine job and was leaving the room to discuss the tour with Luis before he stopped and stuck his head back in the room;

  ‘I’d like to invite you for dinner in my office this evening,’ said the warden and we graciously accepted his offer.

  Jordan and Molly started to fret immediately about what to wear and I put them straight by saying the standard issue orange jump suits would be just fine. No need to get a new outfit is there? Dinner was at eight and we made sure our uniforms were pressed for the occasion. During the meal, which I must say was delicious, Luis and Warden Ellis discussed their tour plans with us. The two men had already liaised with several correctional facilities across the state to confirm dates and it seems most places were excited about the event. The tour itself would start at the end of the week and last for seven days, so there was little time for extra band practise.

  ‘Why the big rush?’ I asked.

  Luis explained that the Warden wanted the tour to be finished before spring break weekend, something about the correctional facilities being short staffed during that period and I wasn’t about to question his decision any further, especially after such a nice meal. We thanked the warden for dinner and headed straight back to the music room to continue rehearsals. Luis joined us later to help select the song list for the gigs. Band practice would start at 8am every morning and last most of the day. By the Friday I thought we sounded more like we’d been playing together for years, not weeks. It was a gruelling schedule but at least we managed to avoid doing daily chores for a while.

  The thought of gaining freedom for a week, albeit under the watchful eyes of a prison guard and Luis, kept us going. If the tour proved to be a success then perhaps the warden might want us to visit other states. Maybe one day we could even release a track. There I was getting carried away again.

  After lunch on Friday we were packed and ready to set off. I for one felt very strange as we drove away from Mount Hood, almost home sick. I don’t know if the others felt the same way, but perhaps we had come to accept Mount Hood as our temporary home. We knew the road trip was certainly no holiday and that the warden had his hopes pinned on us to fly the flag for Mount Hood, so the pressure was enormous.

  ‘FREEDOM,’ Josh shouted as he stood up with his arms in the air. That managed to break the tension that we were all feeling.

  The other prison guard who was driving the bus asked Josh to calm down. We had to laugh, before getting told off ourselves. This guy was certainly no fun. The warden thought we might need a second guard to help Luis with the driving and to keep an eye on us in case we tried to make a break for the Canadian border. This would look a little embarrassing on the warden’s CV, but he had nothing to worry about as we weren’t going to screw this opportunity up for ourselves.

  To kill the boredom during the journey to our first gig, Brandon started a sing along and as usual Jordan managed to surprise us all with an impromptu rap version of the song. We had our very own Eminem onboard and decided to include the rapping in the shows.

  ‘Sweet,’ said Jordan.

  When the singing finished I noticed Jordan staring out the side window in a daze and wondered what was troubling her, but didn’t like to pry. No doubt she’d tell us what was wrong when she was good and ready. It gave her that air of mystery that I liked. I turned my attention to the tour schedule that Luis was reading and could see we had gigs booked right across the state for the next 7 days. I crossed my fingers hoping the band would receive a warm welcome at each venue.

  The first gig that night at Portland Prison went very well, gauging by the audience reaction and so too did the following three venues. However our luck soon changed when we reached Albany Prison as the whole jealousy issue reared its ugly head again. A crowd of irritated inmates started throwing chairs up at the stage during our performance.

  ‘Where the hell is security?’ I asked looking around.

  It was time to take cover as the place erupted in violence with inmates trying to storm the stage and fights breaking out amongst them. Luis shouted from the side of the stage for us to get off straight away, but it was too late. From out of nowhere, a massive fist flew through the air to connect with my face and the force of the punch knocked me clean off my drum stool. I wobbled my jaw making sure it was still attached, as I lay dazed on the stage. Then I looked up and it was not the sight of pleasant birds flying around my head that greeted me but my old friend Victor Martinez. He’d recognised me up on stage and just had to say hello in his own special way. I bet he couldn’t believe his luck.

  ‘I told you boy, you’d be dead if I saw you again,’ Martinez ranted as he went for a vicious kick to my ribs.

  Luckily for me Brandon saved the day as he smashed a guitar right across the back of Martinez’s head. He was out cold and how embarrassing I thought, a second knock out blow for Martinez. While he lay motionless on the stage next to me, Brandon helped me up and I managed to hobble off.

  ‘Thanks man,’ I said patting Brandon on the back with my drumsticks still in hand.

  ‘You can thank me later,’ he replied ducking to avoid a chair flying across the stage towards us.

  We literally fell out the rear exit of the building and headed straight for the safety of the van. The prison guards managed to contain the eruption inside long enough to bring out most of the equipment, which we quickly loaded in to the van before making our getaway.

  ‘Was it something we sang?’ Josh asked.

  The girls were for once trembling with fear and Brandon tried to comfort them with a hug. Luis was furious that part of our equipment had been damaged during the riot and also because one of his band members nearly got killed. Although I’m not sure what was more important to him, me or the guitars. We headed straight for the highway and the nearest motel to assess the damage.

  ‘That was lucky,’ said Molly.

  ‘I know,’ said Brandon.

  We stopped in a motel car park to catch our breath, while Luis went inside to book three rooms for the night. He handed out the keys and I rushed in the room first to check my facial injuries in the bathroom mirror. A wonderful black eye was starting to form.

  ‘Terrific!’ I said.

  Thankfully Nurse Jordan was on hand to apply some ointment to bring out the bruising. I won’t pretend it didn’t hurt, but I had to be brave in front of her.

  ‘Nothing a little make up can’t hide,’ said Jordan as she bathed it.

  We were all still a little shaky and decided to stay together in one room while Luis reflected on the evening’s events. Luis said that there was no way any of us could have predicted what had just happened and asked if we wanted to cancel the remainder of the tour. This was out of the question. We all agreed on that and besides none of us wanted to let the warden down.

  ‘Hey Scott, who the hell was that crazy guy that was trying to kill you?’ Brandon asked.

  ‘Let’s just say we’ve met before and hopefully won’t meet again,’ I replied not wishing to expand further.

  I did wonder if Jordan recognised Martinez from the bus journey when we first arrived at Mount Hood and if she did she was keeping it to herself.

  We ordered pizzas and relaxed watching TV together before it was time for lights out. Luis was sleeping in the van to look after the equipment while the other prison guard whose name was Ralph, slept in the room between us and the girls. If anyone had a nightmare that night it would be understandable.

  The warden called to speak to Luis on his mobile, checking that everyone was OK after the incident in Albany, which he’d just heard about.

  ‘Good evening sir,’ said Luis as he answered the call.

  Luis explained what had happened and put the warden’s mind at rest by confirming that everyone was fine, apart from being a little shaken. He focused on the incident between Victor Martinez and Scott, which the warden promised to investigate. He would not allow any of his inmates to be victimised, which was nice to hear. They agreed that the tour should continue as planned and then Luis went on to mention that two of the guitars needed to be replaced after the violence at Albany. He left the part out about Brandon smashing a guitar over Martinez’s head, just to be on the safe side. The warden agreed to the purchase of two replacement guitars and said good night.

  In the morning during breakfast at the motel, Luis asked if anyone had an Ebay account and naturally I put my hand up. Although it had been a few months since my last transaction due to my incarceration, my account would still be active.

  ‘OK then we need two guitars as cheap as possible please Scott. Can I leave this with you?’ Luis asked.

  I nodded and grabbed the laptop to jump straight onto Ebay. Make, model or colour were not an issue, we just needed instruments before the evenings gig. I am a bit of an Ebay Jedi master and managed to grab two guitars at ridiculously low prices. Even better, the items could be collected on route to the next gig. Luis would have to pay cash on collection though due to my current financial predicament. With new guitars in hand the remainder of the tour continued without incident, which was a big relief to everyone, especially Warden Ellis.

  The last gig on our tour was scheduled for Springfield Prison and it was going to be very special because Luis had been keeping a secret. Unbeknown to us, Warden Ellis would be attending the Springfield Prison gig as a surprise, but what Luis didn’t know, was that our families had also been invited. I suppose if we had known, it would have just added to our already nervous state. As soon as we arrived at Springfield Prison, Luis jumped out of the van and started to unload the equipment.

  ‘Is it me or is Luis taking this last gig a bit too seriously?’ Josh asked.

  ‘I guess so, but maybe he just wants everything to go smoothly,’ I replied.

  It was certainly a strange feeling knowing this could be our last gig for some time and the thought of returning to Mount Hood to resume our sentences. Before we went inside the prison we wanted to congratulate Luis on doing such a fine job of looking after us and for treating us to take away food most nights. We hoped this would be the start of good things to come. There was time for one final group hug before we went out on stage and we even managed to include Ralph. You should have seen the expression on his face.

  ‘Good luck guys,’ Luis said from the stage side.

  As the curtains opened we were shocked to see Warden Ellis walk up on stage to introduce us to the audience. He nodded at us before he started to speak.

  ‘Ladies and gentleman, I would like to introduce you to five remarkable young people who I think have achieved great things during their time at the Mount Hood Juvenile Correction Centre in Gresham.’ Good plug for the place I thought.

  ‘Their dedication and hard work should be an inspiration to us all. Now please put your hands together to welcome five teens from the Hood,’ said Warden Ellis with great pride.

  Not a bad impromptu name for the band, but still not cool enough. We’d have to put our heads together to come up with a name as soon as possible if the touring was to continue. We started to play at which point I had a quick glance out into the audience just to make sure my buddy Mr Martinez hadn’t managed to slip past security, but it was safe. The crowd were really supportive and thankfully no chairs were being thrown, which is a good sign or perhaps it was because they were bolted to the floor. It felt so right performing up on stage with my friends and I wish it didn’t have to end. We gave it our all during that performance and were close to collapsing from exhaustion after the very final encore.

  As we started to leave the stage I looked down at the audience one last time and was startled to see my Mother sitting there in the second row with my sister. What the hell were they doing here? Molly was also shocked to see her Dad sitting in the same row. Luis pushed us back on stage to take one final bow and we were in for another surprise when the Governor of Oregon, Governor Williams walked on to say a few words of praise. I smiled at my mother and she smiled back while Governor Williams spoke.

  ‘I would also like to thank the members of the band, Scott, Molly, Brandon, Jordan and Josh for all their hard work. It’s a real credit to Warden Ellis’s leadership at Mount Hood. Thank you to Luis Villa for his help and guidance,’ Governor Williams said before he went on to thank the audience for their kind support.

  At this point the speech was going on a bit too long for me, although the sentiment was greatly appreciated. When we did finally manage to get off stage we were joined by our families for a very emotional reunion. Luis provided coffee and donuts for everyone which he’d paid for out of his own money. He’s the best. I think even the Warden had a tear in his eye as he watched the family reunion from a distance, although he would never admit to it. I was in for yet another shock when my father pulled back the stage curtain and walked over for a hug. He told me how proud he was and for once I was left speechless. Mother inspected my black eye and asked how I got it. I dismissed it as nothing more than an argument with a door to hide the truth, otherwise she’d only worry.

  We introduced our families to each other before I sat alone to talk to my father for a few minutes. I felt the time was right to apologise for the way I’d let him down and I hoped we could finally start to move forward.

  ‘You are my son and I will always love you,’ Dad said and it was time for more tears.

  Molly came over with her Dad, Lieutenant Mitchell Carter who greeted us in full police uniform and I quickly wiped my eyes before standing to attention.

  ‘A police officer,’ I gasped as she’d kept that a secret.

  It turns out Molly was Mitch’s only child. Her mother had died when she was five years old and Mitch had tried to bring her up alone. Although for most of her childhood she was cared for by a string of nannies as Mitch was frequently away serving for his country as she mentioned before. Mitch decided when Molly reached fifteen, to give up military service and to join the local police force to be closer to home. Very admirable I thought. Mitch reminded me of the Bruce Willis character from the Die Hard Movies, you know the type, very tough, but handsome. Don’t get me wrong I’m not having a man crush or anything just admiration. Mitch was getting on well with all the band members, perhaps due in part to his police uniform and our renewed respect for the law.

  ‘I guess you’ll be straight back in the gym when we get to Mount Hood, Josh?’ Brandon said pinching the puppy fat around Josh’s stomach. Josh had eaten one too many donuts and too much pizza during the tour.

  ‘You know it,’ Josh replied as he continued to eat.

  Governor Williams and the warden joined us for what they called quality time but it was really because of the free donuts. I noticed Mitch go over to speak to Governor Williams about something in private and soon after the Governor invited Warden Ellis to join their conversation. Now I really was intrigued. It wasn’t long before the three men went off to find privacy in one of the side rooms to continue their meeting. Luis was the next to join them as the warden beckoned him in. I could see a whole lot of nodding going on through the window of the room. I continued to observe. Luis shook his head to disagree at one point about something and then suddenly the meeting was over. The four men rejoined the celebrations as if nothing had happened and I quickly looked the other way.

  My father startled me as he put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Spying again son?’

  It was no good lying as I was caught red handed and fortunately I was saved by Josh shouting; ‘HERE’S TO ONE LAST NIGHT OF FREEDOM.’ as he held up his coffee cup to celebrate.

  We replied with a unified ‘CHEERS.’

  ‘Hey dad, what was that secret meeting about?’ Molly asked as Mitch stood beside her.

  ‘Oh nothing for you to worry about sweetheart,’ Mitch replied trying to dismiss the matter.

  I’m glad somebody else had noticed the meeting, but it would be a few days before we found out the truth. Right now it was time to say goodbye to our families.

  ‘Good luck son,’ said Dad as he shook my hand firmly.

  ‘Thanks Dad,’ I replied wiping another tear from my eye.

  We climbed on the bus and started the 200 mile journey back to Mount Hood. I waved to my family from the back window, before returning to sit with my friends as they discussed the evenings surprise events.

  ‘Did anyone else notice the secret meeting taking place between Governor Williams, the Warden and Mitch?’ I asked.

  But it seems only Molly and I had witnessed it. Luis was pretending to be asleep in the front seat to avoid being quizzed, while Ralph the prison guard drove the first leg of the journey home. Brandon thought our imaginations were getting the better of us, but I defended what I’d seen and knew something was happening. As we were all feeling tired, the discussions soon ended and we crashed out on the bus seats. We slept for over six hours during the journey back to Mount Hood and were only woken by the brightness of the sun shining through the bus windows. Luckily for Josh we had arrived back in time to enjoy a nice big prison breakfast.

  After breakfast we had to get straight back into our daily routines which meant more lessons and more cleaning duties for me. We arranged to meet up in the canteen for dinner after classes. I felt like a zombie for the remainder of the day and by dinner I was ready to drop. A cup of thick black coffee was required and I sat perched at a corner table sipping this while I waited for the others. Josh was the first to shuffle in to the canteen and the others were close behind, walking like zombies from the Thriller video. It was funny to watch and as soon as everyone had sat down, I launched straight back into my questioning about the secret meeting.

  ‘Please not that again Scott,’ Brandon groaned, convinced I was still imagining things. But Molly and I knew something was going on.

  ‘What do you think they were discussing then Scott?’ Jordan asked.

  ‘I’m not sure, hopefully something to do with the band,’ I replied.

  ‘It could just be something very innocent, like concerns over our welfare or education,’ Jordan added, but I doubted that.

  At that moment Luis entered the canteen and started walking towards us, so we quickly changed the subject.

  ‘The warden would like the band to perform for the Mount Hood inmates on Sunday night. Do you feel up to it?’ Luis asked knowing we probably needed some rest, but how could we disappoint the warden or our fellow inmates. We had to say yes.

  The warden gave us special permission to use the music room for late night band practice and excused us from cleaning duties. So there was a plus side. The discussion about the secret meeting with the governor could wait at least until after the concert on Sunday.

 
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