Everyone spoke of him warily, in hushed tones.
The other inmates had dubbed him the Midas of Murder;
telling the tales, spreading the myths, gazing at him with a
mixture of fascination and disgust as if they could
physically see the long trail of bodies that followed in his
wake. No one ever came near him, though, because no one who
ever came near him survived.
Sometimes he gazed back at them boldly, just to see them
cringe. Or sometimes he'd answer, aloud, the questions he
knew they'd been asking themselves in their heads, laughing
when they made the sign of the cross or scuttled away in
fear. And sometimes, sometimes, he'd let the others come out
to play. During sessions with Sister Pete, or the few times
that McManus requested his presence, he'd let one of the
others speak for him just to see what kind of reaction
they'd get. Sister Pete would suddenly reach for her rosary,
looking sad, maybe even a little defeated. McManus's eyes
would grow wide and he'd begin to stutter and stammer,
making up excuses to quickly end the meeting and send
Beecher back to his pod.
It was especially fun when O'Reily was around. Somehow,
O'Reily seemed to catch on, in a way the others never did.
But mostly, he spent his time in his pod. It was easier to
hear them in there, easier to distinguish the voices and
listen to what each of them had to say. Sometimes he'd
glance out through the glass and see somebody watching him,
a familiar face with a memory attached to it dangling just
out of his reach, and a vague sense of anxiety would
overcome him. But then Gen would grasp his chin gently and
turn his focus back to them, or Chris would come up behind
him and squeeze his shoulder to reassure him, and the
anxiety would fade away.
* * *
It might have gone differently. If Glynn had still been
alive, Beecher might have managed to squeeze through
scot-free one more time, especially since the late warden
had held a grudge against Keller the size of his
self-absorbed ass. Eyes might have been averted, evidence
ignored; Toby might have simply gone on with his life,
serving out his time, eventually being released and finally
going home for good.
But Glynn was dead. And coming as it did just a little too
close on the heels of Schillinger’s "accidental death", it
was all a little too coincidental for Querns, especially
when one factored in all the events of the past: the pages
and pages of history between Toby and Chris, his previous
attempts to do Chris harm. Despite Sister Pete’s pleas on
Toby's behalf, Querns had already made up his mind. With a
wave of his hand, he'd instructed a CO to take Beecher to
Solitary, pending the trial.
The first few days had been a living hell. Still grieving for Chris, and with nothing to do but think and remember and
stare at the walls, Beecher had felt the threads of his sanity begin to unravel. He'd been so goddamned sure he had
held all the answers. The passionate words he'd flung in Keller's face in those last violent moments between them had
made so much sense at the time -- but like everything else he'd said and done since coming to Oz, it had resulted in
nothing but more violence, and more death.
On the fourth day, he'd broken down into a moaning, pitiful
heap and acknowledged that he had no answers at all. He knew
nothing, understood nothing, and everyone he'd trusted to
teach him was dead. He himself was as good as. And they had
all come to witness his self-destruction -- not just Vern
and Chris, but all the others, too: Andy, Hank, Metzger,
Kathy Rockwell, Adam Guenzel. Gen. He'd looked around at all
of their faces, all of the people whose lives he'd destroyed, and it had been so painful he'd screamed with it.
For hours he'd screamed and wailed and pounded at the walls, his mind splintering, unable to bear the weight of the pain.
And when he finally stopped screaming, when his voice was gone and his hands were bloody and his body too exhausted to
move, they were all still there, waiting.
It was then that the answers finally came to him.
From now on, your ass belongs to me.
God is inside you, Tobias.
Good thing I'm crazy, 'cause I don't give a fuck...
Make him a part of you, Kareem.
Toby, don't forget me. If I die, don't forget me.
I'll never be free of them, Chris.
He had been fighting so hard, for so long... so blithe, so
naïve, blanketed by the mistaken belief that he'd been in
control of his own life. So desperate to believe that there
was still some goodness left inside him.
He quietly and unceremoniously disabused himself of that
notion for good on the eighth night. Expelled it from his
body with a grunt and a sigh, one slick hand slowing on his
spent dick while Vern's taunting voice whispered in his ear
and Keller’s wicked, smiling face loomed in his mind. He'd
surrendered immediately, as was his way; knowing, even as
his cock softened and the lure of dreamless sleep beckoned,
that whatever good had once been inside him was out of reach
Yes, he said quietly. I understand.
And from every corner, they came to him. Soothing him.
The following day he'd requested a meeting with Querns,
McManus, and Sister Pete. In the cool, detached voice they
had taught him to use, he told his tale of sadness and woe
from the very beginning: a tale of rape and tattoos, of
broken limbs and broken hearts, of hacks slashed to ribbons
and young boys whose lives had been nothing more than chips
on a bargaining table. He spoke of sons dying for the sins
of their fathers, of old friends who’d dared to come between
jealous lovers, of traitorous voices that had needed to be
silenced. A long, sordid tale of weakness and hate, of
vengeance and yes, of love.
With Vern and Chris and the others looking on, he’d spoken
slowly and clearly, admitting it all.
By the time he was finished, the room was in an uproar. Toby
sat quietly, surrounded by his spectres, gazing calmly at
Querns. Awaiting his judgment.
One by one, the charges against him were called. Each time,
he said what they'd told him to say.
"Guilty, Your Honor."
And when the sentence came down, it resounded with the clear, satisfying ring of fate -- as if every moment since
he’d first entered the gates of Oz had been leading, inexorably, to this one.
Life, without the possibility of parole.
As he rode back to Oz, back to Emerald City, the spectres
surrounded him, praising him, welcoming him home.
* * *
Two months after his release from Solitary, he was given a
He'd been sitting on his bed, ostensibly reading. In actuality, he was listening to Hank and Andy bicker over
who'd been more badly mistreated by Vern. Behind them, in the corner behind the bunks, Chris plucked at a stray piece
of lint on Adam Guenzel's t-shirt and then left his hand there, purring something Toby couldn't quite make out over
all the noise.
The new guy hesitated at the door to the pod, as if silently asking permission to enter. He couldn’t have been more than
twenty-five. Average height, slight of build, and so pretty with his blond hair and his terrified eyes.
Shut the fuck up, Keller.
Toby glanced at Vern and the others. It felt odd, letting someone new into the small space he already shared
with so many. But they assured him it would be all right.
They had prepared him for this, after all.
Chris abandoned Adam and came to stand beside Toby, rubbing
his shoulders. It's okay, baby, he soothed. It's okay.
Are you sure I'm ready?
"I'm sorry, are you talking to me?" The boy looked confused.
"Sorry," Toby said easily, and Chris came to the rescue with
one of his self-deprecating smiles. "Sometimes my mind plays
tricks on me. It's kind of a coping-mechanism thing. You'll
get used to it." He held out a hand. "I'm Tobias, by the
The boy seemed to relax, laughing a little. "I guess that's
understandable." He shook Toby's hand. "Hi. I'm Sam."
"You a Jew?" Vern asked before Toby could stop him. "Never
mind, you don't need to answer that."
Cut it out, he snapped, silently.
Just making sure things get done right, sweetpea.
Aw, Vern, leave him alone. He knows what to do.
"It's okay. I'm a Catholic, actually. Even studied in seminary for a while."
Toby slid down from his bunk, leaning against the bedframe, and gazed at his new roommate. "So. You got any tattoos?"
"Me? Lord, no. Never could bring myself to do that. I suppose I'm not one for pain."
"I hear that." Toby walked over to the glass door and leaned on it, gazing out into the quad. "Well,
we’ll have to get you one."
The boy turned to look at Toby, and laughed nervously. "I don’t think so. I’m not really the type."
Yes, Toby thought. Everything was going to be all right.
"Oh, I think you're *just* the type," he said aloud, in his new voice, the one that sounded like all of them. "In
fact... I’m going to brand you myself."
Consider this an exorcism, of sorts. This is exactly what I needed to do to get
Season 666 out of my head, once and for all.
Originally posted to TS for the Lyric Wheel challenge; lyrics were
Basket Case by Green Day. My sincere thanks to Lisa for sending the perfect