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Grilled Cheese Sandwich
NOVEMBER 2, 2002
Gazing down at what appeared to be a grilled cheese sandwich upon a dull, tin tray, Jack Dellfrè, a Wisconsin State prisoner, thought back. He thought way back; the date was January 17.
JANUARY 17, 1987
It was a Thursday, or so the National Geographic calendar showed hanging on the back wall to the office. Tkk. Mr. Dellfrè switched off the lights to the offices of Robins and Dellfrè, an attorney building. He and Mr. Robins, Skip as everyone called him, had been working together for eight years. They were both, each on opposite sides, in the trial of Helmincun vs. Helmincun; a burglary case involving jewelry, diamonds, and a woman with a split personality. After hours upon hours of debating, the case was finally adjured permanently; with the victim charged for attempted robbery against herself. The two men worked next to each other through the entire case, considering they were actually defending the same person. Speaking to each other after the case, they decided to open up their own attorney-at-law business. That was eight years ago, back when they actually had the one thing that made the world go 'round: money.
Mr. Dellfrè pulled his the lapel to his black over coat close to his neck, and stepped out, feeling the prickly freeze run down his spine. Click. Pop. The deadbolt to the door turned into place after Jack twisted the key. “Thank you God”, Jack said; the weather had finally calmed. The paths he walked over were covered in a tiny sheet of snowfall, but that didn't mind Jack one bit. His mind was too preoccupied even to notice the beeping horn of a vehicle that had just swerved to miss him as he crossed the street on to Mayland Avenue. Ever since that day when the dreadfully scrawny gentleman from the IRS came knocking on the heavy, wooden door to deliver the news of bankruptcy, he hadn’t been able to keep his mind straight. We had money when they first opened the place, he reflected. After paying for the bills, some even months in advance, Skip told him that they were squared away. Since then all the money they earned was to be pure profit; at least it should have been. One whole year went by and Robins, being in charge of the bills, noticed that they were in fact losing money. Even after all of those cases they won, the clients only compensated if they won, the law offices of Dellfrè and Robins that nothing to show for it. Knowing that they had to make some changes, Jack dropped some of the employees, but not without helping them find another career.
From Forest to Mayland to Elm, then to State, this was the route that Jack had used for eight years now. He lived on State, in a duplex. His neighbors were the Blacks; they were an elder, quieter couple, which was just what he liked best about them. Their children were so busy with their families that they had no time for them. So around the holidays Jack would head over with a tray of his scrumptious spritz cookies and thermos of eggnog to greet them with. Then, after exchanging their Merry Christmas’s, he would play an assortment of Christmas songs on the Black’s grand piano, saving Silent Night as the finale. By that point in time it was exceptionally late, so they just relax by the fire place till it went out. Most of the time Jack would fall asleep on the blue Victorian settee, only to wake up early the next morning sheltered under a blanket Mrs. Black had draped over him.
“You gonna eat that?” asked a great barbarian of a man as he snatched away the partially eaten grilled cheese, shoving it into his mouth. As he walked away, he laughed, still gnawing on the sandwich. Jack could see tiny pieces fluttering from his mouth, but that didn’t matter; there was nothing Jack could do about it. Here at the Cove it takes at least a couple months before you could even scent the slightest bit of respect expelling from the other inmates. The Cove was what all of its “visitors” called the Western Sanchez Penitentiary building. This was where the boys became men and men became vermin, doing the dirty work for the countless number of guards. The work consisted of anything from dry cleaning their uniforms, to doing things that they wish just to be kept unspoken. Fortunately for Mr. Dellfrè, he got what seemed to be the one straight guard.
Whistling “Jingle Bell Rock”, Jack finally made it over to Elm, also known as Yuppie-ville. Every yuppie in the eastern Milwaukee area burrowed in on Elm. Friday afternoons were always the time to steer clear of Elm Street. For there was always a line of “Snob Cars”, all seeming to leave at the same time. Every single one of them was heading for Lake Geneva or some other yuppie driven city, where they will graze through all of the miniature shops and stay at some boat house or B&B. Friday night through Sunday late-afternoon was the time to mourn the town’s people and maybe catch a coffee at the local, now vacant, Starbucks. That’s just was Jack liked to do, but lately the only things his wallet contained were: a paper clip (for those times he forgot the keys to the office), a decrepit shoe lace, and a silver Hershey's kiss wrapper. How could we have lost so much money? thought Jack, We had only lost six of our one hundred odd cases…
His name was Harold Belltop, Jack Dellfrè’s guard. He had a wife named Dana and two girls, Lisa and Amanda; they were his life. Unlike most all the other guards, Harold treated Jack with respect, as did Jack to Harold. While many of the other guards had their inmates doing “stuff” for them, Harold had him running errands as well as other helpful things. In exchange for these errands, Harold would give him smokes and beer. Jack would then trade these for recreational items such as: books, card decks, and miniature green army men. That’s what he did, when not doing things for Harold; recreating historical war battles was what Jack did in his leisure time. Harold also was different from the others; he held the other guards and inmates from touching Jack, because he believed Jack and his story on how he was framed. Framed by the one person he trusted the most, his best friend.
Leaving the loud partying street of Elm, Dellfrè finally arrived on State. Here the sidewalks were not as badly covered in snowfall as in other places. The full, wide tree tops blocked most of the flakes from ever making their way to the ground. Blinding lights grew larger and larger as a black 1947 Cadillac pulled up to Jack. So close that the left side tires were nearly atop the sidewalk where he stood. Peering into the window, the only thing Jack could see was himself glaring straight back; the windows were tinted. Next thing Jack knew, a low hum began and the window lowered itself until there appeared to be nothing left. Through the darkness a man popped his head out and flashed an IRS badge. The man, unlike the first skeletal man, was a short, pudgy looking creature. On the left side of his lip was a stream of ruby, red blood. “Have you seen a Mr. Dellfrè recently?” asked the man. Jack could hear a slightly “wicked” tone in the fat man’s voice.
“No sir, but I do know of him. Is something wrong? Or is he in trouble?”
Raising up a blood-stained handkerchief to his clear away the flow, Jack could see a look on his face that showed he knew something was up. Eyeing Jack with a petrifying look, accompanied by a set of atrocious looking teeth, he said, “That is classified information that I am authorized to not let leak.”
Thinking for an intelligent way to go about this Jack supposed, “Well, have you tried his house?”
“Of course I tried his house! I’m with the IRS, I’m not thick!”
Struggling to hold back the snigger that was tickling the back of his throat, Jack said, “If I see him, I’ll tell him Mr.-”
“Smith, Mr. Smith.”
Smith? Jack felt as if he was in a mystery movie.
“Alright Mr. Smith, if I see him, I’ll tell Mr. D you were looking for him.”
“No need,” said Mr. Smith, “I let a long note to him, explaining the entire situation.”
Great, I get to come home to a affectionate note of eradication from a Mr. Smith.
“Have a pleasant night Mr. Smi-” Before Jack could finish, the chubby man in the damn first-class lookin’ caddie took off down the road.
As Jack neared 3453 place, he noticed that his door had been unlatched and left open. Any ordinary person would have gone franticly bustling up to their ingress wondering what was stolen. Jack, on the other hand, nonchalantly walked towards his house, pressed the door open and walked in. If Mr. or Mrs. Black would have heard the stout man enter this side of the duplex they would have been hysterical. Tkk! Jack switched on the hall light, and three seconds later a BuzzTkk! sounded.
A sweeping gust of wind blew in through the, still opened, front door.
The lights went out.
Falling down into his hands was a manila envelope, and from the luminosity of the moon, Jack read:
TO: MR. DELLFRÈ
FROM: THE REASON YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL
“How could he do this to me?” Jack Dellfrè stood up and paced to and fro through the overly large janitors closet. He figured, since the prison was always a mess, this was safe place to talk.
Letting out a big sigh and rolled his eyes, Harold Belltop retorted, “We have been trying to figure that one out for over fifteen years now. It took around ten for these papers to finally come in, and now all you have to do is tell me the rest of the story.”
“I have told you the story five thousand times before. Can’t you just fill in the blanks?” Jack wrapped his hands around the back of the chair and squeezed. Hard.
“You know I would if I could, but I don’t want to screw anything up for you! I know you’re innocent, but if I mark something down one way, and then they question you, which they will, and you tell them something even the slightest bit different… they will just throw out the papers! I can’t live knowing I was the one who-”
Jack, whose knuckles were now white from squeezing the chair, butted in, “I know… I’m sorry.” He released the back rest and sat back down. “Let’s just do this as quickly as possible, I want out. Oh, by the way I’m really digging the Sesame Street voice recorder.”
“The recorder is my daughter, Amanda’s. It is another safety procedure I’m taking as a just incaser. And believe me I want you out too.” He began to chuckle and Jack started in also. “Please continue.”
Jack cracked his knuckles and neck, “After the envelope landed in my hands…”
The reason you are going to jail? Searching for the letter opener with no success, Jack stepped back outside and sat on the stoop to his section of the duplex. Without even a hesitation he tore open the envelope. After unfolding the paper that was in thirds, Jack quickly looked it over. It read:
Dear Mr. Dellfrè,
You are probably wondering why you are even reading this. Trust me this is very important, do not put this down. My name is Mr. Smith and before the police reached you, throwing you into jail, I figured that you should know the details. As you have most-likely noticed, the business is failing and you are losing money. It is not your fault, since your “buddy” Skip has been the cause of all your problems. Since you opened the offices, he has been pocketing the income from right under your nose. After the man from the IRS first came to you, Mr. Robinson came to me for help, fearing you would soon find out what he has been up to. Paying me substantial amounts of money to cover him, I have devised a plan to end this issue. I have, for the past couple months, been planting fake evidence on you, planting it for the soul purpose of sending you to jail. I think that when they hear about your little gambling issues, they will have no problem accusing you on theft. No matter what you do, you will not be able to stop us. Thanks for taking the blame and take care in prison.
Crumpling the note into a bitty ball, Jack felt his heart begin beating what seemed to be a million times a minute. Somewhere in the distance he could hear a faint whimper. He shot up from the stoop, concentrating all of his energy on the almost silent cries. As he turned around to go back in, the gears clicked. Jack bolted over to the front door of the Black’s side. The door was ajar, which was unusual for the old couple. “Hello, Mrs. Black? It’s me, Jack Dellfrè, are you home?” Just then the crying grew louder. Jack ran towards the sound, stubbing his toe on the leg to the sofa- the one he had fallen asleep in. Sleeping was the last thing on Jack’s mind, as he walked into the kitchen, where the howling was at its loudest. There on the floor were the Blacks, she squirming and rolling from side to side, bound tight with a large rope; while he just laid there. Motionless.
“And after you helped Mrs. Black, what did she tell you?” asked Harold.
A frown appeared upon Jack’s face, “Well, Mrs. Black told me how they heard a man break into my quarters; that man was Mr. Smith.”
Harold, much to Jack’s frustration, said, “How can you be so sure it was him?”
“It just was, trust me. May I continue?”
Sitting there Harold made a move with his hands, motioning Jack to continue.
After taking a second to remember where he was, he again began, “They walked over to see what was up and he attacked them, slapping Mrs. Black. The Mister lost it on Smith slugging him in the face, giving him the ol’ one-two.”
Harold scratched on and on with the half pencil on the form it took them so long to obtain.
“Pulling out a letter opener, Mr. Smith lunged at Mr. Black, piercing his right lung. But not killing him instantly. The wrestling match made its way through to the other side of the duplex, the Black’s side. That was where Mr. Smith again stabbed Mr. Black, this time in the stomach. After seeing her husband collapsing to the floor, Mrs. Black ran over to him, and then the next thing she knew, she woke up with a throbbing pain on the back of her head, completely tied up. After that there was nothing until I showed up.”
Mr. Belltop wrote for a bit longer, then looked back up and asked, “And the letter opener was yours?”
“You know it was mine!”
Harold glared back at Jack.
“I’m sorry. Yes, the opener was mine. Mr. Smith must have taken it from my house when he dropped off the envelope. Planting it for the soul purpose of sending you to jail.”
After the scribing ended Harold looked back up and asked, “After untying her and hearing her story, then what?
“I heard someone coming closer and closer behind me. But before I could turn around, I felt something pellet me on the back of the head and I was out cold.”
“And when you awoke?”
“I was down town with a nurse, who was just finishing applying tape to bandage on my head. Before anything else could happen, I was rushed into the interrogation room, they were afraid that the bash to the back of my head may have caused me to forget the whole night. That’s when I told them what Mrs. Black had told me, and that’s when they told me Mrs. Black was murdered. They found me with my hands around her neck, both of us out.”
The way Harold’s writing gradually speed up faster and faster and the grunts that were coming from within, told Jack that he was fighting back tears. “Well, I think that’s all we need. I’ll go straight over to the out-going mailbox and mail these letters straight to the men who will help you get this all sorted out.”
Jack rose and gripped Harold, hugging him long and hard. As Jack stood there he noticed that they were both crying. Wiping away their tears they began to laugh. After twenty some years of friendship, soon they could meet on the “outside”. Harold had already invited Jack over for dinner the first night he was free. Shaking hands, Jack knew that he was the best friend he’d ever had.
Harold turned and yanked open he door. It happened so fast Jack had no idea what to do. There was a low ptt, and he had blood all over himself. Standing there for a moment, dumb-stricken, Jack saw Harold turn, holding his bleeding chest, and falling to the floor. The bullet had sent out a spray of blood to Jack’s face. There, standing in the door way, pointing a gun directly at Jack Dellfrè, was a gray headed Mr. Smith.
“I thought I told you no matter what you do, you will not be able to stop us, and this is no different.” Mr. Smith stepped in and walked around Jack, still with the gun at him. “After that night both Skip and I were rich, all that dirty money went straight into our pockets. Of course half was not nearly good enough, so I killed him. You know what I did with all that money? After buying myself a new house and a Mustang I hid the rest. I hid it in the one spot they would never find it, unless they dig up old Skippy boy and open the coffin. There it is and there it will stay until the time is right.” He jabbed the barrel of the gun deep into Jack’s spine. “To bad you won’t be around to see it.”
His smile cracked and Jack could see the same crooked, yellow-black teeth as he had before, just twenty years ago. “I’d say I’m living the highlife, at least I was until I heard what you and your buddy were up to. Now all of that will soon be off my mind. I have all the money I could ever want, and it’s all thanks to you.”
Smith, just completing a three-sixty around Jack, now had the gun pointed in the region of his heart. As the clicking sound of the trigger went off, Jack shut his eyes and turned his face away. Before the bullet had a chance to leave the barrel, Mr. Smith fell to the ground. The bullet just skimmed the side of Jack’s cheek, leaving a minor scratch, but stung like hell. Looking around to see what happened, he saw that Harold had jammed the half pencil through the back of Mr. Smith’s neck. The tip was jutting out from the front, blood dripping from it.
In the corner was Harold curled up in a little ball; applying pressure to the wound in attempt to stop the bleeding. Jack ran over to help; he lifted Harold’s head up, holding it up on his knee. “You’re gonna make it man. Come on; let’s get you out of here.”
“What are you taking about?”
“The bullet, it missed my heart. But it’s not me who matters now, it’s you. They will never believe an accused murderer and his friend, everyone knows I have been trying to get you out of here.”
A smile appeared on Jack’s face as an almost silent Tkk! sounded. He pointed over to the table, “Listen.”
Tkk! “Rubber Ducky say’s End of side one. Quack!”
Smiling, Jack whispered, “Thanks Amanda.”