Anthony 'Jailbird' Walker has just been released from prison after a twelve year stint and he's back in trouble already...
We walk out the front gates of the prison, the warden giving me the evil eye. The bastard hadn’t even said goodbye, just See ya later.
Quentin points me toward a black sedan - must be new, I don’t recognize the model - and we walk to it in silence. I look around, uncomfortable with such distant horizons, but rejoicing in it at the same time.
“Good seeing you again, Questions,” I tell him once we’re protected by his ride’s leather interior. I hate that I’m more relaxed in here.
He offers me a smile in return before pressing one finger to his lips and starting up the engine. I nod and look away as he pulls out of the parking lot and heads east, keeping us under the speed limit.
It’s difficult to sit still. My shirt feels too tight - I guess all that lifting did me some good after all. The fabric of my pants feels strange against my legs after so long in prison jumpsuits. A hot shower behind a locked door sounds like paradise right now.
Watching empty fields drift past, the early morning September sun slicing its way through clouds to warm the distant hills, I don’t even notice that I’ve slumped down in my seat. It’s like I’m already hiding from the cops so they can’t drag me back to that hole, or from an old enemy who has come to collect on a blood debt. But the rear-view is empty, so I make myself sit up a little straighter.
After putting a few miles between us and my previous place of residence, Quentin brings us to a stop beside a small stand of trees. We get out. He moves around to the back of the car and opens the trunk. I notice that there are no other cars on the road.
“What’s going on?” I am not nervous. Merely curious. Questions wouldn’t do me like this. We got history.
It has been a long time, though.
Quentin pulls a Neiman Marcus bag out of the trunk before slamming it closed. The bag looks soft and bulky, but there could still be a gun in there. That is not sweat dropping down my back.
But then he tosses me the bag and I finally relax. I peek inside to find a pair of blue jeans, a white t-shirt, a navy zip sweater, white socks and underwear, and black boots. He hadn’t bothered to remove the price tag on any of them. I guess he wants me to know somebody authorized him to drop over a grand on me. I can guess who that might be.
I look up and he points at the trees, mouthing the words Get changed at me. I do as I’m told. I got real good at that in prison.
Everything fits perfectly.
When I emerge a few minutes later, carrying my old clothes in the bag, Quentin scowls at me. Without a word he takes the bag from my hand and tosses it back into the trees.
“What the hell is going on, Questions?” I ask once we’re back in the car and on the move once more.
“Had to make sure they didn’t bug your gear. The feds had a long time to do what they pleased with it, you know? Oh, just so you know, they don’t call me that no more,” he says. I raise an eyebrow and wait. “I’m The Solution now.”
“Sounds like you’ve done well for yourself these last twelve years.” I didn’t mean for that to sound bitter. But I don’t care enough to clarify. Plus I’m unsettled by the apparent need for secrecy.
“Yeah, thanks to you,” he says as we pass a sign that lets us know we’re fifty miles from anywhere worth knowing about. “Mostly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Those names you been feedin’ me have all been solid - except one.”
“Who?” I ask, but I’m pretty sure I already know.
“I told you I wasn’t sure about him!” Yelling is probably not a good idea, but it feels good. “I told you to make sure!”
“Relax, Jailbird. It was one little mistake, it ain’t nothin’ to worry about.”
“Mistake? An innocent man is dead!” Suddenly I appreciate his earlier caution.
“Ain’t nobody innocent in this big bad world of ours. Besides,” Quentin leans over and pops open the glove box to reveal two gleaming handguns, “Mister Hunter has given us the opportunity to set things right.”
“Us?” My voice is weak and thick with fear.
“Welcome back to the real world, Jailbird.”