The Incarcerated InkWell

Federal Inmate in a Canadian Prison with a Life Sentence writes about prison life

Taxiing for take-off

“You want to know why this bogus war on drugs will never be won? Because it’s the same people on both sides. The CIA is one of the biggest players in the game.”

I nodded in lacklustre agreement — as I do with almost every global policy analyst who finds himself in my prison barber chair these days. I’ve learned from experience that arguing with nuts can really sap my energy — energy I’ll probably need later in the day, for my own deranged rant. Plus, it really winds up nuts. Trimming tresses with a pair of blunted Fisher-Price scissors is tough enough without the guy going all Linda Blair<src=””> on you.

“You don’t believe me, do you?” Russell asked me.

I looked at him in the mirror and smiled. Careful. His pupils were starting to widen. But the telltale mouth foam hadn’t started yet. I might still get out of this without calling a priest.

“Hey bro, it’s your dime. I’m listening.”

“I used to fly for them you know — for the company. I put a lot of product into Panama until ’89. Then they grabbed Noriega and it all went nuts. Escobar flipped out and the company had to move assets. That’s when they went into Afghanistan — and I started working for these guys up here.” He rubbed his finger across his nose in a telling gesture as he emphasized “these guys.”

Now usually, when you’re cutting a con’s hair and he starts straight-facing you about his days with the CIA, KGB, Mossad, or some other top-secret crew, this is the hint that you just might be in for a big tip. Not the normal tip of a cold Pepsi. No, not from a guy who once flew for Pablo. A guy like that could be good for a whole unit — a Pepsi, a Mars Bar and a pack of Salt & Vinegar chips. All I had to do was play it cool. I started to nod vigorously.

“Obviously I can’t say too much, but tomorrow the Journal (de Montréal) is coming to see me, and we’re doing a piece on my work for the Columbians. Plus I’m talking to some guys about a movie.” Now I was pumping my neck like a preening Cormorant. I even threw in one raised brow and an insider’s smile. I think that was the clincher, because later in the evening he came back with an Oh Henry bar and two Pepsi’s. As I sat there sipping, I made a mental note to add neck extensions to my morning stretch routine.

Prison is a house of lies. The whole place is built on them. There’s the lie that prisons make society safer, or even that they serve as a meaningful censure for bad conduct. Then there’s the lies that people tell themselves to end up here — lies like, “if I didn’t sell it to them, someone else would”, and “the bitch had it coming”, and “what do they care, it was insured?” But by far, the most entertaining are those lies that people tell to get out of here. While some can be painfully predictable (“I swear on my children’s eyes, I’m done with crime,” or “It’s me and Jesus now, sir”), more than a few of them are truly novel.

KauKauGhe wandered through the door of “Chez le Barbier” as I looked up from yesterday’s French newspaper. “You see Russell in there?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m having a tough time with some of these smaller French words though.” The big Ojibwa filled in the blanks for me. As he did, I realized that Russell had spilled the same story for the Quebec tabloid that he had in my chair two days previous. But this time there were names. Names with hazardous friends.

“Last night, some guy rolled in on Russell and punched his lights out. They’ve got him in protective custody over in the hole right now. We won’t be seeing him again.”

“What was the idiot thinking?” I said. “Did he really think he could mouth off about these guys and get away with it?” I looked back at the article. “I mean, these guys have friends everywhere.”

“Not everywhere.” My long-haired friend slapped me with a knowing look. “Let’s see. Russell has been trying to get to minimum security for eighteen years. He only has two years left on his bit<src=”” title=”slang for a prison sentence”>, but they keep turning down his transfer applications. Now they can’t turn him down, can they? And where do you think they’ll try to hide a guy who just ratted on the mob?”

I laughed. Of course. Minimum security — the great hideout of all big league informants. I guess that’s why it was so important to the former pilot that I believe his Hollywood yarn. Heck, he even got to do his dry run in a mirror and watch my reactions. But now I can’t help but wonder if some of what he said wasn’t true. I mean, besides the CIA, who else crafts such a wily exit from the clink?


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