A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 14)
Cassie, Scott and Babbitt now stopped at Mouse’s cell. He was on the door watching as they approached.
As Babbitt reached for his keys, Mouse razzed him “Hey Sarge you’re slipping, you need to do something about those wheels.”
“Oh yeah, maybe I should have you grease them for me on your way out” Babbitt replied.
“I won't have time, let White do it.” retorted Mouse.
They laughed. Cassie and Scott didn't understand their banter. Babbitt, resuming task asked Mouse if he wanted his gift.
“Yes I do. I’m gonna take it with me -- out of this place. I guess it will give me something to remember you by.” Mouse accepted his gift with a thank you and with that, three moved on to reach the last cell -- the cell housing Danny Petros.
Babbitt called out to Danny. Cassie quickly raised her head above the door. She looked below the seven numerals and focused on the letters spelling out Petros. Babbitt opened the slot then took a step back - something he had not done with the others. Cassie froze as she peered into the glass.
She recognized Danny immediately. He looked just like the picture Georgia had shown to her time after time. She could hear Georgia’s voice “...my only son.” He looked older and very pale after spending 24 months underground.
Babbitt looked at Scott and without making eye contact with Cassie, stated aloud. “I need to secure that elevator alarm. Stand down and I'll be right back.”
There was no alarm. Cassie quickly caught on that there was a short window of time to pass Danny the private message from his mother.
Cassie formed a fist and knocked lightly on the door, as if she was a frequent visitor. She looked at Danny’s face on the other side of the small glass window, then beyond it, surveying his small domain. A perfectly made bed, one pillow with an additional blanket folded and placed atop the headrest. Next to the bed was a combination meal table and desk. In the left corner sat a tall cup stuffed with drawing pens, most likely last year’s Christmas gift. The right displayed a small picture frame, centered within was a photograph of his mother Georgia. The design looked familiar -- had Cassie been a smoker, she may have recognized the pattern of the interlaced empty cigarette packs.
Cassie quickly understood why Babbitt left the slot open - talking through the thick steel doors was quite difficult, they muffled the sound. Danny was resting on one knee with his ear to the slot waiting for this young women to explain herself. Cassie bent her knees and steadied herself by holding onto Scott’s leg - pulling it tight against her. It not only supported her physically, it was tremendous emotional reinforcement.
She was now face to face with prisoner 84677-012. She was surprised at Danny's greeting. “Can I help you?”
“I have a message from your mother.”
“Yes, my name is Cassie I'm a volunteer at the hospital.”
“What's the message?”
“ ‘The magic is back and the tree is talking…’ Your mother said you would know what she is talking about.”
“Well, I don't understand.”
“She was very happy and excited about it and said you would know.” Cassie knew she couldn’t understand how Danny must be feeling and she paused, not knowing what to say next. Babbitt’s key ring signaled his return and the end of the conversation. He closed the small hatch leaving Danny alone with his thoughts.
Cassie rose and took one last look at the cell and its occupant through the small window that now separated them. Babbitt walked Cassie and Scott back to the elevator holding area, thanked them for their work and advised them there would be an escort to accompany them up to the main yard and back to the sally port and out of the prison.
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