It started with a blunt razor.
Jim Kirk had cut himself with it a few weeks ago because he had been inadvertently distracted. Only bled a little. Not enough to alarm anyone. It was just a nick that made his sideburns a bit crooked. Then again, who did he need to impress with equal sideburns? No one in here. Eddy had always laughed up at him joking they made him look—
Thinking about her made him pause; always did. And thinking about Eddy made him think about his brother Sam and that of course invited a whole other set of thoughts that were not going to be thought about absent mothers and too present step-fathers.
Well before the four (almost four) years of forced exile, Eddy and his brother had been the only anchors in the whole screwed up, spinning out of control world. Sam always figured out what their next meal would be; Jim and Eddy were in charge of figuring out how to get it.
In here, both decisions were taken out of his hands. You got fed when a bell rang, you ate what they gave you and that pretty much repeated with everything else. Repetition was something Jim had been accused of not appreciating. And why should he when it was so boring.
Plus, he'd already read every book in the library, especially the history section. Jim had vaguely hoped it would take him the entire four years. It hadn't.
In a whim of grandeur, Jim wondered if this was how ole Bonaparte felt being stuck in Elba, although he was pretty certain the people there were a lot more hospitable (prettier too) and sustenance didn't consist of greasy white gravy mystery meat he couldn't really eat. (Stupid allergies)
Jim stared at the home made razor he'd won after four hands and traded two cleaning shifts in the can for, then stared blankly at the tiny clumps of dark blonde hair floating in the sink. Huh? A muffled clang of bars grinding across cement to close roused him.
Oh yeah. Razor.
Even though he hadn't care about the sideburns, the cut still hurt. Jim jerked back then and stared at the mirror to see how bad it was. Dark blonde hair, originally cut short because this place had had a problem with lice a few months back, Jim barely recognized the man on the mirror as the one who'd arrived almost four years ago. He smoothed a hand over his chin, not even noticing the raw scrapes across the back of his knuckles, and for the first time that day, felt a little less like someone had run him over with his own motorcycle. Hopefully someone would remember to replace his girl's clutch. It didn't do well in humidity.
A smile curved across his face—he could just hear Sam complaining about how Jim's brain was like a pachinko machine—while he glided a razor down to reveal a pale, smooth jaw. He made sure he avoided getting too tan otherwise the absence of the beard would be obvious. Too bad about the beard though. If properly trimmed, Jim liked how it made him look older.
A quick flick of the razor in the soapy water and the blade was clean enough to continue even as the whir of the security camera that was conveniently one broom smack short of making it's full circuit whirred overhead. Jim resisted humming; the downward, careful movements reminded him of echoing Toulouse-Lautrec's sweeping brushstrokes. He wondered idly if Sam had fenced Jim's La Goulue while he was away. Jim hoped not. It was his one of favorite pieces. Jane Avril was kinda hot.
Jim wiped a hand across his jaw, tilting his head left and right to make sure he hadn't missed anything. A few experimental snips got rid of the anorexic, floppy bang, boy band look. That coupled with the untamed beard, had given him a little too wild man of the back alley one step above feral thing going. Shaving the beard away was like feeling layers of filth peel off his body like sun burnt skin. He didn't notice how cutting the fringe back also revealed the bruised, pale blue vulnerability in his eyes.
Satisfied, he turned on the squeaky faucet and ran dampened fingers through his hair, slicking strands back into the appearance of a gelled ‘do. Jim arched an eyebrow at the mirror, examining the results. Huh. It also made his hair look darker. Perfect.
Heavy heeled footsteps clipped past the bathroom and Jim darted a look over his shoulder at the door, acutely aware he'd gone too long. Someone was bound to notice that he'd ended up in none of the places he had been supposedly escorted to. Damn, he shouldn't have drifted. Pachinko machine. Sam could be a jerk sometimes, but there were times when Sam was right.
One last check in the mirror, Jim winked at himself before pivoting around. One, two…there; the third stall with the 'Out of Service' sign he'd taped up yesterday during work detail. He ducked into the space and carefully lifted the top off the tank. Luckily, the staff's bathrooms used tanked systems. The rest of the bathrooms in the facilities were recessed into the wall.
Just then, the bathroom door swung open and footsteps entered.
Someone stopped in front of the stall door. Jim froze, the top gripped tightly in his hands. He didn't dare lower it, putting it back might make too much noise.
A voice called out and the footsteps clicked away. When Jim had to strain to hear, he relaxed and gingerly set the top down on the shut seat. Jim grabbed the large Ziploc tucked behind the float system.
Jim's brow knitted as he opened the package, the uniform unfolding out dry and iron flat new. He rubbed fingers along the fold lines to smooth them out. For the first time, Jim felt a quiver in his gut. He hadn't tried it when it came in, didn't dare; the size was a guess from him measuring himself with a straight ruler and counted hands spans during lights out. Too loose or too tight and it wouldn't hold up even to a casual eye.
The orange jumpsuit was shed and balled up to stuff behind the toilet. A purr of the zipper and a tuck of shirt tails later, Jim breathed a sigh of relief. Not too bad. He checked the sewed on badges and smoothed out the front. Jim glanced down at the boots one of the guards had discarded because of a broken sole Jim easily fixed. It was amazing what skills reading about history, especially WWII Nazi war camps gave you. Polished, pieces glued, the boots looked pretty much off the shelf. They weren't his footwear of choice but to be fair, guards didn't get paid enough to appreciate hand stitched quality.
Dressed, laced, Jim checked around the bathroom, made sure the sink was completely drained, the surfaces wiped down. He had about two, maybe three minutes left before the two different duty groups he'd been assigned to realized he wasn't at either. He took a deep breath.
The machine shop was noisy; a fact that grated on Jim because he always thought the high pitched sound of metal yielding under saws sounded too much like human screams of pain. Today, it worked to his advantage as others, dressed like him but with badges and guns (couldn't get the former, didn't want the latter), winced and grimaced at the noise like they did every day. They were too annoyed at their surroundings to realize yet they were one less orange jumpsuit, one extra security guard.
Jim walked with the deliberate pace of a man who had somewhere to go; not too fast, not too slow, but in a direct line. He rolled his wrist up to look at the old piece of black leather and piece of circular metal studded into it; just enough times to appear he was checking the time and thinking about getting off shift, but not too many times that anyone could tell the face was really the head of a spork he'd flattened and sanded out.
A couple of the workers in orange paused in whatever they were soldering, welding, or hammering to give him a curious look. Most of them glanced over with nothing more than a disgruntled "oh, it's one of them" look. Others hesitated, trying to place him. Jim glanced at them as if inspecting them and they looked away like they usually did.
The card in his pocket was sharp against his palm as he curled a hand around it and pulled it out. He hoped the jury rigged recording strip didn't disintegrate the moment he swiped it into the reader.
With a short nod to the guard behind the gate, and angling his face away from the cameras above and towards the reader, Jim pulled out the card, glided it easily through the card swipe and reached for the handle as soon as the light turned green.
A fist reached out and grabbed the heavy gate, stilling it.
When Jim looked up at the guard, the man gave him a grin and widened the gap with the unwieldy door for him. To which, Jim smiled back, acknowledged the courtesy with an easy bob of the head and slipped out the door just as he felt the strip on the card in his pocket began to peel away from the surface. He resisted the urge to run. His calves ached with the effort of forcing an unaccustomed stride onto his body.
The air didn't smell sweeter as it was always suggested in books, but it did feel cool and refreshing against his face the moment Jim pushed the exterior doors open to the outside world. He stood at the foot of the steps and eyed the gray building and the surrounding fences crowned with barbed wire. He grimaced at the blue stenciled "S.F.A. Correctional Facility" on top of the highest fence that marked the only entrance in and out. He surveyed the parking lot and sighted the maintenance van.
With a check over his shoulder first, Jim trotted down the steps and headed towards the van.
Queens Boulevard was the perfect place to find what he needed after he crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge. Midday, everyone was too busy going to work to think about shopping. No one was there to observe a man strip off his dark uniform top and wander down the broad street in his white undershirt. He could linger, knowing there weren't enough people around to remember him.
Jim checked three places before he spotted it: a bright yellow canary windbreaker hanging off the construction fencing wrapped around an abandoned church. It was exactly what he needed. The color was right—albeit hideous as hell—and had the general shape.
"Only five dollars, man," the street vendor offered with a flash of teeth, an easy drawl and a jangle of beaded dreads.
Jim's smile was equally as bright.
"I'll give you three."
The truck was left in LaGuardia's long term parking. Jim slipped on the jacket, patted his hair back and stood across from the International Departures and waited with the other valets in their canary yellow jackets.
It was kind of like going fishing.
Toyota. Forget it. Hybrid. No way. Mercedes? Hmmm…no. Townhous—Seriously?
And there it was.
A nice black vintage Rolls Royce with its chrome lady gracing the hood came to a stand still in front, waiting for service. Jim whistled sharply, raising his hand to claim it before anyone else could.
Jim's broad smile was wasted on the driver, who was in too much of a rush to do anything more than bunch a hundred dollar bill and the car keys into Jim's waiting palm.
"Take good care of her; I'll be back in a month."
"Yes, sir," Jim promised, biting back the broad smile threatening to break out as he carefully pocketed the bill.
When Jim drove under the center tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, Jim sagged back into the plush leather seating and sighed sharply.
And now for the hard part.