At the end of the day, life is about choices. The choices you make, the choices you don't make.
Todd made a choice. Now he's in a loose beige jumpsuit with a scratchy white t-shirt.
He stares at the ground. The officer tells him he has sixteen years to serve. Tells him if he keeps his nose clean, he might only have to do half. Keep out of gangs. Only make the friends you need to keep yourself together. Don't do anything stupid, Brotzman.
Todd isn't listening. He's thinking of his sister. Her name is repeating in his head, like a skipping record.
Amanda, Amanda, Amanda, Amanda.
He did this for her.
He did everything for her.
She's not safe without him.
His cell is small.
Two beds, in a bunk. Red metal frames. Pastel yellow walls, painted on hard brick. A television. A plastic wipe-clean desk, with a small plastic fan and a pile of books. A hot pot. A change of bedding in a red-plastic shelving unit. The floor used to be black, but it's been scratched with cleaning brushes and now it's a patchy gray. Toilet. Stainless steel. Not clean. A window, though. A long, vertical slit.
Todd's lived in worse places.
The top bunk has bedding on it. Todd dumps his bag on the floor, next to the bottom one.
His cellmate isn't here yet. He doesn't know what that means. He doesn't really care.
He lies on the bare, plastic-wrapped mattress and stares at the bottom of the upper bunk.
Sixteen years. Half, if he keeps his nose clean. He'll be 46, or 38. Kurt Cobain died at 27. What was Todd doing at 27? He was probably high. Probably lying to his sister. Probably still pretending he knew what he was doing, that his life wasn't so fucked up.
Looks across the room. Notices a single photo frame in the shelving. It's the only evidence he has a cellmate. It's a picture of a black cat.
There's a tall man at the door. Dark hair, swept to the side. He's in grey sweats. He's leaning on the frame. He's smiling. He has a distressingly open face. He looks friendly.
'I assume you're Todd Brotzman?'
British? What the hell?
'I mean, you must be. Otherwise, you wouldn't be in my - our - cell. I'm Dirk Gently. I'm, uh, your roommate - cellmate. They say "celly" here, which I think is awfully quaint, but I prefer to pretend we're not actually here, so I'm going to go with roommate. Or, possibly, friend?' Gently's voice squeaks, hopefully. 'If you don't mind! I mean, it's not really jumping the gun - we have a lot in common. We're both in prison. We're both, uh, serving sentences for... things -'
Todd flips over to his side, stares at the wall, and decides to let Gently talk at his back until he realises he's not listening.
Gently never does.
Gently's been talking about contact time for the past half hour, from the top bunk, whilst Todd lies on the bottom. Todd's wondering whether he should force Gently off it. Take it for his own. Isn't top bunk the sign of dominance? What will the general population think if he's bottom-bunking for this freak?
'Are you likely to have visitors?' Gently asks.
'No,' Todd says, quickly. It's the first thing Todd's said today that hasn't been ordered out of him.
The bunk squeaks and Gently's head peers over.
'Oh,' Gently sounds sad. Looks sad. 'That's sad. I only ever have one, if that's any consolation. My sister. She's also my public defender. It's one of those very useful things - being able to combine the legal visits with the regular ones, I mean. Especially as she's not very... emotional. So, we always have something to talk about. My case. My cases.' Gently emphasises "cases" temptingly, like a mom would offer fresh apple pie.
'What are you in for?'
'Oh, murder,' Gently says, casually. 'It's not that interesting, really. Right place, right time, right gun. It's a normal, boring story. Normal, boring murder.'
'Why don't they deport you?' Todd snaps, imagining the much better scenario of not having to deal with this talkative shit.
'Oh, they're trying,' Gently says, with the impression that he feels the effort is stupid. 'But the UK won't take me without a passport and Romania refuses to acknowledge my citizenship. Plus, I'm sure the CIA is getting involved - I think they want to keep me in America. Did I tell you they trained me to be a spy?'
Finally, it makes sense. Gently's fucking insane. Todd grabs a pillow and covers his face with it. Maybe if he presses down hard enough, he'll suffocate.
The food is predictably disgusting. A large, white sectioned plastic tray, filled with lumps of some kind of meat and some kind of potato. It looks like cat food. Todd would probably prefer cat food.
There's a cookie though. Todd's eaten that before he's even finished at the serving hatch, barely tasting it - not that there's any taste to have. He hasn't eaten since the outside.
He sits heavily at an empty table. The rest of the population are shouting and screaming, laughing in their groups. There's a huge diversity of people here and Todd's ashamed to realise how isolated he feels.
He's a five foot five white guy. He's a distinct minority.
Todd refuses to look around. He prods at the rest of his dinner with a plastic fork.
He wonders how much weight he's going to lose in sixteen-or-eight years.
Should he work out? He's never liked working out. It always seemed a bit pointless.
His dad had said something after his trial. Something about making good use of the time. All Todd wants to do is play guitar, but he knows they won't let him have anything with strings.
Gently seems to slide next to him at the table at the exact same microsecond he begins talking.
'I have a theory that we are meant to be roommates, Todd,' Gently says, excitedly. 'The implications are, of course, fascinating!'
Todd shifts away from him, but Gently just budges up even closer.
Gently considers the question for a moment, before concluding: 'I'm rather good at breathing.'
'That's not what I meant.' Todd's eyes skirt over Gently's tray. The food he has is entirely different. The vegetables are actually identifiable. He has a sandwich. He a twin packet of cookies, not just the single one, and it's an actual, real-world brand. 'What - how come you get that?'
'Oh, special diet,' Gently says, shrugging. 'Would you like some of it? I usually only drink the tea. It's such a waste.'
Todd knows he shouldn't take the offer, but his stomach is turning in on itself.
Todd lets the crap that spews out of Dirk Gently's mouth wash over him as he bites into pillowy, sweet bread and swallows mouthfuls of sharp, peppery cheese.
It becomes a routine. Dirk gives Todd his food, Todd listens.
Todd doesn't talk back. He just eats.
He learns a lot. Todd's no medical professional, but it's becoming alarmingly clear that Dirk is schizophrenic - or something similar - flitting between normal conversation and nervous delusion. He speaks about the interconnections of the universe, about patterns in a web, about how he can see things other people can't and how annoying that can be to explain.
When Todd makes the conclusion, he briefly considers refusing Dirk's food, wondering if medical might be trying to dose him through it, but hunger overcomes him quickly.
He begins to look forward to it. Dirk's voice - although at times frantic and manic - is distinct against the familiar screaming and his stories - although blatant fantasy - are a reminder of life outside walls.
Todd might be enjoying the stories more than the food.
'I don't believe I've ever asked you what brought you into prison, Todd?' Dirk says through a mouthful of licorice, lying on the bunk above him.
Dirk's commissary fund is overflowing and he uses it exclusively for candy. Todd doesn't mind in the slightest, as he always shares the wealth, and Todd can keep the meagre amount he makes in his kitchen job for toothpaste and shower gel.
Todd is staring up at Dirk's bunk, sucking down a licorice lace of his own.
'Murder.' It's the first time Todd's said it out loud.
'Ah! We're murder buddies. Another connection,' Dirk says, smugly. Todd grins, in spite of himself. 'Who'd you kill?'
'My landlord. I didn't mean to. I just - it got out of hand.'
'A lot of people say that.'
'He - well, I stole - I stole some money from him. And he came to get it back. He wasn't exactly... reasonable. He had a gun. I tried to wrestle it from him. It went off.'
'Isn't that self-defence?'
'The first bullet was. The second and the third weren't.'
Todd's hand twitches. He can still feel the hard metal in his hands. He can still see Dorian on the floor.
Dorian was so angry. His shoulder was bleeding. He was staring up, at Todd, gun in hand. He was smirking.
"What're you gonna do, Todd? Shoot me again?"
Dorian's an asshole. He's a drug-dealing, cracked out asshole.
I work every hour I'm not fucking asleep. I have no friends. I have no money. I have absolutely nothing. And still all I want is Amanda's fucking medication. One hundred dollars and she's fine for three months. One hundred fucking dollars.
Todd had squeezed the trigger and unloaded the next two bullets into Dorian's head. His skull had shattered. Blood had poured out, and spattered across the floor.
Fuck, that felt so good.
'My sister could still probably get you off,' Dirk muses.
Todd forces his hand to relax. He feels heady. 'Yeah, sure,' Todd says, shakily. 'Your sister is probably busy enough with your case.'
'Oh, it's not my case. It's a case. I'm a private detective. I'm investigating something.'
'Yes. Something I'm going to leave tangentially vague, for the moment.'
Todd frowns. It's not like Dirk to refuse to talk about anything.
'Okay. Well, what about your case. Who did you kill?'
'A CIA Agent. Hang on - is that redundant, like PIN number? A CI-Agent?'
'You killed a federal agent? Wait - I thought you said the CIA wanted to keep you in America?'
'Well, uh -' Dirk pauses, as if he's never thought about this before. 'I - I must have killed the right Agent, then.'
Todd gets a message. Someone's here to meet him. A lawyer. Todd's sure he doesn't have a lawyer. But he's not going to turn one down, if they decide to turn up.
As soon as he enters the large visitors' room, his eyes are drawn to a woman with large, dark, curly hair that's been swept behind her. She's in a trim, formal suit. She has bright blue eyes.
Somehow, Todd isn't surprised when he's led over to her. He sits opposite a plastic table, on an uncomfortable plastic chair. The woman stares at him.
'So, uh -'
'You're Todd Brotzman?' the woman snaps. She's got some sort of lanyard on, which is tucked into her shirt, just peeking out around the collar. Todd wonders if the guards made her do that, to stop the possibility of being strangled. Somehow, Todd has the impression that this woman could handle herself. 'Dirk described you different.'
'You're his sister,' Todd says slowly, reaching the conclusion as he says it.
She's not British, which is a little confusing, but it's not the most confusing thing about the situation.
The woman rolls her eyes. 'Yeah. Dirk wanted me to check you out. I'm Bart.'
Todd doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything.
Bart crosses his arm and leans back in the chair. Her eyes scratch across him, scrutinising.
'I think you're harmless.'
'For a murderer.'
Bart smirks. 'Murder ain't so bad. You just gotta know who to murder.'
'That's not - wait, aren't you a lawyer? What the hell?'
Bart rolls her eyes. 'I ain't always been a lawyer. Law's just something that I do now. My boyfriend got me into it. He's got great ideas,' Bart grins, her teeth glinting. 'There are lots of ways to be a piranha.'
'I've been through your case. Shot up your landlord. Before that, a few possession charges, minor. Bit of a leap, Todd. Especially with you supporting your sister -'
'Leave my sister out of this.'
Bart raises an eyebrow. She smirks, challenging. 'You brought her into it.'
Todd gets to his feet and leaves, his pulse racing. He can feel Bart staring at him as he goes.
When Dirk comes back from his job, their cell is in chaos. Anything that's breakable has been broken. Anything edible has been ripped open and dumped in the toilet. There are pages ripped out from his books. His photo of his cat is on the floor. The frame has been smashed.
'Leave my fucking sister out of your crazy life, Gently,' Todd growls, from the top bunk.
Dirk holds his iron stare as long as he can before he has to break it, his eyes burning and his chest aching. He slides into the lower bunk - his sheets ripped, his pillow busted in half - and is very glad he knows how to silently cry.
'Dirk, you need to tell me who broke your shit.'
'Ken, I can't. If I tell you, you'll have to report him. He can't go to Seg! He won't handle it well.'
Ken sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. On his chest, his radio buzzes with something very minor. Ken turns it down and shakes his head.
Dirk looks devastated, quietly sitting on his bunk. He looks almost as bad as he looked like when he came here, three years ago. He's been refusing all his meals. Refusing to go to work. He's pale. He's not himself and that's making himself vulnerable. His normal, crazy behaviour acts as a shield against being targeted. As he's acting now, it's only a matter of time before he's attacked.
'I know it's Brotzman,' Ken says, quietly.
Dirk's eyes widen. 'I didn't say that.'
'I know; and I'm not gonna report him without your approval. And you're never going to give me that,' Ken grits his teeth. He pokes his head outside the cell and looks around, to make sure none of the other officers have noticed the attention he's giving Dirk. Satisfied, he turns back in. 'But what if he hurts you? You're not your sister; you're not invulnerable.'
'He won't hurt me,' Dirk says, sounding unsure. 'He's - he's my friend.'
'He broke all your shit!'
'He has a strange way of showing it, I'll admit.'
Ken sighs. 'Don't do this, Dirk. You have five goddamn years left on your sentence. That's not that long. If you get killed, your sister is never gonna forgive me.'
'I'm not doing five years in here,' Dirk says, matter-of-factly.
For some strange reason - the same strange reason that lets him overwhelmingly trust Bart - Ken believes him.
Little things happen that Todd steadfastly ignores.
His commissary is topped up. Todd only uses the money he knows he's put in there.
His clothing is washed first. Todd keeps wearing his old clothes until the guards force him to shower and change.
One of the guards - the one no one seems to know the surname of - gives Todd first in line for meals. Todd throws a punch at him, gets brought to the ground and restrained, but doesn't get written up or put in Seg, which is unheard of for attempting an attack on a guard.
Todd storms into the cell, shaking.
The guard slams the door behind him and locks it for the night. Todd stayed away from Dirk as long as he possibly could, afraid of the anger boiling inside him.
'Stop it,' Todd hisses through gritted teeth, at Dirk.
Dirk is quietly reading on his bunk. He doesn't look up, but the top of his cheekbones redden.
'Stop pulling your fucking favours. I don't know how you're doing it, but fucking stop!'
'What is your problem, man?' Dirk shouts. It's the first time Todd's heard Dirk raise his voice. Dirk throws his book onto the floor and gets to his feet. Todd refuses to be intimidated and stares Dirk down, regardless of height difference. 'I'm just trying to help!'
'I don't need your help!'
'You don't have to need it, you arsehole, you can just take it! It's okay to take help, even when you don't need it! You're not going through this alone!'
'Yes I am!'
The words ricochet around the walls.
Todd's skin goes cold.
Their neighbours shout to keep the fucking noise down.
'You're not, Todd,' Dirk says, quietly. 'You have me.'
Todd stares at the floor. It isn't true. And if it is true, Todd can't let himself believe it.
Todd wipes his eyes, beginning to sting and wet. It's the first time he's cried since getting here. Dirk cries all the time. Todd envies that. Todd fucking hates Dirk for that.
Dirk grabs him around the waist, pulling him into a hug. Todd should be disgusted by it, should fight him away, should call him a dickhole, maybe punch his eyes out and try to claw back some dignity.
Todd doesn't. It's warm. It's comfort. It's heat: soft, human heat. It's the most connection that Todd's had with another human being in years, other than his sister.
The thought of Amanda destroys his resolve.
Then, Todd's sobbing, clutching at Dirk's clothes. His knees buckles and he brings Dirk with him. They're on the floor. Todd can't stop shaking, can't stop crying.
'I'm so sorry,' Todd sobs. 'I'm so fucking sorry.'
Dirk murmurs soft nothings into his hair, gently stroking him through the cascading waves of overwhelming grief that keep breaking over him.
They sleep on the same bunk. Dirk doesn't let him go until morning. And, when he does, Dirk doesn't say anything.
'I need to know why you did what you did,' Dirk whispers.
Dirk's wrapped around Todd from behind, softly stroking his side. They've been sleeping together for a few weeks now. Just sleeping, side-by-side. Dirk holding him.
Todd wants to pretend it's normal, but it's not. It's codependency at best, coerced prison homosexuality at worst. Todd's fine with being bisexual, but in prison it's different. There's retribution. It puts a target on his back: for the guards and the inmates. It's a rule violation. It could extend his sentence.
Sixteen years, eight years if he's good. It's the difference between 46 and 38.
But then there's Dirk's soft skin, and fuck it's just good to be with someone, just holding you. They haven't done anything yet. They haven't even kissed. But Todd wants to.
It hurts not to.
'Why?' Todd mutters, into his pillow. 'Why does it matter?'
'Because Bart's right; it's not like you.'
'You don't know me. How could you know what I'm like?'
Dirk presses his face against the back of Todd's neck. Todd loves it when Dirk does that. He wants Dirk to kiss him so badly. He wants to feel whether Dirk's hard, but he can't work up the courage to reach back and check.
'I have a hunch.'
Todd laughs, softly. 'One of your hunches.'
'Yes. Like how I knew you were going to be my best friend.'
'You say the most bizarre things.'
'Are you not my best friend, then?' Dirk asks, teasingly.
Todd bites his lip and reaches behind him. He presses his hand against Dirk's crotch, lightly, against his grey sweats. He can feel that Dirk is hard. His dick is long and firm underneath his hand. Dirk wants him.
Dirk hitches his breath when Todd squeezes.
'I don't know what I am, but I think I'm more than that,' Todd mutters.
'Shit,' Dirk hisses.
Dirk gives a few, restrained thrusts into the ring of Todd's fingers. Dirk's hand tenses on Todd's hip and his forehead presses against the back of Todd's head.
'God, yes,' Todd breathes. He feels on fire. 'Please, Dirk.'
'You - you want this?' Dirk sounds disbelieving.
Todd groans and takes Dirk's hand - the one on his hip - and pulls his over to his own dick, which is straining against the fabric of his sweats. Dirk's hand curls around his dick through the soft fabric. Todd moans, wantonly.
'Oh Christ, oh fuck -' Dirk already sounds broken.
'Dirk, I haven't got off in months -'
'Years, for me.'
'You're fucking kidding,' Todd drives his teeth into his lower lip. His body is begging for him to moan loud enough for everyone to hear. 'Shit, we'll have to keep quiet.'
Dirk presses his lips against Todd's neck. He gently bites down on the shell of Todd's ear and then flicks his tongue against it. Todd shudders.
'I wish you could fuck me,' Todd whispers. 'I want it so bad.'
'Fuck,' Dirk whimpers. 'What do you want? What do you want that I can do?'
'Jack me off.'
Dirk pushes his hand into Todd's pants and works his way underneath his loose boxers. Todd gasps as Dirk hot hand wraps around his dick. Dirk slowly starts to move his hand, sliding it slick with precome, twisting tightly, milking him.
Todd needs more, but there's not enough room in the bunk and they don't have lube. Todd leans back, putting his hand behind Dirk's back and tries to press Dirk further up against him. He can feel the solid length of Dirk's cock against his ass. He wants Dirk inside him, stretching him open...
'Like you're fucking me,' Todd begs. 'Please, oh god -'
Dirk starts to thrust up against his ass, in the rhythm with how he's moving his hand. After a few hard thrusts, Todd whimpers hard as Dirk slides against his hole. When he does it again, Todd has to bite down on the pillow to stop from screaming.
Dirk's body is shaking. Todd can feel him beginning to lose himself into it.
'So good, Todd -' Dirk whimpers.
'Yeah, yeah -'
Dirk's hand slips off Todd's dick and grasps onto Todd's waist, gripping tightly. Todd grabs his own dick and works himself, hard and fast. Dirk keeps humping and it shouldn't be so good, but Todd can feel how worked up Dirk is, how much he wants to get off, how much he wants to use Todd to get off - Todd sees white and he's spilling into his hand with a low groan.
'Ah - ah!' Dirk slides a few more times and then lets out a high pitched whimper. Todd can feel Dirk's body shaking against him and loses himself in the feeling of Dirk coming.
For a while after, there's nothing but heavy breathing and the cloying smell of come and sweat.
Dirk moves first, encouraging Todd to roll onto his back.
Todd looks up at him, his beatific face, his slap happy grin, and brings him down into a long-owed kiss.
It's not like you.
It's not like you.
It's not like him. That's what makes Todd wonder.
Todd knows he's an angry person. He's always been angry. But he's never done anything with the anger.
He lets rage exist in him. He shoves it down. He writes music. He doesn't hurt anyone.
This time, he did.
This time, he killed someone.
It doesn't make any sense.
'It's happened before,' Dirk says, at meal time. Todd looks up from Dirk's much-better meal, at him. Todd's surprised. He wasn't saying anything, yet Dirk seems to be on his wavelength already. Dirk's looking serious. 'I know someone. Who was influenced, like you, into murder.'
'Hypnosis. Ghost possession.'
Todd isn't surprised by what Dirk says any more. What surprises him is his own response: 'I actually believe you.'
Dirk starts plaiting paper. Todd doesn't ask him why. People have different ways of keeping their hands busy.
When he starts making flowers however, Todd does question it.
'I have a hunch they'll be useful,' Dirk says. 'But only green. It has to be green.'
Todd asks him how he can do it, and it becomes the new thing.
It's a cold, wet morning on A-yard. Dirk and Todd are avoiding as many groups as they can, sitting on the sodden grass near the basketball court. Dirk is talking animatedly about something confusing and bizarre, and then he suddenly goes silent.
'We need to go,' Dirk says, quickly, urgently. He sounds scared.
Todd looks up. Everyone seems to be behaving normally, but the terror in Dirk's face is obvious and Todd is reluctant to disbelieve him.
'Okay. Back to the cell?'
'We need to go - we need to go near the gate.'
Todd's confused, but he nods anyway. They get up and start walking, across the wet, dead grass of the running field.
Dirk's looking shaken, as if he's been stabbed.
'Dirk, are you okay?'
'I - I need to know -' Dirk shakes his head, as if fighting off a thought. He focuses on Todd. He flinches his fingers, as if desperate to hold Todd's hand. Todd would let him, but they can't. It's too dangerous. 'Todd, you'll stay, right? You'll stay with me?'
'Yeah, Dirk, of course,' Todd says, automatically. 'Why are you -?'
There's a giant noise from behind them. Todd spins around. The yard has erupted behind them. Guards are shouting, screaming. A groups of inmates are kicking the shit out of each other, punches being thrown by everyone. If it wasn't for the colours, Todd wouldn't have been able to tell inmate from guard.
The guards throw CS gas from the towers. White smoke erupts in plumes.
A popping sound. Gunfire.
Todd reaches out and grabs Dirk's arm, instinctively.
Then, there's a roar like a lion. An engine. From behind them. Through the gate.
Dirk shouts and pulls Todd out of the way.
A black van slams through the gate, bringing a section of it to the ground, crumpled. The van is covered in graffiti and it's smoking from the engine, not from the impact.
Todd staggers away, his eyes flicking from the van to the riot to the gap in the fence.
The side door of the van slides open, fast.
There are faces, people inside. Dirty faces. Crude, leather clothes. Large chains and piercings.
They're grinning, excited, and motion for them to get in.
'Oh, nuts,' Dirk screws up his eyes, angrily. 'I should have known it would be you four. Just my bloody luck.'
'Come on, Icarus!' one of the men - with white hair and a vampire grin - shouts from the front. 'Dinner time!'
Dirk grabs Todd's shoulder and pulls. Todd, lost in confusion, lets Dirk move him. They clamber into the back of the van.
They're moving before Todd can get steady. He slides across the metal bottom of the van. He loses Dirk's hand in the chaos.
Todd's heart thumps in his chest. He's escaping from prison. He's literally part of a jail break. What the fuck is he doing?
'Did you plan this?' Todd shouts over the roar of the engine and the creaking of destroyed metal as they roll back over the fence.
'Have I ever appeared like someone capable of a plan?!' Dirk shouts back.
It's a good point, but Todd still isn't sure whether he believes him or not. But, at that point it instantly doesn't matter.
Todd notices there's another person in the van.
Long, brown hair.
Amanda has tears in her eyes and she's nodding, frantically. Todd scrambles over to her and pulls her into a tight hug.
He's instantly crying, holding onto her, shaking uncontrollably.
'How did you -? Why are you -?'
Todd can't understand. He forces himself to stop hugging her, just so he can see her face. He wipes her hair from her eyes, looking at every inch of her. Real and genuine and right next to him. It's her. It's definitely her.
'I didn't know - I didn't know until you were - we were just passing and they sensed - they smelled -' Amanda laughs, wetly, and grabs him around the neck. 'Todd? Who's that?'
'Dirk Gently,' Todd says, shaking with relief.
Todd turns to look at him. Dirk looks concerned, but no longer terrified. The three other men in the back of the van are looking at him strangely, almost hungrily.
'Hello,' Dirk says, scooting over. In his hand, he's holding one of the many origami flowers. It's in a lurid, electric green colour. It's an exact match to the strong green of Amanda's nail varnish. Todd is stunned. 'This is for you. Amanda, was it?'
Dirk turns to Todd and gives him a large smile.
'I think I should warn you, Todd. Things are about to get a little bit... strange.'
Todd takes one look around him, interlaces his fingers with his sister's, and nods.