30th Aug 04

Who are the people in your neighbourhood?

The quietest inmate in our housing area is my next-door neighbour, Daniel. He does not speak to anyone except for his old-timer cellmate, Timmy the Wood. I sometimes overhear Daniel talking in a soft and timid voice.

When inmates pass our cell on the way to the shower, they usually give a friendly nod or a greeting, but not Daniel. Sometimes I smile and look expectantly at him as he walks by, but his eyes are always looking either straight ahead or down at the floor. After observing his eyes a few times, I began to feel that something was amiss. A permanent haunted look resides in those eyes. They bulge unnaturally: too much eyeball seems to be exposed. There's chaos in those eyes. I’ve seen plenty of inmates looking agitated and anguished due to the conditions; however, Daniel’s eyes express a state of constant trauma. If eyes are windows to the soul, it appears as if he has a tempest lurking within him.

Apart from Daniel’s eyes, there is nothing unusual about his appearance. He is short and stout and looks to be around thirty-years old. His thin, reddish hair is neatly cut; a boyish fringe covers his forehead. He is the mildest-mannered inmate in the pod.

When Daniel went to the Medical Unit yesterday, my other neighbour, Barbarian, questioned Timmy the Wood about Daniel’s past. Timmy revealed that Daniel’s prison score was a 5-5, which is the highest level of classification; that he was sentenced to 350 years, and he would be eligible for parole in 175 years. Apparently, his lengthy sentence was proportionate to the number of his victims. Timmy told us that Daniel is a serial killer.

Despite Daniel’s seemingly gentle disposition, he is probably the most dangerous inmate I have been housed with thus far.


Anonymous said...

"Jon" whether it's a good thing or not you have opened our, and, we're sure, many peoples eyes to the iniquities of the American legal system. Your writing is strikingly graphic and quickly takes the reader to their place beside you on the bed in the cell. We wish you well and look forward to reading your further postings. In the meantime good luck and best wishes, David and Barbara

Jon said...

Hi Jon,
I wrote to you recently. I know you can't get on the web so here is the text of one of my tales depicting my one time one the wrong side of the law. I hope it gives you a laugh.

John Williams


This is a cautionary tale, telling of my only foray into world of disorganised crime. It was in nineteen sixty-three and I was working at the time, but because of my nomadic lifestyle during childhood, and my relatively brief career as a sailor, I didn't know many people of my own age. In short I was bored.

I happened to meet two blokes who were in their late twenties and were affable enough to arrange to meet me again. Because of these two I would depart the straight and narrow for the first and only time in my life. I remember only too well their real names, but in the interest of anonymity I will henceforth refer to them as Smash and Grab.

Smash was a heavy set man with reliance on obscene language the likes of which I had never known, not even at sea. Almost every other word was punctuated by one of the four letter words. Even common phrases were often punctuated with the 'f' word. So you would often hear amazing constructions such as the immortal sentence he once uttered while bemoaning his lack of life opportunities,

"I wanted to join the Royal fucking marines, but I 'ad flat fucking feet!"

Grab was a quiet, gentle, person, who worried incessantly about his children. I had arranged to meet them in Huyton at a pub called the Eagle and Child. The 'Eagle' as it was widely known, has long gone, but its legendary status as one of the roughest pubs in Liverpool remains. It was one of the last pubs before the city of Liverpool merged with the county of Lancashire and had a lot in common with the frontier saloon bars in Tombstone and Dodge City. One looked too closely at another's face at one's peril, because it invariably invoked the snarled question,

"Who the fuck are you lookin' at!"

Followed by an invitation to partake of a knuckle sandwich. That night I simply affected tunnel vision and stared fixedly at my pint of mild.

Smash and Grab seemed a bit uneasy, and it was nothing to do with the close proximity of the largest fighting force ever assembled in one place since D-Day. It transpired that they had been invited to earn some easy money and in turn they invited me to join them. Friends are like that, even those of bare acquaintance.

The deal was that one of their mates, we'll call him Moriarty after the fictional criminal genius, worked for a firm that installed and maintained burglar alarms. According to Smash and Grab, Moriarty had access to inside knowledge. Apparently, his firm didn't bother to send payment reminders to clients, but instead, simply cut them off if they didn't keep up their instalments. So, at any given time, Moriarty knew which shop or warehouse had no working security alarm.

Smash assured me that we would be okay as Moriarty was a good feller who knew his stuff. I was reluctant as I was working, and money did not hold the same pressing need for me as it did for Smash and Grab who, as far as I could gather, hadn't held a responsible position since they were school milk monitors. Sadly for me I was bored and vaguely anxious to remain friends with the two erstwhile thieves.

I should have baled out after Moriarty made his entrance, because his first words to me after being introduced were,

"Giz a cigarette will yer?"

A criminal mastermind who didn't have the price of a packet of Woodbines! Like a fool I agreed to accompany them and so we piled into Moriarty's two-door van. We headed up Stockbridge Lane and before long we were parked outside of a shop just facing my old school of St. John De La Salle.

We were about to break into my old tuck shop! It only sold cigarettes, bread and crisps and was generally perceived as a facility benefiting those pupils who were on a low protein diet of Woodbines and loaves stuffed with potato crisps. I couldn't believe what was happening, but stupidly I made no attempt to leave.

Smash climbed over the yard wall armed with a screwdriver and attempted to lever off the window grill. The November air was rent with the shrill yammering of an alarm. Moriarty literally jumped into the driving seat with the alacrity of a formula one driver at the starting grid, while Grab and myself competed furiously to get into the van through the sole remaining door. Smash was still navigating the barbed wire and leaking expletives in a flood of abuse. After an age of dithering we sped away. Moriarty, without a trace of irony, remarked,

"They 'aven't cut that one off yet!"

Not simply a master criminal but a master of understatement too!

Plan B then came into operation. Moriarty knew of a fancy goods shop in Lodge Lane that was a 'cinch'.

Now I lived just off Lodge lane and I was puzzled as to why anyone would find it profitable to rob from a shop that sold swan shaped ashtrays made of glass and coasters bearing images of the Mersey tunnel. You don't argue with a criminal mastermind however, and we were soon parked in a side street unloading the tools of the trade, which in this instance consisted of a large Crow bar and two fourteen pound hammers.

As we unloaded the precision tools, in full of view of any passers by, I noticed that Moriarty was still in his seat. He explained that he would be keeping 'Dixie' on the off chance that we would be rumbled. As we trudged up the alleyway to the rear of Aladdin's cave I turned and saw Moriarty's face lit by the flare of a match as he attempted to light a very small cigarette stub.

After scaling the wall at the rear of the shop, during which operation the crowbar fell from Grab's clutches and clanged loudly onto the pavement, we found ourselves confronted by a steel shod door barring our way to infinite riches. Smash and Grab took this as an affront to their ambitions and promptly set about removing the offending obstacle by dint of hitting it with their hammers. The door remained obstinately intact and I was appalled by the noise they were making. They seemed oblivious of the racket and just redoubled their efforts.


The more the door resisted the more insistent they became,


I was suddenly in need of a toilet, but although I was bold enough to attempt to rob the shopkeeper I was too shy to take a leak in his yard and so I was reduced to jumping from one foot to the other. Smash turned to me and snapped,

"Keep the fucking noise down will yer!"

I could only stare at him in disbelief as he returned to his Herculean task,


It defied belief that they even imagined nobody would hear them. I was aware that lights were being switched on in the surrounding houses and the sound of sash windows being raised was adding to the cacophony made by the duo of dedicated campanologists as they tried in vain to ring the changes.

I pleaded with them to try at least to muffle the sound by wrapping a coat around the hammers, to no avail. They continued giving it the Bells of Shannon with all their might.


It was like being on a stag night with the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The sound of a vehicle slamming to halt followed by the unmistakable crackle of a walky-talky and the barking of a dog brought the performance to an abrupt end.

As one man...we panicked!

All the artfully forged tools were abandoned to the night as we scrambled madly over the dividing wall. I landed in a knee high mound of wet mortar and found myself a poor third in the inaugural race of the Lodge Lane Steeplechase. As we clambered over wall after wall I became aware of the fact that the pursuing policemen were casually sauntering along the adjacent alleyway.

We were suddenly faced with an insurmountable wall, and still in a high panic I noticed that there was light on at the rear of the last shop. Hope rose in my heart, there might be a way out, and I opened the door to the shop, closely followed by Grab.

Inside I saw an old man in the process of pouring milk into a teacup. When he saw the gasping mortar-splashed apparitions the bottle dropped from his fingers and sprayed milk all over the floor. It wasn't a storeroom, it was rented accommodation! I saw a door and was convinced that it must have opened onto Lodge Lane. I dashed forward and opened it. It was a staircase leading up to the man's bedroom! I flew up the stairs.

I hid under the bed. In my panic I was reverting to my childhood, playing hide and seek. A patently frightened policeman shone a torch under the bed and said pleadingly,

"Come on out lad, you'll be okay."

His fear was matched by mine, and so I got out from under the bed. I was covered in roughly a year's worth of the householder's dead skin. Ugh! Served me right for ruining his cuppa. The young policeman and I faced each other in a silent fear-filled stand off. Then the sergeant entered the room whereupon the younger policeman jabbed his truncheon hard into my midriff.

I was still gasping when I was taken downstairs where another policeman was trying to persuade the old man to press charges over loss of his milk.

The man declined. If I didn't know by then that Smash and Grab were totally useless I was made aware of their ineptitude when the senior policeman greeted Grab by his Christian name, and then said,

"Christmas coming up eh lad, you must be gettin' your shopping list together then?"

Grab nodded. I looked for Smash but he had obviously escaped, or so I thought until we were all going out of the back door when one of the policemen opened the door to the outside toilet to reveal Smash sitting there in his overcoat. The smile on the policeman's face showed that he had known all along!

Moriarty had disappeared into the night and I never saw him ever again.

We were taken first to Lawrence Road Police station, where a young policeman actually bought us some cigarettes with his own money! I nicknamed him PC Sweet after a character in the popular television police series, Z Cars. After signing our confessions we were driven to the main Bridewell in Dale Street where we spent seven hours sharing a cell with other miscreants.

Among the assembled felons was a West Indian called Linton. He was six foot six and built like a well honed racing snake. He had been arrested for loitering with intent to burgle. Later, as we waited at the bottom of the stairs leading to the dock we overheard a policeman informing the court that a worried householder had alerted him, to Linton's presence in his backyard. The policeman related how when he arrived at the yard he found Linton attempting to conceal himself in a dustbin!

We were convulsed with laughter as we visualised Linford's six foot six frame trying to insert itself into a dustbin like a self-retracting Jack in the Box! We were still chortling when we arrived in the dock, which probably explains why Grab copped for three months in jail, thus missing his family's Christmas for the third year in succession, and Smash got a suspended sentence, while I got a year's probation.

Looking back on it I realise that Linton was as much a victim of an all embracing panic as we were. As we left the court I was surprised to see PC Sweet and asked him why he was he was there. When he explained that he had been present in another courtroom as an arresting officer I replied I found it incredible that such a nice man could arrest anybody. He actually blushed.

This took place in 1963...the year of the great train robbery.