In The End
The barrel of the gun felt cold against his flesh as Javier held it against his temple. Javier was drunk and crying. His life had gone to hell. He had lost his family, his job was truly hell and he had no way out. Javier’s mind was spinning; the tequila was really kicking in. Javier gripped the handle of the gun tighter as he readjusted his finger on the trigger. Javier could not believe he was doing this and he looked up at the saint on the wall and screamed, “Why!” No answer came.
Javier, feeling the effect of the tequila more than he thought, began to feel the room spin and he set the gun down on the bed. “Oh shit, I’m really fucked up this time,” Javier said as he steadied himself on the bed. “How did I get here? I never wanted this.” Javier’s head began to spin again and visions of his first days in the State’s Prison system and subsequent events came flooding back.
It was a hot day, the sun was at its highest and Javier could feel the beads of sweat slowly rolling down his forehead. Javier wiped his forehead with his handkerchief, “Damn, it’s hot” Javier whispered. Javier had all the windows open and the door that led to the catwalk was open. If only the wind would blow a little bit it would not be so hot, he thought. Sitting in that tower sucked, no air conditioner and still four more hours to go before his relief arrived. Javier scanned the compound and he rolled his eyes over the various groups of prisoners as they continued in their various activities. As his eyes moved across the compound he stopped to watch an inmate working a speed bag. Javier watched the inmates fluid movements as he moved in perfect sync with the bag. His hands moved like a slow roll with each strike while his feet marked time. It was hypnotizing and Javier could not take his eyes off of the speed bags movement. The radio suddenly crackled and recreation officer, Martinez’s voice came over the radio in a frantic but calm voice. “Towers get out on the catwalk.” Javier jumped off of his chair and grabbed the Mini-14 assault rifle as he moved to the tower door and the catwalk beyond. As Javier stepped out onto the catwalk overseeing the compound, he frantically scanned the yard for any sign of trouble. Javier’s pulse quickened and he could feel his heart beating in his chest. “Where is he, where is he” Javier said as he finally found Martinez. Martinez was surrounded by eight inmates and they did not look happy. Even from his tower, Javier could see the glint of light hitting the metal weapons the inmates held in there hands. “Lock and load Tower’s. Break. Martinez to Control I need assistance on the recreation yard now!! Martinez stated frantically into his radio. Javier grabbed the charging handle of the Mini-14 and just like he had been trained, he quickly pulled the handle to the rear and released it. The charging handle slammed forwarded sending a round deep into the chamber, as Javier brought the weapon up to his cheek. Javier was sweating even more now and the beads of sweat were slowly rolling down his forehead towards his eyes. Javier closed his left eye and brought the bead of the rifle down to the center of the inmate closest to Martinez. The radio was alive with traffic as responding staff directed each other to the recreation compound. The radio cracked again, “Towers have all inmates move to the fence line now!! Tell them if they don’t move you will open fire!! Javier recognized the voice immediately, it was Captain Garcia. His voice sent chills down his spine and it brought back memories of his first encounter with the Captain.
It was his first day as an officer and he still remembered the apprehension he felt as he walked up the steps to the main building of the prison. He was fresh out of the academy and he was still having second thoughts if this was the right career for him. As Javier entered the main lobby his eyes quickly fell on a heavy set man sitting behind a long table with several stacks of papers in front of him. Javier approached and stood in front of the table. The man continued to scan through the documents in front of him totally oblivious to Javier’s presence. Javier waited. The bars on his collar indicated he was the Captain and the name tag on his chest confirmed his observations as it read J. Garcia, Captain. After several minutes Garcia looked up with an unpleasant smirk on his face. “Who are you? Garcia stated in an annoyed voice. “Officer Javier Ramos, Sir.” Javier squeaked out. “Ramos.” Garcia responded as he reached for a roster sitting on one of the stacks of papers in front of him. Garcia scanned the paper and when he found Ramos’ name he checked it and looked back at Javier. “Ramos, this your first day.” Garcia stated with a slight smirk. “Yes Sir,” Javier replied with a little more effort so his voice would not crack. Javier’s palms had suddenly become very sweaty and Javier could feel a lump forming in his throat. “I see,” Garcia replied seeming even more annoyed. “Let me tell you something, Ramos. You will do your job. If you don’t do your job and you make me work hard I will make your life miserable. Do you understand me.” “Yes sir.” Javier managed as the lump in his throat suddenly got a lot bigger. “I don’t have time to babysit you. Let me give you a piece of advice. There is no such thing as a bar stretcher, so don’t go running around looking for one those if the other officers tell you to go get one. Do you get me! Garcia stated at almost a yell. Javier swallowed hard, “Yes sir!” “Good, we are off to a good start. Now take your ass to Tower one and don’t let me have to speak to you again. Got it?” “Yes sir!” Javier replied. “Now get out of my face.” Garcia spat as he returned to his papers. Javier spun around and headed back to the door as fast as he could. That was two days ago, and now he was looking down the barrel of his rifle.
Javier’s mind was spinning and he could not believe he was pointing a rifle at another person ready to pull the trigger. “Towers, tell these inmates to move to the fence now!! Garcia barked again over the radio bringing Javier back to his senses. Javier quickly lowered the rifle and moved towards the megaphone on the catwalk. Javier grabbed the megaphone and brought it up to his mouth as he hit the transmit button, “All inmates move to the fence line, Now!!! We have locked and loaded. Move to the fence now!” Javier stated with as much authority as he could manage. Javier lowered the megaphone and was relieved to see the inmates on the recreation yard slowly moving towards the fence. Several Officers were now at the recreation gate and after unlocking the gate they spilled out onto the recreation yard and began directing the inmates to the fence. It was not long before the eight inmates were identified, were restrained and were escorted back into the prison. It was over just as fast as it had started. Afterward, Javier sat in his chair totally exhausted. His hands were shaking and he kept thinking to himself, “What have I gotten myself into.” Javier had just gotten married and his first child was on the way. The position as a correctional officer had seemed like the perfect way to make enough money to support his family but he was beginning to doubt his decision. Javier was not a violent person and had really lived a protected life up until now. Javier came from a small farming community and had spent his childhood helping his farther on their farm. He had never experienced anything like this and it scared him. When Javier’s relief finally arrived he was still unnerved and he quickly turned over his equipment and exited the tower as fast as he could.
As time passed, Javier’s experiences in the prison became more and more difficult. Fight’s occurred almost daily. Javier’s eyes were opened to a world he never thought could exist. The prison culture was unlike anything he had ever seen before. Javier was introduced to gangs, homosexuals, drugs, and violence all within his first few months as an officer. Everyday Javier entered the prison he was scared but he could not show it because he would become the prey like the weaker inmates in the prison. Javier struggled daily with everything he saw. His sleep became more and more restless and after a while the nightmares began.
Javier looked around him and there was no one else around to help him. Sammy was standing in front of him with a huge piece of metal that resembled a large butcher knife. Sammy was smiling at him and kept saying “I got something for you, punk.” Javier’s mind was racing as he struggled to recall all the self defense lessons he had learned in the training academy. Javier reached for his radio and pushed the alarm button that would notify control he was in trouble. It would still take at least two minutes before somebody could get to him to help. “I’m going to carve you up like the pig you are, punk,” Sammy growled through a set of blackened teeth from years of neglect. Sammy Valenze was doing life in prison for killing his girlfriend and their three kids after she tried to leave him. He was a cold blooded killer and Javier had seen Sammy on several occasions stab or beat other inmates over the most trivial things you could imagine. Sammy did not play around and if he said he was going to kill you, he would do it. Javier looked deep into Sammy’s eyes and all he could see was pure hate. Javier slowly moved backward trying to put some space between him and Sammy, but Sammy wasn’t about to let that happen. Sammy suddenly rushed Javier and with one quick motion he sank the knife deep into Javier’s side. Javier screamed with pain as he wrapped his hands around Sammy’s throat. The stale smell of Sammy’s breath filled Javier’s nose and not wanting to give up, he tightened his grip around Sammy’s throat and squeezed as hard as he could. It had no affect, Sammy continued to smile, “You’re going to die, punk!” Javier was panicking and he could feel his strength slipping. Sammy pulled the knife out of Javier’s side and with a second thrust he sank it a second time deep into Javier’s stomach. The blow knocked the air out of him and he felt his grip on Sammy’s throat weaken. His eyes closed and all of a sudden he could hear the voice of his wife, Anna screaming “stop, let go.” Javier’s eyes snapped open and he found himself sitting over his wife with his hands wrapped around her throat. Anna was crying and with final burst she knocked Javier off of her. Javier jumped back in horror as he realized he had been choking his own wife. Javier slipped off of the bed onto the ground and he began to cry.
Javier tried to go to counseling, but that did not help, the nightmares continued. Anna eventually left, she did not understand what Javier was going through and didn’t care. After an ugly divorce, Javier found himself all alone. He had lost everything that mattered to him and he still could not deal with his emotions and fears. The only thing that helped was to drink and drink he did. Javier would drink everyday just to numb himself to the world he worked in. It was not a solution, but it worked.
Five years after the divorce Javier was no longer a rookie and he was finally up for his first big promotion. Javier, with the help of his trusty bottle of tequila, had matured as a correctional officer. He had become hard and an expert at hiding his fears and emotions. He was desensitized to all the violence, hate and racism he dealt with everyday. It no longer bothered him, he just drank heavily and tried not to think about it. It worked for him and now, he finally felt like he was ready for the next step.
Javier entered the board room and looked over the five board members who were there to see if he was ready to be promoted. Javier smiled inside; he was not the same person who walked into the main building in front of Captain Garcia. He was different; he was a hardened veteran who feared nothing. It was hard to be afraid when you faced death everyday. “Javier Ramos reporting as ordered.” Javier said as he stood at attention in front of the chair he was supposed to sit in. Associate Warden Lopez looked up at him and said, “Have a seat Ramos. You know why you are here. We are the review board for merit promotion. We will ask you several questions concerning your knowledge of correctional practice, security and inmate management. Your responses to these questions will directly determine if you are selected for promotion. Do you understand?” “Yes, sir.” replied Javier with confidence as he sat down. “Good. Let’s get started. You are a supervisor on the evening shift and an inmate in the unit is refusing to follow the orders of the unit officer. The inmate has become very aggressive and has threatened to assault the officer. The officer has called for assistance and the control center has notified all radio units to respond. You are the first supervisor on scene. You observe the disruptive inmate ranting and raving moving back and forth around the unit. He has a broken broom stick in his hand and is threatening to assault any staff member that comes near him. What do you do.” Javier smiled inside; he knew this question was coming. One of his senior supervisors, Burt Lance, who had recommended he put in for promotion had quizzed him well on the situational questions the board would ask. Burt was also his best friend and drinking buddy. Burt had five more years in the system than he did and was very well respected. Burt also had a lot of connections; so naturally, Javier was able to review the questions the review board would ask beforehand. Javier paused for a minute fainting thought and gave the response he had been rehearsing for the past two weeks prior to the board. At the end of his response he could see the review board was happy with his answer. The rest of the questions went the same way but he was cautious to not answer all the questions perfectly as to not raise suspicion. In the end, Javier found himself a brand new supervisor. It was a great day for Javier, it was the first step that showed all of his peers he was not just another “hack” like them. Especially since Javier had never been a leader or popular for that matter. Javier finally felt like he was something, it was a weird feeling. He had never had anybody lookup to him for anything and yet that was what had happened. As a supervisor every officer looked to him for guidance and direction. As the Associate Warden pinned his Lieutenant rank on his collar Javier promised himself he would not fail as a supervisor or let those who looked to him for guidance and direction down.
Javier stepped out of the Lieutenant’s Office out onto the patio. It was his first day running a shift. Javier had excelled through the new supervisor training period and he had finally been given the opportunity to run a shift. Javier looked out over the compound and watched all the inmates engaged in their various activities. Javier felt at awe, it was his institution and everything and anything that happened was controlled by him. It was a bit overwhelming but Javier knew he was up to it.
Officer Guzman walked up behind Javier and coughed slightly to get Javier’s attention, “Sir, we got a problem.” Javier turned around slowly and looked at Guzman. “What is it?” Javier said in the most annoyed tone he could muster. His response had its affect, Guzman stammered a bit and replied, “Sir, inmate Baton threw a food tray and assaulted Officer Billit.” “Really?” Javier replied. Javier’s mind began to race. He had been on several cell extractions in the past but this would be his first time leading an extraction team. “Ok, let me get with the Captain and get authorization for an extraction team.” Javier moved past Guzman who was now smiling because he knew this would be Javier’s first test as a Lieutenant and all of the other officers would judge him on how well he handled the situation. If Javier broke weak and catered to Baton he would be viewed as weak and no one would trust his leadership ability. If he successfully, extracted Baton, he would prove to them he was a supervisor they could look up to. It was a twisted way to judge supervisors but it was part of their culture.
Javier entered the Lieutenant’s Office with confidence as he walked over to his desk and reached for the phone. “This is Barben,” answered Captain Barben. “Sir, this is Ramos. Inmate Baton has assaulted an officer with a food tray in the Special Housing Unit. I need authorization to extract him and put him in ambulatory restraints.” Javier stated. “Ok, let me get with the executive staff. Get your team ready.” “Yes sir.” replied Javier. “Are you ready for this?” Barben asked. “Yes sir. I can handle this.” “Good, then go ahead. I will get it approved, don’t screw up. Remember everything you learned and follow the worksheets. You should not have any problems. Call me when you’re done, got it.” “I got it, sir.” replied Javier as he hung up the phone. Javier’s heart was beating fast as he turned to Lieutenant Harrison. “Get me a team together. I’m going to the Special Housing Unit.” “Got ya, need any help?” replied Harrison. “No, I got it.” Javier said as he exited the Lieutenant’s Office and headed to the Special Housing Unit.
Javier put his hand to his head and the room stopped spinning as he came back from his memories. Javier groaned and wiped his face with both hands. “I just wanted to be the best that I could be. I have tried to do the right thing. I have tried to make the right decisions. What is wrong with me?” Javier said as he struggled to stand. Javier finally made it to his feet but with a great deal of effort. He staggered forward and ran into the wall striking his shoulder hard enough to send spikes of pain into his head. “Damn, that hurt.” Javier said laughingly. “I’m fucked up. I knew I should have stopped drinking with my old friend Quervo. Ha!” Javier said as he resumed his stagger out of his bed room towards the kitchen. Javier had drawn all the blinds closed in the house to block out the sun. The sun, however, still entered the house through the slits in the blinds and cast eerie shadows throughout the house. It created enough light for Javier to see the bottle of Jose Quervo sitting on the kitchen counter and he smiled as he wrapped his hands around its neck. Javier brought the bottle up to his lips and he felt the all to familiar burn as he let the tequila slide down his throat. Javier pulled the bottle away from his mouth and coughed. “I’m going to feel that in the morning.” Javier said as he made his way to the couch. Javier set the bottle of tequila on the coffee table and fell back onto the couch. His head was spinning again as he struggled to remain conscious and with it came the memories.
Javier walked up the hall way to the Special Housing Unit running over his plan to extract Baton from his cell. He could feel his stomach tighten as the electronic grill slid open. “It’s going to be a long day.” Javier said as he stepped passed the grill into the sally port. Once the grill closed behind him he was granted access to the Special Housing Unit by Officer Ralph Thomas. Ralph was a senior officer in the unit and he smiled when he saw Javier. “Hey boss. We got a lively one for you,” Ralph said as Javier entered the unit. The Special Housing Unit housed the worst inmates in the prison, 220 to be exact. Inmates in the unit spent 23 hours a day locked in there cell with only one hour for outside recreation. A majority of the inmates in the unit were there for infractions of the rules, assaults, fights and those inmates who could not be in general population for various reasons. They were called “PC” inmates for short; protective custody. The PC inmates were the weak ones, child molesters, homosexuals or those simply to scared to be in open population. They were a burden to the system and they were the ones that complained the most. “I have a team coming. Make sure they get suited up and have them wait for me in the ready room.” Javier said as he walked to the Officer’s station. “Yes sir,” replied Ralph as he secured the entrance door. Ralph to was smiling, he to was anxious to see how this new Lieutenant would do on this cell extraction. It would not be any easy one. Baton was notorious for fighting a team and several officers had been hurt in the past trying to get him out of his cell. “This is gonna make or break you.” Ralph whispered as he turned and headed toward the Officer’s station. Javier sat at the computer with his hands on the keyboard. He was determined to make sure the extraction went as planned. Baton was a hardass and loved to fight the team. “Does Baton have a weapon? Has he covered his window?” Javier asked as Ralph entered the Officer’s station. “He doesn’t have a weapon but he did cover his window a few minutes ago. We can’t see in the cell.” “Good,” replied Javier. “I have something for him.” Javier reached for the phone and dialed the extension for the armory. After three rings a raspy voice answered, “Armory.” “Hey Tony. This is Ramos. I need some gas down here in the Special Housing Unit for an extraction.” Javier said. “Not a problem. Be down in a bit.” replied Tony. Tony hung the phone up and scratched his chin. He took a drag from his cigarette and said out loud “Looks like this kid is gonna do it right. We’ll see.” Tony turned and made his way to the gas cabinet.
“Ok, guys. Listen up. This is going to be a clean move. I want no talking and you will listen to my direction. Baton has a long history of fighting extraction teams and I am not going to let anyone get hurt fighting him. Tony here has brought us some OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) gas and if Baton refuses to let us put restraints on him. I’m going to fill his cell with OC. He will come to the door, period,” Javier said with as much determination as he could. The five team members standing before him were not new to cell extractions but no Lieutenant had ever done what Javier planned. The Lieutenants before him would give the inmate an order to submit to the placement of hand restraints and if they refused the team went in. This tactic, although effective, often resulted in several team members getting injured. The team members looked at each other and shrugged. “Put your gear on and let’s gets started. Everyone know there duties?” Javier asked. All of the team members shook there heads as they put their helmets on. “Good,” Javier said as he turned to the camera operator and gave the nod for him to begin recording. After the introduction and briefing of the situation Javier checked the team’s equipment and ordered the team to Baton’s cell. Javier had a lump in his throat as he walked down the range towards Baton’s cell. He could hear Baton yelling and banging something in his cell. “Come on you fucks. I got something for you!” Baton yelled as Javier finally made it to his cell. Javier cleared his throat, looked back at the team and the camera operator to make sure they were in position. When he was satisfied Javier turned back to the cell door, the window was covered and he could still hear Baton ranting and raving be hind the door. “Not this time.” Javier thought. “Baton, I’m giving you a direct order to uncover your window and step to the door.” “Fuck you,” replied Baton. “Ok, have it your way,” Javier thought and he turned to the team. “Put your gas masks on. Tony bring up the gas.” Tony made his way past the team to the door and nodded his head indicating he was ready. Javier finished securing his gas mask and slid the key into the feeding slot in the door. “Two second burst Tony. Got it.” “Got it,” replied Tony as he pulled the safety pin on the gas canister. Javier turned the key and pulled open the feeding slot door. Tony quickly stepped forward and pulled the trigger on the gas canister. The whooshing sound of the gas exiting the canister filled Javiers ears and he watched as the orange OC gas filled the cell. After two seconds, Tony released the trigger on the canister and Javier slammed the trap closed. Javier began to count. To be effective OC gas needs time to take effect and 15 seconds between bursts is the optimal time to allow it to do so. “Baton uncover your window and step to the door.” Javier yelled through his gas mask. “Fuck you, you sorry mother fucker,” Baton managed, coughing as he did so. The gas had filled the room and in its pulverized form it easily made its way past the shirt Baton had tied around his face. Baton’s eyes began to burn and his lungs struggled to expel the tiny particles that were slowly making breathing a difficult task. Baton was determined and he readied himself for the team to enter. He was not new to gas and in the past after gas was sprayed the team always came in. Javier, however, had different plans. “Another one,” Javier said as he looked in Tony’s direction. Tony nodded and stepped towards the door. Javier turned the key again and when the feeding slot was opened Tony squeezed the cannister’s trigger. The gas once again entered the cell filling it completely. Baton stood at the back of the cell totally confused. “Come and get me you chicken shits,” Baton yelled as the gas took a tighter grip on his lungs. Baton’s nose began to run and his eyes began to close involuntary. Baton struggled to keep his eyes open and after a few minutes he could no longer breath. Baton scrambled to the door and ripped the paper he used to cover the cell window off. “Get me out of here,” Baton yelled and turned with his hands behind his back so he could be restrained. Javier opened the feeding slot and ordered the first team member to put restraints on Baton. After the extraction Javier was exhausted. It had all gone as planned and no one had been hurt. The team members shook Javier’s hand as the exited the Special Housing Unit. Javier had past their first test.
Javier’s eyes fluttered as he attempted to open them. Javier was lying on his side on the couch and his head was still fuzzy. “Oh, fuck. Man, I am so fucked up,” Javier whispered as saliva ran out the corner of his mouth onto the couch. Javier forced himself back up into a sitting position. “I need to go to bed. I can’t even fucking stay sitting up.” Javier leaned forward and managed to make it to his feet. Once on his feet, it was different however, the tequila was scrambling his thought processes and his fine motor skills were shot. His legs felt like lead anchors as he began to slide one foot forward and then the other. With his hands as guides against the walls Javier made his way back into his bed room and upon reaching his bed Javier’s strength gave out and he fell face down on the bed. The last thing Javier remembered was looking up at the wall. At the saint on the wall. It was the Virgin of Guadalupe and for some reason her eyes seemed so sad. Javier tried to focus his eyes but the tequila came back with a vengeance and as he lost consciousness Javier swore he saw tears running down the face of the Virgin. Javier’s eyes closed and his mind slowly slipped deeper and deeper into the blackness. He no longer felt anything and the ghosts of his past rose up and began swirling past him in an endless downward spiral.
All Characters and events are fictional and part of the authors creation.