Quip, heading for a new emotional low, absentmindedly stated, “Oh great! Just so you know, I didn’t pack my carrying case with any funds, so I won’t be able to buy any of your, uh…smuggled goods.” Fully aware of the absurdity of the situation, Quip sarcastically offered, “But, we should keep in touch once we are out of this hell hole. This is presuming you can write and maybe read.”
The light from the hallway bulb grew bright as if the morning was in full swing with the potential for guard checks. Quip identified two men in his cell. One wore the baggy standard-issue jumpsuit around a skinny frame with exposed, wrinkled skin on his extremities and face with tied-back grey hair. This appeared to be his benevolent drug-dealing friend. The other was a larger, more imposing figure of a black man with muscles in his upper arms straining the jumpsuit. He had familiar features including coal black eyes and a snarling upturned lip.
The Hispanic man narrowed his eyes and quietly commented, “Since you got no money, gringo, how about trading me a Velvet Elvis painting?”
Quip’s eyes grew wide with astonishment, but before he responded, both men put their fingers to their mouths demanding his silence. Quip’s pulse rocketed, while his breathing seemed very shallow. Using all his effort and a forced swallow, he finally whispered, “Jesus! Leroy! What? How? I don’t…”
Leroy motioned for quiet and discreetly gestured to probable listening devices positioned just outside the door, visible through the bars.
Jesus grinned. “Dr. Quip, you have helped rescue both of us in the past and when this opportunity was presented to us, well…let’s just say the past favors will be returned with this one. We’re here to assist you.”
The euphoria of the moment was quickly replaced with obvious realization as Quip sourly stated, “I’m glad to have someone engineering my release. I can’t help but notice that you are also behind bars. Is this really a rescue, or did you just think I needed some company to help pass the time?”
Leroy dropped the Alabama accent. “Dr. Quip, Jesus and I have been in and out of more jails than you ever will be, so we understand the mechanics. We’re pretty sure you don’t. A botched escape plan is worse than no plan.
“You gotta put someone on the inside to coordinate with those on the outside. When we say go, you go. When we say jump, there can’t be any questions or hesitation. Follow our lead and stay close. This one is already staged.”
Quip resumed his usual analytic character. “Just what is the price of admission, if I could ask?”
The two men grinned, and Jesus commented, “Me and Leroy here really like sitting on a Caribbean beach slugging down fruity chick drinks being brought to us by top-heavy waitresses. Our funds to underwrite our activities are managed by your organization. Once you are out, we’d like to manage our own funds. This favor guarantees we regain oversight of our, uh…retirement monies. Any objections?”
Quip suppressed a smile. “So long as you don’t reenter your old lines of work, I’m okay with it.”
They all began to relax. After a few minutes and no hallway sounds, Jesus queried, “Does your team still have my Velvet Elvis painting?”
Quip rolled his head to one side. “Yes, we have it. Can you tell me why it’s such a prized possession in your family? Inquiring minds want to know.”
Jesus quickly stated, “You might as well know, it, uh…picks up women like crazy. If this goes according to plan, then I want my Velvet Elvis back on my bungalow wall.”
Leroy added, “As we are negotiating add-ons here, I was hoping to get that fabulous Katana sword back. Can you put in a good word with that flyboy pilot associate of yours? He told me if I was a good boy, I might get it back. This here rescue looks like it might raise us to ‘good boy’ status.”
Quip, studying the small cell window, absentmindedly stated, “When you’ve been sentenced to an insane asylum, don’t forget to stare out the window a lot.”
Quip turned toward his cellmates. “Your peculiar possessions are still secure. Get me out of here, and we’ll see about their return.”
Jesus grinned. “Glad it is safe, but for now the Velvet Elvis story will have to wait. It’s almost showtime. Lace up your shoes.”
Quip looked down and frowned. “Can’t. They took my shoelaces. I guess they figured I would hang myself with them.”
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