By Phil Rossi
Roy hadn’t seen Alcatraz since his great escape, over fifty years ago. Parked in the bleachers of the tour boat, Roy listened to the piped-in audio of notorious inmates and failed break attempts, claiming he was dead. A mug shot with Roy’s old prison number, AZ 2515, rested in his pocket.
“That hotel’s haunted. Only place where time sits still,” Jimmy had said, Roy’s escape partner.
Ask any guest, and they’ll swear the hours on Alcatraz leaked from Dali’s molten clocks. Jimmy never cared for an old timer’s day, scratching his head over Roy’s bucket list. To Jimmy, they already beat the devil, with no rematch required. It was the last call they shared before Jimmy checked out for good.
Roy glanced the water as the tour ship zeroed in on the island. The night of the escape, they slashed the same viscous tide, chopping for Angel Island in a rubber raft. Roy recalled the meticulous break, the stashed inflatable, and links of stolen cars used to flee Frisco for Southern California.
Plucked from a Bogart movie, the escapees looked up a Mafia doctor, and left the outskirts of Los Angeles with plastic surgery and fresh identities. Roy filtered through Central and South America, while Jimmy crossed the pond for an Irish coast. For kicks, each one kept a meaty scrapbook with newspaper articles, while growing old and evading capture.
The former inmate always wished to stick it to the man one more time. The baddest of the bad back in the day, Roy remained wanted by the U.S. Marshall’s for the time left on his sentence. He’d show the ghosts of Alcatraz who’s missing and presumed drowned. Not foolish enough to brag about it, Roy would go full- phantom on the guided tour.
As tourists stepped off the vessel, Roy thought of Robbins and Falzone in their spiffy charcoal uniforms, blood-red ties, and holstered cannons. A pair of tier guards on duty the night of the escape, long gone, their legacy bombed out with the rest of old Alcatraz.
The tour slugged out the usual hard luck stops, while pointing out the famous cells of Al Capone, the Birdman, and Machine Gun Kelly. A badge of honor to share the bloodline with real dragons, Roy always thought. While he puffed with pride, the guides spammed the history of sieges, riots, and doomed prison breaks. Up ahead, the mess hall, showers, and work stations, where inmates labored for cents on the dollar.
While the tour ventured deeper into the prison, the sounds and visions of old Alcatraz began to post on Roy’s brain wall. As blown-up photographs and rotted-out sections entertained the tourists, a more vivid slideshow hacked Roy’s thinker. A mirage of old Alcatraz in full bloom, as if the guided tour were a masquerade of the long-lost guards and fellow prisoners. Roy blinked his eyes, and shook his head to kill the flashback. Something, maybe Jimmy’s spirit, told him to turn around, and leave this ‘no good for nobody’ place at once.
A stubborn Roy persisted, and once the funky karma deflated, the tour reached his former cell house. When Roy stepped up to his old bunk, he felt the second wave of voodoo rise and crash. The fire in his chest made a fist, forcing Roy to wobble. Fighting to stay in orbit, Roy crouched like a surfer, gripping his old bars for balance. The rods, more like steam pipes, pitched Roy into a sweat. A trembling Roy released the grill, and caught his breath. He then searched out a restroom and cold fountain for his fried nerves.
As Roy cupped and splashed the cool water, the cosmetic clay tumbled his cheeks in a mudslide. Each layer of surgery over the years to preserve the identity, now stripped from his face. When Roy gazed the mirror, the young man from his prison mug shot, stared right back at him. Roy’s clothing already morphed into a sky blue shirt and khaki pants, with AZ 2515 stenciled across his chest.
More black magic from this cursed island, he thought. Roy decided to leave the walking half of the tour, and return to the wharf. When he reached the corridor, loud clanking noises rung the tiers and block, replacing the ambient sounds of a bay breeze loaded with dive-bombing birds. Instead, the heavy echoes of old Alcatraz filled with head-count marches and boots of patrol. No longer a mirage confined to his skull, Roy had indeed traveled back in years, now marooned in old Alcatraz.
As Roy scrambled for the exit and marina, he realized the guides and visitors had vanished. In their place, a jungle of convicts in the same robin’s egg tops and sandbar bottoms. Frozen-in-time, Alcatraz had returned to life, appearing just the way it did on the night of the escape.
Roy noticed the cons in the lineup for their cells and lights-out, all familiar men he knew. Too familiar were Robbins and Falzone, who spotted Roy outside the activity, too far from the program. The tier guards broke through the march and into the alley, shouting for a quick return, or else. Roy began to run as Robbins and Falzone drew their Colt pistols, ordering Roy to halt. Roy raced for the exit and the present, desperate to leave this nightmare behind.
The escape sirens sounded and sealed off the prison as Robbins and Falzone chased Roy down. Once a target evolved, Robbins and Falzone aimed their pistols, and fired. When their bullets struck, Roy’s mind went dark. As Roy fell, he splashed another black tide, this time sucking him down. A haunted place for sure, telling Roy he was all out of time, escapes, and bad ideas.