John McCoy lay on the lower bunk of his prison cell, engrossed in The Art of War, attempting to find solace within its strategic words. The sound of rowdy prisoners reverberated through the cellblock, a constant reminder of the world he was confined within.
“John, you’ve got a visitor,” the guard's cold voice broke through his concentration.
John looked up from his book, his face etched with detachment. "Who?" he inquired, his voice steady.
“A lawyer,” the guard responded bluntly.
John's brows furrowed in mild annoyance. "Tell him to go to hell," he retorted, his stoic demeanor unshaken.
“It’s Carlos Rizetto’s lawyer,” the guard's response was tinged with a note of anticipation.
John closed the book, sighing as the weight of inevitability hung heavy in the air. He slowly rose from his bunk and stood before the guard, who watched with a hint of trepidation. The officer stepped aside, motioning for John to exit his cell.
As the guard led him through the prison complex, his tall frame and piercing blue eyes drew cautious glances. Prisoners near him instinctively gave him a wide berth, a testament to the respect he garnered. John's expression remained impassive, hiding the tumultuous emotions that churned within him.
Upon reaching the visitor area, John spotted Mr. Limon, the mob attorney who was a regular visitor.
“Hello John,” Mr. Limon greeted, his voice smooth and controlled. He was a small man with glasses and slicked-back hair, an air of calculation surrounding him.
“Tell Mr. Rizetto, I’ve kept my mouth shut,” John's tone was cold, the words a rehearsed mantra.
“He's well aware, Mr. McCoy, otherwise you wouldn’t be standing here,” the lawyer's response was casual, but the implication was far from it.
John's gaze locked onto Mr. Limon, his features a mask of calm and detachment. “Then what do you want?”
“Please, have a seat, John,” Mr. Limon gestured towards the chair across from him.
John complied, his eyes never leaving the lawyer's face.
The lawyer maintained eye contact, a faint smile playing on his lips. “How's everything on your end? Are the monthly deposits being made into your account?”
John nodded, his gaze unwavering, revealing nothing.
“That’s good to hear. I’m here to discuss your son, Jack,” Mr. Limon's tone shifted, his demeanor growing more serious.
John's knuckles whitened as his fists clenched slightly, his eyes narrowing in anticipation of the lawyer's words.
“Don’t worry, he’s safe… as far as we know. We can’t seem to locate him, which is why we’re here. John, he's amassed quite a debt—around $6000 to Mr. Rizetto,” the lawyer's words were matter-of-fact.”
“Deduct it from my monthly stipend,” John's response was curt, his voice devoid of emotion.
“That won’t even cover the vig, John. There's a faster way to resolve this debt, a way that aligns with your skillset, if you catch my drift,” Mr. Limon's voice was laden with implication.
John's jaw clenched, his disapproval evident in the tension radiating from his body.
“Who?” he uttered through gritted teeth, his curiosity tinged with a dangerous edge.
The lawyer leaned in, whispering the name into John’s ear, prompting the guard to bark, “Keep your distance!”
John's stern gaze held steady, "His debt is wiped, after this.".
“His debt will be absolved,” the lawyer affirmed, standing up as he did so.
John's grip on the table's edge tightened, his voice low and firm. “It wasn’t a question.”
With a nod from the lawyer, John watched as Mr. Limon walked away, leaving him with a sense of inevitability and a heaviness in his heart.
Returning to the general population, John scanned the room until his gaze landed on a man with dark hair. The man was engaged in lighthearted conversation with another inmate, unaware of the intensity of the gaze that bore down on him. After a moment, the man noticed John's unrelenting stare, and he responded with a wave and a tentative smile.
John nodded solemnly in response, a mixture of emotions churning within him. As the man continued to joke with his fellow inmate, John's thoughts swirled in a whirlwind of decisions and responsibilities, a reminder that even within the confines of prison, his past continued to shape his present.