Something’s wrong, my intuition told me, as I stepped out of the stairwell and into the chaotic frenzy of the main hallway running under Division One of the Cook County jail.
Sergeant Ricky Walsh opened the heavy, rusted steel door leading to the death trap—that is A-B stairwell—then turned to me. “Romano, take the stairs down four flights to the bottom, I will meet you there.”
There are four sets of stairs that lead to the main boulevard on the first floor. They are legendary for the infamous men who have been butchered there, the bloodstained walls are a testament to the violence that is the norm in this building. As I begin my descent down the narrow and poorly lit stairwell, the thought hits me: At least half a dozen men have been stabbed in this exact place. The words taunt me as I step slowly down the stairs so that Walsh will have time to beat me to the first floor in the old, decrepit elevator.
When I finally make it down, I breathe a sigh of relief. But it is not Walsh waiting at the huge, steel door I am to exit. Instead of the old mick—who looked and walked like a bulldog with his perfectly groomed hair and mustache—it was one of the lackey guards. They would often hang out on the main floor waiting to proposition some poor woman coming to visit her man. I open the door and step through quickly, not wanting to arouse suspicion. But my heart hangs in my throat.
During my trip down the stairwell, the heavy steel recorder slid down my pant leg, stopping on top of my right foot. The ACE bandage, meant to hold it in place, was also dangling and ready to pop out for everyone to see. Panic set in as my mind processed a million thoughts, but I couldn’t break my stride.
It was common knowledge that this is where inmates often came out stabbing when sent to attack a guard by one of the gang bosses. Looking past the guard, I saw Sergeant Walsh bearing down on us as fast as his stubby legs would carry him.
“Hey Walsh,” I said, “the food poisoning is getting worse, I’m gonna puke all over this guy.”ng around to see what was going on. These guards tolerated zero bull, especially from a smart-ass like me.
I decided that it was quicker and easier to shove the recorder under the waistband of my jail pants and pray it would stay. After splashing water on my face, I poked my head out.
Walsh fell right in line with my cover. “We’re going to the hospital, come with me!” he bellowed.
I exited the closet, pushing the recorder into my torso as we walked past another guard. We traveled down the long hallway. Once we were far enough out of earshot, Walsh found an unoccupied attorney visiting room. As he opened the door, I scurried to the far corner.
“The hallway is clear!” Walsh yelled.
I pulled the recorder from my waistband and looked at it with disdain. Then I wrapped it tight with the ACE bandage. Although the long recording wires had to be reconnected and it only took a few moments, it felt like forever.
Then it hit me: I’m wearing a wire against one of the most violent hitmen Chicago has ever known, and this prick had been a Chicago cop. He probably knows every person who works in this jail. Getting whacked in a place like this costs less than a carton of cigarettes. What the hell have I gotten myself into? But there was no backing out, and I still had to get back to my tier.
Walsh looked at me, his brow furrowed. He quietly asked, “You alright, kid?”
“I better be. I signed a deal with the devil, and it’s time to pay up.”
I drew in a deep breath as we headed to the hospital, so we could sign in and make it look legit.
How did my life get to this point? I wondered as I followed Walsh. Growing up in Chicago, I was exposed to police corruption, murder, drugs, gangsters, and sex, oh yes, lots and lots of sex.
I had no clue of what awaited me, but my unsavory legacy was about to go down in history like crap down a toilet.
Glenn Painter is single and lives in Central Florida. He became interested in writing at an early age but did not make it his career until 2014 when he published his first book, Beyond the Sentence.
Glenn has written this story from the notes by the man who actually lived it. However, extensive research was also require in order to make the story factual.
Glenn has also founded a company, ‘Prisoner Civil Right Services.’ He is an advocate for incarcerated individuals who have had their rights violated. He is in constant contact with these individuals, their families and the council. Most of his stories are inspired by ‘factual events’ that have happened to these individuals. This makes his stories both fiction and non-fiction.
Glenn says that writing is very challenging, and you must love the trials and tribulations that come with it. He believes that patience, perseverance and determination are required essentials to see a book through to being published. The journey is just as important as the destination.