Chris looks at them with sad eyes.
You got here pretty quick. She called you, right?
No, Effe didn’t, Chris! I called the police! You’re a lawbreaker, and jail breaker, and you’re going back to jail!
POLICE OFFICER 2
Let’s go, Chris. Now.
Chris nods numbly.
Yeah. I’ll go with you. But you don’t put no handcuffs on me, not in front of my boy.
Unbelievable! Shouldn’t you have thought of that before breaking jail, Chris?
POLICE OFFICER 1
You don’t make no demands here, buddy. Slap the cuffs on him, Joe!
The second police man holsters his gun and takes out a pair of handcuffs.
One of us is going to die today if you bring that thing near me.
His voice is so cold, so sinister, so absolutely venomous, that the two policemen exchange sudden looks of unease, and a sudden silence reigns again.
The policeman gives a shaky laugh, clips the handcuffs back to his belt, and brandishes his gun again.
POLICE OFFICER 2
Come on then, pal. We don’t have the whole day.
Chris walks away towards the police sedan.
Junior breaks free from his mother’s arms and rushes towards his father.
He clamps his arms around his father’s legs, and Chris quickly falls to his knees and grabs his son by the arms.
(voice absolutely broken)
Let me go with you, Daddy, to prison!
And that is what finally breaks Chris.
His son’s words cut into him so deeply, and in that moment it breaks his spirit like no betrayal has ever been able to. He looks at his son, and then tears slowly form in his eyes as pain suffuse him.
I’m not going to prison again, Champ! I promise you that.
He reaches into his pocket and brings out a small gift-wrapped box and extends it. One of the policemen steps forward with his gun, but the other one motions him to stay away.
Junior takes the box and, still crying, rips off the wrapping. Inside the box is a beautiful Ben 10 watch which Chris had purchased from the gift shop earlier.
Junior does not need to speak.
He pulls the golden watch, given to him by Steve, off his wrist without a word and drops it, and then he extends his arm towards his father.
Chris puts the Ben 10 watch on his son’s wrist, fixes the locket, and then he stands up. Quickly he walks towards the police sedan.
Daddy! Please don’t go! Daddy, please!
Chris is blinded by tears, and so he does not look back.
He enters the sedan, and the policemen enter too. The car moves away, lights flashing, sirens wailing.
Junior turns and runs inside the house, and his mother follows him.
Steve looks at the golden watch he had given Junior as a birthday gift and now lying broken on the street.
His jaw tightens with fury.
Stupid ungrateful little brat!
Effe runs after her son. Some of the people who have come for the birthday party quickly step out of her way. She races into the living-room which is filled with her guests, and sees Junior rushing up the stairs.
A distinguished-looking man in his late sixties with iron-grey hair comes towards her. Beside him is a beautiful middle-aged woman. They are KEN KEDEM and IVY KEDEM, Effe’s parents.
Effe! What’s wrong with Junior? He looks agitated.
Effe pauses briefly, and it is clear that she is also very much affected.
It’s Chris, Dad. He came around.
What? Chris? Chris Bawa?
Yes, Mom. He w-was- out-outside just now.
(shaking his head with incomprehension)
What? But he’s supposed to be in prison. Where’s he now? Still outside?
No, Dad. The police came for him. They took him away.
(clasping horrified hands to her cheeks)
Goodness me! Did he escape from prison?
I don’t know, Mama! My guess is that he did. Excuse me, Junior saw him. I’ve to attend to him. I’ll be with you soon.
Effe rushes up the stairs after her son.
Ken and Ivy exchange horrified looks.
Ken is a retired Supreme Court Judge. He takes out his phone, opens to the Contacts section, searches for a name, selects it, and dials.
He puts it to his ear and waits.
Hello, Fii. How’re you, my brother? Happy New Year to you. It’s been a while.
He laughs as he listens to the other man, and then he puts a hand to his brow.
Yes, yes, they’re all fine, thank you. Listen, Fii. I just heard Chris Bawa came around my daughter’s house, but he was taken by the police. Has he escaped from prison? Are you in a position to tell me?
He listens for a while, nodding his head once, and then he thanks the man at the other end and cuts the call.
People are looking anxiously at him.
Well? What did he say? Did Chris break jail?
(shaking his head)
No, no. Seems he benefited from the President’s Christmas pardons. They said he’s been on very good behaviour these five years, so he was also pardoned. He’s a free man.
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Oh, no! No, no, no! This can’t be! Not when my daughter is so close to finding happiness again! My God, why didn’t that boy just die in prison!
Hush, Ivy! What’s wrong with you? You’re a Christian, remember? Don’t wish ill for a fellow human! Effe is a big girl, you know. She can handle her affairs pretty well by herself.
Meanwhile Effe enters her son’s room.
He is lying on his bed, still clothed and wearing his shoes. He is curled into the foetal position, and as she stands in the doorway she can see his body heaving with the depths of his tears. On the walls are framed pictures of him and his father, ranging from when he was a new born baby to his third birthday.
In all the pictures Chris is holding his son and smiling that incredible smile of his, the one that dimples his cheeks and used to fill her heart with such tremendous joy. She had tried to take down the pictures several times, but Junior always threw tantrums, and so she had finally acquiesced and allowed him to keep them. She sits on the bed beside him and although he resists at first, she draws him into her arms and holds him tight.
My Prince, I know you’re very upset, but you have to be brave for me, okay? Remember our motto for this year? Perseverance, Junior. We never give up. It’s okay now.
(holding her tightly)
I m-miss my D-Daddy! D-don’t send him to p-prison!
(tears in her eyes)
Hush, my Prince! I didn’t send him to prison! You’ll see him again, I promise!
He leans back and looks at her, and she is agonised to see his pain-filled, tear-drenched face.
You promise, Mommy? You promise that this time you’ll let me visit Daddy in prison?
Effe’s face is tortured. Her eyes are haunted. She does not know what to say, but just then the door opens and Ken Kedem comes in, and he looks at them.
I called the Chaplain at Grand Castle Prison, my dear. Chris didn’t escape from prison. He was set free.
Mother and son turn and stare at him.
Junior bounces off the bed and races to his grandfather.
Really, Grandpop? Daddy is really really really free? They’re not taking him to prison again?
Ken tussles the boy’s hair and smiles at him gently.
No, Junior. He’s free.
The boy gives a screech of happiness and races out of the room. Effe stands up and faces her father. He sees the pain and torture on her face.
Is it true?
Yes, my love. Full presidential pardon for good behaviour.
Effe’s lips begin to tremble. Her whole frame trembles. She reaches out with a trembling hand and holds the bedpost, and shakily she sinks down on the bed again.
He’s changed, Dad. Physically. They did something to him. All that fat is gone, and he looks muscular now, meaner, and his eyes, Dad! I can’t forget that look in his eyes when the cops told him I took a restraining order against him.
You did? When? Why?
When he was taken away, Dad! Five years ago! I’ve forgotten all about it until I heard them saying it today! I was hurt, and I was angry, and I was bitter for what he did! At that time I positively hated him! I hate him even now, Dad, but I’m sorry he found out I took a restraining order against him. It killed him, Dad.
Ken walks forward and sits on the bed beside her.