Characters: Carol’s father, Carol, Ryo, Carol’s Aunt Elina, Bikky.
Setting: Around Vol. 1, Act 2.
Summary: Carol’s father, Robert Baker is dying in prison and what he wants most of all is to get out so he can spend what time he has left with her.
Word Count: 2234
Content Notes: Character death.
Written For: Challenge 42: Prison at beattheblackdog.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
The only reason Robert Baker had committed the bank robbery, or more accurately attempted to, had been to provide for his daughter’s future. Even then he’d known he was dying and wouldn’t be there to care for her much longer. He was sure his friend Elina would take Carol in when he was gone, she’d already promised she would and there was a note to that effect in his will, but Elina, while far from poor, was by no means wealthy, and Robert knew how expensive raising a child could be.
He’d been involved in a string of robberies when he was younger, he and his small gang, and had paid the price with five years in prison, but he’d given up his life of crime, determined to go straight, after Carol was born. He’d wanted to be there for her, to watch her grow up into the beautiful young woman he was sure she’d become, and someday give her away at her wedding… He wasn’t going to see any of that now.
When Carol was eight, her mother had died in a car accident. After that, it had just been the two of them against the world, and it had been a struggle trying to make ends meet, but they’d managed, becoming closer than ever. Carol had done all she could to help around the house, and despite that had still been getting good grades at school. Such a smart, caring, wonderful girl; her mother would have been so proud of her. She worked hard at everything she did, and she never let anything get her down for long.
Then Robert had developed a cough that wouldn’t go away, and after countless tests, he’d been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. It had been a terrible blow. When he’d told Carol, because he never kept anything important from her, she’d only had one thing to say. “You’re going to fight it though, right papa?”
“Of course I am,” he’d told her. “I’m not giving up.” He’d meant it, but even so, he knew his chances of beating the disease weren’t good. He had a round of chemo, but the progression of the disease wasn’t slowed by much. Waiting to start a second, more aggressive course of therapy, knowing it was unlikely that would help either, he’d put other plans in motion as well, contacting a couple of his old gang members, the only ones who weren’t currently serving time in prison.
They’d been all for doing one last bank job, and the three of them had planned carefully. Which bank to hit, which day of the week would net them the biggest haul, at what time of day would there be the fewest customers? They acquired weapons, masks, bags for the loot, a car. They found a getaway driver and went over every detail of the escape route with him, including the rented garage where they’d hide the vehicle after the job. They even looked into money launderers, so they’d know who to approach once they had their hands on the loot.
On the day they’d picked, at the appointed hour, they’d hit the bank and everything had gone to hell. Too much had changed since they last pulled a job like this, and they’d been caught. Instead of providing for Carol’s future, Robert now found himself separated from his daughter, locked up in prison while Carol was sent to live with Elina.
He continued the cancer treatment in prison, but the second round of chemo proved no more effective than the first. Three months after being arrested, he was moved to the prison hospital, and from there to a private room in a secure facility in Manhattan where convicts with terminal illnesses were treated. He was still technically in prison, but at least the small hospital’s more central location meant that Carol could visit as often as she wanted.
“I’ll get you out of here, papa, I promise,” she told him one day. “I’m saving all my money to pay your bail.”
“That’s sweet of you, honey, but I think it’ll take you a very long time to save enough, and I don’t think I’ve got that much time left.”
Carol had crawled up on his bed and hugged him. “I just want you home with us, for however long you have left, instead of being shut up in here with bars on the windows and doors. I want you to feel the sun again, and the wind, and grass beneath your feet,” she said, head against his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart.
“I’d like that too.” It was just a pipe dream though, it would never happen. He’d end his days in a hospital room that was barely better than a regular prison cell, except for the fact that he didn’t have to share it with anyone else. Carol probably wouldn’t even be there when he passed. He didn’t know if he should be glad about that or devastated that his daughter’s face wouldn’t be the last thing he saw.
Then a miracle happened. Not the ultimate miracle, not remission, he was still dying, but somehow, someone had paid his bail and he was told he’d be going home to end his days with Carol at Elina’s small house. He didn’t know how Carol had managed it, but she must have had something to do with it. Such a stubborn, determined kid; just thinking about her made his heart swell with pride.
Leaving the prison hospital was wonderful but exhausting, and settling into the room that had been prepared for him was a relief. He slept for a long time, and later, after he woke, he found Carol curled up by his side, fast asleep and smiling.
The next morning, Elina came into his room to say he had a visitor.
The young man was a cop; Robert could tell even before he introduced himself. “What’s this about, Detective? Come to warm me not to skip bail? That you’ll throw me back in prison if I do? I couldn’t if I wanted to, and I wouldn’t even if I could. All I want is to spend what time I have left with my little girl.”
“It’s nothing like that. Actually it’s Carol I’m here about.”
Carol was supposed to be at school. “What happened? Is she alright?” Robert asked, suddenly worried for his daughter.
“She’s fine, she’s at school, but… She’s a close friend of my foster son’s and… well I’m concerned about her. When she was trying to gather enough money to pay your bail, she resorted to picking pockets to get the money, mine included, much to my embarrassment. Then she picked the wrong pocket and put her own life in danger. My partner and I were assigned to protect her, that’s how I found out the reason for her crime spree.”
“Is she in danger?”
“No, not any more, we dealt with that situation and the men targeting her are behind bars, you have nothing to worry about on that score. I could lecture her as a cop about how crime doesn’t pay, actually I have, and she swears she’s stopped, but I thought you should know. If you talk to her too it might help. She’s very bright, I think she has a promising future; it would be a shame if she wasted all her potential and wound up in prison. I don’t want to see that happen.”
Robert agreed. “Neither do I. Thank you for telling me, Detective, I’ll talk to her tonight, when she gets home from school.”
“Good, thank you. There was one other thing I wanted to say. I spoke to your doctors, I know you don’t have much longer, but I wanted you to know, after you’re gone, I promise to keep an eye on Carol for you. Like I said, she and my son are close, they spend a lot of time together, so you don’t have to worry about her. I’ll watch over her as if she was my own, and I know Bikky will too. She’ll never have to be alone.”
“God bless you,” Robert replied, tears filling his eyes. “That’s a weight off my mind. I know Elina will be good to her, but she’s just one person, she can’t be there all the time, she has her work. Knowing there are other people watching out for Carol, that helps a lot. You’re a good man.”
The detective shrugged. “It’s the least I can do, and besides, I like Carol. I think she could be a good influence on my son.”
After the detective left, Robert realised he couldn’t remember the man’s name. It didn’t matter; Carol would probably know.
“I had a visitor today,” he greeted his daughter when she arrived home from school.
“Who was it?” she wanted to know. “Not one of your prison buddies, I hope.” There had been a couple of ex-con friends who’d stopped by to see him at the hospital, and Carol hadn’t liked them.
“No, sweetheart, one of your friends I think, a young detective. He said he protected you when you landed yourself in some trouble. Why didn’t you tell me about that? I thought we told each other everything.”
“I didn’t want to worry you,” Carol replied. “You already had more than enough to worry about.”
“Well, I don’t remember his name, but he seemed like a nice guy, said you’re friends with his foster son.”
“Yeah, that’s Detective Maclean, Ryo. He’s really nice and so kind. He’s the one who paid your bail.”
Robert was stunned; Detective Maclean hadn’t said anything about that. “He did? Why? I never even met him before today! Why would he do something like that for a complete stranger? And a convict too!”
“That’s just the kind of guy he is. Do you remember Bikky, from out old neighbourhood? Victor Goldman?”
“The dark-skinned kid with blond hair, right?”
“That’s the one. His dad was killed a few months ago. Bikky had nobody, but Ryo took him in, gave him a home, and he’s taking care of him. Bikky really likes him, and so do I. Bikky told me Ryo lost his parents when he was young, so I guess he understands better than most people would. He knew I wanted you home so we could have more time together, so he made it happen.”
“There can’t be many people who’d do that,” Robert said quietly, “so don’t make him regret his generosity.”
“What d’you mean, papa?”
“He told me you resorted to picking pockets when you were trying to raise bail money.”
“Oh, that.” Carol bit her lip and looked down.
“Yes, that. Carol, look at me please.” When she raised her head, Robert continued. “I love you, more than anyone in the world. I hope you know that.”
“I do, papa, and I love you too!”
“I know you do, but I don’t want you to end up like me, serving time, winding up with a prison record. Your mom, she put up with a lot from me but she helped me to turn over a new leaf, put my criminal past behind me. You’re still young, what you did, stealing from people, that won’t follow you like my crimes have, but if you ever do anything like that again you’ll ruin your life. I don’t ever want you to be locked up, to waste your life away behind bars. That’s no way to live. You could be anything you want to be, just please promise me you won’t follow in my footsteps.”
“I promise, papa! I only did I to get you out, and now you’re home I don’t need to anymore. Besides, if I did anything like that again, Ryo would be really mad at me, and disappointed ‘cause I promised him too. I want you both to be proud of me.”
“I already am, sweetheart. Now give your poor old papa a hug.”
Carol did, whispering in his ear, “You’re not old, papa.”
‘And I never will be,’ Robert thought wistfully.
He lasted another nine weeks, during which time Carol spent most of her evenings and weekends with him, doing homework, watching TV, or just talking about everything they remembered, all the things they’d done together and the places they’d been. Every moment was precious, and they packed as much as they could into that time, sitting out in the small backyard whenever the weather was dry and warm enough. It was such a blessing to feel sunshine on his skin and breathe fresh air after months spent in prison cells and hospital rooms, and he relished every moment spent outside. They were sitting out on the back porch when the time finally came, and smiling at his daughter, he squeezed her hand. Before she could respond, he was gone.
And yet at the same time, he wasn’t. He could see her down there, crying over his empty shell, and knew that despite the pain of loss his little girl was feeling, everything was going to be alright. He could no longer be with her in the flesh, but his spirit, freed from its earthly prison, could, and would, watch over her for the rest of her life. Whenever she needed him, he’d be there. That was a promise nothing in the universe could break.