Matthew Flanagan was awake a long time before he opened his eyes.
Fragments of a dream lingered. Decaying at the end of a street, a crooked house squatted. Matthew didn’t recognize the house, but he knew there was something inside that he needed. Creatures protected it. What sounded like mad dogs, monsters that barked and bit. In the distance, a melody of keys jangling, cop shoes squeaking and the industrial hum of fluorescent lighting; the familiar music of jail.
The Beverly Hills Police Department did not have bars on its cells. Instead there were thick glass doors which looked less forbidding than they should – Matthew felt a bit cheated. In the movie version of his life, he’d put bars on the cell. The glass was strangely more isolating than bars; even the air he breathed was trapped inside. Through it, he could see the police desk and the officers doing their thing. Instead of a bed, prisoners were given a mat to put on the concrete floor. A cheerful orange, the color of a Good Humor Creamsicle, decorated the walls. The thought of eating a Good Humor Creamsicle made a rumpus in Matthew’s stomach. A clock hung on the wall behind the police desk but he couldn’t see its face. He was pretty sure it was Saturday morning, but if the female cop at the desk walked over and told him it was the following Friday, he wouldn’t put up much of an argument.
The khaki-uniformed woman filed papers and chatted with someone Matthew couldn’t see. He couldn’t hear what she said. It was like watching television with the sound down and no remote control to change the channel. He wanted desperately for her to look over and acknowledge him, but she didn’t even glance in his direction.
On the floor on the other side of the cell, his cellmate slept the sleep of the damned. His snoring was an echo of the mad dog snarling from Matthew’s dream. If he’d had it, Matthew would have paid a million dollars to be able to sleep like that. He thought about pounding on the glass to get someone’s attention, but he didn’t know what he’d do with it.
He started to case the cell. A table against a wall held checkers, a deck of cards, a year-old Cosmopolitan professing to know “The Secret to His Orgasm” and, to Matthew’s surprise, a remote control. He picked it up and tried to turn up the volume of the scene outside his cell but he still couldn’t hear anything. He was amazed to see a television mounted inside a cage in the corner of his cell. It seemed to him that things were looking up, but he was like a man heading toward an oasis who is not convinced it’s real until he actually sips the water. He touched the power button and the TV came to life. It got two stations, CBS and the Weather Channel. Hurricane Felix was crashing into Aruba and Georgetown was playing Seton Hall in basketball. He settled on the hoops and shuffled the deck of cards. A game of solitaire commenced. All in all, he thought, if he could just murder his cellmate, he’d be willing to stay here for quite some time. This was a much nicer cell than the last two he’d spent the night in. He made a mental note to commit his next crime in Beverly Hills. As the snoring continued, he tried to piece together the broken shards of his memory.