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And Now -- Showtime!

And Now -- Showtime!

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Published by George Pollock
Billy Stone orchestrates a boisterous happy ending based on -- absolutely nothing. But when it's all captured by TV cameras, nothing becomes something big: Billy's freedom a fait accompli in the public mind.
Billy Stone orchestrates a boisterous happy ending based on -- absolutely nothing. But when it's all captured by TV cameras, nothing becomes something big: Billy's freedom a fait accompli in the public mind.

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Published by: George Pollock on Mar 23, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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George Pollock State KidIssue 48
And Now – Showtime!
“Did you sell us out?” Kali asked.Using a common jail-house obscenity, Billy told Kali what he could do with his question.“They was goin' 'round offering everybody a deal. They said, 'Give us stuff on Stone, youwalk.'”“Man, they want to get you bad,” Durk said.“Carson and Waters have been talking to each other a lot,” Angel said. “It stinks.”“I know all about it,” Billy said. But he didn't; he was just not surprised that Waters andCarson had been playing both ends. One was a politician dealing with a cheeky kidrepresenting no votes, and the other was a warden dealing with the leader of an inmateuprising with no family and no outside support.To both, Billy Stone was eminently dispensable.In retrospect, the signs had been there. Carson had been subdued, saying little, avoidingeye contact with him. His deep-set green eyes had never stopped darting everywhere.Billy should have taken the Director's pulse, should have given his assuaging fears a booster shot -- that is to say, engaged him in an earnest discussion about his lifeexpectancy.Well, better late than never. Billy strode over to Carson. “We need to talk,” he said.“We have something to say to each other?”“Let's walk.”The Director started to say something.“Now.”It was as if a raw Marine recruit, who had not yet learned how to salute, had ordered hisgrizzled Drill Instructor to move out, and on the double. And the DI had hauled to.As they walked down the corridor, Billy said, “First, you've been talking to Conroythrough Waters. I know all about it.”“Routine business. We deal with each other on a regular basis.”“Mr. Carson, you insult my intelligence. You've been offered a deal to get me. But whatyou don't know is that Conroy wants you even worse than he wants me. He offered me asweet deal, very sweet for my quote truthful testimony unquote against you. I also knowthat the order has gone out to the state national guard to get ready to move on GraniteCity School. Shall we talk?”“Why not?”“Who's the real threat here? Me? A pathetic bunch of inmates? If we wanted to harm you,
 
we would have done it by now. To get what we want, we have to keep you vertical andviable. Your new friend, District Attorney Conroy, on the other hand, is a different pieceof work. The way he sees it, we kill each other off, the Feds come in and mop up and hesits on top of his rat's nest laughing.”“You're having delusions.”“Do the logic, Mr. Carson. It comes out only one way.”“Okay, Conroy
did 
offer me a deal.”“Some deal. Take it and your career is finished plus you go to jail,
 guaranteed 
-- becauseI'll tell everything I know. Why wouldn't I?”A shadow fell over the Director's face.“Protect yourself, Mr. Carson. Tell Conroy what
 I 
told him -- that it's a good offer andthat you're thinking about it. Meanwhile, we keep our thing going -- I cover you and youcover me. We both get what we want out of this and we let Conroy do his own dirtywork.”“What about the news conference?”“Conroy thinks he's got us both in his back pocket. But he doesn't -- and he doesn't haveWaters, either. Our honorable friend the Attorney General is going to find that out at thenews conference.”“What do you mean?”“Come to the news conference and do what you have been doing; smile, maybe haveyour picture taken with me, let things stay on course -- and I promise you that Conroy isfinished lying and double-dealing. Mr. Carson, help an innocent kid walk, make a bigname for yourself, do the right thing.”“Don't you ever think about normal things, like girls, maybe?”“Every day and every night. All I
want 
are normal things. You've seen my girl, VeraO'Toole. I'm going to go swimming with her this summer, out there, free, where I belong.What about you? Would you rather get screwed or come out of this with the whole bag of tricks?”“Conroy
has
been slimy, hasn't he?”***Johnson Johnson flung open the double doors of the dining hall and stepped aside. Intothe cage of convicts strode authority and social approbation in the persons of Director Carson, Dr. Bridges, Captain O'Toole and Father Colahan. They walked tall, straight,knowing, radiating self-esteem and command. After them came star power: Billy Stoneand Joy Stojak, whose appearance together sent up a hall-wide buzz, and, finally,Congressman Waters.It was the press' first glimpse of Joy since she had run and they descended upon her,hurling questions and poking at her with proboscidian boom mikes. An impromptu photosession erupted. There were shots of Joy and Billy, Billy and Waters, Joy and Waters, andall three smiling and clasping hands. Billy and Joy posed with Director Carson. The other 
 
 panel members, non-branded, slunk unnoticed to their seats.Billy and Joy extricated themselves from the crush of reporters and made their way withsome difficulty to their seats at the head table. “All your questions will be answered,”Billy said. “Just hold on for a few minutes.”Like balls bouncing off a wall, the reporters went off in pursuit of Congressman Waterswho had plunged into the crowd, shaking hands, slapping backs and throwing outcampaign phrases like rose petals.It was just another Billy Stone media event at Granite City School for Boys.While Waters campaigned, Billy and Joy sat beside each other at the head table andtalked. Johnson Johnson kept the press at bay.“Awesome,” Joy said. “Man, there's TV cameras everywhere. All the big stations arehere. Look, there's Jim McGarvey from Channel Nine. We watch him all the time. It'sweird seeing somebody in person that you see on TV. He's short. I thought he was tall.Oh, my God, he's looking right at us!”“Looking at
 you
. All they knew was that you had run. Now, here you are, live and in person. You're hot.”“Weird.”“Yes,” said Billy, smiling for the Channel Nine TV camera, “but it's bigger than just youand me.”“Like how?”“Like money. Like sex. Like murder. Like crooked cops. Like animals in juvenile prison.Like riots on the East Side. Like political reputations.”“Sleazy.”“Yes, but the media can surprise you. Take Debra Florsheim over there.” Billy pointedher out. Pad and pencil in hand, she was in earnest conversation with an East Sidemother. “Unlike Jim McGarvey, she's here for the story. Too bad her paper only caresabout sex, violence, scandal and political dirt.”“By the way, they may not let you out with that tie. Turquoise?”“Vera's idea. I told her it didn't go.”Billy caught Vera's eye as she sat across from them, along with David Weatherall, at thelawyer's table. He waved his tie and gave her an emphatic thumb's down. Smiling, theTransylvanian spitfire responded with a middle finger.Captain O'Toole saw the gesture and his right index finger went to the side of his nose;there was his daughter, in public, with TV cameras and photographers everywhere, andshe has to toss off a bird.With Congressman Waters still working the hall, Debra Florsheim came over to Billy.“What's on the docket?”“Congressman Waters is going to announce a hearing for next week. After that, JudgeSalera signs the release orders. Things are on track. How is your story coming?”

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