- SJF – Chapter 1
- SJF – Chapter 2
- SJF – Chapter 3
- SJF – Chapter 4
- SJF – Chapter 5
- SJF – Chapter 6
- SJF – Chapter 7
- SJF – Chapter 8
- SJF – Chapter 9
- SJF – Chapter 10
- SJF – Chapter 11
- SJF – Chapter 12
- SJF – Chapter 13
- SJF – Chapter 14
- SJF – Chapter 15
- SJF – Chapter 16
- SJF – Chapter 17
- SJF – Chapter 18
- SJF – Chapter 19
- SJF – Chapter 20
- SJF – Chapter 21
- SJF – Chapter 22
- SJF – Chapter 23
- SJF – Chapter 24
- SJF – Chapter 25
After lunch, Dr. Sam and Darius took the elevator back to MTSU for Darius’s dental appointment. “When you finish up with your dental exam, someone other than me will come get you—I’m not sure yet who it will be,” said Dr. Sam. “Whoever it is, they will take you to get your stuff. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Considering he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been to a dentist, Darius’s teeth were in pretty decent shape. X-rays revealed three cavities, all on the left side, which the dentist filled on the spot. The dentist asked Darius about the missing molar on the right side. Darius lied, saying the tooth had broken while eating something. It was easier than telling the truth—the tooth had been knocked out in a fight.
It took just over an hour for the dentist to clean Darius’s teeth and fill the cavities. Thanks to the novocaine, Darius couldn’t feel the left side of his mouth.
Butchie the security guard waited for Darius in the lobby area of MTSU. His uniform had been replaced by a pair of faded jeans and a t-shirt that read “Fuhgetaboutit,” which made Butchie look like a dad on his way to coach a little league game. “Dr. Sam asked me to take ya to pick up yer stuff,” said Butchie.
From the time they left MTSU to the time they got in the car, neither Darius nor Butchie said a word to each other. The car looked just like the one that had been used to drive Darius from the police station to HQ, only this one smelled slightly different. The front passenger seat was also more comfortable than the backseat.
“How’d it go today?” asked Butchie as he pulled the car out of the vehicle pool and into traffic.
“I peed in a cup.”
“Get used to it. You’ll be peein’ in a cup at least once a week.”
“Testin’ for drugs and alcohol.”
“What happens if you fail the test?” Darius asked. Not that it really mattered to him. He didn’t drink or do drugs.
“Depends. If yer a straight employee, ya get fired. Zero tolerance and all. If yer a Chancer, on probation or parole, it’s a violation. You’s goin’ back to da joint.”
The two of them sat in silence for a few more minutes. Not being much of a conversationalist made idle chit chat difficult for Darius. But having entered a new world, he had too many questions to keep quiet.
“What’s a Bit?” Darius asked.
“Where’d ya hear that?” asked Butchie.
“Earlier today, Dr. Sam called me a Bit. So did Maslon.”
“Bit is a two-bit—like a two-bit criminal,” said Butchie. “Lotta guys in Second Chance is Bits. I was a Bit.”
“Is that how you ended up Second Chance?”
“I got into Second Chance way back in the beginnin’—before there was even guys workin’ at HQ. Dr. Sam was startin’ up this rehab program for guys in the joint. Didn’t know at the time what it was about, but I needed something different. Dr. Sam’s a good guy. A stand-up guy. I owe him a lot. I’d been in an outta the joint since I was a kid—younger’n you, even. Worked as hired muscle for big-time guys like the Jester and that crazy broad that useta dress like a spotted cat.”
“You mean Sheetah?” asked Darius.
“Yeah, that’s her. All the big-timers, they’d make ya dress up in some silly outfit. Sheeta made us wear these freakin’ stupid cat masks. The Jester had us wearin’ clown makeup. And then you’d get busted by Nightwatcher or the Incapacitator, and you’d be dressed like a freakin’ idiot cat or a clown, and you’d feel like a tool. Once, I got my ass handed to me by this broad called herself the Ballerina.”
“Yeah, the Ballerina. She was a member of Teen Justice Force.”
“Yeah, cute little thing, wore a pink outfit. But try gettin’ your ass kicked by some chick in pink who’s got legs stronger’n a horse,” said Butchie. “That’s when I knew I needed to change my life. Every freakin’ guy in the joint is lookin’ at me and sayin’, ‘You’s the guy that got clocked by the Ballerina.’ If that ain’t a clear signal that yer life’s gotta change, I don’t know what is.”
The rest of the drive was made in silence, except for Butchie pounding on the horn and screaming profanities in Italian at other drivers. It took them over thirty minutes in traffic to travel the mile or so that separated SJF Headquarters from the place Darius had been calling home, but they may as well have gone to another planet.