CRAIS: THE TWO MINUTE RULE
86 DAYS LATER
too old. Forty-six isn't old, these
days. You got a world of time to
make a life for yourself."
Holman didn't answer. He was trying to decide how best
to pack. The entirety of his
personal possessions were spread out
on the bed, all neatly folded: four
white T-shirts, three Hanes briefs,
four pair of white socks, two
short-sleeved shirts (one beige, one
plaid), one pair of khaki pants,
plus the clothes he had been wearing
when he was arrested for bank
robbery ten years, three months, and
four days ago.
"Max, you listening?"
"I gotta get this stuff packed. Lemme ask you
something--you think I should keep
my old stuff, from before? I don't
know as I'll ever get into those
Wally Figg, who ran the Community Correctional Center,
which was kind of a halfway house
for federal prisoners, stepped
forward to eye the pants. He picked
them up, and held them next to
cream-colored slacks still bore
scuff marks from when the police had
wrestled Holman to the floor in the
First United California Bank ten
years plus three months ago. Wally
admired the material.
"That's a nice cut, man. What is it, Italian?"
Wally nodded, impressed.
"I'd keep'm, I was you. Be a shame to lose something
"I got four inches more in the waist now than back
In the day, Holman had lived large. He stole cars,
hijacked trucks, and robbed banks.
Fat with fast cash, he hoovered up
crystal meth for breakfast and
Maker’s Mark for lunch, so jittery
from dope and hung over from booze
he rarely bothered to eat. He had
gained weight in prison.
Wally refolded the pants.
"Was me, I'd keep'm. You'll get yourself in shape
again. Give yourself something to
shoot for, gettin' back in these
Holman tossed them to Wally. Wally was smaller.
"Better to leave the past behind."
Wally admired the slacks, then looked sadly at Holman.
"You know I can't. We can't accept anything from the
residents. I'll pass'm along to one
of the other guys, you want. Or
give'm to Goodwill."
"You got a preference, who I should give'm to?"
Holman went back to staring at his clothes. His
suitcase was an Albertsons grocery
bag. Technically, Max Holman was
still incarcerated, but in another
hour he would be a free man. You
finish a federal stretch, they don't
just cross off the last X and cut
you loose; being released from
federal custody happened in stages.
They started you off with six months
in an Intensive Confinement Center
where you got field trips into the
outside world, behavioral
counseling, additional drug
counseling if you needed it, that
kind of thing, after which you
graduated to a Community
Correctional Center where they let
you live and work in a community
with real live civilians. In the
final stages of his release program,
Holman had spent the past three
months at the CCC in Venice,
California, a beach community
sandwiched between Santa Monica and
Marina del Rey, preparing himself
for his release. As of today, Holman
would be released from full-time
federal custody into what was known
as supervised release--he would be a
free man for the first time in ten
Wally said, "Well, okay, I'm gonna go get the papers
together. I'm proud of you, Max.
This is a big day. I'm really happy
Holman layered his clothes in the bag. With the help of
his Bureau of Prisons transition
supervisor, Gail Manelli, he had
secured a room in a resident motel
and a job; the room would cost sixty
dollars a week, the job would pay a
hundred-seventy-two fifty after
taxes. A big day.
Wally clapped him on the back.
"I'll be in the office whenever you're ready to go.
Hey, you know what I did, kind of a
going away present?"
Holman glanced at him.
Wally slipped a business card from his pocket and gave
it to Holman. The card showed a
picture of an antique time piece.
Salvadore Jimenez, repairs, fine
watches bought and sold, Culver
City, California. Wally
explained as Holman read the card.
"My wife's cousin has this little place. He fixes
watches. I figured maybe you havin'
a job and all, you'd want to get
your old man's watch fixed. You want
to see Sally you lemme know, I'll
make sure he gives you a price."
Holman slipped the card into his pocket. He wore a
cheap Timex with an expandable band
that hadn't worked in twenty years.
In the day, Holman had worn an
eighteen thousand dollar Patek
Phillippe he stole from a car fence
named Oscar Reyes. Reyes had tried
to short him on a stolen Carrera, so
Holman had choked the sonofabitch
until he passed out. But that was
then. Now, Holman wore the Timex
even though its hands were frozen.
The Timex had belonged to his
"Thanks, Wally, thanks a lot. I was going to do that."
"A watch that don't keep time ain't much good to you."
"I have something in mind for it, so this will help."
"You let me know. I'll make sure he gives you a price."
"Sure. Thanks. Let me get packed up here, okay?"
Wally left as Holman returned to his packing. He had
the clothes, three hundred twelve
dollars that he had earned during
his incarceration, and his father's
watch. He did not have a car or a
driver's license or friends or
family to pick him up upon his
release. Wally was going to give him
a ride to his motel. After that,
Holman would be on his own with the
Los Angeles public transportation
system and a watch that didn't work.
Holman went to his bureau for the picture of his son.
Richie's picture was the first thing
he had put in the room here at the
CCC, and it would be the last thing
he packed when he left. It showed
his son at the age of eight, a
gap-toothed kid with a buzz cut,
dark skin, and serious eyes; his
child's body already thickening with
Holman's neck and shoulders. The
last time Holman actually saw the
boy was his son's twelfth birthday,
Holman flush with cash from flipping
two stolen Corvettes in San Diego,
showing up blind drunk a day too
late, the boy's mother, Donna,
taking the two thousand he offered
too little too late by way of the
child support he never paid and on
which he was always behind. Donna
had sent him the old picture during
his second year of incarceration, a
guilty spasm because she wouldn't
bring the boy to visit Holman in
prison, wouldn't let the boy speak
to Holman on the phone, and wouldn't
pass on Holman's letters, such as
they were, however few and far
between, keeping the boy out of
Holman's life. Holman no longer
blamed her for that. She had done
all right by the boy with no help
from him. His son had made something
of himself, and Holman was goddamned
proud of that.
Holman placed the picture flat into the bag, then
covered it with the remaining
clothes to keep it safe. He glanced
around the room. It didn't look so
very different than it had an hour
ago before he started.
He said, "Well, I guess that's it."
He told himself to leave, but didn't. He sat on the
side of the bed instead. It was a
big day, but the weight of it left
him feeling heavy. He was going to
get settled in his new room, check
in with his release supervisor, then
try to find Donna. It had been two
years since her last note, not that
she had ever written all that much
anyway, but the five letters he had
written to her since had all been
returned, no longer at this address.
Holman figured she had gotten
married, and the new guy probably
didn't want her convicted felon
boyfriend messing in their life.
Holman didn't blame her for that,
either. They had never married, but
they did have the boy together and
that had to be worth something even
if she hated him. Holman wanted to
apologize and let her know he had
changed. If she had a new life,
well, he wanted to wish her well
with it, and then he wanted to get
on with his. Eight or nine years ago
when he thought about this day he
saw himself running out the
goddamned door, but now he just sat
on the bed. Holman was still sitting
when Wally came back.
Wally stood in the door like he was scared to come in.
His face was pale and he kept
wetting his lips.
Holman said, "What's wrong? Wally, you having a heart
Wally closed the door. He glanced at a little note pad
like something was on it he didn't
have right. He was visibly shaken.
"You have a son, right? Richie?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"What's his full name?"
"Richard Dale Holman."
Holman stood. He didn't like the way Wally was
fidgeting and licking his lips.
"You know I have a boy. You've seen his picture."
"He's a kid."
"He'd be twenty-three now. He's twenty-three. Why you
want to know about this?"
"Max, listen, is he a police officer? Here in L.A.?"
Wally came over and touched Holman's arm with fingers
as light as a breath.
"It's bad, Max. I have some bad news now and I want you
to get ready for it.”
Wally searched Holman’s eyes as if he wanted a sign, so
“Okay, Wally. What?”
“He was killed last night. I'm sorry, man. I'm really
Holman heard the words; he saw the pain in Wally’s eyes
and felt the concern in Wally’s
touch, but Wally and the room and
the world left Holman behind like
one car pulling away from another on
a flat desert highway, Holman
hitting the brakes, Wally hitting
the gas, Holman watching the world
Then he caught up and fought down an empty, terrible
"I don't know, Max. There was a call from the Bureau of
Prisons when I went for your papers.
They didn't have much to say. They
wasn't even sure it was you or if
you were still here."
Holman sat down again and this time Wally sat beside
him. Holman had wanted to look up
his son after he spoke with Donna.
That last time he saw the boy, just
two months before Holman was pinched
in the bank gig, the boy had told
him to fuck off, running alongside
the car as Holman drove away, eyes
wet and bulging, screaming that
Holman was a loser, screaming fuck
off, you loser. Holman still dreamed
about it. Now here they were and
Holman was left with the empty sense
that everything he had been moving
to for the past ten years had come
to a drifting stop like a ship that
had lost its way.
Wally said, "You want to cry, it's okay."
Holman didn't cry. He wanted to know who did it.
© 2006 by Robert Crais