Jim's wounds were healing well. He could even sit up now and move around in the room under the supervision of a guard. Breathing became easier too as the swelling went down from his nose although it was still playing in different shade of colors.
It's been two weeks since he got to the hospital ward. Two weeks since Corey had left him. They didn't hear much about the chase that was going on after the fugitives. But the little Mick could share, he did with Jim, who grew silent and cold.
"Hey man," Mick greeted him with a grim expression and Jim paused eating his breakfast. "We need to talk. It seems the bad news are just piling up, man."
"What is it this time?"
"I'm in deep shit. That fucker, Jay told some stuff to my superiors and they are going to start an internal investigation against me."
"Shit. I'm sorry. What are you gonna do?"
"I have an escape plan. You."
Two weeks have already passed as Corey started working in the small diner Debby owned. It was connected to a kind of a middle class motel. With a pool even. Not that Corey was much of a swimmer, though...
He knew he was lucky for some reason ending up there and becoming the chef. He enjoyed cooking food at least. But he didn’t turn out to be the friendliest co-worker... Something died with him along with Jim… Besides… most of the staff looked at him as the new puppy of the owner lady just because the woman stated that this short heavily-tattooed guy was the new boss in the diner, who talked like a truck driver and had a short temper. After the first two days of letting himself be bossed around and looked down, he had it. Debby said he should be the boss in the kitchen and he wanted to do it right. Like how Jim did in the prison kitchen. He wanted to make Jim proud and also Debby too with his cooking and for giving him such a chance.
The customers loved the food. Jim taught him well. At least the special seasoning of the burger meat would live on…
"What do you mean?" Jim frowned, looking at Mick.
"I know you still have your MC connections. I have to get some help to disappear outside. You can give me that. In return I can get you out of here. I wouldn't tag along. Once I got far enough from here, I'd take off."
Jim raised a brow surprised. "And why do you think I'd want to help you. I don't really care about my life anymore."
"Oh come on, man... After everything I did for you?"
The days dragged along and all Corey could think about was Jim. How Jim would do this, how Jim would do that. He buried himself into work and beside the gardener and Debby he let no one close to him to see behind his shield of coldness and acting like an always grumpy, tense, no fun asshole who could use sarcasm very well and his only amusement was to mock and add comments on the others.
He got a kinda okay-ish electric guitar and in the lonely cold nights of his motel apartment he started to write.
Okay, Mick had a good point. He did help Jim a lot during the years and he wasn’t an asshole to blackmail him for his help so Jim guessed he could do this for him. Besides outside would probably be a bit better. There he would be able to think of something else than Corey. Here in the prison everything reminded him of that small redhead. At times it made him pissed, other times sad.
Not to mention the latest news Mick’d brought to Jim. Once he’s be moved back to the block, he’d get cellmate number 9. One of John’s buff men. That’d mean certain death for Jim. Not that he cared that much, but now that another opportunity had presented itself with the officer’s help… He had nothing left here to stay for and even if he gets hunted down, that’s still a better way to go than to get stabbed or choked in a small prison cell.
So once Mick smuggled in a burner phone for Jim, he managed to contact his old MC, calling one of the burners which’s number he knew by heart. They had a few such numbers for emergencies.
While Mick was watching Jim walk to the barred window with the device by his ear, the tall man waited for someone to pick up. When they did, a small wave of nostalgia washed over him hearing a familiar voice wanting to know who it was.
“Hi, Chris… It’s me, Jim. Root. I need your help, man…”
And with that the escape plan started to form. Getting them out was Mick’s task. Jim on the other hand got reassured by his friend, Chris that for what Jim’d done for the MC, they’d handle the rest. They set a date and a meeting point at a safe house, not far from the prison. All they had to do was to get there without being followed and they’d get them vehicles and fake papers.
Actually staying up all night to drink and wreck his fingers on the guitar while drowning in his mourning, then working from dawn till the night was not such a good idea. But Corey couldn't manage any other way. Not yet. And he doubted he could ever get rid of all the feelings of guilt and regret over being the possible cause of Jim Root's death.
At least it helped him to stay in his role of an asshole with everyone.
The waiting was the worst. Although Jim kinda felt dead inside since Corey’d left him, as the day of him being taken back to the cell was coming nearer, he was getting a bit nervous too. Now that his mind was occupied with the escape plan, he didn’t really wish to get back to his new cell mate. Chris, who used to be the third in line – now the vice president of the MC since Jim was sentenced – promised Jim that he’d get back to him in a couple of days once everything was in order.
Meanwhile Mick had started preparing things on his end. He faked a medical paper that said that Jim needed an MR scan outside in a public hospital. Of course the officer would drive him and after knocking the other guard out, they would take off.
But now they had to wait…
Just when Jim was starting to doubt that Chris would get back to him as promised, the phone signaled a text message the day before the date, saying that everything was set.
“You ready, Root? No funny business or I’m gonna have to shoot you,” the other guard who was gonna escort him said while putting on his leg and handcuffs.
Jim didn’t say anything just glared at the guy who then shrugged and probably thought that the quicker they were done with this, the better.
“I’m gonna take over from here. Get in the car, Gus,” Officer Thomson said once they got to the transporter car and the back doors got opened. The other guard nodded then after Jim sat on the bench at the back of the vehicle and his chains were secured to the floor, Mick sighed.
“Look, man… I didn’t want to tell you this right now when we…” he cut himself off with a heavy sigh. Jim had seen it on him that something more was going on than the nervousness of the escape.
“What?” Jim’s empty hazel eyes examined the tense face.
“I just heard the news that they’d caught Rodrigez… Wilson was shot during the chase. But Rodrigez shouted at the police that they’d kidnapped and… killed Corey. Then the asshole blew off his own head, not wanting to get behind bars again…” Mick said and swallowed hard. “I’m sorry… I just thought that you might want to know that they are officially dead now. Maybe on the outside it might bring some closure for you,” Mick tried to give the frozen Jim a reassuring smile and a pat on his shoulder then the heavy doors banged shut and he got locked up in the half-light with his devastating pain.
Corey didn’t leave him. He simply had no choice. And then he was murdered by those assholes. Corey did love Jim after all…
For Corey the free days were the worst. He made friends – kinda – with the gardener guy, Paul to get by somehow. You see, Paul was a silent guy, kind of a loner and liked to drink at bars and play darts and talk about music a lot. He played guitar too, and he was the only one Corey had shown his songs. It was good. Some friendship-like connection where he could be more or less himself and enjoyed someone's company but otherwise no strings attached and they were okay to not talk for days due to work or just due to the closed up nature. Corey knew he would have to get himself together and let go of all the feelings and guilt and start healing if he wanted to stay around... But he was not ready for that yet...
They didn’t follow the set route for long and soon the other guard was knocked out and the door of the van opened. Mick did a quick work on opening the cuffs and a red and puffy-eyed Jim unzipped the orange jumpsuit to reveal the simple street clothes underneath that Mick had smuggled in for him to the hospital wing. A pair of black jeans, a dark green T-shirt and he tossed a black hoodie at Jim too, who quickly zipped it up. Then they hid the car among some bushes, tying up the unconscious guard.
Sliding into the slightly beaten up car Mick had prepared for them, Jim sunk into an even deeper silence, trying his hardest to keep it together. He was wrong to doubt Corey’s feelings for him. Everything was true. And now he was dead, because of Jim. The only person Jim loved more than anyone in his life – including Cristina. Corey’s death was even harder on the tall man. How did he deserve this? Okay, yeah. He’d killed before when it was necessary, but he thought of himself as a decent guy – most of the time. So why was it that everyone he ever cared deeply about in his life had to die around him? Was he cursed or something? He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Life wasn’t fucking fair. He knew it damn well. And it seemed it was going to follow that pattern, no matter what he did. At least he wasn’t going to die in that cell.
It was nightfall by the time Mick stopped in the barn where the rendezvous point was. By then the tall guy informed Chris on the phone that the escape was a success. As they got out of the car, he walked over to the biker with the Vice President patch on his leather-west over his heart and hugged him long, both adding a few pats to the other’s back.
“Jim fucking Root!” Chris said with a smile. “I can’t believe my eyes… It’s so good to see you, my friend.”
“Likewise, man. It’s been too long. The VP position suits you,” he said then nodded to the other two guys with his friend. “This is Mick Thomson. Mick, this is Chris Fehn,” he introduced the guys, for the first time in a while with some emotion in his eyes and voice.
“We appreciate the help, Mick,” Chris said while shaking hands with him. “Jim deserved a better fate after protecting our president’s wife and children with sacrificing himself,” he added, making Jim shrug and Mick look surprised and maybe respect the tall man a bit more.
“I hate to say this, but we don’t have much time. By now they probably realized that we’d escaped,” Jim cleared his throat.
“Yes, yes of course. Here are the fake papers you both will need. Also some cash,” he handed them two envelopes and waved with his hand for them to follow behind some hay bales. “The car is for Mick. Tank is full and it belongs to the name on the fake papers,” he explained to Mick then turned to Jim with a smile, noticing how the hazel and longing eyes were glued to the other vehicle parking there. “Yes, we thought that this would be more stylish,” Chris chuckled looking at the black chopper motorcycle. “It’s a clean one and it’s yours, Jim. Jason’s sign of gratitude.”
“I’ll be damned…” Jim mumbled under his moustache, already walking to the beauty and he caressed the handle, his eyes drinking in every detail. Anyone could see how moved he got, which was no wonder after more than four years. “I thought I’d never ride again…” he said a bit hoarsely.
Another thing that ripped Corey out of his misery was the weekly meetings with Debby. Talking over the storage balance and income. And also how Corey was with his emotions and thoughts.
The owner lady was very understanding and never gave anything out about Corey and their soul-searching sessions. She spoke about his late husband and Corey about how he was trying to cope with everything.
"Why don't you try to form a band with Paul? I see you two get along well in music too," she asked from the redhead during one of those afternoons.
"I don't think it would work out… We are more like two dudes hanging out… Sort of… ‘Cause the others are stupid. Or something like that," Corey chuckled a bit, sipping on the scotch they enjoyed during their conversations. "I started to talk to him ‘cause of his name and quietness, really. Before Jim… I had a guy for years. He was a drug dealer and named Paul too. He was nothing but quiet when someone was around, but had this inner silence in him… You know what I mean? When laughing at the outside but closing up inside?"
"Yeah, I know the type. You must be right. Our Paul is quiet on the outside too but a good guy and very intellectual and good company. What happened to your Paul?"
"He overdosed," Corey said looking out of the window. "I knew he had trouble and couldn't keep his demons at bay. So he quit. It affected me hugely, though. Made me kinda get up and go and do things that were unsettled and bothering me for many years. That's how I ended up meeting Jim actually..."
"Well, here's the chance, my friend," Chris chuckled while watching Jim switch the hoodie to his old beaten-up black leather jacket. Of course his leather-west wasn't there anymore with the patch at the back that would say to which MC he belonged. That would be reckless and an easy way for the police to recognize him. That vest was already put on the honor wall back at their club where dead or important members' pictures or belongings went. Members who did a lot for the MC. And with his sacrifice Jim was one of them.
"Thank you... You know how much this means to me," Jim mumbled under his moustache, zipping the leather-jacket half-way up and slid some cash into his jeans' pocket before putting everything away in the bags at the back of the bike.
"Yep, I know, man. Alright... so. Mick is set to take off then. Afterwards I'll have to talk to you a bit more," Chris said, signaling that it was time for the ex-officer to go. It was a subtle but clear message and for a change the big guy didn't comment on it.
"Yes, I'm gonna hit the road hard. Once again, I appreciate all the help," Mick stepped closer and shook hands with Chris and the other two guys, then went as far as hugging Jim to him. "I'm sorry, man. Thanks again and wishing you the best of luck. You know how to reach me if you want," he added, meaning the burner he'd got only to stay available for Jim.
"I know and thank you too. Wishing you the same. You're quite a decent guy for a former officer," he chuckled a bit, trying not to think of how this could've been if they escaped earlier. When Corey was alive. They could've started a life together somewhere far away from Chicago. Now he'd have to do that alone.
"Alright, I'm off. See you, guys," Mick pulled back, patting Jim's shoulder once more then he got into the car and drove off into the night.
"So what did you want to talk about?" Jim turned back to Chris once the headlights of Mick's car have disappeared too.
"It's about the safe house you asked for. We have one in Iowa up in the mountains. It's secluded enough a few miles from the closest town to be good to get off the grid until the heat dies down. Because they're gonna start a hunt after you like they did about those three who'd escaped your prison earlier this month. That's at least over, but you have to get to Iowa as fast as you can. There still are some details we have to iron out about the location and the right cabin, but we'll get back to you about that once everything is ready for you to move up there. Until then you should lay low somewhere in Iowa. Can you do that, Jim?"
"Sure. I know a few good places to hide in plain sight," he nodded with a neutral expression. Of course Chris had noticed that Jim had changed a lot, but it was no surprise after more than four years in a rough prison.
"Alright, man. Go hit the road, we take care of this car you came with. Good luck and we'll call you as soon as we get a green light from our friends up there," he smiled and the men hugged again before Jim sat on the bike and put on the black helmet.
Needless to say, he got goose bumps the second that beauty came alive between his legs, purring like a big black cat. Waving to the guys once more, he drove off into the night too, lost in thoughts. The route on the map they'd examined earlier was clear in his mind and while enjoying riding again after such a damn long time, he let his emotions go too, his grief making the wind blow tears into his hairline and beard.
It went surprisingly smoothly to get to the border of Iowa on the smaller roads he was to take. Still it took him a few days, making him stop at run down motels or sleep under the starry sky, but he didn't mind. Freedom was starting to crawl under his skin, but he kept focusing on his task, not breaking down just yet. Then finally he turned off the engine in the parking lot of the next motel and got off his bike to stretch his long limbs. It was time to eat something too, so he headed towards the diner first. Checking in under his fake name to rest and sleep for a while could come later. Maybe they got some good burgers.