the arrest, Gil Smiggins will lie facedown on the cold concrete floor, his hair unwashed and his head buried in his handcuffed hands. There will be nothing in his holding cell, except a frame of rusty unpainted steel, bolted fast to the wall, and a torn mattress on top of it. They'll tell him that it's his bed, and that it's all he'll get to sleep on. So uncomfortable will it be, he'll end up sleeping on the floor. His walls will be adorned with artwork. Crude sketches of guns and knives, vulgar impressions of genitalia. The odd splash of blood, souvenir of a fight some months earlier, still pungent in smell if you're close enough.
For six weeks, while his case pends, he will receive food and water through a flap in the door, be allowed out for one hour a day, and spend the rest of his time lying on the floor. The single halogen tube in his cell will flicker on every morning at seven-thirty, and flicker off again at nine in the evening. He won't read any books. He won't play any music. He won't write his memoirs. He will lie on the filthy floor, his clothes will grow torn and tattered, his limbs flaccid from disuse. And he will think. Not unusual for a man facing the prospect of imprisonment for many years to come. He will think of all the mistakes he's made, all the people who've betrayed him, and all the misfortunes G-d has brought him.
On one day during the fifth week, the door will open a second time, having already been opened once to let him out for his daily hour. Get up, Mr. Smiggins, an unfamiliar voice will demand. He'll rise stiffly to his feet, dust himself off, sneer derisively at the well-dressed woman entering his cell.
What do you want?
I'll be your legal representative from now on. She'll sit herself down on that thing called a bed, cross her legs smartly, throw an accusatory look at Gil. As if to say, I know you're guilty, I'm only defending you because it's my job. She'll open a black bag, pull out a heavy file. Flip to the summary sheet, read it carefully, as though for the first time.
It is my legal duty to inform you of the following, she'll intone, with a slight but noticeable degree of sarcasm. You have been charged with assault on three counts. You want me to elaborate on the details of these three charges?
Good. Due to the serious nature of the offences, you are required to appear in court with representation. You have the right to silence, but it is strongly recommended that you make a written statement. You cannot -
She'll stop, lift her head up, smile victoriously. Present him with a clipboard and a pen. Sign here, she'll say, tapping a dotted line at the bottom, to confirm that I've told you everything I am required to, and that you understand all of it. He'll sign his name: G. Smiggins. His real name.
Look, he'll begin. It wasn't my fault. I was provoked.
You don't need to tell me, she'll snap. I've read your statement. You said you were… 'betrayed'. Some self-righteous drivel about 'losing your moral benchmark', wasn't it?
I don't think you understand it quite -
I understand what I need to, Mr Smiggins. I'm sure you had your reasons, but quite frankly I don't care to hear them. It's clear to me already that you have no case. I have to defend you as best I can, but don't be surprised when you're carted out of the courtroom with those cuffs still on. Unless, that is, you've got a persuasive argument up your sleeve?
She'll pause, her eyes locked on his, willing him to respond. He won't. He'll look right back at her, silent, completely apathetic. She'll grow impatient, and finally give up waiting. Very well, then, Mr Smiggins. If you've no ideas for raising a good defence, my business with you is done. I'll see you next in court.
She'll rise from that thing called a bed, the springs will groan as she stands up, and she will groan back when she realises how sore they've made her. Have you always been so obnoxious? He'll ask, just before she steps out the door.
Yes, she'll answer straightaway, without hesitation. It's just who I am. I don't believe in pretending to be what I'm not.
Me neither, he'll chuckle. I used to. For many years it was what I lived by. Only now, after I've come full circle, do I realise how foolish I was.
She'll smile at that - her first proper smile in years. Cities rise and fall, things come and go. But people, she'll say. People never change.