The Run


The move came after breakfast, while the prisoners were waiting for the Sheriff’s van to take them to court. Always a hold-up. If not the van then paperwork, or the prisoners themselves needing piss breaks or pussy plugs or some piece of vital correspondence they’d left in their cell. You could make enemies by making people wait. But then Maggie Zito already had enemies.

Six women in the morning run. Maggie was always prompt. She wanted to get to the courthouse. Better food, better conversation. You caught the breeze of real life. More than that, though, court was where her future was being decided. Damn right she wanted to be there. She knew the woman causing the hold-up only as Mar. A new transfer, neither of them interested in the other’s story. They weren’t going to become friends. The others waited. Jensen, O’Doul, Shuckey and Truong. O’Doul shuffled in place, restless. Jensen leaned against the wall, bored and sleepy but eyes open.

Maggie was cautious the moment the cell doors opened, doubly cautious in the showers. She stared at no one, moved efficiently, caused no disruptions.

Jensen was the most like her. The woman seemed lost in the details of her case, the way Maggie imagined herself to look. Jensen was in on some sort of extortion charge. Her trial had been going on for months. The guards were friendly to her.

When the lockdown siren went off, the COs made the prisoners prone themselves on the floor. Five starfishes, five downward facing snow angels, waiting for the scuffle in B Pod to end. A throng of guards stomped past them.

Maggie was thinking about whether this would delay the run. She didn’t see Jensen make a nose blowing gesture which the guards overlooked. She didn’t see the object which slipped from Jensen’s sleeve into her palm. Pages torn from magazines, rolled tightly, soaked with saltwater, then baked until hardened into a dowel. Sharpened into a slender stabbing tool.

Lockdown ended. They were allowed to stand up. The guards concerned themselves with locating Mar. Jensen sprang up a little faster than usual, like someone executing a burpee.

The strike was aimed at the organs beneath the ribs but Maggie was in motion herself, standing up, and Jensen overcompensated, driving the tool into Maggie’s right armpit. Her left hand sought purchase on Maggie’s left hip. The tool drawn out and driven in again at a sharper angle.

The weapon wasn’t built for repeat use. By the time Jensen drove it in for a third time the tip had broken off. Maggie turned. She fought, unable to stop the shiv but redirecting it into her forearm. She rolled, dislodging Jensen, who surrendered. Her job done. An officer pinned her. The room was flooded with reinforcements from the observation area.

Maggie struck out feebly at the guards who tried to examine her. Blood loss and adrenaline, ears full of the pounding in her skull. To their credit the guards recognized an injured animal caught in fight-or-flight. They stopped her flailing and put pressure on the wounds. When she lost consciousness, they prepped her for the medical bay.

Her wounds were closed, anesthetic given. Maggie was transported to Surrey Memorial. During her first surgery, a segment of hardened, salted paper was removed from her right ventrical. The cardiac specialist who removed it proclaimed it the damnedest papercut she’d ever seen.

Jensen was separated, new charges added to her case. Her statement was taken down. The weapon was Maggie’s. Jensen merely defended herself. When it was pointed out the footage from the cameras didn’t correspond to her version of events, Jensen shrugged. She remembered it her way.

While Maggie’s family waited for the outcome of her second surgery, a man walked into a consignment store in the Kitsilano neighborhood. He asked for Brian Jensen. The seventeen year-old hadn’t visited his mother in over a year. Too busy trying to earn next year’s tuition. Their last chat had been virtual, on Mothers Day.

Brian Jensen had no idea how the man knew his name, or why the man passed him an old Safeway bag. Inside were seventy soiled hundred-dollar bills.

~ fin ~


Sam Wiebe is the author of the Wakeland novels, one of the most authentic and acclaimed contemporary detective series. His work has won the Crime Writers of Canada award and the Kobo Emerging Writers prize, and been shortlisted for the Edgar, Hammett, Shamus, Independent Publisher, and City of Vancouver book prizes. His latest novel, Ocean Drive, is a standalone crime thriller described as “a Pacific Northwest Fargo.”

Wiebe also writes (allegedly) as Nolan Chase, whose first mystery novel, A Lonesome Place for Dying, comes out May 2024.