My first attempt to write REGULATIONÂ 19 fizzled out after 900 words.
It opened with inmateÂ Frank Hinkle finding a screwdriver in the prison yard. This was meant to beginÂ a mini-mystery of how and why the screwdriverÂ got there. Frank would then escape. He’d soon discover that everything in his beloved hometown had changed. I imagined he’d spend the majority of the novel hiding in Will Osmond’sÂ basement Â (I hadn’t thought of Jake or Christine yet) while investigating the mysteries of the town.
I think this first attempt ran out of steam for three reasons.
- I knew I would have to come up with a plausible way for Frank to use the screwdriver to escape, and I couldn’t think of one that didn’t involve him stabbing a guard or two.
- I saw an episode of the TV showÂ Orange is the New Black where an inmate found a screwdriver in the prison yard, which made we hesitant to use that plot device.
- I got bored just thinking about Frank hiding in Will’s basement for 80,000 words.
I recently found those original 900 words, and I thought it would be fun to share them with you. So here you go. This is the REGULATIONÂ 19 that never was. I’ll be back with some further thoughts at the end of the post.
Oh yeah, the story was originally called THE PRISONER. Apparently I blanked on the existence of one of the weirdest/coolest shows of all time.
Here’s the story:
Five years, four months, and seventeen days into his incarceration at Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee, Frank Hinkle found a screwdriver lying on the ground in the yard.
The find was so unexpected that Frank had to blink hard to be sure he wasn’t imagining the object.Â Such things simply didn’t happen at NECX. This was a maximum security facility, and the staff, from the warden on down to the freshest rookie C.O., all took that designation seriously. Rules were followed here. Lists were checked and double-checked to ensure no item was out of place. Precaution followed redundant precaution. Human error seemed to have been squeezed out of the staff like water from a dish rag, along with humor, personality, and compassion.
Before Frank arrived at NECX, the possibility of escape always loomed in the back of his mind. In theÂ months he spent in the county jail leading up to and during his trial, he assumed that when he arrived at his final destination he would find a way out.Â A single week in NECX had stifled those vague but persistent dreams. They were simply too facetious here.Â There would be no screw-ups, no loopholes, and no escapes. He had resigned himself to his fate shockingly quickly.
Yet there it was. A Phillips-head screwdriver lying in the grass for anyone to take. Even a stone cold hard-ass like Frank. A man so bad, they had decided to lock him up for life rather than expose the general population to his presence.
There was only one thing to do, and Frank did it. He picked up the screwdriver and slid it up the sleeve of his orange jumpsuit.
The metal was cold against the skin of his forearm, and with the cold came a kind of awakening. Prison makes some men harder, but Frank had experienced an almost opposite reaction. In his five plus years, he had grown somehow dimmer. The fiery anger he had felt since boyhood was nothing more than a dull annoyance now. He spent most of his time figuring out how to get through the day without friction from the C.O.s. and his fellow prisoners. While some men spent their prison terms bulking up in the weight room, the formerly fit Frank Hinkle had grown somehow both skinny and flabby at the same time.
But the cold bite of the screwdriver awoke something primal within the long docile prisoner. It felt like possibility.
In a world without options, the screwdriver gave him some. Sure, it was the Cadillac of shanks. But, even more than that, it was tool. A thing designed for a specific task, but unable to fulfill its destiny without a hand to guide it.
Frank felt that lump against his inner arm, and he felt the synapses of his imagination fire for the first time in God only knew how long. This thing was more than a tool or a weapon; it was a bucket of cold water in the face.
Frank wasn’t fully awake yet, but he was well on his way.
Frank killed three men, but the murderÂ they got him for was the most vicious of the three. It was also the only one he had tried to cover up, which ended up making it look worse to the jury. The prosecutors had presented a compelling story of a premeditated revenge killing. The evidence fell just how they needed it to, and Frank had to admit that the deliberation wouldn’t have taken long if he had been one of the twelve sitting that jury. Still, evidence or not, the man the prosecutors described was unrecognizable to Frank. They told of a twisted but brilliant criminal mind that worked several steps ahead of both his victim and the law. That he had been caught at all, the lawyers seemed to imply, was a miraculous combination of both luck and good old fashion police work.
The truth of the case was far simpler. The killing, like all of Frankâ€™s previous crimes, was one of passion, neither premeditated nor expertly executed. Frank had cleaned up after himself, sure, but that was only because he had grown a little paranoid recently after watching hours of blood-splatter experts and crime-scene investigators on television. He wasn’t sure what kind of sci-fi level knowledgeÂ they could infer from a single fiber from his socks or something these days.
This after sloppily killing two people and not so much as being called in for questioning.
Either way, the third time did seem to be the charm for the Johnson City Police Department, and he was brought in the very next day. While clothing fibers were never mentioned during his trial, there was a lot of talk about the angle of attack and even a brief discussion of blood splatter.
In the end, the way the trial went down seemed like bad luck. But Frank couldn’t complain too loudly. After all, it had been mighty bad luck for Donovan Chambers that a tire iron had been laying near Frankâ€™s hand on the occasion of their heated discussion. If it had been something a bit lighter, say a timing belt or something, the day mightÂ have ended a lot more pleasantly for both of them.
The possibilities, what was and what might have been, made Frankâ€™s head hurt. Mostly he didn’t like to think about it.
There she is. The REGULATION 19 that never was.
- There are some nice bits in there. I like the line ‘It was the Cadillac of shanks’.
- In this version Frank is much more of a hardcore killer. We learn right away that he’s Â committed three murders. There was a reason for this. Late in the story, Frank was going to discover that the shadowy government types (I hadn’t thought of Zed yet) planted false memories in his head to make him think he’d killed those people. In fact, no one in NECX had committed a crime at all. Every man in the prison was dangerous to the government in some way, and they all had been framed and even convinced of their own guilt. It was a neat idea, but in the end I decided it wasn’t fair to the reader to have Frank wrestle with his past the majority of the book and then later reveal those past events never happened.
- The killings aside, even in that brief passage, Frank was still Frank. His personality is there.
I’m glad I made the decision to throw out this version and start from scratch, but it’s fun to look back and think what might have been and what almost was.