Maytime Migration by Cade Palmer

May 1st, 1946: 

At the beginning of the fifth month, all eyes on Alcatraz Island were turned to the Maybeck family and their unrelenting pursuit of some illustrious criminal that explained Mac’s disappearance just one week before. The childhood curfew warnings of an escaped prisoner who lurked on the island after dark seemed far too recycled to come to fruition. Then again, none of the onlookers could provide a believable alternative. 

Sergeant Maybeck and the surly Vanna Maybeck had just arrived on Alcatraz in the winter term following his transfer from Colorado Maximum Security Prison. Their home still smelled of sawdust and mortar, and their arrival brought a crack-down on prisoner disobedience. The strict sergeant had imposed an iron grip on the prison, doubling the guard force and overhauling much of the quality of life the inmates had enjoyed. 

May 4th, 1946:

           There was a certain quiet contemplation of the Maybecks’ theory in the employee housing block. Even the seagulls atop the shore-side crags seemed to give their home a look of castigation from their perches. Inside, Mrs. Maybeck has cast aside her grueling studies to throw herself into the case. The popular assumption saw their boy walk too close to the edge and stumble down into the bay. His mother could never accept his body had simply drifted out of reach.

           Hunched over her husband’s files, with nothing but a cold espresso to sustain her, she scoured the prison records for a likely culprit. Cited for misbehavior or disorderly conduct in the last thirty days: Martin Eklund (#45), Baxter Kohl (#14), Victor Inoue (#114), Jack Jacobson (#102), and Antônio Maldonado (#38). Eklund and Maldonado were both moved to solitary confinement the night Mac was last seen. Kohl, Inoue, and Jacobson. Three suspects, already behind bars, and one of them had stolen her child away from her. 

May 5th, 1946 (Baxter Kohl): 

Vanna Maybeck had spent her Sunday morning coordinating a meeting with one of the prison’s most infamous inmates. After many appeals to the Warden’s office, it was finally the new associate captain of the guard, Eli Cosby, who was standing in for the absence of his predecessor, Vincent Ruccio. Cosby got her clearance to the C-street cells to speak with Baxter Kohl in person. A tall man, Cosby was about 6’3” from what she could see. He wore a tight crimson scarf around his neck that seemed almost too tight for comfort. 

When the two arrived at the cell, they saw the same standard layout as any other, a stale cot, wash stand, toilet, and a plastic mirror bolted to the wall. She could see light signs of age but none of escape; everything was in its rightful place, except Kohl. Vanna turned to her guide, a note of panic laced in her expression.

“Pardon me Mr. Cosby, I am most appreciative of your help, however, I can’t help but wonder just how you’ve led me to an empty cell with no concern for where Baxter Kohl might be.”

A smile edged on his lips, “I gather you and your husband don’t spend much time in the facility, it’s a recreational period, the prisoners are outside.”

“Oh… I see.” Vanna stepped away from the cell, her gaze veering away from Cosby.

“In any case, I’d like to see the next prisoner now, Mr. Cosby, if you don’t mind.”

“Right this way, D-block should be back by now.” He beckoned her down a shadowed side hall.

May 5th, 1946 (Victor Inoue):

Their footsteps echoed with careful coordination; the rigid hall seemed to pace with them, leading the two farther on. When they finally reached the end of the hall, two metal stairways extended in either direction. Cosby stepped forward, gesturing left, his eyes gently urging her forward. In the first cell, a thin and pallid figure hunched on his knees over the end of the bed. 

Cosby leaned closer, “That’s your guy, he’s a little worse for wear but I’m sure you can get a few words in.” 

Mrs. Maybeck stepped forward, taking the key from Cosby and opening the lock. “I have a few questions to ask you sir, would that be okay?” Vanna shrunk into the cell with the man. He said nothing, eyes trained on the space between his feet like a hunter on a prize catch, the left lid wavering ever so slightly.

Cosby appeared next to her. “Victor? Do you know anything about a child’s disappearance a week ago? Anyone involved? It’s okay to tell me.” Victor’s left lid shuddered closed. After one more minute to no avail, Vanna stepped back outside with Cosby.

“Looks like a lost cause,” he said, not attempting to hide his pitied gaze.

“Let me talk to him; maybe it’s your position that put his guard up.” Cosby gave her a reluctant nod and moved a few feet down the hall out of Victor’s view. 

“Mr. Inoue, please, tell me something you’ve heard.” His hand gripped his shaking thigh, head bowed.

He mumbled faintly, “Fowl near a guard’s home, two watch the sun fall at noon, the perch empties soon.”

Outside, Vanna sighed dramatically, “He gave me some poetry.”

“Jacobson then?” Cosby implored. She returned with a resigned nod, straightening her jacket with the palms of her hands. 

May 5th, 1946 (Jack Jacobson):

“Another one? What kind of handle does your staff have on the inmates here?” Mrs. Maybeck stared into the empty cell. 

“I have no way of knowing where #102 is at the moment. He could have been taken out for a routine medical checkup or followup on his misconduct citation. I hope you’ll understand.”

She sighed, “Alright, I’m going to ask around in the cafeteria if you don’t mind, thank you for your help. I’m in your debt Mr. Cosby.”

“It was my pleasure Mrs. Maybeck, you take care of yourself.” 

May 5th, 1946:

The prisoners were just starting to file in for lunch, a hollow well-lit room with sprinklers on the ceiling and guards stationed at every support pillar around the perimeter. An aged man with a “set” of wispy eyebrows and a chiseled scowl whirls from one kitchen appliance to another, all the while barking orders to a sweating sous chef. Catching her gaze, he seems to understand her intentions without a word, beckoning her into a side room away from the mass. 

“Hello, my name is Vanna Maybeck. My husband recently started as head sergeant here. I can see you’re busy so-”

“Mrs. Maybeck, please, take a moment. You can call me Peck and I promise I’ll tell you what you need, but I think it’s best if you get off your feet.” The stern looking chef’s appearance melted away, and he offered her a seat in front of his desk. 

“Excuse me, I’m very worried about my son,” she breathed out her pent up frustration.

“Which I understand, I happen to know quite a bit about the goings on in this prison, so don’t hold back.” Just then, Mrs. Maybeck’s eyes drifted to a prison roster on top of an unruly stack of papers. She reached forward out of curiosity and began shifting through the roster. He didn’t move to stop her so she kept going: eyes shifting down, right, down again, and finally up to the man behind the desk.

“Mr… Peck, do you know anything about an inmate named Jack Jacobson or Baxter Kohl?”

“Just Peck, I knew Kohl. A real quiet guy, not very popular, word was he got let out about two weeks back. As for Jacobson, I must say I’m surprised you mentioned a name I don’t know. Is he a new bird around here?”

“I-don’t think so…no.” Vanna pushed her chair back in a hurry. “Thank you Peck.”

“Sure thing Mrs. Maybeck, let me know-” He started, but she was already out the door. 

May 6th, 1946:

A loud buzz sounded from the jail across the guard housing. Rise and shine for the inmates, but Vanna Maybeck was already awake. With a stale piece of toast and a packet of commercial jam, she examines the documents that led her to the suspects. Everything checks out, the papers are official. Who would have access to her husband’s documents anyways? Though upon closer inspection, there is a slight etch around Jacobson’s name which seems to have been pasted in as an afterthought. That moment, the front door swings open and Mr. Maybeck comes in at full stride. Slowing behind her to examine the papers, he pats Vanna on the shoulder. 

“I’m going to a conference in the city tomorrow. The boat leaves at 12:00.” He disappears into their bedroom without another word. Victor spoke of “Fowl…at noon,” but why as a poem? With no significant leads, Vanna conceded to the only string she could see. She’d ride the citybound ferry at noon, eyes peeled for a set of ‘birds’ onboard. 

May 7th, 1946:

A gilded steamboat docked, with impractical capacity for the fifteen odd prison officials who stood idly by. The entire accounting office was bound to a financial meeting with the out of prison faculty. Then of course there were the Maybecks and Mr. Cosby. The bellow of their vessel sounded and the entourage of business attire shifted forward. A quiet static embraced the bay, the seabirds’ orchestra disbanded by this hour. 

The main hull of the boat smelled of a grimy seaport washed with a heavy scent of cigarette smoke. The waves lapped against the side gently; no voice dared to assert above the soundless congregation. Briefcase locks clicked, pens scratched  against paper, an older gentleman coughed at the end of the room. The only interruption was Cosby standing to excuse himself for a smoke every five minutes or so. His return brought a naval aroma each time the chamber door opened. After around ten of these rotations, the outline of the dock emerged from the fog. 

Another bellow, and the crowd filed off in orderly fashion. Mrs. Maybeck followed suit, a blinding view seeping through the door, with the towers of San Francisco stacked atop their winding foundation. 

A shout from the docks below called out to her, “Mrs Maybeck! I’ve left my suitcase! Could you be bothered to grab it for me? It’s a brown leather suitcase with a “V” on the buckle.” It was Mr. Cosby, apologetically waving up to her. She obliged, though when she found the case it weighed much heavier in her hands than anticipated. Pushing her own bag along with her foot, Vanna inched forward, using the weighty suitcase to propel herself down the boarding ramp. To the side of the dissipating crowd, Cosby waved once more, laughing a little under his breath. When he relieved her burden, Mr. Cosby shook her hand intently.

“I really can’t thank you enough Vanna, you’ve been a great help.”

Collecting her breath, Mrs. Maybeck smiled warmly. “It’s honestly the least I could do, though I must ask, what could you possibly have in that suitcase? A pile of rocks?”

Mr. Cosby chuckled, “Well you know what they say, curiosity killed the duck!”

“I think it’s ‘the cat’.” 

“Is it now?” he pondered.

The final bellow blew and Cosby gave her a shallow bow, turning to leave. His formal figure retreated down the Embarcadero, and the surly Mrs. Maybeck stepped back onboard.