I decided it was time to leave the building. Things were getting tense and

I don't think I was going to be able to take it much longer. I was talking to Pickett about the big rig and having a plan to leave the building. Pickett did some checking on the big rig, where it was going and what I would need to do. I would have to ditch the semi and get a new car to drive. I was being transferred back to license plates with Vinny and David so now would be a good time to escape. The first day that I worked with Vinny and David we decided we would go ahead and plan the escape. I had been turned down by the parole board, so now was a good a time as any. There were always shipments that left the prison on Friday, so we decided to plan on November 22, 1963. We found out from Tony Shanks that Vinny's and David's art would be on the truck and Holbrooke is going to sell it and pocket the money. Not bad for someone who knows nothing about art. Vinny, David and I would be loading the truck. Schultz, the warden would be driving the truck. After finishing loading the truck we would get into the cab and wait until Schultz drove away.

     The big days was here and everything was going as planned. Vinny, David and I were loading the truck. After we finished loading, Pickett walked over and started distracting Schultz. We all jumped in the cab and Schultz didn't even notice. A few minutes later Schultz jumped in the cab and started up the semi. The big diesel roared and was headed for the front gate. I sighed quickly when I knew we were outside the gate.  Before I left I wrote a letter to the paper telling them about everything that was going on at the prison. What Holbrooke was up to and how the Buddies were taking over.  

     Schultz got into the cab and he was whistling some stupid country song. After we left the prison I pulled out my .38 and put it up the back of Schultz's head.

     "I've got a gun so no funny business, Schultz."

     "Chambers, is that you?"

     "It's me. So just keep your mouth shut and do what I say."

     "Okay, Chambers anything you say 


The details of the plan were still quite sketchy but they were starting to firm up. The shipments that were leaving the prison were always on a Friday. We decided to plan the escape on November 22, 1963. Coincidentally, President Kennedy was supposed to visit Dallas on the same day. Vinny kept hearing from his cajun friends that something was going down in Dallas, but nobody knew what it was about.

I had to act quickly because we only had three months to work on the escape plan. Vinny, David and I would be loading the truck with all our license plates for the month. Tony said Vinny and David's art would be on the truck. Holbrooke had found a buyer for the art. The truck was going to transport the goods to a buyer on the outside, and Holbrooke would pocket the money. The artwork had commanded a good price and Holbrooke stood to make quite a profit. All this talk about rehabilitation...The one that needed rehabilitation most was the warden.

The gate of the prison was only open for about seven minutes--just long enough for the truck to leave. Schultz was going to be driving the truck, and there would be two stops--one stop to unload the art and another stop in Houston to unload the license plates and other goods on board.


The Buddies had turned into a tight organization and they were gaining strength as time went on. The Buddies were the gang that thrived in the prison.

Reuben and Jake were the ringleaders, and Schultz and the warden were also in on the shenanigans. Reuben and Jake always had good food, while the rest of us ate slop. Schultz would beat people up at will, and fear of the Buddies was rampant.

I was never asked to join, but I was sure they knew what my answer would be.

Vinny and David hated them, and nobody would mess with Tony Shanks. I believed if Tony hadn't been our friend, then we might be dead by now. But Tony wasn't going to be here forever, so I need to find a way out of here on my own.

I decided it was time to escape the prison.

It was September 2, 1963, and the plans for the escape were firming up. The only people that knew about it were Vinny, David, Pickett and Tony Shanks.

The details were sketchy but we were shooting for November 22, 1963. It is a Friday.


Suddenly, I was face to face with Holbrooke. The warden quoted a few passages from the Bible and grabbed his cane.  He asked me how it went with the parole board, and I told him I was declined.

"They want to hear rehabilitation, not someone's art." Holbrooked bellowed.

"If someone is creating something that may earn them an income, then when they get out, wouldn't that be rehabilitation?" I said trying to reason with Holbrooke.

"If Vinny and David's art is not worth anything, then why are you holding it?" I shouted back at Holbrooke.

"It is the property of the prison." Holbrooke barked back.

"Are you going to start up the arts program again." I asked.


"I don't know if I will be able to see you again, so I'm going to tell you about something happened over a year ago. Maybe I'll tell you at another time."

"Suit yourself. Is there anything else you want to say?" Holbrooke inquires.

"After the beating from Schultz and the other Buddies, I was in a coma for three months. After I regained consciousness, I started to write like I never had before. I used to read alot, but I was never much of a writer. But lately, I have been writing so much that I thought there might be something to this. I began to have dreams about Ernest Hemingway, and I decided I am Hemingway reincarnated. I wanted to know if you want to see what I have written.?"

"No, Chambers, I don't."

"So you don't want to help us through our art, you just want us to bang out license plates until our sentence is over."

"That's right, because you are sinners and you need to pay for your wrongs. If that means spending five years in the penitentiary, that's what you should do."

"Okay, Mr. Holbrooke, I can see we don't agree on a lot of things. I'm ready to go back to my cell."

"Schultz, take Mr. Chambers back to his cell."



I rounded the corner and saw the entrance to Holbrooke's office. I walked up the hallway, admiring the plush walls and wondering what Holbrooke must be like these days. No doubt he had rationalized the art theft he had committed as doing the prison some good. The prison owned you, so they can do antyhing they want. Or maybe he found a passage in the bible that said it was okay to take a sinner's possessions.

I was led into the waiting room and stayed there for a few minutes. It looked the same as the last time I was here--the same funky furniture, the same dorky art. Man, this guy was living in a bubble. I overheard him blabbing on the phone to some politician about how prisoners were being rehabilitated. I don't think they knew what the word meant.

Schultz motioned to me, and I went into Holbrooke's office.

"Schutz, I want to speak to Chambers in private. Stand guard outside." 

The Buddies were getting bolder with their rampaging, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd be dealt another beating. Holbrooke agreed to talk to me after several attempts. We would talk on January 4, 1963.

President Kennedy was as popular as ever and the country seemed to be in a good mood. There was a band from England, The Beatles, that was making quite an impact on the music scene. 

I heard Schultz lumbering outside the cell and I wanted to punch him, but I knew I would end up in the cooler.

"Chamers, are you ready to go see Holbrooke?"


Tne next ten months was spent coming up with a game plan to escape the prison. I finally got a schedule of the semi, when it left the yard, what route it took, who drove it, how many guards there were, and where the truck went.

The semi took goods from the prison and distributed them to other parts of the state. Part of the shipment was license plates, which we transported at month's end to the semi and stored them on the turck until it was ready to leave.

I was able to file down some license plates and make them into razor sharp knives. We stored them under a file in the min room in the license plate section. Vinny, David and I knew exactly where to find them whenever we decided to make our escape.

The plan was starting to unfold. 

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