The image burns through Jason’s mind as he stares at it – the grainy, dark image that threatens the rest of his life, upon which balances his fragile future. The man at the desk on the screen carries on talking. He speaks of a frenzied attack that left two people injured, and the suspects fled. This is the only picture the police found, apparently, but they are working on it. Jason knew straight away that it is him in the image, and now he is starting to panic – it wasn’t him that had done it, but he was there and that could be more than enough for him to be severely punished at the hands of the judicial system.
“The police have urged anyone with any information on who this man might be to contact them on 101, or call the independent, anonymous line at Crimestoppers,” the man on the screen reads.
Jason lets out a snigger. A photograph with a resolution like that would achieve nothing, and he is confident that he can get away with this. He picks up his phone that lays on the chair next to him and calls his daughter. As always, there is no response to his call. Her mother had left Jason very early on, after Jason grew a temper and some dangerous habits. He blames them for it all, and regularly wishes that he could turn back the clock and never take that first hit, but it’s too late now. This photo makes him think, though. He thinks about his daughter, with her big brown eyes and her curly locks, the way she smiles when he sings to her (well, she used to at least) and the dreams he has for her future. She is a bonny little thing, and he wants her to stay that way, but living with a far from perfect mother like hers and an absent, aggressive father was not standing her in good stead.
Jason maintains that he does it all for her, when he goes out and does things that land his face in the news. He’s always worn decent disguises before, but this time was different – he hadn’t planned to be caught being involved at all, let alone on camera the way he had. His child would understand one day. She would understand that her father does all of this to bring her a better life, to build some funds for her future, her education or equipment to kick-start whichever career she may choose to pursue. But the money always disappears…
Staring harder at that photograph having paused the screen, Jason feels a desire rising within him. A desire to deviate from the path he’s on and begin all over again. He promises himself that this year will be for change. That he will stray so far from his current lifestyle that the man in the picture will no longer be him, he will be nothing but an echo of the past, an alternative ending.
His phone rings.
“Jason,” he answers.
“Jase, it’s me,” the familiar voice speaks shakily. “Have you seen it, Jase?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it, V. It’s nothing, have you looked at it? Even the police made a point of saying they knew it was a crap resolution when they put it on their Facebook page. Part of me wanted to like it.”
“Not that one, mate.”
“What one then?”
“The other one, the new one, the one of the car.”
“What one of a car? What car? I don’t even know about anything of a car!”
Jason feels the familiar sensation of anger building inside him. V has a stupid voice anyway, and he’s an idiot. Coming out with stuff about a picture of a car? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“Shut up, Jase, I was trying to help you. Last time I do that.”
Vince hangs up the phone and Jason swears to himself, beginning to desperately search for this picture of the car. It didn’t take long to find, it was being shared everywhere. Why did they have to do this in that village, in that shop? Yes, there were less cameras but seriously, nobody in the city would have cared, it would have just been yet another basic robbery, but here they had the snotty people complaining to the managers of the police force to get things investigated more thoroughly or something.
Jason began to accept the end of his life. Death can come in an instant, but it wasn’t going to for him. He was to be subjected for years, maybe even decades of confinement, the point of no return. His daughter would remain fatherless and he would be yet another statistic, a number on a spreadsheet, labelled for life.
His trial comes around eventually, and Jason takes the stand, his hands still shaking the same as they had when he had stopped it all. He is no longer withdrawing, but the effects seemed to linger for longer than necessary. He feels that is just his luck.
“Do you have any remorse at all for what you did?”
“I do, sir. I really do. At the time it was all to get the money so I could buy what I needed to get through the day, you know. And that was it. It’s not how you might think, it’s not an easy ride, we’re not looking for trouble. But once you’re in that trap, there really is no way out.”
The jury listens intently before disappearing to decide Jason’s fate. He refuses to name the others, and as he stands there he thinks about them, the ones who actually did do the terrible things that day, going about their lives as they please. He had made such promises to himself, and to his daughter, inside his own head, and yet here he is, his life teetering between two very different paths.
They decide it was him. They have no trouble delivering their verdict – despite the grainy quality of that original photograph, the technology assessed that it was him, based on the makeup of his bone structure, and that was almost enough on its own. If it wasn’t for Vince inflicting what he had on that man, Jason wouldn’t be in this situation, but he still can’t bring himself to disclose who he was with, it would go against every cell in his body.
He looks at the judge sheepishly.
“Then I can start again?”
“And think about your choices next time.”