This is the fifth installment of Fictionalizing the News, a writing exercise I set for myself where I write a short story based on an article in the news. Please be aware as you read this, that though it is based on an actual event, I am not attempting to describe reality or tell the truth in any way, it is just a story that I made up. The characters in this story may have names that correspond to those of real people, but they are entirely fictional. I call this story The Early Release and it is based on this article.

Afternoon of November 12, 2016, court clerk Thompson looked over the sentencing order one last time, printed it, then placed in her outbox with a small post-it note marking it for Justice Cunningham. She sat back down in front of her computer and brought up the Court Document Retrieval System. “Ok, let’s see here” she mumbled under her breath then started to navigated the antiquated file system in search of the next order. “Ah, There we go,” she commented to herself as she checked out the PDF-file for case 20165634 and started reading it through.

Blackfriars Crown Court, London.
Date 11-11-2016.
Presiding judge: Justice Abigail Cunningham
Director of Public Prosecutions: Micheal Huxley
Defendant: Ralston Dodd, born 22/06/1991, of Harrow, London
Complainant: Jerrell Holland, born 07/04/1995, of Islington, London

Description of circumstances:
Director of Public Prosecutions Micheal Huxley states that: On the night of September 18, the defendant Ralston Dodd and Complainant Jerrell Holland, who at the time did not know each other, met by chance in Laycock Street Islington. The two got involved in a heated argument wherein the defendant was acting exceedingly aggressively. In an attempt to de-escalate the situation , the complainant turned around and started to walk away from the defendant, whereupon the defendant attacked him and stabbed him a total of three times in the back using a knife (filed as evidence, ref. 20165634-2). Complainant is currently hospitalized due to his injuries.

Due to the nature of the crime as laid forth by Director of Public Prosecutions, the defendant is charged with attempted murder as well as causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

The defendant has pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent and is hereby sentenced to nine 

At this point, Thompson’s colleague Caroline O’Donnell walked in through the half-open door of her office. “Good afternoon Lillian, how ’bout a cuppa tea?” “Sure Caroline, let me just finish this file,” Thompson replied, turning back to the screen. “Oh, finish it later, the tea is already brewing,” her colleague urged. “Alright,” Lillian replied, “I have time” and with that she locked the computer then got up from the chair. The two women sauntered off towards the little pantry, chatting about the mundane things people normally talk about during tea breaks.

Roughly twenty minutes later, clerk Thompson was back at her desk finishing off case 20165634, she continued reading where she had left off, not noticing that where it should have said that the defendant was sentenced to nine years in prison, it said nine months. With the routine of someone who had been doing the same job over and over again for several years, she calculated the dates of incarceration using the calendar in Excel, then mechanically filled in the numbers in the form.

When she was finished she looked it over one last time like she always did with these kind of documents, once more failing to pay attention to the release date in mid 2017, then printed it out and placed it in her outbox with a small post-it note marking it for Justice Cunningham.

The morning of June 24, 2017, Jerrell Holland was strolling down Camden Passage towards one of the little cafes lining the narrow street in search for a place where he could get his morning coffee. It was a beautiful summers day with a clear blue sky, and though it was only a bit after nine it was already starting to get hot. He could feel the mid summer sun beating down on him and with that, the three scars on his back started to itch and chafe against his T-shirt. He didn’t want to keep thinking about the incident that had caused them, so he ignored the feeling and kept walking.

Some minutes later he was getting closer to the end of the street with the cafes. Just as he got to Charlton Place a car drove across the street right in front of him, windows down and music pumping. He recognized the driver’s face in an instant, the black hair, olive skin and little goatee; it was the very man who had given him those scars, but it couldn’t be. He knew that the man was in prison, he had heard the judge order the sentence himself, yet there the bastard was driving around in broad daylight. He couldn’t believe his eyes and before he knew it, the car had passed out of his field of view. Had he been mistaken? No! He would know that face anywhere, but it was impossible, the man simply couldn’t be out of jail. Had he started hallucinating?

He just stood there for several minutes, his face a perfect picture of shock and confusion. After a little while, the shock wore off and he began to think more rationally. All thoughts of coffee had been blown away however, and he turned on his heel then hurried back towards his house; he felt an acute urgency to confirm, with absolute certainty, that the man who had stabbed him was still in prison.