"You're not too old. Forty-six isn't old, these days. You got a
world of time to make a life for yourself."
Holman didn't answer. He was trying to decide how best to pack.
Everything he owned was spread out on the bed, all neatly folded:
four white T-shirts, three Hanes briefs, four pairs of white socks,
two short-sleeved shirts (one beige, one plaid), one pair of khaki
pants, plus the clothes he had been wearing when he was arrested
for bank robbery ten years, three months, and four days ago.
"Max, you listening?"
"I gotta get this stuff packed. Lemme ask you something -- you
think I should keep my old stuff, from before? I don't know as I'll
ever get into those pants."
Wally Figg, who ran the Community Correctional Center, which was
kind of a halfway house for federal prisoners, stepped forward to
eye the pants. He picked them up and held them next to Holman. The
cream-colored slacks still bore scuff marks from when the police
had wrestled Holman to the floor in the First United California
Bank ten years plus three months ago. Wally admired the
"That's a nice cut, man. What is it, Italian?"
Wally nodded, impressed.
"I'd keep'm, I was you. Be a shame to lose something this
"I got four inches more in the waist now than back then."
In the day, Holman had lived large. He stole cars, hijacked trucks,
and robbed banks. Fat with fast cash, he hoovered up crystal meth
for breakfast and Maker's Mark for lunch, so jittery from dope and
hung over from booze he rarely bothered to eat. He had gained
weight in prison.
Wally refolded the pants.
"Was me, I'd keep'm. You'll get yourself in shape again. Give
yourself something to shoot for, gettin' back in these
Holman tossed them to Wally. Wally was smaller.
"Better to leave the past behind."
Wally admired the slacks, then looked sadly at Holman.
"You know I can't. We can't accept anything from the residents.
I'll pass'm along to one of the other guys, you want. Or give'm to
"You got a preference, who I should give'm to?"
Holman went back to staring at his clothes. His suitcase was an
Albertsons grocery bag. Technically, Max Holman was still
incarcerated, but in another hour he would be a free man. You
finish a federal stretch, they don't just cross off the last X and
cut you loose; being released from federal custody happened in
stages. They started you off with six months in an Intensive
Confinement Center where you got field trips into the outside
world, behavioral counseling, additional drug counseling if you
needed it, that kind of thing, after which you graduated to a
Community Correctional Center where they let you live and work in a
community with real live civilians. In the final stages of his
release program, Holman had spent the past three months at the CCC
in Venice, California, a beach community sandwiched between Santa
Monica and Marina del Rey, preparing himself for his release. As of
today, Holman would be released from full-time federal custody into
what was known as supervised release -- he would be a free man for
the first time in ten years.
Wally said, "Well, okay, I'm gonna go get the papers together. I'm
proud of you, Max. This is a big day. I'm really happy for
Holman layered his clothes in the bag. With the help of his Bureau
of Prisons release supervisor, Gail Manelli, he had secured a room
in a resident motel and a job; the room would cost sixty dollars a
week, the job would pay a hundred seventy-two fifty after taxes. A
Wally clapped him on the back.
"I'll be in the office whenever you're ready to go. Hey, you know
what I did, kind of a going-away present?"
Holman glanced at him.
Wally slipped a business card from his pocket and gave it to
Holman. The card showed a picture of an antique timepiece.
Salvadore Jimenez, repairs, fine watches bought and sold, Culver
City, California. Wally explained as Holman read the
"My wife's cousin has this little place. He fixes watches. I
figured maybe you havin' a job and all, you'd want to get your old
man's watch fixed. You want to see Sally, you lemme know, I'll make
sure he gives you a price."
Holman slipped the card into his pocket. He wore a cheap Timex with
an expandable band that hadn't worked in twenty years. In the day,
Holman had worn an eighteen-thousand-dollar Patek Philippe he stole
from a car fence named Oscar Reyes. Reyes had tried to short him on
a stolen Carrera, so Holman had choked the sonofabitch until he
passed out. But that was then. Now, Holman wore the Timex even
though its hands were frozen. The Timex had belonged to his
"Thanks, Wally, thanks a lot. I was going to do that."
"A watch that don't keep time ain't much good to you."
"I have something in mind for it, so this will help."
"You let me know. I'll make sure he gives you a price."
"Sure. Thanks. Let me get packed up here, okay?"
Wally left as Holman returned to his packing. He had the clothes,
three hundred twelve dollars that he had earned during his
incarceration, and his father's watch. He did not have a car or a
driver's license or friends or family to pick him up upon his
release. Wally was going to give him a ride to his motel. After
that, Holman would be on his own with the Los Angeles public
transportation system and a watch that didn't work.
Holman went to his bureau for the picture of his son. Richie's
picture was the first thing he had put in the room here at the CCC,
and it would be the last thing he packed when he left. It showed
his son at the age of eight, a gap-toothed kid with a buzz cut,
dark skin, and serious eyes; his child's body already thickening
with Holman's neck and shoulders. The last time Holman actually saw
the boy was his son's twelfth birthday, Holman flush with cash from
flipping two stolen Corvettes in San Diego, showing up blind drunk
a day too late, the boy's mother, Donna, taking the two thousand he
offered too little too late by way of the child support he never
paid and on which he was always behind. Donna had sent him the old
picture during his second year of incarceration, a guilty spasm
because she wouldn't bring the boy to visit Holman in prison,
wouldn't let the boy speak to Holman on the phone, and wouldn't
pass on Holman's letters, such as they were, however few and far
between, keeping the boy out of Holman's life. Holman no longer
blamed her for that. She had done all right by the boy with no help
from him. His son had made something of himself, and Holman was
goddamned proud of that.
Holman placed the picture flat into the bag, then covered it with
the remaining clothes to keep it safe. He glanced around the room.
It didn't look so very different than it had an hour ago before he
He said, "Well, I guess that's it."
He told himself to leave, but didn't. He sat on the side of the bed
instead. It was a big day, but the weight of it left him feeling
heavy. He was going to get settled in his new room, check in with
his release supervisor, then try to find Donna. It had been two
years since her last note, not that she had ever written all that
much anyway, but the five letters he had written to her since had
all been returned, no longer at this address. Holman figured she
had gotten married, and the new guy probably didn't want her
convicted-felon boyfriend messing in their life. Holman didn't
blame her for that, either. They had never married, but they did
have the boy together and that had to be worth something even if
she hated him. Holman wanted to apologize and let her know he had
changed. If she had a new life, he wanted to wish her well with it,
then get on with his. Eight or nine years ago when he thought about
this day he saw himself running out the goddamned door, but now he
just sat on the bed. Holman was still sitting when Wally came
Wally stood in the door like he was scared to come in. His face was
pale and he kept wetting his lips.
Holman said, "What's wrong? Wally, you having a heart attack,
Wally closed the door. He glanced at a little notepad like
something was on it he didn't have right. He was visibly
"You have a son, right? Richie?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"What's his full name?"
"Richard Dale Holman."
Holman stood. He didn't like the way Wally was fidgeting and
licking his lips.
"You know I have a boy. You've seen his picture."
"He's a kid."
"He'd be twenty-three now. He's twenty-three. Why you want to know
"Max, listen, is he a police officer? Here in L.A.?"
Wally came over and touched Holman's arm with fingers as light as a
"It's bad, Max. I have some bad news now and I want you to get
ready for it."
Wally searched Holman's eyes as if he wanted a sign, so Holman
"Okay, Wally. What?"
"He was killed last night. I'm sorry, man. I'm really, really
Holman heard the words; he saw the pain in Wally's eyes and felt
the concern in Wally's touch, but Wally and the room and the world
left Holman behind like one car pulling away from another on a flat
desert highway, Holman hitting the brakes, Wally hitting the gas,
Holman watching the world race away.
Then he caught up and fought down an empty, terrible ache.
"I don't know, Max. There was a call from the Bureau of Prisons
when I went for your papers. They didn't have much to say. They
wasn't even sure it was you or if you were still here."
Holman sat down again and this time Wally sat beside him. Holman
had wanted to look up his son after he spoke with Donna. That last
time he saw the boy, just two months before Holman was pinched in
the bank gig, the boy had told him to fuck off, running alongside
the car as Holman drove away, eyes wet and bulging, screaming that
Holman was a loser, screaming fuck off, you loser. Holman still
dreamed about it. Now here they were and Holman was left with the
empty sense that everything he had been moving to for the past ten
years had come to a drifting stop like a ship that had lost its
Wally said, "You want to cry, it's okay."
Holman didn't cry. He wanted to know who did it.
* * *
I am writing because I want you to know that Richard has made
something of himself despite your bad blood. Richard has joined the
police department. This past Sunday he graduated at the police
academy by Dodger stadium and it was really something. The mayor
spoke and helicopters flew so low. Richard is now a police officer.
He is strong and good and not like you. I am so proud of him. He
looked so handsome. I think this is his way of proving there is no
truth to that old saying "like father like son."
* * *
This was the last letter Holman received, back when he was still at
Lompoc. Holman remembered getting to the part where she wrote there
was no truth about being like father like son, and what he felt
when he read those words wasn't embarrassment or shame; he felt
relief. He remembered thinking, thank God, thank God.
He wrote back, but the letters were returned. He wrote to his son
care of the Los Angeles Police Department, just a short note to
congratulate the boy, but never received an answer. He didn't know
if Richie received the letter or not. He didn't want to force
himself on the boy. He had not written again.
Excerpted from THE TWO MINUTE RULE © Copyright 2011 by
Robert Crais. Reprinted with permission by Simon & Schuster,
Inc. All rights reserved.