Monday, 3:12 p.m.
JEREMY SPENCER glanced over as two prisoners sitting across from him got up and scurried away. He dropped his book on the high pressure, laminate table and spun around. Hindle was headed across the day room, aiming to punish him with a world of hurt. Again.
Hindle was an agitator who started fights with weaker prisoners just for the enjoyment his sick mind got from it. One of his usual targets was Jeremy, and today was one of those days.
He jumped to his feet as the tyrant cruised toward him, bent forward as if on a mission, flanked by a pair of lookouts. Jeremy could make out the scar running from Hindle’s one good eye, almost to his chin. That scar hadn’t taught Hindle any sense, but had earned him a good deal of deference among the weak.
Hindle was new meat who hadn’t called out the wrong prisoner yet. When he did, he would be forced to learn some respect, or die. Jeremy, at five feet, three inches tall, didn’t feel qualified to teach Hindle that respect, but he stood his ground and waited.
Jeremy had learned quickly that punking out wasn’t an option. Inmates who show cowardice are marked, beaten, and abused, and though his throat restricted at the sight of Hindle, he was no coward.
“Heard you been bad-mouthing me, Spencer.”
Normally, Jeremy would’ve laughed at the big goon’s high-pitched voice, but right now things were too serious. He looked up at the freak towering over him by a foot and tried to control the quiver in his voice. “I never said anything about you, Hindle. No. I never said anything.”
A deep rumble came from Hindle’s throat as he reached out with two beefy fingers and poked at Jeremy’s chest, spinning him halfway around. Jeremy wrapped his fist around the fingers, twisted them backwards, and kicked his tormentor in the groin.
Hindle groaned, his eyes widened, and he bent over, his hands cupping the injured area. Then he howled as his clenched fist came up, catching his opponent on the side of the head.
Jeremy wavered, his mind spun, and he connected with the concrete floor. The back of his head felt like it was hit with a battering ram and his eyesight went black for a few moments. He heard voices, sounding like nothing more than a mumble, and then his mind cleared. He blinked several times as his sight slowly returned.
He could barely make out Hindle’s voice. “You’re a dead man, Spencer.” Then a canvas sneaker connected with his forehead. Jeremy brought his arms up to protect himself from further punishment as Hindle knelt on one knee, a fist cocked and ready to mash him into pulp.
He rolled to one side as the massive bundle of flesh and bone descended. Hindle howled with pain as his fist hit the floor, clipping Jeremy’s ear on the way down.
The goon cursed and a shank appeared in his hand. Jeremy lay on his back, staring up at Hindle’s ugly face, now twisted into rage. “Like I said, Spencer. You’re a dead man.”
As the homemade weapon descended toward Jeremy’s chest, he heard a sickening crack and a huge foot connected with Hindle’s arm, driving it upwards and mashing it into his attacker’s face. The shank flew through the air and clattered on the painted concrete. Hindle hit the floor beside it, flat on his back.
Blood poured from Hindle’s nose; it was probably broken again. His arm was twisted at a grotesque angle, almost certainly broken as well. He would be spending some time in the prison infirmary.
Jeremy shook his head and blinked a couple of times. That was the closest call yet. “Thanks, Moe,” he said in a hoarse voice, as a hand grabbed his and pulled him roughly to his feet.
Moe looked down at Jeremy with a grin that threatened to take over his face, his tiny eyes, tucked deep into their sockets, almost disappearing. “Hindle won’t try that again for a while.”
The lookouts wandered away with the rest of the prisoners, the show over. Moe and Jeremy stepped away and slouched backward at the table as a pair of hacks rushed over, batons in their hand, glaring at the onlookers. They knew better than to ask who was responsible. Throwdowns took place regularly, and even in the crowded day room, nobody ever saw what happened. Snitches would be rewarded with swift, violent retribution.
“You saved my life that time, Moe,” Jeremy said, worry in his voice. It wasn’t the first time he’d thanked his friend for being there when he needed him.
Moe grunted. “Long as I’m around you’ll be okay.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Jeremy said. “What am I gonna do after you’re gone?”
“I got friends here who owe me.” Moe glanced around the room. “I’ll speak to them.”
An alarm sounded. “Lock it down,” one of the hacks screamed.
As the prisoners ambled to their cells, Jeremy glanced back at the injured man on the floor, rolling and moaning in pain. Moe had saved his butt again, but it may be just a matter of time.
Before Jeremy met Moe he hated tier time. He’d been a house mouse, rarely wandering from his cell to the day room. But even there, his dignity, privacy, and control, were given up to hacks, and the simplest necessities were luxuries.
Though Jeremy knew he wasn’t psychotic, his occasional trips to the ding wing to see the prison shrink were his only reprieve from the isolation and boredom of this place. But he wasn’t crazy and he knew it. He was pretty sure they knew it too, but he played along with their little game. It was a break that got him away from the real nuts for a while.
He didn’t mind the shrink’s idle chatter and her wild fantasies about what made him tick. Most of the time. Except when she started talking about his mother. His mother was a wonderful woman and it bothered him when the shrink mentioned her as if she’d caused some kind of problem in his life. He wasn’t the problem, they were. And he had no problems except one. He was stuck in prison and he couldn’t make them understand he didn’t belong here.
Prison was killing him physically and psychologically—it was a living death, like being buried alive. And he had a mission.
He had tried to fulfill his mission here but it wasn’t as easy as he’d thought. Everyone was bigger than he and if it hadn’t have been for Moe, he would’ve been mincemeat by now.
Fate played a hand in that. He firmly believed it.
The stupid shrink called him a serial killer at one point, and though Jeremy didn’t often get angry—except for righteous anger—he almost lost it. He tried to explain and finally gave up. She didn’t understand and he didn’t feel like wasting more time trying to convince her.
Moe was the only one who understood him and the only person he could truly call a friend. Without Moe to watch his back, he was in danger—maybe as good as dead already.
His cellie took care of him and Jeremy was grateful, but fearful. Moe was getting out soon and then he would be vulnerable.
There was only one logical option. He had to get out of this place. Now.
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