Today's Reading

Suddenly the heat is back on Warren for the delay in mentioning the problem of Muscles. "I only just heard what you want us to do. I came as soon as I could. Too late, isn't it?"

Uncle Joe says, "Put something in his drink."

"Dope, you mean?"

"What do you think I mean, dumbo—a lump of sugar?"

"No, I understand."

"Enough so he sleeps through."

"But that means I'll have to clobber the screw myself, without any help. They're well protected, those fuckers."

"So?"

"There may be a better way," Warren says as if the idea just dawned. "I don't like it—I really wanted a piece of the action—but it will work."

"I'm listening."

"Instead of me and Muscles making the first move, you fix it for the lads in the next cell to deal with the screw."


CHAPTER TWO

Warren is up as usual at 5:30 a.m. to boil water for coffee and his shave. Then he tries working for an hour on his Open University assignment. Hard going with his mind on what will happen next. He returns his books to the shelf and settles to watching the door. Roll check has to be completed first. He's long ago learned that the screws are as enslaved to routine as the inmates and some of them are more scared than any inmate of making a mistake.

The eye appears at the judas hole. So far, so normal.

From the landing comes the familiar rasp and creak of cell doors being unlocked, followed by sleepy voices. Warren steps across to Muscles, still out to the world, feet the size of French loaves hanging over the end of the ludicrously small bunk.

"Better move, mate."

The cell feels colder than usual, and Warren's head is aching. Stress, he supposes. He can't be certain if last night's suggestion to Uncle Joe has been acted on. No one is likely to tell him. He can only be sure of one thing: he won't himself be attacking any screw this morning.

He grasps some of Muscles's bedding and pulls it back from the tattooed shoulder. "Time to get up, mate."

A large fist grabs the sheet and pulls it close again.

Warren gives up trying. It isn't clever to upset Muscles. He really did snap the neck of a man who bugged him. Leave the beached whale to wait for the next tide. Won't hurt him to miss breakfast.

There is a thump from next door that could be the lad from the top bunk getting out—or the heart-warming sound of the screw being smacked against the wall. Either way, something is up because the unlocking hasn't reached their cell yet.

Encouraging.

More noise than usual starts coming from the landing outside. You get to know the level of sound to expect, the tones of voice. These aren't the mutterings of people starting another boring day of bird. A definite air of urgency is coming through.

And this door hasn't been opened.

Good sign. The lads next door must have got the message from Uncle Joe and duffed up the screw.

Five minutes go by.

Quite a bedlam of noise now. The excited voices of a mob that realises this is a day like no other.

Warren moves closer and puts his ear to the sheet metal to try to hear better. Someone out there must have keys by now and ought to be unlocking the bloody thing. He yells, "Oy!"

No response.

Muscles sits up in his bunk and yawns.

"What's up?"

"They're not letting us out," Warren says.

"Prison, innit?" Muscles says.

Can't argue with that.
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