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"Bri Baby," said Emmy, shaking him. "Wake up. I'm going off shift and the C.O. wants you to go back up to your cell for morning head count."
"Huh?" Brian sat up and almost fell out of the narrow bed. Justin was still sound asleep, his mouth slightly open.
"Come on, honey. You don't want to get written up, do you?" Emmy handed Brian his shoes. "You can come back and check up on Little Miss Muffet later."
"I need to piss like a race horse, Em."
"This way, Baby. But hurry up."
Emmy showed Brian the bathroom where he pissed and washed his face and hands. He had a full schedule of meetings with Ron's PLD clients, but he also didn't want to leave the kid alone in the Hospital all day. Shit.
There was blood all over the front of his khaki pants and some on his shirt. Justin's blood. He tried to wipe it off with a paper towel, but it had already dried to dark brown stains. And Em had said that his sweater was pretty much a total loss, too. Well, he needed to go back up to the cell and change his clothes anyway. And he had one other important thing to do up there, as well. He was looking forward to that.
Before he left the Hospital he ducked back into the cubicle.
Justin opened his eyes and smiled. "Hey."
"I've got to go back for head count, but I'll stop in later to see how you're doing, okay?"
The boy nodded. "Okay."
"Don't cause any trouble."
"I won't. I promise."
He reached out and ran one finger down the boy's pale cheek. "All right then. Later," said Brian.
"Later," Justin replied.
Brian walked out of the West Wing and noticed that it seemed especially noisy in the tiers, with a lot of yelling and rattling of doors. He climbed the stairway up to the third level and was immediately stopped by one of the C.O.'s.
"I'm just coming from the Hospital and..." he began.
But the C.O. cut his off his explanation. "Get your ass back to your cell! The Quad is in complete lockdown."
"It is? I wasn't aware that...."
"Shut the fuck up, Kinney, and get back to your cell!" the C.O. commanded.
Brian walked along the tier with the C.O. on his heels. All the guys were standing at their doors, waiting to see what was going on. They took note of the blood on Brian's clothing and his generally disheveled appearance.
"Bri Baby! You mixin' it up with somebody?"
"Hey, man! I'd like to see the other dude! Did you knock him through the wall?"
"What happened, Kinney? Who got killed?"
"Why are we locked down? What the hell is going on?"
"I'm hungry! When we getting out for chow?"
"I said shut the fuck up, you SOB's!" the C.O. yelled. "Nobody's going nowhere until we say so!"
The C.O. racked the door of Brian's cell to let him inside, then locked it again. "Get changed, Kinney. You have a date with the warden."
"The warden? Why do I have to see the warden?" asked Brian. But he knew exactly why. Justin.
The C.O. narrowed his beady eyes. "You don't question people here, Kinney. You just do what the hell you're told. So clean yourself up."
Brian stripped off his dirty clothes and washed himself off. Andy was sitting quietly on the lower bunk, not saying a word. Brian tried not to look at his cellie. The more he thought about the way Andy and Beemer had blown off the kid, the angrier he got. He kicked his stained pants and shirt into the corner and put on clean workpants and a tee shirt. He didn't have another clean chambray shirt to put on until he had time to do some laundry, so this would have to do.
"So, um, Bri," Andy finally said. "The kid.... Is he all right?"
Brian felt the steam rising inside him. "Now you're asking about the kid? NOW you give a fuck about the kid, Andy?"
"I... I just wanted to know if... if...." Andy blinked.
"If he's alive? Is that what you want to know? What's the word on the tier, Andy? Does everyone understand why we're under lockdown?"
"I... think that... that.... Fuck if I know, Bri," mumbled Andy.
Brian bent over and picked up his stained pants. He shoved them under Andy's nose. "How do you think I got THIS all over me, Andy? Whose fucking blood do you think this is? Huh? Tell me?" Brian grabbed the front of the older man's shirt and dragged him to his feet.
"I... I'm sorry, Bri," said Andy. Brian was thin, but his arms were like iron from working out up on the pile almost every afternoon. "Jesus! I'm sorry! I didn't want the kid to get hurt! Neither did Beemer!"
Brian pushed Andy roughly back against the bunks. "What did you think would happen to him, you asshole? When all those horny creeps were trying to get a piece of him? But what do you care? Right? None of your fucking business, that's what you and Beemer say. Well, guess what? The second that we come out of lockdown I want you OUT of here. You could offer your wrinkled ass to the low-riders but I don't think they'd want something so stale, so you'd better move in with Beemer. Because if I come back and find any trace of you, I'm throwing you off the tier. And I'm NOT fucking kidding!"
"But... but Brian...." Andy stuttered.
"Shut up! I never want to hear your whining voice again!" Brian walked over and ripped down the photos Andy had taped to the wall. He tossed them at his cellie's feet. "And take your fucking girlfriends with you!"
"Kinney!" the C.O. called at the door of the cell. "Step up! It's time to see the warden."
"I'm coming!" Brian yelled. He turned to Andy. "Remember -- when I get back you better not be here. I'm planning on a new roommate from now on."
The Quad stayed in total lockdown all morning. Eventually, the C.O.'s came around with some rolls and plastic bottles of juice to make up for the loss of breakfast, but at that point the men didn't want food, they wanted information.
Finally, at 11:00 a.m. they began racking the doors and letting the inmates down to lunch, tier by tier. The third tier -- Brian's tier -- was the last to go down.
"No talking!" the C.O.'s barked. And the men filed down in relative silence. By the time they reached the Chow Hall, everyone was bursting with questions.
"What's going down, man?"
"Who the fuck knows?"
"They took him away this morning!"
"Kinney? He's just a punk!"
"I heard that he caught some dude messing with the new fish and he sliced that dude up good!"
"Kinney? No fucking way!"
"I saw him when he walked down the tier. He was covered with blood, man!"
"I saw it, too!"
"Jesus. He's probably down in the Hole."
"What happened to the kid? Is he dead?"
"Kinney beat up his cellie 'cause he dissed that fish."
"Andy? I don't believe he'd beat up old Andy!"
"Swear to God, man! He beat on him!"
"Phil was scoping out the kid yesterday. Now he's afraid Kinney is gonna come after him and stick him! Phil's shaking in his shoes, dawg!"
"Kinney don't carry no shiv! Like I said, he ain't nothing but a punk!"
"Punk can grow some balls, man. Everybody got their limit of what they can take."
"Well, I ain't messin' with him and that's the truth!"
Emmy entered the Chow Hall with her cellie, Barbie, and all the queens surrounded her immediately and began talking at once. But a C.O. came over and broke it up.
"Move on through the line!" ordered the C.O. "And keep quiet, you fucking freaks!"
"Yes, Sergeant, sweetie," said Emmy, facetiously. She batted her eyes at him. "We're moving along right now, hon."
"Just get going, Honeycutt, and take your girls with you," said the C.O. Christ, it was a zoo in Stanton today, thought the officer.
Michelle and the other queens scurried to their regular table, waiting for Emmy and Barbie to go through the chow line. Michelle's heart was pounding. What if Brian had really messed up a guy? They might take him away from Stanton to a maximum security joint and then Michelle would never see him again! And all because of that damned punk kid!
"Emmy! What happened?" asked Michelle, nervously. "You were on shift at the Hospital all night. You MUST know what's going on!"
"Keep your voices down, ladies," Em warned. She set down her tray and slipped into her seat. "They brought the kid in last might. He'd been pounded pretty badly." Emmy paused for dramatic effect. "Ganged."
"Oh, the poor boy!"
"That's horrible, Em!"
"Is he going to be okay?"
"What about Brian?" Michelle cut in.
"I'm getting to that, honey." Emmy's mouth was firmly set. This was a delicate point. Em knew that Brian was planning to hook up with the kid. And Emmy also knew that a lot of the jockers -- and the low-riders in particular -- might not take that too well. A punk didn't just grow up into a man overnight. Unless... unless he DID. Unless he showed that he had balls. That he really was a man. Even a jocker could respect that.
"Well?" asked Michelle, anxiously.
"They brought the kid in and they brought Brian in at the same time, but he wasn't hurt. However, his sweater and his pants were all bloody -- and I mean bloody!"
"Yes, honey. It was gruesome. The C.O.'s and Doctor C. tried to get Bri to say who did it, but Brian wouldn't talk. And the kid claims he doesn't remember anything."
"So the kid is really alive?"
"Oh, yes, he's alive and he'll be okay."
Michelle's mouth was gaping. "So... so what do you think really happened, Em?"
Emmy sat back and raised her eyebrows. "I think that our Bri Baby came in and found somebody working over the kid. And I think Bri messed those people over. And I mean messed them over REAL good! But he's not saying who it was. That's why we were in lockdown. The C.O.'s were looking to see if anybody was messed up. And I bet that's why Bri is in the warden's office. They're grilling him up there."
"Brian's in the warden's office?" said Michelle in alarm. "Are you sure?"
"That's what Andy said as we were walking down to chow. The C.O.'s told Bri to get cleaned up -- and then they took him away."
"That's rough, Em!"
"What's going to happen to Brian?" Michelle fretted.
"I don't know, dolly," Emmy asserted. "But Bri won't talk, that's for certain. He's no snitch."
"Did Bri really beat up Andy?"
Em nodded. "That's what Andy said. Threw the old bastard against the wall and told him to clear the fuck out of their cell! Because Andy and Beemer didn't watch the kid when Bri told them to. Now Beemer is afraid that Bri's going to kick HIS ass, too!"
"I just can't believe it. Bri Baby is so... so mild mannered," Barbie insisted.
"Not where this kid is concerned." Emmy leaned forward and lowered his voice. "They put the kid in a private cubicle off the ward and Bri spent the night in there with him." The queens stared at Em in disbelief. "It's true. Doctor C. said it was okay."
"Does that mean they're hooked up? For real?"
Emmy shrugged. "Draw your own conclusions, honey. Because I'm NO gossip!"
Michelle snorted. "Telephone, telegram, and tell a queen! That's YOU, Em!"
"Then I'll just shut my little mouth and say no more, sweetie!" Em snapped. And she refused to add any further comments.
But the queens weren't the only ones speculating about what had really happened the night before. Every man had his own take on Kinney and the new fish and what might have actually taken place.
At the low-riders' table the conversation was subdued. What had begun as a little recreation with the kid had gone way too far. They'd pegged him as a little faggot and expected the kid to act accordingly and service them all without complaint. But by the time they realized that he'd never been broken in before, it was already too late and he was pretty torn up. They left him on the floor and beat it. The low-riders were certain that Kinney never saw them, but who knew what the kid remembered? And who the fuck knew if he'd yapped to the doc or the C.O.'s? The low-riders sat tensely, as if expecting the hammer to come down on them any minute.
But nothing went down at all. Lunch ended and all the men were told to report to their jobs for the remainder of the afternoon. But the inmates who went to meet with Brian about their cases were turned away and told that the Law Library was closed until further notice.
Carl Horvath rubbed his eyes as he sat at his desk. He loved it when things were status quo. The day-to-day routine. Horvath had paid his dues in a number of maximum security joints and he was happy that those days were behind him.
That's why he liked being the warden of Stanton Correctional. It was a medium security facility, full of short-timers, inmates who had been certified as non-violents, and older men who didn't want to make waves. There was some gang activity, but nothing too out of control. The bikers were troublemakers in general, but these days they mainly wanted to do their time and get the hell out of Dodge and back to their motorcycles. Even racial tensions were down compared the early years of the 1970's when many of the black inmates had been radicalized and came into the system pissed off and looking for a fight. But the Bros in Stanton were keeping things cool. Their leader, Baraka, was more focused on working with the Prisoners' Legal Defense to get his men a little justice than in stirring them up against the system.
But today was NOT status quo. That's what was giving him this bitch of a headache.
Horvath had only a few long-termers in Stanton. Most were old lifers who had been moved from other joints to finish out their days in a little peace and quiet. The Hospital Wing had one section that was dedicated to these old men in failing health who had lived most of their lives and now would die in prison.
But there was one notable exception to the long-termer rule. Brian Kinney. He was a young man, not even 30, who was in on a 20-to-life sentence. If you were to consider what he'd been convicted on -- including counts of arson, conspiracy, breaking and entering, destruction of property, use of explosive devices, and, most serious of all, murder in the second degree -- you would conclude that he was a hard case and probably a desperate and unredeemable character. Until you came face to face with him.
Because the word that Horvath thought of whenever he came into contact with Kinney was gentle. Or shy. Soft-spoken. Articulate. Exactly the opposite of how anyone would picture an inmate in prison for blowing up a building and killing a security guard.
And now this thing with the new fish. Justin Taylor. Only 19 years old. In on a stupid drug charge. Yes, thought Horvath, stupid. Giving a middle class kid with no priors a 5 year sentence for a couple of bags of pot was bullshit. But fighting the kid's legal battles was not Horvath's problem. His problem was the fact that the kid was now in the Hospital with his insides ripped up from a gang rape. This was the kind of headache he didn't need.
But where did Kinney fit into all of this? Horvath had read the reports from Dr. Caputo and the C.O.'s and they'd all repeated the same simple story. Kinney had been working in the Law Library. He was returning for evening head count when he found the kid in the meeting room. He called for help. End of story. Simple.
Except that nothing like this was ever simple. What was the kid -- a new fish who was young and fearful and didn't know his way around -- doing off his tier in the first place? And why was Kinney so insistent on staying with him at the Hospital? How come no one saw anything? How come no one knew anything? It was an old story, but a frustrating one, especially when an innocent boy was the victim. And Kinney was definitely the key to this puzzle.
The C.O. brought the man into Horvath's office. Kinney looked tired, even beaten down, but he was still a good-looking guy. When Horvath first took over at Stanton about 5 years before the first person to request -- no DEMAND -- an interview with the new warden had been the disbarred lawyer, Ron Rosenblum, who was working with the Prisoners' Legal Defense. So Horvath agreed to meet with Rosenblum, who had been accompanied by his 'associate,' Kinney. That's how Rosenblum always referred to Kinney -- as his associate. But it was clear to Horvath immediately that Kinney was the man's punk, first and foremost.
Ron Rosenblum had been full of bluster, carrying a list of requirements that he told Horvath that he expected to be carried out immediately, including better equipment and books for his Law Library, better access to lawyers and expanded conjugal visits for the inmates, better food, a new color television for the TV Room, et cetera. And his 'associate,' Kinney, had stood next to him, holding the files and handing Rosenblum his paperwork as he asked for it. Horvath had thought at the time that he was a beautiful kid and had called for his file after they left his office.
What Carl Horvath had read in Kinney's folder surprised and disgusted him. The previous administration of the prison had basically let the various gangs run things without much interference. Drugs were easier to get inside than outside. Violence was out of control. And some younger inmates were held in virtual slavery to the sexual needs of the gangs, mainly to the bikers who ran the drug trade and most of the prostitution at that time. And this kid, Kinney, had been one of those low-rider punks -- until Rosenblum intervened, took him over, and made him his 'associate.'
Well, Rosenblum was out now, and Kinney ran the Law Library and had taken over all of the PLD work that Rosenblum had done. He'd been, during all of Horvath's term, an exemplary prisoner. He seemed respected by the other inmates and, except for an occasional smart remark, the C.O.'s had nothing to complain about him. Horvath couldn't even remember the last time he'd been written up for anything. And now this thing with the kid....
"Okay, Kinney. I've read the reports. Now I want to hear the real story," said Horvath.
"I've already told it to the doctor, to the C.O. on duty, to the lieutenant, and also to your assistant. What you see in those reports is all there is, Warden." Brian sighed and ran his fingers through his unruly hair. "What more can I say?"
Horvath motioned for the C.O. to leave the room. When he'd closed the door behind him, Horvath came out from behind the desk. He took out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Kinney, who took it. Horvath lit it and let him take a few puffs.
"So... the kid," said Horvath. "What's really going on, Kinney?"
"I don't know what you mean, Warden," Brian answered. His voice was steady, but his hand holding the cigarette was shaking.
"Who nailed him? The Bros? The bikers? Somebody with a grudge against him? But he's only been in here one fucking day, so how could he make an enemy in that short a time, huh? So is it someone with a grudge against somebody else? Someone who might abuse the kid because the kid was close to that person? Is that it, Kinney?"
"I don't think so, Warden." Brian took a few more nervous puffs.
Horvath leaned closer to Kinney. "Doctor Caputo says -- off the record, of course -- that you and this kid are hooked up. Is that true?"
Brian blinked. "I thought that 'hooking up' didn't exist in prison, especially not in Stanton Correctional. Off the record, of course, Warden."
"I know that you know who did this, Kinney. Don't you want them brought to justice? Don't you want the men who did this to your little friend to be punished?"
Brian blew out a puff of acrid smoke. "Yes, I want them punished. I want their dicks cut off and shoved down their throats! But I live in the real world, Warden. And for me that real world is the Stanton Quad. Because no D.A. is going to prosecute an inmate for attacking another inmate. I know that and you know that. The most that will happen is that you'll put a few guys in the Hole for a couple of days. Then they'll get out and their next move will be to KILL the kid for snitching on them. You know, being raped is nasty, Warden, but being killed really ruins your fucking day!"
Horvath frowned. "So I should do nothing, huh, Kinney? That's your idea of justice?"
"No, Warden -- that's SOCIETY'S idea of justice for so-called criminals!" Brian blasted. "My idea is that I want the kid -- Justin is his name, by the way, in case anyone gives a shit -- to survive. And I want to survive, too, Warden. I plan on doing everything I can to get this boy out of Stanton as soon as is humanly possible. I plan to ask Ron to make his case a #1 priority. But I can't do that if he's dead -- or if I'm dead."
Horvath understood what Kinney meant. If the men who attacked the kid thought that either Kinney or the kid had snitched on them, then they were both dead men. "What if I put the boy in protective custody?"
Brian's face went red. "Protective custody? For the remainder of his sentence? Or until he gets parole? That's what? One year? Two years in virtual solitary confinement? No recreation? No contact with anyone but the C.O.'s? Never being able to go outside to the Yard or to the Chow Hall or the Library or the fucking Chapel? You want to subject a 19 year old boy to THAT kind of isolation, Warden?"
Horvath leaned back against his desk. "Then what would you have me do, Kinney? No one can protect any inmate 24 hours a day, even in a prison!"
Brian swallowed. "Then let me do it. Put the kid in with me, in my cell. I'll be responsible for him. I'll take care of him. If... if the men think that he's hooked up with me, then they'll back off. I guarantee it. Believe me, this was nothing personal against either me or the kid. It was about power. It was about people who wanted to take Justin and use him." Brian paused and stared at the cigarette smoldering in his hand. "That's something I know about, Warden. I lived it. The bikers didn't give a shit who I was or what I was in for. All they knew was that I was vulnerable. That I was unprotected. And so they took me. The fact that I'm alive today is a fluke. Or maybe it's Fate. But I AM here and I'm going to make sure that the kid is here tomorrow and the next day and that he walks out of here in one piece. I'm not saying that he'll be undamaged. He already IS damaged. But if I have anything to do with it he won't be completely broken."
Horvath looked Kinney up and down. How did a man like this come to be in a place like Stanton? And how had he retained his sanity, let alone his humanity over the past 9 years? Horvath knew that he couldn't have done it in the same circumstances.
"Okay, Kinney, I agree. Tell the C.O. on your tier that I've approved the move." Horvath walked around his desk and sat down. "Because of this incident the entire Quad is in punitive lockdown until Sunday."
Horvath snapped the folder on his desk shut. "I need to show the men that there are consequences to actions such as this for the entire population. That means that except for meals and work everyone is in lockdown. No Yard, no Rec Room, no iron pile, no TV Room. That means the Library, too, and Legal Aid. Also, all visits are canceled for this week. ALL visits."
"But tomorrow I'm scheduled to meet with Mr. Rosenblum about...."
"That will have to wait for next time, Kinney. No exceptions." Horvath set his jaw. He was the warden and being the warden was about being in control.
Brian shook his head. "Can I ask one more thing, Warden?"
"Yes, Kinney. What now?"
"Can I stay down in the Hospital with the kid during work hours? If the Law Library is closed and I can't meet with clients, then I have nothing to do. So can I sit with the kid? I... I think it will help him." And help me, too, Brian thought.
"Okay, Kinney. I'll clear that with the C.O.'s, too." Horvath stood up and reached across the desk to shake Kinney's hand.
Brian took Horvath's hand tentatively. He didn't want the warden to think that he was making any kind of 'deal' with him or that Brian was compromising himself in any way to the prison establishment. Because that was something Brian would never, ever do. This wasn't about compromising his principles.
No. This was about Justin. And about himself.
Posted November 22, 2004.