1 – Meet Chris and Janique
“He was a hard-headed man / He was brutally handsome” – The Eagles, “Life in the Fast Lane”
“Txt me bk Lv u!”
This was a new development. Chris crouched, pondered it for a moment, and then resumed his walk around the yard. The love of his life had contacted him, and he was stunned at how she had done it.
They were both in prison.
The text message was a fortune-sized scrap of paper stuck to a small rock with toothpaste. It struck him in the chest from a great distance, with an accuracy that would have made Charles Whitman proud.
He had no idea how she had pulled it off, but there was no mistaking her handwriting. If he hadn’t reacted fast and caught it after it hit him, he probably would have never even known that there was a note attached to it. Moreover, he had absolutely no idea how to replicate her trick. Or even where to send it, for that matter.
They were both facing up to fifteen years for the same stimulant-fueled series of armed robberies and manslaughter, only one of which they were actually in danger of being convicted of. If they were lucky, they might get off with ten each for good behavior, good behavior being something in short supply in prison.
Ill-fated and star-crossed, their love for each other had blinded them to their fate as it approached like an out-of-control locomotive. What else would one expect of a couple whose theme song was “Life in the Fast Lane”?
He wanted to think that their troubles all began when they started committing armed robbery for fun, but he knew it had really started when he kidnapped her.
Chris Turner was a twenty-eight year old hustler with a hell of a habit. He was addicted to his hostage. He had abducted her shortly after her father had denied her hand in marriage. She had been reluctant to leave on her own, as she was close to her parents and even closer to their money. So they hatched a kidnapping plot, their first and only. It had proven to be highly erotic, and they were together at last. Thankfully, they abandoned the idea of extracting a ransom on top of everything else.
But they had never cleared the matter up with her parents, so now Chris faced a felony kidnapping charge in addition to the laundry list of crimes the state had on him already.
“She” was Janique Tamerlane Patton, and his only reason for living.
He slid the note into his pocket and wondered how Janique was fairing in lock-up. She was a smart girl, and tough, but hardly the prison type. Ever since the arrest had gone down, he had worried about her.
“She was terminally pretty”
Janique held the black girl’s face deep down in the stainless steel toilet bowl.
“Drink, bitch, or you’re going to die down there,” she growled into the drowning woman’s left ear.
The girl, however, shook her head slightly side to side. She’d been holding her breath for nearly a minute. Janique and her new roommate were having a disagreement about sleeping arrangements.
In a move that would have impressed a contortionist, she kept the death grip she had on the girl’s afro and the arm she had forced behind her, reared back, and kicked her squarely in the ribs.
A large air bubble escaped the girl’s mouth, and she began to go limp. But as she did, Janique watched her slap the floor a few times in a sign of submission. The girl swallowed a few mouthfuls before she was released, but whether she did it intentionally or as a dying gesture, she was unsure. She’d gotten her point across just the same. The fact that she had neglected to flush the toilet first only added insult to injury.
“If we have to fight again, I’m going to kill you. Understand?” she whispered into her cellmate’s ear. “I fuck who I want to fuck. And that’s not you.”
The girl nodded emphatically in enthusiastic understanding.
Janique was confident that Chris was faring better than she was. He was so well-spoken and diplomatic. She was sure he was fine.
Chris’s first day had been similarly eventful. His arrival and processing were routine and took until lunch, when he was released into general population without fanfare. It was show time.
He didn’t think it was going to be like this so soon, but he knew he had to make a big showing if he was going to do long time. Luckily he had a plan, and a few tricks up his sleeve, among other places.
Due to his genetic makeup, a mélange of Sicilian, Polish and American Indian, Chris could pass for white, mulatto or Latino. Or at least he could with a tan. The last few months, however, had left him faded.
He scanned the room once more and then found a somewhat isolated toilet. Within a minute he had a Leatherman Skeletool knife in his hand. He swished it around the bowl and unwrapped the Saran Wrap. Then he strolled up to the middle of the chow line and cut in front of a white guy who was standing behind a black guy.
“Hey, what the fuck?” the white guy protested.
“He let me in,” Chris said, and gestured at the black guy in front of him.
The white one tapped the black one on the shoulder, and the confrontation began immediately. Chris made two quick swipes with the razor-sharp stainless steel blade and began walking away before either was aware they were bleeding.
“That dude cut Mikey!” someone yelled. But he was pointing at the black guy. Calamity erupted. In less than thirty seconds, two men were fatally wounded and a riot was instigated.
When he was far enough away from the action, Chris waded into a cluster of Latinos who were moving toward the epicenter of the disturbance, anxious to see if it involved one of their own.
“What happened, ese?” one straggler asked him.
Chris glanced around one last time.
“Someone got cut, vato,” he said with a flawless accent.
At once, he brought the blade low and made a deep slash across the kid’s abdomen. Realization and horror dawned on his face, but no cry escaped his lips. For good measure, Chris snapped the knife closed and shoved it into the slit he had made. Then he found a safe place and waited. Pandemonium was erupting everywhere. This was no mere riot. It was a becoming a full-blown race war.
Soon the C.O.s flooded the mess hall in full riot gear, firing teargas and rubber bullets, and swinging batons. Chris watched with some amusement as one guard had his baton taken away and used against him. As he fell to the floor, several inmates gathered around, intending to stomp him to death. Eventually, the smoke cleared, and things were brought under control. But Chris wasn’t taken back to this new cell. He ended up in the waiting room outside of the warden’s office.
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