Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 24

By the time I got back to the prison, there was no one around. It was after lunch and they were all out in the yard, which was apparently a large open area where prisoners could get some exercise. Because I was late, I wasn’t allowed to go join them, so they just stuck me back in the open dormitory.

I found my bunk and sat down, feeling hopeless. A million dollars. Where was I ever going to get that? If I didn’t, I was going to be stuck in this place where people were already seemingly intent on hurting me. I’d been happy to see Hanna and Kat, but had still hoped that Sydney would have been there too, in spite of her father’s words. With Mom gone, I felt untethered and really needed to know I still had people out there supporting me; because in here, I felt so alone.

I sat there for maybe twenty minutes, staring at the top bunk, alternating between hopelessness that I’d never make bail and repeating the memory of Mom hitting her head on that counter. Mr. Eaves had convinced the guards to let him get me something to eat at the courthouse, because I’d missed breakfast and lunch. I don’t know if it was the food itself or my current emotional state, but my stomach rumbled the whole way back. I tried to ignore it, wanting to wallow in my depression, but eventually, I had to go find the restroom area.

There was a small closed-off area with a couple of shower heads and toilets with no doors on the stalls. A guard followed me into the room, even though I was the only one there. Maybe it was policy that a guard had to be around the door area whenever someone went in there, to make sure no one was doing anything they shouldn’t be. I would have thought they’d just have cameras in here, but maybe because of the showers, there was some law saying they couldn’t do that.

I finished my business and was washing my hands when I noticed something was off. The guard, who should have still been standing in the doorway, was gone. I turned off the water and was about to hurry back out to the dormitory when the big guy from yesterday appeared around the corner, flanked by his buddies. All sorts of questions popped into my brain, wondering how they’d managed to get the guard out of the way and me alone in this closed-off area, but I pushed them back. There were five of them, and I was in serious trouble.

At least my ribs were feeling better today, and I had some movement back that had been missing the day before. I was going to need it.

They fanned out, blocking any escape route. They were sizing me up. While I’d put on a fair amount of muscle over the last two years, I was still a lot smaller than any of them, both in bulk and height. I could see them come to that conclusion, a predatory smile spreading across the leader’s face.

“I think it’s time you learned your lesson,” he said.

His buddies chuckled ominously on either side of him. I put my weight on my back foot, tensing up. There was no way of getting out of it this time. I scanned the room quickly, but there wasn’t anything that I could use to defend myself. Everything was bolted down, probably to keep prisoners from doing exactly what I wanted to do, which was to use them as weapons.

They, unfortunately, weren’t as unarmed. The leader and two of the guys had empty hands, but both of the guys on the outside had small, sharpened pieces of plastic that could do serious damage if they stabbed someone.

“There’s no need to do this,” I said, struggling to keep my voice even, holding up my hands in a placating gesture. “I just want to do my time in peace. We don’t have to be enemies.”

“Don’t we?” their leader said, his eyes glinting dangerously. “You should have just agreed to pay us. Too late now, though. You’re still gonna pay, but now, you’re gonna do it as a lesson to everyone else to show them what happens if they don’t pay their rent.”

The others snickered, closing in around their leader. I took steady breaths, calming myself, finding the calm center I needed to bring my focus in. This wasn’t a schoolyard fight, and I wasn’t looking to just grapple with someone, keeping them from hurting me. Chef had made it clear that when my life was actually in danger, the rules about containing myself and limiting what injuries I caused were off. I was to fight, and I was to fight to win. My only goal was to incapacitate, either long-term or permanently, the person trying to seriously injure me.

The leader bellowed as he charged, swinging a meaty fist at my head. I ducked under it and kicked out, catching him hard in the knee. The kneecap popped out in an unnatural direction, giving his leg an abnormal look. He howled and stumbled forward as I slammed my elbow up, directly into his dropping chin. Blood arced across the white tile as he fell backward, falling down hard.

I moved, using his body as an obstacle to the guys on the right. The guy who’d been next to the leader paused, seeing the damage I’d done, but the one with the shiv lunged at me. I grabbed his wrist, twisting until he dropped the weapon, then kicked him in the groin. As he doubled over, I smashed his head into the metal urinal. He dropped like a sack of sand, his face half lying in the bottom of the urinal.

The guy who froze got his wits about him and charged, I punched out with my fist, catching him in the throat. He grabbed at his throat and stopped, but I didn’t. Bringing my leg up, I kicked out from the knee, and used my hip to add power. My leg shot out like a piston firing, catching him square in the chest. He shot backwards, straight into the fourth guy, the one without a shiv, knocking him down.

The guy with a shiv stabbed out at me. I slapped the stab to the left, past my body, and grabbed his wrist as it passed. Using his momentum, I lifted his arm up, so it was straight with his elbow on the bottom. I slammed my right hand up hard against the elbow as I pulled the wrist down again. I could hear the arm break even over his scream of pain as he released the makeshift knife.

One left, who was just scrambling out from under the guy who was still holding his throat. The leader and the guy in the urinal were solidly unconscious, but the guy who’d been on top of him was still clawing at his throat, desperately trying to get air, while the fourth was holding his shattered arm, whimpering. It was enough for him; he turned and hightailed it out of the bathroom, almost running into a guard who came flying around the corner from the other direction.

The fight had been as short as it was vicious, lasting maybe a few seconds, which meant the guard must have been standing just outside the restroom area while these guys tried to stab me. He looked at the guys on the ground and then at me, pulling out his radio.

“Backup!” He screamed and then pulled the radio up to his mouth. “Injuries in dormitory three. Four men down, one attacker.”

“They attacked me, I didn’t...”

“Shut up!” he screamed. “On the floor, hands on the back of your head, feet apart.”

He didn’t move to restrain me, but I could hear boots pounding on the floor, already heading this way. I was all but certain that if I didn’t comply, I was going to get the crap kicked out of me by guards. I complied and lay down on the floor, but for a beat, he still didn’t move.

Then more guards appeared, and they were on top of me. A knee slammed into my back, another on my side, pressing on my bruised ribs, a third on my leg. An arm pressed down hard on the back of my neck, making it hard to breathe as my arms were wrenched behind me, and handcuffs were attached to my wrists. They may not have been hitting me, but I still felt like I was having the crap beaten out of me.

They were just starting to check on my fallen attackers when I was hauled up and dragged off my feet, practically carried between two guards, out of the restroom.

Once again, I’d defended myself and was taking the fall for it.

They didn’t haul me back to my bunk, but out of the dormitory and down a series of hallways to a separated, barred-off area, throwing me into a tiny room with a single, large metal door with a small window that had a flap that looked like it could be locked and a small ledge on the outside. They took the cuffs off and pushed me into the room so hard that I slipped and fell, hitting the floor just as the door slammed shut behind me.

For two days, or at least I thought it was two days, I stayed in the tiny little room. I was allowed out into this small, maybe ten-foot by ten-foot concrete area with walls on all sides but no ceiling for ‘outdoor time’ two times for an hour each time. According to the guard, who took me out the first time, they could only keep prisoners confined twenty-three hours a day, so I based my estimate of two days on the two trips I made to my own personal ‘yard.’ There was a basketball and a hoop, but that was it. Instead of doing that, I ran around and tried to stretch my legs since I really couldn’t do that in my tiny cell, which was barely big enough for me to lie all the way down in, let alone do more than jog in place.

I’m sure the guards thought I looked crazy practicing forms out there by myself, but it let me stretch out my muscles, which helped me from going crazy. Other than that, every minute was spent in my tiny cell, including all of my meals which they slid through the small window with the lockable flap built into the door. While I’m sure this was normally bad for anyone who had to be in here, it was worse for me. It gave me too much time to think and nothing to serve as a distraction. I spent nearly every waking minute thinking about my mother. Replaying all the ways I could have handled the situation with Dad better.

I’d been passive in just about everything, reacting instead of acting. When he was still living with Mom, she hadn’t wanted me to push too hard or cause him too much trouble, so I hadn’t. After he got arrested at my emancipation hearing, I’d held back from trying to do more than just let the system take care of him and hoped they would hold him for a long time because I was afraid if I pushed Mom to do more, it might undo the progress I was making and ultimately send her back to him.

I should have gone harder at him, tried to get him arrested every time he did anything, instead of just getting him to back down and then leaving things be. I’m not sure I could have gotten him arrested for pulling money out of the band account, since legally Mom had access and she’d been the one who pulled out the money, but I still should have tried, no matter how much Mom protested.

Instead, I’d done nothing. As soon as things went back to the status quo, I’d left it alone. Hanna disappeared with Troy? Leave it alone if she’s talking to us. Sydney agreeing with her father not to be there when I was arraigned? Leave it alone as long as we went back to the way we were once I got out.

I needed to stop this. I was done letting people walk all over me. I still wanted to do things from a place of empathy, so I’d need to handle situations like what was happening with Sydney and Hanna with care. It would make standing up for myself harder, since there needed to be a balance, but I needed to find it. However, when I didn’t need to operate with empathy, such as when dealing with Mr. Packer or Aaron’s father, I was done trying to be reasonable. I was ready to start lighting shit on fire.

I knew, of course, I couldn’t just work myself up. I had to be smart about it. Strategic. I couldn’t become my father and just do everything from a place of anger. I spent a lot of time in my cell meditating, trying to find my center and really thinking about my problems in a calm, collected manner.

Aaron’s father and Mr. Packer. They were going to be my first order of business when I got out of here. They’d been making my life hell all year, and I was just about done with it.

Near what I thought was the end of day two, my cell door opened, which surprised me. The guard waved for me to come out and told me to follow him but didn’t give me any more information. My mind went in all kinds of directions wondering where we could be going.

Was I about to get more charges put on me for hurting those guys in the restroom area? I hadn’t heard anything since it happened, but I was sure there’d be repercussions, even if I was defending myself. Was this something else? The guard who’d followed me to the restroom to keep watch over me had suspiciously disappeared when those guys came in to beat on me. I’d thought they had been out in the yard when I went in the restroom and the dormitory was still empty when the other guards hauled me out, so why were they allowed inside? The conspiracy theorist in me considered that maybe they, or even someone else, had paid off the guard to allow them to attack me. Was this going to be more of the same?

Surprisingly, it wasn’t. I was led to a small out-processing room where the guard informed me that someone had made bail. He didn’t say who, and I couldn’t come up with any names of anyone who could have gotten a million dollars to put up to get me out.

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