E X C E R P T
Foley had never seen a prison where you could walk right up to the fence without getting shot. He mentioned it to the guard they called Pup, making conversation: convict and guard standing in a strip of shade between the chapel and a gun tower, redbrick structures in a red-brick prison, both men looking toward the athletic field. Several hundred inmates along the fence out there were watching the game of football played without pads, both sides wearing the same correctional blue, on every play trying to pound each other into the ground.
“You know what they’re doing,” Foley said, “don’t you? I mean besides working off their aggressions.”
Pup said, “The hell you talking about?”
This was about the dumbest hack Foley had ever met in his three falls, two state time, one federal, plus a half-dozen stays in county lockups.
“They’re playing in the Super Bowl,” Foley said, “pretending they’re out at Sun Devil Stadium next Sunday. Both sides thinking they’re the Dallas Cowboys.”
Pup said, “They ain’t worth shit, none of ‘em.”
Foley turned enough to look at the guard’s profile, the peak of his cap curved around his sunglasses. Tan shirt with dark-brown epaulets that matched his pants, radio and flashlight hooked to his belt; no weapon. Foley looked at his size, head to-head with the Pup at six-one, but from there, where Foley went pretty much straight up and down in his prison blues, the Pup had about forty pounds on him, most of it around the guard’s middle, his tan shirt fitting him like skin on a sausage. Foley turned back to the game.
He watched a shifty colored guy come out for a pass and get clotheslined going for the ball, cut down by another shifty colored guy on defense. The few white guys, bikers who had the nerve and the size, played in the line and used their fists on each other, every down. No Latins in the game. They stood along the fence watching, except for two guys doing laps side by side around the field: counterclockwise, the way inmates always circled a yard here and in every prison Foley had ever heard of. The same two ran ten miles a day every day of the week. Coming to this end of the field now, getting closer, breaking stride now, walking:
José Chirino and Luis Linares, Chino and Lulu, husband and wife, both little guys, both doing a mandatory twenty-five for murder. Walking. They hadn’t done anywhere near their ten miles. While they circled this end of the field and started up the side, past the cons watching the football game, they had Foley’s full attention.
A minute or so passed before he said, “Some people are going out of here. What if I told you where and when?”
The Pup would be staring at him now, eyes half closed to slits behind his shades, the way he judged if a con was telling the truth or giving him a bunch of shit.
“Who we talking about?”
Foley said, “Nothing’s free, Pup,” still not looking at him.
“I get your liquor for you.”
“And you make a good buck. No, what I need,” Foley said, turning to look at him now, “is some peace of mind. This is the most fucked-up joint I’ ever been in, take my word. Medium security and, most of the cons here are violent offenders.”
Pup said, “You being one of ‘em.”
“If I was I’ve slowed up. Look at those boys out there, that’s a vicious breed of convict. Myself, it’s not so much I’m violent as habitual, liable to pick up on the outside where I left off, so they’ll keep me here till I’m an old man.”
The Pup kept giving him his squint.
“So you turn fink?”
“It’s okay,” Foley said, “if you do it to insure your future. I give you the chance to stop a prison break, you make points, advance your career as a hack. I get peace of mind. I’d expect you to look out for me as long as you’re here. Let me run my business, keep me off work details ...”
The Pup was still squinting.
“How many going out?”
“I hear six.”
“Looks like tonight.”
“You know who they are?”
“I do, but I won’t tell you just yet. Meet me in the chapel going on five-thirty, right before evening count.”
Foley waited, staring back at those slitty eyes trying to read him.
“Come on, Pup, you want to be a hero or not?”
Noon dinner, Foley took his pork butts and yams down the center aisle looking for Chino among all the white T-shirts and dark hair. There he was, at a table of his little-guy countrymen eating macaroni and cheese, a dish Foley has passed on in the chow line. Jesus, eating a pile of it. The guy across from Chino giving him more, scraping macaroni from his tray on to Chino’s. The man’s gaze raised to Foley, dark eyes beneath lumps of scar tissue, all he had to show for his career as a welterweight before age and killing a man put him out of business. Chino was close to fifty but in shape; Foley had watched him do thirty pull-ups on a bar without kicking his legs, trying to climb through the air. Chino gave him a nod but didn’t make room, tell any of his people at the table to get up. Lulu sat next to him with a neat tray of macaroni and Jell-O and a cup of milk they gave inmates under twenty-one years of age to build strong, healthy bodies.
Foley ate his noon dinner at a table of outlaw bikers, cons who bought half-pint bottles of rum Foley sold…