Summer 2001 “The Tunnel” Behind Penn St. York, PA Sunny and beautiful
“The Tunnel”, as it was called, was a project in York courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers. It was designed for one thing, and served that purpose rather well on two occasions, during the floods 1972 and 1996, by channeling much of the flood waters from excessive rains away from the town. In between 1972, and 1996, and now in 2001, it served another, less noble, but equally important function. It was a home, a place of safety.
A group of girls, Muchachas Traviesas Locas had chased the winos, perverts, and freaks out during the cold of winter in JAN 2001, and had since that time, lived in relative comfort and safety in The Tunnel. Some of the girls had been killed, or gotten sick, but a few of the core members were still there. This sunny day, one of the girls had stretched several extension cords from God-knows-where, and the girls had gotten the tube radio to work again. It was like there was nothing bad in the world anymore.
“Why do they call it Shortwave? I can’t even see the sound coming in…”
“Oh, they come all sizes. Don’t you know it’s not the size, but the motion…”
Much laughter followed. And music. It was salsa. A piano, bass, and drums. Well, kind of old for them, but they didn’t care. The girls hadn’t danced in ages, it seemed.
When a few songs were over, an announcer gave a report.
“Yeah, he’s local. He’s talking about York! Turn it up…”
The announcer continued.
“…RT 30 was again closed down due to widespread violent incidents occurring during a traffic jam stalemate. State Police hope to have the highway opened by tomorrow, but a source close to this reporter stated that Mayor Steven Reid has requested assistance from the National Guard in quelling the unrest, racial and otherwise, within the city.”
The girls were uncharacteristically quiet. Before the shit came down, they could care less about the news. Information was like armor, in this day and age, and armor was often hard to come by.
“Muy bien! More cute guys in uniform to chase us back to Queen Street.”
The girls laughed some more as they did their wash in the creek, and cooked the food that they had scrounged and bartered for their lunch. It had been worse. This would be the first chicken and rice they had eaten in monthes.
The “Long Hot Summer” of 1999 had been two years ago, but things were far from over for the US at the Home Front during WWIII. Much of the American South was being threatened by roving bands of highly motivated troopers from Latin America, the Federacion del Sud. While our troops were fighting in Iraq and Jordan for more than a year now, a different kind of war was being waged on the streets of cities of all sizes in the Land of the Free, and that war was a nasty, very personal sort of fighting between citizens, militias, vigilantes, and gangs of every type imaginable.
Lupe and her homegirls, Muchachas Traviesas Locas, were out for themselves and only themselves. Things had gone all to Hell across America, and York was not much different. But there were people who they could, and would deal with. Hector Ruiz was one, and Eddie Martinez was another.
Now Hector was Eddie’s cousin, but in reality, most of the girls, and almost anyone else living around that end of town thought Eddie was Hector’s kid. Or at least it seemed so. It was hard for Hector to disguise his love for the kid, and just as hard for anyone else to believe that Hector could love, or care for, anyone other than himself.
Lupe had seen with her own eyes what the man was capable of, when he pushed some deadbeat doper off the 5th story roof of the Old York Hospital building... He could be a #1 mean-as-shit asshole if he wanted to be, but with Eddie, he was like one of the Apostles.
For now, Hector was simply holding court on the stoop of one of the many burned out buildings along Penn Street. This particular building didn’t have much more than one good room inside the front door, but the porch, ah mama, the porch was excellent, and in the shade of the one good wall of the place, the concrete felt cool on the man’s bare feet. He was drinking sangria, and enjoying some of Mother Nature’s herb, and little on this Earth bothered him at the moment.
It was hard not to like Eddie, if even just a little bit. Hey, the kid was 8 years old, somehow polite and well-mannered, cute as hell, but had been crippled since birth. Eddie was a survivor of sorts, too. He was smart, and could move around slowly with his crutches, and he had his own business by age 6. That’s right. He had patience, and patience was beyond being a virtue, it was almost a necessity in the world in which he lived.
Eddie was a trash-picker, and a damn good one at that. He could stand the smell of human excrement, decaying lettuce, and spoiled stew, if he knew he might find something useful underneath it. He had quite a collection of cars – some Matchboxes, some Transformers, a few that even had all the wheels *and* windshields and stuff on them.
It had been Eddie that found the extension cords for Lupe and the girls, and it had been Eddie that saved little vials of perfume or compacts of makeup or mascara for the girls when he found them. So although the girls weren’t overly taken with Eddie, they sure as Hell weren’t going to hurt him or take his stuff, with Hector around. In fact, they saw how Eddie’s welfare translated into their welfare. Enterprising young man, Eddie was. It was noon, and he already felt he had found enough stuff for the day that he could play for a while…
Elsewhere, but not too far away...
This day had been a bad one for Federal Judge Samuel Abrams Longaberger III. He was late for his meeting with the mayor, and had gotten lost. Or more correctly, his driver had gotten them lost. The drive from Lancaster had been uneventful, until they hit the logjam on RT 30 just east of town. The heat in this beast was unbearable. Armored plates had been fastened all around the vehicle. The glass was something BMY over in New Berlin had been working on. Yet, the air conditioning was original equipment, and wasn’t able to keep pace with the heat of these men or of this day.
After sitting for 2 hours, everyone’s tempers were flaring, and some people had things thrown at their cars. A Buick up ahead had burst into flames. Elsewhere, a few shots were fired. Deke Stratton, Longaberger’s bodyguard next to him in the backseat, had pulled out the shotgun, and chambered a round just in case, and Longaberger, and his personal assistant, Marv Cardwillis up front, were also armed with pistols. The plate armor fastened to the sides of the old black Caddie was rather conspicuous, but it was effective. Stratton had tested it in front of Longaberger himself back at the Federal Courthouse. The bullets from a hunting rifle fired from 50 yards bounced right off, making everyone jump nervously when the ricocheted. Can’t ever be too cautious these days…
Longaberger was a highly experienced judge, but a new appointee to the Federal Court, and he didn’t relish having to waste time with some piss-assed mayor too stupid to call in the troops when they were needed. The situation in that city had been out of hand for well on to 6 months now, and if positive steps weren’t taken, it would soon take on the reputation of being another Harrisburg, or worse yet Philly. So in addition to the massive load of cases to be heard in court over the next few days, Judge Longaberger would have to play paddy-cake with the incompetent head of this city. Magnificent…
So the driver pulled off at North Hills Road, and aimed for the center of town. The Courthouse, and City Hall were there, and would be easy to see from a distance, being by far the most impressive structures in town. The drive went better after leaving RT 30, but it was not without incident. Not by a longshot…
Market Street was fine. An alert State Police gate sentry snapped to, when the driver presented the group’s papers at the checkpoint. But then there was the place in Market Street where the road “split”, going from two way, to one way. Westbound traffic entering town had a choice of either going via Philadelphia Street, or picking through Harrison Hill Rd., and connecting onto Rathton, before hitting Center City on George St.
The driver hesitated. The Judge looked at his watch for the thousandth time. Stratton prompted the wheel man, “Take the roundabout. It’s almost noon, and it’s Thursday. Downtown will be choked with traffic and Market Rats.
To his credit, the driver did as he was instructed. He was new to the Judge, and new to the area. He would be happy to follow Stratton’s lead. The Judge had been here several times, but was reading over several case files at once, and left the driver to his job.
Cardwillis was clueless, and petrified. He was rather embarrassed that he, out of the four men in the car, was the only one wearing a bulletproof vest. He was also new to the job, and was learning how to best deal with his superior’s caustic temper. So far he had been unsuccessful.
The Judge glanced out the window, and up to the rearview mirror, and met the eyes of the driver. Without saying a word, he had communicated what he had wanted. The driver sped up slightly, as much as the poorly-maintained roads would permit. The Judge went back to the stack of papers on top of his briefcase. “Murderers, rapists, dopers, Hell. Send ‘em all to Iraq and let the towelheads have ‘em. We’d be out of that war inside of 2 weeks… Cardwillis, hand me one of the damned peanut butter sam-witches” The Judge could never be accused of holding it all in. The first case was at 12:30 and he wouldn’t have time for lunch, it appeared.
Stratton likewise was preoccupied. Security arrangements were his job, and his forte. He had been an Army MP, but he had done his share, and a 20 year retirement was a good thing, with the way things were going abroad. Besides, the Judge paid a bodyguard better than Uncle Sam did an E7, and Stratton was his own boss (more or less). Not getting ordered around by some idiotic butter bars Ring knocker was also a good thing. So it was Stratton’s last chance to go over a map of downtown and the floor plans for City Hall and the Courthouse. To his relief it would be the State Police who would be meeting them, rather than Army personnel. Police generally had experience; Stateside Army pukes didn’t.
Through only one or two bad turns, the driver had ended up on South Penn. South Penn had seen some revitalization in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but the unrest that hit York, along with much of Urban America, had left it’s mark on the community. Windows were busted out, and the glass iced the sidewalks as though from a winter storm. Even in the heat of summer, people had their cookfires going out on the sidewalks. The streets were littered with the shells of wrecked cars, and kids who had never seen a swingset or a jungle gym played on them, roughhousing amongst themselves. Here and there, people stopped the activities of their day when the black, armored Caddie wheeled into view. A few started to converge on the car. They were coyotes, waiting to pull down a fattened antelope.
The car was stifling hot. Sweat rolled down the Judge’s face, dripping onto his files, causing cheap paper to disintegrate nearly instantly. The air conditioner was going full blast, and still it was not giving anyone any relief.
The car slowed. Two dumpsters up ahead blocked the road. The driver hesitated, as his eyes clicked left and right. The Judge eyed the driver in the rearview mirror. The driver swallowed, cranked the wheel hard to the left, and stomped on the pedal…
From someone else's viewpoint...
The girls brought Eddie and Hector some lunch. The two men (yes, they called Eddie a man, and not Little Man. Eddie worked as much as anyone else, and everyone else wasn’t on crutches) had scored some new clothes for themselves and the girls, as well as a chicken, and a bag of rice. That along with the peppers in the garden plot that one of the girls kept despite the harassment of the others, and the group was in for a fine meal. Hector called down to Eddie, still playing on the sidewalk, “C’mon Eddie. Lupe’s cooking ain’t your mama’s, but it’s it hot and there’s meat in it so let’s go!” Eddie continued playing, of course. He had a cool blue cop car, with doors and a back hatch that still worked. Why someone would throw it away?...
Hector’s internal alarm went off suddenly. Black Caddie. Riding pretty low, and not for style. Looks weighed down, like it’s full. He reached down between his legs, and slid the AKM a little closer. “Hey, girls. Eddie. Could be the Iron Pigs. Listen. Get back up inside the doorway, and keep still.”
Hector looked the other direction, down Penn St. into town, and seeing the improvised roadblock, he cursed. Idiotas! Don’t bring this down in front of my place…
The Black Caddie swerved to the left, and the driver gunned it, tires squealing. He was doing 50 mph when he hit Eddie, playing on the sidewalk. He never saw the boy, and probably wouldn’t have been able to stop if he had.
Hector freaked. He screamed like a person possessed. He leaped off the stoop, and sprinted after the car. Up came the AKM and a full mag was burned into the back of the Caddie in short bursts before it was 75 yards away. Lupe and Deucey Lucy followed him, screaming and crying.
It’s rear tires flattened, the car handled even more sluggishly than before. Especially with the driver missing the back 1/3 of his head. The special glass from BMY hadn’t held against the determined, controlled bursts of fire from Hector’s AKM. The caddie careened a few more yards down the street, swerved again, and slammed into one of the few intact buildings remaining in this part of the town.
Hector smashed out the remaining part of the rear windshield of the car, pointed the AKM in, and nothing. It was empty. A shotgun blast splattered the building, dangerously close to Hector, just as Lupe and Deucey Lucy reached him. People from the surrounding apartment buildings peered out from the safety of windows and doors, waiting to see what would follow.
Deucey Lucy momentarily found reason. “Hector, Lupe, come *on*. We gotta go!”
More gunfire erupted from inside the car. As he trudged forward, caring nothing for his safety, Hector chanted at the shooter, in a tone that was a cross between a priest and a pit fighter. “You come onto *my* street, and kill *my* boy, and now you try to kill *me*. No way, you filthy mother@#$%&*!!!” Hector had reloaded as he approached, and against leveled the AKM at the car, at point blank range. More shooting from inside the car. Hector took a round in the arm, and another clipped off the bottom of his left ear. Lupe and Deucey fired wildly at the occupants of the car to save their own skins. Hector sprayed the rest of the second mag into the back of the car, and when his weapon was empty, he spat onto the smoking, bullet marked Caddie.
They quickly bolted, and strode down the alley, clambered through a basement window, and then went back outside through another. They were in the familiar canal. That was good. They could perhaps travel faster there than through the streets, even with the little bit of water that passed for Codorus Creek during the Summer. But they were heading North, and that took them closer to the center of town – where there were more cops…
Fall 2001 The old York Hospital Next to Fairgrounds York, PA Chilly and drizzling
Lupe and Deucey had gotten away that summer day, along with Hector, but it had been close. Too close. It had been pretty hot for them for a while. Right now it was just the two girls. They had split from Hector. It just seemed better. Sure, they saw him, and dealt with him from time to time. But it was just better for everyone if they stuck to business, and left it at that. The girls knew he was being eaten alive from inside, just as bad as any cancer or radiation sickness could do. Only this was over Eddie. Maybe it was worse than dying from cancer – at least with cancer there was an end when you eventually died. It was easy to see that Hector’s pain over Eddie would not die from the pain, but he really wouldn’t *live*, either.
A few weeks short of Christmas, Lucy was bayoneted by a soldier when she and Lupe tried to sleaze some of that packaged food off of him. Hector was picked up by the police later that same week. Apparently, a Federal Judge had been killed in the car that had killed Eddie. Someone from further down on Penn Street had made Hector, as well as the girls.
Christmas Eve 2001 would be hard on Lupe. She was all alone, now, in a world that was cruelly unforgiving to those who chose or were forced into a solitary existence. Everyone was gone. It wasn’t snowing, like it was supposed to during Christmas, only raining. She was miserable with a cold. She hadn’t bathed in days, it was just too cold, and the food that she had bought from that bitch down on Market Street was bad. Not just terrible tasting, but spoiled. And the bitch had looked at her funny. Lupe was sure she knew the bitch from years ago, over on Queen Street. In times like these, people move around, and move on.
As she peered out the peekhole she and Deucey had drilled in the wall, Lupe now knew that she should have moved on. That bitch from Queen Street was leading the Police right up to the f***ing front door!...
Lupe had her switchblade. She had three rounds left in that little .22 snubbie she had taken off the doper that looked like Enrico Suave. But there were three Policemen in body armor coming up to the place, with shotguns at the ready, and two more pigs back at that van. Lupe was crazy, after all she had been through. But she wasn’t stupid. She ditched the pistola and the knife, and came out with her hands up when she was challenged…
Shotguns always scared Lupe. The ends of them looked like a gaping mouth, ready to shout out lead and burp flame. Plus you never really knew who would get hit by them. There were sexier guns out there, TEK's and Glocks and stuff, but none of them had the sheer stomach-clenching power of a shotgun. She tried to believe that was why her guts were tied up in knots and she was afraid she was going to piss herself any minute. It was the shotguns, not that she was scared for any other reason.
"Puta," she said to the narcing bitch trying to hide behind the cops. "First you sell me some raggedy assed food and now you got to roll over and spread for the pigs?" "Fu-" Lupe was cut off as a spasm of coughing took over her body. Little daggers ripped at her lungs, high on the left side, and denied her breath. Probably pneumonia or something. Maybe the cops'd just do her right here and get it over with. Horribly she continued coughing, bending over at the waist and her hands falling. Even the pigs pigs could tell she wasn't faking it; Lupe's coughs had that wet, retching sound common to the bedsides of three pack a day smokers in the morning. Any moment now part of her lung'd come out and lay, glistening and obscenely wet, on the ground.
Finally it was over. Lupe's hands rested on her knees and she spat a thick wad of green phlegm out of her mouth. Blue spots danced a merengue in front of her eyes as she struggled for breath. "Chinga," she muttered. The cops hadn't moved in yet, probably afraid she had some disease or TB or something. Maybe she did.
Quickly, spitting a bit to keep the cops from closing in, Lupe looked up with her eyes, not moving her head from its horizontal position near her belly. There, right there was the traitoroous little chica. Looking all smug and smiling like she'd done something worth being proud of. Man, anyone could sell somebody out. It took a real chola to handle things herself. And Lupe, for whatever she might be in other's eyes, was a real chola.
Without any warning, she charged, feet digging into the dirt and rubble with all her remaining strength. She felt the right sole of her battered FILA slip, damn thing was held in place with spit and some old glue she'd found, but it only needed to hold on for a few more seconds. Either the cops'd shoot her down like a dog or she'd get to that bitch and show her that messing with a homegirl only brought you pain.
Somehow from somewhere, Lupe mustered the strength to do what burned inside her. She amazed even herself at the rate at which she bolted at the woman. The cops, apparently had misjudged her for some starved gutter bum, which was close to, but not exactly, the truth. Lupe was a chola, and she was someone to be reckoned with.
The nearer pigs were taken completely by surprise, and looked on in shock as their teammates behind them shouted curses for them to get down and get out of the way. The nearer pigs actually blocked their buddies, so a shot would be risky...
Lupe was on the bitch in a few seconds, pummelling and clawing and kicking like some pissed off alley cat on speed. Her first assault didn't connect, being mostly fury and not anything solid.
The bitch blocked again, and struck back, connecting a solid punch to the chest. Lupe didn't see it coming and failed to block. Lupe swung again, and the bitch missed her block. Lupe connected with her shoulder, and then her throat, with two quick punches. The bitch clawed back, but Lupe blocked with her forearm. Lupe was giving worse than she was getting. By now, both women were on the ground, rolling around, spitting and yowling to complete and validate the label of catfight.
The cops, through all of this, were not eager to get in the middle of the catfight. Finally, one pointed his shotgun skyward, and fired. He cranked another round into the chamber.
"The next one's heading right for the both-a ya. Then we'll not have nothing but a little paperwork."
He levelled the gun at the two women. The bitch slowed down her clawing, then hesitated. Lupe saw her opening, rolled over crab-style, and slammed her heel down hard in the area of the woman's throat.
Lupe rose, hands high in the air, saying "You're world, Mr. Pig", amidst the gagging and choking of the Judas bitch on the sidewalk...
The police cuffed Lupe, and roughly shoved her into the police car.
28 DEC 2001 / 0800 hours Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary Prisoner Induction Interview Prisoner #3819773 Pabon, Guadalupe Manuela
"Yeah I know why I'm in here. The judge was Anglo. The cops who picked me up were Anglo. You're Anglo. I'm a Latina. I know exactly why I'm in here, jefe. The heavy behind me is a pinche Mayate but he sucks Anglo cock. Now why don't you get out of my face and let's get this beat down over with. I want to get some time in the bunk before I got to eat breakfast."
"Bring it on, jefe. I'm tired of talking to you."
"I ain't scared. Not of you, not of prison, not now, not ever."
Lupe was cuffed at her hands, and her feet were shackled. The restraint rig clinked slightly as she spat out the words at the intake counselor. The thin chains were more than adequate to prevent the first thing that was going through her thoughts, and too short to do the second thing going through her thoughts. Suddenly, the guards came to attention, as did the intake counselor. A short man strode into the room, coffee mug in hand, and hefted his squat self into the big leather chair behind the imposing desk.
“Good Morning, Ms. Pabon. I am Warden Ford. Kindly forgive me for listening from the other room. Shall we begin…”
"Like I got a choice?" she asked bitterly. Though there was no hope of getting free from the cuffs and chains, Lupe's fingers continued to run over them anyway; praying the rosary of the inmate. God wasn't listening.
The Warden, having listened to this story, and thousands of others similar enough to it, finally relaxed in his chair. He sipped some steaming coffee from a heavy earthenware mug, replaced it to it’s exact position on his desk blotter, and spoke.
“Ms. Pabon, ah, you made a mistake when you and your accomplices”, and the warden searched the file for the name, and delivered it with a flourish. He used the annoying Castillian pronunciation, which made him sound somewhere between Elmer Fudd, and Daffy Duck.
"Where'd you learn your Spanish from, your nanny?" Lupe snorted. Though Puerto Ricans spoke Spanish, their accent was totally different from that being used by the Warden. It was more musical, the words faster paced. "It's Pabon you gringo," Lupe stated, correcting his pronunciation.
Fudd and the warden were about the same height, and the resemblance was pretty close, except for the dorky hat and hunting coat. Those would be a fashion improvement for the warden, if he could get them. Finding the correct information, Warden Fudd continued.
“Muchachas Traviesas Locas, ah yes, when you and Muchachas Traviesas Locas fired on the order of, ah, 73 rounds of gunfire into the automobile in which rode Federal Judge Samuel Abrams Longaberger III. This mistake caused the, ah, loss of his life, in addition to those two others in the car. Pity. I knew the Judge. He was much more, ah, lenient than his successor, which is, ah, why you ended up here in snowy Lewisburg in such short order. Welcome. This will be your home for the next 99 years.”
Ninety-nine years? Ninety-nine freakin' years spent chained up like a pit bull someone had trained up to be mean? "No way," she breathed quietly. "No effin way!" Chains rattled angrily as she raged futilely at them. "Those papers say anything about Eddie? About how the pinga Judge friend of yours ran him over and killed him? Man, Eddie was just a baby! Where's his ninety-nine years, huh?"
She spat on the floor, missing the Warden. A thin rope of saliva glistened on her lower lip and down her chin. "Anglos. You kill one of us and when we take justice for it, you got the balls to lock us up. Man, I've seen you people stop for running over a dog, but killing a kid is no big thing. So long as it's not a white kid." She subsided, anger giving way to fearful realization that she'd never, ever, get out of this place.
“Ms. Pabon, beatings are not part of our, ah, hierarchy of interventions here at Lewisburg. They affect only the physical being. You may be tough, as you say. That is fine. Other tough men and women have responded well to some of our interventions. Everyone works here at The Big House, as those on the outside, the guards, and the other inmates call it. You will be calling it that before long, too.”
“There are even activities, and ah, rehabilitation treatment plans, for those who qualify. If you mind your filthy little mouth and hands while you are here, perhaps you can even learn a trade, and become productive. Sit back down, Ms. Pabon. Sit, and listen.”
Warden Fudd blotted a moist spot of coffee from his lower lip. Something in his eyes was at once inviting like a pond on a hot summer day, and at the same time, dangerous like the snake that was hidden below the pond’s surface.
“Here at the Big House, there are rules to be followed. I have an open-office policy. You may contact me at will, and I will respond at once. But there are your obligations here. Everyone eats, and everyone works. The guards will not beat you. But do not attack them, nor attempt to steal, or injure yourself or other inmates. Should anyone attempt to do you harm, notify me immediately, and the situation will be remedied. Do not accept or attempt to smuggle drugs or alcohol within the facility. Do not attempt to escape. If you follow the rules, you will have a successful stay here, and will be released when that time is appropriate. If you choose not to follow these rules…”, and the warden glanced at his Rolex, “if you would mind stepping closer to the, ah, window, and looking out into the courtyard. Ah, yes, if you choose not to follow these rules, the Department of Corrections has authorized me to end your miserable existence on this planet, so help you God…”
With this, the Warden drew the thin, dusty curtain aside, and Lupe witnessed three blindfolded people marched up to a series of posts, quickly tied fast, and without delay, shot by a firing squad.
“All perfectly legal. And final. As it should be. Obey the rules. You are dismissed.”
She wasn't about to let him have the last word. It didn't matter if it earned her a slap or a kick, a chola went down fighting. "Be sure to kiss your mama with that tongue tonight. Only way you get any action I bet." She smirked as the guards hustled her out. Suggesting carnal relations with one's mother was just about as bad as peeing on the crucifix in her world, and a sure way to let someone know the contempt you felt for them. Not that he'd understand.
Lupe was hustled out of the Warden’s office, pushed through a maze of corridors, and into D Wing, Block 12. She was amazed at the size of this prison, near a totally nowhere cow town called Lewisburg. At least the women and men were segregated, someone said. Lupe had not seen a man other than the guards at this place. Fudd didn’t quite pass for a man. But the women could be, well, nasty would about cover it.
“Fresh fish! Hey baby. Be my sleepytime gal. Hey, look at *those* lips, ooh, ooh, bet she’s a real screamer. Yo! Cigarette for a blow? C’mon sugar, come to Mama…” Lupe walked tough. It was important to make an impression as a hard case right off lest someone take her for a chump or a playpretty. Giving back insult for insult was the cheap way to do it. Best to just keep a stone face and show them she was above their taunts. Once though she stopped, just for a second before the guards jerked her back into motion, and looked into the faces of one of the jeerers. Memorized it in fact. There'd be a time in the very near future when she'd find herself in a spot to make an example of the taunter. Word'd spread and people would remember the cold way she'd picked her out and warned her with just a look. That'd help establish her as someone not to mess with.
Finally Lupe was tossed into a cell. Someone was already there, waiting. Thank God she was Hispanic, Lupe had had enough Anglos for the rest of the year. “Hey, hon, name’s Maria. Heard you were coming! Just a little joke. You OK?” Maria was average height and build, pretty hair, terrible complexion, nice without being overly talkative, and tough without leaving Lupe in fear of her life.
Talk, as always in lockup, turned to what you did to get clinked up. Maria was unusual in that she admitted what she'd done and didn't disguise it as 'Cops said I…" Stupid though; the Man had a lot of snitches and she remembered what had happened to Jaime. He'd run off at the mouth to his cell mate about some other things he'd done. Stoolie snitched, got some good time credits, and Jaime got sent up for a longer sentence. Course the snitch never got to redeem those credits - a shiv made from a toothbrush handle and a piece of razor blade saw to that. Jaime might have been stupid as a doorknob, but you didn't put one over on a homeboy and live to gloat about it. Not long anyway. So Lupe listened to Maria, but didn't volunteer any information of her own.
“I knived my old man, the homo-fondling limpdick bastard. No, it didn’t kill him, but when I lit the apartment on fire, well… Hey, I’m off to work in the kitchen. You’re new, just follow the rules, and it’ll be cool. That’s a nice way of saying keep your hands off my stuff.” She winked. “You got the top bunk. Hope you got breakfast. It’s an even day. No lunch I’m afraid. I’m off…”
"See ya," Lupe said quietly. Going through Maria's stuff wouldn't be worth the hassle anyway. If she needed something, Lupe'd take it off someone else besides her cellmate. Everyone had to sleep and ripping off the person who bunked with you was just dumb. Besides, she seemed okay and hadn't hinted she was a marimacha so maybe Lupe had gotten lucky. Probably all them hot dogs in the kitchen kept her straight. The guard approached, hefted the baton in his hand, and released Maria. Lupe was alone.
The hours turned to days, and days into weeks. The things that stood out in Lupe’s mind, were the smells, the dimness that was never quite dark, the echos, the heat one day and the cold the next, and the seriousness about the enforcement of the rules. There was TV, although much of it other than Sesame Street and I Love Lucy was censored. There was LFP Newsbreak, a sort of cleaned-up CNN. Almost nobody bothered because it said so little. Word did leak in that the war was going badly. The US might throw in the towel.
Sometime in early January 2002, when Lupe had been in prison just a week or so, 2-3 girls in D wing were released. Something called the Freedom Corps. Not many knew what it was. Something like Americorps? One ancient guard said “…like the CCC. Look it up in the library, lil missy.” Lupe explained she didn’t get to the library much. “Well, ya should”. At any rate, they were all relatively minor offenders, at least relative to the rest of the prison population, so Lupe could forget that angle.
Payback came a few weeks into her stint. Lupe gave the girl time to forget about the look, the implied threat. She didn't even so much as glance at the loudmouth when she saw her. Just bided her time and let the little chica get complacent. Let her think she'd gotten away with it.
Let everyone think she'd gotten away with it. Anyone could hit back right away, but it was the cold ones who hit you a week, a month, a year later that scared people. Lupe wanted people to be scared of her so she wouldn't have to spend so much time looking over her shoulder.
The shower was her ring. The noise of dozens of women bs'ing and the impact of water on tiles would cover any sound Lupe made. Keep the guards at bay for the few seconds she needed. Guards were supposed to watch the prisoners constantly, even in the shower, but the heat and steam - and 'accidentally' splashed water on trousers had taught the guards to wait outside. If something happened they could be in the shower fast enough. Besides, who cared anyway? If the inmates wanted to throw down let them. Give them time to wear one another out then wade in with fists and boots and truncheons. Lupe let the little puta see she was coming. Let everyone see what was coming. A little bubble of silence formed and began to expand outward from Lupe as the other women noticed. It popped suddenly when the other inmates started talking again, louder than before. Guards had their way of enforcing the rules and the inmates had their own. They might not have liked what was going to happen, but it was their business Soap was hard to hold onto, but the rough prison washcloth Lupe'd wrapped around it gave enough grip. It wasn't as good as a roll of nickels or the like, but it'd make her hit harder. Lupe'd taken patient hours in the shower to wear the bar down to just the right size to fold up inside her fist.
The little puta started screaming before Lupe even hit her. They continued for long seconds, climaxing in a brief shrill that was cut off by the fact her teeth had been knocked out. That happened when you were slammed face-firstst into the tile walls. Lupe took some hits, wild blows mainly, but nothing bad. Lupe never made a sound, never said anything, just beat the girl down and vented her rage and shame on the girl's body.
When the guards came in, everyone was showering again, even Lupe, and had their backs to the fallen girl in the corner. Blood swirled sickeningly from her ruined mouth and turned pink as it made love to the water going down the drains. No one saw anything of course.
Word got around. Lupe was hard. It made life easier.
Lupe was assigned to cleaning crew, which didn’t quite work out. Some nasty lesbo chick was the crew trustee, and… well, it didn’t work out. Then there was the wonderful job of burning off the latrine buckets. Even though there was a chance to get near gasoline and matches, Lupe’s thoughts of using them for anything faded when the stench assailed her nostrils.
Then Lupe pulled the nursery. It might’ve been easier to tolerate cleaning crew, than to see all of these babies that were born in this place. Some chicks were pregnant when they got there, others, well… some chicks were short on commodities, and it was the oldest profession in the world. Still, it would break the heart of an even tougher animal than Lupe to put up with that duty for long – all the screaming and crying, changing diapers, feeding, and the feeling when holding a small soft human being in her arms... No, it wasn’t a good feeling. If she went too soft, she might end up dead. Better to stay edged. In all, she lasted there about two months, into the heart of February’s cold in 2002. Finally, she was picked for kitchen duty on the same shift as Maria. What luck! This meant lunch for her on even days. There was some jealousy – other inmates tried for up to a year for a chance in the kitchen.
Lupe was not surprised to find gangs here in the prison, they were just a bit more subtle, and perhaps smarter than those on the street, if the truth be known. Segregation was the word of the day, and as far as Lupe was concerned, it was probably for the better. Sexual thoughts aside, most of the male inmates that she had caught a glimpse of were big, rough-assed, self-tattooed psychos. No thanks!
But one day, out of the blue, the flickering, smiling eyes of Hector Ruiz met during a shift change at the kitchen. It was good to see a familiar face, even if very little could be said in the brief encounter. Even morese than seeing Hector, the most memorable thing about her first week in the kitchen was when the power went off.
Someone said the power lines were really iced up, and had snapped. An alarm went off, everything went dark, and all of the doors snapped shut automatically. Lupe, Maria, and 3 others spent the next 28 hours trapped in the kitchen.
It sounded OK enough, other than the cold. Plenty of food. Everyone stuffed themselves. But no restroom facilities. Only dim emergency lights. The plumbing system wasn’t on the generator, so no drinking water either. Cans of outdated apple juice. People relieved themselves in a bucket of industrial cleanser to kill the smell. No electricity for the ovens meant cans of cold ravioli, courtesy of Chef Boyardee’s down the road. At night, it got cold. Real cold. A few layers of aprons barely put a dent in the cold. And in the cafeteria on the other side of the serving line, fights, smashing, burning, and probably worse. Thankfully it was only about a day and not longer.
The guards were a strange group. Most of those that weren’t ancient, were crippled. No match even for a little girl, if it weren’t for the weapons, and their numbers. Overall, Lupe figured there were 600-700 prisoners, men and women, here. And probably 100 guards. The thing was, the guards almost always had a 3 to 1 ratio on the prisoners when they were being moved, or when working. So it would be hard to… well, those thoughts disappeared when Lupe saw her first inmate beaten to death by a guard. A lot of the guards were just plain mean, but were careful to focus it in secretive ways. Some, she was sure, were soldiers that had fouled up in the military. The warden did respond to Lupe both times she called the hotline, but Lupe knew there wasn’t much evidence in either case to put things right. At least Fudd seemed sincere. Yeah, like a bad actor…
Later in the Summer of 2002, another group of prisoners was released. Lupe never caught the name of this group. It was more like 20 people out of D Wing, (about 1 in 10) all near the end of their time. Rumor was, they were tossed into the Army, but not in a combat unit or anything. ”Yeah, like they’d give me a gun again…” Hector was still there, and palmed Lupe a switchblade, disguising it with a big overdone hug one day in the hall. “Things are gonna get real rough real soon, little lady. You might need this.”
The time really seemed to drag. Lupe had terrible thoughts when DEC 2002 neared. It was DEC when she was given up by that bitch, and had landed in this mess. Every now and then she saw Hector. He seemed to age real fast, and had let his hair grow long. He was almost handsome, the SOB. The streaks of grey made him look like a magician. She did see him working out a lot on the weight pile out in the courtyard, even in crappy weather. Most prisoners thought he was totally nuts, and left him alone. Or maybe it was the enormous biceps he had developed during his stay at the Big House.
Right around Christmas 2002, a woman in a Santa hat and fatigues addressed the prisoners in small groups. She had an offer. “I’m here on behalf of Santa Claus”. Horrendous laughter erupted. “Shut up and listen – This is your chance at the greatest Christmas present you will ever get. Join, and fight the unrest outside. Run, and I’ll shoot you in the leg, and cut your guts out while I look you in the eyes.” She was Hispanic, and had been cut up badly in the face at some point, and the look in those dark eyes told more about her than anything she had said in words. Several hands went up in the small group. Lupe hesitated. Maria didn’t.
Lupe stayed at the Big House. Maria didn’t. Captain Santa had filled her quota. Lupe judged that maybe 100 or more inmates had gotten a release from Captain Santa. DEC 2002 began a long, lonely winter. With these releases, Lupe and others in D Wing didn’t have to share a cell, which was nice. The place was almost deserted. The problem was, most who were left in prison were truly the baddest of the bad. Lupe found out through the grapevine that Hector had also gone with Captain Santa. Again she felt terribly alone.
With Maria gone, there wasn't much to fill up the quiet. Annoying as it was sometimes, Lupe missed Maria's incessant chatter. She was like a human radio. Sure the station sucked but it was human contact of a sort. Talking to people several cells down, or even across the way, didn't do it. Lupe needed an outlet.
She found one. Ironically it was because of that crusty old guard's suggestion she check out the library for the CCC. It wasn't often that Lupe was intimidated and meek, but the prison library did that to her. There were all these books, and all these cards in little drawers. People came in and just looked in the cards and then got a book. Lupe had no clue what to do and it frustrated her. Aware that the librarian was looking at her, Lupe slammed the drawer of cards closed and stalked to an aisle. She grabbed a book at random, tossed it on the checkout desk, and dared the librarian to say something.
Lupe never found out what the CCC was, but she learned some interesting things. The book she'd picked up at random was by some old dead guy named Sinclair. It was really hard to understand, and Lupe didn't get half of the long words. Time after time the book ended up in the corner of her cell, laying there with a broken spine after Lupe flung it at the wall. Reading was hard, really hard, and it made her feel stupid and worthless. It was pretty cool though, once she began to make sense of it. The book was called The Jungle only it wasn't about monkeys and shit, but about butchers and making meat. Really disgusting. It put her off sausage for a week. The people in it were Anglos, yeah, but they were immigrants like Lupe's family. They didn't have it any easier either. Man's wife took up with his boss. He got tossed in the jail for fighting and when he got out his old lady - the cheating bitch - was dead and the kids been kicked out on the streets. Man got smart after that though, and worked his way up in a gang. Politics was the name of this gang, and while Lupe didn't get it all - who cared who the mayor was anyway? - she got that politics gave the man power. Didn't help a lot with his kids. His mija, Elizabeta - Lupe was glad to see that Anglos couldn't spell so good either, it was supposed to be Elizzabeth she knew…with two z's - anway, his mija ended up working the streets as a whore. Then the man did some more stuff she didn't understand and got up into something called socialism. Lupe really lost track of things then, but she figured out enough to know that socialism was good and gave the man power and respect while the rest of his family went to shit.
Anglos wrote some weird books. She kept after them though, a trial of frustration that often ended in a screaming rage. Lupe learned things, odd things, but nothing that would help her out. It was just a way to pass the time.
In early March of 2003, a freak storm left a group of kitchen workers stuck in the kitchen when the power went down again. The group was:
Lupe, a male Cook 1 named “Cookie” Jarvacek (age 59), a female guard named “Wanderful” Wanda Reed (age 35) and a female prisoner named Simone Giardino (age 23)
The kitchen had all manner of food stuffs, equipment, and other supplies. By blocking the doors, the group had access to the following areas: 2 walk-in freezers (3x4 meters), 2 condiments rooms (also 3x4), two separate 30x50 meter kitchens, and a 2x50 meter dishroom line.
The dishroom and the 1st kitchen connect to a serving line, but that door is locked, and can’t seem to be forced. The serving line connects to the huge cafeteria, but likewise that isn’t accessible. Further away, past the caf, is D wing (so it’s past two locked doors).
Lupe has her switchblade, tucked away real good.
Cookie is likable and trustworthy. Reed is a brute. Giardino is tough and nasty. Reed tried to get out before the door snapped shut, but didn’t make it. Giardino is sneaking around with a “searching…” look in her eyes. The noise from the cafeteria is utter pandemonium. Fighting, yelling, things getting thrown around and broken. Cookie just filled half of a 5 gal bucket with whatever water was in the line. He looks real nervous…
Simone, what kind of name was that anyway? Sounded like she was saying si mon all the time; yes man. Weird name. Her last name was even worse, G something, like her papa had had a bunch of vowels left over and stuck them into a name. Girl was prowling the floor like she was looking for something. Shit. Should be taking advantage of the down time and relaxing.
Not that rest was coming easy. What if the doors didn't open again, huh? Sure they had before - after a day - but what if they didn't? Lupe shifted from where she had her butt planted on the counter.
Even Cookie looked worried. He was normally as steady as could be. "It's just winter," she announced suddenly. When the others looked her way, Lupe shrugged. "You know, like what them Anglo putas with too much money and not enough love say. Holiday blues." Never mind it wasn't close to a holiday. "Ready for the snow to go away and for the sun to come back out. That's all. They'll get the power on soon and open the doors."
Lupe smirked at the guard. "When they do, you better look sharp. Always a good time to take down a guard. Hell," she stood up quickly, still smirking. "Maybe we do it right now." She was just bullshitting, trying to transfer her fear into anger and vent it on the guard. Probably get her a bruise but it was worth it. "What do you say, Simone? Want to teach old Wandraful a lesson?" She took a step towards the guard, ready to laugh at the scare she was giving the older woman. They'd get the power back on any minute now anyway, so she might as well have some fun in the meantime.
Of course right. They couldn't just leave them locked up in here forever.
Simone lit up a smoke, inhaled deeply as if her life depended on the poison in the fumes, and slid down to a sit against the institutional-green tiled wall. She pulled the half of a tuna sandwich from her pocket, and ate a third of it in one bite.
"Lupe, hermana, look, see. My feet are frickin' tired. My ass is tired. My boobs ache. I gotta headache. I'm in no frickin' mood today. Y'know what I mean. Charlie. Don't go pissin' the guard off. Leave Cookie alone, or he'll stroke out on us, and it'll be back ta solitary, and no extra snacks like we've been scarfin'. Sit down, and shut up. This is not a day ta mess with me. OK?"
"Whatever," Lupe said dismissively and remained standing. Still she laid off Wanda, seeing her opportunity for fun had passed.
She thought about Simone's complaints for a minute then insight dawned. "So you knocked up or on your period?" she asked with bored interest. Sex between the male and female inmates wasn't exactly common but it happened. And sex among the female inmates and the male guards for favors happened about as often as bunnies doing it, to judge by the sounds at night. Could be the stupid chica got herself knocked up.
It didn't really matter which it was; they'd get the power back on and open the door soon.
Of course right. They couldn't just leave them locked up in here forever.
10 MAR 2003 / 1430 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
The tension relaxed a few notches in the kitchen area in the intervening 30 minutes. Cookie was warming a tin cup of old, stale coffee with his lighter. Simone had made another tuna sandwich, and was picking the flecks of mold off of the bun, rolling them into little balls, and flicking them into the garbage chute from a good 25 feet or so. Wanda was sitting down on a stool, also smoking, while she choked down her cup of stale coffee the she-man way -- lukewarm.
"You should save that Zippo, Cookie. Maybe we need it later." Lupe wasn't sure why she'd said that - it was as good as admitting they'd be stuck in here for a long time and who wanted that? Screw it, let him burn the lighter. Stupid would just have to get some more fuel for it.
There was a lot of shouting and scuffling around just beyond the security doors from the dish line. Then screaming, crashing, and general mayhem broke loose. A fight. Or worse. A riot. Wanda gulped the coffee, and like some warped parody of a lion-tamer, took the metal stool and the stirring paddle, and moved into a corner of the northernmost kitchen area, and once again sat with the paddle across her knees, smoking, and waiting...
Lupe dropped to her belly on the tiles by the door. Sometimes there was a crack between the bottom of the door and the floor you could see out of. Whatever was happening out there sounded like some serious business and she wondered who was getting the best of it. Wriggling closer, cheek on cold tile and nose pressed against the unforgiving steel of the door, Lupe tried to see out. "Damn," she said, "they really throwing down out there." A roll of her neck and she looked briefly at Wanda. "You look like you going to pee your panties. Chhhh. You safe in here, Wandraful. No one want to touch your scraggly ass anyway."
Cookie was cold, but he was still sweating. He donned a second cook's jacket which was hanging from a hook, and wrapped an apron around his shoulders like a shawl. When he stuffed the pipe full of Barberry in his teeth, he looked a bit like the un-spiniched-up Popeye of 1930's fame. Lupe knew the 'toon pretty well. It was one of only 4-5 that the prison had and showed regularly.
10 MAR 2003 / 1500 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Wanda was getting nervous. A whole hour. She barely moved from her perch on the stool. Well, with the riot *still* going on just past the door to the serving line, it might be a bit longer until someone came. She knew a lockdown cursory sweep of all four wings, and 20 blocks within each of them could take some time....
Simone and Cookie were playing Hearts or some silly-assed card game over in the dishroom.
Lupe paced. It didn't do anything for her tension but the physical activity helped keep her warm. Gloves. Where did Wanda get off having gloves? Be nice to take them from her but…no. The guard had that paddle and while Lupe was pretty sure she could duck under it, at worse taking one across the back, old Wandraful might get lucky and crack Lupe's skull open like a pinata. Then she'd be really screwed and not in a nice Oh Baby way. Maybe she could take her socks off. Later. If it got that cold. She didn't want to look like some dork.
10 MAR 2003 / 1600 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Well, this was getting old by now...
10 MAR 2003 / 1700 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Cookie had been working on something. He politely informed the ladies that sanitary facilities were now available in the privacy of Walk-In Freezer #2. Upon closer inspection, it was workable, yet fairly primitive -- a 10 gallon bucket with a few inches of water and heavy duty industrial cleanser to kill the smell. He apologized for using it first, but, hey, he did do the work, see.
At least things had died down a little past the serving line door. Perhaps that was a bad choice of words -- there was some sobbing or moaning for a little while, that soon ended...
10 MAR 2003 / 1800 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Cookie had opened up a large can of baked beans, and was stirring in some chili powder and a few onion flakes to doctor the slop up a bit. There were four hotdogs left from lunch, and some really weak red punch. Hey, they'd have us out sometime tonight, after they ran all the hallways, right?
"Hey, which guard am I?" Lupe had taken one of the hotdogs, broken it off a few inches from the end, and was holding it in front of her crotch, hips rolling to make it wag obscenely. One of the guards, spectacularly unendowed, had a thing for flashing the female prisoners. Oddly he seemed to get off the more they made fun of it, like he dug the humiliation. "Hey Simone, give you a pack of smokes to come blow me." Again with the hip waggle. Amazing what boredom would do to a person.
10 MAR 2003 / 2000 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Wanda had been belching back onion flakes and chili powder for at least the last 45 minutes. She looked a mess, too. She was no beauty queen to start with, and the ill-fitting uniform did nothing for her figure. The two floodlights in the kitchen area gave enough light up close, but from further off in the shadows where Lupe and Simone rested, Wanda looked like an ogre...
10 MAR 2003 / 2300 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Things were getting a little tense again. Cookie was fast asleep on a few large bags of rice, his muted snore sounding more like a baby's than those of a man looking to soon retire. Simone lay on a few pieces of cardboard to insulate against the cold tile floor. Wanda was pacing. And bumping into stuff. This tended to wake up a different person every 10 minutes or so, and it was no wonder it was becoming annoying.
The socks had come off. Lupe wore them as mittens. They helped a little, but she still kept her hands under her armpits most of the time. She snuggled up against Simone's back and put an arm over the other woman. "Hey, relax," she said when Simone began to move. "I'm not a marimacha. I just want to share some body heat so we both don't freeze." Wriggling and cursing the hard floor under her breath - the prison mattresses had spoiled her after a year of living like an animal in the rubble - Lupe tried to get as comfortable as possible and as close to Simone as she could. Her breath warmed the back of Simone's neck as Lupe hid her face in Simone's hair. "Wandraful, lay down. You're keeping me awake with your stupid pacing."
11 MAR 2003 / 0230 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
After a few hours of restless sleep, everyone bolted awake to the sound of gunfire! It was outside. A single shot, then 2-3 more in rapid succession. Then silence. A scream. Another shot. And more silence. Feet scuffling around on the roof. Another shot. Glass breaking, and falling from above. One of the skylights. Nearby. Maybe the other side of the dining room. Then silence again. And a chill from a breeze that wasn't there before. At the first shot Lupe was up from snuggling with Simone and in a dark part of the kitchen with decent cover. It was the action of a feral animal and one that had kept her alive longer than most out in the rubble. Five shots, that mean they only had five bullets or only needed five to kill some people? Lupe hated not knowing, not being able to see. And as if it wasn't cold enough, the cabrons out there had broken a window and let in a bone-chilling wind. Idiots. "Use the last bullet for yourself, you cabron!" she screamed and stood up. "Put it in your mouth and suck on it." Angry, tired, sore and cold she returned to trying to stay warm with Simone.
11 MAR 2003 / 0500 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Knocking. Knocking from the serving line door. Whoever it was, they wouldn't answer. Probably other inmates. Then louder, more forceful pounding. Pounding like with benches or tables. The doors shuddered slightly, but held. Then yelling, screaming and fighting from the other side. And once again, silence...
No one could sleep much more after that. Bones, even of the young, were tired, and ached from the cold night spent on terra cotta. One good thing, or actually two -- the storm had let up, and it was warming up, if only slightly. Cookie suggested they drink up some of the milk -- it was still cold, but getting warmer. Probably spoil by lunch. Breakfast was cold cereal and some metallic tasting canned peaches.
11 MAR 2003 / 1130 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
This was getting a little ridiculous. Wanda hadn't slept, probably for fear of what might happen. She was a frazzled mess. The air in here was stale from tobacco smoke, bodies, and Wanda's 45 minutes worth of groaning effort in the makeshift toilet. Even the normally polite Cookie made a sour face at the guard, as he heaped another tin canful of cleanser into the bucket...
Lunch came and went -- the rest of the tuna, the rest of the beans, some milk, and some nasty tasting butterscotch pudding with a hard skin on the top.
11 MAR 2003 / 1400 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
It had been silent outside, and beyond the serving line door for quite a long time, now.
After the group had spent 24 hours under the conditions of a power outage and lockdown, they would all agree that it was enough. Cookie was in the condiment rooms (actually, in addition to condiments, the basics for what ever would be cooked for the next 2-3 would be kept on hand here, sort of a storage room). He was busily scratching away at the flip side of a can label with the stub of a pencil. For the moment he wouldn't say a thing.
It was mostly quiet except for some distant yelling around 2PM, and a few screams around supper.
11 MAR 2003 / 1900 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Cookie patted a jazzy rhythm on his knees, and rose slowly to his feet to address the group.
"Folks, I didn't want any of you to worry about nothing, so here it is. We've got plenty of food. There's not a lot of variety, but what's there should hold us awhile. Nobody's contacted us, which is unusual. What I'm worried about is the water. There's not much left, and what we have isn't that great -- it's meant for washing, not really drinking. We're in deep shit if this goes beyond the day after tomorrow, so let's try to take it easy on the stuff -- there's some soda, and juice in the First Walk-In, so let's stick to that if we can.
12 MAR 2003 / 0700 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
This was just plain nuts. No word from anyone. At least it kept getting warmer. And the smell from Walk-In #2 was only bad for a few minutes after opening the door. That breeze was still coming in under the Serving Line door. Apparently, fixing windows wasn't a real high priority during a power outage -- hey! Check it out! The sun's just barely up and clock reads 2:00, and the hands are moving again! We got power! Awright! That means the water'll work too. Cookie filled the remaining empty containers with water from the tap, just to be safe. They'd be along soon, for sure...
12 MAR 2003 / 1100 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Well, they mustn't be in any huge freakin' hurry. Cookie was looking a bit white. Well, he was white, or Caucasian, but even for him, he was looking pretty white. Wanda, in a very uncharacteristic moment of leadership, ordered him to drink some water, and sit down and take it easy for a while. He did so, grudgingly.
Simone brought up the possibility of taking the door off the hinges. It might be done, given some time. And the knives that Cookie had deposited in the sharps safe. Well, there was always that chance that whatever trouble was going on past the locked door would just chew the group up and spit them out.
Later that night, there was running in the cafeteria, just past the doors. A flashlight cut through the black of night. It was quickly followed by a single shot, probably a pistol from the sound of it. Simone and Wanda both pounded on the door, trying to get someone's attention, anyone's attention. No one heeded their call.
12 MAR 2003 / 1430 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Another day had passed with the group still locked in. Prisoners within a prison, within yet another prison. Simone was acting whacky. Moreso that usual. Coupla days off her meds could do that, you know. It was an even bet whether Wanda or Walk-In #2 smelled worse at the moment. Cookie looked a little better, although he had the sweats for awhile. He normally smelled of English Leather cologne, but not at the moment. He continued taking it easy. Everyone smelled, Wanda was just worse. Plus everyone was tired, and edgy. It would seem that they had been... forgotten...
Screw it. No way she was dying in here. They might send her to solitary, tack on some time, or even rough her up but it was worth it. Lupe reached in the waist of her prison issue pants, hand disappearing past the wrist. Right there, stuck in a partially undone inner seam, she felt the checkered handle of the switchblade. "Relax," she told everyone and pulled it out. A press of the button and the heavy steel blade, long and sharp like a steel canine, snicked out. "And don't go reaching for that paddle, Wandraful. If I wanted to stick you I'd have done it when you smelled up the place days ago." Lupe cast a cautious eye towards Simone. Chica was off her meds, whatever penitentary cocktail the docs gave her, and if she went whack…well, one of them would be buried in the prison yard and it wouldn't be Lupe.
"Going to get this open and get out of here," she told them all as she looked over the sharps safe. Had to be a way to pry it open, or unscrew it and just beat it open against the floor. They had plenty of time.
Dios, let this work, she prayed like the damned sinner she was.
12 MAR 2003 / 1430 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Wanda was less than thrilled that Lupe was attempting to open the sharps safe in the dishline. Simone eyed the whole situation intently, and Cookie just curled up and tried to stay warm. Again his color was not good. He had staggered off to the makeshift privy a few minutes ago, then had drained the ever-present cup of coffee, only to be trudging once more to the bucket of industrial cleanser...
Lupe checked out the sharps safe. It was basically a metal box attached to the bottom of the stainless steel dishline. Workers deposited anything long, sharp, and nasty into the slot on the top, and hopefully it would never fall into less-than-trustworthy hands. Well, Lupe had other hopes. The thing was riveted to the bottom of the dishline, meaning there were no bolts to unscrew or nuts to work loose. Shit. The lock that secured the thing was a sturdy Master Lock padlock. Picking locks was far from Lupe's usual way of doing business, but this was also far from her usual way of spending an afternoon, even in the Pen.
She dug at the lock, which just barely accommodated the slim blade of her switchblade. After working on the lock with the knife like two teenagers frantically satisfying their urges, Lupe cut the index finger of the hand that was holding the lock. Shit again. It was no major cut -- it actually hurt a lot but bled very little. She looked at the blade of her knife, and cursed something vile to herself. She had nicked the blade, and bent it a good bit as well. Dammit. It took a little work to get the thing closed. And it was now a little slower to open, since the blade was sticking. Fuck.
Simone smirked at Lupe and said something that sounded Italian. Hey she spoke a little Spanish too, but this was different. Cookie looked up at Lupe from the floor, and asked "Any luck?" Cookie really looked bad, and was holding the left side of his chest. He belched a few times, and excused himself, completely embarrassed. Finally, he rose slightly and offered, "Hey, ladies, I'm not feeling real well. If you've got any ideas for getting out of here..."
Cookie never finished his sentence. He collapsed on the terra cotta floor, his head impacting with a sickening thwack. Wanda rolled him over, and examined the small bruise above his left eye. "Cookie? Cookie!..." There was no answer. She checked his pulse, and finding none, began CPR...
Twenty minutes later, a sweating Wanda ceased CPR. Cookie had died of an apparent heart attack. She got the other two women to help her move Cookie into one of the walk-ins, at least for the moment. Simone went to the water right after that task was done, and began scrubbing vigorously with soap and a brush. Everywhere. Hands, arms, belly, privates, yes, everywhere. She went off alone to sulk for awhile. She was acting very creepy.
Soon after supper time, Wanda and Lupe dozed off in their own separate corners of the kitchen area. Lupe was startled from sleep some time later by a sound not unlike one of those band things, what were they, those round gold metal things -- shingles, right? Anyway, it was a sound like those shingles like they use in a marching band. There it was again. She scrambled up and around, and watched as Simone used a large skillet to put the finishing touches on the pulpy mess that once was Wanda's skull...
Looking up from her work, Simone informed Lupe, "Hey, it had to be done. She was snoring too damn loud this time..."
"Okay," she said carefully, not wanting to provoke Simone. Under the cover of darkness her hand found the comforting handle of the switchblade. Lupe wished like hell she hadn't bent the blade. If the crazy woman rushed her and it didn't open - shit.
"She sure don't be making any more noise now, hermana," Lupe noted grimly. "She's the Devil's problem now, huh." Pressing the back of the closed blade against her leg to keep it from springing open, Lupe thumbed the release and then slowly moved her hand out to let the blade open stealthily. "Just you and me now, Simone. That's good, because we're both prisoners and girls and going to stick together, right?" She began to advance on Simone, holding out her free hand as if to take the other woman's and keeping the blade down by her leg, out of sight. "Stick together and get the hell out of here. Maybe do some dancing, find some homeboys, breathe some air that don't stink of prison."
There, she was close enough to see the blood and pulped brains on the skillet. "Come here, chica. You look cold and Lupe'll warm you up. Come on, take my hand." Speaking soothingly, as one would to a frightened child, Lupe used every trick of voice and body language to lure Simone into range.
Then she'd gut the crazy bitch like a baby goat and go back to sleep without worrying about never waking up.
12 MAR 2003 / 1432 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
There, she was close enough to see the blood and pulped brains on the skillet. "Come here, chica. You look cold and Lupe'll warm you up. Come on, take my hand." Speaking soothingly, as one would to a frightened child, Lupe used every trick of voice and body language to lure Simone into range.
[GM] Simone looked unsure, unsettled. Something akin to a clump of canned dogfood slowly slid from the frying pan and *splooched* on the floor. If it weren't for landing on the floor, it might even had been more palatable than the slop they served in person, except for the fact that Lupe was certain the clump came from inside Wanda's cranium.
Lupe's assessment of the situation was accurate -- Simone was afraid, unstable, and as she had proven, dangerous.
[Simone] "She won't snore anymore, Lupe. You won't tell anyone, now, will you? I'm fucking sick of this place. The guards hafta all be gone. What would they hang around for? Some boom-boom with us? Nah. We still might be able to break out of here. The skylights... they're pretty high up, but together, we could climb, or make a rope or something. Promise you won't tell. They'll think it was someone else, one of those hellraisers outside by the time the get us out it'll be ok right ok right promise you won't tell please Lupe please don't tell I didn't do it she brought it on herself don't tell we can get out don't tell please"
[Lupe] ...Then she'd gut the crazy bitch like a baby goat and go back to sleep without worrying about never waking up.
"I won't tell, chica," Lupe promised soothingly. "You had to do it. I understand. Come on now, come to Lupe. We'll get out of here and away from Wanda and everyone. Just you and me. No guards, no other cons, no worries about anything." Lupe's voice was calm but she felt like a ballet dancer arabesquing on a narrow ledge high above the city streets. One little bobble and she'd find herself as splattered as old Wandraful was. It gave her an charged feeling in her veins, as if electricity had replaced blood, and it was as intense a high as doing bad crystal.
Lupe waited until Simone was close, oh so close. It would have to be now, or the crazy Italiana bitch might go wig out again and beat Lupe's brains out with her next move. The knife went back, as Lupe wound up, and then outward and upward, square into the middle of Simone's abdomen. The stab lifted Simone off the floor barely an inch, but it was evidence of the power behind the strike. The ringlets curls of Simone's long dark hair flailed back as her head arced skyward. Simone was propelled backward and crashed to the floor with a breathy *oof*...
Knifing someone in the gut always felt weird. There was a little bit of resistance to get through the stomach, like a ham that hadn't been cooked long enough, and then a lot of mushiness as the blade cut through guts and liver. A crisp popping feeling told her the switchblade had gone through the diaphragm and punctured the Italian woman's lungs. This must be what it feels like for a man to rape someone, Lupe thought, the brutal penetrating power and destruction of a woman's body. Rape, she knew, wasn't about sex - it was about power and hatred.
The skillet clattered to the floor with a loud, metallic *klang* that resounded from floor, walls, and ceiling. Simone hesitated, staring in horror at Lupe, who, at once, saw and responded when opportunity knocked. While Simone stupidly stared at her assailant, Lupe stoutly kicked the skillet away from Simone. It hurt Lupe's big toe like a sonofabitch, but Lupe didn't care at the moment.
Crimson spouted from the crazy girl's guts, spreading ever wider across the food service uniform and apron she wore. Simone raised herself to one elbow, her eyes dully taking in the action of the last seven seconds. Simone appeared to be close to passing out, and it was no small wonder with the puddle of blood forming on the floor where she had lain.
Definitely a lung hit. Lupe could see little frothy bubbles in the blood coating Simone's lips like the world's worst lipstick. Even if she'd had immediate access to pre-holocaust medical care and the best Anglo doctors, Lupe knew Simone wouldn't have survived. All Lupe had to do was make sure she didn't join the crazy bitch in death.
"You bitch!", Simone heaved in a raspy, breathy voice. The look in her eyes cursed her carelessness in losing her weapon, but she just didn't care at this point. She spat a mouthful of dark, blackish blood on the floor, and with a banshee scream, she spun until she was upright. She continued her circular momentum, and cleared the distance to Lupe. If Lupe had been the cool killer, calm and deceptive, Simone would be her opposite -- loud and aggressive, leaving no doubt that this would be no easy-and-done scuffle, even with Lupe unhurt, and Simone unarmed. Simone kept coming...
"What you goin' do about it, puta?" Lupe taunted, switchblade flicking in a 'bring it on' gesture. "You already dead, girl. Feel it? Getting weak and shaky. Just want to go to sleep, huh? Go on, puta, go to sleep and I'll pull a blanket over you." Christ, why shouldn't she quit or just die?
"Youuuuu BITCH! Die you dog fucker!". With that, Simone swung a roundhouse punch toward Lupe's head, while holding her free hand over her wound. She misjudged, although not by much, and Lupe swatted the punch away as if it were a pesky insect. Something flung into Lupe's hair, liquid and sticky, and most likely from Simone's previous victim. Simone staggered slightly, then appeared to regain herself. Her off-hand was covered in a glove of her own blood. Undeterred, she crouched down slightly, turned to the side to present less of a target to her opponent, and again advanced on Lupe.
Lupe considered something for a fraction of a second, just backing off and letting the bitch bleed to death, but that simply wasn't much of an option -- while Simone was still alive, she would keep advancing on Lupe, and probably would kill her, if Lupe wasn't careful. Lupe slashed out in an elongated oval toward Simone's throat, trying to minimize the time she was close to the other woman, and thereby, minimize the danger in putting her down. Simone blocked, but ineffectively. The blade bit in, not deeply, it would seem, but deep enough to spray a stream of blood out of the wound and out of Simone's mouth as she squealed her last. Simone crumpled to her knees, and then fell face-first into her own lifeblood as it continued to spill out on the tile floor of the kitchen area of D Wing in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary.
Lupe laughed. It was a frantic sound, full of barely held back panic and sheer joy at being alive. A totally atavistic response, she had no more control over the laughter than she did the way her lips pulled back to bare teeth in a rictus of triumph; one monkey having clubbed down another and showing off to the troop.
Inevitably though, the period after a fight left her feeling drained. It was as if she used up every bit of energy in her body every time she fought, saving nothing for the aftermath. Doubtless it was what let Lupe win so many fights, but she was vulnerable afterwards. This was cool when she had a bunch of cholas around to get her back, but now that she was alone it was really scary. Lupe shook, not from what she'd done to Simone or the disgusting miasma of blood and shit and brains, but from being weak and defenseless. She hated that feeling, hated not being able to control her life and destiny. Weakness was something that happened to other people, not to Lupe.
Sliding to the floor, Lupe rested her back against the wall, knees drawn up and arms across them. She still clutched the switchblade in a hand coated in a glove of blood, unwilling to surrender her last weapon. Exhausted beyond the telling of it, her head drooped forward and she passed out. Around her the bodies kept a silent vigil, one of Wandraful's eyes staring balefully at her from where it had been popped free of the skull to land on the dirty kitchen floor. After a bit the switchblade fell, tinkling metallically as it landed.
When she woke, the blood was dry and flaked off as she moved. It left a stain behind, and inundated every pore and crevice. There was no water to wash it off. Lupe, disgusted, eventually ended up squatting over a pot to collect her urine, then washed her hands in the steaming warm liquid. Yellow piss went pink as it sluiced off red blood and Lupe struggled to keep from vomiting. The heat of it on her hands felt weird, and the smell was sharp and bitter. She smelled like a baby left too long in it's Pampers.
"Fuck!" she shouted angrily, using a clean bit of Simone's shirt back to wipe her hands dry.
"No way am I staying in here with you two. No way, no way, no effing way."
She had to get out, to break free. Desperate, almost frantic with fear of rotting away with the corpses, Lupe began to try to get out. Simone had mentioned the skylights but Lupe wanted to try them last. If she slipped and fell, well that's all she needed - a broken leg or back, dying on the floor like a bug.
Using bits of Wandra and Cookie's clothes, cut into strips with her switchblade, Lupe tied the heaviest skillet she could find to the end of the long stirring paddle Wandra had held as a club so many days ago. She also took the time to go through the guard's pockets, and Simones, to see what they had. It wasn't like she hadn't touched a corpse before. She laughed but it was brittle, "And my hands are already dirty.
Now in possession of a makeshift maul of dubious reliability, Lupe carefully took aim at the sharps box. A few experimental wind up swings, then she brought it all the way back and swung it as hard as she could at the sharps box, praying that the heavy skillet on the end of the stirring paddle would have enough force to knock the box loose.
[GM] Just as further "picture" detail, and in case I didn't describe it before, the sharps box is a cube almost a foot on each side, and is attached to the underside of the stainless steel dishline. Now for your attempt.
[Lupe] The position of the box which consumed Lupe's interest was awkward, but she was determined to break into it to further her escape attempt, or to perhaps have a better selection of blades with which to end her miserable existance, rather than to starve to death when the food and water was gone...
The first several swings were proof of how desperate her plan was, and how poorly built her improvised basher was. The weight on the end of the maul was great, as were Lupe's swings with it, and therein resided the problem -- the makeshift sledgehammer couldn't stand the shock of it's own force, and the skillet kept coming off.
Lupe cursed a blue streak each time the skillet popped off the handle, and cursed another as she reattached the thing to the paddle, and tried again. After the skillet came off the third time, she was done. DONE, dammit! She flew into a rage, and grabbed the skillet and attacked the sharps safe without bothering to put the handle back on the fucking thing.
And you know, it was starting to work!
The safe, a stout box rivetted onto the underside of the dishline, was beginning to buckle between the rivets, and where that metal buckled, gaps formed between the safe and the place where it was fastened. There might be a way...
12 MAR 2003 / 1543 hours Kitchen Area, D Wing
Lupe kept working, spurred on by the marginal success of her (at first) limited attempt. Finally the area of the safe that started to buckle began to show signs of stress in the metal -- thin little lines where the indentation from the impact of the swinging skillet had nearly broken through the metal. Lupe now set the skillet aside, regained the stirring paddle, stabbed it in the gap of the sharps safe, and pried. She put all of her weight into the paddle, shut out a sick thought or two at the picture of her riding this long wooden handle, and bounced up and down on the thing for all she was worth.
On the tenth bounce the side of the safe caved in with a *creak*, depositing Lupe in a heap on the floor. Lupe held back her excitement for fear of getting cut on the veritable arsenal of blades in the thing, and carefully reached inside to determine the contents.
[GM] There are 8 blades total -- 4 small paring knives, 2 medium sized butcher knives (both serrated), a meat cleaver, and something akin to a small sword. Lupe remembered it being used on particularly large watermelons.
[Lupe] Quite a haul, Lupe thought as she sorted through the knives. The little ones weren't much good for much, but she decided to take one of them with her when she got out. It'd be real handy for skinning rats. It was so hard to cut around their legs to get the skin off and she hated roasting them still in their fur. Talk about a stench.
The butcher knives were really worthless. The serrated edges wouldn't let you do much in a knife fight, so she set them aside with three of the paring knives to use to work on the door. If they broke, no real loss.
Experimentally she tested the edge of the cleaver with her thumb. It was as sharp as the edge of hunger you got from not eating for a week. Had some real weight behind it too. Lupe once saw a homeboy in one of those Chinese gangs, called themselves dongs or jongs or something, throwdown with one against a cholo who had a chain. The heavy cleaver just cut right through the cholo's flannel, muscle, and even the bone. Some serious damage there before another cholo popped him with a gauge. It'd be hard to hide, but it would be real good to have in a knock down fight.
The last knife looked like a machete or something. She swing it in the air, then comically dropped into a bad parody of a swordsman's stance and did some fancy cuts and thrusts, totally ineptly of course. "Zorra!" Lupe sketched a very bad Z in the air; she'd never been good at writing anyway and it showed. "Chinga, this would scare some people off."
"Homegirl, you're talking to yourself. You gone loco."
"Yeah. And now I'm talking to myself about talking to myself. Whacked, huh?"
Lupe rode the line between sanity and pathological psychosis, not really caring on which side she wound up. It was like being between two mirrors to think about. She could see a reflection of herself watching herself watching a reflection of herself watching herself watching a reflection of a reflection of herself wa…she lost track but felt the same dizzying sensation.
"Come on, Lupe. Let's get out of here." Carrying her loot, she approached the door leading out to the cafeteria. Starting with the paring knives she tried to use them as screwdrivers to dismantle the door piece by piece. All she needed was for it to open a little bit, just enough to slip through. Her eyes went to the skylight. If this failed, that would be the only way out and Lupe wasn't especially fond of heights. She'd work until the three paring knives and the two butcher knives were broken and useless. If that happened, then it was up to the roof somehow, taking the cleaver and machete-knife with her. She could always trade the pig sticker for something and keep the cleaver for personal, intimate moments with someone she hated.