New Blood

You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you
I picked you out, I shook you up, and turned you around
Turned you into someone new
Now five years later on you’ve got the world at your feet
Success has been so easy for you
But don’t forget its me who put you where you are now
And I can put you back down too
Don’t, don’t you want me?

The clunk of the shot glass on the bar dragged my attention away from the aural atrocity emanating from the jukebox in the corner. I eyed the amber liquid sloshing gently from side to side before looking up at the bartender.

“I didn’t order this.”

“It’s on the house,” he replied with a smile that peered through his wild beard. I was about to thank him when he finished, “You look like you need it. Business not going well?”

“What makes you think I’m here on business?” I asked, downing the shot and savouring the burning sensation that danced along my tongue before diving down my throat.

“Well you’re not from around here,” he said as he plucked the glass off the bar and ran a fresh rag along its polished surface. “And you look too miserable to be here for pleasure. So that only leaves one option.”

“I’d be doing a lot better if that Neanderthal would choose some better songs,” I said, shooting a thumb over my shoulder at the six foot high, two feet wide cretin guarding the red and yellow song machine.

“Oh, I’d let Big Lonnie alone if I was you,” he said, the smile disappearing like a sinner on Sunday. “You don’t want to get yourself mixed up in that business.”

I opened my jacket just enough for him to see the holster resting against my left hip and said, “Actually, I don’t think Lonnie wants to get mixed up in
my business.”

The rumble of cell doors sliding open wakes me instantly, as it always does. I hear Terry groan and grumble before he drags himself to his feet, the cot swaying in time with his movements. After a quick glance to see where he’s situated I pitch myself over the side and land on my feet beside him.

“One day, Manuel, you’re going to mess up and land on me,” he says as he goes to stand at our open door, “and that will not end well for you.”

“My day wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t start with you telling me that,” I say as I line up behind him. We only have to wait a moment before the buzzer sounds to allow us out of our containers and we make our way to the yard for our morning walk around.

As we circle the yard in single file I can hear Ana mumbling to herself three prisoners back. We’re supposed to be silent for this little exercise but I suppose you have to make exceptions for those who need to catch up with all the voices in their heads.

Or maybe they just let her talk all she wants in return for a promise not to set the yard on fire.

Our circuit complete, we’re herded inside for breakfast. Terry and I sit across from each other at the end of the middle table, shovelling our porridge into our mouths without expression or comment. The buzz of conversation is louder than usual today so I turn my head to try to catch a stray word or two.

“New arrivals today Manuel,” Terry tells me when he spots my confusion. “New blood always get them excited.”

I nod and finish my breakfast, my tired mind already spinning. Rookies are always more eager to escape than the veterans - they still have all their energy and optimism. Maybe I can find one to help me. Maybe I can find one to use as a distraction.

Work seems to pass by faster than usual this morning; the mop feels lighter in my hands as I make my way along the second floor of the manufacturing building. One of the guards even stops his patrol to ask me if everything is alright. I need to be more careful, to keep my anticipation under wraps. The slightest indication of anything unusual could get me dumped in solitary and I can’t afford the wasted time.

The entire population is lined up along the chain link fence after lunch, all eyes are on the main gate. Conversation stops the second the bus appears around the corner, spewing black smoke from its exhaust. The gate squeals apart to allow it entrance before grinding back into place with a disheartening clang.

The door of the retired school bus peels open and a grey-haired guard steps out and to the side, flashing us all a condescending glance. None of us care though, if anyone else even notices it - we’re not here for him.

There are only three new prisoners this time, two men and a woman. One of the men looks like he’s about to piss himself, the other looks defiant - I memorize his face, thinking I’ve found my diversion.

Then I get a proper look at the woman and my mouth goes dry.

The End

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