Today's Reading


The two short words Warren doesn't wish to hear: "It's on."


"Tomorrow—at unlock."

"Soon as that?"

"Catch the white-shirts off guard."


But it isn't right, not for Warren. It's wrong, disastrously wrong. He is playing the good-behaviour card this time round in his prison career, working with the system for early release. He's been one of HMP Bream's model cons for two long years. Two years, three months and twenty-seven days.

A riot has been talked about for weeks on C wing. Talk is easy. For a time it was no more than that, wishful thinking, like sex with the gorgeous Miss Martindale who teaches black history. But by degrees the chat has got serious. The gorillas on the top landing mean business. "Together we can do this. We outnumber them. They won't know what's hit them."

A plan has been hatched. Nothing brilliant. Grab the screws the moment they unlock, disable their radios and body cameras, drag them into the cells, tie them up and take their passes, keys and pepper spray. Then hold them hostage. At the same time, someone else will be disabling the CCTV. Coordinated action, see?

How stupid was that, saying "Right"?

In this place you get in the habit of agreeing with other people. It's not clever to challenge anyone. Even so, there are times when you should say, "Count me out."

No one is under any illusion that possessing the keys will mean instant freedom. The people who designed this coop weren't amateurs. You can only get so far and then you need different sets of keys and different passes. There is a better way to beat the system and the wise guys upstairs have sussed it. Instead of breaking out, you break in.

First, uncage your brother inmates and you'll have reinforcements. Strength in numbers. The screws' master keys will give access to the beating heart of the prison: the association area, servery, workshops, gym and chapel. And improvised weapons. Arm yourselves with whatever comes to hand, like fire extinguishers, socks weighted with pool balls, bits of broken furniture such as iron bedposts and steel rails from bookshelves. There's talk that one of the gorillas has taken delivery of a gun, carried over the wall by drone. Whether that's true only he and his inner circle know.

The prison authorities still have the heavy weapons—hoses, tasers, tear gas, stun grenades, sidearms, batons, armed police and the army if required—but they're supposed to act responsibly. The inmates aren't under any such compulsion. They can create mayhem. The obvious way to make it happen is with fire. Set the place alight and see how that goes down with the governor when some of his team are held hostage.

Warren has no desire to be part of the violence. With good behaviour he is planning to reduce a six stretch to three. Getting caught up in a riot will wreck that. He's forty-three now. More than half his life has been spent inside, if you count the years in the secure children's home. His last probation officer—all of twenty-one and straight out of college—said he was institutionalised, unlikely to survive outside some strict regime like prison or the army.


What did the little prick think? That Warren wouldn't know how to use a knife and fork? Couldn't walk up a crowded street without panicking? Would get tongue-tied talking to a woman?

People like that know shit-all.

He has managed his anger up to now, hasn't he? He can survive outside. He can thrive. But not the law-abiding way society expects, with the pathetic discharge grant of £46 and a one-way train ticket to London—to exist on charity and roughing it on the streets. And not on Job-seeker's Allowance and filling in forms at the job centre. With Warren's special skills there are jobs to be had that no careers advisor knows about.

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