Today's Reading

His problem is that he just said "Right" and the mob on the top landing now believe they can count on his support. One short word has fouled up everything. He'll be lumped in with the rioters, liable to be charged with whatever these madmen get up to. No lawyer, however smart, will get him off after that. Another long stretch looms.

I can't be alone in wanting no part of this, Warren tells himself. But who else has the balls to take on the gorillas?

And now there is worse.

"How you doing, Warren?"

"So, so."

"Feeling strong?"

"Dunno."

"Because tomorrow, when it happens, you're the star turn, you and Muscles."

His insides clench. "Why is that?"

"Obvious, innit? Yours is the last door they unlock, being at the end of the landing. We'll all be waiting for you to clobber the screw, you and Muscles, catch him off guard just when he thinks his job is done. That's lift-off. Then we're on our way, mate. There's no holding us."

He understands the logic. This isn't personal. He and Muscles are unlucky enough to be banged up in the end pad.

Some rapid thinking is necessary.

"He won't be the only screw unlocking."

"Don't you worry about that, mate. It's taken care of. Soon as you make the first move, the rest of us swing into action. We'll be taking our cue from you."

"Who decided this?"

"Who do you think? The lads upstairs. Make sure you get Muscles on board. We all know he's not the full quid, but he's going to be needed."

Warren's cellmate is six-six and eighteen stone and can't hold a thought in his head for more than two seconds. In a fight he's liable to get confused who the enemy is. But he's strong. There are plenty in prison who pump iron every day and get a body. You aren't called Muscles unless you really stand out.

"I don't like this," Warren says. "Nobody told me we were first on."

"I'm telling you now, aren't I?"

No sense in protesting. This guy is merely the mouthpiece for the high command. With twenty minutes of association time left in the day Warren needs to visit the top landing and speak to the head honcho.

And say what?

Think of something fast.

While climbing the metal stairs he is reminded of something everyone learns to live with on a prison wing—the sheer volume of noise hitting you from the brick and metal surfaces. The clang of barred metal gates. Voices raised in argument, excitement, laughter, threat and desperation, shouting across the landings, vying to be heard in a babel of accents and languages. A modern English prison is more inclusive than the United Nations.

An idea comes to Warren.
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