While saying goodbye to Alison saddened him, Mitch was buoyed by his chat with her. Knowing he would hear her voice again tomorrow gave him something to look forward to.
Prison was such a beige place, where every day was the same old — same old. For Mitch at least, the mundane days were measured by the time between breakfast, lunch and dinner and his next phone call to Alison.
When you have something to look forward to, it helps keep you going. It gets you though the long, lonely nights after lockdown, where you do nothing but think of your life outside. Knowing you have something to look forward to tomorrow helps keep up what little spirit you had left.
Mitch didn’t see Fitzy at lunch, so he ate his serving of pasta with Scoob and his two mates, Irish and Coop.
After lunch Mitch visited the gym for a work out. His strength had started to return. Up until now, his energy levels had been depleted from the stresses of the last week.
The usual suspects were in the gym when Mitch arrived—the twelve or so daily regulars who worked on individual muscle groups per visit. To their credit, they worked out hard, which was corroborated by their chiselled muscle definition.
After his warm up, Mitch started with leg squats in the Smith Machine; a workout station where the barbell is fixed within steel rails, allowing vertical squatting movement.
Mitch loaded his weights of choice onto one side of the barbell. He moved around to load the other side when a deep voice said, ‘I’m using that…’
An inmate seated nearby on a bench doing isolated bicep curls with a huge dumbbell, glared at Mitch. The man had arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mitch glanced at the weights he had just loaded onto the previously empty bar sitting on the Smith Machine. ‘I thought it was vacant,’ Mitch said.
‘I just fucken told you, I’m using it…’ The inmate said.
Mitch wasn’t about to cause any trouble with this inmate. He was huge. If he wanted the Smith Machine that much, he could have it.
The was a stereo-type of inmates who spent most of their time in the gym; they all have bald, or closely shaved heads and were heavily tattooed. This guy was no exception. The goatee beard he wore capped off the man’s intimidating appearance.
Mitch waved a hand at the machine. ‘It’s all yours…’ he said.
He decided he would start on his back, so he moved over to the lat pull down machine to work on his back muscles.
As Mitch adjusted the pin in the weights, the same deep voice boomed, ‘I’m using that as well…’
Mitch paused. ‘Really…?’ he glanced at the troublesome inmate.
The inmate stood from his bench. He was tall — about six, three, or four and had to be over 100 kegs of ripped muscle. The inmate glared at Mitch. ‘Really…’ his deep voice boomed.
The inmate’s glaring eyes remained firmly locked on Mitch as he dropped the dumbbell from waist height to punctuate his comment. The dumbbell pounded into the ground with a heavy thud. ‘You got a problem with that…?’
Common sense should’ve told Mitch to walk away, but he didn’t. Fitzy’s words about being considered a soft touch resonated with him. The last thing Mitch wanted was to fight this huge bloke, but he wasn’t going to be his bitch either.
‘You can’t work out on both of them at the same time…’ Mitch said.
The inmate moved over to Mitch. He glared down from the four or five inches he had over Mitch. The inmate placed his hands on his hips. ‘I said…I’m using that as well…You got a problem with that?’
Mitch’s senses honed. This situation had become unnecessarily heated. He noted the body language of the other inmate.
‘I don’t have a problem…I just don’t understand how you can work out on both at the same time,’ Mitch said. He glanced around the gym. All eyes were focussed back on him and the behemoth standing in front of him. ’Are there any other work stations in here that you are not using…?’ Mitch said.
Standing with his hands on his hips, the inmate glanced around the gym. ‘I’m using all of them…’
Mitch shook his head. While his actions could cause things to escalate quickly, he stood his ground. Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to blows if he showed he was not afraid, even though he was.
Mitch waved the back of hand at the inmate. ‘You can’t work out on all of them,’ he said. He reached down to adjust the pin in the weights. The giant slapped Mitch’s hand away.
I said, ‘I’m using that…’ the inmate said firmly, in a raised voice. ‘So you can fuck off.’ He flicked a hand towards the gym exit door.
Mitch rolled his eyes. He noticed the inmate drop his arms to his side. The inmate adjusted his stance slightly and clenched his right fist.
Through his many years of self-defence training, Mitch had learned to identify tells that would indicate when an attack was imminent. The stance adjustment and clenched right fist were both tells. The man was preparing to throw a right handed punch at Mitch, if Mitch defied the man again.
Everyone in the Gym halted their work outs and watched on. He knew what he did from this point would determine who he was and define how he was perceived in this prison. Mitch’s pulse rate quickened. A trickle of perspiration ran down his spine. His stomach knotted. He didn’t want to fight this guy. If he landed a punch on Mitch, it would knock him into next week.
‘Look…I don’t want any trouble. Like you, I just want to work out. OK?’
The inmate glared at Mitch. His eyes narrowed.
When there was no response Mitch gestured to the weights. ‘I’m just going to adjust the weight so I can work out…OK? I don’t want any trouble.’
‘Touch that weight and it will be the last thing you do…’ the inmate warned.
Here it comes. The inmate was about to throw down. It was time for Mitch to prepare. He hoped his training would be enough to save him from serious injury.
Judging by the size of this guy, Mitch’s read was, based on the man’s flat foot stance, he was probably the type who relied heavily on a powerful first punch finding its target, rather than the boxer-type who got up on his toes and threw a series of fast combinations.
Mitch waited for the other man to move first. His expertise was in defence and counter attacks. He feigned bending down to adjust the weights, even though he had no intention to touch it. While he did so, kept his peripheral vision on the other man. He suspected this action would cause the man to attack.
He was right. As he moved the inmate took the bait. He must’ve assumed Mitch was going to defy him. The man cocked his right arm back and threw a powerful fist at Mitch.
Mitch instantly identified the man’s technique was that of a brawler, not a trained fighter. The punch was coming at him from around, not straight at him.
The man’s physical tells broadcast the punch well in advance. Such was Mitch’s preparedness, the punch came at him like it was in slow motion. From that point, instinct kicked in. Mitch was in self-defence mode.
Mitch tucked in his chin and stepped into the punch. His left and right hands struck out simultaneously. His left hand halted the punch with a firm block, while at the same time, the palm heel of Mitch’s right hand forcefully struck the man up under his nose. The defined crack indicated a definite break. The spray of blood removed any doubt. The man’s head snapped back.
With the man’s neck exposed, Mitch’s left hand slid from the block and struck the man in his throat, using sufficient force to disable his attacker, but not break the oesophagus. The man gagged and instinctively grabbed his throat.
As he did so, Mitch stepped in and struck the man with a forceful right elbow strike to the jaw area.
The combination of the three powerful counter strikes took Mitch around one and half seconds to deliver.
The big man collapsed to a knee, supported by a hand. His other hand grasped his throat.
Mitch checked over his shoulder to ensure his six o’clock was clear. He moved in to finish his attacker off. Mitch rested his hands on the man’s head then he drove his knee into the man’s face. The big man was out before he hit the ground. His large frame face planted onto the gym floor.
Mitch stood over the fallen man, glaring down at him. He breathed heavy from the adrenalin coursing through his body. The big man hadn’t moved.
A loud grunt caught Mitch’s attention. He turned in time to see two bodies falling to the floor behind him.
Unbeknown to Mitch, Fitzy was one of the many inmates in the gym who watched the altercation unfold.
From his vantage point, Fitzy noticed that after the big man was felled by Mitch, one of the big man’s supporters crept up on the unaware Mitch, like a lion carefully stalking an unsuspecting grazing deer.
Anticipating a potential blind side king-hit, Fitzy edged closer to Mitch. While Mitch stood with his focus on the defeated man, the other cowardly inmate rushed Mitch from behind.
When the other man charged, so too did Fitzy. Fitzy caught the man about two feet behind Mitch. He tackled the unsuspecting coward to the ground. The king-hit coward grunted heavily when Fitzy’s 100 plus kilo frame landed on top of him.
Fitzy quickly mounted the inmate. His knees straddled the man’s chest while he drove three powerful punches into the man’s face in a rapidly delivered right-left-right combination. The man was out cold, his face splattered in blood.
Fitzy quickly jumped to his feet. Everyone in the gym had paused their workouts and held blank stares in their direction.
Following a quick scan of the room, Fitzy scooped up his towel and ran over to Mitch, pushing him towards the exit. ‘Get the fuck out of here…go,’ Fitzy said as he bolted passed Mitch.
Mitch followed Fitzy out of the gym and into a toilet off the main recreational area, to clean up.
When the guards arrived at the gym and asked what happened, no-one would have seen anything, at least, that was what those in the gym would tell the guards. The code among prisoners would prevent them from ratting out Mitch and Fitzy.
The two men stood side by side at the hand basins rinsing blood from their hands. Mitch noticed the words “Who Dares Wins” tattooed in small scroll on Fitzy’s left inner forearm.
‘Thanks for that back there, Fitzy. I didn’t see him coming…’ Mitch shook the water from hands. ‘Does that mean I can trust you to have my back in here now…?’ Mitch said with a beaming smile.
Fitzy grinned as he shook the water from his hands. ‘I don’t think you need me. You handled yourself pretty well in there…Are you trained...?’ Fitzy said, moving to the paper towel dispenser.
‘I am. BJJ and Karate.’
‘I could tell you had some sort of training.’
The two men paper- dried their hands.
‘What about you…? What training have you had? You got your UFC ground and pound on in there. Looked like you knew what you were doing…’ Mitch said.
Fitzy scrunched up the paper towel and dropped it into the bin. Mitch did the same, waiting for an answer.
‘It’s a long story…’ Fitzy said. He checked under the toilet stall doors. ‘And one not too many know about. But not here…’ He walked from the toilet. Mitch followed.