Establishing A Standpoint
Reid weighed the book in
his hand and briefly wondered about who on earth thought the convicts
would enjoy reading Danielle Steele.
“Conrad, I was thinking about something...”
“No reason to brag – I do it too sometimes!” Conrad gave Reid a flashy smile and pushed three books on the shelve. “What do you have there? Danielle Steele? Oh that sucks – who actually thinks that we want to read stuff like that? I mean we're men! In prison! I always get lonely when I finish a Steele novel...” Conrad stopped his ranting at the strange looks Reid and their guard gave him. “Never mind – you'd been thinking?”
“Yes!” Reid smiled a bit amused of Conrad's confession but quickly turned serious again. “What's the worst you can do in prison?”
Conrad scratched his scalp with what seemed to be an elementary school mathematics book and a look of deep though on his face. “Rat on people I think... Yeah – rats are almost as unpopular as chesters... and Busters too! And drop the soap of course – but you knew that...”
“Do I have to remind you, that I am still considered a fish?” Reid tried to hide the wince of pain as Conrad reminded him of the shower incident. Conrad shot him a sheepish grin.
“Informants – you know, inmates who tell on other convicts. They're called all sorts of things. Like rats and snitches and stuff... And chesters are child-molesters.” Reid nodded in agreement with the look of contempt on Conrad's face. Child-molesters really were the scum of the earth. “Yeah, and busters are inmates who screw with their own gang.”
“Okay...” Reid looked at the remaining books they had received. He appreciated that people donated books to the prison, but he really wished they would eventually send something interesting. Some poetry or some of the big classics. Or some proper science stuff, not basic level physics books.
“So if you were to gain good-will within your... gang... it would help if you spotted some of these rats or busters, right?”
“Yeah, I'd think so. Prentiss really hates rats! I heard that he was betrayed by one of his friends, and that's why he was caught and sent here! I heard that he killed five men and stole half a ton of cocaine.” Reid gave him a disbelieving look. “Yeah, that's probably B.S. Most of it, but the friend betraying him explains a lot!”
“So if I were to notice someone behaving suspiciously telling Prentiss would get me on his good side.”
“Not if you do it to suck up – Prentiss really hates suck-ups!”
“That probably has something to do with his upbringing, I can imagine a lot of sucking up going on in his mother's circles...”
“What circles?” Reid felt disbelief returning on his face.
“Elisabeth Prentiss? The ambassador?” Reid shook his head at Conrad's blank facial expression. “Right, of course you wouldn't know. Apparently no one knows but me.”
“Anyway,” Conrad exclaimed regaining the control over the conversation. “Prentiss really dislikes people who try to suck up or rat on other people. Once he had a guy beat-up because he tried to get on his good side by ratting on the rats... That was rather ugly...”
Reid put books on shelves absentmindedly for the rest of the day.
So Prentiss hated rats and suck-ups. That was no surprise. But it could turn out to be a bit difficult to establish his position within the group when he had to rely on his mind and the way his mind worked wasn't that popular among his fellow convicts. He knew that this was the only way to get what he wanted. Protection. He could chose to do the same thing as JJ and find a man in a strong position and be his “boy-toy”, but who knew for how long that would last? It wasn't the most stable and secure way and Reid had turned out to be a big fan of stability and security.
Reid made room for a stash of book from Oprah's' Book Club.
But maybe JJ actually was the way to go. He had gotten him in and if Reid played his card right he could be his way to advancement too. He had notived the fondness Prentiss held for the young man and the way he seemed to hang at every word he said. If Reid hasn't been a big romantic he would have found it a bit pathetic. But even with his rose-tinted glasses Reid knew a possibility when he spotted it, and he wouldn't be surprised if someone had tried what he was about to.
“Hey Reid! Would you mind watching the game with me? Nobody else seems to be interested.” JJ shot an irritated look at the men surrounding him and Reid couldn't help but let a big grin slip on his face. The plan wasn't going to be that hard if JJ was the one to seek his company.
“Of course! I might be able to pick up a trick or two.” The other men looked away trying to hide their amusement and JJ gave them another irritated look. “Who's playing?” Reid asked to distract the blond man and JJ rose from the bench and started walking with an excited smile on his face.
“Taco Loco and Italo Brothers.”
“Two different gangs?”
“Is it normal for two gangs to play against each other? Doesn't it start quite a few arguments?”
“Usually, yes. But you could say that Italo Brothers and Taco Loco are friendly outside the court. Apparently Mexican and Italians aren't that different.”
“I suppose they have some things in common.”
“Last time we played another gang it ended in a fight.” The smug smile on JJ's face scared Reid a bit. “That was actually Taco Loco too. Silly Mexican boys.”
Reid and JJ found a vacant bench next to the court where the two teams where throwing a ball around talking what seemed to be tactics.
“Um, actually JJ, I've been thinking about something you said yesterday...” Reid scraped his foot on the ground and looked anywhere but at JJ's face.
“Yeah – what?”
“You said you killed a cop...” Why did he feel this nervous? It was ridiculous, he would make JJ start talking – create a bond between them. It was all for the sake of his survival, why did he actually want the small man at his side to like him? Stupid human tendencies.
“I did.” JJ kept his gaze at the men on the court but his voice was friendly and inviting, urging Reid to continue.
“He killed my sister.”
“WHAT?” A soft chuckle left JJ and Reid confusion creep up on him.
“Not like that.” JJ leaned back with a sigh and gave Reid a sad smile. “I only had my sister so we were always really close. One day she told me that she had met this amazing guy and that she was in love. I was really happy for her. But then she started to stop talking to me about her feelings, and here you should know that we talked about everything. She was the first person to know that I was gay, and she was so incredibly supportive about it. So when she stopped talking to me I knew something was wrong.” JJ ran a hand through his hair and Reid felt a knot in his stomach. “I went to visit her. She hadn't contacted me in several days and she didn't react to my calls or messages. She didn't open when I knocked so I let myself in with my spare key. I found her in her bedroom with an empty glass of sleeping pills and a note saying that her boyfriend had dumped her and that she didn't have anything left to live for.”
“I'm sorry,” Reid almost whispered.
“I was too. But I was mostly furious. So I got gun from a friend of a friend – you know the drill – and went to 'visit' my sister ex-boyfriend. And planted a bullet in his brain.” JJ put his hands on his knees and gave a small shrug. “Turned out he was a cop.”
“You got a life sentence for that?” Reid could help but feel a bit surprised.
“Yeah.” A big grin slid on JJ's face. “Turns out cops can be very vindictive.”
“How long have you in here then?”
“FIVE YEARS?” Reid felt his eyes go wide with surprise. “How old are you?”
“24? Why?” JJ in turn looked extremely amused.
“You're 24? You older than me? But you look so young!”
“Yeah, well – but so do you! Some of us just stay teenagers for our entire life.”
“That sounds extremely annoying, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised...”
“Guess not... Why are you in here anyway?” JJ asked curiously.
“I accidentally knifed a casino-goon.”
“You what? How do you accidentally knife someone?” Now JJ's eyes were wide with surprise.
“My boyfriend killed his partner, then he killed my boyfriend and then went at me not knowing that I had snatched my boyfriends knife and held it out in front of me to protect me from him. One step too close and the knife was buried in his stomach.”
“You got sent here for doing that? But it was self defense?”
“Yeah... But I kinda had a some problems with the Casino in advance, and that didn't really help in my trial...”
“Let's just say that I'm really, really smart and what I did could mean a smaller income to the Casinos I visited. Quite a bit smaller actually...” Reid couldn't help but grin in reply when JJ started laughing.
“Juries – the stupidest invention ever!”
“Did you know that Jury comes from the Latin word Jus, which means law? The use of juries actually started as a custom of many ancient German tribes where some men of good character would investigate crimes and judge the accused, it's actually really interesting! I did a lot of research on the subject while waiting for...”
“You really are smart, huh? I sounded just like you were reading aloud from some fancy history book.” JJ looked amused but Reid knew that people tended to grow tired with his random ramblings after a period of time.
“The game's starting!” Reid felt relieved for the intrusion. He really needed to stay friendly with JJ – their friendship was his ticket in to the warmth.
Unfortunately he just didn't find the game to be as exciting as JJ and soon Reid let his gaze wander around in the yard watching the convicts and guards and their doings.
“Hey JJ – isn't that guy over there a part of White Bread?”
JJ glanced briefly in the given direction and nodded, quickly returning his concentration to the game. “That's Tom Wittman. He's always on the leg.”
“What? On the leg?”
“Maybe we should make some sort of dictionary for you Reid, you're really fishy sometimes!” JJ said with a chuckle. “It means he's overly friendly with the guards. Always chatting and hanging out with them.”
“I think he's a rat too...” Reid tried hard to look innocently thoughtful.
“Why would you think that?” JJ turned his full concentration to Reid, a frown marking his youthful face.
“Look at his body language. He's extremely tense, and he keeps glancing around nervously. I don't think he wants anybody to know what they're talking about.”
JJ nodded. “I think you're right... Son of a bitch!”
“I'm not sure though – and I really don't want to be a rat myself!”
“No, I get that... Maybe if you keep an eye on him, and see if he keeps acting suspiciously like that... If he really is a rat Eric is going to kill him! He can't stand snitches!”
“Conrad said the same thing, and it's not that I don't get it – but is there some sort of reason that they disgust him so much?”
“A friend of his sold him out to the cops.”
“Yeah... And he blamed a murder on him too!”
“Really?” Reid was intrigued.
“Yup, his mother had to pull a lot of strings to keep him clear of a life sentence. Not that I would mind if he had gotten one.”
“How long is he going to be here?”
“3 more years... He got seven years in court. They found him innocent in the case with the murder, but the drugs... Well, let's just say getting arrested while fucking stoned isn't very smart.”
“I can imagine.” The two men fell silent for a while. One of them watching the game going on, the other watching a man who repeatedly glanced over his shoulder.
“Are you nervous for what will happen when Prentiss leaves?”
“Gets sprung... And no, I'm just enjoying the time we have together.”
Reid looked at the young man in astonishment. “You have feelings for him?”
“Of course I do. I've been with him for 4 years – I taught him the lingo and all that stuff when he came in.” JJ looked at Reid honesty and some other deep emotion clear in his eyes. “I love him.”
Reid gave JJ a small uncertain smile but JJ just turned his glance back to the game.
“You know, you really ought to watch Spence. I think you could be a good player, but you need to learn a thing or two before I'll be able to use you in a game. Which remind me! We're playing against KFC on Sunday. I hope you'll come and cheer for me.”
Reid just nodded suddenly feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
Had he just gotten a friend?