Mandy was unusually quiet during breakfast on Thursday morning. Long periods of silent contemplation replaced her bubbly personality and quick wit.
Emily sat opposite Mandy eating her Special K cereal. She regarded her friend with concern. For the most, Mandy stared off into the distance. She was not her usual pleasant breakfast company. Emily could tell Mandy was worried about today’s court case. And rightly so. Today was the day that in many ways defined Mandy’s future.
‘Not hungry…?’ Emily said, staring at Mandy’s untouched scrambled eggs.
Mandy shook her head. ‘No. I don’t have any appetite.’
‘Shitting myself Em…I really am.’
‘That’s completely normal Mands…’ Emily said. She reached across the table and cupped Mandy’s hand for reassurance. ‘It’s an important day for you.’
Mandy forced out a smile. ‘Thanks Em. You’re sweet. But do you realise that regardless of today’s outcome… I probably won’t be coming back here…’
Emily withdrew her hand. Her face tightened as she sat back in her chair. ‘No, I didn’t realise that.’
‘If the court decided to release me for time already served, or give me a Community Corrections Order, then I won’t be back. If they further sentence me…’ Mandy’s eyes fell to the table. She lifted her welling eyes to Emily. Her lips quivered. ‘I’ll be sent to general population…not here.’
‘So, either way…this is goodbye…?’ Emily asked. Her face tightened at the realisation.
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘I don’t want you to go Mands. It won’t be the same without you here.’
‘I know. I don’t want to go, not if I don’t get released…’
Trevor, the morning shift guard walked into the kitchen area. ‘You ready Mandy?’ He checked his watch. ‘Your bus will be leaving in about twenty minutes. We better get you over there for processing.’
The bus Trevor referred to was the uncomfortable prisoner transport van with the hard metal seats inside those small pods. Fortunately for Mandy, her case was being heard in Melbourne city. It was a much shorter drive than the Geelong courts where Emily would be attending in the coming weeks.
Mandy glanced at her plate. ‘I’ve just got to do my dishes before I go, Trevor.’
Emily waved a hand at Mandy. ‘Leave them…I’ll do them. You go.’
Mandy stood from her chair. Her lips quivered as she moved over to Emily’s side of the table. She held out her arms to Emily. Emily stood from her chair and the two friends embraced.
‘I’m gonna miss you Mands…’ Emily said.
‘Me too,’ Mandy said. Mandy pushed herself away. ‘You make sure you look me up when you beat those trumped up charges and get out of here…Ya hear me…?’
‘I promise…I look forward to sharing a drink and laughing about old times…’
Mandy glanced at the waiting guard. ‘Gotta go Em…’ Mandy said. She grabbed Emily’s hands. ‘You watch your back in here babe.’
‘I will. Good luck with today. I’ve got a good feeling about this,’ Emily said, punctuating her comments with a gentle squeeze of Mandy’s hands.
Mandy stepped away, still holding onto Emily’s hands until the grip slipped free. Emily watched Mandy leave the cottage with Trevor. A wave of sadness washed over her when Mandy stepped from view. That would probably be the last time she saw Mandy.
‘Now you’re all alone, bitch…’ A voice from behind Emily, blurted.
Emily tensed. She turned to see Paris with arms crossed, leaning a shoulder on the door way into the kitchen.
Emily ignored the taunts. She didn’t want any trouble from Paris. She scooped up their dishes and moved to the sink. While the sink filled, she scraped their plates clean.
Emily checked over her shoulder at various times while she washed the dishes. Paris had not moved. She continued to lean on the doorway and glare at Emily. She had an intimidating smirk out the side of her face.
‘Ain’t got no-one to protect ya now, have ya, dog…?’
Emily’s body tensed. The blood pumped in her ears. Paris was right. Trevor was escorting Mandy to the transport sally port and there wasn’t any other guard relieving him. She was all alone.
‘Because of you, they’re fucken movin’ me to gen pop,’ she said. ‘Because you opened ya mouth they’re gunna make me wear those shit blue and whites...’ she said referring to the DPFC prison uniform.
‘I never said anything…’ Emily protested. ‘Clive just saw the mark of my face.’
‘Listen to you…’ Paris said. She pushed herself from the wall. ‘Clive saw the mark on my face,’ she said mimicking Emily. ‘Ya even call the fucken dog screw by his first name.’
Paris scooped up the knife Emily had washed and left to dry. She jabbed it at Emily. ‘I oughta pop ya eye from ya head, ya fucken dog.’
Emily backed away from Paris. Her wide eyes locked onto the threatening knife. She held up defensive hands.
Paris glared at Emily. ‘Ya don’t dog on another inmate, no matter what…You’re gunna have to learn the hard way, bitch.’
Emily’s mouth was dry. She couldn’t swallow. Her heart thumped. Paris was between her and the door from the kitchen so she had no escape. Emily was not a fighter. She couldn’t fight to save her life. The punch she received from Paris was the first time she had ever been struck.
Her eyes remained locked on the threatening knife, briefly shifting towards the front of the cottage, hoping Trevor would return.
‘If they’re gunna put me in Gen Pop, then I’ll just have to give them a reason to…’
Paris lifted the knife and forcefully thrust it down at Emily. Emily lifted her arms up in defence. The knife plunged into Emily’s left arm, just below the shoulder. It burned when it pierced her skin and dissected muscle and tissue.
Emily screamed in pain and in fear. Her knees went weak. Paris’ smiling face became blurry then, everything went black.
Trevor strolled back into the cottage after escorting Mandy to her bus. He placed the paperwork he received for Mandy in a file on his desk. When his eyes lifted to the common area, none of the inmates were around. Trevor frowned. It was obviously too quiet for his liking. That was unusual for this time of morning. All inmates should’ve been up and showered, had breakfast and out of their cells.
He moved towards the kitchen. He glanced in as he passed on his way to check the cells. His face froze as he stopped in his tracks. He moved back to the kitchen doorway. His jaw dropped. The colour instantly drained from his face.
‘Oh shit…’ he blurted as he ran into the kitchen. ‘Oh shit...’ his panicked voice repeated. A large pool of dark red blood covered the floor in the rear corner of the kitchen. Emily was sitting against the wall. Paris was leaning back against her. Both were unconscious and both were covered in blood.
Trevor squatted down beside Paris and checked for a pulse. His eyes locked onto what looked like the handle of a knife protruding from her chest. He gasped and pulled his hand back. Only a small part of the handle was visible.
He re-checked Paris’ pulse. There was nothing there. He checked Emily’s pulse. He couldn’t feel a pulse for her either. Trevor stood and ran a hand through his hair. ‘What the fuck happened…?’ he asked himself.
He ran to the rooms of the remaining inmates. Both cowered in their cells. They had seen the bodies in the kitchen and panicked and returned to their rooms. Neither could answer Trevor’s questions about what happened. They simply did not know. One inmate said she heard a blood curdling scream, but that was all she could offer.
He checked their hands and clothes for blood. They were clean. Trevor closed their cell doors, securing them inside. He had to lock down the cottage until investigators arrived.
Panic filled his face as he ran back to his guard station. He lifted his phone and dialled a number. ‘I’ve got two bodies in the kitchen,’ he blurted into his phone. ‘I’ve got no idea. I escorted an inmate to the sally port for transport to court and when I came back they were both dead on the floor. OK. I’ve locked everyone else down. I’ll wait until you get here.’
Trevor hung up the phone and moved back to the kitchen door way. As per the direct instructions from his boss, he didn’t re-enter the kitchen; it was now a crime scene.
He couldn’t take his eyes off the two bodies slumped against the rear wall. The blood pool had grown since he was last there and it started to congeal.
Trevor was on his haunches with his head in his hands when his boss burst into the cottage. He ran the whole way there. Trevor stood to greet his boss. He gestured to the rear corner of the kitchen. ‘They’re in there…’
The boss stood in the doorway assessing the situation. His chest heaved while he caught his breath. ‘Who are they?’
‘The one in front is inmate Paris Spencer. The one behind her is inmate Emily Davis. Inmate Spencer has a knife embedded in her chest.’
‘None of the others saw anything…?’ the Boss said as a question.
Both guards knew that even if the other inmates did witness what went down in the kitchen, the code among prisoners would prevent them from speaking out. The other prisoners couldn’t risk word seeping out to general population that they helped the screws.
Trevor’s boss ran a contemplative hand across his mouth as he regarded the bodies. His eyes lifted to the CCTV camera in the corner of the room. He gestured to the camera. Trevor’s eyes followed. Without comment his boss moved to the guard station. He lifted the phone and dialled a number.
‘This is Allan Frost. I’m down in the remand precinct, Cottage 2. Can you key up the footage from the kitchen down here and get it ready for me…’ He checked his watch. ‘Go back about…one hour. I’m on my way up there now.’
He tapped the phone cradle to disconnect the call. He punched in another number. This time it was to the Prison General Manager. ‘Tammy…Alan Frost. We’ve had an incident in the kitchen at Cottage 2 in the remand precinct. Yep. We’ve got two dead after what appears to be some sort of altercation. Looks like one was stabbed…the other possibly from head injuries. There’s a smeared blood trail down the wall behind her head. No I haven’t yet but I’m about to go there and review the footage now. OK. I’ll keep appraised.’ He hung up the phone.
‘I wouldn’t mind reviewing what happened. Is that is a possibility? It is my unit and I’ll be preparing the reports,’ Trevor said.
Alan regarded Trevor in silent contemplation. He nodded as he lifted the phone and punched in an extension. ‘This is Alan Frost. I’m down in remand precinct, Cottage 2….can you arrange for someone to come down here and relieve Trevor. No, immediately. Thank you.’ He hung up the phone.
Once the relief had arrived, Trevor and Alan made their way to the prison security monitor room located in the main building. They stopped at a nondescript door. Alan pushed an intercom and glanced up at the camera above the door. An electronic buzz resonated and the door unlocked. Alan shouldered the door open and they stepped inside.
The monitor room was a darkened room about the size of an average bedroom. A guard sat at a bank of six monitors on one side of the room, while on the other side, computer hard drives flashed and blinked from the rows of towers lining the wall.
Alan slid into the chair beside the camera operator and leaned on his elbows. Trevor stood behind watching on.
The camera operator gestured to the middle monitor. ‘This is what I could locate,’ he said. He pressed play.
The vision only footage commenced with Paris standing in the kitchen doorway and Emily doing dishes at the sink. Paris lifted a knife and brandished it at Emily. Emily backed away with her hands in the air.
All those watching flinched when Paris stabbed Emily in the left upper arm. Emily appeared to stagger. Paris raised the knife over head to stab Emily a second time, but Emily seemed to gain a second wind. She lunged at the raised arm holding the knife, locking both her hands onto Paris’ wrist.
They struggled and wrestled as they moved through the kitchen. Emily forced Paris’ raised hand against the natural movement of the joint. This action caused Paris to pivot around so her back was to Emily.
They continued to grapple for the knife. Emily managed to free the knife from Paris’ grip. With Paris leaning on Emily, facing away, Emily reached around from behind and plunged the knife into Paris’s chest.
All those watching the review cringed.
With the knife visibly protruding from Paris’ chest, Emily forcefully hit her palm onto the end of the protruding handle, forcing the knife further into Paris.
Paris’s knees buckled. She fell back against Emily. Emily couldn’t handle Paris’ dead weight and they both crashed back into the wall, causing Emily to forcefully strike her head. Emily lost consciousness as both women slid down the wall to the floor. Emily left a trail of smeared blood down the wall from the apparent injury to the back of her head.
The footage continued until Trevor rushed into the kitchen. The camera operator paused the footage. ‘That’s everything,’ he said.
Alan rubbed a hand across his mouth. He exhaled heavily then turned to Trevor. ‘I see that as inmate Spencer attacked inmate Davis with a knife, stabbing her in the left upper arm. In defending herself, inmate Davis wrestled the knife from inmate Spencer and stabbed her attacker with it. Straight forward self-defence for mine,’ Alan said.
‘Did Davis have to stab her though…? Then force the knife further in?’ Trevor asked.
‘If someone comes at you with a knife, stabs you in the arm then raises it to stab you again, you act on instincts. If inmate Davis didn’t stop inmate Spencer, she would’ve have been stabbed a second time, possibly fatally. The only way to stop Spencer was to stab her with the same knife Davis wrestled from her attacker. I don’t think she had much choice.’
Trevor glanced at the monitor on the right. Both bodies lay motionless against the wall. ‘A lot of good it did her…’ Trevor said. He lifted his chin to the monitor. ‘Split her head open when she hit the wall…She died anyway trying to save herself. At least she took her attacker with her.’
‘Can we get a copy of the footage please,’ Alan asked the camera console operator.
‘No worries. I’ll get it to you Trevor,’ the console operator said. ‘I gather you’ll be doing the reports on this.’
Trevor didn’t respond.
The console operator glanced back at Trevor. Trevor‘s focus was on the two bodies in the kitchen appearing on the right hand monitor.
‘That monitor’s a live feed, isn’t it?’ Trevor said, gesturing to the right hand monitor. ‘The review was on the middle monitor?’ he said as a question.
‘Yeah, that one’s live. I brought the kitchen up live and put it on the right hand monitor while we reviewed the footage here,’ he said flicking a finger at the middle monitor.
‘Can you rewind that one?’ Trevor asked pointing to the right monitor.
‘Yeah. Of course. What do you want?’
‘I’m not sure. I thought I saw something, but I can’t be certain. Can you go back about two minutes, or so?’
The console operator rewound the live feed footage in fast review.
‘Stop. There.’ Trevor jabbed a finger at the monitor. ‘Play…play from there.’ He leaned in to the review as it commenced to play forward.
A smile filled his face. ‘I knew I saw something. Did you see that?’ He said tapping Emily on the screen.
Alan stared at the monitor with an open mouth. ‘Shit. She’s still alive…’
Trevor nodded. ‘I thought I saw her right arm move…She just grabbed her forehead, then her arm fell back to where it was. It was quick, but it was there…’
Alan placed a hand on the console operator’s shoulder. ‘Can you get onto the ambos…we need one down here, now…’ He pushed himself from his chair. ‘We’ve gotta get back down there…’