By: Bella Jewel

“Did you get any sleep last night?” I ask him, returning his stare, holding his gaze.

He glares at me. “I don’t fuckin’ sleep.”

“Any reason why?”

He growls. “Because I don’t trust any fucker in this place. They’re all out for blood.”

Did I mention Maximus has a bad case of paranoia? He’s probably not entirely wrong. There is a certain ranking within the inmates; certain groups that stick together, and certain people who tend to be targeted. Anyone who murders or rapes children barely ever make it through their sentence alive. It’s like a secret code. The next in that line are men who hurt women. There are a lot of those, but they too seem to be a target.

“Has something happened we need to know about?” Luke asks, his voice firm but kind.

Maximus shifts, his big body extremely daunting.

“I see them lookin’ at me. They’re just waitin’ for the right time to wrap their hands around my throat and squeeze the fuckin’ life out of me.”

“Why would you think they want to do that?” I ask. “Has something happened? You know you should report anything that happens.”

His eyes narrow and his whole body rattles. “I killed my fuckin’ wife. I put my hands around her throat and took her life. They’re just gettin’ back what she lost.”

“Perhaps you need to speak to Mandy again,” I say, referring to our Prison Psychologist. “It would seem you’re still struggling to deal with—”

“Listen to me, bitch,” he hisses, cutting me off. “Hows about you go back to your hoity-toity little palace and leave us here to live with what we’ve created. I don’t regret killing her; I don’t regret watching the life fade from her eyes as I held her to the floor. Nothing your little psychologist will say can change that, so give it up.”

I get this a lot, too. The name-calling, the ‘give it up, you can’t help me’. I guess, in a sense, they’re right. I can’t truly help them if they don’t want to be helped. After all, they’re in prison because of the crimes they committed; I’m just here to make sure it all runs smoothly, however I do try to make it as comfortable as possible for them. I make a note to tell Mandy about his comments, though.

“Fine,” I say, keeping my voice calm. “Are you eating? Joining in the other activities?”

His eyes flash. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t fuckin’ want to. Because I want to get out of here alive.”

“Why do you want to get out of here alive?”

He clenches his fists. “Because I have unfinished business.”

I raise my brows and he snorts. “Don’t look at me like that, Wildcard. I know what you’re thinkin’.”

Oh yeah, did I mention the nickname has spread? The prisoners learned it very quickly the day I put one of the inmates on his ass for lunging at me. It was in the yard, and he decided he’d had enough and tried to take me out. It lasted a matter of seconds before he was on his back. I don’t like to go down easily.

“What is it you think I’m thinking?” I ask, leaning my hip against the cell.

“That I’m goin’ to do something bad and get back in here. Well, you’re wrong. I will never come back in here.”

“I hope that’s true,” I say, pushing back. “Good to see you again, Maximus.”

Luke gives me a half-smirk and we move down the hall to the next cell. This one holds Jimmy. He’s only twenty-eight years old. Jimmy suffers from schizophrenia, and so far is dealing with prison life, however Mandy is working on getting him moved to a better-equipped mental facility. We like to check on him, make sure he’s doing okay, but he rarely comes out.

He’s serving fifteen years for pulling off an armed robbery at a bank. He shot three people, killing one. He got away with a whole lot of cash, and was caught only weeks later. To look at him you’d think Jimmy was just a normal man, with his sandy-blond hair and green eyes, but there’s so much going on behind that exterior.

“Good morning, Jimmy,” I say, staring into his cell where he’s sitting on his bed, staring at the wall. He does this most days.

He looks up at me, his eyes empty.

“It’s good to see you,” I say, my voice strong.

I am tough when it comes down to needing to control one, but otherwise I speak to prisoners in a calm, respectful tone. There is no need to make matters worse.

Jimmy begins murmuring to himself, answering questions and making out like he’s speaking to another person.

“Do you know what Bill told me?” he asks, finally focusing on me.

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