See Chapter One for disclaimers.
"All right. Can I have your attention for a moment, please?" Terri practically yelled, in a futile attempt to make an impact on the din being generated by the prison officers. Surely they weren't petty enough to be purposely ignoring her? "Hey!" She clapped her hands sharply and received an equally nonchalant reaction. OK, so maybe they were. "Fine guys, I can't force you to listen to me. But if you fuck up because you didn't have the courtesy to acknowledge my instructions, then I'll fire the lot of you for insubordination." Ten sets of eyes promptly turned to glare at her and Terri silently praised the merits of empty threats... and the fact that these people didn't have enough intelligence to recognise them. "OK. You should all be aware of the fact that the DDS are paying us a little visit today." She paused as the collective groans subsided. "Yeah, I know, they're not my favourite people either. But they've got a job to do and I intend to help them do it to the best of their ability."
"And what the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Terri didn't even have to look up from her schedule to discern who the grating voice belonged to. "It means, Lee, that I'm actually going to tell the Drug Detection Squad where they're likely to detect drugs."
Lee snorted, a trait that was becoming all too familiar to Terri. "I thought you said you wanted to make Fairsborough a reputable establishment?" The robust officer couldn't fathom why anyone would want to expose the flaws in the system. He himself had an unconditional love of white-washing over things, namely because it was one of the few skills he possessed and he wouldn't be sitting where he was at that moment without it.
"Yes Lee, I did. Well remembered." Terri favoured him with a condescending smile, which widened as his tiny eyes narrowed in a laughable attempt at intimidation. "I just happen to think that rooting out the drug addicts and enrolling them on a rehabilitation scheme is more humane than letting them die of an overdose. Think about the PR disaster we'd have on our hands if that were to happen."
"She's got a point, Lee," Owen ventured, smiling tentatively at the governor. She was pretty gorgeous, after all.
"Thank you, Owen." Terri beamed sweetly at the young prison officer, who turned an intriguing shade of sanguine before studying his shoes with an interest that could only be feigned. "So, if any of you have a good reason to suspect an inmate of using illegal substances, I'd like their names, please." She waited.... and waited, only to be greeted by a profound silence. "Oh for crying out loud! Is sound reasoning a foreign concept to you all, or something? Anyone would think I'd just asked you to turn in your best friend."
"I thought you wanted us to be more friendly towards the prisoners," Lee countered with a smug smile, evidently impressed with his retort.
"If you'll forgive me for saying so, Lee, the notion of you being friendly towards anyone strikes me as highly dubious." Terri rolled her eyes and was rewarded with a chorus of sniggers. He's grinding his teeth again, she noted, I guess that means he's gonna shut up for a few minutes... if I'm lucky. "Now, I'll ask again. Any offerings?"
"Well," Owen hesitated, but remembering the dazzling smile directed at him just a few moments ago, he quickly worked up the courage to continue, "Michelle Darmody is usually coked up to the eyeballs. I'm sure the DDS will find something on her."
Really? Who would have thought? Terri resisted the urge to let out a frustrated scream, remembering that Owen was trying to be helpful. "OK, thanks Owen. Anyone else?"
Lee Robinson was literally trembling with suppressed rage, his bulging veins creating an interesting contrast to his flaming red countenance. He had been humiliated. That in itself was hard enough to acknowledge. The fact that it was by some smart-mouthed bimbo, who had no idea how the prison service was supposed to function, served to outrage him still further. Having inherited that exclusively male gene called emotional repression, Lee - although he desperately wanted to; refused to cry. Instead, he settled for the natural alternative... bearing a grudge. The burly prison officer was able to effortlessly make the transition between being a complete bastard and becoming evil incarnate, namely because he was well-practiced in crossing the fine line between the two. He wanted Terri Kirkwood out of Fairsborough Prison and he wanted her out now. The only problem he faced was in understanding how her mind worked... she was a woman, after all. How do you play psychological games with a woman? Wreak havoc with her hormones? Well, he figured it was worth a try.
Lost in a reverie, he failed to notice Devlin approaching him with a look of evident amusement upon her face. "You OK, Mr. Robinson?" she inquired, feigning concern. "You look a little... flustered."
"I'm fine," he snapped, glaring at the inmate towering several inches above him. Devlin Fielding was another woman whom he loathed with a vengeance. When she'd arrived at Fairsborough six months ago, he, like all of the other red-blooded prison officers, had been enraptured by her stoic beauty. Of-course he hadn't anticipated that she would react so violently to his harmless indulgence in a little flirtation, nor that the aftermath would leave him sporting a broken nose. He had initially found it incredible that such an attractive woman could prove immune to his advances, but a few days later the reason for her rejection became apparent. She was a goddamn dyke. This only served to confuse him further, because the notion of someone preferring the company of women to that of men stuck him as truly absurd. He'd spent his life drowning in the pig swill of ignorance, after all.
"The new governor seems to know her stuff, don't you think?" Devlin pursued, somehow having discerned that when Terri mentioned 'misogynist pigs,' she was expressly referring to Lee. She watched him turn a deeper shade of crimson and wondered if she could verbally spur him in to having a heart attack. "I reckon she's gonna be great at running this place. God knows, it's about time someone set about changing the system." The overly Conservative Lee was now on the verge of keeling over. Devlin grinned. "Yeah, I think she's gonna do wonders around here. Actually - "
"SHUT UP, Fielding. Just shut the fuck up," Lee finally exploded. "Terri Kirkwood is a cocky, smart-mouthed little bitch who doesn't know shit about how to run this establishment. She shouldn't have gotten the goddamn job and she won't be keeping it for long."
Devlin's penetrating blue eyes narrowed as her protective streak kicked in. "You listen to me, you jumped-up piece of shit. Terri Kirkwood got the job because she's more than qualified for it, and as long as she fights to keep seedy little fuckers like you from moving up the ranks, then she's got my support. And if you so much as lay a finger on her - "
"Don't throw that rag shit at me, Fielding. It might not be written down on a fancy piece of paper, but I run this place and there's nothing you, or that little floozy sat up there in her plush office can do to change that. So why don't you stop trying, huh?"
"You know what Robinson? Sometimes I get this nagging little urge to hack you in to tiny pieces. Don't nurture it, OK?" Devlin, inwardly seething, promptly turned and sauntered back to her cell, missing the look of alarm that momentarily registered on Lee's chubby features. Slumping down on to the uncomfortable mattress, the volatile prisoner suddenly found herself in the mood for another dose of the 'S.C.U.M. Manifesto.' She had barely begun empathising with Valerie Solanas's pledge to rid the world of men when a tentative knock sounded at the door. "Come in, Terri," she called, forcing back the grin that played on the corner of her lips as the petite blonde entered her humble abode.
Terri smiled quizzically. "What - are you psychic or something? How'd you know it was me?"
Devlin shrugged. "No-one else has the decency to knock. That's why I opt to use the loos that have a lock on the door. Maybe I have too much dignity, but..." she trailed off, surprised to see sympathy register on the governor's attractive features. "Anyhow, what can I do you for?"
Oh, you have no idea. Terri's eyes roamed appreciatively over Devlin's toned physique, noting how the tight white, sleeveless T-shirt enhanced her ample assets and bronzed countenance. Upon feeling a blush spread across her features she quickly changed the direction of her thoughts. "Er, I'm recruiting - "
"No need, I jumped on the bandwagon a long time ago," Devlin interjected, watching amusedly as Terri's blush deepened. "Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Go on."
Terri rolled her eyes. "As I was saying, I'm recruiting people for a feminist literature course, and - " she hesitated, momentarily unsure of whether her instincts had been right - "I thought you might be interested."
Devlin took the information pack that Terri handed to her, their fingers brushing pleasurably in the process. After studying it for a moment, she offered the governor a wry smile. "You trying to send me back to school?"
Terri laughed. "I wouldn't dream of it. I just thought you might like to give it a go, that's all. I know how intelligent you are and I'd hate to see your brain go to mush whilst you're in here. If you don't like the course, then you can always ditch it, but you won't know until you try. I mean - who knows? You might really - " she paused upon noticing the amusement etched upon Devlin's chiselled features. "What's so funny?"
"Why do I get the impression that your powers of persuasion know no bounds?"
"Is that a yes, then?" Terri retorted, hopefully.
"I suppose so," Devlin conceded with mock reluctance, and then offered the governor a lop-sided grin. "To tell you the truth, it'll probably be a nice diversion from staring at the ceiling. Thanks for letting me know." She watched as Terri's face lit up with a beam reminiscent of a child on Christmas day, her up-turned nose crinkling in the process. It wasn't hard to determine that she'd made the right decision.
"Great! I don't suppose you know anyone else who'd be interested? I've got to get the numbers up to at least twenty before they'll agree to do it."
"I think I can probably use my skills of intimidation on a few people, yeah."
Terri smiled wryly. "OK, but I'd rather you tried asking them nicely first."
"No problem." Devlin hesitated, wanting to continue the conversation even though her proposed topic was hardly likely to prove popular. "I had a little run-in with Lee Robinson this morning."
"Yeah?" Terri glanced at the prisoner sharply.
"Yeah. He's er - I'm trying to think of how to say this tactfully - not exactly keen on you."
"Oh. You noticed?" Terri wasn't usually the type to let people get to her, but Lee had the uncanny ability to worm his way under her skin. He was the epitome of the Old Boy's School, adhering to values that made modern day society appear anachronistic, and she resented him for it.
Devlin frowned, noting Terri's dejection with more concern than she probably should have. She hesitantly laid a hand on the governor's forearm. "Look, don't let him get you down. He really isn't worth it."
"He doesn't 'get me down,' Devlin, he makes me seethe. I can't bear to have him in my vicinity for more than a minute without wanting to punch his lights out. Everything I propose, he objects to. I just - Arggggh." She let out a groan of frustration which emphasised what an array of words couldn't.
"Look if it's any consolation, I think he has that effect on everybody. He resents you for getting the job he's always wanted and to add insult to injury, you turn out to be a woman. His little mind just can't process it, not to mention the fact that his ego's taken a major bashing. But you're handling it, Terri. If you could have seen him this morning, he was so pissed off. I thought he was going to keel over from the stress. You've got the upper hand, so just don't let him see that he's getting to you and you'll be fine... I'm actually going to stop and breathe now," Devlin finished, sucking in a mouthful of air and smiling as she watched Terri's shoulders shake with laughter.
"I didn't realise you were so proficient at playing the role of Agony Aunt."
"Yeah, well I used to be a social worker, remember? It comes with the territory." Devlin lapsed in to silence as she recalled the long days spent trying desperately hard to convince battered wives that they could survive without their husbands. It had been emotionally draining, but the feeling of satisfaction that came with her limited successes had seen her through the bad times. All with the exception of Sarah, of course. Nothing had prepared her for that. An image of the feisty redhead laying broken in the road, her petite body contorted at a sickening angle and her cherubic features twisted in agony, still stubbornly took precedence over any happier memories Devlin had managed to retain.
Sensing the inmate's train of thought, Terri impulsively reached out to envelop a larger hand in her own. "Devlin? If you ever need to talk, I'm here for you, OK?" she asked softly. Although no direct reply was forthcoming, a gentle squeeze of her hand indicated that the inmate understood. "Are you all right?"
Devlin smiled, taking a moment to regain her inwardly faltering composure. "I'll survive. I'll tell you what, pop by sometime this afternoon and I'll have drawn up a list of candidates interested in that class, OK?"
"That'll be great, thanks." Terri reluctantly released the prisoner's hand, emerald eyes searching Devlin's stoic expression for any remaining traces of torment. "You sure you're all right?"
"Terri, I'm fine. Now get outta here," Devlin gave the governor a gentle nudge in the direction of the door, smiling affectionately after her retreating form. Seeing her reflection in the mirror turned out to be a revelation. OK, what the hell am I doing? I'm a reticent, potentially violent murderer - I'm not supposed to smile affectionately at anyone. She contorted her features in to a menacing scowl, glaring at the unwelcome image with animated hostility. She did have a reputation to uphold, after all.
"You're getting on well with Devlin Fielding, aren't you?" Lee inquired, falling in to step alongside Terri and pointedly ignoring the perturbed sigh that followed. He'd watched her emerge from the inmate's cell and the silly little grin plastered across her countenance had served to intrigue him.
"Yeah, I was just talking to her about enrolling on a literature course. I like to encourage the inmates to keep their minds active, what with their environment being so.... uninspiring." Her eyes roved over Lee as if to emphasise her point.
"It's prison. It's not supposed to be inspiring."
"Yes, Lee, I thought you might see it like that." Terri tried to edge past him, but he intercepted her. "Do you mind?"
"Come on now, Terri, don't get all defensive. I'm only trying to have a civilised conversation. You do know that Devlin's a lesbian?"
Terri willed back the urge to punch him. "What's that got to do with anything?"
Lee frowned in mock concern. "I just wouldn't like to see her indoctrinate you, that's all."
"Lee, if you've got something to say, then say it. Don't beat around the bush with petty insinuations because I haven't got the time to listen to them."
"She was threatening me this morning."
He expected her to be shocked. She didn't even blink an eyelid in reaction. "Really? What did she say?"
"That she was tempted to act upon her urge to hack me in to pieces."
Terri hid a smile. She's not the only one, either. "And why would she say something like that?"
Lee frowned. "How the hell am I supposed to know? It was completely unprovoked."
I'll bet. "Did she use any physical force against you?"
Lee frowned. "No."
"Was she brandishing a weapon of any sort?"
"Just that goddamn gob of hers."
"Were there any witnesses?"
"No. For fuck's sake, she's the one you should be interrogating, not me."
Terri smiled sympathetically. "Maybe so, Lee. But I'm not prepared to accuse Devlin of anything until you've presented me with concrete evidence to suggest that what you're saying is true."
"You're calling me a liar?" He glared at her, taken aback by the sheer audacity of the woman.
"No, Lee. Devlin happened to mention that she'd had a run-in with you. Only from what she told me her threats weren't unprovoked."
Lee debated whether to turn crimson with anger or ashen with shock. He gulped. "She told you what I said?"
Terri smiled. "Uh-huh. And, er - the feeling's wholly mutual."
Lee had reverted to grinding his teeth again. "Why does she care what I think of you, anyway?"
Terri shrugged, inwardly elated that Devlin had been so quick to jump to her defence. "I guess she just appreciates being treated with respect for a change. Now get out of my way."
Lee obliged, taking a deep breath in an effort to calm the surge of adrenaline pulsing through his veins. He momentarily wondered if he'd developed angina, but concluded that Terri Kirkwood was just all-too-competent at playing the role of agitator. God, how he loathed her. He'd been planning her demise from the moment she introduced herself, but as of yet hadn't thought of a foolproof way of going about it.
"Excuse me? I need the cell number of a Miss Michelle Darmody."
Lee whirled around as a deep baritone slashed through his reverie. He recognised the DDS Chief instantly. As stereotypes would have it, they usually came in the form of incredibly butch women and the only way of determining their sex was via inspecting certain regions of their well-padded riot attire. This testosterone-ridden female was no exception. "She's in 32, third floor." He received a curt nod of thanks, and was about to return to the realms of self-pity when a flash of inspiration worked its way in to the warped recesses of his mind. It was such a rare occurrence that he almost failed to acknowledge it. Almost, but not quite. "Oh, actually, I'm glad I ran in to you." He paused briefly to ensure his wording was feasible. "The governor accidentally omitted a name from the list she gave you. She wants you to check out Devlin Fielding, cell 22, second floor."
"Right, will do." The DDS Chief gave a sharp whistle and was instantly joined by three other, equally masculine women. "Come on guys, let's go."
Lee watched them head to the third floor, armed with the kits that held the ability to destroy any vestige of dignity a person might have. A warped smile spread across his face as he thought about the repercussions of what he had just done. Devlin Fielding wouldn't be singing the praises of the new governor for much longer. And as he himself was well aware, she was not among the most pleasant of enemies to have. Kiss good bye to your new best-friend, Terri.
To be continued....
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