See chapter one for disclaimers
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To Rebecca, the wind beneath my wings <g>
Katie Greenhalgh glanced furtively in to Devlin's cluttered cell. The door was partly ajar, and her eyes roved appreciatively over the inmate's athletic physique. The brunette was propped up on one elbow, seemingly absorbed in a cumbersome novel. Upon seeing the prisoner's rare placidity, the notion of distracting her suddenly lost its appeal. Even so, Katie summoned her last vestiges of courage and hesitantly moved to inhabit the doorway. "Devlin?" she spoke the name softly, careful not to startle the volatile inmate, and nervously awaited the brunette's coveted acknowledgement.
Devlin glanced up sharply, somewhat amused by Katie's evident apprehension. Having observed the redhead in several of her English classes, she'd developed a begrudging respect for her insight and intelligence. That said, her penetrating gaze was anything but amicable as it bore in to wary hazel eyes. "What?"
"There's a pool tournament starting downstairs. I was just wondering whether you might be interested?" To her credit, Katie resisted the urge to stammer as she fought to retain her faltering composure.
Devlin glanced at her coolly. "Do I look interested?"
"Well, no." The younger woman hesitated, mustering the audacity to say what was on the tip of her tongue. "But you might have to give me some idea of what 'interested' looks like, because I've only ever seen you wearing one expression."
"That would be 'the piss off and leave me alone' one, right?"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but is there a subtle hint hidden amongst all that animosity?" Katie offered Devlin a tentative grin, hoping that she wasn't pushing her proverbial luck.
"I'll give you ten out of ten for observation." A small smile graced Devlin's stolid features. "You might even get bonus points if you decide to take the hint and depart."
Katie hesitated, considering whether the possibility of forming a friendship with the inmate was worth the risk of being murdered. "And if I don't?"
"I'll be forced to disembowel you and hang you from the rafters by your intestines, of-course."
Katie was somewhat charmed by the mischievous twinkle dancing in the depths of Devlin's eyes. So she has a sense of humour, after all? OK, so it may be somewhat warped, but at least I'm making progress. Ah, the wonders of being an eternal optimist. "That's a rhetorical statement, right?" Azure eyes rolled in response and Katie inwardly smiled. "So you don't feel like disclosing any more of your hidden talents, then?"
Devlin glanced at her sharply, her natural antagonism piqued by the innocent insinuation. "I don't recall disclosing anything to you."
Sensing the sudden animosity emanating from the inmate's rigid form, Katie instinctively backed away. "You haven't. I was just hoping that you could wield a cue as competently as a tennis racket, that's all."
Devlin had the grace to appear momentarily sheepish. "C'mon, don't flatter me. I might have played a minimal part in winning that tennis tournament, but Terri's the one with all the talent."
"Yeah, she was pretty impressive," Katie conceded, observing the way Devlin's eyes lit up at the mere mention of the governor's name. The informal nature of their relationship was intriguing, and Katie had to wonder just how close they had become. Willing back the trappings of envy, she forced herself to engage in the conversation. "I mean, did you see Gareth Rawlinson's face? I don't think he's ever gonna understand how a woman half his size sent so many shots reeling over his head."
"Yeah, I think he just about managed to re-define bewilderment." Despite her reservations, Devlin allowed Katie the momentary pleasure of hearing her laugh. A flicker of wistful affection briefly enhanced her beauty, serving to heighten her counterpart's curiosity.
"You're pretty close to Miss Kirkwood, aren't you?"
The question came seemingly out of nowhere and the drastic change of subject proved highly unpopular. For one moment, Katie had glimpsed behind the barriers encasing Devlin's soul, but now the inmate's eyes darkened with palpable contempt. "That's none of your business."
"Devlin, I didn't mean - "
"I don't care what you meant." Devlin edged closer to the petite prisoner, stooping slightly so they were eye-to-eye. "My private life has got fuck all to do with you, you got that?" Katie nodded contritely, making a mental note to exclude cosy chats from her repertoire. "Now, I don't know what the hell you want from me, but I don't do friendship and I'm intrinsically anti-social. Let's just say I went through the process of self-realisation a long time ago."
As the tirade continued, Katie gradually mustered the courage to fight back, heedless of the potential repercussions. "No Devlin, I don't think you're finished just yet. One of these days, you're gonna realise that being such a bitter bitch isn't worth the loneliness you're left with. You know, maybe you should stop looking for everyone's ulterior motives, because, believe it or not, some of us don't actually have any." Katie held Devlin's gaze for a moment, refusing to flinch until she recognised realisation dawn in the inmate's pained azure eyes. With a shaky intake of breath, she promptly turned to leave the cell, resisting the urge to look back. So much for progress, she mused wryly, wondering just where she went wrong. Rolling her eyes in self-depreciation, reality hit her hard. I'm not Terri Kirkwood, I guess that's a good enough excuse.
"It's outrageous. I simply won't stand for it."
Elaine Harrison-Reider reeked of an aristocratic upbringing. Besides the customary double-barrelled name, the middle-aged blonde sported a Gucci suit, a perfect posture, and an accent that epitomised years of elocution. Terri resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Mrs Harrison-Reider, you'll realise in the long run that I'm doing you a favour. The girls in here are deprived of any material possessions. They'll only resent you for flaunting your wealth."
Elaine's ice-cold eyes emitted a flicker of annoyance before misting over with feigned melancholy. "My husband brought me those rings. I don't care how much they're worth in monetary terms, to me their value is purely sentimental."
Terri inwardly snorted. Elaine had fed her husband enough arsenic to floor the Pied Piper and his whole horde of rats, and humouring her was proving increasingly difficult. "Maybe so, but I'm not prepared to bend the rules for anyone - and that includes you. The status system in this establishment works around respect, not affluence," she enunciated pointedly. "Those inmates who prove worthy of our trust are rewarded accordingly."
Elaine's steely expression became positively arctic. "Are you saying that I'm untrustworthy?"
"I'm saying that I know better than to make automatic assumptions. You've got to earn enhanced status, and until then, I'm afraid you're on level pegging with the other inmates."
"Well, I must say, I think you're being rather harsh."
Elaine's tone was infiltrated with indignity and Terri couldn't contain an exasperated sigh. "Mrs Harrison-Reider, you're here to be punished. Despite what the media might suggest, that entails some degree of deprivation. Everyone else manages, it's just a matter of acclimatisation." She leant forward, her tone laced with sobriety. "But let me offer you some advice. The women in here don't like airs and graces, and they won't tolerate the stigma of inferiority. Don't look down your nose at them, because they'll only retaliate."
Elaine's eyes narrowed with palpable animosity. "Just what exactly are you suggesting, Miss Kirkwood?"
"I think you're perceptive enough to work that out for yourself." Terri stood, indicating the closure of their brief conversation. "Now, if you have any other issues, feel free to take them up with me. Ask a prison officer and they'll book you an appointment. I'm afraid that's all I've got time for this morning."
"It's nice to see that you're so dedicated to your job, Miss Kirkwood."
The jibe was intended to be sardonic, and Terri glanced at Elaine sharply. "I'm here to ensure that this establishment runs effectively, not to indulge in pointless debates."
"Of-course, I understand completely." Elaine stepped through the door with an expectedly graceful gait, offering the governor a manicured hand. "It's been a pleasure meeting you."
"Uh-huh." Terri forced an insincere smile to her face, adhering to etiquette and curtly shaking Elaine's hand. She gave the escorting officer a nod of acknowledgement, shutting her office door and revelling in the gratifying void that ensued. Making the rare decision to spend her morning constructively, she settled down to tackle the omnipresent paperwork littered haphazardly across her desk. She had just managed to locate a pen when the shrill sound of the phone marred the welcome silence, causing her to utter a stream of profanities. The temptation to ignore it was ever present, but as per usual, her conscience prevailed and she picked up the receiver. "Hello?"
The monologue that ensued caused her to visibly blanch, and after muttering a clipped response, she sank back in to her plush leather chair. It took her a moment to process the news, and then a surge of anger overrode her momentary disbelief. Grabbing a stained coffee cup with trembling fingers, Terri barely hesitated before hurling it across the room. It struck the wall with enough force to leave a prominent dent, and she watched with a certain amount of satisfaction as it promptly shattered in to small segments. Uttering a heartfelt, "Fuck," she stalked towards her office door. Flinging it open with one flick of her wrist, she regarded Gareth Rawlinson sombrely. "I need to see Devlin Fielding immediately. Would you escort her to my office, please?"
Moments later, Devlin was regarding Terri with a bizarre combination of anger and affection. "What's with the frogmen?" she promptly demanded, sinking down in to the proffered chair. "I thought I was being a good girl until I got marched up here at the speed of light."
"You're not in trouble," Terri quickly reassured her, somehow mustering the courage to assume eye contact.
"Then what's the problem?" Devlin felt a sudden surge of apprehension as she studied the governor's pained countenance. "Terri?"
"God, I don't know how to say this." Terri shook her head, hating to be the bearer of bad news. "Devlin, it's your Aunt May. She suffered a massive heart attack in the early hours of this morning." Entirely of its own accord, her hand reached out to grasp the inmate's. "I'm so sorry."
Devlin remained silent for what seemed like an eternity, but showed no outward display of emotion. Subconsciously, she was aware of nimble fingers lightly caressing her palm, but numbness overrode the pleasurable sensations usually elicited by Terri's tender touch. She recalled her conversation with Katie earlier on that morning, and knew she should seek solace rather than reject it. Even so, emotional turmoil seemed intent on stalking her, and withdrawing into herself was the only method of evading it. She willed her eyes to become devoid of despondency, focusing on the governor with an eerily reticent air.
"If there's anything I can do," Terri whispered, feeling completely helpless as she uttered the customary condolence with utmost sincerity. She had witnessed the barely perceptible change in Devlin's disposition, and gripped the inmate's hand as though it were a lifeline. "But please don't shut me out, Devlin, I couldn't bear it."
"I'm not." As much as she wanted to, Devlin couldn't ignore the hurt emanating from empathetic emerald eyes, nor the note of desperation in Terri's broken tone. She briefly lifted a hand to caress the governor's cheek. "I just need some time alone, that's all."
Terri reluctantly released the inmate's hand. "OK. But you know where I am if you need me, right?"
Devlin nodded. "Thanks." She could feel her composure beginning to falter, and knowing it was mostly due to Terri's compassion, she promptly turned to leave the room.
Terri managed to remain relatively sang-froid until the door slammed shut, and then promptly lifted trembling hands to cushion her throbbing forehead. She knew that she should shun any degree of emotional involvement with Devlin. She accepted that allowing her tears to fall would only intensify her forbidden feelings. Yet with a certain amount of defiance and a stifled sob, she grew past the stage of caring.
Devlin sank down on to her rigid bed, thumping the unyielding mattress resentfully. Seizing a nearby pillow, she hugged it tightly, hoping to extract some semblance of comfort from its expedient embrace. She had spent years being the scapegoat for her feuding family, and May Fielding had been the saviour of her sanity. As a child, her parents had bombarded her with uninhibited hatred. She had spent every day longing for an iota of appreciation, and every night abandoning yet another vestige of hope. All the while, she could never understand what characterised her as the burden no-one wanted to bear. Having developed a self-deprecating mentality, she sought attention from anyone willing to humour her. Her rebellious antics had left her with few friends, and when her parents inevitably threw her out at the tender age of sixteen, she was rendered stranded. Terrified of facing a life on the streets, her only hope came in the form of her middle-aged Aunt.
May had occasionally braved the bad atmosphere inhabiting the Fielding household to indulge her beloved niece. She had praised Devlin's drawings, listened to her stories, helped her with homework; simple things that meant the world to someone who had spent her life festering in insignificance. True to her ever-tolerant nature, and free from other responsibilities, May had assumed guardianship of the wayward teenager almost as soon as she had arrived on her doorstep. In exchange for a roof over her head and a sizeable amount of affection, Devlin had promised to return to school and tackle the odds stacked against her. It had been hard to find an establishment willing to waive her reputation, but her innate intelligence eventually enabled her to validate her Aunt's trust. At least until I landed myself in this shit hole.
Devlin's eyes welled with tears as she envisaged May's reaction to her imprisonment. She had made the conscious decision to throw away a life she had only just started to live, and May clearly resented her ill-conceived actions. Even still, Devlin had greeted her Aunt's frequent visits with childlike anticipation. The notion of never seeing her again was implausible, and as she fought to fathom it, a surge of anger suddenly besieged her. The pillow, having failed to offer her any consolation, became a convenient punch bag. Eyes narrowing, she drove her fists in to the mass of material, cursing the lack of justice in her life.
Her ire was so intense that she failed to notice Lee Robinson's hefty physique inhabit her doorway. Unbeknown to the inmate, Terri had instructed the officers to give her some much-needed space. Naturally, Lee regarded this as an opportunity to indulge in his favourite pastime - insubordination. He regarded Devlin amusedly, until the urge to taunt her became overwhelming. "I always said you had too much pent-up aggression."
Devlin whirled around, venom emanating from her feral countenance. "Yeah, well you'd better piss off before I decide to take it out on you."
Lee held up his hands in mock defence. "Hey, I'm only here to offer my condolences."
"C'mon Lee, you thrive on being a bastard. You don't honestly expect me to believe that you have an iota of compassion, do you?"
Lee shrugged. "Well, I'm sure you're getting all the comfort you need from Miss Kirkwood."
"And what the fuck's that supposed to mean?" Devlin's eyes were blazing, but she silently willed herself to stay calm, vowing to play along with the pugnacious prison officer instead of giving in to his adulterated mockery.
"She's very concerned about you, you know?" Lee tried to conceal his disappointment when Devlin merely regarded him with a raised eyebrow. "I'm sure she's just doing her job, but I can't help but wonder why she cares so much."
"Oh I don't know, I'd say it was pretty obvious."
Now it was Lee's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Really?"
Devlin inwardly congratulated him for taking the bait. "Yeah. She has the morals of a human being, you have the morals of a sociopath - and that's giving you the benefit of the doubt. No wonder it's so hard for you to process the discrepancy."
"So I suppose I was being naïve in thinking you were shagging her?"
Devlin didn't flinch as he voiced the accusation. "Well, you always opt for the most simplistic alternative, don't you Lee?" She offered him a condescending smile. "Then again, I suppose you need a vivid imagination to help you cope with your.... inadequacy in that department."
Lee glanced at her sharply. "Oh, so the stupid little bitch has been shooting her mouth off again, has she?"
Devlin laughed, shaking her head. "Lee, when are you gonna face up to the fact that you've got 'failure' written all over you? In extremely prominent lettering. Anyone with an ounce of perception can see that you're nothing but an insecure asshole."
As per usual, with the odds stacked against him, Lee resorted to hitting below the belt. "You know what, Fielding? I can see why your Aunt had that heart attack. To be honest, I'm surprised she lasted that long." Pain slowly began to infiltrate Devlin's guarded azure eyes, and Lee relished every moment of inflicting it. "I mean, living with you must have taken it's toll. There she was, a respectable woman, doing the honourable thing by taking in a head-strong little girl...." He trailed off, pausing for emphasis. "And then you go and evolve in to a murdering dyke. That must have been quite a set back."
Devlin advanced towards the officer, menace emanating from every inch of her tense physique. "Shut up Robinson, you don't know fuck all about my life."
"Oh come on, the poor cow only visited you out of some strange sense of duty. I guess the shame of having such a fuck-up for a niece finally pushed her over the edge."
"I said SHUT UP." Devlin was shaking with suppressed rage, and yet Lee was blissfully unaware of the omnipresent danger. With the mentality of a true moron, he continued to goad her.
"The truth hurts, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, and so will this." Before Lee had the chance to react, a clenched fist drove in to his jaw. The impact sent him reeling to the floor, and he could only grunt in momentary agony before a blanket of darkness overwhelmed him.