Warden Southerland glared at the off duty guard. "Officer Yunez, visiting an inmate in the infirmary is forbidden. I don't care about whatever relationship you have with her. I'm placing a written reprimand into your file. Sign it, and stay out of this prison until you have been given medical clearance to resume your duties. Any further transactions and I'll fire you. Got it?'
Sandra wanted to protest but feared him giving her the boot. How would she protect Debra then? Biting back the anger, she nodded, signed the reprimand, and then left the office.
Jim rushed up to her once she turned the corner. "What did the bastard want?'
"He was mad I visited Duster in the infirmary. I was told not to come back here until I can return to work. He won't even let me see her on visiting day.'
"Tell me about it. Jim, do me a favor? Tell Duster why I'm not visiting her? I don't want her thinking she's been abandoned.'
"Sure Sandra, will do. Any idea when your doctor will let you come back?'
"Not for another two weeks. The cast comes off in a few days but I have to do some therapy to strengthen it.' She reached the outer security door and buzzed it.
"Good luck,' Jim said softly and headed back to his post.
"We'll need it,' she whispered to herself.
Special Agent Robertson read the preliminary report and cleared his throat. "So, you want me to get inside and get the real scoop?'
"Exactly. We already turned in a dummy rZÿsumZÿ for you and they've left a message for you to come in for an interview. We didn't even have to twist any arms to arrange it. We want to know what's going on in there. Investigator Jordan's report suggests the Warden might be mentally unstable. There are also rumors that he has used his authority for less than moral purposes, but no one will speak up. We need someone inside who can gain people's confidence and learn the truth,' his supervisor told him.
"Sounds easy enough.'
"Maybe. It may take months to learn the full scope of things. So, will you take it?'
"Sure, why not. It's better than doing bodyguard duty. When is the interview?'
"Tomorrow, 09:15 AM in the Randson Building, Personnel office on second floor.' He handed the agent a copy of the doctored rZÿsumZÿ for reference and his phony ID's. "Good luck.'
Duster recovered enough to go back into the common area. Her arm was in a heavy cast and her ribs had been fitted with a special wrap that allowed her to breath yet still support her ribs. When she entered the outer Rec area, members of her gang came out to greet her, welcoming her back. She walked slowly towards the white gang's claimed area and sat down carefully.
The women were angry this had happened to her and wanted revenge, but against who? The grapevine was eerily silent on who did it. They kept their eyes open, watching everyone who came near them.
"Maybe it was Iron's group?' one of them wondered aloud.
"Nah, that bitch would be bragging if she had,' another replied. "'So would Thrasher and Peanut.'
"It doesn't matter,' Duster told them wearily. "Let's just be more careful and stay in groups. I don't want anyone else getting ambushed.'
"Okay Duster, whatever you say.' Squeaker said for them all.
"Another new rent a cop,' Beatrice muttered, causing everyone to look up.
It was a male guard to several women's disappointment, but most were straight and gave the new guy appreciative looks. He was a beach bum in uniform. Tanned, fit, and no more than 26 years old.
"God, I think I just turned into a dirty old woman, lusting after a kid,' Joanne remarked. The girls' titters at the older woman's remark.
"Gonna offer to breastfeed him Joanne?' Tank joshed. Joanne slapped her gut and kept staring at the young man.
"Not my type,' Duster deadpanned. The women laughed.
"Yeah, you weren't into blondes...often,' Squeaker laughed.
"No, just on 'em,' another added. The women roared, causing the guards to look their way.
"Get a chance to fuck that pretty guard yet?' one of the newer gang members asked with a leer.
Duster's good arm shot out and grabbed her around the throat. "Never, ever, speak of her without respect again newbie, unless you want to drink through a straw for the rest of your life,' she hissed. She gave her a good shake and released her. The newbie slunk away, realizing she made a huge mistake. The others grew silent and tried to lighten the mood.
From across the room, the new guard took a mental note to find out the story on the woman with the broken arm.
Janet Williams sighed into the phone. "Sandra, at this point, I feel I shouldn't speak of Debra's case any longer. It wasn't appropriate earlier but Debra seemed so determined that you be told things that I agreed. Normally, I wouldn't discuss a patient with anyone. I feel Debra should be the one who tells you what she's feeling now, instead of going through a middleman. She's dealing with many issues right now and frankly, you're better off not knowing what we speak about until she's ready to tell you herself. I hope you understand.'
"Yes Doctor, I do. I realized you weren't telling me most of it, but knowing the little you did pass on helped. I just wished I had a way to speak with her right now. She seems so fragile lately.'
"I understand your concerns, but there are some paths one must travel alone. All I can tell you is be patient and give her whatever space she needs,' she advised.
Fear seemed to grip her every moment. Duster wasn't used to giving into since she entered prison, but now she couldn't shake it. Janet was issuing her a mild sedative daily, but it wasn't helping. It left her muddle headed, doing nothing to ease the fear and nightmares that persisted to haunt her. She couldn't sleep and the exhaustion was getting to her.
Only by force of will was she able to keep her face impassive around others. If they saw her terror, she would be torn apart by the waiting vultures. Duster was beginning to doubt her own sanity.
"Pass the ketchup Duster,' Squeaker repeated for the fourth time. Shaking away the cobwebs in her head, the prisoner handed the bottle across the table.
Janet watched from the kitchen door, holding the cup of cut vegetables she had gotten for the iguana she kept in her office. She was worried about Debra. The dark circles and strain showed clearly on her face. The therapist was seriously considering putting in a request to have her patient sent to a mental health facility. She knew the young woman wasn't insane, but the stress she went through was defeating all the progress they had made so far.
Debra wanted to turn her life around, to stay out of trouble and make parole. But what she wanted and what was allowed by the inmates was another matter. As 'Duster', she was a powerful leader and expected to protect her 'territory' and fight for every inch her gang had claim on. But it conflicted with what she had become. She was torn between two worlds and eventually, the strain would destroy her. To do so would mean she was open to revenge by every inmate with a grudge. The gang leader just couldn't walk away from her role within the prison community. It just wasn't fair.
Listening to the logical side of herself, the therapist decided that for her own good, Duster had to leave the prison system and get help from outside. She headed for the Warden's office.
Sandra entered her supervisor's office and turned in her chit from her doctor, allowing her to return to duty. Marlene smiled happily and pulled out the schedule, penciling in her hours for the next week.
"You work tomorrow, third shift.'
Sandra agreed and chatted for a few minutes before leaving. She couldn't wait to return.
A guard opened her cell door and ordered her from the room. Duster had been rereading the letter from Sandra and missing her terribly. Putting it down, she got to her feet and followed the guard from the room. It was the newest guard, Sanders.
"Where are going?' she asked.
"The Warden wants to see you,' he answered simply, saying nothing more.
Once at the door to his office, the Warden barked at the Officer to bring her in then leave. It was against regulations and Sanders tried to remind Southerland, but was ordered to shut up and wait outside. Sighing, the guard did as he was told, but stayed near the door, listening carefully.
He already knew much about the prisoner inside and knew from Jordan's report that the Southerland was fanatical about her for some reason. Straining his ears, he could hear most of the conversation inside. Through the privacy window, he could see the hazy movements of both occupants.
The Warden took a paper from his desktop and waved it in front of Debra Michaels.
"Do you know what this is Michaels? This is a request from Doctor Williams to move you from my prison and into the Piedmont Mental Health Facility. She thinks you're nuts Michaels,' he grinned nastily. "But I just think you're scum who has her convinced you've changed and just need a little 'love and understanding'Ê to become a model citizen. My fucking ass. I refused her transfer request.'
Duster felt her guts knot up. Janet wanted her locked up in a nuthouse. All her doubts rushed over her like a flooding river.
"What? You have nothing to say?' He tossed the paper in the wastebasket. "It doesn't matter much. I'm watching you Michaels. Every time you turn around, one of my men will be there. Every time you take a crap, someone will know. You think you're so clever, fooling the counselor and my guards, but you don't fool me you piece of trash. I know what you are and I intend to make sure you never make an early parole. You are going to rot here every minute I can keep you, even if I have to toss in penalty time for disruptive behavior and criminal activity within the prison.' Warden Southerland rose and stood in her face, his foul breath spitting out his words.
"In short bitch, you aren't ever leaving this prison as long as I can help it. The tiniest bit of trouble from you and I'll lock you up in solitary and throw away the key. Do you understand me?'
Duster heard every word, but the nightmare she was living through at the moment had nothing to do with his threats. In her mind, she was reliving the horror of her father's abuse, the way he always watched her every move, the threats, and the pain he inflicted on her. Time and fear overlapped, overwhelming her fragile hold.
She screamed and rushed the Warden, surprising him. She lashed out with her broken arm, striking him along his head. Stunned, he stumbled against a chair and fell over it. Duster grabbed the glass water pitcher and struck it against the wooden table, shattering it. Taking a large shard, she pounced on the Warden and held it against his throat. She wasn't going to be a victim again. Never. The sound of an alarm shattered the air.
She had to get out. Holding Southerland against her with her arm, she forced him to turn towards the office door. Uniformed guards rushed to the area, armed with stun guns and assault rifles. The glass partitions were smashed, giving the guards a better view of the occupants of the office.
Stunned by the surrounding guards and the weapons pointed her way, the prisoner was lost and panicked, the instinct to flee screaming at her.
"NO!' Duster heard Sandra's voice over the confusing din. They tried to push Sandra from the outer office but she refused to leave.
"Let me in, please! I can talk to her, at least let me try!' she begged. Several of her friends nodded and let her go. Sandra spoke to her from behind the line of armed guards and the room grew quiet, waiting.
"Debra? Listen to me sweetie, let the Warden go, please.' Seeing Debra shake her head and tighten her grip, she stepped between two men and walked slowly into the room. She wasn't afraid for herself but what Duster would do to the Warden or even her own self.
"I want you to listen to me Debra. It's important. No one wants to hurt you, but they can't allow you to do whatever you're planning. Just drop the glass and let him go.'
"You don't understand!' Duster cried, unable to voice the terror he caused inside of her.
"Then make me understand Debra. Talk to me,' she said gently, trying to calm her.
Tears spilled down the prisoners cheeks. "He said I could never leave,' the shattered woman said.
Sandra looked to the hostage, the bile of contempt for the man burning her throat. She had grown to despise the man, but as much as she hated him herself, she couldn't allow Debra to kill him or his threat would come true.
Sandra stepped closer, causing the nervous guards to grip their weapons tighter. The small woman placed her hand gently on Debra's back and ran it lightly along the tense muscles.
"She's an animal!' The Warden snarled.
"Shut up you bastard!' Duster screamed into his ear and held the glass harder against his neck, nicking the skin.
"Debra!' Sandra hissed, "Look at me!' Duster's brown eyes locked with her own. "Prove him wrong. Let him go,' she urged softly, placing her other hand on the one Duster used to hold the glass. The two women stared at one another for a long time, then Duster felt her panic ease. She trusted Sandra. Her hand relaxed and the shard fell to the floor. The guards rushed in and grabbed her as her arms dropped away from her captive.
The Warden touched his neck and ordered the guards to put her in solitary.
To Be Continued
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