I focused on the top of the wall surrounding the prison yard. Razor wire reflected the morning sun and created row upon row of sparkling diamond tiaras. A mix of aromas vented from the prison kitchen—bacon and freshly brewed coffee—and the damp, bleach-clean scent of the laundry saturated the morning air. Odd, but familiar.
Across the prison yard a soft, twisted puff of air kicked up a dust devil, and I found myself lost in the wonder. How could something as soft and gentle as a kiss on the cheek create chaos where none existed before?
I love mornings. A perfect time to ponder life’s little mysteries. The peace. The serenity. The quiet. The—
“Stoney. Tell this little shit to help me out.”
So much for peace and quiet.
I shielded my eyes, peered across the yard at Hawk. Chuck Duncan was his real name. A twitchy son of a bitch always on the lookout for intrigue and conspiracies where none existed. Look up the word paranoid in the dictionary, and you’ll find Hawk’s picture. Hawk was arguing with Cliff McNett, a young Robert Redford type.
I stood, slogged across the dusty prison yard, reached the bickering couple then asked, “What is it?”
“Cliff won’t hook me up with that classic Vette I want.”
“Be real, Hawk. Cliff’s been in the joint for six years. He doesn’t have connections anymore.»
“Bullshit! He stole twelve vintage Vettes in eight days. Cliff’s a living legend,” Hawk said. “Like me.”
Cliff spat on the ground. “Tell you what I’ll do, Hawk. Tell me where you stashed that twenty-million from the armored car robbery and my associates will take just enough to get you that Vette.”
“You’re a punk, Cliff.” Hawk backed away. “You’re all punks. You all want my money. My money. Screw you all.” Hawk stormed off.
I faced Cliff. “He ain’t gonna be worth a shit the rest of the day. You know that, right?”
Cliff shrugged. “Money ain’t doin’ him no good. He has what, six years left?”
“Whatever. You know how to handle money.” Cliff inched closer, lowered his voice. “Get him to tell you where the money is. Get him to ask for some financial advice. I mean, you can’t just waltz into a bank and open an account with that kind of dough.”
I shook my head. “Hawk’s right. This money thing has you tied up in knots.” I looked left where Caleb Hunter, the youngest inmate in this joint, sat against a fence reading. The Kid always had his nose in a book. Kept to himself. Kept quiet. Barely spoke ten words all day. I turned back to Cliff. “You should be more like the Kid over there and mind your own business.”
“Look, the last person I helped with financial advice turned State’s evidence. He got witness protection. I got twenty years. No thanks.”
Cliff sat on his haunches and drew dollar signs in the dirt. He looked over at the Kid and yelled, “Hey, Hunter? You know where Hawk’s money is?”
Without looking up, the Kid shrugged, shook his head, continued reading.
Cliff stood. “You’d think Hunter would know being Hawk’s cellmate for almost two years.”
“Hawk wouldn’t tell his own mother where the money was if her life depended on it.” I stretched and rolled my neck. Vertebrae cracked like a string of firecrackers. It felt good, and I relaxed. “Face it. When Hawk gets out, he’ll be one rich ex-con.”
Cliff slapped me on the back. “Can’t blame a guy for trying. It is a helluva lot of money.” He laughed and shuffled off.
I strolled over to the Kid, stopped and cast a long shadow over him and his book. I liked the Kid. Kept his nose clean, minded his own business. He was in for a simple B&E and was due for release in two weeks. I’ll miss him.
The Kid closed his book and looked up. “Whazzup?”
“Do me a solid?” I asked.
“Bring me an extra paper from work.” The Kid was on work release at the local paper. His uncle was a big shot there. An editor I think.
Mischief danced in his eyes, or was it the Sun?
The next morning all hell broke loose in Hawk’s cell.