Written by: SwordnQuill (Susanne Beck)
Disclaimers: The characters in this novel are of my own creation. Thats right, this is an uber story. Some may bear a resemblance to characters we know and love who are owned by PacRen and Universal Studios.
Violence and Naughty Language Disclaimer: Yup, both. And quite a lot of each, to be truthful. This takes place in a prison, and where there are criminals, theres gonna be violence and naughty words.
Subtext Disclaimer: Yup, theres that too. This piece deals, after a fashion, with the love and physical expression of that love, between two adult females. There are some graphic scenes located within this piece, but I have tried to make them as tasteful as possible so as to not avoid anyones sensibilities. Let me know if Ive succeeded.
Serialization Disclaimer: When I first started writing and posting, I made a promise to myself, and to anyone who read me, that I would never post a work that wasnt finished. I detest serialization, normally. But . . .this novel, which is one week from being finished, is becoming very long and Ive had readers write to me stating that they wont read novels because they just dont have time to sit down and read such gargantuan works. So, I compromised. This piece is finished (very nearly) and will go up at regular intervals so that the folks who like to read in small chunks can do that and the ones who like to read the whole thing can do that too.
Dedication: As always, Id like to thank the man who gives up some of his free time every day to read the stuff I send over to him. The best beta-reader on the planet, Mike. Id also like to thank my other betas: Candace (who read the entire novel in IM and showed her support every night), Rachel, and Alex. A special thank-you goes to Sulli, who made a very bad day a wonderful one with her gift of generosity. I would also like to thank Mary D for reading and housing this at her site. But mostly, Id like to thank the readers for reading my stuff and giving me such great feedback. Its what makes sitting in front of this balky computer and tickling the tans so much fun. Feedback, if anyone is so inclined, is always gratefully received and appreciated. I can be reached atSwordnQuil@aol.com .
Three weeks later, I once again found myself in the library, though this time I was surrounded by Amazons. Bruised and battered Amazons, to be precise. The prison had exploded in a flurry of violent outbursts, each one larger and more destructive than the last. Pony had one arm in a sling, her fingers massively swollen and Sonny was sporting a truly spectacular shiner to go with her broken nose. Only Critter seemed to have gotten off relatively unscathed.
"Someone needs to talk to her," Pony said, wincing as she stretched. "We cant hold the line anymore and the guards cant either. The warden seems to be getting off on it, the idiot."
Several sets of eyes turned to Corinne, who held her hands up. "Dont look at me, ladies."
The eyes then turned to me, pleading. I shook my head slowly. "I dont think so, guys. She hasnt been out of her cell once since she got released. You all saw what she looked like, half dead and three-quarters insane. Ive tried twice already and almost gotten my head bitten off both times. Maybe someone else should try."
"Cmon, Angel. You talked her down after that fight with Cassandra. Youre our only hope here. If Ice doesnt snap out of it soon, were all gonna be in a world of hurt." Critters dark eyes drilled into mine. "You know its true, dont you? We need her. And we need you to get to her."
Breaking down under the weight of their gazes, I sighed, then nodded my assent. "Alright, but if I dont come back down in a few hours, remember that I dont want a viewing, will you?"
The sense of relief in the room was palpable and Critter gripped my hand as I rose to my feet. "You can do it, Angel. Youre the best."
"Keep on saying that, Critter. Maybe one day Ill actually start believing it."
Turning on my heel, the weight of their hopes resting heavily on my shoulders, I left the safety of the library, once again a woman on a mission.
I eased my way up the stairs and down the catwalk, dreading what I would find. The day of Ices release from isolation had been a horrendous one for me. Like a teenager awaiting her first date, I spent the day in nervous anticipation, fixing my hair and pressing the wrinkles out of my jumpsuit so many times that I earned regular teasing cracks about my habits from Corinne and some of the others.
When I finally saw her, late that afternoon, she was practically being held up in the steady grips of Sandra and another guard I didnt recognize. She was bone thin. Her uniform hung off her like a sack. Her skin was almost snow-white and her hair, once a luxurious mane, was brittle, snarled and lifeless. Her beautiful face sported a multitude of draining sores around her mouth and her eyes were totally bereft of any spark, any sign of the life within. They sat in deep hollows surrounded by circles of the darkest brown.
Almost moaning, I walked up to the trio, reaching out to touch this apparition that appeared in the guise of my friend. She actually flinched away and I cried out. Sandra sadly shook her head, gently pushing me away as they passed, heading for the stairs.
Horror-filled, I turned and rushed back to the library, laying into Corinne as soon as I saw her.
Id been to Ices cell twice since then, both times to be chased out by the snarling, half crazed animal my friend had become.
Since then, Id made regular trips to both the guards station and the infirmary demanding answers. None were provided me except the fact that Ices time in isolation had not gone as expected. When I asked why she wasnt in the hospital where she surely belonged, I was ignored.
And here I was, trying yet again.
As I moved further down the catwalk, I was drawn on by the sound of soft humming. The tune was mournful but melodic and brought the sting of tears to my eyes. As I stepped up to the open cell door, I noticed Sandra sitting on the bed next to Ice, holding her hand and stroking her hair. On the floor beside the bed was a tray of half-eaten food and by the quality of the meal, I guessed that it hadnt come from the prisons kitchen.
Ice sat on the bed, her back against the wall, her head bowed and her free hand in her lap, repeatedly clenching it into a fist, then relaxing, only to clench again. Sandras soft melody filled the air. Warm tears spilled out of my eyes and I brought my hand up to my mouth to mask the sounds of my crying.
The humming trailed off as Sandras head lifted. When she saw me standing there, she smiled. "Angel! Cmon in! Ice, look. Angels here." When Ice didnt respond, Sandra beckoned me closer. "Come, sit on the bed next to her. Take her other hand. Her nails are chewing the hell out of her palm."
Doing what she requested, I gingerly entered the rest of the way into the cell, then lowered myself onto the bunk. Reaching out, I grasped Ices free hand and, as gently as I possibly could, uncurled the tight fist, threading my fingers through her much longer ones.
God, her hand was cold as the grave! Where the heat of her had always burned a path right through to my soul, this coldness was frightening. I could feel small dots of blood where our hands met, the only points of warmth on our joined flesh. I looked as well as I could into her eyes, but there was no one looking back at me. Shuddering, I looked past my friend and into the compassionate eyes of the head guard. "Hows she doing?"
"A little better. At least I got her to eat something this time. Ill be the first to admit that Im not the worlds greatest cook, but anythings better than the slop they feed us here."
Looking down at the tray, I could only nod in agreement. At least the items on the plate were readily identifiable, which was more than I could say about the prisons version of food.
"Anyway, I was just telling her about Diane when you came in."
Sandra smiled. "My daughter. Ice saved her life. Didnt ya." When Ice didnt respond, the guard looked back over to me. "My husband was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when Diane was six. Since I needed to keep working to keep a roof over our heads and meals on the table, Id drop her off at my mothers before school and pick her up after I got off of work. It worked out ok for a little while, but my mothers old and a bit frail."
Sighing, she adjusted herself on the bed and gripped Ices hand tighter. "As Diane got older, she fell in with a rougher crowd. Petty vandalism at first, then shoplifting, then drugs. My mother didnt say anything until it was almost too late. Id come home so tired every evening that I didnt see the signs, though I should have." She sighed again. "Then she got involved with a gang and I got a call from the police station one day while I was at work. It seemed shed been the lookout for a home burglary and shed gotten caught with the rest of her cronies. It was the last straw. The police agreed to drop the charges, but I knew she needed some help. So I brought her here. It was the first time shed ever seen the inside of a real prison. Ice volunteered to help. She took Diane into a small room off the visitors room for about an hour. When my daughter came out, she looked a lot like Ice does now."
Sandra gently brushed the bangs away from Ices head again, smiling tenderly at my friend. "Though neither one have ever talked about what happened in that room, Diane never went back to her old ways again." Her smile turned proud. "Shes a sophomore at Stanford now, making straight As."
"Sandra, thats wonderful!"
"Yeah, it is. And I owe it all to this woman here. When Diane heard that Iced been sent back to prison she was devastated. Kept saying that there should have been something she could have done to prevent it; to help Ice like Ice helped her."
"Not . . .her fault."
Both of our heads shot up at the hoarse, almost unrecognizable voice. "Ice?" Sandra asked, astounded. "Did you say something?"
"Not . . . her fault," Ice repeated, her eyes still hollow, her mouth working to form words. "My fault. Not her fault."
My tears, which had stopped falling during Sandras story, resumed their course down my face. Overwhelmed, it was all I could do to pick up the chilled hand laying in mine and raise it to my lips, brushing the softest of kisses against Ices knuckles. "Thank God youre back," I whispered through the veil of my tears.
Just then, the sound of a muffled explosion filtered through to us, followed by an inmates piercing scream. Alarm bells sounded next, their klaxon call to arms echoing stridently through the entire building. Then, like a tsunami, came the ever increasing sound of triumphant inmates cheering.
With a muttered curse, Sandra, though hours off duty by this time, jumped from the bed and grabbed her baton. She ran out to the catwalk and looked down, then turned to us, the smallest touch of fear in her eyes. "Its a riot!" she yelled to be heard over the sounds of screaming and the alarm. Running back into the cell, she laid a quick hand on my shoulder. "Watch her. Ill bet my paycheck Derbys behind this and this is the first place shell come."
"Well, well, well," came a harsh voice from behind us. "Looks like the butch little head guard has a brain after all, eh girls? Better pay up, butchie. Its a sure bet you wont be needin the money after were through with ya."
Sandra and I turned our heads to see Derby and five of her cronies standing outside Ices cell door, all armed to the teeth. Derby had appropriated a guards baton and was rhythmically slapping one end into her palm as she grinned nastily at us. "I always knew there was somethin goin on between you and the Ice Maiden, Sandra. I just didnt know you pulled sweet little Angel into it too." Her sparkling gaze turned to me. "Tell me, Angel, do ya like the taste of guard-snatch? Does she make you scream the way Ice does?" Throwing back her head, Derby howled to the ceiling while her friends grinned and slapped each other like adolescent boys.
That did it. I rocketed up out of bed like my pants were in flames, only to be held back by Sandra. "No. Let me handle this. You just keep an eye on Ice, alright?"
Though I considered slipping out of her hold, I calmed my temper and nodded, finally. Grinning slightly, she squeezed my arm in a gesture very reminiscent of Ice. "Good girl."
"Yeah, you go ahead and listen to your Mistress there, little girl. Keep an eye on poor ol Ice, will ya? I want her all nice and het up when I come to break her fuckin neck."
With that, Derby hefted the baton above her head and stepped into the cell. Sandra spun quickly to meet the downward strike. The sound of wood hitting wood filled the room and the guard grunted from the stinging contact, but refused to yield.
Mustering her strength, Sandra pushed Derby back outside the cell, then moved forward to block the entrance with her large, wide body. I sat back down on the bed, grasped Ices still cold hand, and watched intently.
It felt very strange to be in the position of protecting the woman Id grown to view as my own protector. At the same time, however, it felt very right, as if in some other time and in some other place, I had done exactly that. I wondered, briefly, why Sandra didnt just lock the door with us inside, but the next thrust from Derbys weapon drove that thought from my mind as Sandra was driven back a step. I looked quickly at Ice, trying to gauge her reaction to the fight, but found myself looking into the eyes of a woman lost once again.
Sandra managed to bull-rush Derby back outside of the cell again, holding her nightstick parallel against her body and taking on comers one and all. Reaching behind her like a relay-race runner, Derby received a shiv from one of her underlings and thrust it forward, trying to get past Sandras defenses. Breathing heavily, Sandra managed to block every thrust but I could tell she was tiring, especially when the other gang members started poking the ends of their batons through the bars, jabbing at her.
Still, she held her position valiantly, using her baton strictly for defense while trying to evade as many of the blows as she could. Her hair became wet with sweat and I could see the blood from several tiny cuts begin to well up on her flailing hands and arms.
When Derby began to tire, one of her cronies stepped in, shiv in hand, and began a vicious attack on the larger guard, scoring several hits in rapid succession. I could easily see that Sandras blocks were getting sloppier as the relentless pressure just kept coming in the form of armed, jeering inmates.
Coming together finally, the group gathered behind the lead inmate and pushed, en masse, forcing Sandra from her post at the door and following her into the cell, still swinging their clubs and knives with wanton fury. Sandras legs weakened and she fell against me, her own club dropping from a suddenly nerveless hand.
I saw my chance and took it, scooping up the falling baton before it could touch the ground and powering up from the bed. Finding myself face to face with a leering Derby, I twirled the baton then brought it down hard on the hand that held the shiv. The solid, polished wood cracked down hard on her unprotected wrist and she dropped the knife as she howled and cradled her arm. Following through on the blow, I caught another inmate in the chest. Her wheezingly expelled breath blew back my hair and I kicked her out and away from me, managing to catch two other women with the one move.
As the remaining gang members formed a wary half-circle around me, I chanced a quick look down at Sandra, whod managed to make it to her knees and was shaking her head to clear it. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, Im ok." She sounded woozy and her face was pale.
"Just stay close to Ice. Ill handle these idiots."
"Like hell you will, little girl," Derby snarled, grabbing another baton from one of her cohorts and coming at me with awkward left-handed blows. I deflected each crude thrust quite easily, turning her momentum back onto her and dancing out of the way when I could. I was quite conscious of the fact that I needed to keep Ice and Sandra at my back at all times and it was limiting what I could do.
Another woman swung a baton at me but I blocked it easily, the movement feeling more natural than it should have. Twirling quickly, I managed to catch another woman under the chin, snapping her head back and sending her into dreamland.
I heard the whistling of a club a split second before I felt the blow. Derbys baton came down hard at the juncture of my neck and shoulder, instantly rendering my arm useless and numb. My own weapon dropped and a kick to my side sent me into Sandra, who collapsed back against the bed with me in her arms.
Derby was on us both in an instant, pushing away the other assailants in her lust to be the one to finish us off. Her good hand curled into a fist and she drew it back like a catapult, grinning fiercely at me as she did so. "This is gonna feel soooo good, fishie."
Trying to sit up behind me, Sandra inadvertently pinned my arms to my side. All I could do to avoid being punched in the face was to duck my head and hope Sandra had the same idea.
As Derbys fist pistoned forward, I ducked left and immediately heard the crunching impact of knuckles breaking a nose. It had become a sound I was well acquainted with during my time in the Bog. As Sandra moaned out her pain, I drew my knees up to my chest then launched them toward Derbys ponderous gut.
Unfortunately for me, it was just then that Derbys rarely used quick-gene decided to kick in. She grabbed my ankles inches from her belly and, grinning evilly, yanked hard. I winced as my tailbone smacked down on the floor. Looking up, I stared at the sea of faces that surrounded me. They were all peering down at me with avid, malicious stares.
"Would ya look at this. Little Miss High-and-Mighty doesnt look all that special anymore, does she girls."
The other women snickered and elbowed one another.
"Hey Derby," one spoke up, "hows about givin us a piece before ya do her?"
"Yeah, Derby!" others chimed in, "save some for us!"
There was no way I was going to take that lying down, as it were. Levering my upper body up on my arms, I used a sweet little twisting move that Montana had taught me before she was paroled, then used the momentum to jump to my feet. My own fists clenched solidly, I delivered a rapid one-two punch to Derbys belly, causing her to double over and gasp for breath. As she did so, I lifted my knee, wincing as it collided with her forehead, snapping her neck back.
Her cronies were on me in an instant and though I fought like a woman possessed, their sheer numbers overwhelmed me in a very few moments.
Standing straight again, Derby brought her large body within inches of mine, tilting my chin up with one meaty hand. "Ya know, I was gonna keep you around for a few laughs, blondie. But that little move just earned you a ticket to hell. Dont worry about not saying goodbye to your lover-girl though. Shell be meeting you down there shortly."
I should have been terrified. Any sane person would have. Instead, all I could feel was a bottomless well of icy cold rage that numbed the place where my heart should have been. Inhaling deeply through my nose, I gathered whatever moisture was left in my mouth and spat it at my tormentor, baring my teeth in a grin when it hit her right below one bulging eye. "Bite me."
Roaring incoherently, Derby squeezed my jaw so tightly I was sure I was going to crack under the pressure. With her free hand, she wiped the spittle from her cheek, then used her momentum from the gesture to backhand me across the face. Letting my head roll with the blow, I turned back to her, allowing a dark grin to spread my lips. "Is that the best you got, Derby? And here I thought you were tough."
Dont ask me why I was waving a red cape before a raging bull, because, in all honesty, I have no idea myself. It was as if I knew I was going to die; right then, right there. And I didnt want to go out like a coward. Something primal and dark licked at my guts, and the feeling terrified me. But in a way, it felt very right, as some things do from time to time. It was also exhilarating in a way that a very scary carnival ride is exhilarating.
Id be lying, however, if I didnt admit to some deep, dark part of myself who was absolutely begging, groveling on her knees, for Ice or even Sandra to snap out of their respective stupors and get me out of the hole Id just dug deeper for myself.
Derbys hand returned to my jaw, then trailed almost sensuously down the line of my neck. Her smile, though predatory, was almost sad. "I always did enjoy a good choking, fishie. Thats how I killed three of my friends, ya know. It . . .does . . .something for me, if ya get what Im sayin. It pissed me off when ya stopped ol Ice over there from doin Psycho that way. Really pissed me off. And I hate bein pissed off, right girls?"
I didnt have to move my eyes to see the confirming, anticipatory nods of the women surrounding me.
"Right. So, I figure, since you took that away from me, Ill just have ta take it away from you." Her fingers clenched spasmodically around my neck, cutting off my air and blood supply in a heartbeat. A heartbeat that I could feel struggling to push blood through to my brain. Dark spots circled enticingly before my eyes, asking me to join their macabre dance.
"Ya know, its amazing how good a neck feels under your fingers, fishie. All nice n warm. The life beatin away, getting weaker and weaker the longer ya hold on. Your face gets this really cool red color, then purple and your lips turn blue. Your eyes kinda bug out and look all scared. Really gets me off."
The black roses of oxygen starvation bloomed in my vision and I found myself beginning to welcome their presence. I tried to lift my arms but found them pinned against my body by a strength I couldnt seem to break. Moving didnt seem to be all that important anymore.
As if from far away, I could feel Derbys free hand slowly trail down over the front of my body, stopping to cup, then squeeze, one of my breasts. The pain registered as a very faint, unimportant thing. Her lips were moving as she leered at me but the sound of her words was lost in the buzzing in my brain.
I remember trying to think of something, something that seemed very important. But my resolve was lost; fogged within the clarion call of sleep, of peace.
My eyes began to slip closed as I gave into the urgent summons. I felt myself falling and can remember thinking that death wasnt really all that bad after all. It was kind of peaceful, actually.
Until the air that rushed back into my heaving lungs was forced back out again by the weight of an impossibly heavy body that collapsed across my own.
I blinked quickly against a headache that screamed through me with the speed of blood rushing into my deprived brain. Then looked up into the eyes of my savior who at that moment looked like a demon spawned from the deepest pits of hell, her hair and eyes wild and rolling, her teeth bared in a primordial snarl.
Realizing I was still among the living, I began to struggle against the weight pinning me to the floor; a weight which was gone abruptly as my dark avenger reached down and pulled Derby from me, tossing her aside with no more effort than a blade of grass into the wind. She reached down once again and hauled me to my feet. Then, after looking at me with that penetrating gaze, turned and handed me off to Sandra, who had managed to regain consciousness during my little trip to asphyxiation alley.
"Watch her," Ice croaked out before turning to deal with the massing inmates. She became a being of fists and fury, punching inmate after inmate into painful unconsciousness and tossing them out of her cell to land slumped against the peeling green of the barred catwalk.
I looked on, safe within the nest of Sandras strong arms as I struggled to recapture the breath Id lost. Every time one of Ices opponents would get near the long table holding her precious trees, Id wince, but she always managed to brush them away before any damage could be done.
Bone thin and wan, she still possessed a strength that Id never seen in anyone before. Inmates flew like dolls from the force of her blows, piling up outside the cell door in jumbled heaps. She moved with the speed of a shooting star, always deflecting a blow a split second before it was set to connect.
She was silent, this specter of death-made-woman; fulfilling her duties with calm, even breaths yet full of passions fury that blazed from her eyes like the god of retribution come down to earth.
Grabbing the last of the upstarts by the back of the collar and seat of her pants, Ice tossed the woman into the living pile shed made, then followed, wiping her hands casually on her jumpsuit. Pulling away from Sandra, I rushed up behind Ice, still panting from my close brush with the beyond. From my place by her side, I could see Derby struggling to get out from under the pile of beaten women, her face flushed red from her frantic efforts.
Unthinking, I put my hand on Ices back. She whirled, her eyes still mad with rage, and lifted her hand, ready to swing. We stood frozen through the lock of our gazes for several seconds. I watched, helplessly, waiting for some spark of sanity or humanity to darken those arctic eyes.
A noise off to our left and she blinked, then turned, pushing me carefully behind her. Her thin body was thrumming with energy and I felt as if I were standing next to a high-tension wire, the hair lifting on my arms and at the nape of my neck.
From behind her still-broad back I could see what looked to be an army of inmates running toward us. There was another sound to the right and, looking back, I saw the same army coming from the other side. "Ohhhh shit."
The dark head turned fractionally, and I swore I could see the beginnings of a smile on her pale visage. "Just stay behind me at all times." Her voice was still hoarse and whispery from disuse, but to me, it was the most beautiful melody in the world.
"Im there." After what had just happened between us, Ill never know what possessed me to put one hand on her hip, but I was glad I did, because she reached over and gave it a quick squeeze before releasing me.
Her arm shot out quickly and pushed the cell door closed, trapping Sandra safely inside, then backed us both against it. Though her head never moved, I could just guess that those eyes were tracking each group easily, determining strengths and weaknesses in the time it took me to silently admit how scared I was.
It was amazing how different my attitude toward death was since Ice had rejoined the land of the sane. It wasnt alright to die anymore and so the fear came back, clutching at me with its slimy fingers. Biting my lip, I forced it down, deep and far.
Sandwiched between steel bars and Ices long body, I looked left and right in rapid succession. The inmates had slowed to a stop and seemed to be waiting for something. Theyd strung out along the catwalk, ten to a side, all bearing weapons and looking like they knew how to use them. I counted several more batons, obviously stolen from the guards, some lengths of wood, a few thick chains from the auto shop, no doubt, and several crude shivs. The women in front of Ice, still jumbled in a pile of battered bodies, made no attempt to move. Even Derby seemed content to let things play out.
It was a very tense situation. Below us, I could hear the sounds of the riot continuing. Yells and screams filled the air, though sometime along the line, the alarms had stopped ringing. Ice turned her head again, her raspy voice pitched low. "Whatever happens, remember to guard the door. Sandra needs to be kept safe, alright?"
The stand-off continued on for so long that finally Derby, from her place at the bottom of the pile, lifted her head. "Well? What the fuck are you guys waiting for? Parole?!?! Get her!!"
Hefting their weapons, the inmates started forward on either side of us, filling the catwalk with their threatening yells. Ice stood absolutely still, waiting for them to come at her. When they got in range, she grabbed each of the front-runners by the front of their jumpsuits and threw them together. The sound of bodies colliding was loud in the small space we shared. Then she separated them, tossing each back the way theyd come and succeeded in bowling down the women who were second and third in line.
The others scrambled over their fallen comrades and came at us hard. Ice turned left while I turned right. We moved at the same time as if connected through some sort of strange martial ballet where we two were the only ones who knew the moves and heard the music as we warded off our assailants. Weapons flew; bodies behind them by just a breath.
I ducked as the end of a thick chain came at my face, wincing as it clanged against the steel bars of Ices cell. Jumping up quickly, I managed to grab the end as it was being drawn back and tugged hard, pleased with how easily it became mine. Wrapping both ends around my hands as Montana had taught me, I used it to block the thrusts of batons and shivs as they headed my way. As I raised my hands to block an overhead blow, a kick to my belly doubled me over briefly. A punch to the back of my neck drove me to my knees and left me seeing stars.
A hand to the back of my jumpsuit and I was back on my feet again, though one of my attackers had managed to grab the chain. She was a big woman, thick with muscle and sporting a white-blonde crewcut and several facial scars. Grinning at me through a mouthful of half-rotted teeth, she jerked her massive arms back, pulling the chain, and myself, along with her. Using the chain, she managed to turn me, then slammed back against the steel bars. I remember crying out as they cracked along my spine and the back of my skull, leaving me dizzy.
Her hands between mine, she pushed the chain up toward my neck, but I wasnt about to be choked half to death for a second time that day. Quickly twisting my hands to unwrap the ends, I let go of the chain and, during my attackers start of surprise, grabbed in between her hands, my leverage preventing the weapon from being raised any higher against me. Then I kicked up in between her splayed legs, and let me assure anyone who thinks women arent vulnerable to that particular move that they most definitely are.
Dropping the chain into my hands once again, she howled, her own hands going down to cup against her groin. I pushed her backward, toppling her into the woman coming up behind. Then I spun just in time to see Derby reach for one of Ices legs as it came down from a beautifully delivered high kick.
I yelled out a warning, but it was too late. Ice lost her balance, dropping to one knee. The crowd of women erupted en masse, jumping on top of my fallen friend. Derby made her way up finally from the bottom of the pile and added her bulk to the pile of flying fists and feet.
Dropping my chain, I bolted to the pile, trying my best to drag the women out of the way but having little success at it, ducking blows as I was.
The mound of inmates seemed to freeze for a moment, then explode outward, bodies flying pell-mell against the catwalk railing, against the bars of the cells, and down each side of the catwalk. Ice stood tall from within the center of the pack, a dark Venus rising from the waves. Derby lunged again, her hands wrapping around Ices neck. My friends head drew back as a dark grin bloomed over her face. Lightening quick, she shot her head forward, cracking it against Derbys skull.
Derbys hands dropped away as her arm pinwheeled, trying to keep her balance as she landed high against the catwalk rail. Her backward momentum carried her over the low rail and she screamed. Ices arm shot out and managed to grab Derby by the arm of her jumpsuit as she plummeted over the edge. Somehow, against all odds, the fabric held and the large inmate swayed, screaming and kicking her legs frantically, eight stories above the hard prison floor.
"Hang on and stop kicking, Derby, and Ill pull you up!" Ice shouted to be heard over the other womans screaming.
Derbys free hand moved slowly up, fingers splaying before clamping convulsively on Ices arm. Around and below us, all sounds of activity stopped as every woman in the Bog focused on the drama unfolding high above their heads.
Bracing herself with her free hand, Ice began to slowly pull Derbys large body up toward the railing. A foot or so from the top, she stopped suddenly as the sound of fabric tearing reached our ears. Derby kicked frantically again as the seam at her shoulder suddenly started to tear loose from its moorings.
"Stop struggling or Ill drop you, Derby!"
"Fuck that!" the terrified woman screamed. "If Im goin, youre comin with me, bitch!"
So saying, Derby began to jig her body left and right like a bass on a hook. Ices back bowed completely as she was smashed against the short rail. Shouting out, I ran over and grabbed her tightly around the waist to keep her from going over.
"God damn it, Derby, stop fighting it!"
"Fuck you, Ice!" She jerked her body harder, twisting this way and that, trying to unseat Ice from her perch against the rail, her hatred for my friend more important to her than her own life.
Setting her legs, Ice tried pulling upward again. I helped to steady her as much as I could, tightening my grasp around her narrow waist and interlacing my fingers together. The others watched us, open-mouthed and wide-eyed. Her progress was slow and steady but effective as she managed, by slow inches, to pull Derbys twisting body upward once again toward the safety of the rail.
With a final ripping tear, the resilient fabric of Derbys jumpsuit gave up the ghost, leaving Ice with just a handful of sleeve. Luckily, however, the gang leader was close enough that her now freed arm was able to grasp onto the lowest rung of the barred railing.
Ice tugged upward again, still attached by Derbys grip on her arm. Her motion was halted abruptly as the other woman refused to let go of the railing. "I told you, bitch, youre goin down."
Anchoring herself with her grip on the rung, Derby began to tug at Ices arm once again, pulling it with all of her considerable strength. I could feel my friends body go taut with the effort of remaining where she was.
"Oh no ya dont," Ice countered, using her knee to mash Derbys fingers against the railing. With a howling wail, the other woman released her grip on the rung. Ice tugged upward, hard and fast, and Derby, flailing out again, missed her grip and she twisted again, much harder this time.
I knew what was going to happen a split second before it did. I could see Derbys fingers loosen their grip on Ices arm with the momentum of her motion, and start to slide away. I know Ice saw it too because she made a desperate grab for the gang leader, missing by just the barest of margins.
With a scream of revenge denied, Derby plummeted to her death eight floors below. I turned my head and hid behind Ices back as Derby fell the final few feet, not wanting to see her body splatter as it hit the ground. The sound of her hitting the flagstone floor echoed resoundingly through the newly silent prison.
Ice slowly straightened, pushing herself away from the railing. Turning her head slowly, she pinned each one of us with a steely glare. "This riot is finished, understand? Put down your weapons and return to your cells or youll have me to answer to."
Hoarse and broken though her voice was, it permeated every corner of the Bog and the inmates responded, dropping their weapons to the floor and turning away from one another to head back to their cells. The women on the catwalk with us did the same, their shoulders slumped and their heads hanging low like whipped dogs, which, in a way, was exactly what they were.
Ices cell door creaked open and Sandra stepped out, walking over to the railing and looking down at the bloody scene below as her hand came up to lay against Ices back. "Good try. I wanted to get out here and help, but those idiots had the door blocked."
"What happens now?" I asked.
Sandra turned her head to me, smiling in understanding. "Dont worry, Angel. Reports have a way of getting edited and misfiled around here. Ill figure out some tale that the wardenll believe." Turning back to Ice and giving her shoulder one last squeeze, she sighed and threaded her baton through the loop in her uniform belt. "Well, I guess Id better get at it. This place is gonna be a bitch to clean up."
Ice turned with the guard. "Sandra . . . thanks. For everything."
Sandra smiled, her eyes warm and compassionate. "Think nothing of it, my friend. I cant even begin to pay you back for what you did for Diane. I was just glad I could help."
"When you speak to Diane again, tell her . . . tell her it wasnt her fault. Tell her . . .we all make mistakes."
"I will. Be well. Both of you." With a final smile and a wave, she turned from us to walk down the catwalk toward the stairs.
When Sandras head disappeared beneath the level of the stairs, Ice turned her gaze to me. "Angel, Im sorry about the way I treated you before. I wasnt myself."
I couldnt help but grin, guessing how hard apologies must be for her, warranted or not. "Im just glad youre back, Ice." I threaded my arm around her waist once again and squeezed her to me. "I missed you, you know."
The very corner of her mouth twitched upward. "I know. I missed you too." Turning her head in the direction of her cell, she gestured with one hand. "Did you have anything to do with my trees still being alive?"
"Guilty as charged, so to speak. I couldnt stand the thought of such beauty wasting away." As I spoke, it hit me how much more meaning those casually used words held for me. Squeezing her once again for the sheer pleasure of it, I released her and backed away. "So . . .need any help cleaning up your cell?"
"Nah. I can take care of it later. I wanna go down and check out the library first."
An icy fist of dread clenched in my belly, drying my mouth from within. The library! Corinne! "Um . . .mind if I come down with you?"
I barely kept myself from running as we started toward the stairs. I was suddenly sure that the library had been destroyed and my friends injured or even killed.
I cried out in horror as my fears seemed to be confirmed. As we ran down the final hallway, in the feeble light cast from the librarys open door lay Sonny on her back, the crude handle of a shiv sticking obscenely from her upper abdomen. "Sonny!" I cried, running over to her and kneeling down. "What happened? Who did this to you?"
Barely conscious, my friend turned her head painfully toward the sound of her voice. Licking her lips, she tried to speak. "The library . . .attacked . . . . Corinne . . . .hurry . . . ."
"Stay with her. Ill check it out." Ice ran past me and into the library. "Son of a bitch."
The quietly uttered expletive jerked my head up in alarm. I was torn between wanting to stay with Sonny and wanting to go into the library to see what had caused Ices reaction. Sonny solved the problem for me, putting a hand on my shoulder and pushing me away weakly. "Go . . .help her. Ill . . .be alright."
"I should stay."
"No! Go . . .please. Help them. Ive . . .managed to make it this long. Please." Helpless to resist the pleading in Sonnys dark eyes, I rose to my feet and turned toward the library. As I stepped inside, I couldnt contain my gasp of horror.
The room itself looked as if a tornado had hit it. Books and pieces of books lay scattered on the floor. Most of the tables and chairs, rickety to begin with, were now kindling. The bookcases wed painstakingly crafted were overturned and shattered. Even Corinnes heavy desk was upended, her precious papers and texts littering the floor around it.
Next to the desk, Critter and Pony lay in a tangled heap, Critter bleeding heavily from a cut to her scalp. Ice stepped past me and squatted down next to the two, laying a gentle hand on Critters shoulder and pulling her over to her back. "Critter. Critter, cmon, wake up now."
Critter started and her eyelids fluttered open. I stepped over to the pair, squatting down next to my blonde friend. "Ice? Youre . . .oh my God!" Critter tried to sit up but was restrained by Ices grip on her shoulder.
"Relax. Its over. Who did this?"
Sinking her hand into her golden curls, Critter moaned in pain. "It was Derbys gang. We tried to fight em off but there were to many of them. They just kept coming. We couldnt stop them." Her eyes widened and she struggled against Ice again. "Pony! Where is she?"
"Its alright," Ice consoled her. "Shes right here. Looks like she took a pretty big knock to the head too. I think shell be alright, though."
Critter relaxed. "Thank God. My leg got trapped when they turned the desk over and she went at them. I saw her go down, then . . . .nothing. I must have gotten clonked from behind."
I had to ask. "Critter, wheres Corinne?" Looking around the destroyed room, I couldnt find my friend anywhere and it terrified me.
My friend turned her head, her dark eyes darting around the room. "Shes . . .God, I dont know. Last time I saw her, she was holding off some of Derbys gang with her damned tea pot and then . . . .I dont know."
Standing quickly, I walked past the overturned desk and over to the hidden little alcove that housed Corinnes hotplate and tea cozy. There, lying on a heap on the ground, her brass-coated teakettle battered to almost non-recognizability in one clenched fist, was Corinne. Her half-glasses had one lens shattered and lay askew on her nose and a magnificent shiner decorated one puffy eye. A small line of dried blood traced a path from one corner of her mouth.
Dropping to my knees, I reached out a trembling hand toward her neck, beyond gratified to find her skin warm and dry, her pulse beating strong and sure in her throat. "Oh, thank God," I whispered. "Corinne. Corinne, its Angel. Time to wake up now, my friend. Corinne, come on, wake up!"
In response to my urgent summons, Corinne moaned, then fluttered her eyelids. Then, in a burst of quickness and strength that belied her advanced years, she brought up the battered teakettle and almost succeeded in knocking me senseless with it.
Ducking out of the way, I grasped her swinging arm gently but firmly. "Corinne, its Angel. Youre safe now. Just relax, alright?"
After a long moment, she slowly opened her eyes, blinking them rapidly as they watered in protest. A slow smile blossomed on her face. "I must be in heaven."
I couldnt help the laugh of relief that spilled from my lungs. "No, youre still in the Bog."
"Same difference, sweet Angel." She lifted her free hand to cup my cheek as awareness slowly came back to her eyes. The grin disappeared, setting her mouth in a hard line as she began to struggle against my restraining hand. "Oh, God, my poor library. That Derby is going to pay for this."
"Its alright, Corinne. Derbys dead. The riots over."
She looked up at me, eyes wide with shock. "Dead?"
I nodded and she followed my gaze over to where Ice knelt tending our wounded friends.
"Ice?" She looked back to me. "You did it. Bless you, Angel."
"I had a little help," I replied, gently aiding her to a sitting position. "Derby and some of her friends decided to finish Ice off while Sandra and I were up there. She wound up taking a high dive off the eighth floor catwalk." I winced. "It wasnt pretty. Ice tried to save her but Derby was an idiot."
"I hope she felt every second of it."
I bit back words of reproof as Corinne released her teapot and eased the glasses from her bruised and battered face. We both startled as the sounds of sirens filtered through the thick library walls. "Are you alright for a moment?" I asked her. "I need to get back to Sonny. She was stabbed."
"Will she be alright?"
"Im not sure. She told me to go on ahead and check in on you guys. Youll know more as soon as I do."
"Go to her, Angel. And thank you."
"No problem." Jumping back to my feet, I brushed past Ice, Critter and a still unconscious Pony, then stepped out of the library. Sonny was still awake and aware by the time I made my way back out to her. "It sounds like helps on the way," I told her. "You just hang on, alright? Ill get someone back here."
"Everyone else . . .okay?"
"Yes, just a few bumps and bruises. Corinnes a mean one with that teakettle. She could teach us a few tricks, I think."
The choked sound of Sonnys breathless laughter followed me down the hall as I went off in search of help. As I stepped into the prison proper, I could see the floor and walls bathed in the red and blue lights of emergency vehicles. At least a dozen blue-clothed police officers were milling around the guard room where Sandra and some of the others were talking with them. Every so often the air would erupt in static as one officer or another would speak into his walkie-talkie.
After another moment, one of the officers raised a hand to the open door and paramedics and ambulance crews rushed inside bearing stretchers and emergency medical equipment nestled in bright orange boxes.
I hustled up to the nearest team, a group of three long-haired and bearded men in pale blue jumpsuits, and stopped in front of them. "Please, my friends been stabbed. We need your help."
The men looked at me, then over at the knot of police officers still clustered around the guard room. Seeing what was happening, a harried looking Sandra stepped away from the group and waved the men on. "Go ahead and do as she asks. Hurry."
Nodding, the men followed me back into the narrow hallway, stopping just in front of Sonnys splayed body. Despite their rough appearances, the men were gentle with my friend, checking her over carefully and stabilizing her for the trip to the hospital nearby. I held her hand on the trip from the ground to the stretcher, then placed a kiss to her sweat-soaked bangs before they wheeled her off back down the hallway and out of my sight.
One tech was left behind and he looked at me questioningly.
"There are more injured in the library. Could you follow me?"
"Sure lady." Lifting his medical kit, the young man followed me into the destruction of the library. "Holy shit," he breathed, taking in the scene. "What the hell happened here?"
Ice rose up from her place next to Pony and Critter, pinning him with her steely gaze. "We have two more injured down here."
"Uh . . .yeah . . .right. Ok." Hustling over quickly, he knelt down beside the two women and set his kit down. He turned his attentions first to Critter, checking her scalp wound and shining his small penlight into her eyes. "This cutll need a couple stitches, but you seem ok otherwise. Any nausea or anything?"
"Nothing except for a headache."
"Alright. If you wanna go back to the main room, one of my partnersll get you into the ambulance."
"Thats alright. Id rather not, if its all the same to you."
"But lady, you need stitches!"
"I know, but I can get them at the infirmary. The docll be here in the morning."
"You could bleed to death before then!"
Critter grinned, but her eyes were hard. "Ill be fine. Trust me. Just look after Pony here."
A brief moment later, the tech looked away from the determination in Critters eyes and turned his attention to Pony. He looked her over quickly and professionally, humming quietly to himself as he did so. When he looked back up, his expression was grim. "Shes gonna need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Im not sure, but theres a chance shes bleeding into her brain. Does anyone know how long shes been unconscious?"
"Ten minutes, maybe more," Corinne said, coming over to join us. "Its difficult to tell. We were all knocked out."
"Ill go commandeer a stretcher," Ice said quietly, then left the room.
"Wow. She always that intense?"
"Yes," the three of us answered in unison.
Grinning wryly and shaking his head, the young man turned back to his patient, preparing her for her journey to the hospital. The sound of rattling steel was heard shortly, coming steadily closer. Two men in hospital whites blew through the doorway pushing a stretcher. Ice followed behind at a more leisurely pace, a self-satisfied smirk painting her lips.
I rose to join her as the two men crowded around Pony. "You sure lit a fire under them."
"I dont want to know how, do I."
"Didnt think so."
A moment later, they bustled past us with Ponys unconscious form strapped securely to the stretcher and covered with a sheet to her chin. I sent out a swift, silent prayer for her recovery as she became lost to my sight.
Turning back to view the library, I let out a sad sigh. All the work wed put into it gone in a flurry of violence without cause. A part of me wondered why Id ever thought something like this couldnt happen. This was a prison, after all.
Then I had a laugh startled out of me when Corinne retrieved her mashed kettle and shook it, glaring into its now tarnished finish. The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. "Corinne, in the library, with a teakettle. Whod have thought it?"
I ducked as said kettle winged its way past my head and suffered the outraged groans of my companions. My mood lightened. Trashed though it was, the library was still there. My companions, though injured, were alive. And Ice was back.
In a place where hope and happiness were supposed to be foreign concepts, I felt filled with them both in the aftermath of one of the worst days Id ever been through.
Return to The Bard's Corner