Today's Reading

The top gorilla, Uncle Joe—nobody calls him anything else—is leaning on the railing gazing through the anti-suicide netting at the atrium below, getting the scenic view of his kingdom. Broad, muscled and shaven-headed, he is dressed in designer sportswear, a black basketball shirt to exhibit the heavily tattooed arms. Silver shorts. Expensive trainers.

"Yeah?" Uncle Joe doesn't turn his head to see who has approached.

"You may have seen me around. Warren, from the middle landing. The end pad."

"So?"

"So I was told to make the first move tomorrow, me and my cellmate Muscles."

"Got a problem with that, Warren?"

"I wouldn't call it a problem, more a question."

"Let's hear it."

"What's happening about the foreigners?"

The connection isn't obvious to Uncle Joe. "Come again."

"The cons who don't speak English."

"They'll catch on when they see what's going on."

"But can we count on them?"

"Why wouldn't we?"

"We don't know what they're saying. What they're thinking."

"You're losing me, pal," Uncle Joe says.

"They're a sizeable section of the wing. And some of them are hard men with their own agenda and it's not just praying and fasting. They could turn your brilliant plan into a bloodbath."

"Keep your voice down."

"Sorry." Warren sidles closer and mutters, "What I'm saying is we're aiming to do this clean, am I right? These ay-rabs need telling in words they understand."

"You speak their language?"

"I know someone who does."

"Who's that?"

"A geezer called Haseem."

"Tell him, then. Sorted."

"Not quite," Warren says. "There's an even bigger risk."

"What's that?"

"My cellmate, Muscles. He's a slightly different problem, but it comes to the same thing. He's unstable."

"What?"

"Brain damaged. You can't reason with him. He's got the attention span of a two-year-old on speed. And a history of violence."

"Who hasn't?"

"With him, it's something else. Let me tell you what will happen. Muscles will see me grab the screw and he'll join in and snap the guy's neck like a biscuit. That's what he does. It's why he's in this place. Instead of a hostage we'll have a corpse."

"We don't want killing," Uncle Joe says.

"Too right we don't. It gives the riot squad a reason to open fire on us."

"So tell Muscles."

"No use. It won't sink in. His memory's gone. He can't even tell you what his name is."

"He could foul up the plan."

Warren is starting to think Uncle Joe is not much brighter than Muscles. "He will, for sure."

"Why are you telling me this now? I could have got him ghosted." Ghosting is when a difficult offender is moved to another part of the prison or another jail altogether.
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