Colin meant to let the tattoo run off in the showers the next morning. He'd decided he'd let the guys on the cell block see, then wash it clean and present a fresh, uninjured face to Railburg. Word would get around. These little displays of power were always useful.
When he emerged from his cell, joining the shuffling line, the startled faces of the other inmates were vivid and satisfying. Here and there they murmured to each other, casting sidelong glances at him. He maintained an impassive expression, and saw Noel's proud look even though he looked haggard, as if the pain had kept him awake.
Then he reached the door to the shower room, and saw Joseph keeping watch while a second guard did random cavity searches (oh, the joys of prison life). Joseph saw him, too, let his eyes drift past him and then snapped back. One of the shadows jerked and flickered. Joseph's face would have been priceless on the outside, but the shadow was an unknown quantity and Colin didn't know what this Joseph, in his guard uniform and with his mace and baton on his belt, would do.
He kept his eyes down as he passed, and Joseph didn't say anything. He could feel shock and turmoil as if it were his own, and anger as well; it made him want to throw up, the rough edges of it. Joseph kept a lot more under the lid than even Colin had expected, and they'd known each other in some form or another for a long time.
The showers came on and he lifted his face into the spray, sharply cold at first before the warm water kicked in. He could hear Noel's cry of pain as he rubbed his face, hands covered in black and red ink. The water washed it down his arms in streams; black dribbled down his chest, streaking it gray before disappearing into the drain. He rubbed at the line of his jaw, the soft skin around his eyes, the sides of his face, until his fingers came away clean and no more ink splattered to the tile. If he glanced casually to the side he could see the lines of Noel's body straighten, his movements less hesitant without the pain.
When he walked back out, Joseph stared openly. Colin could feel him grow calmer -- though not by much -- and he smiled bitterly.
The guards never understood. They might ignore it, because they had to, but that didn't mean they understood it. Even Joseph couldn't understand.
Gutierrez had a call to the visitor's room that day, so Colin went looking for Noel and Laney after a hastily-eaten breakfast. Noel was with the Bloods, not Laney's former comrades but one of the other subdivisions, apparently consulting about a tattoo. Colin smiled, a little paternal -- if a white ex-Aryan was sitting with a handful of black men and taking no harm, then Noel would be all right. Nobody would let the best ink artist in the prison get his fingers broken by a bunch of hopped up thugs like the Brotherhood. Though the Aryans were also watching, and looking at Colin when they thought he wasn't looking at them.
Laney was sitting alone, toying with the cheap plastic checkers of the backgammon board. Colin slid onto the bench across from him and picked one up, flicking it back and forth between his hands, changing it -- red to white to red again.
"Tell me about Guye," Colin said, and Laney's hand stopped the spinning checker piece, slapping it flat. "Natell tells a lot of stories about the Darkman."
"Darkman's more important," Laney replied. "Guye, he sees you, what happens? Nothing. Darkman sees you, he could eat you."
"But you must know stories about Guye. Natell says the soldiers are gone from Manhattan. If the Darkman's riders are here, where'd all Guye's soldiers go?"
Laney gave him a half-grin. "Bahamas? North pole? Fucked if I know. I don't see them around. What's an angel want with prison?" he asked, looking down again. "Nobody here to save."
"There's you," Colin pointed out.
"I learned a long time ago I gotta save myself," Laney said. "I'm thinking maybe, when I get out, I'll enlist. Better than boosting cars, right?"
"They'd probably let you in," Colin said. "You graduate high school?"
"Chaplain's on me to get my GED. Fucking sucks," Laney added. "Pointless shit."
"Most of it," Colin agreed. He'd dropped out himself, tired of being spoon-fed knowledge he would never use and of the relentless insistence on respect for authority. He had a forged high school diploma somewhere. "Not a lot of use for guys like us, huh?"
"You think I'm like you, Suicide?" Laney asked, only a little disdainfully.
"We're both here, aren't we?" Colin waved a hand at the yard. "You want to stop ending up back here..."
"Yeah," Laney sighed and sat back, one hand still covering the backgammon piece. Colin flipped his midair -- white going up, red coming down. "Have to survive in here, first."
"Bloods'll more or less leave you alone, right?" Colin asked. Laney half-shrugged. "Crips probably will too if you're not banging for the Bloods. What're you worried about, La Mugre? The Italians? They don't care about you."
"Aryans do, though," Laney said. "One of 'em called me an uppity negro this morning. Making a white boy and a spick protect me, he said."
"We do have that problem to solve," Colin said, glancing sidelong at the gang of white, bald-headed men now circled in a tight knot, hands passing things back and forth. Must be drugs day for someone. "Knock one down, another one gets up."
"I can't hide behind you forever," Laney said. "Gutierrez won't shift his shit for me either."
"You shouldn't've thrown down with him," Colin said, though he got it -- in Laney's world, the good guys were a distant angel and a nonexistent God, and Laney would naturally be angry that Gutierrez was siding with the absentee dad who abandoned him and the other kids to the Darkman's tender mercies.
"I keep thinking," Laney said, a dry smile on his face, "what if he really talks to God? What if God's here, in Railburg? Wonder what he did," he added, and laughed humorlessly.
It was kind of funny, in a terrible way, God doing five to fifteen for some felony. Child neglect, perhaps.
"What're we going to do about the Aryans?" Colin asked.
"You ain't gonna do shit. I gotta figure it out," Laney said. "Get some breathing room, I can make it happen. Just needed one goddamn day I wasn't getting my ass kicked."
"We aim to please," Colin drawled. He looked up and saw Gutierrez emerging from inside, a grin on his face. "Hey! Gutierrez!"
"Good morning," Gutierrez said, throwing himself down on the bench next to Colin.
"How's Carmen?" Colin asked, grinning back at Gutierrez's lit-up face.
"She's good, really good," Gutierrez replied. "She got promoted. Office manager
. Ooh, mijo
, she looks sharp."
"That's great," Colin answered. "How's your kid?"
"Still growing like a weed. I'm very lucky, you know. Not many men in here still get to see their woman after fifteen years."
Colin nodded, though he didn't have a ready reply for it. Gutierrez looked over at him and frowned.
"Oh, man, no, I'm sorry -- " he started, and Colin waved it off.
"Some people can't wait," he said with a shrug. "Doesn't matter. I'm glad you get to see her."
"Hey, your woman ever visit you?" Gutierrez asked, turning to Laney, who looked surprised.
"Sure. She came a few times," Laney said. "Ain't cheap to get out here."
"That's the truth. Carmen, she doesn't like the train, either," Gutierrez continued. "She thinks, you know, she's making more money now, my boy's earning, maybe they'll buy a car. I think she should get a big old Buick or something. My boy says he wants a hybrid, one of these new electric cars. I asked him, does he know how to fix a hybrid? He said no, sir, so I said, stick with what you can fix. Hey," he added, leaning close to Colin. "Some time, you should come with me, Suicide. I want you to tell my boy's future."
"You sure about that?" Colin asked. "You might not like it."
"He's a good kid. You see something else, lie to me," Gutierrez said with a grin. Colin grinned back and nodded.
"Hm, speaking of which," Colin added, glancing over Gutierrez's shoulder. Aaron, the nervous little man who followed the guards, was crossing the yard, obviously heading for them. On his way there one of the Aryans stretched out a sinewy arm and shoved him; he stumbled, kept his eyes down, and hurried a little faster. "What the hell is this, high school?"
"Most of 'em wouldn't know," Gutierrez said, carefully not looking at them. Laney was deeply engrossed in his backgammon board. "When you're done with him, we should -- "
"I need to talk to you," Aaron said breathlessly, as he arrived. Colin nodded at Gutierrez, and Aaron turned sharply. "Sorry to interrupt."
Gutierrez waved it off. "Don't let it happen again."
"No, sure. I think I know what you're looking for," Aaron said to Colin. He glanced at Laney, obviously wondering if he should speak further.
"Gutierrez, you want a game?" Laney asked, tipping up the backgammon board.
"You can't play worth shit," Gutierrez said, but he turned on the bench and started helping him set it up. Colin grasped Aaron by the elbow and pulled him away a little, near the wall.
"That was fast," he said, crossing his arms and leaning on the stone.
"It's something I've been seeing a lot," Aaron said, talking fast. "I didn't think about it yesterday when you asked. The swing shift is acting weird."
"How so?" Colin asked, leaning in further. There was a guffaw from the Aryans; Colin ignored it.
"I thought -- the swing shift Captain has his own office, okay? But a couple of the guards keep going into the day shift's office. I thought maybe his was being cleaned or something, but he's still in there every night. Right after shift change, two or three guys go into the day shift office. Right before the end of the shift, too."
"You think they're, what, meeting?"
"I don't know," Aaron said. "They go down to the docks a lot. More guards than they need to have for deliveries."
Colin frowned. "Swing shift takes deliveries?"
"Sure -- laundry, commissary stuff, food deliveries. I wouldn't say anything, but you asked," Aaron said.
"Yeah," Colin said, turning this over in his mind. If the swing shift was taking deliveries, that could be how the money was coming in. Wouldn't take much to convince a prison laundry driver to haul a few unmarked bags on every trip. "Thanks, Aaron. Hey, are you getting shit from those guys?" he added, tipping his head a little at the Aryans.
Aaron gave him a small grin. "I always get shit. Everyone gets shit from them. Never amounts to anything. They know I'm in with the Bloods."
"All right. Thanks, man, I owe you. Cash in anytime," Colin said, and watched Aaron walk away -- he casually diverted around the Aryans, stopping to talk to some Bloods standing near the fence, and then slunk along the line of the fence until he was safe again.
The question was, of course, how to get this information to Joseph; he'd been given a phone card and told to call in to the NYPD with any information, but he had to be subtle and there was usually a wait for the phones. It would keep, anyway. An operation this big didn't fold up overnight.
He got his opportunity earlier than he expected, just after lunch. The afternoon visitations were called, and he was so distracted watching Joseph's second shadow flick over the wall as he patrolled the dining hall that he almost didn't hear his own name. Joseph, carefully, didn't look up, but Colin felt a certain sense of satisfaction from him. Interesting.
After all, anyone who knew he was here would know why he was here; he didn't exactly have a network of friends on the outside who'd come visit him, and Grace was long gone. Still, it couldn't be a mistake, not with Joseph playing things that cool. So he went along, waiting on a bench in the anteroom, watching the other inmates come and go, wondering if the other side of the wall had another identical room for the visitors to wait in. Probably with nicer chairs.
He'd never thought much about it when Grace was visiting last time, too eager to see her and have a few stolen minutes where they could, if nothing else, at least talk a little. She was good at making conversation out of nothing, just as good as he was, and though the visits were awkward and always undercut with something unsettling, he liked to see her and to speak with her. Even after the last time they'd spoken, when he sort of knew it was done, he'd missed her.
When his name was called, he walked to one of the little cubicles with the double-paned glass and almost laughed. It was Analise, in one of her best executive suits, looking not a little bit out of place. When she saw him, her eyes stayed on his face until he sat down.
"Analise," he said happily, and she gave him a narrow look. "Good to see you, sweetheart."
"Wish I could say the same," she answered. Colin leaned forward.
"Bring me any treats?" he asked with a grin.
"You're in prison. Prisoners don't get treats," she told him, but she cracked a smile as she said it, teasing. Light. One little piece of light in Railburg.
"Aw, don't be a hardass," he moaned.
"Sorry," she said. "Anyway, our mutual friend sent me to see how you were."
"Yeah?" he asked, sitting forward. She was still studying his face. Joseph had seen the tattoo and seen it disappear; he must have sent her to check up on him. Sweet, if unnecessary. "How do I look?"
She dropped her eyes. "He's worried about you. He thought he saw -- "
"Look, it's fine," he said, putting a hand to his cheek, fingers drifting over it. "I told him he wouldn't understand."
"And me?" she asked. He frowned.
"I hope you never understand," he said quietly. She still didn't look up; her hands were twisting together, resting on the little ledge of table on the other side of the glass.
"He has two shadows," she blurted. "I know he -- I mean," she added, "I know we talked about -- about him before -- but it's gone now and there's this shadow in its place."
"I know," Colin said, trying to keep his voice low, calming. "I saw. Has it hurt you?"
She shook her head. "What is it?"
"I don't know. I don't think..." Colin chewed on his lip. "He's not that kind of man. I don't think it'll hurt you."
"I don't like it," she said.
"I don't either, but..." he shrugged. "We'll figure it out. Listen," he added, "Can you tell him something for me? Might make this go faster."
"What?" she asked.
"Tell him I have some advice for the family business," he said. "Tell him, Ward's not the guy for the job, and if he were working later he'd know that," he said.
"Ward?" she asked, still subdued.
"He'll understand," he said, and he could see that she was processing it too -- the Warden wasn't the guy they were after, but Colin had a line on who was. She nodded.
"I'll give him your message," she said. "Are you okay?"
He gave her his broadest, most sincere grin. "I'm fine. Worry about him, he needs it more."
She nodded and glanced up at the guard, who was looking slightly impatient. "See you soon," she whispered, and left. Colin sat back for a second, exhaling, and then got up to clear the visiting booth for another inmate.
Dinner that night was almost completely inedible, though nobody realized it at first.
Colin was sure there would be a riot. Pizza, even shoddy cheap pizza prepared by the kitchen staff, was a rare treat. It seemed fine, too, until one of the inmates at the next table over made the mistake of looking at the crust. Thin black mold had spread across the underside, a little too furry to be char-marks, not quite thick enough to be noticeable. Colin swallowed, set his own slice down, and carefully slid some of the melted cheese off with his thumb. There was more of it growing between cheese and sauce.
He'd eaten worse, at various desperate times, and it probably wasn't going to kill anyone, but nobody was going to eat this bullshit and like it. Next to him, Laney looked sick; Noel hadn't even started eating yet, but he was staring at Colin's food with wide eyes.
Prisoners had rioted over badly-prepared meals before; food was one of the few pleasures they got. As satisfying as it might be to see a full-on insurrection in the ranks, he had no desire to be caught in that kind of violence. He saw Gutierrez sweeping the room, taking in the mood, and leaned forward.
"How fast can we get out?" Colin asked softly.
"If we go over the table behind me, take the west entrance, pretty fast," Gutierrez replied. "Your cell's closest."
"What's going on?" Laney asked.
"Might be a riot," Noel told him, hunching lower, picking out the least rotten-looking bits of the fruit salad they'd served with the moldy pizza.
"What do you think?" Gutierrez asked Colin.
The thing was, Colin couldn't feel the tension rising like he normally could when something bad was going to happen. Behind Gutierrez, he saw one guy lift up the cheese on his food and just scrape the sauce and mold to one side before he kept eating. The Italians were looking furious -- but they were eating, too.
"I don't know," he said, baffled.
"I got some ramen in my cell," Noel suggested.
"I got sandwich crackers. Peanut butter," Laney added, pulling them out of the roll of his sleeve, tucking a few stray cigarettes back in. He tore the package open and passed two to Gutierrez with a significant look at Colin, then handed one to Colin and one to Noel. The last two he crammed into his own mouth before the guy next to him could see them and try to steal them. Colin did likewise. Noel and Gutierrez were already swallowing.
"There's something really fucking wrong here," Colin said to Gutierrez, glancing around at the dull-eyed men eating parts of moldless crust or scraping mold to one side.
"Galano," Noel shrugged. "We knew that."
"We'll figure it out," Colin said. "We're on it."
Laney glanced at Gutierrez.
"Better figure it out soon," he said, but he said it quietly enough that Gutierrez could at least pretend not to hear.
The food didn't get any better. A day and a half had passed and still most of the dining-hall fare needed to be inspected carefully and taken apart to find what few morsels would be edible. Noel was living on ramen noodles and cups of soup; Gutierrez had a good stash of food from Carmen, but Colin had very little and was bargaining hard, offering his services as a thief in return for snacks from the other prisoners. Laney, who had no social capital to cash in, negotiated food from the commissary with the last of his credit. Most of the other prisoners were doing likewise; the commissary itself was fast running out of supplies.
Colin didn't realize until that afternoon that he hadn't felt Joseph's presence since the night before. He was starving hungry and working hard to make sure he ate decently that day, but that was distraction only. He should know where Joseph was -- he'd become used to the low buzz of his presence in the background, to knowing when he walked out into the yard or patrolled at mealtime.
He stopped in the middle of dealing cards, shoulders stiff, head raised as if it would help him; Noel noticed his panic and went still as well. He reached for Joseph, hard, and got nothing in return. Noel put a hand on the small of his back, a question on his face.
He wasn't sure whether his panic triggered it or whether Joseph just had excellent timing, but before he could even move again he felt it -- Joseph was waking up, alone in the big bed in his and Analise's house, just barely conscious.
He must have changed to the swing shift. Colin exhaled, relieved, and ignored Laney's curious look and Noel's knowing one.
He spent the afternoon waiting for Joseph to arrive for his shift, impatient and anxious to see him and confirm he was fine. Gutierrez played cards with Noel and occasionally dealt Laney in; Colin passed the time doing cheap sleight-of-hand tricks to entertain a couple of inmates, until a beefy hand pushed one of them aside and a shaved head blotted out the sun.
The man was huge, and he had an iron cross on his scalp just behind his ear. Noel's work from way back, Colin thought idly, as the man elbowed Laney over and sat down across the table from Colin. Laney looked like he was going to shove back for a second, but Gutierrez put out a hand, stilling him.
"Parker," Colin said, still looking down at the backgammon checker he was flicking between his fingers.
"You want to look me in the eye?" Parker asked. Colin raised his head a little, grinning. The other inmates were slowly drifting away with studied indolence, except for a few who were drawing closer, waiting for the fight to break out.
"Not especially," Colin said, and Parker reached out and grabbed him by the chin, lifting his head further. Colin let him; Noel had gone tense and coiled, ready to spring, and Gutierrez was watching warily. "You won't like what you hear," Colin added.
"Have a look," Parker invited. Colin met his eyes and ignored everything he saw in them, concentrating instead on keeping his expression just on the dangerous side of impassive. They stared at each other for a few seconds before his jaw was released.
On the edge of his vision, Colin saw Gutierrez reaching for the thin, sharpened slip of metal he carried in the elastic of his underwear.
"I don't owe you anything," Colin said. "Pay up and I'll tell you what I saw."
"You keep taking our toys," Parker said.
"I can't help it if you don't look after them," Colin replied. "Don't test my patience, Parker."
"I'm not afraid of you," Parker snarled.
"You should be," Colin said. "Remember McGall? I stole his soul. Right out of him," he said, snapping his fingers without looking away. He could feel Noel flinch. "You think it was coincidence Gustaf and I disappeared at the same time? You should learn to be careful, Parker, or I could do the same to you."
It was a bluff, mostly; Parker was a monster, a rapist and an extortionist, but he wasn't even close to what McGall had been, and Colin wouldn't waste his ticket out of Railburg on a frightened idiot like Parker. He kept his stare cool and even.
Parker blinked first, even if he didn't look away when he spoke. "I ain't afraid of you," he repeated.
"You should be, Parker," Colin answered. "You should tell your new boss to leave us alone, or he'll get what Gustaf got."
"Say what you see, you little punk-ass," Parker snapped.
"Well, that depends on you, doesn't it?" Colin replied calmly. "You walk away now, you might get parole in five, six years. You touch me again and I'll snap your hand off at the wrist. You still might get parole, but it's hard to get a job with a felony conviction and only five fingers."
He heard Noel make a small sound of surprise, but he doubted it was for him. Laney was breathing hard. Something was going on beyond his field of vision, beyond Parker's red-rimmed eyes.
"Big talk," Parker sneered, but he was scared of something too. Colin didn't move as Parker leaned back and slid off the bench, walking away with a swagger. He gave it a count of ten before he closed his eyes slowly.
"They're not going to let that go," he said. He expected a response of some sort, but when he opened his eyes Laney and Noel were both staring over his shoulder. Colin turned.
There was a man perched on the roof of the guard tower that overlooked two of the exercise yards. Colin wondered for a second how he'd managed to get over the fence and up to the roof before he realized the man wasn't in either an orange prison uniform or the black the guards wore.
He was on all fours, feet braced against the peaked top of the tower, his hands gripping the tar shingles lower down. He was wearing what looked like desert camo -- it blended in against the grey-and-white roof well enough that it had to be, Colin thought. His skin seemed brown beneath the heat shimmer off the tiles, but it was hard to tell.
"Is that you?" Noel asked softly. "Doing that, is that you?"
"I don't think so," Colin said, turning back to ask Laney if that was what he thought it was, but the question choked itself off in his throat. Laney's eyes were red, vivid luminous red, unblinking.
"Who is he?" Noel breathed.
"Who?" Gutierrez asked.
Colin glanced sharply at Gutierrez, who was following their gaze, shading his eyes, perplexed. The man was right there -- not moving, but definitely visible.
"Don't you see that?" Colin asked. "On the roof of the guard tower."
"I don't see anything but you three staring at the guard tower like you want
to get shot," Gutierrez replied.
"It's one of Guye's," Laney said. "It's one of the soldiers."
"That's good, isn't it?" Colin asked, and Laney blinked -- the red was already fading from his eyes. When Colin turned to look at the tower again, the soldier was gone.
"I don't like it," Laney said.
"But Guye -- "
"You ever been in a crossfire?" Laney asked, before Colin could finish. "I don't know about you but I don't want to be in the middle of no battlefield."
"Laney, you ever see one of those soldiers up close?" Colin asked. Laney, relaxing, gave him a shrug.
"Sure. Natell's brother, he went to Afghanistan. Night he died over there, we all saw him. Said he was gonna go join up Guye's army. Natell seen him a few times since."
"Who's Guye?" Noel asked. Colin shook his head.
"He's Laney's," he said, voice hardly above a whisper. "Don't ask, you don't want to be told."
"What the hell did you two bring with you to Railburg?" Gutierrez asked.
"I don't think we needed to bring it here," Colin said.
"It's the way things are," Laney added. "I didn't bring Darkman's riders here. I just came with 'em."
"God doesn't have anything to do with Guye," Gutierrez said. "You get them out of this prison, Suicide."
Colin shook his head. "I can't. Laney can, maybe. Laney, you see them coming over the wall, you better tell us."
"I see them coming over the wall, I'm getting my ass thrown in Seg where they can't do me no harm," Laney replied.
"Enough," Gutierrez said. "Enough. We have imaginary angels and real Aryans, and between the two the Aryans are probably going to try and kick our asses first. They're not going to leave you alone, Suicide."
"I'm not the problem. They want Laney and they'll take Noel back too if they can get him," Colin said, running a hand through his hair. "Shit, I'm starving."
"Come by tonight, you can have my last shrimp cuppa soup," Noel said.
"Maybe dinner'll be okay," Laney said dubiously.
"I ain't sure I want to eat it even if it is," Noel said. "I think it's cursed. Otherwise why ain't anyone rioting?"
"What, you gonna riot?" Laney asked. Noel laughed.
"A riot of four, that'd be good," he said. "Nah, I ain't, I don't want a riot and you don't either, fresh meat. But it shoulda happened by now. Hey – Galano, what's he in for?"
"Burglary and fraud," Colin said promptly. "Like me."
"Just like you?" Gutierrez asked, and there was a note in his voice Colin didn't like. "You helped put him away."
"Yep. We did a job together once, so I knew him. I told them how to set up a trap for him. When I testified at his trial I thought he was going to come over the defense table and strangle me."
"Lucky he hasn't seen you yet," Noel said.
"Yeah. Guess he thinks I stabbed him in the back."
"You pretty much did," Laney pointed out.
"Bullshit. It's not like I got into a job with him and then sold him out, I just gave the cops some tips. You rip people off, you risk getting caught. He knew that," Colin said. "I have zero sympathy for him and if you ever want to eat decent food again, you shouldn't either." He hesitated. "Tell you what, if they asked me again, I'd kill him before he got the chance to do what he did."
"What, did he corrupt your precious amante?
" Gutierrez asked, with a hint of a grin.
"He came close," Colin answered. Gutierrez stopped smiling. "I thought when they got him he might have an accident
on the way to booking."
"So? Wouldn't be the first time," Gutierrez said. He sounded weary, like he knew just how often it happened.
"Joseph's not like that. He wouldn't do that. It's the only time I ever thought, well, maybe he would
," Colin said. "And yeah, maybe I shouldn't blame Galano for that, but I do. He poisons people. If I had to do it again, I'd handle it myself."
People were beginning to drift towards the doors, now, anticipating the klaxon for dinner; Colin could see Laney looking restless, and Noel watching the others warily.
"I need to make a call," he said. It would be better to try and get to a phone right before the meal; even if the food was terrible, there was a sort of intensity about meals now, trying to grab as much as possible so that there would be at least a little more of it that was edible. "Go on to dinner. I might be late coming in. Don't worry about saving me anything."
Laney shrugged and stood up to join the men heading for the doors, walking a little more confidently than he had a few days earlier. Noel followed him, avoiding a crowd of Aryans pushing through. Colin started for the far door that led to the little room where the pay phones were, but Gutierrez stopped him briefly with a hand on his chest.
"Galano didn't come here for fraud," he said quietly. "Not reall. And he's not like you, Colin."
Colin just looked at him, inquisitive.
"Why'd you lie to those boys?" Gutierrez continued.
Colin shrugged. "Lying's what I do."
"Are you scared of him?"
"A guy who rots food and turns into steam when you touch him? Fuck yes, I'm scared of him," Colin retorted.
"What did he do?" Gutierrez asked.
"He killed someone. I can't prove it," Colin said. "I don't want to talk about it."
Gutierrez was quiet for a few seconds before he spoke again. "What did he do to you
?" he asked finally.
"I need to make this call, Gutierrez," Colin said, and Gutierrez took his hand away.
"Be careful what lies you tell, mijo
," he warned. Colin gave him a brief, cursory nod and jogged towards the phones.
The room was empty when he arrived. He punched in the calling-card numbers from memory, shifting his weight from foot to foot as the call went through and the phone rang.
"Special Dispatch," said a male voice down the line.
"This is consultant ID 211634," Colin said. "Please transfer to extension 2599."
"Hold for transfer," the man said, and after a second there was a click as the call forwarded, then a ringtone.
"Hello," Joseph said, voice slightly crackly on the cellphone the department had given him for undercover work.
"Joseph, it's me," Colin said.
"Hey, honey," Joseph answered, voice warming as if it were his wife on the phone. "Listen, I just went on shift, I can't really -- " he broke off without Colin saying anything, huffing out an annoyed sigh. "Okay, okay, hang on."
"Sorry," Colin said, hearing a door shut behind Joseph. "This was the only time I knew the phone room was going to be empty."
"You'll miss dinner," Joseph said, amused.
"Yeah, that's not really an issue, considering the food these days," Colin replied. "You're on swing shift?"
"Yeah, just started tonight. How'd you know?" Joseph asked.
"I hear things. Anything I can do to help?"
"Sure. Stay out of trouble, or get me a good tip like the ones you gave Analise. I've been hanging out after my shift ends, so I've got a few leads. I'm pretty sure the guy running things keeps a ledger. I can't see how he'd track everything without it. These are not the brightest bulbs in Law Enforcement, you know?"
"Oh believe me, I know," Colin said.
"I think the money comes in with laundry deliveries. There's always one or two bags that don't look right."
"They pay out cash for the food that comes in?"
"Uh-huh, and other services," Joseph said. "Then I'm guessing there's a bank wire transfer from the prison accounts to a shell company supposedly providing the food -- "
"Which they already paid for in cash," Colin said. "Clever, and not overly complicated."
"But they have to be doing it with five or six different companies. There are a couple of different suppliers, and they have to have an inside guy in each supply company who takes the cash and converts it, so that's another cut out of the pie. They need some way to track it all. I'm hoping they keep good records, somewhere."
"Can you get a warrant?" Colin asked, swallowing the end of the word when he heard footsteps nearby.
"Sure, I can try. Might take a few days. You know where I should look?"
"Gotta go, sweetie," Colin said, turning to face the doorway. A guard was standing there, hand on his baton. "Dinner time. Check the office for those keys. Love you, bye."
"Colin, what do you -- " Joseph was saying, but Colin hung up and hurried out past the guard, getting an elbow in the middle of his back for his tardiness as he went.Chapter Six