Unlike Julia Roberts in Sleeping With The Enemy, I did everything but sleep with mine. I worked, ate and even watched the occasional movie with 250 people that wished me mortal harm simply because of what I had been, a homicide detective. Locked alone in my cell from ten pm until seven am was the only place and time I felt safe enough to let down my defenses and relax.
In the chow line, a quick look away by one and a sideways glance between two other inmates alerted me to impending danger. An attack was imminent, but wouldn't likely take place in the cafeteria. There were too many eyes here. Three guards patrolled the perimeter during meal times, plus there were cameras. A diversion might fool the guards but not the video feed as several former provocateurs had learned the hard way.
Fighting resulted in an automatic thirty days in the hole, no exceptions. The hole was what we called solitary confinement. I'd done my share of time there and I could tell you it was no joke. No windows, no yard time, no contact with anyone, except for a few seconds per day when meals arrive. Some of the guards wouldn't speak. Twelve hours of fluorescent light, twelve hours of pitch black. Time creeps by in prison, but in the hole, during the overwhelming darkness of night, I swore sometimes it stopped altogether.
I tucked under my arm one of the three magazines I kept on my person whenever I left my cell and carried my plastic platter of eggs, sausage patty, bran muffin and definitely not freshly squeezed orange juice to the table in the back where all the unpopular women congregated. I nodded to Wilma Mainfield, the closest thing to a friend I had inside these walls. We weren't pals and didn't hang around together, but her brother was a cop, so she didn't hate me for my past. Taking my usual spot in the last row of the room, I sat with my shoulders brushing against the wall. With Wilma to my right, an empty chair to my left and my back protected I got down to the business of eating. I devoured the food, hungry after the hour and a half calisthenics routine I'd completed this morning before my cell door opened.
Most of the meals in this place weren't bad, especially breakfast and spaghetti night, which was every second Thursday. I'd worked in the kitchen for two years and knew that the head cook, Roberta Pomodoro, made the spaghetti sauce from scratch - best I've ever had. Roberta, a lifer, owned several Italian restaurants in Ottawa with her husband. I heard a rumor that they had gotten involved in the drug trade and a cop had been killed during a raid, resulting in a life without parole sentence. She sang Italian songs while she cooked. Everyone liked her. She'd tolerated my presence in her kitchen until I tripped, spilling a large tray of chicken wings. The next day I'd been transferred to laundry.
"Watch your back," Wilma whispered as I stood to leave.
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