THEY MOVED ON HIM JUST AFTER DINNER.
He didn’t know for sure how many. But that didn’t matter; all he thought was: Please, don’t let them have a knife. He didn’t want to get cut. Swing the baseball bat, swing the pipe, drop the cinder block on his hands … but not a knife please.
He was walking down the corridor from the prison dining hall to the library, the gray corridor that had a smell he’d never been able to place. Sour, rotten … And behind him: the footsteps growing closer.
The thin man, who’d eaten hardly any of the fried meat and bread and green beans ladled on his tray, walked more quickly.
He was sixty feet from a guard station and none of the Department of Corrections officers at the far end of the corridor were looking his way.
Oh, Lord, the man thought. I can take one out maybe. I’m strong and I can move fast. But if they have a knife there’s no way….
Randy Boggs glanced back.
Three men were close behind him.
Not a knife. Please….
He started to run.
“Where you goin’, boy?” the Latino voice called as they broke into a trot after him.
Ascipio. It was Ascipio. And that meant Boggs was going to die.
“Yo, Boggs, ain’ no use. Ain’ no use at all, you runnin’.”
But keep running he did. Foot after foot, head down. Now only forty feet from the guard station.
I can make it. I’ll be there just before they get me.
Please let them have a club or use their fists.
But no knife.
No sliced flesh.
Of course word’d get out immediately in general population how Boggs had run to the guards. And then everybody, even the guards themselves, would taunt him every chance they got. Because if your nerve breaks there’s no hope for you Inside. It means you’re going to die and it’s just a question of how long it takes to strip away your body from your cowardly soul.
“Shit, man,” another voice called, breathing hard from the effort of running. “Get him.”
“You got the glass?” one of them called to another.
It was a whisper but Boggs heard it. Glass. Ascipio’s friend would mean a glass knife, which was the most popular weapon in prison because you could wrap it in tape, hide it in you, pass through the metal detector and shit it out into your hand and none of the guards would ever know.
“Give it up, man. We gonna cut you one way or th’other. Give us you blood….”
Boggs, thin but not in good shape, ran like a track star but he realized that he wasn’t going to make it. The guards were in station seven—a room separating the communal facilities from the cells. The windows were an inch and a half thick and someone could stand directly in front of the window and pound with his bleeding bare hands on the glass and if the guard inside didn’t happen to look up at the slashed prisoner he’d never know a thing and continue to enjoy his
New York Post
and pizza slice and coffee. He’d never know a man was bleeding to death two feet behind him.
Boggs saw the guards inside the fortress. They were concentrating on an important episode of
on a small TV.
Boggs sprinted as fast as he could, calling, “Help me, help me!”
Go, go, go!
Okay, he’d turn, he’d face Ascipio and his buddies. Butt his long head into the closest one. Break his nose, try to grab the knife. Maybe the guards would notice by then.
A commercial on the TV. The guards were pointing at it and laughing. A big basketball player was saying something. Boggs raced directly toward him.
Wondering: Why were Ascipio and his buddies doing this?
Just because he was white? Because he wasn’t a bodybuilder? Because he hadn’t picked up a whittled broomstick along with the ten other inmates and stepped up to kill Rano the snitch?
Ten feet to the guard station….
A hand grabbed his collar from behind.
“No!” Randy Boggs cried.
And he felt himself start to tumble to the concrete floor under the tackle.
He saw: the characters on the hospital show on TV looking gravely at a body on the operating table.
He saw: the gray concrete rising up to slam him in the head.
He saw: a sparkle of the glass in the hand of a young Latino man. Ascipio whispered, “Do it.”
The young man stepped forward with the glass knife.
But then Boggs saw another motion. A shadow coming out of a deeper shadow. A huge shadow.
A hand reached down and gripped the wrist of the man holding the knife.
The attacker screamed as his
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