The 2C officer stuffed his Dorritos inside the desk and jumped to attention. The inmates, normally stirred by any off-tier visitor, stayed quiet. The only sound was the sound of Bo snuffling and the soft pad-pad-pad of retriever paws. Lieutenant Terry stopped in front of the cell next to the writer and eyed the new intake.
The new intake was an older man with nicotine-stained fingers. He leaned into the bars, offered a friendly smile and chirped, "'Sup, girl?"
Lieutenant Terry met him with an icy glare.
"Unh," sputtered the intake, "I mean 'woman'...I mean 'lieutenant'."
"You got any females at home? You say that to them? You say that to any females in your home they gonna rip the fur offa your ass. They're gonna put the hurt on you."
"Yes, ma'am. I mean lieutenant."
"Take the pictures off the grill, take the pruno out of the toilet and don't even think of dropping a dime bag on your neighbor here," she nodded to the writer. "My dog's got a nose that can pull drugs from three states away."
Bo was nonchalant about his handler's praise. He yawned, stretched his paws forward and bowed, haunches raised. A perfect Downward Facing Dog. He sniffed the intake, licked his hand, then plopped on the floor for a good scratch.
"What's your name?"
"William Blume. Billy," said the intake, who decided not to offer to shake hands.
"Mr. Blume, we're going to get along just fine. Neither one of us are kids and we don't play games here. Any questions, ask your neighbor the writer here." And with that, Lieutenant Terry took herself and her dog on to the next cell.
Later, at rec time, Billy joined the writer and Dana at a table in the common area. He was too old to wear colors and too tired to go to the yard, so he retreated to the safety of the neutral zone. The writer had a chess board set up and was trying to get a game going.
"Sorry," said Dana. "Can't do chess. No dice, no gambling, no chess. Can't drink either in case your new buddy here was about to offer me something." He nodded toward Billy, tacit permission that the old man was allowed to sit with them.
"Chess is a game of skill. It's a game of mental ability, not gambling," said the writer.
"Not the way I play."
The writer sighed and slid the board aside. He missed his friend Eddie. Eddie would have been at the table and halfway through a game before anyone else had come out of their cells. He had been whisked off to witness protection by the Feds after giving evidence in the killing of a correctional officer. He hoped Eddie was still alive.
"How fast are they moving people out these days?" asked Billy. "I don't expect I'll be here that long. I'm just a parole violator."
"Any new charges?" asked the writer.
"Hmphh. That's the crazy-ass thing. All I did was bring a lady into an empty house. That's all I did, and they're trying to say it's burglary. I wasn't trying to steal nuthin', I just needed a place to be with my lady. If being with a woman is a crime, then I'm guilty. What're you supposed to do? It's like they want you to be some kind of Munich or something."
Dana and the writer felt too sorry for him to laugh. He was homeless, he was old and he'd probably be dead on the streets from alcohol or drugs or some medical problem if he hadn't been picked up. The police did him a favor.
"Did you talk to the police?" asked Dana.
"Hell, no," said Billy. "The police always lie to you. The first thing they say to you is a lie. They walk you into an interrogation room and they say to you 'good morning', and that's a lie. What's good about having your ass in an interrogation room?"
"You should be OK then," said the writer. In all likelihood, the officer wouldn't even show up for court. It was a mercy arrest.