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Somebody Else's Sky (Something in the Way #2)(3)

By:Jessica Hawkins

An inmate a few tables away grabbed his kid's arm. I glanced at CO Jameson, who was already heading over.

"What happened?" Tiffany asked, sneaking glances as the female guard handled a man twice her size. She escorted him out more nicely than I would've. "You can tell me, Manning. You should talk about it. It's not healthy to keep it inside."

I didn't know about all that, but truth was, watching a defenseless man get the shit beat out of him had stuck with me. A man I'd talked to, had shared a cell with, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. "Slock," I said. "He's been in the infirmary a week."


It was a common enough weapon in here. Tiffany really didn't know shit about this stuff if she'd never heard the term. "Lock in a sock."

"Like the kind I used on my high school locker?"

"Exactly." I demonstrated winding up a sock, pausing to gauge her reaction. She worried her lip between her teeth but nodded me on. "Then you swing it," I said. "He lost an eye."

She sucked in a breath. "Could that happen to you?" she asked. "You're a big guy."

She wasn't even going to comment on the eyeball? I almost laughed. She got points for that. I could think of a few people I'd never burden that image with, but I didn't want to go there, so I kept talking. "Nobody's too big to go down," I answered. "But you don't need to worry about me. I don't get involved with anyone's business. It's not like you see in the movies. I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and if I do come up against something, I stand my ground."

"Like that fight a few months ago? Over the M&M's . . ."

"It wasn't a fight, and it wasn't about candy. That fucker stole cigarettes and orange soda from my bunk." I kept my head down, but there were some things I couldn't let slide. We had limited access to the commissary store-I couldn't just replace what he'd stolen. And I couldn't let it go. Not in here. Respect, Wills would say. So far, it was the only altercation I'd shared with Tiffany.

"You punched a guy over candy and cigarettes," Tiffany said.

I had to smile at how ridiculous it sounded. "You make it sound like we're a bunch of toddlers."

Her posture relaxed a little. "Well, then I probably shouldn't show you what I brought. None of it's suitable for children." She picked up some books from the bench and stacked them on the table. "They're from a thrift store," she added quickly, "so don't wig out on me. They were cheap. You like that author, right?"

I flipped through the one on top, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, grateful to have something good to read. Books were the one thing I'd even consider trading cigarettes for. "Yeah."

"The clerk recommended the other ones. He said if you like Hunter S. Thompson to try Tom Wolfe and . . ." She checked the spine of Slaughterhouse-Five. "Kurt Vonnegut. I read a little of it. It was weird, but I remember you telling me about that cockroach book, and probably not much is weirder than that."


This time, I did laugh, the rumble in my chest a foreign feeling. A good one. "These are perfect. But . . ." I pulled the next in the pile in front of me-a Webster's dictionary that looked heavy enough to knock out Wills. "How the fuck did you get this in here?" I asked. "And what's it for, protection?" I curled it like a weight, but it was surprisingly light.

"Open it, but not all the way."

I snuck a look under the cover. The first half of the book was intact, but she'd cut a square in the center, about two-thirds of the way in, stuffed it full of loose cigarettes, then lined the rest with books of stamps. I rarely sent outgoing letters, but guys like Wills could send two a day and postage wasn't cheap. "Tiffany."

The air conditioner cut out. "I know, I know."

I'd told her plenty of times not to waste her money on me. She sold clothing on commission, so her paycheck depended on her hustle, and I kept telling her to put extra money in the bank. But she did stuff like this each visit, bringing me things I could use or sell, greasing the guards, adding to my commissary account. "How much did this cost you?"

"A couple Esprit tops with my Nordstrom discount." She lifted her hair off her neck, resettling it over her shoulders. My eyes automatically dropped to her chest. "Don't worry about it. The guards like me."

"Is that how you get by them in those outfits?" I asked. She dressed to the nines for every visit, from her earrings to her shoes. At first I'd asked her to stop. The guys gave me shit for it, and according to visitation regulations, she wasn't supposed to dress sexy. Somehow, she always managed to get by with a little cleavage or leg or midriff or something.