Just after breakfast, after they’d returned to the cell and were waiting for their work detail calls, the fight happened. Bill had stepped up to the cell gate when they called for brown bombers and he had taken two of them though he hadn’t yet swallowed them. He was standing close by.
The new inmate was a small guy, a kid maybe Bill’s age. He knew he’d been robbed when he awoke and couldn’t find his butts. Since Bill’s bunk was directly opposite, the new man went there first. He asked Bill, who was still up on his bed, if he had a cigarette. Bill got down and gave him one and a light too.
“My name’s Blake,” the guy said.
“You see who robbed me?”
“I’m no rat.”
“I’m just doing my time like everyone else here. You see it or not?”
“It was the tough. He always has a crew around him. I’d let it go if I were you.”
“I’m a black belt. I’ll handle it.”
“Don’t involve me,” Bill said.
“I appreciate your help. I won’t. But I got your back now.”
Blake waited until everyone was hanging out waiting for their call to work. Then he stepped to the middle aisle in the middle of the cell and called out for everyone’s attention. “I was robbed last night. Someone took my cigarettes and my soap. I’d like them back, no questions asked.”
No one said anything. There were a few guffaws but otherwise, no one paid Blake any mind. Everyone continued with whatever they were doing. So Blake started stepping up to people, asking if they’d seen anything. Of course no one did. He stepped up to Bill too. Bill simply shrugged him off.
Blake tried several more people before he stepped up to the tough. “You the big guy in here?” he asked.
“Some people think so. What of it?”
“Well maybe you could help me out.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“Saves you a beat down.”
The tough laughed. “How you figure?”
“Well,” Blake said, “I’m gonna be here about a month and I’m not planning on getting robbed anymore. Someone gotta pay. I don’t get my stuff back, it’s gonna be you.”
The tough stepped away from Blake a bit. “You hear that?” he said to his crew.
“Well?” Blake said. “What’s it gonna be?”
The tough took first swing. Blake evaded it deftly. The tough swung again and missed. Back on balance, he rushed Blake. Blake sidestepped and pushed the tough on his back so he fell forward face first. That’s when the tough’s crew stepped in. Three came at Blake simultaneously. Meanwhile, the tough was standing up again, stepping in again.
Blake went into his karate mode. He put down the three crew members, two with his hands, the third with a side kick. The rest of the tough’s crew, seeing this, stayed quiet.
So it was the tough and Blake, one on one.
“You can still walk away from this,” Blake said. “Just get me my stuff back.”
The tough looked around, saw that he was all alone, saw that the one who’d been kicked had not gotten up yet. “Okay,” he said. He started to walk away but pivoted and threw a kick at Blake. Blake blocked it and hit the tough just once directly in the solar plexus. The tough fell to his knees gasping for breaths.
Blake stepped up to the tough. He put a hand on his back and sat him down. “Shh,” Blake said. “You’re okay. Take it easy. Breathe slow. Relax yourself.”
When he was ready, Blake helped the tough up. “Stay away from me and my stuff,” he said. “I’d appreciate it if you saw to it no one comes near me. And I’d like my smokes back. Whoever took it, can keep the soap.”
Blake left the tough and went back to his bunk. A few moments later, the call came for the first work detail. Bill’s was the third detail called this morning. When Bill got up to the gate, the guard said, “Not you Wynn. You’re getting out today.”
Bill walked back to his bunk more than ecstatic.