prison,” Burnside said.
“They are. Even most of the guards have been forced to choose sides. Unfortunately, most of them have sided with the Skinheads . The Italians also have a few of their own working on the inside. They even have a sergeant on their payroll. Their screws help keep everything balanced. The screws loyal to the Skins don’t want to get too out of line with the Goodfellas, or they’ll end up getting whacked on the outside. As you can probably guess, the Italians have the most powerful outside organization. The Bloods also exist on the outside, but not to the same extent as the ‘fellas . They can have anyone they want killed on the outside. All they have to do is make a phone call to New York.”
“I believe it,” Burnside said.
“So, hopefully, you’ll take my advice and you might actually survive this place,” James said.
“I appreciate the advice.”
“No problem. I don’t usually talk so much with my new Cellies, but you seem all right. Like I said before, I’m usually a pretty good judge of character. And besides, I’ve had a lot worse roommates than you. One time, they even teamed me up with a Skin . That didn’t last long. I almost killed the bastard.”
“That’s a good thing,” Burnside said, grinning.
A loud bell resounded in the outside cellblock, interrupting their conversation.
“What’s that?” Burnside asked.
“Dinner time,” James said, standing.
A small army of guards entered the cellblock and escorted the inmates to the dining hall at staggered intervals. Burnside waited for his turn and joined a single-file line, staring at the inmate’s back in front of him. When they arrived at the cafeteria, Burnside thought it resembled a shoddier version of his old high school cafeteria. Inmates picked up trays at one end of a line and rolled them along a long metal counter, picking up food as they went. Dining hall workers, who looked like nothing more than slightly disgruntled inmates, slopped food into the trays from the other side of the counter. Burnside couldn’t tell what half the courses were, but he didn’t care. He was hungry. He took everything he could, filling two plates with twin mountains of unrecognizable meats and vegetables.
Inmates picked up food and dispersed to long tables organized into neat rows. Burnside sat alone at an empty table near the back wall. He figured this way he could see everyone in his immediate surroundings and no one could sneak up on him. He began shoveling the pile of food into his mouth as if it was gourmet cuisine. He figured he might need the energy if somebody started trouble.
Burnside stared straight ahead and tried not focus on the other inmates. This was difficult because other inmates focused on him. He noticed some of them glaring or pointing without making any attempt to use tact. It looked a lot like predators identifying new quarry.
Burnside glanced around and saw a line of guards stationed along the wall on the far side of the cafeteria, near the front entrance. He counted eight of them carrying batons. He made a rough headcount of the prisoners. He counted at least fifty.
Not good odds for the guards.
He hoped there were more guards stationed nearby, waiting to backup the cafeteria guards if there was any trouble.
Burnside’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard a loud, deep voice on his right.
“You’re in my seat,” the unknown voice growled at him.
Burnside immediately stood up, as if he were about to relinquish the seat, and then turned and faced the inmate. Not surprisingly, the inmate was a massive, towering brute. He had arms like tree trunks and the mangled face of a retired prizefighter. He had a bald head, which gleamed in the artificial lights, and a black goatee that
Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson