Okay, I'm the first to admit that you can't--in fact, shouldn't--judge a book by its cover. However, that said, the very nanosecond I was ushered into that Maltese Boys' Reformatory cell by the guard, Maurie, and I spotted the ebony hulk of Nathan Newell, my proposed cell mate, laid out on the bottom bunk, all wild-animal-guarding-his-territory. I judged Nelson to be just the type of guy to come after me at night--hell, maybe, not even waiting until night--to have at my white-cracker-boy ass without even a nod or a by-your-leave from me.
Nelson eyed me as if he was some jungle cat checking out his next meal. Immediately, no need for me to get any more acclimatized to my cell mate and/or to my surroundings, I made my request of Maurie who was already outside the closed cell door and seemingly on his way to somewhere else, not giving a rat's ass what became of me next.
I was impressed by the way Maurie stopped so suddenly mid-exit and turned back to give me far more attention than he ever had during our entire walk through the gauntlet of cages holding my rowdy, foul-mouthed, and filthy-minded fellow inmates.
Actually, I was more impressed by the way Nelson's eyes went so wide that I could actually see their whites all of the way around each of their big black pupils. His right ear literally cocked in order to hear better what I had to say next--if anything.
Except, it wasn't me, but Maurie who said, "What do you suppose you'd have to say to Janner Murphy that would have him saying anything back?"
"Here," I said and fished some folded money out of one pocket to pass to him through the bars. "Just tell him that he and I have a mutual friend--on the outside."
"Do you?" Maurie said, took the cash, thumb-flipped through it, squinted his eyes (that are attractively blue-green), and said, "Where and when did you get this little wad not of your cock's making?"
I could have said something wise-ass alienating, like, "As if you didn't know, you jack-shit! Anything can be had in prison if you know what, and who, or how." Okay at that specific time in my life, I merely assumed that was true, based entirely on what other people had told me, but I've since been truly convinced it's valid. Instead, I said, "I picked it up when you dropped it, figuring you might miss it and want it back."
He smiled. He isn't hard to look at, with his full lips, white teeth, blue-green eyes, black hair. He's saved from looking too pretty by the nasty scar that travels his right cheek from his ear to his jaw-line, looking as if whatever weapon did the deed may, as well, have clipped off the very tip of his earlobe.
"All I can do is deliver your message," Maurie said. "I can't guarantee Janner will pay any attention, let alone want to chat with any newbie."
He left ... with the money ... and with my expectations.