Fickie Minh was likely the oldest inmate in the prison. Donny Chelone might've been older, but there wasn't any way of proving it short of cutting the two men open and counting the rings. It had been more than a decade since Fickie had suffered the humiliation of getting cut, and he didn't expect to bear another wound for the remainder of his sentence. He was serving triple-life for the brutal slaying of his wife and her suspected lover. Having done the time for two of the three 20-year stretches he could afford to get a little retrospective, and admit that maybe he should have waited to confirm that the man he gunned down along with the woman he'd wed had actually been boning her. It could have saved him a few decades.
"So what did you want me for?" the kid asked with insolence. A few years ago Fickie would've thought nothing of killing someone for taking that tone with him, but in the last little while he had mellowed somewhat. He would probably still end up icing him, but for so long as the kid was useful Fickie would suffer a little indignation.
"I hear you been making moves." Fickie said, and sat forward on his bunk to put his face into the light. The kid didn't flinch. That was a good sign.
Fickie had gotten into a bad rivalry in his early days in the joint, and a Cuban who had gotten nabbed during a heist gone wrong had put his thumb so far into Fickie's right eye that the eye had exploded. He had never felt a pain so intense in his entire life. Yet despite the horrible damage done by the Cuban's thumb, the wound hadn't completely blinded him. The right side of his field of vision had been a murky swirl of red cream ever since. The prison had given him an eye patch at first, but he had used it to strangle the Cuban so they had taken it away from him. Fickie had been okay with that: he rather enjoyed the effect his damaged face had on people. Only the kid seemed to be immune.
"Nice face, pops. I'll bet the other guy didn't get off half so good."
"That's a bet you'd win, kid."
"Look, old-timer. I been careful not to step on too many toes in here. I'm still learning the ropes, see? So if I've done something to piss you off—"
Fickie laughed. The kid's sudden shift in attitude to one of near-respect surprised the old man. 'Maybe he's got some smarts in him after all,' he thought, then said "No, nothing like that. Not yet. But I seen how you work and I wanted to have a little talk with you about how your particular skills could best serve me."
The kid turned his head as if to spit, thought the better of it, then looked sidelong at Fickie. "Serve you? I didn't serve no one on the outside and I ain't gonna start that in here."
"And I can respect that. It's a good attitude to have... on the outside. But you ain't out there no more, kid. You're in here, with the rest of us animals. And thinking you're still free can get you killed, mark my words. I been in here a long, long time and seen a lotta guys like you come and go. And they don't go by the front gate, not unless they're zipped up in long black bags."
The kid frowned, and chewed on his lower lip. "What're my services worth to you then, old man?" he asked.
"Call me Fickie. And if the quality of the work you do for me matches what I seen so far, could be worth a lot. Could be worth a lot indeed."
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