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Ruby between the cracks, p.19
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       Ruby Between the Cracks, p.19

           P.D. Workman
 

  Chapter Sixteen

  IT HAD BEEN MORE than a week since Ruby had seen Charlie, so she wasn’t surprised when Glenning told her she had a visitor. She knew that it would be Charlie rather than Marty. Marty had just been there to see her. Carole tensed up at Glenning’s announcement.

  “For someone without a family, you sure get a lot of visitors,” she griped.

  “Yeah, so? I got friends.”

  “I don’t like your friends.”

  Ruby shrugged.

  “You don’t have to visit them.”

  “Who is it, your girlfriend again?”

  Ruby looked at Glenning.

  “No, probably Charlie.”

  Glenning nodded.

  “So are you coming?” he demanded.

  “Yeah, I’m coming.”

  Carole grabbed Ruby by the arm as she started to leave.

  “If it’s that cop, you’re not seeing him again.”

  Ruby shook her off.

  “I’ll see who I like. And I like Charlie.”

  “He’s bad news. If you keep seeing him, you’re just going to get hurt.”

  The way she said it, Ruby knew it was a threat. Glenning put his hand on Ruby’s back to hurry her along.

  “All right, you two. You can have your lovers’ quarrel after the visit. If you don’t come, I’ll tell him you don’t want to see him.”

  Ruby turned her back on Carole and went with Glenning to the visitor’s room. She knew that Carole was following them. Carole wasn’t allowed to come into the room, but she hung around the doorway watching. Ruby greeted Charlie lowly, but not with the hug or kiss that she usually did. Charlie caught Ruby’s quick glance back at the door, and saw Carole.

  “Your bunkmate, right?” he said.

  Ruby nodded.

  “Yeah. She’s being a pain.”

  “Oh? How come?”

  “I dunno. She doesn’t like me talking to you.”

  He nodded.

  “I saw her when you were in iso. She tried to hit me.”

  “She did?” Ruby rolled her eyes. “I hate guys who’re jealous.”

  “Guys?” Charlie repeated, with one eyebrow lifted.

  “Well, you know what I mean. She might as well be.”

  “I thought she seemed sort of possessive, but I thought maybe she just didn’t like you getting the attention.”

  “No. She doesn’t like me being friendly with anyone else.”

  “I see… Just how involved are you two?” he probed.

  “None of your business,” Ruby growled.

  Charlie was taken aback.

  “Okay. Just tell me to back off if I’m prying.” He changed the subject. “How’s your counseling going?”

  “I don’t like to talk to them.”

  “You and I talk okay. What’s the difference?”

  “You don’t lecture me. If I say anything to them, they go into the spiel.”

  “Like?”

  “Oh, they have them all memorized. About how drugs hurt your body. They don’t make you feel good. They don’t make your problems go away. They mess up your brain, they kill you, all that. I don’t do hard drugs. I just take what I need to get by.”

  “And they don’t get it.”

  “They don’t get anything. You’d think they’d understand—I mean, it’s their job, right?”

  “Have you ever thought about going to a regular doctor with this stuff instead of illicit drugs? When you’re on the outside, I mean.”

  “What’s a doctor going to do?”

  “Well, you take speed because you’re down, because you’re depressed.”

  “Yeah. Ever since the abortion.”

  Charlie’s eyes widened slightly.

  “You’ve had two babies and an abortion?”

  Her glare convinced him not to pursue it.

  “Sorry. You told me before not to get on your case about birth control. So you take speed because you’re down. There are drugs that the doctor can give you by prescription that aren’t illegal and aren’t like amphetamines. They don’t hype you up, they just take care of the blues.”

  “Yeah?”

  “Yeah. And as far as the narcotics go, if you’re still taking them because you’re in pain, not because you’re hooked, then maybe there’s something wrong that the doctor could fix.”

  “Could you get me some of that stuff? Instead of uppers?” she inquired.

  “Have you bothered to tell your psychiatrist that you’re depressed?”

  “No.”

  “Well, that’s what he’s there for, doll. You talk to him about it. He’ll get you straightened out.”

  “You think he’d give me those drugs? He lectures about how bad they are for you too.”

  “These are a different kind of drugs. He’ll give you Prozac.”

  “Okay,” Ruby nodded.

  “Speaking of doctors… how’s your friend Kimberley?”

  “Still in the infirmary.”

  “Really? I was under the impression that she would be out by now.”

  “Yeah, well, I guess she got pneumonia.”

  “Ouch. Any problems with anyone else?”

  “No. They leave me alone now.”

  “Good. And you’re not carrying any more weapons?”

  He touched both of her arms where the sheath had been. Ruby shook her head.

  “No. The guards watch me too close. No chance.”

  “So other than your bunkie, things are working out?”

  “She’s not so bad,” Ruby said with a shrug, “just possessive.”

  “When does she get out of here?”

  Ruby hadn’t thought about it before. Everyone talked like Carole had been there for years and would never leave. But it was only a short term treatment program. Ruby shook her head.

  “I don’t know. I think she’s been here a few times before.”

  “So, probably for a while.”

  “Yeah, I guess.”

  “Too bad. It would be nice to have her out of your hair.”

  Ruby shrugged.

  “Then I’d just have another roomie.”

  “Well, you’re dry, and have been for a while, so it probably won’t be too long until they release you.”

  “Then what?”

  “Then what. Probably some sort of halfway house. You ever lived in one?”

  “No.”

  “Might not be too bad for you. It wouldn’t be a family, like a foster family. It would be more like a boarding house.”

  “Social Services wouldn’t make me go back to a foster family?”

  “They might try working towards it, but once a kid gets to be your age, it’s harder and harder to do. They know that.”

  “I just don’t like foster families. None of them ever worked out for me.”

  “Uh-huh. Why did you get placed in the first place?”

  “I didn’t want to stay with my family anymore. So I got Social Services to take me away.”

  “Things must have gotten pretty rough. How old were you?”

  “Eight.”

  “Old enough to know what you were getting yourself into. So what happened? No chance at reunification?”

  “I didn’t want to go back to them, and I didn’t want to be adopted. Too old, anyway.”

  “So you just stayed in limbo.”

  “After a while, me and my social worker got involved. I sort of stayed with him part of the time. That’s when I got out of foster homes. Then I didn’t want to go back.”

  “When did you get involved with the gang?”

  Ruby was surprised. She’d never said a word to him about the Jags. Charlie chuckled.

  “You don’t think I would do some checking up of my own? Your arrest record shows you’ve been involved with them. I didn’t have to do much snooping to figure that out.”

  “Oh. Well, I went with Mike for a while. Then he got killed, and I started hanging around with the other Jaguars for protection.”

  “You’ve led
a wild sort of life, haven’t you? How long ago was that?”

  “Two years ago, I guess. I was thirteen when Mike got killed.”

  Charlie shook his head.

  “About time for you to be settling down.”

  Ruby thought back.

  “It was a long time ago, now. I didn’t realize how long ago... sometimes it seems like it just happened, and sometimes it feels like it happened to someone else.”

  Charlie nodded. He glanced at his watch.

  “I’ll talk to your social worker about looking around at some of the halfway house programs. Make sure we have a space for you somewhere when you get out of here. I’ve got to go today.”

  “Okay. You’ll be back in a few days?”

  “You bet. Take care of yourself.”

  Ruby nodded and got up. She looked at the door and saw that Carole was still there watching her.

  “Man, she just doesn’t give up.”

  “Good luck handling her.”

  Ruby shook her head and headed towards her friend.

  “You didn’t have to wait,” she said sweetly. Carole looked angry.

  “You just can’t wait to get out of here and into bed with that cop, can you?”

  Ruby eyed her coolly.

  “It isn’t like I plan on staying here forever.”

  “I told you you should stay away from him,” Carole growled.

  “What’s your problem?” Ruby demanded impatiently. Carole moved suddenly, grabbing her by the front of her jumpsuit and throwing her into the wall.

  “You’re asking for it. You’re really asking for it, you little sneak! Don’t you get it?” She pounded Ruby back against the wall. “You’re mine, baby. For as long as you’re here, you’re mine and you do what I tell you!”

  Ruby struck out at her, not managing to hit anything solid the first couple of swings, but then getting into a position where she could struggle to free herself from Carole’s grip. She fought blindly, not sure who had the upper hand. Carole was bigger and more experienced, but Ruby had her inborn skill, and desperation was on her side. She knew from what other inmates had said and from the warnings of the staff that when Carole flipped out, people got hurt. Ruby just saw red. She didn’t know how often she was hitting Carole and how often she was being hit. When everything returned to normal, Ruby realized that she was being held back by strong arms.

  Two guards were holding Carole and trying to get her handcuffed and subdued. Ruby stopped struggling and breathed deeply, trying to get everything back into the proper perspective. Carole had a bloodied nose and a split lip. Ruby couldn’t even remember hitting her in the face. As the small group of guards took Carole away, Ruby felt handcuffs close over her own wrists. She jerked away involuntarily, a reflex.

  “Hold still,” Glenning told her. Ruby tried to.

  “I didn’t start it. I was just defending myself,” Ruby told him.

  “I know that. Everyone knows that. We’ll take you to the doctor, and then you can go back to your bunk. Just take it easy and don’t fight us.”

  Ruby looked over her shoulder to see who else was there with Glenning, which other guard had helped to separate Ruby and Carole.

  “Oh, hi, Charlie.”

  “Remind me never to tangle with you. You’re quite the wildcat there.”

  He gave her hand a quick squeeze. Ruby took another deep breath, trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. Glenning nodded to Charlie.

  “Thanks for your help. I can take it from here.”

  Charlie nodded.

  “See you in a few days, sweetheart. Don’t put anyone else in the infirmary in the meantime.”

  Ruby grinned. Glenning escorted her down to the infirmary, where a doctor checked out her scratched and bruised face and body.

  “You’ll be sore tomorrow,” he said after a bit, “but there’s no lasting damage. You came out of that scrape pretty well.”

  Ruby waited while he finished cleaning the cuts, and then Glenning took her back to her room.

  “Just spend some time cooling down, all right?” he advised.

  Ruby sat down on the bunk and nodded.

  “I’m going to lock this. I know it wasn’t your fault, it’s just protocol. We have to make sure everyone is secure while we go through the proper channels, all right? We have to make a routine inquiry, that’s all.”

  He reached for the doorknob, but Ruby didn’t want him to go yet. She was shaken and didn’t want to be alone. Iso had almost driven her crazy after the fight with Kimberley.

  “Glenning... ?”

  He turned back towards her.

  “Uh-huh?”

  “What’s going to happen now?”

  He gestured at the doorknob, thinking about what he had just said.

  “No, I mean... is Lynn going to bunk with me still?”

  “No, no. We’ll make sure you two are separated.”

  “Then who’s going to room with me?”

  “You’ll probably be alone for a few days. We’ll reshuffle everyone else, and then the next admittee will be assigned to you.”

  “I don’t want to be by myself.”

  “Enjoy the privacy. It won’t last long.”

  “No,” Ruby shook her head, “you don’t get it. I don’t want to be alone even one night. I want to be put in with someone else. I can’t stand sleeping by myself—in a room by myself.”

  Glenning pursed his lips.

  “Well, it’s sort of unusual. Usually we move the instigator if there’s problems between bunkies. I’ll talk to someone about it.”

  Ruby stood up and stepped a little closer to him.

  “How late do you stay here?”

  “Why?”

  “Well, if I’m by myself... I thought maybe you could check in on me tonight... to make sure I was okay.”

  She moved right up to him as she spoke. He took a step back and put his hands out to stop her from moving closer.

  “No, I don’t think so. I’ll be gone at supper time.”

  “You could cover somebody’s shift or something, couldn’t you? If they happened to get sick?”

  “Nobody’s going to get sick tonight. Now, I told you I’d talk to someone about you getting a new bunkie tonight. Leave it alone.”

  Ruby got the message and backed off. She went back to her bunk.

  “Most guys would jump at the chance,” she commented.

  “Well, I’m not most guys. And I’m not putting my job in jeopardy. I make a good living here.”

  Ruby said nothing, and he left.

  Black sighed, looking down at her list of inmates.

  “Well, I’ll do some more shuffling then, and see if we can get her into another room tonight.”

  “Good. She was quite insistent that she not be left alone.”

  “All right. I’ll do what I can.”

  Glenning took it as his dismissal, and started to turn around.

  “One more thing.”

  He turned back.

  “Jackson’s called in sick. Can you take his late shift?” Glenning stared at her, startled. Had she somehow listened in on the interchange between him and Simpson? “I know it’s short notice,” Black apologized, “but I’ve been trying to get somebody else to come in, and no-one can swing it.”

  “Uh—yeah. I can take his shift. I’ll need someone to take my morning shift, though.”

  “No problem. I’ll get it lined up. Thanks.”

  When Ruby saw him still working after supper, Glenning hoped that she would just take it in stride and not say anything. But she stared at him when she saw him patrolling the common room, and then she approached him.

  “I see you changed your mind,” she said. Her voice was just a little bit too loud, and people turned and looked at them. Glenning made a motion for her to quiet down.

  “We’re working on getting you a new bunkmate,” he informed her neutrally, trying not to look at her directly.

  “Well, isn’t that sweet of you.”

  If t
hey had been anywhere other than where they were, Glenning would have thought she was drunk. Her voice had an uncontrolled quality to it, and even her walk seemed a little unsteady.

  Glenning studied the TV on the far wall intently, hoping that she would get the message and leave him alone. But she walked right up to him, and he had to hold her at arm’s length to avoid a sloppy embrace.

  “Okay, Simpson. Cool it. Back off. Go watch TV.”

  “You pretend not to care, but I know your type. It’s all just an act.”

  She strained against his hand to get closer. Glenning looked helplessly at the other guards patrolling the room, not knowing how to handle this.

  “Simpson…”

  “Ruby.”

  “Simpson, just…” he tried to turn her around and point her in the other direction. But Ruby foiled him and squirmed out of his grasp, ending up closer to him than before. Close enough to put her arms around him and press herself against him. Glenning felt her hand on his holster and he grabbed her hand and pried her fingers away. With the other hand, he tried to get his handcuffs.

  “I know how you feel,” Ruby insisted. “I can see it in your eyes.”

  Focusing on her eyes, he noticed that one pupil was widely dilated, the other normal in size.

  “Simpson, are you okay?”

  Their eyes met for an instant, and then her body stiffened. He found himself trying to catch her before she hit the ground in a full-blown seizure. One of the other guards whipped out his radio and ran over, calling for help.

  “What happened? What did you do?”

  “I didn’t do anything. She and Carole mixed it up this afternoon. She must have gotten hit on the head or something.”

  The both knelt over her violently convulsing body, trying to keep her still and assess her condition.
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