A Good Conviction … PROLOGUE
Sing Sing Correctional Facility
Disjointed memories haunt me, as they do every night, shattering my once great expectations and leaving me to share a cold clammy cell listening to a guy named Spider jerk off.
The darkness emits a rumbling undercurrent of sounds, pierced randomly by eerie howls. Inmates yell obscenities to one another, or worse, to no one.
Doors clang, footsteps echo and fade away, angry music blares in short bursts. Odors of urine, decaying food, stale smoke, and sweaty unwashed bodies assault the air. Mice and roaches scurry.
The longer I’m here, the harder it is to imagine being anywhere else.
Giving in and allowing myself to cry would be suicidal. Others would observe my fear, and act on it. Predatory others. “Hey, white boy, they gonna’ love you’ ass in here.”
How long before I lose my mind? And will that be better or worse? Is it already happening? Every day, the person who was Joshua Blake recedes further from reality. Is this process irreversible? Will there be a point when I can never again be who I was?
There’s a sudden movement close to me and I cringe. I’m going to be hurt. Relief. It’s just my cellmate, stirring in the bunk below me. The fact that his presence is actually comforting shows how much my life has changed.
Spider rolls out of his bunk and slides into view. In the dim light, I make out hairy legs, dark crotch, gray prison shirt. He settles his muscled bulk onto the toilet. More sounds and smells. When he’s done, I roll off the upper bunk, take his place, feel his sweat. I remember what it used to be like in a bathroom with a door and a seat on the toilet.
I climb up, careful not to step on Spider’s arm, crawl under my thin blanket, shiver in the chill. Spider’s bulk shifts in the bunk below me. He settles into a slow steady rhythm which pulses my bunk as well as his. Spider is once again masturbating.
I strain for diversion.
A familiar burr grinds at the edges of my mind. I force myself to focus, visualizing each distinct moment of my arrest and trial.
I see a look in a man’s eye. I grab for it, but once again it slips away, and I’m sinking, gasping, a deep eternal coldness filling my body.
Spider finishes with a grunt and a sudden lurch just as I slide into my personal bottomless lake of despair.
Deep in the murky water, the man’s face reappears, staring at me intently, a puzzled expression in his eyes.
And – finally – I know the face.