CH TWO 47
It has been a slow morning in the officers’ canteen but Frank has been able to filch a nice piece of roast topside of beef and a banana. He returns to his cell to find Roger Black packing up his few belongings. ‘Hello, are you off on your holidays?’ ‘No mate, I’m being moved,’ Black replies, his eyes darting towards the warder in warning, ‘there’s been a bit of bother back home and they’re transferring me on compassionate grounds.’ The warder gives a stern cough as a reminder that Black should keep any further information to himself and Black shrugs, takes up his things and follows him out, with a forced smile for Frank as a goodbye gesture.
Frank hides the banana and takes a stroll down the landing to offload the roast beef. As he goes he passes a middle-aged prisoner with swarthy looks being escorted in the other direction. He looks over his shoulder as they go by and sees he is being shown into his cell. ‘They don’t waste any time,’ he comments to Scrapper, who is waiting on the landing to see what he has nicked today, ‘Black only left a minute ago.’ They go inside Thorndike’s cell and a deal is made for the meat, which his lordship will enjoy at supper time. ‘Did they tell you why he was being moved?’ Asks Scrapper, eager to pass on the gossip he has overheard. Frank says he hasn’t a clue and Scrapper takes great delight in filling him in on the news.
‘Black’s son hanged himself in the young offenders unit on Tuesday night. They reckon it was after someone told him what his father had really done and it sent him over the edge.’ Frank has never wanted to know the reason why Roger Black is serving time but this bit of news has made him wonder. ‘He never told you then?’ Continues Scrapper, ‘he lured three men to the abattoir where he worked as night watchman, did unspeakable things to them then slit their throats and cut them into little pieces.’ Frank says he remembers reading about the case years ago so he doesn’t need Scrapper to go into any further detail. To think he’s been sharing a cell with the ghastly man all this time. For the hundredth time he makes a mental note never to get banged up again.
‘You don’t wanna leave Barry Warren on his own,’ warns Scrapper, ‘he’ll pinch anything that’s not nailed down.’ Frank takes the hint and as he is entering the cell he is astonished to find that Warren is eating a banana. He only just stops himself from landing a punch on the man, remembering he is near to being released. His cupboard door is wide open and the planks concealing his hidey hole have been disturbed. ‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing?’ Frank seethes, checking that nothing else has been taken and replacing the boards.
Warren sneers at him as he finishes the banana and drops the skin into the slop bucket. ‘I fancied a snack,’ he says casually, ‘and by the way I will be taking the top bunk.’ He strips the bed and throws Frank’s things to the floor, treading on them as he makes up the bunk with his own covers. Frank is fuming but knows he must keep his temper in check for now. ‘Be my guest,’ he manages to say in a steady tone, ‘you’ll find it rather draughty though.’ He picks up his bedding and makes himself at home on the bunk recently vacated by Black. ‘Just one thing Warren,’ he adds, ‘keep your hands off my gear in future.’ The other man gives him a snooty leer and swings his thin frame up onto the bunk.
Barry Warren has been in and out of prison since he was eighteen and has been convicted of robbery with violence and handling stolen goods for the fifth time. He had only been out three weeks when he got caught again. His boasts about being a member of one of South London’s notorious gangs mean nothing to Frank. The man is just a bully whose claim to fame is his habit of torturing his rivals whilst they are being restrained by a gang of his henchmen. He believes this makes him a hard man, a feared man, but in Frank’s mind he is a thug, a bully ripe for a come-uppance.
Frank stays in his cell during association while his new cell mate swans off to brag about his latest achievements to anyone who will listen. He soon has a group gathered round to hear his stories of robberies he has been involved in and ‘punishments’ he has enjoyed giving out to rivals. Sadly, his audience seem enthralled by this grimy-looking lag and hang on his every word, but when Scrapper joins the party the gathering suddenly disperses and Warren seems a little ill at ease. Scrapper has been sent to give him the welcome speech and remind him that Thorndike rules this landing so he’d better not forget it. Warren says that nobody rules him and he pushes past Scrapper on his way back to the cell.
The Telegraph crossword has proved to be a useful distraction and Frank is puzzling over one last clue as Warren appears in the doorway. ‘Got any baccy?’ He asks. ‘Yes thank you,’ Frank replies without looking up, ‘but you’re not getting any of it.’ Warren bends over the bunk and puts his face too close to Frank’s, ‘I was only trying to be friendly,’ he growls, ‘you’d do well to be nice to me pal.’
Frank is tingling with rage and ready to rip the man’s head off his shoulders but he forces himself to remain calm, knowing that revenge is but a few hours away.
After lights out there is nothing to do but sleep and Warren wastes no time in trotting off to the Land of Nod where he is soon snoring loudly. Frank bides his time, relishing the thought of what he is about to do. He gives it until one o’clock then creeps from his pit, grabs Warren and throws him bodily across the room where he lands in a heap on the concrete, his legs at a funny angle. He then quickly gets back under his covers and feigns sleep.
Warren’s screams of pain wake up most of the wing. Two screws arrive on the scene and quickly rush off for help, which arrives in the form of one man and a stretcher. The lights have been switched on and Corporal Clot shakes Frank to waken him. ‘How did this happen?’ He demands to know. ‘Don’t ask me;’ says Frank in his best half-asleep voice, ‘what are you talking about? Who turned those lights on; can’t a man get any kip in this place?’
Warren’s badly damaged carcass is scraped off the floor and carried roughly down to the sick bay. ‘He must have fallen out of his bunk,’ says Clot, scratching his head. Frank sits up and rubs his eyes. ‘Did I hear a thud or was that in my dream? Look at that chair, it’s smashed to bits, did someone have a nightmare?’
The warders have a pretty good idea of what may have happened but it is just possible that Barry Warren simply fell out of his bunk and that’s what will go in the report. Anyway, the man won’t be causing any problems for a very long time from the look of him.
‘Of course, that’s it: ‘a tasty cold dish’ must be ‘revenge’. Frank will fill in the final answer in the morning.