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The tinny ping of rain on the metal roof draws Michael out of an uneven sleep. It’s morning in the beat-up shack they’re calling home this week, surprisingly quiet aside from the rain given who all’s there.

Michael and Lincoln bed down in the closest thing to a living room, huddled up together in moth-eaten woolen blankets and barely moving during the night. A chewed-up vinyl floor actually is worse than the ground, Michael’s decided. They sleep on their backs against the dull ache of bones trapped against a hard surface. There’s a mattress in the back room where T-Bag sleeps, but this spot is right next to the door and the car is just outside. The slightest noise will wake one of them, in this ongoing battle against treachery.

The other three are across the main room, though sometimes Abruzzi keeps watch on T-Bag’s door. Michael’s not sure who’s more dangerous— the cool sociopathic Mafioso who rationalizes everything (Michael wonders what he finally did with those toes), or the half-loony sociopath who’d happily slice you neck to navel just to watch you bleed. They’re a matched set, these two, both unrepentant animals who wait for the arrival of their newest prey.

They’d gotten into it last night, somewhere in the dark where the others could only hear. “Simmer down!” Abruzzi had yelled out, and “I’m not the one getting’ all riled up here, John.”

Abruzzi had produced a pair of handcuffs from who-knew where, and soon T-Bag was locked up around the base of the sink. Abruzzi had cackled for the next half-hour while the others shifted uneasily in their makeshift beds.

“I thought we were getting rid of these guys,” Lincoln had muttered.

“That was the plan,” Michael had answered. “But they just won’t leave!"

So they’re stuck now, all of them together. Like a nest of vipers, they all lie coiled around each other’s space waiting for one of them to make the wrong move.

Michael’s eyes drift open again in the dimly lit room. He’s half-lying on Lincoln, which is cheating since Lincoln doesn’t have anything to use as a pillow. They could trade off, though Lincoln outweighs him by nearly fifty pounds. But Lincoln doesn’t seem bothered by Michael getting the better part of the deal.

Michael feels groggy and stupid, feels like he’s coming down with the flu. He doesn’t want to get up—maybe not even anytime today—and all he can do is grumble when Lincoln slips out from under him. He burrows under the blanket to shut out the light, and tries to sleep off the aches and chills before everyone else is up and moving around.

He wakes up in the middle of a conversation, muddled sounds coming in from the kitchen.

“Anyone hungry besides me?”

“I could eat the hind end off a buzzard right now.”

“Well it’s raining today, so we can’t cook anything over a fire outside,” Lincoln says.

“We could build one in the sink right here. Use coat-hangers to roast the meat,” Abruzzi suggests.

“And what happens when we need to use the sink for real?” Lincoln asks.

There are some mumbling sounds then, nothing more.

“Best to go into town. We’ll be needin’ supplies for the days ahead.”

“We already went to the store earlier this week. Every time we go out in public is just another chance to get caught. We’ve got to keep from being noticed.” Michael’s proud of Lincoln’s reasoning. He couldn’t have said it better himself.

“Well now, no-one said we had to show up looking like ourselves. I could work up something a little more girlish. Nothing like that feminine touch…”

“Far from what I meant,” Lincoln says, “But I guess it works anyway.”

Wait, what? Michael thinks.

“One of you others could go with me, dressed as a farmer for lookout. Wait there outside the store in the shadows, and if something happens just holler out ‘May Belle! Mama’s coming in thirty minutes!’”

Oh, this is getting more ridiculous by the second. Michael tries to speak up, but the words won’t come.

“All we need is ten dollars and a map of the grocery store,” C-Note adds reasonably.

The lunacy unfolds, drifting in and out of Michael’s feverish head.

This is why I never let other people do the planning, Michael thinks. But he just can’t stop the train-wreck momentum of the stupidity in the other room.

Stop! He struggles to sit up.

“Stop,” he says to the darkness of his cell.

Nrrghnnn" Sucre moans overhead. It’s hours until the guards will come again.

Michael feels a moment of sharp relief. He’s still in charge—everything is still under his own control.

In the next second, that thought completes as it flows to its logical conclusion.

He’s still in Fox River because they have yet to bring off the escape.

Suddenly the chaos of his dream is a choice worth embracing, if it means they’re on the outside instead of waiting on an unproven chance.

 

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