A/N: I am going ON HIATUS until Season 12 is finished. As well as a general lack of inspiration, I already might have to rewrite the occasional chapter to fit in with... certain revelations concerning characters from Season 12 (you know who I mean if you're up to it) and I just don't want to have to rewrite around potentially more of these character reveals. Might write up some more hooker!AU or possibly some other AUs I've been pondering in the meantime, but Murderer's Row is on hold for a little while, at least.
Chapter One-Hundred and Fifty-Five: Rules
Once the prison had been put into lockdown, North and South joined Niner from where she was surveying the scene in the library.
Niner stood there, arms crossed, and stared down at the guard's corpse. Dellario, his name had been. Not a long-time guard, like some of the others. But he'd put enough service in for Niner to be familiar with him. Kind of whiny. Had a tendency to rattle on, and sometimes the other guards had a hard time keeping focus on patrol with him so she'd had a tendency to assign him to areas that required less guarding.
She shouldn't have done that.
South looked pissed off. She always looked pissed off, but particularly so. North looked blank. He'd been one of the few who could put up with Dellario's jabbering for a long time. He was apparently used to whinier guards, like a man named Phil who'd worked there before Niner's time. He'd been murdered, too.
"Did anyone see anything suspicious?" Niner asked.
"No-one saw shit," South muttered.
"He was... like this... when I got here to take over his shift," North added. "The only inmate who works in the library right now is Denzel, and he's still laid up in the hospital wing. No-one was here except him."
"Right. So he just dropped and beat himself to death."
"You know what I mean, Niner. If anyone saw who it was, they aren't coming forward."
Niner grunted in response, kneeling down near the body. His nightstick had been left near one of the shelves, like it'd been kicked away. An attempt to fight back had probably been made. It looked like he'd been beaten to death rather than shivved. "These incidents are all too close together. What do you think is going on?"
North shrugged. South frowned, looking at the body. Then she quietly muttered, "It's like a fuckin' war. First Wash, then a couple of dead inmates, then Dellario. Next it'll be more inmates. Then another guard, maybe more. It's fucked up is what it is. Did Wash ever get his shit together enough to say if there was anyone else that attacked him?"
"Apparently there was someone else, but he never saw their face or heard their voice. It's not much to go on," Niner said, still peering at the corpse.
"That's just great. Figures he can't remember, the dumbass."
"Hm." Niner straightened up again. "Okay. We can't keep the prison on lockdown 24/7, so we do the next best thing. We just have to be more strict on where they're allowed to go. No going to the toilet except at specific times, no leaving the cafeteria during meals, no leaving the yard during free time. No leaving their own cells once they're sent back to the cell blocks. No more libraries, no more television, no more anything until they prove they can behave themselves and we have the guards necessary to make sure no-one gets ganged on. Once we have more guards I want a through search of every single cell for weapons, drugs, whatever. Anyone caught with a weapon, with drugs, with anything, they go into solitary until everything's settled again."
"Visitor's day is tomorrow. What do we do about that?" North murmured. Niner had to consider it.
"...I don't want the people visiting to know how bad things are getting. Calling it off will cause relatives to start asking things. Relatives can be the worst... as long as you don't let anyone out of the sight of the guards—more than one guard at a time everywhere—it should be fine. But it gets any worse, we cancel those too.
"Announce the changes at breakfast tomorrow. Let them know they fucked up. ...But phrase it better."
The cafeteria was filled with a lot of grumbling once North had explained that there would be more restriction from now on due to 'unruly behavior.' What a way to phrase guard attacks. Once the announcement was over, Tucker just snorted bitterly.
"Sure, two of us get slaughtered in a cell and they don't put down restrictions, but a whiny guard goes down and security goes up like crazy."
"But how will I return my library book if there is no library?" Caboose asked quietly.
"We'll figure something out. Worst comes to worst, you'll have to keep the book for a while," Donut said gently, patting Caboose on the arm.
"But I am a good book-borrower with no late books," Caboose whined.
Donut patted him on the arm again before looking over at Grif. Grif had almost entirely ignored the announcement, and didn't seem particularly interested one way or the other in it. He also wouldn't look anywhere near Donut.
"You're not still embarrassed are you?" Donut sighed.
"It was an error of judgment and shit. You were taking advantage of the emotional and inebriated," Grif mumbled.
"Jesus, Donut," Church muttered, watching them both. "What'd you do, fuck him?"
"I cuddled him a bit, that's all."
"Oh." Church looked at Grif. "Don't be a baby."
Grif mumbled some more under his breath, pink in the face as he stuck a spoon into his cereal. Church rolled his eyes and glanced at Tucker, who had not commented on the proceedings. He was just pushing his food around on his plate and frowning to himself, paying little attention. Church frowned slightly at him. Tucker had been way too quiet since that Cunningham guy got killed and it was freaking him out.
He shrugged and looked over at Caboose, who as per usual was sorting his cereal into two piles for reasons unknown to all. Then at the person sitting next to him. He pointed at the man with his spoon.
"Who the fuck is that?"
"Yeah, I was kinda wondering about that," Donut admitted.
"My name is John Smith."
"And you're shadowing Caboose because...?"
"Study," Smith said promptly.
"...I'm just not gonna ask," Church grumbled.
Footsteps approached. It was North. He seemed to wear a deeper frown than normal, but so did all the other guards. At least North didn't look outright hostile like some of them did.
"Grif, sorry but your sister called. She said she had 'a job thing' and can't make it today."
"It's visitor's day?" Grif mumbled, rubbing his forehead. "I lost track of time."
Donut muttered about Grif riding rainbows under his breath. He received a warning glare from Grif and a puzzled glance from North.
"Donut, Caboose, you both have visitors."
"No," Caboose said.
"Yeah, it's the same guy as last ti—"
"He is mistaken," Caboose said shortly, not looking up front his cereal. "I do not want to see him."
Donut frowned at Caboose as well, but didn't say anything. Instead he just grabbed his orange juice and bread roll and followed North towards the visitor's room. Caboose continued sorting his cereal. Smith was watching with the expression of a well-engrossed student.
Church looked over at Tucker again. "No Junior?"
"He's got a thing," Tucker muttered. "I'll be seeing him soon anyway."
As usual, the mention of Tucker's potential parole made Church feel kind of grumpy. He shrugged it off this time, though. "So... what's up your ass, lately?"
"Nothing's up my ass. I'm up your ass."
"Goddammit, Tucker, this isn't a sex thing. No sex stuff in front of Caboose."
"I have learned to not listen to anything involving wrestling," Caboose chirped.
"It's good to know when to keep your ears open and when to pass on frivolous information," Smith said seriously. He sighed and added, "It's an ability I'd like. Sometimes tuning out Palomo is difficult."
Tucker made a little 'ugh' noise under his breath at Palomo's name. Focusing back on Church, he said, "Look, I basically got a dude killed. Forgive me if I'm not skipping around with joy."
"You've gotten people killed before. Or near close. I mean, you don't give a shit about tossing Donut into bad shit. Remember when you got his leg broken?"
"Hey, he scarred my face and nearly got you killed. Donut's a douchebag. And seriously, that was like fifteen years ago."
"Well, it's not the only time! What about Jones? Or Joannes?"
"Gee, you're right. It's not the first time. I guess that means by now I should be skipping about whenever I get someone killed," Tucker said bitterly.
"Oh, what's the big deal? People die all the time, especially in here."
"Ugh, whatever. I don't expect empathy from a guy whose known murders are in the double digits," Tucker grumbled.
"...Low blow, Tucker."
"Oh, so I should feel bad about that, but not about Cunningham."
"Ugh, forget I said anything."
"Be glad to. Asswipe."
"—and then we had this long discussion about which of the Disney princesses were better. Which no-one really won because I'm not exactly sure what Caboose was talking about because he seemed to think there was a princess who was dressed like a cowboy. And then I got totally distracted because I started thinking about cowboys. Anyway, how are you?"
Donut finished a half-an-hour long ramble about unimportant events. He didn't tell Mama Liz any of the scary stuff, like people turning up dead. That would just worry her. So he'd rambled on about the stuff he and Caboose had done or talked about instead.
Mama Liz didn't interrupt much. Before prison, it used to be that any long conversation between the two of them turned into both of them cheerfully rambling at different intervals, but she was quieter nowadays. Not silent. Just quieter.
"Same old, same old."
"Have you been getting out of the house?"
"Yes, I have. Who's mothering who here?"
"I learned from the best. What about that lady who's living in the apartment below yours? That go well? Am I getting a new mother?"
"Not in the foreseeable future, crumbcake."
"Okay, okay. I just worry, that's all."
"Well, don't. You're the one locked up with a pile of hooligans. You wouldn't want me prying into your dating options, would you?"
"I don't mind. They're pretty non-existent."
"Well, just five more years, right?" Mama Liz said, smiling at him.
"Five more years minimum," Donut corrected her. "I mean, I'm well-behaved. I'll probably get out then."
There was some more chitter-chatter, though lighter now that Donut had got a half-hour-long ramble off his chest. At one point, Donut's attention briefly wandered. He looked at the now-nearly-empty visitor's room. There was a man sitting in the corner of it, fidgeting with his fingers.
He attracted Donut's attention for a very specific reason. He was the spitting image of an older Caboose.
Mama Liz glanced over to where Donut was staring and pulled a face. "Eugh, crumbcake, just because your options in there are slim doesn't mean you have to ogle any man you see. Especially not that one."
"Motherrrr. I'm not sixteen, I don't ogle every guy. What's wrong with him, though? Specifically?"
"He's been sitting there for hours. He's mostly been passing the time hitting on anything that passes by, provided they have no Y-chromosome." She pulled another face. "Seriously, why?"
"...Okay, normally I'd never ask something like this and I swear I'm not shunning your presence. But I need to talk to that dude. And no, before you ask, it's not for flirting. I have class. It's for a friend."
Mama Liz frowned, but nodded. "If that's what you want."
A minute later, the man was seated in front of Donut, looking very confused.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Are you related to Caboose?" Donut asked. The man's face lit up immediately and he leaned forward. The resemblance to Caboose was all the more apparent as he smiled.
"You know Michael? Yeah, I'm his dad. Can you get him to come out here? I've been waiting for hours."
Hearing someone call Caboose 'Michael' was all manner of bizarre to Donut. Donut leaned back on his chair, eying Caboose's father with suspicion. The only time he could recall Caboose mentioning his birth father was saying that 'he was like Tucker.' Not a ringing endorsement.
"Well, I mean... I could try," Donut said doubtfully. "But he didn't seem interested."
"Is he still mad at me? It's been almost twenty years! God, he's grudgey. Takes after his mother. You dump a woman for being too serious and they never let it go." He scowled and crossed his arms. "I don't even know why he was mad to begin with. All I did was peek a bit at his scars. Uh... so who are you?"
"Oh. My name's Donut. I'm Caboose's best friend forever, as well as cellmate."
"...Are you banging my son? Because so help me, if you have made him your prison bitch—"
"No. No! Don't be ridiculous, I'd get crushed. Why does everyone think I'm fucking people today? Also ew, don't phrase it like that. No, we're just the regular kind of BFFs. Not the 'no homo but actually homo' kind like Church and Tucker. I mean, yeah, I like dudes, but—"
"Alright, ease up on the jibber jabber, Sprinkles."
"Right. Anyway, can you tell him to come out here?"
Donut rocked on his chair for a moment before leaning forward. "You want to see him?"
"Of course I do, he's my kid. Only kid that I know of. I mean, I could have more, I tried checking with old girlfriends but I can't remember all of their names."
"You don't have issue with the fact that he killed his mother?"
Caboose's father pulled a face. "Well, I can't say I'm happy about it. But honestly, I barely knew her and I'm sure it was..." He waved his hand absently. "I want to say a misunderstanding but that doesn't really explain the cops he killed. Or the stripper. The point is, mistakes were made."
"...Caboose killed a stripper? And cops?" Wow, did that not gel with what Donut knew about Caboose. He felt like he wanted to forget about hearing it. He quickly added, "Nevermind, I don't want to hear. So... why now? Why you turning up now and not seventeen years ago? He's been pretty lonely, y'know."
"Ah, well, you know how it is. Missed opportunities. Maybe I wasn't the best dad. Maybe I want to give it another shot."
"...And if he doesn't want to see you?"
"Why wouldn't he want to see me? I'm his dad! ...I'm sure he's just shy or something. He was always quiet."
That also didn't sound like Caboose. Donut had the odd sense that they were talking about two different people.
There was something about Caboose's father that just kind of grated on Donut in general. Maybe because he automatically disapproved of anyone who his mother disapproved of. Maybe it was the callous attitude regarding the fact that Caboose had murdered his mother. Maybe it was some other reason.
But this annoying guy was Caboose's family. The only member of Caboose's family that was trying to talk to him. And Donut had a soft spot for family matters.
"Lemme finish talking to my mother. Then I'll go find him and try to talk him into seeing you."
"Thanks, Sprinkles. Means a lot to me. Hell, even if you are tight with my son I might be okay with that. I mean, suppose he's gotta take what he can get."