How to Save a Twin
There were tons of crazy shit that arrived in the mail. Fan mail. Fucking crazy. There were women out there who wanted to marry them. The brothers tossed those letters aside first. There were letters of support; people telling their horror stories about things that had been done to them by the evil men in the world and saying how they felt safer when the brothers had been out on the streets. There were letters from journalists asking for interviews. There was hate mail.
And then there was a letter from their cousin Brianna. They didn't have a cousin Brianna. She wrote about how the last time she'd seen them she hadn't had a chance to say goodbye, and that she had good news this time, the baby would be born in seven months.
"It's a code." Connor said.
Murphy looked at the letter carefully. "It's just another nutcase."
It was a stupid code, but it was clear, at least to Connor. There were plans in the works.
"Next thing you know you're going to sell our story to some tv movie of the week or something." Murphy scoffed.
But Connor knew.
This place wasn't good for either of them. Neither of them could survive in here for twenty years like their father did, but Connor was especially worried for Murphy. The guards were mostly decent; both of them already knew who could be trusted and who was in the mob's pocket. Not even all the inmates were against them, but there were plenty who were. For that reason alone they were allowed to stay together. There had been talk at first about sending them to different facilities, but everyone knew separation would be as good as a death sentence for both brothers.
Even so, all it took was a broom stick wedged through the handles of the kitchen door. Connor was locked in the kitchen. Five men surrounded Murphy. Connor beat the door bloody by the time the guards arrived. Murphy put up a strong fight and took two of the men down, but he couldn't keep it up against all of them. Connor watched his brother fall, and he watched the blood start to pool on the floor. The guards broke up the fight. Murphy wasn't moving.
It didn't matter that he'd been defending himself. Rules were rules. After a brief stay in the infirmary, Murphy was moved to solitaire for a week as punishment for fighting. The five other men who'd been involved received the same penalty.
On the morning of the eighth day Connor woke up to the bars of his cell sliding open, and Murphy walked in with his head down. With a loud clang the door slid shut.
Murphy sat beside Connor on the bed close enough that their knees touched.
"Hey." Connor said. Murphy looked up but didn't otherwise react. The last time Connor had seen his brother was through the small glass pane of the kitchen doors.
The bruises were already fading but the shadows under his brother's eyes told a whole other story. He put a hand on Murphy's back. "You okay?" Connor asked.
Murphy nodded. The look Connor saw in his brother's eyes chilled him to the bone. He'd never seen his brother look so hardened.
The day passed like any other. They ate, they worked, they went outside for their brief yard time, and ate again. Each time they walked near one of the men who'd participated in Murphy's beating, Murphy's eyes narrowed and took on the same look as earlier.
That night in their cell, Connor waited for Murphy to say something to him. He didn't have to wait long.
"They told me you were next." Murphy whispered. "I told them if anyone tries, I'm killing every last one of them."
They weren't going to make it another seven months. Connor had no doubt he and his brother would survive just fine, it was the light in Murphy that Connor was afraid for. It was the hope, gentleness, enthusiasm for life, and everything Connor loved about his brother that was at risk of being snuffed out.
He also knew how to save his brother. Connor said softly. "I don't think I can do this."
"Did something happen while I was gone?"
"No, Murph, nothing happened."
"We'll be okay." Murphy assured him. "What about that letter? The one from cousin Brianna? Seven months, right?"
"I thought you didn't believe that."
"There might be something to it. Maybe." Murphy allowed.
All their lives they followed the same cycle; if one twin was weak, the other stayed strong. Connor knew, the only way he could save Murphy was to make Murphy save him.
"It isn't that long, Conn." Murphy promised. They both knew it was long enough for a whole world of bad things to happen, but together they would get through it just like they did everything. Connor would make sure of it.