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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 33
A Human Cockfight

What was giveth was now taketh.


Billy used to meet privately with Director Carson in his office. Now the Director ignored
him, despite his repeated requests for a meeting “to clear things up and restore order.”
Guards seized his McArthur Library card, tore it up in front of him and tossed it in the
trash.
He was denied anything to read: no newspapers, no magazines, no books, no print. With
classes canceled, there was no reading aloud to other inmates and no discussing papers
with David Weatherall. His little intellectual flame was doused.
The print blackout had one plus. He didn't read the story about the day room stabbing that
appeared in the Sentinel. Mostly a straight reprint from a press release issued by the
Department of Corrections, and featured on the front page, this was the story in full:

Fatal Stabbing Involving Billy Stone


One student was fatally stabbed and six injured yesterday at Granite City
School in a day room altercation involving the former juvenile fugitive Billy
Stone, Director William Carson announced today.
Director Carson said: “A preliminary investigation indicates that the
altercation began with an argument involving Billy Stone and quickly
escalated into a fatal stabbing with a weapon hand-fashioned from a piece
of pipe stolen from a school repair site. School officers responded quickly
and restored order, preventing further injuries. The identity of the victim is
being withheld pending notification of the family. Steps have been taken to
tighten security and discipline throughout the school in order to prevent
such an incident from occurring in the future.”
Lt. Andrew McIver and Sgt. Michael Milberry of the Fairview Homicide
Department are investigating. Stone, 15, is the highly-publicized juvenile
fugitive who managed to stay at-large for months until his capture six
months ago. He is being held at Granite City School with charges pending
for assault, attempted homicide, discharge of an unlicensed weapon and
sale and use of illegal drugs. The investigation is continuing.
***
Here was the brutal downside to celebrityhood. Billy's name was the featured attraction
in a PR handout about a stabbing he had been too late to stop. The Sentinel provided
helpful background, dutifully dragging up damning false information from the past and
fueling speculation about Billy Stone's involvement in a murder.
Faced with a similar public relations disaster, adult celebrities with money would sic their
public relations hounds on the problem. There would be a furious display of fangs,
wealth, power, press releases, media set-ups and expensive lawyers; every manner of
counter-attack short of storming newspaper and TV offices. Their side of the story would
be heard.
The prisoner Billy Stone, without public relations counsel, lawyer, family, money, or
power was, in effect, denied a reply of any kind by default. He had given a written
statement to Lt. McIver and Sgt. Milberry, but it could be safely ignored -- and was. As
far as the world knew, his statement did not exist and never existed. No such fate befell
the Department of Corrections PR handout. It birthed a bouncy new lie bawling, Billy
Stone is a murderer!
This became instant public truth.
***
Immediately after the stabbing, the screws tightened at Granite City. This always
happened after an “incident.” At Granite City, as we have seen, there are two parallel
power structures: the official one and the one made up of inmates. In normal times,
Granite City is largely run by the inmates; after incidents, administration reverts to the
official structure. It is a natural cycle at Granite City School, as regular as the changing of
seasons.
Having clawed his way to the top of the inmate power structure, Billy Stone was the most
important day-to-day authority at Granite City School at the time of the day room
stabbing and brawl. But with the incident, Billy's authority evaporated and he came under
attack from two fronts -- inmates and guards. Carson and his staff blamed him for letting
inmates get out of control. Inmates blamed him for the lockdown and the retribution that
followed.
Billy blamed no one but himself. He had been perilously disengaged; in military terms,
he had been AWOL. Instead of attending to duty, he had been self-obsessing. Instead of
keeping his nose to the political winds, he had it stuck in Les Miserables and several
other books. Instead of summoning the new inmate, Roger Stansky --your standard
ignorant thug --and reading him the riot act as he normally did with new guys; he was
conducting dialogues with Thomas Payne, Napoleon and Victor Hugo.
Worst of all, while his position slipped, he had been throwing all his energies down a
ridiculous blind alley: trying to write a book -- and all he had done was produce two
chapters of drivel.
Damn Seymour Silverman!
He took his two sample chapters, tore them into little pieces, threw them on the floor and
stomped on them.
Thank God for Sister Francis Helen!
She was an angel of mercy, rescuing him from further authorial, ego-lacerating hell.
Thank you, Sister!
***
One of Billy's privileges as inmate leader was a cell to himself. That was to change
imminently. The news that he was to receive a cellmate had been delivered to him by a
delegation of the two senior guards, House and Hawkeye, though they neglected to tell
Billy whom the new roommate would be.
“It's a surprise,” said House.
As they gave him the news, each wore a look that no inmate ever wanted to see -- of
satisfaction. Carson, always the delegator, had left the decision on Billy's Stone's new
cellmate in the hands of his senior guards.
Their choice? None other than Roger Stansky, fresh from the slaughter of Julio de Cruz.
From the point of view of Granite City School, the choice was an inspired one. They
were two dispensable inmates. The loss of either would be a big plus. If both bit the big
one -- the best-case scenario -- two trouble-makers would be out of the way.
No tears would be shed within Granite City or without. Nor would there be a big, time-
consuming, paper-filled investigation. What would there be to investigate? Two inmates
had killed each other. What could be simpler? Who out there would want an investigation
of an open-and-shut case?
The Sentinel would run an upbeat story saying that the notorious Billy Stone had struck
again, but this time had miscalculated, and had gotten his, too. There would be a great
feeling of relief throughout the community that Billy Stone had finally come to a richly-
deserved end.
Yes, House and Hawkeye saw much to like about Billy Stone and Roger Stansky sharing
a cell. Besides being good for the school, it could also be entertaining and profitable. As
soon as the Stone-Stansky match-up was decided upon, Granite City guards placed their
bets.
***
The odds were 70-30 in favor of Stansky. Though the two were about equal in height and
weight, the house saw Stansky as having more of a killer instinct. The house, meaning
House and Hawkeye, would take a hefty twenty-five percent of the amount bet plus
anything they could make on side-bets.
Interest was high and the betting brisk.
Counting piles of money in the guard's break room, House and Hawkeye discussed the
upcoming contest. House said, “Stansky will head-butt him, gouge his eyes out and have
him strangled in two minutes flat. It ain't gonna be no contest.”
“I think you're right,” said Hawkeye. “But I think Stone will hang in there longer. Say
what you want, I don't think he's one to go down quick or easy. I bet if Stansky don't
finish him off quick, Stone makes a contest of it. Could even win.”
House peeled off a twenty-dollar bill.
“Twenty on Stansky, even money, put up or shut up.”
“No odds?”
“Why should I give you odds when you just told me Stone's gonna win? Whaddya think,
you got a mark here or something? Do you believe in your guy or no?”
Hawkeye put two tens on the table. House scooped the bills up and tucked them in an
envelope and planted a loud kiss on it.
“Ah, I'm gonna have me one helluva weekend!”
Hawkeye had a sinking feeling that he had just thrown twenty bucks down the toilet.
Director Carson locked up his office and left for the day. The two guards heard the door
locking behind him and his car pulling away. They looked at the clock on the wall. It was
5:03 P.M. One thing about Carson, he was punctual. As the small night shift came on, the
day guards filed out, winking and fist-pumping.
“Stansky, yeah baby.”
“Go Stansky!”
“Stansky, yes!”
“I got a feeling. Stansky!”
“Yeah! Stansky's da man!”.
Hawkeye got an attack of bettor's remorse. House felt twenty bucks richer -- and he was
still making side bets.
They took the bets of the night shift.
“Well,” said House with a big smile, “shall the games begin?”
***
They escorted Stansky to Billy's cell. Billy was listening to the Mozart hour on the radio.
(The guards had neglected to take it away from him, having been told to take all the
printed matter. The radio was not printed matter. Ordinarily not a fan of literal-
mindedness, Billy had felt an onrush of tenderness toward it.)
When Billy saw Stansky, his face went ghostly. His body contracted into itself, like that
of an old man beginning the process of death. Standing there in the middle of the cell, he
felt the chill presence of death. He never thought it would end this way. He never
expected to see it coming. He always figured it would be a shank in the back.
“Back up,” said House.
He and Hawkeye opened the cell door and brought Stansky into the cell. Stansky stood
smirking murderously at Billy as the guards removed his cuffs and leg restraints. The
guards backed out and locked the cell door.
“Now you two behave yourselves,” said House.
“Yeah, we don't want no trouble from you two,” said Hawkeye.
The two guards left, leaving Billy and Stansky alone in the cell.
Stansky, shaved bald, with a drooping black moustache and scraggly goatee, had a
weightlifter's squat, muscular build. On his forehead was a little blue swastika. He had
death heads tattooed on both shoulders. He assumed a fighting stance: legs apart and
slightly bent; palms up, open, and flared. His blue eyes blazed.
“______ snitch,” he snarled.
“Look, Roger,” Billy said, “I'm ready to check out of this rotten world. I'm going to make
it easy for you. I just ask one thing.”
Stansky blinked.
“Before you finish me off, just let me hear the end of this piece, as a sort of last request.
Even the state grants a last request before they execute somebody. Okay, man? I'll just
turn it up a little, okay? If this is going to be the last time I'm going to hear Mozart on this
earth, I want to be able to hear it. Then you take me out. Deal?”
A veil of perplexity fell over Stansky's face. He straightened, but said nothing. He stared
at his strange opponent. Very slowly, Billy reached and turned up the radio. It was a
beautiful, lilting aria from Mozart's “Don Giovanni.” While the two prisoners stood in the
middle of the cell facing each other, the glorious notes of Mozart filled the desperate little
space, enveloping the deadly foes, and having the effect of turning whatever was to come
into something approved of God.
“Beautiful,” said Billy. “Thank you, Mr. Caulfield for the gift of Mozart. Thank you for
loving me as a son. And thank you, Roger, for being the agent of my release from all this
earthly misery.”
“Huh?” said Stansky.
***
Meanwhile, down the corridor the strains of Mozart were reaching the ears of House and
Hawkeye.
“Maybe they're just trying to get in the mood,” said House.
“Or maybe my guy is trying to bore your guy to death with that God-awful, lock-jawed
opera crap,” said Hawkeye.
Smiling, House said, “Or maybe your guy is already finished with a broken neck. Snap,
that's all it takes and you're a rag doll.”
“Or maybe they're gettin' it on and dancin' cheek to cheek,” said Hawkeye, laughing.
“Forget it,” said House.
The sweet strains of Mozart went on. House drummed his fingers on the table. He looked
at his watch. “It's been almost five minutes,” he said. “Should we go see?”
“Nah, let's give them a little longer,” said Hawkeye.
They waited. And waited. House kept looking at his watch. The two guards squirmed in
their seats. Stone and Stansky had been in there nearly ten minutes.
Suddenly, the sound of a great crash came from the direction of Billy's cell. It was
followed by another and another. Two voices yelled, screamed, cursed, gasped, groaned.
Then rapid-fire banging.
“Whew. Somebody's head against a wall,” said House happily. “Your guy's.”
“Probably,” said Hawkeye, glumly.
The sounds coming from Billy's cell were fearsome: bloodcurdling screams of pain,
desperate pleadings, horrifying cries and such crashing and banging that both House and
Hawkeye put their fingers in their ears.
“My guy is putting up a fight,” Hawkeye said, hopefully.
“Yeah, but he won't last much longer,” said House.
The unholy racket didn't stop; it grew in intensity. “Hey, we could have a tie here,” said
Hawkeye, brightening.
“Not a chance,” House said. “Stone's gone. Stansky's probably throwing his body around
the cell just for the fun of it.”
Hawkeye frowned. “Jeez, we might have a real mess to clean up.”
“Nah, we make Stansky clean it up. We tell him, 'You made the mess, you clean it up'.”
Then everything stopped -- except the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“It's over,” said House. “Let's go.”
They hustled down the corridor to the cell. Looking in, House whistled softly and said,
“Well, would you look at that? Looks like we got ourselves a tie!”
Hawkeye, pumping a fist, said, “Yes!”