A Sample From

"Doin' Time In The Blue Shadows"

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For prisoners, transport began with chains. She waited her turn in line like the rest. When the warders got to her, they shackled her feet, made her pull up her shirtwaist so they could put a waist chain around her and cuffed her hands to it behind her back. Sally didn't mind that so much, though having her hands cuffed behind her back got tiresome after a time.

It was the hood she hated. She understood the reason for it. Having prisoners working outside who were easily identifiable was asking for trouble, everything from rescue attempts to revenge by former victims or their friends and lovers.

Still, she hated the feel of the leather hood being dragged down over her hair, hated the feel of the zipper in back pulling the hood tight over her features, and hated the way they always seemed to catch on her hair at least once as they zipped up.

She also hated not being able to see. The hood buckled under her chin, leaving only her nostrils, mouth and chin exposed.. After the hood was in place, a guard would push the built in rubber ball gag into her mouth and buckle it tight, then snap the leather cover that concealed the ball gag and her chin, leaving only her nostrils exposed.

The smell of the hood was pretty awful too. Old drool. Yech. The hoods went through the prison laundry every day, but somehow the smell never seemed to go away. At least the laundering kept the smell down to a minimum. Otherwise, the clients might complain, and the cons all knew that that was what really mattered.

With her head sealed, her hands cuffed and her ankles shackled, Sally was ready for transport. She knew the route as a blind person does -- a certain number of steps here, where the texture changes because it's a stairwell so left and up two flights of stairs, one nine steps and one eleven steps. Then right and step down a doorway and outside. Turn left and walk until the guards tell you to stop -- you're at the bus.

Guards were ready at ever stop and turn to make sure the prisoners didn't trip and fall. Nobody was much worried about unassisted escapes, under the circumstances.

The guards led you to the bus and seated you, and you sat next to whoever they sat you next to. Then the long ride out of the prison to the city, in almost complete silence, in the bus whose windows were screened in from the time when prisoners rode unfettered and able to see. Now the screens served the purpose of concealing the vaguely disturbing sight of a busload of hooded women trundling down the street.

Although the bus was silent because all the prisoners were gagged and the guards untalkative, there were many conversations going on. The prisoners had developed "gag talk" a way of communicating by touch. They would (preferably) hold hands and tap messages into one anothers' palms with their fingers, using a simple code akin to Morse. It could also be managed by tapping one anothers' shoulders, sides or legs.

The guards pretty much knew what they were doing but tolerated it. The rules called for silence -- they had that. If the prisoners wanted to tap at one another, so be it. If the brass wanted that stopped, there had to be a rule against it.

So Sally learned that her seatmate was Nekija from Cell 47c, and that she worked in the Velvet Fox. They yakked companionably for awhile about the food and the carryings-on of other cons and the guards, until the bus stopped at the Blue Shadows and it was time to let them out.

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