The Drug Trafficker

‘I’ll sue you, and I’ll sue your newspaper,’ hissed Frank, leaning his gaunt face close enough for me to smell his sulphurous prison breath.

Frank was a commanding presence, and a threatening one, as he thrashed out his terms. He was clarifying how he would respond if I used his real name. This was no great surprise. Unless he escaped or bribed his way out ahead of his scheduled sentence – many former associates on both sides of the wall would rather he kept his insights to himself.

The Colombian gang, for example, who the previous week had stabbed, minced, and set fire to a prisoner in a neighbouring cell during some periodic riots. I saw the stringy detritus of the victim’s genitalia nailed above the door of the next-door cell – a grisly example of internal criminal justice. Their previous owner made the mistake of ‘cutting’ a fellow inmate with a strong support network. This superficial ‘hit’ perhaps netted him $10. In response for this outrage, the victim wanted bloody revenge, rather than counselling.

The knifeman must have been desperate or desperately ignorant, Frank reasoned, as the Colombian was left alive as well as being one of the more influential residents. The last Frank saw of his neighbour was of him being surrounded by a gang of men circling him silently with the grim intent of Shakespearian villains. Frank closed his cell door before half a dozen crudely-fashioned blades swooped fatally down upon their target.