In Chains

By Rosalind 

As prisons went, it was not so very bad. It was well kept, and the food was good and regular and he had a cell to himself with a clean mattress and blankets-and as long as he minded his manners and his mouth, he need not get hurt. They worked him hard-but he didn't mind that. He was getting used to it. He was getting used to his jailers as well. Some of them would even smile and be quite pleasant. The man in charge was the one to be wary of though. He was a hard man with a difficult enough job to do and he did it well--but he was not wholly to be trusted--and if he wanted to hurt a man--as he had done today--he did that well too.

But he couldn't really complain now could he. It was as neat a trap as had ever been set--and he had walked right into it. Sometimes it made him laugh and sometimes it made him mad--and sometimes--when there was absolutely no-one around, it made him cry, to think how easily they had caught him. Mr Oh-so-clever Johnny Madrid. His instincts had failed him badly-just the once--and here he was. For the rest of his life. He had tried to escape in the beginning-twice in fact--and the penalty for re-capture had been overwhelming. He didn't think he could handle it again.

So-here he was-learning to submit to orders-learning to guard his temper-learning to hold his tongue. His tongue and his temper--they got him into so much trouble that it wasn't true. It was why he was sitting here now, on his own, in the dark, with nothing but his thoughts to keep him company. But it wasn't so bad, being on his own. Dammit--hadn't he always been on his own--and he was a big boy now-no need to be afraid of the dark --and he knew that he wouldn't be left like this for long. Thats not how it worked here.

He was tired. He had done his days work and been well-fed--and then for no real reason that he could see, the man in charge had started on him. Hurting him yet again--but never telling him why.  Perhaps if someone could tell him why he might be able to do something about it. Perhaps though, there was no why. Perhaps it was just him. Something he would just have to put up with. Something he simply deserved. A punishment for the things he had done-and the things he had not done. Something he simply could not do anything about. Something he would just have to put up with.

Someone was coming. He had been left on his own in the dark for long enough. It wasn't the man in charge. He wouldn't come himself. In a way he wished that he would-and just get it over with-but that wasn't how he worked it. Having hurt him-he would now ignore him-until the next time. It would be the other one that would come to him now. The younger one. The
one that didn't seem to want to hurt him--in fact never had hurt him. A kind and decent sort of man really. A bit out of his depth perhaps--still learning his job--but one day he would be the man in charge and he would do it well too. Perhaps--by then, Madrid might have learnt to mind his tongue and his temper and it might be easier.

Resignedly he came to his feet. Ready to obey the very reasonable instructions he was about to receive. The younger 'jailer' didn't give orders. He made requests-but he made them with a hint of steel that just had to be respected. Madrid could give respect-where it was due.

The door was opened and the moonlight flooded into the dark barn.

'He's gone to bed--you can come back in now'.

'Thanks' Johnny managed a crooked grin and meekly he accompanied his brother back into the house.

There was no escape for him, now. He knew and accepted that. He was doomed.

All he could do was gather up the invisible shackles of love that had somehow managed to wrap themselves about his heart and try to accept the fact that this 'prison' was where he truly belonged.



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