FREE READ: 'Hard Time' a short story by Roger A. Price.

© Roger A Price 2016

Roger A Price has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

First published 2016 by Roger A. Price.

     ‘I’ll remind you inspector that you are talking to the deputy governor of this prison and not one of your DCs,’ Small said.
     ‘Oh, I’m glad you pointed that out, I’d have never had known, thanks,’ Vinnie Palmer replied.
     ‘You’ve not been in central Manchester CID for too long have you?’
     ‘If you mean the A division, no, but I don’t see what that’s got to do with the matter in hand.’
     ‘I have a very good working relationship with Eric, the uniform super at your nick.’
     Now Vinnie’s blood was really up. He wondered how long it would take this spineless desk-jockey to try a stunt. ‘I’m glad you added “working”; as he’s a married man you know,’ Vinnie said, immediately regretting the remark.
     ‘Now look here—’ Small started.
     With his hands in the air, Vinnie interrupted, ‘Ok, the last jibe was a cheap shot, but quite frankly you asked for it. Let’s agree to disagree.’
     ‘About what?’
     ‘About the fact that we don’t like each other; but that aside, let’s get back to the matter in hand.’
     ‘Ok, but I don’t see what more my officers could have done.’
     Vinnie didn’t particularly have an issue with the over-worked prison officers at the prison; he was more troubled by what he saw as a lack of strategy and poor leadership at the senior level. If he was going to make any progress, he knew he would have to soften his approach. ‘Look, I’m not here to cause you unnecessary problems, and I know the problem with overcrowding is—’
     ‘My turn to interrupt you,’ Small said, continuing, ‘you have no idea the difficulties we face on a daily basis. We put that lad in with Crayton for just one night; he was to be moved into a more appropriate cell the following day.’
     Vinnie knew that they had managed to find a place on the segregation wing for Crayton, soon enough after the incident, and voiced his thoughts, adding, ‘Why couldn’t you have put Crayton on segregation for one night prior to, instead?’
     ‘We try and run this place mainly by consent, if we’d had moved Crayton as you suggest, he’d have kicked off, big time. And he gave his personal officer an assurance that he would leave the lad alone.’
     ‘Well, we both know how that ended up. Funny a con not keeping his word.’
     Vinnie could see that Small – whom he thought had a very apt name, even though he was tall – about to erupt again, so he threw his arms up for a second time. He knew he was being disrespectful, but the number of times the prisons called in the police to investigate offences, of which, most could have been avoided, seemed to be on the rise. Plus, his heart went out to the victim, who should never have been imprisoned in the first place, not that he could blame Small for that.
     The lad in question just loved his cars; or to be more accurate; other peoples. He was a serial joy-rider who at eighteen probably thought he would only get another slap on the wrist. But the local magistrate had clearly lost patience with him, and on his fifth conviction for taking someone else’s pride and joy for a spin, he sent him down. He must have thought his world had come to an end when he received an eight week sentence. Which in real terms only meant four weeks; but to an eighteen-year old, who’d never been locked up before it must have come as a great shock. But not as much as the shock of meeting his new cellmate on the first night of his incarceration.
     Crayton was a lifer, who had been sentenced many years ago to serve a minimum of twenty-five years for a double-murder. His earliest release date kept getting put back due to his fondest of sexually assaulting fellow inmates. So, to put an eighteen year old vulnerable first-timer in with him must have seemed like all his birthdays come at once, for Crayton, that is. And the youth’s worst nightmare.
     The poor lad had only been in the cell for ninety minutes before Crayton had pounced. What had particularly bothered Vinnie was the lad’s apparent mental state when he’d interviewed him. He was terrified and not in a good place, whereas the monster that was Crayton, wasn’t bothered in the slightest. All he’d said on interview was that the act had been consensual. One word against the other. In fact, it wasn’t even that. The lad had clearly been got at, he’d told Vinnie what had happened, but refused to sign a statement of complaint. Vinnie couldn’t really blame him, so that was that, job knackered. All Vinnie could hope to achieve was to try and ensure that the same mistakes weren’t repeated, which was why he purposely set about Deputy Governor Small in the way he had.   
     ‘I hope you’ve got him on suicide watch?’
     ‘But of course, fifteen minute checks.’
     ‘Where is Crayton?’
     ‘Still in segregation but we’ve padded him up with someone else in there.’
     ‘I hope he’s not another vulnerable eighteen year old first-timer?’
     ‘Far from it. Another lifer called Daniel Moxley; and before you ask; he’s worse than Crayton.’
     This didn’t paint a pleasant thought in Vinnie’s mind, but it sounded as if he’d got some of his point across, he thought, before saying, ‘You know I’ll have to file a report to the home office?’
     ‘What will it say?’
     ‘I’d like to be able to say that such a similar miss-matching of inmates in the same cell will never happen again.’
     Small just nodded.
     ‘And that Crayton will remain on seg for the foreseeable future.’
     Small nodded again.
     ‘And that the youth will be moved immediately to a Cat C prison.’
     Small sighed this time and then said, ‘As of tomorrow. Is that soon enough?’
     It was Vinnie’s turn to nod now, and then he added, ‘I’ll also then be able to add that I’m satisfied that senior management have put sufficient policies in place to prevent any further crimes of this nature occurring in such circumstances.’
     They both nodded this time and Vinnie knew the meeting was over, he’d pretty much got what he’d hoped to achieve, no point in aggravating Small more than he needed to. He bade his farewell and headed towards the door out of the deputy governor’s office. As he reached it, he stopped and turned back towards, Small, and said, ‘You said this Moxley you’ve padded Crayton up with is of similar ilk.’
     ‘Worse,’ Small replied.
     ‘And should anything go off between them, then I guess they would probably deserve it, whichever way around it was to happen.’
     ‘Both scum.’
     ‘Granted, but shouldn’t we be better than that? Instead of fostering an environment which promotes this sort of abuse, albeit between “scum” as you put it; shouldn’t you keep both men separate?”
     ‘Goodbye inspector, you’d do well to stick to the issue in hand and let me worry about running this place.’
     Vinnie realised he gone as far as he could expect to with Small, but felt duty-bound to make his observations known to Small, nonetheless. ‘One last thing?’
     ‘What?’ Small snapped.
     ‘Have you arranged any support for the victim, or spoken to his family?’
     ‘I put the phone down on his irate brother; Ben, I think his name was, earlier on, and as for support? Being moved to a Cat C will be all the support he’s getting. Now, if you don’t mind?’    
     Vinnie let the door swing too behind him without saying another word, and shook his head as he walked down the corridor towards the first locked gate on his way out of the prison. Granted, he couldn’t image some of the difficulties Small had alluded to, but the man was part of the problem, not the solution. Men like Crayton and Moxley should be in solitary confinement as far as he was concerned, and Small was in the wrong job.
     One thing was for sure though, this wouldn’t be his last official visit to the prison, that, he was certain of.
     It was gone six by the time Small decided he’d had enough for the day. The arrogant cocky detective inspector had got under his skin. He must think they are running some kind of hotel. He couldn’t give a damn what the likes of Crayton and Moxley got up to, just as long as they helped keep order in the prison. That was the real reason he turned a blind eye to much of their socialising. They were forceful characters who commanded respect and fear among the other inmates. A strategy that, the likes of that DI Palmer would never understand. He would be having a word with his boss Eric at the next lodge meeting. And as for the lad, who’d been attacked, whose name he’d already forgotten – collateral damage to help keep Crayton happy. Just so long as Palmer’s report wasn’t too scathing, all would be well. As for the lad, he’d be on his way to a Cat C the following day. He could have had him shipped to Kirkham open prison on the other side of Preston, about forty miles away; it’s a Cat D as well. After all, it’s not as if the lad with no name was a flight risk, but he’d chosen a Cat C in the Midlands instead. Just because he could.
     Small knew that resources were always a problem, but not in this case. With the help of people like Crayton he could keep control, and who knows Small may end up running the place one day, after all, the current governor delegated most of the day-to-day stuff to him as it was, and retirement wasn’t too far away for him. Hopefully, he’d be sitting pretty.
     Thirty minutes later, he pulled up outside his trendy townhouse in north Manchester, but was annoyed to see his usual parking place taken. It was supposed to be ‘residents only’ parking and he was sure that the shitty white Transit van occupying his space wasn’t local. He looked around but could not see any free spaces; he’d have to hunt for one around the corner. But as he passed the van he noticed a hooded person sat in the driver’s seat, but he’d gone past and now had someone else up behind him. He turned left and parked on the edge of the corner. It would do for now while he had a quick word with the van driver and tell him to move. He walked the short distance back to his house and as he approached he saw the interior light in the van’s cab illuminate as the driver got out. The hooded driver walked towards him, but before Small could start to remonstrate, the driver spoke first.
     ‘You Mr Small?’
     ‘Yes, why?’
     ‘I’ve got a delivery for you and didn’t want to leave it on your step, so I thought I’d give it five.’
     The attitude left Small now as he arrived and confirmed who he was.
     ‘Round the back mate, I’ll need a signature.’
     Small looked up at his house but could not see any sign of life, she was obviously not in. He just wondered what the hell she’d been buying online this time. He followed the driver as he arrived at the back of the van and opened one of the two doors. The driver then stood back and Small strained to see inside in the half-light. Then he heard and felt two things at the same time. A buzzing electrical sound, like something out of Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory, and a sharp deliberating pain which shot through his back in all directions. It stopped almost as soon as it had started, but he felt like every muscle in his body had tensed and locked at the same time. He didn’t feel the shove in his back that must have followed, but he landed hard face-down on the floor of the van. The rear door slammed shut, and just as he was starting to regain his motor responses, he was thrown onto his side by the motion of the van being driven off at speed.
     Vinnie Palmer had just finished giving the uniform super, Eric, an update from the prison when his phone announced the arrival of a text. He glanced at it, it was from his wife, Lesley; “Are you planning on coming home tonight?” he ignored it as he turned back to face Eric.
     ‘How did you find the deputy governor, Kenneth Small?’
     Vinnie told him and didn’t hold back, and he included the “lodge” remark.
     ‘Cheeky bastard,’ Eric started, ‘I’m not in any lodge, but I’ve no doubt that he is.’
     Vinnie wasn’t too sure whether to believe him, but it was more important to note that he clearly didn’t like, Small.
     ‘We have to get on with them, but I’m expecting a warts-and-all report from you, Vinnie, though I’ll need evidence in it to back up any misgivings. At least then I can approach the governor with any issues; I get the impression that he leaves too much of the day to day running of things with Small. So, if things are going to improve, it’s only right we raise it with the governor first, before we threaten to take any concerns to London.
     It was a fair approach Vinnie knew, but he just hoped he didn’t find himself back at the prison too soon, looking into the face of another vulnerable inmate-turned-victim.
     ‘Fair enough, boss, but I won’t bet against the odds of being called back there in the near future.’
     The super Eric nodded and both men bade their farewells. Vinnie sighed as he pulled his phone from his pocket as he walked out the super’s office, time to text Lesley back.
     The van came to a stop and Small could tell they were on uneven ground. Then the rear doors were opened and he could see that it was fully dark now, and wherever they were, there was little light about. A pair of gloved hands pulled him out of the van and he realised it was the hooded driver again.
     ‘Look, I don’t know what you want, I’ve no money on me—’ Small started to say before the back of one the gloved hands connected hard with his left cheek. The blow shocked him as much as it hurt.
     ‘Listen in you little shite, and listen good,’ the driver said.
     Small nodded.
     ‘You run that prison like your own fiefdom, and you couldn’t give a shit about the likes of Worthing.’
     Worthing, that name rang a bell, Small thought.
     ‘You’ve forgotten him already?’ the driver said.
     Small didn’t answer.
     ‘I know what goes on in there, I have ears on the inside,’ the driver said, as he pulled a flick knife out of his hoodie pocket, and then made the blade spring out of its handle. Now Small was really scared.
     ‘The way you protect the likes of Crayton and his like has to stop. And Worthing gets moved to a local open prison, not some shithole the other side of the country.’
     Small knew who Worthing was now, and he was pretty sure the driver was his brother Ben; the one he’d put the phone down on earlier. He was about to say “I know who you are, and you’ll not get away with this” but for once common sense silenced his loose mouth. He just nodded.
     ‘If not I’ll pay you another visit and next time you won’t be so lucky’, the driver said as he produced a Taser from his other pocket and held it in his free hand. It was obviously what he had used on him earlier, but it wasn’t gun shaped and yellow like the ones the cops had, more like a black torch. He stood facing him, a knife in one hand, and the Taser in the other.
     Then the driver lunged at him, and in that split second he couldn’t be sure which hand was flashing its way towards his chest. The van was immediately behind him giving him nowhere to go. Not that it would matter, the driver was too fast.

The End.

This short story tells its own tale but it is also a prologue to ‘NEMESIS’ my new crime thriller which is out now in paperback and as an e-book. I hope you are tempted to try it, kind regards, Roger.  

The body count is rising… 
When psychopath Daniel Moxley makes his escape while being escorted to Broadmoor high-security prison, he sets off on a trail of bloody revenge, leaving police forces throughout the north of England floundering in his wake. Moxley’s paranoia has him seemingly selecting victims at random. The only thing they have in common is the gruesome nature of their killings. Police, prison warders and even old ladies have been the target of Moxley’s cold-blooded murder spree. 

When Detective Inspector Vinnie Palmer is assigned to the case, Moxley decides that he too must die, but not before he has led him from one blood-soaked scene to another. Among his victims is Vinnie’s offsider, Detective Constable Rob Hill, who he discovers has his own dark and destructive secret that rips Vinnie’s life apart. 

With the help of Moxley’s psychiatrist, Vinnie delves deep into the man’s criminal past and uncovers a history of corrupt police, sexual coercion and gaol brutality. But when Vinnie closes in on Moxley and takes the law into his own hands, he ends up suspended and stripped of his police powers. Determined not to let Moxley escape justice, Vinnie continues his pursuit of the maniac as a private citizen. He teams up with determined television reporter Christine Jones and together they pursue Moxley north to Scotland and back again. 

But the killer always seems to be one step ahead, leaving a trail mutilated bodies in his wake. Lured on by Moxley’s taunts, Vinnie discovers that it is his own wife – a fellow police worker – who has been an unwitting aid in Moxley’s deadly deeds. As a result, his suspension is lifted in time for him and Christine to gain full police support and finally confront Moxley in a terrifying final encounter. 

But is it too late? 

Available now on Amazon UK: and US:


  1. Fab read, enjoyed it no end, good luck.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Jane; glad you liked it.