Life was moving fast for Baby Brother in the joint. Strip naked, bend over, spread your cheeks. He did all that and more. He went through the motions like a man made of stone. Not a hint of emotion flickered on his face. He was attuned to his surroundings, but cold and unfeeling inside.

He refused to think about Sari. He pushed the image of her bloody body deep into the recesses of his mind where it couldn’t hurt him. He wouldn’t let it weaken him neither. He’d come of age in an area of Brooklyn where the criminals crawled real low in the gutta. A project-trained niggah like him knew survival in the joint was a day-by-day thing. He’d seen what prison had done to Antwan. How his brother had been churned and burned by the acidic shit floating around in the belly of this same beast. Rikers might not have been as high-post as Comsackie or Greenhaven, but this is where them upstate niggahs got their start. Some of the most ruthless and despicable criminals in the city were behind these walls. Baby Brother put himself into a state of mind that was similar to a boxer’s zone. He was like a coiled snake. On guard and ready to strike.

Malik had shown up while he was still locked down in a bull pen at Central Booking. The judge had just denied Malik’s request to release him into his care. It had fucked Baby Brother up to hear Malik begging that white mothafuckah like that. Malik had poured out everything in his heart as he made his impassioned plea on Baby Brother’s behalf, telling the court all about Stanford and the prestigious full scholarship that Baby Brother had earned.

“Your Honor,” Malik had said. “My fellow officers have arrested the wrong man. My little brother is innocent. He’s going to college. To Stanford University in California!” He’d turned and looked into Baby Brother’s eyes. “He’s gonna be a surgeon. A baby surgeon. Everything he’s ever done in life was to help other people, and to make our dead mother proud.”

But the judge had given less than a fuck about Baby Brother’s accomplishments. That shriveled up mothafuckah had actually yawned while Malik damn near sank to his knees pleading for his understanding and mercy.

Baby Brother had gone even colder inside. He’d tried his best to make good decisions and do the right thing his whole life. Most of the shit other young heads in the hood indulged in, he had sworn he would avoid. There had been no rock-slanging, no wild fucking, no all-night drinking. Baby Brother had never jacked nobody for their car or knocked a bird on her ass. For the first time in his life he was on the opposite end of a good thing, and seeing Malik have to beg a motherfuckah like that infuriated him.

“Raise up…” Baby Brother had muttered under his breath from the bench he was chained to. Malik was bent with pain. “Don’t you beg that mothafuckah for me….”

After the hearing when Malik came back to the bull pen, they’d given up the dap, then his brother had pulled him close and held him briefly. Baby Brother picked up the scent of fear on his brother and he knew why. A cop’s brother was a target in the joint. Malik mighta been Mr. Personable, but he was still the po-po, and as such he still had enemies.

“Stay strong, Baby Brother. We’ll figure something out, yo. All of us are working on this, night and day.”

Baby Brother had nodded and backed away from his brother. He was the youngest of the crew, yeah. But he was just as hard as the rest of his brothers. He’d hang until they got him out. He’d fend, he’d fight, he’d do whatever the fuck he had to do. He’d survive.