But it wasn’t any of Malik’s enemies that shoulda concerned Baby Brother. The correctional facilities at Rikers were supposed to be less intense than the stonewalled prisons in upstate New York, but you couldn’t tell it by the grimy shit that went down on The Rock. Every new inmate in the place wanted to take a hard rep with them when they got transferred up north. If they were vicious enough on Rikers Island, then their name would precede them and their problems would be fewer when they got up there to the real doghouse.

As Baby Brother was led down the hall he passed between a row of cells where inmates grasped the bars and checked out the new meat. He walked like the niggah he was. Upright. Confident. He didn’t grill nobody, but he didn’t avoid nobody neither. Shit was talked on either side of him, but that was to be expected. He didn’t take it personally because these niggahs didn’t know him.

At least he didn’t think they did.

“Yo, Acqui!” a short, powerfully built dude named Rayz called out to his man on the other side. They were both down with the Brooklyn Borne click and had gotten knocked a couple of weeks earlier for kicking down the door of a state witness’s house and tying up the man and his whole family before pouring lighter fluid on them and setting the house on fire.

“I know that cat, son. He looks real familiar…. Look at them eyes. That’s that niggah Farad’s brother, yo! One of them Davis dudes.” His hand went to the spot where his right ear had once been. “Yo…what the fuck that niggah doing up in here?”

Across the way, Acqui frowned. The degradation Farad and Finesse had put him and his boy through had been so severe and humiliating it was like a living thing, never far from his mind. “Oh, he up in here about to get served, that’s what the fuck he doin’,” he said.

Acqui grinned. A cold breeze seemed to come from his direction. He had been itching to pump lead into Farad and Finesse for a while now. Them niggahs had a tight circle, though, and kept their strap on at all times.

But he would never forget the doggin’ they’d put on him. Them niggahs had got him and Rayz in the middle of a crowd of niggahs and bitches and shit on them in the worst possible way.

“Get yo mothafuckin ass over here!” Finesse had demanded, the blade of his knife still dripping with Rayz’s blood. They’d been chillin’ in a little joint called The Bad Ass. Hoes and dice were being tossed in the back room, and them Davis twins had busted Rayz and Acqui flipping loaded dice.

Rayz had gotten the worst of it. Physically, that is.

“Don’t even step toward that fuckin’ door!” Finesse had warned Rayz when he tried to dip out the back room. They shouldn’ta had their asses up in there no way. They were from Brownsville, but had gone to Jeff High School back in the day and straddled the line between Brownsville and East New York. But still, even though they were technically still in The Ville, they were way out of Borne territory, and just about every niggah up in there was down with the Davis crew.

Rayz had kept on moving. He was only a few feet away from the door, and he coulda got through that shit too, but a thick-necked niggah named Dolla stepped in front of him and checked the door.

That was all the time Finesse had needed. He crossed the room in four long strides and snatched Rayz up in a headlock. Without saying a word, that mothafuckah yanked out a blade and sliced, and the next thing Acqui knew Finesse was holding up a bloody ear, niggaz was laughin’ and wildin’, and Rayz was on the floor bleeding from the head and hollerin’ like a punched-out old lady.

And then it was Acqui’s turn to suffer. The club owner, Jed, kept pit bulls in the back for security purposes. But Farad wasn’t satisfied with mutilating Rayz. That niggah wanted to humiliate them too.

“Get on your fuckin’ hands and knees!” he had ordered Acqui. “Crawl over there and stick ya face in that fuckin’ dog bowl!”

Rage had surged through Acqui, but survival was in him too. Ignoring the jeers from the cats in the crowd and the squeals of disgust coming from the jawns, Acqui doggy-walked across the room to where Farad stood by the three dog bowls. Once there, it was hard to lift his eyes. He was so consumed with killing somebody that his whole body trembled.

“Lap it up, bitch.”

Finesse had passed his twin the torch. Farad mighta been quieter than his brother, but he was just as grimy. “Put ya face down and lap up every fuckin’ ounce.”

Acqui looked down and almost got sick. There was all kinds of shit floating around in them foul-smelling dog bowls. Bits of pit hair, trails of slobber, soggy crumbs of food. And who the fuck knew what else. Tears of fury rose in his eyes and he had to force himself to stay on his knees. His Glock was under the seat of his whifl It didn’t matter. Lunging for Farad’s throat while he was surrounded by his crew woulda been suicide.

It had taken every ounce of control Acqui had inside to make himself chill. To wait for a better day. And now, watching that black niggah with the unmistakable Davis eyes stroll down the walkway toward an end cell, it looked like the day he’d been waiting for had finally arrived. He headed toward the phones to place a call to his niggah Borne and get permission to put in work.


Baby Brother had been assigned to work in the kitchen.

He had only been locked down for a day and didn’t think they would give him a job so soon, but he didn’t question it. Anything that would keep him outta his shit-smelling cell was cool. It wasn’t that he was anxious to get out there with the crazies or nothing, but almost anything was better than sitting up in that tiny-ass jawn with his cellie.

That cat was bugged. Something had happened to him that sent him off the radar. He’d been locked up in reception for three months already and according to the guy in the cell next to theirs, the niggah hadn’t washed his ass the whole time.

The stench coming from the cell had almost dropped Baby Brother at the door. His eyes had watered and his stomach turned over. No human being could smell this fuckin’ foul, and once he ventured more fully inside the room he saw what the true problem was.

His cellie was a shit-thrower.

Hard clumps of tossed shit stuck to the walls, the floor, and even the ceiling.

“Yo!” Baby Brother wilded out on him. “What the fuck is wrong with you, homey!” All the feelings he had been holding back came rushing out in rage and disbelief. “You gonna clean this motherfuckin’ shit up, man! How the hell you living? Look, niggah. Take a fuckin’ shower. Wash your fuckin’ ass! And clean this shit up or get fucked up!”

The cat had given Baby Brother a sullen look, then reluctantly began scraping shit off the walls. He pulled some unused cleaning supplies from under his bunk and started cleaning. “You gonna see, man. Just watch. You gonna see. You gotta keep these niggahs offa you some kinda way.”

Baby Brother was so mad he couldn’t hold still. He paced two steps up and back, trying hard to hold his breath while his cellie slung shitty water around the room with a dirty mofl

He couldn’t believe they had put him in with this fool, and when he thought back to when one of the guards called out his cell number, he remembered everybody laughing like that shit was a joke.

It took over three hours before Baby Brother was able to fully enter the room to put his belongings down and make up his bunk. He’d made his cellmate work up a sweat. He had given him directions while he scrubbed the floors, the walls, and the ceiling. Then Baby Brother ordered him to go take a shower.

The young man started trembling.

“A shower?” He looked around the cell and started shifting from one foot to the other nervously. He wiped his face on his sleeve. “I—I—I…man, I don’t think I can do that.”

Baby Brother got swole. He was tired, he was angry, he was locked up, and he was innocent. He was also ready to hurt some fuckin’ body.

“Man, I ain’t playing with you. You either wash your ass or get took down.”

Cellie shrugged. “Do what you gotta do, niggah. I rather get took down than get ass-fucked.”

Baby Brother stared at him. This fool was serious. Fear was in his eyes, but it wasn’t because Baby Brother had put it there. He was a pretty niggah. Green eyes, wavy hair, dimples and pretty lips. Damn right he was scared. But the thing he feared was much bigger than the eighteen-year-old accused murderer standing in front of him.

Baby Brother put his gear down and got up on his bunk. He stared at the ceiling as his heart pounded and his mind raced. This place was a cesspool. A motherfuckin’ sewer. Niggahs shit on each other up in here all the time. In more ways than one.

He sat alone at lunchtime. The food was grim. Sliced turkey, peas, lumpy potatoes. Baby Brother dug in without looking at it. Survival was paramount and he had to eat to live. He was surprised when an inmate sat down across from him.

“We cool?”

It was Dirtbag, his stank-ass cellie. Fouling up the air.

Baby Brother ignored the fool and kept eating. He was on a mission. He knew his brothers were on the outside working like hell for him. All he had to do was stay cool and mark down the days until they got him out.

“I heard you popped a Puerto Rican chick,” his cellie said, his eyes scanning the room. “That means you better watch your back around these P.R. cats in here.”

Baby Brother gulped from his carton of milk like his cellie wasn’t even there.

“And them mothafuckin Asians is tryna come up too.” Dirtball twisted his arm behind him and dug down his shirt, trying to scratch his own back.

“See that dude over there with all the muscles? They call him Doobie. He’s down with that notorious ‘Kill-AMan Crew.’ Watch them niggahs too. They treacherous on the real.”

For the first time Baby Brother acknowledged the fact that Dirtball was even sitting at his table. He looked across the room and damn if it wasn’t Doobie. He knew the niggah well and had never liked him. Smooth, slick, and used to run drugs for Farad and Finesse. Without a word, he stood and picked up his tray. Igging Dirtbag, he walked over to the trash and dumped his leavings, then headed out of the dining room.

He was stopped at the door.

“Hey,” a corrections officer called out to him. He was standing near the doorway with his arms crossed. Salt-and-pepper hair streaked his temples and Baby Brother figured he was a vet who had been on the job for a while. “They need you in the kitchen right now. Run back there and ask for Dreamer. He’s your new boss. He’ll tell you what you need to do.”

The kitchen was industrial-sized. It was bigger and more complex than any Baby Brother had ever seen. Inmates were doing all sorts of chores. From cutting vegetables to boiling huge vats of noodles, shit was getting done up in there.

“Over here,” the cat named Dreamer directed him. “I’ma put you on the dishwasher team today. I hope you learn quick ’cause we on a strict schedule back here and ain’t nobody got time to show you nothing more than once.”

Baby Brother shrugged. There were plastic containers filled with dirty plates and utensils waiting to be washed. He shook his head. He’d graduated with a 4.0 grade average. How fuckin’ hard could loading up a dishwasher be?

He was working alone, transferring dirty silverware to the dishwasher rack, when it happened. The first blow caught him in the back of the head, stunning him and propelling him so hard he landed halfway inside the industrial dishwasher.

They hit him behind the knees next, causing him to arch his back and slide to the ground in agony. The entire silverware tray came down with him, and instinctively he closed his hand around a piece of cool metal.

“Yeah!” he heard one of his attackers yell out. “Payback, mothafuckah! It’s get-back time!”

Baby Brother tried to stand. Payback? He glanced up and saw five inmates. They were all strangers. Fists flew and boots stomped. They pummeled him everywhere and Baby Brother rolled with the blows as best he could.

The blow to the head had weakened him. Dulled his reflexes. He tried to cover his head and ball up in a knot, and that’s when they started dragging him. Three niggahs grabbed his legs and pulled him across the now-deserted kitchen. Workstations had been abandoned, vegetables left unchopped on counters, and huge pots were boiling unwatched.

Baby Brother felt frigid air wash over him and realized that they’d dragged him into the walk-in freezer. He came alive with a fury. He thrust his heel into a pair of nuts and heard a sickening thunk as he connected. On his feet, he bobbed and weaved, energized like a punch-crazy boxer who had found his second wind.

With the piece of metal still clenched in his hand, Baby Brother lunged at a skinny dude with a big head, stabbing him deeply in the throat with a fork and sending him down for good. He whirled and hit another inmate so hard, his front teeth flew out.

Baby Brother fought like a champion. Two of his attackers were out for the duration, and that left three against one. He gave it just as good as he took it, using every bit of street skills he had and calling up power and endurance from the pit of his soul. He went down quite a few times, but so did his attackers. Blood was everywhere, and all four men were sweating in that freezer.

He swung a hard right and knocked down a short niggah with a long ponytail, then side-kicked the burly cat on his left. But as his foot touched the ground and he prepared to whirl to his right, an industrial-sized black skillet loomed in front of him and a moment later his skull cracked and his world went dark.

Baby Brother came to on his stomach.

He was in a hard yoke, his head locked in the crook of a muscular arm.

Blood dripped from his face and into his eyes, and his whole body was on fire. He was dizzy, suffocating. His pants were yanked down. There was thrusting movement behind him. Probing, and then explosive pain. He gasped as he was penetrated, unable to inhale a full breath.

“Yeah, mothafuckah!” a heavy voice growled in his ear. His muscles were clenched as his manhood was brutally violated. “Who’s doin’ the dog now, bitch! This for your bitch-ass brothers, son!”

Baby Brother broiled. A rage greater than any he could have imagined exploded from him. He screamed inside and rose up on his arms, bucking his rapist off of him. From his knees, he reached back and felt for the nuts of his choker, seeking to rip them from the man’s body.

Blind and choking, he was on one knee and had managed to get one foot planted on the floor, and then it happened.

White heat seared from his left ear all the way across to his right. The air he’d been so desperate to breathe was now totally gone. He gurgled and clutched his bloody throat, and the truth was right there in his hands.

He’d been buck-fiffed.

Smiley-faced. His neck slit from ear to ear.

Baby Brother fell forward, the icy floor no match for the fire in his lungs. His struggle was weak and brief. His death, violent and vicious. His last moments were comforting, though. His life had been cut short, but it had not been without love. For the next sixty-eight seconds Baby Brother lay on a dirty freezer floor gasping and gurgling, drowning in a pool of his own blood. He thought of his parents and of his brothers, and prepared to meet Sari.