Sammy Garza arrived at the Santa Fe county lockup, planning on a short stay. It was his first jail time since juvenile detention, so maybe he’d been lucky, getting away with shit for years. Or maybe it was just bad luck this time.
He’d been charged with breaking and entering, based on thin evidence. The M.O. matched a slew of burglaries that had stumped the dumb-ass cops for months, and the judge set a cash-only bail that Garza couldn’t raise. So in he went. He was pretty sure, though, that it would never go to trial, and if it did, the charge wouldn’t stick.
Until then there was nothing to do but bide his time. His first day inside he spent sizing the place up. It was about what he’d expected: maybe a little more modern, but still a prison, with an exercise yard at the center, surrounded by the high walls of the prison itself. Inmates wandered around or sat with their backs against the walls or stood in knots talking. Most of them wore prison-issue jump suits, same as him, while a few wore their regular clothes—he wasn’t sure what was up with that. Still, the population of maybe a hundred-fifty sad sack looking assholes was also about what he’d expected. Some tried to act hard-ass—low-lifes trying to look tough, but it was just an act. This was only county detention, not like the New Mexico state prison across the road, on State Highway 14 south of Santa Fe. That place had been the site of the worst prison riot in U.S. history, maybe thirty years ago, when Garza was just a kid. This place, the Santa Fe County Adult Correction Facility, was a mixed bag of drunk drivers doing their mandatory sixty or ninety days, drug offenders, small-time dealers, and petty criminals. Some were awaiting hearings, some doing short stretches for other assorted crimes. Garza didn’t see anything he couldn’t handle.
One guy seemed to stand out, walking alone across the yard—something different about him. He wore the same prison jump suit as everyone, and he looked to be in shape, in spite of the baggy-assed uniform. He was tall and looked like he could handle himself too, forget that he was good looking, with dark wavy hair. That was part of what made him stand out, but there was more to it than that. It was about how he carried himself, like he was alone and liked it that way. Hard jailhouse stares followed him across the yard, but inmates in his path moved aside for him, trying to look nonchalant while doing it. Garza wondered if the guy might be somebody connected, and he leaned over and asked a little runt standing next to him. The runt, with his jump suit pant legs rolled up so he wouldn’t trip on them, didn’t look at Garza or answer right away. Garza felt like smacking him. The guy finally said, “That’s the cop,” like Garza was supposed to know. He stared at the runt until the guy turned, saying with a wise-guy grin. “Former Santa Fe police detective Ray Sanchez,” putting the emphasis on the word former.
Former detective Sanchez disappeared through a doorway, Garza watching, but curious now—what it must be like to be an ex-cop on the inside. But he put it out of his mind. Why should he give a shit about anybody in here, much less some ex-cop?
The next day he saw Sanchez again—the same routine, the guy walking across the yard alone followed by all the stares. Nearby, two guys had their heads together, talking, one of them nodding toward Sanchez. Garza moved a little closer and heard the nodding guy say, “He’s got some looker on the outside, waiting for him. Some rich broad, a knockout.”
“And what, you’re saying you know her?” the other guy said.
“I met her a few times,” the first guy said, defensive. “Name’s Nina Kelly. What she gets from this low life cop, who knows? Go figure women, right?”
Hearing the name, Nina Kelly, got Garza’s attention.
He’d known Nina Kelly way back when, but she’d been Nina Rodriguez then, eighteen, nineteen years ago—a fine looking girl, young but already a snooty bitch who wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Later he heard she married some guy from California. The guy had started some computer company out there and made millions, which meant that, on top of being fine, Nina must also be loaded. And now she was with Ray Sanchez, and Garza was seeing Sanchez through new eyes whenever he spotted him in the yard or the mess hall: the guy who was sleeping with Nina Kelly. Garza decided to make friends with ex-cop Sanchez.
He started by just nodding at him, smiling but not overdoing it when they would pass each other outside or in the mess hall. Then, one time at breakfast, he sat next to Sanchez and said “How you doing?” Sanchez shifted his eyes over at him and then went back to staring straight ahead.
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