The inmates gambled to pass the time. Truth was, there wasn’t much else to do. Wakefield was one of the highest security prisons in the world, and it was based just on the outskirts of Russia, along the borders of China.
The prisoners were woken at 6am every day and made to work until 8pm, nonstop, apart from 12-1:30pm, when they were allowed a little lunch and recreational activities if they were fast enough. Even Sundays consisted of this ritual, with no inmate being given special allowances due to religious beliefs. The men at Wakefield were treated little better than animals. That was the deal. They had behaved like animals, the judge had said, therefore they were to have as few human rights as possible.
As many as two hundred guards manned the area and no risks were taken. If you were seen out of your cell when shouldn’t be – for any reason whatsoever – the guards had direct orders to shoot upon sight. No questions asked. This was mainly due to the nature of the inmates at Brixton. It housed the most dangerous men across the country. Not thieves, or even rapists. It housed contract killers, serial murderers, psychopaths. The men in Brixton were not ever going to get released. They were a danger to society. Their minds were depraved and past help. Even vicars from the local churches had washed their hands of the place.
And so there was little to do but to gamble. The men placed bets on everything: What guard would man the tower tomorrow? How many suicides would there be this month? What age would you die?
One particularly avid gambler was Henrik Rozman. Inmates at Wakefield (why british name for Russian prison?) were generally none too modest about their escapades, and intel could always be dug up on the ones that weren’t. In this world of crime, everybody knew everybody. Chances were you’d worked together with somebody else, or at least somebody they knew. Henrik Rozman was different. None of the inmates were entirely sure why he was there, and that made him all the more dangerous. Most of the prisoners specialised in one particular ‘skill’ – from murder and blackmail to kidnappings or assault. Rozman had the potential to specialise in anything – everything even. One thing was for sure – he had never revealed his weakness. It was, in fact, becoming increasingly apparent that there was no aspect of the illegal he did not know about. He could obtain just about anything. Cigarettes were prohibited within the prison. Most prisons allowed them for outside smoking, but the prisoners at Wakefield were allowed nothing that could be used to their benefit. Many of the inmates there could injure at least twenty people with the use of one cigarette. The guards were cautious; to the point where cigarettes weren’t on the Black Market – they were on the Nonexistent Market. Still, wanted a smoke? Rozman would get it for you. Want to smuggle in a knife past the guards? Sure, but the price just quadrupled.
One of the things worth noting about Rozman was loyalty. That is, he was loyal to nobody but expected utmost loyalty from those he dealt with. Once, he had supplied a couple of desperate inmates with the weapons to bust out of Wakefield. Unfortunately, they had been caught. One of the inmates – a fairly young man by the name of Charlie Weathers – had been willing to tell the authorities where he had obtained the weapons. Cooperation with them meant a softer punishment. Poor, naive, Charlie. Word had, of course, gotten round to Rozman, and Charlie had been found decapitated in the washroom. His head was discovered partially disintegrated in the washing machine. It had been through the wash and spin cycle and was just launching into ‘Rinse.’
In fact, a similar fate befell anybody who tried to cross Rozman, so much so that a respectful silence would shroud any room he entered. Nobody had any doubts about his abilities; the man could probably escape from the prison had he so chosen to. And that was the strangest thing of all – the string that so tightly bound and packaged the enigma that was Rozman. He seemed completely and utterly uninterested in escape. He was in his mid-forties, and would have been more than able to leave and continue leaving his life restriction-free. It was also clear that he had not succumbed into hopelessness. Hopelessness was a stench worn as commonly upon the inmates as a Paul’s Boutique sweatshirt upon prepubescent girls. It was unmistakable– it clung to your clothes, it etched its way onto your face; it was in the way you walked, the way you talked…
But Rozman walked with a degree of authority. So much so that it was difficult to envision him as a prisoner. Now, as he entered the Games Room for the one-hour appointed Leisure Time that was assigned to all inmates, he did so with a slight swagger. He wore the same uniform that all the other men did – an unflattering, orange jumpsuit that hung loosely off the body. Yet somehow he looked menacing in it, not ridiculous. As he entered, the men who had been sitting around a coffee table stood respectfully and allowed him to sit down. He did so, and they stood beside him, waiting for him to talk.
Instantly, they sat around him. One of the men – Johnny – scratched his jaw lazily and raised a pack of cards.
“Whad’ya reckon Roz? Blackjack?”
This was a perfunctory statement rather than a uestion. Rozman was a creature of habit – at least when it came to card games – and the inmates played blackjack with every given opportunity. Today however, Rozman shook his head slowly.
“No?” Johnny seemed somewhat startled. “Well. Whad’ya wanna play Roz?”
Rozman took his time before answering and the silence hung over the inmates like a deathly shroud. Slowly, Rozman shifted in his chair, undid the zipper on his jumpsuit and brought forth a pistol from the depths of his clothes. He placed the gun on the table.
“An original Nagant M1895,” muttered a man who went by the name of Saint. “Dayum – you did good Roz. Planning an escape?”
“No,” Rozman said slowly, as if this was the stupidest suggestion he’d ever heard. “We’re going to play Russian Roulette.”
Rozman glanced slowly at the table of five men brave – or crazy – enough to embark on the game with him. All other inmates, despite their insistence, had been sent away. Rozman had been very clear; he only wanted to play with those dedicated to the game.
“Gentlemen,” he said slowly, his voice as thick and rough as the gravel that surrounded the prison walls. “If I should die tonight – if, and I already have great belief that it is not my time – I want you to know I am honoured to call each and every one of you my cell mates. You have taught me more within these walls than the world ever did.”
The other men looked nervously at each other. Despite the grandoise speech, Rozman’s delivery had been little other than stoic and his calmness was unsettling in the face of death. Rozman lifted the pistol to his forehead.
“Roz – are you sure you want to -?”
The sound of the bullet exiting the chamber was like a small explosion in the cramped room. With it came the noise of spluttering wires as all six men were plunged into total darkness.
“The fuck – ”
One of the men scrambled for a lighter. Briefly the flame pierced the blackness but it was knocked out of his hand in the scurry.
“Roz! Roz man – ”
With a whirring of energy, the lights snapped back on. Along the corridor they could hear the prison guards informing people that it was nothing major – just a standard and temporary blackout.
Slumped in his chair, blood still gushing from a hole in his head, was Henrik Rozman.
Tyrone reached forward and plucked a cigarette from Rozman’s breast pocket.
“What?!” he muttered at Johnny’s shocked face. He lit up, shaking his head.
“Always reckoned he’d find a way to bust outta here, ya know? But death via his own game?” He tutted. “What are the chances?”
Johnny looked at the pistol that had clattered to the floor, wisps of smoke still spiralling up from the barrel.
“About one in seven,” he murmured.
Henrik Rozman exited Wakefield High Security Prison in the same manner of fate he had bestowed upon many of his enemies – bloodied, cold and in a zip-up body bag.