"I wonder why Lisa isn't back yet?" asked Samantha of nobody in particular at about this time. (Lisa's twelfth week away) She had been looking forward to having her friend back weeks ago.
"They've added some extra weeks to her punishment, Sam!" It was Sandra, that veteran of solitary, who answered her." It's so easy to slip up in your first days! And remember Lisa was new to prison life. By the time she'd learnt the ropes and come to appreciate just how strict things are here, she was bound to be looking at maybe four weeks more, just in her first day. If she'd been a bit more used to this life and then been sent down to solitary, she'd have done a whole lot better."
Sandra was going through one of her frequent guilty periods again. "Just her rotten luck to fall foul of an idiot like me on her first day. I could kick myself whenever I think about it. But she'll be out soon. I get the feeling she's no fool. She'll have taken herself in hand by now and we'll have her back in the next bed to you before too long!"
"I hope so," said Samantha. She was a girl of Lisa's age and most of the others here were older than she. It had been like a breath of fresh air when the fresh and fragrant Lisa had plonked herself onto the next bed and smiled that sweet smile at her! Well, she'd be a little less fragrant now!
Six more weeks went by and Samantha was getting beside herself. But Sandra was unmoved.
"She could easily have incurred twelve weeks penalties in her first month, Samantha. I was an old hand when they slung me in there but I still got five more weeks. It takes time to adjust your thinking and sharpen up. Don't fret! It shouldn't be too long now. She'll be back in a month - maybe a lot sooner!"
Samantha nodded glumly. Sandra knew what she was talking about. Her time in solitary had indeed been lengthened and Lisa WAS very, very green and the guards would make absolutely no allowance for the girl's inexperience, coming down like a ton of bricks on the least infringement, callously adjusting the time switch whenever she did something wrong. She was just learning the hard way - like all the others. Except that the others weren't getting it anything remotely as hard as poor old Lisa!
Eight weeks after this, though, there was nobody in the dormitory who doubted that Lisa was in some kind of serious trouble. The general view was that she was ill. Sandra confirmed that prisoners in solitary received no medical treatment. They were isolated from all human contact for the duration - no matter what. Samantha plucked up the courage to ask to see the governor, since none of the regular guards seemed to have a clue. She almost wet herself as she was ushered into his office, which she had never seen before. He asked her what was her problem.
"It's a girl I made friends with, Sir. Lisa is her name and she got into trouble on her first day and is in solitary. It's just that it's been twenty-six weeks and she ought to have been out after eight for a first offence. I wondered if she has been taken ill. I'm sorry to disturb you, Sir. But I really liked her and I can't sleep at nights for worrying about her."
The Governor smiled in a kindly way. He liked Samantha, who would be out in less than three years, with all the remission she had earned by her exemplary behavior. He went to a filing cabinet and looked at his records. When he looked back at Samantha his face was grim.
"Her offence was a triple one, Samantha. I'm sure you know what that means. And I decided that she should also serve the sixteen weeks that her lie almost cost Sandra. In her first month she committed a number of offences, each of which cost her an extra week's confinement. But she has learned to control herself by now and is becoming a model prisoner! All being well, she will be back with her comrades in ninety-two weeks!"
Five minutes later, a concerned governor saw Samantha's eyes open. He looked relieved. He could be a stern man when it was called for, but it still came hard to him to have to be so strict with the fair sex.
"I am sorry to have made you faint. I had no idea that this prisoner could have had such an effect on you in so short a time. I am sorry you miss her, but the rules are the rules. If it makes it any easier for you, I will break a rule and show you your friend and you can see that she is in good health. Come along!"
The kindly governor took Samantha, sniffing and sobbing over the other side of his office and opened a sliding door. Behind the door were three TV monitors. Each showed a confined inmate standing naked in a tiny space. She recognized Lisa straight away.
"She looks very well, Sir. I was afraid she might have been taken ill. Her hair is lovely. It had been shaved off before she first came here and was only just starting to grow again. But she looks very healthy, although it's a little difficult to see much of her features from the angle the camera is trained on her."
Samantha gasped. Lisa had just turned her head up. She would frequently vary the monotony by looking up at the ceiling, guessing correctly that by so doing she would be looking directly into someone's eye! She was always careful to have no expression on her face. She feared that any sign of emotion might be interpreted as defiance and she was determined not to be defiant. She never lost sight of the fact that she was being justly punished for an act of weakness that disgusted her, the more she thought about it.
She continued to look at the ceiling and Samantha continued to look down at her.
"Is she naked all the time, Sir? And she's having her period. It's awfully gruesome, leaving her like that at such a time. Couldn't you slip something through to her?"
The governor shook his head. Total nudity meant just that as far as he was concerned. But it was certainly a mess and he made a mental note to ask one of the women staff what she thought.
"I suppose it's quite warm in her cell, Sir?" asked Samantha, getting braver all the time.
"Ten degrees. It's been that for twenty weeks and she looks fine on it, doesn't she? You said how healthy she looked."
"Yes, Sir. She is surviving. She must be really special. She looks so calm and serene. And more lovely than ever. I don't think any one has ever been in there as long as she has. I really admire her. I haven't any courage, Sir, and she has enough for an entire army!"
The governor indicated that the interview was over.
"So what did you learn Sam?" asked Sandra after work that evening. "You look pretty cut up! Bad news?"
"Just about as bad as it gets! She got the book thrown at her, Sandra. Nobody in the whole history of this prison has ever been awarded as long in the cooler as Lisa. You were right about her getting extra weeks. Every time she has her period they give her a week for messing up the marble floor of her nice clean little cell. I'd no idea those punishment cells were so tiny. It's inhuman! I don't blame you for not wanting to go back. I would kill myself sooner than go there! I got to see her on the monitor. She looks fine - more sweet than ever! And she is naked the whole time in that freezing cold!"
"How cold, Sam?"
"Ten degrees. How can she take that? But she seems to, all the same!"
Sandra looked grave.
"They're treating her a lot worse than they did me. Maybe the rules have been tightened up. Mind you, I was nude the whole time - that's the rule. But they kept the cell warm enough - say fifteen degrees. It wasn't exactly boiling in there, but you could take it! And I got issued tampons when I was there. Tell me everything, Sam!"
Samantha suppressed a sob and went on. "He said she will be back in ninety-two weeks time. He said she's a model prisoner now after a difficult time to start with. She was given twelve extra weeks in her first nine weeks. But apart from the curse, she never gets awarded more weeks any more. It's so unfair, Sandra! She did a despicable thing blaming you for starting the fight, but she pretty soon made up for it! Maybe it was just to get the other women off her back, but I think it was more a matter of honor with her. She knew right away she'd done wrong. If only she'd discussed it with me first, I'm sure we could have worked out a better way of putting things right."
Sandra agreed. It was putrid that Lisa should be kept in that awful confinement for so long a time. She had been happy to hear that they had put her away for eight weeks and not in any way sympathetic when she had, as she thought, got about twelve extra weeks on top - that was par for the course and a snitch did have a debt to pay. But she would have been there for two years and four months by the time they let her out. Almost certainly more. So she would only have a few months to get to know this girl well and she admired her more and more and wanted to enjoy her company for longer than a couple of all too short months.
"I'll go to the governor," she said. "After all, I did provoke her and strike the first blow and Lisa was bloody courageous hitting me back and keeping on coming even though I was half killing her! I'll tell him the truth and maybe he'll relent and agree to let her out sooner - a lot sooner!"
Samantha sniffed again and looked a bit happier. So the governor had a second visitor in as many days.
He listened to Sandra carefully. Then he froze her blood with his precision.
"I agree that it seems likely that you started the first fight, but she did offer to take the blame and she could have turned the other cheek and averted this whole tragedy. If she had, then the whole incident would have blown over and nobody would have been harmed. Her reasons for taking the responsibility sound quite strong to me and are her own affair. If she had kept quiet I should have had no alternative other than to hold you both responsible and have you caned or given extra work. I gave her a punishment for lying. But what you say makes no difference to that. Either way she is a liar, either by acusing you or by taking the blame herself. As for the second fight, I am sure you know as well as I that those two women have been released. Why did you not come to me earlier when they were still on the premises and could be questioned? I fear that her punishment must stand. However, in view of your admission I award you sixteen weeks. Never mind! As an experienced inmate you will survive without extra penalty and be back in circulation many weeks before Lisa! You may return to your comrades as for now, but will report to the solitary block at seven in the morning."
"What will the conditions of my confinement be, Sir?"
"You will be told in detail, but I think the temperature will be appreciably lower than in your last stretch. We are having to economize."
"As long as I suffer what Lisa does, I am happy."
The governor laughed dryly, " Maybe you would like to choose a cell! Come and look!"
He motioned Sandra to a plan of the isolation unit. There were six cells, only one of which was usually in use at any one time. Because of Lisa's long sentence, there were three in at present.
"Those other two will be out in five weeks. They were fighting, in another wing - the one for our own girls where English is not spoken. They were both keen to claim responsibility for starting it so they both get four weeks (we let them share the eight weeks). With a few penalties, they will be out before too long and then you and Miss Griffiths will have the suite to yourselves. But even if you are neighbors you will not be able to talk. If you even try to it will mean more time and the walls are VERY thick and soundproof! Come and see Lisa. I will not be showing her to any others of the prisoners, but you and Samantha are special friends!"
And Sandra became the second prisoner to have an unauthorized view of the unfortunate Lisa. Like Samantha before her, she was amazed to see how fit she looked. She mentioned this to Governor Menendes.
"Yes. She exercises herself each day. And we cannot keep such a long-term prisoner on reduced rations as you will be. It would permanently damage her health. She usually walks up and down a lot but this week she is standing over the floor level toilet all day. But at night the floor becomes smeared and she will be punished for that, even though it is hardly her fault. I don't make the rules."
"What punishment, Sir?"
"Only a week extra for every period. I agree it seems unfair. Your friend Samantha was upset about it and I am looking into the matter. I think you will approve of my decision when I reach it!"
Sandra went back to the dormitory and told Samantha she was about to lose another friend for a while.
"It's only twenty-four weeks, Sandra. You must be brave and think how glad Lisa would be to have such a short time!"
Sandra tried to look convinced. She was quite petrified. The sole day of her second period in solitary had been sheer horror, but Lisa was coping and so must she. At a quarter to seven, she went across the prison yard to the low-lying building whose unimpressive exterior held in its depths so much human misery. She was in good time and had a five minute wait before hatchet-face and an assistant, a Chinese lady, came to open up. Sandra wondered if Lisa realized that she was left alone all night down there in that suite far below the ground. Not that it made any difference as she could not be reached by the two guards and was being watched twenty four hours a day on a monitor in the guardroom. In effect the internees here were buried alive and she, Sandra, was about to undergo the same fate, thanks to her vain attempt to get a reduced sentence for Lisa, who seemed to be coping fine from what she had seen, certainly better that she would in the next twenty-four weeks.
As soon as she had been taken to the reception hall she was ordered to strip. It had been warm up on top in the outside world and as she stood naked to have her orifices inspected, she shivered, breaking out in a rash of gooseflesh. The two staff took much more trouble over probing Sandra's anus and vagina than they had with the virginally innocent Lisa. Even this hardened thirty year old was sick with disgust when they had finished with her. Hatchet face removed her latex glove and took out the list of rules. She was read out the familiar spiel. They had not changed much in the last three years, except for the lower temperature. It would be an uncomfortable twenty-four weeks and the weather would most likely be chilly when she had finished her punishment. And when she returned to normal prison life she would be bare breasted to face the elements. She wondered what clothes Lisa would be left wearing after her three separate punishments. Probably just her briefs! But since nobody had ever been down here for three sessions, Lisa would be breaking fresh ground, both after as well as during her ordeal.
Fifteen minutes after being taken down below, Sandra was in the next cell to Lisa. She might as well have been a thousand miles away, of course, and for the first week, Lisa was not much in her thoughts as she tried to adjust herself to this most feared and hateful of situations.
She cursed herself time and time again for her utter stupidity. Fancy picking on that new girl! Once you had spent a session down here you NEVER stepped out of line again! She shivered in the sixteen degree temperature for her first three days and then found it becoming bearable. After ten days it seemed normal. By the time it had gradually dropped to ten degrees she was relieved to discover that she could still function and survive.
She tried at first to do the sort of exercises that Lisa was doing next door to her, but her reduced diet made her too weak and she found that all her strength was needed merely to remain upright for sixteen hours. Like Lisa, she overcompensated during her first couple of weeks, getting up hours earlier than necessary and spending eighteen or even nineteen hours upright instead of the still taxing sixteen and the resultant loss of badly needed sleep was wearing her out. Then one day she overslept and missed her breakfast, getting herself an extra week. Finally, after four weeks she had her routine adjusted.
For all the time she was buried alive she never lost her sense of panic-stricken despair and it was always an effort to stop herself crying and going down on her knees. Where Lisa had found it possible to invent her own inner reality, Sandra never forgot where she was. Those four walls, two of them close enough to touch at once, were never out of her mind.
"No, son. Your mother is so worried. It's been over a year since she wrote to say she had started her sentence and since then, nothing. I've written to the prison and the Foreign Office and my MP and to everyone I can think of and it's a brick wall. I know that she's alive and in good health. That much they will tell me, but they button up their lips when I ask why she writes no letters. There must be a pile of them we've sent her!"
George, Lisa's elder brother, was enjoying his summer vacation. Although 'enjoy' was not a word that Lisa's family had used much in the fourteen months since her arrest and never in the thirteen months she’d been in prison. None of them liked to think how it would have affected the slim and beautiful girl, who had always been the cosseted baby of the family, indulged by her mother and brother and doted on by her father.
Both Mr. Griffiths and George had flown out to the Asian resort when Lisa had been arrested and had even been allowed to see her in her holding cell. They had been encouraged by her cheerfulness and flown home in the knowledge that she was coping very well and showing a lot of bravery.
"I'm going back there, Dad. I've got until October before I go back to College. I can't just sit around here while my little sister is going through God knows what horrors. They probably don't speak English in that gaol!"
"I think she's in a wing for English speaking women, George. At least that's the impression I got. She was full of enthusiasm for a girl called Samantha. You remember - I showed you the letter."
George remembered every word of Lisa's first and only letter. He called to mind one sentence in particular. 'I like her so much, Daddy! With her as a friend I really don't mind spending three years here - and maybe it'll be less. I think they are very good about paroles and good conduct remissions and you know what a good girl I am. Pity the judge didn't think so, though! Keep smiling darling Mummy and Daddy and my love to clever old George!'. He felt, to his shame, a tear forming as he repeated these words to himself. She had certainly sounded happy enough in that letter, showing an admirable ability to seek out the good side of any situation.
George had to wait a week for a visa and a further week to make the bookings. His father had arranged unlimited credit at the country's main bank (as he had for Lisa a year ago) and all he had to do was find out what was happening to his sister. His first act on arrival was to seek an interview at the Department of Justice which oversaw the country's prison system. He was kept waiting for a week until he was asked to drop in. The Mr. Hernandes who finally invited him to come round to see him was a fat and perspiring man who looked like a heart attack in waiting to the ever athletic and fit George.
"I am sorry, Mr. Griffiths. I have the record of your sister's trial. The evidence was only photographic. Here is the incriminating photo taken by a security camera."
George looked closely at it. That was never Lisa! Never in a million years!
"That is not my sister, Mr. Hernandes. How could you have identified her and convicted her on the basis of that?" He was seething with rage to think poor little Lisa had been fifteen months in custody on the basis of a blurred photo of a fair haired round-shouldered woman at least five years her senior.
"That woman is stooping, Mr. Hernandes and Lisa - my sister - holds herself straight as a ramrod - always has. She'd never slouch like that!"
"She was the only blonde female in the hotel at the time and she was in possession of a lot of money when arrested."
"Of course she had money on her. She'd made a withdrawal from the bank that same day. I should know, we arranged the credit for her. She had all the money she wanted and had no need to steal."
"Perhaps she had overspent, Mr. Griffiths and was afraid to tell her father."
"Rubbish. She'd never be afraid to own up - she's not that kind of girl and I should know, having experienced her total honesty for eighteen years! And anyway she can wrap Dad round her little finger and does on a regular basis, the little minx!" He felt tears staring up again as he recalled Lisa's preposterous wheedling, effortlessly securing any and every favor out of a father who indulged her even as he treated his son so strictly. Not that George was complaining! He was entranced by his lovely younger sister as much as anyone else.
"But this is going over old ground. I want to know why we have not heard from her since her letter dated the eleventh of August last year and it is now the seventeenth of September, over a year later. She would never be so cruel as to keep us in the dark this long."
Mr. Hernandes smiled. "I am not actually in charge of that prison. My colleague Mr. Sanchez handles it as a rule. But he is away for another six weeks. I fear you will have to wait until then!"
His next call was at the Embassy and they were not too hopeful. They told him that consular access was rarely granted. But they did assure him that the prison in question was well run, but strict.
"My guess is that your sister committed a disciplinary offence and is under some kind of restriction of privileges," said Mr. Fordyce. "I'm sure you'll be hearing from her soon."
George left getting to doubt that his visit had achieved anything.
"Another spoilt brat getting into trouble and hoping her rich relations will dig her out!" said the harassed Fordyce to a junior colleague. "God, but I detest these rich bitches going off the rails and all the trouble they cause us! I say it will do her good to find out the world isn't here purely for her gratification. But we'd best look into it! See to it will you? No hurry!"
Mr. Potts, the junior official in question took a different line, happily for Lisa, and he pursued the case with an energy that even had the torpid Ministry of Justice responding. But even he had to wait until the vitally important Mr. Sanches returned!
George came home in early October, still unaware that his sister was now in the sixtieth week of solitary confinement, and with sixty still to come. The matter of her menstruation had been resolved, with all penalties arising cancelled. Unfortunately, Lisa had been ill for some weeks earlier in the summer and had fainted twice in ten minutes and twice soiled the floor at the same time. It had broken hatchet-face's heart as she adjusted the time switch, giving the poor young woman four more weeks. Two times she had attacks of diarrhea and soiled the floor, despite trying to make the short distance to the floor toilet, being obliged to wait four stinking days for the ten day hosing. Apart from that, though, she had incurred no extra weeks since the early part of her captivity and was quietly celebrating what she was sure was the half-way stage - unless she became ill again and there was no sign of that.
Lisa was half way through her second novel by this time. She had completed the first during her fifty-second week in solitary, at about the time that a half-crazed Sandra had completed her punishment and been freed, bare-breasted and wild-eyed to rejoin a shocked Samantha. Her first novel had been a steamy romance and every word of it was committed to memory. Set partly in Revolutionary France and partly in the East Indies, it had covered the unlikely and colorful adventures of a young noblewoman who had endured prison, near execution and a shipwreck before being rescued by a dashing, swashbuckling pirate. Some of the love scenes had been so hot that as she stood still in the middle of her cell for hour after hour, going time and time again over every last gasp of passion and thrust of manly pirate penis into tight, dripping wet, hot and welcoming aristocratic vulva, that she had feared for her own bodily purity and prayed that signs of moistness in her own crotch were not too obvious to the vigilant staff.
"That girl's going off her head, if you ask me," said Hatchet-Face to the governor as they sat eating their sandwiches and sipping ice-cold beer with the sun streaming into the office. It was certainly a wonderful day. "She's not so much as moved for hours. She's gone balmy - and who can be surprised - poor girl. She'll be like a zombie when she gets out - if she lives that long!"
"I disagree. Look how straight she still stands! That's not a defeated girl, like some we've seen. She's just lost in her own imagination. It's her way of escaping from the awful reality she is in. Now she has got over her food poisoning she will be fine."
Both the governor and Hatchet-Face had been stricken with the bug that had swept the prison. They had been in bed for a week. Lisa had been far worse affected, but had still remained upright until, the day before the infection finally cleared her by then shattered body; she had twice briefly passed out and twice slightly soiled her cell. It mattered not that she had forced herself back to her feet each time and almost made the distance to the toilet before her bowels cascaded her stinking flux into the hole and slightly spattered the floor. She had broken the rules and knew that it had cost her four more weeks in just a few short minutes! Since then, the problem had been traced to the water supply, which was now deemed pure by the public health authorities.
"I really do hope you are right," said Hatchet Face. She looked for the millionth time at Lisa's ivory white skin, untouched by sunlight for so long and those firm breasts with their pink nipples and small coral pink areolas and, above all, those flawless young buttocks and she lusted anew. She loved a good arse and Lisa's was the greatest! She had caressed its sweet roundness a zillion times and planted as many kisses on it. Occasionally she imagined giving that posterior love bites, leaving her teeth marks on both cheeks, and that was when she came to some marvelous orgasms! But it was not merely lust that made her hope Lisa would come out alive and in her right mind. She had grown to admire as well as hunger for that girl, and apart from that, like the professional she was, she would never dream of touching her for real. But it was good to look at that sweet flesh and dream!
The Governor was a married man with two daughters, one of whom was Lisa's age. He would sometimes have nightmares about his Carmen ending up in the same plight as Lisa. He thought of Lisa's parents, especially her father. The poor couple! And they knew nothing of what was being done to their so lovely daughter! Perhaps it was as well. He had authorized a letter to the British Embassy saying, truthfully, that she was alive and in good health. Her family would have to be satisfied with this tidbit of information until Lisa came out in sixty weeks and was able to write and tell it in her own words.
But her family was not satisfied and were more determined than ever to find out why Lisa had been silent so long. George was back home to begin his final year and Mr. Griffiths began to think of going out himself. He couldn't wait any longer. Then Mr. Potts phoned him.
"Mr. John Griffiths? Lisa's father? My name is Potts from the Embassy. My chief has asked me to look into your daughter's case. Poor girl! If ever anyone was framed it was she, but try getting that into these bastards' thick skulls! I have applied for the original evidence from the prosecutor's office so that we can satisfy ourselves as to its authenticity. That was two weeks ago and I bombard them with reminders - and nothing! Somebody is stalling and I'm getting a nasty feeling it's a high up person who's protecting the real culprit. I don't want to raise your hopes, sir, but things move slowly here, though they were quick enough to put her inside! By the time we clear her name, and I don't doubt we will, her sentence may well be complete - and that's another thing. With remission for good conduct and parole, she ought to have been freed by now, but she hasn't been. I've looked into the penal code and the reason she is still in prison must be that she committed a disciplinary offence of some kind."
"I find that hard to believe of her, but I agree that it sounds the likeliest explanation. Have you anything else for me?"
"Yes. I have obtained the names of all our nationals who have been imprisoned in the women's penitentiary and I've contacted the Ausies, Kiwis, Canadians and Yanks. I'm still waiting on the US Embassy but the others have let me have the names of any girl on their books who might have known Lisa. I suggest that she may have been out of circulation since just after she started her sentence. Whatever happened must have been in her first week before she wrote her permitted weekly letter home. So I further suggest we start with those who were around on the 11th to the 18th August. Most of them are still inside and we we'll never get permission to interview them. A couple will get out in six months - sisters who got into trouble. Two others have been released for some time. One has vanished without trace, but the other, a Ms Marty Jefferson has returned to England. I have her address and you might feel like getting in touch with her."
"I will certainly do that, Mr. Potts. I was coming out there to be on the spot for Lisa, but I'll postpone my flight until I've had a chat with Ms Jefferson. Thank you for being so helpful"
"Think nothing of it Mr. Griffith! It's just me doing my job - and I have a daughter almost that age, at school in Scotland. Believe me - I do have some idea what you're going through."
Three days later, John Griffith was knocking on the door of the address Potts had given him. A slatternly woman, holding a baby, whose father must have been Chinese, from its appearance, answered the door.
"Ms Marty Jefferson?"
"No. She's not here. Daft cow. She gets back from doing a stretch in some Asian hell-hole and then gets herself three months for shoplifting! Stupid bitch!"
"Where is she imprisoned - Holloway?"
"Yeah. Visiting day is today, but you're too late."
A chat with a contact at the Home Office got him a visit to Ms Jefferson, but he had to wait three weeks. Visiting was restricted and Marty had used up her quota. No amount of persuasion could get them to bend their stupid rules. John was getting to hate officialdom, with the sole exception of Potts, who was a good egg. Finally, while Lisa continued to count the days and weeks, he got to chat to Marty Jefferson. The response was not too encouraging at first but he managed to draw out of her what had happened.
"She got into a fight on her second day, Mr. Griffiths. That was fine and it was a good fight to watch! She has plenty of guts that daughter of yours! She just waded into Sandra and Sandra's a big girl and strong with it. She was getting well and truly thrashed but it made no difference. She's no coward, I'll say that much"
"You mean she is still being punished for that and refused permission to write letters?"
"It started to get complicated. I don't understand all the ins and outs, but when the warders separated them, one of them asked who started it."
"Oh dear! The golden rule is don't answer a question like that! I suppose Lisa did?"
"It started when Lisa was shoved and she shoved back and a fight started. But Lisa was right out of order. She was just a green kid and all that, but that made no difference. She was a leper after that. What made it worse was that the other girl had done time in solitary. One of the things they throw you in the hole for is fighting. But if they couldn't tell who started it, then they'd impose a lesser penalty - just a caning or some extra and nasty duties like cleaning out the latrines. But the guard believed Lisa when she said Sandra started it and since Sandra was not too badly marked and your Lisa was bleeding like a stuck pig, she got the blame and was shoved back in the hole."
"And what happened then?"
"It didn't take long for Lisa to realize she had to do something for Sandra. She hadn't seen her bare feet until too late. After being in solitary they take away your shoes for the duration. A second stretch in solitary works out at least three times the stretch for the first. It's complicated and that's the whole point."
"It is relevant to Lisa's case?"
"Very relevant, Mr Griffith. Next day I and a friend, Patsy tried to shove her into a puddle. But she was waiting for someone to attack her and was ready for us. She punched me and Patsy gave her a black eye. Then Lisa really gave Patsy a whopper in her eye and Patsy had had enough! We continued to fight for a bit and were rolling on the ground giving each other what for, when they separated us and asked who started it. Guess what Lisa did?"
"I hope you're going to tell me either that she took the blame or stayed silent!"
"She took the blame. Then she changed her story about the day before. They put us all back to work, including Lisa. Your girl was very popular after that. She did wrong and tried to put it right as soon as she could. But she was silly. She should have gone to the governor and changed her story. Anyway Sandra was let out and she and Lisa kissed and made up. Next day they took Lisa to face the Governor and that's the last any of us saw of her. I know her friend Samantha was getting more and more worried about her not getting back after eight weeks."
"Yes. That's the minimum. All punishments are in multiples of eight. A second offence gets you sixteen weeks, so LIsa thought she would get Sandra off her twenty four weeks and only serve eight herself."
"Pretty noble of her!"
"Balls, Sir! She had no choice and she knew it. But she was silly starting a second fight. My guess is that they gave her two separate sentences. That would keep her inside for thirty two weeks. They are very free with their penalties for infringing the solitary confinement rules, so I'd imagine she'd get about twelve weeks added on for this and that. Her being a raw newcomer wouldn't make any difference. They've no mercy, those bitches!"
Mr. Griffiths went pale and even the tough and brassy Marty felt sorry for him. But he pulled himself together pretty fast.
"There must be more to it, than that, Marty. Even if she did get extra weeks she has been out of circulation for sixty-four weeks. How could a second offence keep her in for so long? You spoke of sixteen weeks for a second offence."
"Yeah. But those sadistic swine make any woman sent to solitary serve her previous time all over again - then she starts her second sentence. Maybe they dreamt up a third rap wasting the governor's time by not telling the truth first time. Yes!! That would account for it. Her third session would be twenty-four weeks. And she'd do the thirty-two she'd already served all over. So that's sixty-four weeks and a further twenty-four. I make that eighty-eight weeks, plus all the penalties. You're looking at two years. That's it. She thought she would do eight weeks to save Sandra from twenty-four and finds herself buried alive for two fucking years. Fucking Hell! The evil bastards! No one ever got more than two spells in solitary before this and they were real hard cases. Poor little Lisa!"
"Do you know anything about the conditions she will be in?"
"I certainly do! But are you sure you want to know? Because you aren't going to like knowing what your little darling is suffering. Sure you want me to go on?"
He nodded, looking as if he were about to cry.
"Well, the first thing is they strip them completely and shave their heads and they wear nothing until they some out. One girl who had been there told me the cells are tiny. Maybe a liitle less than six by just under four feet. And once they go in through the cell door, it stays locked until they come out. It never gets opened. Can you bear for me to go on? You do look awful, you poor old sod!"
Griffiths indicated that he wanted to know all.
"They NEVER open that door until the sentence is over. So if they get ill, they either get over it or... need I say more? And they must keep on their feet from breakfast until evening meal. They pass food, toiletries and things through a grille and she'll never see the woman who passes them to her - not even her hand! I think that's about fifteen hours they have to keep standing and if they can't and sink to the floor then that's another week they have to do! Believe you me, they pretty soon develop pretty strong leg muscles unless they want to stay there for their entire sentence. If she was ill and fainted they'd give her a week extra for that. If they don't keep the place tidy they get a week extra for that. If they oversleep, that's another week. If they play with themselves, they get a week extra. And they don't waste money on heating that place! She'd better get to like it nice and chilly! They watch every move through a camera in the ceiling and it picks everything up. Nobody can touch her as long as she's there, so her virginity is safe - if she hadn't lost it already. But one of the solitary cell guards is rumored to like perving on the inmates, especially the pretty young ones and Lisa is very pretty, as you know, and just about the youngest prisoner there, so your little girl will have been providing that bitch with loads of night-time fantasies!"
The first thing John Griffiths did after his revealing and distressing talk to Marty was to get back to Potts. That gentleman was sympathetic and promised to contact the prison. John took the first available flight. Three days later the two were talking in Potts's office. That gentleman had been making good use of the last few days. Now that there was testimony from an ex prisoner about Lisa's punishment, the prison no longer saw any point in hiding behind their former wall of secrecy.
"I have arranged for you to visit the prison and talk to the governor about your daughter's case. He did not deny that Lisa is in strict solitary confinement. I asked him if she was in good health and he said she was, but had suffered food poisoning recently in common with pretty well everyone else in the prison. He said they had improved her diet to help her regain her strength after a shattering few days. I got the feeling he is a basically decent man, but with no imagination. He obeys orders and imposes rules laid down by the system. But you can talk to him yourself. I will drive you there and back and will be with you at the interview."
Potts's description of Governor was right, thought Griffiths. This was a man who applied rules strictly and fairly according to his lights, but had little idea of flexibility. Sensing that the diplomat's presence was not helping, he asked Potts to leave and pick him up later. The Governor offered him the hospitality of his house and Potts promised to be back in exactly two days. When they were alone, Menendes visibly relaxed.
"I am sure this must be very painful for you, Mr. Grifiths and I sympathize. I have a daughter of Lisa's age and I sometimes get pretty scared about her getting into some sort of scrape! It is a long complicated story, but your daughter was originally given one hundred and four weeks in solitary. I confirmed the sentence three weeks later and that is that, I am afraid. Once a sentence has been countersigned by the Minister of Justice, only he can amend it and he would need facts not available to him at the time. These simply aren't available. I could not release her even if I wished without sanction from the Justice Ministry and that, as I have said, is unlikely, although you are welcome to try and persuade them.
"She is kept in total isolation in a temperature of ten degrees, or fifty Fahrenheit if you still prefer old money! There are a number of rules and they are enforced by monitoring her round the clock on a CCTV system. Each infringement earns her an extra week and the timing device to unlock her cage is adjusted accordingly. Again it is difficult to reverse such a decision, although I do have some influence there if I feel we may have been unjustly severe. For instance, I did get authority to have twelve of her extra weeks rescinded, so that brings her release a little closer."
"How many extra weeks has she had?"
"Sixteen, so far. Twelve were incurred very early on. Until she became ill and fainted a couple of times and suffered two messy attacks of diarrhea, she had committed no offences since the early ones. She is a model prisoner who has adjusted to her punishment with great courage. I know you think it harsh, but this is a harsh country in many ways. I have spoken several times with the excellent Mr. Potts and share the view that the evidence on which Lisa was convicted was thin to say the least. That woman in the photograph did not look like her to me, although it is so blurred that it could be any fair-haired young woman of about that height and build. But she came here as a convicted felon, Mr. Griffith. She came here to be punished and my job is to provide that punishment."
Griffiths said nothing. He knew he must not antagonize this man, despite his contempt for the fellow's utterly hidebound mindset. The Governor went on.
"I judged that she had committed three offences, Mr. Griffiths. She admitted to starting two fights and lied about the first fight before changing her story. That meant eighty eight weeks and I felt she should also serve the sixteen weeks her lie had nearly cost her first opponent. I am sorry now, about the extra sixteen weeks, but I doubt the Ministry will seek to change it. Nevertheless I will write to them and ask them to do this. It seems unfair that you have come all this way for nothing. But, first, would you like to see your daughter? I have the monitors for the isolation block in my office. Come."
Griffiths followed him over to the sliding panel and was soon looking at the screens. All were blank except one. Lisa had been the sole prisoner since Sandra had been freed. A tear trickled down his face as he recognized the person he loved most in the entire world, aside from his dear wife.
"Thank you, Governor. I must say she looks amazingly well. Pale skinned, of course, but fit and well. And her hair looks amazing - I always told her she should grow it long like that, but she preferred it shorter! How does she keep in such shape, I wonder?"
"She soon got into a routine. Every night before she goes to sleep she does one hundred pushups and other exercises from time to time. I hope it does not embarrass you to see her naked, but nudity is compulsory for all solitary inmates. It is partly humiliation and partly to ensure hygiene. We hose down the cell every few days and if she wore clothes, her clothing would be damp for long after. You can see there is no storage space there, just the four walls! It is very unpleasant to be in that cell, but it is meant to be very unpleasant. She is there to be punished, remember!"
Griffiths was getting sick of that word. Punishment was all very well, but he disliked hearing it applied to his own darling daughter! But she had acted dishonorably and he could see that she would have to pay for her misdeed, but in Heaven's name, not as heavily as this! Then he considered what her fate would have been had she not acted as she had. She would have been given hell by her fellow inmates and almost certainly injured by them many times. At least she would now be popular when she came out and rejoined the others. And she was obviously coping with her ordeal. He was immensely impressed at his daughter's serene demeanor and she was as upright as ever. Before he accepted that there was nothing to do but allow events to take their course and pray for her safe survival he had to be sure.
"I wonder if I might write a short note to Lisa? Give her a week extra if you like, what difference will an extra week make? But I want to exchange a few words. Please, Governor! What if that were your daughter and I were her jailer!"
The Governor nodded.
"As I said before, it is a shame for you to come all this way and leave totally empty-handed! You may send a note and she may reply. And, yes! She will have to pay a penalty for that!"
He handed Griffiths a sheet of prison notepaper and a pen. He wrote a few lines and handed the paper to the Governor, who looked it over and nodded his approval.
"I will send it with a covering note telling her she will incur no penalty if she returns your letter unopened, but will have a week added to her time in solitary if she reads it. I do not doubt that she will. And if she is willing to serve one more week again, she may reply. I will see she has pencil and paper. And, now, we can only wait until the morning. She will be given the messages with her evening meal. I suggest we go to my house and return early tomorrow."
Lisa wondered if she was dreaming when she saw, in addition to her bread, fruit and water, a folded sheet of paper. She took it wonderingly and with a pang of mingled hope and fear. Had she been cleared of the crime of theft? Or was it some alteration to the solitary confinement rules. She unfolded the paper and saw it enclosed an envelope. The paper was from the Governor.
"Miss Griffiths. Your father has finally discovered what has happened to you and is with me as my guest for a day or two. I have allowed him to write you a note, which is in this envelope."
She had torn the envelope open even before she read the warning that opening the envelope would cost her a week. Hells bells! She would accept twenty weeks!
Tears rolled down her face as she read her father's message.
"Darling Lisa. I am so glad to see you look so well. You really are a remarkable girl! I have spoken to the Governor and he is willing to try to get sixteen weeks of your time here taken off your total. It's not much, I know, but it's all I can get them to consider for now. But I will not be going home until I can take you with me, no matter how long it takes! Keep up your spirits darling Lisa.
Your ever-loving Daddy.
She saw there was a pen and paper for her to send a reply. No doubt reading her father's letter and then replying would cost her a fortnight. But as if she cared! She spent an hour thinking what to say and then made up her mind and scribbled away, just about filling up two sides before finishing. She put the reply, together with the governor's letter and her father's envelope on the tray. Then she slept.
John Griffiths slept well in the Governors comfortable guest room but in dozing off he had more than a twinge of guilt as he pictured Lisa sinking onto a cold marble floor after sixteen long hours on her feet. The poor little girl! How could his sweet daughter ever have got herself into such a mess? But he would get her out - and soon. He had spent the last nineteen years getting her out of one scrape or another, and he damned well wasn't going to fail her now!
After an early breakfast, the prison governor escorted Mr. Griffiths into his office. He pointed to a low lying block near the perimeter and explained that the punishment cells were located there. Soon the door was opened and two guards came out, carrying the remains of Lisa's breakfast and her reply to the letter. As soon as the letter arrived, the Governor handed it straight to her father, without so much as a glance at it.
"According to the rules and regulations, to which we poor officials pay our humble obeisance, I ought to read it first, but here you are, my friend!"
And John Griffiths read his daughter's astonishing letter.
How lovely to hear from you. I am crying now for the first time since I came here! I hope I don't smudge this letter too badly with my silly tears, which I do faithfully and truly assure you, are of joy rather than sadness! I assume Mummy and George are both well. I hope so and DO be sure to send both those precious people my love!
I hope you will NOT (underlined) repeat NOT use your influence to get any part of my punishment lifted. I have thought long and hard about this during the past months and I know I deserve it all down to the last tiniest segment of time. Don't get me wrong, Dad. It's worse than awful to be in this little cell and I wouldn't put my worst enemy in here even for a day! I solemnly affirm that I am not mad and no sane person would like being here! I don't want to spend an instant longer in this incessant horror than I have to, but I won't accept a second less than my due punishment either!
You have always spoiled me, darling old Daddy, and you shouldn't have! You really shouldn't! If you had been as free with your belt on my posterior as you were with it on George's, I would be all the better for it. As it is I have grown up to be a spoilt brat who thought she could always get what she wanted by fluttering her eyelashes and pouting prettily. Well, I have learned that life in the real world isn't like that and it's a lesson I'm glad to have learned, even if it has got me into this hell-hole! I am figuratively getting my belting every day, Daddy! And it's right and proper that I should! The more I think about it the more I know that there is nowhere else I wish to be right now than here. I MUST be here for the time it takes me to complete my punishment successfully.
I should never have come out here alone at my age, a silly little girl still wet behind the ears. It was asking for trouble and, by Heaven, did I ever get it! But I'm not complaining, Daddy. I am angry at whoever framed me, but a hundred times angrier at my own youthful arrogance. As for my being here, that is dreadful, but the rules are the rules. Under the regulations, I deserve all my time here. And that includes the extra sixteen weeks which I so nearly got poor Sandra to serve. Before they put me in here I made a brief statement, saying I accepted my punishment as just and fair, and promising to be a model prisoner or face the consequences. I have never regretted or ceased to stand by a word of that!
Not all the women here have influential parents who can pull strings. Any of them in my position would have to do the whole stretch and have no hope of any remission. And what is good for them MUST be good for me too!
And now for a few words about me as I am now! You could see how I have kept my body in good shape. And I can assure you that my mind has not deteriorated either! I won't let it! I'll explain myself when we meet again back home in Wales. But I have put these months to good use!
So there you are, Dad! I am not the silly girl I was and I never will be again! I'll never come to you expecting you to let me have anything I want. From now on I make my own way in life, although I'll always love you desperately. And making my own way starts with this spell in solitary, which is a debt I owe and wish to pay in full.
I'll ask one last favor of my dear Daddy! Just imagine me making eyes at you as only I can! Feel my arms round your neck and the sweet wet kisses I cover your dear old face with. Imagine my soft cheek against your stubbly face as I wheedle yet another concession!
This is the favor, Daddy! Just go straight home and get on with your life. We'll be together again soon enough. I'm not letting this beat me and I'll survive! Don't try to get my time in solitary reduced. And as for clearing my name - let ME set about that after I get out - if I find it worth the trouble. Frankly I am half inclined to let the true culprit stew in her own guilt and leave it at that! Because I know I was innocent and so do all the people in my life who matter! Just go home and let me finish doing my time. I want to see dear Samantha after I get out of here AND spend some months getting to know her better. I've never met a girl I took to so quickly and she likes me just as much. She will always be a dear friend even if I never see her again. So there's definitely got to be no hurry to get me out! End of request!
I hope they let you reply to this, just so as I know you're being a good boy and going home, leaving me to clear up my own mess, which is what I should have been made to do long, long ago!
Your ever loving and very grown up daughter
PS If you are able to see the CCTV monitor at nine tonight, I will look up to where I imagine the camera to be, wave, blow you a kiss and give you my sweetest smile!
Mr. Griffiths wiped away the tears which were flowing down his face. He handed the letter to the Governor.
"You might like to read it now. It is your job and I don't want you getting into trouble, especially after drinking your excellent malt last night!"
The governor took the letter and read it. There were tears in his eyes as he handed it back to a proud father who would treasure it for the rest of his life.
"Quite a woman, your daughter. You are a lucky man! And you may reply. And we will be here tonight to see her wave to you! Then I take it you go home?"
"Then I go home. I hope you will keep me informed from time to time?"
"Every week, Mr Grifiths!"
Her father's reply came at nine o'clock. She opened and read it.
I will grant your last favor! And make sure it is the last, because I'm going to hold you to all your good resolutions!
Your ever loving and very proud
She looked up at the ceiling and put her hand to her lips before waving it in the general direction of the camera. She smiled a smile which had nothing forced about it and revealed in its tenderness all the love she felt for him. Then she turned away and ate her meal - only just in time!
Realizing that Lisa would not be looking up again that night, the governor and Lisa's father repaired to the governor's house. It was arranged for Potts to come and pick Mr. Griffiths up at noon next day.
In the morning as Griffiths stood with his overnight bag, the governor asked if there was anything else he could do.
"Yes. Lisa was very enthusiastic about a girl called Samantha. I would like to see her, if that is possible."
"But of course! She is a favorite of mine! A real success story from my point of view. She is Lisa's age but has been here since she was fifteen and will still be here when Lisa leaves. It is a sad story and, frankly she doesn't belong here with so many much older and much harder women. What a shame that the only two inmates of that age should have been separated! She stabbed her drunken father when he tried to rape her. In your country she would probably never even have been charged! But this is not your country I regret to say!"
"Never mind, Sir. At least you get better weather!"
The pair laughed at this witticism and Samantha was brought over to the governor's office. She stood nervously looking from Governor Menendes to Mr. Griffiths and back again.
"This is Lisa's father, Samantha. His daughter wrote about you in her one and only letter home and he would like to talk to you. I will leave you both alone for a few minutes..."
"Have you come to get her out?" asked Samantha excitedly "I so hope you have. That poor thing should never have been sent there for so long a time. We all think so! There's been talk of a mass protest!"
"I hardly think Lisa would thank you for that. Here is a letter she was allowed to write to me. Take a look at it."
Samantha read Lisa's letter. Then she handed it back.
"She's awfully brave, isn't she? But very silly. All that about wanting to serve her full punishment. She didn't deserve more than eight weeks - if that! I would do anything to avoid being where she is. I never react to provocation! I just keep my head down and be a good girl, but she waded right into that bullying Sandra and she'd have kept fighting until she got knocked out, which would have happened soon enough if they hadn't both been pulled apart. The same with those other two girls. Do you know about it?"
"Yes. I heard an account from Marty, one of the girls she fought and who is now in an English prison! A very hard lady, but with some good qualities. And how is Sandra?"
Samantha explained how Sandra had tried to help Lisa and only got banged up herself. She promised to give her Mr. Griffiths's best wishes.
"So that appears to be that - unfortunately."
Mr. Potts was in his boss' room. Lisa's father, sad but resigned to obeying his daughter's strange but unequivocal request, had flown home two weeks ago, straight after leaving the prison. Potts had just shown his chief a copy of Lisa's letter, which Griffiths had thought himself obliged to give him. The chief had just finished reading it.
"And we have the tapes of her hearing and her statement before walking into her cell. The girl clearly accepts that she was harshly but quite properly treated and is willing to face her punishment."
The Justice Ministry had made the taped proceedings available to the Embassy. Both men had listened to that calm voice in total silence and remained quiet several seconds after the tape had finished.
"I take back what I said about her the day I handed the case over to you, Potts! She's no spoilt brat, and she does herself an injustice in that letter. She might have been one once but she's grown up awful fast. Even before she went into that cell she was a very mature young woman. I think she always was an exceptional girl as well as a very lovely one."
He looked at her photograph again.
"She has a backbone of steel, that one. And she's too fine a girl to be left to rot there for another. How long did you say she still has to go?"
"About fifty-six weeks. It would be fifty-three, but that exchange of letters with her father cost her three more."
"Three bloody weeks for the first contact with her family in over a year. She's still a child, damnit! This is abominable, Potts! I want you to keep on this like the proverbial British bulldog. She may be willing to take this barbaric treatment and her father may be going along with it, but we have the broader picture to consider! How many other victims of injustice are there in this confounded country? Try and find out if there are any others who we should look at! Get onto the other Western embassies and see what they come up with."
"I have already done that." said the efficient Mr. Potts." There is an Australian girl called Samantha. The one Lisa befriended. Her mother married a local many years ago and they divorced. He abducted her when she was still a baby and brought her back here. Her mother was killed in a motor accident while still in the middle of proceedings to get her back and so Daddy ended up with custody. He treated Samantha, who has dual nationality, very badly. It culminated in his raping his own daughter once too often and she stabbed him with a kitchen knife. Served the bastard right if you ask me! But she got fifteen years all the same, poor kid! With full remission she'll be coming out three months after Lisa. But I know of no others. I think the Americans had a few of their citizens locked up under dubious circumstances, but they got them out pretty quickly by leaning heavily on the President and in effect paying a bribe. They don't want to know about Lisa, though. They regard this corrupt bunch as allies in the "War on Terror" and won't rock the boat to help us, although I know a few guys at their Embassy, and they are very sympathetic and will do all they can unofficially."
Fordyce looked like thunder.
"Well - keep at it, Potts. I agree it doesn't look good, but we won't stop trying. Make it your number one priority until she gets out. If I can save her just a day's imprisonment it will be worth the time and money spent!"
Unhappily, all Potts's energy was in vain and gradually the remaining weeks were ticked off on his wall chart as one lead after another proved fruitless. It was four weeks before Lisa's release from solitary that a contact at the US embassy gave him the name of the true culprit, but this junior official was careless about passing the information on and was whisked away to Washington before Potts had a chance to collect the documentary evidence he needed. But he never gave up. He thought many times about going very public indeed about the disgraceful collusion by a so-called ally in the dreadful fate of a sweet and lovely girl, but knew it would mean dismissal for him and possible imprisonment. A Government led by a man popularly derided as a US poodle, was not going to like a scandal like this blowing up. And so Lisa waited in her cramped solitude until, according to her reckoning, only twenty-one days remained for her to do.