Angel 22 (time)
‘We can dae this the hard way, or we can dae this the easy way,’ said the stout officer doing the fingerprinting and he rifted. His breath smelled of booze, his uniform of cigarettes and there was fag ash on his shirt. There was a kettle and ashtray in the office among the shelves of folders making it his own space among the paraphernalia of his work. He had squarish fingers and dull hard bitten nails. He twisted Angel’s wrist as he rolled the palm of her hand from the ink block and transcribed it the whorls and lines on to a white sheet of paper with boxed columns.
But he was finding it much more difficult to roll the digits of her fingers and get an even spread of her fingerprint on the paper as her hand kept shaking.
He gave it another run holding an ink smudged tip of her index finger over the appropriate white box. ‘Fuck,’ he barked. ‘Relax. I could easily break your finger. Just keep still!’
‘I’m trying,’ she cried. Fear of what was going to happen to her rolled over Angel like a slow-moving wave. Her hand shook, whether she wanted it to or not.
The tall cop stood by the door and looked over at her sympathetically.
‘Whit’s she in for anyway, Charlie?’ He relaxed the grip on her hand and glanced over at the tall cop.
‘Well, it started with a breach of the peace. But then I think she might be in possession of a Class A drug and then there’s her pal, who said she attacked her without any provocation, so there might be an assault charge there. But that’ll probably come to nothing as she willnae shut up talking. Not like this one. She’s went all mute.’
Charlie glanced over at Angel, his dimples showing. ‘You know whit these women are like? They start most of the fights and just walk away.’
‘Don’t I, fucking just.’ The square thumb of the stout officer pressed hard on knuckled of Angel’s index finger and as he twisted her wrist and rolled her finger over the paper. ‘Just fucking relax! Will yeh?’
Angel was glad when the cell door slammed shut behind her because she couldn’t relax and she couldn’t think. But she was entombed in a cell two-and-a-half paces long and one wide to unravel herself. She’d a scratchy smelly blanket it in her hand and a dull light above her head protected by safety glass which allowed for only the most stunted kind of sleep.
A swell and the fall of a disembodied voice of the man in the cell next door, called out his need and he battered an accompanying beat on the shutters of the metal door. The rhythm changed and his call changed to wanting a light. To wanting a bit of toilet roll. To wanting his breakfast and demanding a mug of tea.
‘I’m trying to get a bit of fucking shut-eye here, ya eejit. was shouted from other cells, two or three down along the corridor.
‘Fucking shut up or I’ll fucking kill you,’ came from the cell across the way.
Insults criss-crossed but her neighbour kept banging the door and he was still alive in the morning when a guard came and pushed Angel’s breakfast into the cell.
‘Whit is it?’ asked Angel. She dragged the tray towards her, a Styrofoam cup and a soggy roll of some kind.
‘Ham, I think,’ chuckled the guard. Keys hung on a lanyard attached to his belt. He’d thick black sideburns and a smile broadened his face as he scoped a long look at her legs. ‘And we put two sugar in your tea. Although I’m sure you’re sweet enough.’
‘Turnkey, Turnkey, Turnkey,’ swelled from the cell next door. ‘I need my medication.’
The guard nodded his head. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be getting rid of that cunt the day. And you’ll get a bit of peace.’
Angel rocked forward on her bum and cradled her stomach and ribs. ‘You think I’ll get oot the day?’ she asked her voice cracking.
‘No, hen, court appearance Monday at the earliest.’
Rattle of keys and the door slammed behind her. Everything was designed to be noisy. She sat on the metallic toilet and peed as she examined the roll by sniffing it and breaking it apart to see what was inside. The slice of cold ham she put to the side, perhaps to use as toilet roll when the margarine dried on it. And it made her smile as she chewed on a bit of dough and thought about the kind of grouching that went on at work over breakfast and whether she’d be better chewing on the Styrofoam cup rather than the roll. The tea was no laughing matter, it made her face pucker and had an oily glaze that took a while to disappear as she swirled it around the cup.
She wondered if they put drug in it, and what the girls at work where doing now, or what time it was. She wondered what Pizza Face was doing now, and whether he’d be mad at her.
There was graffiti scratched on the wall she’d read a million times on toilet walls without it registering: cocks sucked and phone Rita and the number drifting across the wall, digits too big or too small, and celitc and rangers forever and who was fucking who and who was getting it – a massive collage of dark despair.
Angel let herself cry for the first time that morning. No soft corners in a cell, she propped herself against the back wall on her thin mattress and pulling the blanket up and over her head and back like a poncho sobbed silently until it hurt her sides and ribs too much. She raised an arm and traced the ragged edges and the shapes and curves of a FUK YoU on the wall. Her arm dropped, she rolled in her blanket on the mattress, her back to the door and tried to slip away from time through sleep. FUK YoU.