A Quiet Fight – Conversations on the Floor

Conversations on The Floor

Wynn grabbed the pitcher and went to the common area. Filled it with water and drank it fully. Then filled it again and started drinking a second glass. The headache dulled almost immediately. He took the pitcher back to his cell and arranged some dust so he would know if it had been tampered with. He returned to the common area and waited for someone to bring breakfast he could eat.
The cells were arranged in a very long U and stacked four stories high. The ceiling was a reinforced glass that provided a bright feeling on sunny days. The area on the floor held benches and table, water faucets and sinks, and an area for washing clothes. The open end of the U provided access to the cells and areas where the guards watched the inmates in the common area. It is also where food was prepared and linens washed, and cells where inmate meetings were held. During common time, inmates would clean clothes, eat and generally meet with others as allowed.
Wynn, as a poor Irishman and someone who had killed gentry, was generally ignored by other inmates. There was another inmate who was similarly ignored – a graying thin man, well dressed, sitting on a bench reading a book by Mary Shelly. Wynn sat down next to him. Without looking up from his book, the man said, “So desperate for conversation you’ve come to talk to me?”
Wynn leaned on the bench looking at the clumps of men staring in their direction, “I would say they were ignoring me, but that would imply they don’t care. You are ignoring them. I figuring I am safer here with you who ignores everyone.”
The man licked a finger and turned a page, “Irish, poor, killed Darrin Kipling, suspected in the Wellington Barracks attack. You can hardly expect them to be indifferent.”
Wynn smiled, “My name’s Wynn Maynard. I see you’ve read my CV. Not all that is true and there is more that is not in the rumors.” He looked at the man, “Who are you?”
The man did not look up, “Thomas Stewart, third son of the Earl of Galloway, late of Galloway and Dumfries.”
Wynn slapped Thomas’ knee, “Now, see. There ya’ go. We are practically neighbors. I come from Derry County. On a clear day, I can probably see the topiary in your family garden.”
Thomas closed his eyes and snorted. Then he laughed and kept laughing. When he finally stopped and caught his breath, “Oh to see Pater’s face when you said that.” He laughed some more and then wiped an eye. “Forgive me. Did not expect a Derry Irishman.”
Wynn added helpfully, “From the wrong side of the wall”
“As you say, did not expect an Irishman in this section.” He looked at Wynn seriously for a moment, “You do know what side we were on at Boyne.”
“Hell, I had cousins on the other side. Can’t blame a damn Scot for his heritage. Your whiskey is an abomination.”
There was more laughter. “How does a poor Derry boy end up here with gamblers, noble drunks and society’s dregs instead of down with the unwashed?”
Wynn held his nose, “That is literally true about the basement. My friends and I invested well and we avoided busts. Even here, money moves mountains. Since you know my errors, which of the three brings you to these hallowed halls of malcontents?”
Thomas face darkened, then he said quietly, “Sodomy.” He opened his book, “It was brief pleasure Mr. Maynard.”
Wynn leaned back on the bench, “Don’t be an ass. I don’t bloody care who you fancy. I prefer women with a bit ‘o bounce myself. But if you like tall lanky boys, I bet I can find someone who captures your fancy.”
Thomas put his book down and stared at Wynn, “Don’t be crude.”
Wynn scratched his chin, “You don’t like little boys, do you?. Don’t abide by that …or little girls for that matter.”
Thomas said acidly, “I prefer my men grown, thank you.”
Wynn frowned, “Still don’t get it guv. A third o’ the fancy ladies in Mayfair are men. Seems strange you being in here.”
Thomas sighed, “If you must know, my brothers had the police raid my flat while I was with someone I am…close to.”
Wynn said quietly, “The word’s love guv.” He whistled, “Damn you aristocrats make family a complicated word. What happened to the poor sod in your flat?”
Thomas closed his eyes, “Rupert’s down below. He’s been there a week.”
Wynn muttered, “Shit. It was bad enough for me. They eat the small ones down there. ”
“You have no idea. Rupert couldn’t hurt a flea.” He looked off in the distance, “Me? I suppose I will be out of here in a couple of weeks, been given some odd sentence like going to a sanitarium to cure such things. Papa’s solicitor will see to that. I will then have to return to Galloway and Dumfries, live at home, be celibate at the least, reformed and married at the worst.” He winced, “It will be some matronly hill maid with connections to some minor clan I suppose.”
“Don’t knock hill maids.”
Thomas shook his head, “The house would be terribly relieved if I made one of the house girls pregnant.”
“Bit o’ challenge when you fancy the wood cutter.”
Thomas laughed and wiped his eyes, “Just so.” The scattered groups stared at the noise. Thomas leaned in and whispered, “They’ll think we’re a couple.”
Wynn stared back at the groups and leaned back on the bench and whispered back, “Don’t bloody care, so fuck ‘em.” He paused, “What’s your por sot’s name?”
“Who?” and drug his finger up Wynn’s leg.
“Ass…your inamorato. Your Object d’ desire.”
“Listen to you. Are you sure you’re Irish?”
“As Jonathan Swift and he had two lovers who were women.” He patted the knee of Thomas, push the hand away and said, “I might be able to help Rupert, but not if your going to go all fey on me.”
“Fine. His name is Rupert Sutton. He was a clothier on The Strand.”
“Kept you well dressed, I take it.”
“Except when we weren’t.” It was Wynn’s turn to laugh. “We met when I came to his shop for a new suit. Since he was my clothier it was an easy story. And I sent him more custom.”
Wynn sighed a little. There was a time when he would have been disgusted. But the galaxy was a big place and he saw more variety of relationships than London could imagine. Abigail was happy with Alice. Why shouldn’t Thomas be happy with Rupert. “The people who will bring me breakfast will be very sympathetic and might be able to help. She will at least know a solicitor versed in this bollocks.”
Thomas looked at Wynn, “Why are you helping me?”
Wynn’s face crooked, “Not entirely good natured. I have a request. I want to know if your brothers have contact with a group called the New Order. But truth is I dont’ bloody well care who makes your world light up.” He leaned in, “The breakfast? It’s a woman who is very good at business who also happens to love another woman. They have a lovely daughter. Now if I am fine with them, can’t see as I can have a problem with you and Rupert.” After a pause, “Find out if they have any new contacts.”
There was a shout, “Maynard, you have visitors.”
Wynn smiled, “Ahh… my breakfast.”
Thomas said, “They barely speak to me.”
“Your brothers tossed you to the coppers. That costs money. Did they fund it? Did someone else? Ask about this New Order. See if they jump. If they ask how you heard, just say it was being talked about on the floor.” Wynn stretched, “Don’t know as I have enough for today, but you are welcome to join me for breakfast.”

Author’s Note

Wynn has nanotechnology in his blood that helps with injury, infection, and (in this case) poison. However the nanotechnology has to have material to do its work so it harvests from the host body.  In most cases, a person just has to eat normally and drink a bit more. However, because of the damage that was repaired, Wynn is dehydrated and needs protein and sugar.

England had sodomy laws but was very selective in their enforcement. They could be used for blackmail or, as in the case of Oscar Wilde, as a means of quieting irritating people. Otherwise, like prostitution it was tolerated behind closed doors.

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