~*~ The events of this story will incorporate external added elements from the author's imagination into the already rich and exhilarating canon narrative of the HBO original series, Oz. For the most part, the canon of the series will remain intact to preserve a sense of realism to the plot, while also being sensitive of the time flow of events occurring within Oz.

~*~ Although the characters to be featured are prominently factual in their given genre, they are the sole property of Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, and are copyrighted to Rysher Entertainment and HBO. All original characters are of the author's creation and belong to him alone and, as with the rest of the story, may not be replicated or redistributed in any way without formal consent from said author.

~*~ Underage reading or any other illegalities is neither encouraged nor condoned in any way by the author. He also will not tolerate any form of plagiarism towards any of the words to come, as they are his and his alone. The principal objective is that of enjoyment and entertainment to you, the reader.

~*~ Address any type of question and/or feedback to jc71883@hotmail.com, making sure to add a relation to the story on the subject line of the e-mail to guarantee its reception.

 

 

Some semblance of guilt had seeped into Miguel Alvarez as he paced in his pod, thinking. Velez had failed in his mission of taking out Guerra and it had cost him his life. The young kid had been so eager to prove himself and now, he was dead. Alvarez regretted asking him to do such a thing and, in hindsight, realized that Velez had a very slim chance of killing Guerra. The loco Latino had been no better than Morales---or Hernandez before him. The kid was dead because of him. Regardless if Guerra killed him or not, Alvarez still had Velez's blood on his hands.

He told a hack that he wanted to see Father Mukada and they went there. He really wanted to see O'Reily, but it was not a good time for their meeting. Alvarez had been looking at Kenmin and Chen---the chinks were definitely plotting something. He was not able to get words of a solid plan yet, but someone knew something---and it was only a matter of time before they talked. The priest's door was open and he was smoking a cigarette when they entered.

"Hey, Father," Alvarez said. "I need to make a confession."

"Saturday---three o'clock," Father Mukada said.

"I need to make one now."

"Close the door, officer," he instructed the guard and then looked at Alvarez when they were in privacy. "What's up?"

The Latino sat on one of the chairs and started talking, "You know, ever since I've been let out of Solitary, I've been going right and left, you know? Up and down---just trying to prove to everyone that I'm no pussy."

"I know what you mean. I should have died in that bus crash. And now, the Reverend Cloutier has disappeared---which I think is supposed to mean something, but I can't figure out what that something is."

"So what do you do?" he asked.

"Pray."

"Yeah, well, you know---toss in a couple extra for me."

"I always do, Miguel," the priest said with a smile.

"Yeah, well, I need just a little bit more than my usual amount. Someone died---because of me," Alvarez somberly replied and felt the guilt tighten in his chest as if he was being closed inside a small box.

"Jaime Velez?"

"Yeah. This kid was innocent, you know?"

"You and I have had a long and battered relationship---but I continue to believe that you have a good soul, and that you'll find a way to right whatever wrong you committed," Father Mukada said to him.

"And if I don't?"

"Then you really are a pussy."

Alvarez returned to his pod to try to come up with a way to ease his conscience of Velez's death. Father Mukada was right---and after all that had transpired between them, the priest still believed his soul was good. He needed an opportunity to do good in Oz but there was rarely anything like that here. It was a cesspool of blood and violence and nothing was going to change that. He was summoned out of his pod by a hack because McManus had an announcement to make.

They were careful not to let their eyes settle for too long or be too close to each other. Out here, they were nothing more than inmates and observably had no business with one another. O'Reily and his brother were together listening to McManus talk about the opportunity to train a Seeing Eye dog for the visually impaired. Alvarez immediately remembered Eugene Rivera---the hack he had blinded to prove himself to El Cid. This was a rare opportunity to make something right and he had to seize it.

"If you're interested, let me know. But remember, this isn't a few weeks of playing fetch," McManus addressed Em City. "You've got to be strongly motivated to participate. Now, the woman running the program will interview each potential candidate, review your files, and make her final decision. That's all."

"Shit, man---I don't want no dogs in here, man," Poet said. "You know, where I grew up, man, there was this rot pitbull mix---mean motherfucker. I'm sure he had some Schillinger in him---fucking took a chunk out of my leg."

"Something tells me you deserved to get bit," Redding said.

"Yo---maybe a dog will take my mind off my problems. I'm signing up," Hill said and he rolled away.

"You know what---I think I'm going to apply," Alvarez said.

O'Reily shot him a quick look and said, "I bet these mutts are drug sniffers."

"Undercover dogs?" Penders said.

"Hey, you never know, man," the Irishman replied.

"Fuck it! You know what, I'm in, man," Alvarez said and left to see McManus.

"Me too," Penders said and followed.

"Ryan?" Cyril said.

"Yo."

"Can we get a doggie?"

"Not a chance," O'Reily told him.

Alvarez waited outside the interview room for his turn to try to do something good for a change. This was exactly what Father Mukada was talking about and he had to do it. He had put so much bad shit into the world that it was about time he put something good out there. There was a good feeling inside him---he could do this. Hill rolled out and Alvarez walked in and immediately started petting the golden dog that was inside. She was beautiful.

"Come on in and sit down," Alicia Hinden, the director of the program, said.

"Hey, girl. Yeah---yeah," he continued to play with the dog. "What'd you do to get in here with us bastards, huh?"

"Uh, Miguel, I've looked over your file and I've got to be honest with you---you're not really suited for this program."

"Why is that?" he stopped playing with the dog and asked.

"You've got quite a history of violence," she said.

"You read in there about the CO I blinded? Eugene Rivera?"

"Yeah---that kind of jumped out at me."

"Well, that's why you got to let me do this. It's what I owe. Just a good thing to even out all the bad, you know what I'm saying?" Alvarez looked at her and said as the dog continued to play with him. "Check this out---she already picked me. Yeah---yeah. Good girl."

His words were sincere and she had believed him because he was accepted into the program. A hack walked him, along with Penders and Hill, to the cafeteria where Hinden was waiting to assign them each their dog. This was his opportunity to try to right a wrong that he did in the past. Alvarez was not going to mess this up because an opportunity like this might never present itself again in Oz. They entered the cafeteria, where three dogs were waiting.

"Oh, that's my bitch right there," Penders said as he walked over to the dog.

"Step back a second, Penders," Hinden told him. "You don't get your bitch just yet. This isn't the city pound so I'll be assigning you your dog---which is how you'll refer to them."

"You're the bitch," Alvarez said to Penders and laughed.

"First, let me run down what we're going to accomplish here," she continued. "The goal is to teach them, and you, basic obedience."

"So, what---we step out of line and you hit us on the nose with a rolled up newspaper?" Penders laughed.

"If I have to," Hinden was serious and went on. "Now, you'll teach the dogs to come, sit, stay---the basics. But, more importantly, you'll show them love and trust. For these dogs to be useful to the visually impaired, they have to be comfortable not just with their owners, but with all people. And, if we don't accomplish that then all you've raised is a pet just like any other schmo. Yes?"

"These dogs---they stay with us?" Hill asked.

"Yes, in your pods."

The Latino thought about it and said, "How do we keep them safe from the other prisoners?"

"Like I said---love and trust," Hinden said.

"Shit. Now that's like conjugals and cigarettes."

"Meaning?"

"Those are two things that don't exist in Oz," Alvarez told her.

Hinden finished up her introduction and assigned the dogs to their trainers. Alvarez got Julie---the dog that had picked him from the interview. She was soft and warm and he felt inside that he was doing the right thing. It was something he had to do for Rivera and for Velez---and for himself. The session finished up and the three of them walked back to Em City with their dogs. Alvarez wanted to do a good job so he listened to everything Hinden had to say. This was going to be a part of his redemption. The buzzer sounded and the gates opened before them.

"Check it out---the boys brought their dates' home," O'Reily glanced at Alvarez but said to everyone.

"So, has your little mongrel learned about pain yet?" Guerra said to him.

"You better stay the fuck away from her," he warned.

"Oh---you afraid I'm going to hurt your little poochie woochie?"

"No---I'm afraid she might hurt you, bro," Alvarez laughed and walked away towards his pod. "Come on, girl. Come on---get inside. This is daddy's home. Yeah---come over here."

He sat on the bunk, ushered the dog over to him, and began playing with her. This training was something serious and he was going to see it through. The dog was positively responding to his touch and Alvarez was responding to hers. A part of him was invested in this so it had to work. Guerra would be dead and in a box in the Earth before he ever touched Julie. Alvarez was petting her when he heard a knock on the glass and looked up to see O'Reily waiting to be let in. Cyril was a few steps behind him. He easily nodded his head.

"You jealous, Irish?" he laughed as Cyril waited outside with his eyes on the dog. "Don't worry---you're still my favorite thing to play with."

"Fuck you!" O'Reily had to smile at the lewd and sexy insinuation. "Cyril wanted to see the dog. Can I let him in?"

"Yeah---yeah. Tell him to come on."

"Hi, Mr. Miguel," Cyril said as he entered the pod. "Can I play with your doggie?"

"Go for it. She needs to get used to people," Alvarez said as Cyril moved closer. "And it's just Miguel, okay?"

"Okay. Hi doggie!"

The strangest sensation immediately came over O'Reily. He just wanted to kiss Alvarez all of a sudden. He hid the feeling as he watched both Alvarez and Cyril interact with the dog and play with her. His brother face had a huge smile and he was laughing as Julie sniffed and licked his face. O'Reily just stood back and watched them act like two kids. Alvarez told Cyril to take his place on the bed after he got up so that he would have better access to the dog. He left the two of them together and walked over to the Irishman.

"Your brother really likes her," he said.

"Yeah. Cyril's always been a dog lover," O'Reily said.

"Look, Ryan---she's smelling my hair!" Cyril exclaimed and laughed.

"That's good, bro. We got to get ready to go. I'm sure Alvarez has a lot to teach her."

"It's all right, Cyril. Play with her a little longer. I know your brother can suck the fun out of everything sometimes," Alvarez said as he smiled at O'Reily.

"Yeah---he never wants to have fun anymore," Cyril said, but his eyes never left the dog.

"Shut up, Alvarez!" O'Reily said back.

"You should come make me," he teased.

"Whatever, man."

The loco Latino was toying with him---and right in front of his little brother. He wanted to punch him for being so slick, but the strong urge to kiss him had only grown. O'Reily had to get out of the pod before he was unable to control the impulse. Alvarez's smile did something to him---those lips and that soft skin scorched a fire inside him that was becoming increasingly harder to extinguish. O'Reily was playing a dangerous game with himself and the part he wanted to win was gradually weakening and losing power. It was all so overwhelming.

"You all right there, O'Reily?" Alvarez asked him.

"Huh---yeah," the words knocked him out of his thoughts. "Just thinking."

"I don't even want to know what about."

"Good---because you won't," O'Reily said back.

"I'm sure I'll find out---eventually," Alvarez said with that cocky grin of his.

"Uh-huh. Come on, Cyril. Let's go."

"But---Ryan!" his brother whined.

"No, Cyril. Time to go."

"Fine. Bye, girl. Bye, doggie!"

"Later, Cyril," Alvarez said as he walked out of the pod.

"And I'm not jealous, loco," O'Reily said in the brief moment they were alone before he left too.

 

Officer Murphy gave him the look when he asked to go to the infirmary. He did not feign illness or hurt himself in order to go, but he had to be there. O'Reily felt that his connection with Gloria Nathan was his only remaining link to his manhood. He had to cultivate it---especially since he had been spending so much time with Alvarez. He also heard that she had attacked the inmate Martinez when he had gotten too close to her. He had to hear what happened.

Murphy gave him a pass and he was on his way to see her. Alvarez had taken the dog to the cafeteria for training. It was going to be a big responsibility taking care of the dog and O'Reily wondered if that was going to cut into their meeting time. He was not jealous of the mutt. He walked into the ward and saw Dr. Nathan in her office filling out paper work. He knocked on the open door.

"Hey, Gloria. I heard what happened in here. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she said as she looked up.

"That's good."

"Come in. I, um---I met your mother."

"Yeah, I know. She told me," O'Reily entered the office and said.

"She seems nice."

"She's so completely different than the woman I grew up thinking was my real mom. My other mom, Cyril's mom, Tessie---that was her first name, Tessie. Growing up, Tessie was always sobbing---she had good reason," he recounted his childhood. "You know, Cyril and me, we never gave her any cause to smile. It's crazy, though."

"What?"

"Now that my mom is here, you know, doing this community service thing, well she and me and Cyril---it's like we're a family, you know? It's fucking great."

"Ryan, have you told her anything about what went on?" Dr. Nathan seriously asked. "Between you and me? Cyril? My husband? Keenan?"

"No. Uh-uh---uh-uh. I mean, she's been asking but---"

"Don't you think she should know?"

"Why?" he got defensive and asked. "What good would it do her, knowing that shit?"

"You can't just present the good side of yourself to her."

"Look, Gloria, I'm in Oz, you know. I don't think my mom thinks I'm up for any sainthood," O'Reily said matter-of-factly.

"If you want to have a real relationship with her, you have to tell her the whole truth," she encouraged him to do so.

"Uh-uh. I can't tell her the whole truth."

"Why not?"

"Because then she'll stop loving me," the Irishman said and realized he would go crazy if he lost his mother now.

"I don't think so. In my experience, you don't love Ryan O'Reily by choice."

Dr. Nathan gave him a warm smile and called in the guard to escort him back to Em City. All the way back to his pod, he found himself comparing her smile to Alvarez's. Dr. Nathan had beautiful lips, but he had only tasted them once---and it happened so quickly that he forgot what it felt like. Alvarez's kisses felt as if his soul was being touched or something. The Latino poured everything he was into all the actions they did when they were alone together. Right or wrong---Miguel Alvarez was the best fucking kisser O'Reily had ever come across.

The cafeteria was echoing with Cyril's voice as he tried to sing. The Irishman was thinking about what Dr. Nathan had told him. He did want to tell his mother about some of the things he had done in this place, but the real fear was there that she would walk out on him---just as she had done when he had been only months old. O'Reily had to be honest with her, though because she deserved it. She needed to know the kind of person her son was and he was not going to hide away the bad from her.

"Old McDonald had a farm/E-I E-I O," Cyril sang out.

"Relax, relax," she told him.

"And on that farm he had some cars."

"Support here," Fitzgerald pressed against his stomach and lifted it up gently. "Cars?"

"E-I E-I O."

"With a---" she sand along.

"With a vroom vroom."

"Not bad, kid," O'Reily said but he laughed a little.

"Don't laugh. At least I'm trying," Cyril pointed out.

"Yeah, he's right," his mother said. "I didn't see you making the effort."

"Well---I got a little something something I might bust out at the variety show," he said as he pulled out a CD from his pocket. "Yeah."

"What's that?" Fitzgerald asked.

"You'll see. Hey, ma, I want to ask you something. I think families need to be one hundred percent honest with each other."

"Yeah. What, I mean, if your father and I had been honest, if we'd been open, if we'd work through our problems and all our fears maybe I wouldn't have left," she recounted and felt a twinge of sadness.

"I think about how different my life would have gone if the two of you had stayed married."

"Yeah, well don't---don't romanticize it. I mean, it still would have been very difficult."

"No, I know that. But, you know, we would have been, you know, together," he said.

"Yeah."

"After we're done fucking around here, I want to tell you about some of the things I've done, you know, since I've been in Oz. And, just to um---I want to warn you mom. It's not pretty," O'Reily told her and felt nerves inside his stomach.

"Well, I wouldn't expect it to be," Fitzgerald put her hand on his as she said. "But, it's good---because, maybe if you tell me about it, it'll start to make sense to you."

"Yeah."

"So---what do you got?"

"Just a little something something," he smiled.

"Let's see it."

He fed the CD into the nearby radio, got up on the stage, and began break dancing for his mother and brother. O'Reily twirled and spun until he got to the floor with his hand and danced around with his legs. Cyril was clapping and his mother was laughing---they really were a family. It was strange that he felt more of a family inside the walls of a maximum security prison than he did when he had been outside and living with his father and stepmother.

The door clanked open and the both returned to Em City. O'Reily went to his pod and emerged a short while later when he saw Kenmin and Chen sitting at a table in the quad and talking. Alvarez was busy training Julie in his pod but took notice of both O'Reily brothers. Something was going to happen and he looked on. Both he and his brother stood outside their pod looking at the two Asians talking. O'Reily had a bad feeling about it all. They were plotting again---and this time they were out in the fucking open for everyone to see.

"Today is the day," Kenmin said lowly from their table.

"Yup," Chen agreed.

"Kill them both---but if you can only get one, get Ryan. We can always whack the `tard once the older brother's dead," he gave out the instruction.

"There's Shupe," Chen noticed.

"Hey, O'Reily," Shupe came up to them and said.

"Not now, Shupe," he said and kept his eyes focused across the quad.

"It's important."

"Okay---you got ten seconds," the Irishman impatiently said. "What is it?"

"I overheard Li talking to Jia. They were arguing about your mom."

"What?"

"Li said he's going to rape her," Shupe delivered the false information.

"Fuck!" O'Reily got angry.

"You got any tits, man?" the bottom feeder asked.

"Yeah," he produced a few and the man went on his way.

"Ryan---is that man going to hurt ma?" Cyril asked.

"Not a fucking chance, Cyril," he said as they walked over to where Kenmin and Chen were sitting. "Whoa---whoa. So, you boys going to hurt my mom, huh?"

"He's out of control, O'Reily," Kenmin said in the false attempt of betraying Chen. "I don't know what to do."

"Yeah, well, I do. Hey."

O'Reily ran over to Li Chen to get his attention. His rage was unbridled and his judgment cloudy as he tried to protect his mother. Chen swung a punch and he ducked and retrieved a shank from his pocket and stabbed Chen on the side of his body. The man yelled out in pain but elbowed O'Reily to the floor. The shank was on the ground and Cyril quickly grabbed it and stabbed Chen in the stomach. The crowd was rowdy as the hacks scrambled to break up the fight.

The Irishman's nose was bleeding and there was blood on him and Cyril as they were both being taken to McManus's office. His heart was racing and his hands shaking as McManus tried to figure out what had just happened. O'Reily felt his throat was dry and he wondered what his mother would have thought of him if she saw him this way. It was all a part of survival in Oz. It was the main reason he had been able to keep himself and Cyril alive in this shithole. Sister Pete looked at each other them with dread and worry on her face.

"I'm telling you---he was going to rape my mother," O'Reily yelled.

"You have proof of that?" Sister Pete asked.

"Ask Jia---he knows all about it."

"I will," she said.

"Meanwhile, I want Cyril in Solitary," McManus told them both.

"No," O'Reily answered.

"Li's just the latest in a long line of people Cyril's hurt. I want him somewhere he's not going to hurt anybody else," the unit manager firmly said.

"Hey---he's all yours," Murphy said to another officer that approached Cyril.

"Ryan?" Cyril was confused.

"It's going to be okay, Cyril," he told his little brother.

"All right, let's go," the officer grabbed Cyril by his arm and started to lead him out.

"Be gentle with him, man! Come on."

"I don't want to go! I'm sorry!" Cyril started to scream and panic.

"You cocksucker!" he turned back to McManus and yelled at him.

"Save your anger, O'Reily. This time we're going to go the distance. Cyril either ends up in the insane asylum or death row."

"And you're going to the cage," Murphy tugged at his arm. "Come on---come on, O'Reily. Let's go."

"Sister," he called out.

"Come on," Murphy ordered.

"Sister, you got to believe me!" O'Reily said as he was forced out of the office.

"You know---it's possible he's telling the truth," Sister Peter Marie said as she watched him leave.

"O'Reily---the truth? I doubt it," McManus did not hide his disgust when he said.

Officer Murphy dragged him into the cage in the middle of Em City and locked the door behind him. He was caged up like a fucking animal in the zoo and on display for everyone to see. O'Reily kicked the bars and walked around the small space to think. He had to figure out a way to keep Cyril here. There was no way he was going off to the insane asylum. They were not going to be separated. O'Reily looked around and saw Kenmin walking by him with a hidden smile on his face.

"Hey, Jia---Jia---Jia. Come here---hey, come here," he tried to get the other man's attention. "Hey, look, you got to go to McManus and tell him that Li was going to rape my mom, okay?"

"I got nothing to say, O'Reily," Kenmin said with no emotion in his voice.

"Whoa---whoa---whoa. Hey, Jia. Jia, come on---come on---come on. You got to do that for me, man. You got to tell him," O'Reily realized how desperate he sounded, but he had no other choice at the moment.

"Your brother's going to die. They're going to fry his white ass and I'm going to be sitting in the front row laughing my balls off---you fucking mick!" malice filled Kenmin's voice as he smiled.

"But you---you fucking chink motherfucker! You fucking kidding me? You're fucking dead, Jia! You're fucking dead, you monkey! You little fucking bitch---you're fucking dead! You're fucking dead, you fucking chink motherfucker!"

 

The Latino had waited a few hours after the fight for O'Reily to calm down inside the cage before he made his move. From his pod, he had seen everything that had happened between the O'Reily brothers and Kenmin and Chen. Chen had swung the first punch, but the Irishman had approached him angrily first. The Asians had become a big problem and Alvarez knew something had to be done about it. Nevertheless, the first move had to be made before anything else was going to happen.

Alvarez walked Julie out of his pod and over to McManus's office. O'Reily had to get out of the cage to plan his next move. The unit manager had his door closed and was busy with another inmate so he waited. Julie was rubbing her nose against his leg as he petted her. He wondered how Cyril was doing in Solitary---some of his most dangerous days had been when he was locked away inside that tiny cell. A hack walked out with the prisoner and McManus summoned him in.

"What is it, Alvarez? I'm busy," he said.

"I have to talk to you about earlier," Alvarez said as he sat on the chair and Julie sat on the floor next to him.

"It's really coming along, isn't it? You're training her and she's really responding," McManus said of the dog.

"Yeah. She's a good girl."

"That's good. So---what's up?"

"You have to let O'Reily out of the cage."

"What business is it of yours? You and O'Reily barely even speak to each other," the unit manager said and he did not want to have the conversation.

"Exactly. We ain't friends---and, we ain't enemies, you know?"

"Neutrality in Oz? I don't believe it."

"Chen threw the first hit. He swung at O'Reily, McManus," Alvarez said.

McManus came from behind his desk, sat across from him, and said, "What are you getting out of this, Alvarez? Why are you getting involved?"

"Shit, man. It's the truth. I don't owe him shit. He doesn't need to be in the cage for something Chen started, though."

McManus averted his eyes and he knew the man was thinking. The unit manager may have been an asshole sometimes, but he usually did the fair and right thing in the end. He and O'Reily had not been on the best of terms ever since the Irishman had gotten to Oz but if he was in the cage when he was not supposed to be there, that was a problem. Alvarez studied him without him even knowing it as he stroked his dog's head.

"You got something against Chen---Kenmin?" McManus surprisingly asked.

"I don't know those guys. Plus, Julie here keeps me busy---don't you girl?" he replied as he shook the dog's head.

"I see."

"McManus, Chen swung at O'Reily---he fell to the floor, and Cyril stabbed Chen to defend his brother."

"Oh---and now you're going to fucking tell me to release Cyril from Solitary?" his voice was incredulous. "Li Chen is dead because of him---another fucking T.K.O. from Cyril O'Reily."

"Man---it was defense. He was looking out for his own."

"Fuck you, Alvarez."

"Just telling you what I saw," Alvarez said.

"All right---all right. Get out of my office."

Julie got up with him and they walked out of the office together. He looked down at the cage---O'Reily was sitting with his back against the metal and to him. He looked like he was thinking---or plotting some nasty way of revenge. The Asians deserved it for playing the dangerous game they were playing. When the vÝbora was backed into a corner or had no options left, his bite was far worse than his bark. Kenmin was going to pay for what had happened earlier.

About fifteen minutes had passed and Alvarez was in his pod when he saw Murphy walk down to the cage and open it for him to exit. O'Reily got out and immediately went to his pod---he seemed a bit surprised by his release. That grunt Meaney arrived and entered the pod a few minutes later. They had to have been having a meeting about Kenmin. Now that Chen was dead because of Cyril, Kenmin was surely not far to follow.

Alvarez had wondered about Meaney. The young Irish lad had always seemed so willing and eager to do whatever O'Reily wanted. He probably had realized that having O'Reily as an ally was far more safe than having him as an enemy. The Irish gang was not as big or influential as the Homeboys or the Latinos or the Italians, but Ryan O'Reily got shit done inside these walls---and, more times than not, no one ever had any clue as to the extent of which he had pulled the strings. Julie was resting and the Latino was reading a pamphlet from Hinden when McManus knocked on his pod door and entered.

"If I find out you're lying to me, Alvarez---it's a one way ticket back to Solitary," he warned. "A cozy cell right next to Cyril O'Reily."

"Got no reason to lie, McManus. I told you what I saw---that's it," Alvarez calmly said.

"I'm trusting you, Miguel---because, aside from that incident in the gym with Giles, you've been on good behavior. You even managed to sweet-talk Hinden into giving you a dog."

"It's a funny thing---trust," he said and smiled.

"Oh yeah---how so?" McManus was in no mood for riddles.

"You can't give your trust to anyone. It has to be earned."

"I don't have time for this. O'Reily's out on your word. If he so much as---"

"He's not my responsibility, McManus," Alvarez interrupted and said. "You can't blame me for his actions now that he's out of the cage. Like I said, O'Reily and I are not friends or enemies. I saw the fight and just told you what I saw."

"All right, then."

McManus left the pod and walked back to his office. Alvarez looked down and past the quad to see O'Reily pacing in his cell and Meaney still there. He got up and poured some water in the dish for Julie because she was barking for it. Alvarez wanted to know what the plans were, but he could not go down there now---especially when McManus thought he was lying about what he saw during the fight. He was a fool. Alvarez went back to reading the pamphlet as Julie eagerly lapped up water.