The doctor and the officer left the room, which left Marc and Linda alone for a few minutes.

“Why don’t you want to go into protective custody?” asked Linda.

A couple of reasons,” said Marc. “The big one is we won’t be any safer in the PC dorm of this prison. There are as many ways to get to us there as in the general population. The only difference between PC and a regular dorm is the address. Also, it would automatically lead to one or both of us being transferred. After thirty days, the Georgia Department of Corrections automatically does this. Personally, I don’t want to leave without you if I can avoid it.

If you’re sure about this, I’m one-hundred percent behind you,” said Linda.

“Another thing,” continued Marc, “they weren’t just after you this time. I was attacked first, instead of going after you. It’s obvious that we are both being targeted even if it’s for different reasons. It’s also obvious the same person or persons in here are orchestrating these attacks.”

“Are you sure?” asked Linda, thinking about Sergeant Paterson.

No, I can’t be, but it makes sense. I’m also concerned about how desperate the attacks are becoming. To attack us in the chow hall was just plain stupid. Now the attention of the entire prison is on us. This is part of the reason I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to PC out. Linda, we’re in danger no matter where we are. I think our only option is to get out of here.”

“You mean go to PC after all?”

“No, I mean escape.”

Linda knew that’s what he meant. It was a huge step, but she was ready for it. After seeing Marc lying on the floor seemingly dead, she wanted to do anything she could to make sure they were ultimately safe. “What’s our next step?” she asked.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into this,” said Marc. “It will take the two of us to accomplish everything we need to do, with you doing some of the most difficult tasks.”

He looked at her with confidence and hope. Linda returned his gaze with astonishment.

“What do you mean the most difficult tasks?” she asked.

“Well, one of us has to man a computer terminal while the other accesses the equipment. Because I’m the systems engineer and you’re the cat burglar, I thought the job assignments were pretty clear.”

Linda looked at Marc as if he had grown a third eye on his forehead. “Are you kidding me?”

“Sorry, let me explain,” said Marc, looking around before speaking. “Linda, tomorrow we’ll both go to work as normal,” he said, stopping her from interrupting by holding up his hand. He knew she wouldn’t want him running around just a day after being stabbed. He continued, “I need to be at the computer controlling the cameras and access doors as you make your way back into the facility from the outside. My job will be to trick the system into thinking everything is okay and create a distraction while you sneak back in. Your job will be to get to the computer’s core and disable it. After our joint missions are completed, we can meet up and make our way out of here.”

“You expect me to break back into the prison from my work detail?”

“That’s the trick to this,” said Marc as he started to morph into his teaching mode. “That’s the defect in prisons. I learned in school that the best way to break into a castle was to have someone from the inside break out to let one in. The best way to break out of prison is to have someone break in to let one out. The beauty of my plan is that their defenses aren’t prepared or designed for how I plan to defeat them. But, I can’t do it by myself. I need you to be my actual hands and feet while I trick the system.”

Linda stood next to him. They were at eye level to each other with Marc sitting on the exam table. Just then, the nurse walked back into the room.

“Greer, I’ve been told to tell you to go back to your dorm,” the nurse said. “Ransom, it’s up to you if you want to stay here or go back yourself. We’ve already talked to your cellmate. He’s agreed to take the top bunk for the foreseeable future.” The nurse then turned and walked out.

Linda looked at Marc. With a shake of their heads, they both agreed he would go back to the dorm. Linda took his hand and helped him down from the exam table. Still suffering from the pain of the attempted stabbing, he faltered a little once on his feet. Linda ended up catching him.

Inadvertently, or at least it seemed that way, they ended up in an embrace. Lifting her chin to catch his eye, Linda said, “Let’s get going.” Lingering for just a second more, she took the opportunity to give him a quick kiss on the lips before breaking away for the door. Marc stood there for a second and watched her exit.

He quickened his pace to catch up to her while continuing to formulate his plan. Marc smiled, knowing that the two of them really were a team now. How effective they would be as one would be told in the morning when they attempted their great escape.

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