"You know those prison movies where the new fish comes in and his cellmate is this muscle-bound asshole that tells him to take the top bunk or else get his head busted?"
Bolan nodded. "Yeah."
The muscular black man in the wheelchair looked at Bolan menacingly. "Well, you got the top bunk, new fish."
Bolan didn't move. "What if I'm afraid of heights?"
The man rolled his wheelchair to within three inches of Bolan's feet.
"How do you feel about a shank in your gut?"
Bolan aimed up to the top bunk, bounced on the thin mattress. "Hmm, not as high as I'd thought."
The black man in the wheelchair grinned.
"Well, well, fish. You're a lot smarter than most guys in here. One look at me in this chair and they figure they can take me. All they got to do is maybe tip over my chair or run around behind me. Some tried." He chuckled in a gruff rumble.
Bolan jumped down from the bunk, carrying his toothbrush to the sink. The black man whirled his chair around faster than Bolan thought was possible in the small cell. He was in his late thirties, but his arms were huge globes of muscles with thick veins crisscrossing his forearms like underground cables.
His chest was equally as developed, slabs of dark stone straining at the cotton prison shirt.
Only the legs looked out of place, shriveled stems flopping limply from side to side as he moved the chair.
"My life story isn't any of your business, chump, so don't ask," he snapped, catching Bolan's stare.
"Right," Bolan said. He didn't have to ask.
He'd seen men like that before. And there was a look in the man's eyes, the kind of hidden pain recognizable only by someone who'd shared at least a glimmer of that pain. Bolan splashed some cold water on his eyes and turned to face the man in the wheelchair.
The black frowned with surprise, nodding slowly.
"When?" Bolan asked.
"Sixty-six, near Saigon. We bulldozed some rubber plantations near the Cambodian border."
Bolan nodded. "Operation Cedar Falls."
"Yeah, that's right. You there?"
Bolan hesitated. He heard a hopeful note in the man's voice, but being in Nam wasn't part of the biographical file he and Brognola had created for Damon Blue. If there was going to be any chance at all of this, mission succeeding, he'd have to stick to the script. "Nah, I wasn't there. My brother had a friend. He yapped about it all the time."
"Sure," the man in the wheelchair said bitterly. "Everybody had a friend. Shit." He spun his chair around and wheeled forward to the bars. "Just stay outta my face, Blue."
"Fair enough. Only what's your name? I like to know whose face I'm staying out of."
The big man in the wheelchair kept his back to Bolan, his dead knees pressed against the bars. He didn't bother answering.