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   on the door. He yelled at the guard. Told him none too nicely that he

   wanted to `get the fuck outta here'. The guard said he would see if he

   could get Par transferred to Rikers Island, New York's notorious jail.

   Par didn't care if he was transferred to the moon, as long as he got

   out of solitary confinement.

  

   Except for the serial killer, the north infirmary at Rikers Island was

   a considerable improvement on the Tombs. Par was only locked in his

   cell at night. During the day he was free to roam inside the infirmary

   area with other prisoners. Some of them were there because the

   authorities didn't want to put them in with the hardened criminals,

   and some of them were there because they were probably criminally

   insane.

  

   It was an eclectic bunch. A fireman turned jewellery heister. A

   Colombian drug lord. A chop-shop ringleader, who collected more than

   300 stolen cars, chopped them up, reassembled them as new and then

   sold them off. A man who killed a homosexual for coming onto him.

   `Faggot Killer', as he was known inside, hadn't meant to kill anyone:

   things had gotten a little out of hand; next thing he knew, he was

   facing ten to twelve on a murder rap.

  

   Par wasn't wild about the idea of hanging out with a murderer, but he

   was nervous about what could happened to a young man in jail. Forging

   a friendship with Faggot Killer would send the right message. Besides,

   the guy seemed to be OK. Well, as long as you didn't look at him the

   wrong way.

  

   On his first day, Par also met Kentucky, a wild-eyed man who

   introduced himself by thrusting a crumpled newspaper article into the

   hacker's hand and saying, `That's me'. The article, titled `Voices

   Told Him to Kill', described how police had apprehended a serial

   killer believed to be responsible for a dozen murders, maybe more.

   During his last murder, Kentucky told Par he had killed a woman--and

   then written the names of the aliens who had commanded him to do it on

   the walls of her apartment in her blood.

  

   The jewellery heister tried to warn Par to stay away from Kentucky,

   who continued to liaise with the aliens on a regular basis. But it was

   too late. Kentucky decided that he didn't like the young hacker. He

   started shouting at Par, picking a fight. Par stood there, stunned and

   confused. How should he deal with an aggravated serial killer? And

   what the hell was he doing in jail with a serial killer raving at him

   anyway? It was all too much.

  

   The jewellery heister rushed over to Kentucky and tried to calm him

   down, speaking in soothing tones. Kentucky glowered at Par, but he

   stopped yelling.

  

   A few days into his stay at Rikers, Faggot Killer invited Par to join

   in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It beat watching TV talk shows all

   day, so Par agreed. He sat down at the metal picnic table where Faggot

   Killer had laid out the board.

  

   So it was that Par, the twenty-year-old computer hacker from

   California, the X.25 network whiz kid, came to play Dungeons and

   Dragons with a jewellery thief, a homophobic murderer and a mad serial

   killer in Rikers Island. Par found himself marvelling at the

   surrealism of the situation.