“They don’t let us have internet. We can’t have CDs because they’re too easy to make a shank out of. There’s books in the library, sure, but they’re mostly donations from like churches. Reading that stuff gets real boring.”

“I heard that some use the time to write,” said Greg. “La Morte d’Arthur was written while Thomas More was in prison for armed robbery.”

“They take pencils and pens whenever they feel like it,” Marcus said. “Pages too. I had a hundred pages of a fantasy book wind up in the toilet because the guard thought I was sassing him.”

“As someone who once left the outline of a seven-book cycle of high fantasy novellas on a city bus, I feel you there,” said Greg. “But they’re saying you killed Darius because of something he said about your work?”

Marcus recoiled. “Hmph. Like usual, they didn’t even listen to what I was telling them. Darius might have hated my story but that wasn’t a reason to kill him. No, Darius was…”

The prisoner trailed off.

“Was what?” Greg said. “Listen, from where I’m sitting, prison seems like a leveled-up middle school, my worst nightmare, where the cliques can kill and being a nerd makes you a literal target to be stabbed by literal knives. But they didn’t even want to let me in here at all, and I don’t have much time. So if you know something, tell me. I can’t promise I won’t have to tell them, but I’ll do my best.”

Marcus looked up. “What was it about?” he said. “The outline you lost on that bus.”

“I called it Epic of the Spheres,” said Greg. “Each novella was about someone in the elf-world of Sylvantine who was responsible for singing the song that bound the role together. One of them was even a prisoner who sang his song in secret to the prison sparrows.”

“Heh,” said Marcus. “That’s some geeky stuff, man. Mine was gonna be about a king who rules in secret from a prison, and someone who goes inside to overthrow ’em. All the wardens and guards were going to be elves, all high and mighty.”

“You should keep kicking the idea around,” said Greg. “I’d read it. And you know, I am the general coordinator of Nerdicon, we even get publishers there sometimes. More than one of our attendees has one home with a book deal.”

“Yeah…” Marcus said wistfully. “Yeah.” Then, his face was hard, and all business. “Darius wasn’t a book critic,” he said. “Darius was the dungeon master of a secret group of us that would get together to play Dungeons and Dragons. We made like we were a gan or a crew, but we’d just geek out together. Until last week, anyhow.”

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