“Adapt, or die.” The guard said looking down his long crooked nose from above me.

Blood licked my skin as it fell from my lip. The coppery liquid seeped between my teeth. He offered me his hand, so I took it, and he pulled me to my feet.

“Things are different on this side of the wall.” He said.

It’s not like I didn’t already know that. I was a cop after all. I knew what went on behind prison walls. It wasn’t pretty, and he was right, if I wanted to survive, I had to adapt. But adapting wasn’t something I was good at. It’s hard making the transition from cop, to prisoner.

“Thanks for the tip.” I used the tail of my orange polyester prison shirt to wipe the blood from my face.

“You’re gonna have it extra hard in here, bein’ a cop n’ all.” He sounded like even he didn’t like me. Typical. Guards think policemen view them as subpar in law enforcement, and okay, maybe we do. But I don’t see him out hunting the criminals, he only keeps them in their cages.

I ignored him and turned to watch the other guard escort my attacker to solitary. He would have killed me if he had been given the chance. Thankfully the guards didn’t hate me as bad as the inmates did.

“Ya gotta death wish or somethin’ kid?” The guard asked.

I glanced at him but didn’t answer. Maybe I did have a death wish.

“Why would you provoke a guy like that?”

I grinned and I could feel the ooz of warm blood trace my teeth. The guard grimaced. “I’m adapting.” I said.

“Well ya gotta funny way bout doin’ it. I tell ya, you’d be smart to stay clear of that one.” He motioned in the direction of the inmate who tried to steal my life. This time, there was no disdain in his voice. Rather genuine concern.

“I’ll do my best.” I picked up the bedding I was carrying that had been knocked from my hands.

“You been here less than an hour, and you’re already pickin’ fights. Ya know, I don’t get people like you. You had everything going for you, why would you do something so stupid that would land you in here?”

He was right. I did have it all. A great job, a beautiful girlfriend, what more could I want? Nothing, except my brothers safety. Chris had made some bad choices in his life, but he was hardly eighteen. He wasn’t made for a place like this. After our parents died, I was responsible for him. I couldn’t leave him alone, not here. So I made the transformation from cop, to criminal.

“Sometimes it’s not about where you want to be, but where you need to be.” I looked up and saw my younger brother staring back at me.