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Micky invited the two of them to the cafeteria since it was almost five o’clock. All of the prisoners gathered in one place, which meant if you didn’t get there early, you were forced to wait in a wearisome long line. Once they reached the first floor, Micky called out to a man in the crowd.
“Hey, Nathan. Good timing. Let me introduce you to these guys. Yuto Lennix and Matthew Caine. They’re in Block A starting today. This here is my roommate, Nathan.”
“Nathan Clark. Pleased to meet you.” Nathan smiled warmly, holding a few books in the crook of one arm and holding out the other hand for a handshake. He was around thirty, with straight, shiny chestnut hair that drew the eye. He was tall and thin, but his broad shoulders kept him from looking scrawny. His narrow nose and thin lips made him look intelligent but also somewhat high-strung. Yet his gentle smile and natural, relaxed manner took the edge off that impression, leaving him with one of dignified acceptance.
“Come to the cafeteria with us,” Micky said.
“Sure. Give me a minute while I put these books away,” Nathan answered serenely, and slowly ascended the stairs. In some peculiar way, he seemed not of this world.
While they waited, Micky launched into his life story at no one’s request. He had botched a bank robbery, gotten arrested, and had been here for five years now. He proudly informed them that he smuggled in prohibited items through a unique route that passed under the guard’s radar, and made a business of selling his wares to a broad clientele.
“If you need anything, just let me know. Porno mags, drugs, knives, you name it. I can get you anything except ladies.”
Yuto inwardly gave a wry smile. So that was what this was about. He had been wondering why Micky was so friendly, but now he knew that for Micky, newcomers meant new customers.
Nathan returned shortly, and the group of four exited Block A and headed toward the cafeteria. Micky whistled to himself as he ambled on ahead. Nathan in the rear proceeded to fill in Yuto and Matthew, who were still clueless, on various things about the prison.
The building was divided broadly into four wings encompassing the grounds: the central wing, west wing, east wing, and north wing. The east and west wings consisted of cells; the north wing had a gymnasium and work factory; the central wing, the only one to have a protrusion to make it a T-shape, had the warden’s office, administration office, and the guards’ station, as well as the control centre – all part of the management wing in the bottom section of the “T” that formed the main core of the prison. At the back of the “T” were the cafeteria, recreation room, infirmary, library, and educational facilities.
Security checks were conducted by the guards at certain major gates. Some locations were equipped with metal detectors.
“Countless ways to get around those, of course,” Nathan added, flashing a sly smile. He explanations were to-the-point and concise. Even a short conversation was enough to show that he was an intelligent man.
They were frisked at the cafeteria entrance. Yuto could see what Nathan meant as the guard gave him a halfhearted pat-down. With body checks like these, he wouldn’t have much trouble sneaking in a small blade or two – in his shoes, under the collar of his shirt, behind his belt. There were plenty of places to hide one if he felt the need to.
In the kitchen, inmates donning white aprons worked busily under the scrutinizing eye of the guards. Micky and Nathan, followed by Yuto and Matthew, picked up plastic trays and joined a line that was already getting quite long as they waited for their supper to be dished out.
The meal consisted of a few items such as fried fish and chicken, cheese grits in paper cups, and salad. Bread was free to take, as well as orange juice and coffee.
The spacious cafeteria buzzed with the chatter of swarms of inmates. The air was thick with the body odour of men, which mingled with the smell of food to make for a peculiar mix.
A closer look showed that the tables in parts of the room were actually dominated by certain groups: whites to the right, the blacks at the back, and the Latinos on the left side. Yuto wondered if certain races had to sit at certain tables, but Micky and Nathan proceeded to take their seats at the same table as Yuto and Matthew near the middle of the room. Even beside him, inmates of differing skin colour were eating together. Apparently the middle of the room was a mixed-race zone.
The meal was abysmal to say the least, although he hadn’t expected much. But appetite didn’t matter; once it was in his stomach, the food would be metabolized into energy. Yuto silently forked the food into his mouth with his plastic utensils, his body a machine, the food more like fuel.
Occasionally a passing inmate looked at Matthew and blew a wolf-whistle, as if to catcall at a pretty girl.
“Heya, Marshmallow Caine,” said Micky, snapping his fingers and pointing at Matthew in an exaggerated impression.
“It’s Matthew,” the boy promptly corrected.
“Listen, when you’re finished eating, Marshmallow Boy, you need to go to the canteen and buy the latest chastity belt. Developed by NASA especially for prisoners. You can take a shit without taking it off. Neat, huh?”
Micky banged the table as he laughed at his own joke, throwing a backward glance at Matthew, who was sitting there looking taken aback.
“But even with a chastity belt, I bet you won’t even last three days. I’ll bet three packs of cigarettes.”
Matthew grimaced, but Nathan’s face was grave as he agreed, saying that Micky was not exaggerating.
“You should really be careful. The number of homicides doesn’t even compare to the number of rapes that occur in prison. Try not to act alone. Stay away from shady places. Be especially careful around the gangs. If you get attacked by them, don’t try to retaliate. Let them have your way with you, and at least you’ll get out alive.”
“Get out of what alive, Mr. Lawyer?”
Nathan knitted his brow. Yuto was simultaneously put on guard as he felt a hand grab his shoulder.
“We havin’ fun here? Care to let me join the welcome party?” The hand on Yuto’s shoulder belonged to a black man with a towering frame. He was wearing a wool hat and a silver earring on his right ear. It was, without a doubt, the man who had spoken to him on the grounds. He had a gaggle of rough-looking black men behind him.
“Ain’t you gonna introduce this pretty face to me? I’ve been wanting to get to know him since I saw him on the grounds. What’s your name? I’m Bob Trenkler. Everyone calls me BB,” the man said, bringing his face close to Yuto’s. Yuto looked the other way. Another black man tried to peer at his face from the other side.
“Hey, BB. Forget this one. The white boy’s cuter.”
“Bullshit. What’re you gonna get out of a kid who looks like he hasn’t even hit puberty? Learn how to pick your hos.”
BB leaned over and brought his nose to Yuto’s neck. He inhaled deeply with a look of ecstasy on his face, as if he were smelling a feast. “Ah, you smell like one fine bitch,” he whispered lewdly at his ear. Yuto snapped.
“Don’t touch me with your filthy hands,” he spat as he brushed BB’s hand away. The crowd buzzed with agitation.
“You think you can talk like that to BB just ‘cause you’re new, you shit?”
“You asking to get killed?”
BB’s boys instantly rose in anger as they surrounded Yuto. Onlookers hoping to catch a fight egged them on.
“…Move out of the way,” a voice said to the menacing group of black men. All eyes were directed to the owner of the voice. “Let me through. I’d like to eat,” the white man said quietly, holding a tray. He had a balanced, muscular build, with a proportionate face that was nothing short of beautiful. Yuto found his eyes fixed on the man.
The man, who had his longish blond hair tied casually at the back, did not appear to so much as mind the tense atmosphere around him. He slipped past the black men and their aggressive stares, and sat down beside Yuto.
“Trenkler! What’re you doing over there? If you’re finished eating, get the hell out!” yelled the guard from a distance, noticing the commotion.
“I got it, I got it. I was only saying hi to the newcomer,” BB said easily to the guard. With a sly smile on his face, he gave Yuto a lingering stare. “I like feisty bitches. Let’s go on a date sometime, pretty face. I’ll show you a good time. ―Hey, Burnford. Don’t think you can strut around ‘cause Choker’s got your back.”
BB hurled a glare at the man who had interrupted him, and left with his cronies. The gallery of men around them, who had been watching with bated breath, let out a collective sigh somewhere between relief and disappointment.
“Good job attracting the attention of the worst possible guy ever,” babbled Micky. “That guy’s Bad Bob, and he’s the leader of the Black Soldiers. He let loose with a machine gun and killed four people. Got sentenced to a hundred and fifty years in prison. Dangerous guy, that one.”
“Black Soldiers? That’s kind of lame-sounding, isn’t it?” said Yuto derisively. Micky scowled and shook his head.
“It’s nothing to laugh about, man. The gangs run this place. The three big ones with the most power are the Black Soldiers, the chicano group Locos Hermanos, and the gang of whites, ABL. Just take my word for it, Yuto. If you want to get out of here alive, don’t start anything with them.”
“Alright, Micky, I get it. I suppose I’ll head over to the canteen and get me one of those NASA-made chastity belts, too,” Yuto said, in a joke that wasn’t quite a joke anymore.
“It’d be a good idea,” Micky said with a shrug.
“Dick,” Nathan said, “he’s your new roommate.” The man, who had been silently focused on his meal, turned to look expressionlessly at Yuto. When Yuto introduced himself, the man did the same.
“Dick Burnford,” he replied shortly, then went back to eating. Yuto discreetly observed his unsociable roommate. Dick Burnford, to sum up in one word, was handsome.
His masculine features were neatly defined and proportionate. He was a good-looking man in anyone’s eyes. His tall figure was well-balanced and toned to perfection. His only flaw was a prominent scar that ran from his forehead to the outer edge of his eyebrow, but in prison, a scar on his face probably added a nice touch.
But what drew Yuto’s eye more than his refined looks or damaging scar were Dick’s striking blue eyes, reminiscent of a clear lake. They were neither blue-grey nor blue-green, but blue in the truest sense of the word.
Blond hair and blue eyes. It was not a rare combination, but Caucasians born with blue eyes tended to see them darken with age, like their blond hair. In that sense, it was rare to see someone who had retained both features to such a perfect degree.
“How old are you, Dick?” Yuto asked, hoping his question would become a hook for further conversation. He preferred to get a grasp early on of the person with whom he was going to be sleeping and waking in the same cell.
“Twenty-nine,” he replied promptly, without even looking at Yuto.
“That makes us one year apart. I’m twenty-eight. When did you come here?” Yuto kept his tone casual, but Dick seemed utterly unwilling to pursue the conversation. In short, he seemed difficult to get along with.
“Matthew, how old’re you?” Micky butted in brightly, as if to mediate the situation. Matthew answered that he was almost twenty-one. “You look like you’d still be crying for Mommy, baby face,” Micky remarked. “What got you thrown in here?”
Matthew pushed his grits around with his fork. “It’s no big deal,” he mumbled. “My buddy and I shoplifted some whisky from a liquor shop run by this old guy. My friend said the man was senile, and we’d have nothing to worry about. But we ended up getting caught and we got into a fight. I ended up stabbing the guy with my friend’s knife… it was in the arm, but the guy fell over from the shock and hit his head. Critical condition with a brain contusion. I got two years.”
“You were unlucky, man,” Micky said, patting Matthew on the shoulder. A case of shoplifting had morphed instantly into accessory to aggravated theft and assault. Not to mention being sent to the west wing, earning him even the pity of the guard. Matthew was quite out of luck.
“How many years’re you in for, Yuto?”
Micky whistled and leaned forward eagerly. “So what’d you do?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
Micky and Nathan looked at each other, Yuto didn’t care what that made people think of him. There was no other way to describe it.
“I’m innocent,” Yuto declared firmly.
“Ah, well,” Micky said awkwardly, scratching his cheek. “It happens. You must’ve been unlucky, too.”
Perhaps Micky thought he was funny in the head, but Yuto didn’t care. His side of the story had been rejected from the onset in interrogations and at court. He had been framed for murdering his fellow investigator and had been sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Compared to the bitterness of that, the idea of a fellow inmate thinking he’d lost his marbles didn’t hurt one bit.
“Hey,” Matthew spoke up to Nathan as if to clear the awkward air. “You know how that black guy back there called you Mr. Lawyer? Were you one before you came here?”
“Nathan volunteers at the law library,” Micky answered for him, apparently unable to resist having a say in everything. “This guy here knows a lot – and I mean a lot – about law. He’s submitted written complaints on behalf of inmates to the State Department of Corrections. Human rights violations, unfair treatment, all that. He’s counselled inmates with long sentences and cross-referenced laws and precedents to write up and submit petitions to get their sentences shortened. He’s amazing. Just the other day, he found a loophole in the law and filed a claim for an inmate, and the guy got his sentence shortened by ten years. Other guys have gotten out on parole. You can depend on this guy a lot more than lawyers outside. Nathan even has the privilege to talk directly with Warden Corning.”
Micky’s tone of admiration made it clear that he respected his roommate. For a number of inmates here, Nathan was probably like the Saviour.
“I only get called out by the Warden when he wants to lecture me,” Nathan said. “I give him a headache because I go around causing unnecessary trouble.”
“Where did you study law?” Yuto asked.
“I studied a bit of it in college,” said Nathan with a smile. “My specialization was criminal law. Now I get to study criminals first-hand,” he mused. There was no self-pity in the way Nathan joked about his situation. Yuto felt a strong liking toward him. Nathan was not just a man of brains.
Dick, on the other hand, was unfathomable from their brief interaction. He was a man of few words, and hardly initiated any conversation. But that didn’t mean he rejected communication outright; he still smiled at Micky’s stupid jokes and responded to Nathan’s small talk. He wasn’t the social type, but still showed an acceptable level of politeness to his friends. That was Yuto’s impression so far.
Whatever the case, Dick made an infinitely better roommate than a rambunctious man like Micky.
After dinner, Yuto’s group returned to Block A for their lock-up and roll call at six o’clock. All of the inmates walked to their cells en masse like an exodus.en masse
Suddenly, an angry voice rose from the moving swarm. Onlookers quickly gathered around what appeared to be a fight. Loud, enthusiastic insults were hurled in the air.
Matthew tried to make his way toward the commotion, but was stopped by Nathan. “Don’t,” he warned. “Don’t get involved. If you’re late for roll call, you’ll have a strict punishment to answer to later.”
“Fights happen all the time. Soon you won’t find them new at all. Let’s go,” Micky said, pushing Matthew’s shoulders. The boy gave a listless sigh.
“Everyone’s irritable because they’re not getting enough calcium,” Nathan said mildly. As the group started walking again, Yuto tried to follow. He had taken only a few steps forward when he was yanked by the arm from behind. When Yuto realized the danger he was in, it was too late. A group of men had already dragged him into a nearby washroom. They were BB’s cronies who had threatened him in the cafeteria.
“Fuck him up!” yelled the man who was pinioning him. The three other men lunged. One threw a heavy blow to his stomach; another took a swing to the back of his head. When Yuto crumpled to the floor from the pain and shock, he was kicked fiercely while he was still down.
Yuto knew he could put up a decent fight if he wanted to, but four against one was too much of a disadvantage. Instead, he curled up to protect his organs, brought up his arms to protect his head, and dedicated himself solely to defence as he waited for the storm to pass.
“Next time you decide to mouth off to BB, remember it won’t be this gentle next time. Alright guys, let’s go.”
Once they made a quick job of beating up Yuto, the black men turned swiftly and ran off. Nathan and Micky appeared immediately afterwards. When they saw Yuto on the floor, they hurried over to him.
“Yuto, hang in there. Are you alright?”
“Damn it, it’s those bastards from the Black Soldiers!” muttered Micky, his voice dripping with hatred. Nathan ordered him to bring Dick. The man came bursting into the room just as Nathan was supporting Yuto in his arms, helping him to sit up. Dick stared into Yuto’s eyes.
“Can you see my face?”
“…Yeah. Two eyes, one nose, one mouth. Hello, handsome.”
“If you’re well enough to joke, we’ve got nothing to worry about. Let’s take him to our cell.”
Yuto managed to stand up with the support of Nathan and Micky. His chest felt racked with pain whenever he inhaled, no doubt because of the ruthless kicks he had been subjected to.
“Walk. It’ll be solitary for you if they find out you’ve been fighting. Meanwhile, I’ll thank my lucky stars we’ve got a troublemaker from day one.” Dick’s snide tone struck a nerve.
“I haven’t done anything,” Yuto shot back with a grimace.
“Micky was nice enough to warn you back there, and you laughed him off. You brought this upon yourself,” Dick said icily. Yuto felt his face stiffen.
“I’ll let you know right now that you’re not going get off scotch-free because you’re the victim. For the guards, the commotion itself is the problem.”
“So you’re saying if someone gets lynched, he’ll get punished for it, too? That’s messed up,” Yuto said irritably as Dick peered outside the washroom. Dick did not even turn around.
“I don’t care if you think it’s messed up. This is where you’ll be living from now on. ―Alright, let’s head out.” At Dick’s signal, Nathan and Micky began to walk, half-carrying Yuto. Yuto felt his body scream in agony at each step. But no way in hell was he going to say he couldn’t walk. His manly pride was already hurt considerably from the shame of being subjected to a beating without even a chance to retaliate.
“Where’s Matthew?” Yuto asked Micky, noticing that the boy was nowhere to be found.
“Nathan and I were wondering where you’d disappeared off to when we saw the guys from the Black Soldiers running out of the washrooms,” Micky answered. “We had an idea of what might have happened, so we made him go back by himself. We don’t want to involve a little boy with a short sentence, do we?”
“You’re right.” Yuto smiled through the pain, feeling a little redeemed by Micky’s kindness.
“Nathan, what’s wrong with the newcomer?” demanded the guard standing at the entrance of Block A, his voice suspicious. It was Guthrie, the guard who had brought Yuto and Matthew here.
“He got knocked over and fell down. It was crowded, so he was trampled pretty badly,” Nathan said calmly. Guthrie seemed convinced; he jerked his chin as if to tell them to hurry along. Micky sighed in relief beside him.
Yuto desperately willed his aching body to move up the flights of stairs until the third floor. Nathan and Micky sat Yuto down on Dick’s bed before hurrying off to their cell. A few minutes later, an ear-splitting bell rang out across Block A.
“Step back!” the guard’s roar echoed throughout the building.
“After you hear this sound, the doors close automatically,” Dick said. True to his words, the doors slid rapidly over the rails, closing the cell off. Yuto was now thoroughly aware that he had become a real prisoner inside this cramped cage.
Once the guard was finishing doing roll call, the doors opened again. Yuto was ordered by Dick to lie down on the bed. As he gingerly stretched out, Dick peered into his eyes again, then ran his cold hands over Yuto’s body to check the severity of his injuries, asking if he had a headache or felt any nausea.
“Dick. How’s Yuto doing?” Nathan and Micky were back to visit.
“I’m checking him out right now. ―You were saying your chest hurts when you breathe in?”
When Yuto nodded, Dick turned to Nathan and Micky. “He might’ve fractured a rib.”
“What should we do?” asked Nathan. Dick shrugged as if to say it was none of his business, and got to his feet.
“We can only wait until it heals itself. I’m heading to the infirmary. I still have work left to do. Choker’s not doing very well.”
Once Dick had left the cell, Yuto asked Nathan a question. “Is Dick a doctor?” Nathan shook his head as he applied a wet towel to Yuto’s swollen face.
“But he does have quite a lot of knowledge. He’s a nursing assistant at the infirmary. He’s used to taking care of injured people. Yuto, if it gets unbearable, you should tell the guard. Your application won’t be received until tomorrow, though, so you’ll have to do without the infirmary tonight.”
Yuto thanked Nathan for his help, but told him he would not file an application. Even if he were to see a doctor, treatment for a cracked rib would most likely only come in the form of a corset at most.
“Yuto, what happened?” Matthew cried as he barrelled into the cell. He stared wide-eyed at Yuto’s unsightly swollen face. “It looks horrible,” he said, his eyebrows knitted. “Was it those black guys who were bothering you at the cafeteria?”
“Yeah,” Micky answered. “But he was lucky that it happened before lock-up and roll call. They didn’t have much time to do damage.” Matthew listened to Micky’s explanation, then looked over at Yuto and bit his lip in anger.
“They went this far over that little comment? They’re insane.”
Yuto asked if he could be left alone so he could rest. Once the three men left his cell, he was once again forced to cope with the waves of endless, excruciating pain that attacked him. It coursed not only through his chest but through his entire body. Every part seemed to throb in pain. A pitiful whimper threatened to escape his lips even when he was staying still. Yuto gritted his teeth and endured.
This certainly wasn’t his first time being involved in violence; he had grappled with an armed man who had seen through his disguise during a sting operation. He had been stabbed by a fellow dealer when he was undercover. His job at the DEA had always come with some sort of danger.
But this was the first time he had been subjected to a one-sided beating, without even being able to receive treatment for the injuries he had sustained. It was a blow to his dignity to be lying here alone in bed in a dark and cramped cell with no other choice but to swallow his pain. But he was not about to let this bring him down.
Yuto gave himself a mental pep talk. Don’t let this get to you. You’re a former DEA investigator. You’ve always braved every dangerous mission, fearing nothing. You’ve overcome countless difficulties.Don’t let this get to you. You’re a former DEA investigator. You’ve always braved every dangerous mission, fearing nothing. You’ve overcome countless difficulties.
Right now, pride was the only strength left to Yuto. He had lost everything, but no one could take away his dignity – his belief in himself. He wasn’t about to let self-doubt creep up on him now.
He feared that once he began doubting himself, he would eventually lose faith in his own abilities completely. That was what he was most afraid of. The last kind of person he wanted to become was the kind of coward who was only concerned weaselling his way out of every problem.
Yuto inwardly swore, aiming a figurative kick at his depressed self. He had seen all of this coming when he first came here. No one had forced him to come here. He had made the decision himself.
Yuto had chosen to come to Schelger State Prison at his own will. It was true that he had a family in LA, but there was another reason for why he had flown across the country all the way from the East coast to this far-flung prison on the West coast. The gravity of it could tip the scales of Yuto’s precarious life.
Or perhaps Yuto had already fallen off the precipice. He had lost everything because of that incident ― his job, his social status, the trust of his friends. No matter how hard he struggled, he would never get those back.
But Yuto had been given a single small nugget of hope in the darkest and deepest point of his life. That hope resided here, in Schelger Prison.
When Yuto was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for the murder of Paul McLean, he was struck down so far, so deep, he was past the point of recovery. That was when a certain organization had quietly extended communication to Yuto: the FBI, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Hey, Lennix. How’s it going?” Heiden had flashed his ID card to Yuto in the meeting room of the detention centre and introduced himself as an investigator of the Domestic Terrorism section of the FBI Counter-terrorism Division. He was a pretty face in an expensive suit. Yuto found it difficult to like him, with his elitist, haughty, and condescending attitude so typical of the FBI.
Yuto had been confused at first, wondering what the FBI could want with him. But when he heard the words come out of Heiden’s mouth, his confusion turned to astonishment.
“We want you to find a certain man in prison. If you find him, we’ll promise you immediate release on parole.” The sudden story was all too suspicious. Yuto was reluctant to believe the FBI’s claims at first. Heiden flashed a cocky grin at his apprehensive face before he launched into an explanation.
“You’re aware that over the past year there’s been a series of small-scale acts of terrorism occurring in various places throughout the States, thought to be the doing of a single group?”
“I’ve heard it on the news,” Yuto answered. The cases, nicknamed The Silent Terror, had been causing ripples in society. There had been no declarations so far from the perpetrators, and no identifiable pattern in the locations where explosives had been planted. Even among experts, speculative opinion abounded over whether the perpetrators were a fundamentalist terrorist organization, an extremist far-right force, or were simply criminals who committed acts of terror for fun.
“The FBI is currently investigating this series of incidents, and two months ago, we arrested a Caucasian man in a supermarket in Connecticut who was in possession of explosives. He was thought to be involved in these incidents, and from his testimony we’ve found that he belonged to a radical cult group. But he refused a plea bargain, and he’d clammed up about everything else. The entirety of the organization is still unknown to us.”
Once Heiden realized that the man was petrified of a backlash from the organization, he had persistently reassured the man that he would be put into a witness protection program and that his safety would be guaranteed. The man, moved by Heiden’s earnestness, had finally agreed to break his silence.
“To summarize, this is what he told us. The organization wields an enormous power. Those who betray the organization are killed. All acts of terrorism are decided by one person, the leader. The past terror incidents were only games – in the future, something will occur on a larger scale. Vague things like that. We couldn’t get much from him on the leader in question, either. The FBI decided to transfer the man to our headquarters in Washington, where he would undergo a more comprehensive investigation. But that never happened.”
“Why not?” Yuto asked. Heiden had shrugged in mock defeat.
“He died. The man was sniped as soon as he stepped out of the detention centre. He died on the spot. A rifle was found on the roof of the adjacent building, presumably the murder weapon. But the sniper slipped through the cracks of the police’s emergency deployment and was never found.”
Yuto felt something strongly off about the cult organization’s ability to act so boldly and ruthlessly. A mysterious cult that committed repeated acts of terror – without a doubt they were incredibly dangerous, but it was not normal to kill off their own member to prevent him from talking.
“Are they really just an insane cult? What about the likelihood of a bigger criminal organization being behind them?”
“We considered that, but there’s not enough information about the organization itself. At this stage, there’s nothing we can say. But the man was conscious for a while after being taken to the hospital, and he told us something very interesting. ―The ringleader’s name is Corvus. Obviously a nickname. What this man told us was that Corvus is secretly directing members’ actions from inside a certain prison. Corvus is apparently a Caucasian male, about thirty years old, and a murderer. In the past he’s undergone comprehensive military training. He has a large burn scar on his back.”
Heiden drummed his fingers on the table.
“I see,” Yuto murmured, absently looking at the man’s neatly trimmed nails. “And you’re telling me to find him.”
“Exactly. Corvus is apparently serving at Schelger State Prison in California.”
Yuto was finally convinced that the FBI was serious about striking a deal with him. The target was a highly dangerous individual who had allegedly directed acts of terrorism on several occasions; if he was highly likely to cause more terrorism in the future, it was understandable that the FBI would resort to underground methods to capture him.
“There’s an international conference scheduled to take place in New York this autumn. Several important people from a number of countries will be participating. If they were to plan a terrorist attack during this time, you could imagine the shit fest it would be. The FBI is taking this very seriously. We’ve dispatched investigators into Schelger Prison and had them check the profiles of all prisoners.”
“And you still couldn’t find him.”
“No. There were a few dozen Caucasians around thirty years old, but they’d have military experience but no burn mark, or they’d have a burn mark but no military experience. We couldn’t find anyone who fit the description perfectly.”
Heiden continued his explanation in a brisk manner.
“That ended up dividing opinions in the FBI. Some suggested the murdered man gave us a false lead. Others said we should partially acknowledge his words as truth and broaden the criteria. Hell, we could comb through each and every prisoner who fits the description. But a prisoner with a clean slate isn’t going to give a confession, no matter how much we interrogate him. That was when someone suggested that we investigate Corvus from within.”
Yuto figured that for the FBI, it was like catching two birds with one stone. It was too risky to send one of their own to infiltrate a dangerous prison to look for a man whom they weren’t even sure existed. But Yuto was already a prisoner, and if he failed or endangered his life, the FBI would not be held responsible. As for Yuto himself, his life depended on it. As such, the FBI probably presumed he would work his ass off without need for further encouragement.
Although Yuto was aware that he was nothing but a convenient and expendable pawn to the FBI, for him this was a deal he had been dreaming of. Failure to find Corvus wasn’t going to lengthen his sentence. He had nothing to lose. But the carrot dangling before his nose was also something that might not even exist. He had to keep that possibility firmly in mind, or else his last light of hope would likely morph into a terrible despair and an even heavier blow.
Yuto made up his mind and informed Heiden of his willingness to take the deal. He didn’t have a single reason to decide otherwise. Thus Yuto was sent into Schelger Prison. He was just like any other prisoner in that he was sent in on these conditions: he would receive no support whatsoever from the FBI, and the only time that he was allowed to make a phone call to them was when he had concrete information. He was given no special privileges.
Before he was sent in, the FBI showed him a list of prisoners who matched some of the traits. There were twelve people, and all were in the west wing. Yuto had engraved their names and faces into his memory.
As they parted, Heiden told him that corvus meant “raven” in Latin. True to his name, the man had concealed himself in the crowd of prisoners like a raven blending into the darkness. Freedom would not come to Yuto until he found him.corvus
It was ironic, in a sense; Yuto had spent years cracking down on criminals, and now his only hope lay in a single, diabolic terrorist.
He had fallen asleep without realizing it. Yuto was woken by the familiar and unpleasant ringing of the bell. He opened his eyes to see Dick sitting at the edge of his bed, reading a book. He remembered now whose bed he was hogging, but before he could apologize, the other man spoke.
“It’s last roll call. After this, the doors will be locked until morning. Lights go out at eleven o’clock.”
Yuto nodded and lifted himself up. A low groan escaped his lips at the jarring pain, but he managed to stand up to give his name and inmate number when the guard came around.
Now, he could sleep undisturbed until morning. Yuto sighed in relief and put a hand on the ladder to climb up to the top bunk, only to be stopped by Dick.
“Bad idea,” he said. “Use the bottom bunk. With the shape you’re in, you won’t be able to climb up or down for a while.”
Dick switched their blankets and pillows before giving up his bed to Yuto. It was nice of him to offer, and Yuto accepted without protest. As he sat back down, Dick brought over a plastic cup of water and what looked like a pill.
“Painkillers. I swiped some from the infirmary.” Yuto was again surprised at the unexpected gesture of kindness. Although Dick was brusque, he apparently had a kind side as well. Yuto thanked him before swallowing the pill. Dick watched him, his arms folded across his chest.
“If you’re thinking of telling the guard that you were attacked by BB’s guys, don’t,” he said shortly.
“Because they’ll come back for revenge?”
“That’s one reason. In prison, the guard is everyone’s enemy. Even if you get stabbed, don’t even think of snitching. Remember – we inmates have our own rules. ―There’s a Chinese guy in our Block A called Fei. He’s the leader of the Asian inmates. Give your greetings to him tomorrow and get him to allow you into the group.”
“Why?” Dick echoed. “After what you went through on your first day in prison? Do you have anything substantial in that skull of yours?” he said, raising an eyebrow mockingly. His handsome features coupled with his ironic expression gave him a chillingly heartless look.
“You want to know why BB acted like that toward you in front of everyone? It was to tell them that you were his prey. He might be serious about making you his. You want to be his bitch?”
Yuto’s face tensed, more at Dick’s scornful tone rather than what he was saying.
“Of course not. I’d rather die than become his ― ugh!” Dick suddenly grabbed Yuto’s shoulders and pushed him down on the bed. The impact caused a sharp pain in his ribs, making his breath catch.
“You talk big, Lennix, but how are you going to protect yourself in this condition, hm? I can rape you right now and make you realize that you’re powerless alone. Do you have to be taught the hard way?”
Dick suddenly clenched Yuto’s crotch. Yuto was so taken aback that for an instant, he forgot his pain.
“Dick, what the…”
“You can be with me if you don’t want to be with BB. If you agree to be mine and only mine, the other guys will leave you alone. Give your body to me, and I’ll protect it. Think of it as a transaction. Well?”
Yuto was choked by the weight that pressed down upon him, and the vice-like grip on his crotch was painful. He broke into a sweat as he desperately pushed against Dick’s solid chest.
“Get the hell off me!” he said fiercely. “You can try and rape me, but I won’t be your bitch. And to hell with being protected. You think you can insult me like that? Shove it up yours.”
He was frustrated. If it weren’t for this injury, he would have punched the man into the opposite wall. Yuto glared at Dick without bothering to hide his rage. Dick met his gaze unflinchingly. Then, he gave a wan smile and let Yuto go without a struggle.
“You’re tough for what you went through on your first day. We’ll see how long that energy lasts.”
When Yuto realized that he was only being teased, he was incensed but simultaneously relieved. He had been less than excited about having to fear for his chastity around his male cellmate.
“But listen,” Dick continued. “You can struggle all you want, but you’re nothing against a group who’s picked you out as prey. In this place, you clearly belong on the hunted side. But I think you already know. That’s why you’re trying to fool people with that sad stubble of yours, isn’t it?” he said coolly.
Yuto gritted his teeth in anger. Although Dick was simply pointing out something that Yuto already knew, the man’s snide tone made him bristle.
“But you still don’t really know what kind of place this is,” Dick went on. “Underestimate it, it’ll come back to bite you in the ass. Nathan and Micky might be nice to be around, but they’re not going to endanger themselves to protect you. Until you can protect your own hide like them, join a group. Next time you get attacked, you’re on your own. I don’t have the patience and tolerance that Nathan and Micky have. I’d rather not have to wipe your ass for you.” Once Dick finished his clipped remark, he disappeared onto the top bunk, forcing an end to their conversation.
Yuto could barely repress his urge argue back. Who could, when Dick was so quick to assume and so reluctant to listen? Although Dick had said nothing wrong, he could definitely have chosen better words. Who does he think he is, anyway?
Yuto firmly crossed out his impression of Dick as a good guy. Yes, Dick Burnford was an extremely handsome man, but his horrid attitude was enough to dock any points that he made from his good looks.
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