“Who’s the new guy?” someone whispered as they walked back to their cells.
“No idea,” Travis replied, noting the new guard on the block.
“Looks like a grade-one asshole,” the guy replied.
Travis shrugged and stepped into his cell. He was out in three days. A new guard wasn’t his problem. He read until bedtime and then turned in, knowing it would be another night of restless sleep for him. It wasn’t like there was anything else to do but try to rest. Once lights out came, there was nothing else to do in the darkness of your cell. The amenities a lot of prisons possessed weren’t available, so there were no flashlights, no reading lamps. He was lucky even to have access to books via a donation program.
“Travis! Up on your feet!”
Travis blinked awake. Great. The first night he’d actually managed to drift off at a decent hour and they were stirring him for some impromptu search or some shit.
“What is it?” he growled as two guards opened his cell door and stepped inside.
“Come with us,” the one he knew as Hetfield barked.
“Come with you where?” he protested.
“Let’s go,” Hetfield replied, pushing him out the door without answering the question.
Travis walked down the hall between the two of them, taking a side hallway he’d never been down and into a small room with nothing but a couple of chairs and a table, all bolted to the floor.
“Have a seat,” the other guard told him, shoving him inside and closing the door from the other side.
“What’s this about?”
“Out processing. You’re being released tonight.”
“You got a complaint about going home a couple days early, Porter?” the guard snapped.
“No. I’m just surprised. That’s all. And in the middle of the night seems a little weird.”
“Look, your buddy Rybeck. He’s got friends in here, and he’s bad news. He’s put a mark on your head. The warden would rather send you home a couple days shy of your run before he has to deal with something far worse.”
“I’m not afraid of Rybeck or whoever he sends.”
“We know, and the warden don’t want trouble. I don’t know why Rybeck’s got a hard-on for you, but he’s not going to let it go. You’ve been a model prisoner here, and the warden don’t want it to end badly for you. Call him an old softie.”
A buzzer sounded behind them, and a man in a suit entered, going over some forms with him and giving him information on his probation officer. A tech came in and removed the bands that kept him from shifting. He was given the clothes he had come in with, his wallet, and an envelope containing his earnings from prison work he had completed.
“Come on. The prison van will give you a lift into town.”
Just like that, Travis was free. An hour later, he was standing at the bus station, booking a ticket for an out-of-the-way Alabama town to rejoin his pack. He was going home.CHAPTER TWOKat
“Come on, Mike. Let’s just go somewhere else,” Kat said, never taking her eyes off the two large bouncers at the door.
“No, sis. I told you we were going out, and we are going out. Let us in, boys.”
“You’re not coming in here. You’ve been banned,” one of them growled.
“Just a misunderstanding. Come on, guys. You’re making me look bad in front of my sister,” Mike replied.
“You’re not coming in. You’re banned,” the guard repeated.
“Guys, it’s my sister’s twenty-first birthday. Would you deny her a proper birthday celebration?”
“Your sister is welcome to come in, just not with you.”
“Mike, enough. Let’s go,” Kat pleaded, pulling at his shirt sleeve.
“Fine. There are better places in this town anyway,” Mike hissed toward the guards.
He turned and followed Kat to the car and got in.
“I’m sorry, Kat. They’re dicks.”
“What did you do to get banned? Or do I want to know?”
“Nothing. They just have no sense of humor.”
“Right,” Kat replied, starting the car.
Mike was always in trouble wherever they went. He’d been barred from more places than anyone she knew, and there seemed to be no end in sight. As kids, he’d been her protector, “Big Mike” Harmon to everyone that knew them. As an adult, not so much. He’d fallen in with the wrong people and lived his life between rounds of binge drinking and whatever the drug of choice might be that week or month.
“Come on. We’ll go somewhere else. The night is young.”
“No, Mike. I think I’ve had enough birthday fun. I’ll just take you back to the house so you can get your car and head home or out ... whatever.”
“Don’t be like that now, Katerina.”
Mike only used her full name when he was trying to charm her into doing things his way. It’s what their parents called her when she was little before everyone just shortened her name without asking if she wanted them to call her Kat. His charm was lost on her lately, though.