If Mitch Wilder wasn't in prison, he'd never discover the conspiracy to kill his son, Darren Hoffman. The only way to save his life is for Mitch to kill Pete Hoffman, the man who raised Darren. But Mitch doesn't have it in him to commit murder and searches for a way out of it. In desperation, Mitch barters for a pen and a piece of paper, which will change his life forever. He writes a note and gives it to a man who's about to be released, praying he'll deliver it to the right person, and on time. It will take weeks before Mitch knows if his son is still alive...or not.
April 12, 1972. Mitch Wilder blinked up at the early morning clouds as he and five other men shuffled toward a plain white van. Chains stretched from their waists to their ankles and waists, rattled as they moved. One by one they stepped up into the dark insides of the vehicle. A seasoned guard checked off their names on the clipboard and sneered at the convicts. It was only four o'clock, too early to be up and about. Dew glistened off the van. Mitch waited for the man in front of him to lift his foot up onto the steel step. The young guard on his right fidgeted with his gun belt, his eyes darting from one convict to the next.
As Mitch was stretching the chain so his foot could land on the first step, the man behind him yelled, “Boo!” The young guard pulled out his revolver, only to drop it in on the pavement. It clattered and slid under the van. The two guards that brought up the rear, ran up with their pistols drawn. The man behind Mitch let out an evil laugh.
“Move,” yelled the guard with the clipboard, giving Mitch a shove. Mitch scrambled onto the bench on his right. Someone pushed the last man into the van. He landed on the floor with a loud grunt.
“Damn it, Jack,” someone's angry voice came from outside. “You could have killed someone.”
The doors to the van slammed shut. Mitch could barely make out the form of the man as he crawled up onto the bench across from him. A sliver of hazy light filtered in through the bulletproof glass that separated the inmates Deborah Tadema 10 from the guards up front. Young Jack slid into the passenger side and looked back at them as if they were going to gobble him up alive. Mitch wondered if they gave him his gun back. The driver, the guard with the clipboard, scowled at the young man before he turned on the ignition and pulled out of the lot.
Someone started to snore after they left the city limits of St. Thomas, Ontario. Mitch looked around to see that most of them were trying to sleep. Their long legs stretching out past the ones of the man across from him. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the side of the van. Sporadic dozing was all he got. He thought about things that he wished he wouldn't.
He missed his daughter's birthday, again. Leslie Scott was fourteen now, a bright teenager who hated his guts. Her mother, Sandy, an ex-wife, made sure of it. He knew why now. A year ago, she found out about one of his illegitimate sons, Greg McNaughton. Mitch had just learned about Greg, himself.
Mitch jumped when someone kicked the bottom of his foot. The chains rattling as he pulled in his feet. He kept a slitted eye on the big black dude sitting across from him. It was starting to sink in now, the seriousness of his situation. His stomach was ready to get rid of his breakfast. They ate two pieces of dry toast before they left. He sat up straight and pulled on the chains around his wrists and ankles. The other man finally leaned toward him. “I'm Bulldog, Mitch Wilder.”
Mitch looked around at the other inmates. Two had their eyes closed while two others glared at each other as if getting ready to kill the other one. Nobody seemed Caged Honor 11 interested in the conversation. “I guess I don't need to introduce myself, then.” Mitch took in the big black man's features and knew why he had that nickname. He looked like a bulldog, with a flat, crooked nose and round piercing eyes. The man had big cheeks and a head full of kinky curls. Scars crisscrossed his face. He looked like a man who knew life behind bars.
“I'll protect your ass in there for half of anything you earn or barter for.”
Mitch nodded. He heard of the gangs who preyed on the smaller guys, using them as slaves. Of the bigger and more powerful men raping the weaker ones. The safest thing for him to do was to latch on to a gang, if he could. The cop who arrested him, told him this.
Bulldog gave him a hard stare. “What? You think I want you for sex?” He sat back and laughed. “I don't need that from you.” Bulldog sobered. “I heard you have a big dick. There will be plenty of guys after you. Because of that and your good looks. Not to mention, you have a body most of them would drool over. You let me know who you want to bang, and I'll make sure you get him.” “What if I don't want to bang anyone?”
“Can you hold off, Mitch Wilder? Will your own hand be enough for you for years on end? I know why you're heading to prison. Five years will seem like a lifetime.”
Mitch glanced at the other men. “How do you know so much about me?”
Bulldog shrugged. “It's not a secret. Everyone knows who you are. Watched the news every night during your trial.” He smiled and scratched at his crotch. “You're going to need a friend in there.” He leaned forward again. “You are him, aren't you? The one they say screwed 550 women.”
Mitch glared at him. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see some of the other men sitting up, taking notice. It wasn't that many, it was 538 that they could prove, and another six that they couldn't. But every time Mitch heard it, the number grew.
Dawn made it brighter inside the steel box they were in. They all jerked when the van hit a pothole. The man next to him turned his head and grinned. “Yep, it's him.” The man poked him with his elbow. “That right?”
“No,” Mitch said. “And it wasn't 550 either.”
The big man across from him laughed. “By the time we get to Millhaven, it will be 700.”
It took them five hours to get to Millhaven Prison; up near Bath, Ontario. They didn't stop for a better breakfast. It was just as well, it would have come back up anyway. Mitch saw Jack chewing on something when he checked through the window of the cab. By then he knew all the names of Bulldog's gang; there were five of them.
“How did you know I wouldn't end up someplace else?” How did Bulldog assemble a gang in Millhaven so soon?
“Judge Benton sends everyone there.”
Mitch couldn't see very much of the prison when they drove through the gate. They stopped inside a garage and the big doors closed behind them. The guards ushered their prisoners through a heavy steel door and into a small room. Mitch stripped off everything and watched a guard search through his clothes. A second guard put his clothes into a box.
As he stepped into a pair of bright orange pants with an elastic waist, he thought about his closet full of expensive clothes in his apartment in Hamilton. His suite in the Carlyle Motel in Ottawa, had just as many tailored suits. He sighed and pulled the matching ill-fitting shirt over his head. 4856 was stamped on both the front and back with bold black numbers.
Bulldog told him, along the ride, about the use of stamps. That was how he would be paid if they assigned him a job, or if he volunteered for one. No cash changed hands, at least not legally. These stamps bought extra items; such as soap, or books, socks, and anything else that they were allowed. An account was already set up for him so that his son, Darren, could send him money when he needed some.
Mitch and Bulldog were separated. Two guards led Mitch through several doors that opened for them after one of them talked into his walkie-talkie. His new home was a 6' by 8' room with cement walls on three sides, and the one with the bars. He mumbled to himself as he walked in. “It's smaller than my closet.” A steel sink and toilet sat along one wall, a bunk bed across from them. The top bunk was held up by chains anchored to the ceiling. Two shelves were on the wall above a small table which was anchored to the floor, with a steel chair in front of it, also bolted down. A small window with bars was above the table.
Mitch set his pillow, sheets, and blanket on the bottom bunk, claiming it as his. The guards left him then. He checked out of his tiny window to see the yard outside. A 30-foot, double razor fence surrounded it. A smaller fence was inside that one, probably as a warning not to get too close to the other one. Mitch wondered if it was charged with electricity. A tower stood in the corner he could see. Most of the inmates were out there now, milling about. Some were playing soccer. Mitch sat down on his bunk and held in his stomach for the next two hours.
A buzzard sounded at 11:30. Mitch watched the inmates leaving the yard out of his tiny window. He could hear increasing chatter as they filled the hallway inside and he went over to investigate. He noticed how they all lined up in front of their cells. Mitch did too, and soon learn that this was for a head count.
He was in A Unit, Range B, and would remain there until his assessment, which could take up to two months, or longer. This was to see how violent he was and to determine if he would re-offend or try to commit suicide again. Then they'd send him to the prison that suited him the best. He might even get to stay there. They adjusted his medication to a new dosage that left him somewhat woozy. He now wore a plastic wristband with his name and a list of his medication on it. The only one he could pronounce was Paxil, an antidepressant.
Mitch didn't sleep the first night. He lay in bed and
listened to snoring and men having sex. It made him think
of his last wife. Claire was married to Bob Marshall now.
Mitch had to learn to let her go. This time he had lost her
for good. In his heart he knew it. Automatically, he reached for the chain around his
neck that he kept her wedding ring on---promising himself
he'd get her back. It wasn't there. Claire had destroyed
both the chain and her wedding band. She wore another
ring now. Bob was a good man. He'd take care of Claire.
At least this gave Mitch some comfort, knowing that Claire
was happy without him.