Keelan and Mike met as opposites in a prison where violence, murder, and power games were everyday life. To survive, they made a pact to stand together. But that demands trust, and on the shadowy side of life, trust is fragile.
When Keelan’s past catches up with him, the odd friendship yet again faces the same grave questions:
Can a murderer trust a mercenary who worked for the law?
Can the mercenary trust the murderer?
Keelan stood by the railing and looked down at the center hall illuminated by the faint light from the guard’s bridge. The guards sat behind the big window under the uneven ceiling of the cave. From there, the expansive corridors of an old mine made up most of the prison. The guards were reading, chatting, and drinking coffee, not taking any interest whatsoever in anything happening on the other side of the window. Not many prisoners were out at that time, and it sounded like the two fighting on the floor below him were almost done. They had stopped yelling, and one groaned nasally.
Silence fell upon the prison.
From his place two floors up, Keelan had a good view of the auction podium and the prison’s only entrance and exit—two heavy iron doors with a lot of dents. And not all the rust red patches were rust.
Soon the doors would open again. Another batch of lost souls for the strongest inmates to entertain themselves with would be shoved through the crack. The railings, both here and down the long, wide staircase, would once again be packed with curious prisoners and the ones in desperate need of entertainment. Even the guards would watch on those days.
He didn’t know if they had watched the day he came in. He’d been too busy watching the others and trying not to get knocked over as they were pushed through the doors and led onto the stage. An overfed colossus of a guy had tried to win the rights to him. Had won a fight against another slighter guy right in front of the podium. Keelan had spent the time during the fight studying the two men. He’d have to try to kill the guy who won because there was no way he was going to spend his time there with his pants around his ankles and his ass in the air. His planning and fear had almost distracted him to the point that he hadn’t heard the auctioneer ask if he wanted to fight for his freedom in the arena.
His opponent, the winner of the fight, had been huge, at least six foot seven, and despite his size, he was fast and hit extremely hard. Keelan was six foot four and thought he could hit pretty hard. At least he did until he met that guy. Most of that fight was gone from his memories—pushed back and dimmed by either pain or the massive amount of adrenaline dumped into his system. He didn’t know for sure, just that it wasn’t anything new. Four fights in his entire life had ended that way. Two of them in Delta. The first time it had happened was actually his first real fight ever. Against the guards in juvie.
What little he did remember from the fight in the arena consisted of kicks and blows which seemed to come from everywhere and at the same time, even though there was only that one opponent and an overwhelming noise from the cheering and yelling spectators. And of course, the clear voice of the auctioneer commenting on the battle. Keelan didn’t hear what was said.
Until after. And that people stepped aside as he was led from the arena to the dead opponent’s cell—his prize. It had felt like half his face was missing. Too stubborn to let anyone see how hurt he really was, he managed to stay on his feet. His legs felt like they were made of pudding, but he made it. He’d won his freedom.
It had never been his intention to go see the new batch of prisoners arrive. Fish, as they were called. But curiosity had won in the end. Mostly he was curious about how it looked…from the other side.
Keelan smiled as he remembered his first meeting with a prisoner who just didn’t fit the role as one of the strong prisoners. Black-eyed Burton. The smile disappeared at the thought of the meeting with Rainer shortly afterward. Keelan actually stood the exact same place as they had back then. Rainer had stood at that very spot when he spoke to Keelan for the first time.