Home > Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(3)

Undeserving (Undeniable #5)(3)
Author: Madeline Sheehan

And now he didn’t want to leave.

Correction. He did want to leave; who the hell wanted to stay in prison? What he didn’t want to do was go back to the life he’d come from.

Prison changes people. It’s inevitable. It will change anyone who passes through, whether it be a year-long stint or a life sentence. Once you leave, if you leave, you won’t exit those gates the same person who’d been escorted through them.

Prison had been a painful wake-up call for Preacher. It had taken the man he’d been, beaten the holy hell out of him, flushed him down the shitter, and sputtered and spit him back out a ravaged and shameful shell.

But he’d persevered. Lived through the beatings, educated himself on prison politics, the self-serving guards and the prison gangs, both of which consisted of men who found inflicting pain on others, both mental and physical, an enjoyable pastime. For a time, Preacher had struggled just to get through a single day without worrying for himself and without some sort of altercation. As a result, he’d hardly slept for several seemingly unending months.

Eventually he’d found a niche for himself within a small group of like-minded men, allowing him to ride out his remaining sentence in whatever the prison equivalent of peace and quiet was. But the peace had come at a price; he was no longer the same man he’d been.

Yeah, prison had changed him.

But if anything, prison had made him a better man than he’d been. Breaking him had only served to make him stronger, harder, full of determination and self-preservation. It made him appreciate the smaller things, things he’d once taken for granted.

From his seat on the bottom bunk, his cellmate Mickey looked up at Preacher solemnly. Mickey was in his sixties, had been in prison since his thirties, but had been transferred here about twelve years back after killing a guard at his last place of residence. He looked a great deal older than he was, his long hair and beard nearly all white, his teeth rotted, and his face a mass of deep wrinkles and scars.

Oftentimes, when he would look too long at Mickey, Preacher would start to see himself, old and decrepit, knowing these cold stone walls would be the last thing he’d ever see.

“Don’t come back here,” Mickey said gravely, his voice hoarse and grating like a hundred miles of bad road. “I fuckin’ mean it, don’t you walk out those gates and hop right back into the life. You’re young, only twenty-four. You can have a life out there—a good woman, some kids, a job that ain’t gonna get you killed. Don’t fuck it up.”

Preacher just stared back at him.

Don’t fuck it up.

Don’t fuck it up.

This time it had been a deal gone bad. Preacher had been carrying enough cocaine on his person to get thrown away for life, but thankfully he’d stashed most of what he’d had before his arrest and ended up getting charged solely with possession. He might have been able to lighten his sentence even more if he’d agreed to rat out his club, but Preacher wasn’t a rat.

And so he’d ended up a casualty of his father’s secret war against society, a war Preacher was no longer sure he wanted to continue waging.

Yet he had nothing else to go back to but the life. His father had all the money, the resources, everything. He’d slap Preacher’s Silver Demons vest on his back, and in return, Preacher would be expected to resume service as vice president, utterly devoted to the club and to his father.

But it would never be the same. There was no returning to life as it once was. As happy as he was to be free, he knew now he wasn’t really free. He was simply trading one cage for another.

“Number eight-five-seven!”

Preacher recognized the deep, booming voice as belonging to Pat, one of the guards, and the clanking clatter of a nightstick being dragged across steel bars. All over the cell block, fellow inmates began to stir, some shouting curses, others whistling. Someone began to bark like a dog.

As Pat’s booted steps drew closer, Preacher’s stomach flip-flopped.

Mickey jumped to his feet and crossed the cell. He gripped Preacher’s shoulders and pulled him into an awkward hug that caught Preacher so off guard, he almost didn’t reciprocate.

“I don’t wanna see you again, Damon,” Mickey said. “I fuckin’ mean it.”

Sentimental old fool.

“Let’s go, Fox! You can fag it up on the outside from now on!”

Mickey pulled back, his tired old eyes full of cold, hard truths. “Get the fuck outta here,” he growled, shoving Preacher toward the waiting guard.

“You gonna behave?” Pat asked. A pair of handcuffs dangled from his hand.

Preacher nodded.

“Get a move on, then. That sunshine is callin’ your name.”

Reaching up, Preacher quickly tied back his long brown hair, shot Mickey one last look, and then dutifully turned around and put his hands behind his back.

As Preacher was led through his cell block, he caught the eyes of the men he’d been forced to live side by side with for two years. In the pairs of eyes that met his, he found a variety of emotions. Jealous sneers, genuine smiles and congratulatory nods, and knowing stares—stares that seared straight through him, making him feel like those men knew something he didn’t.

When they left the cell block and entered the bowels of the prison, Preacher released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

“You gonna tell me now why they call you Preacher?” Pat asked. “You said you would on your last day, and it’s your last day.”

Preacher smiled faintly. “I don’t know when to shut my fuckin’ mouth. Got an opinion ’bout everything, always preachin’ ’bout this and that.”

Pat was silent for a moment. “Maybe that was true two years ago, but things sure have changed, huh?”

Preacher didn’t bother answering. Yeah, things had definitely changed. He’d lived the last two years being told when to sit, stand, eat, sleep, and take a shit. At first, he’d had quite a bit to say about it, but he’d since learned his place.

“Park it over there,” Pat said as they turned into the booking room. Leading Preacher to a far corner of the room, he removed his handcuffs and pointed to a rundown wooden bench.

Taking a seat, Preacher glanced around the room, rubbing his wrists. It was the same room he’d been brought into two years ago, the beige-colored walls lined with dark gray file cabinets, the same three guards manning separate desks, their heads bowed as they looked over various paperwork.

It was the same room where all his belongings had been taken away, where he’d been stripped and searched, put into a stiff gray jumpsuit, and shuffled off to his cell block. The same room where’d he’d become a nameless, faceless nobody, the equivalent of a maggot, just one among thousands forced to live off the garbage they were thrown into.

“Fox!” Pat called. The guard was gesturing toward a chair beside a desk and the bored-looking guard seated behind it. “We need your John Hancock. Get’cher ass over here.”

When all his release forms were signed, dated, and sealed away, when his belongings—a pair of ratty old jeans, a white T-shirt, a leather jacket, a pair of riding boots, a wallet, and a small gold chain—were returned to him, when he was dressed and ready to walk out the door marked EXIT in big bright bold lettering, he paused.

“Problem?” Pat asked.

Still staring at the exit sign, Preacher shook his head. Was there a problem? He didn’t know.

“What the fuck are you waiting for? You’re maxed out, Fox. Free. You got your ride waiting on you. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start. Get your ass going and stay the hell outta trouble.”

A free man. According to the law and the state of New York, he was indeed a free man. But in reality, he wasn’t free at all. He belonged to the Silver Demons body and soul, for better or worse. And if he stayed on this path, this wasn’t going to be the last time he went to prison.

Pat slapped him on the back and shoved him forward, and then Preacher was moving, one foot in front of the other, through the exit door and down the long corridor. Another guard, standing at his post near a set of double doors at the end of the hall, nodded at him. Then Preacher was through the doors and stepping out into the warm sunlight…

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