“All right you maggots, get off the bus.” Elijah stepped off the bus. His head down, he held back the tears that threatened to escape. After three months in the detention center he got a taste of what it was going to be like, but still he wasn’t ready. He was not ready to spend the next two decades behind bars with men who he knew were far more dangerous than himself.
Just meeting the men that had ridden on the bus with him over the last couple of months, he knew he was in over his head. There was Dwight, Eli’s bunk mate for the last month or so at the detention center. He had given some tips in surviving to Eli. Dwight had been in and out of prison for most of his life. He was not new to San Myshuno State Prison.
Then there was the serial killer that Elijah had only known about, but never met. He knew the guy only due to the news and the manhunt that had been going on over the last year.
There was also the rapist that Elijah had the fortune of getting into a fight with the first few days of being locked up and detained at the detention center.
Lastly, there was the drug dealer Elijah was all too familiar with. Mario had been Elijah’s dealer for the last few years. He never thought they’d both wind up in prison together. At least there was one friendly face he could count on.
The chains were pulled and Elijah followed the other four prisoners to the main building where they would be processed. Dwight had informed him how it would go, so Elijah wasn’t even remotely fazed when he was asked to lower his pants and bend over for his cavity search. Shortly after being processed in, he was handed a box of stuff to survive on for a while and escorted to his new home. That’s where he met his cellmate.
“So, you’re the little fuck-wad that’s going to crowd my space? Let’s get this straight right now, you little shit, this here is my home. You fuck it up, you answer to me. Got it?”
Elijah wasn’t sure what to do or say. This wasn’t like what he had with Dwight. This was…this was scary. Roy had gotten in his face and just shouted at him. Elijah didn’t like it. He didn’t want this. He wanted to be somewhere else now. He learned his lesson. Can’t he just go home now?
“I asked you a fucking question, boy. This here is my house, my rules, and you answer me when I ask you a question. You get me, son?”
Elijah fought the tears back and gave a weak nod to the big guy.
“Good. You got the top bunk. No one ain’t taking my bunk, so you better get used to it, boy. Now, what’s yo’ name, boy?”
“Ryder.” Elijah cleared his dried up throat. His entire body shook. “Elijah Ryder.”
“Alright Eli. You do as I say, we won’t have a problem. What you in for?”
Elijah took a deep breath and answered, “Armed robbery.”
Roy snorted. “Figures. Well, welcome to the big house, little one.” He grinned and Elijah noticed the missing tooth. That scared him more. This was real, too real. The guy held out his hand, “I’m Roy, and you can loosen up a bit. I ain’t going to bite…yet.” He chuckled and then his face hardened, “Piss me off, however, and that’s a whole other story.”
Elijah relaxed a small amount and shook Roy’s hand. He wasn’t sure what the man’s game was, but he would at least try to get on Roy’s good side. “C-can I sit down?” he asked and pointed to Roy’s bottom bunk. He needed to sit before he collapsed. Everything was too much now.
Roy stepped back and motioned to his bunk. “We don’t have chairs. Look, kid,” he said and sat next to Elijah, patting him on the knee. “I know it’s scary, and I ain’t gonna lie, it’s a tough life. You do as you’re told, and keep your head down, no one will have an issue with you.”
This ain’t Juvie,” Elijah admitted with a slump. He had never been so scared in his life. Juvenile Hall had been different. He was the top dog every time he went in. He roughed up the worst of the worst kids when they got too cocky. He was the kid no one messed with. Now, here he was fresh meat to the real men, men who spent ages in the prison. Men who committed crimes that Elijah couldn’t even fathom.
Roy laughed. “Shit, no. This is hard time. This is a maximum security prison. What? You thought you’d get off easy? Shit ain’t easy in here, son. Tell you what, you go see Pops. He’ll help you get squared away around here. Just do yo’self a favor, and stay away from Nancy.”
Elijah wasn’t sure if he heard right. Did the guy just mention a chick? He arched a brow at Roy. “There’s a chick living here?”
Roy’s boisterous laugh had Elijah cowering a little and wishing he hadn’t said anything. “Fuck no. We wish. We all do. Nah, man. Nancy is the cook. Stay away from him. Don’t talk to him. And don’t try to even touch him unless you want your head ripped off this soon in yo’ stay.”
Was he serious? Elijah didn’t understand. He never heard of a man called Nancy. Sure there was a boy named Sue, but that was from a song his mother enjoyed. But not Nancy. Why would any guy want to be called that? And why would he need to be warned to stay away from this guy? “Okay. But…why?”
The grin that Roy sported scared Elijah even more than he already was. His entire body visibly shook. This was not good. Roy answered, “His daddy, that’s why. Don’t get on Kellogg’s bad side. No one is going to protect you from him, not even me.”
Protection? Elijah hadn’t even thought about getting protection inside. He hadn’t even thought he would need it from anyone. He was brave. He knew how to fight. Well, at least he knew how to fight kids younger than himself. These guys were a different breed. “Do I need protection?”
“Just keep yo’ head down and don’t piss anyone off, and you’ll be alright. Stick with me and Pops for a while too. We’ll keep off the dumbasses who think yo’ ass is prime for a whole different reason.” Roy chuckled at that last line.
Elijah was going to be sick. Was this really how it was going to be? Did he have to really watch his back and hope no one would take a liking to his ass? Would they rape him?
At dinner, when the bell sounded, Roy escorted Elijah to the mess hall and pointed out the young man serving dinner to the inmates. “That’s Nancy. Just get yo’ food and keep yo’ head down.”
Elijah did a double take and quickly closed his mouth shut after it dropped. This guy was something else. Elijah could not believe that this guy would sport make-up, let alone stand in such a way that if on the outside Elijah would probably had made some snide a rude comment, possibly beat on him for his looks.
Rather than commenting his thoughts to Ray, he only responded, “Got it.”
Once Elijah got up to the cook and watched as mush was placed along with other coloring mush, he noticed this Nancy fellow grin and his teeth were so bad, Elijah wasn’t sure if it was because Nancy had never seen a dentist or because prison life took a toll on him in the worst possible way.
“Hey, Nancy,” Roy said, which stunned Elijah even more. Didn’t Roy warn him not to talk to this guy? “Hey, you got any of that sweet cornbread for me?”
“Only for you, sugar.” He placed a piece of cornbread on Roy’s tray. Elijah was shocked. Here he got crap on top of crap, and Roy was getting cornbread? The hell? “Oh, and give this to Pops. Daddy finally came through.”
Were they crazy? The cook handed something to Roy. Elijah wasn’t sure what it was, but he was betting drugs. The hell? And they were under a security camera too. Elijah did not want to get into any more trouble, but he wasn’t sure what to do.
“Who’s this?” Nancy asked and motioned over to a stunned Elijah.
“This here is Eli.” Roy patted Elijah on the back. “You tell yo’ daddy, thanks.”
“Will do, hun.”
Elijah followed Roy to a table. He wasn’t sure what to think of the exchange he witnessed or why Roy was trading drugs with Nancy. He sat down and across from him was one of the oldest men he had seen since he entered the prison.
“Pops, Kellogg came through.” Roy handed off whatever Nancy gave him. “Hope this helps for a while.”
“Oh thank the Lord.” Pops took one of whatever type of pills Roy gave him. He put the rest in his chest pocket. “Now I just need the warden to get me an actual doctor’s appointment again.”
Pops took notice of Elijah and gave a warm smile. “And this must be that youngling that came off the bus.”
“His name’s Eli,” Roy said. Elijah wasn’t sure about the new nickname Roy was giving him, but he wasn’t about to correct him. “This is Pops, Eli. He’s the hardest and meanest son of a bitch in here. Ain’t that right, Pops?”
Pops snickered and shook his finger at Roy. “Stop scaring the poor kid, Roy.” He stuck his hand out toward Elijah, who finally felt comfortable for the first time entering the prison. He shook the old man’s hand. “Don’t listen to old Roy. He’s just pissed that the warden finally bunked him with a cell mate. Not everyone can be as lucky to having a cell all to himself.”
Before Roy or Elijah could respond a fight broke out in the front of the mess hall. The biggest man Elijah had ever seen was beating on that rapist Elijah had arrived to the prison with. It took a group of guards to pull off the big guy.
“Dumbass.” Roy shook his head. “He must have said or did something to Nancy.”
Pops shook his head. “Another fish learning his place. I sure do enjoy a dinner and a show.”
“See, this is why you don’t talk to Nancy,” Roy motioned with his head over to what used to be the fight that was now two men getting shackled. “You don’t want to end up nursing a bunch of broken ribs while you sit in the hole.”
Roy turned to Pops and shook his head. “Poor Nancy, Kellogg’s going back to the hole again. How many times is this, this year?”
Elijah’s mouth hung agape. “That’s Kellogg?”
“Yup.” Roy nodded. Elijah didn’t get how these two guys could keep so calm. “Like I said, kid, don’t fuck with Kellogg or his boy.”
“Going to get himself killed.”
“What a dumb fuck trying to touch Nance.”
Elijah was starting to form a picture from what he was hearing around him. Kellogg had the respect of everyone in the place, and with that Nancy was the most protected person in the joint. Elijah was starting to trust Roy. The guy had protected his own ass by warning him off of Nancy. Elijah was grateful he never said the type of shit he wanted to say to Nancy now that he’d seen who Kellogg was, and he planned to stay as far away as possible from both Nancy and Kellogg.
At least that was the plan until Nancy sat next to Pops. “Can you believe that guy? He tried to act as if he owned me.”
“He’s fresh. He’ll learn.” Roy held up his almost finished cornbread. “This is amazing, by the way.”
“Thanks.” Nancy shook his head. “I really don’t understand why someone thinks just because I’m, well, me, that they have a right to touch me or even act as if they can force me to give them something. The idiot didn’t even see that first punch coming, did you see it? Of course, Daddy’s back in the hole again. Which sucks cause of the warden’s warning. I swear, if he splits us up I am going to flip my lid.”
“We’ll protect you, Nancy.” Pops said and patted Nancy on the back. “If Kellogg gets sent back to Max, you know we’ll be here for you. Hell, I’ll even talk to the Warden to get you transferred to my cell. Dallas can get a new cell mate easily enough.”
Nancy hugged the old man. “Thanks papa.” He kissed the old man on the cheek. “You’re the best killer I know.”
Roy snorted a laugh. “I wouldn’t say that around Kellogg, boy. He’s actually killed for you. Or are you forgetting that?”
Nancy waved his hand at Roy. “Please, like I can forget that. But still, even you have to admit no one is better than Pops here.”
“Won’t argue with that.”
Elijah took in the exchange and his eyes bulged as he realized what he was hearing. “Wait,” he interrupted the three, and asked Pops, “You’re a killer?”
“They both are, duh,” Nancy explained. “Pops is the famous Father John Slater. You know, the priest? And Roy, he’s just as fucked up as a lot of people in here.”
Father John Slater? The name did not ring any bells. “It was before your time, kid,” Pops said. “I went on a spree and killed about a dozen sisters and two fathers and a bishop before I was caught.”
“Holy fuck,” Elijah blurted out and then covered his mouth. Holy shit though. He was not casually speaking to a serial killer. He couldn’t even make sense of it. “Wh-why?”
Pops wiped his mouth and his lips twitched into a slow and evil grin. “They were all sinners.”
Elijah’s mouth dropped, just dropped. Was Pops messing with him? Elijah hadn’t been to church since he was a boy, much to his mother’s chagrin. But Elijah still remembered at least the top ten sins, and he was pretty sure murder was the worst.
Pops laughed at Elijah’s reaction, as did the others. Okay, maybe Pops was messing with him—the new kid. “Okay,” Pops grinned and patted Elijah’s hand on the table. “Maybe that’s not the best excuse. But really, it’s true. The sisters, they all were whoring it up with some priest or parishioner. That didn’t sit well with me at the time. They were also gossipers. The two fathers were doing unholy and sinful things to a few of the alter boys, and I had enough of their sickness. As for the bishop, he was no better than the fathers, and I took him out as well. Next day, I turned myself in.”
Elijah leaned in and whispered, “But isn’t murder, like, one of the biggest sins?”
Pops chuckled. “So it is. I know it’s hypocritical. I was a young priest then, and I’ve had forty years to repent and reflect on my own sins. However, there’s nothing I can do to take back what I done, but I can still pray and hope that God will grant me entrance into His kingdom when I do go.”
Elijah was shocked. Just shocked beyond belief as to what he was hearing. How could this old man be so cruel and evil? He was a man of the cloth. Yet, here they were, both in prison.
“Amen to that,” Roy said and stood. He patted Elijah’s back. “Okay, boy, time to go. We got to get to the showers before lights out. And trust me, if we don’t get there early, we’ll be taking cold showers. And I don’t know about you, but I rather have warm water hitting my back.”
Elijah stood and grabbed his tray.
“Good luck,” Nancy said to Elijah. “You’re going to need it in here.”
Elijah could only nod. He only got a small taste, and he knew Nancy was right. He was going to need all the luck he could get to survive the next twenty years.