BLOODTRAIL is a novel of immense cruelty, shining hope, awesome ruthlessness, unconditional love, and the triumph of simple humanity. It transports the vampire fable to a new level of believability, explaining away the myths and legends, bringing the genre into the here and now. The reader is pulled along at a barely safe distance as science seeks answers and one man searches for a fourteen-year-old daughter he has not seen in over 150 years.
From a slave ship run aground in the Plymouth Colony hurricane of 1635 to the secret Kansas City laboratories of the Proteus Trust, from the sub-basement of Chicago’s Field Museum to the wilds of northern Arkansas, from the beauty of the Colorado high country to the fabled mountains of Austria, it is a novel of lost love, found redemption, surprising humor, and merciless brutality.It suspends disbelief with accurate history, viable science, compelling characters, visual theatre, and direct dialogue. Credible, convincing, and real, BLOODTRAIL is a splendid read.
WHAT THE READERS SAY ABOUT
BLOODTRAIL puts the reader against the windshield at 75 MPH during the prologue, and doesn’t hit the brake until the very end. Rarely does a book begin with this kind of mayhem and intrigue and sustain it. An intelligent, humorous, savage tale told by a master storyteller. Buy it, read it, and become one of the infected.
Steven King wishes he still wrote this well!
Greg Hall of OFF THE COUCH
This book held my attention. It is the first lengthy fiction piece I’ve finished in more than 20 years. BLOODTRAIL by David Lewis is a story of love, lust, science, and intrigue set in the Midwest haunts of Chicago, Kansas City, and Colorado. Lewis can weave a tale like nobody else. Check it out if you dare challenge the darkness.
You won’t regret it.
Brian Kubicki of the Platte County Landmark
Looking for something scary . . . as opposed to the standard Transylvanian shtick? Author David Lewis has just the ticket via his book BLOODTRAIL. I really like the new spin he [Lewis] puts on an old story.
Angela Colvin reviewing for Hearne Christopher, Jr. in the Kansas City Star
She was well into Missouri, the Jeep’s oversized tires singing on the cement, when hunger became a factor. At a rest stop on I-44, she grabbed a Snickers and took a couple of hits of speed, then ran her fingers through her short hair and put the top down to better enjoy the afternoon. Early September surrounded her as she pulled back onto the interstate, heading southwest.
Gunnar and Felene had wanted her to stay a while longer, but people were waiting for her at home. She’d loved prowling Lake Shore Drive, enjoying the cliff dwellers on one side and Lake Michigan on the other. Something was going on nearly twenty-four hours a day. She’d walked for miles, day and night, prowling the drive, the side streets, the alleys. Time had flown by. She had arrived in May and, almost in a blink, she was in the first week of September. Time to go.
She’d left Chicago shortly after dawn, Felene and Gunnar walking her out to the street from their digs deep in the second sub-basement of the Field Museum. They’d found the Jeep and kissed her good-bye, Gunnar adolescently patting her butt and growling in her ear, Felene licking her on the upper lip and nipping her with lovely little teeth, both of them promising to return the visit. Sorrow sighed around her as she left the city, recollections of another era. Once upon a time, when they’d still been together, she and her father had lived in Chicago, but she hadn’t seen her dad in years. The memory was there though. It hadn’t faded a bit. Her memories never did.
When she reached Rolla, she turned south on 63, not really caring about making time, just driving in the general direction of home. Small towns slid by and Licking came up after a while. She smiled at the name, remembering Felene’s tactile enthusiasm. Houston was next, then Cabool and a low gas gauge. She filled up at a 7-11, ate another Snickers and crunched a little more speed, but she knew it wouldn’t be enough. Soon she would need to stop and eat.
She took 181 out of Cabool, smoked half a chubby reefer, and was snaking through one of the Mark Twain National Forests as dusk fell. With tourist season over, traffic on the narrow Ozark two-lane was sparse. Only the occasional passenger car, rusty pick-up, or the odd logging truck doing the red oak rumble at half the speed limit joined the Jeep on the asphalt. Finding a Forest Service lane disappearing off into the undergrowth, she pulled the Jeep back into the weeds out of sight and stopped. Opening her suitcase, she stripped off her chinos and long sleeved shirt and wiggled into a pair of jean shorts cut off at the crotch and a white tank top. Barefoot in the dim light, the need dripping from her sinuses down the back of her throat, she returned to the road, squatted in the ditch, took three or four hits off a roach, and waited.
A mini van full of Baptists and brats rolled by, followed five minutes later by a tall pick-up with two motorcycles in the bed and three rednecks in the cab. She peed in the grass and killed another ten minutes, her appetite gnawing with anticipation, before she saw the old red Chevy. Weaving slightly, with only one person on board, the raggedy mini-pickup groaned and rattled around a curve. She stepped out beside the road and stuck out her thumb. The dumbass behind the wheel almost locked up the brakes trying to stop in time. Smiling, she licked her lips wet and walked to the driver’s window, shoulders back, hands in the rear pockets of the shorts.
“Evenin’, Ma’am,” he grinned, beer on his breath, a flabby tattooed arm resting on the window frame. “Whatchoo doin’ out here all by yer lonesome this time a night, little lady?”
“My boyfriend dumped me ‘cause I wouldn’t put… ’cause I pissed him off,” she said, leaning forward a bit and crossing her arms, pushing her breasts together with her biceps.
“Hell, you doan look old enough to know what ta do with no boyfriend.”
“Old enough to wear that pissant out if I wanted to,” she snorted. “Fuck him.”
The good ol’ boy leaned away from the steering wheel, belched, pushed his ball cap back on his head and let his eyes roam over her.
“Ain’t yew awful young ta be out all by yourself? Little bitty girl like you could git took advantage of.”
She laughed and swished her butt. “Well, yeah, Dummy! That’s why I need a ride. Walking around out here in the dark, almost anything could happen. You sober enough to rescue me, or what?”
Fantasies of butterscotch hair, pebbled nipples, and pink tongues rippled behind his moist eyes.
“Wanna beer?” he asked, stifling a belch.
“Sure, if it comes with a ride.”
He leered, licked his lower lip and took a chance.
“What if it comes with more’n a ride?”
She grinned, cocked her head to one side and ran her tongue along her upper lip. “Then I might need more than one beer.” She could smell his sweating accelerate, alcohol misting his breath. Too dumb and too drunk to realize this was all too good to be true.
“I got half a case a Bud Lite in a cooler in the bed,” he said around the growing lump his throat.
“Got someplace we can drink it? I ain’t ridin’ around with no drunk at the wheel.”
“Cat,” she said, rocking back and forth on slim muscular legs.
“Cat? That short for something?”
“I ain’t short on nothin’, Hero. You got eyes.”
In the near blackness of the cab, she could see his hand drop to his lap.
“Yer kindly short on pants,” he said, trembling a little as he fondled himself.
“You gonna stare at my crotch all night, or we gonna drink some beer?”
“Damn!” he said, tearing his eyes away. “Ain’t you something!”
“More than you know,” she said, trailing a hand lightly across her breasts.
He gave a strangled snort and she caught the sour scent of his seminal fluid.
“Well, git the fuck in, Cat. I’m Leon. Let’s go drink some beer, or somethin’.”
Cat grinned. “Or somethin’,” she purred, and walked around the truck.
Leon watched her ass pass the headlights. Shit! Earlene with them saggy tits and them three kids, only one of ‘em his, waitin’ back at the trailer house, bitchin’ all the time about ever damn thing they was to bitch about. Fuck her. He was tired a her flabby ass. This little piece didn’t look like she was mor’n thirteen years old, but damn, she was some hot shit. Once he got her off the road and a beer or two down her neck, this was gonna be like nothin’ else in his whole life!
Cat sat on her side of the seat, amused as she watched him struggle not to paw her and strain to see her legs in the pale green of the dash lights. She swiveled to lean back against the door and parted her knees, her left hand slowly stroking the inside of her thigh. He dropped the right front tire onto the shoulder and wrenched the truck back on the roadway.
“Whatzamatter, Hero? Havin’ trouble concentrating?”
“How fuckin’ old are you, Girl?”
“Older than you think. Just keep your eyes on the road. You wreck this piece of shit and your gonna fuck up my plans. How much farther we got to go? I’m thirsty.”
“’Bout this fuckin’ far,” he said, slowing the Chevy and easing up a narrow rock studded lane.
The logging road widened after only a short way and he turned the truck around, facing it back down the shallow slope. He shut off the ignition and peered at her silhouette against the open window.
“C’mere,” he said.
It was pitch dark, but Cat saw him clearly. Dirt in the creases of his crow’s feet, lower lip wet with spittle, patchy beard stubble, pot belly sagging over a cheap plastic belt, greasy blue jeans, soiled t-shirt, worn cowboy boots, filthy fingernails, massaging his fly, sure that the dark gave him privacy.
“What about the beer?” she asked, keeping her distance.
“Beer can wait. C’mere, Little Girl.”
She smiled. “My name’s Cat, you know, like pussy?”
“Goddamn!” he grunted.
She could smell fresh discharge and feel his heart rate climb.
“I ain’t never come across nobody like you before!”
“You got that right,” she said. “I guarantee it.”
“Well, slide your tight little ass on over here, Pussycat!”
Cat laughed. “I don’t think so, Hero,” she said, opening her door. The dome light didn’t work. “You promised me beer.”
She scooted out the door and walked to the bed of the truck, reaching for the cooler that had slid up against the tailgate. Leon weaved his way next to her, breathing heavily through his nose. Cat drew a longneck Bud from the water and ice as he pressed his bulk against her and put an arm around her waist.
“Slow down, Hotshot,” she said, slipping away from his grasp and body odor. “Let me tell you the way it is. It’s gonna take one beer before you lean on me, two beers before you put an arm around me, three before you grab me, and at least four before you get next to this sweet little pussycat. The way you’re pantin’, you’ll probably come all over yourself in a minute anyway, you dumb fuck.” She unscrewed the top and took a deep slow hit of the Bud, enjoying the amount of verbal abuse he was prepared to absorb as long as he thought it might be part of foreplay. “While I’m still sober, you don’t stand much of a chance. So just slow down and let me get ready.”
Leon looked at her in the moonlight; his vision blurred by booze and need.
“You got anything to eat, Hero?” she asked, tossing the suddenly empty bottle into the undergrowth. “I’m hungry. I haven’t had a good meal in days.”
“Have another beer,” he said, plucking one from the cooler and twisting off the cap. She drained it in four long swallows.
“Damn, Girl! Can you fuckin’ drink, or what?”
Cat shouldered him aside and grabbed another bottle. In five seconds it was empty.
“Jesus,” Leon said, trying to see her ass in the dappled moonlight.
“Just keepin’ my word, Hero,” she said, stepping in front of him and leaning against his belly. The top of her head was three inches below his chin. “I said that after three beers you could grab me,” she said, dropping her hand to his fly. He sucked in a sharp breath as she stroked him. “Wanna grab me, Hero? Do ya?”
She thrust her other hand deeply between his legs and pressed upward, feeling his sphincter tighten and the rhythmic pulsing begin behind his scrotum.
His hands flew to her backside, each grasping a cheek, and pulled her roughly against him. She turned her face up.
“Gonna come, Hero?” she growled, her eyes shining with amusement. “Gonna come for me? C’mon, Hero, shoot your hillbilly wad and I’ll lick it all off you when you’re done. Come, Baby!” she squealed, rubbing against him in feigned urgency. “Come!”
“Jesus!” Leon roared, and she felt the spasms begin beneath her hands.
He pushed his face against hers, his tongue probing her lips. On tiptoe, she opened her mouth for him and sucked his tongue in between her teeth. Leon snorted. Leon wheezed. Leon bucked. Leon shivered. And as Leon came, Cat struck.
So far gone in the most thunderous orgasm of his adult life, Leon didn’t immediately realize what had transpired. He felt the crunch of Cat’s teeth as they entered his tongue, but his pleasure at that moment was so intense, so rock-hard, sperm spurting, prostate pulsing, gut wrenching good, for a second his reptile brain overrode pain and the terrible trauma of the event did not register. A second was all Cat needed. In the first half of that second she released her hold on his crotch, grasped each of his wrists, and removed his hands from her backside. The last half of that second she extended her arms out from her sides to keep Leon from scratching or tearing at her, bit through his tongue, grasped the stump between her teeth, and began to suck.
Leon’s orgasm was shattered by what felt like fire in his mouth. He wrenched backward to escape it, but it came with him, searing pain, scalding agony that clung to him, tore at him, shredding through his face. He attempted to claw at it, but couldn’t move his hands to his head, only dimly aware of the bones in his wrists splintering as they broke under amazing pressure. He lurched and fought to no avail, his screeching blowing snot from his nose and rupturing an eardrum as he whirled, a pathetic dervish attempting to fling a bloodlust banshee from his face, finally crashing to his back on earth he could not feel, staring at the stars with eyes that could not see.
For a while during their dance, Cat was suspended from Leon only by the strength of his tongue, her one-hundred-two pounds swinging freely in front of him. As he spun and struggled, she broke both of his wrists and dislocated his right shoulder. After he collapsed she spat out the meat that was once part of his tongue, wiped him off her eyelids and face and, using her knee to pump his dead heart, drank from his hollow mouth as if it were a blood-spring filling a sacred vessel. When she had her fill, she thrust herself off of him and stood upright, life coursing through her veins, the darkness as light as day. From the sheer joy of it, she threw back her head and howled, giggling as coyotes answered from the distance, hugging herself with ecstasy, fulfilled, happy, supercharged with life, rich from the kill, radiant with the purest of nourishment. Then she came, the orgasm clawing its way through her with ivory talons, ripping her apart with its intensity, fusing her back together with its power. She lay on her side in the grass and shook, laughing with glee at the battle, the kill, the meal.
After a few moments she urinated the excess moisture from her system and sipped briefly from Leon’s mouth for a final taste. She grasped the body by the pants and the cheap plastic belt and, one handed, tossed the two hundred thirty pound corpse casually into the rear of the truck. Finding the keys in the ignition, she drove back to the Jeep and parked.
Cat stripped off her bloody shorts and top, washed with the ice water remaining in the cooler, and dressed in her chinos and shirt. She carefully stuffed the bloody clothing into a plastic bag along with a sizeable rock, and put it on the passenger side floorboard awaiting a lake or river. Checking Leon’s wallet, she found nearly ninety dollars, which she slipped in her purse. She left the body in the truck, started the Jeep, and pulled back out onto 181, heading for Arkansas. The cool night air warmed her as she chased her headlights through the hills. Looking at her watch, she noticed it was barely ten o’clock. She lit the last half of her last doobie and wished she’d brought the rest of Leon’s beer.
“Somebody here to see ya, Doc.”
Joseph Casey opened his eyes and looked toward the voice from his position on the bottom bunk. Through the bars Butler appeared upside down.
“You got a visitor.”
“Butler, I don’t have visitors.”
“First time for everything,” Butler said. “C’mon, get up.”
Casey lurched to a sitting position, automatically keeping his head low to avoid the steel frame of the upper bunk.
“It’s too late for visiting hours.”
“Special deal, Doc. The assistant warden set it up. Some gal with juice wants to see you.”
“Yeah. You remember them, doncha?”
“Not very clearly,” Casey said, rubbing his face with his palms.
“This one’ll sure as hell refresh your memory.”
“Butler, how long we known each other?”
“I dunno. Ten or twelve years, I guess.”
“Have I ever had a visitor that you recall?”
“Piece of mail from anybody, even a lawyer?”
“Gotta be a mistake.”
“Mistake or not, I’m not the one who’s gonna make it. I’m supposed to take you over to the administration building. Get your shit together.”
Casey sighed and slipped into his shoes. A visitor? He didn’t want a visitor. He didn’t want his life messed with at all. He’d carved himself a nice little insulated niche that he was going to outgrow soon enough. An intrusion from the outside could only made things more difficult. He preferred his memories, as bad as some of them were, over any contemplation of the future. Rising to his feet and wondering what the hell was going on, he grabbed a blue cotton shirt with his number stenciled over the single pocket and put it on, buttoning it to the neck. He finger-combed his hair straight back and turned to the guard.
“How do I look?” he said.
“Like a convict.”
“Just the effect I was going for. She’ll be impressed.”
Butler chuckled. “Let’s go, Doc.”
Casey stepped through the open cubicle door and out onto the second floor catwalk, tucking in his shirt. What the hell would a woman want with him? He hadn’t been near a woman since before he’d dried out. He hadn’t had anything even resembling a normal relationship with a woman since his wife died, and that was too painful to dwell on even after all these years. A woman. Apprehension nagged at him as he walked toward the stairs.
Located in central Indiana not far from Indianapolis, Macon Detention Facility was constructed in 2005. One of several project prisons, Macon was privately owned and administrated. Built with a faux pink marble exterior and green tile roofing, it was supposed to resemble an industrial park or large condominium complex. Guard towers were cleverly concealed in rooftop cupolas, wide expanses of lawn were graced by ponds and flowerbeds. Exercise yards were hidden from view by hedges reinforced with razor wire. The illusion failed. Prisons exude an ambience all their own that cannot be concealed by cosmetics. The double row of sixteen foot chain link fencing and concertina wire surrounding the entire two hundred acre complex did little to sustain the ruse.
The positive side was that local, state, and federal governments had nothing to do with the day-to-day management of the place. Because it was privately run and competed with other facilities of its type, it was considerably more progressive than conventional prisons. The food was better, the staff efficiently maintained and trained, the bunks softer, visitation more liberal, and inmates even received comment cards to fill out from time to time. Its cells were “cubicles”, its guards “administrative assistants”, its prisoners “contained population”, and its goal was to “reinstate disenfranchised individuals back into the general population as contributive members to the societal norm”. Despite the classroom, educational, medical, and sports facilities, despite the color coordinated detention areas, despite the larger cubicles, and despite the un-military uniforms of the administrative assistants, it was a prison. A place where we, as a society, put those of whom we are afraid, those of whom we are ashamed, and those of whom we want rid.
The population consisted of between eight and nine hundred detainees at any given time, kept in four maximum-security buildings and one total lock-down mega-security building. Joseph Casey had resided in maximum security for almost eleven years. He was a model prisoner, more than a model prisoner actually. He was admired by inmate and guard alike.
Joseph was one of the few in his building that was not under lockdown unless working or in an exercise period. No matter how crowded the facility became, Casey never had a cellmate, but was permitted to live privately. He alone was allowed to leave his cubicle after nightly lockdown, should the occasion call for it. He never asked for any privileges but received them anyway. Why? The same reason he was called Doc. Casey was a healer.
He worked in the prison hospital six days a week. So did other inmates, but they did not receive the same considerations he did. They did not work with terminal AIDS patients. Casey moved among the dying without hesitation or fear. He brought them comfort; he eased their pain and their minds. He touched them and they felt better. He sat with them and they relaxed. He cared and they responded. A few that were hyper-religious considered him second only to Christ. Some that would have gleefully spit in God’s eye, smiled when they saw him coming. Casey had something, there was no doubt about that. What he had was unclear, but it was there.
Recuperating from a shank wound to the kidney, Theotus Lark, at six-seven and three thirty five, the baddest HIV positive sumbitch in the valley, got to know Casey.
“That Doc,” he said, “be one natural born muthafuckah. Anybody fuck wit his ass, dey fuckin’ wit me. They doan want ta be fuckin’ wit me.”
Nobody fucked with Doc anyway. When he first arrived at Macon, several tried but they were unsuccessful. In his early forties and about five-ten and one-sixty, Doc was not an intimidating physical specimen. He belonged to no group and had no protectors. Soft spoken and usually polite, he was not social, kept his own council and stayed out of the way. In spite of that, he caught Theotus Lark’s attention in the yard one afternoon as he walked past Theotus and his group.
“Hey, Whitemeat!” yelled Theotus. The surrounding yard grew quiet. “C’mere, Boy. Step on over here an’ let me get a look at yo’ ass.”
Casey stopped, looked at the immense black man, and grinned.
“It’s a damn sight prettier than anything you’ve ever seen in a mirror, Shithead,” he said. Close your fuckin’ mouth. Your breath stinks.” He continued his walk.
Two days later, Theotus caught Doc alone in the shower. When it was over, Casey had a small scratch on his cheek that healed in only moments. Theotus had four broken ribs and a dislocated hip. Both participants in the fight were punished. Theotus spent five days in the hospital and six weeks in solitary. Doc was fined thirty-five dollars, and found a carton of Camels on his bunk when he returned to his cell. Accounts were square.
The administration building sat across a grassy lawn about seventy-five yards from the chain link fence that surrounded the maximum-security containment area. Butler got them buzzed through the main door and led Casey up to the second floor and down the hall to a reception room.
“Right in there, Doc,” he said. “I’ll wait here in the hall until you’re done. Just knock and go in.”
Casey felt the lie, but he knocked and went in anyway.
The room was about twenty feet square with mauve walls and a light gray ceiling. Indirect lighting gave it a quiet glow. Two long tables and several desk chairs on casters sat near the center of the room. A large mirror was set into one wall. There were no windows. On one of the tables sat several cans of soft drinks in ice and a coffee maker with plastic cups. Behind the other stood a woman. Casey looked at her.
Not tall, not short, not thin, not fat, not young, not old. Thick auburn hair to the shoulders with a natural wave, pale, almost translucent skin, not enough makeup to cover the freckles across her nose, and eyes the color of limes. She was wearing a silk and wool pantsuit two shades lighter than her hair, with a cotton blouse two shades darker than her eyes. She’d bathed with Dove soap and used Oil of Olay to moisturize. Her nails were short and natural. He couldn’t place her shampoo. She’d just finished an Altoid. She smoked. She shook him to the bone.
“Joseph Casey?” Her voice had gravel in it. Contralto with character.
Casey willed himself not to tremble. “That’s correct,” he said.
“I’m Moira Flynn.”
She extended her hand across the table. He took it. Dry, firm, pulse over ninety. Nervous meeting a real convict one on one.
“Thank you for consenting to talk with me,” she said.
Casey smiled at her and did his best to collect himself. “I didn’t consent to do anything, Miss Flynn. I was told to come here and escorted to make sure I’d comply. It is, however, nice to be in your company. You are a welcome addition to my regular fare. Why am I here?”
“I need your help.”
“Got a flat tire?”
She snorted and sank into a chair. “Look, Mr. Casey–”
“Call me Joseph,” he said.
He popped the top on a Coke and walked slowly around the room to keep moving and put some distance between them. She smelled so good.
“Mr. Casey, I am not here to engage in a verbal battle with you. I am here to attempt to persuade you to be honest with me. There are some questions I’d like you to answer. I can assure you our conversation will be held in the strictest confidence. Of course, there is no way I can compel you to be candid with me. I can offer you no threat or promise of reward. The best I can hope to do is to present you with the opportunity to possibly contribute to the higher good by appealing to your better nature.”
Casey smiled at her choice of words. If she only knew.
He looked past her. “Do you know why I’m in here?”
“I fail to see why that should influence–”
“I’m in here because I killed four people while attempting to locate my daughter. What makes you think I care about the higher good or have a better nature?”
“That seems to be the consensus of opinion here at the detention facility.”
Avoiding her eyes, Casey went on the offensive.
“You always talk like you got a textbook shoved up your butt?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Mr. Casey,” she said with exaggerated patience, “if we might return to the subject at hand.”
God, she smelled good. “And mint, and macadamia, and wild cherry, and, ah, dandelion?”
He looked at the mirror and saw dimly into the small room behind it.
“You said our conversation would be in the strictest confidence?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Then how would you explain that there are four people watching us and listening to our conversation from the other side of this wall,” Casey said, pointing at the mirror.
“Count on it,” he said, allowing himself to become irritated for focus. “One of them is a guard named Butler. Nice guy but a pathological liar.”
She rose to her feet. “Mr. Casey, I can assure you I had no idea our meeting was being monitored!”
“Relax. I know you’re telling the truth.”
He heard a door close nearby. She didn’t notice.
“Allow me to apologize,” she said. “It was never my intention to mislead you, or to allow myself to be misled by people I was told I could trust.”
“Go away,” Casey said, not wanting her to. “Raise hell, get us a privacy guarantee, and come back tomorrow. It’s Sunday. I usually only work a couple of hours on Sunday. You can tell me what this is all about and maybe we’ll talk.”
“They were spying on you, too, Miss Flynn.”
“I suppose they were.”
“That makes us almost co-conspirators,” Casey said, looking directly into her eyes for the first time. “I haven’t conspired with a woman in years. Wanna conspire with me, Moira?”
He could feel her pulse accelerate a bit as she flushed and fought a smile.
“Thank you, Mr. Casey. I’ll return tomorrow and we will have no more privacy issues.”
“Good, but I make you no promises, Miss Flynn,” he said, opening the door.
“None expected,” she said. “Just a chance to explain.”
Moira Flynn was a little shaken as she drove back to her motel. She hadn’t wanted to do Casey’s interview in the first place, but thought a male prisoner might be more open with a woman. Plus, secrecy demanded that she involve as few other Proteus Trust staff members as possible. She thought of sending her head researcher, Melvin Foltz, but Melvin was not oriented well toward fieldwork. He was both completely loyal and discrete, but he was a lab man. In the real world, Melvin couldn’t find his way out of a crowd of three.
Finding out the staff at the penitentiary had lied to her made her angry. Casey made her curious. No, it was more than mere curiosity. There was something about him. Not that she found him attractive, but still, truth be told, she did find him attractive, although not in any conventional way. He was fairly average in appearance, but his eyes were very compelling. Something flickered there, something that could easily become flame, like looking at a big cat in the zoo.
You could watch a cougar for an hour, pacing back and forth, lying around and yawning, and then, for a tiny instant, suddenly make direct eye contact. Actually feel the gaze of the cat. In that moment, in that second, the predator was suddenly there. The power, the assurance, the essence of what that creature truly was would smolder out from beneath half-close lids and stop your breath in your throat.
Casey didn’t frighten her exactly. Moira was not a woman easily frightened, but his eyes did chill and warm her at the same time. Well, it was neither here nor there, of course. He was obviously intelligent and self-confident. He even teased her. And, somehow, he knew there were people behind the mirror. Educated guess, perhaps. She’d call the senior administrator’s office first thing in the morning and get everything straightened out. Proteus owned a significant amount of stock in the company that controlled the prison. She had leverage and she wasn’t afraid to use it. The good ol’ boy network had never stopped her before. They damn sure weren’t going to start now.
Arriving at the motel, she slugged to her room with her briefcase and recorder and immediately stripped and showered. Being in the prison had left her feeling soiled. Out of the shower and in lightweight sweats, she bought some Bugles from the machine in the hall and sat cross legged on the bed trying to read a little of the work she’d brought with her, but couldn’t keep her thoughts away from Casey. Something kept niggling at the back of her mind. Finally she got up, went into the bathroom, and looked at the label on her bottle of shampoo. Chamomile, mint, macadamia, wild cherry, and dandelion.
Butler was waiting in the hall when Casey walked out of the interview room. “Shit, Doc,” he said. “Sorry. I was under orders.”
Casey grinned at him. “Finally there’s truth between us. Our relationship will never work if it’s based on lies, darling. You may walk me home.”
“Eat shit,” Butler said.
“You’re just jealous because I have a heavy date tomorrow.”
Sleep wasn’t much of a factor for Casey. In the more recent years of his life, he’d found that while eight hours of rest was necessary out of every twenty-four, a couple of hours of deep sleep was all he needed. He spent most of the night thinking about Moira Flynn and his reaction to being in the company of a woman. Between thirty-five and forty, she was obviously well educated and used to having a certain amount of power, but only a certain amount. There was a bureaucratic feel about her, someone in the chain. Near the top but not at the top. She didn’t feel like an executroid drone, she was used to making decisions and giving orders, but being in the unfamiliar world of a prison put her off a bit. She was uncertain as to her place and didn’t like it. After the privacy debacle, he was reasonably sure she would chew heavily on somebody. Casey smiled. Never piss off a woman with red hair.
What did she want with him? From day one, Casey had concealed the vast majority of his abilities, giving just enough away to make himself valuable to both the guards and the inmates. Prison was a closed and cloistered society. He could afford to let a little of his power out. No one asked questions. What went on inside, stayed inside. Nobody looked his gift horse in the mouth. He had no fear of the population, he was beyond their abilities. His only fear was of discovery, so he controlled his abilities to a large extent.
Over the years he’d developed the desired reputation working in the Macon Prison hospital and garnered a certain amount of respect as someone who helped when help was needed. He moved across racial and social lines, something very difficult to do in prison. Macon, even with its cosmetics, was a violent place. The blacks hated the whites, the whites hated the blacks, everybody hated the Latinos, and the Latinos hated everybody right back. Racial tension constantly bubbled just beneath the surface. Within each racial group were social groups that bickered among themselves, flying different colors, professing different codes, exercising their own version of the territorial imperative. It was stupid. It was sad. It was necessary. Oddly enough, the split second potential for violence was what tended to keep the peace.
Through the maelstrom, “Doc” Casey moved on his own course. Gangs made no difference to him, race made no difference to him, position or power made no difference to him. In an environment where friends and rank meant almost everything, he didn’t seem to care. In a society where violence, or the threat of it, was one of the prime motivators, nobody messed with Doc. On the few occasions when someone had, things had ended very quickly and very badly for the aggressor.
Theotus Lark was a case in point. Less than six months after Theotus had attacked Casey, a man half his size, and Casey had handled Theotus as if he were a child, several members of Los Lobos had surrounded Theotus in the yard and Jesus Martinez stabbed him in the kidney with a shank made from a soup spoon. For the next week, Casey had tended to Theotus in the hospital, changing his dressings, cleaning the wound, giving a damn about whether Theotus lived or died. And the strange thing was, every time Casey touched the huge man, Theotus felt better. The thorn had been pulled from the lion’s paw, and the lion knew it.
A couple of weeks after Theotus went back in the general population, he approached Casey in the yard.
“Doan hurt me, Doc,” he rumbled, a grin spreading across his ebony face.
Casey returned the grin. “Fuck you want, convict?”
“Ah’d a keel you in a minute, an’ you know it, but ah come up in dat hospital an’ you hep me. Doan axe nuthin’, doan wan’ nothin’, jes hep. How come?”
“Beats me, Theotus,” Casey replied. “You’re too fucking ugly to live. I must have lost my mind.”
Theotus chuckled. “Anythin’ you evah need, you got. Anythin’ you evah wan’, you got. Any muthafuckah in dis joint mess wif you, got me all ovah his ass. You alright, Doc.”
Casey smiled up at the huge man. “Thanks, Theotus.”
“S’okay, Doc. Wanted you ta know.”
“This doesn’t mean we’re gonna be taking any long showers together, does it?”
Laughing, Theotus slapped Casey on the shoulder.
“Ah ain’ never gittin’ in no shower wif yo’ ass agin’!”
After breakfast, Casey was jumpy. When he realized that he was nervous about the possibility of Moira Flynn’s return for another chat, he clipped on his building pass and headed over to the hospital wing in the custodial services building to stay busy. It was Sunday and he had the day off, but he almost always stopped by for a while. On the way he passed through three check points, undergoing a cursory body search at the first two. He knew the guards, they knew him. Their greetings resembled pleasantries between co-workers. Not so at the third checkpoint. Tuesday through Sunday it was manned by Evans.
Evans was a guard because he liked the power and didn’t have enough ambition to do anything else. Manning the booth outside the custodial services building, Evans surveyed his own little kingdom through stereotypical mirrored sunglasses. He chomped five or six sticks of gum at a time because chewing tobacco made him sick at his stomach, twisted his straw hat in a western roll because it was cool, puffed himself up and wore two-inch lifts in his boots because he wasn’t a tall man, and spoke with a slow drawl even though he was originally from New Jersey.
“Well, lookie here,” he said, leering as Casey approached the booth. “If it ain’t ol’ Doc. Where ya goin’, Doc? Up ta take care of yer faggot friends?”
“On the way to the hospital, Evans.”
“Up there to that AIDS ward to check out all them buttfuckers you love so much?”
Casey unclipped his building pass and handed it over so Evans could run it through the reader.
“You a fudgepacker, Doc?” Evans asked. “You like wigglin’ your bean up some nigger’s poop chute?”
Casey looked at him, watching the throb of his carotid artery and easily smelling two day old sweat through Old Spice deodorant.
“Get on with it, Evans. You make me itch.”
The guard reddened. “Hands on the wall, feet back and spread ‘em wide, convict!” he spat, and shook Casey down, being excessively aggressive around the upper thighs and crotch. Casey endured in silence. When it was over, Evans handed the pass back.
“Go ahead on, Doc. Go see all them queers you got dyin’ up there.”
Casey smiled and let a little of what he kept behind his eyes show.
“Everybody dies, Evans,” he said. “Even you.”
The smile hit Evans like ice water. The guard shivered and goosebumps rose on his arms as he watched Casey walk toward the building.
“Motherfuckin’ faggot,” Evans muttered, his left hand groping deep in the pocket of his pants.
Casey did a rapid walk-through of the wards, killing time, putting in an appearance, saying hello, letting his charges know he was around, then stopped by the office to catch up on the medication charts. Doctor Lamb, the weekend resident, greeted him casually and went on about his business. It was after noon when Casey put the paperwork away, made his daily visit to the blood cooler and left the building, walking slowly back toward Evans’ check point.
The shout came from behind him, and he turned to see Butler striding his way, carrying an M-16. He stopped and waited.
“Musta just missed ya in the ward,” Butler said. “Your visitor is back.”
“No shit?” Casey asked, feeling his heartbeat increase.
“What’s with the rifle?”
“Aw, that lady kicked some major ass. I’m your official guard. You an’ her are gonna meet out by the south pond at them benches where you can have some privacy. I’m supposed to lay back a hundred yards or so an’ shoot ya if ya get fresh and pat her knee or somethin’.”
Casey laughed. “Let’s hope you don’t have to.”“You got that right,” Butler said. “I can’t hit shit with one of these things.”