Heatby Stuart Woods
Jesse Warden is at the end of his rope. Imprisoned unjustly (or at least for the wrong crime), he spends half his time in solitary confinement and the other half fighting with convicts who want to kill him because he was once a cop. Then, at his lowest ebb, he is offered a way out. To earn his freedom, he must infiltrate a dangerous and reclusive religious cult in the… See more details below
Jesse Warden is at the end of his rope. Imprisoned unjustly (or at least for the wrong crime), he spends half his time in solitary confinement and the other half fighting with convicts who want to kill him because he was once a cop. Then, at his lowest ebb, he is offered a way out. To earn his freedom, he must infiltrate a dangerous and reclusive religious cult in the mountains of the Idaho panhandle, a mission that turns out to be a great deal more perilous than his stay in prison.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
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- 6.74(w) x 10.92(h) x 1.05(d)
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Atlanta Federal Prison swam slowly out of the smog as the helicopter beat its way south from Fulton County Airport. Kip Fuller was transfixed by the sight.
In his three years in law enforcement Kipling Fuller had never been inside a prison of any sort, and Atlanta held a place in his imagination on a level with Alcatraz and Leavenworth especially Alcatraz, since that was a prison of the past, as was Atlanta.
Alcatraz was permanently closed, though, while Atlanta had been partly reopened to handle the overflow of federal prisoners. At its peak the prison had held a population of nearly four thousand, but the current number was closer to eight hundred. The prison had been a temporary home to Cuban refugees, Haitian boat people, Colombian drug lords and the occasional special prisoner. It was a special prisoner that Fuller would meet today or, rather, meet again.
To avoid breaking the FAA regulation prohibiting flights over the prison yard, the pilot made a turn that took him parallel with the wall, a few yards out. They were at five hundred feet now, aiming for the big H painted on the prison roof, and Fuller could see into the yard. As he watched, two figures met in the middle of the open area, and the other prisoners immediatelyrushed to surround them, leaving a small circle free for the two men, who were now swinging at each other. At the outskirts of the crowd, uniformed guards could be seen trying to push their way to the center, but Fuller thought they weren't trying very hard. He brought the microphone of his headset close to his lips.
"That's your man," the official replied.
"What, you mean fighting?"
"That's right. Every time he gets out of solitary, he gets in another fight, and back in he goes."
"How long has this been going on?"
"Fourteen months; the whole time he's been inside."
"Jesus," Fuller said.
Jesse Warden sat on the edge of the examination table and watched through his swollen left eye as the male nurse pulled the thread tight, knotted it and snipped it off with the surgical scissors.
"There you go, Jesse," the man said. "How many stitches is that I've put in you the last year?"
"I've lost count," Warden said in his native hillbilly twang. It hurt when he moved his lips.
"So have I," the nurse said, placing a large BandAid over the cut under the eye. "That's it," the nurse said to the guard.
"Let's go, Jesse," the guard said. The guards didn't call him by his last name, as they did the other prisoners; "Warden" was a term of address saved for prison management.
Warden let himself down slowly from the table and preceded the guard through the door, trying not to limp. The guard gave him plenty of room; no guard had touched him since the first fight.
Fuller jumped down from the helicopter and followed the assistant warden across the prison roof toward a door; shortly they were walking down an empty corridor, their footsteps echoing through the nearly empty building.
"It's kind of spooky, isn't it?" Fuller said.
"You get used to it," the AW replied. "In the old days this place would have been full of noise, like any prison, but with the population out in the yard for exercise right now, it's dead quiet."
Fuller followed the man through a door, across a waiting room to another door, where the AW knocked.
"Come in!" a voice called from behind the door.
The AW opened the door, let Fuller in and closed it behind him.
The warden stood up from behind his desk and offered his hand. "J. W. Morris," he said.
"Kip Fuller, from the U.S. Attorney General's office," Fuller replied.
"I've been expecting you, Mr. Fuller. Have a seat; what can I do for you?"
Fuller sat down and took an envelope from his inside pocket. "You have a prisoner named Jesse R. Warden here."
"We do," the warden replied.
Fuller handed the envelope across the desk and waited while Morris read the paper inside.
"This is unusual," the warden said.
"Is it?" Fuller had no idea.
"Normally, when a federal prisoner is released to the custody of the attorney general, it's by court order and a reason is stated like the prisoner is needed to testify in court."
"Not in this case," said Fuller, who had read the document during his flight from Washington in the Gulfstream government jet.
"Could I see some ID?" the warden asked.
"Certainly," Fuller replied, offering his identification card.
"'Special Task Force,'" the warden read aloud. "What does that mean?"
"Just what it says, sir," Fuller replied. "That's all I'm at liberty to tell you."
The warden nodded. "I see," he said. "I wonder if you'd mind stepping out into my waiting room for a moment?" He didn't return the ID to Fuller.
"Be glad to," he replied. The man was going to call Washington, and Fuller didn't blame him a bit. He left the room and closed the door behind him. The waiting room walls were bereft of pictures, and there were no magazines lying around. Fuller paced the floor slowly, measuring the dimensions of the little room. About the size of a cell, he guessed. The door opened, and the warden waved him back into the inner office.
"Looks like you've got yourself a prisoner," Morris said. "When do I get him back?"
"The AG's order says 'indefinite custody,'" Fuller replied.
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