New corrections officer Nathan Taylor finds his new job at the maximum security prison, Black Mountain, exciting, challenging, and a bit frightening. But once he settles in, the job is like any other; he gains some friends and even finds a new love interest. But Taylor has a dark side—a secret he has kept since childhood. It is not until he encounters inmate Knight that that secret gets exploited and ripped apart; it is not until he experiences signs of stigmata that his life begins to spiral out of control; it is not until he is caught up in the biggest and most violent prison riot in United States history that he discovers a part of himself that may have a tremendous impact upon all of humanity.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.51(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"What the fuck you looking at, shithead?"
The harsh question gave pause to new correction officer, Nathan Taylor. The question was not directed at him; rather, it was directed at a skinny, short, black inmate walking into the Chow Hall. The inmate did not put his eyes on his inquisitor, who went by the nickname, Shorty D, standing all of five-foot-six and was as stocky as a small horse.
The inmate mumbled.
"What did you say?" Shorty D demanded. Not allowing the small guy to respond, he grabbed him by the back of the shirt, pulled him backwards, and shoved him hard against the white-tiled wall. "Get your fucking ass on the wall!"
The inmate planted his palms flat against the smooth tiles, then slowly put his forehead against it, his eyes closed, perhaps wishing he hadn't said anything at all.
Taylor stood off to the side, a bit nervous, not knowing what was going to happen; this was his first time setting foot inside a prison. While scrolling through Facebook, he'd seen an ad from the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction; they were looking for "a few good men" to jumpstart their careers as a corrections officer, "a job with good pay and good benefits" it boasted. At the time, Taylor worked at a dead end job putting new tires on cars and trucks all day long and was hoping (almost praying) that a better job opportunity would present itself to him. He had no trade, no degree, and lived in southern Ohio, where economic opportunity was quickly diminishing. Expenses were mounting, so he had to do something — anything, even if it meant working at a prison.
How bad could it be?
Shorty D towered over the inmate on the wall by one inch, but his fierceness more than made up for his lack of height. "Let's get something straight right now," he said, his body nearly touching the inmate's side, his face about one inch from the inmate's scabby left elbow. "You don't say anything to me. You don't mumble anything to me. And you certainly don't look at me like I'm your piece-of-shit dad who neglected you for your entire pathetic life. You got that?"
"Yes, sir," said the inmate, his forehead still on the wall, his eyes still secured shut.
"Now how would you like it if I painted these tiles with your blood?" said Shorty D.
The inmate shook his head. "I wouldn't like that at all, sir."
"So we have an understanding?"
"All right, then. Now get your scrawny ass with your range and don't say another fucking word to me ever again."
The inmate shot through the open door of the Chow Hall, and then Shorty D turned around to stare at Officer Taylor and Officer Edwards (who was Taylor's OJT coach for the day). "And that's how you do that, kid," Shorty D said, fixing his beady eyes onto Taylor.
Edwards laughed, then turned toward Taylor. "Don't ever put yourself in that position," he said to his pupil. "The proper procedure for pat-downs is directly behind the inmate. That guy could've elbowed Shorty D right in the face."
Shorty D smiled, showing two rows of small white-squared teeth, which were accentuated by his neatly trimmed black beard. "Yeah, but they'd soon find out how big a mistake that'd turn out to be. They'd wake up to the tips of Satan's pitchforks probing their assholes."
"By the way, Shorty D, this is Officer Taylor."
They shook hands and exchanged nods.
"Everything they taught you up at the Academy — forget it!" said Shorty D. "Down here in maximum security, we have our own set of rules."
"I've been told that," said Taylor, offering a small grin. "Many times, in fact."
"And you also probably heard that we're a bunch of redneck pricks down here, too, huh?" said Shorty D.
Taylor added a laugh to his grin. "Yeah, they might've mentioned something along those lines as well."
"Well, fuuuuuck them!" said Shorty D. "Those asshole instructors up there couldn't survive down here. That's why they're up there, running their jib, and talking shit."
"Well, I'm a fast learner," said Taylor. "And I'm from West Union," he added. "So I'll probably fit right in."
"That's what I like to hear," said Shorty D. "I hope you adjust well to this crazy environment."
"C'mon, Taylor," said Edwards. "Let's get inside before this guy starts to corrupt you."
"Ha!" Shorty D laughed. "There's more inside there that will corrupt him than me!" He gave a half salute and said, "Best of luck to you!"
"Thanks," said Taylor, returning the salute.
Inside the large, echoy Chow Hall, a nasty warmth enveloped Taylor's skin and tickled his nose with the faint smell of B.O. and old food. Inmates of all varieties — black, white, and Mexican — filled the four-seater tables from the front all the way to the back. But that wasn't the scariest part; the scariest part was that there were only four officers on duty. Taylor guesstimated the grossly lopsided ratio to be about two-hundred inmates to those four officers — not good odds.
"The main thing is," Edwards said to him, leaning over, "is to not look nervous. These guys can smell it on you as if you were dipped in pig shit."
"If I seem nervous, I don't mean to be," said Taylor. "It's just that I've never been around this many inmates before. It's kinda hard not to be leery."
"It's perfectly natural," said Edwards. "Just try to remember where you are at all times. These motherfuckers may look like they're having a good time, but they'll cut your throat at the drop of a dime if given the chance."
"Well, that's certainly reassuring," said Taylor, wondering what he got himself into. He looked up at the slowly twirling ceiling fans that were easily twenty feet high, and not circulating an ounce of the stale air.
An inmate stood up, showing the officer nearest him his empty brown cup. The officer shoved his finger downward and said, "Sit the fuck down!" his face drawled into a vicious scowl. The inmate dropped back down onto his seat and shared a small smirk with his three tablemates.
The same officer turned toward Edwards. "Hey, Edwards, you lost? This is called The Chow Hall, bud. There are inmates in here. In case you forgot." He laughed. "So you'd better scram while you still can!"
"Very funny!" Edwards called back, meeting him by the brick wall, Taylor following close behind. Edwards and the officer shook hands, then the gruff-looking CO, sporting a half-gray-haired goatee, looked at Taylor and said, "I got one question for you."
Taylor gave him his full attention.
"What kind of dude are you?"
Taylor wrinkled his brows and shook his head. "What do you mean?"
"Well," said the officer. "Are you a cool dude? Or are you a shady dude? Or a dude who's got your back? Or a dude who'll stab a motherfucker in the back?"
"Definitely a cool dude," said Taylor. "And one who will always have your back."
The officer smiled. "Man, that's so nice to hear!" He stuck his hand out. "The name's Dittman. D-I-T-T-M-A-N."
Taylor gripped his hand. "Taylor," he said. "T-A-Y-L-O-R. Nice to meet you."
Dittman laughed. "Nice sense of humor. Now let me ask you another question: are you a racist?"
Taylor quickly shook his head. Because he wasn't. He'd spent a term in the Navy and true to the cliché, one of his best friends was black, though he didn't bother to mention that little tidbit.
"Well, you might want to start considering it," said Dittman. "I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but we have a room full of niggers in here and not a one of them are any good to society. Might as well go out and hang 'em. Hang 'em all!" He pointed toward the large bay windows. "And who knows how many more of 'em are out there ... just waiting to get in."
Even though Taylor was only twenty-six years old, he knew there were bad seeds in all races, in all walks of life. But someone like Dittman wouldn't understand that; his hatred of black people must have been ingrained in him during his childhood. Which was sad, really.
"If you're not one now," Dittman went on, "you will be by the time you make probation. I good God gar-ran-tee-ya that!" He straightened his black uniform shirt and adjusted his buckle. "So are you sexist?"
"Dittman!" Edwards broke in. "Enough with the questions. Shiiit, man!"
"Let the poor boy speak! He's got a mind. I wanna hear it!"
Taylor wished Edwards would pull him away from Dittman, at least to one of the other three COs. But he supposed this was all part of the experience. Soon he was going to be left alone with these kinds of people. Better to learn how to deal with them now than later. He shook his head in response to the question.
"Did you have any cunts or niggers in your class?" Dittman asked.
Taylor shook his head. "No, I was the only person going to this prison," he said.
"Hot damn!" Dittman exclaimed, clapping his hands together. "Maybe we'll finally get a decent set of COs around here yet! Back like it used to be."
"Corrections are changing," said Edwards. "Nothing you can do to stop it, Dittman. Even country folks like us."
"Bullshit," said Dittman. "It all starts in the personnel department." He shook his head. "Motherfuckers and their goddamned minority quota!"
"Well, if the officers around here would quit all the backstabbing ..."
Taylor scrunched his face in disgust. "You mean that's actually a problem around here?"
Both Edwards and Dittman laughed.
"Hell, if you stick around for another hour or two," said Dittman, "you might get to see some of it in action."
"But I thought we, as officers, are supposed to stick up for one another and protect each other?" said Taylor.
"You know what, Edwards?" Dittman said, slapping his arm across Taylor's shoulders. "I think I'm already starting to like this guy!"
Edwards opened his mouth to say something, but the radio mic that was fastened to his shoulder strap squawked to life: "MAN DOWN IN K-CORRIDOR! REPEAT! MAN DOWN IN K-CORRIDOR!"
Edwards sprang to life. "C'mon, Taylor!" he shouted behind himself. "Looks like you might get some action today, after all!"
Taylor's heart leaped up into his throat as his nerves engulfed him in a hurried panic. If he followed Edwards, if he stayed hot on his trail, he should be all right. As he ran past inmate after inmate, who were looking up at him like an actor on a stage, several scenarios of prison riots danced in his head. A thought of doubt entered his brain: I can't do this. I can't do this. But then his thoughts wrangled around his bills — rent, electric, car payment, credit cards. And that transferred to homelessness and hunger. He wasn't about to go down that road.
He propelled himself forward.
Once Taylor broke through the threshold of the main doors of the Chow Hall and into the bright lights of the hallway, he heard a great commotion to his left. He turned and saw a number of inmates lined up along the wall, on their knees, with their palms flat against the wall. In the center of the hallway were what appeared to be four inmates and four officers engaged in a free-for-all. Shorty D was one of them. A barrage of expletives poured from his mouth like water from an open hydrant.
Taylor started that way; one, because his fellow officers needed his help; and two, because he didn't want Dittman, Edwards, and Shorty D to think he was a coward. Also, he wanted his fellow co-workers to know that he was true to his word — that he had their backs. No matter what.
Other responding officers came barreling toward the fight from the opposite end of the hallway. Once Taylor closed in on the brawl, he saw an inmate rear back his fist. He grabbed it out of instinct, jerked him backwards to the ground, and lay on top of him. Taylor managed to pull his handcuffs out of his belt and slap them on the inmate's wrists.
Other COs converged on the other fighters. Mace was deployed; there were a barrage of bumps and bruises, maybe even a broken finger or two; and people's feelings got hurt.
Once the grayshirts showed up — two lieutenants and a captain — the fight was well under control. Taylor stood up, then jerked his cuffed inmate to his feet.
One of the lieutenants — Tucker — looked at Taylor and said, "Who the fuck are you?"
"My name's Taylor, sir."
"Did you cuff this guy?" Tucker asked him.
"Yes, sir," said Taylor. "He was about to punch Shorty D."
Shorty D piped up, holding onto his own prisoner. "Good fucking job, Taylor!" he announced, giving him a thumbs up. "I saw you, boy! Nice job!"
"All right," said Tucker, pointing down the hallway. "Take these dumb-asses to the Hole!"
Taylor didn't know where that was. But before he could take that first step, Dittman stepped in front of him, and took control of Taylor's inmate. "It's all right, Taylor. I got him. You go do your paperwork. You need to learn how to do that, too."
When Dittman and his inmate were a few feet away, the inmate turned and stared at Taylor with red-rimmed eyes, mixed with a touch of fear. "You're a guardian angel!" he exclaimed, his eyes trying to widen, blinking through a film of mace. He looked to the left and the right of Taylor and said, "And your wings are magnificent! I've never seen such an angel before!"
"All right, cocksucker, let's go!" Dittman ordered the inmate. "You can look at angels later."
Confused, Taylor turned toward the Captain's Office, and when he did, he saw another inmate against the wall, cuffed and shackled. His head was turned toward him and his eyes were glowering with salacious jocundity — almost like a cat's in the gloom of night.
Taylor's skin rose in goosebumps.
By the time Edwards showed Taylor how to fill out the proper forms, Taylor had met another slew of employees, mostly those involved in the scuffle. They all seemed to be good people, the kind who had each other's backs. Whoever Dittman was talking about earlier, he hoped he would never meet any of them for at least another week or so.
Taylor scribbled his John Hancock to the bottom of the reports, and handed them to Lt. Tucker, who read them with consternation. He grumbled when he finished, then said, "Looks all right, now get back to whatever you were doing."
Out in the hallway, Edwards said, "What was up with that inmate? The one who thought you were an angel?" He laughed. "I mean you're pretty and all, but damn ... I wouldn't go that far."
Taylor shrugged. "I have no idea. That threw me for a loop, too." And so did the one who looked at me with those crazy eyes.
"It's just funny," said Edwards. "But I wouldn't worry about it too much. That dude is as crazy as they come. I don't know what the hell he was even doing out of P-4 — that's where all the nut cases are kept." He waved his hand. "But we'll get there, eventually."
"We going to have any more fights tonight?" Taylor asked.
Edwards looked at his watch. "Hey, the night is young. You never know what you'll get into before eleven."
"Sounds like fun."
The two of them headed down K-Corridor (which stood for Kitchen Corridor) toward the next checkpoint — the central metal detector. Walking through the open gates, Taylor saw a large glass-enclosed control booth, manned by three officers. Out front was a wooden table that sat beside a tall walk-through metal detector, the kind commonly found at airports and courthouses. This area was also manned by three officers.
Edwards spread his arms out in a welcoming gesture, no doubt used by great kings of the past. "This is the Control Three area," he said, "also known as Grand Central. The three people you see in the booth over there operate the gates, which allow access to each of the four housing areas of the prison." He pointed and named each one. "O-Side, P-Side, Q-Side, and R-Side." The names of each corridor was printed in large white letters above the gates to each side.
The color of the letters should appease Dittman, Taylor thought, but then cursed himself for playing into Dittman's racist thoughts. Damn you, Dittman!
Edwards spun around. "Over here," he said, pointing to the table and metal detector, "is where all the inmates go through when they go to chow and other various destinations, such as library, school, chapel, and the infirmary."
The three young officers standing behind the table looked numbly at him, neither of which offered any kind of greeting. Taylor wondered if they were all like Dittman, or worse — those he spoke of earlier. Or maybe he was just going to have to get used to everyone's leery looks until they got to know him. He realized coming into a new work environment — especially one like this — uncomfortable and hateful stares were going to come by the tens of dozens.
Excerpted from "Black Mountain"
Copyright © 2017 Viktor Wolfe.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.