Read an Excerpt
***The following excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2014 Angery American
Immersed in total darkness, deprived of human contact, chained and afraid: this is how Jess, Mary, and Fred spent their days. Had it been a day, a week, or possibly worse yet, mere hours since they were they thrown into prison? Without being able to see the sun or even its reflection, time was a relative thing. Only the irregular checks the staff performed on them broke the monotonous routine.
Jess lay on the cold concrete floor, her hands clamped between her legs to try and keep them warm. The darkness was so complete that only by blinking her eyes could she even tell if they were open. Despite her current situation, she didn’t regret the decision that landed her here. Given a chance she would do it all over again, without hesitation. The only thing that she felt bad about was that her friends were also detained. She now spent her time trying to think herself out of her predicament.
Mary was not faring nearly as well as Jess. She was, in a word, broken. Absent now were her cries and wails that had initially filled the halls. Her outbursts drew immediate reprisals from her jailers. Their methods of punishment ranged from hosing her down with cold water to what she was now suffering—having a rag stuffed into her mouth, held in place with duct tape. Her low, pitiful moans were nearly inaudible beyond the walls of her cell.
Fred, unlike her companions, was not idle. She had surveyed the entirety of her cell to the extent her chained hands would allow. Crawling on the floor, she ran her hand along the walls’ edges, starting at the door and working her way around. She then used her body, keeping her head at the wall, to search the center of the room. The only thing she found in the room was a bucket, its purpose obvious. Once she completed the search of the floor she stood up and went around the walls. With her hands chained to her waist, Fred could only raise her hands chest-high. The walls were bare, she determined, the door the only feature she found.
The three were subject to random checks by the staff. Some encounters more abusive than others, depending on the guard. Of the methods used to punish them, the worst was the spotlight. At random, they would be ordered to stand and recite their names and ID numbers as a bright light was shined on their faces. The incredible intensity of light on their eyes after so many hours of complete darkness was painful. After these checks, white orbs were burned into their vision. Tears would run down their faces, their eyes watering uncontrollably.
Whenever a door would open, the women all experienced the same emotional response: panic. Despite their best efforts to remain calm, all three would feel the rise in their pulse and the quickening of their breathing whenever anyone entered the door. Without the use of sight, they could rely only on their hearing. They would listen to boots scuffing and crunching the sand on the concrete floor as their tormentors moved down the row of cells. Upon hearing the door open, they would get to their feet and prepare to deliver the information demanded. The faster they could recite their IDs, the quicker they would be left in darkness again. As bad as the blackness was, it was preferable to the torments they suffered in the light.
When they first entered the jail, they were dressed in jumpsuits. With the waist chain restraining their hands, they could not get out of them to relieve themselves. All three urinated on themselves, though each managed with great effort not to defecate. At some point—hours, days, they didn’t know—their cell doors were opened one by one. They were ordered to kneel down, and their hands and feet were freed. Male officers then ordered them to strip, and they were each thrown a smock and a pair of pants. After this humiliation— the officers, of course, felt free to make comments about them as they undressed—they were again chained and left in their cells. This at least allowed them to relieve themselves. It was the only humane treatment they would receive.
They were each fed once a day via a bowl slid in through a smaller door near the floor, and with each meal, a sixteen-ounce water bottle was given to them. At the same time, their buckets would be exchanged for empty ones. No word was ever said to them, though Fred was beginning to think the person bringing their food and taking the buckets was a civilian worker. Those footsteps were not as loud as the ones from whoever shone the light in their faces. They sounded softer, more like sneakers. That, compounded by the fact that there was little chance the DHS goons would handle the buckets, made her confident in her opinion.
At this point in time, the three women had barely been able to communicate with each other. Fear of reprisal from their jailers kept them silent for the most part, though they did risk it on occasion. Usually after a meal was brought they would wait for a while, and then check on one another. Little was said other than Are you guys okay? Answered with hushed whispers of Yes, you? On this particular day, their routine was shaken up. From outside the jail, voices could be heard. This was certainly out of the norm. Fred and Jess both sat up, listening intently to the obvious struggle going on just outside the building. The door opened and the shouts of several voices poured in.
“Get his arm!”
“Hold him, hold him!”
“I’ll kill you sons-a-bitches!”
From the sounds of the scuffle on the concrete, there was a hell of a fight taking place. Fred pressed her ear to the door, while Jess stood in the center of her cell, her eyes closed, listening intently.
“Shane, where are you?”
“Shut up!” another voice shouted.
One of the men let out a guttural growl, the sounds of the scuffle growing nearer as bodies crashed into the walls and floor. A sickening slapping sound filled the building, followed immediately by a scream of pain. Fred cocked her head side to side. There was a pop and the unmistakable sound of a Taser.
“He broke my nose, you son of a bitch!” A voice shouted, “Move!”
The Taser was still clacking when dull thuds were added to the noise.
“Dad! Get off him, asshole! Get off him!”
The thuds stopped. “You want some? You bastard!” The shout was followed by a yelp, then more thuds and groans. “I’ll teach you fuckers a lesson!” the man shouted. The sound of someone gagging now rose up, echoing off the walls.
“What are you gonna do now, huh?” The gagging continued.
“Get off him, Reese, he’s had enough. Get off, you’re gonna kill him.”
“Good! They need to be killed!”
“Yeah, well, not yet.” Fred could hear someone moving around, pacing. “Pour some water on him, wake him up.”
Fred and Jess listened as the two men were dragged past their cells and dropped into their own. Both men were moaning and coughing. The doors were slammed shut and the officers, several of them from the sound of it, walked toward the door.
“I can’t believe he broke my frickin’ nose.”
“I can’t believe the old guy was able to knock you over and kick you like that. That’s a tough ole bastard.” The comment got a chuckle from the others.
“Yeah, lot of help you assholes were!”
“Whatever, you’ll live. But you better hope that kid can talk when the interrogators show up,” one of them said as the door slammed shut.
Silence closed in around them again. Fred listened intently for any sounds from the new additions to their personal hell. Jess was likewise listening. During the commotion, Mary had finally gotten the urge to fight again. It took a lot of effort, but she managed to pull the tape from her mouth and spit the rag out. Her mouth was dry as chalk and her throat hurt from the lack of moisture. She sat up against the wall and let out a sigh.
In the darkness, a voice croaked, “Dad? Dad, are you all right?” Shane coughed.
He was answered only by a grunt.
“Dad? Was that you? Are you here? I can’t see shit, it’s so damn dark.”
With a heavy voice, full of pain, Calvin answered, “I’m here, son. Are you all right?” He let out a long slow breath, trying to ease the burning in his ribs.
Fred wanted to hear what they had to say, but at the same time, prisoners were not supposed to communicate. She was afraid of the consequences of this conversation.
“My throat hurts. One of those bastards choked me.”
“I’m sorry, Shane. I think they broke my ribs,” Calvin said as he tried in vain to find a position to relieve some of the pain in his side.
“Where are we?” Shane asked, as he fumbled with the cuffs on his wrist.
Calvin winced at the effort of moving. “I don’t know. It’s so dark, I can’t see anything.”
Jess moved to her door and put her mouth close to it. “Stop talking,” she said in a loud whisper.
“Who’s that? Where are you? Is there someone else in here?” Shane shouted.
“Stop yelling! They’ll come back. Stop talking,” Fred whispered urgently.
“Where are we? Who are you?” Shane asked as he stared into the blackness.
“You’re in the detention center of the DHS camp.”
Calvin raised his face. His eyes were closed tight as he resisted the waves of pain running through his side. “We’re in the camp?”
“Yes, and if the guards catch you talking, they’ll punish you. So be quiet,” Fred said.
“Dad, you think we were set up by that old soldier?” Shane said, barely audible.
“I don’t think so. I don’t think they had anything to do with it. Remember Daniel talking about Morgan? He was with them when the guys from his group were killed by the helicopters, so he surely isn’t part of the Feds.”
When Jess heard Morgan’s name, it was as if someone had thrown cold water on her. Her heart skipped a beat. It was too much of a coincidence. The old soldier had to be Sarge.
“Hey! You know Morgan Carter? And Sarge?” Jess asked in a voice louder than she intended.
There was a moment of silence, then a reply: “If you’re talking about a crusty ole guy with a hundred ’n’ first Airborne hat, then yes, we met with him today, him and Morgan Carter,” Calvin replied.
As tears started to run down her face, Jess whispered, “That’s them.”
“You know them?” Calvin asked.
“Yes. Sarge and Morgan helped me get home right after the shit hit the fan. I haven’t seen them in a long time, though.” Jess thought for a moment then asked, “Why did you meet with him?”
“You guys need to quit talking before we get in trouble!” Mary called out in a hoarse voice.
Fred looked in the direction of her voice. “Mary, are you okay?”
Mary pressed herself into the corner of her cell. “Yes! Now shush!”
“How many of you are there?” Shane croaked.
“There’s three of us. Is it just the two of you?” Fred asked.
“Yeah. Well, I think so, now. Dad, did you see Daniel?” Shane said.
“I saw him make it to the woods. Omar never got out of the truck. He’s got to be dead,” Calvin said.
“I think they all are.” Shane replied solemnly, then added, “And so will we be, soon enough.”
“What’d you guys do?” Jess asked.
Calvin slowly rocked his head back and forth on the wall, “Nothing, we’d just met with Morgan and the old man, Sarge. We pulled out onto the paved road and there they were, two DHS Hummers with machine guns. They just started shooting, no warning or anything.”
“What about you guys? Why are you here?” Shane asked.
Jess couldn’t reply. After a moment, Fred answered the question.
“We killed a guard, but he deserved it.”
The answer caught Calvin off guard. A little smile curled his lips. “Good for you, girls, good for you.”
Shane was trying to feel his way around the cell. “Do they ever turn on the lights?”
“No, the only light you’ll see in here is from a damn spot- light they’ll shine in your eyes,” Jess said.
“Damn,” Shane said, shaking his head, “how long have you been here?”
“We don’t know, there’s no way to tell time in here. The only way you can tell a difference between night and day is that it gets colder at night,” Fred said.
“We’re doomed,” Shane said as he slid down the wall to the floor.