In this heart-pounding thriller, a correctional officer and an ex-cop are fleeing a hurricane—but their only hope of survival is a maximum-security prison where they face new untold dangers. Hurricane Anna: a superstorm made up of two Category 5 hurricanes coming together to wreak unprecedented havoc along the eastern seaboard. When the superstorm hits, the correctional officers at Ravenhill flee, opening all the cell doors and leaving the inmates to fend for themselves as the floodwaters rise. But Jack Constantine, an ex-cop serving ten years for killing one of his wife's murderers, isn't going to just lay down and die. Not when his wife's two remaining killers are among the prisoners relocated to the Glasshouse to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, Kiera Sawyer, a Correctional Officer on her first day at work is the only officer left behind when the others flee. Sawyer rescues Jack and offers to team up. If they can make it to the Glasshouse they might just survive the hurricane. But that involves making their way through the prison, fighting off eight hundred blood-crazed inmates as the building fills with water and the wall crumble all around them.
Release date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Print pages: 368
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Listen to a sample
A week, though—a week is just about manageable. Least it is if you have something to mark the passing of time. Like family coming to visit. That gives you a countdown. A reason to keep going.
I don’t have that. Both my parents are dead. No kids, no brothers or sisters. A murdered wife. So… yeah. Not much to look forward to there.
But you push on. You push on until you can’t anymore. Because that’s life, as my old man used to say. You live, you die. Anything in between is still a steaming pile of shit, but you try to make the most of it. He made the most of it with drugs and hookers. Ended up driving off a hundred-foot-high bridge into a torrential river at three in the morning, coked up to his eyeballs and wearing nothing but his Superman boxer shorts. The hooker who leaped from the car just before it went over the edge said he was screaming about Lydia—my mother—caging him in and stopping him from flying free, that he was going to prove her wrong.
Spoiler alert: he didn’t.
But he was right about one thing. You either push on or you check out. I don’t have access to coke, hookers, or a torrential river, so the alternative is either pissing off one of the gangs so they shank me in the shower (hopefully with something nonorganic, if you catch my meaning), or going for one of the guards, try to hurt them bad enough that they use lethal force.
I think I’d rather push on, thanks very much.
Felix says it gets easier the longer you’re inside, but I don’t believe much of what Felix says. He’s a habitual liar. Or, as he likes to term it, a “teller of tales.” Plus, I’ve been in here for three years now. How much longer is it going to take?
I frown as I stare through the tiny scratched window in the door of our cell. Why the hell am I thinking about the passing of time? That’s a bad way to start the day. Just leads to depression.
Oh yeah. Felix.
“I mean, the kid was crying again,” says Felix from his bunk. “He’s been here—what? Three weeks now? I told him. I said the only way to survive prison is not to fight it.”
“That right?” I say absently.
Our cell is on the upper level of B Block. All I can see out the window is the walkway railing and the cells on the opposite side of the pod. Looks like Stevens has been banging his head against the glass again. His window is smeared with dark crimson.
“’Course it’s right. Accept you’re here, man. There’s no three-bedroom house in our future. No wife and kids. No puppy. No sneaking off to see your mistress on a Friday afternoon after work—you know, the one who does the things your wife thinks are disgusting. That’s gone. Don’t even think about it. This is your life now. Embrace it. Own that shit.”
“I thought I had,” I say.
Had I, though? I wasn’t really sure. It’s hard to know your own mind in prison. Too many thoughts running through your head. Things tend to get distracted, confused.
“The fuck, man?” snaps Felix. “You not listening to a word I’m saying?”
Jesus. Miss Temperamental over there. You have to be careful with Felix. Normally he’s pretty chill, but the weirdest thing can set him off into a flying rage. I’ve never been on the receiving end of it, but I’ve seen inmates carried to the infirmary who have.
“I’m listening,” I say. Then I pause. “Just remind me again?”
“I’m sayin’ we have to accept we’re stuck in here. Look…
you seen Leo, right? The old guy? Sits at the back of the cafeteria. Always holdin’ his knife and fork like he’s about to stab them into his head.”
“You know why he’s like that?”
“Let me take a wild guess. Because he hasn’t accepted he’s here?”
“Bingo. He’s always thinkin’ about a way out. Always watching, planning. Guy looks eighty years old. Been here his whole life. And he still thinks he’s going to see the outside. Always talking about digging tunnels, sneaking through storm drains. Look what it’s got him. Stomach ulcers and delusions. I told that to the new kid. Pauly.”
“What’d he do?”
“Started crying again.”
I glance over my shoulder at Felix. He’s a big guy. Six-three, solid muscle. Black skin and intense eyes. Likes to read cheesy romance novels from the prison library. Each to his own. He’s currently lying on his bunk holding a pink-and-orange book. I can just see the bare chest of some pirate-type guy on the cover.
“Just so I’m clear. You think not accepting he’s in prison gave Leo stomach ulcers and delusions?”
“Sure. You gotta go with the flow, man. Live life like a Zen monk. Those motherfuckers don’t stress about nothin’. That’s how prison breaks you. You live with hope, it’s gonna kill you in the end. You gotta realize this is your life from now on. Accept that shit in your soul. Then everything’s hunky-dory.”
“Nobody says hunky-dory anymore, Felix,” I say, turning back to the door.
Fact of the matter is, I actually agree with him. Even though I struggle with time, mainly the boredom of it all, I long ago adjusted to the fact that this is it. That my life is over.
Not that I care. My life was over before I even got caught.
But what Felix says about hope is true. Even those with something to live for lose it in the end. Maybe they keep a photograph of their girlfriend on their wall, or drawings from their kids. Birthday cards, something like that. They start off as symbols of hope. Hope that they still have a life outside, hope that they’re getting out someday. But as the months drag on, despair takes over. You can’t keep hope alive with no payoff. Your mind only lets you lie to yourself for so long before it turns on you.
Best not to care about anything. Or anybody. Nothing to lose that way.
I lean back as a heavy cranking sound echoes through the pod, followed by the metallic slam of forty-two doors sliding open. I step out of the cell, checking left and right as I do so. Reflex. It’s the perfect time for an attack. Nobody is expecting it.
It’s safe, though. Just inmates yawning and scratching their balls as they step onto the metal grating, the first part of the daily routine kicking in. The first segment of time in the never-ending spiral toward madness or death—whichever comes first.
“You were snoring again last night,” says Felix as he joins me on the walkway.
“I don’t snore.”
“You fucking do. Like a freight train. Seriously. You need to see a doctor or something, because I am highly likely to suffocate you if you carry on like that.”
“Whatever,” I say, stifling a yawn. I’m exhausted. Everyone is. The storm that has been pummeling Florida for the past two days sounds like it’s getting stronger, the raging wind a constant howling and shrieking that can be heard through the thick prison walls. It’s putting everyone on edge, keeping everyone up at night.
I slept in today because of that, but I’m usually up before five. That’s the quietest time in prison. Even the crazies who stay up all the hours screaming and crying tend to drift off after four. It’s my private time. My few moments of relaxation before the routine of prison forces me to break the day down into smaller and smaller chunks.
This first chunk starts at quarter after six—roll call. Every inmate has to shuffle outside and stand there while the correction officers—COs—count us off with old manual clickers. If anyone sleeps in, or if someone is too slow to make it to head count, the whole process starts all over again, right from number one. And you really don’t want to be the guy who holds up roll call. That means a delayed and rushed breakfast, and some inmates do not appreciate that kind of change to their schedule.
Not that breakfast is anything to look forward to. Oatmeal, usually. Sometimes with peanut butter. If I’m feeling rich, then maybe some honey. But that’s it. The eggs make me sick and everything else tastes like cardboard.
Work starts at eight. Not everyone has a job. You have to prove yourself worthy, show that you’re a model prisoner, something I’ve done by mostly keeping my head down and minding my own business. And trust me, that’s hard to do when you’re an ex-cop. Every inmate wants a piece of you. Every CO wants to make your life hell.
I work in the maintenance shed with Henry, one of those old guys who knows how to fix everything. It’s Henry’s job to make sure all the machinery in the prison keeps going. That’s a full-time job in a dump like this.
I earn seventy dollars a month, almost double the average income of the other inmates. That means I can indulge in my vices, chocolate and coffee, both of which I buy from the commissary. The coffee is shit, though. It’s instant. Not even granules, but a fine powder. I don’t even think there’s any caffeine in it. You could mix that stuff with hot water and inject it into your eyeballs and it wouldn’t even kick.
After lunch I hang out in the yard. Just to feel the sun on my face. I used to love the beach. Would go there every weekend with Amy. We lived pretty close and I could smell the salt
on the air when the wind blew in the right direction.
Not now, though. When I’m in the yard, all I can smell is the chemical stench from the laundry. Just steam escaping from the vents adding to the wet humidity that already clings to my skin like a coating of oil.
After that, it’s back to work until five, supper in the mess hall, then rec time, where we play pool, watch television, chat, play cards, or use the phones in the common area below the cells.
At eight o’clock it’s the final roll call before bed.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
I lean over the railing, see two guards handing mops and buckets to a few guys from the lower cells.
“The infirmary is flooding,” says Nick, the guy from the next cell over. “Whole place is under a foot of water.”
“So they’re taking a couple of mops?” I say. “That’s going to do a lot.”
Nick shrugs. “Heard the storm’s getting real bad.”
“Was watching the news last night.”
“What did it say?”
“That the storm’s getting real bad,” says Nick patiently.
I wait. He doesn’t seem inclined to add anything else. “And?”
“And nothing. COs shut the television off before the report finished.”
“Was rec time over?” asks Felix.
“Nope.” Nick taps his nose. “Control the flow of information. See what I’m saying?”
I don’t even bother to suppress a sigh. Nick is convinced everyone in authority is involved in some kind of conspiracy, usually directed against him personally.
“Don’t need the news to tell us the storm’s bad,” says Felix. “You hear it last night? That wind? Jesus, I thought the whole place was going to come down on top of us.”
A loud bang echoes through the wing. I look to the right and see Evans standing at the top of the metal stairs, his baton raised to strike the railing a second time.
Typical. It would be his shift. Right when I’m tired and not in the mood to take his shit. I hate Evans. Seriously. I’m not talking like he irritates me. It’s deeper than that. I despise everything about him. His face, the way he breathes, the little twitch in his eyelid when he tries to intimidate prisoners. He’s a bully, simple as that. A bully who managed to get himself placed in a position of power.
If I’d ever met him on the outside, I would have made it my mission to get him thrown in prison. Maybe pulled him over, “found” some coke in his car, enough that he went down for dealing, not just possession.
Most of the other screws are okay. They come in, do their jobs, they go home. But Evans… the first time I laid eyes on the guy, I knew he should be on the other side of the bars. I’ve seen killers. I’ve seen rapists. There’s always something in their eyes. Evans has that look.
And he doesn’t like me because… well, I’m not sure about that. I think it’s because I don’t back down and I don’t play his games. What’s the point? I’m not a career criminal. I don’t see myself as a murderer. Sure, I killed someone, but killing someone who killed your wife—that’s not murder. That’s revenge. Justice. Besides that, I’m just a normal guy. I was married for two years. Wanted to start a family. My wife was a nurse. I was a cop, then I signed up for the army, then became a cop again when my tour was done. That was it. Nothing interesting. Nothing spectacular.
Until that night.
So Evans can’t figure me out, and that annoys him. He pushes and pushes, trying to provoke a reaction from me. I think it’s what gets him up in the morning. The desire to break me.
I watch him make his way along the walkway. He moves slowly, with a rolling gait that speaks of an old leg injury. He likes to build up a rhythm with his counting. Left foot forward, click, right foot forward, click. He hates it when anyone breaks his pattern.
No one speaks as he does his count. On the walkway opposite, I can see Martinez doing the same thing. She always finishes ahead of Evans. Evans likes to linger, staring at each inmate until they look away. Sometimes it happens fast, sometimes it doesn’t.
I look straight ahead. Evans’s face slides into view, his watery eyes staring directly into mine. There’s a sheen of sweat covering his face. Sure, it’s as humid as the ass-crack of Satan himself in here, but Evans sweats regardless of the weather. He always looks greasy, like old cooking oil.
He waits for me to look away. Or better yet, down, a sign of total subservience. Dream on, fuckface. I keep staring straight ahead, my eyes not even flickering.
We stand like this for a long moment, neither willing to back down. Nick can see where this is going. He tries to head it off.
“Hey, Evans,” he says. “What’s the word on the storm?”
Evans grabs the opportunity for a graceful exit and turns his attention to Nick.
“The word is mind your own business.”
He moves on, clicking as he goes.
“That’s not a word,” says Nick. “That’s five—no, wait. Four! That’s four words, Evans! Four!”
After head count, we’re allowed to mingle in the dayroom, which is a fancy—and totally inaccurate—name for the un-evenly shaped wedge of floor space outside the cells. It’s like calling a dingy motel in the backwaters of Alabama a five-star luxury resort.
As always, it’s a mad rush for the phones. They’re everyone’s lifeline. Their connection to the outside world. I don’t know why they bother. About seven out of ten phone calls end up with the inmate slamming the phone down in frustration.
See, that’s the thing. Being in prison regresses everyone to the mentality of teenagers. Everything is blown way out of proportion. Your whole world—your whole universe—shrinks down to the equivalent of high school, just with killers and gangs instead of cliquey cheerleaders and jocks. A perceived slight becomes a deathly insult. A sidelong look proof that someone is going to attack. It’s just the way the mind changes when you’re inside.
But that change in thinking carries through to your connections with the outside world too. The tiniest pause on the other end of the line, the slightest hesitation, breeds paranoia and anger. Because every single inmate who’s still in a relationship has only two things on their mind: when is she going to leave me, and who is she cheating on me with? It could’ve been the strongest, most loving relationship ever on the outside. Childhood sweethearts, the first person you had sex with—whatever. It all crumbles to fear and insecurity as soon as the prison gates close.
The six hexagonal tables bolted to the floor are already full. Inmates claiming their spots, decks of cards appearing, commissary food changing hands to pay off debts. As with everything in prison, there’s a pecking order. No one sits down until Leon, the pod boss, decides where he’s going to sit. Then his lieutenants and bodyguards take up the chairs around him. Only then do the empty tables start to fill. Those currently in favor with Leon take the closest, leaving the unpopular tables next to the door for the other inmates.
I never bother with the seats. I prefer to pace the perimeter of the block, round and round. It has two benefits. It keeps me fit and sane, and it makes the others wary of me. Anything out of the ordinary singles you out, either to be taken advantage of, or to be avoided. Walking around and around—jogging sometimes, depending on how much nervous energy I’ve built up—not talking to anyone, for some reason marks me as unreadable. Unpredictable.
A few inmates did try to cause shit with me once, when I first came in and they found out I was a cop. I had to put them in the infirmary. One of them nearly died from internal bleeding. Another had a broken jaw, a broken wrist, and three fractured ribs. I had no choice, though. I had to make an example of them. You don’t do that, you let them push you around, then you live with a target on your back. And the target on a cop’s back is pretty fucking big, let me tell you.
I haven’t even finished one lap of the pod before my name is called over the speaker.
“Constantine, Manuel, Perez, Stevens, Deacon, Murphy, MacLeod, Felix, and Nunes. Line up.”
This gets everyone’s attention. Anything different from the normal routine is a source of interest.
We line up outside the door that leads from the block. There’s a loud buzz and Evans enters, standing to the side and holding the door ajar. I don’t even bother asking what’s going on. I know he won’t answer.
Deacon is the one who speaks up. “Hey, Evans, what’s up? We haven’t had breakfast yet.”
Evans just stares at his clipboard.
“Come on, man,” says Deacon. “I got low blood sugar. I need food.”
Evans finally gives him a bored look. “You’ll be fed later. You got work to do.”
“What work?” asks Nunes.
“Cleaning out the old prison.”
“The Glasshouse? The fuck for?”
That’s a very good question. The Glasshouse was put in mothballs about thirty years ago. The place is totally old-school. About seventy years old, I think. No electronic locks. All cells opened with a key. Barely any light. Cramped. Claustrophobic. More like an asylum than a prison.
“Why we being punished, man?” asks Manuel.
“You remember where you are?” says Evans. “You don’t get to ask questions. You do what you’re fucking told.” He hesitates. “But I’ll tell you why. Only because I want to tell you, understand?” He waits until Manuel nods in agreement. “Some of the other prisons are being evacuated because of the hurricane. We’re using the Glasshouse as temporary accommodation.” He turns and addresses the rest of the inmates watching us from their chairs. “Don’t get too comfortable. I’ll be bringing most of you across in waves. Busy day today.”
He gestures with the clipboard and we all file slowly out of the pod.
Keira Sawyer sits in a hard plastic lawn chair, the kind usually found out in the garden. Her hands twist nervously in her lap as she listens to the wind raging outside the office window. The blinds are closed. She’s not sure if it’s because whoever’s office this is doesn’t want to see the weather, or just because they haven’t settled in for the day yet.
It was a mistake to come in. She knows that now. Hell, she knew it this morning as she was driving through flooding roads, passing lines of traffic going in the opposite direction. Stupid. Dangerous. Insane.
But she had no choice.
The door opens abruptly and a short woman wearing a CO uniform enters. She’s holding a clipboard and looks stressed and annoyed. Even more so when she sees Sawyer sitting there.
“I thought he was messing with me.”
Sawyer hesitates. “Who?”
“Wilson. He said the new girl was here. I said don’t be crazy. No one’s stupid enough to start their first day during a hurricane. And yet here you are.”
Sawyer lets the insult slide. The woman has a point. “I… didn’t think I had a choice. I mean, no one told me not to come in.”
The woman stares hard at her. “You must really need this job.”
Sawyer nods. “I do.”
The CO sighs. “Fine. I’m Martinez. Looks like I’ll be your tour guide today. Come on.”
Sawyer stands up. Martinez looks her up and down. Something about what she sees makes her even unhappier.
“What do you weigh? One hundred ten?”
“Jesus. They’re going to eat you alive.”
Sawyer straightens up slightly, defensive. “I’m tougher than I look.” She instantly regrets saying it. Even to her own ears it sounds childish and whiny.
“For your sake, honey, I sincerely hope so. Come on.”
She follows Martinez out of the office and into the corridor beyond. It’s empty, lit by harsh fluorescents recessed into the ceiling.
“Stay close,” says Martinez. “Seriously. Don’t get within grabbing distance of any of the prisoners. You’re new. You’re cute. Fuck, they’re going to have a field day with you. Do not, under any circumstances, show fear. Understand? Don’t look uneasy. Or panicked. And don’t smile. Don’t try to be their friend. You do any of that, they’ll remember. Word will spread and they will use it against you.”
Sawyer hurries to keep up with her. “How am I supposed to look?”
“You said don’t show fear. Don’t smile. What am I supposed to do?”
“I bet you get hit on a lot in bars, right?”
“The look you put on when you want to show you’re not interested? That’s how you’re supposed to look.”
“You mean resting bitch face.”
“I mean permanent bitch face.”
Martinez leads her along the corridor, through a door and into an open-plan office area. There is staff here, some sitting, some just passing through, heading into corridors that lead into other parts of the prison complex. Martinez heads straight for a set of double doors on the far side and shoves the bar down to push them open. Sawyer follows after, letting the doors slam shut behind her. The corridor stretches far ahead of them, so far she can’t even see the end of it.
“Okay, so the Ravenhill Correctional Facility is about two square miles total. It’s big. Right here we’re in the administrative building. It’s the hub of the prison. It’s way bigger than you’d normally see in modern prisons. Basically because it was left over from the army days.”
“Army days?” Sawyer asks, confused.
“I’ll get to that. In Admin we’ve got a couple religious resource rooms, a staff gym, warehouses for storing commissary and other supplies, a loading dock, an armory, an indoor firing range, the sheriff’s office, staff offices, you name it.”
Martinez half turns and holds up a hand. “Just wait. Questions later. You’ll need your breath.” She turns back again, striding along the wide passage. “This right here is the staff corridor. It travels from Admin all the way to the staff section o. . .
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