The bus rolled to a stop as Jason Maxfield brought up his cuffed hands and used one finger to itch under his chin. He had missed a spot when shaving earlier, and that always bothered him. He had been a fastidious groomer in another life. It was bad enough he had to wear an orange jumpsuit, but it was an insult to injury that the razor they gave him was so dull it could barely cut his whiskers. He liked to look his best. That was not possible these days. Even when he had a hearing with the parole board.
The hearing had not gone well, but he had not expected it to. His attorney had prepared Jason for the fact that the little incident six months back would keep him from getting out anytime soon. The parole board had taken the opportunity to lay into him today, criticizing him for everything he had done wrong in his life.
They don’t like to see a former Fed at their fancy hearings.
The inmate across from Jason kept his eyes anywhere but on Jason.
Smart fella, Jason thought, glad his reputation had made it over to the other cellblocks. He had to be on his guard at all times because of his past law enforcement experience. Because of his attorney’s persistence and constant motions, Jason’s first six months in prison had been spent in solitary confinement for his own protection, but he had eventually been released into the general population when his attorney had run out of things he could do. By that time, all the prisoners had known who he was, what he had allegedly done, and how long he had before he got out.
As the bus driver put the vehicle in gear and pressed the gas pedal, Jason let his body roll with the motion. There had been a time in his life when he had focused on going against the flow, swimming upstream to make a name for himself, but now he just went with things.
It had been nice to get out, even if it was just for a meeting with the cantankerous parole board. It was good to have a reminder of the real world that he was no longer part of and would not be for quite some time, judging by how things had gone today.
Anything to break up the monotony of prison.
The bus lurched.
The driver hit the brakes. Wheels squealed.
Something slammed into the bus.
Jason rocked with the movement but did not look up, thinking it had just been an accident.
It hardly concerned him.
After the police had come and done their thing, they would soon be on their way. Or, if it turned out they were going to be stuck here for a while, another transport would come and take them away. Either way, nothing to do with Jason.
Jason’s eyes settled on the inmate across from him, making the man squirm under his stare, still not meeting Jason’s eyes. After a long moment, Jason turned his head and looked out the window to the city beyond.
It had been seven years since he had been sentenced to ten. Three more to go unless he could get out on parole. Today had been his first hearing, and he had blown it. It had been his intention to be a model prisoner, but that had not been possible, especially for a former Fed.
His attorney had done his best, but Jason had gone in expecting nothing and had received nothing.
One of the guards and the driver got out. The other guard stood from where he had sat on a bench, holding his shotgun pointed in the direction of the other prisoner and Jason Maxfield as if he expected them to do something.
“Hey Maxfield, I don’t want any trouble, hear me?”
Jason didn’t glance at the guard or bother to answer. The inmate across from him glanced at Jason’s face and shrunk back. Jason frowned at the man. It was important to keep up appearances. There was one rule in here that everybody understood.
If they feared him, he would be left alone. That was what he wanted. He wanted to do his time and get out. One year from now, three years from now, it did not really much matter.
“I’m talking to you, Maxfield.” The guard’s voice was agitated now. “Do you understand?”
“I heard you.” Jason still didn’t look his way. He could sense the man was unnerved by the lack of respect, but Jason did not care. The man knew better than to push him.
“You either, Smith. Got it?”
Jason stared at the man across from him with unblinking eyes. The man swallowed. He was in a different cellblock. They had never run into each other until today, something the man was probably reminding himself of while trying to avoid Jason’s gaze.
“Smith.” Jason spoke so quietly that it was a wonder the man heard.
The man went pale and tried to move away, but the chains on his feet kept him secured. He looked around, almost as if thinking about asking the guard to move him, but he must have thought better of it because he remained silent.
Jason continued to study the man as he made a conscious effort not to look at Jason. Their eyes made contact when he finally did.
Jason tilted up the corners of his mouth in a mocking smile.
If Smith had been white before, he looked like a ghost now. He had just opened his mouth when a skidding noise at the front of the bus drew their attention.
A smoke grenade bounced across the floor.