Excerpt from Beat the Devil
Copyright 2013 Anthony Izzo
They were taking him to one of those Supermax facilities, where John Raven would spend the rest of his days in a cell. Twenty-three hours a day in a six-by-eight cage, with an hour allowed for exercise.
The guards walked him out of the cell block, Raven shuffling along with cuffs and leg irons. The Department of Corrections van waited for them, dimly visible through the sheets of rain falling outside Block D.
The guard, a pig-faced slug named Harrod, nudged him along with a shotgun. One of the other guards slid the door open and they muscled Raven into the van. A steel grid separated the driver and passenger from the rear seating. They shut the van door and Raven listened to the rain beat on the van roof. It was a six hour drive to Supermax. To the end of his freedom.
Herrod turned to him and said, “Going to enjoy your new home, Raven?”
“I'd enjoy skinning you. That's what I'd enjoy.”
The look of anger appeared on the pig's face was worth it.
“Boy, if I had five minutes with you, I bet you wouldn't talk so tough,” Harrod said.
“You wouldn't last five minutes with me. “
He scared people. That he knew. He'd always been big, growing to six-foot-five as a teenager. He had done thousands of pushups and burpees in his cell, packing on slabs of muscle. His long, dark hair sometimes hung over his eyes, making him hard to read. And then there was the scar: a mess of pink tissue that crisscrossed his right cheek, given to him by a cop.
“You'll never see the sun again, know that Raven?”
“Do you have family? I once cut a family of four to pieces. The father lasted two hours before he died.”
“You deserve to rot,” Herrod said, turning around.
Raven smiled, something he rarely did.
The van began rolling and he looked out the rear window and Griffin State Penitentiary faded in the distance, becoming a large gray blur in the falling rain.
The scenery rolled past, the road flanked by towering pines. Up ahead twin head lights approached on the other side of the road. He could see the running lights of a semi, the rig swerving back and forth. Something was wrong with it.
It drew closer and Raven watched it veer towards the van, the grill looking like the maw of a great beast. The van's driver tried to swerve, but the semi clipped the van's bumper and they whipped around and before Raven knew what was happening, they had flipped. The van rolled several times and Raven felt as if he were in a steel drum being rolled down a hill.
He heard screeching metal and the blare of a large horn as the van came to a stop. He was staring up at the broken side window, the van resting on its side. Turning his head to the right, he saw the pig-faced guard sprawled over the seat. His neck was cocked at a bad angle. Broken.
The front windshield had been smashed out and the driver was nowhere to be seen.
His body felt as if he'd been hit with baseball bats. He realized when he moved his arms, his wrists were no longer bound, the chains having been snapped by the crash.
He got to his knees and began crawling towards the front of the van. The cage separating the driver from the passenger's had been peeled open. He crawled over the dead guard, who smelled as if his bowels had let go. After ten minutes, he managed to crawl out the hole where the front windshield had been.
The guard who had been driving lay on the blacktop, his face covered in blood. Raven went to the dead guard, hunkered down. He found a set of keys on the man's belt and undid his shackles. Then he took the guard's weapon, a Glock 40. He grabbed the extra clips, too.
Looking down the road, he saw the semi had rolled. The trailer had been ripped open, looking like someone had taken a can opener to it. Smoke billowed from the tractor.
He saw a second set of headlights approaching and he watched as a Ford pickup truck approached. It stopped and a large man in a blue mechanic's uniform got out. A grease-smeared cap rested on his head. “You okay? Any other prisoners around?”
“Just fine, and I'm the only one,” Raven said.
“You ain't going to hurt me, are you?”
Raven shook his head.
“I'll get my cell,” the man said, approaching. “Call for help.”
“I'll be needing your clothes,” Raven said.
“Your clothes,” Raven said, and shot him in the face.
He undressed the man, who was roughly Raven's size. After stripping down to his prison-issue boxers, he dressed in the man's uniform. The patch sewn on the shirt indicated the guy's name had been Jeff. “Thanks Jeff,” he said, and dragged the body, now clad in a pair of red jockey shorts, into the woods. Taking the Glock and ammunition, he got behind the wheel of the Ford and drove off.
He wondered how much time he had before they realized he was loose. And if it was enough time to settle some old scores.
He drove for half-an-hour until he spotted a ranch home tucked back on a hill. A long driveway snaked up to the house. Even at eleven p.m. the lights were still on.
Turning up the driveway, he killed the headlights and eased the vehicle forward.
Off in the distance, sirens cried out.
Donald Spielman was in bed watching the local news run through a fluff piece, something about a dog riding a skateboard. He wondered why he bothered with the news at times. The dog, a terrier named Sydney, rolled along on screen, its tongue wagging in the breeze. Nonsense, he thought.
He glanced at Isabel. His wife was sleeping on her side, her breasts pushed up in the lace nightie. He considered nuzzling her neck and seeing where it went. Their boys were staying with her parents for the night, which meant a rare evening alone.
He was amazed by her beauty. The dark hair and flawless olive skin. Even more amazed that she had fallen in love with an average long-haul trucker.
He was about to make his move when a knock came at the door. It made him flinch.
Who the hell was here at this hour?
Donald got out of bed and threw on a faded terrycloth robe. The thing was so ragged Isabel threatened to burn it every so often. He tied the belt, intent on telling the person at the door to politely fuck off.
They did get the occasional visitor. They were a few miles from the nearest neighbor. Visitors usually came in the form of stranded motorists. Probably someone looking for a jump or help with changing a flat.
As he opened the front door, he heard himself gasp. A man with a bouncer's build stood on the porch. He wore a pair of coveralls that strained at the seams. His long, dark hair partially obscured his eyes, making the man hard to read.
“You break down?” Donald asked.
“I need a place to say,” the man said. His hands were jammed in the coverall pockets.
“This isn't a Motel Six. I'll bring the phone to the porch, if you need to call someone.”
“Your place will be fine.”
Donald felt his face start to flush. “Take a hike, huh?”
He started to close the door, but the stranger pulled a semiautomatic pistol from his pocket. Donald froze.
“Who else is in the house?”
Donald's heart jackhammered. “My wife.”
“We're going inside. If you try and run or call for help, I'll shoot you between the legs. Got it?”
He'd been a fool for opening the door. He wanted to lunge at the man, gouge his eyes, but he didn't. Getting shot here wouldn't help Isabel. “Okay.”
“Good man. Now let's go meet that wife of yours.”