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If God were merciful, He would have struck Alex dead the moment he hung up the phone. His life was, after all, over. From that point on, there was nothing worth living for. Not child, not wife, not hope of anything. Dead. He was dead.

But God, as ever, was not the merciful being some gentler religions made him out to be. No. God was the biggest bastard in the universe. Just look at what he'd done to Job on a dare. Now, Alex assumed, God's new plaything was Alex himself.

If only he was that significant.

If la polica were merciful, they would have shot him in the head. In the back, it didn't matter. Just shot him instead of taking him to this hell hole.

Penitenciarķa Federal de Sona.


He'd yet to find a niche. Men were everywhere. Men, boys, kids. Everywhere. Standing against slime covered walls. Fighting in the hallway. Fucking in the corner. No guards. No cells. So far, no food. Not even a blanket, although Alex had no doubt it'd be stolen should he have been issued one.

He wandered the halls. Long, dark, labyrinth-like. He was sized up. Examined. Glowered at and he glowered right back.

He rounded a corner. Took three steps and was punched. Reacted on instinct. Flew at his attacker. Bone crunched beneath his fist. Blood, hot on his face. Pain against his stomach. Roaring in his ears. He fought, desperate. Angry. Wild without mercy until his attacker was crumpled at his feet. Another kick, to make sure.

Then Alex crouched by his fallen foe. Took his jacket, his shiv, his belt. A pack of cigarettes, a bag of coke. Half a wrapped sandwich. His shoelaces.

Then he rose. Slipped the jacket on, shoved his supplies in his pockets. Walked away.

No one so much as looked at him as he continued down the hall. His nose gushed blood, and he pressed his hand to it for now.

The sound and smell of rain hit him as he rounded the next corner. He moved toward it. The air was fresher, somewhat. The smell of shit and decay was all around him. It couldn't always be raining, and if there weren't cells, he'd need somewhere to stay that wouldn't make him sick.

The corner adjacent from the door was occupied by some fey kid dressed in a purple tube top and torn jeans.

Alex walked up to him. Kicked his leg. "Move."

The kid opened his eyes. Blinked up at him. "You lookin' for company, pelao?"

"This yours?" Alex asked. He bent down, tugged on the blanket.


Alex raised an eyebrow. Cocked his head.

The kid groaned. "Chucha. Come on, man."


He groaned again, but crawled out of the corner and off the blanket. "What you want? Aspire su pene? Ustede desea las drogas?"

"No hablo espanol," Alex said, making himself comfortable.

"I suck your dick? Get you drugs?"


The kid got to his knees. Pushed his hand underneath the blanket and pulled out a wrinkled bag. He gave it to Alex.

Alex opened it. Inside was a rotted banana, an apple, and half a pastry of some kind.

"When do they feed us?" Alex asked, closing the bag. He set it aside.

"Morning. Around noon. Sunset."

"There guards?"

"Somewhere. They come around sometimes. Not much."

"So it's self rule." He glanced at the kid. "Who do I need to look out for?"

The kid pointed down the hall. "Carlos. He the top drug dealer." He pointed the other way. "They no let no one white near them." He then indicated to a huge, hulk of a man standing just a few feet away. "Ben. He fuck you up."

"No. He won't." Alex glanced out the doorway, into the rain. "What's your name?"

"Tony." Then, he made a face. "Gatito. Mostly, they call me Gatito."

"That mean pussy or something?"


"I'm not going to protect you." He checked his nose. It's stopped bleeding. His bruises, though, were beginning to ache. Throb.

The kid shrugged. Laid his head back against the wall. Closed his eyes.

The rain was easing up. Lights shone outside, illuminating the muddy walk. Like the inside, there were people, huddling under awnings, under trees. The bottom of the barrel. Those who had given up hope of even a partially dry place to sleep for the night.

Of course he would be there. Standing against a wall, light caressing his face, his body, pooling around him. Sweatshirt wet-black. Sopping, clinging to him. Jeans so heavy they hung low on his hips, inching further. Shoes covered in mud.

He stood. Hardly breathing. Looking straight ahead. Not moving.

Fucking ass.

Alex forced himself to look away. He stood and rearranged the blanket, making it more comfortable. Sat back down. Glanced up.

Someone else was edging towards Michael. Inch by inch. Furtive. He sidled up next to Michael. Said something Alex couldn't make out.

Michael didn't react.

The figure shoved Michael.

He stumbled. Straightened. Still didn't react.

Another figure came up. And another until they surrounded him. Shoved. Pushed.

And Michael didn't react.

They all fell on him. Tearing, kicking. Michael's sweatshirt was torn from him. Two men fought over it, turning on each other. One man got a shoe and was immediately pounded by the holder of the other. Someone screamed. Alex saw a flash in the moonlight.

He was up and in the rain before he thought about it. The shiv was in his hand. He grabbed the first man he could. The man had Michael's belt in his hand.

Alex elbowed him in the throat. Grabbed the belt. Whipped it back down in the man's face. Swung it back, catching another.

Someone screamed. Lunged for Alex.

He buried the shiv in his attacker's stomach. Kicked him away.

The vultures fled. Alex was able to catch the one with Michael's sweatshirt. Pulled him back. "Give it!"

The sweatshirt was dropped. Alex kicked the man away. He stumbled, splashed in the mud. Fell, but kept crawling, moving.

Alex crouched next to Michael. "Get up."

Michael didn't even blink.

He smacked the other man across the face. "Get the fuck up." He hit Michael again.

Michael started, like coming out of sleep. Coughed and blinked rapidly, rain hitting his face. His eyes caught Alex's. Frowned. "Alex?"

Alex tucked his shiv into the waistband of his pants. Picked up Michael's sweatshirt in one hand, Michael in the other. Hauled him to his feet. "Come."