Virgil Skinner served fourteen years for a murder he didn't commit. He's finally been exonerated, but he can't escape the gang he joined in order to survive. They'll do anything to keep him from telling what he knows. And if they can't get to Virgil they'll go after his sister and her kids.
The California Department of Corrections needs someone to infiltrate another gang, one that's taking control of the state's most notorious supermax. Virgil agrees to do it under an alias--in exchange for his sister's protection.
Chief Deputy Warden Peyton Adams is opposed to having Virgil in her prison. How will she protect him if things go bad? Besides, she's far too attracted to him; she might even be falling in love with him. That makes her all the more desperate to keep him safe--and it gives him someone else to lose.
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June 27, 2011
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Excerpt from Inside by Brenda Novak
Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man.
Peyton Adams eyed the three men who'd driven to the public library with her from the prison, as well as the two they'd secretly come to meet. She knew what she had to say wouldn't be popular, especially with the warden, who was growing desperate enough to try anything, but she felt duty-bound to express her opinion. "I say no. It's too risky. Maybe if we put him in the Security Housing Unit we could protect him, but not in general population. No way."
Simeon Bennett, the person whose life she was attempting to save, sat across the conference table and hardly seemed grateful for her intervention. "You disagree?" she said when he narrowed his ice-blue eyes.
"I'm confident I can complete the assignment or I wouldn't be sitting here," he said.
An employee of Department 6, a company she'd never heard of but which was apparently a private security contractor out of L.A., he looked as tough as any inmate she'd seen in the sixteen years she'd been working corrections. Somewhere in the neighborhood of six feet four inches tall and two hundred and twenty-five pounds, he could've been hewn out of stone. With biceps and pecs that bulged beneath his carefully ironed dress shirt, and his blond hair shaved in a precise military haircut, he had an intimidating appearance. But it would take a lot more than muscle and a malevolent stare to survive inside Pelican Bay if he happened to spook the wrong inmate.
"I don't think you understand what it's like." She motioned at the door, which they'd just closed, to signify the prison, even though it was eight miles northeast of the library and shrouded in fog on such a cold January day.
It was plain that he wanted to argue with what she'd said but, for whatever reason, he leashed the impulse. Maybe he was saving up for the final salvo. Rick Wallace, an associate director at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the man who'd brought him, took up the argument instead.
"I know what we're proposing is unprecedented, but the problems at Pelican Bay are reaching critical proportions. Something's got to be done. The director is determined to uncover and prosecute whoever's responsible for murdering Judge Garcia." Forever conscious of his appearance, he straightened his expensive yet conservative tie. "Secretary Hinckley and the governor are both behind him on this. What with various newspapers around the state taking up the cry that Pelican Bay is a headquarters for gang violence, we've got to act and act decisively." A heavy-looking gold ring flashed as he motioned to Simeon. "Mr. Bennett understands the risks involved. Although he's in the private sector, he's been working in the criminal justice world for the past decade or so. I say we give him a shot."
The tranquility of the library seemed to mock Peyton's agitation as she stood. "It's great that he has some experience at--where did you say?--this Department 6, but I'm sure nothing he's done in the past could prepare him for this. Besides, do you think he can handle the job alone?"
Simeon rocked back and gazed up at her with enough cool reserve to make her believe he was already an inmate, but maintained his silence.
"He won't be alone," Wallace said. "He'll have your full support, right?"