Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci Read Online (FREE)
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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
FBI Special Agent Atlee Pine stared up at the grim facade of the prison complex that housed some of the most dangerous human predators on earth.
She had come to see one of them tonight.
ADX Florence, about a hundred miles south of Denver, was the only supermax prison in the federal system. The supermax component was one of four separate encampments that made up the Federal Correctional Complex located here. In total, more than nine hundred inmates were incarcerated on this parcel of dirt.
From the sky, with the prison lights on, Florence might resemble a set of diamonds on black felt. The men here, guards and inmates, were as hardened as precious stone. It was not a place for the fainthearted, or the easily intimidated, though the deeply demented were obviously welcome.
The supermax currently held, among others, the Unabomber, the Boston Marathon bomber, 9/11 terrorists, serial killers, an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, spies, white supremacist leaders, and assorted cartel and mafia bosses. Many of the inmates here would die in federal prison under the official weight of multiple life sentences.
The prison was in the middle of nowhere. No one had ever escaped, but if anyone did, there would be no place to hide. The topography around the prison was flat and open. Not a blade of grass, or a single tree or bush, grew around the complex. The prison was encircled by twelve-foot-high perimeter walls topped with razor wire and interlaced with pressure pads. These spaces were patrolled 24/7 by armed guards and attack dogs. Any prisoner reaching this spot would almost certainly be killed by either fangs or bullets. And few would care about a serial murderer, terrorist, or spy face-planting in the Colorado soil for the final time.
Inside, the cell windows were four inches wide and four feet long, cut in thick concrete, through which only the sky and roof of the facility could be seen. Florence had been designed so that no prisoner could even tell where in the structure he was located. The cells were seven-by-twelve and virtually everything in them, other than each inmate, was made from poured concrete. The showers automatically cut off, the toilets could not be stopped up, the walls were insulated so no inmate could communicate with another, the double steel doors slid open and closed on powered hydraulics, and meals came through a slot in the metal. Outside communication was forbidden except in the visiting room. For unruly prisoners, or in the case of a crisis, there was the Z-Unit, also known as the Black Hole. Its cells were kept completely dark, and restraints were built into each concrete bed.
Solitary confinement was the rule rather than the exception here. The supermax was not designed for prisoners to make new friends.
Atlee Pine’s truck had been scoped and searched, and her name and ID checked against the visitors list. After that she was escorted to the front entrance and showed the guards stationed there her FBI special agent credentials. She was thirty-five, and the last twelve years of her life had been spent with a shiny badge riding on her hip. The gold shield was topped by an open-winged eagle, and below that was Justitia, holding her scales and sword. It was fitting, Pine thought, that a female was depicted on the badge of the preeminent law enforcement agency in the world.