Jeremiah (Guardian Defenders #4) - Kris Michaels

Chapter 1

Several years ago:

The cold, hollow sound of a cell door clanging shut no longer sent a chill of dread down Dr. Jeremiah Wheeler’s spine. He’d grown accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of the penitentiary in the past three years. Working with the inmates of the supermax facility had hardened his senses to the now-familiar drill of entering and exiting the prison. He’d deposited his wallet, cell phone, and all contents of his pockets into his locker prior to entering the first of the many secure gates and holding points he had to work his way through to reach his office and group therapy room. His small piece of real estate sat crammed into the far corner of the medical wing. It was the last office before the main exit for the doctors and nurses who worked with the inmates. The space they allotted him was precious and far too small for his needs, but with the overcrowding that was systemic in all prisons, they had scaled everything back to make more room to accommodate more prisoners. He made it work.

The first order of business was an inspection of the room they used for the group. He searched it morning and night. A knifing when he first started working at the prison initiated the practice. The shiv left for the inmate was tucked under one of the old chairs he’d acquired to make the sessions a little more bearable. Now he had metal chairs bolted to the concrete floor, but he always checked. With a glance at the clock, he sat down at the drab gray metal desk and turned on his old computer. The thing wheezed and sputtered, but the tech people at the prison had kept it on life support. He wasn’t allowed to bring in his own laptop, so he waited for the dinosaur from the1980s to belch and hiccup its way to life.

Grabbing yesterday’s paper coffee cup, he navigated through another secure door and waved to the guard in the bird’s nest. The overwatch for this area was normally a senior guard that was winding down toward retirement. Today, Eddie Fastal was in the bird’s nest. He lifted his coffee cup and Eddie nodded with a thumbs up. Jeremiah smiled and headed for the coffee machine. He filled two new paper cups after tossing yesterday’s worn-out cup into the recycle bin. He detoured to the nest on the way back and Eddie buzzed him in.

“Damn, thanks, man. I’ve been jonesing for a cup for the last hour, but we’re short-manned again today.”

“That’s getting to be an everyday occurrence, isn’t it?” Since the state had outsourced the manning at the facility, the staffing had diminished.

“Eh, today it’s because Harper’s old lady had her kid. Thomas is still out with pneumonia. We’re at minimum manning. We go down anymore and there will be gaps in coverage, but we can handle everything right now.”

Jeremiah sat down and kicked up his feet on the long console of monitors and camera feeds. “How’s the wife and kids?”

“Doing good. The youngest just got accepted to State on a full ride. So damn proud of that kid. He struggled there for a while, but he got himself together. Wants to be an engineer. He’s a wiz with math. The oldest is doing good. She called last week and told us she was pregnant with number two. Good thing her husband works from home. Two under two is going to be a rough go for a while.”

Jeremiah laughed. “Did Louisa ever tell Shelly what causes babies?”

Eddie snorted as he took a sip of his coffee and the guard coughed so hard Jeremiah reached over and patted him on the back. “Damn, Doc, you got to warn me before you say shit like that. And the answer is I don’t know, and I don’t care. I taught Eddie Jr. to wrap it up tight and that no means no, period. What the women discussed between themselves isn’t my business.”

”That’s a tad old-fashioned, isn’t it?” He took a sip of his coffee before an escort on the monitor caught his eye. “What’s going on?”

“That’s Macmillan.”

Jeremiah sat up. “Shit.”

“My sentiments exactly. That monster isn’t supposed to come out of solitary, but he’s been throwing up and had blood in his piss. They’re bringing him up for Doc Freeman to examine.”

“Make sure they keep him locked up.” Jeremiah rubbed his chin. That man was the reason he pumped iron and had started mixed martial arts training. Jeremiah