[Saki Aida] Deadlock – Prologue + Chapter 1

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Footsteps approached.

Yuto strained his ears as he lay in the darkness.
Amid the footsteps, he could make out the sound of metal clinking against metal.
His heart leaped with expectation ― what if? ― but he sternly told himself not to get his hopes up.
How many times had those footsteps brought him disappointment these past two weeks?

“Yuto Lennix.
Wake up.” A sharp voice rang out in the cramped cell of the detention centre.
Yuto opened his eyes and stared at the blank wall.

“I told you to wake up!” commanded the deputy sheriff in an irritable voice.
Yuto slowly raised himself from his bed and turned his face toward the figure beyond the metal bars.

“Get over here and hold your hands out.”

Yuto did as he was told, went up to the metal bars, and held out his hands through the space in the middle.
The deputy sheriff handcuffed him and opened the metal grate.

“The bus is leaving in an hour.
Get your physical done and get changed.”

“Where am I going?” Yuto asked quietly.

“Schelger Prison,” replied the deputy sheriff, business-like.
Yuto sighed in relief.
He had been worried out of his mind about being transferred to the wrong prison due to some error.

“Tough luck.
You’ll have to live with it,” said the deputy sheriff, apparently misinterpreting Yuto’s sigh.
It was no wonder.
No criminal would be glad to find out they were being transferred to a notorious maximum-security prison.
But for Yuto, Schelger Prison was the one and only place that would save him.



Chapter 1

“Hey, so how many times have you been locked up?” whispered the Caucasian young man sitting beside him.
The blond man who had boarded at San Jose looked no older than twenty.
His anxious face still retained some boyish innocence, and he looked like a high-school student pale with car-sickness.

“First time,” Yuto Lennix replied.
He glanced at the young man briefly before turning his face forward again.
The front and back of the prisoner transport bus was divided with metal fences, and security guards stood on both ends with rifles, keeping watch on the prisoners within the vehicle.

“It’s my first time, too,” said the young man.
“Talk about unlucky.
I can’t believe I’m being thrown into the Schelger Prison, among all places! Isn’t that where―”

“You! No talking!” barked a voice behind him.
The young man hastily shut his mouth.

A mood of dread enveloped the bus as it carried a load of about twenty prisoners in orange jump suits, heading straight north along the Interstate.

The bright April sunlight streamed in through the fenced windows, in stark contrast to the dark and clouded hearts of the prisoners.
When would be the next time they would see the light of day? Yuto found himself growing sentimental as he narrowed his eyes and watched the scenery slip by.

After a while, the bus arrived at its destination.
The Schelger State Prison, located in California, was even larger than what rumours said.
An immense expanse of land lay before him, the acreage of which he could hardly begin to estimate, all surrounded by miles and miles of fencing.
Around the top part of the fence was an obscene amount of spiralled barbed wire, which was probably charged with high-voltage electric current.

The bus stopped temporarily in front of the gates.
The guards in the surveillance towers on each side of the gate stood with their fingers on the triggers of their rifles, ready to fire.
This intimidating sight convinced Yuto once and for all that this very place was the most guarded maximum-security prison in the States, with a history of over a hundred years.
Approximately two thousand and five hundred prisoners served their sentences here.

The gates opened and the bus lurched into motion once more.
It trundled around the spacious grounds surrounded by wire.
There were basketball courts and squash courts, and prisoners in blue denim clothes could be seen loitering in large groups.

The bus stopped in front of a large building.
The guard in front opened the cage.
They were instructed to get off the bus one by one.
A Caucasian guard with sharp eyes and a hooked nose greeted them outside the bus, barking at the lined-up prisoners like an army sergeant from Hell.

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“Welcome to Schelger State Prison!” he shouted.
“First off: here, the word of the prison guard is absolute.
I don’t care what kind of important job you had out there, or how much of a badass gangster you were.
Once you’re inside the walls, it doesn’t matter.
Don’t think you can get away with any rebellious attitude while you’re here.
Disobey orders or show suspicious behaviour, and most likely you will be shot.
See that gun tower over there!”

The guard pointed to a surveillance tower in the middle of the grounds.
A prison guard with a rifle was looking out.

“Let’s say a commotion happens on the grounds.
A warning shot will be fired into the air.
If you hear a gunshot, you are to get down and lie on your bellies.
Any gunshots you hear after that will mean that someone has been shot.
All of the guards in the gun towers here are expert shots who spend three hours each day shooting rounds.
Keep that in mind!” the guard snapped menacingly, before commanding them to file inside the building.
Yuto and the rest of the prisoners began to shuffle forward like pitiful cattle being herded in, their hands and feet in shackles.
The prisoners watching from the other side of the metal fence began jeering at them.

“Hey, blondie! How’d you like to be my bitch? I’ll come visit you later!”

“You look like you’re asking for a good time!”

They were showered with one vulgar taunt after another as they walked past.
A black man called out to Yuto.

“You! You yellow bitch, yeah, I’m talking to you.”

When Yuto glanced at him, the black man grinned and banged the wire fence.
He wore a wool hat pulled down just above his eyes, with a silver earring on his right ear.
He was heavyset and looked to be in his late twenties, with an impressive physique like that of a professional football player.

“I’ve never fucked a yellow chick before.
You’ll give me a taste, won’t ya? I can’t wait to tap that sweet ass,” the man said before sticking up his middle finger.
Yuto gritted his teeth against the humiliation and averted his eyes from the black man.
From now on, he would probably experience countless other instances of the same kind of taunting and insults.
If he let his anger get to him every single time, he wouldn’t last.

Since there were no women in prison, young men with pretty faces were the first to get preyed on.
Yuto was twenty-eight, but he knew that those of Asian backgrounds were often seen as younger.
That was why he had purposely refused to shave since he was put into the detention centre.
He didn’t know how effective his unruly facial hair would be, but he had to defend himself in any way he could against unnecessary troubles.

They were put through a physical check as soon as they entered the prison.
The physical examination was thorough, and they were stripped naked and examined right down to their anuses.
It would have been unbearable humiliation for Yuto if this had been before he was arrested.
Either he had gotten used to it from the long days in detention, or his emotions had simply numbed, for he did not find it particularly distressing.

Yuto had become a prisoner from the moment he had been sentenced as guilty.
Like a well-behaved dog, he opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out when he was told, and he bent over and opened his legs if he was told to show his ass.
A prisoner was not entitled to the most basic of human dignities.

He changed into the prison uniform provided for him and was going through prison admittance procedures in a separate room when the door suddenly opened and a man came in.
He was an older man wearing a three-piece suit.
The officer in charge stood up in haste.

“Warden Corning.
Is something the matter?” he asked.

“Just on patrol.
It’s an important part of my job to know what’s going on in this place, after all.” Corning threw a glance at Yuto, who was also standing, before reaching for the documents on the desk.

“So, you worked for the DEA before you got arrested, is that right?”

Yuto did not answer him.

“This man is the prison warden! You answer him!” barked the guard in charge.

“…That’s right,” Yuto replied.

“Tell me about the work you did,” Corning pushed further.

“I was an investigator,” Yuto answered flatly.
Corning furrowed his brow and shook his head.

“It’s a shame.
A guy like you, persecuting crime on the front lines, ending up a criminal himself.
I hear you’re in here for murdering one of your own.
Can’t go much lower than that, can you?”

Yuto was careful not to look Corning in the eye.
He did not want the man to sense the violent anger that was coiling in the depths of his heart.

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Killer of his own kind – it was an insult that Yuto found hard to bear.
Yuto, in fact, did not murder his colleague, Paul McLean.
Paul was Yuto’s partner and best friend.
Yuto could say with conviction that, apart from Paul’s family, no one had mourned more deeply over Paul’s death than him.
That was how important Paul had been to him.

As DEA investigators, the two had disguised as drug dealers to infiltrate a drug-smuggling ring in New York.
Over the course of one year, they penetrated deep into the organization and had finally succeeded in arresting the person at the top.
But the glory was short-lived; two weeks later, Paul was stabbed to death in his house by an unidentified killer.

Paul was four years Yuto’s senior, and was a competent investigator.
He was the calm and collected partner who stood solidly behind Yuto even in his occasional moments of reckless haste, never one to cower away and always one who could develop a highly sophisticated action plan.
Yuto looked up to Paul more than anyone, as a fellow man and as an investigator.

He was a man with whom Yuto could entrust his life – then came his death.
Yuto was crippled by shock when he received the news, but what awaited him was further tragedy.

For reasons unknown, Yuto’s fingerprints had been lifted from the murder weapon, a kitchen knife left at the scene.
The police arrested Yuto under suspicion of the murder of Paul McLean.
The knife thrust before him by the detective during his interrogation was indeed Yuto’s kitchen knife, which was supposed to be at his house.
Yuto protested desperately that someone must have stolen it from his house when he wasn’t home, but the police continued to accuse Yuto based on a witness statement they had gotten saying that Yuto and Paul were seen arguing at their local bar the night before the murder.

Occasionally, Yuto tended to butt heads with Paul over investigative tactics.
It was true – that night as well, the two of them had gotten drunk and had an argument that was loud enough to draw the attention of those around them.
But the argument had been none of the sort to leave either of them with a grudge.
These rows were a common occurrence for them.

The police did not trust a single word of Yuto’s side of the story.
He had no alibi since he lived alone.
The circumstances were much too disadvantageous for him.
Yet Yuto stubbornly continued to deny the accusation, believing that a proper investigation would eventually uncover the truth.

However, the unbelievable occurred when his house was searched afterwards.
Cocaine was found and seized – cocaine he had never possessed.
The police jumped to the conclusion that Paul had discovered Yuto’s cocaine use, which sparked their argument and led Yuto to murder Paul as a way to shut him up.
Under that assumption, the police laid scathing criticism upo

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