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  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-10-09
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Ex-DEA agent Jesse Warden has seen enough of the inside of a solitary confinement cell to last him a lifetime. Or two lifetimes, which is the sentence he's serving after being convicted of a plan he was planning to commit, but never did. So when an old buddy shows up with a deal that could spring him from his hell behind bars, he's ready to listen. To gain his freedom, Jesse must infiltrate a dangerous and reclusive religious cult that has been stockpiling weapons and eliminating those sent to investigate. From the moment he arrives in the Idaho mountain town where the cult is centered, Jesse finds every aspect of life dictated by the group's eerie, imposing leader. Pitted against not only the cult, but also the feds who sent him, Jesse feels control of his own life slipping away, and must make a final,desperate attempt to regain it -- or die trying.



Chapter One

Atlanta Federal Prison swam slowly out of the smog as the helicopter beat its way south from Fulton County Airport. Kip Fuller was transfixed by the sight.

In his three years in law enforcement Kipling Fuller had never been inside a prison of any sort, and Atlanta held a place in his imagination on a level with Alcatraz and Leavenworth -- especially Alcatraz, since that was a prison of the past, as was Atlanta.

Alcatraz was permanently closed, though, while Atlanta had been partly reopened to handle the overflow of federal prisoners. At its peak the prison had held a population of nearly four thousand, but the current number was closer to eight hundred. The prison had been a temporary home to Cuban refugees, Haitian boat people, Colombian drug lords and the occasional special prisoner. It was a special prisoner that Fuller would meet today -- or, rather, meet again.

To avoid breaking the FAA regulation prohibiting flights over the prison yard, the pilot made a turn that took him parallel with the wall, a few yards out. They were at five hundred feet now, aiming for the big H painted on the prison roof, and Fuller could see into the yard. As he watched, two figures met in the middle of the open area, and the other prisoners immediatelyrushed to surround them, leaving a small circle free for the two men, who were now swinging at each other. At the outskirts of the crowd, uniformed guards could be seen trying to push their way to the center, but Fuller thought they weren't trying very hard. He brought the microphone of his headset close to his lips.

"What's going on down there?" he asked the assistant warden sitting next to him.

"That's your man," the official replied.

"What, you mean fighting?"

"That's right. Every time he gets out of solitary, he gets in another fight, and back in he goes."

"How long has this been going on?"

"Fourteen months; the whole time he's been inside."

"Jesus," Fuller said.

Jesse Warden sat on the edge of the examination table and watched through his swollen left eye as the male nurse pulled the thread tight, knotted it and snipped it off with the surgical scissors.

"There you go, Jesse," the man said. "How many stitches is that I've put in you the last year?"

"I've lost count," Warden said in his native hillbilly twang. It hurt when he moved his lips.

"So have I," the nurse said, placing a large BandAid over the cut under the eye. "That's it," the nurse said to the guard.

"Let's go, Jesse," the guard said. The guards didn't call him by his last name, as they did the other prisoners; "Warden" was a term of address saved for prison management.

Warden let himself down slowly from the table and preceded the guard through the door, trying not to limp. The guard gave him plenty of room; no guard had touched him since the first fight.

Fuller jumped down from the helicopter and followed the assistant warden across the prison roof toward a door; shortly they were walking down an empty corridor, their footsteps echoing through the nearly empty building.

"It's kind of spooky, isn't it?" Fuller said.

"You get used to it," the AW replied. "In the old days this place would have been full of noise, like any prison, but with the population out in the yard for exercise right now, it's dead quiet."

Fuller followed the man through a door, across a waiting room to another door, where the AW knocked.

"Come in!" a voice called from behind the door.

The AW opened the door, let Fuller in and closed it behind him.

The warden stood up from behind his desk and offered his hand. "J. W. Morris," he said.

"Kip Fuller, from the U.S. Attorney General's office," Fuller replied.

"I've been expecting you, Mr. Fuller. Have a seat; what can I do for you?"

Fuller sat down and took an envelope from his inside pocket. "You have a prisoner named Jesse R. Warden here."

"We do," the warden replied.

Fuller handed the envelope across the desk and waited while Morris read the paper inside.

"This is unusual," the warden said.

"Is it?" Fuller had no idea.

"Normally, when a federal prisoner is released to the custody of the attorney general, it's by court order and a reason is stated -- like the prisoner is needed to testify in court."

"Not in this case," said Fuller, who had read the document during his flight from Washington in the Gulfstream government jet.

"Could I see some ID?" the warden asked.

"Certainly," Fuller replied, offering his identification card.

"'Special Task Force,'" the warden read aloud. "What does that mean?"

"Just what it says, sir," Fuller replied. "That's all I'm at liberty to tell you."

The warden nodded. "I see," he said. "I wonder if you'd mind stepping out into my waiting room for a moment?" He didn't return the ID to Fuller.

"Be glad to," he replied. The man was going to call Washington, and Fuller didn't blame him a bit. He left the room and closed the door behind him. The waiting room walls were bereft of pictures, and there were no magazines lying around. Fuller paced the floor slowly, measuring the dimensions of the little room. About the size of a cell, he guessed. The door opened, and the warden waved him back into the inner office.

"Looks like you've got yourself a prisoner," Morris said. "When do I get him back?"

"The AG's order says 'indefinite custody,'" Fuller replied.

Heat. Copyright © by Stuart Woods. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Heat by Stuart Woods
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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