Down and Dirty (Shameless Southern Nights)

By: J.H. Croix & Ali Parker

Down & Dirty #1

A Shameless Southern Nights Novel

Chapter One


Gravel crunched under my feet and a lone black bird cried overhead. The sky was an uninterrupted blue, even the clouds were avoiding this place. There were a few other people making this depressing trek with me, but no one spoke. Neither did I. Each of us was here for our own reasons, but I’d bet money no one wanted to be here.

We only had this place in common.

A place that smelled vaguely of stale sweat and the long forgotten alibis of those who’d likely never had real ones to start with. It just so happened to also house a section of humanity that the rest would rather have forgotten about too, along with the false excuses and shitty justifications they’d all offered at some point. It was only an hour’s drive outside of town, but to the society who lived within the stone fortress, it might as well have been on a different planet.

A faded sign above the forbidding gate read ‘Welcome to Cypress Creek Penitentiary.” The sign continued to rattle off a long list of rules, documents to be presented to be allowed entrance, and listed strict hours during which visitation was allowed.

The rules of conduct were imprinted on my brain even though I’d only been visiting here for a few years. My driver’s license was clutched in my palm for positive identification, and I only ever visited on Saturdays, so I knew what time I had to be out. I also knew there would be no one else visiting the inmate I was, so I wouldn’t be asked to leave earlier. Unfortunately.

Dear old dad’s not so popular these days. The rest of the family didn’t come out here to see him, so it was up to me to make sure that he saw some family. One out of five sons wasn’t a great score, but it wasn’t like I could force my brothers to come.

I sighed and shoved my hands in the pockets of my jeans, leaning against the chain link fence that kept even visitors in line where the authorities wanted us and could watch us through their cameras.

As I often did, I’d arrived a little early, though hell if I knew why. I waited along with the rest of the family members and devoted friends of the inmates for the low beep of the alarm to indicate visitors would now be allowed entry. I submitted to the security checks, held out my arms to be patted down by the same guard who did it every time I visited, and yet still seemed to believe that one of these days I might try to sneak in contraband, and then proceeded to the sign in counter.

A lovely routine to repeat at least one Saturday per month. I often wondered what my mama would’ve said if she could see me here, if she knew why I was obligated to come here as often as I could find the time. It wasn’t all that hard to imagine her reaction though. Why? It’s his own fault he’s in there. Stay away.

“Identification please,” the guard at the front of the room demanded when I reached him. He was a carbon copy of all the other guards scattered about the room. Easily as tall as I was at six feet, four inches tall, his hair was cropped short and his eyes were small, regarding me closely as if he expected trouble.

It was a reaction I’d become accustomed to from my father’s custodians. Not that it surprised me all that much at first either. I’d been told I cut an intimidating figure. As a former lineman on the football team back in high school, I’d kept in shape since.

Since I couldn’t do anything about my build or height, I squared my shoulders and stared the guard down as I wordlessly handed him my driver’s license. With nothing more than a cursory glance, he waved me through reluctantly once he’d checked his register. I was on there as an approved visitor, whether he liked it or not.

Fifteen minutes and a series of locked steel gates later, I was sitting on one side of the glass partition that separated inmates from the visitors.

A nervous looking girl, probably around twenty-one or twenty-two, sat to one side. It was clear that she wasn’t used to the drill yet, but even she looked twice when my father was brought into the room.

Roy Lovett was what some might have referred to as a silver fox. It was a quality that he used to his advantage every opportunity he got and had ultimately had a hand in the activities for which he’d wound up behind bars. He was also a fairly recognizable face. While most wouldn’t think criminal when they saw my father, politician wouldn’t have been a surprise. He’d once been a rising star in Georgia politics, but he’d gotten swept up in his own press and let greed get the best of him.

When people thought of criminals, they didn’t think of men who looked like Roy.

Think again, world.

My dad’s head was up, his chin jutting forward as he entered the room. He didn’t smile when he saw me. He simply nodded once and headed in my direction, sinking into his chair and reaching for the phone on his side of the partition.