Chapter 3: The Hooligan of Alleyways

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He took a seat inside the cold, brittle prison, along a line of at least thirty chairs and another thirty on the opposite side, separated by a single glass barrier. Two seats away from him, a middle-aged woman spoke hastily to a younger man on the other side of the glass, his uniform a bright orange.

Suddenly, a figure appeared from the other side. Winston's lips twitched upwards into a small smile, "Hey, Cain."

His best friend was buff, muscular, and tall with dark hair, wearing the same uniform as the other prisoners, as he made a loud entrance through the back door and sat noisily onto the stool chair. The nearby guards eyed him suspiciously. It relieved Winston to know his friend had not changed at all.

"Hey, Winston!" His voice was loud and booming, causing most of the people to glance in his direction. "How ya doin?" His deep voice was lightly brushed by a Texan accent, having come from Dallas and arriving in Southern California at the youthful age of 8.

"Yeah, yeah, nice to see you too," Winston said casually, although he was reluctant to admit he'd missed Cain. His friend likely saw right through his facade, because he was smirking with a knowing look in his eyes. "Things are fine, to say the least. How about you? You like it here?"

Cain sniggered loudly, shifting his weight on the stool, "Yeah, totally. The work's fucking killing me, man. Driving me nuts. Have to wake up early too, for fuck's sake."

"What time?"

"Fucking 7:00, can you believe it? And we have to go to bed at 10:00! Can you fucking believe it? It's like I'm going to school again! And they don't even let you drink alcohol. It's an 'offense'." He quoted with his fingers mockingly.

"I've been telling you for years! School and prison are pretty much the same thing. Are the guards treating you well?" Winston stole a glance at one of the prison guards as he asked this.

Cain pondered the question, "Hm, not really. Kinda grumpy, if you asked me. Those guys look like they need some sleep and a shot of beer to wake them up. They scream in your face if you accidentally drop your fork during lunch. Kinda funny actually. Sometimes, I drop my plate on 'accident', just to see them explode." He gave a toothy grin as he looked at the nearby guard. The security man only shook his head and muttered something that sounded a lot like cursing.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, Cain, but you sound pretty damn happy as you complain about the prison conditions."

Cain shook his head, "Nahh. You're delusional, Winnie, boy. This place's hell."

He scowled, "My name's not Winnie."

"Course it's not. Anyway, you keeping my house in good condition while I'm gone?" A hint of his Texan accent slipped at the word 'while'.

"Tidier than it's ever been." Winston remembered the home being scattered with beer bottles, wrappers, and cardboard from leftover pizza deliveries. It reminded him of the comfort of Cain's home and their late nights spent together, huddled on the couch, watching T.V. and having a few beers. And the memory of Cain slapping and poking his face in an attempt to get him to wake up. The late nights in which he didn't have to worry about a fucking thing, the fears, the insecurities, the emotional pain that kept eating at him. All of it was forgotten at Cain's house. Winston missed those late nights more than anything. It was one of the few things that kept him sane.

"You enjoying probation, Winnie?"

Winston crinkled his forehead, "Yeah. It's great having a probation officer watching my every move. I still manage to dodge, though. She's a laid back lady and doesn't think I need to be restrained 24/7. And my name's Winston."

"Hmpft. Lucky you." Cain pouted and crossed his arms against his chest petulantly.

Funny, how the 19 year old before him was adorable when sulky. To Winston, Cain was a hot tempered, but weirdly protective older friend whom he owed his life to. To the rest of the world, Cain Sheldon was an infamous criminal, notorious for his gang, his vandalism, his theft, his money laundering, and several other crimes the police couldn't prove through direct evidence. 'The Hooligan of Alleyways', they called him. The gang gave Winston himself the nickname of 'The One-eyed Snake', for reasons he was reluctant to explain but Cain kept teasing him about.

Cain came from a household of three members living a criminal neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. Some even assumed this was what sprang about his life of crime. By the age of 8, his parents decided to move to California for his safety. By age 15, his parents were tragically killed in a car accident while he was at school. By age 16, he was emancipated. But there was a catch no one saw until it was too late. At age 12, he had already begun shoplifting behind the curtains. That was also the year he'd first met Winston. From then on, the rest was history.

Winston's own mother had thought Cain had been a bad influence on him. For once, she might've been right. But Cain had saved him as well. The gang gave Winston a sense of belonging he lacked everywhere else. The Inquisitors were only a facade, so long as Ravenna remained in charge. But Sheldon's gang was more than just a group of young hooligan criminals, shoplifting and vandalizing for the fun of it. It was a home. A place where judgement was not glorified. Everyone of all backgrounds was welcome. But Cain was what made him feel at home the most. Made him feel alive. Saved him and offered him support when he needed it the most. The emotional support Winston had lacked at home. Cain was more of a brother than Austin ever would be.

Winston sighed, as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He owed his life to Cain. He owed his current freedom thanks to Cain and the gang covering for him during the police interrogation. Every single one of them had insisted that Winston was not a part of the gang and that the incident was only a one-time thing. Having no evidence to suggest otherwise, the police eagerly ate up the lie and the judge settled for a minor sentence of five months of probation.

Now, sitting here, watching Cain from behind the glass in orange prison uniform, Winston suddenly felt nauseated with guilt. He averted his eyes.

"You still have it, Winston? Keeping it safe for me until I get out?" Cain's voice was soft and low, as he leaned closer, still separated by the glass.

For a second, Winston's head tilted in confusion, before the meaning quickly dawned on him, "Oh, yeah, I still have it. Man, Sheldon... You're crazy, you know that?"

Cain's smile twisted upwards in delight, "I knew I could count on you."

Author's Note: What did you think of this chapter? What's your opinion on Cain? And on Winston? And any thoughts on what their secret might be? Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! It's a bit shorter than usual, but it got the point across

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Author's Note: What did you think of this chapter? What's your opinion on Cain? And on Winston? And any thoughts on what their secret might be? Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! It's a bit shorter than usual, but it got the point across. See you all next week! Bye!

P.S. Since this chapter is short, I might consider posting the 4th chapter early in the week. The key word is "might". No promises! We'll see if it works out. The book is in fact prewritten and completed before I even started posting the chapters. The only reason why the updates are only once a week is because since the novella is a short prequel, I'm trying to space out the updates to give myself more time to write the main novel. So basically, the quicker I write it, the shorter the wait will be in between books once TRR is finished! Hope that explanation makes sense! Bye, guys! Thank you for reading!

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