Chapter Four
Connie woke up from the couch. Two knocks on the door and Marv entered with her usual black coffee, donuts, and bagels. Nothing like carbs to make life worth living. “How are you doing there, cuz? Enough sleep?”
“Who’s open during this storm?” Rain pattered against the window. The television was on. She hadn’t turned it off before she fell asleep. The next update was in three minutes.
“Berle opened up his station.”
Marvin handed her the coffee and an egg bagel. “Thanks. Did you check on our guests?”
“Jansen is in the guard station monitoring them. Dodge is set to relieve him at the changeover. The monitor picture gets a bit dodgy at times, but it’s still serviceable. Well, except for the view of the latrines.”
“Can’t have the lawyers on our case for that.” Connie sipped her coffee. “I heard from the Marshal Service last night. A few days and we get rid of our visitors.”
“Have to say, I’m more than happy to get Bruen’s ass out of here.”
“He do something I should know about?”
“No. Creeps me out. The vibe. Evil. Not human. How did you feel with Walton?”
“Evil. You could sense the psychopathy from a mile away. Once you’ve seen and smelled it, the sense never leaves you.” Connie’s thoughts turned inwards. Unpleasant memories slipped into her mind. The gun pull. The lack of a choice. Either him or me. The hours of talk with the police shrink to make sure she was right in the head. No regrets. Would have done it again in a heartbeat. Connie wanted to change the subject before she had to have a heart to heart with Marvin. “The EMS in place? You distributed those free phones to seniors and homebound?”
“June 1st, first day of hurricane season,” Marv said. His voice rose when he was offended.
“Just checking. Remember, here you’re not my cousin, but a subordinate.” The weather update revealed the hurricane’s adjusted track. “Look at that, Fiona should make landfall soon.”
“It’s picked up since last night. I made the donut run during a lull in the bands. A lot of wind. I’m thinking tropical storm strength now. The Emergency Services are broadcasting over the radio to stay indoors in a secure location. I had to stop by Carter’s home. He’s having a freaking hurricane party again, if you can believe that. Tiki torches, a bunch of those freaking beach umbrellas. I told him to get his group inside and turn all of his patio furniture upside down.”
“Did he do it?”
“Yea. Can’t say if he’s gonna change it back once I was off his property.”
“We need to be on our toes for the day. I’ll keep the weather reports on and if there anything new, we’ll keep everyone informed. Sally is volunteering to work from her home handling calls from the information line. I would rather not have any non-swore employees in the office. Support staff can stay with their families and work remotely if they want. Harris, Jansen, and Wally are staying here. The other deputies are home with their families.”
“So everyone who doesn’t have any family gets stuck here?” Marv asked. “I’ve got family.”
“Yeah, me and your father. See how sympathetic your father will be when he learns that you have forsaken your sacred duties to party at home.”
“Hmmprh.” Marvin turned and headed for the door. “You’re welcome for your breakfast, cuz. You might want to shower up. God knows when you’ll be able to take the time to clean up. Fresh water might be in short supply once Fiona hits.”
Marvin left. Connie took her spare uniform and headed into the private bathroom for a shower. She allowed the water to run over her body. Marv was right. Who knew how long it would be before she would get a chance to be by herself? After the storm, if the storm hit, no telling how much damage would be there. People would panic. Think that they didn’t pack enough. Get cabin fever and wander out to see the damage firsthand. Then the trouble would happen. Undesirables liked this type of environment. Only time would tell how bad it would get.
Bruen counted the camera clicks. The camera rotated to sweep the corridor and the outsides of the cells. Eight Mississippi’s and the eye started its return. He took inventory of the camera’s line of sight. The toilet was out of range from its eyes. “Some sort of civil rights violation, I’m sure,” the old man had said. Bruen inhaled the intel. The sheriff’s station worked as a well-oiled machine, much like most of the prisons he had been in. One of the most important things he’d learned throughout his life was that people were creatures of habit. This was their downfall. Predictability.
“Well, shit on a shingle,” the black man Bruen knew as Watts said.
“What now?” Hillerman, the old-timer, said.
“I think I forgot my momma’s birthday.”
“Pretty sure you’ve got a free pass on that,” Arnez said.
“You don’t know my mama.”
Bruen closed his eyes. He knew the hold-up of the Marshal’s Service hinged on the storm. They were prevented from coming here. After all that he did, the government wanted to get their hands on him. But if the marshals were delayed, so was the sheriff from pursuing him in the weather. According to the weatherman and the other inmates’ knowledge of the area, he would be guaranteed wind gusts of over fifty miles per hour as well as downpours of rain and something known as rain bands. Escape rested on finding a place to ride out this storm for twelve to twenty hours, depending upon how fast Hurricane Fiona moved. A faster storm was preferable to a slower one as the slower one increased her intensity. Bruen never thought that he would get such an education in the clink awaiting transfer.
An object hit the hurricane resistant windows in Connie’s office. Connie jumped. It had been a while since she dealt with extreme weather conditions. Up north meant cold. Coastal warmth meant the tropics.
Connie pulled up the blinds and looked down. A thick tree branch hung up against the window. The sky appeared angry at someone or something. Dark, ominous, foreboding. A crackle of lightning in the sky.
She reached for her jacket. It was time to talk to the troops. Fiona was headed their way, and at best they would receive the fringe. They needed to quiet down the townspeople and encourage them to stay indoors.
“All right, I need everyone’s attention,” Connie said as she came out of her office.
The deputies materialized from their hiding holes. Uniforms were a bit more relaxed than Connie normally liked to see, but what the hell, chances were these people wouldn’t see home in almost a week. She had cots set up in the holding cell.
Time to make a speech to the troops. “First all, thanks for your commitment.” She eyed the look of her deputies. All appeared affected by storm fatigue. “I know this isn’t the easiest duty, but we need to keep people calm. Remind them once the storm is over that items can be replaced, but lives cannot. As soon as it is safe to go outside, I want all available officers to patrol to check for looters. Sally is on phone detail in case there are reports of dangerous activities or theft. Otherwise, I want ya’ll to stay safe. We do what we can, but we all have people who care about us.”
Bruen lay on his cot. He stared at the ceiling. He wasn’t a God-loving soul, but if there was a time to start praying, it was now.
The storm picked up. The Weather Channel gave updates on the storm’s path every few minutes. The news coverage was non-stop. The other prisoners seemed undisturbed by the destruction to be incurred. As long as they were not inconvenienced, they were unconcerned. Under normal circumstances, Bruen would be with them. However, Hurricane Fiona might give him an advantage. She would make it impossible for emergency vehicles to respond to a crisis.
Then a miracle happened.
Darkness, and no hum of electricity. The power switched off. The other prisoners cackled disapproval. Bruen smiled. Someone up high must have heard the call.