Chapter Five
“Motherfucker,” one of her deputies said. In the dark, Connie couldn’t be sure which one, but she wasn’t going to write him up for uttering the thoughts rattling around in her mind.
“Deputy Dodge, please check on the inmates. Our auxiliary power should turn on momentarily.” Shit, of all the rotten timing. Connie reached for her radio. “Marvin, wherever you are, get your ass to the office.” She clicked off. A flashlight beam shone toward her. She blinked to allow her eyes to adjust to the light.
Marvin arrived on the scene. “What the hell is going on?” Connie stuck out her arm and touched him.
“I want you to call in all of the deputies who can safely arrive on scene. I wasn’t expecting the power to go out.” She took a second to regain her composure. After a deep breath, she dialed Sally’s number. “Sally, I want you to check with the emergency facilities to see if they have their power.” She turned to Marv. “We may have to transfer our prisoners if our place doesn’t hold up.”
“That’s a treat.”
The control room of the surveillance room was lit on auxiliary power. Unfortunately, the rest of the safety precautions were in the dark. The generator would kick on in a minute or two. The cameras were out until power was restored. Dodge felt his way over the control panel. He knew that the cameras couldn’t capture the area around the toilets. The pause time between sweeps was less than ten seconds. Enough time to do something, but not enough to cause major havoc.
Most of the prisoners at Hexewald were of the garden-variety drunks or disturbers of the peace. This was a temporary resting spot until a bed at county opened up. Hexewald wasn’t equipped to maintain long-term residents. Once in a while, from what Wally heard, Hexewald would keep their eye on someone while they awaited transfer up to state or federal. As was the case for Russell Bruen and six other prisoners.
The power hummed to life. Blinded by the light, Wally’s eyes readjusted to the illumination. He blinked, refocusing his attention on the monitors. He counted as he went through the inmates. An empty cell. No, no, no. It wasn’t possible. Dodge looked at the monitor again.
Deputy Dodge busted out of the control room and headed down to the holding cells. Thoughts of what the hell, this was all my fault trumpeted through his mind. The inmates shouted questions at him.
“What the fuck is going on out there, Deputy?”
“Someone forgot to pay the power company?”
“I know, the check’s in the mail, am I right?”
He didn’t respond. He had more pressing errors to get on. From the outside, Bruen’s cell seemed abandoned. A giant sheet of white lain on the floor. Dodge pulled the cell key out. He slid it in the slot. How did he get out of here? Who is he, Houdini? Two steps inside of the cell and the explanation was clear. The white panel was from the ceiling. A gaping hole in the ceiling bore down on him. He picked up his radio to call for backup. He walked farther into the hold. “Sheriff, we have a problem. Bruen doesn’t appear to be in his cell.”
“Don’t do anything, Dodge. Stay there, we will be there in a minute.”
Movement in the corner of his eye. A swift rush of wind snapping and everything went dark.
Sheriff Connie Corvus and Deputy Marvin Moore arrived at the control room. Connie attempted to reach Dodge on his radio. No answer. Not a good sign. She scanned the cameras’ views. Movement inside of Bruen’s cell. She pointed. “There.”
They ran out to the prisoner cells. Connie withdrew her Berretta 92, and Marvin did the same for his Smith and Wesson M&P revolver. Safety flipped off. She raised her weapon. “Any one of you makes a peep and I’ll shoot you and tell the marshals it was Bruen, you got me?” The prisoners nodded. One made a zipper motion with his fingers over his mouth.
Bruen’s cell door was open. Connie motioned her head to Marvin to flank the side. Connie zeroed in on the right side and Marvin secured the left. He nodded to Connie.
Wally lay on his side. The right side of his head rested on his right arm. His right leg bent into a fetal position, and his left leg extended. “Wally, you doing okay?” He was unresponsive. Red liquid smeared on the concrete. Connie indicated with a point to herself then to the cell that she intended to enter the cell. Marv dipped his head in compliance.
Three, four steps in. Connie squatted down on the floor. She reached for Wally’s radial pulse. Dammit, nothing. She swept the room with her vision. A ceiling panel was on the floor. She looked up. Bruen’s cot was overturned. Did he get the drop on Wally and escape through the ceiling? There wasn’t much access for him to wander around up there, and where would he make his exit? “Ashton,” she said into her radio, “secure the facility. Nobody gets out.” Part of Connie hoped that Bruen was overhead and learned there wasn’t an exit strategy in mind. “AED over here immediately and get an ambulance. Tell them officer down. I don’t care if there is a storm. We need medical personnel here ASAP.”
She glanced up to the ceiling. Marvin must have followed her gaze as he pointed his weapon above. Connie went back to Wally. She rolled him over to his back to get a better look at the damage. A gash of blood soaked through the front of his uniform. She unbuttoned his uniform shirt. She untucked his shirt and touched his carotid artery. A slight thump. His pulse or was it her own?
A door opened. Ashton ran towards them with the emergency AED. He stopped short of the cell. Connie nodded and moved her head to let him know he could enter. He opened the AED container. “Shel over at the 035 said they would come over. Jesus Christ, what happened here?”
Connie put a finger to her lip. She swirled her pointer finger for Ashton to rise and place his back against the cell wall so he faced out into the corridor while Marvin kept his gun aimed at the hole in the ceiling. The damned contractors, I always told Uncle Milton that the ceiling was a weak structure. “Ain’t nobody ever escaped through that hole, and they never will. It leads back to lock up,” Uncle Milt had always responded. Dammit, if Bundy could escape, anybody could escape. She removed the razor from the pack and did a quick shave over Wally’s chest to eliminate the chest hair where the patches would be placed, upper right diagonal and lower left lengthwise. Once clear, she positioned the patches on the chest and powered up the AED.
“You ever do this before?” Marv asked.
“Only during training drills,” Connie said.
The AED hummed to life. “Analyzing heart rate,” the machine said. Connie rubbed her fingers together. She prayed. “Heart rate detected.”
“Okay, that’s good news,” Ashton said.
Connie ripped off the patches. Dodge’s chest rose and fell with a slight movement. She reached for Wally’s forehead. “That means he’s alive, but I don’t like the look of his head wound. God only knows. They tend to bleed like a sonofabitch.” She considered the ceiling. Was Bruen watching them? Did he make his escape? Was he laughing at them? She stood. She walked out of the cell. The other inmates stared at either her or the room. They knew what happened. She went over to Hillerman. He would be the most likely to talk.
There wasn’t much she could bargain with. “Look, Hank, is it?”
He clasp his hands against the bars. “Yeah, it’s Hank, Sheriff. What do you want?”
“What happened?”
“It was dark. I heard a scuffle. Deputy Dodge walked into the cell when there was nobody inside.” He eyed her. He had spent more time in this jail than she.
She pulled out her jail keys and proceeded to unlock his cell door. Hank let go of the metal and backed away from the entrance. “That means that it was light when Deputy Dodge entered. What happened?”
“What do I get out of it?”
Marvin scoffed in the distance. She paid him no mind. Hillerman had been around the block. But Connie wasn’t new to the scene, and she doubted that Hillerman saw how the big city cops know how to skirt the law in cases. She practiced hardball with the best of them. “You get to not get your ass smacked around by Mother Nature.”
“What?” Hillerman’s face scrunched. His left lip curled up as if he attempted to process the information. “You ain’t gonna smack me around. Even if you were, there are witnesses and you can’t do that with the marshals heading down this way.”
“You’ve been here a long time, haven’t you, Hank? You know I follow the rules much like my uncle Milton did. I’m a stickler for order.”
“I suppose.”
“Well then, I know you are aware that you are allowed an hour a day of supervised outside time.”
His eyes widen. A spattering of chuckles behind her. “But there’s a hurricane outside.”
“Nah, it’s just a bit of wind, rain, and flying projectiles. I once saw one of Merle’s cattle’s impaled by a flying umbrella. You wouldn’t think that an umbrella could kill a stout animal like a cow, but it took a while as he moaned. It wasn’t until my daddy walked over and put a bullet in the cow’s brain to stop the suffering.”
“This is against the law, and you know it.”
“No, I’m following the law. You can go outside, and I’ll take you outside. I’ll leave you out there. If you try to run, we’ll shoot you down for fleeing. You can take your chances with Mother Nature. I ain’t gonna hit you or hurt you. That’s up to the karmic force that surrounds us all.”
A jangle of keys. “I have to admit, ma’am, you are one tough cookie.” Watts’s cell door opened, and Bruen’s voice came from behind Watts. The obscured view made the image appear as a reverse ventriloquist routine.
Marvin and Ashton converged their weapons to Watts’ cell. Watts stood at the bars. Bruen appeared from Watts’s rear. Connie aimed her Berretta at Bruen. The gleam of Dodge’s service weapon was in Bruen’s hand; the gun was pressed to the back of Watts’ head.