TIME SPIKE – snippet 35:
Joe woke to the sound of a little shriek and a prisoner standing over the next bed.
“If I were you, I’d lay still.”
In the cot across from him he could see Judith Barnett looking wide-eyed at a man with a gun pointed at her head.
The man was talking to them both. If Joe moved, Radford died. Then—the man held the repeating rifle in a way that suggested he knew how to work it—Joe would be next.
“Easy does it, fella. We’re not in a hurry to die. We’re cooperating.” The lieutenant slowly sat up, praying the man wouldn’t panic and pull the trigger. “Just tell me what you want and where you want me.”
The lights came on and Joe could see armed men in prison garb lining guards up along the east wall. There were at least ten men with guns, and a half dozen others with nightsticks. Some of them had vests and helmets. They had raided the armory.
His eyes went back to the man standing over Barnett. What was his name? The face was familiar. He wasn’t one of the death row inmates. He knew each of them too well. This guy was from…
A-block, he thought. Yes, before they had moved the prisoners.
Joe glanced around the large room with its dozens of half walls designed to give each prisoner his own cubicle. A-block’s clientele were considered non-violent. In for robbery, if there’d been no violence involved. Maybe assault, if there’d been extenuating circumstances. But not murder, even in the second degree. They could be allowed a little more elbow room. And a little more contact with other prisoners.
He remembered the name, now. Danny Bostic, in for bank robbery. The man had hit at least four banks before he was caught, but each of the operations had been well planned and he hadn’t hurt anybody. Whether that was the result of Bostic’s residual morality or simply the fact he was smart, there was no way to know. But, under the circumstances, either explanation was somewhat relieving. Whatever else, he wasn’t a hothead.
“Danny, we’re moving slow.” He motioned for Judith to sit up. “Very slow.”
Bostic took a step back. Using the gun’s barrel, he motioned to where the other guards were now standing. “Over there.”
Barnett scrambled to her feet and rushed to the wall. Joe took his time. He didn’t want to spook the man into firing. He could tell the prisoners were edgy. All of them, not just Bostic. If just one man panicked, the whole room would turn into a charnelhouse. He joined the others on the wall, hoping like hell they weren’t being lined up just to be mowed down.
Then he saw Collins, and that answered a lot of questions. How the inmates had gotten out of their cells, how they had gotten into the infirmary, how they had gotten into A-block without having to bust in the doors. He should have known the second he woke up.
They’d all known Collins was a problem. But it had never occurred to any of them that the man would be so egotistically stupid as to throw in with the convicts. Did the lunatic seriously think he would survive in such a situation? He’d probably made more enemies among the prisoners than any other single guard at the facility.
“Joe, my boy, hope you slept well.”
Joe didn’t answer Collins. Instead, he studied the man who stood behind him. This would be the prisoner who was really in charge.
Joe recognized him immediately, of course.
“Luff and Collins,” he said. “That’s one for the books.”
Collins grinned and Luff’s eyes turned to Joe. They were cold and calculating.
“Take them to C-block and lock them up,” Luff said.
Joe breathed a sigh of relief. They weren’t going to be shot, at least not right away. The relief quickly turned to worry as they were herded out the door and into the night air. They had been sleeping, so no one had shoes. Most were without socks. Some of them were like him, in tees, their uniform shirts neatly folded and lying on the chair next to the bed they had been on. A few of the men had stripped down to tees and boxer shorts.
Marie woke, momentarily confused, trying to decide if she had heard a shout or if she’d dreamed it. The prison seemed quiet enough. She peered over the edge of the roof, wishing for a pair of binoculars and promising herself she would have Joe snag her a pair when day shift came on duty. The parking lot was empty. So were the areas between the buildings. The armory was dark. So was the guardhouse out by the gate.
Moving quietly, she slid across to the other side of the roof, looked over the edge and almost let out a hiss before she caught herself.
Even in the dim moonlight she could make out the prisoners leading what looked to be over three dozen guards through the exercise yard to C-block. They were armed, too.
She hunched down as much as she could and still see what was happening. Collins was not being led, she suddenly realized. He was one of the men doing the leading.
She squinted into the darkness. The guards were shoved through the door to cell house C. Then, the prisoners started dividing up. A few followed the guards inside the building, but most of them continued through the exercise yard, coming to a standstill outside each door. She knew what they were doing. They were going to attack the lone guards at their posts, all at the same time. None of them would have a chance.
She snatched up her radio to call a warning to them, and stopped. A warning wouldn’t help anyone. There was nowhere for them to go, and nothing for any of them to defend themselves with. All she would accomplish would be drawing attention to herself. No. If she was going to get caught, or killed, she was going to make it worth something.
She watched silently as one guard after another was pulled from their post and marched to join the other guards in C-block.
Not one shot was fired.
They weren’t killing the guards. Why? It wasn’t morals; that she was damned sure of. The answer came to her very quickly. Over half the guards left behind when Andy set out to find the Indian camp were women.
“Oh no, you don’t, you assholes,” she muttered under her breath. “No way in hell.”
She watched as Collins veered away from the others. He was headed toward the infirmary.
She made her decision. If she was going to get caught or killed, Lieutenant Terry Collins was the one she would take out first. He was the traitor. And she had the pistol she’d taken from the armory on a holster on her hip.