TIME SPIKE – snippet 6:
Andy Blacklock, Rod Hulbert, Melissa Glasser, and the other members of the first responders team worked their way across the exercise yard toward the machine shop. Andy kept to the shadows as much as possible, but didn’t try to kid himself. The prisoners hiding inside the building would know that he was there. They would know all of them were there. His best hope was that they would be unarmed.
Once he was within shouting distance he called to the escapees. “Listen up! You need to come out, and you need to do it now. A showdown does nothing but get people hurt or killed. That’s not something you want.”
Andy gave Rod a nod and the man took off at a slow jog across the yard, up the side of the building and across the roof. He watched Hulbert long enough to know he had made it across the open areas then held his hand up to stop the others from advancing any further. He was waiting on a call from Kathleen. Things would go better if he knew who was inside the shop. He also needed to know how many, and that they really were just prisoners. He didn’t—deep down—really believe they had been invaded by aliens. But… He couldn’t think of any other explanation for what was happening.
Once Rod was in position there was no more movement and no more talk from anyone. They waited in the growing light. The sun was rising, and it was rising in the northwest just as Collins said it would.
His men—three of the twelve were women, but somehow he couldn’t think of them as anything but men, not if he was going to put them in a position of getting shot at—were in position. He had learned that most team leaders thought like he did. They were women in the lunchroom, the meeting rooms and on the practice field, but when it came time to go one-on-one with a prisoner, they were men. It was only the younger guys who didn’t have to fool themselves on that point.
The guards at the prison were pretty well evenly divided between black and white, and men and women. But the first responders and E-team members were mostly men. Big men, as a rule. Rod Hulbert was the only man on the team under six-foot. And he was the only man on it who weighed less than two hundred pounds. The dozen or so women who were part of it were like Hulbert. Specialists. They weren’t going to be sent into a cell to bring a prisoner out. It wouldn’t happen.
Prisoners could get huge.
That was the thing that surprised new hire-ins. The sheer size of the prisoners. Natural size, too, not simply the bulk that so many of them added by weight-lifting. It seemed like almost half the men convicted of murder were walking giants. One popular theory among the guards was based on studies they’d heard about, where scientists found that a lot of oversized men had an extra Y-chromosome. That extra Y made them big; whether it made them violent or not was up for debate.
Andy was a bit skeptical, himself. True, he’d read an article once that stated a large number of very successful executives also had that extra Y. According to the author, these men didn’t wind up in prison because their parents found constructive ways for their child to burn off the extra energy and aggression. Andy didn’t know if that was true or not, but figured it was at least a possibility since some of those high-powered positions took more than healthy dose of the killer instinct to do well.
Still, he had his doubts that there was any such neat answer to the problem. The still simpler explanation was that most juries and judges were more likely to convict a huge man for murder—just to be on the safe side, so to speak—and throw the book at him.
Whatever the reason, though, the fact remained. A very high percentage of prisoners convicted of murder were just plain big.
He shook his head and forced himself to concentrate on what was happening. He didn’t have his usual team. He had only three of his regulars; the rest were from the afternoon crew. He also didn’t have a backup of state and county boys waiting to be called in. They were on their own.
Hulbert signaled: he could see three prisoners inside the shop; he could get a bead on two of them.
“You, inside the machine shop! Come out with both hands on your head and hit the dirt as soon as you’re through the door.” Kathleen, hurry up. I need to know who’s inside that building. Andy gave Hulbert the wait-at-ready signal.
He checked his radio. It was on.
The sun was coming up fast. The shadows of a half hour ago were gone. The combination sweet and sulfur smell he’d noticed earlier was still in the air. And the sky was the bluest sky he had ever seen, streaked with great swatches of orange, reds, and greens. The clouds were huge, cumulous, and almost fluorescent white. A postcard morning. He wished for a camera and the time to capture what he was seeing, then took a deep breath. It was too pretty a day for someone to die. Unfortunately, that was probably going to happen. The only question was who, and how many.
Andy looked at the building and checked his radio one more time to be sure. Hulbert was on his belly, looking through the scope of his semi-automatic rifle. He was following his target, his finger on the trigger, waiting for the go.
“It’s Charlie-house,” Kathleen called on the radio. “Mark Suplinskas is dead. They used dental floss.”
He’d been afraid of that. New guards simply didn’t realize how many ways convicts could figure out how to kill or injure somebody. In their own way, they could be incredibly ingenious.
“There are six of them,” Kathleen continued. “But it wouldn’t have been planned. The back wall opened in the… quake… and they took advantage of it. Three cells opened, six prisoners out.” She rattled off their names: Cole, Biggs, Porter, Robertson, Walker, Taylor.
“Bless you, girl.” Andy gave a small sigh of relief. It was prisoners inside the machine shop—no aliens, so stop being a jerk—and they hadn’t planned the escape. That meant they wouldn’t be heavily armed or supplied for a long siege.
He called out loud enough to be heard by those inside the building, “We’ve waited long enough! It’s time for you to come out.”
“Fuck you, badge!” someone yelled from inside the building. “It’s time for shit. You want us, get yo’ lilly ass in here.”
“If that’s the way you really want it,” Andy called back, “that’s the way you’ll get it. But think things over. That way someone always gets hurt. And that someone is usually the prisoner.” He motioned to his team to be on the ready.
It was a zip gun. He could tell by the sound. The small, prisoner-made weapons were usually constructed out of old plumbing pipes, springs and metal scraps. They weren’t accurate beyond a short distance, but they carried a hell of a punch, and could easily kill a man. The load sounded like a .45.
He gave Hulbert waiting on the roof of Baker-house the go signal.
Andy knew two of the six prisoners were now dead or down. Rod never missed.
Frank Nickerson was part of the three-man first responder’s setup team. He moved into position and then fired the military issue grenade launcher, sending a canister of C.N. between the bars, through the plate glass window and into the machine shop’s one large room. It wouldn’t be enough to drive the men out, but it would make them uncomfortable as hell.
Heather Kolb, the second member of the team, moved into position and tossed a canister through a window next to the one Frank’s had entered. Jason Lloyd finished the trio, with a canister of his own. His went in the same window Heather’s entered.
Smoke billowed out the broken windows. The three of them reloaded and fired again.
Now the men inside the building began screaming. “Fuckin’ pigs! Don’t shoot, you cocksucking monkeys! We’re comin’ out! Fuck! Don’t shoot!”
Four black men stumbled through the door, their hands clasped behind their heads. Once through the door they spread out, coughing and hacking and cussing.
“Fuckin’ hacks, you had no right. No right. We were comin’ out.” The prisoner doing the talking slid to his knees, his hands clasped behind his head, coughing louder and longer than the others.
Frank moved toward him. Andy watched, fear rising inside him. The man dressed in prison gray was acting. His coughing was too extreme, his breaths too regular for the distress his actions implied. The chemical released by the C.N. canisters, designed to irritate skin, eyes, mucous membranes and lung tissue, did not affect all people the same. Andy took a deep breath to shout a warning.
It was too late. The prisoner jerked up, burying a shank made from an old toothbrush into the soft tissue beneath Frank’s vest. “Fuckin’ wood sucker!” he hissed, glaring at the guard—whose skin was several shades darker than his own. Race didn’t really matter much compared to the gap between guards and prisoners. “Fuckin wood lover!”
Frank gasped, blood running from the wound. The prisoner twisted the toothbrush that had been sharpened to a fine point. He was looking for the artery leading to the leg.
Andy didn’t think. He aimed his shotgun, fired, and the prisoner collapsed, knocking Frank over, falling on top of him.
The other three prisoners ran.
Someone yelled, “Halt!”
The men continued running.
Rod fired from the rooftop.
Two of the three prisoners were dead. The third was on the ground and would be gone within minutes. His gurgling, rasping breaths could be heard in the now silent exercise yard. Rod’s bullet had ripped through both lungs. With each breath, he sprayed a pink froth across the road.
“Shit, oh shit, oh shit!” Heather was close to hysterical. She was a good guard, had worked for the state for over ten years and seen a little of almost everything, but this was too much. First the quake, and now this. She had never watched that many die that way. And Frank was a kid, just twenty-three years old, who looked a lot like her own son. He was bleeding on her lap now. She had sat down and was holding him, trying to help, to comfort him. “Shit, oh shit, oh shit!” she repeated, finally getting hold of herself.
Andy was on the radio. He needed medical and he needed them now.
The nurses were coming, but the three to four minutes it would take for them to arrive would be too long if Frank’s artery had been nicked. Or his bladder. He remembered Brown. Still in the infirmary, unable to be moved because there was nowhere to move her. He checked the man lying on Heather’s lap. Heather was applying pressure, trying to slow the bleeding.
He then took off at a jog to check the two dead prisoners. He recognized their faces, but couldn’t recall either of their names or why they were incarcerated. He then knelt next to the third one, the one who was still alive. The man was fighting for each breath. There was nothing Andy could do for him.
The man’s eyes went wide and wet. His breaths came quicker. He’d be dead within a minute, with that wound.
Andy heard the nurses coming with their carts. It was still shift change, which meant there were three of them inside the prison. Two afternoon nurses and the one and only night shift nurse. Caldwell, Ray and the new one, Jennifer Radford. He knew one of the three would stay behind to care for Brown. So that left only two nurses available for cleanup in the yard.
He turned around, planning to ask what he could do to help, but stopped and stared. Nothing came out of his mouth.
Jennifer Radford was all business, taking care of her only patient with a chance at survival. She didn’t see him, but he saw her. And was momentary frozen.
He recognized the sensation, although he’d only had it a few times in his life. Rare as it might be, it was quite unmistakable. And, as before, he was struck by how little the sensation had to do with anything popular culture or certainly the girlie magazines ever talked about. It was never a woman’s figure, or really even her face. Just…
Something. In this case, perhaps, the calm seriousness in a pair of intent dark eyes. Who the hell knew? Just something that told him he really, really, really wanted to get to know this woman better. Really better.
Of all the times!