“More like fifteen.” He turned his eyes to Teddy. “It’s a small room.”
“Otherwise, everyone was locked down by ten. She was the last one in her room. I take up my seat on the landing, I don’t see no one for two hours.”
“And you never left your post?”
“Get a cup of coffee, nothing?”
Ganton shook his head.
“All right, people,” Chuck said, coming off the pole. “I have to make a huge leap here. I have to say, for the sake of argument only and meaning no disrespect to Mr. Ganton here, let’s play with the idea that somehow Miss Solando crawled across the ceiling or something.” Several members of the group chuckled.
“And she gets to the staircase leading down to the second floor.
Who’s she gotta pass?”
A milk-white orderly with’orange hair raised his hand.
“And your name?” Teddy said.
“Glen. Glen Miga.”
“Okay, Glen. Were you at your post all night?”
Teddy said, “Glen.”
“Yeah?” He looked up from the hangnail he’d been picking.
Glen looked over at Cawley, then back at Teddy. “Yeah, I was.”
“Glen,” Teddy said, “come on.”
Glen held Teddy’s gaze, his eyes beginning to widen, and then he said, “I went to the bathroom.”
Cawley leaned forward on his knees. “Who stepped in as your relief?”
“It was a quick piss,” Glen said. “A pee, sir. Sorry.”
“How long?” Teddy said.
Glen shrugged. “A minute. Tops.”
“A minute. You’re sure?”
“I’m not a camel.”
“I was in and out.”
“You breached protocol,” Cawley said. “Christ.”
“Sir, I know. I—“
“What time was this?” Teddy said.
“Eleven-thirty. Thereabouts.” Glen’s fear of Cawley was turning into hate for Teddy. A few more questions, he’d get hostile. “Thanks, Glen,” Teddy said and turned it back to Chuck with a tilt of his head.
“At eleven-thirty,” Chuck said, “or thereabouts, was the poker game still in full swing?”
Several heads turned toward one another and then back to Chuck and then one Negro nodded, followed by the rest of the orderlies. ,, “Who was still sitting in at that point?”
Four Negroes and one white raised their hands.
Chuck zeroed in on the ringleader, the first guy to nod, first one to raise his hand. A round, fleshy guy, his head shaved and shiny under the light.
“Trey, sir. Trey Washington.”
“Trey, you were all sitting where?”
Trey pointed at the floor. “Right about here. Center of the room. Looking right at that staircase. Had an eye on the front door, had one on the back.”
Chuck walked over by him, craned his head to clock the front and back doors, the staircase. “Good position.”
Trey lowered his voice. “Ain’t just about the patients, sir. ‘Bout the doctors, some of the nurses who don’t like us. Ain’t supposed to be playing cards. Gotta be able to see who’s coming, grab us a mop right quick.”
Chuck smiled. “Bet you move fast too.”
“You ever seen lightning in August?”
“Slow compared to me getting on that mop.”
That broke the group up, Nurse Marino unable to suppress a smile, and Teddy noticing a few of the Negroes sliding their fingers off each other. He knew then that for the duration of their stay, Chuck would play Good Cop. He had the knack with people, as if he’d be comfortable in any cross section of the population, regardless of color or even language. Teddy wondered how the fuck the Seattle office could have let him go, Jap girlfriend or not.
Teddy, on the other hand, was instinctively alpha male. Once men accepted it, as they’d had to pretty quickly in the war, they got along great with him. Until then, thcugh, there’d be tension.
“Okay, okay.” Chuck held up a hand to quiet the laughter, still grinning himself. “So, Trey, you were all at the base of these stairs, playing cards. When did you know something was wrong?”
“When Ike—ah, Mr. Ganton, I mean—he start shouting down,
‘Call the warden. We got us a break.’ “
“And what time was that?”
“Twelve-oh-two and thirty-nine seconds.”
Chuck raised his eyebrows. “You a clock?”
“No, sir, but I trained to look at one the first sign of trouble.
Anything might be what you call an ‘incident,’ we all going to have to fill out an IR, an ‘incident re-port.’ First thing you get asked on an IR
is the time the incident began. You do enough IRs? Gets to be second nature to look at a clock the first hint of trouble.”
Several of the orderlies were nodding as he spoke, a few “Uh
huh’s” and “That’s right’s” tumbling out of their mouths as if they were at a church revival.
Chuck gave Teddy a look: Well, how about that?
“So twelve-oh-two,” Chuck said.
“And thirty-nine seconds.”
Teddy said to Ganton, “Those extra two minutes past midnight, that would be because you checked a few rooms before you got to Miss Solando’s, right?”
Ganton nodded. “She’s the fifth down that hallway.”
“Warden arrives on scene when?” Teddy said.
Trey said, “Hicksville—he one o’ the guards—he’s first through the front door. Was working the gate, I think. He come through at twelve-oh-six and twenty-two seconds. The warden, he come four minutes after that with six men.”
Teddy turned to Nurse Marino. “You hear all the commotiorand “I lock the nurses’ station. I come out into the rec hall at about the same time Hicksville was coming through the front door.” She shrugged and lit a cigarette, and several other members of the group took it as a cue, lit up their own.
“And nobody could have gotten by you in the nurses’ station.” She propped her chin on the heel of her palm, stared through a sickle-stream of smoke at him. “Gotten by me to where? The door to Hydrotherapy? You go in there, you’re locked in a cement box with a lot of tubs, a few small pools.”