They strode off into the hospital, and Teddy said, “Their backup generator failed?”

Chuck said, “These things will happen in a hurricane apparently.”

“You see any lights?”

Chuck looked around at the windows. “Nope.”

“You think the whole electrical system is fried?”

Chuck said, “Good possibility.”

“That would mean fences.”

Chuck picked up an apple as it floated onto his foot. He went into

a windup and kicked his leg and fired it into the wall. “Stee-rike one!”

He turned to Teddy. “That would mean fences, yes.”

“Probably all electronic security. Gates. Doors.”

Chuck said, “Oh, dear God, help us.” He picked up another apple, tossed it above his head, and caught it behind his back. “You want to go into that fort, don’t you?”

Teddy tilted his face into the soft rain. “Perfect day for it.” The warden made an appearance, driving into the compound with three guards in a jeep, the water churning out from the tires. The warden noticed Chuck and Teddy standing idly in the yard, and it seemed to annoy him. He was taking them for orderlies, Teddy realized, just as Cawley had, and it pissed him off that they didn’t have rakes or water pumps in their hands. He drove past, though, his head snapping forward, on to more important things. Teddy realized he had yet to hear the man’s voice, and he wondered if it was as black as his hair or as pale as his skin.

“Probably should get going, then,” Chuck said. “This won’t hold forever.”

Teddy started walking toward the gate.

Chuck caught up with him. “I’d whistle, but my mouth’s too dry.”

“Scared?” Teddy said lightly.

“I believe the term is shit-scared, boss.” He rifled the apple into another section of wall.

They approached the gate and the guard there had a little boy’s face and cruel eyes. He said, “All orderlies are to report to Mr. Willis in the admin office. You guys are on cleanup detail.”

Chuck and Teddy looked at each other’s white shirts and pants.

Chuck said, “Eggs Benedict.”

Teddy nodded. “Thanks. I was wondering. Lunch?”

“A thinly sliced Reuben.”

Teddy turned to the guard, flashed his badge. “Our clothes are still in the laundry.”

The guard glanced at Teddy’s badge, then looked at Chuck, waiting.  Chuck sighed and removed his wallet, flipped it open under the guard’s nose.

The guard said, “What’s your business outside the wall? The missing patient was found.”

Any explanation, Teddy decided, would make them look weak and place the balance of power firmly in this little shit’s hand. Teddy had had a dozen little shits like this in his company during the war. Most of them didn’t come home, and Teddy had often wondered if anyone really minded. You couldn’t reach this type of asshole, couldn’t teach him anything. But you could back him off if you understood that the only thing he respected was power.

Teddy stepped up to the guy, searched his face, a small smile tugging the corner of his lips, waiting until the guy met his eyes and held them.

“We’re going on a stroll,” Teddy said.

“You don’t have authorization.”

“Yes, we do.” Teddy stepped closer so the boy had to tilt his eyes up. He could smell his breath. “We’re federal marshals on a federal facility. That’s the authorization of God himself. We don’t answer to you. We don’t explain to you. We can choose to shoot you in the dick, boy, and there’s not a court in the country that would even hear the case.” Teddy leaned in another half inch. “So open the fucking gate.”

The kid tried to hold Teddy’s stare. He swallowed. He tried to harden his eyes.

Teddy said, ‘I repeat: Open that—“


“I didn’t hear you,” Teddy said.

“Yes, sir.”

Teddy kept the evil eye in the kid’s face for another second, exhaled audibly through his nostrils.

“Good enough, son. Hoo-ah.”

“Hoo-ah,” the kid said reflexively, his Adam’s apple bulging.  He turned his key in the lock and swung back the gate, and Teddy walked through without a look back.

They turned right and walked along the outside of the wall for a bit

before Chuck said, “Nice touch with the ‘hoo-ah.’ “

Teddy looked over at him. “I liked that one, myself.”

“You were a ballbuster overseas, weren’t you?”

“I was a battalion sergeant with a bunch of kids under my command.  Half of ‘em died without ever getting laid. You don’t ‘nice’ your way to respect, you fucking scare it into ‘em.”

“Yes, Sergeant. Damn straight.” Chuck snapped a salute at him.  “Even with the power out, you recall that this is a fort we’re trying to infiltrate, don’t you?”

“It did not slip my mind, no.”

“Any ideas?”


“You think they have a moat? That’d be something.”

“Maybe some vats of hot oil up on the battlements.”

“Archers,” Chuck said. “If they have archers, Teddy...”

“And us without our chain mail.”

They stepped over a fallen tree, the ground soggy and slick with wet leaves. Through the shredded vegetation ahead of them, they could see the fort, its great gray walls, see the tracks from the ieeps that had been going back and forth all morning.

“That guard had a point,” Chuck said.

“How so.”

“Now that Rachel’s been found, our authority here—such as it


was—is pretty much nonexistent. We get caught, boss, there’s no way we’ll be able to come up with a logical explanation.”

Shudder Island

Teddy felt the riot of discarded, shredded green in the back of his eyes.  He felt exhausted, a bit hazy. Four hours of drug-induced, nightmare ridden sleep last night was all he’d had. The drizzle pattered the top of his hat, collected in the brim. His brain buzzed, almost imperceptibly, but constantly. If the ferry came today—and he doubted it would-one part of him wanted to just hop on it and go. Get the fuck off this rock. But without something to show for this trip, whether that was evidence for Senator Hudy or Laeddis’s death certificate, he’d be returning a failure.  Still borderline-suicidal, but with the added weight to his conscience that he’d done nothing to effect change. Copyright 2016 - 2024