He flipped open his notebook. “Those rock piles Rachel left us yesterday.
This is the broken code.” He handed the notebook to Chuck.
Chuck cupped a hand around it, kept it close to his chest. “So, he’s
“Patient sixty-seven, you think?”
“Be my guess.”
Teddy stopped by an outcropping in the middle of a muddy slope.
“You can go back, Chuck. You don’t have to be involved in this.” Chuck looked up at him and flapped the notebook against his hand. “We’re marshals, Teddy. What do marshals always do?” Teddy smiled. “We go through the doors.”
“First,” Chuck said. “We go through the doors first. We don’t wait for some city doughnut cops to back us up if time’s a-wasting. We go through that fucking door.”
“Yes, we do.”
“Well, all right, then,” Chuck said and handed the notebook back to him and they continued toward the fort.
ONE LOOK AT it from up close, nothing separating them but a stand of trees and a short field, and Chuck said what Teddy was thinking:
The Cyclone fence that normally surrounded it had been blown out of the ground in sections. Parts of it lay flat on the ground, others had been flung to the far tree line, and the rest sagged in various states of uselessness.
Armed guards roamed the perimeter, though. Several of them did steady circuits in jeeps. A contingent of orderlies picked up the debris around the exterior and another group of them set to work on a thick tree that had downed itself against the wall. There was no moat, but there was only one door, a small red one of dimpled iron set in the center of the wall. Guards stood sentry up on the battlements, rifles held to their shoulders and chests. The few small window squares cut into the stone were barred. There were no patients outside the door, malna cled or not. Just guards and orderlies in equal measure. Teddy saw two of the roof guards step to the side, saw several orderlies step up to the edge of the battlements and call out to those on the ground to stand clear. They wrestled half a tree to the edge of the roof and then pushed and pulled it until it teetered there. Then they disappeared, getting behind it and pushing, and the half-tree rammed forward another couple of feet and then tipped and men shouted as it sped down the wall and then crashed to the ground. The orderlies came back up to the edge of the battlements and looked down at their handiwork and shook hands and clapped shoulders. “There’s got to be a duct of some sort, right?” Chuck said. “Maybe to dump water or waste out into the sea? We could go in that way.” Teddy shook his head. “Why bother? We’re just going to walk right in.”
“Oh, like Rachel walked out of Ward B? I get it. Take some of that invisible powder she had. Good idea.”
Chuck frowned at him and Teddy touched the collar of his rain slicker. “We’re not dressed like marshals, Chuck. Know what I mean?” Chuck looked back at the orderlies working the perimeter and watched one come out through the iron door with a cup of coffee in his hand, the steam rising through the drizzle in small snakes of smoke. “Amen,” he said. “Amen, brother.”
THEY SMOKED CIGARETTES and talked gibberish to each other as they walked down the road toward the fort.
Halfway across the field, they were met by a guard, his rifle hanging lazily under his arm and pointed at the ground.
Teddy said, “They sent us over. Something about a tree on the roof?”
The guard looked back over his shoulder. “Nah. They took care of that.”
“Oh, great,” Chuck said, and they started to turn away. “Whoa, Trigger,” the guard said. “There’s still plenty of work to be done.”
They turned back.
Teddy said, “You got thirty guys working that wall.”
“Yeah, well, the inside’s a fucking mess. A storm ain’t gonna knock a place like this down, but it’s still gonna get inside. You know?” “Oh, sure,” Teddy said.
“WHERE’S THE MOP detail?” Chuck said to the guard lounging against the wall by the door.
He jerked his thumb and opened the door and they passed through into the receiving hall.
“I don’t want to appear ungrateful,” Chuck said, “but that was too easy.”
Teddy said, “Don’t overthink it. Sometimes you get lucky.”
The door closed behind them.
“Luck,” Chuck said, a small vibration in his voice. “That’s what we’re calling it?”
“That’s what we’re calling it.”
The first thing that hit Teddy was the smells. An aroma of indus trial-strength disinfectant doing its level best to disguise the reek of vomit, feces, sweat, and most of all, urine.
Then the noise billowed out from the rear of the building and down from the upper floors: the rumble of running feet, shouts that bounced and echoed off the thick walls and dank air, sudden”igh pitched yelps that seized the ear and then died, the pervasive yammering of several different voices all talking at once.
Someone shouted, “You can’t! You fucking can’t do that! You hear me? You can’t. Get away .... “ and the words trailed off. Somewhere above them, around the curve of a stone staircase, a man sang “A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” He’d finished the seventy-seventh bottle and started on the seventy-sixth. Two canisters of coffee sat up on a card table along with stacks of paper cups and a few bottles of milk. A guard sat at another card table at the base of the staircase, looking at them, smiling.
“First time, huh?”
Teddy looked over at him even as the old sounds were replaced by new ones, the whole place a kind of sonic orgy, yanking the ears in every direction.
“Yeah. Heard stories, but...”
”You get used to it,” the guard said. “You get used to anything.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
He said, “If you guys aren’t working the roof, you can hang your coats and hats in the room behind me.”
“They told us we’re on the roof,” Teddy said.
“Who’d you piss off?” The guard pointed. “Just follow those stairs. We got most of the bugsies locked down to their beds now, but a few are running free. You see one, you shout, all right? Whatever you do, don’t try to restrain him yourself. This ain’t Ward A. You know? These fuckers’ll kill you. Clear?”