He saw a group of identically dressed men to their left, standing around smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in the faint drizzle, a few of them leaning back against the wall, everyone joking, blowing smoke hard into the air, and he and Chuck crossed the distance to them, never looking back, waiting for the sound of the door opening behind them, a flesh round of calls.
“You find Laeddis?” Chuck said.
“Nope. Found Noyce, though.”
“You heard me.”
They nodded at the group as they reached them. Smiles and waves and Teddy got a light off one of the guys and then they kept walking down the wall, kept walking as the wall seemed to stretch a quarter mile, kept walking as what could have been shouts in their direction hit the air, kept walking seeing the rifle shafts peeking over the battlements fifty feet above them.
They reached the end of the wall and turned left into a soggy green field and saw that sections of the fence had been replaced there, groups of men filling the post holes with liquid cement, and they could see it stretching all the way around back, and they knew there was no way out there.
They turned back and came out past the wall, into the open, and Teddy knew the only way was straight ahead. Too many eyes would notice if they went in any other direction but past the guards. “We’re going to gut it out, aren’t we, boss?”
“Damn straight.” ‘
Teddy removed his hat and Chuck followed suit and then their slickers came off and they draped them over their arms and walked in the specks of rain. The same guard was waiting for them, and Teddy said to Chuck, “Let’s not even slow down.”
Teddy tried to read the guy’s face. It was dead flat and he wondered whether it was impassive from boredom or because he was steeling himself for conflict.
Teddy waved as he passed, and the guard said, “They got trucks now.”
They kept going, Teddy turning and walking backward as he said, “Trucks?”
“Yeah, to take you guys back. You want to wait, one just left about five minutes ago. Should be back anytime.”
“Nah. Need the exercise.”
For a moment, something flickered in the guard’s face. Maybe it was just Teddy’s imagination or maybe the guard knew a whiff of bull shit when he smelled it.
“Take care now.” Teddy turned his back, and he and Chuck walked toward the trees and he could feel the guard watching, could feel the whole fort watching. Maybe Cawley and the warden were on the front steps right now or up on the roof. Watching.
They reached the trees and no one shouted, no one fired a warning shot, and then they went deeper and vanished in the stand of thick trunks and disrupted leaves.
“Jesus,” Chuck said. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”
Teddy sat down on a boulder and felt the sweat saturating his body, soaking his white shirt and pants, and he felt exhilarated. His heart still thumped, and his eyes itched, and the back of his shoulders and neck tingled, and he knew this was, outside of love, the greatest feeling in the world.
To have escaped.
He looked at Chuck and held his eyes until they both started laughing.
“I turned that corner and saw that fence back in place,” Chuck said, “and oh shit, Teddy, I thought that was it.”
Teddy lay back against the rock, feeling free in a way he’d only felt as a child. He watched the sky begin to appear behind smoky clouds and he felt the air on his skin. He could smell wet leaves and wet soil and wet bark and hear the last faint ticking of the rain. He wanted to close his eyes and wake back up on the other side of the harbor, in Boston, in his bed.
He almost nodded off, and that reminded him of how tired he was, and he sat up and fished a cigarette from his shirt pocket and bummed a light off Chuck. He leaned forward on his knees and said, “We have to assume, from this point, that they’ll find out we were inside. That’s if they don’t know already.”
Chuck nodded. “Baker, for sure, will fold under questioning.”
“That guard by the stairs, he was tipped to us, I think.”
“Or he just wanted us to sign out.”
“Either way, we’ll be remembered.”
The foghorn of Boston Light moaned across the harbor, a sound Teddy had heard every night of his childhood in Hull. The loneliest sound he knew. Made you want to hold something, a person, a pillow, yourself.
“Noyce,” Chuck said.
“He’s really here.”
“In the flesh.”
Chuck said, “For Christ’s’ sake, Teddy, how?”
And Teddy told him about Noyce, about the beating he’d taken, about his animosity toward Teddy, his fear, his shaking limbs, his weeping. He told Chuck everything except what Noyce had suggested about Chuck. And Chuck listened, nodding occasionally, watching Teddy the way a child watches a camp counselor around the fire as the late-night boogeyman story unfolds.
And what was all this, Teddy was beginning to wonder, if not that?
When he was done, Chuck said, “You believe him?”
“I believe he’s here. No doubt about that.”
“He could have had a psychological break, though. I mean, an actual one. He does have the history. This could all be legitimate. He cracks up in prison and they say, ‘Hey, this guy was once a patient at Ashecliffe. Let’s send him back.’ “ “It’s possible,” Teddy said. “But the last time I saw him, he looked pretty damn sane to me.”
“When was that?”
“A month ago.”
“Lot can change in a month.”
“And what about the lighthouse?” Chuck said. “You believe there’s a bunch of mad scientists in there, implanting antennas into Laeddis’s skull as we speak?”
“I don’t think they fence off a septic processing plant.” “I’ll grant you,” Chuck said. “But it’s all a bit Grand Guignol, don’t you think?”
Teddy frowned. “I don’t know what the fuck that means.” “Horrific,” Chuck said. “In a fairy-tale, boo-ga-boo-ga-boo-ga kind of way.”
“I understand that,” Teddy said. “What was the grangweeg-what?”
“Grand Guignol,” Chuck said. “It’s French. Forgive me.” Teddy watched Chuck trying to smile his way through it, probabi: y thinking of a way to change the subject.
Teddy said, “You study a lot of French growing up in Portland?”