“No.” The warden dropped his arm and took a few steps forward. He crossed his hands behind his back so that his book was pressed against the base of his spine and then turned and set his feet apart in the military fashion and stared at Teddy. “You say you were out for a stroll, but I know better. I know you, son.”
“We just met,” Teddy said.
The warden shook his head. “Our kind have known each other for centuries. I know you to your core. And I think you’re sad. I really do.” He pursed his lips and considered his shoes “Sad is fine. Pathetic in a man, but fine because it has no effect on me. But I also think you’re dangerous.”
“Every man has a right to his opinion,” Teddy said.
The warden’s face darkened. “No, he doesn’t. Men are foolish. They eat and drink and pass gas and fornicate and procreate, and this last is particularly unfortunate, because the world would be a much better place with far fewer of us in it. Retards and mud children and lunatics and people of low moral character—that’s what we produce. That’s what we spoil this earth with. In the South now, they’re trying to keep their niggers in line. But I’ll tell you something, I’ve spent time in the South, and they’re all niggers down there, son. White niggers, black niggers, women niggers. Got niggers everywhere and they’re no more use than two-legged dogs. Least the dog can still sniff out a scent from time to time. You’re a nigger, son. You’re of low fiber. I can smell it in you.”
His voice was surprisingly light, almost feminine.
“Well,” Teddy said, “you won’t have to worry about me after the morning, will you, Warden?”
The warden smiled. “No, I won’t, son.”
“I’ll be out of your hair and off your island.”
The warden took two steps toward him, his smile dissolving. He cocked his head at Teddy and held him in his fetal gaze. “You’re not going anywhere, son.”
“I beg to differ.”
“Beg all you want.” The warden leaned in and sniffed the air to the left of Teddy’s face, then moved his head, sniffed the air to the right of it.
Teddy said, “Smell something.
“Mmm-hmm.” The warden leaned back. “Smells like fear to me, son.
“You probably want to take a shower, then,” Teddy said. “Wash that shit off yourself.”
Neither of them spoke for a bit, and then the warden said, “Remember those chains, nigger. They’re your friends. And know that I’m very much looking forward to our final dance. Ah,” he said, “what carnage we’ll achieve.”
And he turned and walked up the road toward his house. THE MEN’S DORMITORY was abandoned. Not a soul inside the place. Teddy went up to his room and hung his slicker in the closet and looked for any evidence that Chuck had returned there, but there was none.
He thought of sitting on the bed, but he knew if he did, he’d pass out and probably not wake until morning, so he went down to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face and slicked back his crew cut with a wet comb. His bones felt scraped and his blood seemed thick as a malted, ad his eyes were sunken and ringed red and his skin was gray. He splashed a few more handfuls of cold water up into his face and then dried off and went outside into the main compound.
The air was actually warming up, growing humid and sticky, and crickets and cicadas had begun to find their voices. Teddy walked the grounds, hoping that somehow Chuck had arrived ahead of him and was maybe doing the same thing, wandering around until he bumped into Teddy.
There was the guard on the gate, and Teddy could see lights in the rooms, but otherwise, the place was empty. He made his way over to the hospital and went up the steps and pulled on the door only to find it locked. He heard a squeak of hinges and looked out to see that the guard had opened the gate and gone out to join his comrade on the other side, and when the gate swung closed again, Teddy could hear his shoes scrape on the concrete landing as he stepped back from the door.
He sat on the steps for a minute. So much for Noyce’s theory.
Teddy was now, beyond any doubt, completely alone. Locked in, yes. But unwatched as far as he could tell.
He walked around to the back of the hospital and his chest filled when he saw an orderly sitting on the back landing, smoking a cigarette. Teddy approached, and the kid, a slim, rangy black kid, looked up at him. Teddy pulled a cigarette from his pocket and said, “Got a light?”
Teddy leaned in as the kid lit his cigarette, smiled his thanks as he leaned back and remembered what the woman had told him about smoking their cigarettes, and he let the smoke flow slowly out of his mouth without inhaling.
“How you doing tonight?” he said.
“All right, sir. You?”
“I’m okay. Where is everyone?”
The kid jerked his thumb behind him. “In there. Some big meeting.
Don’t know about what.”
“All the doctors and nurses?”
The kid nodded. “Some of the patients too. Most of us orderlies. I got stuck with this here door ‘cause the latch don’t work real good. Otherwise, though, yeah. Everyone in there.”
Teddy took another cigar puff off his cigarette, hoped the kid didn’t notice. He wondered if he should just bluff his way up the stairs, hope the kid took him for another orderly, one from Ward C maybe.
Then he saw through the window behind the kid that the hallway was filling and people were heading for the front door.
He thanked the kid for the light and walked around out front, was met with a crowd of people milling there, talking, lighting cigarettes. He saw Nurse Marino say something to Trey Washington, put her hand on his shoulder as she did, and Trey threw back his head and laughed.
Teddy started to walk over to them when Cawley called to him from the stairs. “Marshal!”
Teddy turned and Cawley came down the stairs toward him, touched Teddy’s dbow, and began walking toward the wall. “Where’ve you been?” Cawley said.
“Wandering. Looking at your island.”
“Find anything amusing?”
“Well, sure, we have plenty of those.”
“How’s the roof repair coming?” Teddy said.
Cawley sighed. “I have buckets all over my house catching water. The attic is done, wrecked. So’s the floor in the guest bedroom. My wife’s going to be beside herself. Her wedding gown was in that attic.” “Where is your wife?” Teddy said.