The guard nodded. “The storm,” he said again.

“Sure., sure,” Chuck said. “We’ll keep that in mind.”

McPherson led them up a path that rose gently throUgh the stand of trees. When they’d cleared the trees, they reached a paved road that crossed their path like a grin, and Teddy could see a house off to both 25 his right and his left. The one to the left was the simpler of the two, a maroon mansarded Victorian with black trim, small windows that gave the appearance of sentinels. The one to the right was a Tudor that commanded its small rise like a castle.

They continued on, climbing a slope that was steep and wild with sea grass before the land greened and softened around them, leveling out up top as the grass grew shorter, gave way to a more traditional lawn that spread back for several hundred yards before coming to a stop at a wall of orange brick that seemed to curve away the length of the island. It was ten feet tall and topped with a single strip of wire, and something about the sight of the wire got to Teddy. He felt a sudden pity for all those people on the other side of the wall who recognized that thin wire for what it was, realized just how badly the world wanted to keep them in. Teddy saw several men in dark blue uniforms just outside the wall, heads down as they peered at the ground.  Chuck said, “Correctional guards at a mental institution. Weird sight, if you don’t mind me saying, Mr. McPherson.”

“This is a maximum security institution,” McPherson said. “We operate under dual charters—one from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the other from the Federal Department of Prisons.” “I understand that,” Chuck said. “I’ve always wondered, though— you guys have much to talk about around the dinner table?” McPherson smiled and gave a tiny shake of his head.

Teddy saw a man with black hair who wore the same uniform as the rest of the guards, but his was accented by yellow epaulets and a standing collar, and his badge was gold. He was the only one who walked with his head held up, one hand pressed behind his back as he strode among the men, and the stride reminded Teddy of full colonels he’d met in the war, men for whom command was a necessary burden not simply of the military but of God. He carried a small black book pressed to his rib cage, and he nodded in their direction and then walked down the slope from which they’d come, his black hair stiff in the breeze.

“The warden,” McPherson said. “You’ll meet later.”

Teddy nodded, wondering why they didn’t meet now, and the warden disappeared on the other side of the rise.

One of the orderlies used a key to open the gate in the center of the wall, and the gate swung wide and the orderlies and their carts went in as two guards approached McPherson and came to a stop on either side of him.

McPherson straightened to his full height, all business now, and said, “I’ve got to give you guys the basic lay of the land.” “Sure.”

“You gentlemen will be accorded all the courtesies we have to offer, all the help we can give. During your stay, however short that may be, you will obey protocol. Is that understood?”

Teddy nodded and Chuck said, “Absolutely.”

McPherson fixed his eyes on a point just above their heads. “Dr.  Cawley will explain the finer points of protocol to you, I’m sure, but have to stress the following: unmonitored contact with patients of this institution is forbidden. Is that understood?”

Teddy almost said, Yes, sir, as if he were back in basic, but he stopped short with a simple “Yes.”

“Ward A of this institution is the building behind me to my right, the male ward. Ward B, the female ward, is to my left. Ward C is beyond those bluffs directly behind this compound and the staff quarters, housed in what was once Fort Walton. Admittance to Ward C is forbidden without the written consent and physical presence of both the warden and Dr. Cawley. Understood?”

Another set of nods.

McPherson held out one massive palm, as if in supplication to the sun. “You are hereby requested to surrender your firearms.” Chuck looked at Teddy. Teddy shook his head.

Teddy said, “Mr. McPherson, we are duly appointed federal marshals.  We are required by government order to carry our firearms at all times.”

McPherson’s voice hit the air like steel cable. “Executive Order three-nine-one of the Federal Code of Penitentiaries and Institutions for the Criminally Insane states that the peace officer’s requirement to bear arms is superseded only by the direct order of his immediate superiors or that of persons entrusted with the care and protection of penal or mental health facilities. Gentlemen, you find yourself under the aegis of that exception. You will not be allowed to pass through this gate with your firearms.”

Teddy looked at Chuck. Chuck tilted his head at McPherson’s extended palm and shrugged.

Teddy said, “We’d like our exceptions noted for the record.” McPherson said, “Guard, ‘please note the exceptions of Marshals Daniels and Aule.”

“Noted, sir.”

“Gentlemen,” McPherson said.

The guard on McPherson’s right opened a small leather pouch.  Teddy pulled back his overcoat and removed the service revolver from his holster. He snapped the cylinder open with a flick of his wrist and then placed the gun in McPherson’s hand. McPherson handed it off to the guard, and the guard placed it in his leather pouch and McPherson held out his hand again.

Chuck was a little slower with his weapon, fumbling with the holster snap, but McPherson showed no impatience, just waited until Chuck placed the gun awkwardly in his hand.

McPherson handed the gun to the guard, and the guard added it to the pouch and stepped through the gate.

“Your weapons will be checked into the property room directly outside the warden’s office,” McPherson said softly, his words rustling like leaves, “which is in the main hospital building in the center of the compound. You will pick them back up on the day of your departure.” McPherson’s loose, cowboy grin suddenly returned. “Well, that about does it for the official stuff for now. I don’t know about y’all, but I am glad to be done with it. What do you say we go see Dr.  Cawley?”

And he turned and led the way through the gate, and the gate was closed behind them.

Inside the wall, the lawn swept away from either side of a main path made from the same brick as the wall. Gardeners with manacled ankles tended to the grass and trees and flower beds and even an array of rosebushes that grew along the foundation of the hospital. The gardeners were flanked by orderlies, and Teddy saw other patierits in manacles walking the grounds with odd, ducklike steps. Most were men, a few were women. “ Copyright 2016 - 2024