Trey looked down at the floor. “Don’t know what you’re talking about, Marshal.”

“Oh, I know, I know. I never had a partner. That’s the truth now. It has been decided. I never had a partner and he’s not somewhere out on this island hurt. Or dead. Or locked up in Ward C or the lighthouse.  I never had a partner. You want to repeat that after me, just so we’re clear? I never had a partner. Come on. Try it.”

Trey looked up. “You never had a partner.”

Shudder Island

Teddy said, “And you don’t work for the warden.”

Trey clasped his hands on his knees. He looked at Teddy and Teddy could see that this was eating him. His eyes grew moist and the flesh along his chin trembled.

“You need to get out of here,” he whispered.

“I’m aware of that.”

“No.” Trey shook his head several times. “You don’t have any idea what’s really going on here. Forget what you heard. Forget what you think you know. They going to get to you. And there ain’t no coming back from what they going to do to you. No coming back no how.” “Tell me,” Teddy said, but Trey was shaking his head again. “Tell me what’s going on here.”

“I can’t do that. I can’t. Look at me.” Trey’s eyebrows rose and his eyes widened. “I. Cannot. Do. That. You on your own. And I wouldn’t be waiting on no ferry.”

Teddy chuckled. “I can’t even get out of this compound, never mind off this island. And even if I could, my partner is—“ “Forget your partner,” Trey hissed. “He gone. You got it? He ain’t coming back, man. You gotta git. You gotta watch out for yourself and only yourself.”

“Trey,” Teddy said, “I’m locked in.”

Trey stood and went to the window, looked out into the dark or at his own reflection, Teddy couldn’t tell which.

“You can’t ever come back. You can’t ever tell no one I told you anything.”

Teddy waited.

Trey looked back over his shoulder at him. “We agreed?”

“Agreed,” Teddy said.

“Ferry be here tomorrow at ten. Leave for Boston at eleven sharp.  A man was to stow away on that boat, he might just make it across the harbor. Otherwise, a man would have to wait two or three more days and a fishing trawler, name of Betsy Ross, she pull up real close to the southern coast, drop a few things off the side.” He looked back at Teddy. “Kinda things men ain’t supposed to have on this island. Now she don’t come all the way in. No, sir. So a man’d have to swim his way out to her.” ;

“I can’t do three fucking days on this island,” Teddy said. “I don’t know the terrain. The warden and his men damn sure do, though.  They’ll find me.”

Trey didn’t say anything for a while.

“Then it’s the ferry,” he said eventually.

“It’s the ferry. But how do I get out of the compound?”

“Shit,” Trey said. “You might not buy this, but it is your lucky day.  Storm fucked up everything, particularly the electrical systems. Now we repaired most of the wires on the wail. Most of them.” Teddy said, “Which sections didn’t you get to?”

“The southwest corner. Those two are dead, right where the wall meets in. a ninety-degree angle. The rest of them will fry you like chicken, so don’t slip and reach out and grab one. Hear?” “I hear.”

Trey nodded to his reflection. “I’d suggest you git. Time’s wasting.”

Teddy stood. “Chuck,” he said.

Trey scowled. “There is no Chuck. All right? Never was. You get back to the world, you talk about Chuck all you like. But here? The man never happened.”

IT OCCURRED TO Teddy as he faced the southwest corner of the wall that Trey could be lying. If Teddy put a hand to those wires, got a good grip, and they were live, they’d find his body in the morning at the foot of the wail, as black as last month’s steak. Problem solved.  Trey gets employee of the year, maybe a nice gold watch.  He searched around until he found a long twig, and then he turned to a section of wire to the right of the corner. He took a running jump at the wall, got his foot on it, and leapt up. He slapped the twig down on the wire and the wire spit out a burst of flame and the twig caught fire. Teddy came back to earth and looked at the wood in his hand.  The flame went out, but the’wood smoldered.

He tried it again, this time on the wire over the right side of the corner. Nothing.

He stood down below again, taking a breath, and then he jumped up the left wall, hit the wire again. And again, nothing.  There was a metal post atop the section where the wall met, and Teddy took three runs at the wall before he got a grip. He held tight and climbed up to the top of the wall and his shoulders hit the wire and his knees hit the wire and his forearms hit the wire, and each time, he thought he was dead.

He wasn’t. And once he’d reached the top, there wasn’t much to do but lower himself down to the other side.

He stood in the leaves and looked back at Ashecliffe.

He’d come here for the truth, and didn’t find it. He’d come here for Laeddis, and didn’t find him either. Mong the way, he’d lost Chuck.

He’d have time to regret all that back in Boston. Time to feel guilt and shame then. Time to consider his options and consult with Senator Hurly and come up with a plan of attack. He’d come back.  Fast. There couldn’t be any question of that. And hopefully he’d be armed with subpoenas and federal search warrants. And they’d have their own goddamned ferry. Then he’d be angry. Then he’d be righteous in his fury.

Now, though, he was just relieved to be alive and on the other side of this wall.

Relieved. And scared.

IT TOOK HIM an hour and a half to get back to the cave, but the woman had left. Her fire had burned down to a few embers, and Teddy sat by it even though the air outside was unseasonably Warm and growing clammier by the hour.

Teddy waited for her, hoping she’d just gone out for more wood, but he knew, in his heart, that she wasn’t going to return. Maybe she believed he’d already been caught and was, at this moment, telling the warden and Cawley about her hiding place. Maybe—and this was too much to hope for, but Teddy allowed himself the indulgence—Chuck had found her and they’d gone to a location she believed was safer.  When the fire went out, Teddy took off his suit jacket and draped it over his chest and shoulders and placed his head back against the wall. Just as he had the night before, the last thing he noticed before he passed out were his thumbs. Copyright 2016 - 2023