Harm

Harm
Sandra Hogue

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26

February 14, 2011

Alderson Federal Prison for Women hunkers in a deep and narrow valley. The Allegheny Mountains coil around 105 acres of prison ground while the Greenbrier River cuts through the land on either side. The river runs swift and cold for small-mouth bass while ice patches form and fracture in shallow pools near its banks. Twenty-seven prison buildings stand on kept lawn; most are brick and mortar, functional, unremarkable. The only memorable architecture is a 1927 dormitory: two-story, pocked red brick, four white square columns, pitched roof above a down-sized palladium window, a widow’s walk. Two three-story concrete-block dormitories built in a later year spring up from a maze of gray cement sidewalk. There is no high granite wall or tall chain-link fence topped with concertina wire. There is no guard tower with siren and rotating red light. No. It is minimum security. The last winter snow will fall on Alderson on Valentine’s Day.
Alderson is suffering a shortage of guards. With increased demand for coal, the mines have picked up and Consolidated Coal Company pay and benefits offer a better living for West Virginia family men. Prison guard supervisor Bill Salter turned his back on coal when his boy was killed in a methane gas explosion at Consol No. 13. He and the boy’s mother moved from their cabin on Shinnston Mine Road in Lost Creek, to a small farm near Alderson Village. The boy’s mother wanted clean air and the quiet of the foothills. Bill wanted steady pay and the bass in the Greenbrier River. The Marine Corps and the mine were all he had known until he came to Alderson.
The other prison guards avoid night duty. They have kids to put to bed or ballgames to coach. Some have second jobs. But Bill always prefers the midnight shift, less hassle and no bullshit. Bill Salter hates bullshit. He craves stillness and loves the dark. He is a soldier and a guard who seldom
wanders outside the lines of his job description.
Bill walks bent, favoring his right knee, a souvenir from a pothole in a makeshift runway on Marble Mountain in South Viet Nam. In 1968 his life expectancy as a Marine Corps Huey Gunship helicopter door-gunner was nine weeks. Knee surgery and two months of rehab in a hospital in Guam probably saved his life. Tonight he is breaking in a new pair of black leather combat boots bought at Old Sarge’s in Alderson Village. Painful blood-blisters fester on the heels of his tired feet. Bill is sorry his guards want to be called corrections officers, and he is sorry he is unarmed.

At 4:10 a.m. the prison grounds are quiet. Five hundred or more female inmates are asleep, tired from work given and worry caused. Bill’s flashlight shines a yellow stripe on the concrete walk as he makes his last rounds of the night. The outdoor common area, posing as a picnic site
is dark, empty. Shadows formed by lamplights through old oak trees cover four empty picnic tables like gray tablecloths. All lights are out in Dormitories I and II. He fingers the keys on his belt as he pulls the steel handle on the double door of Dorm Number II and finds it secure. He steps sideways down five narrow steps, and glances at four old, white- frame cottages that once housed Tokyo Rose—spy, Billy Holiday—blues singer and drug addict, Squeaky Fromme—Manson family failed assassin, Sara Jane Moore—failed assassin, and other notables whose names and crimes he can’t remember. The dilapidated cottages stand vacant, without padlock, bolt, or chain. He is grateful Martha Stewart—cupcake queen, is gone. Bill does not have the manpower or patience for celebrities and the commotion they bring. He limps past the dimly lit Prison Infirmary and reminds himself that Lloyd Singleton’s girl is night nurse tonight. He knows her schedule.

Bill Salter takes a last gulp of cold, fresh air and unlocks the door to the guardroom. He feels relieved that he will be alone in the cramped space. Monroe called in earlier with another lame excuse about coming in late. Bill told him not to bother to come in at all. The room is chilly, sparse and clean, with a metal desk, two chairs, a table-lamp, magazines and a newspaper. It smells of strong bleach and burned coffee. He checks the armory cabinet twice and finds it well-locked, then lays keys, flashlight, and a can of mace on the desk. Snyder calls in on the two-way from the front gate and tells him, “All’s quiet.” Bill slumps into the khaki office chair and leans it back to prop an aching leg on the desk. The inside pocket of his quilted green jacket is bulging with a half-pint. He looks at his watch, 4:35. He has worked a double shift, and he’s beat. Bill reads the Mountaineer Times until the Jack Daniels eases the ache in his knee and delivers its promise of sleep.

***

The light from The Infirmary flickers dim to bright. Treatment Room I is dark and empty. In Room II, night nurse Elliott Rose Singleton attends to her patient. The patient, Inmate Corinda Baker, suffered a nasty fall earlier in the evening. The story told was that she’d slipped on a recently mopped floor and fell, head over feet, down a flight of concrete stairs in Dorm I. The back of her skull struck the iron handrail. The prison doctor was called and asked for phone orders. He gave verbal orders to Singleton, telling her to start an intravenous of Ringer’s lactate to replace fluids lost and to watch her closely. The diagnosis written on the chart is severe concussion due to blunt trauma.

Elliott Rose Singleton has given inmate Baker 20 mg. of Ambien for sleep. The customary dose is 10 mg. She slides her stethoscope side to side, back and forth around her tired neck and stares out the single frosted window in Corinda Baker’s room. A lamppost near the common grounds shines yellow-gold light up to cirrus clouds as they drift in from the hills… snow. She remembers a book Joe bought for Amy, Kid’s Book of Weather. He read to them in a deep low voice, “Thin, razor looking cirrus clouds indicate a cold front is coming. A cold front is a front in which cold air is replacing warm air at the surface. Cold fronts tend to move faster than all other types of fronts and tend to be associated with the most violent weather.” Joe had been a good pilot who knew weather and a good father who loved his daughter. Elliott Rose is certain Joe Hubbard was the right choice to father her child. She never imagined marrying Joe but had always dreamed of a daughter. “Cold fronts tend to move quickly, maintaining their intensity,” he said.

Elliott Rose nervously fingers her necklace, a habit she shares with her older sister, Allison Laurel. She moves a tiny silver cross up and down the chain, around her neck, back to the front, listening to the sound of metal sliding over metal. Her father had given them identical necklaces. He’d glued a tiny piece of coal to the middle of the cross. “Wear this and you won’t forget where you came from,” he’d said as he locked the clasp behind their necks. His daughters never take them off.

A pine limb brushes the window. A clump of sagging evergreens shakes and bends against the winter wind. Elliott Rose thinks about how each member of her family plays their part: Jimmy Cale, the youngest, everyone’s favorite, the tension breaker, soothing with a smile and a wink. Allison Laurel and John Lee were the bossy, overbearing, big sister and brother. When they were kids John and Al fussed and bullied. She and Jimmy Cale ran to the woods to escape them. In later years they jumped in one of his old clunkers and went for long rides. The baby boy loved his vehicles. She wishes Jimmy Cale would come and drive her away from this dreadful place.

Nine years ago to the day, Elliott Rose had told Mom and Pop she was pregnant with Amy. She was twenty years old with six months of nursing school left to complete at West Virginia University and no plans for marriage. They were hurt and surprised, and she hated being the cause of their worry. They had their notion of family and had been well-married over forty years. No one in Lost Creek ever mentioned Lloyd Singleton without placing his wife Nell Rose’s name in the same sentence. Lloyd Singleton had lived for mine rescue and family, stock-car races, cornbread and dumplings. Nell Rose lived for family and books, the Lost Creek Assembly of God Church, and extra-long Salem Menthols. Pop and big brother, John Lee, helped her pay for nursing school. Pop, always the rescuer, and John Lee, the hard-working ER doc with the well-heeled wife. The entire family came to her graduation: Pop, Mom, John Lee and his wife, Taffy, Allison Laurel, and Jimmy Cale. They rode in Taffy’s new Cadillac Escalade from Lost Creek to Morgantown, Jimmy Cale taunting John Lee the entire trip about the size of the vehicle and the gas it guzzled.

“You need a ship’s pilot license to back this thing up?” Jimmy chided. Then he turned his teasing to his sister’s bulging tummy. “Hey, you’re the only graduate wearing loose scrubs with the drawstring untied…but the best lookin’ that’s for sure.” Her nursing school graduation ceremony was short, tasteful, and efficient. Fifty-six men and women stood on the stage in the WVU Auditorium and recited the Nightingale Pledge; diplomas were distributed alphabetically. She can hear her name, and feel the pride she felt that day when “Elliott Rose Singleton” was called out near the end.

~~~
I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence
of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to
practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from
whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not
take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will
devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.
~~~

She has been told that her memory is her strongest feature. Her memory has given her spelling bee championships, honor societies, a summa cum laude diploma, poker winnings, and scholarships. She keeps a cedar box full of Assembly of God Sunday School pins and ribbons won for Bible verses memorized. A picture of Sweet Jesus is pasted on top of the box. He stands on a bridge holding the dimpled hands of blonde children. But now her memory haunts her. Since the accident, it brings painful nightmares and daytime terrors. She shakes her head, pulls a rubber tourniquet from her scrub pocket, and jerks a long wave of brown curls into a tight ponytail.

Her feet, tied inside spotless, chalk-white shoes, feel swollen and heavy. Her slender body is taut, fixed. She recalls the painful argument with Allison Laurel and John Lee about keeping the baby and marrying Joe.

“You’re too damned independent,” John Lee yelled. “And you’re worrying Mom and Pop sick.” He knew where to strike.
Allison Laurel came to her defense. “Leave her alone,” she said. “It’s none of your damn business. She’s smart enough to build a life for herself and the baby.”

She did not defend her actions nor reveal Joe’s secret of a bitter, jealous wife who would fight divorce. After harsh words were spoken and forgiven, they all showed up for Amy’s birth. Joe flew John Lee in from Pittsburgh on Alleghany. Allison Laurel caught a red-eye from New York. Jimmy Cale cranked the old black and blue truck and drove Pop and Mom from Lost Creek to Morgantown in record time.

“Your baby is breach,” the obstetrician warned, “frank breach, bottom first. But she is small, and we think you can have a vaginal delivery. You’ll have to push, push, push!”

She didn’t want a C-section. In Labor and Delivery her mother and big sister refused to leave her side and drove the nursing staff mad. She and her baby girl worked hard, she pushing, Amy wiggling and squirming her way out. Finally, Amy emerged…a perfect, beautiful, blue-eyed screaming daughter. Allison cut the umbilical cord while the nurse placed Amy on her chest. She looked into Amy’s familiar eyes. “Hello, my sweet girl, hello. I’ve been waiting for you.” She held her to her breast and felt her latch on, suckle, squirm. Waves of heat moved through her body, nipple to toes.
“Elliott Rose and Amy Laurel,” Allison said peering through choked tears. “Would you look at them, they’re a pair.”

Joe cradled baby Amy in his thick arms and rocked her to sleep. He built a good case for marriage on the day his daughter was born, but Elliott Rose was never one to change her mind.

Mom helped care for Amy through croup and chronic earaches. Pop taught her to wink and to whistle. Allison drove down from New York to see her niece and namesake graduate from Kindergarten.

They had all been good to her when Joe and Amy were killed. Mom and Pop rushed to the hospital and held her between them. Allison, John, Taffy and Jimmy Cale kept the vigil with her at the funeral home. They all walked behind her up the long path to the top of Droop Mountain and helped her scatter Amy’s ashes over Lost Creek Valley. Mom and Pop begged her to come home with them. They said she needed family and rest.

Just one year after Joe and Amy died, Pop had a fatal stroke. She’d disappeared the day after his funeral… too full of her own grief to be of any help. Now, nobody knows where she is. She is certain that Mom is lost without Pop and probably not well herself, still smoking despite a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease…Mom, Nell Rose, stubborn and noncompliant, scary smart…sometimes just scary.

“We were wise to name you after your mother,” Pop always said. “You are your mother’s daughter.” Three months without a word, I know Mom is worried sick. I should call. I should let them all know I’m all right; she thinks… well, not all right, but alive. Losses pile up. Grief burns a hole in the lining of her stomach. Painful ulcers form. She wraps her arms around her waist and bends to ease the aching.

Elliott Rose inspects her hands as she places her palms on the cold window pane. Well-scrubbed nails short and manicured, no polish, no rings or embellishments, capable. Her wrist-watch reads 5:35. I must stop thinking and get on with it.

Across the room, Corinda Baker lies in induced, restless sleep. Loud snores and intermittent hacking coughs bounce off painted concrete walls. A white hospital sheet and a loosely-woven beige blanket are neatly tucked around her skinny frame, a skeleton papoose. She is emaciated and looks much older than her thirty-six years. A twenty-gauge butterfly needle protrudes from a vein in back of her bony left hand. Just above the taped needle, four tattooed fingers read H.A.T.E. The right hand reads L.O.V.E. scrawled above cracked and chewed wine-purple fingernails. Her coarse, pitch-black hair pokes the pillow. Thin, sallow skin is pulled tightly over the bones of her face. Two open cold sores ooze from either side of thinly drawn lips. Blemishes dot her right cheek, a blue and yellow bruise paints the left. Crack pipes and random Bic lighters have singed away eyebrows and lashes. Corinda Sue Baker is returned to the place of her birth. Her mother was sent to Alderson in 1975, three months pregnant, an accomplice in an armed robbery with multiple drug convictions. Corinda’s father would have sold his daughter, if he’d had a buyer. Lately, she had been taking up with any man who had a joint, a pill, a bottle or a cigarette. The latest was Terrance Nichols from Georgia. He had built a profitable meth lab in a suburb of Atlanta. He’d persuaded her to carry product all the way to Pittsburgh. Her fourteen-year-old son is in the custody of the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services. Her five-year-old daughter has been adopted by a family in Pikeville, Kentucky. Corinda Sue Baker never folded any card she’d been dealt.

Elliott Rose walks to the bedside to check the flow of the intravenous. She feels for two vials of succinyl choline in the right pocket of her scrubs, vials taken from the intubation box during restock. She has read the instructions: 1 mg. for every 2.2 pounds. Administer slowly, wait for paralysis of striated muscles, administer additional dosage. She has memorized the rest.

Elliott Rose moves a small desk chair to the hospital door and wedges it under the handle. She sits rigid, upright in the bedside chair as she replays the scene she has crafted and rehearsed for three months. She will draw the clean syringe out of the left pocket of her scrubs, the vial of succinyl choline out of the right. Pulling the cap off the syringe needle with her teeth, she will hold the vial up ninety degrees to draw the first 70 mg. After taking the green cap off of the patient’s IV line, just below the tattooed T on Corinda’s third finger, she will push all 70 mgs. into the IV. The patient’s eyes will pop open like window blinds yanked. There will be loud, raspy gasps. Corinda Sue Baker will jerk and twitch, then lie wide awake, flaccid, paralyzed. All of her striated muscles will spasm rendering her unable to speak, breathe, or move, “locked in” as they say in the ER. She will lean over the patient’s body, almost touching her, and stare into her fixed, terrified eyes. She will say, “This is for Joe and my baby girl. You and all the bottom of the food chain lowlifes like you will not get away with minor injuries.”

Then she will pull a newspaper clipping from her pocket and read it to Corinda Baker while the patient lies paralyzed:

November 21, 2009

Thirty-six-year-old six-time DUI offender Corinda Sue Baker has
been charged with vehicular homicide following the deaths of 32-year- old Joseph F. Hubbard, a captain for Alleghany Airlines, and his daughter, 7-year-old Amy Laurel Singleton. Baker, driving a blue 2005 Ford truck belonging to Terrance P. Nichols of Decatur, Georgia, was driving south- bound on the northbound ramp of Exit 23 on Interstate 72. Hubbard, the driver of a 2008 Honda CRV, was traveling northbound on the ramp. Baker’s vehicle struck the passenger side of the Honda, forcing it over the guardrail and into oncoming traffic. Mr. Hubbard and his daughter were pronounced dead on the scene by Marion County Emergency Medical Services. Baker received minor injuries.

She will carefully fold the paper and place it back in her pocket. Then she will tell Corinda Sue Baker more about the hell she’d made. She will say: “Amy and Joe were going Christmas shopping. Amy was in her new purple soccer shirt and jeans. She was wearing white princess sneakers with lights in the heels that blinked pink and red when she ran. She smelled like Johnson’s No More Tears Baby Shampoo when she hugged me and said, ‘Goodbye, Mommy’ for the last time. And that is all I think about now…goddamn Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. I have bottles of it in the closet at the filthy Red Roof Inn in Alderson Village. I open a bottle and put it to my nose and scream. Three weeks ago, I left a nice, clean apartment in Morgantown. On my refrigerator there are crayon drawings of turkeys made by little hands turned sideways. I had a good job as nurse clinician in the ER at The Medical Center, the fine, reputable, spotless Medical Cen- ter. I traded it in for this hellhole Prison Infirmary, just so I could track you down. And it was easy finding you, because I’m smart. I am very, very smart and I have friends. It was a cinch landing a job in this goddamn place. The newspaper says you received minor injuries. Minor injuries? I don’t think that’s good enough. I’ll push a second dose of succinyl choline into your IV. Then your pupils will fix. You will not be able to blink your eyes. You will die a painful drowning death, smothered in your own vile secretions. I’ll shroud you in stiff, cold hospital sheets that smell of Betadine and trailer trash sweat, and you’ll go straight to your own hell. I’ll tell them the succinyl choline had passed its expiration date…threw it away. A mortality review on a prison inmate won’t happen, because no one on the face of this earth gives a fuck about you. You, Corinda Sue Baker, will never do harm to anyone ever again.”

She has constructed and rehearsed every action, every line.

Elliott Rose lowers her head and shakes her hair loose from the rubber tourniquet. She stuffs the tourniquet into her scrub pocket next to the vials. She looks at her watch. Shit, it’s almost 6:05…daylight soon. She stands. Her weighted feet step back to the window. Her hands tremble as she paces back and forth. Her pulse is rapid and irregular. Her stomach burns. She checks the window lock and takes a last look outside. Snow, she thinks, my God, it’s snowing. Here it comes! Large, thick flakes are piling quickly on the frozen ground. The flakes float and break apart over the lamppost. They hypnotize her. Sweet Jesus. Get on with it, Elliott Rose. Relief. There will be relief. The Nurse’s Oath scrolls again below her field of vision: Do no harm. Do no harm. Do no harm. Bible verses, memorized long ago, begin to stream, Thou Shalt Not . . .eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves . . . Vengeance is mine; I will repay. She tightens her grip around the vials in her scrubs and paces from one end of the room to the other. She wraps her arms around her waist and bends to ease the sharp pain in her stomach. Corinda’s snoring grows louder; her hacking cough ricochets off the tile ceiling and hits the concrete floor. The snow is pelting the ground, freeze-fall- cover- chill, freeze-fall-cover- chill. Goddamn it. Snow. Pain.

She summons her dark demon. It does not come. The part of her that can do this thing is frozen. But, she had conceived it, molded it from all the loss. Once it was hot and fluid, feeding off grief and pain. It had devised the perfect revenge. When did it freeze, now a shard of dry ice lodged in a hole in the pit of her stomach? She smells baby shampoo… feels Amy’s tiny arms tug around her neck. Amy’s voice whispers, “Snow, Mommy, feel the snow.”

Elliott Rose moves to the door and throws the chair that holds it shut. As the chair topples, she runs out the door and down the hallway, through the double doors and outside to the common ground. She paces and cries, frozen flakes falling on her bare arms.

***

Bill Salter hears a commotion on the common ground. He grabs
his coat, shoves a can of mace in his pocket and stumbles through the door to the picnic tables. Elliott Rose walks toward him. “I couldn’t do it,” she sobs. “Goddamn it Bill, I froze.”

He puts his firm hands on her shaking shoulders and steadies her until she stops shivering.

“Sit down here at the table.” He brushes the snow from the picnic table bench and helps her lower her shivering body. She opens her fist. Bill stares at the vials in her hand.

“You wanna give me those, now,” Bill says. She hands him the vials and watches him stuff them into his jacket pocket.

“I couldn’t…” she cries.

“Just breathe. It’ll be all right. Not another word now. Settle yourself,” he says.

She lifts her face to the falling snow. Flakes melt on her hot cheeks, mix with tears and run down her neck. Bill takes off his thick coat and places it on her shoulders. She breathes in the smells of Vitalis, whiskey, and tobacco. He sits next to her, their necks bent while bonnets of white flakes form on their heads. She places her hands on her stomach and rocks forward and back, forward and back. He lays a steady hand or her back and pats.

“How ‘bout I walk you back to the Infirmary. You can get your coat and purse, then we’ll go to your car. You go on home and get some sleep.”

“Wait. Wait. Give me a minute.” She lifts her hand to her neck- lace, and slides the tiny cross up and down the chain. She rocks. He pats.

Bill notices lights coming on in dormitory rooms. “They’ll all be up by 6:30,” he says.

Elliott Rose looks at her shoes and says, “I meant to. I couldn’t find it in me. I meant to.”

“All right, now. It’ll be okay. They’re getting up. Need to get you inside.”

“Sure, sure, you’re right,” she says.

Bill helps her to her feet, and they walk together to the Infirmary. Elliott Rose takes off his coat and hands it back to him. He leans on the door frame of Treatment Room II and watches her.

“Thank you,” she says squaring her shoulders and walking to the sink. She turns on the faucets and soaks her hands and forearms with warm water, pushes the soap dispenser with her elbow and lathers her hands, wringing them over and over each other, left to right, right to left, between each finger and back around again. She brings the lather up to her elbows and scrubs up and down her forearms. She rinses, bending her arms, careful not to touch the faucet with her skin. She pulls a paper towel from the holder and thoroughly dries her hands and arms, then carefully places it in a covered trashcan.

Bill tracks each graceful and deliberate gesture. She steps to her patient and places four clean fingers on Inmate Baker’s radial artery… strong pulse, eighty beats per minute. She puts a thermometer into the gaping mouth and waits two minutes while she counts eighteen respira- tions, temperature normal, ninety-eight-point-seven degrees. The nurse reaches to the headboard for the blood pressure cuff and wraps it around the top of the patient’s arm, securing it with the Velcro strap. She places her stethoscope in her ears and presses the bell end against the brachial artery to hear the systolic thump, then the diastolic blub, and makes note and returns it to her neck. The pressure cuff is then carefully draped over the right side of the headboard. She firmly tucks the patient’s blanket under the mattress and says, “She’s sleeping restlessly.” She closes the door and walks back to the nurses’ station, face forward, erect. Bill walks behind her. With a careful pen she writes the vital signs on Corinda Sue Baker’s chart.

L.P.N. Susan Vickers pulls the hood back from her soaked navy parka and tugs at her wool gloves as she hurries into the Infirmary to begin her day shift.

“Morning! Some weather, huh? Coming down like crazy out there. Snow day. Kids are home from school. Good thing Jerry is working nights at the mine.” She brushes the snow from her parka and lays her gloves on the desk. “You have a report for me, Miss Singleton?”

“Quiet. Quiet night. All we have is Baker in Room II. Fell down the steps in the dormitory—concussion.”

Susan Vickers tilts her head and scowls. “How in the world did she manage to fall down the steps?”
Bill is quick to answer, “No tellin’. I’ll write up the incident report—turn it in tomorrow.”

Elliott clears her throat. “Doctor Harkrider was called, gave phone orders. She’s still asleep. Vitals stable. Blood pressure is 120/80. No problems. All in the chart. You have a good day. Stay warm.”

Bill holds her coat open while she slips her arms into the sleeves. She pulls her purse to her chest.

“I’ll be right back, Miss Vickers,” Bill says. “Gonna walk Miss Singleton to her car.”

“Sure, Bill. Be careful out there. It’s a mess.”

Bill and Elliott Rose step gingerly onto the frozen sidewalk and walk toward the parking lot.
She turns to him and says, “Bill, my daughter…”

He cuts her off. “I know. I know.” The night his boy, Daniel, died in the mine…he stood frozen and watched while Elliott’s father, Lloyd Singleton, led the rescue. He stood alongside Elliott Rose while she held her older sister, Allison Laurel, Daniel’s pregnant wife. Allison’s screams still pound his ears.

Bill shakes his head. “This here…it just wasn’t yours to do,” he says.

He steadies her as she starts to lose her footing on a patch of ice.

“There’s nobody here that’s made any connection…you to her. Never mind this, now,” he says.

“I’m going home,” she says.

“Well, you be careful now, driving to Alderson Village. I don’t know if the cinder and salt trucks are out yet.”

“No, Bill, I mean…I’m going home,” she says as she opens the car door and lowers herself to the cold seat.

Bill uses a gloved hand to scrape the snow from the windows of the car and waits until he hears the motor turn.

She lowers the car window. “I’m grateful to you,” she whispers, staring at the deep folds of skin that circle his eyes.

“You be careful, now. Take the main road. I’d stay off that back road to Lost Creek,” he warns. Bill turns, lifts his collar against the wind and makes his way back to the prison through the pelting snow.

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