The arid Southwest can be defined as being composed of the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and part of the states of California and Texas and possibly Utah and Nevada. The northern parts of the Mexican states of Baja California Norte, Sonora, and Chihuahua could also be included in this region.
The list of spider type creatures is huge, well over 1000 species. This story is about a spider and its hyper technical abilities to see everything and hear everything and transmit those sounds and pictures to a stand-alone computer that is being watched by someone who loves this spider and wants to know what it knows and what it sees. He has called this spider his web cam spider and named it Scarlett.
Scarlett is an exceptional spider for its behavior and character has been humanized to a certain extent to give it the powers to communicate with people. Her behavior resembles that of many spiders and as such, she has a list of preferred prey, enemies and other creatures that can jeopardize her mere existence in this world. This hyped up spider, having chosen to live inside a prison facility, Scarlett’s eyes have the ability to capture the environmental views from a different perspective and has an audio ability to communicate with other creatures as well as humans.
Web-building spiders are fairly stereotyped in their prey capture behavior within their species, but the variety between species is quite staggering. They range from very complex orb webs to simple sheet webs, with a few having abandoned the web for a pheromone lure.
While most spiders are probably harmless, several southwestern spiders have venoms that are toxic, in varying degrees, to humans. These include the Western Black Widow, Latrodectus hesperus Chamberlin and Ivie and other species of Latrodectus which may on occasion be imported to the area.
Scarlett is a Black Widow variety with extra seeing and hearing perceptions although she does not have ears. She catches the signals on the hairs of her legs and is very good at localizing the origin of a sound interpreting the movement of the air produced by that sound. Thus what she sees and hears become electronic signals capable of being transmitted wireless to another source.
Scarlett has spun webs all over the place. She has traveled to many places and has found so many places to spin her web so she can see everything and hear everything that goes on inside this prison. These buildings, standing here now for the past twenty years have many dark places that are hardly ever visited by peoples but as Scarlett has found out she is a socializing type of spider, she also spins her webs in those common places where people meet, eat and talk about everything there is to talk about.
Chapter 1 – Just before midnight
The full moon rises above the leafless trees as its yellow golden light reflects off the solid concrete walls hiding the prison insides out of sight of the people. After darkness falls, there are not too many people around at these kind of places for all that is left behind until the break of day is the skeleton crews of officers left behind to hold the place down until the sun comes up. Scarlett was up early this evening and usually goes out for a stroll to seek her daily habit of eating insects when she heard a loud noise, alerted by the signals coming from her leg. Keeping still, she panned her eyes left and right and up and down until she found the source of the disturbance.
The stars shining brightly over a cloudless desert, a voice screaks out loudly yelling “Where is Ryan going with that stun gun?” said Brett to his partner Janice. “Out to the cellblock,” she replied, “some new prisoners came in last night and they need to be put in place.” I don’t see why he needs a stun gun” said Brett. Begging Ryan he said “please Ryan, please let it go, they will behave and listen without the use of the stun gun to get our attention.”
“Well” said Janice, Ryan is just trying to establish control inside this prison and make sure that everybody complies with our orders.” Ryan will pick out the weakest one and make him suffer so the others can see what happens if you don’t listen to us.”
Panicking, Brett said to Janice ‘what about if he has a bad heart and he dies?” laughing, Janice said to Brett, “so what, there are thousands more waiting to get a bed here and not sleep on the floor, they will not miss him.”
Chasing after Ryan in the dark, he could hear the loud noises coming from the cellblocks as the guards were teasing the newly arrived prisoners about to be stunned by the Taser Ryan was carrying and tripping the trigger to throw out a bright blue spark into the desert air.
Walking across the concrete yard, Ryan stopped for a second to make sure he had another cartridge spare just in case the one in the Taser gave out. Laughing, he reached into his pocket and felt the square cartridge of cordless power and was satisfied he had the tools to get the job done.
Brett, barely catching up with Ryan begged him to not do this and leave them alone. “What’s the matter Brett?” asked Ryan. “Don’t you have the stomach to torture anybody?” “Please don’t stun these prisoners Ryan; “they haven’t done anything to you” begged Brett as Janice stood there laughing. Ryan, getting angry at Brett yelled out “control yourself Brett, be a man and watch me do it so them, it will make you stronger and meaner so you can do your job right.”
Ryan added “sometimes you gotta show them who is boss and they won’t give you any trouble. I have done this many times before.” “I know more about managing prisoners than anybody here and I do it right.”
Janice, watching the two squabble, decidedly interjected and said to Ryan, “Why don’t you just do one and let it be.” The others will learn from his pain. I don’t see why we have to spend the rest of the night calming all the others down when we can go play cards, watch TV or something. Laughing out loud, Ryan said “good idea Janice, let’s get this over with.”
Entering the darkened corridor that leads to the dungeons where the prisoners re kept overnight to be housed in the morning, Ryan told one guard to open up a holding cell and to remove one of the prisoners inside there. He added, “Give me the smallest one and the weakest one.” That way they know I mean business.”
A queer look came over everyone who was standing there waiting for Ryan to pull the trigger on the stun gun. As he pulled the trigger, a loud buzzing noise filled the air along with screams of pain of the falling prisoner shocked into submission and barely comatose.
Bragging and saying it out loud so the other prisoners could see and hear what he had just done, “anybody else feel like getting a jolt tonight?” laughing and walking away, the holding area became quiet for the rest of the night as not a peep was made by both guards and captives inside that prison.
Scarlett, somewhat surprised at Ryan’s behavior settled back a bit to avoid being seen and as she crawled into a deep crack of the wall, she could hear other voices as well. Crawling next to her was a friend of hers called Lucy, a brown spider that lives here along with many other spiders. “Looks like Ryan is having another bad day night again, doesn’t it Scarlett?” “Yes, it does and he is in an awful mean mood tonight too” Scarlett replied.
“I don’t know why he is so mean all the time, he used to be a pretty nice guy way back when he first started and now, look at him Scarlett, he is picking fights with everybody on shift tonight!”
“I think he changed after his best friend got stabbed about a year ago when that mean brute got out of his cell and attacked Clifton from behind holding a sharp ice pick against his throat before the other officers came in and rescued him from certain death.”
“Yes,” replied Lucy, “it does seem to have started right after that incident. I know that he was very angry for a long time after that because nobody would do anything about that brute and how he got away with escaping out of his cell by cutting that hole in the wall above his sink.”
“Oh, I know” said Scarlett, “I was sound asleep that day when I heard all that scratching going on inside that cell when I was trying to sleep in that nice and moist plumbing chase where the darkness brings all those tasty morsels right into my web and I can eat as much as I want because they are all trapped right there in front of me.”
“I heard from the flies on the walls, before I ate them, it took him almost six weeks to carve through that wall and nobody came into his cell once to search it or inspect it for contraband or tampering!”
“yes, replied Lucy, “I heard that the officers were scared of the brute and left him alone so he found a way to make a tool to cut through the wall and escape out of the mechanical room because of the stupidity of a maintenance man leaving it unlocked.”
“Well, all I know is that Clifton was very lucky that night” said Scarlett. “He could have been easily killed but the brute didn’t kill him because he said that Clifton always treated him with respect but if that would have been Davis, he would have cut his throat.”
Lucy, taking a deep breath said to Scarlett “no wonder Ryan is so mean and mad, he is taking this very personal and now he wants to hurt everybody that gets near him that is wearing orange.”
Scarlett, scratching her head said to Lucy “well, there is more to this story, did you know that after they locked that brute away into that special cell where he is kept now, they decided not to press any charges on his attack.”
“No way” said Lucy, “what in the hell where they thinking?”
Scarlett continued to speak and said “well, the warden told the deputy warden who told the captain who told the sergeant that it would cost too much money to press charges and that he was doing life anyways so why spend all that money for nothing.”
“That is outrageous” screamed Lucy, “they should have pressed charges and let the other mean ones know that this won’t be tolerated from any man.”
“True, true” said Scarlett “but sometimes they don’t make much sense.”
Chapter 2 – Brett
Brett is a good officer. His job was everything to him and his family and it paid him well enough to bring home the groceries and pay the bills. Knowing he would never get rich being a prison worker, he decided on this job because he learned how to get along with people when he was in the Army and worked as a security guard for a while waiting for a job with the sheriff’s office to open up. Keeping up with his education, he went to college and took a course in criminal justice and earned himself a degree that he proudly mounted on the wall at home. The criminal justice course inspired him to seek a job with the state prison system as the police department near him was not currently hiring people. Thus he joined the many more who work inside prisons and learned how to deal and manage these lost causes of society.
Working the graveyard shift, the job was really quite boring and not much happened on this shift. He worked with a new supervisor who was barely experienced enough to make good decisions on his own. It was his friendship with other supervisors and a particular administrator that got him the promotion even though he didn’t seem ready for it. Brett, thinking to himself said softly “when I promote, it will be because I am ready and able to make good decisions and not because somebody was pulling for me to get a better job.”
Doing the mundane things that needed to be done on the graveyard shift, Brett sometimes volunteered to work overtime on the day watch to learn more and get more exposure to the prison setting thus learning how things are done during the day. He did this on the advice of other officers who were trying to mentor him and work as good role models to do the job right.
Brett was raised by good parents who taught him the value of life and the right and wrongs of doing things knowing there are consequences for anything you do wrong or against the law. Always interested in law enforcement, he kept a clean nose to get a job as a police officer one day. He knew that his actions would speak louder than his words as his father had always said to him, “son, if you follow the golden rule you will always be okay.”
Brett was a risk taker, the kind that would try to walk over a bridge with a very narrow edge. Once when he was young he was dared to walk an edge of a long bridge by a friend who wanted to see him fall into the water below and as he walked very carefully on that ledge of the bridge, the friend, trying to distract him kept saying to him “look at me, don’t look down or ahead just look at me and you won’t fall.” Ignoring his friend, he made it all the way across the narrow bridge and never fell into the water. So at a very early age, Brett learned to make decisions for himself knowing what he can and cannot do. Talking about his future, he takes calculated risks in his career path to accomplish his goals.
Working the prisons is not easy. Every day Brett comes home tired and exhausted from the stress and anxiety that the place gives him. Combined with is family responsibilities, he has a full plate to take care of and can’t afford to lose this job over something silly or not worth arguing or fighting about. He needed the paycheck and the healthcare benefits to take care of his family and himself. He had many friends away from work. They have no clue or idea what he did for a living and often teased him about being a prison guard out there in the desert. Seldom speaking a word about what he does, his friends noticed he deliberately does not talk about his job as much as he did in the beginning. Sometimes, he would get mad and tell them, “I’m not a prison guard, I am a correctional officer!” His friends, curious about the difference asked Brett “what is it you do that is so different that being a guard?” Brett, scratching his head said softly “my job is more than turning keys or walking around looking to see if anything is wrong or out of place. I have to protect bad people from each other and the public from them.” That’s not an easy job and I’m not getting rich doing it but it does give me the satisfaction of being good at what I do.
Leaving the house the wife said to Brett “it looks like it will be cold tonight dear, take a jacket.” “No it won’t but just the same, I’ll put the jacket in the car.” Carrying his lunch and cold Sprite for later on in the shift, he walks to the car and drives away to go to work.
Entering the prison, he shows his ID badge and is motioned through by the guard at the front gate. Getting ready for work, he finds his other persona that he possesses to deal with the job and put away all his other thoughts as a private person would working such a hell hole. Grunting as he clears the metal detector, he walks through a deep dark tunnel to get to his briefing area. There the new sergeant, yelling at everybody to be quiet and listen losses control over the mob and throws up his hands in disgust. Briefing over, nothing was said and nothing was passed on leaving the others asking questions from those they meet inside the dark tunnel on their way to the cellblocks.
Brett reaches for a radio and finds the battery is dead. Standing nearby, Ryan and Janice are laughing at him saying “hey Brett, the early worm gets the good ones and you’re stuck with a junker tonight.” Realizing some truth in what they said, he picks up another battery hoping it is fully charged.
As the others disappeared from sight, Brett is all alone inside this huge tunnel where the gates are locked and the eerie noises whisper like ghosts in the air. Thinking out loud of what the wife had said to him he realized it was indeed getting cold and wished he had his jacket to keep him warm.
Scarlett, hanging out in the tunnel that night laughed as she saw Brett’s body shiver a little bit as a cold breeze came through the tunnel. Looking around for a meal, she noticed that the web was all torn and there was nothing in the web.
“Hmm thought Scarlett “somebody has been eating my meals and tearing up my webs. I wonder who that can be?” just seconds later she saw a huge black animal come at her and as she ducked she was mystified of what had just flew by her.
About an hour into the shift a radio call calls for medical at one of the cells where there is a fire reported. Brett, not assigned to that area decides to respond to help and when he arrived he saw Ryan and others suit up to go inside a cell that had smoke and fire. Asking where the sergeant was Brett said” hey Janice, where is the sarge? Why isn’t he here to supervise this?” Janice, bragging proudly about her boyfriend Ryan, said “Ryan said he would handle it and the sarge can do the paperwork when it’s all done with.” Shaking his head, Brett knew that this was not the way he was trained and that protocol was being compromised. However, wanting to maintain a six (have their backs) on those who responded he remained to be available to help if needed.
The fire was extinguished and the large fan was brought in to clear the smoke. The prisoner, strapped on a gurney naked and waiting for medical to look at him was breathing hard. The others, taking off their stab vests and other protective gear were laughing about how they went in and hog tied this prisoner almost immediately and without problems. When all was done and back in order, the shift sergeant showed up and collected the reports from the guards that were involved in the cell extraction and use of force. Writing all the same, they sergeant cleaned it up on his report and forwarded it to the warden’s office via the fax machine. This was a routine night and routine paperwork.
Every day was a different day, and every night was a good night when nobody in uniform got hurt on the job. The goal, going home safely, was ultimately the duty of each shift as taught by those instructors at the academy.
“Whew, that fire was a bad one” Scarlett said to Theodore the prison rat. “I thought that guy was a goner.”
“Yes, that was close” said Theodore. “Why do you think he set that fire inside his cell when he knew he would get hurt.”
“For attention Theodore, for attention” said Scarlett. “Some of these guys haven’t spoken or touched another human for years and when they get locked up like this, sometimes it feels good to get beaten and touched by them because that way they know they are still human and its painful but worth the efforts”.
“How did he start that fire?” asked Theodore, “they have no matches.”
“Easy” said Scarlett, “you see, what you do is take two pieces of wires from your television, your headphones or something like that and snap them together in the electrical receptacle to cause a spark and put something flammable between the sparks like paper and voi la, a fire.” “when I was living inside the electrical room, it was too noisy because every time they did this, some of the breakers would pop off and make this loud clicking noise” I couldn’t stand it so I moved.” Laughing loudly, Scarlett said goodbye to Theodore and crawled back into a crevice where she took a nap.
Just about the time she closed her eyes Lucy came up and tapped her on her leg waking her up. “What’s the matter Lucy?’ asked Scarlett.
“I can’t sleep” said Lucy “so I thought I would keep you company.”
“Well Lucy, I was almost asleep as all this smoke made me kind of drowsy but now that I’m awake, let’s go look into the sergeant’s office and see what he is doing.”
“Okay” said Lucy “I bet he is on the computer.”
Laughing loudly the two spiders traveled high above the wall unseen and unheard by humans as well as other insects. Once they got to the office Lucy yelled out “I told you, I told you, he is on the computer playing cards.”
“Hmm, I don’t think so Lucy, I think he is doing the report on the fire.”
Creeping up a little closer Lucy said “yup, that’s what he is doing, actually working and not playing.” “Did I tell you what he did the other night Scarlett?” “did I, did I?”
“No, what did he do the other night Lucy?”
“He came in and when everybody was gone, I saw him take out a game out of his black bag and he started playing this game that made loud noises like guns going off and bombs blasting away.” “Oh, that’s nothing Lucy, I have seen him bring in his cell phone and talk on it all night long at times.” He doesn’t even listen to the radio anymore. “Well that explains why he didn’t respond to the fire.” Said Lucy
Chapter 3 – Escape
The prison complex was very large. It wasn’t that old but hit had a lot of maintenance problems in the area of keeping the plumbing going and the electrics working for the coolers. Once you walked inside them, it smelled like a barn, filled with the odor of manure and the perspiration of men and horses. It never had a peaceful smell as it was always in turmoil and chaos. Separated from the world, it required a whole different attitude to work in and keep the peace. The prisons were pleasantly warm to live in during the winter as the nights were chilled but the days were cool. The prisoners loved the cooler winter weather and spent more time outside to enjoy the breezes. In the summer, these prisons were hot, extremely hot. The air rarely moved well enough to call it a breeze. The concrete walls retained the heat throughout the night and never cooled down enough to make it feel better. Mostly overcrowded, taking a shower or getting to go outside required staff available and sometimes, they were so short, nothing moved while on shift. No showers, no recreation and no movement to release the stress or anxiety of being locked up all day and all night most of the time.
Scarlett likes cooler days better than hot days. She can move around more when it’s cooler and although there are more people around, she still gets to spend a lot of time socializing with the other animals.
Thinking of her sister that lives in a barn a couple of miles away, she was thinking how this smell would be so pleasant for her to live in. perhaps she can talk her sister into moving in with her and leave that old musty barn.
Strolling to the visitation room, Scarlett saw it was very crowded. She comes here often to see if there are any ants running around for these visitors bring snacks from the machines outside the room and eat them while visiting with their relatives. Spinning her web deep inside another crevice, she listens to what is going on inside the loud room where there are people packed in like sardines in a can.
“OH hello Scarlett!” a voice said from the top of the wall.
Oh hi there Buster, how are you today.” Fine but it’s a little stuffy in here so I think I am going stage right and leave.”
Why Buster, even a scorpion has to eat something.” I can see a lot of ants here and I know you are hungry.”
“Yes but it’s too crowded and I don’t like crowds so I guess I’ll split.”
Scarlett, a little bit disappointed said to Buster “okay, see you next time.”
People come to visit prisoners on certain days of the week. They are allowed to see each other through pieces of plastic and talk to each other via the telephone that each stall had. Sometimes the visitation room is so crowded they had to wait for hours to see their relatives and sometimes, when the staff was short, they were cut off earlier than their required two hour visit so many others can visit too. Sitting there quietly and listening to each other via the phone, it was not a pleasant way to see each other. The visitors trusted the guards to do their jobs and sometimes when the guards aren’t looking they would take chances of doing something wrong. Regardless, most of the visitors were happy just to be near their family and wouldn’t chance getting caught doing something wrong as they knew their visitation privileges would be suspended for a long time.
Walking into the prison you can notice that there is one way in and one way out. Brett often said that “there’s no place to hide and escape out of this place, so it seems.” Billy, a good friend of Brett disagreed and said “if you really wanted to get out of here, you could find a way and get out.” Shaking his head, Brett argued Billy was wrong and laughed at his comment.
Billy, realizing Brett was being a skeptic told him “you are wrong my friend, you are so wrong for there are many ways to get out if you look close enough.” I have been working here for five years now and it can be done. All it takes is a good distraction, a good plan and a swift exit out of the place.”
Brett looked through the fence and saw Ryan standing over there with a gun in his hands. Standing by a car on the perimeter, he was checking the fence line to see if it had been tampered with the shift before. Ryan, noticing them watching him pointed his gun at them telling them out loud “bang, bang, you’re dead” laughing as he puts the gun away into the car he was driving.
Walking along the fence line, Billy was pushing and testing the alarm systems to see if they were working. On the radio, someone answered him telling him that the fence alarm is working “code 4″ telling Billy it triggered an alarm. Walking the entire mile and a half of the prison, he was satisfied the alarms worked as every time he pushed on the fence, a light came on and the radio told him it was okay. A boring way to do a job five days a week, Billy was a good foot patrol officer and he was training Brett to be the same. Once the security check was done, Billy showed Brett how to document the checks he just made and told him that except for the deadly electric fence overhead by the administration building and the yard, there were plenty of ways of finding a way out of here and without being noticed if staff weren’t alert and equipment designed to warn you didn’t work as it should.
The following day the prison went on lockdown. Brett had heard that someone escaped from another unit where they cut a hole in the fence and crawled out to where the hole was made and ran into the fields next to the prison. It must have happened just after breakfast for they had just left the prison complex and all was well. Maybe the guards at the other place didn’t check the fence as good as Billy did last night with Brett following him watching him test the fence alarms. Rumors started flying when Brett came to work that night. It was really ugly all over because there were people everywhere making rounds and asking all kinds of questions. Perhaps Billy was right Brett was thinking, ‘if you really want to get out of this prison, you can find a way.” Taking this as a reality check, he knew how important it was to check the fence and check it right every time he was told to do so by his supervisor.
Scarlett knew also that there were ways to get in and out of the place. She knew every nook and cranny and has stepped outside the prison many times to catch some fresh air or just meet with friends outside the fence and chat for a while in the shade or during the times of darkness.
A week later, there was a meeting in the prison where the deputy warden came in on each shift and explained how the prisoners escaped the other morning from the unit across the street. He said that someone had silenced the alarm system caused it went off too much and bothered the guard in the control center. He then went on to explain how the prisoners had watched staff prop a door open every night and leaving it open to the outside showing them a way out of the unit without being detected. It appeared that the fence that was in place what not high enough to keep them in and as they crawled over to the outside fence, someone was waiting for them with a set of wire cutters and threw them over. “oh, how can that be?” thought Brett, wasn’t there an officer on the perimeter road checking the fence from the outside?” just before he could finish his thoughts the warden said, “the officer on the perimeter was called away to help with an escort of a work detail and left the perimeter road unwatched, just like he does every day of the week.” “Someone must have been watching him and told somebody else” Billy said to Brett as he nudged his shoulder quietly. “Man, somebody’s gonna hang for this one, a voice came from the back, you know they are going to hang somebody over this.”
“The prisoners that escaped had studied the place hard and knew every move of the guards inside that unit. Something like this should have never happened” said Janice butting in and saying her two cents. Somebody is going to get fired and we will all be punished for a while until they forget this ever happened.”
Gloria, sitting three chairs away from Brett and Janice whispered silently “I worked there a few weeks ago and nobody over there does their jobs right.” They play cards in the yard office and ignore the alarms when they are not silenced, that is.” Brett, looking in Gloria’s direction said quietly, “why didn’t you say something to somebody?” “Are you crazy? I don’t want to be a troublemaker and snitch them off over there, I work here and I was only there because they were shorthanded that night.” Noticing a slight sweat on her forehead, Billy said quietly, “Gloria, why didn’t you tell a supervisor they aren’t doing their jobs?” Gloria, now losing her cool said loudly, “if they don’t know what is going on there, why should I open my mouth and snitch them off, it’s none of my business what they do there, I work here!!”
Ryan, sneaking in a smart aleck comment said to Gloria ‘did you know their fence line was weak? Did you know they weren’t checking it like they should?” laughing and pointing his finger at Gloria, he called her a troublemaker for even saying something like that to the others. Gloria, embarrassed turned her head and remained quiet the rest of the night.
Scarlett, hearing all the commotion looked around to see if anybody was paying attention to the deputy warden speaking.it appeared they were but thinking out loud she drew the attention of another spider that lives up in the rafters of the briefing room.
“Bobo, is that you?” asked Scarlett with a faint voice as she carefully peeked around to make sure it wasn’t the enemy.
“Of course it’s me, who do you think it was, Ronald Reagan.” Laughing out loud Bobo crawled up next to Scarlett and rubbed her leg as if to give her a kiss.
Bobo being a brown recluse spider was not always so friendly therefore Scarlett was always weary of his moods. “Well, how are you Scarlett?”
“I was listening to the man speaking up front there and noticed that there was a lot of chattering around the room instead of listening to him” said Scarlett.
“That’s normal, isn’t it” said Bobo “he really doesn’t say much important most of the time when he does show up late at night.”
“No this is different, they had an escape across the street and he is really mad because the wardens yelled at all of them for being too lax and easy on making staff do their jobs.”
“Oh, you know how that goes, it is only important for a short time and then, well everything goes back to normal. It’s just the way it is” said Bobo.
In the meantime, the prison was slowly returning back to normal as the fugitive prisoners were still on the loose. More information revealed more problems and now it was rumored that the supervisors and the deputy warden knew of the problems and how staff acted and neglected their jobs. The place was tense as more and more information revealed there was a code of silence in that unit that kept others from reporting others to supervisors and that supervisors were condoning the card playing, the watching of televisions and propping open doors to keep the place cooler.
Brett went home after shift work and it being Saturday, he knew had could stay awake for a while as he was off on Sunday and Monday nights. Picking up the newspaper he read that the US Marshalls were looking for the fugitives all over the country and following all kinds of clues and tips gathered by them. He was wondering where these guys could be as if they just disappeared completely off the face of the earth it seems. His wife Kim, sensing a worry about her husband, squeezed his hand to reassure him all is well at home and to relax a bit while he could.
Sissy, his oldest daughter about five years old crawled on his lap and gave him a book to read as he put away the newspaper. She said “daddy, read me this story please?” picking up the book it read “Charlotte’s web” by E.B. White. Reading into the book first couple of chapters, she was fascinated with his story telling. When he got to chapter 3 the “Escape” Sissy looked at her daddy and said softly “is this what happened at your work daddy, somebody escaped?” did they do what Wilbur did by “looking through the fence and seeing the goose on the other side standing there?” Did they listen to the goose who told Wilbur, “You don’t have to stay in that dirty-little dirty-little yard?” Explaining to Sissy that one of the fence boards were too lose and allowed someone to crawl through like Wilbur did, Sissy laughed and said the goose was right “one board was loose” and Wilbur walked right up to that fence and shut his eyes and pushed hard until the board gave way and he was loose. “How does it feel to be free?’ said the goose. Replying to the goose Wilbur said “I like it”, that is, I guess I like it.”
Chapter 4 – Ryan’s days off (loneliness)
Saturday and Sunday were really quiet days for Scarlett and her friends. It seemed that that was also the days that everything was kinda quiet most of the time because nobody was there in the buildings working like the other days.
Scarlett, taking advantage of the stillness, took a long nap after eating some of her prey that she had saved up for the weekend meal. The mood was pleasant as Lucy came by and joined her for a meal.
“isn’t it nice to be friends like this” said Lucy
“Yes, it is Lucy, I am lucky to have a good friend like you here at the prison.”
“What are you doing today Scarlett?” Do you want to go play somewhere like in the kitchen or laundry room?”
“No, let’s go to the visiting room today, it’s crowded and the ants are crawling all over the place.”
“I can’t Scarlett; Bobo doesn’t like me so I stay away from the visiting room.”
“Too bad Lucy that is where most of the insects live and you can spin some great webs nearby and catch them as much as you can.”
“I know Scarlett, but Bobo and I had a falling out about a year ago and we never made up.”
The usually bright sun was hidden by the darkened clouds gathering up above as in the distant, lightning and thunder made their way into the desert town in the middle of nowhere. As Ryan was sound asleep in his comfortable mansion, he didn’t notice the storm clouds gathering in the distance and fell adrift of a dream that he was the king of the empire in his make believe world.
Later that morning, as Ryan pulled back the sheets of his king size bed, he heard the rain falling on the rooftop and the thunder and lightning echoing in the air. For sure, Ryan realized that this rain had upset his plans for the two days he was off and wanting to do something special to spend the time away. First after breakfast, he had plans to go to the track and run his two miles like he does every day but the rain ruined that for him. Deciding on eating cereal and milk, he poured the skim milk over his Cheerios and munched away. Thinking while eating he wanted to go visit a friend and play some hoops with him but the rain chased that plan away.
After going to the mall and walking the three floors for the exercise his missed on the track, he decided to go eat lunch. Lunch was supposed to be with another friend who was to have met him at the Chinese buffet but he called and said his roof was leaking. Eating alone at the buffet, he said to himself “the rain chased him away too.”
Dinner was going to be a little later than usual as he slept in late. He wanted to eat at the newly opened sports bar with a few friends who had put on a tailgate party in their parking lot but it rained so hard all day long the parking lot was flooded and his friends were a no show that day. Calling them up on his cell phone, they told him they had had decided to cancel the tail gate party and just spend the day inside watching a game on the big screen television. Deciding to take a nap, he slept for a couple of hours and when he awoke, the rain was still falling hard. Feeling lonely and friendless, he walked outside where the raindrops fell on his head as he looked outside and saw that the clouds had thickened and not moving away. So he thought to himself “the rain had decided to stay.”
Going to bed early he decided that tomorrow he would try to do something else with his friends he missed today. Reaching for his cell phone he began to call his friends and after every call he was told by them that they already had plans and that they couldn’t join him for any games or meals. It was like they were all saying to Ryan, “go away, we are not going to play with you today.”
The next day was just as gloomy as the day before, only this time, Ryan felt lonelier than ever before. Thinking to himself ‘why worry, one day is just like another and someday I will find friends who will stay when it rains all day.”
Thinking perhaps one of his old ex-girlfriends would like to go to a movie; he drove over to her house and honked the horn twice just like he did when he was dating her. Susanna, peeking out of the window that gloomy day saw the Jeep in the driveway just like it did when she was dating Ryan. Not wanting to hurt his feelings, she decided not to answer his calling and ignore his call. Walking up to the door and knocking on the door, Ryan saw movement in the window but decided to leave after no one answered the door. Thinking he didn’t have any friends, he decided to go to the movie by himself and settle for being alone the rest of the day.
Darkness was settling in the little desert town and the streets were empty. Water, still running off the sidewalks and into the sewers covered the streets as minor flooding made the news on the local station. Stillness settled in and Ryan reaching into his refrigerator for a cold brew thought to himself, “Soon, I will go back to work and see my friends there. They won’t be so rude as the others because they need me on their six and cover their backs.”
Chapter 5 -Team work on shift
The night seemed extra-long on this particular shift. Brett came in early to pick up a good radio and was talking to Billy when he heard something in the background that resembled something gnawing at a piece of wood. Looking intensely, he found a rat climbing on the water spout after the hard rain and looking for another place to live. Breaking the monotony, Brett laughed at the rat and settled down a bit as he reached in for another cup of coffee. He was saving his Sprite for later on in the shift to keep him hydrated.
The second time Brett was startled was when he heard a big noise flying directly over his head as he noticed a big owl looking for something to eat. Thinking the rat was probably already hidden away this owl was looking for something else as it used its night vision to stalk its prey. Getting plenty of rest and sound sleep, he was wide awake when Billy asked him if he wanted to take a walk with him to the back and receive some new prisoners for the night. “Sure, I think I can use the exercise to the back and learn something new by watching you” said Brett as he took off his heavy stab vest and carried it over his arm.
Theodore didn’t think that what he did was funny and scoffed at Brett. Scarlett, looking at Theodore and Brett from far away started crawling towards Theodore when she spotted the owl flying overhead. Being black at night helps but Scarlett knew the owl could see well at night and was a very good hunter.
Reaching Theodore, Scarlett said to him “what brings you out tonight?” “I am hungry and I am gnawing on a piece of wood to satisfy my appetite, why do you ask?”
Because I am hungry too and am thinking of going to the kitchen to seek if there is anything good to eat there.”
“Wait on me!” yelled Theodore, “that’s a great idea.”
Billy, yawning and looking tired told Brett he was thinking of quitting this job and going somewhere else. Brett looking surprised asked “why the hell do you want to leave a job that is so easy when there are no other jobs out there to get?” yawning again Billy responded “because I am tired of this bull shit that goes on in here. I work my butt off and all I get is criticism on how I do my job” by the new sergeant. “Let him come out here and do what I do and see how long he would last!” Sensing frustration and anger, Brett decided just to listen and allow Billy to vent about his feelings.
Walking to the back he met up with two other officers and as they talked they shared some things about their service in the Army as they shared the same dirt and the same sand in Iraq and Afghanistan a few years ago. Talking like old times, they shook hands and walked off sensing they made new friends on this shift. About a half hour later, a transport team of four officers came in to pick up a validated gangster going to court for some serious assaults on a couple of officers a few months back. Carrying their shackles and stun belt in plain sight, they talked about how this character was one of the worst there was when it came to violent behaviors and assaulting officers inside the cellblocks. They were told not to take any chances and make sure they let the Sheriff jailers know how dangerous he is when they take him and keep him in their jail.
Altogether, Brett had met about half a dozen new officers who shared their experience, their skills and their ability to work the prisons giving Brett a new feeling of motivation and rejuvenation. Realizing he was not alone in his thoughts and expectations, he was glad that the night had worked out the way it did for him.
The kitchen was where the food was prepared for all the prisoners and not always left very clean. They know that the inspection is only done once every six months and they usually get a phone call warning them the inspector is on the prison grounds inspecting those same places as he did before the last time he was there. Sometimes, they call the day before and warn everybody he is coming and what he is looking for in his inspection.
As always, Theodore headed straight for the meat slicer where remnants of sliced bologna was left over night and not cleaned up. Munching at the meat, Theodore was content and ignored Scarlett’s presence.
In the meantime, Scarlett went over to the dry goods and noticed that all the new stuff that came in today was sitting on the floor instead of wooden pallets.
“Hey Theodore, look, they made it easier for you and your family to come eat their dry goods on the floor and not putting it away like they are suppose to.”
“yeah Scarlett, they do this all the time since they hired a new guy that doesn’t care too much about following rules or safety regulations. He leaves stuff out for us to eat, he doesn’t lock up his tools and he lets the prisoners eat and handle the food without gloves.”
“The other day, I was checking out the dishwasher to see if it was working and I saw they weren’t using a sterilizer in the water so I took a bath in it.” The temperature wasn’t very hot so it was quite pleasant I tell you.”
“Theodore, you took a bath?”
“Yes why do you make a face?”
“Because, Theodore, you hate water!!!!” Scarlett couldn’t stop laughing as Theodore was pouting and putting away a chunk of cheese he had found on the unswept floor.
The next night was much the same. Only so much happens on a graveyard shift and for the most, it was Ryan who ran the shift instead of the sergeant. Giving the shift over to a seasoned and experienced officer in lieu of taking your own command was a common practice in this place but not something Brett agreed with as he didn’t feel comfortable taking orders from Ryan who was somewhat harsh and unreasonable at times towards the prisoners. It was like he had a personal grudge towards them as he never treated them the way one would treat a person for mutual respect or cooperation in the directives given.
He just figured that Ryan was old school and that’s how they did it before. Therefore, nobody questioned the methods used or the tactics applied.
“Really,” asked Scarlett. “I most certainly question his moods, his conduct and his behavior!!” but Brett couldn’t hear Scarlett’s comments.
All in all the shift became a tight group and the events appeared to be handled correctly as nothing was ever said about how they performed or acted whenever someone was in trouble or needed help. Dealing with attempted suicides, fires, self-cutters, fighters and criers the job was unpredictable and sometimes pure adrenalin rush. Rarely, someone higher than a lieutenant would make an appearance on the shift even at briefing and everybody depended on each other to get the job done the best way they knew for they quickly realized that the only ones that had their six was those on shift and nobody else. Even those at the other units had no idea what they had to deal with unless they were sent over there to sit on a suicide watch or work a control center because of staff shortages. This shift though, rarely complaining about being short, decided to not ask for any help from anyone and took care of business the way they have done it day in and day out without a single request for help from the others.
Brett was learning quickly about leadership on this shift as his experience widened and others were coming to him for advice and how to handle certain situations rather than going to sergeant or Ryan to avoid being ridiculed or embarrassed in public or in briefing. He noticed his presence was often requested by some as they greeted him with a polite salutation and invited him to come visit them on their post and share their food, their drinks or other snacks brought in for the duration of the night shift.
“He has really gotten better at his job” said Lucy to Scarlett
“Yes, he has and he will be a first set someday and maybe replace Ryan as the lead person because Ryan is so bitter in doing his job.”
“”Well, I told you why but it doesn’t seem to get better lately, if fact, I think it is getting worse. I think he hates everybody now” said Lucy softly.
Chapter 6 -the Nights
Many officers who work graveyard have to learn how to sleep during the day to stay awake during the nights takes a lot of time and practice that many never really get used to, Changing your biological clock to read upside down and adjusting your meals to another schedule is hard even when you are strong and healthy. Working the nights is totally different than working days or even the swing shift or evening watch as some call it. Those work working overtime often come onboard yawning and red eyed for they are not used to staying alert inside this darkness that is almost entirely below ground and out of the weather. Noises are common and every sound has a purpose.
Stretching their energy levels from night to day every time they work takes a toll on their bodies and often creates different problems at home for they are excluded from many affairs of the family except on their days off. Working in a windowless environment, they don’t know if it is day or night until they leave the darkened corridors and make it to the outside concrete yard where they met to smoke a cigarette, exchange keys or equipment of just take a break away from the dungeons to maintain their sanity of the place.
Janice turned to Ryan and said to him “wasn’t it a beautiful day yesterday?” Ryan, snubbing her with a sneer laughed and said “yeah right, it was already dark when I woke up so if it was beautiful I didn’t see it.” Someone else voiced their opinion and told Janice “yes, it was beautiful today; I went by the park and the ducks were all swimming in large groups as people were feeding them bread crumbs.”
He continued to speak saying “People were having picnics and BBQ’s in the park as if it was a holiday but many just went there to lie on the grassy knolls and enjoy the cooler weather we have been getting lately.” Ryan, obviously bothered over the abrupt interruption of his conversation with Janice, got up and left the table to find something else to do. Meanwhile over in the corner, there were two people squaring off as if they were about to get into fisticuffs and fight each other.
Brett paused and listened and told Billy to keep an eye on them before they do something stupid. Looking like two rams with large horns and ready to charge at each other, they rushed over there to step in between them and attempt a hand at peacemaking. Several minutes later, the two shook hands and went back to work.
Ryan, noticing the quarrel ran over to the shift sergeant and told him he had a fight on his yard. Entering the office of the shift supervisor he yelled out loud “hey sarge, you got a fight out there!” The sergeant, comfortable in his chair and refusing to leave his computer where he was playing solitaire and keeping score on himself, scoffed it off and took another sip of his hot coffee made out of his custom made coffeemaker brought in to give him the comforts of home on his shift. Ryan again said it louder telling the sergeant “you better get your ass out there and stop this fight on your shift or somebody is gonna get hurt.” Realizing that Ryan was making his mood change he told Ryan to go out there and “handle it.”
Bobo saw the commotion from where he was sitting and thought he had a ringside seat to a great boxing match. Out of nowhere came a voice that he recognized instantly as Scarlett’s as she said “disappointed Bobo, no fight tonight?”
“Oh but you missed the other fight earlier today in the visiting strip room where an officer accidently left two prisoners together alone for about one minute.
“Oh no, what happened?” asked Scarlett
“Well, they were both from different gangs. One was white and one was brown but they both had tattoos that showed they had killed somebody already.”
“When the officer went and stepped outside for a minute to light his cigarette, the two butted heads and drew blood on each other.” Then, because their hands were still shackled, they started kicking each other and both fell down as they were trying to kick each other in the groin to stun their fight.
I know this because I have seen them do it before and once one of them falls, the other will keep kicking at the head until he is unconscious or worse, in a coma and taken to the hospital.”
“Luckily,” said Bobo, they both fell down and the officer came back in to stop the fighting”
The night also brings out the vampires; Vampire bats that are plenty all over as they took over this prison many years ago and settled in to drink the blood of all the vermin that live out here in the desert abandoned by civilization. Believing all those myths about these blood sucking demonizing creatures, they really do exist and live in these areas as well as Central and South America.
These bats, bragging a wingspan of about eight inches in length and a body the size of a thumb they feed on the blood of birds, cattle, horses, pigs and anything sleeping as they use their sharp teeth to make tiny cuts in the skin of the sleeping animal. Using saliva that contains a chemical that stops coagulation of the blood, they lick the blood as it also numbs the skin so the animal doesn’t wake up. Flying about a meter above the ground they swoop around objects and use their sonar to guide them and the smell to find their prey.
Chapter 7 – Summer Days Summer Nights
Summer days and summer nights in a prison are interesting times indeed. The climate is unbearable as the heat shimmers on the black asphalt roads leading into the prison complex discouraging even the little vermin that live there from coming out to greet the sunlight as it bakes the surface beyond 130 degrees or more. No trees except for a few sprinkled along the roadways to give the route some uniformity; there are no blossoms or no fragrances to fill the dead dry air. Around the first part of the summer, the temperatures climb quickly into the century marks but cool down in the evening to the lower seventies or even the sixties.
Agnes is an older spider that keeps Scarlett company sometimes. Crawling slower and eating less, Agnes shares her food with Scarlett and all the others as she is a community spider that likes to share.
Scarlett, very fond of Agnes is always looking out for her on hot hot days as she struggles a bit to get around and has difficulties climbing walls so she stays low to the ground whenever possible. This is no problem when it doesn’t rain for the walls are dry but when it rains, the walls are wet and her hiding places are close to the ground and often flooded out.
The shift has enjoyed less severe incidents than ever before but to say the danger has passed would be to make a fatal mistake. Brett, Ryan, Janice and Billy all acknowledge the mood has been mellow and something is wrong with all this calmness. There was tension in the air and nobody knew why. Ryan, saying to Billy, “I think you better make a double round tonight to see if everything is in order on the perimeter.” Billy, hesitant to take orders from Ryan nodded his head and went out to get a stick to rattle the fences once more to make sure the alarms are working.
The stillness brings on a paranoia that is difficult to deal with at times. Too much time to do nothing works up tension and brings tempers to the surface among the staff. It seems whenever there are quiet times, it results in disagreements or squabbles over who does what and who is in charge. Rarely seen during the shift, the sergeant, now with almost six months under his belt as a supervisor, has become more proficient in giving out orders and doing nothing but the bare minimum required to fill out the paperwork for the entire shift activities. Lacking the energy or the devotion to share time with his staff, he has simply worked his way into a web of his own isolating himself from the others almost daily.
The tasks performed are done in a most convenient manner as shortcuts are found by others so they can have more breaks and meet at the yard table to smoke a cigarette, drink their coffee or just gossip about others not present at the table or working other units.
The atmosphere is bearable and the activities are reasonable to beat the heat later in the day. Working nights in a prison has its advantages. Its gives the officers a chance to work under cooler conditions as their stab vests are thick and heavy and cause them to sweat as they wear them every time they go on shift. Once inside the cellblock, they must wear goggles and other protective gear that makes them sweat even more. The air, often stagnate and unnoticeable to the senses, is often stimulated by the unauthorized use of the overhead fans that suck in outside air to cool the place but put a burden on the cooling system that seems to never work as designed.
There is no grass as all the grass was removed to conserve water usage in the desert. There are no sprinklers to moisten the air and there are rare and few thunder storms earlier into the summer making the advent of the monsoon season something to anticipate by many who want the rain to cool them down. Day after day, both prisoners and staff endure the heat as the summer comes into August and September bringing with them thunder clouds, lightning storms and power outages that set the place into stillness as everyone anticipates the lights to come back on when the generator kicks in to the emergency supply circuit.
Monsoons are natural phenomena that many love to watch as their clouds build up a thunderhead of a cloud that travels at a quick pace once it forms and dumps a torrential amount of rain onto the desert ground. The ground, unable to soak up the raging water is rapidly flooded and washes away anything not attached to the desert floor firmly rooted or staked in as a plant. Even though these monsoon are welcomed as they bring some rain, they also bring large and severe dust storms that makes it hard to drive in and sometimes holds up the oncoming shifts for traveling in these storms is risky and often fatal for those not skilled to drive in one of these nature created booby-traps.
Monsoons are dangerous for Scarlett and her friends too. Water is a powerful force to reckon with and should not be ignored.
The good thing about the monsoon is that most of Scarlett’s friends have an early warning system that gives them a chance to find the high ground or deep crevices to hide from the wind.
One summer day, as the sky was getting darker and darker, Scarlett was searching for Agnes and couldn’t find her. Frantic and worried about her, she asked all her friends to help look for her to make sure she would be safe from the rushing waters. Finally, Theodore, came up to Scarlett and yelled “I found her, I found her, and she is over here!!”
“I am coming Theodore, I am crawling as fast as I can.”
“Out of breath and panting loudly, Scarlett saw Agnes lying on her side not looking too good. “What’s the matter Agnes, are you okay?”
“I think it’s time Scarlett, I think I am ready to die.”
“No Agnes, there is still a lot more to live for, get better and see.”
Crying, Scarlett couldn’t control her tears as she saw Agnes’s legs fold up into a ball and moaning softly, drawing her last breath.”
Finally, in the silence, Scarlett said to her friends. “we must find a good place to bury her with dignity as she was a good friend of ours and always shared her food with us.”
Nodding in harmony, they all agreed.
Summer days are also good for vacations and getaways on three day weekends. Disneyland and Knott’s Farm are common destinations for staff to take their families but many go to Sea World or San Diego for a cool off. Bret, thinking of taking the family to Sea World decided to ask for a day off in conjunction with his regular days off from the shift sergeant. Walking into the office Brett said “hey sarge, do you mind if I take a day off next week with my regular days off? I want to go out of town and need an extra day to travel!” Looking at Brett with squinted eyes the sergeant blurted out “and what is in it for me?” what do I get out of you taking a day off huh Brett; tell me what I want to hear.” Throwing Brett for a loop, he sensed the sergeant was pissed and asked him again politely saying “look sarge, we got these tickets and we want to spend some time together out there so do you mind signing this leave form for me, please?” reluctantly the sergeant grabs the leave form and signs the approved leave with a grudge telling Brett once more “you owe me dude, you owe me big so when you come back, get ready to bust your ass for me.” Brett acknowledging the power his supervisor had over his job and his career, nodded his head in agreement and walked out of the office with a signed leave form but with much humility and anger.
Walking back to where Billy was sitting at the table he said softly, “man that guy has a problem, he reminds me of a rat for he has shown me no morals and no scruples in how he acts, thinks or behaves.” Billy agreeing in silence said to Brett, “chill brother, it too will pass but you are right, he is a rat and an untrustworthy rat at best.” Jimmy went one step further calling him a “douche bag and a rat.” Nobody seemed to have much respect for this man they call boss.
Scarlett has thought of taking a vacation as well, perhaps she could hitch a ride with Brett and go to Disneyland with him and the family.
Talking it over with Lucy, she said “Do you think he would mind if I hitched a ride with him to California Lucy?”
“Well to tell you the truth, it is kinda risky but if you pack yourself away really good in their clothes, you can be sure that you are going with him no matter where he goes.”
Scarlett thinking twice about this adventure said “I think I will, I need a vacation too.”
Lucy laughed as she was excited to hear all about the trip once Scarlett got back.
Scarlett, a little worried said, “I just have to be sure I get a ride back too so I don’t get left behind in a strange place.”
Chapter 8 – Problems
Billy and Brett seemed to be getting along better day after day. Billy’s approach to matters at hand always appeared to be so rational and filled with common sense compared to Ryan and the boss on shift. Rarely a day went by where the cool head of Billy prevailed and avoided a catastrophe from happening on the shift as he had a silent influence over others that seemed to calm everyone down to a more sensible mood and attitude. Jimmy, Gloria, Brett and others went to Billy for advice and suggestions as he seemed to be the only one who could reach out and get the proper attention from the sergeant or Ryan, now officially the first set foot patrol for the shift. This was an important assignment as it essentially puts him in charge of everything that happens on the shift and reports all his actions and decisions to the sergeant who still remained in his office out of sight and out of mind of many working there.
“You’re always so thoughtful” Billy said Gloria. You seem to always take the time to listen and help us out. “What you do for this shift is really appreciated by those who see you trying and we want you to know that we really respect how you help us out all the time.” These words were kind and seldom said in this business. Brett feeling the same looked at Billy and winked his eye to agree with what Gloria said. Softly he says “you the man Billy, you the main man.”
Scarlett, noticing the attention Gloria is giving Billy said to Bobo, “it looks like she likes him a lot don’t it?”
Bobo, snickering and making funny sounds replied “Yes, it does look like she is falling for Billy, I wonder how that would work out since Billy is single and Gloria just went through a nasty divorce.”
“Oh, I don’t think that people who work together should date or marry each other” said Scarlett. “I am speaking of experience Bobo, it hardly ever works out.”
“I know” said Bobo, “I don’t disagree with you, and it’s just so nice to see them get along like this.”
One night, a very rare occasion, the lieutenant came on shift and walked around asking everybody how things were going. The lieutenant assigned to a desk but required to make graveyard rounds to fill in blanks in his monthly report, started snooping around and checking the equipment of everybody on shift. Appalled by the dirtiness of the place, he started yelling at the sergeant telling him “what the hell do you do all night, sit on your ass and play on the computer?” the sergeant, startled and becoming quite defensive said he was always busy doing the paperwork and that Ryan, his first set assured him the place was getting cleaned and kept orderly all the time. “Ryan, who the hell is Ryan, is he the shift sergeant or are you running this outfit?” get your ass off this chair and start walking around so you know what the hell is going on during your own shift and don’t’ let Ryan run the place for you, understand me clear!”
From that point on, there were problems on that shift as the sergeant felt that someone had ratted him off to the lieutenant and blamed both Billy and Brett for snitching. Telling Brett out loud in front of the other officers “snitches end up in ditches fool, you will get your day soon!” turning to Billy he said “I expected this from Brett a newbie but you ought to know better than play these kind of games Billy, you are done on this shift. I’m going to make sure your ass gets transferred out of here and to another unit or shift.” So there it was the rat calling good officers rats. The game was on and there would be no winners in this conflict.
Gloria, overhearing the yelling turned to Billy and said to him softly “remember last year when the last shift supervisor got in trouble and he blamed Jones for his troubles?” Billy, scratching his head said, “Yes, I do remember and they transferred Jones out and put him on the day shift at another unit until he quit.” He said he couldn’t work dayshift because his wife worked and they had four kids to take care of. Seemed like they did that just so he would quit didn’t it?” Brett, worried said to Billy, “you think he will try to transfer us both or just one of us?” “I really don’t know Brett, this guy is a nut case and nobody really knows what he will do but he is connected and he can get strange things done by calling his buddies in the administration and get things done.”
The shift ended with a quiet tone and everybody just headed out the front door never looking behind as the lieutenant and sergeant were still talking in private when the shift ended. “Tomorrow we will hear it all” said Billy, “tomorrow will be pure hell.”
Scarlett has heard everything too and was worried about the lieutenant’s words that showed he was displeased with the sanitation and housekeeping on this shift. Calling an emergency meeting with all her friends she shared what she had heard.
“He was really mad, he was turning red in the face and he wants all the areas cleaned and polished for the next time he comes to inspect the place!”
“Oh no” said Bobo, that means they will be getting the power washer out and spray that soapy hot water all over the place and destroy all of our beautifully spun webs.”
“Yes, said Lucy, all my hard works down the drain sorta speak and having to hide out for a couple of days until they are done with that machine that makes hurricane winds and huge soapy suds.”
Theodore, listening closely feared they would find all his hiding places and caulk them shut leaving him without places to hide and store food.
“What are we going to do, what are we going to do Scarlett? They will destroy everything we worked for.”
Theodore, thinking again out loud said boldly “I will gnaw through that long thick cord that goes to that machine and make it not work anymore. It will take me a few days but I can do it.”
“Great idea said Bobo, if we can help please let us know.”
Chapter 9 – More problems
As usual, Brett and Billy came to work early to pick up a good radio and get a feel of what has happened while they were away from the place. Checking in Brett was told to go see the sergeant before he went to his post for a meeting. Curious about the meeting, Brett asked Billy, “what do you think he wants Billy?”
“I have no idea but be careful, you know how sneaky he is and whatever you do, don’t confess to anything, nothing, do you understand?” said Billy.
“Yes, I understand and I will get with you as soon as I can after the meeting.”
The shift supervisor closed the door as Brett stepped inside the office. Without saying a word, the sergeant handed Brett a memorandum telling him his shift was changed to days and his days off were changed to Tuesday and Wednesday.
“What did I do to deserve this sarge? You know I have a family and I asked to work nights to help out at home during the day.”
“Tough bananas dude” this is where you are going, I am giving you a two week notice just like it says in policy. Now get out of here and go to your post.”
Depressed, worried and suspicious that he has been ostracized by his own supervisor and banned from the shift, he went to Billy for advice.
“What did he tell you Brett, anything important?”
“Yeah, read this memo, it says it all.”
“Wow, they moved you to days and I know you can’t work days” screamed Billy with anger. Soon others heard about the move and every one of them stood there in silence knowing this was a retaliatory move by the sergeant for thinking Brett snitched him off to the lieutenant.
“Gee Brett” said Gloria, we will miss you on this shift.”
“Yeah Brett, you are a good officer and don’t deserve this kind of mistreatment” said Jimmy.
Depressed and walking off to be alone, Brett was wondering how in the hell he was going to take care of his family and his duty as a father when both him and Kim are working during the day time.
Scarlett saw Brett sitting at the table all alone and with his head down. Thinking to herself “how can this be, he was doing a good job and now he was being moved just because somebody else doesn’t like him.”
Knowing she will miss Brett during her trips in the darkness, she felt assured that as long as Billy was on this shift, everything would be fine even though she really liked Brett and saw how he was getting better every day he worked.
A little bit later in the shift, Lucy joined Scarlett and asked why she was so pensive. “Oh” said Scarlett, we will be losing Brett in a couple of weeks and he was doing such a good job keeping the place calm.”
“Yes, he was doing a good job” said Lucy “but it always seems they like to harass those that work the hardest as if they are threatened by their presence on shift or something like that.”
“Well Lucy, you may be right. It does seem that way. They are unfairly punished for doing good work”
Theodore, sneaking up to the both of them, said out loud “Well let’s give him a going away party. I know where there is a lot of food we can eat.”
Scarlett, knowing what the customs are said to Theodor, “don’t worry, they will do a pot luck going away lunch for Brett and bring all kinds of good food for everyone with plenty to spare.”
They will bring cakes, ice cream, soda pops, potato salad, macaroni and other delights that will last for weeks to come if we do it right.
“Yum yum” said Theodore, smacking his lips.
Chapter 10 – New surroundings
Kim was very upset. Crying and thinking about how hard Brett worked while on the graveyard shift, she didn’t understand why they had to move him and disrupt their family lives like this. Panicking and searching for a day care that would take good care of her daughter Sissy, she was at the ends rope finding someone she could trust with the child. Brett, stressing about the new assignment on days was also very upset and felt like he was betrayed for doing such a good job and being loyal to the shift like that. How quickly he found out that inside prison, your loyalty does not belong to the institution, it belongs to the man who is your boss.
Going from nights to days is very hard to do. You have to change all your habits instantly without giving your body a chance to adapt. Trying to sleep a night and get up early in the morning to report to work on time takes strong will power and a good alarm clock. Kim knew this and made sure she was up before Brett so she could make him coffee and fix his lunch before he gets up and showers. Getting to work is not a problem and because he had worked overtime on the day shift many times, he knew many of the officers that worked there. What hurt him the most was the loss of his weekends and getting days off in the middle of the week when Kim was off on weekends.
Scarlett was glad to see Brett come to work early in the morning without an attitude or change in his good behavior. Watching him just before she turned in to take a long nap she saw how hard he worked and how well he followed directions from the others just like he did on the other shift. She was confident that he would be okay on this shift.
Lucy watching Scarlett with a close eye from afar and crawling slowly to be by her side, said to her “are you okay Scarlett?”
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“Oh I am sensing you like Brett and are keeping a close eye on him for his own good.”
“Yes, I do like him and he is such a good person, he shouldn’t be working here at all.”
These people are so wrapped up into their jobs, their personalities change over time and they become bitter. I think this will happen to Brett too.”
“Yes, I am sure it will but some are smart enough to catch it before it changes them and adjust their lives and thinking before it’s too late” said Lucy
“I know Lucy, I know but I pray it’s not too late for Brett for I can see he is hiding his bitterness deep inside himself.”
“Well, only time will tell Scarlett, only time will tell.
The shift was run by an experienced lieutenant who knew her job. Several years as a supervisor, she was very confident in her actions and decision making. It was best that she was the shift supervisor as there were many serious things that needed to be taken care of at this unit on this shift. It was not at all like the quiet times on graveyard where everybody was asleep and spontaneous incidents broke out during the night that interrupted the calmness.
Brett was assigned to the death row area where they housed those waiting to be executed. Strangely this was the best looking, the cleanest smelling and the most orderly run section of the entire prison and giving Brett a fresh start to learn his new job. Death row, quite overcrowded and somewhat different during the day was a place full of activities. The first thing the lieutenant told Brett was to keep the place clean and ensure that the prisoners were always at the least, in their orange jumpsuits whenever visitors came into the area This was important as death row was often visited by those important people like Supreme Court judges, and other important visitors such as the Attorney General, the Director, the law students from the universities and law officials from many different agencies including foreign countries. There were many things to learn and Brett was doing well in his new surroundings that drew the attention of his new boss. This supervisor, who, unlike the lazy sergeant on the graveyard shifts, was out and about all day long and available for guidance, support or leadership when needed. Brett liked that support mechanism he was now getting and motivated him to do a good job for the new boss.
Scarlett was happy to see Brett do so well in his new environment. Seeing him seldom she was hesitant to enter the death row area as it was so clean and so organized there were less places to hide as spider webs were taken down daily and the dirt was swept almost daily as well. Being satisfied seeing Brett progress from afar, she focused on the graveyard shift and Billy as he was still having problems with Ryan and the shift boss. It was like they had a personal vendetta to make him quit his job and go away.
Scarlett would come and go visiting Brett many times but staying with Billy was most important to her. She was worried about Billy and how he was being harassed on the shift by Ryan and the boss but also about how Gloria was getting so close to him almost suffocating him as she stayed close to him during the shift and wanting an interest in seeing him off duty as well.
Scarlett wasn’t so sure Billy could handle all this pressure and still do his job. Lucy, Theodore, Bobo and some others gathered around Scarlett and tried to comfort her by sitting there silently showing her their support. Even Buster, the scorpion was feeling bad for Scarlett.
Time went by and Brett and Billy lost contact with each other. Normally seeing each other during the shift change, it was said that Billy was missing more work than ever before and that he was having problems with his drinking and getting up to go to work on time. Rumor had it Billy was deeply depressed and was feeling all alone as if he didn’t have a friend in the world that cared for him. Loneliness is one character of this job that can cause severe depressions and it seems to be more common among correctional officers and police officers than other occupations. Feeling alone and depressed were just some of the symptoms experienced. Drinking, brawling and getting into trouble was becoming a normal way of life for Billy and it was taking a toll on his job. Brett was certain that if Billy stayed on the graveyard shift, he would surely quit
Chapter 11 – The offer
The prison job was doing fine. Brett and Kim were happy to have found a good caretaker for their daughter Sissy and Brett was getting used to working days. It seemed that all was working out just like he planned except for the money situation. It seems that the bills were adding up and it was getting harder and harder to meet them at the end of the month. There was no more overtime and the healthcare premiums had gone up taking a bigger chunk out of the take home pay. Gas was almost $ 4 dollars a gallon and the house payment was hard to meet. Mixing personal problems with professional problems can be fatal for many. Brett, knowing the pit falls of such a trap, was trying to stay afloat by managing his money more wiser and spending less.
Economic times also takes a toll on families as many move away because they couldn’t afford their house payment any longer. The housing market, taking a direct hit causing hardships for many was main reason for families to struggle. Brett was no exception to this problem as well as many of his coworkers. Scratching up enough dough to pay for the important things, Brett and Kim were struggling so much, they began to fight a lot more than ever before. Going to work in a bad mood, Brett was failing his job as well as he was distracted from his duties and getting sloppy in his work and how he dressed. No longer the sharp dresser in uniform, he often went to work in a wrinkled shirt and an unshaven beard drawing criticism from his supervisors and jokes from his peers.
Prisoners pick up on such behaviors and often play a little con game that can be hard to break away if you take the bait and get hooked by their tactics. Seeing Brett falling down a bit, they found him an easy target to work on. The first step was easy. All they had to do was do whatever he said and tell him he is right. Second, they developed a relationship with him and get him to open up a bit on his personal feelings exposing his weaknesses and his problems as well as making him a better target to extort or coerce into a relationship that would be mutually beneficial for all involved and financially beneficial for Brett.
The game was easy and the bait was money. Brett owed money and the prisoners knew this. Slowly, they worked him to where they were brazen enough to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. They offered him $300 dollars for bringing in a non-traceable cell phone; $500 for two phones. They guaranteed him cash on delivery and if he wanted more, all he had to do was let the person whom he was picking the phones up from when and where he wanted to be and would be done.
Scarlett didn’t visit Brett very often, she was worried about Billy. For a while there, she would drop in and peek at him to see how he was doing and also noticed that he was not looking well and his moods were very dark with hardly a smile on his face like he used to back when he was on the graveyard shift.
Lucy saw the same thing. She said “Scarlett, what can it be? Why is he so sad?”
“I don’t know Lucy, he has changed but I can’t figure it out because I haven’t been here to watch him.”
Buster came over and said “hey guys, did you hear what happened the other day, changing the subject.”
“No Buster, what happened the other day” asked Scarlett
“One of the death row prisoners found a dead scorpion inside his food tray for breakfast and now they are searching all over the place for us.” I am not even safe in my own house right now.”
“Really? Asked Lucy, ‘who would have done such a dirty trick! That is nasty.”
“Nasty? Nasty? Buster yelled out loud, “that was my cousin they killed and stomped to death.” Putting him in that Styrofoam container was disrespectful to him.”
“I agree Buster, settle down now” said Lucy, ” it too will pass.”
“No, somebody will pay for this” yelled Buster crawling away in disgust.
Scarlett, sitting poised and speaking calmly said to Bobo “putting dead insects in food containers is the oldest means to entertain each other here inside this prison. It has been done for years. Buster must be taking it harder than usual because it was his cousin they killed.”
“Well, said Lucy, I am not so sure if I could remain calm if it was my relative.”
“I know Lucy, I know but we mustn’t get to out of shape, there are other things going on that are more important.”
All of the animals could sense the worry in Scarlett’s voice and took a deep sigh before departing.
Brett was somewhat apprehensive of his actions. Knowing that he was doing something wrong, he finally shared his problem with his good friend Billy and talked it over. Billy was somewhat hesitant to get involved but knowing Brett so well, he suggested he come clean and go to the internal affairs officer and tell them what the prisoner had offered him.
The internal affairs officer was skeptic of Brett at the beginning of the conversation. He suspected that Brett had already delivered the cell phones before contacting Billy and was trying to get himself out of a jam by burning the prisoner on the next deal. Finally, the IA officer offered Brett a polygraph to verify his story and so, Brett agreed.
Taking the polygraph test was a most stressful task as the questions were sharp and designed to show deception and avoidance of telling the answer. Sometimes, these things don’t work like we think they do and end up failing the employee marking him for disciplinary action for lying on the job during an investigation punishable by dismissal from employment at the very least. Brett was explained the rules before he took the test and decided to give it a chance that the polygraph would exonerate him of these accusations.
He had heard that many investigations are pre-determined by the administration based on their own assessment of the problem. Many felt that if you are a bad employee the chances of surviving an investigation were good. Others say the opposite is true. “It doesn’t matter as long as you tell the truth” Billy told Brett.
“I know Billy, I know but I am still nervous!” I got to keep this job if I am going to make it out there.”
Slater was a fair investigator. An ex-street cop, he was savvy of judging people and felt that Brett was a good man tempted by circumstances that created this offer. Wanting to work with Brett, he cautioned him saying “when you take this test and you fail, it will be likely you will be fired Brett.”
Do you understand this? Brett looked Slater directly into his eyes and said “yes, yes I do.”
The test had five questions. The first two were baseline questions to show the truth and to compare to the other three once registered on the machine. Brett, nervous when they hooked him up with wires was sweating profusely.
“Relax” said Slater, “just tell the truth and we will come out of this okay.”
Forty-five minutes later, the test was over. Slater, talking with the polygrapher behind closed doors came out and said to Brett “okay, let’s see what we can do to catch this person willing to meet with you and give you the cell phones and the money, you passed.”
Relieved, Brett called Billy to tell him the good news but there was no answer on his cell phone. Waiting until he sees him tomorrow at shift change, he went home with peace of mind.
Chapter 12 – The fall
Billy was getting worse and worse until he missed work for more than a week. The guys at work were getting worried about him and told the sergeant he should call the house and find out if Billy is okay. Laughing the sergeant said to Gloria “the hell with that know it all, I’m glad he ain’t here to mess up the shift.” Turning his head into the direction of Ryan he said out loud “Ryan take charge, I’m going for a walk to the car. Be back in about thirty minutes so take good care of my shift.”
Gloria, sensing a disconcerting voice in her boss, picked up the phone and called Billy herself. Still no answer. She was getting more worried every day for this was not like Billy to miss so many days in a row. He would take two at the most but never five. She hoped he was okay and that he was home sleeping it off.
The house was quiet and the trash can was full. Empty beer cans were strewn on the yard and as Brett walked up to the front door, he could smell something foul. The first thing he thought of was a dead animal’s carcass and how it stinks the place up to an unbearable stench that is hard to get rid of. Knocking on the door, he got no answer. Billy’s car was in the driveway so he knew he was home. Knocking harder, there was still no answer. Impatiently, Brett began to walk around the house looking for an open window or peeking inside to see if he could see Billy inside the house. The house was still, the only sound was the sound of a cat scratching at the window where Brett was standing. Looking in, he could see Billy lying on the floor. Panicking, he went to the back door and broke the screen door latch to get to the other door. The door was unlocked and as he ran inside the house, the stench was even worse. Immediately, Brett thought the worst. Billy is dead.
Reaching Billy, he saw some blood on his head but noticed it was a small cut where he had hit his head as he fell to the floor. Beer bottle still in his hand, Billy was alive. Getting a wet rag from the bathroom, he wiped Billy’s face as the stupor wore off with the wetness hitting his face. Looking at Brett Billy said “what are you doing here, leave me alone, I don’t want your help.” Looking at Billy and still smelling the stench, Brett saw two dead pigeons the cat had brought in the house smelling up the place.
“Fuck you Billy, I am helping you whether you like it or not and you are coming home with me.’ You need to get your shit straight and I’m going to help you.”
The ride was awkward as Billy kept moaning and wanting to puke along the way. The motion of the car was enough to make him sick and as they got to Brett’s house, Billy puked all over Kim’s rose bush adding liquid fertilizer to the plant. Good thing Kim wasn’t home yet and the kid was not there either so this embarrassing moment could be forgotten when all was said and done as Billy gets sober.
After Billy got sober, Brett handed him some clean clothes and told him to take a shower cause he stank. He stank bad. He reeked of cheap alcohol and dirty clothes he had slept in for a week now. Soiled and smelly, Brett threw them outside by the garbage can to deal with later. Kim parking the car in the driveway with Sissy by her side waved at Brett as she saw him throwing the trash outside.
“Hello honey, glad you are home, we have a visitor for a few days. I hope that is okay with you dear? “sure honey, that’s fine” said Kim “going in to make supper so don’t be late.”
The next day Billy called work and told them he was sick. He said that he was going to the doctor to get some medicine but what he really wanted to tell them was he was going to alcoholic counselor to get enrolled in substance abuse classes. He was determined to save his job and get cleaned up.
Billy went to see his chief of security and asked for a transfer out of the unit and to another shift. The captain, unable to guarantee him anything, just told him to face the consequences for his absences and go to work on the day shift as he had someone on the list to who wanted to go to the graveyard shift. Things seemed to work out that way sometimes, so it seems.
Scarlett was glad to see Billy back at work on the dayshift working side by side with Brett and a few other good officers. Looking at Lucy she said ‘funny how things work out like that.”
Lucy, sensing a relaxed Scarlett said softly “sometimes things happen for a reason and now they can still work together and do a good job here.”
Billy was given a five day suspension for his absence but he kept his job and was working under a better supervisor. The workplace seems tolerable again and the meaning of pride was back in the way they wore their uniform and how they did their jobs.
Chapter 13 – Attitudes
Attitudes are dominant factors inside prisons. Everybody has their own personality disorder and at the same time, they bond with each other and develop a personality cult. The good clique up with the good and the bad clique up with the bad. Some attitudes are evil while others are too soft. Both impair the environment and more often, they both create hate and discontent among the workers and the prison population.
Brett and Billy join many others in balancing their jobs according to the existing policies. Ryan and his group are content on spreading hate and discontent in the manner of being abusive and borderline torturous towards the prisoners showing them who is in charge. The ones who are too soft allow the prisoners too many privileges and are often the cause of friction or conflicts on shift. Balancing the work load required good judgment and common sense that is often omitted when the time comes to make a decision. The frustration is compounded by the poor leadership and management skills of those appointed or selected to lead positions but are not qualified to hold such a job. Rather than admitting their shortcomings, they flounder through their probation period, hope for the best and remain poor supervisors no matter how hard they work as they never acquired the skills, the abilities and the knowledge to do a satisfactory job.
The administration, in its haste to promote vacant positions that should be filled with carefully selected and qualified personnel are neglected and filled with those politically correct or in favor of those in charge. Not doing the system any favors by filing these slots with incompetence, they create procrastination and confusion within the workplace creating harsh work conditions to exist and creating an exodus of good people who don’t want to work in such perilous places without the necessary leadership to help them out of a crisis if something does go amiss.
Interview panels are given pre-instructions or direction of those who are looked at for promotions. This creates favoritism and demoralizes good staff who wants to promote but are constantly set back because of their inability to penetrate the political barriers put up by administrators who have their chosen ones already in mind.
Scarlett has seen this many times and doesn’t hold back on the truth. Sitting there with her friends she tells of the numerous stories of how bad leaders are given the reins of the place instead of those who know what they are doing.
“It’s like they want the place to fail on purpose,” she said to Bobo.
“I know” said Bobo, look at how they pick their supervisor, it’s shameful how they just pass over the good ones and don’t even give them a chance to apply and promote.”
Lucy, adding her two cents says that “if the boss, the real big boss would walk around a bit and talk to people, the problem would not be as bad as they would be paying attention to this problem.”
“Yeah, well that’s the problem to begin with said Buster. “They don’t even care enough to step out of their office and walk and talk with anyone.”
Scarlett reflecting back a couple of years said to her friends “there used to be a time where all those promoted had to spent at least a few years in the position just below the ones they are applying for to give them more experience, but now, they promote and skip steps to get to the top quicker and draw a bigger paycheck forgetting about those who helped them get there.”
Theodore, gnawing on a piece of bread said “it is like they don’t care anymore how they do the job. They take shortcuts and break policies like they don’t exist and make up their own rules.”
“Yes” said Lucy, they make their own rules and when they get caught they lie their way out of it and blame somebody else.”
“Well” that’s the sign of the times said Scarlett, “all government is run this way now, with no one caring about how they do their jobs and how much money they spend doing it”
Theodore, looking at Scarlett for an answer asked her softly “Why are these officers becoming so mean and evil? They didn’t use to be that way and now it seems they lose their temper over the most minor thing not worth fighting for.”
Scarlett, scratching her head answered Theodore with a cautious reply ” I will quote a very wise philosopher who said “Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited … and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult-to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.” (Aristotle)