Book Excerpt: Caged Spirits
Caged Spirits is a fictional novel by Corrections1 columnist John Stanley. The ghosts at Lt. Gary Conner's jail are on both sides of the bars. They are caged spirits, held not by metal and mortar alone. Gary must find a way to resolve ancient battles or risk losing everything he holds dear. His own pain and the pain of his wife keep them caged, as well, but by setting the jail's spirits free, he might free his heart and hers before it's too late. For more information, check out the Amazon page for Caged Spirits.
Nurse Kim turned and looked at me with very intense black eyes. “He is stable, but shot up good. He may have a cracked rib or two. ” After this pronouncement, she stormed off as if I was the one responsible for all the work she now had. What could I say? I guess, in a way, I was.
There did not seem to be any fight left in the big man. He lay back and just tried to work on drawing each breath. Deputy Delgado from main control stood nearby with an X26 in hand, but I didn’t think a second shot would be necessary.
Then Simon spoke and confirmed that for me.
“I’m okay, Captain. I guess I gave you guys some trouble?”
The person looking back at me was not the raving lunatic I saw several minutes before.
“You could say that. Don’t you remember?”
“To tell you the truth, no. I blackout sometimes. My old man hit me over duh head with a beer bottle when I was a kid. I got seizures and blackouts since. I hope I didn’t hurt nobody.”
It seemed clear that this guy’s line was a little bit off plumb even at the best of times.
“Not that I could see.”
I didn’t see any other tattoos on his body except for the big swastika. I was about to ask him about it when he answered before I could voice the question.
“Chet told me to do it.”
“Chet told you to do what?”
“Get the tat. Chet tells me lots of things. He’s been with me a long time.”
The guy was awfully gabby for someone who might have a couple cracked ribs.
“Do you always do what Chet tells you?”
“Mostly. He’s been honest with me, not good, but honest. That’s more than most. I don’t really like the tat, though. It’s caused me lots of grief. Lots of guys want to fight me ‘cause of it.”
“But you got it because Chet told you to?”
“Why didn’t you tell Chet to go pound sand?”
A look of fear came across the big man’s face. You wouldn’t think a guy his size would be afraid of anybody.
“You don’t know, Chet. He’s, well, he’s not like you an’ me. He’s, uh, different.”
“What do you mean, different?”
“You know, he’s here, but he ain’t really here.”
Deputy Delgado began to fidget when he heard what Simon was saying. We each saw a very different man in the Gray dorm than the one lying so calmly in the infirmary bed. I could tell that he wished he was across the room with the other two members of the ERT team who drew the assignment of keeping an eye on the other inmates.
“Are you saying that Chet is a ghost?”
Simon actually started to laugh. The switch from fear to laughter was weird and I was glad that the pain in his chest cut it short. He probably did have broken ribs.
“No, Captain. He ain’t no ghost. You gotta been alive once to be a ghost.”
“Uh, right. I guess you do. You take care of yourself, Mr. Simon.”
“You take care, too, Captain.”
Well, that about concluded the interview for me. Truth be told, I wanted to get the hell away from the man as quickly as possible. It was clear that Delgado felt the same way, but there are times when rank hath its privileges.
Before I could make it to the door, Simon had one more thing to say to me. “Oh, Captain. Before you go, Chet wants me to tell you something about Horst Wolfe.”
That got my attention and suddenly made my legs feel very rubbery. I turned back toward Simon’s bed.
“Yeah, he wants you to know that he and this guy Wolfe are close, real close. They hang out with the same pack of friends.”
“I see. Anything else?”
“Well, yeah, but it don’t make much sense. He said to tell you that the bear won’t be everywhere.”
“Right.” Then, I decided to be a smart ass. “Ask Chet one thing for me.”
“What’s that, Captain?”
“Ask him if he has some kind of issue with doors?”
Simon laughed again, but it was a different laugh from the one he attempted when I suggested that Chet was a ghost. And this laugh was not thwarted by his damaged rib. It was as if another person entirely was doing the laughing, not Simon.
“Nice one, Captain. Nice one.” There was a look in Simon’s eyes that turned my spine to ice and his voice was a touch more baritone than it had been a moment before.
I ignored Delgado’s puzzled look and left him standing there without a word. Under normal circumstances, I would have said goodbye to everyone and thanked them for their hard work. But Simon’s last words seemed to suck all the air out of the room and I needed to get outside and breathe. I barely noticed the snow and wind as I stepped back out into the storm.
Brenda’s note said that Wolfe and his dead Nazis were only part of my problem. It said they had nasty friends.
One of those nasty friends was back in that room. Simon knew him as Chet, but I suspected his real friends called him something else.