NOTE: This story is becoming an obsession, I’m sorry The Fallen has been ignored, but the Muse can’t be denied!
Duster got to her feet and walked over to the wrecked vehicle. A Patrol air buggy from town was stirring the dust on its way to their location. The prisoner sat down on a boulder and remained still, her hands held above her head. She knew they’d have their snooper scope locked onto her and wouldn’t hesitate to give her a stun bolt for the slightest reason. The car came to a rest about fifty feet away and two Patrol officers leapt out, their weapons raised.
“On your face prisoner! Now!” She was quickly cuffed and roughly dragged to her feet. The man spotted the corpse of Preston “Where’s the other guard dirt bag? Did you kill ‘em?”
“No, but that one died in the crash. The other one is around that set of rocks. She has a broken leg.”
One of the Patrol officers went in the direction she indicated to check her story. Duster could hear him on the radio calling in for an ambulance and morgue wagon a minute later. Then he hollered to his partner to bring the prisoner to the injured guard.
“Probably wants to make sure you hang dirt bag. You know how many prisoners never come back after they make an escape attempt?” the patrol officer commented with an ugly snicker.
Sandra spotted her and smiled for a second until the escorting officer ‘accidentally’ kicked her feet from under her, making her hit dirt hard.
“Rafael you jerk! Leave her alone!” his partner ordered.
“What? She’s just scum. What’s your problem?”
“Open your eyes you idiot. She hung around and helped the guard instead of taking off. This woman isn’t in any shape to help herself, not with a broken leg. The prisoner doesn’t deserve the crap you’re giving her, so lay off!”
Duster spat out the blood pooling in her mouth and forced herself not to moan. The friendlier officer helped her roll over and sit up.
“Great, her nose is broken. We’ll take her to the emergency room before we take her back to the prison.”
“Why bother? Don’t they have a prison doctor?” his partner commented.
“That prick couldn’t lance a boil without lousing it up. You broke her nose, she at least deserves to see a real doctor.”
Rafael threw up his hands in
disgust, which ticked off his partner.
“One more incident likes this and I’ll report your ass, got it?”
Rafael got it but gave his partner the bird and walked away.
“Thanks,” Duster told the officer. The man nodded and reported in to the dispatch, giving his schedule for the next two hours. The prisoner sat down next to Sandra.
“Yeah, the leg hurts like hell but I’m okay. You did a good job. By the way, thanks. I owe you.”
Duster blushed, unused to compliments unless someone wanted something from her.
The sound of an approaching medical copter could be heard.
“Guess this is goodbye.” Duster said sadly, knowing she’d miss the guard while she was on medical leave.
“I’ll come see you on visitor’s day. If you’re good, I’ll bring homemade brownies.” Sandra promised.
“Really?” Duster’s face lit up with a pleased smile. She never had homemade anything in her life.
“Yup. So be good and I’ll see you Thursday.”
“Deal.” The prisoner said, shaking her hand.
“Fool, why didn’t you run when you had the chance?” Reva complained.
“What? And leave all this?” Duster joked.
“I’m serious. You could ‘a taken off. Why didn’t you?”
Duster wasn’t about to admit the truth. “Well, let’s see. I was on foot in the middle of the desert, just a small canteen of water, no supplies, no money, and wearing a day-glow orange outfit. Yup, a real gem of an opportunity. Yessiree,” she said with scorn.
“Okay, I get your drift. But next time…” she pointed at Duster and lifted her eyebrow.
“Yeah yeah yeah, I know, run.”
The next day, she was summoned to the Warden’s office. Wondering if she was in hot water for something, she nervously followed the guard escorting her. He knocked on the door and opened it when Warden Southerland answered.
Inside, a man in a business suit sat in a comfortable chair next to the large desk. The warden pointed at a wooden chair and dismissed the guard.
“Prisoner Michaels, this is Investigator Jordan. He needs to question you about yesterday.”
The man flipped several sheets on his clipboard then looked up at her.
“Please tell me the cause of the accident yesterday.”
“Damned if I know.”
“Keep a civil tongue in your head Prisoner,” The Warden ordered.
“I have no idea.”
“Were you sleeping?”
“No.” Duster felt a blush trying to escape.
“Care to elaborate?”
“I was, um, I was too busy staring at officer Yunez to see what happened,” she confessed. The Investigator looked like he wanted to laugh. Actually, he couldn’t blame the prisoner. He had spoken to the woman earlier that day and she was a looker. He cleared his throat.
“How about the crash itself? Do you remember anything?”
“Not really, it happened too fast. All I remember is just a kathunk and boom, it was over.”
“Yeah, like hitting a speed bump when you’re going too fast.”
“One more thing, did the two of you discuss the accident afterwards?”
“Huh? No sir. She was out cold for a long time and when she woke, she asked me why I didn’t take off. A few minutes later, the Patrol car showed up.”
“That will be all Ms. Michaels. Thank you.” The guard was summoned and escorted her back to the prison area.
“She’s lying,” the Warden claimed.
“No, she isn’t. Even if the rumors you’ve heard were true, if she was trying to protect her girlfriend, she’d tell me something more elaborate than that. She’d make sure Officer Yunez was cleared by her testimony. I’m satisfied that the incident was an accident, occurring as Yunez claimed. We found the animal tracks and the bloody spoor. Our official report will state that a zetabeast dashed in front of her, causing the accident.” He excused himself and left the office.
Investigator Jordan would also send in a second report, suggesting that the Warden be investigated. He was too emotionally involved to run the prison efficiently. His obsession with Debra Michaels was enough to warrant a second look at his practices.
Thursday arrived and Duster paced back and forth in her cell, too nervous to even go outdoors. She had showered herself within an inch of her life, powdered with the last of her precious scented talc, and even borrowed a nail file and trimmed her nails. She kept glancing at the large clock in the commons area, wishing it would hurry. Finally, it was five minutes short of visiting time and she headed towards the waiting room. Anyone who had a visitor would be called to the next room.
Other inmates stopped and stared. Duster never had visitors and wondered why she was there, but no one dared ask. A guard came to the entrance and began reading off names. Duster was called and she jumped to her feet, eager to see Sandra.
Entering the large room for the first time in eleven years, she looked around for Sandra, spotting her sitting at a table at the edge of the room, her foot propped up on a chair and crutches leaning against the wall.
“Hi!” they both said, grinning. Sandra bent over and pulled up a canvas bag. “Here’s the brownies I promised. Were you a good girl?” she teased.
“Okay then, you may have them.” She pushed the cardboard box across the table. Duster opened the lid and sniffed in appreciation. Taking one huge piece, she bit into it, moaning in ecstasy. Sandra grinned, enjoying the show. Another inmate walked by and spotted the homemade goodies.
“Hey, are those-“
“Mine! All mine! I ain’t sharin’,” she said, waving the woman away, wrapping her arm around the package protectively.
“Greedy bitch,” the woman muttered.
“Got that right,” Duster said, looking at the piece in her hand before gobbling it up.
“So much for being good,” the injured guard teased.
Duster laughed. “You eat that slop in the mess hall and see if you share bits of heaven with anyone!”
“I’m glad you like them. Don’t eat them all at once, you’ll get a stomach ache.”
“Nah, I have a cast iron stomach, but I really ought to spread them out. Make them last longer.”
“I could always bring more goodies next week, but-“
“I gotta be good, I know,” Duster grinned. She closed the box reluctantly, wanting to eat more.
“How’s your nose?”
“Fine, just a hairline fracture. It isn’t bothering me anymore.”
“That’s good.” Sandra fell silent, unsure what to say next. She wanted to say so much, but didn’t know how to begin.
“You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. I understand.” Duster said miserably.
“No, it isn’t that.” God, her heart went out to Duster. She expected to be let down. “Duster…Debra, did you mean what you said before? About being attracted to me I mean.”
“Yeah,” Duster sighed, waiting for the brush off.
“You have a will to fail, don’t you? There you are, waiting for the big, ‘well, you’re nice and all but…’ and expecting me turn you down flat. But I don’t want to Debra.”
Duster lifted her eyes, shocked.
“But at this point, I don’t want to have my heart ripped out of me either. You have another nine years to go if you don’t make parole. I read your file. You refuse to speak with the therapist, you’re uncooperative, you fight, mouth off to the parole board, and are determined to spend the rest of your life behind bars.”
Duster got angry. “What do you expect? I’m just white trash, remember?” She tried to stand and walk away, but Sandra grabbed onto her arm and ordered her to sit.
“That’s it, isn’t it? You’ve heard that so often that you believe it. It’s like a little recording playing over and over in your head. Every time things go well, it starts playing again and you foul things up, just to prove it true. But you know what? I like you, I really do. But until you like yourself, I would only be wasting my time and asking for a broken heart.
If you were out of prison this minute and we got together, you’d do something to screw things up. Like commit another crime, or cheat on me, or some other thing you know would drive me away. Then you can look in the mirror once more and say poor white trash. I ain’t worth shit!”
Duster stared at her, unable to speak.
“I’m sorry Debra. I really am. I see a warm and giving woman inside of you, but until you see her too, it won’t work. Goodbye Debra.” Sandra got to her feet and hobbled out of the visitor’s room.
Duster sat at the table, staring at nothing until a guard prodded her to leave. She didn’t see where she was going, she just walked until a door blocked her path. On it, it said: Dr. Janice Williams, prison therapist. She knocked on the door. An older woman with kindly eyes opened the door and invited her in.
“What can I do for you Ms. Michaels?”
“I need help.”