Bustout, by Gary Clifton
I began to wonder if the employees of the state mental hospital were entirely human. The dope dealer was set up a block from the hospital. We’d sat there for nearly a month, watching. Gives a world of time to observe the relationship between the players. We became convinced some of the employees were further gone than the patients – and often pretty abusive and borderline inhuman. Must be easy to figure anyone locked inside is an erratic relic, so no harm in slapping them around.
We finally built enough probable cause for a search warrant. Lieutenant said we couldn’t serve it before daybreak. The druggie would hear the engine, so we sat in the pitch blackness of Texas pre-dawn heat, no A/C.
I heard her first, shuffling, then she passed, white gown vivid in the dark. I stepped out. “Where you headed?”
“Home…Texarkana,” startled, terrified, she was obese, sweat-soaked, her prematurely aged face a chiseled image of hopelessness. At the bottom of the ass-kick pile, I thought – hard to become any more screwed over and forgotten. By flashlight I could see she’d scraped her left elbow, probably climbing a fence.
“Goin’ the wrong direction. Wanna Coke?”
“What’s your name, miss?” I handed her a fresh can from our cooler on the back seat.
“Uh…Sheneika, I’m Sheneika…and I wanna go see my mama,” her voice tailed into a soft sob. Crowding fifty, I wondered if mama even existed or gave any part of a damn. Sheneika snatched the can and almost had it downed when the wagon rolled up.
I flashed my badge at the driver. “Hurt her and it’s my foot in your ass, dude.”
Surprised and cautious, he helped her into the backseat. Eyes vacant with resignation, she clutched her Coke like a newborn baby and didn’t resist.
“Let Sheneika finish her Coke before you drive away,” I said. I had plenty of bulge on a hospital attendant. He nodded okay. Pissed at having to chase her, he would have tossed her Coke just out of my sight. Cokes were hard to come by inside, I figured.
Clifton, forty years a cop, once published a murder mystery in national paperback and has short fiction pieces published or pending on twenty or so online sites. He’s been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued, often misunderstood, and currently lives on a dusty north Texas ranch waiting to see what the hell happens next.
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Tags: Gary Clifton, mental illness, police