The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 23

(30 years earlier)

 

 

Sitting in his office, Warden Dylan Stevens looked over a stack of daily incident reports, something he was forced to do every day. Tedious but helpful. Most wardens just ignored them, but Stevens used them to target spots of civil unrest and adjust prison conditions to help keep the peace. He took a sip from his coffee and looked up from the reports for a moment. He had been working all day, and his eyes were tired. Glancing out the window, he saw that the wind was picking up. The weatherman had said a bad storm was on its way.

“On top of everything else, I get to drive through that?” he asked the empty room before returning to his papers.

As the wind grew stronger, it began to howl and rattle the windows. Stevens looked up once again to watch the storm then turned on the television to check for weather updates. On the local channel, he listened as the meteorologist explained that a large tropical system seemed to have settled over the city.

“Wow,” Stevens said. “Looks like it’s going to stay awhile.”

Another flash of lightning followed by ear-splitting thunder, and Stevens jumped in his chair. He quickly stood up and moved over to the window. He saw at once that the bolt had struck a nearby generator, setting it on fire.

Suddenly, the door to his office flew open, and he whirled around, on edge. John Pierce, the head of the prison guard staff, walked in, his bald head glistening with sweat.

Pointing outside, Stevens said, “Pierce, we’ve got a generator on fire. See that it’s put out before it detonates and hurts someone.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll get right on it. But we have a bigger problem,” Pierce explained. “The death house was hit as well, and two of the prisoners got out of their cells.”

“Who?” Stevens asked.

“Ashton Connors and Christopher Stuart,” Pierce answered.

Ashton Connors was a twisted man who in a fit of jealous rage murdered his girlfriend and her two kids. Seems she was seeing someone else, and Connors was having none of that.

“We need to get over there before either of those men slip into the general populace.”

“I’ll gather what guards I need,” Pierce answered over his shoulder as he left the room, “and meet you there.”

Warden Stevens grabbed his umbrella and locked the office. Exiting the building, he opened the umbrella and crossed the main yard, passing between Buildings A and B, until he stood directly in front of the death house. The building was dark and foreboding. Rain pelted the fabric of the umbrella, dripping off its tips. The wind tugged at him, as though it were warning him to keep away.

Determined to do his job, Stevens pressed on, Pierce and a small army of thirteen guards joining him at the front door.

“Are they ready?” Stevens asked.

“Yes, sir,” Pierce answered.

Stevens took a deep breath and opened the door. Inside, the building’s lights flickered as lightning flashed intermittently in the dark sky. He stepped into the long hallway, moving forward just enough to make room for the guards to enter.

He could sense their fear as they nervously stepped in around him. The death house was small with only one entrance.

“Leave two guards here. I don’t want these men getting out or anyone getting in,” Stevens ordered.

Pierce motioned for two of the men to remain behind.

Straight ahead was the gas chamber. Stevens took the lead and slowly walked towards it. He covered sixty feet before passing the central hallway that ran the length of the building. Pausing for a moment, he looked around for any movement then continued.

When he reached the gas chamber, Stevens stretched out and opened the door. As he cautiously stepped inside, Pierce pushed past him.

“Sir, please.”

Stevens stepped aside to allow Pierce to pass and glanced around the room.

“Seems empty,” he observed.

Pierce swept the room with his rifle and said,

“Agreed. Let’s go.”

At that point, Stevens turned around to check the eleven guards behind him.

“Something’s wrong,” he said confused.

“What is it, sir?” Pierce asked.

“We’re missing a guard,” Stevens pointed out.

He counted again. Ten guards. Pierce took a head count then said,

“You’re right, sir. We’re missing one. Spread out and find him,” Pierce ordered the men.

As the men moved off down the hall, Stevens asked frustrated, “Do you suppose he ran away?”

“No, sir,” one of the guards answered from a distance. “I found him.”

Warden Stevens walked to the junction where a long hallway ran the length of the room. The body of the dead guard lay on the floor, his head twisted at an impossible angle. Stevens noticed that his weapon was still in his possession.

“What happened?” he asked.

From down the long hallway came the shout, “You ain’t gonna stop me! ”

Stevens looked up to see Ashton Connors standing in the cross-section where a short hall led to the prison cells and the morgue.

Connors had an angry, evil glint in his eye. Stevens stepped forward with his hand held up.

“It’s okay, Connors. Let’s talk this out.”

“I got no talk left in me, Warden. I been locked in this monkey cage long enough. I want out, and you ain’t gonna’ stop me.”

Pierce moved up alongside Stevens and asked,

“I thought you said this one was reformed, sir. Sorry for what he did.”

“He was,” Stevens answered.

At that moment, Pierce raised his rifle and ordered,

“Ashton Connors, drop to the floor and place your hands behind your head!”

A smile worked its way across Connors’ face and he began to giggle.

“Now!” Pierce demanded.

Warden Stevens felt the temperature in the room drop just before a dark figure moved up behind Connors.

“Must be one of the guards,” he thought.

Suddenly in one swift motion, the figure grabbed Connors’ head and twisted it backwards. Connors’ limp body dropped to the floor in a lifeless heap.

“You!” Stevens yelled. “Guard, what’s your name? That was completely uncalled for!”

In the darkened hallway, the mute figure stood still. Frustrated, Stevens started towards the man but stopped short when just for a moment the lights flickered and he saw Christopher Stuart.

“Stuart,” Stevens whispered, fear lacing his voice.

“I have been set free so that my work may continue,” Stuart said in a soft voice.

“Stuart, please don’t do this,” Stevens begged.

“It is too late, Warden. I answer to a higher calling and must obey,” Stuart said. “It compels me, telling me my work is not yet finished. There are others who are suffering, others who must be set free.”

“Please,” Stevens begged.

“It has begun,” Stuart said.

The lights flickered again and Stuart was gone.

“Sir?” Pierce called, running up to Stevens.

“We have to find him. There’s no telling what he might do,” Stevens said.

From the electric chair room at the far end of the hall came an explosion, and fire erupted from the doorway, spreading quickly down the small passage.

“We have to get out of here, sir!” Pierce shouted.

“No. There might be survivors,” Stevens protested.

“My men will search for them. You must leave now!” Pierce insisted, grabbing Steven’s arm and dragging him to the exit.

When Warden Stevens stepped outside, he saw a figure in the main yard walking towards Building A. He squinted to see more clearly and asked Pierce,

“Is that Stuart?”

Pierce raised his rifle, looking through the scope, and answered,

“Yes, sir,” as he pulled the trigger.

The echo from the gun was deafening, but Stuart kept walking.

“You missed!” Stevens snapped.

“I should have hit him,” Pierce said.  “I had him perfectly lined up.”

Stuart had almost reached Building A.

“Come on,” Stevens barked. “We have to stop him before he stirs the other prisoners into a riot.”

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Published in: on December 7, 2011 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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