It was a lonely place, and the people who worked there, didn’t last very long. About the only fun thing to do, was to go outside and smoke cigarettes and shoot the shit.

Charlie was the new kid. I was applying for jobs as a police officer, and Bill was an old-timer—although, there was something youthful about him.

We made regular rounds. I checked building A. Bill Checked building B. And Charlie checked building C. My name is Andy.

After walking for 32 minutes, I punched my code in. Too early, and the alarm went off. Too late, and the police arrived. This way, they knew where we were, all the time. I wondered if they were protecting the building from us, or somebody else.

Bill was having trouble keeping time. The police showed up once, and he got a fine. Can you believe that? He has a false hip.

“What are we guarding?” Charlie asked.

“Kid, I’ve been working here for three years—and I still don’t know. That’s longer than anybody. Most people quit. Too much routine. Did you know, I was overweight before I got this job. It keeps me in shape, but that’s not why I do it. I have a family, and I have to keep food inside my kid’s stomach.”

“Aren’t you curious?” Charlie asked.

“Kid, they don’t pay me to be curious. Besides, there’s places in the building we’re not allowed to go, and it’s impossible to get there because we have to keep punching in the code.”

“What if we got somebody else to do it for us?”

“There’s security cameras everywhere. Right now, four of them are looking at us while we smoke. Plus, we don’t know what’s behind the wall. It might be as boring as chemicals.”

Bill’s eyes perked up. Naturally nocturnal, he slept until twilight. He had a bald head and always wore a baseball cap to prevent it from burning, or so he said, but I couldn’t figure out when he was ever in the sun. We all dressed in the same brown uniform—it felt like being one of Hitler’s Brown Shirts.

“Well, what do you do to keep from going crazy?” Charlie asked, while he sucked on his cigarette.

I looked at him. He still hadn’t figured it out. Adulthood was not about having fun. It was duty, routine, and family—those were the things that mattered.

Bill looked at me, as if, reading my mind. “Don’t let him discourage you,” he said. “There’s plenty to keep you occupied, like racing rats in the bathroom. I save a piece of my sandwich for two of them, and we always bet on who’s going to get it first.”

“Now I’m really depressed,” Charlie said. His shoulder-length red hair, seemed to be on fire.

“Well, what do you do on weekends?” I asked.

“I go to concerts with girls,” Charlie said.

“Lady’s man, eh?” Bill asked. “I did okay in my time, but only average. Once I got one good woman, I never let her go, that was, until she was murdered at midnight during the full moon.”

“You never told me about that,” I said. “I thought you were a bachelor your whole life.”

“Well, you thought wrong. I married her after escaping from one of the most maximum-security prisons in the world.”

“You’re a fugitive?”

“No. I was a guard. The warden didn’t like me very much, and when I first hired-on, I pulled shotgun duty—that’s where you put a 12-gage to the back of a guy’s head, and pulled the trigger. You have to listen to him, yelping for his mother, and then his soul is silenced, and there is only the smell of blood and brains and gunpowder.”

“You executed people?” I asked.

“I did what I was ordered to do. The island where I worked was like Alcatraz. It was a god-forsaken rock in the middle of the sea. Most of it was wilderness, with the exception of the castle and the retaining wall. There was a lighthouse on the far side, but the Keeper never came to the prison. He got to the mainland via ferry—separate from the barge. The prisoners got executed routinely. They called it skull island. We threw their bodies into the eye-socket. It was routine, just like this job, until it wasn’t. I started to find-out things…”

“Like what?” Charlie asked.

“Like, guards were getting executed too, if they didn’t follow orders—or if they got on the warden’s bad side.”

“You’re shitting me!” I said.

“No. I’m not. This one time, I got called into his office. He was a strange man. You can know about somebody, by their surroundings. He had lions mounted to his walls, a grizzly bear rug, antique rifles in glass cases, bullets in drawers, exotic flowers framed, and telephones connected to every wing of the prison. The red one, never rang, but the other ones were going all the time. You see, our government worked with many countries to put the worst rotten eggs into the deepest snake pit ever created.  

One day, the red phone rang. And that’s the beginning of my story.”

“Well… tell us,” Charlie demanded.

“Sorry lads, you’ll have to wait, until tomorrow,” Bill said with a smile.

To be continued…

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