Chapter 32

TINAL ROOM CHECK AT THE JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER was 10 P. M., when they made sure all lights and televisions were off. Mark heard Telda rattling keys and givi-ing commands across the hall. His shirt was soaked, unbuttoned, and sweat ran to his navel and puddled around the zipper of his jeans. The television was off. His breathing was heavy. His thick hair was watery and rows of sweat ran to his eyebrows and dripped from the tip of his nose. She was next door. His face was crimson and hot.

Telda knocked, then unlocked Mark's door. The light was on and this immediately irritated her. She took a step inside, glanced at the bunks, but he wasn't there.

Then she saw his feet beside the toilet. He was curled tightly with his knees on his chest, motionless except for rapid, heavy breathing.

His eyes were closed and his left thumb was in his mouth.

"Mark!" she shouted, suddenly terrified. "Mark! Oh my God!" She ran from the room to get help, and... ". j^vyiiu:, wmi Ljenny, tier partner, who took a. quick look.

"Doreen was worried about this," Denny said, touching the sweat on Mark's stomach. "Damn, he's soaking wet." Telda was pinching his wrist. "His pulse is crazy. Look at him breathe. Call an ambulance!" "The poor kid's in shock, isn't he?" "Go call an ambulance!" Denny lumbered from the room and the floor shook. Telda picked Mark up and carefully placed him on the bottom bunk, where he curled again and brought his knees to his chest. The thumb never left his mouth. Denny was back with a clipboard. "This must be Doreen's handwriting. Says here to check on him every half hour, and if there's any doubt, to rush him to St. Peter's and call Dr. Greenway." "This is all my fault," Telda said. "I shouldn't have allowed those damned marshals in here. Scared the poor boy to death." Denny knelt beside her, and with a thick thumb peeled back the right eyelid. "Damn! His eyes have rolled back. This kid's in trouble," he said with all the gravity of a brain surgeon.

"Get a washcloth over here," Telda said, and Denny did as told. "Doreen was telling me this is what happened to his little brother. They saw that shooting on Monday, both of them, and the little one's been in shock ever since." Denny handed her the cloth and she wiped Mark's forehead.

"Damn, his heart's gonna explode," Denny said, on his knees again next to Telda. "He's breathing like crazy." "Poor kid. I should've run those marshals off," Telda said.

"I would have. They got no right coming on this floor." He jabbed another thumb into the left eye, and Mark groaned and twitched. Then he started the moaning, just like Ricky, and this scared them even more. A low, dull, pitchless sound from deep in the throat. He sucked hard on the thumb.

A paramedic from the main jail three floors down ran into the room, followed by another jailer. "What's up?" he asked as Telda and Denny moved.

"I think it's called traumatic shock or stress or something," Telda said. "He's been acting strange all day, then about an hour ago two U. S. marshals were here to give him a subpoena." The paramedic was not listening. He gripped a wrist and found the pulse. Telda rattled on. "They scared him to death, and I think it sent him into shock. I should've watched him after that, but I got busy." "I would've run those damned marshals off," Denny said. They stood side by side behind the paramedic.

"This is what happened to his little brother, you know, the one who's been in the newspaper all week. The shooting and all." "He's gotta go," the paramedic said, standing, frowning, and talking into his radio. "Hurry up with the stretcher to the fourth floor," he barked into it. "Got a kid in bad shape." Denny stuck the clipboard in front of the paramedic. "Says here to take him to St. Peter's. Dr. Green-way." "That's where his brother is," Telda added. "Doreen told me all about it. She was worried this sne aimost sent tor an ambulance this afternoon. Said he's been slipping away all day. I should've been more careful." The stretcher arrived with two more paramedics.

-  Mark was quickly laid on it and covered with a blanket. A strap was placed across his thighs and another on his-chest. His eyes never opened, but he managed to keep the thumb in his mouth.

And he managed to emit the painful, monotonous groan that frightened the paramedics and sped the stretcher along. It rolled quickly past the front station, and into an elevator.

"You ever seen this before?" one paramedic mumbled under his breath to the other.

"Not that I recall." "He's burning up." "The skin is normally cool and clammy with shock. I've never seen this." "Yeah. Maybe traumatic shock is different. Check out that thumb." "Is this the kid the mob's after?" "Yeah. Front page today and yesterday." "I guess he's gone over the edge." The elevator stopped, and they pushed the stretcher hurriedly through a series of short hallways, all busy and filled with the usual Friday night madness of city jail. A set of double doors flew open, and they were at the ambulance.

The ride to St. Peter's took less than ten minutes, half as long as the wait once they arrived. Three other ambulances were in the process of depositing their occupants. St. Peter's received the vast majority of Memphis knife wounds, gunshot victims, beaten wives, and mangled bodies from weekend car wrecks. The pace was hectic twenty-four hours a day, but from sunset Friday until late Sunday, the place was in chaos.

They rolled him through the bay and onto the white-tiled floors, where the stretcher stopped and the paramedics waited and filled out forms. A small army of nurses and doctors scrambled around a new patient and all yelled at the same time. People ran in every direction. A half dozen cops milled about. Three more stretchers were parked haphazardly in the wide hallway.

A nurse ventured by, stopped for a second, and asked the paramedics, "What is it?" One of them handed her a form.

"So he's not bleeding," she said, as if nothing mattered except flowing blood.

"No. Looks like stress or shock or something. Runs in the family." "He can wait. Roll him to Intake. I'll be back in a minute." And she was off.

They wove the stretcher through heavy traffic, and stopped in a small room off the main hallway. The forms were presented to another nurse, who scribbled something without looking at Mark. "Where's Dr. Greenway?" she asked the paramedics.

They looked at each other, and shrugged at the nurse.

"You haven't called him?" she asked.

"Well, no." "Well, no," she repeated to herself, and rolled her eyes. What a couple of dumbasses. "Look, this is a war zone, okay. We're talking blood and guts. We've lost two people in that hallway right there in the past thirty minutes. Psychiatric emergencies do not get top priority around here." iuu want us to shoot him?" one of them said, nodding at Mark, and this really pissed her off.

"No. I want you to leave. I'll take care of him, but you guys just get the hell out of here." "You signed the forms, lady. He's all yours." They smiled at her, and headed for the door.

"Is there a policeman with him?" she asked.

"Nope. He's just a juvenile." They were gone.

Mark managed to roll onto his left side and bring his knees to his chest. The straps were not tight. His eyes opened slightly. A black man was lying across three chairs in one corner of the room. An empty stretcher with blood on the sheets was by a green door next to a water fountain. The nurse answered the phone, said a few words, and left the room. Mark quickly unhooked the straps and jumped to the floor. There was no crime in walking around. He was a nut case now, so what if she caught him on his feet.

The forms she'd been holding were on the counter. He grabbed them, and pushed the stretcher through the green door, which led to a cramped corridor with small rooms on both sides. He abandoned the stretcher and threw the forms in a garbage can. The exit signs led to a door with a window in it. It opened into the madhouse of Admissions.

Mark smiled to himself. He'd been here before. He watched the chaos through the window and picked the spot where he and Hardy had stood after Greenway and Dianne disappeared with Ricky. He eased through the door, and casually made his way through the snarled throng of sick and wounded trying anxiously to get admitted. Running and darting might attract attention, so he played it cool. He rode his favorite escalator to the basement, and found an empty wheelchair by the stairs. It was adult-size, but he worked the wheels and rolled himself past the cafeteria to the morgue.

GLINT HAD FALLEN ASLEEP ON THE SOFA. LETTERMAN WAS almost over when the phone rang. Reggie grabbed it. "Hello." "Hi, Reggie. It's me, Mark." "Mark! How are you, dear?" "Doing great, Reggie. Just wonderful." "How'd you find me?" she asked, turning off the TV.

"I called Momma Love and woke her. She gave me this number. It's Glint's place, right?" "Right. How'd you get to a phone? It's awful late." "Well, I'm not in jail anymore." She stood and walked to the snack bar. "Where are you, dear?" "At the hospital. St. Peter's." "I see. And how'd you get there?" "They brought me in an ambulance." "Are you okay?" "Great." "Why'd they take you in an ambulance?" "I had an attack of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and they rushed me over." "Should I come see you?" "Maybe. What's this grand jury stuff?" "Nothing but an attempt to scare you into talking." "Well, it worked. I'm more scared than ever." "You sound fine." "Nervous energy, Reggie. I'm scared to death." i mean, you don't sound like you're in shock or anything." "I recovered real quick. I faked them out, Reggie, okay? I jogged in my little cell for half an hour, and when they found me I was soaking wet and in bad shape, as they say." Glint sat up on the sofa and listened intently.

"Have you seen a doctor?" she asked, frowning at Glint.

"Not exactly." "What does that mean?" "It means I walked out of the emergency room. It means I've escaped, Reggie. It was so easy." "Oh my God!" "Relax. I'm fine. I'm not going back to jail, Reggie. And I'm not going to see the grand jury in New Orleans. They'll just lock me up down there, won't they?" "Listen, Mark, you can't do this. You can't escape. You must-" "I've already escaped; Reggie. And you know something?" "What?" "I doubt if anyone knows it yet. This place is so crazy, I doubt if they've missed me yet." "What about the cops?" "What cops?" "Didn't a cop go with you to the hospital?" "No. I'm just a kid, Reggie. I had two huge paramedics, but I'm just a little kid and at the time I was in a coma, sucking my thumb, moaning and groaning, just like Ricky. You'd have been proud. It was like something out of a movie. Once I got here, they turned their backs, and just like that, I walked away." "You can't do this, Mark." "It's done, okay? And I'm not going back." "What about your mother?" "Oh, I talked to her about an hour ago, by phone of course. She freaked out, but I convinced her I was fine. She didn't like it, told me to come to Ricky's room. We had a big fight over the phone, but she settled down. I think she's on pills again." "But you're at the hospital?" "That's right." "Where? In which room?" "Are you still my lawyer?" "Of course I'm your lawyer." "Good. So if I tell you something, you can't repeat it, right?" "Right." "Are you my friend, Reggie?" "Of course I'm your friend." "That's good, because right now you're the only friend I have. Will you help me, Reggie? I'm really scared." "I'll do anything, Mark. Where are you?" "In the morgue. There's a little office in the corner, and I'm hiding under the desk. The lights are off. If I hang up real quick, you'll know somebody walked in. They've brought in two bodies while I've been here, but so far no one's come to the office." "The morgue?" Glint bolted to his feet and stood beside her.

"Yeah. I've been here before. I know this place pretty well, remember." "Sure." "Who's in the morgue?" Glint whispered. She frowned at him and shook her head.

"Mom said they have a subpoena for you too, Reggie. Is this true?" "Yes, but they haven't served me. That's why I'm here at Glint's. If they don't hand me the subpoena, then I don't have to go." "So you're hiding too?" "I guess." Suddenly his end clicked and the dial tone followed. She stared at the receiver, then quickly placed it on the phone. "He hung up," she said.

"What the hell's going on!" Glint asked.

"It's Mark. He's escaped from jail." "He what!" "He's hiding in the morgue at St. Peter's." She said this as if she didn't believe it. The phone rang, and she snatched it. "Hello." "Sorry about that. The door to the morgue opened, then closed. I thought they were bringing in another body." "Are you safe, Mark?" "Hell no, I'm not safe. But I'm a kid, okay. And now I'm a psychiatric case. So if they catch me, I'll just go into shock again and they'll put me in a room. Then I'll figure out another way to escape, maybe." "You can't hide forever." "Neither can you." She marveled once again at his quick tongue. "You're right, Mark. So what do we do?" "I don't know. I really would like to leave Memphis. I'm sick of cops and jails." "Where do you want to go?" "Well, let me ask you something. If you come and get me, and we leave town together, then you could get in trouble for helping me escape. Right?" "Yes. I'd be an accomplice." "What would they do to you?" "We'll worry about that later. I've done worse things." "So you'll help me?" "Yes, Mark. I'll help you." "And you won't tell anybody?" "We may need Glint." "Okay, you can tell Glint. But nobody else, okay?" "You have my word." "And you won't try to talk me into going back to jail?" "I promise." There was a long pause. Glint was near panic.

"Okay, Reggie. You know the main parking lot, the one next to that big green building?" "Yes." "Drive into it, just like you're looking for a place to park. Go real slow. I'll be hiding between some cars." "That place is dark and dangerous, Mark." "It's Friday night, Reggie. Everything around here is dark and dangerous." "But there's a guard in the exit booth." "That guard sleeps half the time. It's a guard, not a cop. I know what I'm doing, okay?" "Are you sure?" "No. But you said you'd help me." "I will. When should I be there?" "As fast as you can." "I'll be in Glint's car. It's a black Honda Accord." "Good. Hurry." "I'm on my way. Be careful, Mark." "Relax, Reggie. This is just like the movies." She hung up, and took a deep breath.

"My car?" Glint asked.

"They're looking for me too." "You're crazy, Reggie. This is insane. You can't run away with an escaped, I don't know, whatever the hell he is. They'll arrest you for contributing. You'll be indicted. You'll lose your license." "Where's my bag?" "In the bedroom." "I need your keys, and your credit cards." "My credit cards! Look, Reggie, I love you, sweetheart, but my car and my plastic?" "How much cash do you have?" "Forty bucks." "Give it here. I'll pay you back." She headed for the bedroom.

"You've lost your mind." "I've lost it before, remember." "Come on, Reggie." "Get a grip, Glint. We're not blowing anything. I've got to help Mark. He's sitting in a dark office in the morgue at St. Peter's begging for help. What am I supposed to do?" "Well, hell! I think you should attack the place with a shotgun and blow people away. Anything for Mark Sway." "Give me the credit cards and the cash, Glint. I'm in a hurry." He reached in his pockets. "You're nuts. This is ridiculous." "Stay by the phone. Do not leave this place, okay. I'll call you later." She grabbed his keys, cash, and two credit cards-Visa and Texaco.

He followed her to the door. "Take it easy with the Visa. It's almost to the limit." "Why am I not surprised?" She kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, Glint. Take care of Momma Love." "Call me," he said, thoroughly defeated.

She eased through the door and disappeared in the darkness.