The Last Prisoner
The first explosion stopped him dead.
A coyote began to growl and he couldn’t turn away from it to look. He had made it to his first goal, the rocky outcropping. It was the closest change in the barren waste. There were probably more coyote around, but so far it was the only one to show.
When the bus went over, he knew he would run. The rumor-mill inside never mentioned successful escapes. The sequence of events—tire blow-out, bus swerve, ditch, and flip—offered an opportunity. The iron grate in the roof popped out like an escape hatch when the bus twisted to a stop.
He was looking at the horizon behind him when the plume from the second explosion rose in the air. His mind flashed to an old Monty Python episode in which everything seemed under attack with an occasional and curt, “Waaah” thrown in for effect. As if the one being blown to bits could utter such an exclamation. The realization struck him that the inside of the bus must be splattered with gore.
He didn’t see exactly what happened as the bus was going into the ditch, worried as he was for his own skin. Of the seven prisoners being transferred, he was the first to move. His chain was locked to Mini’s seat. When the bus went over, Mini’s weight tore the seat from its mountings. Mini was the biggest friggin’ Mexican he had ever seen, and now was glad for the acquaintance.
Someone else must have gotten out. The third explosion came from a different direction. They were going off a couple of minutes apart. He went through the order. “Ram” Ramirez had been shackled into the front seat. He was the most likely to be a problem, easily flared into violence. Then there was SoCal Sam who liked them young yet understood that beggars couldn’t be choosers. The third one was St. Pierre. He talked to himself. Surprisingly, he had enough wits about him to get away.
The Wander Guard got him anyway.
He pulled the opening of his shirt away to look down at the lump under his skin. Between his left nipple and his breast bone a tube had been inserted as big as a cigarette. It was the one thing he received on his first day at Louksome Prison that he didn’t have to carry to his cell. Proximity to the prison kept it inactive. During transport, the guard in charge carried a device with which he had to account for each prisoner every ninety minutes.
There was a little more time before the forth was taken out; perhaps four or five minutes. It came from the direction of the bus. The coyote walked to a new position, undecided on whether to attack or wait it out for a better opportunity.
He thought about the last time the officer had scanned the Wander Guards. He had just finished St. Pierre and was just about to scan Tupper, the big smiling black guy, when Ram started in on SoCal Sam’s sexual preferences which appeared to be all-encompassing. It slowed the guard down. Ram’s actions, then, had bought Tupper another minute later on, perhaps with which to pray. Knowing Tupper, that’s exactly what he did with his time.
He looked to his hand, the one with the broken bottle neck. It was a tall boy; Schlitz. The bottle broke just where the dark brown glass began to flare out from the neck. His motivation for picking it up outside the bus was as weaponry. It might have been discarded years ago awaiting his arrival.
He considered the Wander Guard he carried. Supposedly, there was no surviving its small explosion, given its location. If it didn’t blow a hole in your heart, the shrapnel shredded the wearer’s innards.
He uncurled his fingers to study the jagged edge of the bottleneck. He could do this. He pulled his shirt away again to see the lump.
The fifth explosion came from the direction of the bus. It had to be the Weasel. That skinny bastard definitely had it coming.
Time was running out; a minute or two at best. He felt as though he didn’t have it coming. He hadn’t killed anyone like these other men had. The coyote took a few steps back to its original vantage point.
He turned the bottleneck to an advantageous edge and dug in, scooping the tube shaped thing under his skin and cutting into flesh. Blood welled up as he tried to fish it out. It had been inserted while he was sedated. There was no scar; there would be now.
Another explosion—from the bus again. Mini was simply too big to get out the hole in the roof of the bus. Girth had its drawbacks.
He was next, the last prisoner. He had a finger under the skin, his other hand pushing the tube shaped thing from the lower end. He didn’t relinquish his pain with a scream, gritting his teeth instead.
He growled—pushing one end and prodding with a finger.
It was coming.
He could feel tearing under the skin.
It was anchored somehow. Finally he had a grip and yanked it out. With a fluid motion he threw it away from him, not taking time to study his potential assassin.
He watched it spin end for end. The coyote snatched it out of the air. It swallowed and licked its chops.
The explosion was muffled more than he was prepared for. The coyote emitted a light whine as it toppled over.
The last prisoner felt exonerated, abandoned, and free. He began walking toward the foothills that were miles away, thinking of new names.