Countdown, Part Four

Continued from Part Three

CThree hours later, Snyder sat on his bunk in the stockade. Sgt. Gina Kendell paced the cell block. “Why’d you have to get yourself thrown in the stockade?”

“I’ve told you five time now, I didn’t even know I was doing anything wrong.”

“I had a hot date. But am I going out? No, I’m babysitting a private being prose-cuted for a clerical error.”

Snyder’s head throbbed. “Sarge, I’m sorry. My head hurts.”

“You ought to take your pain pills.”

Yeah, but they have codeine in them, and if I take one I’ll be out all night. “Sarge, you want to listen to some music?”

She laughed. “Kid, you’re lucky Dread lets you eat more than bread and water. No radios allowed.”

“I can play the guitar.”

“No way am I going to your quarters to fetch it.”

 “No need. I can get a guitar here with-out anyone having to fetch anything.”

 “I’d like to see that.”

Snyder reached into his jacket and pulled out his pocket computer.

Kendell frowned. “Shouldn’t that have been taken away?”

 “Yeah, but it wasn’t. And what Dread doesn’t know—“

Kendell finished. “—won’t hurt him. It’s my motto when I have to guard this hole.”

Snyder pulled way a panel from the prison wall. “This’ll go back in place.”

“And what pray tell does this have to do with you playing the guitar?”

 “You know the holographic game table in the break room?”


Snyder pressed a button on the computer. A holographic guitar appeared. “It also works for music.”

“Where’s the image generator?”

“It’s hidden in the wall. Up until last year, new cells were built with HV so that defendants could be tried virtually.”

“What happened last year?”

“The Steward learned via an anon-ymous e-mail that taxpayers were being bilked, with huge profits going to one of his predecessor’s front corporations. And the e-mail mentioned that in a pinch a particular cell could be fitted with HV for much cheaper than having it in every cell.”

“Did you send that e-mail?”

Snyder cleared his throat. “So, you like country?”

“Rural Nevada born and raised, you bet.”

Snyder played an old Toby Keith melody, “Beer for my Horses.”

“That sounds familiar, know the words?”

Snyder stopped playing. “Yeah, but don’t ask me to sing.” He stopped that nonsense when his voice changed.

“Fair enough, private.”

Snyder played next “Old Man River” and “This Old House.”

“I could listen to this all night.”

Yeah, but I have work to do. “Could you get us some tea?”

“Sure, be back in a second.”

Snyder opened his pill box and re-moved four codeine tablets. Hate to do this, Sarge. You’re a doll, but this is too important. It’ll just put you out for a few hours.

Kendell came back in and let herself into his cell. “One cup for the guard, one cup for the dangerous desperado.”

Snyder laughed. She was closer to the truth than she knew.

Kendell sighed. “I wonder if Dread has ever heard of ‘confined to quarters’?”

“So, any other music you like?”

“When I was younger, I was into the pop scene, but not anymore. Classical rock is good.”

Snyder crushed his codeine into his tea. “I can do that. Elvis Presley, a little U2.”

“You who?”

“Some band Grandma made me listen to. By the way, how long are you on?”

“Let me see.” Kendell turned to look at the wall chart. Snyder grabbed her tea cup and switched it with his.

“Sergeant Monroe will be in at 0200. Don’t try any of this music stuff on her. She’s a hard woman.” Kendell turned back to the tea cup. “How long will you be able to keep playing?”

“Oh, for an hour, maybe.“

“That’ll be just in time for light’s out. Let’s drink up and get back to the guitar.”

Snyder downed Kendell’s tea.

Afterwards, he played “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

Kendell laughed. “That’s an interest-ing song to play in here.”

“Seemed appropriate.”

“You remind me of someone.”


Kendell yawned. “Oh, an old boy-friend, a musician.” Kendell yawned again. “I’d never think of Intelligence Techs as musicians.”

“Why not?”

 “Musicians are sensitive and deep. In-telligence techs logical and mechanical.” Kendell stood. “I need to move. I can’t go to sleep.”

Snyder began to play Brahm’s lullaby.

Kendell yawned. “What are you doing?”

“Sarge, you’re tired, sit down. I’m the only one here, and I’m not going any-where.”

Kendell laid down on the floor. “May-be, it wouldn’t hurt for just a minute.”

Snyder continued to play.

“I should—” Kendell closed her eyes and began to snore.

Snyder finished the lullaby and grab-bed his blanket. He removed Kendell’s cell phone from her pocket and covered her. “Sorry, Sarge. But the stakes are too high.”

Now to send a text message to the relief Sergeant telling her that Dread had ordered Kendell to stay on duty so a relief wouldn’t be necessary.

Continued Next Thursday

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Snyder reviewed Kendell’s message history to ensure he captured her texting style and didn’t arouse suspicion.