The guard’s heels clicked against the tiled floors, and his flashlight swung to and fro, illuminating the prisoners’ cells.
“Can you see him?”
Stuart waved his cell mate to be silent pressing his face against the cold, metal bars to follow the guard’s retreating back. Then, with a sigh of relief, he scooted back against the wall. “He’s gone.”
Arlin Murphy’s yellowed teeth flashed in the dim light of the fluorescent emergency lights. “You got the map?” Long and lean, he was more bone than muscle, and the added twitch under his eye gave him a gruesome appearance which always made Stuart look away. “Are you listening?”
Nerves made Stuart sweat. He mopped his brow and nodded. “Are you sure you got the right key?”
A chuckle followed. “Don’t worry. Good ole Hank was willing to give it up after I had a ‘talk’ with him.” The inflection in Arlin’s words indicated the conversation entailed much more than just a talk.
Stuart muttered something about his cellmate’s lack of intelligence under his breath and pushed himself to his feet. He hadn’t seen Hank around in a few days, so maybe he wouldn’t be found. Throwing a glance over his shoulder, he demanded. “Did you kill him?”
Arlin slapped him on the shoulder and ignored the question. “Let’s just get going. We’ve got a long way to go, to get out of those tunnels.”
“You think I don’t know that? Who’s been planning this escape for the last two years?”
“You know what I meant. How about taking a couple of deep breaths? I don’t wanna get my ass in a sling because you get all panicky out there.”
“When have you ever seen me panic?” The cold question silenced any further conversation.
The whoop of the sirens added the impetus they needed to pick up the pace. Stuart led the way, crawling through the tunnels underneath Attica prison with the godawful stench burning his nostrils.
Behind him he could hear Arlin’s labored breaths and urges to move faster. He sniffed and wished he’d taken the time to find another hit of snow before they’d gotten started. No telling how long it would be before he had another chance.
Dogs barked, and Stuart’s skin crawled. Would they make it? They had to. He’d spent the last three years of his life in this hellhole, and he wasn’t stopping until he saw daylight.
“Will you move?” Arlin barked, shoving his hand against the bottom of Stuart’s shoe.
“I’m going as fast as I can,” Stuart shot back, his head bumping the top of the rusty tunnel. No doubt he was going to have to kill the little bastard before all of this was over.
The bloodhounds were closer, drawing in on their location. Even in the coolness of the dark, Stuart continued to sweat. His knuckles raw and bleeding, he scooted faster, desperation guiding him into the inky blackness.
Arlin’s breaths became more frantic. “They’re going to catch us!”
“Will you shut the hell up?”
“How did they know so soon?” Fear crept into the smaller man’s voice.
“Maybe they found Hank’s body,” Stuart snarled, resisting the urge to smash his foot into Arlin’s face.
His cellmate grew silent as the sounds of the dogs faded into the distance. “The stench kept them from smelling us.” Arlin’s voice, though tinged with relief, still shook.