One after the next, leg by leg, the black fuzzy zipper spider sidled down the crack that ran from the corner of the wall nearest his cot, in an irregular line, down to the hard packed dirt floor. The baked adobe walls were full of cracks, more cracks than wall it seems, thought RuhMoan dividing his idle time between watching the industrious spider and removing sweat from his brow with his forefinger, not unlike a windshield wiper. The beads of sweat that formed elsewhere on his head would slowly drip down his neck, irritatingly, and pool onto his sleeping area unless he leaned over the edge far enough so they would clear the frame of his cot and hit the floor, adding to the growing collection of small dark splotches already there. He was tired. He hadn’t done anything for seventeen days but try to be still enough to beat the heat and survive in this eight by eight holding cell. His only companions a straw-filled cot to sleep on and a wooden bucket with a rusted handle in the corner, in which to do his business. He was tired, real tired of living this way.
He had been picked up on an out-of-state warrant for a B&E, breaking and entering, and was awaiting extradition. Time passed slowly for RuhMoan and not very well. There were three holding cells and he was the only ‘customer,’ as Deputy Garcia liked to call him, in the station. Sit and sweat, stand and sweat or lie down and sweat, some choices, he groused. RuhMoan sighed silently as he pushed himself up onto one elbow to reach over and squish the unsuspecting zipper spider with the back of his wrist, who had stopped to rest for a moment on the mud wall. He threw one leg over the side of the musty cot, leaned over and passed the spider remains from the back of his hand down to the edge of his boot, then kicked the spider mash out under the iron gate into the deputy’s area. RuhMoan threw himself back onto the cot, his right arm gracefully gliding up over his head the way a flamenco dancer might, both the arm and his head hitting the straw mat at the same time. RuhMoan admitted to himself that he needed a change in his life.
“What’s this?” inquired Deputy Garcia bending over at the waist to get a better look at the black and yellow-green blob with furry-black, stick legs poking out every which way.
“What in god’s name is this!” It was less of a question now that the deputy’s small, but functional, frontal lobe had begun to deduce the only possible person that could be responsible for this mess, was lying within spitting distance from him, just to his left.
“You know anything about this here, RuhMoan?” Garcia said this while rolling over the spider mess with a pencil to inspect the evidence from another angle. This was good, solid police work, thought Deputy Garcia.
“About what?” RuhMoan answered dryly, deciding to pass a little time at the deputy’s expense.
“Cut the shit, bucko. I ought to make you clean this up with your damn tongue. Know something?” Garcia continued, “You’re close to crossing the line with me, RuhMoan. You better straighten up and fly right, or else…” Garcia didn’t finish the threat.
“No idea what you’re talking about, deputy sir,” RuhMoan said lying on his back staring up at the ceiling trying hard to get under the deputy’s skin, get a reaction, get a respite from the boredom.
“Listen, I don’t want you setting a bad example, okay? We’re getting another customer in here this afternoon and I don’t want any shit from you. Got it?” Garcia sounded more like a high school coach than an armed officer of the law.
“I could use a new dominoes partner,” RuhMoan said shifting his weight and lifting his head to look at the deputy, who was sweating profusely from the exertion of bending his large frame down to the floor and then back upright again.
“Where’d you get dominos, you sonofabitch!” The deputy was clearly edgy about the new customer coming in but caught himself being played an instant after the words left his mouth. “Why I oughta…”
RuhMoan leaned back down on his cot with a chuckle. He still had a smile on his face when Garcia looked in on him before returning to his desk located in the open half of the square, one- story building. Front door, back door, two wooden desks facing each other at one end, although only one deputy was on duty at a time, a single grey filing cabinet, a seldom clean bathroom, free-standing coatrack and three waiting chairs for unlikely visitors at the other end. One rectangular window, with thick iron bars, was cut into each of the three walls of the mud building, the ones not backing the holding cells. The room was equally divided into law enforcement and customers.
“Say, deputy?” RuhMoan lifted his voice towards the center desk, “Who’s the new customer? Why’s he coming here? You signing autographs or something?”
“Funny, asshole, just keep it up. You’re gonna get yours,” the deputy answered without looking up from the paperwork, onto which he was scribbling his signature with great deliberation.
“For your information, we’re getting a real lowlife critter in here, the likes of which you’ve never seen. So, I wouldn’t be trying any of your lame jokes on him, you hear? He’d cut you just a soon as look at you, culo.” Garcia went on, “He’s only here for less than forty-eight hours, just until the county sheriff picks him up and takes him north. So, don’t fall in love, chavalo, he ain’t gonna be here but a couple days and a sleepover.”
“You sound pretty worked up, deputy,” RuhMoan teased, maybe you ought to go powder your nose and change your panties before he gets here.”
“Screw you and your horse and your mother, mariposa!” Garcia fumed and pressurized the pencil he was using to write his name with such force, built from aggravation, that it snapped the point off and sent it flying across the room. “You’re an asswipe, RuhMoan, you know that?
“It’s a pleasure to be at your cervix, deputy.” RuhMoan retorted, rolled over onto his side to face the wall for his afternoon siesta. “Nighty night, boss,” he called out over his shoulder. The last sounds he heard before drifting off to sleep were the low muttering curses of Deputy Garcia sharpening a new pencil with his well-worn, scuffed-up, old Swiss army knife.
* * *
A door far, far away slowly closed with a low drawn-out creaking sound, followed by voices too distant to understand, then the shuffle of boots and that dry crackling sound old leather boots and holsters make. Certain metallic sounds became louder. Closer, and louder still, then as if a giant alarm clock with double bells that looked like huge Mickey Mouse ears went off next to his head, RuhMoan bolted upright to see the new customer with chains dangling and clanging. Chains were hanging all over him, and he was dragging himself, with a great clatter, towards the cell next to where RuhMoan lie motionless on his cot.
Chains were attached to ankle rings and more chains attached to wrist straps with sharp welded loops, each secured to more metal loops, trap-sewn and sandwiched between a double- thick, four-fingers-wide leather belt tightly strapped around the prisoner’s waist with safety-lock buckles in the back. RuhMoan was almost fully awake now but he hadn’t moved even a hair, other than open his eyelids, since his soft dream turned suddenly into a jarring reality in close vicinity.
“Go on, get in there, hoss.” One of the escorting sheriff’s deputies barked at the new customer. “Go on now,” he instructed as he held open the heavy iron gate. He placed his hand firmly on the upper middle back of his prisoner, between the shoulder blades and shoved, “get in there.” The new customer took several quick baby steps, restrained by the chains, and fell twisting sideways to the floor. “Don’t get too comfortable, y’hear, you won’t be around but a for a happy meal or two.”
The prisoner didn’t look at either Deputy Garcia or the prisoner’s escorts and said, “How about you take these chains off me so maybe I can move a little?”
“Later, hombre, after you chill out a spell,” answered the bigger of the two escorts. “I got some paperwork to do here and if I’m feeling charitable afterwards, I’ll see to those restraints.” He added, “Now be a good fella and shut your damn trap for a while so I can get done and be out of here. I got dinner and a wanton woman waiting.” He turned and laughed so hard at his unintended alliteration that the force bent him over and he had to put out his hands to catch his thighs, just to keep from toppling over.
Deputy Garcia was a little unnerved by the brutish behavior of the hulking escort and weakly grinned at him just to let him know that he was on the same side. Garcia walked the other sheriff’s escort to the front door, they knew each other from their police academy days and left with promises to get together and share a beer one day soon.
The resident deputy turned back towards the desk. “Let me have your keys, I’ll get those chains for you while you do the paperwork, save you some time. Get you home to that little wifey of yours a bit early,” Garcia offered.
“Hell, you think I’d be this anxious to get home to my wife!” he roared. “Hell bells, man, I’ve got a hot little number I picked up over the Pig, Saddle and Whistle the other night waiting on me.” He straightened and stood up from his position hunched over the desk like a third grader ciphering letters for the first time, unhooked the key ring, and tossed it to Garcia. “Here, take care of my light housekeeping, would you? And, be quick about it, I got places to go and people to see. Especially one in particular with a shape like this,” and he outlined voluptuous female curves in the air with two hands like an enthusiastic amateur mime. Then he kissed his airy creation with great exaggeration, puckering his lips like the cartoon skunk, Pepe LePew, closing his eyes and making loud sucking noises. This too caused him to convulse in laughter. Gradually he lowered his massive hulk back down onto his seat, faced the desk and resumed his ciphering, still chuckling to himself over his sexy pantomime.
Deputy Garcia caught the key ring in mid air and thought to himself, what a looney tune! He turned and moved towards the cell gate, the one with the new customer. He fished for his own set of keys to open the heavily barred gate, swung it wide and entered the cell.
RuhMoan watched from his position laying on his side in the adjoining cell, his eyes looking directly at the scene unfolding not six feet away. The new customer was looking back at him. RuhMoan felt connected somehow, as if there was a message or plan being communicated. RuhMoan watched deputy Garcia straddle the prisoner still on the floor and unlock the four sets of chains, leaving the rings, cuffs and waist belt attached. The two captive men continued to stare at each other, each from their own horizontal position. Garcia bent over to pick up the last chain from the floor, unaware that the cold, hard, metallic feel of the forged links grasped loosely in his fingers, would be the next to last thing the deputy would ever feel.
The new customer, in one swift motion, grabbed that same chain and looped it around the deputy’s neck once and pulled him down into his chest, suffocating any sounds. Link crossed link, making the loop ever tighter, smaller. Garcia never made another audible sound, the breath that left his body was not replaced with any precious, vital new air. The hardened new prisoner wrapped his legs around Garcia’s lower body holding him motionless, all the while continuing to tighten the chain around his neck. It was like watching a nature show on television, RuhMoan thought, where the giant python suddenly snatches and then quietly kills the unwary wild hare who, moments before, was happily skipping down a sun-dappled jungle path.
RuhMoan looked over at the big escort, who was deep in concentration, scribbling marks onto police reports with his face within inches of his working pencil, back hunched over, pressing hard to go through the four attached carbon copies. RuhMoan looked back at the new prisoner who nodded at him and indicated that he was to help him deal with the remaining officer. He turned his eyes downward to see Deputy Garcia’s lifeless form, quiet as if peacefully sleeping off a midday ‘pack of beer. RuhMoan felt a pang of remorse.
The new prisoner motioned to him, RuhMoan steeled his nerves and prepared to rise. The two slithered out from their cells and, in what should have been a much harder thing to do, took the big escort by surprise from behind. The new customer pulled the police officer’s head back with a great handful of greasy hair, and bludgeoned him repeatedly with one of the wrist cuffs. The sharp metal loops tore flesh away from his face wherever it was driven. RuhMoan was aghast as he watched the murderer, twist in the jagged metal and scoop out more bloody chunks, only to return repeatedly until his face was an unrecognizable bloody pulp that somehow remained attached to his body.
RuhMoan watched the life fade from the man’s startled eyes, first becoming glassy and then faraway as if the large escort was refocused now on a new destination somewhere beyond the horizon. The new customer finally let the hank of hair loose and the lifeless head fell forward throwing blood all over the unfinished reports with a noisy splatter that sounded like water thrown from a bucket. He stared at his handiwork for a minute, maybe more, until he was satisfied there would be no further resistance.
Heaving from the intense physical workout, he turned to RuhMoan, stuck out his gruesome right hand spotted with pale skin, pink flesh and pieces of blue veins smeared with deep-red, thick wet blood that glued clumps of black hair here and there, all of it hanging like swamp moss in a bad Hollywood horror movie, and said, “Hi, I’m Walter. Proud to meet you. We probably should get a move on.”