A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 15)
The bells started dinging, announcing an arrival and for all to back away from the cargo doors of the elevator. Babbitt extended and raised his left arm, his palm facing Cassie and Scott. The gesture caused them to back up, it was a natural reaction.
The doors parted and their escort stepped out. A young guard, the same one who had passed White the paper work less than a hour earlier. He was all smiles as he wished them all Merry Christmas.
“Hey Sarge, did you get those separation orders I gave White?”
“Orders for who?” Babbitt asked.
“I didn't know if I had clearance to read them, so I just passed them on. I figured since White was down here anyway I’d let him save me a trip.”
The Sergeant’s stomach knotted up as he questioned the young officer. “You know they were separation orders, you just told me that. Did you see a name?”
“I might have seen the name, but I'm not sure I remember.” The young guard looked pensive.
“It's not a trick question.”
“I’m sorry sir. Let me take them to no man’s land then I will find White and personally bring the orders back to you.”
Babbitt told the young officer to escort Scott and Cassie all the way out of the prison and once they had exited the front gate ask the tower guard if White had left. If he had, call and report what he had found out before chasing White’s ghost all over the prison.
Babbitt was in deep thought and the farewell to his guests was very lean. The young guard looked over his shoulder at Babbitt as the doors banged closed, he then turned his attention to Cassie and Scott with small talk.
The phone in the SHU control room rang over the radio Christmas music, the ringer always set to the highest volume. Babbitt answered with a single greeting. “SHU, Babbitt.”
He cut the young officer off in mid sentence, as he tried to announce himself in an official capacity. “Yea, I know who this is. I need you to go back to R&R and look for a paper trail on those separation papers.”
A brief pause then, again, Babbitt cut off the young officer. “Go look and then call me, something stinks here.”
Cassie and Scott made their way back onto the highway that would lead them back to town. Not much was said between them the first few miles. Scott reached across the seat and they joined hands. After a short time Cassie started squeezing Scott's palm. At first a steady pressure that would increase as she moved and positioned her hand, encircling his fingers with hard compression. This motion would become very familiar to him over the years -- when she was nervous or something was troubling her.
Cassie broke the silence, “I don't think I want to ever go back there.”
“To the prison?”
“No, that terrible place below ground. What did they call it -- the dungeon? It was awful. I could feel the pain and sorrow.”
“It was really different from the other times we’ve visited this place. We don't have to ever do that again.”
“I just can’t shake the feeling of despair. It was overwhelming.“ She went on to tell Scott how she had studied crime and punishment in college and had learned that isolation was one of the oldest forms of torture and that a basic human need is to interact with other humans. She talked about how records from the mid-nineteenth century had documented how the isolation and sensory deprivation affected prisoners mental health.
She started crying but couldn’t stop talking. She moved on to Danny Petros, telling Scott she didn’t think he was going to get to say goodbye to his mother. Scott gently reminded her that Danny had made a bad choice… he broken the law and that he owed his debt to society. She cried harder. He asked her to keep her faith in God and to join him in prayer. They both knew it was not in their hands.
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