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For many, being locked away in prison means a feeling of control, a measured environment where you at least know the dangers you face.

Inside, it's only the prison you fear, not the wrath of God.

Trustee by Liam Sweeny

The lights went out this morning. Those emergency hall lights are out too, so I know one thing – the generator blew. Can’t say I’m surprised. It was a damn hurricane. But people are talkin’ through the pipes, shouting across the cell-block. Can’t hear shit but that the water’s coming up outside, hard. The levee must have topped. Maybe they all did.

I’m not shoutin’, though. I spent five years as a trustee in Angola. Took me two years to build up that kind of trust. Now I’m lookin’ at a fresh five year bid for pocketing ten large from a Bourbon Street bar, a neon rum-slushie joint for brats who couldn’t handle a real drink.

But I got a situation here. I’m on the ground level. I’m starting to see a thin pool coating the floor. There’s a small line of inmates chained to each other coming down from the upper blocks, and I’m thinkin’, what about me? I know these guards. I’m nice to them, ask them how their families are doing. I know there ain’t trustees in county jail, but damned if I shouldn’t be in that first wave.

I see Deputy Casmrack walking down. He’s the sergeant in charge of the block. I call him Sarge.

“Sarge,” I say through the bars, “am I getting’ out of here?”

“I won’t let you drown in here, Henri. You’ll have a chance. I’ll be back,” he says. Then he takes off to follow the line.

Something’s weird. His eyes were impassioned. Now I like the guy and so on, but that look, impassioned, we ain’t like that. I don’t go that way. But the water’s climbing to the tops of my sneakers. I’ll go that way if it gets me the fuck out of here.

On and on they go. So now I’m really thinking what the fuck? Then Sarge comes back. He’s got the keys out. Thank you, sweet Cajun Jesus!

He holds up his key ring. I’m lookin’ at the fat silver one that pops open my cage.
“Don’t have much time,” he says. “Here’s what’s gonna happen.” He’s scratching his legs, his pants soaked and slick.

“The city’s fucked,” he says. “A fuckin’ war zone. Levees breached, that’s talk, but everything’s down. Cell towers, TV, internet… Can’t find out anything but what the next guy says.”

“Wait, how do I get out?” I say. “You lettin’ me out?”

He shakes the keychain. “Like I was saying, it’s a war zone. We took the small-time people. We probably can’t hold onto them out there.”

“You’re not letting me go too?”

“The small silver key, see it?” he says. “That one unlocks the warden’s office. There’s a shotgun, over-and-under and boxes of shells in the vault. That’s the little gold key. We left some inmates. You gotta do us a favor. You were a trustee once.” The water was creeping along the bottom of my shins.

“The worst of the worst are in the dining hall,” he says. “Rapists, child killers, pure predators. We can’t take chances.”

The way he’s talkin’, I’m starting to think he’s out his lovin’ mind. “You want me to kill ‘em? How? You gonna let me out?”

Sarge looked down the block, the way that leads out.

“I gotta go,” he says, and he drops the key ring right in front of my cell. I watch it disappear into the murk.  “Just make it to the second level. We’re locking the doors from the outside.”

“Wait, that’s it?”

“You’ll be the only one with a shotgun.” Sarge wiped his brow.

“Good luck,” he says as he’s heading for the drowning city. I sink down on my knees fishing for the key ring. It’s like shit water, smells even worse. The water’s near my kisser when my hand finds the ring and I pull it into the cell. Unlocking the door turns out to be harder when you’re doing it from the inside.

I hear pounding on the dining hall doors upstairs as I finally get the damn thing open. The scum soup is up to my jewels, and I slosh water for the warden’s office, hoping Cajun Jesus will bless me with good aim.

Liam Sweeny is a crime writer from upstate New York. His work has appeared in various publications, both online and in print. When not writing, Liam is involved with disaster response and preparedness. His anthology, Dead Man's Switch, is out now!