by Jennifer Harrison
Elizabeth Jane Brubaker lay on her bunk, wiping the perspiration from her brow and the back of her neck with the already sodden handkerchief. She felt a bead of sweat trickle down her body into her cleavage, and she cursed the oppressive heat in the stifling, still air of her cell. The Tawnee Correctional Institute did not run to luxuries such as air conditioning, and it was a matter of just enduring the long, lazy days and nights of a southern summer with as much tolerance as she could muster. She’d already discarded her prison-issue blue denim dress, and was lying on top of the bed covers in just the cheap, ill-fitting bra and panties provided by the state of South Carolina, but it wasn’t making her any more comfortable.
Trying to ignore the heat, she looked back through her notepad of coded shorthand, checking to make sure she hadn’t forgotten to record even the smallest instance of drug-dealing, bribery, and corruption she had observed over the last few weeks. When she was satisfied it was complete, and that all the names and dates were correct, she tucked the pad away in its hiding place inside the mattress. Shortly afterwards, the lights in the entire wing were doused, and she was left in semi-darkness.
She thought back to the time she had first heard of this place. She had been surprised to receive the call from Jake Thomson, newly appointed governor of the Institute, even more so when he’d asked to meet her in a hotel bar, and refused to tell her why. She had known Jake since she was a child – he’d been a friend of her parents, now both sadly passed – and had been a great support and help as she’d gone through college and made her way into investigative journalism.
He’d seemed very jumpy when they met, and she soon understood why. He had inspected his new organization and quickly decided he needed to take drastic action. He told her the place was corrupt from top to bottom, but he needed proof – and that’s where she came in.
“I know this is an unbelievably unfair favor to ask, Liz,” he had said, “but I need someone on the inside, to find out just how high this goes. Your mom and dad, God rest their souls, would have killed me for using our friendship like this, but I’m at my wits’ end.”
She knew it would be dangerous, but it was just the kind of undercover story that would make her career. He’d agreed that, once she’d given him the evidence and arrests had been made, she could tell the whole story, in whatever way she wanted. It was too good an opportunity to miss out on, and she’d readily agreed.
It had taken a few weeks, and a few favors from a friendly judge, to create the paper trail for her cover story as Trisha McMillan, a white trash drug user and habitual shoplifter, sentenced to six months for possession, theft, and resisting arrest. She had then been delivered to the Institute in the rural backwaters of South Carolina.
That was four weeks ago. She had immediately seen that the staff were lazy and disinterested – even the cleaners didn’t do a good job; the place was filthy – but, as time went on, she saw that they were also running the drug trade in the prison, as well as a prostitution ring, pimping out attractive inmates to minor local officials, as well as other more influential inmates with a predilection for young, female flesh. They had tried to force her into this racket, but she’d fought back, receiving a vicious beating for her refusal. However, at least they’d moved on to less troublesome prey.
She had established that the corruption went all the way up the hierarchy of the guards, at least on the wing where she was being held, and she had heard rumors that even the deputy governor was involved. She was about ready to present her evidence to Jake, and get the hell out of this dump.
She must have dozed off, and it took her a minute to realize they were calling her cover name. Her cell door was open, and the frame was filled by the senior officer on the wing, Dana Purdue, an enormously overweight woman. But Liz knew her corpulence disguised her strength and fitness. Besides, she was accompanied by two minions, and they all had nightsticks and tazers, like all the guards.
“Get up, you lazy cunt, you’re wanted in the governor’s office!”
Liz jumped off the bunk bed and reached for her dress, but one of the officers snatched it away from her with a glare. She was turned against the wall, and felt the cuffs go around her wrists.
“What’s going on?” she asked as they hustled her into the corridor.
“Shut the fuck up!” Purdue shouted, “You’ll find out soon enough.”
She wondered why Jake would want to see her, and at this time of night. She could only surmise that her cover had been blown, and he was going have to get her out of there pretty damn quick. But when she was marched into the governor’s office, she realized she was in serious trouble, as behind the desk was not Jake Thomson, her lifelong friend and the only one who knew who she really was, but deputy governor Karen Tilshead.
Purdue dismissed the other guards and pushed Liz in front of the desk. To one side of it sat a man in an expensive suit. He was balding, wore round, steel-rimmed spectacles, and sported a thin moustache that didn’t stretch as far as the corners of his mouth. Liz thought he looked like a member of the Gestapo. She looked back at the deputy governor and saw a thin, humorless smile on her lips.
“Ah, McMillan,” she said, “I wish to talk to you about an incident a few days ago.”
“Where’s the governor?” Liz asked suspiciously.
“I’m afraid he met with an unfortunate accident this evening,” Tilshead replied, looking down at the paperwork in front of her. “I am acting governor.”
“What happened to him? Is he alright?” Liz was very concerned for her friend now, as well as her own position.
“You seem very interested in the governor’s health, McMillan. Any particular reason?”
“It’s just, I’m used to dealing with him,” Liz blustered, realizing she might give the game away.
“Well, you have to deal with me now,” the acting governor said icily. “Three nights ago, you assaulted a prison officer,” Tilshead continued. “Do you have any explanation for this behavior?”
Liz looked at the three people in the room, wondering how she should play this. With Jake out of the picture, should she blow her own cover? But although she knew that Purdue, at least, was corrupt, she wasn’t sure about Tilshead, and she had no idea who the man was. She decided to try and bluff it out.
“They were trying to make me do stuff…you know, dirty stuff. I told them ‘no’, but they kept at me. I struck out in self-defense.”
“So…” Tilshead said slowly, “you’re accusing my officers of assault? You, a convicted drug addict and violent offender? What is your opinion, doctor?” She turned to the man beside her, and Liz did the same, wondering what was going on here.
“Clearly psychotic, Karen,” he replied, staring hungrily at Liz’s semi-naked body. Karen? Liz thought. What is the relationship here?
“Perhaps we should transfer the prisoner to your sanatorium for psychological evaluation, Doctor Tilshead.”
Now Liz was very frightened. This doctor and the deputy governor were somehow related, and were clearly working to set her up.
“I’d certainly like to take a closer look at her,” the doctor replied, “run a few tests on her….”
“Wait!” Liz exclaimed, starting to panic. “I’m not Trisha McMillan! My real name is Liz Brubaker. I’m an investigative reporter, working for Governor Thomson! Ask him, he’ll verify my story.”
“That won’t be possible, McMillan,” Acting Governor Tilshead responded, a broad smile on her face. “What do you think, Doctor? Paranoid schizophrenia?”
“A very clear case,” the doctor replied, the evil grin mirroring hers. “I recommend immediate transfer for electro-shock therapy.”
“Agreed,” the woman behind the desk said, pressing a button. The office door opened and two men, dressed in white coats and carrying various restraints, came in, striding over to Liz. They grabbed her by the shoulders while the huge prison officer unlocked and removed the handcuffs. Liz struggled with all her strength, but she had no chance against all three of them. They forced her arms into the sleeves of a thick canvas straitjacket, fastening the buckles behind her back, then wrapping the belts at the end of the sleeves around her body until they too could be fastened, rendering the prisoner helpless. The strap hanging down at the front was pulled tight between her legs and cinched in back, making it impossible to remove the jacket or struggle out of it.
“Please!” Liz called out over her shoulder to the seated figures by the desk. “Check my written record! Jake made a handwritten note of the whole arrangement he had made with me. You must look, it confirms my story!”
“Oh, you mean this?” Deputy Governor Tilshead was holding up a single sheet of paper. “An imaginative person, the governor. Looks like a draft idea for a screenplay to me. Hardly something to be taken seriously.”
As Liz watched in horror, Tilshead fed the paper into a shredding machine beside the desk, and it became just a few more unintelligible strips in the bag of paper below.
Before Liz could say another word, one of the orderlies forced a large rubber ball into her mouth, and strapped it in place. The other raised a stiff leather mask, which covered her face from underneath her chin to just below her eyes, tightening the three straps that ran behind her head and also the two which went over the top of her blonde hair. Her restraints were completed by a pair of thick leather cuffs around her ankles, joined by a sturdy chain no more than a foot long.
Her last look back as she was dragged from the office enabled Liz to see the laughing face of the deputy governor as she leaned over in deep conversation with the doctor who, it seemed, would now be in control of her fate.
The two men dragged the bound woman to a gurney waiting in the outer office, and forced her down onto it. Wide leather straps across her legs, body, and neck prevented her from making virtually any movement, and the gag over her face had reduced her desperate screams to almost nothing. Now they wheeled her down the corridors and out into the prison yard, where their ambulance was waiting. Liz saw the black saloon in which, presumably, Dr Tilshead would be travelling, before she was lifted into the back of the ambulance and the doors slammed shut.
As the engine roared into life and the vehicle pulled away, Liz watched the orderly who had accompanied her into the back of the ambulance approach her with a pair of scissors. He leaned over her, and she felt the cold steel briefly against the bare skin of her thigh. There were a couple of snips, and then she could feel her panties being pulled from under the strap between her legs. He lifted them to his face and sniffed them, before balling them up and thrusting them into his pocket. He then picked up a canvas bag and pulled it over her head, leaving her in total darkness. Liz lay there, unable to move, struggling to breathe, bathed in sweat, and terrified at what might be about to happen to her.
The journey took over an hour, and Liz’s fear grew as she began to realize how much trouble she really was in. Without Jake’s testimony, and with his note destroyed, she could disappear without trace. No one knew where she had been for the last few weeks, and her cover story was watertight, so there was no way that Liz Brubaker would be linked to ‘Trisha McMillan’. The fact that she had been transferred to some other institution would raise no issues or concerns, because ‘Trisha McMillan’ didn’t exist! It wasn’t that her trail had gone cold, she just didn’t have a trail for anyone to follow!
She wondered again what could have happened to Jake. His sudden ‘accident’ seemed way too convenient to be true. Was he dead? Had they killed him to protect their own necks? She had no idea, and no way of finding out.
She turned her mind towards Dr. Tilshead who, it appeared, was now her jailor. One thing she knew about him was that he was corrupt, evidenced by his involvement in her abduction. He also employed at least one pervert, going by what had happened to her panties. What kind of place was she being taken to? The word ‘sanatorium’ had been used, and he had also mentioned electroshock therapy. She was very afraid that what he was suggesting in the governor’s office was torturing her or experimenting on her in some way.
The ambulance finally came to a stop, and the gurney to which she was strapped was taken out. Liz was still hooded, so could see nothing, but she sensed the transition from outside to inside.
“What we got here?” a female voice asked.
“New patient under Dr Tilshead,” a male voice replied, presumably the ambulance orderly. “Maximum security, not to be released from the restraints before he sees her tomorrow.”
“Well, well, I wonder what you’ve been up to?” the female voice said with a chuckle, and Liz felt long fingernails run up her thigh and over her Venus mound, ruffling her pubic hair.
“Better keep your hands to yourself, Alice,” the male voice cautioned. “The doc’s got this one earmarked for some very special treatment.” The statement sent a chill through Liz’s body.
“I’ll catch up with you later, honey, don’t you worry,” she heard the woman, presumably Alice, say. “You and me, we’re gonna have a lot of fun together. Okay, guys, put her in cell 101, she’ll be nice and safe there.”
As the gurney was wheeled away, Liz screamed desperately into the gag and struggled for all she was worth against her bonds, fighting against the nightmare that was engulfing her….
Copyright© 2014 by Jennifer Harrison. All rights reserved.