THE CREEPS

graterford prison

Every time I had to go to prison it gave me the creeps. And I had to go more times than I can remember. But I always got out the same day. It still gave me the creeps. I had the privilege to meet many interesting characters, some may even show up in my fiction. Part of the job that had to be done. You go where the facts lead you, even if it’s behind bars.

Two of the characters in my crime novel, SINK RATE (due out next month), are state troopers working a double homicide that has, so far, remained unsolved. The troopers have known each other since the Academy and make up half of the squad hard at work on the case. They drew the short straw to interview a convict that may just have something to say.

From SINK RATE:

The ride to the prison passed quickly for Calvin. He went over the case file, now several inches thick, and bounced his thoughts off Johnny. Calvin didn’t like the way this was going. “We’re losing the time thing, JB. It’s Thursday and I don’t think we’ve talked to the shooter yet.”

Johnny flipped his cigarette out the window and rolled the glass half way back up. “Prison’s comin’ up around the next bend. Beautiful downtown Graterford,” the town wasn’t much. Just an old hotel and a few houses perched on the banks of the Perkiomen Creek. Downstream, the creek fed into the Schuylkill River, which led eventually down to Philadelphia. They turned left over the bridge and drove through the prison farm and up the hill to the series of drab brick and concrete buildings that made up what was considered the toughest of Pennsylvania’s prisons.

Johnny put the Ford into a “Police Only” slot next to a marked PSP car from the local barracks. The front entrance to the prison was a wide concrete porch covered by a steel overhang. At the top of the steps was a red barrel filled with sand. Johnny and Calvin unloaded their pistols at the barrel and checked in at the desk. The sergeant took their pistols, magazines, handcuffs and phones and slid them through a slot in the wall of bullet proof glass behind him where another guard locked them up. The sergeant said, “You guys here with the other trooper?”

Calvin looked at Johnny and then back at the sergeant. “No, we’re here to interview an inmate, Thomas Sylvester. Supposed to be set up yesterday by…,” Calvin opened his notebook and read the name of the Graterford assistant warden who he talked to.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. The other trooper is in with him now,” the sergeant looked puzzled.

“Him who, Sarge?” asked Calvin.

“Sylvester, in the infirmary. The uniform trooper’s in taking the report now,” said the sergeant.

“What the heck are you talking about, Sarge? We’re here to interview Sylvester about a murder up in Lehigh County. Used to be in business with the victim,” explained Calvin. Johnny just stared blankly at the sergeant, not really understanding what was going on.

“Look, Sylvester’s up in the infirmary, if he’s still alive. Got beat almost to death last night and wasn’t found until about 6:00 this morning. The doctor may send him down to the hospital in Norristown or Phoenixville. We called the barracks and the other trooper came out to take a report. You want to talk to him, have the guard inside walk you up,” the desk man waved through the bars and the guard inside tripped the electronic lock to admit Calvin and Johnny. Once through the first set of bars, they were enclosed in between them and another set. The lock on the inner set tripped and they moved inside the confines. Johnny shivered. Man, he didn’t like jails.

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