Straightjackets, Padlocks, Steamer Trunks, Riverbeds

Well, the first time that I saw my true love
He was a-walkin’ by my door
The next time I saw his false-hearted smile
He was layin’ dead and cold on the floor

–Hard, Ain’t It Hard, the Weavers

They arrested George Henry because he’d killed ten or twelve men. “It’s all build-up,” he told the policemen who collared him.

“What do you mean?” said the officer. They were sitting in a diner, the two policemen and George Henry. The policemen had coffee. George Henry had two full breakfasts spread out in front of him.

He leaned back and scratched at where his belt cut into his belly. “All this about motives and whatnot. It’s all build-up. Sometimes people just do things. Sometimes people just kill people. No reason to it, sometimes they just kill people. It’s all build-up. Take me, for example. No reason for me to kill any of those guys. Heck, I didn’t even know half their names. Didn’t ever get much money out of it.”

“So why’d you do it, then?” said one of the officers, the one who’d ordered a glass of milk for his ulcers along with his coffee.

George Henry laughed. “Just wanted to, I guess. That’s what I mean. It’s all build-up.”

George Henry broke out of jail before they could bring him to trial, climbing six stories down the outside of the building by wedging his fingers into the crevices between the bricks. He’d spent three months training himself, hanging by his fingers from the wall for hours, until he could hang like that, just by his fingertips for thirty, forty minutes easy.

They caught him on a beach near Moclips and brought him back. He broke jail and ran for the sea again. They caught him within a week and George Henry laughed to beat the band. “What’s the use?” he wanted to know. “I can break out any time, you know that.”

“Maybe so,” said the officer with the ulcers. “We’ll keep throwing you back in.”

When his third escape attempt failed, George Henry hung himself from his cell window using his belt. He never came to trial, was never convicted of anything. He died unrepentant and laughing. “I told ‘em,” he said to the prisoner in the cell next to his. “I told ‘em I could break out any time. It’s all build up. I told ‘em they couldn’t keep me.”