Lachlan bent his head to the wall, listening to the footsteps that echoed along the corridor. Heavy boots, stomping along the line of cells – knuckleheaded guard named Tate. Clicking heels in the distance – the General’s wife. Light but firm tread, purposeful and heading his way – Commander Daniel McTavish, the new TaskerOne.
He shifted away from the wall, back to the metal cot, flopping back as he covered his eyes with a forearm.
“Stop pretending, Douglas.”
Lachlan said, voice rough, “Congratulations, Danny Boy…or should I call you ‘Commander’ now?” He lowered his arm, glowering at the man standing on the other side of the bars. “You got some pull now? Maybe you can get me out of this hole.”
The Commander frowned, but said nothing in response, glaring back at him. Lachlan grunted, sitting up as he planted his feet on the floor.
“We’ve known each other, how long, Daniel?”
He shook his head. “Lachlan.”
“How long?” Lachlan said in a hard voice.
“Doesn’t matter. I can’t get you out. You broke the law.”
“Yeah…I get it,” he said, picking at a scab on his ankle. “Gotta make a good impression on the powers-that-be, aye?”
The Commander, nodding slightly, said, “They’ll most likely have you executed.”
“No surprise. Gotta set a precedent, right?” Lachlan looked up at him, eyes too bright. “Haven’t executed anyone in ten years, aye?”
“Yes. Under the previous T-One.” The subject was a touchy one. No one really said the words, but an execution was never the normal response to a crime. For any crime. Usually the most extreme crimes were punished by banishment. Nobody wanted to leave the City. Not safe. They called it the Wilderness for a reason, after all.
“Do I get a final request?”
Daniel’s lips twisted in a sour smile. “You want a priest?”
“Haha. Very funny, Daniel.” He shook his head. “I think you know what I want.” He met the Commander’s eyes with a meaningful look. Daniel stared back at him, before nodding tightly.
“That I can get you.”
Lachlan managed a smile, laying back on the cot again. “Can I sleep now?”
The Commander chuckled. “Knock yourself out.”
Lachlan rolled onto his side, stopping only to look back at Daniel. “So, how was the ceremony?”
Daniel stared back at him, face expressionless. Lachlan sighed, shifting back onto his side and closing his eyes. The sound of the Commander’s firm tread filling his ears as he drifted off.
* * *
Daniel walked into his office, finding the General’s wife facing the doorway. “Helen?”
“Congratulations on your promotion,” she said. Madam Helen Briar was the kind of woman who drew attention. Bright hats – she was wearing a sunflower yellow fascinator today – dark mascara, slim body; and that voice. Sharp, no-nonsense, but easily slipping into sensual, dangerous territory.
He smiled, tightly and said, “To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence, ma’am?”
Helen said in a low voice, “Must there be a reason, Daniel?”
Daniel’s brow creased. “There’s always a reason, Helen.”
She leaned against the edge of his desk, folding her arms. Lifting his eyebrows he waited for a response. In the past, whenever the General sent his wife to see him, it was always in an official capacity, and also because whatever needed to be said was too hard for him to say himself. Typical behaviour from a man who made himself look big when really he was a weedy little shit…
“He wants you to fast-track the execution of Prisoner 77.”
Lachlan Douglas. Daniel smoothed a hand over his jaw, schooling his face into an impassive mask. It wouldn’t do to let on how much that command hurt. They had history. Close friends. School mates. Biking together in the city. Gatherings, picnics on the outskirts of the residences. And other, not so innocent pursuits… It wasn’t as if the order was unexpected, though. In the latter years, Lachlan had taken to questioning the status quo, making unsanctioned ‘trips’ out of the City. And…digging up contraband. Records. CDs. Instruments. He was caught in the middle of the City, setting up what he called a ‘busking’ station. That was the reason for his arrest.
“On what grounds, ma’am?” Daniel said, lifting an eyebrow.
“You need to set an example on your first official day at the top.”
Daniel walked around his desk, taking a seat, steepling his fingers beneath his chin. “There are any number of ways I can do that.”
Helen shook her head. “The General wants the announcement made by the end of today.”
Daniel’s jaw tightened then he nodded. “Tell him it’s done.” He pulled the phone toward him, lifting the receiver. Pausing, he looked pointedly toward the door. Helen smiled, inclining her head to him.
“I’ll let him know.”
He waited for her to leave, before punching in a number, holding the receiver to his ear. “It’s Danny. I need the key.”
* * *
“You sure you want to do this, Danny?”
Daniel was grabbing stuff from the shelves – bandages, rope, a couple of box cutters etcetera – shoving them in the duffel on the solid oak bench. He glanced sideways.
“Do I want to risk my position by helping a felon, bro?” He zipped the bag and said, “He’s a friend, Elliott.”
“I know that.”
Elliott Preston was the City bounty hunter. He was also responsible for The Locker, the place where all confiscated contraband was stored. Daniel found it ironic that the Council trusted him, considering who his brother was. Philip Preston was a career criminal, in fact he was recently paroled. Then again, perhaps that’s why Elliott wasn’t fazed by what they were currently doing. Stealing from the Locker.
Pausing, he glanced at Elliott again. “Your brother would love this.”
“Don’t even say that, Danny,” he said, shaking his head. “I’d never hear the end of it.”
Daniel’s soft chuckle seemed out of place in the huge warehouse. He wasn’t given to light-heartedness, usually. Hardly surprising in the current climate. It wouldn’t do to be amused in light of his profession. Dealing with lawbreakers was no joking matter. Perhaps becoming one himself would shed new light on that, though.
“How’s he doing, anyway?” Daniel said, going over to another shelf holding an assortment of firearms. He kept his eyes on the weapons, allowing Elliott to answer in his own time. Running his fingertips along the cool metal, he waited.
Elliott sighed and said, “He’s making friends with the neighbours.” A short laugh. “Asked the kid next door to mow the lawn.”
Daniel, glancing sideways at him, selected a handgun from the shelf, adding it to the duffel bag and said, “Can’t he do it himself?”
Elliott lifted his shoulders and said, “I think he just wants the company. He’s not allowed to do much, being a parolee ‘n’ all.”
Daniel smiled, doing one more check of the shelves. “No harm in that.” He rechecked the duffel then swung it over his shoulder, pausing when Elliott’s hand gripped his shoulder. “What?”
“You know what you’re doing?”
Daniel ground his teeth and said, “We’ve been planning this for years, Elliott.”
Elliott held up a hand. “I believe you.” He shouldered passed him. “Let’s go bust him out.”
Daniel’s lip lifted slightly as he said, “There’s one more thing I need to get before we do.”