Wyn checked her watch; midday was long gone which meant she’d been loitering in the carpark for over two hours. If the guards watching her from the gate thought she was going to get bored and leave then they were wrong, she was going to talk to someone, even if it meant climbing the wall. From the corner of her eye, she caught one of them picking up a wall-mounted phone. Good, thought Wyn, hoping they’d blinked first.
She sat against the bonnet of her car, letting the drizzle cool her temper while she stared up at the high red brick wall. Behind it was the militia barracks, narrow windows set in a featureless grey mass. Its banality only augmenting its sinister reputation. Somewhere in there was an interrogation room, one of many, and at that moment two serving members of the militia were being questioned about their involvement in the metro attack. Wyn would give anything for a chance to be in that room, and the guards knew it, so they watched her closely, ready for any foolhardy attempt to break in. It had been a while since she’d scaled a sheer wall, but she was game. Her phone rang, giving the guards a reprieve from having to leave their hut and chase her down.
“Captain?” Wyn said.
“Like that is it? You only call me captain when you’re in trouble,” Jena said.
“You ran out of here pretty fast. Are you going to tell me where you are?”
“I had to pick up some dry cleaning.”
“You’ve never had anything dry cleaned in your life, Wyn Gough. I’ll spare you further embarrassment and admit that I know exactly where you are. The car has a tracker.”
“You’re spying on me?” Wyn stood up and stared at the car; she still had the loaner. Her normal ride was in working order, but she didn’t want to use it. Bran had done most of the driving and the thought of getting behind the wheel left her cold.
“It’s not spying when you’re the boss. Besides, I knew you’d be there.” Jena paused for a moment. “You should have told me; I’d have come with you.”
“Sorry. It was a waste of time anyway. I’m standing outside like an idiot.”
“Come back to the station then, and I’ll buy you a late lunch.”
“I’m going to give it a bit longer. Someone has to talk to me.”
“Wyn, you don’t want to go in there. I’m getting rumours that the Ministry of Justice has just cancelled all court sessions without explanation and gone into lockdown. They’re up to something and I don’t want you getting caught up in it. If they got hold of you, they could take you in for questioning and then what would I do?”
“At least I’d get to talk to them,” Wyn said. She knew the risk of coming to the barracks. Most people spent their lives trying to stay away from the place and here she was begging to be let in. In a city where people built right up to their neighbour’s window, there was an awful lot of undeveloped space around the militia headquarters. People didn’t want to live in its shadow.
An officer appeared at the gate and spoke briefly with the guards, one of them pointing in Wyn’s direction.
“Got to go, Jena,” Wyn said. “I think they’re about to talk to me.”
“You are not to go inside, that’s an order.”
“I’ll call you when I get out.”
The officer slipped around the barrier and came out into the open. There was something familiar about the man, and Wyn wondered what he looked like from forty floors up. Wyn pocketed her phone and took a tentative step towards the gate, but stopped when the officer signalled for her to wait.
“Detective Wyn,” the officer said, stopping a short distance away. He was of average height and with the wiry frame of a marathon runner. He glanced around the half-full carpark; they were in the open but alone. “I’m Major Glass. We spoke on the phone.”
“You followed me to the Longsal.”
“I followed a suspect to the Longsal as part of my investigation. That you happened to be there had nothing to do with me.” The major glanced back at the gate where the two soldiers were watching them. “You shouldn’t be here, detective.”
“Where else should I be? You’re holding two suspects from my murder investigation, and I want to question them.”
The major was shaking his head before she even finished. “That request will never be granted. Now if there is nothing else, I would advise you to leave now. The car park is under surveillance, and you do not want to come under suspicion.”
“Major, my people died on that platform and if those men killed them, I have a right to ask them why.”
“I understand, and if I were in your position, I would want answers as well, but I can’t help you.”
“Then who the hell can?” Wyn took a step past the major and pointed at the red building. “What about your commanding officer, General Artil? Is he going to deny my request?”
The major rubbed his jaw and took a step towards Wyn’s car. “I would lower my voice if I were you. The general has publicly vowed to investigate the attack and has ordered my section to do just that, but we are up against the Ministry of Justice. When they grant me an interview with the two soldiers, I will get to the truth, you have my word.”
“They’re not in your custody? Let me get this straight, two men that are probably part of a ministry hit squad are being held by the same ministry they work for?”
“They are not killers, detective, and they are certainly not part of any hit squad. They are good men, that I have known for a long time. One of them has a sick wife that he is devoted to, he even requested compassionate leave to tend to her. Does that sound like a killer?”
Wyn studied the major; he was the epitome of a squared-away officer, straight-backed, uniform crisp and clean. “The video shows them leaving the tunnel after they had just butchered three of my comrades. We’ve all seen it. Are you telling me it wasn’t them?”
“They are in the video, but it couldn’t have been them. Detective, they failed to report for duty on Friday and they both have families that want them back.”
“There are a lot of families that want their loved ones to come home,” Wyn said. She took a moment to digest the major’s words. “The video is pretty damning.”
“They were picked up this morning from an undisclosed location and taken straight to the ministry, but when I am allowed to speak to them, I will be able to confirm the level of their involvement.”
“No one’s seen them?”
“Soldiers from the Justice Ministry effected the arrest, but none of my people can confirm the veracity of this.” The major glanced back at the gate. The two guards had been joined by a third, and they were watching the major closely. “I did follow you to the Longsal but only because I thought you were tracking down a witness, Tay Garson.”
“She didn’t see anything,” Wyn answered quickly.
“You spoke to her then? If she saw any of the terrorists, then she might be able to identify my men, or not as I believe the case to be.”
“As I said, she didn’t see anything.” Wyn tapped the corner of her eye. “Phreno rot. She can barely see more than a couple of metres. I got some information about the timings, but not much else.”
“Damn it, I was hoping she could exonerate my men.”
“You’re really worried about them, aren’t you?” Wyn said surprised to find a human being in the uniform of a militia officer.
“I am. They don’t deserve to be used as pawns in the governor’s games.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing, detective. If there is nothing else, I should return to my work.”
“Wait a minute.” Wyn unlocked her car and reached across to the passenger seat. She rifled through her papers and then handed a folder to the major.
Major Glass opened it and looked over the first page. “Is this an autopsy report? I don’t study many of these, I’m afraid.”
“If you’re going to do my job, then you’d best learn.” Wyn reached over and turned the page to a photo of a dead man. His eyes were open and staring blankly at the camera, a steel table under him. “Do you recognise him?”
“No, should I?”
“This is the dead militia soldier from the platform. The only one of them to go down.”
“The one you shot?” The major closed the folder but kept hold of it. “You shouldn’t have this.”
“And yet I do. In the confusion, they sent his body to the police morgue but put him in a queue along with the victims. The coroner didn’t want to make the choice over which ones get investigated, so they sent them all. One hundred and fifteen just in case you were interested.”
A slight twitch in the corner of the major’s eye was the only indication that the number registered.
“Just look at it,” Wyn said. “I want your opinion, that’s all.”
Major Glass reluctantly opened the folder and gave the report a quick glance. He slowed when he found the photographs, taking his time with one in particular. It was a tattoo of a cartoon chicken holding a hammer.
“Do you recognise it?” Wyn asked. “I must have shown it to a hundred people, and the closest I got was a fried chicken shop.”
“It’s a mascot for a football club.”
“I checked, it’s not a league team.” Wyn didn’t follow the football, but with the size of the sector, it was difficult not to be at least aware of it.
“It’s out of sector. The general has access to Central sports broadcasts, and he sometimes holds showings for his officers.” He tucked the folder under his arm. “Can you leave this with me?”
“We have copies, so be my guest. Do you have an idea who this might be?”
“Not that I can share, no. If I learn anything, I will contact you. Don’t come here again, detective.” The major turned away sharply and started walking back to the gate.
“That’s it?” Wyn shouted. “You said you could hire me, right? If that’s what it takes to be part of this then do it.”
“I’m sorry, detective, but that offer is no longer on the table.”
They both looked over as an armoured car turned off the main road and barrelled towards the gate, three more cars turned to follow it. The major’s eyes widened, and he waved a hand at the gate. The guards left the hut, one of them running towards the main building.
“Who is it?” Wyn asked, noting the major’s sudden agitation.
“You should leave, now,” Major Glass said before jogging towards the gate, the folder under his arm.
“Hey!” Wyn called out, but the major seemed intent on reaching the gate before the convoy. “I will catch them, major!”
Wyn got in her car and slammed the door shut. She got her phone out but watched the cars as they sped past. Major Glass reached the gate just as the convoy came to a grinding halt. Soldiers leapt out of the lead car and started shouting at the guards. There was a tense standoff, with the major at the centre of it.
“What the hell is going on?” Wyn muttered to herself as she craned forward in her seat to get a better look.
A severe-looking officer stepped out of one of the cars, her appearance having an immediate effect on everybody. The gate guards snapped to attention along with Major Glass. He gave her a sharp salute and then listened attentively as she spoke to him. Wyn tried to get a read on the woman, but she was too far away to make anything out other than the red slash on her collar.
Wyn phoned her captain and watched as the gate lifted and the convoy entered the barracks, the major running alongside.
“Jena, the ministry of justice just turned up at the barracks,” Wyn said. “A female officer, not one I recognise. High ranking though.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re inside?”
“I’m in the car park about to leave.” Wyn started the engine. “I think they’re here to arrest someone.”
“Unless it’s you, I don’t care right now. I want you back here.”
“Have you ever met someone from Central?”
“Advisors. Usually stuck up, but no different to us really. Why?”
“I don’t know. I’ll be back in a few and you can buy me lunch.”
Wyn hung up and drove out of the car park. She gave the barracks a last look before turning onto the main road. She’d never been inside but heard rumours about its long windowless corridors and the prison attached to the rear. She wondered how many people had vanished inside and whether she would ever be one of them.