“What are you doing sitting in the dark?” Misha asked from the hallway. She’d caught a glimpse of Wyn ushering Tay and a young man through the back door but grown concerned by the extended silence. She peeked out from behind the bar eyeing Tay and form in the corner warily. “Is everything okay?”
Wyn looked up from her stool on the other side of the bar. She didn’t say anything, wasn’t sure she could if she tried. It felt to her that there were no words worth saying. Tay sat next to her, her head resting on the bar, not asleep, just in the same nullspace as Wyn.
“Answer me, Wyn,” Misha said.
“Yeah, we're okay,” Wyn said. “Did we wake Alex up?”
“No,” Misha said, shaking her head as she stepped behind the bar. “That boy can sleep through anything.”
It was dark in the pub, the only light coming from the hallway. Misha flicked a switch, and a bank of spotlights came on over the bar. Tay sat up quickly, her head turning to take in Wyn and then Misha. She began to say something but changed her mind and lowered her head back down.
“You all look terrible,” Misha said. “Do either of you want to tell me how it went?”
“Not well,” Wyn said. “Can you pass me that bottle please?”
Misha took a bottle from the shelf and placed it on the bar. Wyn leant across the bar and reached up to the overhead shelf and snagged three glasses in a dextrous move that made Misha think she’d done it before.
Wyn poured a splash of the clear liquid into each of the glasses.
“Do I get to know what happened?” Misha asked as Wyn pushed a glass towards her.
“It was a mess.” Wyn shrugged. “We found the brother, but the sister was arrested and taken away.”
“How old is she?”
“Fifteen,” Tay said.
“Why was she arrested?” Misha asked as she took a sip, wincing at the harshness of the spirit.
“Because she thought she could change things,” Tay said.
“Is he okay?” Misha nodded at the figure lying down on a bench in the corner. Only Jens’ legs could be seen poking out from behind a table.
“He’s fine.” Tay sank her drink and pushed her glass towards the bottle, Wyn topped her off. “You need to call somebody, Wyn.”
“I told you there's nothing I can do,” Wyn said. “If they’ve got her, they won’t bother processing anyone until the morning. It will be midday before any lists are released.”
“There has to be something we can do?”
“Who’s the ‘we’ in this, Tay?” Wyn clutched her glass staring at the blood on her knuckles. She felt detached and empty.
Misha took a sip of her drink, watching the back and forth closely.
“You promised to help me,” Tay said.
“I ran after you, didn’t I?” Wyn said. “I could have turned the car around and come home but what did I do? I came after you. I put my life on the line to find you and save you and you’re asking for more?”
“I’m sorry,” Tay said. “I’m sorry I ran but I had to. If I’d been quicker then maybe I could have gotten to her before they did. There must be something more you can do. You’re with the police, can’t you call someone and get her released?”
“I’m not part of the militia,” Wyn said pointing at the clock behind the bar, it was just after nine at night. “As of six hours ago, I’m not part of anything. The best I can do is make a call in the morning and find out if a hearing has been scheduled. Apart from that, I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“We could go there.”
“To the barracks, are you insane?”
“No, to where they have Gren. You still have your badge; you could flash it and we could get them to release her.”
“Doesn’t she know?” Misha asked Wyn.
“Know what?” Tay asked.
“It was a protest so they’re all political prisoners. They’ll be taken to the barracks for processing,” Wyn said. “Some will go into the prison, but Gren won’t. They’ll keep her in a holding cell until the morning.”
“I don’t want her there. Those evil fucks torture people.” Tay slammed a hand on the bar.
“You haven’t got a choice,” Wyn said standing up.
“The rumours aren’t true,” Misha said. “She’ll be treated well while she’s in custody. They have procedures they have to follow. It’s not like the old days.”
“What, how the hell do you know that? I’ve seen people come out of there with burns all over their body,” Tay said. “The militia are sadistic bastards.”
“Tay, you need to keep it cool. I’m helping you but if you don’t calm down, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Wyn said.
Tay sank her drink and then slipped off her stool. “Jens, wake up. We’re leaving.”
“Tay, just sit down and we can talk about this.”
“No. I’m going to get her,” Tay said. She pulled a chair out of her way and shook Jens awake. “We have to go, Jens.”
“Go where?” Jens muttered. “Have you found Gren?”
“We’re going to get her.”
“You can’t get in the barracks,” Wyn said. “They’ll shoot you before you get anywhere near it.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Tay said. Jens sat up, his hands in his lap and his head bowed. He didn’t look like he had the strength to even stand up let alone break into a militia building.
“Wait until the morning. Trust me, we’ll find a way.”
They all jumped at a knock at the backdoor. Misha turned, the stun gun appearing in her hand.
“Shit,” Wyn said.
“Who is it?” Misha asked.
“Jena,” Wyn said. “I forgot she was coming by. Damn it.”
“Who?” Tay asked.
“My captain.” Wyn pushed herself up onto the bar and swung her legs over, dropping down on the other side. “I’ll get rid of her.”
“Police? She can’t come in here,” Tay said. “She’ll arrest us.”
“You, you mean?” Wyn said. “Misha, get upstairs and stay out of sight. Tay, you and Jens need to hide.”
“Where?” Tay asked.
“The games room, anywhere, just stay out of sight.”
Misha ran quietly down the hall and darted up the stairs. Wyn barely had the energy to walk the short distance, but the second knock hurried her up. She glanced up the stairs before opening the door.
“I need a drink,” Jena said stepping in before the door was fully open, Wyn made to block her but failed miserably.
“This isn’t a good time,” Wyn said, but Jena was already climbing the stairs, the box of Wyn’s possessions in her hands. She wobbled and brushed her shoulder along the wall, marking Wyn’s fresh paint. “Jena?”
“I need a drink,” Jena shouted back.
“Okay, just don’t shout,” Wyn said, shutting the door.
“Worried I’ll wake the mice?” Jena bellowed as she clumped across the landing.
Wyn shut the door and climbed the stairs as quickly as she could, discovering a new pain in her back as she did so. She found Jena in the kitchen, pulling a chair out from under the table with as much noise as possible.
“Where did you go in such a hurry? I brought your stuff. You left it when you disappeared.” Jena set the cardboard box on the table and then sat down. She brushed her wet hair back from her face flicking droplets from her sleeve across the kitchen as she did so. She gave Wyn a tired look. “You look worse than I feel.”
“Thanks, Jena.” Wyn ran a hand through her hair and then stopped. She had a right to look like she’d been in a fight.
“Are you going to tell me why you ran off or am I going to have to intuit it?” Jena wrinkled her nose. “You know what I mean.”
“I had an emergency. Have you been drinking?”
“Funerals, I fucking hate them.” Jena shrugged out of her coat, struggling as a sleeve got caught on her watch.
“Didn’t you have a meeting to go to?”
“Blew it off, what are they going to do—” Jena froze as Alex cried out from his room across the landing. She gave Wyn a suspicious look. “What sort of emergency?”
“Vandalism. There was no one here when I got back.”
“Who called you?”
“Someone from the bakery across the road.”
Jena nodded and then finished taking her coat off. “Turns out Fiona’s family are hardcore alcoholics. I felt sorry for Bran’s parents, I think they wanted to mourn quietly but no chance with that lot. Lovely people though.” Jena pointed at Wyn and gave her a wink. “They asked about you, but don’t worry, I set them straight on why you weren’t there. I’ve got their number on me somewhere. They want me to call you and set up a meeting.”
“Might be easier if I call them.”
“That would be easier. When did we become so...what’s the word?”
“Old?” Wyn suggested.
“Hah! I am that. No, I was thinking of something else, useless?”
“It just feels that way, Jena.” Wyn thought she could hear Alex talking in the next room. “I’m sorry to do this but it’s really not a good time.”
“Disposable. That’s the damned word.” Jena unclipped her gun from her belt and set it on the table. “I used to be tough. I went toe to toe with some of the meanest people to ever live in this sector and I’m still standing.”
Wyn stood in the middle of the kitchen, she had to get her friend out of the pub, but she could hear the pain in her voice.
“It makes me so fucking angry. This morning was the first time in all those years that I had to think about putting that gun on. But I did because I owed it to Bran and Kithson and Nara and Johnson and all the others. So many names. I can’t remember how many funerals I’ve been to in my life.”
“Too many,” Wyn said softly.
“You’ve been there with me at nearly everyone.” Jena knocked on the table three times with her right knuckle. “When they said that I could retire, I seriously considered it. Just walk away and spend my days at home slowly dying in front of the TV.”
“Jena things look bleak right now, but we’ll figure it out. Why don’t I give you a ride home?”
“I’ve been thinking about Doron,” Jena said, making no move to get up. “I get why he did it. We’re alike.”
“You are nothing like Doron. You’re a decent human being for a start. Let me drive you home and you can go to bed, it will look better in the morning.”
“He’d kill himself before he’d retire.”
Wyn eyed the gun. There must have been something in her look that tipped Jena off because the older woman shook her head and gave her a wry smile.
“Not going to happen. If I was going to go out that way, I’d put a bullet in Kaplan’s head before I did my own.”
“Jena,” Wyn reproached. She heard a door open on the landing and stepped into the doorway.
“I’m seriously considering shooting the entire party leadership and having done with it. Hell, why not blow up the Gardens, that would solve a whole bunch of problems.”
“Tom told me you were a good person,” Misha said from the darkness of the landing.
“Who the hell is this?” Jena asked, twisting around to stare at Misha.
“But all you are is a terrorist sympathiser that wants to hurt people. Did Tom know you were involved with these people when he brought us here?”
“Jena, it’s all right,” Wyn said. “Misha, she didn’t mean it.”
“I think I did,” Jena said.
“We are people just like you. I’m taking Alex and leaving.” Misha went back into her room and shut the door.
“Wyn,” Jena stood up and pointed at the shut door. “I am so sorry; I didn’t realise you...”
“No, no.” Wyn shook her head. “I’m doing her husband a favour.”
Jena raised an eyebrow and scooped up her gun. “None of my business. You should have said you had company.”
“Jena, her husband’s in trouble. Misha is staying here until he figures it out.”
“Don’t get involved in marital affairs, Wyn, they are messy, and you’ll get hurt.”
“It’s not like that.”
The door opened and Misha came out wearing her coat and with a still sleeping Alex in her arms.
“Misha, you don’t have to go,” Wyn said. “This is Jena, my captain. She went to the funeral of a friend today, that’s why she’s a bit...”
“A bit what?” Jena snapped.
Misha stopped and gave Jena a proper look over. “Tom works hard to do the right thing. He was arrested because the general dared stand up to the governor.”
“Who's Tom?” Jena asked.
Tay appeared on the stairs, and they all looked down at her, she froze on the steps like a rabbit in a headlight. A bruise was coming out on her cheek, along with the grazed forehead, it looked like she’d been dragged along the road.
“And who’s this?” Jena asked. “And why does she look like she’s been run over?”
“A terrorist,” Misha said helpfully.
“She’s not a terrorist,” Wyn said. “It’s just Tay, and she is going to go back downstairs.”
Tay pointed at the wall. “The machines making a funny noise.”
“What machine?” Jena asked.
“The dishwasher,” Wyn blurted. “I’ll come take a look at it in a minute.”
Jena leant around Wyn and pointed at Misha. “Why did you say she’s a terrorist?”
“I’m not,” Tay said not entirely sure what she was anymore other than tired and confused. “Am I?”
“Jena, I will explain, but like I said this isn’t a good time,” Wyn said nodding for Tay to clear off. Tay missed the hint.
“We buried our friend today; I’d say we’re running out of time,” Jena said.
“I’m so sorry,” Misha said. “Was it a funeral for one of the police officers lost in the metro attack?”
“It was,” Jena said. “The first, but I have more to go to in the coming weeks. Did you say your husband’s been arrested?”
“Major Glass. He was taken by the Ministry of Justice this morning.”
“Tom Glass,” Jena said, clicking her fingers, “I know Tom, he’s got good legs.”
“I’m sorry, how do you know her husband?” Wyn asked.
“Running,” Jena said without further explanation.
“Tay,” Jens said, coming out of the games room. He glanced behind him before speaking. “It’s getting urgent. I think it needs refilling with something.”
“And who’s that?” Jena asked, pointing at Jens.
“Another terrorist,” Misha said.
“Will you stop saying that? They’re not terrorists,” Wyn said to Misha. “I need to deal with this. Jena, just wait in the kitchen please and, Misha, give me a moment and we’ll talk.” Wyn skipped down the stairs. “If you want to leave, then I’ll drive you wherever you want to go.”
“Who are they?” Tay asked.
Wyn turned her around and almost pushed her down the stairs. “I told you to stay out of sight.”
They went into the games room, Jens leading the way. He knelt beside the machine and rested a hand on a part of the pipework. “I think it just needs more of this. Have you got any?”
“You know as much as I do,” Wyn said, crouching down to read the screen. Along with the medical stats, there was a flashing icon and a persistent beeping.
“It’s talking about this one, same code.” Jens tapped the bottle under the tank “It’s just a twist connecter so easy to do. Have you got any spare?”
Wyn scurried over to the pool table and pulled a cardboard box out from under it. Jens rifled through the sealed pouches and refill cartridges.
“What the hell is that?” All three of them turned to see Jena standing in the doorway, Misha right behind her, Alex still asleep on her shoulder.
“Tanning bed,” Tay said, beating Wyn to it.
“You just feel like working on your tan right now?” Jena said. “Why’s it foggy?”
“It’s a medical device,” Wyn said standing up and brushing her hands. She felt too tired to lie. “Brought in from Central by a friend of mine.”
“What kind of medical device? I’ve never seen anything like it.” Jena came into the room for a closer look.
“Like a hospital in a tube,” Tay said, perching on a corner of the pool table.
“Is someone in it?” Jena asked as she peered into the white fog, the arms moving slowly back and forth. “Looks like a child. Who the hell is this, Wyn?”
Wyn glanced over her shoulder expecting Misha to say something, but she was still in the doorway, her eyes on the machine.
“It’s someone that needed help,” Wyn said.
Jena looked at the machine and then at Wyn. “How long have you had this?”
“A couple of weeks.”
“Would this have helped Johnson?”
The blood drained from Wyn’s face, and she lowered her head.
“Would it?” Jena prodded.
“I don’t know, I didn’t trust it. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me to use it.”
There was a pop and a hiss as Jens unhooked the hose. He promptly dropped both the bottles. Tay reached down and caught the full one, thrusting it back into his hands. The empty rolled to a stop by Jena’s foot.
“I think you need to tell me everything,” Jena said.
“Are you sure?” Wyn said.
Jens clicked the bottle in and there was a whooshing sound as the machine fed hungrily from it. The beeping stopped.
Jena strode past the machine and into the main bar. “I need a drink.”
Tay got up and patted Jens on the back, “Come on.”
When they were alone, Wyn glanced at Misha. “Where do you want to go?”
“Oh no, I want to hear this. You told me some of it but it’s clear there’s a lot more than you’re telling me. I’m going to put Alex back in his bed and then I’ll be back down,” Misha said and left the room.
Wyn stared around the games room. If she tried really hard, she could still hear her auntie’s voice as she held court behind the bar. She wished she was still with them; she could do with her strength.