|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2008-11-06 08:12:00
The Players: Ray
This is part two of the second section of the story (part one) that began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part).
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. It is being written as part of wrimowrimo.
The Players: Ray
The armoury was also the shooting range and the gym: soundproofed, it ran the whole length of the house downstairs. It was the one room in the building that all eight of them could be in at once without feeling crowded.
Benton had got them out of the house early: Ray hadn’t delayed them by much when he insisted on stopping at the lit-up Krispy-Kreme sign to buy a bag of fresh doughnuts.
If this was the day the Trenton case went down, seven to eleven households in a certain neighbourhood in Chicago had woken to discover police outside their homes, preventing anyone in the house from leaving.
“Okay,” Gerard said. He glanced round the room, as if counting heads, again. He’d brought the big thermos jug full of coffee, extra strong. “Thank you all for showing up so bright and early, it’s a pleasure to see your sunny smiling faces.” Ray found himself grinning, and hastily quelled it. Gerard sounded bleak and professional. “The governor approved the Trenton arrests, so we have not more than about fifteen minutes this morning to make my ground rules clear and give you all a chance to ask all the questions you’ve got.”
Gerard took a breath and went on, his voice rough. “I took delivery of a convicted criminal on Saturday. He killed his wife. He’s spent three years in the Chicago arena for his crime, but as the arena didn’t kill him in that time and this house is a Final destination, I bought his contract. His name was Doctor Richard Kimble. I take it that I’m not telling any of you anything you don’t already know.”
Ray nearly dropped the bag of doughnuts. Gerard had swung round, looking at all of them. “I wouldn’t think much of you all if you hadn’t tried to find out what’s a matter of public record. I don’t care. What I am making clear to you all now is that he belongs to me, he does not represent a threat to any of you, but we are going to follow some commonsense precautions from now on. Richard is not allowed past either of the secure doors into this part of the house. The secure doors and the door to this room are to be kept locked at all times, no exceptions, no excuses. And when you’re on the open side, your weapons are in this room. Clear?”
That was the rule: but none of them except Benny and George hadn’t at times just taken a coffee break or a meal break without bothering to formally put their guns away.
“Got it? Do you have any questions?”
“Where is he, right now?” Adam asked.
“He’s locked in the holding cell upstairs.”
“You say ‘commonsense precautions’, and you say ‘no weapons’,” Dana said. She was standing with her hands folded over each other, looking at Gerard with a calm face. “How dangerous is this man?”
“He’s not harmless. But the person he’s most likely to kill if he gets his hands on a gun is himself. I’m not going to be real happy with the owner of the gun if that happens. I’m going to be even less happy if someone else besides Richard gets killed. And you don’t want to make me unhappy, bambini.” Gerard paused, eyeing Dana, turning to glance at Willow. “Nobody has to be responsible for this slave but me,” he added. “If I’m not in the house, if anyone’s going to be alone in the house, march him to the holding cell on the bedroom floor and lock him in. Do that whenever you want.”
“Does this fellow represent… anything important to our work?” Giles talked worse than Benny, sometimes, but he asked good questions.
Gerard looked exasperated. “He’s a convicted slave at a Final destination,” he said. “There isn’t anyone much less important. Any more questions?”
“I think what Giles just asked is something we all want to know, sir,” George said. That got Gerard’s attention. He turned and glared. George looked back at him with a completely impassive expression: he didn’t often call Gerard “sir”, none of them did, but when George did, it was a clear danger signal.
“What is this man to you, sir? Why did you buy his contract? Why is he to be turned loose in this house?”
“I put up with a lot of undisciplined behaviour from you all.” Ray very nearly stepped back. Gerard wasn’t even looking at Ray, but the anger in his voice was almost palpable. “ None of you have the right to ask me who, or what, I screw.”
George’s voice was cold as ice. “I think you know, sir, that is not what we are asking.”
“I have a meeting this afternoon with the governor,” Gerard said, quiet and still angry. “At my last meeting with the governor, he wanted to know why I still don’t own a slave. I could have told him it was none of his business, but we don’t have time for that argument, so I bought one.”
“How long do you plan to keep him, sir?”
“I’ll keep him as long as I want.” Gerard paused. “Six months should satisfy any questions – if they’re still being asked. Who knows, we may get lucky.”
That joke – grim as it was – made Ray really grin: Benny swallowed a smile, and Giles and Will both got the same look of someone trying not to laugh. Even George’s eyes changed to a cold look of amusement. Only Dana and Adam did not appear to find it funny.
“But keep in mind, people – ” Gerard lifted his voice again “ – you can kill him if you have to, but you shouldn’t have to. Leave him alone, no fucking with his head or with any other part of his anatomy, and let’s just get our work done, okay? Who brought doughnuts?”
Three other people had: but Ray was the only one who had Krispy Kremes.
They had started calling it the Trenton case, because that was the family that had so many people involved: but most of the people on the list Gerard gave them weren’t called Trenton.
“Let the local cops do the arrests,” Gerard warned them. “I don’t want you guys getting your hands near this. Stay back, stay safe, make sure they follow the book, keep your heads.”
“Got it,” Ray said, though it sounded like the worst kind of day.
He and Benny spent most of their time in his car, as, one after the other, the police visited the houses in a suburban neighbourhood the south side of the lake, and gradually packed their holding vans full. They were not quite near enough to hear the protests – the occasional shout or yell – but near enough to watch the police procedure. Each house call had to have a social worker on hand to take charge of any minor children. Commerce would be coming in after the police and social services, to search the houses, but they didn’t have to watch that.
Five slaves had disappeared from this neighbourhood in mysterious circumstances in the past six months. Three of them were definitely runaways: they’d been recaptured, heading south, and interrogated by US Marshals in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Commerce presumed the other two had also run: the US Marshals office concurred.
Nineteen arrests. By past standards, eleven of them would eventually be released because the police could discover no evidence to justify bringing them to trial. Eight would be charged, prosecuted, and sentenced, and of those eight, one or two would end up being sentenced to slavery – probably to Final destinations. Who else would buy someone convicted of helping a slave to escape?
They got through the day somehow. Benny wasn’t much company on a day like this: he’d sit there like a handsome statue made of ice. If the police didn’t go by the book, he was great: but this bunch of cops all knew how to behave. They only had to get out of the car once, when there was a dispute about a kid who’d picked the wrong night to have a sleepover.
They’d done what they could, and Ray was full of anger. Eight families. Nineteen arrests. Most of them people who likely had no idea why the police were packing them into vans. Nine kids who were spending tonight at least in the care of the state.
The hall was empty, though all the cars were parked out front but Sam’s. Through the first locked door into the corridor that ran alongside the armoury, they could hear the faint noises of someone practicing in the shooting range.
Dana was finishing a pattern as they pushed the door open: Willow moved into position – she still looked like she had to think about it – and lifted her handgun, face locked in concentration. Benny took Ray’s gun away from him: he racked their firearms at home. Ray walked over to look: that was allowed, though no comments from anyone but Dana, since Giles had once reduced Willow to tears. Will’s tongue was sticking out through her teeth, Ray saw, and she was still stiff, she didn’t relax with the gun. But her pattern was a hell of a lot less ragged than it used to be. How she’d got past the standard firearms test only God and Gerard knew, and Gerard wasn’t telling.
They both pushed their earguards back, and looked at him.
“Where’s Sam?” Ray demanded.
“Still with the governor,” Dana said. “He left about two, said he’d be at least three hours.”
“Sam said we had to stay till he got back,” Willow said. She sounded clogged up, as if she had a cold.
“Oh, great.” Ray shifted on his feet. “Where’s everyone else?”
“Adam and George are checking Commerce reports in the lounge,” Dana said. “Giles is tracking contacts.”
“Where’s the scumbag?”
“Also in the lounge,” Dana said without a blink.
Ray nodded. He wouldn’t have wanted to take what he was feeling out on Willow.
Benny was at Ray’s shoulder, abruptly and almost noiselessly. He looked at the pattern Willow had shot. “That’s very good.”
“It’s not,” Willow said. “It’s too ragged and I still take ten times as long as everyone else does.”
“No, it’s much better,” Benny said. “You’ve been working very hard.”
“We’re done on the Trenton case, aren’t we?” Willow said abruptly. “I mean, we’re …done.”
“Yes,” Benton said.
Dana looked at Willow: she might have said something, but Willow said, her voice really ragged now, “We did it. I heard it on the news two hours ago.”
“Yeah,” Ray said. He met her eyes, for the first time actually feeling that he liked her, the spoiled California kid with the numbers talent: they’d needed someone like her, but she’d acted like this was a game. “Yeah, Benny and I watched, the police did it by the book. Commerce are searching their houses now.”
“No one ever said it was going to be easy,” Willow said, sounding as if she was reminding herself of something. She flipped her earguards down, and said to Dana, “One more set?”
Dana nodded, slid her own earguards back, and gave Ray and Benny a look: they both retreated.
“I want coffee,” Ray said. They headed back through the hall, still empty – the lounge door was closed. They had reports to write.
Richard Kimble came out of the kitchen, holding three mugs of coffee in both hands. He saw them and stood still.
Ray stared at him. Saturday afternoon, he’d seemed just like any tired man pushed beyond endurance: they saw a lot of them. He looked no different now, dressed in baggy sweats, but a lot less tired: since then the scumbag had two nights in a nice comfy warm bed, and knowing Sam, four square meals a day. Sam would feed a rabid dog before he shot it.
Nineteen people would be sleeping in cells tonight. Four of them were kids who counted as adults, over the age of ten.
“Is there more coffee in the kitchen, Richard?” Benny asked. Benny would be polite to a rabid dog before he shot it: hell, Benny would be polite to a rabid dog before it bit him.
Richard nodded. He didn’t move: he would have had to brush past them to get to the lounge,and Ray knew with a rush like a sugar high that Richard didn’t want to: he was standing like a statue with a clutch of mugs because he was afraid they’d do something to him if he moved too close to them.
And I might, because I just shoot rabid dogs. I’m not nice to them.
There was a mark like a day-old bruise on the side of Richard’s jaw.
Benny tugged at his arm. Ray moved with him, glancing at him. “I expect they’re waiting for that coffee,” Benny said, and Richard went on down the hall, walking steadily, not looking back.
“He bought him because he doesn’t have to care what he does to him,” Ray said to Benny in the kitchen.
“What was that, Ray?”
There was what must be a fresh pot of coffee, with three mugfuls gone from it: . Ray filled them each a mug.
“Sam. He got a convict slave – a scumbag – because he doesn’t have to care what he does to him, it’s better than what he deserves.”
“Are you sure?”
“It makes sense, doesn’t it?” Ray drank his coffee.
Benny said nothing. He sat down at the table, with his coffee mug between his hands, and looked up at Ray. They both heard the back door opening, and Benny said, “Sam.”
“Yeah.” Ray found another mug, and filled it.
Gerard came in with a rush of cold air. “Is that your coffee? Because I’m gonna drink it.”
“How was your meeting with the governor?” Benny asked.
“Fine, fine. He’s got a new bodyslave. Asked me where mine was. I told him mine wasn’t presentable. Where is Richard?”
“Taking coffee to the others in the lounge,” Benny said.
“We got any doughnuts left?”
There was one paper sack left on the counter: Ray checked it, and found one battered cruller and one vanilla frosted, from two different bakeries,and a lot of sugar crumbs. He offered it to Sam, who took the cruller, and ate it in three fast bites, washed down with coffee.
“You did a good job today.”
Benny looked up, with an odd, almost cynical smile: he hadn’t smiled like that five years ago.
“You both did,” Sam said. “Everyone’s alive, and the police didn’t take anyone I didn’t give them. Doesn’t always happen that way. I don’t have to raise hell with the cops, and you know how much I hate raising hell. Good job. Now go on home.”
Benny stood up. “When do you want us in tomorrow?”
“Late. Sleep in. Take care of each other. Go.”
to Part 3