Friday, December 16, 2005
the child, part 3, chapter 9 - 'logan'
Once Forest and James had returned to their own level, they spent what was left of the night checking it for Walker. But they found no sign of him. They still had a little over half the level left to go when a sound froze them where they stood, there in the central corridor.
The staircase door opened then closed. Gruff voices echoed through the level.
Quickly the pair sped for the broom closet. Glad to reach it undetected, they slipped inside, shed their packs, then became statues, listening. Dark and silence settled down around them like a blanket. From outside came vague sounds of the guards moving about, but for the moment, it was as if they were far away, and this closet a safe little cocoon.
'I wonder...' Forest barely breathed.
'...if we should set a watch.'
When James made no reply, the boy went on softly thinking out loud. 'I mean, I know we didn't bother with watches yesterday. But then, we didn't intend to fall sleep in this closet yesterday. And - well, think about it. This is a broom closet. How long do you think it'll be before someone comes looking for a broom?'
'Good point,' James was beginning to say. When suddenly Forest's point got proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The doorknob jiggled.
And then opened.
And then a hand with chains dangling from it reached in.
James froze. Forest, on instinct, reached for the hilt of his sword. The prisoner in the doorway peered in, squinting against the darkness, looking for the broom.
And then his eyes popped wide. His jaw dropped to his knees. With a squeak, he slammed the door shut in their faces. They heard his running feet scurrying away, his voice calling out for the guards.
'Great,' muttered James, snatching up both packs and passing one - he didn't care which - to Forest.
'Yeah, we're outta here,' the boy agreed. 'But where do we go now?'
'Where else?' the man replied. Breathing a prayer to the Master, James laid his ear to the door, then nodded and shoved the door open.
No one was out there in the short connecting corridor. Yet. They could hear feet hurrying their way already. The sound was coming down one of the long corridors. And it was coming from their left.
Good, thought James, mentally thanking the Master. He nodded towards the far right corridor, and the pair of them ran for it, then plastered themselves against the wall just short of the corner.
A peek. No one was coming down this hall. Waving the boy on, James scrambled round the corner and sped as quietly as possible up the corridor after him.
'Where we going?' Forest hissed, turning to look at him.
'Here.' James stopped at a door partway up the hall, pulling his key out of his pocket.
Here? But where was her...? Oh, right! Forest grinned, suddenly recognizing which door James was unlocking. Great choice!
In a trice they were both through the door and had it shut again. They leaned back against it, out of sight from the small window, waiting.
The running of feet had stopped now. They heard the muffled sound of a harsh voice talking - another voice answering. And then the sharp crack of a whip, followed immediately by a still sharper yip of pain.
'Stop playing games with me, fool!' cried the harsh voice. 'No one's there, so stop inventing reasons why you can't do your work! And you lot!' the harsh voice added. 'Go get the rest of the prisoners up and out here!'
The sound of rushing feet echoed along all the corridors now. Forest and James pressed back against the wall on the hinge side of the door, wondering would it shortly spring open. Heavy fists were crashing on door after door. Heavy voices were bellowing out, 'Get up and get ready! Five minutes till roll call! Get up now!'
One such fist crashed on the door beside Forest and James, sending a cloud of dust puffing out from its wooden joints. But the door didn't open, not yet. The guard simply yelled his morning's summons through it and moved on.
Forest and James relaxed. Then froze anew.
For the man in the bed sat up, rubbed at his bloodshot eyes. And as those eyes focused on the two men in his cell, he started cursing.
'Who the,' not very nice word, 'are you?' he growled loudly. 'And what do you think you're doing in my room? How'd you get in here anyway? Huh? I oughta...' At this point his eyes widened and he gave a low whistle of admiration. 'Man! Who beat the snot outta you?'
James touched his battered face as Logan threw aside his covers and stalked across the room towards them. His huge fist shot out and took hold of James' chin, turning his face first this way, then that. 'Hmph,' Logan added, 'I'd know that job anywhere. Ol' Melonhead worked you over, and not more than three days ago.'
'Melonh...?' Forest ventured.
Logan nodded. 'Malorn. One of the chief guards here. Fancies himself an expert at interrogation. But where'd you run into him? For one thing, I know everybody here - done beat 'em up, each one of 'em, more than a hundred times. If you were from down here, I'd recognize you. And the other thing - Ol' Melonhead disappeared a few days back, along with half the guard. Some mission the Boss sent 'em on, we've all been guessing. So how'd you meet him?'
Forest began to smile. There was a lot more to this gorilla than met the eye! James nodded to the boy and whispered, 'Tell him.'
'We met your friend Melonhead on our way here. We're friends of Walker's.'
Logan's eyes lit. 'That right?' With a thoughtful curse, he added, 'And where's he been lately? Ain't seen him these past... well, since Melonhead and the gang left.'
Swiftly Forest brought Logan up to speed, explaining about their capture and rescue - and then about Walker's capture. As he listened, Logan's face fell more and more into a scowl, his eyes growing hard and fierce. 'Then we get him out,' he said as the boy wound up his tale. 'Right away. Before Ol' Melonhead does even worse to him than that!'
He jerked a thumb at James' face as he said it. At that same moment, the door gave a rasp and a shudder as it was suddenly unlocked.
No time for anything but instinct. Both Forest and James sprang to the hinge side of the opening door, half-drawing their swords, watching to see what would happen. Logan, standing right in the path of the door, shot out a hand and caught it before it could halfway open.
'Roll call, Logan,' the guard was saying as the door stopped opening, 'so get your ugly... hey!'
'I'm sick!' Logan bellowed in reply. And slammed the door shut again before the guard had time to react. There came a crunching sound as the door hit, followed by a whimper of pain. Next came a spate of curses mixed with the sound of an obvious limp as the guard drug himself away.
Stunned silence. Finally, slowly, both men sheathed their swords again. And Forest commented, 'If that's sick, I'd sure hate to see you well.'
Logan snorted and spat at the foot of the door where the guard had stood. With an offhand curse, he muttered, 'I'm sick all right. Sick of being here. Sick of this place - and the guards - and the games - and...' A shuddering breath. '...and the death...'
Forest and James exchanged glances. 'Walker told us about your brother,' said the boy.
Logan cut his eyes at them both, then gave another soft curse. 'Chris. He wasn't much older than you, kid. And smart! Man, he was smart. He could talk rings around any man down here.' A smile of nostalgia touched his face, softening it, giving it something akin to beauty for a moment.
And then his face twisted. 'They ganged up on him. Three men, and two of them with metal bars hidden in their fists.' A curse. 'You know good and well they didn't just happen to get weapons! It was Malorn put 'em up to it.' Again he spat, adding a string of curses on both Malorn's forebears and progeny. 'I heard Chris cry out for help. I ran... The guards tried to hold me back. Tried.' Something hot and wet started trailing down his cheek, and his great hand smashed the wetness from his face. 'Time I got through them and got to Chris, it was too late. I could barely recognize him. My own kid brother! Those three thugs were standing over him, smirking, admiring their handiwork.' A grim smile. 'I took care of them.'
He looked up, swallowed, dashed more wetness from the sides of his face. 'Chris died in my arms. And I died too. If it wasn't for Walker showing up the next day...' Again Logan spat a curse. 'I'd be dead. Right now. And Ol' Melonhead too.'
A heavy snort - or maybe it was a sigh - and Logan shook his head. 'All them years,' he muttered. 'Fighting. Busting heads. Working my way up till I was king.' And his eyes glittered on that last word.
Then a shrug. 'But what'd it get me? Huh? My brother's dead, and everything else... Well, it ain't worth spit.' Which he did.
Forest and James stood silent. What do you say to a man who's lived through such a thing? What words even come close to not sounding like absolute idiocy? Forest, not knowing what else to say, finally muttered, 'Yeah.'
Logan stirred, lifted his eyes, looked over at them. 'Walker told me,' he said, 'about the Master, and how he could set me free. Not just free from this room, this dungeon. But,' and he tapped his own barrel of a chest, 'free from this. Free from all the ugly junk inside me. All this hate. All this anger.' And now more wetness spilled over his cheeks, but a different kind this time. Closing his eyes, Logan added, 'I don't know. You think your Master would even want someone like me? Someone with all this... all this blood on my hands?'
Forest, looking at Logan, loved him. And James, looking beyond Logan and seeing that there was now someone standing there - someone who had not been there a moment before - someone whose very being is love -
James said to the man simply, 'Yes.'
~first~ ~previous~ ~next~
Thanks, and keep up the awesome work!