Robert woke up feeling drops of water hitting his forehead. They were dripping down his face and had begun to dampen the front of his shirt. At first Robert had no idea where he was. He could see the drops were leaking from the ceiling of the room he was in, which might actually be described as part of a dungeon. He knew that he was in some sort of cell, that was all. He heard measured footsteps as a presumed guard of this presumed prison walked down the hallway outside. Mister DeSantis? He heard his name being formally called in a surprisingly polite tone by his apparent jailer. A knock, almost too gentle for the heavy steel door echoed slightly off the damp stone and brick walls of his 8 x 10 box of a room.
Come in, Robert answered. His voice hoarsely registered just loud enough to be heard by the man at the door. The door opened and there stood a short, dark man dressed in green military fatigues.
Mr. DeSantis, so good to see you are well, the man answered in what sounded like maybe a cross between an Indian Sub Continent and West Indian accent.
Who are you? asked Robert
My name is Sargent Le Fevre
Where am I?
What other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one’s self.
Yes! House of the Seven Gables. I knew you were a man of letters, Robert. I hope you don’t mind if I call you Robert.
Sargent Le Fevre gave a smile which was measured like the rhythm of his footsteps but warm. You are in a safe house for the Free States of America. We have taken over a former house of detention. The cells have been quite useful for prisoners but we’ve unfortunately also had to make use of them for offices and sleeping quarters.
So I’m not a prisoner.
No not at all.
What am I doing here.
We’ve been reviewing your case, well, not just your case but many cases, in fact all the cases. Sargent Le Fevre gave a hardy, honest laugh.
Your case file. You were convicted of a felony exactly three years ago on this date. You didn’t do any jail time but after noticing certain, ah, aspects of your case we thought you would make a good candidate for Project Redemption.
What the fuck.
We felt both your prosecution and judgement were unjustly carried out and have decided a retrial is in order. In his previous experiences with former students of the British style school system Robert had noticed something peculiar about their speech. They seemed to derive was a certain pleasure from saying some words more than others. In Sargent Le Fevre’s case ‘Retrial’ was one of those words.
I don’t want another trial. Considering the judge I had, I’m lucky I got off the first time. Don’t you revolutionaries believe in double jeopardy?
No, no. Forgive me, I haven’t explained everything fully yet. You will not be one of the people on trial.
One of the people on trial. Plural? There’s more than one? Who’s on trial. Not them.
I thought you’d be able to figure it out.
Judge Benson and the DA whatshisname?!
What the fuck.
For such a prolific reader, your vocabulary seems rather limited right now.
Sargent Le Fevre gave another laugh, this one more generous than the last. Another reason we chose you was your spirit, like a true revolutionary you are not easily placated. Please keep in mind that we are soldiers that are rather battle hardened and most aren’t as… understanding as I am.
So… what do you want? To redeem my life that was nearly ruined by this hanging judge and the prosecutor he took his cues from?
More or less.
How did I get here anyway?
We were very concerned that you were being targeted by the Murk Squads. They’ve been targeting all former convicts in the hopes of putting pressure on us to cease this enterprise.
The last thing I remember is going to sleep last night. You drugged and kidnapped me while I was sleeping.
Unfortunately we had to. Our intelligence told us that you were high up on the list. As a matter of fact the mission sent to fetch you encountered Military Police on your block. I can’t say for sure they were there for you but it’s very likely.
Why should I believe you?
We lost two men getting you. We’re not so long on manpower that we would endanger our soldiers for some charade.
But you’re long enough on men to have these bullshit tribunals.
For the first time Robert noticed a hint of anger on the face of Sargent Le Fevre. It soon passed but its brief presence was duly noted. These ‘sir’ are civilian courts, we only maintain a minimal presence in order to provide security and even then most of the staff are deputized civilians. The Sargent had let the word “sir” linger for a moment, letting it be known that his patience for a non-revolutionary had its limits.