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The devil collects on the deal
#1
A metal table spread cold across his forehead. Jensen lifted his head just enough to rub the burn from his eyes. Smears of dried blood were spattered beneath where his face lay. He knew his own appearance: bloodied but not of his own, dirty from the explosion, ashen from the fires of the school. Meanwhile, harsh lights angled shadows across the face of his interrogator.

     ”I promise I am telling the truth, as ridiculous as it sounds. That doctor lured her. I was worried about her, so I asked permission to go along. What we found was out of a horror movie.”
Jensen’s recount of the tale was shared with all the emphatic storytelling of a master orator. The detective’s expression left little for interpretation, and Jensen knew how bad this looked. He was accusing powerful people of fraud and murder while suggesting the police themselves were involved in the coverup. Drug lords and custody officials were tangled in the barbed wire of the guilty, but Jensen feared Ascendancy enough to exclude him from the details. That he was the husband of the governor made the investigation treacherous, and he had to consider how much longer it would be before his wife’s goons fetched him for official summons home. How much did she know?
Anything? Or everything?
     He shivered and returned his head down on the table. Shortly after, the bars of a holding cell surrounded him. Strangely, the hefty sound of the lock wasn’t as defeating as it once was.

     The next day, he was awoken by the grinding mechanism of the locks unlatching. A man and woman in matching black suits entered. The blur of sleep washed quickly away by sudden intrusion, and his heart thud in his chest for no apparent reason.
“Mister James, come with us please,” the woman said. They had to be some kind of agent. What he initiated last night must have escalated quickly. He pushed his hair behind his ears as he rose to his feet. What a filthy sight he must have cut.

     ”Where am I going?” He wasn’t cuffed or in any way threatened by either presence, but he cautiously peered into the hallway bustling with activity last night. Today, or maybe it was still the middle of the night, it was a ghost town. Somehow, the emptiness was more ominous. Prayers tickled the back of his mind, but Jensen didn’t partake in their tempting comfort. Instead, he mentally tested the boundaries of the Gift.

     No answer was returned as he was escorted from the station. Dim light outside told him it was dawn. It had been almost an entire day since Cayli and Axel died yet mourning didn’t wrack tears from his body. It was an odd sort of numb stamina. Maybe this is what shock felt like. The agents deposited him into the back of a car. The Carpenters would now know the fate of their children by now but were unlikely to understand why. As soon as the doors sealed them in, a video screen woke. Jessika’s immaculate face appeared. She looked angry. He’d been summoned. 

     “Jensen, you idiotic buffoon. You ruin this for me and you’ll wish you’d never been born,” she said. She was all done up, hair big and makeup heavy. She looked ready to go on camera. For reasons unknown, his chest tightened. It only took hours for him to break his promise to be the penitent husband.

     He could see an image of himself in the corner of the screen. Drenched in darkness, dirty, and slimed by the filth of jail, death, and betrayal, he was a ghastly sight. “You knew all this was going on. What those doctors were doing at that school. Is that why you agreed to shelter the Carpenters in the first place? It wasn’t love for me that embraced them with charity. It was a pre-arranged deal to deliver an innocent teenager. You made a deal with the devil. What I don’t understand, Jessika, is why? You’re a good person. You’re a mother and a friend,” passion cut the words from his chest. He loved her as he always had, and could not believe the person he knew his whole life was so cold-hearted. Finally the tears began to form. Tears he couldn’t shed to mourn innocent loss of life. These were tears shed over the loss of happy memories. The loss of his whole life. “Why?”

     His accusations did not penetrate the armor she wore.
“Jensen, you poor fool,” was all she said. Looking into his eyes, even Jessika struggled to hold her own defenses.

     She looked over her shoulder then, called forward to something going on in the background. A man appeared in the background. He was dark-haired, older and distinguished, but also cut a severe expression. He seemed familiar, but Jensen couldn’t place where. He said something he couldn’t discern, and Jessika moved to leave. “Get yourself cleaned up. I expect you to behave,” she said. Jensen frowned with concern for where this was going.

     ”But what about the Carpenters? What about—” but they were disconnected before anything else was said. The female agent in the front seat turned and pointed at a package in the seat alongside him. They didn’t seem concerned about the conversation overheard, and Jensen had the distinct feeling that everything he reported to the police was about to be wiped from existence. Maybe it wasn’t the drug lords or the pharmaceutical companies in charge of the whole operation.

Oh God. Maybe it’s my wife. He thought he was going to faint. 

     By the time they arrived at a television studio, he was hurried through paparazzi, obscured by secure delivery, and deposited into a bathroom with a bar of soap, hair gel, and a clean suit.
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