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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Hank gets arraigned, Simon finds out something interesting, and Mal talks to Zoe. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1874 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Hank looked up. “What?” He was curled up on the bed, his mind going over and over what Zoe had said, how she’d just left him, walking out of his life without even a backward glance.
The deputy was standing outside the cell, holding up a can of water. “You thirsty?”
“Dying from it,” the pilot admitted.
“Okay. Step back.” He waited until Hank had pulled himself to his feet and stumbled to lean against the rear wall, before opening a small door in the bars. He slid the can through. “Here. If you need more, say.”
“Thanks.” Hank picked up the container and broke the seal, letting the cold liquid fill his mouth and soothe his throat.
“You want something to eat?” the deputy asked, not unsympathetically. “I can get Louanne over at the restaurant to make you something.”
Hank lowered the water, shaking his head. “No, I ... no, thanks.” He couldn’t even think about food, not with his stomach churning the way it was.
“Well, that changes, you let me know. The sheriff wants me to stay with you, so if you need anything, just say.”
“How about to get out of here?”
“Now, I don’t think that’s likely, do you?”
Hank shrugged. “Thought I’d try.” He sat down on the bed again. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Since we’re going to be spending some time together.”
“Something Warner, or Warner something?”
“Okay, Just Warner. I'm Hank.”
“Of course you do.” He took another drink, feeling it ease his belly a little. “So what happens now?”
“In a little while you go up before the judge, and he decides if there’s a case to answer. Then he sets a trial date.”
Hank licked his lips. “How ... how long until –“
“Not normally more’n a coupla days. Just long enough to convene a jury and make sure they’re gonna come to a safe verdict.”
“I didn’t do this.”
“Then all you gotta do is prove it.”
Hank sat back, trying to remember the events of the previous night, but he kept coming up blank. “And if I can’t?”
Warner adjusted his gunbelt. “Folks around here tend to look on things pretty literally. You take a life, they take yours.”
“Hanging?” Hank tried to swallow but it was as if the noose was already around his neck. He took a quick gulp of water, feeling it slide past the restriction in his throat.
“Yeah. Truth is, that verdict comes down and it’s guilty, I’ll be leading you outside myself.” Warner shrugged. “My job.”
“It’s okay. I get that. I’d just rather it never got that far.”
Warner perched on the only furniture outside the cell, a tall stool, not designed for comfort. “You shoulda come here before.”
“See, if it’d been coupla weeks ago, you might’ve been able to claim Wai Gan.”
“What’s that?” Hank was interested, despite himself.
“Local law. We get the wind from the mountains sometimes, and it sweeps the heat down, pushes the clean air back into the sea. If it blows for more’n a month then the courts tend to look easy on people who break the law. Something to do with it sending ‘em crazy. Probably all the biting insects it brings with it.”
“And it happened back then?”
“Yep. Weathercock changed eight days ago, broke the dry spell. Pity.”
Hank took a deep breath. “You know I didn’t do this.”
“That’s what they all say. Ain't had a one come through this jail said they were guilty.”
“And? Were they?”
“Wouldn’t know. Judge said they were, and that was that.”
“That was what?”
“We don’t look kindly on murderers. Short walk from the courthouse, shorter drop.” He nodded towards the high window. “They got the gallows ready to go out back. No point in delaying the inevitable.”
“Don’t I get a chance to appeal?”
“Never happened before.”
The pilot felt sweat spring out on his forehead. “How many? I mean, what kind of percentage are we talking about here?”
“Don’t know about that,” Warner said. “Never was much good at my sums, which is probably why I’m working here looking after people like you. But out of the last ten who’ve gone the system, only two of ‘em were released.”
Eighty percent. Dear God, eighty percent got hanged. Hank sat back, his mouth slack.
“A’course, you’re lucky that old man Ging Lao died, and it’s Judge Temple now.”
“Ging liked to make sure he was hanging the right people, and wasn't above some of the old yin xing to make sure.”
“Torture?” Hank felt faint.
“Temple hardly ever orders it. Unless he doesn’t like your face.”
Sheriff Kuerk appeared in the doorway. “Time,” he said.
“What?” Hank scrabbled to his feet.
Warner half-smiled. “Not that. Not yet. You just gotta go see the judge.”
Hank felt a little of the tension leave, but only a little. “Oh, yeah. Right. You said.”
Kuerk lifted up a set of restraints. “Come on.”
Simon pulled the bloodstained gloves from his hands and dropped them onto the tray.
“I still don’t believe it,” Stokes was saying, leaning against the counter, staring at the shrouded body on the table.
“About twelve weeks,” Simon confirmed.
“But pregnant?” Stokes shook his head. “How am I going to tell Stan that his wife isn’t the only one dead?”
“Are you sure it’s his?”
Stokes stared at him. “What are you saying?”
The younger man took a deep breath, trying to calm the headache pounding behind his eyes. He really needed to get another shot. “Just making an observation.”
“Well, don’t. People around here don’t take kindly to suggestions of adultery.”
Simon turned to gather the samples he’d taken. “But you didn’t know? That she was pregnant?”
“No. No, I didn’t.” Stokes paused. “She’d had a miscarriage a year ago. Perhaps she didn’t want to know. In case it happened again.”
“Perhaps. But I still think I should do a DNA test on the foetal tissue.”
“What? Why?” Stokes crossed the room, pulling Simon around to face him. “Why can’t we just let her rest in peace? And what will it prove?”
“Reasonable doubt.” Simon extricated his arm. “It won’t prove Hank’s innocence, but it might give someone else a motive. Like you said, Monument City doesn’t look well on adultery.” He picked up the tray. “And right now, Hank needs all the help he can get.”
Hank hadn’t even seen the sky. Not that he minded too much. A glimpse of the blue above him might have alleviated his claustrophobia, but if he’d seen the gallows, beckoning to him ... he wasn’t sure he’d be able to control himself. But the judge’s chambers were situated in the same building as the sheriff’s office, at the rear, and he hadn’t even got a whiff of fresh air. That was, however, all forgotten when he realised Mal was waiting for him.
“What’re you doing here?” he asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. “How’s Zoe? She left so fast I didn’t get a chance to ... how is she?”
“Angry.” Mal spoke quietly. “Give her time, Hank.”
“Time?” The pilot gave a snort of laughter. “I’m beginning to think I don’t exactly have much of that left.”
“We’re working on it.” Mal glanced at the sheriff and deputy. “Jayne’s out, trying to get any info, and Simon’s looking at the body. We’ll deal with this, Hank.” He looked down at the restraints, cuffing Hank’s wrists together in front of him. “Are these entirely necessary?” he asked, glaring at Kuerk.
“Murder suspect,” the sheriff said shortly.
“It’s okay, Mal,” Hank said quickly. “They’re not ... it’s okay.”
The other door opened and Judge Milo Temple swept in, a young woman with a recording machine behind him. About the same age as Macallum, it was evident he’d lost his hair quite some time back, and apparently spent a lot of time outdoors, as his bald dome was almost the colour of polished maple, but his eyes showed a fierce intelligence.
“We ready for this, Rudi?” he asked, settling himself behind his desk.
“We are, your honour.”
“Then let’s not waste time. How do you plead?” he asked, glaring at Hank standing in front of him.
“Not ... not guilty, sir,” the pilot managed to stammer out.
“So noted. And do you have representation?”
“Yes, sir.” Mal stepped forward. “That’d be me.”
“And are you legally qualified?”
Mal shook his head. “Not as such, your honour. But he’s my pilot, so I'm kinda responsible for him.”
“Then I’d have to say you’re not doing a very good job.” His blue eyes were almost colourless. “And your name?”
Temple glanced at his secretary. “Also noted.” He looked at Kuerk. “So. What have you got to tell me?”
“The accused, Hank Mills, was seen in Lynmyer’s place, playing cards. Winning, too. About midnight he got up and went to the bar, saying he was going to buy a round. There he was seen talking to the deceased.”
“Plenty as’ll testify.”
“Just a little after eight a.m. this morning he was seen staggering from the alley next to St Frida’s, covered in blood. My office was called, and we found the body of Rita Hammond in said alley, dead.”
“Apparent stab wounds to the chest. There was a knife with blood on it a few feet away.”
“Mostly smeared, but there was a good thumb print. A match to the accused.”
“Did the defendant say anything?”
“He seemed to be in shock more than anything. He kept staring at his hands and saying he didn’t do it.”
Temple sat back, tapping his fingers on the arm of his chair. “I presume you’ve got witnesses to all this too?”
“Yes, your honour.”
“Can I ask –“ Mal began, but Temple held up a hand.
“No, you can’t. This isn’t the court, so you can’t cross examine. This is just for me to get the facts as we know them from the sheriff here, and for you to hear the evidence against your cli – against your friend.” He looked back at Kuerk. “Anything else?”
“We took his clothes, and DNA analysis proves the blood on them is a match to the deceased.”
“But no confession.”
“No, your honour.”
Temple pursed his lips slightly, and considered. It took him so long Mal began to get jittery, but finally he sat forward and said, “There’s a case to answer. And justice has to be seen to be done.” He fixed Hank with his pale eyes. “Trial is set for the day after tomorrow. That makes it ...” He glanced at his secretary.
“The fifteenth, sir.”
“The fifteenth it is.” He stood up. “And if I were you, I’d seriously look into getting professional counsel. You’re going to need it.” Temple strode out, his secretary following.
Mal pulled Hank to one side. “Do you remember any of that?” he asked, keeping his voice to a whisper.
“No,” Hank admitted. “The cards, yes, but not the woman, or ...” He swallowed. “Mal, I didn’t have that much to drink. You know me. When I drink I lose my edge, and they said I was winning.”
“That they did.”
Kuerk stepped between them. “Enough. You can visit him later, if you need. Warner, take him back to his cell.”
“Yes, boss.” The deputy prodded Hank in the back with his rifle.
Moving towards the door, Hank looked over his shoulder. “Mal, can you ask Zoe to come see me? I need to talk to her. Properly. To apologise. To explain. Please.”
“Thanks.” The door closed behind him.
“You can come this way,” Kuerk said, indicating the exit the judge had used.
Mal stopped the sheriff with a hand to the arm. “Did you take a blood test?”
“Didn’t need to,” Kuerk said. “Her blood was –“
“Not hers. His.”
Kuerk’s eyes narrowed. “You think he was drugged?”
“It’s a possibility.”
“But it doesn't prove he didn't kill her.” Kuerk lowered his voice. “Look, not many had a good word to say about Rita. She came here with nothing, married the doc because she thought it would give her status in town. But all it did was make her bored. That was why she started working at the clinic, just for something to do. So maybe she doped your man. Maybe she even tried to roll him for his cash. That doesn't give anyone the right to kill her. And it just gives him a motive.”
“Or gave someone else the opportunity.” Mal was insistent. “Take some blood. Let me get it tested.”
“Every point. And if you don’t want me to do it, get it done yourself.” He moved a step closer. “You’ve already had Macallum pointing out that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Do you want me to start telling him you’re obstructing his defence too?”
Kuerk glared at him, then laughed unexpectedly. “Old Judge Temple was wrong. I think maybe your pilot has the right man representing him.” He collected himself. “Okay. I’ll take a sample, send it to Doc Stokes. And we’ll see.”
Back at the ship, Mal found Zoe sitting in the galley, a mug of cold coffee in front of her. “Can I warm that up for you?” he asked, heading behind the counter and checking the pot.
“No, thank you, sir.”
He took a cup from the cupboard, running his fingers around the inside from habit. “I just left Hank.”
“The trial’s been set for two days time.”
“Has he been bailed?”
“I don’t think they do that here, Zo. It wasn't even mentioned.” He poured some of the dark liquid into his mug. “You sure I can’t tempt you?”
She shook her head. “I think Jayne made it this morning.”
He took a mouthful, and it was all he could do not to spit it out. It tasted like tar. “Gah!” Swallowing painfully, he poured the remainder in his mug away, the contents of the pot following it. “That man must have a cast iron stomach,” he commented, taking a drink of water to attempt to wash the flavour away.
“I believe he does.”
Mal sat down opposite his first mate. “Zoe, he was asking for you.”
“Yes, Jayne.” He sighed heavily. “No, of course not Jayne. Hank.”
“I don't want to see him.”
“Zoe, the man’s been bound for murder. If they find him guilty they’re going to hang him.”
Her eyes, dark pools, gazed at him. “He lied to me. To all of us. You expect me to forgive that?”
“Not ... forgive. Understand, maybe.”
“Gorramit, Zoe, he’s your husband!”
“And I’m beginning to wonder if that wasn’t a mistake.”
Mal stared at her, but her expression didn’t change. “Are you serious?”
“He promised me. And I believed him. I trusted him.” She stood up. “I don’t know whether I ever will again.”
“Well, give it a couple of days and you won’t need to try,” Mal said, his tone harsher than he intended.
“I’m going to bed.”
“It’s barely ...” He stopped at the look on her face. “Okay. I’ll ask Kaylee to put some food aside for you.”
“That’s not necessary, sir.” She walked out of the galley.
Mal watched her go, her back as straight as a ramrod, shoulders solid. He’d not seen her as angry as this for a long while. Not really since Wash died. Then her anger had been more or less equally divided between Wash for dying, the Reavers and Alliance for killing him, and Mal himself for letting it happen. It had taken her months before they’d got back to anywhere near the way they’d been before, and sometimes he wondered if they ever had. The ache of that memory made his own temper flare. Pushing his chair back so hard it fell over, he strode after her, catching her just as she opened the hatch to her bunk. He took her arm, turning her to look at him.
“No, Zoe,” he said, his voice firm, still gentle but definitely in command. “It’s not going down like this.”
“Sir, I –“ She tried to pull away but he held fast.
“No. You’re gonna do the listening this time.” He shook his head slightly. “Hank’s stupid. We can all agree on that. He’s pushed this thing about as close to the edge as he can, without actually going over. And the only thing that’s stopping him falling is you and Ben.”
“Sir, it really is none of your –“
“Maybe not. But I'm still captain. He’s my pilot, you’re my first mate. More than that, you’re my friends. Hell, Zoe, you’re my family. I'm not gonna stand by and see you lose something you can't afford to.”
“You think that’s going to happen?”
“I know it.” He let go of her arm. “He needs help. To admit he has a problem in the first place, and to deal with it. And we’ll get it for him. But that’s something for the future. At least for after the trial. ‘Cause if it goes badly, we won’t need to worry.” He moved closer until he could feel the heat from her body. “Zoe, he needs you. I’m not sure he’s going to get through this palaver without you.”
Something like panic finally crossed her features. “Mal, please.”
“You’re going to see him. First thing tomorrow.”
The panic turned to surprise. “Not tonight?”
“No. I’ve a notion he needs to stew a while longer.”
He felt her relax a notch. “Tomorrow,” she agreed, dropping down into her bunk, the hatch closing above her.
Mal sighed, leaning on the bulkhead. He had no idea whether Hank had done irreparable damage to that union or not. Maybe, once this was all over, he’d be finding himself another pilot anyway. But maybe he’d given them a fighting chance. He pushed himself straight and went to find his own wife.
“You should be in bed.”
Freya looked up from where she was perched on the edge of Ethan’s cot. Mal stood in the doorway to the shuttle. “I’m fine,” she said, dropping her head back to gaze at her son. She brushed his hair from his sleeping face.
“Sure.” He stepped inside, going down onto his heels next to her. “And you could’ve slipped on the ladder, or fallen over the catwalk ...” He put his hand on her thigh. “You ain’t well enough to go wandering Serenity, xin gan.”
“It wasn’t far.” She smiled at him. “I needed to see Ethan.”
He looked at his boy. “Is he okay?”
“Fussy.” She stroked his hair again. “Sleeping now, though.”
“I can see that.” He lowered himself to the deck so he was sitting down, drawing his knees up and resting his forearms on them. “Is he picking up on this?”
Freya nodded. “He’s upset. More than upset. Keeps asking where Uncle Hank is.”
“Well, right now, Uncle Hank is locked up, and from what they said at the arraignment, it ain’t likely he’s coming home too soon.”
Mal went over the details as he knew them, leaving out the medical facts in case any of the children were still awake, but knowing she could pick them out of this mind if she wanted.
“Another woman?” Freya asked as he finished. “That I can’t believe. That man waited years for Zoe, and they’ve only been married a few months ... why would he go with someone else now?”
“I don’t know, Frey. But apparently there’s witnesses who say he left the bar with her.”
“Yeah. And the blood on him, the knife ...” Mal leaned his head on the cot. “He really is deep in the goushi.” He rolled his neck so he could look at her. “Ai ren, can you see anything? Tell me who did this?”
Freya slid carefully to the floor so she could lean on him. “No. I can’t reach any further than your thoughts, and that’s an effort.”
He put his arm around her. “The infection?”
“I think so. River’s feeling the same, and I don’t think Bethie’s in any fit state to ask.” She glanced over to the other cot where the little girl was fast asleep, clutching her green rabbit. She was twitching slightly as she dreamed.
“So nothing?” When Freya paused, he turned enough so he could look directly into her eyes. “Frey, what is it?”
“I don’t know. Just a feeling. Not even that. An impression.”
“No. Sorry. Not love. Obsession, maybe.”
“Hank? His gambling?”
“I don't know.” She shook her head. “I'm sorry. It’s all just –“
“Never mind.” He pulled her closer. “And don’t try and force it. We’ve got time to prove Hank’s innocent.”
“And if we can’t?”
“Then I’m gonna have to plan for that eventuality too.”
to be continued
Sunday, May 4, 2008 6:12 AM
Sunday, May 4, 2008 6:25 AM
Sunday, May 4, 2008 11:13 AM
Sunday, May 4, 2008 3:24 PM
Thursday, May 8, 2008 1:27 AM
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