“Aedan. Aedan Clancy.” Lahel explained. No answer, just a confused look between the two Guard Sergeants. “The ginger one.” She sighed. She should have known they wouldn’t know his name, she had had to look it up in the register too. Him and Murphy sure were an unmatched pair; one stood out too much for his own good and the other was practically invisible despite all his best efforts to get on with everybody. There was just something forgettable about the kid. It made her curious, especially after what she had seen when she was looking through the register. It seemed that Murphy had requested this guy to be his partner for the night shift. Of all the people why him? She couldn’t even remember seeing the two interact, and she had been paying attention. But maybe that was what Murphy wanted, someone who wouldn’t attract attention, someone even she couldn’t keep tabs on. Well she’d make sure whatever he was planning wouldn’t work, she would win this kid over. She grinned to herself, she was going to undermine him without him even realising it.
“Ah! Yeah, we’ve seen him. He just finished his shift with Murphy, I think he’s in the break room sleeping.” The Sergeant on the left said with a grin, crossing his arms.
She nodded and was about to go find him when she paused. “And Murphy?”
“Oh, he’s gone already.” One laughed. “Never sticks around long after his shift.” He looked towards his friend and nudged him knowingly. “I’d want to go home too if I had to stay around ginger that long.” They both laughed, turned and walked off with a lazy salute directed more towards the wall than to her. It rubbed her the wrong way to say the least. They had no respect: not for him and not for her either, and after all the work she’d put in to live up to her title. She was a Lieutenant, whether they thought she deserved it or not. She knew they all thought she only got the job because she was the only woman on the force. Still, she couldn’t afford to get angry here. She would prove them wrong later anyway. When she got the dirt on Murphy and showed the General that she knew what she was talking about the whole time. That she wasn’t just a silly woman with a grudge like they all seemed to think.
She pushed open the door that led to the break room, that’s what the rest of the force called it anyway, it was more like an unused office that someone had hijacked and filled with chairs, blankets, and anything else that was even remotely comfortable that they could find unused around the Guard-house. They were so often huddled up in there that it was the warmest room in the whole place, other officers, not her of course, often expressed their jealousy at not being able to also hole themselves up in there and instead had to sit alone in their cold offices every day. She wasn’t though. Sure they sounded like they had fun in there but she hated how every time she walked in they would turn to look at her. She could tell that she wasn’t welcome there, and she didn’t want to spend time with them anymore than they wanted to with her.
Unusually, it was quiet in there as she leaned her ear against the door. She hoped they had been right, and Murphy wasn’t going to be sitting in there as she opened the door. She cringed at the thought but with a clench of her jaw she made her hand pull down the handle and push open the door. The lights were off but as the door swung open a triangle of light shone from the corridor into the room, provoking a muffled murmur of ‘for the love of the King, close that blasted door’ from the sleeping figure. She sighed with relief, it wasn’t him, just ginger after all. The dark couldn’t disguise the starling red hue of his hair as he pulled the ratty blanket covering him up over his face and turned away from her and the light. Lahel let the door slam closed and the room to plunge back into complete darkness again before, with cruel delight, switching on the light. It flickered once and then filled the room with orange light that seemed almost blindingly bright in the small space.
“Wake up!” She yelled, trying to regain some authoritative composure. He just grumbled curses and pulled the blanket tighter over his head.
“Sergeant Clancy, get up!” She shouted to the crumpled shape lying over two chairs in a way that looked about as comfortable as a night on a hay bale. She emphasised her voice with a sharp stomp of her meticulously polished boots on the concrete floor and, when he didn’t react, the torch she kept clipped to her belt aimed at his head.
“Hey! You…” He sat up, rubbing the back of his head with an irritated expression.
“That’s Lieutenant to you.”
“Lieutenant.” He lifted his hand in half salute before letting it drop and rubbing his eyes. “What do you want, I’m absolutely knackered. Night duty, you know.”
She bristled at his attitude, she could tell how even such an invisible kid as this could get on everyone’s nerves with an attitude like that. She was a higher-up after all, but even ginger, the most ridiculed sergeant on the force, had no qualms about disrespecting her. If even this gangly, somewhat soggy-looking kid wouldn’t listen to her, what hopes did she have with the rest? She felt a blotchy flush rise in her cheeks, an angry tone that took hold whenever she was irritated, which was often enough, and she gritted her teeth.
“Just listen to me you little wimp, for once in your life you have the opportunity to be useful.” Damn it. She’d lost her temper after all. Her mouth seemed to have a life of its own sometimes and just when she needed his help too, it was like it wanted to sabotage her chances. Yelling insults at him wasn’t going to get her anywhere, in fact, as she watched his eyes narrow as he processed what she had said, she knew it was going to have the opposite effect.
“You need my help?” He sat up straighter and crossed his arms, the expression on his face was slowly transforming from uncertain to distinctly smug. It sure made her itch as her brain tried to distract itself from the image of her punching him right in his self-satisfied looking face that was repeating in her head. Sure, she could hit him but what would that achieve. Apart from settling her temper, it wouldn’t get her anything from him. She had to be clever here. Be patient. Win him round or he’d just run back to Murphy and tell him everything. She couldn’t let that happen, this was all she had against him, without it he would surely get away. And that would feel one-hundred percent worse than the irritation she felt now.
“Perhaps…” She forced a smile. “…Did you perhaps hear about the victim that was found this morning?”
He shook his head fiercely, like a child asked if they had done something wrong. Guiltily? So, he did know something then. Her heart started beating a little faster, she was so close to finding the truth. If only he’d talk; if only she could get him to.
“Anything?” She said a little too quickly. She was coming of desperate, she knew it, but she couldn’t stop herself.
His watery eyes slipped from hers, falling to her shoes, that she must say were shining even more than usual in the bright light, with a resolute slap. So, he wasn’t going to talk that easily. He looked scared. Of her? No, he’d shown he thought just as little of her as the others. Of Murphy? It was likely. He had something about him that made pretty much everyone around him a little uneasy, apart from the Sergeant that was, and this poor kid had to spend the most time with him out of all the force. Well, that was fine too, she could work with fear, it made people pliable, easy to manipulate, if she pressed the right buttons.
“Just listen to me.” She softened her voice. “I…” She said, pointing to herself to try and draw his eyes back to her. “…I can help you.” She sorted through her mind for his name. What was it again? “…Clancy?” He reacted slightly. “Aedan Clancy.” Yep, that was it. “You need to tell me what he did.”
“Who? Why are you bringing him up?”
“You know who I’m talking about.” She kept her voice smooth. “He did something, didn’t he? I need your help Aedan.” He glanced up at her, his face was pale but his eyes were circled with purple around. He had been up all night but this looked a little more than just being tired, it was a haunted look. “You want to share don’t you? You want to say what you saw. You can tell me.” She reached out to put a hand on his shoulder but he brushed her off with a short movement. His eyes were looking at her now though, he didn’t look so young anymore with those eyes. They were so pale and steady as they bored into her. Resigned. Old eyes.
“And what are you going to do when you find out.”
“I’m going to report him, to the General.”
He snorted softly and shook his head. “Who says he’s going to believe you. Or be able to do anything even if he does.” She had her own doubts about that too, she wasn’t going to let him know about that though.
“He has too, if I have evidence that is.”
“Evidence?” He looked up to the ceiling like he was recalling something. “There’s nothing.” He said it blankly but she could see him shiver and rub his hands as if cold.
Exactly what had he seen? This was worse than being just scared, he had already given up. She couldn’t think of anything to get it out of him. What could she do to get him to talk now? Beg? It went against every bone in her body but it would be worth it if she could get him on side. Why did it him? It hurt her pride to plead with this kind of person. “I need you, Aedan. You need to get me something on him. Whatever you’ve seen, whatever he’s done, you don’t have to talk about it but I need proof that something happened. Give me anything you’ve got. Otherwise I can’t do anything. I need you to do this.” She paused for a moment, thinking of all the ways to appeal to him. “For the force.” Maybe even a little kid like him would have some sense of loyalty.
A laugh, he even dared to laugh at her. After she had practically kneeled-down and begged him to help her. He must be out of his mind, she was still a Lieutenant whatever he thought of her. “You don’t know what you’re getting into. You want evidence, find it yourself.”
She clenched her fists and took a deep breath. “I will. I’m not a little wimp like you and I’m not scared of him.”
With an exasperated and overloud sigh, she turned to leave but before she reached the door she hesitated. “One thing, Aedan.” She spun around to face him, seeing him staring back at the floor blankly. She could almost feel sorry for him. “If you see anything, if you change your mind about sharing, can you promise me you’ll tell me before anyone else.”
He looked up at her with those terrible eyes. “I can’t do it, Lieutenant.”
“Just promise me that I’ll be the first you come to. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t change your mind.”
She must have looked as desperate as she felt because he actually smiled at her bit. “I promise.”
At that she left, closing the door behind her on that tragic figure, and leaving him in the dark.