Criminal

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 63 (v.1) - Chapter Sixty-Three

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 30

Comments: 1

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Submitted: June 12, 2019

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The sky was just beginning to darken as the group stepped off the coach in Inverness. Alina still didn’t quite believe it had happened– that she had actually won. Even without Camille Auster as her judge, somehow, she had won! She was a Citizen. Her siblings were all Citizens. And now the whole world knew that her mother always should have been a Citizen.

“We had better get back to the house quickly,” Annalisa smiled, as they waved goodbye to Bram and Ahmed. “I’m sure everyone at home is dying to hear what happened.”

“I can’t wait to tell them.” But Alina hesitated. There was someone else she wanted to be the first to know. “  Can we— can we stop somewhere first, though?”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to see Dad.” Alina felt her heart leap as she remembered how Nathaniel had urged her to continue the appeal, how he had promised her win would help his own trial. “I have to tell him I won—”

“You want to go to the guard station?” Annalisa recoiled, then shook her head. “Alina, I know you want to see your father, but that place isn’t safe. Especially at night. Maybe tomorrow Dee can take you, or Bram—”

“But his trial’s tomorrow!” Alina protested. “He told me that he would have a better chance of winning his trial if I won my appeal. He needs to know that I did!”

Annalisa bit her lip. Alina could feel her heart pounding, while her hand pressed unconsciously against her stomach where Edward Lynn had stabbed her just a few weeks earlier. Still, she took a deep breath and nodded.

“I—I don’t know if they’ll even let you see him,” she warned. “But I guess we can try.”

She held out her hand. Alina took it, and together, they started off the path to the guard station.

“Visiting hours are over.”

A bored-looking guard glanced briefly up from his desk before returning to the stack of papers he was shuffling through. Looking grateful, Annalisa murmured something about coming back tomorrow morning. But Alina stepped forward and crossed her arms.

“I know they’re technically over,” she said. “But I told you already, this is an emergency. My father’s trial is tomorrow morning, and I have important information for him that could help his case—”

“Rules are rules.” He flipped over a paper and sighed. “Besides, you said your dad’s Nathaniel Fletcher? He’s got a no-visitor rule anyways, except for legal counsel—”

“What seems to be the problem, Lars?”

A tall woman wearing a golden badge came up behind him. She looked familiar, and Alina thought she must have seen her when she came to the prison before, though they hadn’t been introduced. Lars set down his papers and sighed again.

“They want to see Nathaniel Fletcher, Captain,” he grumbled. “I was just telling them that isn’t possible—”

“Fletcher?” The woman walked around the side of the desk so that she stood beside Alina. She tilted her head and looked at her critically.

“I remember you,” she said, after a long pause. “You’re his daughter, aren’t you? The little girl making an appeal for your mother to posthumously become a Citizen.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Alina trembled slightly under her gaze, but she forced herself to look the captain in the face. “My appeal was today, and I won. And I want to tell my father. He said my winning would help him—”

“Write him a note and leave it with me,” Lars interrupted. “I keep telling you, kid. You’re not allowed to—”

But the woman clapped her hands. “Lars, find Kent and tell him to bring Nathaniel Fletcher to the visiting room. I’ll escort Miss Fletcher there shortly.”

He frowned at her. “It’s after hours, and he has a no-visitor—”

“That was an order, Lars.”

Lars dropped his eyes. “Yes, ma’am.” Shoving his paperwork into a pile, he rose and disappeared down the hall.

“I’m sorry about that.” The woman watched him go, then turned back to Alina. “It’s true that under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be allowed, but these are hardly normal circumstances, are they?” She extended a hand, and after a moment’s hesitation, Alina shook it. “I’m Captain Parker, head of this guard station. If you follow me, I’ll take you to see your father.”

She started down the hallway. Alina had only followed a few steps when she realized Annalisa wasn’t moving. Her aunt stood very still, shoulders tensed and rigid, face pale and shadowed in the dim lighting. She gripped the edge of Lars’ desk so tightly her knuckles blanched white.

“Aunt Annalisa?” Alina ventured. There was no response. She gently poked her arm. “Are you okay?”

Annalisa jumped, her entire body trembling. “I’m— I’m sorry,” she said hoarsely, shaking her head. “I’m coming. Just give me a moment, please. I don’t— I don’t like this place.”

Alina stared at her. Like everyone in their family, Annalisa had reason to fear the guards, especially after what had happened with Edward Lynn. But Alina had never seen her this frightened before. Just a few hours earlier, they had been in a courtroom surrounded by guards, and Annalisa had seemed unafraid. “What’s wrong?”

It was several seconds before Annalisa answered. Her lower jaw trembled, and she clenched her teeth, pressing her lips tightly shut.

“Last time I was here,” she whispered, “it was to identify the body of my best—”

She stopped and clamped a hand over her mouth.

“—of my best friend.” She jerked her head suddenly, letting her thick black hair cover her face, but Alina had already seen the tears rolling down her cheeks. She stepped backwards, disconcerted. In the weeks since their mother’s death, she and Quinn had both frequently burst into tears without warning. The twins, too young to understand what was going on and where their parents were, screamed almost constantly, hitting and biting anyone who tried to console them. Dee and Tony wavered between crying silently and bickering with each other. Michael shut himself up in his room, emerging only at night to wander the halls like a ghost.

Yet through it all, Annalisa had remained quietly cheerful. She soothed the twins with songs and a smile, ignoring the angry slaps and bites that came her way. She told stories of Jonna, happy stories that made everyone laugh through their tears. She encouraged Alina, listened to Quinn, comforted her in-laws. Amidst all the grieving, Annalisa was the one spark of light, the one dependable thing in Alina’s life.

It had never occurred to Alina that her aunt was grieving, too.

“It’s— it’s okay,” she said softly, reaching out to touch Annalisa’s shoulder. “You don’t have to come with me. I can see Dad alone.”

“No.” Annalisa wiped her face on her sleeve, gasping for breath. “No, I can’t make you go alone—”

“I’d rather go alone,” Alina said quickly. “No— no offense. I just want to talk to him in private.” It wasn’t exactly true– she would have preferred to have Annalisa’s company in the cold darkness of the prison. But her aunt’s shoulders were heaving, and she could tell she was only seconds away from full-out sobbing. She couldn’t ask her to go any further.

“I give you my word, I’ll take good care of her.” Captain Parker’s voice startled Alina. She had almost forgotten the guard was there. “There’s a bench just outside the station if you’d prefer to wait there.”

Annalisa hesitated, then nodded. She clasped Alina’s face in her hands and kissed her forehead before pulling away and giving a forced smile.

“Tell your dad I said hi, okay?”

“I will,” Alina promised. And with that, Annalisa turned on her heel and fairly ran out of the guard station, where Alina knew she would finally allow herself to break.

After a moment’s pause, Captain Parker cleared her throat. “If you’re ready to follow, Miss Fletcher—?”

“I am!” Alina scrambled after her, and together they moved down the hallway to the room where Alina and Bram had visited Nathaniel before. Captain Parker reached for the door handle, then stopped.

“Miss Fletcher, before you see your father, might I have a word?”

“A word?” Alina scrutinized her, trying to decide whether that was good or bad. The guard’s face betrayed no clues. “I guess so.”

“Thank you.” The captain took a deep breath, then let out a long sigh. “I won’t beat around the bush. I’m worried about your father. He’s a good man, but I fear he hasn’t been entirely… honest about his circumstances.”

Honest about his circumstances? He was on trial for Jonna’s murder– what more was there to be honest about? Alina let out a nervous laugh. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Captain Parker didn’t seem to have heard her. “I’m not saying I blame him, mind you,” she said. “In fact, in the same circumstances, I might have— yes, I really think I might have done the same. Any parent would have. You do what you have to do to protect your children, no matter the cost.”

The hair on Alina’s arms prickled, and an uneasy chill filled her stomach. “Protect your children?” she repeated. “Protect us from what? What are you talking about?”

“You were so excited about your appeal,” Captain Parker continued. “I’m sure he did what he thought was best– allowed you to succeed. And I’m sure it was worth it! Now you’ll be a Citizen. You’ll have a wonderful life and a bright future ahead of you. It’s just— it’s a pity he won’t be there to see it.”

“What are you talking about?” Alina’s voice cracked, although she tried to keep it steady. She hated to admit it, but the captain was scaring her.

Captain Parker was silent for a long time. “Your father has no chance of winning his trial tomorrow, Miss Fletcher,” she said finally. “He’ll be found guilty no matter what happens. And thanks to your successful appeal—”

She stopped and looked Alina right in the eyes.

“—thanks to your appeal, I’d say it’s almost certain he’ll be executed.”

 

 


© Copyright 2019 KathrynAcacia. All rights reserved.

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