Friday, April 19, 2013

Day Four-Hundred-Forty: Let's talk

I have to admit that maybe I've been a bit harsh on Jeffrey. Certainly harsher than I was when we had Evangelina under lock and key.

My memories of the aftermath are a little vague, now, but after I rammed in Jeffrey's face with my fists I recall ordering someone, anyone, to put him in chains. Given his frail, dishevelled form I think that may have been overkill, and when I visited him this morning I knew at once that'd I'd made a mistake.

Jeffrey, once an king and now a criminal, was dressed from head to toe in hard-binding steel. I don't know who did the deed (possibly Horace the Blacksmith - he showed up in town a few weeks ago, did I mention that?), but they'd managed to construct a complex amalgam of chains, bars and handcuffs to keep Jeffrey locked in a rigid, upright position, pinned against the left wall of his prison. He couldn't sit, he couldn't lay down, he couldn't move his hands to get at the plate of food that had been haphazardly thrown at his feet.

I cringed at the smell of the room. Apparently he also couldn't relieve himself anywhere other than his pants. Grabbing a key off of the wall beyond the bars, I opened the door and set Jeffrey free, undoing the many clasps that kept Jeffrey in place. He tumbled onto the floor in a heap, shuddering and grasping for an upturned cup that still had a tiny pool of water inside.

I was disgusted. Shutting the door again, I went downstairs, into the Beefiary, and got Jeffrey a proper meal. Nothing fancy, just a cut of beef, some bread, a heap of mashed potatoes, and a big cup of water. Bora passed the food to me without comment - we've been real weird around each other lately.





So, Jeffrey.

He was still licking at the cup's insides when I came back in. He hadn't been given any water the whole time he'd been locked up. Hell, apparently barely anyone even bothered to look in on him. Guess I underestimated the hate for the man in Pubton.

"Thank… you…" he rasped, accepting the cup and shakily lifting the water to his lips. Forgetting my anger in a fit of humanity, I helped him. "Agh. Ah. That's… that's much better. Dr… Dragomir, was it…?"

Leaving the plate of food on the floor, I closed the cell door and sat outside. "Yeah. Finally remembered my name, huh?"

He nodded, slowly lifting himself onto the bed and the plate onto his lap. "Yes… you were one of the guards. Everything from back then… a bit hazy… but I remember that. You… you did that thing… with my dragon…"

The flight. I remembered. "Yeah. Barrel. Or, uh, what was that dumbass name you gave him? Apocalyptor? Very classy."

Jeffrey winced. He chewed on his piece of meat in silence, legs together, shoulders hunched, head down, eyes on the plate. He seemed incapable of looking me in the face, suggesting to me that he remembered more than he let on.

"There's going to be a trial." I paused a few moments, gathering my thoughts. "You did a lot of bad things."

Jeffrey's mouth opened, twisted, uttered a few nonsense syllables, closed again. He kept chewing.

"There will be a judge. And a jury. And a sentence. S'more than you ever gave anyone else, but that's what you'll get. You understand that?"

He nodded.

"You can… get a lawyer. Or something. I guess your wife can do that." I cleared my throat. "In case you're wondering, she's not on trial or nuthin'."

"I figured. I'm glad."

I thought back to the life-sized doll of Daena I'd seen more than a year prior. I believed him. "Yeah. So… um… all this is up to me, you know. It's kinda my call. If I don't want there to be a trial… well, people will be mad, but… there won't be one."

"But you want a trial."

"… yeah. But… I'm willing… to give you a chance. To… to see if you have a good excuse."

He looked up, but he still wouldn't look at me. His gaze rested on the wall behind my head. "An excuse?"

"Yeah. Like… did The Baron make you do everything…. everything you did?" A dim sense of building heat tickled the back of my neck. "The executions? The tortures? The stupid decrees, like that shit about standing in one place all day? Or wearing weird socks? Or… or… or the hole? Was that all his fault? Did he make you do everything?"

His knees shook, and he bit his lip. I swear I heard him mutter 'the penguin, the penguin' under his breath.

"Who was it? Did they make you do anything? Or did you do it all yourself? If you don't give me an answer you'll go to trial, and even though I really want that I also really don't want that, so gods dammit give me an answer, please, just… please! Did you do all of that yourself?"

His body quaked. He looked like he was on the verge of a complete breakdown.

I didn't care. I couldn't take it. I leaped out of my chair and grabbed the bars, aware of the heat, of the slight burn on Jeffrey's cheek, of my hotter-than-usual hands, wondering why, why the hell did that keep happening? What the hell was, what the hell is, wrong with my gods-be-damned fingers? "TELL ME! DID YOU DO ALL OF IT? IS EVERYTHING YOUR FAULT? DID YOU TORTURE US BECAUSE YA FOUND IT FUN? OR FUNNY? YOU SICK FUCK, TELL ME WHY YOU TREATED YOUR SUBJECTS LIKE GARBAGE!"

Jeffrey yelped and fell back on the bed, clutching for the covers. I raged against the bars of the enclosure, sorely tempted to grab the key off of the wall again and give him another gap in his teeth. To make him burn.

The rage only subsided when he began to cry and whimper, his stinky rear end waving pitifully in the air as he shoved his head under the blankets. He is a beaten and broken man, more than I thought, and I suspect - based on what he said - that Jeffrey's been fragmented ever since he established his castle.

"It was the voice!" he cried, forming a knot of old wool and cotton around his head. "The voice! Always… always saying… do this, do that… make them… hop on one foot… today… run and dance… the next… arrest if they don't, arrest if they do… policies, policies, I just… draw a tiger… drawing… there, the voice, ever since that day… from the pit, the chasm… the day my wife got stuck…"

"What?" A current of shock shot through my brain and dulled the anger. "Wife… got stuck? What do you mean?"

"The voice!" Jeffrey howled again. "The voice! The voice! First just in my head, then… then the penguin… gods, oh, gods, the penguin, he told me… he made me play… always playing, always testing… the thing in the dark, the thing with the bleached skull and the green eyes… promised, he, they, it… promised… the hole… it would make the voice go away, make me a real king… but… now… not a king… voice is gone, but… king… no… everything… everything, chasm, chasm…"

He collapsed into the bed. I listened a while longer, trying to ask questions, not understanding the non-answers he offered in reply. Eventually, disgusted and confused, I left. I learned later that he ranted for almost three hours before falling asleep. Maybe under normal living conditions he'll be more lucid, and I ordered him regularly fed, watered and clothed to make sure that happens.

The trial goes forward. Jeffrey is disturbed, but he needs to be judged. And I know just the person to ask.


Dragomir the Mayor

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