As soon as they got back to Headquarters, Tristan ushered Adelaide off to get changed and clean herself up. New clothes had been procured for her and she dressed quickly, using the screen as privacy. Once she was ready, Melia appeared to have a look at her leg and, after giving a nod and a smile of approval, she handed Adelaide some painkillers, advising her that these should be the last ones she needed, before helping her back to the lift lobby.
Tristan was waiting outside the conference hall for her, dressed in black linen suit trousers, pressed to perfection, and a crisp white shirt. His mop of brown hair was brushed and his stubble had been trimmed. She noticed for the first time just how taut and muscular he was and she felt her stomach do a backflip as she took him all in.
He smiled gently as he saw her and reached out to take her arm.
“You ready?” he asked softly, his eyes warm as he looked down at her.
“Yes,” she breathed, facing the doors. He nodded and, reaching out, knocked steadily three times. The doors were opened on both sides by guards who bowed curtly to them as they entered.
Adelaide glanced around as they walked to the centre of the room. The broken window had already been replaced and any trace of a fracas had long since been removed. A handful of guards stood at various intervals around the room and she recognised a couple from the training room with Dekker. That had only been earlier this afternoon, but it now seemed like a lifetime away. The two guards that had been present at the incident were also there and they came to a stop next to them. A small group of people were standing off to one side and Adelaide smiled in greeting as she spotted Daphne and Delores, the latter seated at a small desk with a laptop open in front of her.
Dekker’s seat was empty as Adelaide looked up at the platform. Atian gave her a sly nod, the light from the windows reflecting on his greasy black hair and she felt anger rising in her at the sight of him.
There came another knocking behind them and Adelaide heard the doors opening again.
“Ah,” Atian said, rising to his feet and giving a deep, pretentious bow, “Acting Chancellor Grey, thank you for coming on such short notice.”
“It was no trouble. Besides, I was the closest to you at the time.” The voice that carried from behind was soft and gentle-sounding but held an unmistakeable air of authority. The accent was English and well-spoken, indicating an educated person. Quick, pronounced footsteps echoed on the wooden floor as the Acting Chancellor walked past them towards the platform. Adelaide felt Tristan tense next to her and she shot him a confused glance. He didn’t notice, however. His eyes were fixed with a curious expression on the man that stood before them.
Acting Chancellor Grey was a tall, slender, well-groomed man in a spotless charcoal three piece suit, his thick black hair closely cropped and shining, his face clean shaven and youthful. Everything about him made him look professional but behind the sharp intelligence of his brown eyes lay was a kindness there. A sharp shock seemed to pass over him as he saw Tristan but he recovered quickly, turning to look with obvious disdain at a still-bowing Atian.
“For heaven’s sake stand up straight man, you look pathetic,” he snapped, his voice as crisp as his suit. Atian stood, a blush running lightly over his drawn cheeks before fading again. Adelaide couldn’t help but feel a slight inclination towards this man. Turning, he addressed them all.
“For those of you who are unfamiliar with me,” his gaze lingered on Adelaide for a moment, “my name is Jonathon Grey. I was Chancellor of the East Anglian core in Great Britain before circumstances forced me to step down.” Again, Tristan tensed and Adelaide squeezed his arm gently. He shook his head in a gesture that indicated that whatever was bothering him would wait and, reluctantly, she let it go. “Now, as I have only just arrived, I have not yet been briefed on what has happened, so I must confess to winging it a little. I have been told merely that Chancellor McGordon has been wounded and is currently in a critical condition in your hospital facility. Therefore,” Grey sat down gracefully in the central seat, taking care not to crease his clothing, “I would be obliged to anybody willing to enlighten me.”
Atian, who was almost falling over himself to be gracious, began to explain the situation to Grey. As Adelaide listened, something tugged at the back of her mind. This man’s name was familiar somehow, she was certain she had seen it somewhere and now, as she looked at him, it clicked. Jonathon Grey. He had written the foreword on the book of laws. She felt her heart sink and now believed she understood why Tristan had tensed. He was well versed in the laws here, which probably meant he wouldn’t show any leniency. Tuning back in, she realised that Atian was near the end of the explanation.
“And that, my Chancellor, was when the accused struck, fragrantly disobeying Chancellor McGordon before shooting him in cold blood.”
“It wasn’t cold blood!” Tristan snarled before Adelaide could stop him. Grey turned his attention sharply to them and, as his and Tristan’s gaze met, the room seemed to darken. There was a deep tension there and everybody in the room could sense it.
“Mr O’Donnelly,” Grey said, his voice calm and even, “whilst I appreciate your passion in this matter, you will have your turn to speak. Now, however, is not that time. I think,” he turned to the guards that had opened the doors for them, “that we are ready to face the accused.”
“Bring forth Dekker Hjaldrsdottir!” Atian commanded. Adelaide wasn’t sure but she could have sworn that a brief look of panic came over Acting Chancellor Grey’s face and he sat back in his seat, crossing his arms and legs as though closing in on himself as the guards went into the small, darkened room that had previously held the goblin boy and brought Dekker out.
Her hands were still cuffed and a black cotton bag had been placed over her head. The guards brought her forward so that she was directly in front of the platform and made her kneel.
“That will not be necessary,” Grey commanded, motioning to the bag. He seemed to tense, bracing himself as it was removed and Dekker looked up.
“You…” she breathed, her eyes widening at the site of him. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“You will not address the Acting Chancellor in this manner,” Atian spat, looking for all the world as though he wanted to strike her. Grey held up his hand to silence him, however, and Atian sat back immediately. Even though he was slight, there was something captivating about Grey and he knew it.
“Uncuff her,” he commanded, “and let her stand.” The guard obeyed and she stood slowly, refusing to meet his eye and instead staring obstinately at the floor. “I have the privilege of a prior close acquaintance with the accused,” he admitted, making Adelaide give him her full attention, “and whilst her behaviour is often rash and unthinking, I find a cold and callous act such as you have described, Atian, to be difficult to believe. Our laws dictate that an act of treason demands the death penalty without trial. However, I must also obey the laws of my conscience and thus I decree that this matter will be thoroughly investigated.” There was a murmur from the onlookers and a few of the guards shifted uneasily where they stood.
“Sir,” Atian broached, “you need a special dispensation for that from the Divine Council…”
“Then I shall send for one. Until that time, the accused shall be relieved of her duties and consigned to house arrest. You will be allowed to use the training facilities here, though not the combat facilities,” he added pointedly, “and you shall be under guard at all times.”
“Sir…” Atian started again.
“Oh what now?” Grey sighed, thoroughly exasperated.
“I don’t think that house arrest is wise.” Grey turned to him and gave him a withering look.
“When I want your opinion, demon, I’ll give it to you. Until then, shut your slimy little mouth and stop kissing my arse, okay?” He raised his eyebrows in question and Atian nodded, cowed.
“Yes, sir,” he mumbled. Grey gave a snort of derision and turned back to Dekker.
“You will be placed under house arrest and that is final.” He turned his attention to Adelaide. “Young lady, I am given to understand by all this, that you no longer have a place to live?”
“Erm…” Adelaide stammered, confused. “Well, my home is wrecked but…”
“Then it is settled,” Grey interrupted decisively. “As you are currently without a home and Dekker here is confined to hers, you shall live with her until such as time as your home is fit for habitation.”
“Say what?” Dekker asked, more confused than indignant.
"Sir," Atian broached, his voice low, "is that wise? She is a witness in this matter, it would not be in the interests of true justice for her to stay with the accused." Grey seemed to consider this for a moment before looking at Adelaide.
"Once we finish here, you will go to the Chancellor's PA and you will give her your full statement. You will read through it, confirm that you are happy and wish to make no further amendments and then that will be the end of it. I will not call you as a witness in the trial, your statement shall suffice."
He then turned his gaze to Tristan.
"I am already aware of your living arrangements, therefore I would request that you do the same." Tristan nodded imperceptibly.
"But..." Atian began to protest. Grey silenced him with a withering look before focusing on a rather confused-looking Dekker.
“Whilst you are under house arrest, our guards will be positioned outside your property constantly. However, I know you and therefore you need someone trustworthy inside to watch you as well.” Now Dekker looked indignant. “Who better than a currently dispossessed young woman?” He looked from Dekker to Adelaide and back again and his expression told them that this wasn’t up for discussion. Reluctantly, they both agreed to the matter and Dekker was dismissed, taken back to her holding cell whilst secure transport could be arranged to take her home.
“Once I have the dispensation,” Grey advised, “I will call each of you witnesses to me separately to recount what has happened. In the meantime, I would like you each to write it down in as much detail as possible and give it to my PA. Not to you Atian,” he pre-empted as the other man opened his mouth to speak. “Until that time, you are not to speak of it to anybody, is that understood?” Tristan, Adelaide and the two guards nodded solemnly and each gave a bow.
With an absent gesture, Grey dismissed everyone but, as the onlookers started to mill out, Tristan stood still, Adelaide with him. Atian noticed this and went to speak but Grey silenced him at once.
“Leave us,” he said sharply, looking from his companion on the platform around to each of the guards. “All of you. I am quite safe.”
Reluctantly, they all filed out until only the three of them remained.
“Bit of a presumptive statement to make there,” Tristan said, his voice almost a low growl. Grey, however, was unperturbed.
“Do you have any plans to kill me?” he asked almost lazily.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Tristan responded honestly. Grey shrugged.
“Then, until you decide I’m safe. Besides, I reckon I could hold you off long enough to get some help back in here.” He had visibly relaxed a little and his voice lost some of its crispness. He looked at Adelaide, giving her the same scrutinising stare that Dekker had. His eyes flicked down to her crutch and back and he motioned lazily to Dekker’s chair. “Come, sit. It can’t be easy for you to stay standing like that.” She glanced up at Tristan who nodded and released her arm. He, however, stayed right where he was.
“What’s going to happen to her, Jack?” Tristan asked, his voice heavy with concern, the previous edge seemingly forgotten. Grey sighed.
“Honestly, mate? I don’t know. But believe me, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep her alive.”
“Excuse me,” Adelaide mumbled, now seated. “I know it’s probably none of my business, but…”
“How do we know each other?” Grey asked. “Well, you’re one of us now and you’re going to be living with Dekker for a while so I don’t see why you shouldn’t know.” He turned to Tristan. “Want to do the honours?”
“Do you remember me mentioning that Dekker lived in Norfolk, England, with her ex?” Adelaide nodded, her eyes widening as the penny dropped.
“That was you?” she gasped, looking across at Grey. Reaching over, he held his hand out to her.
“Jonathon Grey,” he announced, “but you can call me Jack.”
“Adelaide West,” she replied, shaking his hand, noting absently that he had a strong, firm grip.
“Blackwood line, right? I see it in your face. Just like your mother, only prettier.” He smiled warmly and she blushed. “Yes, Dekker and I were together for a long and often happy period of my life. That is, until I messed up.”
“Messed up?” Adelaide asked, knitting her brows.
“He cheated on her,” Tristan elaborated, the slight growl returning to her voice. “Hurt her really badly.” Adelaide, who couldn’t imagine anybody really hurting Dekker, was shocked. “At a guess I’d say it took her about six months to even say your name without breaking anything.” Jack seemed to wince at this but again he recovered. Adelaide now understood his reactions earlier.
“You didn’t know that it was her who was in trouble, did you?” she thought aloud. Jack shook his head.
“I would have passed it on if I had known. But now I’m here, I can’t really go back on it. Tris,” his voice lowered as though he were worried about eavesdroppers and Tristan had to lean in to hear him. “You have to believe me that I didn’t mean to hurt her. I loved her, I still do.”
“You love her?” Tristan asked, failing to keep the scorn from his voice. Jack nodded earnestly. “Then damned-well save her.”