June buried her head between her knees and remained that way for hours. The murderer of her parents had been at arm’s reach this entire time. She’d interlaced her fingers with the same hands that murdered Mum and Pops in their sleep. He had, himself, slept vulnerable in her arms. And she had slept in his. She kissed him. He kissed her.
“How long have you known?” she finally asked. When Kensington didn’t answer, she looked up from the floor. It had been hours since anyone had spoken. The cellar had dimmed to almost pitch black once Lexifer had put out the torches, but somehow her eyes adjusted. She could see the shape of Kensington’s white face, almost floating, as he paced the bars.
“If you knew, you would have killed him,” Kensington said evenly.
“And I wouldn’t have had to come all this way,” she said, voice hissing in the silence. “And I would have been in Hastings to protect my brother, instead of kissing the monster that killed my parents—how the hell could he kiss me knowing I was the daughter of people he murdered?”
“This is bigger than you,” Kensington said. He was standing with his back to her, hands on his hips, as if he felt that’s what a wise old cowboy should do at a time like this. Jackass. He stared straight out of the bars into the darkness. “And if you killed him, it would have been illegal.”
“Illegal maybe…but not immoral,” she said, sickened at repeating one of the first sentences the prisoner ever said in front of her. She was the prisoner now. A man in one of the smaller holding cells sang around the corner as a welcome interruption.
“Convicting lawbreakers has nothin’ to do with convictions,” he said. “A six-year-old girl was just in your cell for alcohol possession—a law set in place to protect the people. They guillotined the kid. It’s about revenue, not the actual people.”
A flare shined down from the floorboards above and the metallic hinge yawned upstairs. Lexifer’s voice was the first she recognized.
“I do not care for being summoned out of bed at this hour, Captain,” Lexifer said. He entered the concourse with a forward hunch to his posture that fit into the hard angle of his chair, letting his face hang perfectly over the desktop.
“This cannot wait until morning,” the Captain said, his mustache lifted with his words like a third eyebrow. “It’s Wesley Chambers.”
“Let there be light,” Lexifer sighed, remaining still. Fire popped at the end of a long match in the Captain’s hand. She pressed herself against the bars to see. The match was carried around the cellar, leaving the smell of sulfur hanging in the air.
And there he was with a guard at each elbow. His eyes searched the cells until finding hers. He had an unsure grin on his face, but she made damned sure he could read her expression. He looked away. The guards brought him to the desk and remained coolly silent as they processed him as a prisoner.
“Shall we alert Gallows—erm—King Gallant,” the Captain stammered, still a bit of drowsiness beneath his eyes.
Lexifer’s quill paused on the parchment.
“Are you implying King Gallant is in any way affiliated with Jimmy Gallows?” Lexifer asked, looking up at the Captain. “If you’re to make an accusation like that, Captain, you better have bone solid evidence to bring before parliament. Otherwise, the next document I’m drawing up will concern heresy.”
Lexifer ran the feather of his quill over the handle of the Captain’s sword. The Captain stepped away as though tickled unpleasantly.
“Just a slip of the tongue, Magistrate.”
“Things that slip are often lost, Captain,” Lexifer said boredly. “You’ll do right to remember that.”
White faced, the Captain led a calm Chambers into their cell and closed the latch. The arresting party left, turning out the lamps once more. As her eyes readjusted to the lightless cell, she watched Chambers shrug his constrained arms backwards up over his head in a jointed arc of his shoulders.
June’s footsteps echoed throughout the dungeon. His eyes remained down. She lifted his chin gently with her index finger, until every swirling green pigment in those eyes aligned with hers.
“You killed my parents,” she said. Her fingers gripped the nape of his neck, pinching tightly up under the corners of his jawbone. He didn’t raise his hands up to guard himself. She fisted him across the face. Specks of blood dotted the corner of his mouth. Kensington corralled her back to the other side of the cell. She spoke around him, “Did you feel that.”
The prisoner didn’t raise his arms to the hot mark on his cheek. He hadn’t even blinked.
“Yes I did,” Chambers finally said, scraggly hair hung like knives over his face. “I’m here to save you, June.”
“Do not say my name ever again.”
“I love you.”
Sheriff stepped back from the bars.
“If you as much as think another courtly ambition I will run you through with the first object in reach,” an excited Kensington said. “Not that it would matter though, would it, with the guillotine’s date so near.” Sheriff turned to her with a reassured look. “I know you don’t like me June, but you’re going to have to trust that I’ve always wanted what was best for you.”
“You lay with a girl, knowing her entire family is dead by your doing. Evidently, I mean absolutely,” her voice broke, “nothing to you. The best you can do for this world is leave it. I pity Hell for having to lodge you.”
“Don’t worry, I will be dead within the day,” Chambers said, “That’s my plan.”