“All right,” Brayden says. “Here’s what’s going to happen now. While I get everything set up for the transfer, you’re going to go back to the holding cell for a bit. It could take anywhere from ten minutes to a couple of hours to get this done, so I need you to just sit tight and not cause any problems. Remember, any of these people could be called on to testify against you in court, so you want to leave a good impression.”
“I have been a model prisoner!” I protest. “I haven’t so much as run a tin cup along the bars while yelling, ‘Jailer, we’ve got a sick man in here!'”
Brayden looks at me earnestly and says, “Dan, I need to hear you say that you’ll stay calm. This is the difference between me driving you to the psychiatric evaluation center and you being taken there in cuffs in the back of a police van.”
I raise my hands placatingly. “Okay, got it. I’ll keep quiet.”
Brayden starts to stand up from the table and I add, “Can I whistle ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ the whole time, at least?”
He gives me a look that’s half-exasperated, half-concerned.
“Just a joke!” I assure him. “Man. Tough crowd.”
A short escorted trip back down the hallway sees me locked back in the holding cell, and McMannis presumably off filing paperwork or making calls or whatever he has to do to get me transferred. I sit on the bench and think about the next seventy-two hours.
Potentially, this is a good thing. It gets me out of jail, so that’s a pretty good start no matter how you look at it. Admittedly, it puts me in a different kind of jail, but it’s one where not only will the people not ignore me, it’s actually their job to talk to me. So that’ll give me a chance to explain my story.
Now, there’s a very real concern that this whole move is being orchestrated by Ichabot. He’s clearly got an in with the judge, as evidenced by the immediate restraining order against me. Probably it’s suggestion-nano based, but maybe it’s just good old-fashioned political influence. Heck, for all I know, he’s got the judge running nanos of his own like Tanger was, in which case the guy’s totally in his pocket.
I think this is the sort of speculation I’ll keep to myself for the time being. If the psych doctor asks me “How did you get here?” and I tell him that a judge corrupted by scientifically improbable robots was in thrall to a mad scientist, the rest of my story’s going to be a hard sell. I’d do better to lead with something else.
I wonder if they serve coffee in the asylum? I bet they probably don’t. Riles up the patients or interferes with their meds or something. I’m going to get pretty riled if I can’t have any coffee tomorrow morning, though. In the movies, when the patient’s having an interview with the doctor, the doctor usually has a cup of coffee on his desk. Maybe I can coax some out of him then.
Are you even supposed to call it an asylum these days? Maybe that’s prejudicial language. “Looney bin” is the replacement term that keeps coming to mind, though, and I’m sure that’s not better. “Psych ward” is probably the acceptable language. I can ask the doctors.
With an effort, I haul my train of thought back on track. So, assume that I’m going to the psych ward because Ichabot wants me there. That means I’ll have an uphill battle convincing the doctors that I’m sane, since he could have already given them the belief that I’m not. But these guys are supposed to be able to set their preconceived notions aside, right? And I’ve demonstrated many times that talking with someone infected with suggestions from the nanos, reasoning with them and letting their mind see the contradictions, is the best way to counteract them. So this is really a perfect scenario for me.
For certain values of perfect, anyway. I’m being sent from jail to a mental hospital to try to prove I’m not a terrorist. “Perfect” might not the best word to describe any part of this situation.
That said, I don’t actually have any other options right now, so I suppose it’s as perfect as it’s going to get.
I cool my heels for maybe another half-hour or so before Brayden comes striding back into view, accompanied again by Erica, the female police officer who took me to make my phone call. She motions for me to come to the edge of the cell.
“Turn around, hands behind you,” she says, and I oblige. She slips handcuffs around my wrists and locks them into place.
Behind me I hear my lawyer say, “Is this really necessary?”
“Protocol,” says the cop. “Besides, it’s for your protection. If he becomes violent, you’ll be glad that he’s cuffed.”
“I’m sure that’s not going to be an issue,” says Brayden.
I turn around in time to see Erica shrug as she unlocks the cell door.
“You can’t ever be sure of anything in this job,” she says.
Processing out of the police station is a surprisingly painless process. They make McMannis sign a half-dozen pieces of paper, but the end result is that in just a few minutes, he’s got my wallet, keys and phone in a Ziploc bag and we’re walking out the front door. I’ve still got my hands cuffed behind me, but otherwise this is a big improvement in my day.
Stepping outside is psychologically huge. A tension leaves me, one I hadn’t even realized had settled in. I bask in the bright sunshine, look up at the cloudless sky, and take a deep breath in relief.
“Feel better?” Brayden asks, noticing my posture shift.
“Immensely,” I say.
“All right, good. This is my car over here. It’s going to be about an hour to the hospital, so be prepared to settle in for a while.”
He opens the back passenger door for me. “The backseat?” I ask.
“Yeah, it’s what they recommend. Something about the airbags, I think. Maybe it’s hard to get free of them if your hands are cuffed? I’m not totally sure.”
“Oh, so instead I should just bounce my face off of the headrest?” I say, getting into the car. Brayden leans across me to fasten the seat belt.
“How about I just don’t get into an accident?” he suggests.
“Isn’t the nature of accidents that they’re, you know, accidental?”
“Ah,” he says, straightening up, “they may be accidents, but you can avoid them on purpose.”
He closes the door and walks around to the driver’s side. As he’s getting seated, I say, “That sounds like a fortune cookie.”
“Close,” he says. “Driving school.”
“Hey, speaking of, you’re driving me all the way out there yourself? I’m surprised you didn’t pass the job off to someone more junior.”
Brayden laughs. “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more junior than me at my firm.”
Sounds like Simmons couldn’t get the big guns out for me, then. I can’t think of a tactful way to say anything about that, though, so after a short pause, I change the subject.
“You seem awfully calm for someone who’s got a potentially crazed terrorist in his backseat,” I say.
“Allegedly crazed, alleged terrorist,” he says, and I can see him smiling in the rearview mirror.
“So you don’t believe I’m guilty? Or crazy?”
“It’s my job to believe you, and to get other people to do the same.”
“But what do you personally think?”
“I don’t think about it personally at all. My opinions don’t come to work with me. Work is just for facts, and what they can do for us.”
“Have you ever had a guilty client?” I press.
He shrugs. “I’ve had some who’ve been found guilty, or who plea-bargained. I don’t pass judgment. They’ve got judges for that.”
I can’t really think of anything to say in response to that, and apparently neither can Brayden, as the conversation lapses again.
“Radio?” he says after a moment.
“Sure, whatever you like to listen to is good for me,” I say.
He turns it on and flips to a local mix station. “No satellite radio?” I ask.
“Like I said, junior lawyer. I’ll spend money on satellite radio once I’ve paid off my law school bills.”
For the next fifteen or twenty minutes, we let the radio do the talking for us. After a few songs, the DJs take over to do the lunchtime news announcements. I’m only half-paying attention until a name I recognize catches my ear.
“In weird news, serial arsonist Vince Amano attempted to escape from prison this morning.”
Vince is one of my previous nemeses, the guy who could grow clones of himself out of non-living matter. It’s kind of funny that they put him away for serial arson, since although he was involved in a lot of fires, I was the one starting them. In my defense, it was to contain him. I suppose it’s a lot easier to put someone in jail for burning down the police station than it is to convict them for illegal cloning.
“According to reports, Amano dug entirely through the wall of his cell to escape. The security cameras at the prison show him running naked across the yard, only to be stopped by the fences. Maybe the hole wasn’t big enough to get his clothes through, too!”
Brayden laughs, but I feel a chill in my stomach. Vince’s clones always showed up naked; he couldn’t clone clothing or any sort of accessories, only himself. So if there’s a hole in his cell wall, a naked version of him outside, and no outcry about how they seem to have two of him in custody now, then there’s a very good chance that the real Vince actually did make his escape this morning.
Last time I saw him, he tried to beat me to death, while I asphyxiated him. You could say that we didn’t part on very good terms. So if he’s suddenly gotten his powers back and escaped at the same time as I’m heading to be locked up, that seems like a bad thing for me. And when you consider that Ichabot is probably the one behind getting me sent to the asylum and therefore knows exactly where I am, it looks a lot like I’ve just had a guided missile pointed in my direction.
Ichabot stripped me of my powers, but they never quite go away entirely. And in this case, a tiny bit of disintegration is all I need. Touching as many fingers as I can to the handcuffs, I focus on loathing them as deeply as I can. The lack of freedom, the physical discomfort, the entire situation that they represent — I pour it all out until, with a whispered clink, I hear the chain fall free of one wrist.
McMannis is approaching a stoplight, which is perfect. I have an urge to apologize for what I’m about to do, but I really don’t want him to have any warning. So I sit quietly, still pretending to be cuffed, right up until the light turns green again. As he’s putting his foot on the gas, I throw the door open, yell “Sorry!” over my shoulder and jump out into the road.
Car horns blare and I hear McMannis yelling, “Dan! DAN!” behind me, but I’m sprinting for cover and not looking back.