What Else Would You Have Me Be?

Chapter 5

It was almost noon when Nate's phone rang, and he had it on speaker phone even before the woman on the line finished explaining that their call would be recorded, that the county would assign a lawyer for the defense if no other options are forthcoming, and a dozen other small, routine details. She sounded bored- probably did this a hundred times a day- but after a few excruciating minutes, Eliot was there on the line.

"Hey, guys. I didn't kill that guy." He sounded like he didn't know where to go from there, but Nate was already covering it.

"Hi Cody, he said, either reminding Eliot of the alias he was using, or reminding him to stay in character. "We saw the papers. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Locked up, they just got done charging me. Preliminary hearing is next week Tuesday."

"No worries. We've already arranged for a lawyer, her name is Tara Carlyle and she's on her way. And in the meantime, we're going to do everything possible to help you out, okay?"

"Yeah," Eliot said, and Alec could hear the thousand questions Eliot wanted to ask, but couldn't.

"Weird, man," Alec knew that he was disguising his voice to sound more incredulous than he was, but maybe he could get some information. "What's it like, they got you locked up inside, or are you out in one of those tent things they got out back?"

"Got my own cell, at least until they bring someone else in," he said. "They're only letting me outside for an hour or so on account of me not admitting to somethin' I didn't do. Aren't going to let me have any visitors besides my lawyer, at least not until after the first hearing, seein' as how they're not wild about me not talking."

"Keep it up, Cody,' Sophie instructed. "They're probably just trying to intimidate you. We're going to rearrange a few things to cover the work assignments for this week without you, but I'm sure once the hearing's come and gone you'll be back with us."

"Yeah, okay. Cool. Wish I could be there. But it looks like I gotta wrap this up, so…"

"Be careful, man," Alec said, as the others expressed similar sentiments, and it was Eliot who hung up first.


"You can't be serious," Sophie said, glaring at Nate. "We've got to get Eliot out- we can't leave him hanging on murder charges because of a job.

"We can't run a job to get Eliot out right now anyway, at least not the way we usually would. Arlington, and who knows how many others here in town- know our faces, that's why Sophie's got Tara flying in from Seattle- and if we blow our covers, we're not going to get another shot at him."

"And in the meantime?"

"In the meantime, we get information. Prepare for the worst. I want us to know every inch of the grounds so that if it comes down to it, we can get him out of there ourselves. I want a clean getaway, new aliases. We're probably going to need to fake his death as soon as this is done. I want to never come back here again. Is that clear?"

"Yeah, I hear you," Alec nodded. Despite himself, it didn't sound so impossible when Nate spelled it out like that. "What do you need us to do?"

"Yeah, when do we get to break in?"

"I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, Parker," Nate warned, but grinned. "Though we need you to start researching the buildings for when we inevitably do, so you and I are hitting libraries and country records for the next few days. Sophie? I need you to keep working the sheriff, and if you manage to make inroads with a few of the deputies, so much the better, and stay in the loop with Tara. Hardison?" Nate actually had the temerity to look apologetic.

"I know, man. Everything else."

"You let us know if there's anything you need."

"Right. What're you going to do?"

"Today? Sophie and I are going to keep tracking down more of Santiago's family, track down Branson and find out if any of them have heard anything. Tomorrow, I'm handling services at the church, and Sophie's going to round up support for the foundation. I'm going in Monday morning to spread the good word to the inmates, though I doubt I'll be able to see Eliot, though I'll see what I can do. In between, I expect we're going to be running around like panicked chickens, but let's try and keep our heads on, all right?"

"They run even after their heads have been cut off," Parker said, and Nate rolled his eyes.


By Sunday night, Alec had built two new identities for Eliot, strengthened all the others, and did a little finessing to keep the back door open into the County servers- they were more trouble than anything the FBI had ever come up with, gotta love that agency independence. He had a live feed of every addition and modification to every database in the department. He already had crawlers running through the system gathering data for Santiago's case, so it wasn't so hard to enter Eliot's into the program.

He'd crashed, hard, in front of the television after dinner.


Monday, he'd woken early, and maybe because there wasn't anything else to throw himself at, he started hacking his way back towards DC again. And he found it.

The police were looking into the warehouse fire again.

And three new faces had appeared at McRory's, though rarely at the same time, and they seldom passed more than polite, distant nods. Each sat alone, nursing no more than two drinks as they ignored their newspapers or watched traffic outside. Each had a cup of coffee or glass of water when their drinks were gone, stretching out their stay. They chatted with Cora and the rest of her staff, though so far, Cora hadn't called to warn them that something was up.

But she wasn't watching them like he was, and she didn't have face recognition software running for three hours and still coming up blank.

"Nate," he said, watching the face recognition run, hoping for a breakthrough. "I think we might have a problem.

"Actually, Hardison, we've got two. Arlington's canceling Wednesday."

"Well at least that means you'll survive the week," Alec sighed.

"I'll grab the others on my way over."


"So what's going on with Arlington?"

"The family of the deputy he killed scheduled the funeral for Thursday, and he's insisting that it would be in poor taste to go to a big party in the meantime."

"You mean he's actually got a heart?"

"Or a good political advisor," Sophie sneered. "We're back at square one."

"We're back a few weeks, is all," Nate said, but he didn't look very confident. "Hardison? What do you got?"

"I've got three guys watching McRory's," he said, pointing out the stills he'd isolated from the feed, still running in the background. "So far nobody's been upstairs, but-"

"Yeah, no. That's not ideal."

"How much you keep there?"

"Not much. But we don't need them getting comfortable."

"So what are we gonna do from here?"

"We can't exactly go back home," Parker pointed out.

Nate thought about it for a long while, pacing the room. "But we are going to need to get them gone. And we need to get Eliot out, bring down Arlington, and, in case everyone's forgotten why we're here, we've got to exonerate Jeanine Santiago."

"So how do we do all that?"

"Sophie? You heard from Tara?"

"She's already heading in to see Eliot."

"Okay. Parker, you're with me. Sophie, Hardison? You're staying here, but I want regular contact and your systems up and running for whatever we need."

"They always are," Alec muttered, trying not to sound indignant.

"Parker and I will go deal with these guys, and hopefully, we'll be back by Wednesday night, but in case we're not, Sophie, I need Ms. Trewlaney to work the event solo, and I'll tell the warden you're taking over prisoner outreach."

"As far as plans go, Nate, that's a little vague."

"I've got a long flight to come up with something better, and I'll call as soon as we're on the ground. Unless you've got a better idea?"

The three of them were silent.


Holding the phone to her ear, Tara waved through the glass, not yet coming inside. She was turning away, but Eliot could see the surprise on her face.

Surprise wasn't good. It meant that something was changing.

Eliot flexed his knuckles and tried to remain patient. Change didn't mean things were getting worse.

But when she sat down in the chair on the other side of the class, she was looking nervous.

Things are getting worse.

"Hello, Cody. My name is Tara Carlyle. I've been retained by Mr. Papadokalis to see you through this entire matter."

"How is Jimmy, anyway?"

"It seems he's been called away on business back home. Said there were some issues with oversight on one of his property investments. He's taking it up with parks and recreation, so he'll be gone for a few days."

Someone was watching his condo, and Nate had gone back with Parker to check up on it.

"Not that it matters," Eliot replied, glancing up at the cinderblocks. "It's not as if I'm going to be doing a whole lot of entertaining in here."

"No, I suppose not. Though if you'd like, I can petition the warden to allow you visitors once we've made some progress. As it is, he's willing to sign the paperwork that will allow you to attend services in the chapel, should you so choose. "Shall we get down to business?"


"Talk me through what happened the other night. Everything you remember." She set a digital recorder on the table in front of her. "Of course, everything you say will be held under client privilege, so please, speak freely."

Tara was good at prompting him with the details, leading him through exactly what she needed him to say. He admitted to stealing the car that had been found on the edge of Arlington's property, even followed her eyes as she adjusted her blue jacket to identify the car's color.

"Witnesses say that you appeared inebriated," Tara prompted, shaking her head just a bit. If this recording was going to sound solid, he needed to sound reluctant, even nervous, and so far, he'd been playing along a bit too well."

"I don't know, maybe," Eliot said. "Yeah. Maybe I was drunk enough to… accidentally get in the wrong car. I got lost. Realized I was weaving all over the road, so I pulled over. I don't know. Saw some lights, was gonna see about getting to a phone, calling…someone, I don't even know who. Just wanted to get back to the hotel."

'And what happened when you arrived?"

"I don't know. There was a lot of shouting coming from inside the house. I was going around to the front when these guys came out the back, talking real quiet. I didn't know what was going on, I just needed a phone. But when I went to talk to them, they just freaked. Next thing I knew, they were arresting me."

"You must realize a gun was recovered from the scene, that your prints were found all over it, and that they've got gunshot residue samples from your skin that indicate you'd fired it."

"I didn't, ma'am. They forced the thing into my hands. I was already cuffed, and they were, like squeezing my hands so I'd pull the trigger."

"Are you certain?"

"Yes. I. I've never even shot a gun before."

Tara winked, but as she leaned over the table, her voice was serious. "I'm afraid that if I'm going to represent you, you're going to tell me everything. And unfortunately, yours is not the only case that I'm working at the moment, so I'm going to come back Friday afternoon." She pushed herself up from the table, reaching for the recorder. "I'll go set up the visit right now. Meanwhile, I suggest you use the time to give some serious consideration to the information that you're willing to give me. It is your ass on the line, after all."

Eliot rolled his eyes. It didn't take remembering his role to manage the expression. "And if I don't?"

"Well? I'd suggest prayer."


Oddly enough, actually having been charged with a crime seemed to open a hell of a lot of doors, if only inside the jail.

Maybe Tara had finessed it, maybe they had better things to do than keep him in lockdown, but instead of going back to his cell after the meeting, he was led out to the mess. From the looks of things, the crowd was thinning out, and he grabbed a tray and went down the line, getting some beef thing in a greasy gravy, salty mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables that tasted a bit off. The roll was stale, to hard to even bother eating, but he inhaled the rest while sitting at an otherwise empty table.

The movies always got it wrong. There were no gangs staring him down, nobody trying to steal his food or turn him for cigarettes- apparently that particular economy had probably gone out with the smoking ban. Nobody was fighting or shouting or even looking up from their trays, mostly.

It didn't give him much chance to start a conversation, but he counted faces, made a point to notice which guys were sitting together and which ones weren't. There was still a network in place here, he just needed to find a back door in.

The realization that he was thinking like Hardison was jarring. It wasn't homesickness- Hardison wasn't home and he wasn't thinking about his house out on Hough's Neck, but.

Gone. He just wanted to get out of here before the hammer came down. And right now, Tara was out of play until Friday. Hardison was the only one working on it. Presumably.

Part of Eliot wondered if he could even count on that much. For all he knew, Hardison was spending all his time monitoring comms on the other side of the country, making sure his girlfriend was safe.

Which, yeah. That needed to happen too. There really wasn't much Hardison could do right now. All the hacking in the world wasn't going to wipe this away while the players- an entire sheriff's department- were still in the game.

Eliot just needed to be patient. And find out everything he could while he waited.


The guards came through to sweep everyone out so the next shift could come in- apparently he'd showed up during the second lunch shift. The other inmates were all filing out towards Tent City, but he was led back through his already full cellblock. When the guards came through to do count, McTeague, a heavyset guard with a beard and a bald spot, informed him that in the future, he'd be eating with first shift.

"How long until the yard, boss?" Big Dumb and Ugly sounded agitated, across the way.

"Two hours, Trent," McTeague said, already heading back down the block. "Why you always asking?"

Eliot glanced over at Trent's cell, noticed the new addition sitting shell-shocked on the edge of the lower bunk, sitting defensive and frozen, like he was trying to be invisible. Eliot thought about calling out, asking his name, or starting a conversation with Trent to distract him, but it didn't seem wise. Trent had gone back to the magazine he was reading, anyhow.

He had to find something to read, something to pass the time, soon. In the meantime, he started to stretch.


It was still raining, and there was a persistent drip coming through the kitchen ceiling that represented the height of their entertainment for the past two days. Thurston hadn't made a move yet, and Eliot was starting to wonder if the guy was actually that afraid of getting his thousand-dollar suit wet, or he knew that he was being watched.

Eliot switched out the pan again, dumping the water down the sink and setting the timer on his watch. He'd have to do it again in two hours.

Unless, of course, something actually happened.

But it was looking increasingly unlikely. Chapman was still staring out through the window, and he could hear Howler on the radio, checking in from his post on the other side of Thurston's block. Still nothing.

He still had three hours before it was his shift at the window, but his options for the meantime were slim. He was exhausted, but he'd barely moved in the past twelve hours, hadn't burned enough energy to sleep. The television would just lull him into a coma before his shift started, and it was bad enough listening to it playing low in the background. He wasn't hungry, and anyhow, their options were slim. They'd ordered out yesterday, though, and there was no need to alert Thurston that his neighbors were suddenly take-out fanatics. Pasta and canned sauce. Cold cuts and bread from the deli down the block. Not a lot of options, and he wasn't sure he was hungry.

He wandered back into the bedroom with a cursory "shout if you see anything," nearly getting a response from Chapman. Apparently he was starting to feel the exhaustion too, which at least meant he wasn't talking up that woman he'd met in Cairo anymore, or the expression on Colonel Workman's face when he went over the edge of the building in Havana. Eliot had been there. He didn't need to hear about it.

The tenement's bedroom was a dark, moldy smelling room with nicotine stains on the window and stains on the carpet, but Eliot had managed to sweep a portion of the floor clean- much to Chapman's amusement- and he sat down, undoing the button on his fly, as he began to stretch. Arms and back first, then legs.

It wasn't as if it were absolutely necessary. He was just doing a few sets to keep the blood flowing, not prepping for a full-scale attack on a secured bunker. It passed the time.

He could still hear the water dripping in the kitchen, and figured that if he got the chance, he'd take out Thurston himself, just for putting him through this.


The yard was hot, dusty and dry when he finally got out of his cell, blinking against the sunlight, and Eliot hadn't realized he'd had it so good. His cell wasn't the most comfortable, but it was much cooler than it was outside. He had to stop that line of thought, though. Next ones down the line would be actual contemplation of how long he'd be there- from what he'd gathered, it could be a while- but accepting that wasn't going to do him any favors.

There was a pathetic looking basketball hoop- missing the actual hoop- stuck in the dirt near the building, and a weight set that a few guys were using despite the heat. A few of the cons were walking the perimeter, stretching their legs, but most gathered in groups of three or four, shooting the breeze.

It was the only wind out there.

Eliot followed the general clockwise procession around the yard, keeping enough distance that he could hear what was happening all around him, and counting paces just for the hell of it.

The exercise yard was bordered to the north by the jail's southern wall, and to the east and west were the two subdivisions of Tent City. Both the yard and the subdivisions were surrounded in razor wire, with about ten feet between them, creating a corridor where guards armed with tasers patrolled unimpeded. On the outside were two or three more razor wire fences, and beyond that, the desert, where one of the chain gangs was out digging holes.

Each subdivision appeared to be housing about forty or fifty inmates. The walls of the tents were rolled up to let the nonexistent breeze through, and Eliot doubted very much that any of the residents were as enthusiastic about yard time as the ones living inside were. They slept on cots and though there were fans and a radio playing, somewhere, it looked more like a refugee camp than a jail.

At least until one looked at the people sitting in the shade, most of whom were staring back at him.

Hope you're entertained, 'cause I'm about to lapse into a coma.

If his suspicions were correct, Tent City was where the nonviolent offenders were kept, the local equivalent of minimum security, and many of them were watching the cons' circuits of the yard with undisguised curiosity.

They were doing a better job of it than the guards were, too. It was their agitation that Eliot was starting to pick up on first, and when he turned to walk along the western edge of the yard, he could see why.

Back over by the basketball hoop, a crowd was gathering, something was going down. Eliot wasn't the only one jogging over to get a better look.

Trent had his new cellie backed against the wall, flanked by two associates to prevent him from escaping. He was winding up to throw another punch when one of the guards, blowing a whistle, sauntered over to put an end to it.

Only he didn't, he was just watching. Like it was a football game or something.

The new guy was doing what he could. Now that he wasn't curled in on himself, it was clear that he worked out, sometimes, though he clearly wasn't a fighter. His hits weren't connecting and he was using a whole lot of energy trying to shove his way past the three. The bleeding cut above his eye wasn't doing him any favors, either. His nose was probably already broken.

Eliot made his way to the front of the crowd, still trying to decide whether or not to get involved.

Another punch to the nose- blood spurting everywhere, spattering Trent, soaking into the ground- was all Eliot needed. He stepped forward, keeping his hands visible and his eyes on Trent's associates.

And just like that, it was over, though it had nothing to do with Eliot. Two more guards had fought their way through the crowd and had their tasers out.

Surprisingly, that was enough. Trent backed off and his friends followed suit. As they moved back, the new guy slid down against the wall, rubbing at his face.

"You alright?" Eliot asked, glancing over to where the guards were rounding on Trent and his cronies, telling them to get on the ground.

"Me? Oh, I'm wonderful," the man rolled his eyes, wincing as he tried to catch his breath. "In case things weren't bad enough, yeah?"

"Guess not." Eliot reached out a hand to help the guy up, not particularly caring if the ridiculous clown suit they'd given him to wear got a little blood on it. "I'm Cody," he said, after reminding himself. "In the cell across from yours. What's your name?"

"Priestly. Donovan Priestly." He was a little shaky on his feet, but for all the hits he took, he seemed lucid enough. "Yeah. Seen you earlier. Thanks," he said, and if he'd been meaning to continue, he was cut off by the sudden appearance of a guard, who shoved Eliot out of the way and backed Donovan back into that same wall.

Eliot clenched his fists, but let it slide.

There wasn't much he could do, anyhow.


After the fight, the block had gone on lockdown, and Eliot didn't see Donovan again until Thursday, when McTeague ushered him back onto the block from the medical wing. Instead of putting him in Trent's cell, though, they stopped in front of Eliot's.

"Cody, you're getting a new roommate. I take it you two have met?"

"Yeah," he replied, stepping back into the cell as McTeague opened the door, keeping his face neutral. Trent was still across the way, well within glaring distance, and lockdown wasn't going to last forever. As soon as it ended, Eliot needed to get out and get some information beyond what he'd been hearing through the bars. He needed to actually start making some contacts. Useful contacts.

Donovan wasn't likely to be on that list any time soon.

"Lockdown's being lifted after dinner tonight," McTeague said, turning to glare at Trent. "I see any more shit, I don't care who starts it, you're all heading to isolation, got that?"

"Yes sir," Trent said from his cell, sounding suitably upbraided.

"Well, until then, I'll leave you two to get to know each other."


The worst thing was, Donovan wanted to talk. Wanted to know what Eliot was in for, and hell, it didn't matter, so he gave him the overview, explaining that he was framed. Donovan didn't look like he was buying it, though, and was more than happy to let the conversation be turned back on to him.

"I think I killed this lady, I don't know," Donovan winced, prodding thoughtlessly at his nose and looking mostly like the shock was just setting in again, like he was just remembering how doomed he was. It set Eliot's teeth on edge just looking at him. "She just ran out from between two cars and I didn't see her. I freaked and ran. It was stupid. Heard about it on the news this morning, and. Yeah. Turned myself in. Fuck, I probably should've run, you know?" He dragged a hand through his hair. "I'm so screwed, man."

"Least it was an accident," Eliot shrugged, wishing that Sophie were on the line, telling him how to respond. "They think I did the deputy on purpose."

And that had done the trick. Donovan clearly didn't want the reminder of who he was sharing a cell with, and was quiet for the rest of the afternoon. Eliot caught him, once or twice, catching quick sidelong glances. Wary, as if he were a bomb just waiting to go off.

At least Hardison had just ignored him.

After a few hours, they were all released for dinner, which was disgusting- the chicken tasted more like fish than anything- but the lockdown was over, he could stretch his legs on the block a bit, even if he hadn't managed to shake Donovan yet.

When the announcement came over the PA to say that services were about to begin, he remembered Tara's words, and got up.

"You religious?" Donovan sounded surprised, a little nervous at the prospect of being left alone.

He bit back his first response, that he wasn't anybody's port in the storm, but held back. "Gotta believe in something, right?" And Eliot wasn't lying. Right now, looking at Donovan's bruised face, seeing the reminder of how shitty things could get in here, he needed to believe that right now, in the chapel on the other end of the building, Sophie was waiting.


She pulled it off well, going over the reading from the Bible like she was born to it- and for all Eliot still knew about her, maybe she had, but it was making Eliot impatient. He'd grabbed a seat up front, earning a grin that Sophie hadn't even tried to hide, but she was keeping it cool.

There were a dozen other guys in here, sitting in three rows, and as she led the discussion from her chair up front, she seemed to be giving each of them her full attention.

Closing her Bible, she began the discussion, handling most of it herself. The crowd wasn't particularly responsive. Thankfully, though, she didn't single Eliot out for comment. He really hadn't been listening.

There was a flash of humor in her eyes as her last attempts at conversation fell flat, and she finally began to wrap things up.

"Before we go back to our naps" she smiled, and Eliot twisted in his seat to see the guy in the next cell over being shaken awake, "I would like you all to promise me that you'll meditate on what we discussed here this evening. And if you would like to go over what we've read, you'll find the Bibles on the book truck where they always are. I've prepared a list and made copies for everyone. See me on your way out if you'd like a copy.

Eliot hung back, making a show of stretching, but the guards were there and would easily see his hesitation, so he got in line to file out. The guy in front of him accepted a copy in resignation, and Eliot affected the same stance, feeling a shift of paper underneath his copy, something folded, slightly thicker."

"Thanks," he said, slowing down. "How often you do this?"

"Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and I also attend the afternoon service with the Pastor. You should come back next week, we're starting an informational series on resources for adapting once you've been released."

"Don't know. Looks like I'll be in here a while."

"Now, no thinking like that," she grinned again, and it felt real even if it looked deliberately vague. "I'm sure you'll be out more quickly than you think. In the meantime, read this. It'll help."

Eliot walked out before the guards could say anything, before he could do the stupid thing he was thinking about. Hugging Sophie wouldn't go over so well. Not here. But he really wanted to.


He grabbed a paperback from the cart in the hall, not even looking at the title beyond checking to make sure it wasn't some bodice-ripper thing. It didn't matter. He had something more important to read.

The note was folded in four, and he shoved it inside the book as he made his way back to his cell.

"How was it?" Donovan asked, and Eliot gave him Sophie's printout while holding up the book. "There's a cart down the hall, think you've got time before we're in for the night."

"Good idea."

With Donovan gone, Eliot climbed up on the top bunk and, keeping his back to the bars, slid the note out again.


You'll hear tomorrow from Tara, but there's two hundred in your commissary account should you need it, though I've been past, and cannot imagine what you would do with candy and bubble gum, but I suppose that's the new economy now. Unless, of course, it's another humiliation tactic courtesy of our dear friend the sheriff.

I hate the way that sounds, that bit about the commissary, as if you're going to need it. But the fact is, you may for a while, at least until we can get up to the court date. We're monitoring their every move, and Tara's brought me a list of witnesses to start leaning on. The trial will be the best way to take Arlington down, but if things begin to get hot in there, you let Tara know tomorrow. I'll see you on Saturday and Nate will be there Sunday.

Love, Sophie

PS. I nearly forgot- Tara has petitioned for you to be allowed visitors. She'll tell you about it at your appointment.

Underneath was Hardison's scrawl.

Hey man. Hope you're cool in there, we're doing what we can. I'm going over the jail roster to see who's who in there, and seriously- maybe you already know, but if you meet a guy named Martin King, you avoid the hell out of him. He's up on trial next week for serially murdering a bunch of co-eds, and I know you could take him, but who knows, with the hair? You might be close enough to his type. Far as I can tell on your block, Miller is down for the take, but McTeague and Salvo are new, still doing things by the book. Keep an eye out. See you next week. Peace.


Alec had been reading everything he could find on the Maricopa County Jail, and not liking any of it. On the plus side, the facilities weren't those of a federal supermax prison, though he saved satellite images of the grounds in a folder along with the plans for the original building. With tent city taking over much of the expansive grounds, there was more barbed wire than brick, but that only meant that eyes were everywhere. Crowd control was going to be more of a hands-on endeavor. And from the looks of it, the county really liked getting their hands on the inmates.

According to the complaints on file, Arlington had set up chain gangs, actually had the inmates out in the yard digging and backfilling holes and breaking rocks. Somehow, the jail managed to get away with giving their inmates- even those who hadn't gone to trial, who hadn't been proven guilty- moldy, spoiling food for meals and often denied them medical treatment, all on the grounds of budgetary concerns.

Alec was feeling ill even before he got to the worst of it.

The guards managed to squeeze their duties in between bouts of humiliating the inmates. There were several accounts of inmates being forced to stand in the middle of the yard while the guards took turns hurling insults and jokes at them. The standard issue uniforms were black and white striped scrubs, and according to several accounts, the men's underwear was uniformly died a pastel shade of pink.

It was odd, knowing that Eliot was hanging out in pink underwear, and at some point, Alec was going to tease him mercilessly about it, but he wasn't the type to kick a man when he was down. Eliot needed to get out of there, first.

Tara was setting up a slow and steady legal attack, but she was going to have her work cut out for her. Best case scenario, she and Nate would come up with a way to get the charges dropped. Most likely? The charges would be downgraded to manslaughter. Worst case? Eliot would get to choose between lethal injection and the gas chamber, and they'd have to break him out. Either way, it was going to be a lot easier busting him out of the jail than it would be to bust him out of prison.

So they needed to be ready.

He began going through the lists of names. Tara had brought back a few from Eliot, but Sophie, counseling several of the prisoner's as part of the church outreach, had managed to bring back a staggering number of names. Combined with the jail roster, there were about three hundred he had to go through, not counting the residents of the women's facility on the southern side of the grounds.

He'd entered them into his system, bounced it back to JARVIS for processing, looking for guards with massive debts, and screening the inmates. Those with promising outside connections were being put in one column of the list, the dangerous ones in another column.

It had been Sophie's idea.

"We cant be in there for him, but we can at least try and get him in contact with some trustworthy people," she 'd insisted.

"Ain't like he can't handle himself," he'd replied, toying with the room service menu. "Hell, he's probably running the place. And you know we're just going to end up busting his ass out anyway."

"Which would be much easier if he had allies of a sort on the inside. Nothing needs to be carved in stone, but right now, he can't trust anyone." She'd paused, waving a hand before adding, "In there. Whether you like it or not."

And she'd given him this look, like she was getting ready to be disappointed, preparing to argue her point.

Like Alec wasn’t going to do his damned job.

He got it. Like she'd said. Eliot needed people he could trust out here, and with Nate and Parker back in Boston, Sophie playing Trewlaney, and Tara out of commission until Friday, as of right now, it was down to Alec.

Everything else could wait until after the job.

JARVIS was running in the background, bouncing updates to his laptop every half hour as it sorted through the roster and booking forms. So far, everything had been as expected- too many people in jail for what would normally be ticketed offenses, too many thugs in high security, and not enough information in the reports to tell him much of anything about their personalities.

Sophie had stopped by twice, so far, to check up on him, but he still couldn't hack a guy's head. The updates were useless, and even going back to the incident reports wasn't telling him much. He'd have to move on to something else, soon. But he read on. There was still the chance something might pop out.

So maybe he wasn't really expecting to see what came up on the screen next.

He crosschecked with the hospitals and police department, just to be sure.

It didn't make any sense. There was something hinky with arrestee number 20110284. Grabbing the case number off the booking, he went back into the initial report, but everything looked in order. The numbers were in sequence, the forms filled out correctly. The case had been opened in December of last year. No warrants had been issued, the case looked like it had gone cold until yesterday.

Only. Hang on.

He checked the files he'd copied off the servers earlier in the week. And checked them again.

There'd been no record of any such case before yesterday, not with the courts, not with the police department, and not with the sheriff's office. There'd been nothing from the hospitals, either.

Case numbers were assigned automatically, in the order in which they were entered.

Only this one, apparently from December, had been entered just last night. Two hours before the arrest had been made.

Someone had hacked the system.

Running 20110284 through JARVIS, he found nothing. No bank statements. No phone or property records. He went back further, way further than he should've had to, and it was all sounding a little too familiar.

Donovan Priestly had been born- and died- thirty-seven years ago in a Washington DC hospital.


Between the insomnia and Donovan's tossing and turning, Eliot hadn't gotten much sleep, though he dozed through most of the morning. As predicted, Donovan stayed close through lunch, and again out in the yard, trying to make conversation in awkward fits and starts. He'd relaxed a bit, filing the space with rambling stories that would've been amusing were they not so transparent.

Donovan was trying to ingratiate himself, trying to get Eliot to like him, kind of like that woman Sophie had talked about who was telling the sultan all those stories. He was trying to prove to Eliot that he was entertaining, that he was worth protecting.

To be fair, it passed the time. All through lunch, he'd talked about backpacking through Europe after college. By the time they'd made it out into the yard, he'd moved on to some nightmarish Super Bowl party gone awry due to the sudden appearance of his boss.

Eliot mostly kept quiet, not wanting to give him the illusion of interest, not quite irritated enough to tell him off. It was hard going, though. Donovan was so freaked that Eliot didn't have the chance to run recon on much of anything. Beyond identifying the guards that Hardison had mentioned- Salvo was the younger one, shaved head, in good shape, and he didn't look like he was suffering from burnout yet, and Miller was older, with a ridiculous flat-top crew cut and a permanent scowl- he'd wasn't going to have much to tell Tara when she arrived at three. Not unless she wanted to hear about Donovan getting stranded in Dublin for three weeks due to a problem with his visa.

Eliot redoubled his efforts, taking inventory as he began a second circuit of the yard, Donovan's voice still droning in the background. Exits from the yard included the one heading back into the jail, and two leading out to the tents. All three were locked, with guards stationed nearby, and another two roamed the yard. One guard for every ten inmates, and all were armed with tasers. The firearms stayed on the other side of the fence. Miller had been the first one at the fight, yesterday, but hadn't reacted right away, waiting for Salvo and the others before going in. Probably a minute, two tops.

The searchlights were off, now, but they seemed to be everywhere, and those fences would take time to get around. Going through the yard wasn't a solid option, he'd have to check the mess, next.

Donovan went silent next to him, and Eliot spun to see what had caught his attention, muscles tensing, preparing for a fight.

It was nothing, just a guy standing in one of the tents. But then he raised a hand like he was about to wave, angrily, and Eliot recognized the gesture even before he stepped out into the sunlight.

It was Hardison.




This free website was made using Yola.

No HTML skills required. Build your website in minutes.

Go to www.yola.com and sign up today!

Make a free website with Yola