“The ants go marching one by one, because the think that they have won,” Avery sang the altered children’s song from the other side of the cell bars. He lay on the cot, feet resting high on the cell bars, ankles crossed. The top foot bounced in rhythm to his song while his bent arms pillowed his head. Captain Thurgood scowled at him, though it didn’t seem to make an impact.
“So, what do we do now?” I asked. “What will the Pact say when they find out we’ve withheld information on this incident for over a week? Has city council made a decision?” The Captain’s lips thinned at that as he shook his head slightly.
“The ants go marching two by two, the big one doesn’t know what to do…” Avery continued into the next verse.
“Hell, what will they do once they find out we killed a dragon,” Alex added, “and not just any dragon. The last female dragon.”
“She was sterile anyway,” the Captain grunted.
“Not sure they’ll see it that way,” I muttered.
“However it was, she was involved in local deaths and use of illegal magic,” the Captain said. “They can’t penalize us for that.”
“The ants go marching three by three, I guess they’ll just have to wait and see…”
“But they could deny us Pact protection,” I said, my brow furrowed.
“We’ll survive,” Alex said with a shrug. “Plus, we weren’t the ones who barbecued her. Avery’s the one with a flare for roast beast,” he grinned. “Pun intended.”
“Not the time, Alex.” I said. Alex shot a rubberband at me, but it just whizzed by, striking the cell bars.
“We can’t be sure they don’t already know about it,” Captain Thurgood said, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked back at our stunned expressions and sighed. “If their last hope of a future was part of this, it’s not that far a stretch to think the order came from higher up. It might be best to not associate with the Pact, after all.”
“The ants go marching four by four, look who just walked in the door…” The door into the cell bay opened. “And they all go marching to a new drum, ‘cause they don’t have a choice, boom, boom, boom,” Avery cackled.
Half a dozen men in black tactical gear entered the room, shrinking the space by half. They were preceded by a man who had to duck to enter the doorway. He stood about seven feet tall.
“Captain William Thurgood, I presume,” the tall man said formally. He had a familiar red tinge to his dark brown hair and cant to his blue eyes. “I will be taking the prisoners from here.”
“And you are,” the Captain grunted. He didn’t ask for a reason, since the uniforms had the Greek letter Y, which looked like I overlaid with Y, stitched in gold thread on their upper left pockets.
“I am General Learsi of the Guardia of Yellowstone.” There was a slight rise at the corners of the dragon’s lips as he saw the reaction in the room to the announcement that he was from the same family as Learza. I gritted my teeth and crossed my arms over my chest to keep myself from doing anything that might be… unwise.
“Transfer papers?” The Captain asked.
The dragon gestured to one of the men behind him who pulled out an envelope from his vest and passed it over.
Alex snapped his fingers and dropped his fist into his open palm in an ‘aha’ gesture, before pointing at the dragon. “Omsk, ‘83. That’s where I know you from.”
“You weren’t alive in ‘83,” I said incredulously as Learsi narrowed his eyes at Alex.
“Well, no,” he chuckled, “But I’ve seen pics of him and my father.”
Learsi’s brows rose. “Ah, Agafon. You do look much like him. How is he? Did he manage to escape that tiran?”
“Uh,” Alex swallowed then coughed out a laugh, “Eventually. Yeah.”
The Captain passed the papers back and gestured to the cell. “He’s all yours.”
Learsi resumed his frown. “One? Is Robert Murrell dead? I was unaware of this development.”
“No, but he will remain in our custody.”
“Oh?” Learsi glanced blithely over the few cells, all empty except for Avery. “But it does not appear that he is in your custody.”
“Nevertheless he will remain here until we can hold our own trial.”
“Ah, for his actions against your officers on the night he killed my sister.” His smile was glacial. “I believe the death of a dragon takes precedence.” The room seemed smaller, the walls closing in. I felt a strong urge to step back and hunch over to keep from being squashed. The worst part was I couldn’t fight it. I was a few steps back by the wall and down on one knee before I realized what I was doing, Alex beside me.
“You can have him,” Captain Thurgood said through gritted teeth, glaring at Learsi’s dress shirt. He’d had managed to do no more than sit in the chair at the desk. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t even look at the dragon anymore. “After we’re done with him.”
A low hum, more felt than heard, reverberated through the room. Don’t yawn, don’t yawn, don’t yawn. I yawned. I shook my head trying to stay focused on what was happening right then, but it was so hard. Each blink took more time. Then a phone rang, the ringtone ironically playing Suga Boom Boom, and the hum stopped.
“What?” Learsi snapped. It took a minute but my focus quickly returned and I shook out my limbs which had the prickliness of just waking up. “We’ll head out shortly, I just have to locate Murrell.” He had his phone in his hand and was wearing a bluetooth earbud. “No, he isn’t here at the moment, but,” his lips curled down in distaste at whatever was being said. “I can grab him and fly back if I have to…” The look on his face was lined with concern. “On our way.” He turned back to the Captain who’d stayed seated, but looked up at the dragon as though Learsi was the one in trouble. “You will bring him to the Old Faithful Lodge as soon as you have finished your business with him.” He pulled out a business card and placed it on the booking desk in front of Captain Thurgood. “You do not want to fail us.”
“Is that a threat?” the Captain responded calmly.
“Why, no, Captain.” Learsi placed his palms on the desk and leaned over it with an intense stare. “It’s a promise.”