Brody could tell the days were passing only by the guards’ shift changes. He’d been there for three days with nothing to occupy him but his thoughts. He had just enough food and water to keep him alive, just so they could kill him, and nothing more.
Maybe they wanted to drive him insane before they sent him off to be executed. His thick beard, the scent of unshowered man, and his natural tendency to snarl when his life was threatened would be enough to convince any jury that he was unstable, a threat to society.
But this was Mars. There was no jury. Ekon’s was the only word that mattered, and he wanted him dead. Once, Brody had been the man the king turned to when he needed someone put down, so he knew exactly how it would happen.
He would be led to an old closet lined with plastic sheets. A guard would cuff him to a chair, facing the door, and some gun-for-hire would walk through the door and shoot him between the eyes. Clean up would be a breeze. It would be like he never existed.
That was fine.
This was the agony. Ekon had to know what he was doing, leaving him like this, with nothing to do but think about his future, his past, his mistakes. Capri. Losing her. Losing her to him. On day two, he turned to physical exhaustion for relief.
He did push ups and pull ups. He propped his thin mattress against a wall and used it as a punching bag until his knuckles bruised. It was something, at least, to keep his thoughts at bay, to tire him out so he could sleep at night.
But he still had his breaking point—moments when his shaking body, fueled by too few calories, on the brink of dehydration, just couldn’t take anymore, and he had to stop. He had to sit down. He did feel vaguely drunk in those moments, but not drunk enough, and it was in those moments that he considered giving the king one last middle finger and finding a way to off himself.
But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t cheat Jill and Maxine out of their revenge. That day on Ptolemy, when he’d put the gun in his mouth and taken it out again, had been the day he left his death in their hands. If this was how they wanted it to end, he would sit in that chair, in that tiny room, and look straight down the barrel of that gun. He’d watch the bullet fly towards him and just hope it was enough.
It was during one of these dark moments on the third day that the door to the metal cell opened and Haddaway appeared. The gunman didn’t betray his surprise and continued glaring at the wall, but he knew the other man wasn’t supposed to be there.
“Shots,” Haddaway greeted.
Brody only grunted, exhaustion and suspicion preventing him from making more of an effort.
“Thought you might appreciate an update. Maybe a meal.”
Brody glanced at him and noticed the two bowls he carried. Haddaway dragged a chair into the room and sat across from him, just as he had that first night. Brody reached for the steaming bowl of chicken and broccoli, and he couldn’t hide the fact that he was famished. He shoveled the food into his mouth and then accepted the bottle of whiskey Haddaway offered him with a gesture of thanks. He took a few swallows and handed it back, feeling a little more like himself.
Haddaway still didn’t speak. Brody leaned back against the wall, his long, broad legs stretched out in front of him, arms crossed over his chest.
“This some kinda last meal?” he asked.
Haddaway took a sip from the bottle and met Brody’s gaze. “Not yet. You’ve got five days.”
Brody nodded slowly, considering the other man’s words. “Any way to speed that up?”
The other man snorted and shook his head. “Leave it to you.”
Brody shrugged. “Sittin’ here in my own stink ain’t my idea of fun. There’s no sense puttin’ it off.”
“Ekon has it planned during the memorial service. Some kind of poetic justice, I’m sure.”
Brody grunted, and the two sat in silence. “Thanks for lettin’ me know,” Brody said finally.
Haddaway nodded, but he made no move to leave. Brody waited. If there was anything he had right now, it was time.
“Capri’s gotten more ambitious since you took her away,” the older man said.
Brody’s eyes shot up. “You talked to her?”
“She came looking for me. Seems to have some ideas about getting you out.”
The gunman smirked. “I’m touched.”
“Seems to have some ideas about Marianne, too.”
“Marianne? What about her?”
“Capri thinks she was responsible for her rape.”
Brody’s confusion gave way to realization. Capri had been Marianne’s main competition at the time. He’d never been one to involve himself in court gossip; he did his job and went home. But he’d heard things, and his own careless words had given the girl the final piece of the puzzle he’d failed to put together—until now.
Haddaway was watching him. “You think it’s true?”
Brody had never harbored such bloody thoughts towards a woman, but he kept them to himself. “Yeah.”
Haddaway took another long sip of whiskey. It wasn’t like him to drink more than a glass on the job. Something else was eating at him. Something more than past crimes, something more than seeing an old friend in a concrete box.
“What are you gonna do about it?” Brody asked.
Haddaway swirled the brown liquid around in the bottle. “Nothing.”
“I know.” He raised his eyes to Brody’s. “She has a new position.”
“And she’s been restless, dissatisfied. Any idiot can see it. You might have ruined her for this place, Shots.” Haddaway raised the bottle briefly in salute. “Thanks to your little affair and her injuries, Ekon’s declared her damaged goods. Now she’s an attending lady.”
“Good,” Brody grunted, and he meant it.
No one would touch her again—unless she wanted them to. He could go in a little more peace now, knowing that. He downed the rest of the bottle, welcoming the hazy feeling he’d spent the last days searching for.
Brody went cold and stared at the man across from him. He realized exactly why Haddaway was there and why he was acting so out of character. “Did she ask for it?”
“I’d say she manipulated her way into it pretty damn effortlessly.”
Brody licked his lips and leaned forward. His heart pounded. Haddaway couldn’t touch Marianne. Ekon wouldn’t. Capri would be pissed. If she was in this position by any means other than pure coincidence she could only have one plan in mind.
“Are you gonna stop her?” he asked.
Haddaway looked at Brody as if he was searching for something. “She means something, doesn’t she?”
“That ain’t an answer.”
“I don’t know. I joined the palace guards fifteen years ago for two reasons: to serve my king and deliver justice. Lately I’m only doing one of them.”
Brody was tense, waiting. Finally Haddaway met his gaze. “If she’s discreet, I don’t think I will.”
The gunman relaxed. Haddaway stood and gathered the dishes.
“I’ll see you in five days, Shots,” he said.
Brody grunted, and then he was left alone with his thoughts again. This time, instead of the haunting images that usually seeped into his brain, he saw Capri and tried to imagine her plan. Could she do it? Would she live? Just a few weeks ago, he could never have imagined it.
But now, since he’d taken her from Mars and watched her learn that she was made of more than Ekon had led her to believe…maybe she could.
Marianne deserved to die, but Capri didn’t deserve to have blood on her hands. He clenched and unclenched his fists, wishing he could do the deed for her. Kill Sullivan again. Kill Ekon.
He wished he could do anything other than stay in one place, waiting to die.
He stood, propped the mattress against the wall, and slammed a fist into the thin padding.