0053 – Leftenant Faulkner: A Good Man, Part 6

Faulkner made a habit of rising at dawn, but the events of the previous night had left him exhausted, and disrupted his nightly routine. He had, therefore, slept through his usual wake-up call. The poor Private who had drawn the unlucky duty of delivering it ended up agonising for several minutes over whether to repeat his knock, to call out to the Leftenant, to await his attendance in Faulkner’s own time, or to simply walk away. After an embarrassingly long wait, the young man departed of his own accord.

Thus it was that Faulkner overslept by quite some way, and was awoken nearly two hours later by a frantic, ceaseless hammering rather than the usual polite signal.

After some struggle with his uniform and breather, a groggy, off-guard Faulkner opened the front door, cap slightly askew, mind still befuddled from sleep.

“Sir!” The panicked, flushed-looking Private snapped to a salute. “The prisoner boy! He’s escaped, sir!”

“Escaped!?” Faulkner was afforded a genuinely surprised reaction in the seconds it took for his aching brain to remember what he did last night. The second he did, he felt a stone weight in his stomach.

Not only had he helped a prisoner escape, but he had helped a subordinate to desert.

“Sir! I took him his breakfast as per orders, sir, and… the jail was just empty, sir! Just empty, with the door locked and everything!”

Faulkner was getting into gear now. He straightened his cap, thankful that the cover of the breathing mask hid the fact that he had not shaved since yesterday morning. He had known this point would come. It was time to go through the motions.

“Have you reported this to Captain Perrin?” He asked the Private.

Fear overcome the lad’s face. He couldn’t have been older than nineteen at the outside.

“No, sir, I…” The Private fumbled for an excuse. He failed to find one, stammering until Leftenant Faulkner mercifully cut him off.

Faulkner gave rapid-fire orders in a calm, rehearsed succession. “Never mind. I’ll inform him myself. Sound the alarm. Tell your Sergeant to form a search party, go house to house. I want every cupboard and loft checked.”

“Sir.” The Private departed, awash with relief.

——————

Five minutes later, Faulkner was purposefully pushing open the door to Captain Perrin’s spartan office. The second he entered, he felt his superior’s judgemental eyes appraising the minor flaws in his appearance.

Faulkner spoke quickly and urgently, in part to avoid the due reprimand. “Sir. The boy, K’Pale. He’s escaped.”

The pious righteousness in Perrin’s eyes was quickly replaced by a furious fire of indignation. He sprang to his feet.

“Who is responsible?” Captain Perrin demanded, immediately.

Faulkner often had the customary background fear of Perrin that most men hold for their strict superiors. Moments like this, though, reminded him of exactly why the Captain deserved to be regarded with terror. Most men, in this situation, would have asked for more information that would assist in apprehension of the escapee. Perrin had jumped right to the assignation of blame.

“Unknown as of yet, sir.” Faulkner responded, keeping his cool.

“Find out.” Perrin’s tone was even icier than usual. The man was legitimately angry.

“Yes, sir.” Faulkner saluted, and turned to leave. He had discharged his obligation to inform the Captain of the situation, and was looking forward to getting out of the building.

He was altogether surprised when the Captain followed him.

For a split second, he allowed his confusion to halt him in his tracks. Hearing that Perrin did not stop, keeping up his long, purposeful strides, gave him the clear signal to continue likewise.

What’s he going to do?

Faulkner’s thoughts were racing.

Does he know? Does he suspect me? Is this a trap? Did that Private go to him first after all? Did he go to the jail and see it was still locked and secure? Did he realise someone let the boy out? Did he suss me out the moment I was disappointed that we’d need the sister for the trial? The sister who can’t be found? Did I give it away? Did my face give it away?

Suddenly, they were back outside, in what passed for daylight in the Shroud. Captain Perrin wore his breather now, standing at Faulkner’s right shoulder.

Faulkner’s heart was pounding.

A huge, gruff-looking Auxiliary with uneven pauldrons strapped over his uniform came running up to Faulkner and Perrin, and gave the sloppiest salute either had ever seen.

“Captain, Leftenant.” The man growled through a heavy, unidentifiable accent. Who knew what forgettable, subjugated land this man hailed from originally?

“Auxiliary. Report.” Faulkner acknowledged him. Perrin, behind him, remained silent.

“We’re a man down, sir. Auxiliary Pak’ton is missing.”

Faulkner closed his eyes. He would have given anything, in that moment, to have received this news alone.

“Leftenant.” Captain Perrin addressed him calmly, from behind. “Were there obvious signs of the boy’s escape? A tunnel? A broken lock?”

“No, sir.” Faulkner kept his tone as neutral as possible, allowing only the tiniest waver.

“Then it is logical to conclude that the escape was likely assisted, is it not?”

“Yes, sir.”

Faulkner was snapped out of his state when Captain Perrin’s gloved hand tugged insistently on his shoulder, turning him around. The two men were face to face, and Faulkner met the Captain’s eyes, not daring to look away.

He felt Captain Perrin’s revolver pushed, gently but forcefully, into the palm of his hand, hilt first. With his other hand, Perrin closed Faulkner’s fingers around the grip.

Firearms were a sign of rank in Regula. Faulkner had seldom been entrusted with one of his own, but he knew how to shoot straight. They all did.

“Find Auxiliary Pak’ton.” Perrin ordered. Faulkner could hear the man’s teeth gritting, even through his breathing mask.

“Sir?” Faulkner prayed to the gods that Pak’ton had put his head start to good use.

“He is at best a deserter, and at worst a traitor. Find and execute him yourself, Leftenant.”

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