It was only a short while after their little chat that Ezra exited the diner with Aidan at her side. There were several soldiers waiting outside, and although they did not put a hand on the scavver, the threat was evident enough with how close they moved in to surround the couple. She offered them a smile that was not reflected in her hazel eyes, then kept her attention straight ahead, ignoring the townsfolk that watched them pass. Within ten minutes they were shepherded inside the church, Aidan sending the men ahead to prepare the prisoner for a visitor.
As soon as the guards left, Ezra was directed out of the chapel and led to one of the guest rooms. It was where she and Jackal would have been housed if things had gone according to her plans. There was a large bed pushed off to one side and a wardrobe leaning against the wall. Small, but comfortable, it would meet the needs of most for a short stay. She had barely stepped inside before Aidan touched her arm gently.
“I will have clean clothes brought for you...and after your ‘visit’ with Mr. Lawless, you will see to getting ready for tonight. Agreed?”
Ezra nodded, her lower lip slipping between her teeth as she considered the preparation required for the ceremony. She had never attended one, but knew well enough what was expected of her. Hell on Earth, she thought, then swallowed hard. She would do whatever was required...many times over if needed...to get the plan rolling.
In the several minutes that transpired while Ezra changed and waited for her escort, four soldiers busied themselves with cleaning up the prisoner that lay on the floor of his cell, his chains slack, but the threat of punishment imminent if he tried to resist. Cold water was thrown on his prone body, both to clean and rouse him at the same time. A piece of stale bread was set beside him, as well as a cup of broth, neither of which had been offered prior.
“Perk up Jack,” one of them hissed, poking the man in the ribs with the barrel of his gun, “..ya got company coming. Gotta look yer best.” Laughter followed his words as the men prepared to file out, the sound of footsteps now coming down the long corridor.
The lawman growled lightly as the water was thrown on him and despite being stiff from pain and his confinement he easily got to his feet, the nerve quickly flickering away from the eyes of the four guards as they saw his speed and almost dead gray eyes. But he didn't attack them, even Jackal knew he wouldn't be able to take all four of them...not in his current state.
The guards managed to recover their composure and quickly left tossing an old towel down for him to dry himself off with. With another low growl he lifted the towel and scrubbed himself as best as he could. Dried blood and dirt flaked off his thin body, but the scars and new wounds would still be red and angry looking, some of them even beginning to bleed again.
There was only one person who'd come visit him, and it made him sigh. He told her to run...to get Matches and Sammy to safety. He gave them the map, that was all they needed, why was she still here? Sitting down on the ground he let out a low sigh ignoring the food and tossing the towel into the corner of his cell.
Just as the lawman sat, the familiar voice of his lover filtered down the passageway, her tone angry as she argued with one of the guards. Aidan's name was thrown out and the discussion ended abruptly, the situation seeming to be worked out as she came around the corner and roughly brushed off the hand on her arm.
"Unlock it," she said, authority surrounding her words. Her gaze shifted alternately between her escorts, the guard on her left pulling out a key and opening the door wordlessly. It was only then that Ezra turned her attention to Jackal, her face holding steady as she entered the cage, the slightest flinch occurring when the bars were slammed shut.
"Jack," she said, falling to her knees beside him. She reached out and took his hand, her eyes roving over his naked torso with dismay. "I'm so sorry lover." She lifted her gaze, her expression soft on the outside, but a deeper passion burned within. Anger. Hatred. Her mouth opened slightly and she leaned towards him, her lips meeting his gently in a kiss.
As Ezra touched him the lawman couldn't help but flinch lightly at the contact. The False Men of the Cloth had dragged razor blades across his palm and fingers, not enough to make them inoperable, but the wounds were still quite raw and the contact sent pain racing up his arm. It caused him to yank his hand back and press it to his chest the blood smearing over his chest some. "Ezzy." Was all he could say before she kissed him. The bastards had avoided damaging his lips...about the only things that didn't get torn apart in the past couple of days.
One of the guards scoffed and banged the bars. "Hey this ain't a conjugal visit...so quit your conjucating!"
Jackal shot the man a dead-eyed glare which shut him up, but he still pulled back slumping against the wall the contact making him flinch some more, but the sudden cold of the wall soothed the pain some. "What are you doing here Ms. Bastian? Didn't he get to you?" Jackal asked his voice soft and weak sounding. His eyes had lost some of their fire as he stared at the woman he loved with a listless gaze.
The hint of a frown passed over her lips as she regarded him solemnly. "Who lover? Did who get to me?" She feared the worst, that his body was already raging with fever and his mind affected. She had to know, or else all was lost. She leaned towards him again, knowing the contact would be painful...but unavoidable.
"Please Jack...don't pull away."
Did her eyes convey sorrow? Grief? Loss? She let her shoulders sag, her breath escaping her lips heavily. Cool hands pressed into his shoulders, tugging firmly to pull him away from the wall so she could wrap her arms around him. Her embrace was tight, providing support to his sagging body and holding firm.
Again the banging on the bars. "No touching!"
"Told ya we shouldn't let 'er inside."
Ez ignored them, her head turned towards Jackal's ear, her breath puffing softly against his skin. "They're safe Jack..." she whispered. "Matches found us. There's a Resistance. I just need you to hold on for one more day. Stay strong. Be ready."
Jackal's whole body erupted in burning pain as her clothing and skin rubbed over even more of his still bleeding wounds, but he couldn't bring himself to push her away, at least not as violently as he should. He endured the pain for a few seconds before he mustered up the strength to push out of her grip, sweat already coating his body, the pain causing him to want to shrink inside himself. "Don't let them see...you are my only weakness." He whispered through tightly clenched teeth. "They're desperate to break me...and...only...you can give...them...the means." His body sagged again, the weight of his torture and the pain of knowing Ezra had climbed back into the Lion's Den for him, crushing him more than anything. He reached for the now cold broth, grabbing the bowl and turning, trying to throw it at the woman. His strength left him and only caused it to upturn a few inches away from her before he collapsed onto his back. "Get...away...from...me...Ms. Bastian." He managed to say before his head dropped onto the stone and his eyes shut.
The door opened and the voice of one of the guards barked up, not even bothering to hide the smugness in his voice. "Well looks like the big bad wolf is good and broken now. Even throwing away his first meal in a few days. Come on girly, you've made Mr. Bishop wait long enough." He gripped Ezra's arm and yanked her up to her feet.
"No!" she cried, her resistance only going as far as her plea as she allowed herself to be pulled from the cell like a weak child. Her heart ached at what she had caused, salty tears flowing down her cheeks in an emotional display, an easier feat than she would have imagined. How much she had changed since meeting the gunman, her weak feminine feelings called upon to suit her needs.
Her cry was met with silence as she then looked upon the faces of the guards before her, confusion etching its way into her features.
"He doesn't call me that!" she said as she shook off the hands that were still gripping her. Rolling out her shoulders she huffed out a breath and wiped the wetness from her face, taking one last look at Jack as he lay prone on the cold stone floor.
The Guard laughed mockingly letting Ezra pull away. "Well sure sounded like he does now. Our Leaders are quite good at reeducation, and now that they've broken the most feared killer in Ragged America no one will ever question them." He roughly shoved Ezra forward. "This'll be the talk of the Ceremony. They might even bring him out as proof." The man laughed loudly as they all moved back down the corridor.
Aidan was waiting for them in the Chapel, his hands clasped and his head down in prayer. The very picture of virtue and goodness. He heard Ezra and the Guards enter, a small smile crossing his face as he saw the woman's face. And a secret nod from the guards told him the rest of what he needed to know. That Jackal had broken ties with the last person who cared if he lived or died, now the questioning should go much easier.
Still doing his best to hide his smugness, he hid it under the pretense of finishing some inane prayer before he turned to others. "I hope everything went well Ezra?" He asked sounding almost genuine.
"Everything went...fine," she said, adding a bit of hesitance. She did not meet his gaze, afraid her true feelings would surface. She just needed a bit more time to get herself under control. Until then, let the bastard think what he would, she had at least managed to get her message through to Jackal.
Sighing, she finally lifted her gaze to his. It was time to dive into the deep end. The cleansing...the ceremony...atonement...then the obligation to be met. It was all part of the agreement that came with giving up her life to live in the town where she grew up. ...and it was all built on a pack of lies. One piled on top of the other. But she only had to make it through tonight. The rest would dissolve when she pulled a knife across the bastard's throat.
She smiled. "I gather you are waiting for my answer." Her hands went behind her back where she folded them together, squeezing until her fingers turned red, then white. "I'll join you. But the conditions are still in place. Mr. Lawless lives or I'll forfeit my end."
Aidan gave a glowing smile and bowed lightly. "Of course Ezra, I may be a lot of things...but I always keep my word. All will be made right tonight, that I can guarantee. Eustace, please escort Ms. Bastian to her room she will need her rest for tonight." The Guard who hadn't mocked Ezra nodded and ushered her from the Chapel. Once they were gone Aidan and the loud-mouthed guard shared a low chuckle. "Seems everything is coming together nicely, Zedekiah, make sure the dog stays with us for a few more hours. The old man and I have plans for that one, he'll be a guest of honor at the Atonement tonight, we may have broken his body and mind, but his spirit remains strong even with him casting the whore aside. But seeing her come back into the Fold will break his spirit...and then...we can use him to fix the rest of the world."
Zedekiah let out a low malicious chuckle pulling the cattle prod off his belt and clicking it on. "Oh it'll be my pleasure sir. That bastard killed a lot of my friends in his genocidal crusade, it'll be nice to get some justice for them." Aidan smiled and patted the cruel man on the shoulder before leaving the Chapel to begin his own preparations. "Justice for all my friend...justice for all."