Griff frowned at the ID card Francis was displaying for him. “What’s the ‘Specials Unit’? I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
“Almost no one has. Over half of our employees—you included, until now—don’t even know who we are. That’s kind of the point. We’re a division of the RCMP, partly funded by CSIS—that’s the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in case you didn’t know. We deal with crimes committed by and against specials. About a quarter of us are specials ourselves.”
“Huh. All this time I’ve been working for cops and spies, eh?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Francis, allowing herself a wan smile.
“Cool,” said Griff. “So does that mean the people in those three other cells are…?”
“Special criminals, yes. Very powerful, very dangerous people.”
“Potentially. They’re unpredictable. That’s part of the problem. We’ve got some pretty good psychologists and sociologists on staff, and they tell us that the more power a special has, and the more obvious it is to people around them, the more it seems to mess them up, especially their ability to function socially. Every special is an outcast, Griffin, to some extent, but some of us can hide ourselves better than others, fit in more. Those who can’t do that… Well, they often end up reclusive, bitter, and hostile. In some cases they seek out likeminded others, often online but sometimes in-person, and those groups feed off one another’s dysfunctions, producing some very erratic, dangerous behaviour.”
“Wow.” Griff leaned his shoulder against the wall and rubbed the back of his head. “I’ve never really thought about it before, but that makes a lot of sense. I mean, I’ve asked myself every day for the past six months why I decided to take this job, why I was willing to completely shut myself off from the world out here in the woods. I convinced myself it was for the money, but that wasn’t it, was it? I was looking for somewhere to belong, somewhere my ability would be put to use and appreciated. It made a big difference when I was told I’d be working with people like you and your sister.”
Francis frowned. “I wasn’t talking about our ‘group’.”
“I know—you were talking about terrorist cells or whatever. But it totally still applies. You said specials often end up reclusive and bitter, right? I’d say we’re pretty reclusive out here, and there’s always plenty of sarcasm going around. In all honesty, I’ve been struggling with more than a little bitterness. I came up with childish private nicknames for just about everyone who worked here… And now most of them are dead. Wow, that really makes me feel like a jerk.”
Francis turned away, and Griff heard her choking back a few ragged breaths. Was she… crying?
Well you did just remind her that her sister is dead. Smooth move, Griff. Say something. But Griff couldn’t think of any appropriately comforting words, so instead he stepped up behind Francis and awkwardly reached an arm around her shoulder.
She flinched at the contact and pulled away, eyes dark and clouded. The moment passed; she regained her composure and found her businesslike detachment back. Tossing her head dismissively, she said, “You’re wrong. Fiona and I didn’t come here to be recluses and bemoan our lot in life. This place isn’t a hideaway for castoffs. We’re different, completely different.”
Griff knew he shouldn’t say it, but the word came out anyways: “How?”
A fire blazed up in Francis’s eyes. “Because we’re the good guys, okay?!”
The declaration echoed through the underground prison. One of the guards stuck his head in through the cell door.
“We’re fine,” Francis told him. “Keep watching the hatch.”
He returned to his post.
A few long, quiet seconds passed. “I probably shouldn’t have told you any of that,” said Francis. “You’re not cleared for it.”
“I appreciate it anyways,” said Griff. “I promise if we make it out of here I won’t tell anyone.”
“Better not, or you’ll be in breach of contract and probably end up back in a cell like this one.” Francis smirked, and Griff realized it was a joke. He smiled back, thinking, Holy mood swings, Batman. Coming face-to-face with death really brings out people’s emotional range, doesn’t it?
“So,” said Francis, “I can’t help but notice that we haven’t been attacked yet. What’s going on up there?”
Griff cast his senses out. “They haven’t gone anywhere. One of them is pacing the garage, and the other one is standing near the door looking out, probably on watch. Maybe they aren’t sure what to do next.”
“That seems unlikely. They’ve brought off everything up to this point with way too much precision.”
“They could be waiting for backup to arrive, just like we are.”
“Possibly. Is there anyone nearby?”
“Not that I can sense. Just wildlife. Birds, mostly.”
“Yeah. There’ve been more crows than usual around here the past couple of days.”
Francis’s eyes widened. “And you didn’t think that was worth mentioning?!”
“Not especially, no. Why?”
Francis was shaking her head distractedly. Griff heard her mutter, “Miguel…”
Naomi stood just inside the open garage door, scanning the driveway and the tree line as she’d been ordered to. What was she going to do if she saw somebody? What if they had a gun? She was supposed to shoot at them, wasn’t she? She didn’t think she was prepared to do that…
This wasn’t going at all the way she’d imagined it. Innis had never mentioned that they’d have to kill people to free Candace. But she hadn’t really questioned what would be necessary, had she? She’d just known she couldn’t let Candace be sold into slavery without doing something to stop it. And here she was.
She looked back into the garage, where Sky was pacing back and forth between the walls, that grim sneer still on her lips. “What’s next?” asked Naomi. “Are we going to get Candace out of there or not?”
“It’s not that easy,” said Sky. “I can’t just clap my hands down into that hole and blow them all away. It’s too risky. Candace might get hurt.”
“Then what are we going to do?”
“But what are we waiting for?”
“Innis has more people on the way?”
“Not our reinforcements,” said Sky. “We’re waiting for theirs.”