“I’m not going to fix him up if the Protectorat is just going to have him worked over again,” Myrna said from the doorway of V cell. “I won’t be part of that.”
Leon heard her dimly through a haze of pain, and stirred in his chains.
“If we can get him out of here before Miles changes his mind, it’ll be over,” Genevieve said. “Please, Myrna. You have to help me. Give him something, please.”
Kneeling, Leon lifted his head to see Genevieve, his stepmother, working the catch on the metal cuff that held his left wrist, and then she caught his arm when it fell. She retrieved his white shirt from the corner of the cell and wrapped his hand in the makeshift bandage. He tried to straighten, not to sag his torso’s weight by his other chained wrist, and the doctor, Myrna Silk, came forward to help support him. A second later, he felt a sting in his shoulder, and Myrna withdrew a syringe.
He swallowed thickly, working his dry throat. “Did they find Gaia?” he asked.
“Your father’s searched all of Wharfton and can’t find her,” Genevieve said. “They’ve tracked down her old neighbors and her friends but she isn’t with any of them.”
“So she got away?” Leon asked. If so, it would be the first good news he’d had in four days.
“Yes. So far, at least,” Genevieve said. “Guards are looking for her in the wasteland. Why? Did you think we’d found her?”
“Iris told me at one point that they did. I didn’t know what to believe,” Leon said.
“She’ll have to come back,” Myrna said. “She can’t keep that baby alive in the wasteland.”
His other wrist came loose, and with the lowering of his arm, tiny explosions of new pain stretched across his back. Shirtless, he surveyed his bare arms and torso, finding the raw streaks in his skin where the whiplashes on his back trailed around his sides.
The two women helped him to his feet, supporting his arms over their shoulders.
“Watch his back,” Genevieve said.
“I know,” Myrna replied.
Leon struggled to coordinate his feet, clenching his body as each step triggered pain upward through his muscles.
“Buck up,” Myrna said. “No fainting, now. Hear me?”
He focused all his concentration on the cement floor before him, and then the steps as the women guided him down. Disoriented, he began to fear it was only a nightmare, that they were leading him deeper into the prison or a stone tomb where he’d awaken to another round of torture. His instinct was to struggle.
“Leon, please,” Genevieve insisted. “You’ll be all right, but you have to let us help you.”
“You let them do this to me,” he said.
“I made them stop,” Genevieve said, plainly stricken. “I’ve been pleading with your father ever since I learned he turned you over to Mabrother Iris.”
They reached a tunnel next, and lights that were thinly spaced down the rugged corridor came on one by one as they approached. Though the air was cool, Leon was sweating from effort, and by the time they reached another staircase leading upward, he couldn’t go farther. He sank to the steps, breathing hard, grasping his wounded hand with the other to apply pressure. The fabric was saturating with blood.
“Get Mabrother Cho for me, Myrna,” Genevieve said, urging the doctor onward past Leon. “He’s in the kitchen. Quickly.”
Myrna’s footsteps vanished up the stairs.
“I’m sorry, Leon,” Genevieve said.
Her apologies didn’t interest him. “Tell me what have I’ve missed.”
“They’ve focused in on a Wharfton girl named Emily who was a friend of Gaia’s, and she verified that Gaia went into the wasteland.”
“Emily wouldn’t volunteer that information.”
“She was interrogated last night.” Genevieve’s lips tightened. “Miles gave her baby to Masister Khol. They intend to recover the ledgers you stole, unless Gaia took them with her. If she did, they won’t rest until they find her. Does she have them?”
He looked bleakly at the floor between his boots. “I don’t know where the ledgers are.” He’d said it a hundred times in the last few days.
“You must see it’s a matter of the utmost importance,” Genevieve said. “Those records could guide birth parents outside the wall to the families inside who are raising their advanced children. It would cause widespread panic if parents in the Enclave believed that their children could be identified. They’d be afraid their kids could be stolen.”
“Like you’d have cared if my birth parents came for me?” he asked.
“Leon,” Genevieve said. “Of course. You’re my son no matter what’s happened.”
Wincing, he tightened the fabric around his injured hand, even though it was doing little to staunch the blood. The tip of his ring finger had been severed from the knuckle up, and his efforts to arrest the blood flow when he’d been chained had not succeeded. Only the combination of his hand being raised high and his wrist shackle restricting his circulation had prevented him from losing more blood.
“I wish you’d just cooperated with him from the start,” Genevieve said. “Do you know where Gaia is now?”
“Or where she’s gone? Didn’t she tell you anything?”
He glanced up grimly. “You think I’d tell you if she did? Now that they’ve found Emily, my resistance didn’t make much of a difference anyway,” he said. “That’s why the Protectorat is letting me go now, isn’t it? He’s done with me. Why doesn’t he just kill me?”
She put a hand on his arm, and he went still at her touch.
“Don’t, Mom,” he said.
“Your father’s never known how to handle you,” she said quietly, releasing him. “But this is the worst of all.”
He didn’t want to hear it. The man had ceased being any decent kind of father long before he’d ordered Leon’s torture. What Leon didn’t understand was why Genevieve was still with the Protectorat. How could any woman stay with a man who hurt his own son? She must not love him as a son, either. That’s what it felt like to Leon, no matter what she said about protecting him. Her lies only added to the betrayal.
He didn’t need this. He had to get out of here. He took a deep breath as the noise of footsteps descending came down the staircase and he shifted. A compact, strong man in a white chef’s apron preceded Myrna past Leon.
“What’s this?” Mabrother Cho said with false levity. “In trouble again?”
Leon looked up to see the cook scowling at his back.
“You don’t seem surprised,” Leon said. “Give me a hand?”
Mabrother Cho stooped instead, and hauled Leon over his shoulder, careful not to touch his ripped back. He carried him up the rest of the stairs into the kitchen, where he gently deposited him on the long wooden table. Leon shifted heavily over the edge to sit on one of the stools instead.
“If I lie down, I’ll pass out,” Leon said, and glanced up at the doctor. “See what you can do, Masister.”
He held out his hand first. The doctor took it tenderly between her hands, turning it carefully, and unwrapped the torn, blood-soaked fabric. “A bowl of water,” Myrna said. “And more so I can wash his back. And towels. This is ridiculous working like this. At least get me better light.”
“I’ll get the lamp,” Genevieve said.
Myrna opened her black satchel and began laying out medical supplies, including a metal scalpel that she propped over a candle flame. She readied another syringe.
“What’s that?” Leon asked.
“Another dose of mor**ine. It’s going to hurt, what I’m about to do for you.”
He shook his head. “I can’t have it. I have to be able to think.”
Myrna regarded him soberly for a second, then set the syringe and the little bottle of mor**ine aside. “I’ll send it with you. When you reach the point you need it, you can take it.”
Mabrother Cho returned with a metal bowl of clean water. Genevieve had an extra lamp, which she arranged near Myrna’s shoulder.
“Put the bowl there, and stay out of my way,” Myrna said, directing Mabrother Cho. “You, too, Masister. No hovering.”
Leon was slouched forward, elbows on the table, and when Myrna immersed his hand in the bowl, blood immediately began to seep into the warm water, turning it red.
“You’re reported to have a great bedside matter, Masister,” Leon said. “Where’s that tonight?”
“That’s only for patients I don’t care about,” Myrna said.
Yet when she began cleaning the wound, her touch was gentle and sure. He winced when she snipped away a dangling bit of torn skin, and blotted at the blood with a cloth. Then she hitched the lamp nearer. “It’s a clean amputation at least,” she said.
“Glad you think so,” Leon said. He refused to turn his mind back to how it had happened.