Crawford scowled at the blank grey wall of his holding cell. He idly wished he had a ball to bounce against it, for the fiftieth time in the past half hour. Still, it was probably for the best, considering the state his arm was in. He winced as he flexed it; the stitches were itchy, but he knew scratching them would be far worse.
Crawford had been in lockup and awaiting trial for nearly a week, which was roughly five days longer than he had been willing to wait. There wasn’t much to be done about it, though. Though his crime had been flashy, it appeared there were more important criminals in need of judgement. His trial had been scheduled for later that month, and for now he languished in the Lovelock Correctional Center, a typical podunk prison in a typical podunk town, all wrapped up in a typical podunk state. Christ, he hated it.
“McCormick! You’ve got a visitor.”
Crawford looked up. Finally, Maya got me a damn lawyer. Crawford stood up off the ground and allowed himself to be handcuffed.
“Your mom coming in for a conjugal visit again?”
The guard yanked him out of the cell by his cuffs, and Crawford let out a gasp of pain. It felt like the guard had pulled his stitches apart. The guard gave him a contemptuous smirk.
“Pro tip, hotshot. Don’t antagonize the guy with the taser, the billy club, and the backup.”
“That’s… not what your… uh, yeah. Good advice.” It wasn’t his best retort, but only because it felt like his arm was on fire. The guard led him (somewhat more gently) through the labyrinth of halls to a room that looked, to Crawford, eerily like a classroom. The only real difference was a lack of desks and chalkboards, replaced with a conference table and a huge mirror covering the wall. Crawford smirked at the mirror. He glanced over his shoulder at the guard.
“Looks like your wife finally found a mirror that’ll show everything.”
At this, the guard reached for his belt. The tazer was inches from Crawford’s neck when he heard a voice from a corner of the room.
The guard froze. The tazer crackling in his hand was the only sound in the room… save for the click of government issue shoes on institutional linoleum. From the shadows emerged a man in a black suit. The suit was pressed, his shoes were shiny, and his hair was alarmingly perfect. The man himself was… The only word to describe the man was “plain.” He wasn’t ugly in any sense of the word, but he wasn’t exactly handsome either. Crawford would’ve been hard-pressed to pick him out of a crowd.
“Let’s just… there we go,” he said as he gingerly plucked the tazer from the guard’s hand, “none of that. I feel like our mutual friend has had enough… ‘fun’ for today.”
The guard stared at the nondescript man.
“I’ll, uh… I’ll just, leave you to it. Knock on the door when you’re, uh… done.”
“Thank you kindly.”
The guard backed out of the room, never blinking, and slowly closed the door. There was a brief silence.
“Please, have a seat.”
Crawford looked around, then awkwardly pulled a chair out from the table and sat. He was joined by the other man.
“There, isn’t that much better?”
“Not that much better. Any chance I can get these taken off?” Crawford jangled his shackles as he spoke.
“Oh, naturally.” The man reached into an interior pocket, produced a small key, and slid it across the table to Crawford. He gave the man a quizzical look.
“Really? You’re just giving me a handcuff key… in prison?”
“Oh, most definitely. See, you’re either leaving this room with me, or you’re leaving in a bag.” There was a click of metal on metal as the nondescript man placed a Colt 1911 on the table in front of him. Crawford stared. He gulped.
“I take it… you’re not a lawyer.”
“You know there are people watching through that mirror, right?”
“There actually aren’t. Well, no one who’d report me, anyway. Ah, but where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced myself. Doyle, Nathan Doyle. Call me Nate. I’d give you my card, but there’s a fifty-fifty shot it’d be a waste of paper.”
“That’s… fair enough, I suppose. So, uh… who do you work for, then? Aurora? The vamps? maybe the shadow boys? Or… did the signals you pick up on your fillings tell you I was a reptoid?”
“My, but you do have a lot of folks who want you dead. But I’m not one of them. See, I represent the Office of Scientific Intelligence, Research, Investigation and Strategy. It’s a top secret division of the US government. Top secret. Your life is basically forfeit now that you know it exists. And I’m here to offer you a job.”
“Yes, Mr. McCormick, a job. Well, more of a career. And possibly a life path.”
“As in, take this path if I want to keep my life.”
“Your words, not mine. But… roughly accurate, yes. See, we don’t like competition, Mr. McCormick. You and your little friends mainly keep things low key and out of the way, but there are other… non-government entities, that we take issue with. And you… you are in an excellent position to help us with them.”
Crawford folded his arms, winced, and uncrossed them, gingerly applying pressure to his wounded arm. He eyed Doyle, and then leaned forward.
“So let me see if I have the score. I do my bit for Uncle Sam, and I go free. I politely decline, and you shoot me dead?”
“That’s the long and short of it, yes. Well, you’ll never really be free regardless of which option you take; my organization doesn’t give out contracts shorter than seventy-five years. But you’ll be better compensated, in the long run, if you join us. The health benefits, for instance, are incredible. Especially as compared to Mr. Colt’s doctorin’ skills.”
Crawford studied the man’s expression. Never once did his expression flicker.
“You’re one-hundred percent serious about this, aren’t you?”
“Serious like a bullet to the head.”
“I’m gonna have to think about it.”
“Take your time.”