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Cool Hand Loxley

Posted on Thu Dec 24th, 2020 @ 5:58pm by Alden Loxley & Kindra Graham

Mission: Six Days to Santo
Location: Caster Sheriff's Office
Timeline: Day 23 - Late Afternoon

He didn't expect anyone to come for him in all honesty. When they'd dragged - well pushed was more accurate - him in here, Alden had seen the pictures on the Wanted board. He couldn't fail to recognise Alison by another name and hair colour. He knew the shady world that James and Jonas operated within as well as he understood the bright shiny one that occupied Karen's professional existence (one he wanted her to maintain). Chloe was too new, Tristan was young, Daiyu was too messed up...

So he'd taken that rough handling and now he sat on the cell's wooden slatted bench, back against the wall, forehead resting on the heels of his hands and Alden listened.

To his conscience chastising him. To his subconscious reminding him that Alison had been right. To the sound of his own pulse thumping in his head. To the grumbling curses of the two scruffy women in the adjoining holding cell. To the crazy dude with the whiskey aftershave in the corner chattering some complicated insanity.

Alden didn't look up as the female deputy rattled her nightstick along the bars of said jail cell, he didn't want to give her the satisfaction of seeing the bruises or the exhaustion colouring his face.

"Ten minutes," said the stocky deputy with the weathered skin and cold grey eyes.

Kindra took in the bleak cell conditions punctuated by the aroma of chemical cleaner with urine and sweat top notes. When her gaze found Alden, it took all of her control not to run to his cell and reach for him through the bars. She had a role to play, and she had to make it convincing for the deputy, while cluing Alden in at the same time.

She rested her hands on her hips and adopted an imperious tone. "Mister. Loxley." She gave a dramatic exasperated sigh. "Do you have any idea how inconvenient this –" Her dismissive gesture took in the jail cells, "- diversion is to me?" Once she had his attention, she winked. It had been two years since the last time she'd seen him. Please let him catch on to the ruse fast.

"The Sheriff tells me you are accused of committing certain crimes. Shepherd Whit has gone with the Sheriff to console the victim and interview the witnesses. What exactly happened, Mr. Loxley?"

He knew that voice. Oh Feh Feh Pi Goh but he knew that voice. A cold feeling of absolute dread sank through Alden's battered frame as he slowly raised his head and looked through the bars to see if he was right. Yup. Kindra Graham.

Shun Sheng Duh Gao Wahn. How Shi Sung Chung.

Two expressions fought for dominance on weary features as Alden struggled to brace horrified humiliation up upon confident relief. Just when he thought today couldn't get any worse - or was it getting better? - it was so damn difficult to tell lately. He winced, lowered his gaze and didn't need to try too hard to muster up genuine anguish and distressed concern. That wink though? That was extremely welcome, even if he couldn't acknowledge it.

"Sorry ma'am," Alden mumbled, wondering what exactly the hell Kindra was doing here and now. Was this luck, misfortune, coincidence or machination? He decided he didn't care. "Real sorry," he repeated, playing the downtrodden idiot with a casual, easy grace.

"Bar fight," he added, as if that explained everything just plenty fine.

"A bar fight." Kindra drawled, infused with as much skepticism as she could muster. Alden did not appear badly hurt, that was a relief, but the sheriff's accusations seemed all the more unlikely. Kindra folded her arms to control her impulse to reach through the bars. "I explained to Sheriff Clixby that your incarceration interferes with services I have contracted with you to provide. Services for which you are uniquely qualified, and costly to replace." She paused to let the bribery implications sink in.

"Sheriff Clixby said you destroyed a man's face. Shepherd Whit is headed to the hospital with him now, to check on that man. Now, don't make me ask you again." With her back to the deputy, the pleading expression on Kindra's face did not match her domineering tone. "What happened in the bar, Mr. Loxley?"

His head felt like one of those drum-beating monkeys had decided to have his buddies over for a concert, and he could feel the steel-fire gaze of the female deputy burning an imaginary hole in that same skull. Kindra's words, unconventional support from an unexpected source, sounded loud and clear. She had some kind of plan, Alden told himself, all he had to do was not fuck it up..

"Yes, ma'am," he confirmed. "Sorry ma'am. Didn't mean t'inconvenience y'all. Just sorta happened that way, I spose." Alden stared at his boots and sighed softly. "My fault, my 'sponsibility. Things got outta control real fast..." He looked back up, focused on Kindra and let his eyes lock with hers. "Folks said I owed 'em money. Wasn't true," he lied. "Then said folk started to sexually harrass one of my crew, and it went downhill from there." He shrugged. "Detail doesn't matter. My fault. My responsibility."

Kindra's hands returned to her hips, and she paced a few steps back and forth, to think and parse out what Alden had just told her. A touch of genuine irritation made it easier to project a scowl. He said it was his fault and responsibility, not that he did it. Most likely, he was protecting someone – the person actually guilty of committing grievous bodily harm. The sheriff had arrested Alden instead of the perpetrator, but why? Money, it had to be about money. Someone wanted money from Alden and had sexually harassed a member of his crew, leading someone – probably the harasser – to end up in the hospital. Wait. Kindra turned to look directly at him. Alden had a crew? Then she recalled Shepherd Whit's comment that Alden was his ride off this rock.

The exasperated sigh from Kindra for the watching deputy's benefit was only half-fake. "With you it's always a woman needing protection, isn't it, Mr. Loxley? We shall see what Shepherd Whit turns up in his investigation." Her eyes held Alden's. When Whit found witnesses to identify the real guilty party, the sheriff would have no legal reason to keep Alden. But first Kindra would need to contact his crew and hide whoever Alden was protecting. Even so, to get him released she might need to make a deal with whoever was paying the sheriff. "Now then, this person who claimed you owe them money - what is his or her name? And, while we're on the subject Mr. Loxley, perhaps you would be so kind as to inform me of any other parties who will be inconvenienced by your incarceration."

She didn't like this, Alden thought, and he could one hundred percent agree with her on that front. But. He was not about to bring Daiyu into the open and he was overly confident that he had a far better chance of escaping this unharmed than she did. Kindra was an unexpected... complication? Or perhaps a divine intervention on the rescue side of things? Either way, Drake's money could probably get him out of this if all else failed and that safety net was all the confidence he currently needed to be the dumbass taking blame.

Alden shrugged and mustered up benevolent apologetic face for the Companion as Kindra exuded frustration and called him out on his White Knight complex. Not the first woman to do that lately, he noted internally as he stayed his course with stubborn, misguided valour.

"Not always," Alden countered pedantically, thinking of Tristan. Another shrug. "But I do get what you're saying." Investigation? Ta Ma Duh, who was this Shepherd? He exhaled and hit Kindra's gaze with an awkward teenager-caught-out-after-curfew expression. "Huckleberry Howson," Alden admitted and he heard the Deputy bark a mocking laugh.

"You'll be up for more than GBH if you owe Howson money," Myers said, with not a small amount of joy in her tone. She looked to Kindra then, studied the young woman's face for a moment and gifted her something for nothing. "Loxley here's registered Captain of the Fortune's Echo," she said. "Piece of junk landed here earlier today - you want to find anyone who cares about him, I'd say that's a good place to start." And if you bring them out into the light of day, Myers finished in the privacy of her own head, we'd no doubt be arresting some more folk.

Kindra focused on the deputy, listening to what the woman said with rapt attention. The fact that Alden was now the captain of a ship filled her with curiosity but didn't surprise her at all. That the deputy straight-up boasted about how justice in this town depended on money… that could work for them or against them. "Thank you, Deputy Myers. If I wanted to speak with Mr. Howson, where might I find him?"

At the point Kindra's attention shifted from him to Myers, Alden stood up and projected an overly worried theme. He didn't like the way this was going, but the subservient demeanour worked better with the Companion's play. A difficult choice perhaps, though one he wasn't about to risk Kindra's life on.

"Don't..." he said, frown deeply furrowing his brow as he helplessly watched the two women from behind the barrier. Another couple of steps and his fingers curled about those bars. Alden shook his head vehemently. "Don't go to him."

Myers perceived that apparent fear as guilt, and indicated the door back to the outer office. "Step back on through, Ms Graham," she said, a little more graciously than before. This, from the deputy's point of view, was really shaping up for some interesting times. "I'll give you directions."

"Wait!" Alden called, miserably. "Don't..."

Alden's pleading pierced Kindra's heart and wrenched her guts. He was no longer acting. In the two years since she'd last seen him, Kindra had changed in subtle ways. Intervals back at Madrassa, and especially the last six months on the run from her stepbrother. She was tough, when she needed to be. A better liar. A better truth-teller. Able to make hard choices and live with the consequences.

Fate had brought Alden into her life for a third time, and wo de tian a - dear god in heaven - she would not let him go so easily again. In a clear, strong voice she reassured him as best she could. "I am no fool, Alden Loxley." Then she allowed the deputy to usher her through the door.

And as that door closed shut behind the two tough and independently minded women, Alden exhaled, stomped his feet like an angry toddler and swore like a merchant sailor. This day? This day was definitely not going how he wanted it, and he couldn't help but worry about, well, everyone at this point. Twice now they'd hit landfall for more than a few hours and twice he'd been separated from his crew. He'd also have to admit Ali was right, but that was far from the worst thing happening today.

"Maybe not, Kindra Graham," Alden muttered to himself. "Maybe not. But I am."



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