This is Issue #142 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘DeathWatch’ then go to ‘#0 – A Beginning’ and read from there, or go find the issue # you remember, and catch up from there!
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Holden Olivier squirmed, held by the throat in the grasp of the angriest man he’d ever known. For a moment, he marveled at how quiet Garrett’s fury was — in the past, men like Hoyt Redwell’s father would show their anger with commensurate volume. This man, however, spoke with vehemence, not volume.
Snap the neck. Hide the body. Pick up your bag. Run. Those were the thoughts Alec Garrett had, while holding Olivier a solid foot off the ground. He stared up at Holden, his face gone passive, until the man’s lips began to darken, and he managed to shake himself out of his fury. If he did that, he’d never stop running, and he’d finally managed to make something of a life for himself, in the Academy — it had been occasionally lonely, but it had been his, and good. Thinking better of it, Garrett released the headmaster and set him down, dropping him almost gently into a chair. He could back his way out of almost anything short of murder, if he had to. He still had at least one friend high up — depending on just how many Kriegs left for the homeland, now that the Allied forces were being re-divided.
“You’re finished,” Holden rasped. “Get out. Men like you. Ruining this place.”
“Men like me?” Garrett said, lifting his chin, his eyes narrowing. He barely kept his lips from curling in disdain in response to Holden’s bald bigotry.
“You know what I mean,” Holden sneered. “Acting as though it’s perfectly natural. I don’t know how you managed to get yourself discharged with special merit. I don’t know how you survived–”
A sudden recollection of strong arms around him, holding him up. Garrett closed his eyes, breathing in the memory of leather, gun oil, expensive tobacco leaf. He was caught up, for a moment, recalling the sound of artillery shells, bullets, aether cannons. He remembered the way the ground shook, and the way the sky was on fire. The Borderlands were burning, and he’d have died a dozen times over — in the end, he almost didn’t care if the missions they sent him on did kill him. But those strong arms held him, held him up, and promised him not all was as it seemed, and even in the dark, there was the hope of light. He shook himself out of his reverie and stepped back, moving to rummage through his desk, looking. “I couldn’t’ve gotten rid of it,” he muttered to himself. “I wouldn’t have,” he said softly.
“Have you gone quite deaf?” Holden wondered, sitting up in the chair, fussing with his collar, clearly assuming Garrett simply didn’t have the strength to follow through on doing anything to permanently injure or otherwise harm him. “I want–”
“For fuck’s sake, Olivier! How do you not know when to shut up?” Garrett wondered, looking over at him, exasperated. He went back to rummaging through one of the drawers of his desk. “You’ve managed to live to what, seventy, without someone punching you in the throat and disposing of you in the bottom of a hog trough? Live to seventy one. Don’t speak. I will–ahh, there it is,” he sighed. His fingers closed around the heavy, wrapped object, and he pulled it out of the drawer, and plonked it on the desk, pulling away the oilcloth.
Holden Olivier scrambled back from the old pistol Garrett had just pulled out. “You — you–”
Garrett looked down at it, and over at Holden, saying, “I’m not going to kill you, you miserable prick.”
“You’re a madman,” Holden said quietly, looking at the gun.
“Perhaps,” Garrett said quietly, not at all talking about the same thing Holden was talking about. “But all the same…I’ll go, Olivier.”
Holden gawped, for a moment, and then obviously misunderstood, and tried once more to regain the upper hand. “As you should,” he said arrogantly, smoothing his shirt, his thinning hair. “If you–”
Garrett’s movement was swift. Swift enough that Holden did not flinch or get quiet until he was literally staring down the barrel of the pistol, eyeing the way Garrett’s thumb efficiently flicked back the hammer. Garrett walked around the desk without the muzzle wavering, walked right up and carefully rested the edge of the barrel on Holden Olivier’s cheek. “I do, however, know many, many places I could put bullets that wouldn’t kill you,” he explained, pressing the muzzle against Holden’s shoulder. And then his knee. And then his hand, grinding it down against the flesh. “They’d hurt. They would fucking hurt, Holden. And if you honestly think I’m mad, I question just how sane you are, provoking me,” he said softly.
Holden was silent for once, swallowing dryly. He stared at the gun, open-mouthed and panting.
Garrett used the barrel to nudge Holden’s chin up, so the man would look at him.
When it touched his face, Holden flinched.
Garrett sighed, shaking his head. “I will collect my things, Olivier. I will leave this Academy. I will be going to the airfields, and I will leave on a ship for the East. But mark this, Olivier — it is not because I am running from you. It is because I intend to find those boys.”
“They’re dead,” Holden blurted, and then looked terrified. He winced, then, and a dark stain began to spread between the legs of his trousers.
Garrett kept speaking — he did not pull the trigger, which is what Holden had assumed would happen, for speaking out of turn. “They weren’t on the confirmed list. Perhaps they went down on a ship, but have been detained. Do you understand? I’m going after them. There is the faintest, faintest chance those boys are still alive, held somewhere, trying to survive, and I intend to find out. If they’re alive, I will bring them back to their parents, intact. And then I will come back.”
Holden swallowed again.
“I will come back,” Garrett said softly, “I will come back here and I will expect my job waiting for me, and I expect you will stay out of my way, while I live out my years as an Academy professor, as I had planned to do, before you took over the Headmaster post, and attempted to drive this place into the ground, and if things are not as I expect when I return, Holden, I promise you, ‘madman’ will be the least frightening of the names you find for me. Do I make myself clear?”
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