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Whose Justice?

By Judith Proctor
Page 1 of 3

      At the back of the hall, somebody cheered. Blake spun in unbelieving fury, staring at the faces before him, finger tense and trembling on the trigger of his gun.

      There was silence.

      "Get out." The words were clipped, terse. He was on the verge of breaking down and wondered how they could not know it.

      Nobody moved. It was as if they all thought he was referring to someone else. A boy near the back coughed nervously.

      "I said get out, all of you." He gestured violently with his gun in the direction of the exit.

      The circus was over. A couple of people shuffled nervously to their feet. Marlene edged towards him. "Blake, are you all right?"

      "Oh, I'm fine." He'd never known sarcasm could be so bitter. "I've just killed my best friend. I'm sure I'll get over it in a few minutes." Leave me alone, he wanted to scream. I don't want you all staring at me while I cry for him.

      They crowded around him, bodies offering unwanted confort, trying to press reassurances upon him. Would-be helpful voices telling him he'd done the right thing, that he'd executed a guilty man, that it was all over, that he didn't have to worry. Behind Marlene, he could see Josh with the vid-recorder. And when had that seemed like a good idea: to tape the killing, to show the world that not only could the rebellion carry out its own justice, but that Roj Blake still lived in spite of the traitor's efforts?

      Had Avon ever had to sit through a recording of his own action? Blake was sure he would never be able to watch this one. Revenge had turned sour and bitter in his throat. Pragmatism alone kept him from smashing the recorder to the floor. That and the fact that they'd all think him insane. Why? Why was he so certain now that Avon had loved him? What was it Cally had been so fond of saying? Something about trust and betrayal. He couldn't recall the exact words. Could you betray someone if you loved them? Had he loved Avon? In his confusion, he couldn't tell, and suddenly it was desperately important that he know.

      They were ringing Avon's body, vultures round a corpse. Bull-like, Blake barged his way through, thrust his borrowed gun back into Helena's hands, and bent to claim his dead. Unseeing eyes stared upwards; heavy-handed, he closed them. For the second time that day, he took Avon into his arms. Now, finally, they stood back from him, the body he was carrying somehow symbolic of his rights whereas the corpse on the floor had not been. Avon was still warm. His hair was too long, Blake thought abstractedly, and then, I'll never wear that shirt again. Because he would not bury Avon in his prison garment, nor would he place him naked into the ground. And if Avon would have thought him a fool for wasting scarce resources that way, well that was... That was... He turned his back on them all and blinked back tears.

      Somewhere behind him, he could hear Shona, the ever efficient exec, organising a grave-digging party.

      "No." He would not give Avon over to those who had hated him.

      "Blake?"

      "Just meet me by the lower entrace with a spade. I'll do it myself."

      He could visualise her shrug without seeing it. "Very well."

      

      

      Too bright, the long corridor offered light where he wanted to hide in the darkness of shadows. It would be daylight outside, and that would be wrong too, for dark deeds demanded to be hidden. Had he thought Avon thin before? With every step he took, the body gained weight. Sloping endlessly downwards, the corridor might as well have led into the mythical depths of hell. The realm of the dead - that seemed appropriate somehow. If only Avon weren't so heavy. He'd have to rest soon. "You must touch the life you take," Sinofer had said. But had even that ancient ghost reckoned on him achieving the death of an enemy and of a friend in a single blow? Because that was the crux, wasn't it? Avon was all things to him. There was Avon the pragmatist who could quite easily have done everything he'd been accused of, and there was the other Avon, the one who was harder to see, the one he'd trusted and called friend. Cynic and saviour, all in one package. No wonder the man had dominated his life.

      It was no use, he had to sit down and rest for a moment. He wasn't sure which was harder to bear, the weight of Avon's body, or the endless churning of his own thoughts. Blake leaned against the wall and let himself slide down into a sitting position, Avon sprawled across his lap. And which man did he have here then, the friend or the enemy? Stupid question. You couldn't divide a man into two parts. He was tired; he'd been up most of the night. Would it really matter if he rested for a while? Here in the whiteness of the corridor, it was peaceful. No people. He needed time to be alone, time to think. But if he sat here for more than a minute or two, his muscles would seize up and he was barely half way to the exit. He could always wait for Shona and get her to help. No. That felt wrong. It wasn't that Shona was squeamish or weak, it was simply that Avon was his.

      Blake struggled to his feet once more and resumed his downhill journey. Sometimes, you had to trust instinct. Whatever else Avon had or had not done, he had regretted Roj's death. Of that, Blake was prepared to swear. And that meant he would have regretted Blake's death - had regretted Blake's death. He shifted the weight in his arms, trying in vain to find an easier position; he was going to dislocate a shoulder at this rate. It didn't matter. He needed penance, some way to pay an impossible debt. Each step added to the burden of guilt.

      Did you feel this pain, Avon?

      Did my death hurt you as much as yours has hurt me?

      Did you ever understand how much I relied on you?

      Did you ever understand how much I needed you?

      Did you ever understand how much I cared for you?

      "Damn you, Avon, why did you lie to them?"

      Not much further now. Soon he'd reach the entrace to the caves. Just a little further. But he'd never be able to carry Avon over the stream bed without slipping and falling on the mossy stones.

      Footfalls echoed rapid behind him, the sound reaching Blake long before he could determine who it was. There seemed little point in trying to outdistance the runner, so he sat down again, cradled Avon's head against his chest and waited, fingers smoothing the disordered hair. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine that Avon was simply unconscious, could imagine the faintest movement in the chest resting against his own, could believe-

      "Blake."

      He opened his eyes to see Helena crouched beside him, panting to regain her breath. She slipped a loaded rucksack off her back. "I thought you'd need this."

      Perceptive of her. He'd only just realised himself that he needed to go off on his own for a few days. There was too much crowding his mind, he needed time to work it all out.

      "I had to guess at the size of the boots, but I don't think his feet are much different to yours."

      Boots. His mind churned slowly over the words, unable to accept what she was saying. Boots, for Avon. And why should she think Avon needed boots? He looked at the gun in her hoster, one he vaguely recalled borrowing less than half an hour ago. A Flaxman model B - one of the few guns they owned with a variable power discharge. Bile rose in his stomach. He'd never even looked at the power setting. Nausea clutched at him. He'd been through hell for nothing, because Avon wasn't even dead. Blake felt for the pulse he knew he should find, but his hand was shaking too much to detect it. But he knew, knew with instinct that went beyond logic, knew that the man he held was alive.

      "Helena," he rasped, voice catching deep within his throat. "What the hell have you done?"

      "Saved a man's life. That was what you wanted, wasn't it?"

      He buried his face in Avon's hair, not looking at her. "Yes, yes of course." But it wasn't 'of course', because she didn't understand, hadn't thought it through. If Avon was alive, Blake had to go though it all over again, and he couldn't. "But what do we do with him?"

      "Easy." She reminded him vaguely of his mother, all organisation and confidence. "He'll come out of it in ten minutes or so. You dig a fake grave in case anyone checks; he takes the survival gear, and off he goes."

      So simple. So simple and so wrong. She'd destroyed his life, and she didn't yet realise that she'd done it. More footsteps were coming down the corridor and that was simply the final nail in the coffin{\160}- Shona.

      "Hello," Helena was saying brightly, "I just came down to give Blake a hand."

      He heard the clatter of a shovel being flung to the ground and looked up to meet Shona's glare. Hands on hips, she faced him down. "You did it, didn't you? The moment you insisted on burying him yourself, I knew you'd damn well faked it."

      Blake spoke to her knees, and the emptiness of the wall in front of him. "I didn't know. I didn't know it was set on stun."


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Judith Proctor

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