36. The Price of Failure
“Who the hell did this?” Bara asked, turning Zes’ hand over once again under the light. “The goddamn bones are shattered! It wouldn’t even matter if you were proven guilty! You stand up, show the court your hands and tell them the confession was procured under duress. Your case is dropped, you walk away scotch free!”
Zes just shrugged and looked at his own hands, as if seeing them for the first time. Youth, Bara thought, watching him, so carefree and careless, even toward their own bodies. He’d seen the footage, of course. He knew that it was Zes who’d done it to himself, just as he’d broken his own leg as a boy, stabbed a nail through his own palm.
It both had been and hadn’t been Zes, as Tera had testified. Ace had asked them to report everything, taking them individually and questioning them. Bara had only happened to hear because he was cleaning the cuts on her palms when Ace came in.
Zes’ circumstances were less complex than Ace and Vier’s, though, and much less puzzling. His traumatic childhood had given him a split personality disorder, and while both were violent, one was extremely so. That side of him was composed of his own self-hatred, so he’d frequently hurt himself. When he hadn’t been busy hurting others.
Only four people had ever had the courage to face Zes when he was like that and lived to tell of it. The former Ace of Hearts, Zes’ sister, Vier, and now Tera. The first had been an idol, worshiped by a boy without a parent-figure. The second, a family, loved despite everything. The third a friend, found when his life had been hardest. The fourth, Bara had no idea.
Not that it really mattered. He splinted and bandaged Zes’ hands one at a time, taking care not to hurt the boy, though he showed no sign of pain. Bara thought the nerves in his hands might have been cut by shards of the bone. If so, it would be a much bigger issue than simple broken fingers.
But there was a bigger problem. Vier hadn’t come back. Ace was storming about, trying to be everywhere, as usual, but now there was a frantic quality to it. He was worried, no matter how hard he tried to hide it.
They were all worried. Bara was worried. Vier had to take medication for his heart and lungs, and if he didn’t return soon it’d be late. They were always less effective when the injections were given late.
“Thanks Doc.” Zes turned to him before leaving, and Bara studied the newly stitched cuts on the boy’s face with clinical disinterest. “And don’t worry. I’ll find Vier. I promise. Tell Ace that for me.”
“I will kid. But watch your hands. Don’t do anything stupid or you’ll just hurt them worse.” Zes nodded and opened the door.
But he didn’t leave.
Because the doorway was blocked.
Bara came closer, studying the body. “Dix,” he whispered in shock. There was just no way to be clinically disinterested in this. A knife stood out from her back, the handle engraved with one word.