Unwelcome Changes

Alexander sighed softly as he stepped into the office of the vice squad. He’d asked for the transfer out of organized crime when Henry was arrested. Robin had suggested it might be safer to put some distance between himself and the others. However, now that he was there, one thing became evident: none of them trusted him.

Biting his lip, he smoothed his jacket and moved towards the open door that led into the squad leader’s office. He rapped lightly on the wood and peered inside. “Alexander Pemberton, reporting for duty, sir,” he said, his voice faint.

The squad leader nodded and pushed away from his desk. “Keep your nose clean and we’ll get along fine,” he murmured as he passed Alexander. Then he was standing in the main office. “Listen up, folks,” he said. “This is Alexander Pemberton, the newest member of our squad. Make him feel welcome. Daniel, he’s your partner.”

A tall man with thick, dark hair scowled. “Yes, sir,” he said. His eyes fixed Alexander with a cold glare. Pointing, he said, “That’s your desk.”

Alexander swallowed thickly and nodded. “Thank you,” he said. He nodded politely at the squad leader. “I – I’ll do my best, sir,” he said, his voice barely audible. He hurried over to the desk, then. He didn’t want to talk with the squad leader. He was just as bad as the others.

As he sat down, he looked at Daniel. “So,” he said, trying to keep his tone light and cordial, “you’re my partner?”

“Don’t think it means I’m going to immediately be your best friend,” Daniel said, turning his back and getting back to whatever work he was doing when Alexander arrived.

Alexander’s mouth opened, but he couldn’t find words to express his feelings. After a moment, he pressed his lips together and turned to his computer. He flipped a switch and it flared to life. He could feel tears stinging his eyes, but he stubbornly pushed them aside. He was not going to give Daniel the satisfaction.

“Aw, are you crying?” one of the others said, his tone teasing.

Glaring, Alexander shook his head. “Go ta hell,” he snapped. Then he very deliberately placed earphones in place and looked at the screen. He signed into the Wardens’ network and started his personal program. A moment later, music drowned out the chuckles of his teammates.

He logged into the messenger system and entered the room his former team used to use. Cyril was dead, thanks to someone in the Underground who thought he was too careless. Charles was on administrative leave. Henry had been in prison for a couple years, thanks to the document he’d managed to slip to his cousin. Only one other person would be in the room.

A message from RNolan appeared on the screen. “What are you doing here?” it read.

Alexander bit his lip. “They hate me,” he typed. “They all think I’m like Henry and Cyril and Charles!”

“Give it time,” Robin replied. There was a pause while Robin typed a longer message. Then more words appeared. “I know this is a big change for you,” they read, “but you really are safer there than you would be here.”

“I want to be with you,” Alexander typed back. “You’ve kept me safe for years now. Why do things have to change now?”

“They killed Cyril,” Robin typed back. “Charles or me could be next! They might come after you! They’ll keep you safe.”

Alexander sighed and then started chewing his lip. Would they?

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