Slowly, Cooper grew aware of aches where he didn’t normally ache, and a stinging feeling all over. His groggy brain tried to process which of the two actually hurt more, before giving it up as a wasted effort. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking slowly and cursing the fact that he wasn’t wrong. The soft hum he’d heard was fluorescent light, which cast a dull greenish pallor over the institutional shade of paint on the cinder block walls of the holding cell.
“Well,” he thought to himself, “the fact that they approached was all the indication you needed that they already were in control of the situation. Letting them capture you with little effort was just inelegant proof of what you had every reason to suspect.”
No other person was in sight. He could see no windows. He wondered what they had done with Jake.
A door opened at the end of the hall. A man of average height and build, dressed in street clothes walked through, advancing toward the holding cell. “Good. You’re finally awake.” he said, stopping at the cell door, and flashing a weak smile.
“I suspect that even if I saw the guy that hit me, the result would be the same.” Said Cooper, returning a weak smile of his own.
The stranger laughed. “That’s true. But he wasn’t close enough for you to touch anyway.”
“Sonic weapon?” asked Cooper.
“Close enough.” said the stranger, who again showed an unfelt smile. “A gift from your government, for use in crowd control.”
“My government doesn’t exist anymore.” Cooper said grimly. “The corpse of my country bears the same name, but it isn’t the one I was born into.”
“Indeed.” nodded the stranger, who was staring at Cooper, appearing to size him up. “Why did you run?”
“Stubborness.” replied Cooper, as he leaned against the cell wall. “I had it figured, but old habits die hard. ”
“Hmmm.” said the stranger. “I think some of my superiors are banking on that. I think some of the rest are afraid of that. I haven’t decided for myself yet.”
Cooper pondered the words. They knew where he was. They probably had known for a while. What made them wait so long before acting? Shifting his weight slightly, he said “Well, astride the fence might be the safest place to be when your superiors don’t have a clear consensus. ”
The stranger’s eyes flickered. “Do you take me for a coward?” he asked, his voice flat and dead sounding.
“Of course not. I’ve known my share of Mounties. “Cowards” is not a word that I would have associated with any of them.” He knew the stranger was a pro, and the almost careless way he carried himself as he walked in the room indicated that he was practiced in lulling people into a false sense of security.
“Yes, we’re aware of your past. You’ve seen things that many Canadians have never witnessed. From places that many don’t even know exist.”
Cooper closed his eyes, and laughed. “That was a lifetime ago.”
A few minutes passed as the stranger quietly regarded the man who sat before him.
“There doesn’t seem to be much traffic in this holding cell. Not much crime here in the prairie provinces?” asked Cooper.
The stranger smiled again, this time with feeling. “What makes you think that is where we are?”
Cooper sat up straight. How long had he been out? “Where is my son?” he asked quietly.
The stranger sighed. “Relax, Cooper. Can I call you Cooper?”
“You’d be surprised at what names I’ve answered to in my life. Answer my question. Where. Is. My. Son?”
The stranger replied “He’s fine. He took the stunning a lot better than you did. Probably because he is much younger. He has a healthy appetite. He’s in our cafeteria right now, having some lunch.”
Cooper allowed himself to believe what the stranger just said, and leaned back against the cell wall again.
“Are you hungry?” asked the stranger. “It’s been a while. You might want a sandwich.”
Cooper was hungry, but he didn’t see any point in making a big deal out of it. He wanted to see Jake more than he wanted to eat. He nodded yes.
The stranger unlocked the door, opened it slowly, and extended his hand. “Agent Roy, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, currently on special assignment.”
Cooper took his hand, and firmly shook it. “I’d introduce myself, but you apparently already know who I am. What special assignment?”
“You.” Agent Roy stated flatly, as he turned to lead the way out. Cooper followed Roy as they exited into another long, window-lined hallway. Cooper looked out to see an urban skyline with the Peace Tower in the distance. Ottawa.
After 30 years, he was back in Ottawa. A mere 6-8 hour train ride and one international border from the state he grew up in. He sighed again, looking down as they traversed the hall in a few quick steps, walking through a large metal door into a small, government cafeteria. The only people in the room were Jake, who was busy eating macaroni and cheese from a tray, and the doctor from the library, who was smiling as she spoke with him. Cooper walked two more steps, and Jake looked up, saw him, and yelled “DAD!”