by Hitman 44077
At Central City Police Headquarters, two individuals sat inside their respective jail cells, which were guarded much better than they’d been in recent months since the murder of a prison guard at the end of May and the recent escape of one Mark Mardon, alias the Weather Wizard, in mid-October. (*) One was a known criminal, the arsonist Lyle Byrnes, alias Firefist, whom the Flash brought to justice several hours earlier. The other was an innocent woman, Angela Margolin, who had found the strength to finally leave her abusive husband, only to now find herself within a manner of confinement much like that which she’d sought to escape.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Flash: Terminal Velocity, Chapter 19: Jailbreak and The Brave and the Bold: The Flash and Green Lantern: Party Fervor.]
Both were dressed in prison garb, and both were relatively silent. In some ways this was their only similarity, as neither could quite grasp how their lives could have changed so in a matter of hours.
Angela Margolin looked away, not wanting to be watched over by people whom she regarded as associates, maybe even friends. She felt shame and despair as she stared back at one of the walls in her cell.
I don’t want to be the victim anymore. I want to move forward with my life. And now… this is where I am,” Angie thought sadly. They booked me like a common criminal. They took photos of me, made me undress in front of them like I was a threat, all because of Paul. Even if this nightmare somehow ends, how can I come back here to work, knowing that the others on the force have seen such a side to my life?
She folded her arms and tilted her head down. But the one thing she refused to do was weep any further. What good could that accomplish? She needed to retain as much dignity as she could, and she saw tears as another victory for her estranged husband.
One of the officers in charge of watching over the pair eyed the arsonist with understandable contempt. After all, this was the same man who had callously attacked Central City and left several bodies in his wake. Byrnes, for what it was worth, didn’t seem to let the stare bother him. Though his face was scarred, he still wore a reserved smile knowing that, given a second chance, he could still accomplish what he sought out to do initially: to not only burn Central City to the ground, but to also kill the Flash and Mick Rory.
I’ve been in worse situations, Byrnes thought bitterly, though his face remained the same. My time as a POW proves that much. Still, I can’t believe Rory didn’t show his face. He owes me — oh, does he owe me. And right now, the one thing I have is time — time to plan again, to escape, to avenge this setback. And when I do–
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, ugly,” the officer eyeing Byrnes shouted, interrupting the criminal’s train of thought. “Real funny what you’ve done to Central City and us guys in blue.”
“If it makes you feel better, officer,” Byrnes said, turning his face toward him, “you and your kind are an afterthought. You’re not important enough for me to worry about.”
“You piece of garbage,” the officer seethed, walking up to the cell holding Byrnes. “Someone should set you on fire, punk.”
“Been there, done that, boy,” Byrnes responded with a cold grin. “This is what you need to understand. You’re interchangeable, much like someone’s pet. Anyone can wear your little suit, carry your little gold badge. Real heroes handle threats that you’ll never read about in the newspapers. They pay a price that makes your sacrifices seem like accidents, much like the cat or dog that runs into the street blindly and is killed by a car.”
“You–!” the officer seethed before feeling a hand on his shoulder.
“Hold it, Deardon,” the voice behind the officer said sternly. Deardon turned and saw Detective John Flint standing behind him. He’d heard the remarks but knew that even scum like Byrnes deserved their day in court. “I’m not happy about this any more than you, kid, but you have a job to do. Speaking to the prisoner isn’t part of the job description. Got it?”
The officer was clearly annoyed, but he knew he couldn’t disobey orders. “I got it, Detective,” he responded reluctantly.
“Good,” John said, nodding his head before walking toward the jail cell holding Angela Margolin. His demeanor changed as he stopped by the door to the jail cell. “Angie?” John asked softly.
Angie turned her head to face John at the call of her name. But she turned her head away in shame, seeing the man who’d arrested her. “John, I’m sorry, but I have nothing to say. I’ll wait for my lawyer, Cecile Horton, and see what she recommends,” she said, unsure of what was going to happen.
“Angie, listen to me. I told you before I didn’t want to arrest you. I had no choice. Look, you don’t have to believe me, but I need to speak to you about what happened last night,” John said, trying to balance his concern for his friend with logic as an officer of the law. “The only thing that can help you now is by giving your side of the story.”
Angie just sat there in her cell as she relived certain events that had occurred over the past few months. She shuddered as she remembered the first slap she’d received by the man she’d married. She clenched her eyes tightly, afraid to open them with tears threatening to drop. She couldn’t give Paul one more victory.
She opened her eyes suddenly. “One more victory,” she said with a quiet realization in her voice, not realizing the tears dropping from her eyes.
John watched, more concerned than ever. “Angie?” he asked his friend once more.
Angie turned her head back to John with wide, surprised eyes, feeling the tears drop from her cheeks, then quickly brushed them from her face. “Yeah, yeah,” she said quickly, wiping the last of the tears from her face. “I…”
John watched, feeling the emotions that were threatening to overcome Angie. “Shh,” he said with understanding. “We can speak privately in my office.”
Motioning to Deardon, John instructed the officer to open Angie’s cell door, and then spoke again to Angie. “Let’s go.”
Angie nodded her head and slowly stood up. She took a few steps, then stopped in front of John. Their eyes met, and both knew that the other knew the truth. Angie slowly started to silently weep as John gave her a reassuring hug.
“It’s going to be OK,” John whispered in Angie’s ear. “All right?”
Angie was too choked up to speak, but she managed to nod quickly. The two started to walk toward the doors leading out from the jail cells and into the main Police Headquarters offices when Byrnes piped in one last remark.
“And what soap is this, pray tell? Search for Tomorrow? Days of Our Lives? Maybe One Life to Live? Really. I’ve got a story. Hell, I already told it to the scarlet speedster. Maybe others would like to hear that story. I bet–”
“Shove it!” John interrupted. “The way I see it, your story’s over. It ended as soon as the Flash brought you here. You’ve got more than enough enemies. Don’t make one more, Scarface.”
Byrnes grew silent, his anger brewing as John and Angie continued on their way. They walked into John Flint’s office, not noticing as Amanda Waller strode imperiously into Police Headquarters.
“Excuse me,” the heavyset woman said with authority to the officer at the service desk. “I’m here to see a prisoner.”
The officer responded. “Which prisoner, ma’am?”
“Lyle Byrnes,” Amanda Waller said without emotion, eyes narrowed.
The officer at the service desk grew nervous. “I’m afraid no one can see him right now. There’s still an ongoing investigation regarding the man in question.”
Amanda flashed an annoyed smile. In the fashion that most people recognized of her — but was unknown to the service desk officer — she spoke loudly, catching the service desk officer off-guard. “Listen closely, sweet-face. I’m with the DEO on orders of the United States Attorney General.” Amanda pulled her ID out and handed it to the officer. “I don’t like to play games. They piss me off. Now, unless you want to anger me and our government, you will take me to where you’re holding Mr. Byrnes. Is that understood?”
The officer, with a scared look on her face, immediately complied, taking Amanda Waller to the entrance of the jail cells and allowing her access.
Back in John Flint’s office, John sat at his desk, while Angie took a seat in front of him.
“Angie, look, I know this is difficult. When I… arrested you this morning, I thought there was something odd about it. Too much of what I saw concerning both the wounds on Paul’s hand, cigarette burns, broken fingers, whatever — I did what I did. And I’m sorry I wasn’t at the station to handle matters in a… healthier fashion.”
Angie paused, then swallowed as she spoke. “This… this has been a very, very difficult couple of months. I feel like I’m losing everything I hold dear, John — even Paul.”
“You don’t have to protect him, Angie,” John urged. “What he’s done is disgusting.”
Angie gave a glare at John, both angry and sad, and replied, “I don’t know how much you know, but I still love him, John. At least the person he used to be.”
John closed his eyes, paused, and slowly opened them again. “Angie, I’m going to tell you a story. A number of years ago, there was a case involving spousal abuse. Not only did this guy beat his wife, but he beat his kids — left welts on them that didn’t fade so quickly — swollen faces, busted lips, even some broken bones. It was a treatment that lasted years. I begged the woman to press charges, but she refused. She felt she deserved it. She didn’t know how or why, but she deserved it. She didn’t listen to me, and now she’s dead.”
Angie looked horrified as John paused and continued.
“Her husband, whom she loved as much as her children, killed her — over, of all things, a broken plate. When the oldest son found his mother lying in a pool of blood, he lost it. Years of pent-up anger was released on his father, and the father nearly died that night. The guy died in prison last year of old age, and one of the couple’s children committed suicide over the death of their mother. And the oldest son — well, he’s speaking to you now.”
Angie was more shocked than she could have ever imagined, raising a hand to cover her mouth while looking into the hurt eyes of a man she thought she knew. “My God,” she whispered, knowing her experiences paralleled that of John Flint’s mother.
John paused, looked away for a few seconds. “What happened to me and my family made me vow that I wouldn’t stand for anyone doing the same thing to their family. That’s a big reason I became a cop. And let me tell you, it’s not easy seeing the images of my mother lying there, or the guilt I feel that I didn’t fight back until that day.”
“John,” Angie said, reaching her hand out to John’s, grasping it, “I’m so sorry.”
“You couldn’t have known, Angie. You couldn’t have known any more than I did about your situation before Patty told Wally West and I. And I’m sorry if you feel like she violated your trust, but she wasn’t about to let you rot in here. She spoke up, something more than what I did as a teenager,” John revealed. “She believes in you, and so do I.”
Angie paused, knowing in her heart that she had to do the right thing. It was one thing to experience it firsthand, but knowing what happened to John Flint’s mother forced her to realize that she needed to so something now, as opposed to suffering the same fate as her. “Get your tape recorder, John. I don’t know how much Patty told you, but I’m ready to tell you everything that’s happened between Paul and I,” she said with a sense of strength.
While Angela Margolin began giving her statement to John Flint, Amanda Waller found herself in front of Lyle Byrnes’ jail cell.
“Well, well, well,” Amanda said, softly clapping her hands. “You realize that you had us all fooled, Byrnes?”
Byrnes, through his scars, had a look of confusion on his face. “Excuse me, lady?” he asked.
“The name’s Amanda Waller. Uncle Sam sends his regards,” Waller said coldly. “You and I are going to have a chat.”
“Forget it. Nothing you say is going to convince me of anything. Talk to whoever they get as my public defender,” Byrnes spouted coldly.
“You have no rights, dead man! According to our paperwork, you died roughly fifteen years ago. Now are you going to listen to me?” Waller bellowed.
Byrnes was somewhat taken aback, but he responded in a smart-ass tone, “If I’m dead, then I can’t be charged with crap, can I? I served my country proudly — we both know that. I took care of a lot of people who made trouble for the good ol’ U.S. of A. — me and my squad.”
“Of course you did, Byrnes, and that’s why I’m here. Legally dead or not, our government wants to see you. Now, I can’t say that it’ll be a friendly meeting between you two, but I think it’d be to both of our benefit that you listen to what I have to say,” Waller said slyly.
Byrnes stared at the heavyset woman, hating her attitude yet seeming to have an understanding of where she was coming from. “Go on,” he said with interest.
“You’re facing a lot of charges, Byrnes — murder, destruction of public property, identity theft, inciting panic — it’s quite a list,” Waller said in mock interest, then looked Byrnes in the eyes again. “You’re facing the death penalty many times over. Now, maybe you have a death wish, I don’t know. I’m thinking you’d like to avoid that, if possible.”
Byrnes smirked. “Let me guess. You’d have the pull to get me out of this joint, but you want some type of deal with me? Forget it. You’re not the devil.”
Waller took a mock laugh, then screamed at Byrnes. “This isn’t Sunday School! This is the rest of your life! Now then, you want to fry, be my guest. It’d finish the job, to be sure. But I’m willing to cut a deal with you.”
Byrnes paused, contemplating matters, then replied, “What type of deal are we talking about?”
“Serving your country again, Byrnes. I’m in charge of a unit called Task Force X. We want people with talent, people who can accomplish their missions without fear of death, people who have the tools we need to succeed. Your track record proves that, as does your little crusade in this city. You work for us, eventually we commute your sentence. One hand feeds the other. It’s that simple,” Waller responded matter-of-factly.
“Interesting,” Byrnes responded. “If you need me so bad, why not go after others with similar expertise?”
“Too few of your type fit the mold we’re looking for, much less the desire. We’re fighting a war out there. We need warriors. Now, then,” Amanda said, extending her right hand, “do we have a deal?”
Byrnes paused, then smiled coldly as he responded. Grasping her hand with his own, he made his answer easy to understand. “We have a deal, boss.”