Chapter Thirty-Three: The Solent Oubliette

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There is an ugly old water treatment building in the New Forest, about a hundred miles west of Hastings, which looks out over the strait between the coast and the Isle of Wight. It stands high on a hilltop like a castle cast in concrete, complete with arrow-slit windows and round corner towers.

Of course, that building isn't really a water treatment facility at all—it's the Solent Oubliette, a Horseshoe facility for the containment of magically enhanced criminals; a prison for witches and fey. A prison for Lord Éven of the Shade.

All of this was explained to me by Operator Harper Kahn, who described the building's purpose while leading me to a meeting room. She left me there alone to call my mum. As the number dialled, I watched the sun setting in a rhubarb sky over the calm dark sea through the tall narrow windows. Not a drop of fish in sight.

"Well, that is good news," Mum told me when I explained that Éven had been arrested. "That means we can put this behind us, and you can concentrate on your exams."

"Life isn't going to snap back to normal after this, Mum."

"Maybe not, but we'll manage," she said. "I've made shepherd's pie. It'll be in the fridge when you get in."

Back to normal.

Beneath my feet were prison cells holding who-knows-what monsters, wizards and freaks. One of those cells held the boy that I couldn't help falling for, despite everything he had done.

Was he reckless? Yes. Was he dangerous? Yes. Did he care about me?

I didn't have an answer for that.

He said he did. He said I was important, and I had to believe he meant it.

He was a crusader, a provocateur, and a brilliant and ambitious thief with a master plan to rescue his people's treasures. Yet, amid all of that, he had found time and reason to come to me again and again. He had risked his life to help me. He had been captured because he fought to protect me. Somewhere in the madness of everything he was doing, there was part of him that cared for me. It had to be true.

Yet, what he felt for me and what I felt for him didn't matter in the slightest. There was a good chance that I would never see him again. And though I did not trust him, though I knew he wasn't good for me, I wanted more than anything to see him again.

Harper knocked on the open door.

"Mr Frazer? He wants to talk to you."

* * *

Éven was being held in a small room with iron-plated walls. He was chained to an iron chair across the table from Lawrence Keele, Horseshoe's head of Intelligence. Grace, Harper and I stood in another iron-plated room and watched through a one-way mirror that was latticed on both sides with wire. Operator Harper cautioned me not to get too close; "The wires carry a low-level electrical charge."

Éven sat with his head bowed, his shoulders slumped, his hands palm down on the table top. Keele had his arms crossed and his eyes fixed like lasers on the prisoner.

"He said he would only give his confession if you were here to hear it," said Grace. "I think he wants to justify himself to you."

Grace pressed a button to broadcast her voice into the interview room.

"He's here."

Éven straightened up and lifted his head. He turned and looked at the mirror. He searched for me, but he couldn't see me.

"Ben? Can you hear me?"

Grace nodded to let me know that I could answer.

"I'm here," I said.

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