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Deposition

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Someday, Jake thinks, he'll be able to look back without using The Incident In Las Vegas as a dividing line in his life. It's not like his life before was easy, he was in the fucking Army, after all. Still, any trauma he went through, before, he had to work his way through and out and over it and keep going, and he realizes now that having a place and a job to do was part of that.

He doesn't really know what his place or his job is, since Bolivia, since Max. Since Vegas. And there's not enough for him to do, to keep his mind from gnawing at itself.

I should have been watching my back. I should have fought harder. I should remember more of what I saw, what I heard. I should have looked at more mug shots. I should have gone with Pooch and stayed out of that casino.

He stares at the laptop screen, which is running a test program and needs no watching, and thinks, they'll do it again, they rolled me and they'll keep rolling until somebody puts a bullet in their heads.

He finds himself devising very painful, prolonged methods of punishment for his tormentors. Wishing he lived in a world where he could ride off after the bad guys and do the shooting himself. But he's woven inseparably into law and order (most of the time) and if he doesn't let the system work, he doesn't deserve to live under the system. However flawed.

*

A day comes when Aisha, Clay, Cougar, and Pooch are all in the living room, not watching TV or playing cards or anything else, apparently just waiting for Jensen, who walks in after going out for a burger and says, "Hey, whassup, whas happening!"

Clay says, "They caught the guys who attacked you in Vegas."

The silence that preceded this statement gets even more still. Jake isn't sure he can move, not even blink. He stares at Clay as if trying to remember who that man is; Clay goes on talking.

"The police got a couple of tips from a P.I.," he says. "Found out where one of the guys lived, found evidence linking them to other attacks as well, rounded up his friends. Four guys in all."

He doesn't ask, but Jake nods, slowly, thinking, yes, there were four of them.

"The DNA evidence is substantial enough to convict," says Clay. "They don't need you to appear. The DA needs to depose you at some point, but you don't have to go to Vegas for that."

"No."

Clay's eyebrows go up.

Jake repeats, "No. I'll go, when I can."

"You can go now," says Clay. "We have some lag time here."

"How did you know?" Jake asks suddenly.

Clay's poker face is legendary; the fact that he's using it now is telling.

"How did you know about the arrest?" Jake persists. "I didn't get a call, or any message about it. How do you know?"

He's not trying to be pissy, but he wants answers from somebody, for something.

Aisha stirs and everyone turns to look at her.

"I hired the P.I.," she says flatly. "That week that I was gone. I went to Las Vegas and found somebody who could follow up on leads the cops didn't know about, or couldn't pursue."

Jake goes on staring at her. Like a cat, she stares right back. Then he just nods and heads into the bedroom to pack a bag.

*

In the morning they drive to Vegas, to the DA's office; they're expecting Jake per his call the day before. Aisha waits outside, folded up on a park bench, while Jake goes in to record his statement. It's not as difficult as he thought it would be - maybe he's gaining some distance from it, just a little - and it doesn't take very long. He still doesn't remember that much, though more than he's told any of the Losers.

The lawyer, Hampton, goes over Jake's previous statement and the police report, then says, "I'm going to ask if you're up to listening to a couple of recordings, samples of the suspects' voices."

Jake stares at him for a minute.

"Recordings? What for?"

"Between fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence, we have a reasonably strong case against the suspects," says Hampton. "But if you can confirm anything at all about them it would be useful. I know you couldn't see much - "

"I couldn't see shit," Jake says bluntly. "After they took away my glasses they blindfolded me."

" - which is why we're hoping you heard something."

Jake gnaws his lip for a minute, then says, "Okay. I'll give it a try."

The assistant who's doing the recording pulls up some sound files on his laptop, leaving the video camera running to get a shot of Jake's response.

"The suspects were given specific statements to read, based on some fragments heard by Mr.  Jensen," says the lawyer for the record. "Suspect number one."

Jake hears a male voice, saying woodenly, "Take it, you little shit." Then silence. The assistant looks at the lawyer, who looks at Jake, who says, "Again."

He listens to the clip four more times, then says, "That sounds like the one - who had a headlock on me. He kept saying things at me while the others took turns. You got any more of him?"

His own voice sounds dead. The assistant plays two other clips spoken with the same voice, which Jake also recognizes, then at his own request plays four different clips with four other voices. At one point he closes his eyes, but nausea rushes in and he opens them again, stares at the wall behind the table where the lawyer sits.

"Mr. Jensen."

Jake feels like if he sits still enough, all this will go away, he'll wake up and it'll be gone, he was hallucinating, dreaming, tripping.

"Jake. Hey, Jake. Come on, snap out of it."

That's Aisha. Jensen blinks and stirs and breaks his stare, runs a hand over his face. She's standing beside him, a hand on his shoulder, and the lawyer is looking relieved.

"You okay? You're scaring the shit out of the suits. Come on, I'll buy you a drink."

"Mr. Jensen, we'll be in touch if anything further is necessary," says Hampton. "I know this has been hard for you. I'm glad your friend was here."

Jake stumbles over an apology and a farewell and he and Aisha head back to the car. She drives this time, while his mind skitters in all directions.

Eventually, Aisha says, "Rough, huh."

"Just talking," Jake says wearily. "It's just talking, just words. Getting shot, breaking bones, sleeping in a mud pit...that's rough."

"Getting raped repeatedly by four men," she says grimly. "That's more than words."

His head snaps around and he glares at her as adrenaline shoots through him.

"What do you know about it?" he demands. "What the fuck do you know? What did that P.I. tell you?"

"All he told me was what I just said, that you were attacked and raped," Aisha says. "I told him I didn't want to know anything else. I gave him what little I had and he did the rest."

"What did you have?" He's completely confused now.

She looks almost defiant.

"A copy of your statement," she says. "Some video feed hacked from the security cameras at the hotel, from corners that the police didn't go over, and some nearby areas."

"That shit isn't admissible in court," he snaps.

"No, but it led him to shit that is," Aisha says stubbornly. She doesn't say what she threatened or paid to get this done, but Jake knows how far she'll go in pursuit of her own brand of justice.

All the fight that he's managed to muster today, even this last burst of temper, drains out of him and he slumps back in his seat, hands on his knees, head back.

"We all know the system doesn't always work," Aisha is saying. "And I knew all of you would only push it so far. I don't have those kind of scruples, so I pushed."

Jake looks over at her and, for better or worse, knows she's right.

"Thank you," he says, and he means it.

"Nobody messes with my family and gets away with it," she says fiercely, and she means it, too.