James. I’m James.
He repeats to himself when he feels everything slipping away. Behind the gag and the tears this is who he is.
The mirror facing him reveals a broken man handcuffed to a chair. The door opens a fraction and a man enters. James has never seen him before; this is not necessarily a good thing.
“James…” His name is spoken with a great deal of familiarity. The man is only a touch away; he shivers despite the warmth proximity brings.
“So close…I don’t think anyone’s ever gotten as far out as you did.” The man circles him crisply.
James stares straight ahead refusing to look him in the face. Do not look him in the eyes, do not engage him. The gaunt face in the mirror is fearful.
“You’re not the first to try to escape, you know. Everyone finds a way sooner or later. Then they think they’re tough.” The last sentence is said with an amused disregard.
Without warning the man leans forward: “So are you? Are you unbreakable?”
James cringes severely. The man's indecipherable expression becomes feral. “I really don’t think so, James.”
“Michael…” Strong light floods the room as the door is thrown open. James recognizes Jennifer’s image on the mirror. She doesn’t look at James or indicate in any way that she is aware of his presence.
Michael does not hide his annoyance; immediately James knows that this is not someone he should mess with (Too late). “Are you kidding me? I told you expressly-”
“I’m sorry Michael” Jennifer continues, managing to look apologetic before he could finish. “Something urgent’s come up. I think you should come see for yourself.”
“And here I was, just about to have some fun with Mr. McAvoy …” Michael states with a sudden and unnerving coolness.
“Come on…” Jennifer makes an agitated show of hand. James, knuckles white from where he was gripping the chair too hard, sees her nails bite into her palm. “It’s not like he’s going anywhere.”
James goes completely still in reply. Michael allows himself a small smile. “True…he’s definitely not going anywhere.” A long finger ghosts along James’s jaw before Jennifer’s exasperation wins.
Michael is gone just as quickly as he’d appeared. Jennifer’s stilettos click away merrily, following him. The light is over.
I’m James. He repeats to his double in the mirror. I’m James.
Michael is back and he is pissed. He is flanked by a young guard armed with a baton.
James swallows nervously and the guard, Laurio on his name tag, smacks his lips in anticipation.
“Where were we?” Michael asks tearing the gag away. Suddenly he is behind James and yanking a handful of his dark brown hair. James lets out a soft gasp.
“Yes, I believe you had some very important information to share. You’re going to tell me exactly how you escaped, aren’t you?”
“I am James. I am James. I am James.” He screws his eyes shut as he chants his own name.
Michael almost releases him in shock. He’d gotten used to James’s non-response. The guard’s hand settles instinctively on the baton, only the imperceptible no from Michael stays him. James is rewarded with a tighter, more painful grip on his hair.
“I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that you can talk. Now, I suggest you start telling me things I want to hear.”
“Yours is the biggest I’ve ever seen.” James says in the same flat tone.
“Keep it up and I’ll know exactly what to do with that mouth of yours.” Michael snarls. James presses into the chair tensely. He can tell how pleased Michael is with the effect of his threat.
Laurio giggles obscenely, snaking the baton up his thighs. James jerks his leg away: “Don’t touch me.”
Laurio reacts faster than Michael anticipates. James feels the vicious throb of the baton across his face. “Laurio!” Michael hisses.
But James moans, his head sinking under pain.
Michael goes down on his haunches, whispering in James’s ears: “What d’you say James? Would you like to talk to Mr. Laurio? He tells me he can get me everything I want and more from you. All I have to do in return is leave you with him.” The threat is too real, too close for James.
Michael runs his hand along the sheer V-neck James is wearing. For the first time, he feels James resisting and trying to pull away. Michael puts all of his muscle into keeping him still. James can see Laurio’s chubby hands straining not to touch him again; he can see a bulge in his pants.
Laurio is rabid with arousal. James cannot stop squirming, he knows what is coming. “Pretty isn’t he, Laurio?” Michael’s gaze never moves from James. For a moment, he catches the predatory look in Michael’s eyes and cannot decide who to be afraid of. But it’s soon clouded over by cunning.
“Yeah…Lord, gimme half an hour…” Laurio nods with vigor.
“You did try to escape. It’s only fair you’re punished.”
A half formed plea, so small that only Michael catches it. Please.
“James, I am trying to help you here. I’m offering you the chance to tell me the truth, and spare yourself a whole world of pain.”
James sniffles slightly and nods; “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Michael lightens up as he pulls up a chair within inches of him.
“That’s all right then, Mr. Laurio. You can wait outside. I’ll call you in if we need you.” He orders brusquely; Laurio’s disappointment was epic as he dragged himself out.
James shakes, silently tearing over. Michael lifts James’s face gently by the chin. “Trust me, you do not want to keep me waiting. I don’t need Laurio to make you talk. Always remember this.” He adds, folding his arms. James nods hesitantly.
Michael stretches his legs out, his feet are locked with the front legs of James’s chair. As he speaks, he tips the chair slightly backward, rocking a startled James and all.
“Describe everything from the start. You were locked in your cell at 7.00 as usual. We know you asked for an extra blanket. This was denied. And that was the last time anyone saw you in your cell. Then the guards on regular night patrol find your cell empty. How?”
“I…It was cold. I just wanted to be w-warm. They said no. I tried to sleep. Then I started walking around-”
“How did you freakin’ get out of the cell?”
“It opened?” Michael asks incredulously. “And you walked out?”
James just looks scared.
“You expect me to believe this? That you walked out of your cell and the cameras mysteriously blitzed out, the outer locks malfunctioned and all the security guards just failed to notice you striding out?”
“Please…I-I didn’t know what to do. I just kept walking. The first door, the second door, the gates. I kept thinking someone would see me and stop me, but nobody did.”
“This is your story?”
“It’s what happened, please…” Michael can hear the desperation and he quite likes the tone of fear. He likes it in James, he realizes.
“I know for a fact you’ve never been let out onto the grounds. How did you know which way to go? ”
“I didn’t…the sea…I followed its sound.”
“That’s smart. That’s what I’d do too” Michael sounds impressed “Is that what they taught you?”
“No one taught me that-”
“Something you picked up on your own, then?” Michael continues “So you’re now out on your own in the middle of winter, with nothing but a cheap prison jumpsuit. Didn’t it occur to you that you might freeze to death?”
“I just w-wanted to go home.” Michael laughs out aloud. His scrapes James’s chair towards him so that he is practically sitting on Michael’s legs. James is stricken as Michael starts rubbing the insides of his legs.
“James, why didn’t it occur to you that you will freeze?” Michael watches as James shakes his head, unsure.
“Because someone was waiting for you. Someone with warm clothes, food and a boat. We found a campfire and footprints leading out into the beach. Who was waiting for you?”
“No one. I didn’t see anyone.”
James feels Michael’s hands stop on his knees. “Listen, it’s my first day at work here. Cut me a break.”
He lets the chair back, it lands on its legs with a metallic clang.
“Please…I wasn’t with anyone. I wasn’t planning to escape. I s-saw a chance and I…I had to take it. I can’t…this place…please…” James’s mouth makes pleasing shapes. Michael finds himself staring at the lips and wondering.
Instead he turns and says to the James in the mirror: “You just won’t be helped, will you? You can talk to me when you feel like ‘fessing up. Other than that I’m not interested in anything else you have to say.”
James is as wildly desperate in the mirror as in real life; he watches Michael call for Laurio.
James mewls as Laurio crushes his fingers on the table. Michael chairs the proceedings, comfortably sipping earl grey tea, from the other end of the table. He is entirely silent except occasionally to remind Laurio to take a break.
For the first twenty minutes or so, he ignores James’s high pitched begging. Feeling a headache coming on, he asks Laurio to shut James the hell up. James discovers that a baton repeatedly pushed into the mouth can really shut you the hell up. He stops pleading with Michael, he is at any rate incapable now of saying much other than no and crying softly. Laurio sits himself down on the table, panting with exertion.
Announced by an urgent knocking, Jennifer enters with an older man. Michael scrambles to his feet, respectfully offering up his chair. The man takes the seat. His eyes rake over James, scrutinizing everything about him.
“So he still says he didn’t do anything?” The man has a crinkled voice which reminds James of sand paper.
“So far, Director Stewart.” Michael assents (Call me Patrick, the man smiles at Michael) “He’s just repeated most of what he told the guys who brought him back.”
“You know, I don’t think he’s the type that gives much away.” Stewart hisses. James feels his heart racing. He wants to scream but his mouth is full of ash.
“He’s been here for two weeks and he already knows how to walk out of our cells.” he continues. “And we know practically next nothing about his mission or how he works.”
“I don’t work for anybody, I swear!” James cries and is backhanded by Stewart. “Ms. Lawrence, what’s in McAvoy’s files?”
“He’s Scottish by birth, widely traveled. Worked as a freelance journalist with Reuters; claimed to be still working for them when we got him. They have no records of him since 2009.” Jennifer recites with practiced efficiency.
“How did you capture him?” Michael asks, piqued.
“From New York, asking one of our CIs about where he can get arms for McKellen’s suicide units. We have him boasting on tape that he has the expertise to make bombs and that he has close ties with Ian McKellen himself. Of course, he’s been trying to convince us that he was just trying to do research for a documentary on eco-terrorists.” Jennifer smiles wryly. James sees Michael’s face give away to a calculating frown.
“Thank you Ms. Lawrence. That will be all” Stewart says curtly. Jennifer shoots a kind glance at Michael and a stoic look at James before turning on her heels and speeding away.
“So what to do with you?” Stewart gazes from James to Michael.
“I’d like to ask some more questions-”
“Mr. Fassbender, some things are more urgent, don’t you think?” he suggests meaningfully. James knows this determination.
“I’m not sure I follow.” Michael shrugs.
“This institution is one of the most fortified, one of the safest prisons in the world. When one maximum security inmate just suddenly ups and decides to escape, and does so with very little hassle to his person…well, I don’t think I need to tell you about the kind of grand ideas the rest of them are going to get.”
James whimpers. Michael has never heard a human being make that sound before.
“I’m going to make an example of him. The sight of him, the memory of what happened to James McAvoy is going to be the reason our prisoners are perfect gentlemen.” Stewart rises, nodding briefly at Laurio.
“Must be my Christmas bonus” breathes an excited Laurio.
“You can’t damage him…We need answers” Michael suggests callously, trying to keep up with Stewart.
“Michael, I think I’ll call you Michael…I’m told you are one of the best interrogators the army has.” Michael makes a cursory acknowledgement of sorts. “You questioned the man for over an hour, trying to damage him as little as possible. What answers did you get?”
Stewart stops dead in his tracks and smiles up at Michael. “Let me tell you a little something about their kind…”
Behind them, the door shuts on James’s muffled screams. “They share and care best when they’re damaged.”