The room is the size of a cell. There are no windows, no mirrors, no cameras. Only a small metal table and a chair opposite Avery’s own that looks to be just as uncomfortable.
There is a door, dark grey in contrast to the slightly lighter shade of the walls and floor. It opens, and a man enters. He’s of unimposing stature, kempt beard, glasses. His salt and pepper hair matches his salt and pepper sweater vest. His khaki pants clash with everything Avery has ever seen.
She understands straight away that this is one of the most dangerous people she’s ever met.
He takes a seat in the free chair, somehow managing to make it look like a cozy perch.
“Laine Avery,” he says gently. “My name is Garfield Taint.”
He doesn’t offer a hand. He’s just stating facts. He blinks. He’s recording their conversation.
“Taint,” Avery acknowledges.
He smiles. “I suppose that you know why you are here?”
She nods and leans forward. “Because I ended someone’s life.”
“In the line of duty,” he says. “I have witnessed your debriefing.” He leans forward, mimicking her language. “It was rather business as usual, according to your statement.”
Avery nods. “It’s the job.”
Taint scoffs. “We are not assassins, Laine.”
She furrows her brow.
“Some might be inclined to worry about an Historian so cavalier about murder.”
Avery winces. “It was not murder.”
“Oh?” he asks. The condescension drips from his pleasant demeanor.
“Murder implies malicious intent,” she explains.
“I see,” he says. “And you had no intention of pushing him into traffic.”
“My intention,” she began and stopped. He was getting under her skin, and he knew it. She breathed deeply and started anew. “My intention, Garfield, was to preserve the timeline.”
“Oh?” he asked. “Is that all?”
She could smack him.
“He was distracted. He would not have kept his appointment.”
“And so you pushed him.”
“And so I pushed him.”
The door opens and a clone of her interrogator enters. Taint stands, faces his doppelganger for a moment, and then exits without another word.
Avery watchs the non-exchange in silence. The new Taint takes the seat.
“Terribly sorry,” he says in precisely the same tones as his twin. “There was an emergency.”
She remains quiet.
“Thaddius Taint,” he says by way of introduction. “I have been updated. Please go on.”
“I was finished,” Avery states coldly.
“I see,” Thaddius Taint says, nodding.
“I see,” he repeats and turns toward the door.
She’s left to ponder her circumstances.