Author's Note: Richard Irons is a real part of the V universe. However, his debut appearance in the giddy world of the Alan Moore graphic novel doesn't stretch much beyond a name on the computer list Finch consults when checking the former Larkhill employees terminated by V. According to that list, he was killed on 23rd December 1996…
Arthur Marr sits in the cold plastic chair, squinting in the blinding glow of the flashlight. On the other side of the table, a man in a shirt stares at him intently, analysing his every move. Scrutinising him. Next to him, another man lights up a cigarette.
"Come on, Arthur," the man with the cigarette says, friendly enough, but his every word is weighed down by threat. "Here, have one."
He's offering the box forward in the blinding light. Arthur declines.
The man shrugs. "Can't say I blame you. Now that the Americans are busy sifting through the ruins for food, all the decent brands are out of action. I was a Lucky Strike man, myself." He leans over the table slightly, a tall man, ruggedly handsome, with sharp Irish blue eyes. And no soul. None at all. Those eyes hadn't seen real love for a long, long time. "Say, Arthur, do you know why Lucky Strikes were called Lucky Strikes?"
"I d… I don't," Arthur stutters meekly.
The man across the desk flexes his knuckles. His grim face breaks out into a grin, like a hungry crocodile. "Back in the day, one of the twenty you'd get in a pack – the Lucky Strike, if you will – contained a little extra something. A little marijuana."
He chuckles, a sound with enough warmth as his cold dead eyes. Arthur chuckles too.
He knows they're just going through the motions now. The good cop, bad cop act. Luring him into a sense of false security, toying with him a little before letting him know that there's a nice place waiting for him behind the chemical sheds in Highgate. A nice place with six South Ken boys, all toting semi-automatics.
No, not semi-automatics. They'd never be that merciful. Revolvers, six shooters, probably with a dummy cross on every bullet.
"Doubt you'd be getting much of that around nowadays though, huh?" the man with the cigarettes continues. He takes a long drag, and those piercing eyes don't budge an inch, watching Arthur as he squirms and sweats. "There's a lot you can't get these days. A whole lot."
He's moving in slowly, moving in for the kill. "But I guess in some ways, we're living in a better world. No more smacked up kids going wild on the estates. No more beatniks. No more riots." And now he's smiling again, but this time it's terrifying, so bad that Arthur wants to scream. "And no more pooftahs. Arthur."
Arthur slumps back into his seat. "Please," he winces. "It isn't true. I'm a… a happily married man. I love my wife. Please, this can't be happening…"
"It's happening, Arthur," the man says, still grinning. "We found all those magazines you had stored in your garage, tucked away nicely so that beloved wife of yours couldn't see them. They were so waterlogged and yellow I was amazed you could have read them, Arthur, let alone get it up off them."
"Please," Arthur begged. "It's a set-up. They weren't mine."
"Then who's were they? Your son?" The man backs away from the table, crushes the cigarette out beneath his shoe. Rubs his nails on his shirt. "We've got two boys waiting outside of his school for him, you know. If it wasn't you, it could be no-one else."
"Oh, god, he's sixteen years old," Arthur sobs.
"Old enough to enjoy those filthy rags. Old enough to be executed, under our country's Homosexual Relations and Activities Act of 1992. Admit it, Arthur. You're in some serious trouble here."
Arthur looks up at the man desperately, his eyes misting over. Looking for sympathy.
He's not getting any.
"What do you want?" he asks, his voice trembling.
A look of bitter victory spreads over the face of the man, and he turns to a table blanketed in shadow. There's the sound of shuffling paper, and then Arthur is staring through teary, blurred eyes at a hefty sheet of papers. And an expensive black fountain pen.
"Sign this," the man says, matter-of-factly.
Arthur skims through the sheet. He stares into those merciless eyes.
"This is a confession."
"That's right," the man says. "Convicting you of illegal possession of magazines believed to contravene the Homosexual Relations and Activities Act. A crime punishable by death by shooting. Just sign on the dotted line."
Arthur raises a shaking hand, clutching the pen like a lifeline. "And if I don't?"
"Then I make a phone call to two men who will be waiting outside your son's school tomorrow. And I'm sure he'll be more willing to confess to that little crime of yours. In fact, we won't give him the choice." The man cackles and wedges another cigarette in his mouth. His partner doesn't flinch as he flicks up the lid of his Zippo. "So choose now, old man. You or your son."
Almost crying now, Arthur signs on the dotted line, too traumatised to even read the list of crimes he's been charged with. It no longer matters. All that matters is that Arthur Marr, greengrocer and happily married father of one, will be lying on a slab by dusk tonight with a bullet through his head.
"That's right, you old faggot," the man snickers. "One less of you sick bastards on the street."
Arthur drops the pen and breaks down, bursting into tears that stream down his time-worn cheeks, into his thin moustache. The man on the other side of the table, the silent man, gets up to check on him.
"I'm done with this queer," his partner says, taking a drag on his cigarette. "When he's calmed down, take him back to his cell and give the boys in Highgate a ring." He walks through the door, into the unnatural white light of the corridor. "Tell them we've got another."
The man does as he's told, probably. As he walks down the corridor, Richard Irons no longer cares. All he's thinking about is getting home to the loving embrace of his wife. To getting some sleep and leaving all this crap behind.
He'd been working on Operation Huxley for two months now, seeking out closet homosexuals, anti-government dissidents. Non-believers. It didn't matter to him. One less beatnik or nancy boy on the streets was always a good thing.
Richard Irons flicks the light on in his office down the hall. He steps inside, collapsing into his seat and sighing.
The distant breath of the wind, rustling through the vertical blinds. Caressing the back of his sweaty neck with chilled fingers.
Funny, he thinks. That window had been shut.
He stands, slams it shut. Returns to his desk.
And sees it for the first time.
"Oh god," he stutters. "Oh, god no… oh, please god…"
A single pink rose.
To be continued…