This jail cell was a bit roomier than the last, Jack noted as he ran a fingernail across his teeth. He leaned over and gave a nod to the young guy staring him down from a nearby desk.
In an instant, the kid's eyes were dancing around, making a clear effort to focus on anything but the prisoner he shared the room with. Jack pegged him for an intern. Even a rookie on his first day could handle an alleged identity thief.
"Hey, how's it going?" Jack offered.
"I'm not supposed to talk to the criminals," he shot back.
"Fair enough," Jack replied sarcastically. He decided to try napping instead. "Criminal, huh? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?"
To his own surprise, Jack drifted off to sleep much easier than usual. Maybe it was the safety of being behind bars or the rare moment of solitude, but he could finally allow himself to rest. His mind, however, had other plans.
"It's a demon," his mother's voice suddenly echoed.
On the cusp of sleep and awake, Jack searched to find her face in the shadows.
"I know this dream," he murmured.
"And I need to teach you how to kill it," she continued as if he'd never spoken.
Because he hadn't. On the night his mother actually said those words, he couldn't even breathe.
Demons are real. He'd always known, but hearing his typically rational, logical mother confirm his beliefs was enough to drive him over the edge. And in most ways, it did.
It was as if Jack's true self was waiting dormant inside him until that very moment, and there was no going back. For Fi. All for Fi. If she was going to pretend monsters weren't real, he would need to work twice as hard to protect her.
"I should have been honest with you both years ago. I should have trained you, really trained you," his mother would say apologetically, and was saying now, here, in this reoccurring memory.
"You let us be normal. You did the best thing for us."
"The best thing for us?" he heard Fi scoff from another corner of his mind.
"Not now, Fi. I can't take anymore fighting," he groaned, too deep into sleep to distinguish the dream from reality.
"Whatever you say, Phil Phillips," her voice retorted.
"What'd you call me? Who's Phil Phillips?"
"The worst damn fake name I've ever heard," she laughed.
Jack woke up with his face pressed against one of the dirty cement bricks which lined the beige walls of the jail cell. Disgusted, he sat up and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Damn, man. I thought you were dead."
Jack adjusted his eyes. The intern was speaking to him through the bars.
"I thought you didn't talk to criminals?"
"You're no criminal," he said, twisting a key in the lock. He slid the bars to the side.
"Uh, are you allowed to do that?" Jack backed away, scanning the cell for a makeshift weapon.
"The police captain will be right over. He wanted to say he's sorry."
"You know, I was just getting used to this cell. It's kind of cozy," he went on, unable to find a single object he could use in self defense. He balled his fists at his side.
"Really, come out of there," the intern persisted. "Please?"
Finding the young man's actions untrustworthy, Jack didn't budge.
"Thank you, Tim," the captain finally broke in.
He hardly looked like a cop: short, overweight, adorning no stereotypically outdated facial hair. He looked more fit to be a plumber than a police captain. When the man extended his hand to Jack, he was overwhelmed with the smell of Irish coffee. Of course, a cop would have to be drunk to let him off so easily.
"Sir, I wanted to apologize to you personally for our error. As you might imagine, this is quite an embarrassing situation for us. Why didn't you tell us you're the one who reported the identity theft?" he chuckled. "Next time you report a card stolen, don't use it, okay?"
Jack played along, thoroughly confused, "You boys in blue are just so damn intimidating. It was in an old pair of jeans the whole time. Forgot to call the bank to let them know I found it."
"Happens to the best of us, I guess. Well, son, let's not waste any more of your time or ours. I'll walk you out. Front desk has your keys. Hope you didn't miss your gig."
Jack turned toward him, perplexed, "Gig?"
"Your prints. There's nothing left," the captain explained, passing Jack his keychain. "Classic sign of a seasoned guitarist. I play a bit myself."
"Ha, you caught me. I've been playing guitar my whole life," he revealed, noticing it may have been the first honest thing he'd said all day. He gladly accepted his keys and made a quick exit, adding, "Thanks again for your help."
"Thank Irene from Nevada National Bank," the man called in response. "She straightened this out so fast, you'd think she had the paperwork ready before we even called."
"Hm," Jack nodded as he exited the building. "That's convenient."