Hana and Jonas Barret exchanged meaningful looks, while Hyle's back was turned watching Tuki and Magrat leave, as if searching for a plausible excuse between themselves.
Even as Hyle was turning back to face them, Hana began to verbalise a shambolic justification which barely got past her lips before Hyle cut her dead.
"SIT... Down!" Hyle was pointing at the chair behind Hana's desk. Hana complied in resentful silence. Jonas shuffled from one foot to the other behind his sister, as if for protection.
They watched as Hyle paced across the room, from the door to the cage, where she paused and placed a hand on the cold steel bars before returning to the desk.
She slowly removed her sunglasses and fixed Hana's attention with cold, angry Scandinavian eyes, albeit a touch reddened. Hyle drew breath and began.
"At least you did not shoot her dead out of hand like the good old days, hmm? Things have improved that much at least.
" Hyle spoke with measured authority down to Hana, her words laced with sarcasm.
"Y'caint trust these Devils..." Hana glared back at Hyle defensively. Jonas took a deep breath, expecting the cat-fight to kick off at any moment.
"What. So, a single unarmed girl. What is she? Fourteen, Fifteen? Probably all of 35 kilos wet through is such a threat to our existence that you send three men to push her into jail.
For what? Walking with intent to loiter?!"
"She was what?!" Hyle's voice was rising, the fog of her hangover fading. "Did you ask her BEFORE you banged her up.
Because when I asked you about what happened, you did not tell me any such thing! No!
She is 'One of Them' And in your narrow-minded world, has no right to grace the streets of Hope Springs without being dragged off the street and swiftly pushed into here, or worse."
Hanna drew an angry breath, feeling deeply affronted, her self-righteousness boiling.
And Hyle could see it, she leaned forward onto the desk, spreading her fingers, fixing her stare on Hana Barret's defiant glare. Hyle continued, her words thick with irony.
"Then what? Why not round up a posse, head on over and teach those damn Devils a lesson.
Why not? It's what you used to do, isn't it? After all 'The only good native's a dead un' Right?
Then when they retaliated, OK we would lose a few citizens, maybe a building or two would get burned. But that was the way. We had guns, we could attract all the best scum and wasters we needed.
It is no wonder this town was a flea pit where folks could not walk the streets in safety or go for a quiet beer without being shot.
Or finding their home in flames when they got back! Am I correct!?"
Hana Barret folded her arms, sat back with chagrin all over her face. Jonas looked at the cracked ceiling for salvation. Hyle was in full flow.
"It's time you realise, and how many times I have to tell you before you get the message. Those days are gone! Up until now, I have tolerated you and your little set up here...
" Hyle glanced around the jailhouse, so Hana was sure she knew what she was talking about. "... maybe out of respect for what your family used to be. But no more. Let me remind you.
You are NOT a deputy, or guardian of Hope, or whatever the hell else you think you are.
But from now on your duties go no further than running the traffic patrol at the school gate, anything more than that you seek guidance from either Mr Shadow or myself.
Do I make myself completely clear?"
Hana and Hyle stared each other out in strained stony silence for what seemed to Jonas an eternity. It was Hana who looked away first, eyes lowered, downcast. She had lost and she knew it.
She nodded to Hyle.
Hyle nodded back, her point had been taken.
"Good. It has been three years since the last time there was any conflict between the town and the bandits. Because we acknowledge their existence and leave them to themselves. Keep it that way.
Come the time when our societies do begin to come together there will be no place for intolerance or outdated dogmatism."
Magrat stuck close to Doctor Troy on the walk back to the clinic. The town had seemed intimidating from a distance, and now she was in among the buildings it was even more so.
The noises were different, so were the smells, but most intimidating of all were the people.
Not that they were particularly threatening, they weren't even armed; it was just the way they looked at her. Wary, suspicious and judgmental.
Magrat remembered the stories from some of the few gang members who had been taken into Hope for treatment.
They had felt this way at first, they said, but the few people they met at the clinic were actually okay.
As Magrat followed so close to Tukiko that she could almost feel the other's body heat, she kept her head down and hoped they had been telling the truth.
They arrived at the clinic and, to Magrat's wary surprise, were met at the door by a Lightbearer.
The Devil's Own had no reason to trust anyone but had every reason to fear the weird religious cult. The generally held belief was that Lightbearers used prisoners in medical experiments.
Magrat stepped to the other side of Doctor Troy as they got nearer so as to keep the doctor between herself and the cultist.
Tukiko nodded at the Lightbearer.
The Lightbearer nodded back, perhaps more of a small bow than a nod.
Tukiko halted, Magrat almost running into her.
"Magrat. This is Sun Feng." Magrat glared at the other woman. "It's all right," the doctor continued. "Sun Feng is a friend.
" Tuki wasn't going to offer more than this simple explanation to the teenager.
The tense politics behind the Lightbearer presence outside Hope Spring's clinic wasn't something Magrat needed to concern herself with. Instead, she turned to Sun Feng.
"Sun Feng. This is Magrat." The Lightbearer returned Magrat's glare with expressionless professionalism. "She will be working for the clinic for the next month.
" So, stick that in your next report and shove it, was the thought that came with the polite smile.
Magrat followed Tukiko into the clinic.
She had been under the doctor's supervision for about six months already, and it had never occurred to her that her tutor was a Lightbearer, never mind a high-ranking Seeker.
She wondered if Longhands knew? However, her thoughts were interrupted because the doctor was talking to someone else.
Magrat's attention was immediately drawn to the newcomer seated at some kind of desk.
"Morning Maise. All ready for another exciting day of fun and adventure?"
This was Doc Troy's standard joke for every morning, and Nurse Maisie was well past the point of giving even the slightest twitch of a smile in response.
Instead, her attention was taken by the scrawny, scruffy sack of teenage trouble that had followed her boss in.
"Not so fast missy. We ain't even open yet so scoot your little butt back out that door and read the goddam opening times."
Magrat's immediate and angry retort never made it past her teeth because Doctor Troy had just pulled her forward to stand directly in front of her head nurse.
So, instead, she treated the older woman to that snarky expression perfected by countless generations of teenage girls. In response, Nurse Maisie's eyes narrowed just a fraction.
Mutually assured dislike had just been established.
Unaware of the spark that had ignited, Tuki went on with her happy introduction.
"Maise, this is Magrat. She's going to be working here for a while. I want you to teach her everything you know about dealing with patients.
You're going to be working together, isn't that great?"
Magrat shared a hard stare with her nemesis. Her nemesis, however, chose to stare back, but with the added weight of years of giving unrepressed attitude, it was Magrat who blinked first.