Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'brien

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'brien

Author:Caragh M. O'brien [O'brien, Caragh M.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780312674724
Amazon: 0312674724
Publisher: Square Fish
Published: 2010-01-02T00:00:00+00:00

Chapter 17

The Baby Code

Sgt. BARTLETT ESCORTED Gaia to a small, clean room with pale yellow walls and a large window. A wooden desk and chair lined one wall, and a simple cot, made up with sheets, pale gray blankets, and a pillow, lined the other. A nap row door led to a compact bathroom, and Gaia could see folded white towels on a shelf beside the sink. A clean gray dress hung on a hook over a pair of tidy black shoes.

She stepped to the window, which also overlooked the square, but from even higher up. It was open a hand’s width at the bottom and rigged to open no further. She could see the white roofs of the prison and other buildings, and in one yard, a quiet place where the sun didn’t touch yet, a woman in red was hanging laundry on a line. What she wouldn’t give to trade places with that woman right now.

Sgt. Bartlett cleared his throat from the doorway, and she turned sharply. She hadn’t even realized he was still there.

“The clean clothes are for you after your shower. Do you need anything else?” he asked.

She searched his brown eyes, and for the first time, she saw a yielding in them. He was young, too, she realized. Maybe a bit older than Leon. His lips were fuller, with more color, and his features were even and tanned. He was taller than Leon and broader through the shoulders. Where Leon was pale, grave, and intense, Sgt. Bartlett had a confident, natural insouciance, despite his serious work.

“Does Leon know I’m here?” she asked.

His eyes flickered before his expression became politely neutral again. ‘I’ll inform him.”

“May I have something to eat?” she asked. “Some water?”

“Of course,” he said.

She slumped into the chair. At least they didn’t mean to starve her. In her fingers, she clutched the printout Mabrother Iris had given her. She’d never been much of a reader-- there had been few books outside the wall-- and the task of deciphering the code seemed insurmountable.

“I need something to write with,” she said. “And clean paper.”

“They’re in the drawer,” Sgt. Bartlett said, gesturing toward the desk.

“Ah,” she said. She glanced up again at the blond guard, and it seemed to her that he was lingering needlessly. His fingers clenched against the side of his leg, causing the fabric to twitch suddenly. The mannerism struck her as familiar, though she couldn’t see why it should.

“Is there something else?” she asked finally.

She saw him hesitate, and then he stepped fully into the room and closed the door behind him.

“Is it true the freckles mean a person was born in Western Sector Three?” he asked.

Startled, Gaia tried to remember precisely where she’d been in her conversation with Mabrother Iris when Sgt. Bartlett entered the room. He had untied her just before she drew the freckle pattern, she recalled. She nodded slowly. “Yes.”

He closed his eyes briefly, and Gaia knew it was more than simply an idle question.

“If I have the


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