Home > Salvation (Darkest Skies #3)

Salvation (Darkest Skies #3)
Author: Garrett Leigh

 


Foreword

 

 

A note on Sid’s condition: while every measure was taken to portray an accurate representation of Sid’s chronic disease, this particular beast is highly individual. No two people experience the same pattern of symptoms or sensations. From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank Christopher, Kate, and Sam for the time donated to sensitivity read Salvation. You truly are warriors.

On Dante: at the end of Redemption, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. In the UK, inmates are automatically considered for release halfway through their sentence, so Salvation is set three and a half years after the end of Redemption and around a year after Deliverance.

 

 

Manchester Prison


We Borrow the Earth. Dante Pope stared at the book title as the broad frame of his personal officer loomed over him. He’d never been philosophical, but with soil from the prison garden still clinging to his fingers, it seemed poetic. “You need something, mate?”

Fen Hawthorne sat his bulk against the desk that Dante commandeered most afternoons when his time outside was over. It was at the back of the library by the botanical books, not that Dante read them much. “I’ve got news,” Fen said. “SOP is for the guv’na to tell you tomorrow, but I thought you’d like to know your release date came through: April thirteenth. How do you like them apples, eh?”

Dante kept his gaze on his grubby fingers. The damp soil was grainy with the fertiliser he’d mixed in the day before, dark red nuggets of iron-rich blood and bone. Life and death all rolled into one.

“Oi.” Fen nudged him. “Did you hear me?”

Dante automatically moved away from the casual touch, though he no longer felt the need to startle like a fragile deer. “I heard you. April thirteenth. That’s . . . how long?”

“Four weeks,” Fen said. “I know it’s sudden, but a space opened up on the community work scheme and you got the spot.”

“Doing what? The job, I mean. Didn’t stick me at McDonalds, did they?”

“Would it matter if they had? You’d still be out.”

Dante turned the question over in his mind, but the answer eluded him. He shrugged and Fen wandered off, probably pissed that Dante hadn’t been more excited, but as the scheduled enrichment hour drew to a close, Dante wasn’t sure how he felt.

He joined the flow of bodies heading back to their cells, inserting himself into the oiled machine that kept his days predictable. He ate dinner with the other inmates who worked in the gardens and played blackjack with the cockney geezer who occupied the bed beneath his.

At lights-out he lay in his bunk, consumed by the dark, at one with his thoughts and yet far from alone. There were three other men in his cell—breathing, coughing, snoring. Once upon a time, it had been the soundtrack from hell, but these days, the quiet bothered Dante more. Silence breeds violence. He’d seen that on a poster and never known what it meant, but the fear in his heart every time the phrase occurred to him was bone deep.

April thirteenth. Four weeks.

Was he ready?

Not even close.

 

 

Wilburn Manor


Winter fading into spring was Sid Harrison’s favourite time of year. Ice became sunshine. Grey skies gave way to endless blue, and his days grew longer, their purpose more clear. Sometimes he forgot that come high summer he’d be wishing for the bracing chill of a stiff breeze against his short-circuiting muscles and nerves.

“You don’t have to do that, you know,” a voice said behind him. “You’ll have hired help for the grunt work soon enough.”

Sid scowled at the herbaceous border he was digging over and drove his spade in a little harder. “It’s not grunt work. And it needs doing now. Besides, I never agreed to any hired help.”

“No one asked you to.” The voice came a little closer, then rounded Sid’s shoulder to stand in front of him. It belonged to Benjamin Heath, the grounds manager at Wilburn Manor, Sid’s friend when they weren’t giving each other grief and, technically, his boss. “Because we knew you’d be difficult, so we took a hard-luck case from the prison. Starts next week. Don’t you read your emails?”

“Not if I can help it.” The truth was Sid couldn’t, not on his phone, and he hadn’t had the inclination to open his laptop in months. “Some of us are too busy to be obsessing over electronic communications all day.”

“Exactly. That’s why we employed someone to join your team. So you can stop running yourself ragged outside and dodging your admin work.” Benjamin spoke with a grin and sauntered away before Sid could call him a wanker.

“Prick.” Sid jammed the spade into the sandy soil, ignoring the creep of pins and needles in his left leg. “What fucking team? It’s just me.”

And he liked it that way. These days, plants were better company. They asked less questions.

They couldn’t shift dirt, though. Sid eyed the border. When he’d first come to Wilburn, it would’ve taken him an afternoon to dig out the length of the back wall. This time round he’d been at it all day and had barely covered a third.

So? Who needs to be superhuman?

Not Sid. But fully functioning would’ve been nice.

He went back to shovelling earth and fluctuating between muttering under his breath—a new habit—and laughing at himself for becoming a caricature of his long-dead pops. The sun was setting by the time the tingling in his legs became too sharp-edged to bear.

The spade fell from his hand and landed on his foot. Fresh pain shot up his burning leg. He cursed and braced himself on the dry stone wall, breathing through his nose as his upside-down brain welcomed the bruising ache. With a tangible link to the heavy spade impacting his foot, he understood it. Cause and effect. It made sense. So does the rest of it. You’ve had your diagnosis for two fucking years.

Two long years, each day a lesson Sid hadn’t signed up to learn. In the darkest depths of his mind, blackness reared its ugly head. Depression? Or just a bad fucking mood? They’d warned him about both, but with the last of the afternoon sun beating down on his neck, it was hard to tell.

“Sid?”

A sigh bubbled up Sid’s throat. He knew that voice. It was one of the best but always meant trouble if he could coin sisterly concern as something negative and get away with it.

He pushed off the wall and turned slowly to face the human he’d shared a womb with twenty-eight years ago. “What are you doing here? More to the point, how are you here? The grounds are closed.”

Anna Harrison smirked. “I know the gatekeeper.”

“Banging him, more like,” Sid retorted. “You think I don’t know you were here on Friday?”

“So what if I was? I can bang who I like.”

“Nice.”

“I thought so too. Not that I need your opinion.”

“Why are you here then?”

“Can’t a sister check up on her big brother?”

Sid bent to retrieve the spade, favouring his stronger right leg. “Less of the big. You’re the oldest, remember?”

“I’m also a foot shorter than you because someone ate all the food before they were even born—whoa.” Anna caught Sid as his balance deserted him, holding him upright with a strength that belied her slender frame. “Why didn’t you just ask me to pick it up?”

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