This time, as Wilom approached the gates, there were more guards than usual. This was hardly uncommon – returning patrols often stopped by the gates to talk – so it wasn’t until Wilom got much closer that he realised that they were not chatting, and in fact, that they were all looking at him.
Wilom’s face remained pleasant and slightly puzzled, despite the squeezing in his chest. The look that Vi was giving him was particularly unsettling.
The uniformed guard, armed and standing in a posture Wilom knew was ‘at ease’ but managed to look nothing like that, skipped any greetings and passed Wilom a piece of paper.
Wilom began to read it, but he was interrupted by the guard.
“Results of an investigation, sir. Says you were paid for shifts you never took.”
“I see,” Wilom said, not having anything else to say.
“We understand these are trying times,” the guard continued, in a tone that made Wilom certain he was not going to like whatever came next.
He was right.
The guard continued, “We’ll understand that people just want to help out their friends. It’s a noble thing to do. However, you may not be aware of this, but the local manager of Green Hill Accounting – your direct supervisor, and the one who signed off on your employment forms? I’m sure you know her.”
Wilom nodded. “Yes. Yes, I know her.”
“New information has just come to light. She’s been linked to an illegal operation harbouring suspected and potential Marclorn intelligence operatives.”
Wilom opened his mouth to reply, but the guard held up his hand.
The Ferryman’s Knowledge said only to stay silent and go along with it.
“As I said, we don’t think you’re aware of this,” the guard continued. “But there will be an investigation.”
Wilom nodded. The guard handed him another piece of paper, a form all filled out in neat handwriting, only one field ominously left blank.
“This is an application for a position in the army,” Wilom said.
“And already filled out for you, sir. Only needs your signature. As you’re aware, we need our good soldiers on the warfront, and we trust that they’re doing their best for our country. There’d be no need to investigate you if you were willing to do that much for the good of your neighbours.”
The implication was clear. Sign this and you don’t get executed for treason.
He looked at the application for a long time, and then held out his hand for a pen.
There were worse fates, he supposed. He just wasn’t looking forward to breaking the news to Vanda.