We walked into a large foyer room with walls of stone. Behind us were the large gate-like doors, which were promptly closed as we entered. To our right and left were chairs and couches along the side and front walls. There were huge mirrors mounted on the wall behind the seats. The mirrors reached all the way to the ceiling, which must have been at least thirty feet from the floor. As intended, I think, the mirrors added to the impression of largeness the room was meant to convey. Past the mirrors and seats, the walls to the right and left opened into hallways that tunneled off in both directions. The rear wall, which curved away from us in either direction along the hallway, had two large gate-like doors, both closed, standing exactly opposite the front doors through which we entered. Hanging from the high ceiling by chains was a giant wheel of wood on which hung lamp to light the entry. A huge rug of deep burgundy with no design covered most of the floor of the foyer. Long, wide carpet strips of the same color curved away down the corridors to the right and left.
The entire place looked ancient when compared to the relatively modern design of the Welcome Center. I was like a place from the past. I made one think of castles and knights and kings.
I gave a low whistle of awe as the doors closed behind us and my eyes adjusted to the dimmer light. "What is this place?" I asked, directly the question to everyone but looking at David.
"This," he said, "is Knight's Hall." You could hear the pride in his voice, and rightly so. The place was impressive and, in its way, beautiful.
I expected the large doors to open and let us in, but David turned to the left and headed down one of the corridors. I followed with the Sheriff and Romeo close behind and our two knightly escorts bringing up the rear.
"Hello, Percy," the Sheriff said to the male knight behind us. "It's been a long while. How have you been?"
"I'm well, Sheriff," he answered, smiling. "The new place is much larger and is a better fit for the whole family now."
"That's right, you've moved over near the river," the Sheriff said. "There are some lovely spots over there."
"We like it a lot," Percy said. "Grandpa says it's a lot like the old country."
I tried to tell from Percy's voice what the old country might be, but I detected no accent I recognized.
"Percy, this is Al Hall," the Sheriff said, nodding to me. "He's Sheriff Wayne's son, from Texas. He's only just arrived and David's been kind enough to show him around."
"Wayne's son?" Percy nodded at me, but didn't leave his position to offer a handshake. "Welcome," he said.
"Your father was a good Sheriff," said the woman, rather dourly. "It's an honor to meet you."
"He was a good Sheriff," Sheriff Freddie agreed. "I think Mila preferred him to me, Al, and I don't blame her one bit."
Mila frowned, but did not respond.
"David?" the Sheriff asked, sounding as cheerful and friendly as ever. "I notice we're not going to the Council Chamber. Are we meeting Inuichuk?"
"He's going to meet us in the block," David replied coolly. "It's just up ahead."
We walked along the curve of the corridor for quite some time. Every minute or so we passed another set of large, wooden double doors on the curve of the inner wall to our right. They were all closed, but I got the impression that all of the doors led into a huge, single room, an immense central meeting room of some kind. On the outer wall to our left there were smaller doors every so often. Some of these were open and led into small rooms, but none of them were lit well enough to see what function they might have served.
Suddenly, David turned into one of the small doors to the left. As he entered, he pushed a small lever on the wall that lifted the hoods on a number of lamps hung all around on the walls. The room had a some boxes, a table, a few chairs, and, along the far wall, the opening to a stairwell that led down. David didn't pause in the room but walked across and started down the stairs.
As I followed David into the dim stairway, I was overcome with a sense of disconnection from everything I knew. Who were these people? Why was I here? I was almost overcome with the desire to forget about all of them and run out of here. Where would I go? I had nowhere. I imagined going back to the Welcome Center and finding Daniel again. He could help me find a place, a normal place where I could relax and wait for Dad. The prospect sounded so much better than this dark hole into which I now descended, following this giant, angry man, David Sayer. Who the hell is this guy to me? He's Dad's friend? So what? I didn't want him to show me around any more.
Then my mind drifted to Naomi. I began to imagine her helping me get settled into some little place, like the one where we found Romeo. That didn't sound bad at all. 'I wonder if she's single,' I thought to myself. I knew that she probably greeted dozens of people each week just like she greeted me. Still, I couldn't get her out of my mind. I bet she'd never bring me to a place like this.
Then, we got the end of the long stair. I wondered how far we had descended, but my mind had wandered. It had seemed like a long way.
"Ooh," said the Sheriff, "a real dungeon."
I looked around. We were in a large room with wooded tables and chairs scattered around. Lams. just like the ones above, hung here and there on the walls. Lining the walls of the half of the room to our right were barred prison cells. The cells had no visible doors. There were four of them, separated by walls of stone.
"Why are we here?" Romeo asked, stopping in his tracks. The two knights behind him came right up to him, each of them putting a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't worry, Romeo," the Sheriff said. "Everything will be fine and just and fair."
"I didn't kill anyone," he started yelling. "I didn't hurt anyone." His voice cracked with wild pleading.
David kept walking, moving to the third cell. He called into it, "Get up!" His voice dripped with disdain.
I walked up to where David had stopped and saw a tall, thin, young black man standing from a small wooden stool. He walked forward from the back of the dim cell and into the light. He was younger, but I recognized the face of the African man from Il Forno. "It's him," I said to David.
"What is this, David Sayer?" the prisoner asked. His voice brought chills of remembrance to the back of my neck. Nevertheless, it was a kind voice, calm and without anger or malice.
"This is a man you killed yesterday!" David growled at him.
The African man looked over at me. "Is this true?" he asked softly.
"Well, you didn't do it," I said, "but you helped."
The man sighed and, closing his eyes, bowed his head in shame.