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Tense Reunion

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Cabanela saunters along with a smile, his gaze never once wavering from his friend's back.

He can hardly believe Jowd is actually right there in front of him. It almost seems too good to be true, and with good reason. That Jowd should be here with him is nothing short of a miracle.

Just minutes ago, the inspector was slumped over in his chair, his eyes filling with tears as he numbly accepted that he had failed to save his best friend. All those years of working hard and racing to climb the ladder seemed like a futile effort. What good was all that work if Jowd ended up in the chair and died?

And yet, the man himself who had sought that very fate and had no reason to want to escape from prison... had escaped, and appeared before him. It defied all beliefs and Cabanela had actually entertained the thought that he'd snapped and was hallucinating for a brief second-

Until he realised it made no sense to be hallucinating Jowd in a lurid pink smock that he'd never seen before, and on top of that, he even went straight to the phone as if Cabanela wasn't even there. He'd like to think a hallucination would actually pay attention to him.

Cabanela was so glad to see Jowd that he could have hugged the man right there and then.

Instead, he pulled out his gun and aimed it at him.

It was interesting to see that Jowd didn't even seem remotely shocked when Cabanela pointed that weapon toward him. He held up his arms with a calm expression on his face as if expecting it to happen.

He had to be doing a good job of wearing his mask if he could even fool his old friend and that's just as well. At such a crucial moment, he couldn't let the mask slip. There's only one man he's trusted enough with his secret so far. Not to say he doesn't trust Jowd - he'd trust the man with his own life, given the chance - but he can't afford the risk it might involve.

It's better to play it safe for now and keep up the act of a man who's so obsessed with his spotless record that he'd even arrest his old friend, the same old friend he's never visited in prison.

Still, he did at least give his old friend a very important clue and is counting on him to figure it out.

There might only be about three feet between them but it feels like a lot more and that's no surprise, he supposes. He deliberately distanced himself from Jowd all these years. All he knows about Jowd's time in prison, he's heard from Lynne or the guards at the special prison.

No doubt Jowd's been hearing about him too. Cabanela's well aware of all the rumours about his spotless record and they aren't that far off - his spotless record is more important to him than anything in the world, but not for the reasons certain people might think.

There's so much Cabanela would like to ask Jowd. How come he made the choices he did five years ago? Did he never consider the alternatives, such as coming to his own best friend for advice?

Has he been missing him?

Tempted as he is, he holds them back. Those questions are going to have to wait.

It's safer to just stick to small talk for now. There's plenty of time before they reach the justice minister's office and he can't very well spend it all in silence. Grasping for a safe topic, he eventually settles upon one.

"...Pink?"

"What?" Jowd sounds confused for a moment. "Oh, you mean my smock? Funny that, I wouldn't think you had time to be a fashion critic with your frantic ladder climbing."

If only Jowd knew the reason for his 'frantic ladder climbing' as he put it, but Cabanela is sure he'll have the chance to tell him sometime, hopefully tonight. Then this wall of pretence between them can come down and they can act like close friends again, just how they used to.

Not that it will be exactly the same as it used to be. He knows that. There's still that missing place where someone else used to be in their relationship. They will always be aware of it. At a time like this, he doesn't dare to so much as bring up her name. Her smiling face appears in his mind's eye and he swallows. Maybe she's watching them from the afterlife right now. Some people believed in that kind of thing, didn't they? The dead watching the living even long after their passing. Is she praising him for his efforts and urging him to put an end to Jowd's ridiculous idea that execution is necessary for him?

'I'll save him, Alma,' he thinks. 'Don't worry. I'm doing my best. I know you wouldn't accept any less.'

"Ha ha. I can still take a moment to comment on my old friend's crimes against fashion, can't I? Looks like you've been doing a looot of painting."

"I painted a lot. Painted all the faces I didn't want to forget... a shame you couldn't have seen the one I made of you. I thought it turned out pretty well."

Though his tone sounds neutral enough, Cabanela can't help but think that he's being slightly accusing there, and with good reason. He couldn't even take five minutes to see his old friend in prison. It was for a good reason but Jowd doesn't know that and he can only imagine what Jowd is feeling about it. He's not showing any outward signs - he's pretty good at that - but deep down, he probably is feeling some hurt. Good luck getting him to admit that.

"I'm flattered, baby. Such a shaaame all that artistic talent is going to disappear."

"That's okay. I finished painting the final face tonight. I'd hate to die and leave something unfinished."

'That's it?' Cabanela thinks. It sounds like Jowd would be satisfied with simply dying tonight now that his painting is finished. Does he really have no regrets? Nothing else he wants to do before he dies, like explaining to his old friend what the hell happened on that day? Doesn't it bother him that he's going to leave behind his little girl? He forces back the words before they can come bubbling out and quietly sighs. 'Sometimes I find it so hard to understand you, Jowd. Especially these past five years. What happened on that day really messed you up, didn't it? But I'm here for you and I'll help you, whether you want it or not.'