It was a hero came out of that cell, a man with red welts on both wrists from the chains, and with eyes almost too swollen to open. He swaggered in front of the copper out from the holding cells and into processing where precisely no one waited to laud him.
He took his sweet time to cross to the sergeant’s desk, then struck his best pose of disdainful nonchalance.
Without looking up, the sergeant said, ‘Name?’
In a booming voice, the hero said, ‘Dafydd ap Rees ap Ifor!’
The sergeant sighed. He tapped the nib of his pen a few times on his pad, then in a voice heavy with the weight of a long night, said, ‘Your real name.
‘You want to get out of here, or not?’
Dafydd checked the room was empty, then whispered his terrible anglicised name - David Smith.
‘Thank you,’ the sergeant said. He tapped at the computer, scrolled with the mouse, and then looked up. He said, ‘You can go, mate.’
Dafydd deflated from the pose of righteous anger he’d readied.
‘But…I was in the cell! We were chained up to the railings protesting the council’s Welsh language policy.’
He bent down to bring his face close to the sergeant’s.
‘And what about these eyes? Police brutality, this is. Saes mafia, you lot.’ He stood back from the desk to point at the sergeant and the constable that brought him in. ‘There’s gonna be a reckoning.’ Dafydd stood up proudly, and with hand over his heart he bellowed it – ‘Cymru am byth!’
The sergeant stood. He plucked a folded newspaper from his desk, laid it on top of the counter then flipped through to page number seven. It was dominated by a full colour photo and for a moment Dafydd could only see the vision in the centre, Gwenllian of the blue eyes and hair like the sun, small frame at odds with the hugeness of her fervour. It took him a moment to work out the rest of the photo; a pair of figures squaring up to each other, one with fisted arm stretched long, the other caught mid-twist, face puckered into fish lips.
David Smith looked up at the sergeant grinning back at him.
‘Here’s your gear. ‘Phone, wallet, keys. And maybe these still work.’ He grinned harder as he pushed a pair of cracked and bent sunglasses across the desk.
David Smith trudged home behind broken sunglasses and a face that was throbbing. He went round the back of the house, Dad’s hammock sitting inviting on the back lawn. That’s what he was going to do, beers and the hammock and nothing else.
The kitchen laminate was strangely bouncy underfoot, and in places there were swollen lumps. Mum and Dad were sat next door with tea at the dining table. Neither of them rushed to greet him at the sight of his black eyes.
He cleared his throat, he pointed at his battle scars.
Mum said, ‘I hope they bloody hurt.’
Dad said, ‘Before you went off on your protest, were you running a bath?’