The Gathering Room was absolute chaos, and even that was an understatement. It was much worse than when Link revealed he had a spy. I hadn't thought it possible, but there I was, trying to help Nick calm everyone down by forcing Alby and Gally apart during one of their screaming matches. The two boys were almost in each other's faces as they argued at the top of their lungs. I was wedged between them, using my arm strength to pry them away from one another.
Minho was pointing out his stitches to everyone who cared enough to listen and ranted about how much they hurt. Clark, always the temperamental one, tried to keep himself from exploding by pacing back and forth every six feet while covering his ears to block out the noise. Zart - the poor boy - sat on his chair with an alarmed expression. Winston was arguing with Matt (Keeper of the Sloppers) while Frypan was trying to calm down David, another Keeper, after the boy burst into tears from seeing Winston in place of Link.
"EVERYBODY SHUT UP!" Nick roared above every single sound in the room. Instantly, everyone froze in place and the volume dropped so silent there was a ringing in my ears. The leader stood with his sunburnt face more red than usual and his fists clenched at his sides. His biceps were tense as he gave everyone in the room a silent scolding with his eyes. "In your seats. Now."
After a second's pause, there was no sound except the scuffle of shoes against the wooden floor and chairs scraping across it as we all sat in our respected spots. David was wiping tears from his face. Zart gave the kid a comforting pat on the knee.
Nick continued to stand in front of us as he spoke instead of taking his usual spot in the middle of our crescent. "We will likely be here all day, so get comfortable. This Gathering is part two of our Alex Dilemma. In case you forgot, part one was where we interrogated Luke of the Raisers, who worked as a spy for our dear friend Link."
Clark twitched and darted his eyes to me. I sent him a discreet thumbs up.
"Minho has said that he has more information pertaining to Alex, but he has refused to tell me until he could say it to everyone," Nick continued, his gaze landing on the Runner beside me. "We'll get to that in a second. First, I'd like to establish a rule: absolutely no talking until he's finished. Got it?"
A quiet chorus of, "Got it," came from us.
"Good that." He nodded. "All right, Minho. Take it away."
Minho cleared his throat and waited for Nick to sit in his seat before he began- not that it took long, considering Nick's legs were about ten miles long and he reached the chair within three long strides. After he was sure everyone was paying attention, he took a deep breath and launched into his story.
"Everything was normal - or as normal as you can get with an annoying shuck-face like Alex - until we turned a corner and I nodded at him to cut the ivy. He ran ahead of me and took out his knife. That little twerp cut the ivy better than he ever did- that was my first clue. Then he somehow tripped over his own two feet, knife outstretched toward me, and I turned and backed up so it drew down my arm. He would have killed me if I hadn't moved. Would've gone right into my chest."
The entire room was completely silent. My breath was caught in my chest in an almost painful way that made it feel like I was silently choking after having all of the air knocked out of me. To think that Alex tried to kill Minho was enough to make me feel dizzy. To reassure both myself and Minho, I reached over and laced my fingers through his.
"It was too perfect to have been an accident," he continued in a slightly quieter tone. "He spun around at the exact moment I came around, and he somehow just pitched forward--" Minho cut himself off with a shudder. His arms were taut. "My guess is he did the same to the poor shank, Theo. Sabotage. Made sure he could never run again."