Chapter Thirty-Two

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The basement looked exactly like it had the first time I'd come down. The book with the poem on it still sat open on the table. The prison cells sat in the same neat rows, except one of the cells was already taken.

"Callie!" Axel shouted, as he pushed his way to the front of the group. Callie was leaning against a wall of her cell. Her face was pale and it was obvious she was no healthier than she had been the last we'd seen her. I'd been so focused on escaping Claudia and John that I hadn't even noticed she was gone. None of us had.

Claudia pointed her gun at Axel as John stepped in front of him. "Stop moving," John said quietly. Then, he pointed to the open cage opposite from the one Callie was in. His meaning was obvious. Axel glared at John with his fists clenched, but complied after a few seconds.

"Good. You," Claudia said and pointed at Jadyn. Her gun shifted to point at Jadyn instead. I expected Jadyn to fight back somehow, but surprisingly, she begrudgingly did as she was told.

One by one, our numbers disintegrated in the same fashion.

Soon, only six people were left. I started to get nervous. If this kept up and nobody did something fast, it'd truly be over. I also wasn't sure what to do; the gun was always pointing at someone. I didn't need somebody to die.

I waited for Claudia to point to the next person except...she never did. My eyes found Asten's and I felt my heart begin to race from fear. He also inferred that something wasn't right. There had to be a reason she'd stopped.

"The rest of you...kneel," Claudia ordered. A couple people around me began to kneel. Claudia stared at me; I was still standing. If this was going to be how it would end, I wouldn't go down without a fight.

"Kneel," Claudia repeated, only to me. I could feel the eyes of everyone else on me, but I still refused to kneel to her. Then, I felt the butt of a gun slam into the back of my knees. I unceremoniously fell to the ground. John stood behind me with his gun still in hand.

"If you want to survive, you're going to have to work with us," Claudia muttered. She then turned to John, which signaled him to move to the table and open metal box. From my angle, I couldn't see inside. I just knew that whatever it was, I wasn't going to like it.

John pulled something from the box and turned to face us. I felt Claudia hovering over me. I didn't even remember her coming closer. Her presence was suffocating.

He walked towards me. I could see what he was holding now. It was a syringe with an opaque liquid inside.

John handed the syringe to Claudia and I felt my heart race even faster. All my attention was given to the syringe, Claudia fiddled with it for a moment.

"What is it?" I choked out.

She didn't seem to care that I'd spoken. "You'll find out."

Suddenly, John grabbed the back of my neck. His hold was unbreakable.

Claudia hovered the syringe next to my neck, and I leaned away as much as I could. It was over. There was no way to escape this anymore. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn't.

Just as the metal tip of the syringe began entering my skin, a gunshot went off. I looked around frantically. The last I knew, John still had the gun. Had he shot somebody just to spite me, after my compliance?

There was blood. John was no longer grabbing me. It leaked over the ground and onto my boots as I yanked myself away from Claudia. She was frozen and confused. She didn't comprehend why John's body was now on the ground, blood leaking from a hole in his chest.

Claudia's grasp of the syringe loosened as she stared at the man who had once been at her side. She couldn't speak.

I turned. There, at the bottom of the steps was Mace holding a gun still pointed at John.

"Thanks for leaving me behind."

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