Chapter Thirty-Three

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He walked into the room and pointed the gun at Claudia.

January and Kyan stepped in the room after him. "Grab the keys off him and start freeing everyone," Mace ordered. January nodded stiffly before following his instructions and running to get Callie out of her cell.

Mace stalked closer to Claudia his arms never wavering. He walked past me where I was knelt on the ground, until the gun was pressed against Claudia's temple. "What do you want with us?" Mace asked Claudia, glaring her down from behind the gun.

She seemed unfazed. "I won't tell you," Claudia replied, coolly. It was almost as if she wanted to be shot in the head.

Before Mace could say another word, January cried out from across the room. She was in Callie's cell. Callie was lying motionless in January's lap as January checked her pulse.

The tears in January's eyes as she let her fingers fall away from Callie told me everything I needed to know. Axel's cry was drowned out seconds later by the loud bang accompanied by Claudia falling to the ground, just feet in front of me. There was a dark red stain on her forehead as Mace shoved the gun back into the bag he was wearing and stared at her now lifeless body.

I stared at Claudia in horror. No matter how many times I watched somebody die, I'd never get used to it. It shocked me how quickly someone could change from being a living, breathing human to a motionless husk of what they once were. Claudia and Callie were gone. The person I'd been sleeping next to just a couple nights ago would be stuck asleep for eternity, never to wake again.

I'd barely known Callie, but she hadn't deserved this.

Finally, Mace faced the rest of us still kneeling. He seemed like he was trying to hold himself together. "Are you all okay?" he asked in a much softer tone, different from how he'd talked to Claudia.

I nodded slowly and stood up. Kyan continued to release the people who were still stuck in cages, as January hugged Callie's lifeless body to her chest. Axel was there too, staring at her as if he'd never see her again. Unfortunately, that was probably true; the snow was too dense and frozen to be able to dig a proper grave and I doubted we'd return.

Mace walked to where January and Axel sat with Callie, and gently placed a hand on January's shoulder. January looked up at Mace for a second, before letting go of Callie. There was nothing left to do.

Everyone made their way towards the door at varying paces. I was about to follow when I remembered the book. It was on the table next to the metal box, still opened to the same page. My fingers rubbed against the coarse paper. I felt an urge not to leave it behind. It was so intriguing. Before I could second guess myself, I picked it up and shoved it into my jacket's pocket.

After collecting our stuff from the house, our group finally made it outside. The wind was blowing once again and snow fell around us.

The mood was somber. Mace began to speak. "Callie will be missed. And although I want to stop and mourn as much as you all do, you all had a mission. And although you left me out, it's now our mission." He gestured in front of him, towards the steep incline away from the house. We had to continue.

Fortunately, we didn't have to walk for long. After about five minutes of walking away from the house, we stumbled upon a small truck. It was tied to the tree. This close to the house, I assumed it probably had been Claudia and John's. It was ours now.

We managed to shove everyone into the truck as Axel got into the front seat to drive. Everyone still seemed quiet, but the overall mood had improved. Although it might have been a tight fit, the car alone would save us at least ten days off our trip.

"So, mind explaining whose plan it was to leave half of camp behind and unaware on this trip?" Mace asked me as we waited Axel to hijack the truck and get it working. I could sense a hint of irritation in his question. His light blue eyes bore into mine.

"We didn't want you to get hurt more than you already were. And it was easier taking fewer people." My answer felt dull, especially under his intimidating stare. Even though he seemed annoyed, I could tell he was just glad we were still breathing.

"It didn't seem to work out that well." That was an understatement.

I looked back towards the house, wondering about everyone else who'd been there before us. It was likely only the beginning of our troubles on this journey. That just seemed to be how life worked: the second you got past one obstacle, a new one was always there, waiting for you to face it. I faced Mace again, feeling the book press against my side. "It didn't."

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