Chapter Twenty-Four

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Otto and his goons tied Max and Lizzie's hands behind their backs before marching them back into the main shopping centre and down the dead, motionless escalator stairs. A large, bustling group had congregated around a still but beautiful fountain in the centre of the mall. The sunlight was shining in through gigantic glass panels on the ceiling and the water glistened as the light bounded off it.

The scene was stunning, but Max found it hard to enjoy in the circumstance. In truth, he barely worried for his own life, the prospect of death wasn't exactly new to him, but he had Lizzie to think about now. If it came down to it, he would kill every last one of these psychopaths if it meant she walked out of here unhurt. Vince and Quinn bundled the pair onto the floor, propping them up against the side of the fountain before tying their legs together too.

Max took in his surroundings, checking out each one of Otto's group in turn. He counted twelve men and seven women, most of whom showed the same strange signs as the ones he had already met. Random spasms, excess energy, people hopping around and smacking their heads, whispering under their breaths to themselves, licking their lips and most chilling of all, clicking their teeth together. Max glanced across at Lizzie; she was clearly straining to hide it, but she had noticed the same thing and the fear was painted across her face as clear as day.

Max turned his attention once more to the group in camouflage, concentrating particularly on a group of three huddled at the far side of the congregation. They were stacking wood into a large pile, and next to them sat a huge, black cooking pot.

"Welcome to the Brotherhood!" Otto yelled authoritatively, stood upon a chair high above his loyal followers.

The rest of the Brotherhood crowded around him, cheering and pumping their fists into the air. Otto soaked up the attention before gesturing with his hands for his friends to quiet down.

"Today we are joined by two very special guests," he continued, waving his arm in the direction of Max and Lizzie.

At the mention of the pair tied up next to the fountain, many of the Brotherhood seemed to noticeably change. As soon as the focus was put on the two unwilling guests, they began to lick their lips and bite the air almost uncontrollably. It was as if someone had flicked a switch in their heads. All those sets of hungry, bloodshot eyes looking at Max and Lizzie as if they were hot, roast turkeys on Christmas day.

The attention was unsettling, and Lizzie couldn't help but turn away from the horror show in front of her, instead looking desperately at Max, hoping he had some kind of plan. Max met her gaze, mouthing "it's going to be okay" before facing back towards Otto.

"It's been a while my friends, but tonight Otto will reward you. Tonight..." Otto boomed, grinning manically, turning to look into Max's eyes before finishing.

"We feast," he whispered chillingly.

The shopping centre erupted into chaos, filled with shouting and cheering. The chorus of screams only rose, as Otto jumped from his perch, splashed the wood with some liquid from a white bottle and threw a match onto the pile. The wood was instantly engulfed in fire, and Otto began slamming his fists into his chest like an alpha male gorilla.

Max could only watch on from a distance, powerless to stop what was about to happen. The veins on his arms pulsed as he desperately tried to tear apart his hands and free himself from the ropes tying him. His wrists burned as the rope rubbed away the skin, but they barely loosened and he gave up with a defeated sigh.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to Lizzie, blinking back the tears.

He had promised himself that no harm would come to her, after all that was the only reason he started travelling with her in the first place. His eyes darted around the room, seeking out some kind of escape, just anything he could use to get them out of this situation. He had nothing. He had failed.

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