Chapter Thirty Nine

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Max was a wreck. He had always battled depression, but this was a new low. The past few hours he had sat alone, in a corner of the room, rocking back and forth. He couldn't get the image of Lizzie screaming out of his head, screaming as Joey tortured her, making her pay for his mistakes.

Since his brother had died, and he assumed Joey had met the same fate, Max never thought he could be close to anyone again. He knew how close he had come to trying his luck with the gun on that bridge before he met Lizzie. He would surely have met his end eventually.

Then he met her, and he felt like his life had started over, like he had been given a second chance. She needed him and he needed her, even if neither of them would ever admit it. He had finally found a reason for living again, and now it had been snatched away.

What was he thinking? Snatched away from him? It was Lizzie who'd had her whole life snatched away from her. Max couldn't help but feel responsible; if he had left her at the Jennings' as he'd planned, she would likely still be alive. Maybe unhappy, but still alive. What was better? To be dead, or alive and unhappy?

Max didn't know anymore. He couldn't think of anything but her. Her face was etched in his brain like a tattoo. Her laugh and sarcastic comments replayed on loop in his ears. Her wide smile was there every time he shut his eyes.

Max stood up.

"We're leaving tonight," he announced to the group with a hollow tone.

All conversations stopped and those sitting down took to their feet.

"What about Paulo?" someone asked.

Max had thought about Paulo. Not because he missed him, or even because he was worried. He just needed to know more. How did Lizzie die? Was she in pain? What were her last words?

He hoped that Paulo had survived. The two men had become close, but Max had to be realistic. He had to get out of here.

"He left for the pit hours ago, and it's dark now. He's not coming back," Max mumbled. "Get your weapons ready and clear your heads; next time they open that cell door, we move," he stated.

"But what if-" Someone started to argue, Max didn't turn to see who.

"But nothing. I'm going, you can follow me or not. It's your choice," Max growled, pacing back and forth, waiting for his chance to escape.

Max didn't even know why he wanted to escape. He didn't know where he'd go. Maybe it was finally time for him to escape life altogether, because once again it felt like a trap to him. Part of him felt that he should go on, for Lizzie, but he wasn't sure he could. He wasn't sure he was strong enough to do it alone again.

An hour or so passed before the prisoners got their chance. Max didn't think it would come so soon to be honest, but the cover of darkness was ideal. As soon as they heard the key in the lock of the main door, everyone got into position. Max had told them to sit down and look casual. The last thing they needed was the guards noticing something was off.

They each jumped to their feet, moving closer to the cell door so as to make sure they could force it open if given the chance. The hallway door finally opened and three guards rolled in; less than Max had expected. The night shift always meant a dwindling number, but this was great news. One of them carried a large drum of water for the water cooler, the others sacks of bread.

Max's heart began to beat faster as he saw the water. It meant they would definitely be unlocking the cell door.

The joy was short-lived however, as he noticed that the weapons hanging from their sides for once did have ammo clips. They had obviously taken extra precaution seeing as they would have to enter the cell. Max didn't linger on the detail; his mind was still made up. The likelihood was that people would die tonight, but how much longer would they have really lasted in the pit?

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