Chapter 23 - Cracks and Cages

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We stood stunned for a moment. Rebecca left the room first, chuckling as she made her way back to the bar. Tobin directed us the other way down the hall to a back entrance with curt movements. Once out in the open air, we all ran down the back alley. The fear nipping at our heels felt all too familiar.

After some mad dashes and turns, we stopped. It felt like we were in some maze with the narrow alleys of Nord. We couldn't run wildly through this town.

Eluena was looking up. "Should we take those passageways?"

Tobin shook his head. "If you think being down here feels like a maze, it's even worse up there." He scratched at his chin as his chest moved up and down with his labored breaths. "Here's what we do. Talia and Eluena hang back but keep Mindy and me in your sights. We'll head to the southern road. Rebecca will think I'll head back to Finn's camp to see for myself. I don't doubt she'll tip off the constable to look for us there. They'll focus their efforts to the north."

His confidence was calming, but I had my doubts it would be that easy. He flicked his head as if to say 'c'mon' to Mindy, and they began walking away. Eluena and I stood for a moment not saying a word. What was there to say? Here we were again, running from another town. Was this all there would be until we were caught and shipped up to Shasta?

Eluena grabbed my hand and tugged, pulling me out of my thoughts. Tobin and Mindy were about twenty feet ahead, and we didn't want to let them get that much further ahead.

We stayed back, maintaining the distance. My heart pounded the entire time, and I wiped my hands on my thighs every few seconds. Tobin was setting a fast walking pace, but he was obviously going for a speed that wouldn't attract too much attention. If we went barreling down the streets, then everyone would wonder what we did or what we stole.

I'm not sure what I expected after what was no more than ten minutes, but absolutely nothing wasn't it. No shouts. No alarm bells. No carrying 'the news' down the streets. It made my hairs stand on end.

Tobin and Mindy slowed, and he looked back, signaling for us to join them. Once we near, he said, "We're almost to the southern road. Have you seen anything?"

I shook my head. I still had the goosebumps to prove we had seen nothing.

"Then let's move. I don't like it. They may be stupid enough to only consider north, but Rebecca said someone was asking after me," he said.

We moved in our group of four again feeling somewhat relieved that we had seen nothing, but also a bit more paranoid. I couldn't help but turn my head every few seconds to see who was behind me. But being close together was an unspoken comfort.

"Do you have any ideas who this person is, the one asking after you?" I asked Tobin.

"Yeah, I do. He worries me more." Tobin didn't elaborate on who it was, and at the moment I didn't care. He was bad news, and that's all I need to know. And Tobin kept looking over his shoulder too, just like I was.

The alley we were on ended. We were at the edge of the town. Rounding the building, we used caution. Tobin went first and waved us on. From the side of the last building, we could see the southern road. And two covered wagons.

Wagons, just like the one in Willows Grove.

I couldn't be sure from this distance if anyone was around, but I walked with no thought for stealth. Those wagons held girls. They could hold Edith or Maggie, and my pace quickened.

"Wait up, Talia." Tobin's feet slapped the ground as he bounded towards me grabbing my arm, turning me. "What do you think you're doing?"

I flung my free arm towards the wagons. "There are girls in there! We have to get them free." I tugged at his grasp, but his grip only tightened.

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