Saturday, October 22, 2005

 

the child, one hundred thirteen


They took the stairs as silently as they could, wary for anyone coming down them. This would not be the best place to be discovered, they knew.

Of course, nowhere in the dungeons would be a good place to be discovered...

At the landing for the sixth level down, Forest and James made their brief and quiet farewells, and slipped away through the door. It felt so strange for the others, to suddenly be without that pair! They had grown used to James' leadership, and the boy's as well. In a way, going on up the stairs without them felt something like blundering on without a head.

At the next level up, Joy and Malachi departed to search for the girl Talia. The next level up from that, it was Jack and Morgen's turn to peel off, for this was where they would look for Rob.

Two levels up from that, and two levels below the ground floor where Ginger lived, Lucy and Linda stopped to say good-bye to Maccabees. But instead of going through that door and away to find Beatriz, Mac said, 'I'll see you upstairs first.' And so the three of them made their cautious way up the last two flights of the stairway, listening at every step.

They reached the top. Remembering that the back door by which they'd snuck into the fortress was not that far off, they slowly and noiselessly slipped into the nearest corridor, away from the guards at that door.

Silvered moonlight streamed in here. The long corridor stretched away ahead of them. Very familiar this was to Lucy. There were four more long corridors just like this one on this level - Lucy wondered if the lower floors shared the same layout? Five long corridors, each with three dozen doors on either side. Three hundred sixty cells. And one of them Ginger's.

And Walker - where was he? Had they brought him to an empty cell here? Or taken him downstairs?

Linda looked to Lucy. 'What do we do now?' she whispered. And Lucy, not really meaning to, glanced at Mac.

He pointed. 'There is likely to be a broom closet at the far end,' he whispered.

Yes, of course there was. Sometimes for punishment, Lucy had been assigned to fetch the cleaning supplies from that broom closet and clean a whole corridor of cells. And one memorable time, she had been sent to a lower level to clean a corridor down there. Ugh - she shuddered at the memory.

Why, though, would Mac be pointing out the broom clo...?

Oh.

'Come on, Linda. Let's go hide in the broom closet,' Lucy whispered. Hand in hand, they hurried down the hall, hoping to avoid being noticed.

And once the women were hidden from sight, Mac turned away and returned to the floor he and Walker should have gone to together. He had with him the handful of shredded papers that Joy had rescued from the cave floor. Now he would find Beatriz. And, if the man had been brought to this level, Walker as well.

There was plenty of night left, and Mac had no need to sleep. He began his search right away.

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