Never Fade Page 125

Jude, I thought, counting them off with my eyes, Liam, Vida, Chubs.

“I think this is it.” Vida stepped back, keeping her own flashlight aimed at the huge, swirling patterns of graffiti. There was a blue star at the center of it, but it was the way the paint looked that gave the hidden door away—it was thicker here, to the point that it looked sticky to the touch. I felt for a disguised handle before throwing my shoulder against it. The panel of cement swung inward, scraping the loose rubble on the other side. Vida, Liam, and I leaned in, shining our flashlights down the metal staircase.

I reached over and hauled Clancy to the front. “You first.”

If it were possible, this tunnel was somehow even cruder than the tunnel we usually took in and out of HQ. It was also about ten times longer and filthier.

Clancy stumbled in front of me, barely catching himself with a quiet curse. The walls, which had started out wide enough for us to walk three across, narrowed until we were forced into a single-file line. Liam was at my back, the damp, rancid air wheezing in and out of his lungs in a way that was starting to worry me.

I slowed a step, letting him catch up and nudge me forward again. “I’m okay,” he promised. “Keep going.”

In the distant dark, I could hear the rush of some kind of water, though the sludge we were shuffling through had clearly been there long enough to start to rot and solidify.

How many prisoners had they brought in this way, I wondered, and how many bodies had they hauled out? I tried not to shudder or turn my light down to see if the water was as red as my mind had made it out to be. I tried to stop myself from picturing the way Jarvin and the others would have dragged Alban out—Cate out, Cole out, their lifeless eyes open, gazing at the string of small flickering lights hanging overhead.

“After this, we’re all bathing in bleach,” Chubs informed us. “And burning these clothes. I keep trying to figure out why it smells so much like sulfur, but I think I’ve decided to leave that one alone for now.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Clancy said. His face was bone white as he turned in to my flashlight’s beam, which made his already dark brows and eyes look like they’d been stained with soot. “How many of these tunnels did the League make?”

“A few,” I said. “Why? Planning your escape already?”

He snorted.

“Time?” I called back.

“Three fifty-three,” Vida answered. “Can you see the end?”

No. I felt the first cold drip of panic down my spine. No, I couldn’t. We’d been walking for close to a half hour, and it felt like we hadn’t covered any ground at all. It was the same cement walls, the same sloshing of our footsteps—every once in a while, one of our flashlight beams would catch a rat as it scampered against the wall or darted into some black crack in the ground. The tunnel seemed to draw us into its darkness like a deep breath. The walls shrank around our heads and shoulders again, forcing me to bend at the waist.

How much longer could it be? Another half hour? An hour? Were we really going to have less than that to find the kids and get them back out again?

“We’re almost there,” Liam whispered, taking my arm and aiming the flashlight toward the far end of the tunnel, where the path began to slope upward, out of the sludge.

Where there was a large metal door.

“Is that it?”

I nodded, relief and adrenaline pulsing through me as I whirled back toward the others. “Okay,” I called softly. “This is it. Vida, start the clock. Fifteen minutes in and out. Everyone remember what you’re doing?”

Jude squeezed past us to get to the electronic lock that flashed on as he approached.

I scanned the nearby ceiling and walls, looking for any sort of camera, only half surprised when I didn’t find one. Interesting. Alban had either been dedicated to keeping the interrogation block a protected, classified secret from anyone other than senior staff and advisers, or he had been worried about the thought of someone getting visual evidence of the people he was trafficking in and out. Both, probably.

Good. One less thing to worry about.

I had just clicked the flashlight off when I felt a warm hand close around my arm. I turned right into Liam’s waiting arms.

The kiss was over before it ever really started. A bruising, single touch filled with enough urgency, enough frustration and wanting to send my blood rushing. I was still trying to catch my breath when he pulled back, his hands on my face, his lips close enough to mine for me to feel him pant, too.

Then he was stepping back, away, letting distance flood in between us again. His voice was low, rough. “Give ’em hell, darlin’.”

“And for the love of God, bitch, don’t get stabbed this time!” Vida added.

I would have smiled if I hadn’t heard Clancy’s faint laughter at my right. “Any sign of trouble from you is the only excuse I need to use this,” I warned him, pressing the gun to the curve of his skull. “The only excuse I need to leave your body down here to be eaten by the rats.”

“Got it,” Clancy said in his low, velvety tones. “And if I’m good, do I get a kiss, too?”

I shoved Clancy forward, keeping a grip on the collar of his shirt.

“Okay, I’m ready,” Jude said as he put his hand against the lock pad to fry it. “Lead on, Leader.”

The air down in the interrogation block was no fresher or cleaner than the tunnel had been. The familiar stench of human vomit and filth twisted my gut as I stepped through the doorway and down the short flight of stairs. I had my flashlight in one hand and the gun in my other, both aimed at the door on the other end of the hallway of metal doors with their observation windows. I swept the beam of pale light around the space, and, finding it clear, signaled for the others to come through.

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