“Well, it’s getting late, but I’ll see if I can still get through to him. Hold the line, please.” She kept us waiting for only a few minutes before returning. “All right, he’ll be at Room 59 in about ten minutes.”
I hung up and rushed to the front door.
Locked again from the outside. Your lover continues to be diligent about his nighttime duties.
Dread filled the pit of my stomach as I hoisted myself out of the window once again and balanced myself on the metal pipe directly beneath me. It was only by some fluke that I’d survived last night’s climb. Can lightning strike twice?
My body positioned itself to jump sideways toward the adjacent window. This time my hands latched onto the ledge and I didn’t have to endure the same stomach-flipping fall as last night. I jumped from ledge to ledge until I’d reached the very corner of the building where a thick drainage pipe was fixed. It ran all the way down to the ground. I hurled myself at the pipe and slid down until my feet hit the grass.
I had been expecting us to make our way back into the building through another open window. Instead, my legs launched me into a full sprint through the vineyards. When woods came into view, it dawned on me where we were headed. Arron’s residence. Building H looked nothing more than a small wooden cabin. Why Arron preferred to live in this tiny place as opposed to the comfortable apartments in the main building baffled me.
I withdrew from my pocket the key that we had found in my father’s office the night before. It fit the lock perfectly. I swung the door open and stepped inside. The cabin consisted of a single room. There was no bed. No kitchen facilities. Not even a toilet. Just one large room that was mostly bare save for the wooden desk in the corner and an array of cabinets. I flung myself toward the cupboards and, as I had done in Aiden’s office, began sifting through them.
The map must be in here, muttered the Elder.
Minutes passed by but we had still spotted no map. Just as I was starting to lose confidence that we would ever find this elusive piece of paper, my hands brushed over a small metal box at the back of one of the cupboards. My eyes scanned the room and settled on a cluster of paperclips on Arron’s desk. I immediately bent one out of shape, stuck the end into the box’s key hole and set to work trying to pick it.
I started to fear what would happen if Arron returned. I imagined that he would be making his way back already, wondering why Aiden had never shown up at Room 59. This idea didn’t seem to deter the Elder. My hands picked relentlessly at the lock until finally, with a click, the lid popped open.
Inside was an old map. At first it looked identical to the one we’d found in Aiden’s office and I wondered whether this would once again be the wrong map. But as my eyes scanned the paper further, it was clear that this one was far more detailed. Indeed some locations marked here were missing completely from Aiden’s one.
My eyes scanned every inch of the parchment. It was as if he wanted to commit the entire thing to my memory to access at a later time.
Then it happened.
My ears picked up snapping twigs and rustling leaves. Someone was scurrying toward us through the vineyards. Not having time to lock the box properly, I simply closed the lid and shoved it back into its place. I scrambled around trying to restore each of the papers to its original file.
Then I slipped back out through the front door and let the latch lock behind us. I dove for shelter into some bushes that lined the entrance to the woods. Peering through the leaves, I saw Arron now less than a quarter of a mile away from the hut. I feared that he might have picked up the sudden flash of my form zipping out of the cabin, or the sound of the latch closing.
It appeared that my worries were unfounded, however, for he walked directly inside and slammed the door behind him.
After about fifteen minutes, when Arron had still not reemerged from his cabin, the Elder dared to move me forward out of the bushes and send me tearing back through the vineyards toward the main building.
My mouth split into a wide grin as I heard myself whisper:
“Now the real work begins.”
Chapter 20: Sofia
I circled the main building for several minutes looking for an open window on the ground floor. On finding none, I walked round to the kitchens, grabbed a rock from the ground and smashed through a window.
Something within the Elder had given way and it was now willing to sacrifice caution for speed.
The kitchens were empty at this time of night. I headed away from them and stepped into a dark corridor. Then I turned right into a small washing room. I made a beeline for the back of the room, behind the sinks and dishwashing machines, where I uncovered a large wooden trapdoor. I slid my hands through the two metal handles and hoisted it open to see a dark staircase leading down to some kind of basement or underground storage facility.
I lost no time in lowering myself down, pulling the heavy door shut above me. The staircase was winding and narrowed sharply. It was also unlit and, had it not been for my supernatural vision, I was sure I would have fallen and broken a leg.
Finally, the stairs disappeared and I found myself standing in a small rectangular room. A hunter sat outside a steel door, his head tilted down to a book on his lap. Still unnoticed, I approached the man and grabbed hold of his throat. I clamped a hand over his mouth to stifle his shouts and snapped his neck. His body now limp, I grabbed his arm and pulled him over to a scanner fixed to the right side of the door. I placed his thumb against the glass and the steel door clicked open. I rushed inside, dragging the hunter in with me.