We’d been walking for what felt like ten minutes when keys clinked against metal, then a heavy door swung open. Jorge lowered me off his shoulder and placed me on the ground. A car door clicked open and he picked me up again. Laying me down horizontally on a row of seats, he slammed the door shut again. Jorge and Marisa took seats in front of me and the engine started. I almost rolled off the seat as the vehicle lurched forward.
I lost count of how much time passed by. I was barely paying attention to the conversation any more as my mind fixed on Caleb. He was somewhere aboard Camilo’s ship. Likely still in that armored truck, where he would spend his final breath, alone in the dark. Tears welled in my eyes.
The vehicle slowed to a stop and the front doors opened again as Marisa and Jorge stepped out. Jorge reached for me and pulled me out. A cool breeze touched my skin as the car doors slammed shut. I heard the sound of ocean waves and the distant humming of a generator.
Gravel crunched beneath Jorge and Marisa’s feet. I heard keys, then the drawing of a heavy bolt. It was suddenly hot and stuffy. Gone was the cool night breeze. The stench of perfumes clashing in the air invaded my nostrils.
Jorge carried me up yet more stairs, and finally I felt a hard bed beneath me. The sheets smelled of strong detergent. Jorge loosened my blindfold as Marisa closed the door.
I looked around. The room was hardly bigger than the basement room I’d first been trapped in with Brody. There was a small dressing table in the corner, a stool, a sink, and a cracked mirror. There was only one door—the door we had entered through. Which meant there was no bathroom. Marisa and Jorge began untying my wrists and ankles. As I shook the ropes away from me, Marisa pulled out a gun from her belt, holding it on me.
“You listen,” she said in her thick accent. “There won’t be more misbehaving from you, understand? You do as we say.”
I huddled against the wall, as far away from the two of them as possible. “You can’t force me to work for you,” I croaked.
“We can, actually,” Jorge said, a thin smile spreading across his face as he inched closer to me on the mattress. “Our methods are quite foolproof… But we’ll leave you alone for now. Tomorrow will be your first day, and you’ll need to be alert.”
Jorge reached out and tucked my hair behind my ear before standing up and walking out of the room, followed closely by Marisa. I rushed to the door after them, but they’d locked it already by the time I slammed up against it.
“Wait,” I called. “I need to use the bathroom.”
“There’s a bucket beneath the bed, and you have a sink,” Jorge said. “Using the bathroom is a privilege you will earn.”
Chapter 16: Rhys
Micah and I had much time to make up for. It could be as much as twelve hours. There was also the possibility that the witch might have gotten hold of my prey already. But I doubted it. If my guess about her identity was correct, her contact with me would have drained her. She’d need more time to recover before going back after a speeding truck.
Micah and I needed to make sure that we got to Rose and Caleb—if indeed the vampire was still alive—before she recovered, because we couldn’t afford more delays. I wondered if she would actually be foolish enough to come after us again. She should know better than that. I wouldn’t hesitate to kill her this time, now that I was wiser. I supposed it depended just how desperate she was to keep Rose away from me.
We took longer sweeps across the highway. I was too impatient to keep traveling at such a slow speed, stopping every mile to check for the scent. Since very few roads led off it, there weren’t many other ways the truck could have gone other than straight ahead.
The witch’s attempt had been successful at least in delaying me. But I wouldn’t allow it to do more than that.
It worried me that it was taking Micah longer and longer to detect the scent each time we stopped to check it. But, finally, he pointed to a side road. We were near the coast now. I breathed in deeply as we moved away from the pollution of the highway, the fresh sea air filling my lungs.
“It’s getting stronger again,” Micah said. “And I…” His eyes grew wide, his nose quivering. “I think I sense the vampire too.”
For the first time in weeks, I smiled.
Chapter 17: Rose
I looked around the room again in horror as their footsteps disappeared. Now that I was standing, I noticed something in a shadowy corner. A boarded-up window. I rushed to it and placed my fingers around the edges of the board, trying to see if there was any give. It had rotted away so much from the humidity that it only took three hard pulls to dislodge it completely, revealing a window guarded by bars. Cockroaches and centipedes came scurrying out from beneath the wood as it fell to the floor, plaster and dust falling everywhere.
I grabbed the stool and placed it beneath the window. I climbed up on it and looked out at the sky. There was no clock in my room, but from the brightening horizon, early morning was approaching fast. Dawn. I craned my neck to look further up the shoreline. A ship was moored about a mile up.
Could that be Camilo’s ship?
I gripped the bars harder and pulled myself upward. It was still too dark to read the words painted onto the side of the ship. I eyed the containers on deck. They were large enough to contain circus equipment, scaffolding, animals… And then I spotted something that left me with no further doubt. There was a stack of German wheels propped up against one of the masts.
People milled about around the vessel, walking up and down the ramp, pushing carts. I wondered if Caleb and his cage had already been placed aboard the ship. I guessed the only way they’d managed to keep him caged all this time was by not opening those back doors. They’d have to open them sometime if he was going to be of any value, but I was sure that by the time they did, he’d already be long dead.