Chapter Twenty-Six

THE MORNING I THOUGHT would never come is finally here. I lay on the bed for hours, but I couldn't sleep. It reminded me of being back in the apartment with Ellis, when we shut ourselves off from the others and slept on Edward's top bunk. I kept thinking about her wide, innocent eyes. Oblivious to all that was happening around her, she curled up alongside me, full of love and complete, unspoken trust.

Barefoot and cold, I've spent most of the last few hours looking out of the small window, watching the darkness turn to gray as the sun rose over the roof of this bizarre prison.

I've stood here for hours trying to work out who this Sahota might be and what he wants from me. I've taken some reassurance from the fact that I'm sure Joseph Mallon's naive trusting of me is genuine-he put his life on the line several times yesterday, and all that any of the Unchanged have left now is their lives. He's either supremely confident and brave, stupidly optimistic, or, and this seems most likely, he genuinely believes all the crap he's been peddling. So will Sahota be the same? I've been trying to work out my tactics, deciding how I should play my showdown with Boss Man. But how can I prepare for a meeting in a place I don't know with a person I've never met?

It's all irrelevant.

The only thing that matters now is getting out and looking for Ellis. The war... us and them... taking sides-all of that has to take second place from now on. I'll play along with Mallon and his hippie/pacifist/conscientious objector bullshit for as long as it takes until I get out of here. Unless, of course, they don't intend to let me out. Then I'll resort to my backup plan-my Plan B, which used to be Plan A: start fighting and don't stop until every last one of the fuckers is lying dead at my feet.

The door finally opens, and Mallon strides in. About time. There's no tray of food and no small talk or niceties either this morning. It's like he's just got a job to do. Is he abandoning me and moving on to a new pet? Or is he just unable to look me in the eye because he knows what's coming next? I want to attack him, but I don't, forcing myself to swallow the Hate back down like poisonous bile.

"What's going to happen?" I ask, instantly regretting having spoken. Christ, how far I've fallen. It's bad enough that I'm being held captive by the Unchanged; now I'm begging them for information, too. Pathetic.

"I told you last night. You're going to see Sahota."

"Yes, but-"

Mallon stands up straight and looks at me, still on guard but allowing himself to relax slightly. He puts a hand on my shoulder, and I resist the temptation to shrug it off.

"Have faith, Danny. Sahota is a good man. The kind of man who could bring an end to this war."

That doesn't make me feel any better.

"But who is he? What does he want to see me for?"

My questions obviously sound as desperate as I suddenly feel. Mallon manages half a smile.

"You'll find out."

He bends down and takes the shackles off my feet. Now the only chains left are those that bind my hands together. I could kill him now, but that would be a mistake. If I'm going to kill anyone this morning, it should be the main man, not one of his minions.

Mallon leads me out into a wide corridor. There's no security this time, no bag over my head, and I get my first proper look at the building I'm being held in. It's an odd-looking place, nothing like the prison I'd imagined. The walls are bare, their light yellow paint faded and peeling, and the air is cold. There are traces of religious paraphernalia lying around like the crucifix in my room-a painting of some serene-looking woman at the top of a staircase, some unfathomable ancient slogan scrawled across another wall, enough crucifixes to ward off a whole army of vampires.

We reach a T-intersection at the end of the long corridor, walking under an unrepaired hole in the roof where rainwater has poured in and soaked the carpet. To my left the corridor continues toward another long staircase. To my right there's a short, narrow landing, then three steps leading up to an ominous-looking door. Is this my Room 101? Is this the very end of my journey? All the fears and uncertainties I'd managed to dismiss suddenly manifest themselves again. My pulse is racing and my throat's dry. My body tenses. I stop and turn toward Mallon. The urge to kill him is strong, almost too strong...

"Don't, Danny," he pleads pathetically, my intent obviously clear, "please don't. You're so close now..."

He moves past me quickly, climbs the steps, and opens the door. He pushes it wide open, and I edge a little closer to try to look past him and see inside. It looks bizarrely like a doctor's waiting room, more like another short corridor than a room-clean, a door at either end, light flooding in through a skylight, a low table and a row of three chairs against one wall. I take a step closer, my curiosity and nerves getting the better of me. Mallon stands there, blocking my way, and it's like he's somehow taunting me. Can't stand this. This bullshit has gone on for too long. I don't think there's anyone else in this damn building. I'll kill him, then fight my way out of here.

I run at the fucker, but he sidesteps, then pushes me into the other room. I spin around as he slams the door in my face.

"Don't blow it," he shouts as it shuts. I hear a bolt slide across, then hear his muffled voice still talking to me. "Keep the faith, Danny, you're almost there. Remember everything you've learned."

I hammer on the door, but it's no use-it's locked, and he's gone. How could I have been so fucking dumb, to walk into a simple trap like this?

I'll wait for Sahota to show his face now.

I'm ready to fight. Bastard won't know what's hit him.

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