I run to the western edge of the lake and arrive at the dam. To the left of me is easily a five-hundred-foot drop down to the ground, to the right, a lake stretches out farther than I can see. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to hide this device.
I run down along the dam to as close to center as I can find and look off toward the east. My stomach sinks as I look below me. The dam is wider at the bottom than here at the top, meaning that the water is way too far away from where I’m standing. I would have to be able to throw this thing over a hundred feet to get it in. That hundred feet is all at an angle, so it’s possible that the device would roll along the dam until it reaches the water, but the entire surface of the dam is covered in rocks and all sorts of other things which could cause this doohickey to get caught on its way down.
I pull the device out of my bag and bounce it in my hands, trying to get an idea of how heavy it is. Not that it matters. I just don’t see how I can get the distance I need for this to work.
“Think of it like a Frisbee,” Billy says through my headphones. “With the wind that whips up off those dams, you’d be amazed at how far you can get it.”
“Are you sure?” I ask, not certain how he even knows what I’m thinking.
“Definitely. Do it.”
I pull my arm back, take a deep breath, and fling it out into the air as hard as I can.
The wind takes hold of it and it soars out far away from me, almost like a little bird who has taken flight after being set free. It continues out almost too far for me to be able to see it and I can barely make out the little plop of water displacement when it finally lands.
“Is that it?” Billy asks. “Did you do it?”
“Yeah,” I answer. “And no, that’s not it.”
With one deep breath, I resolve myself to the final portion of my plan.
“I’m going to need some really, really good music, Billy,” I say with a heavy heart. “I’ve got some running to do.”
After a brief pause, the sound of synthesizers fills my ears. The Final Countdown by Europe. A little on the nose, but what can I say; it’s perfect.
We’re pushed downstairs and into The Corral, which is an absolute mess. I’m not going to pretend we kept things clean down here, but someone obviously tore this place apart. Alvin must have been looking for something. Every square inch has been overturned. The shelves have all been pulled out and our clothes are strewn out all across the floor. The Geek’s entire monitoring system has been destroyed. The screens all smashed by some sort of blunt item, the computers ripped out of the wall and taken apart piece by piece.
I’m not entirely certain what they were looking for, but if they didn’t find it, it wasn’t due to a lack of trying.
We’re told to sit on the floor as the three large men take their seats on my couch. The couch where I would rest between runs. The couch I bought with my very own money. The couch which has had all the stuffing ripped out and hastily shoved back in, presumably so they would have a semi-comfortable place to sit as they rifle through the rest of my belongings.
My house, the one place I thought would always be my sanctuary, is nothing more than a junk heap. A part of me aches, feeling almost dead, as I realize how far I’ve come, how far we’ve all come, from the comfortable lives we led just a couple weeks ago.
No, now we’re living in Alvin’s world. A world where anything he needs, he takes. And if he can’t find it, he’ll just bring some big-armed goons to stand in front of us and intimidate us until we give up whatever it is he wants.
Which brings up a rather important question: What is he looking for? I look at The Geek and attempt to ask him the question telepathically. If there is anything they are looking for down here, it’s his. The best they would find from me would be some old vinyl records I collected from a dump I visited a few years back.
“So, what do we do now?” The Geek asks the three men in the room with us.
“You sit there and be quiet,” the one sitting in the middle replies. “Mr. Alexander will be down here to deal with you when he’s ready.”
“You guys looking for something?” he continues. He’s got a plan. I know it. But I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what it could possibly be.
“Maybe,” the man in the middle answers. “Maybe not.”
“Because, you know, this is my house. If you’re looking for something, I might be the exact person who could help you find it. Or at least I would have been before you completely ruined my organizing.”
“Quit talking,” the middle man says gruffly. “If Mr. Alexander wants your help, he’ll get it from you.”
The Geek pauses briefly, appearing to reflect on the man’s response.
“But wouldn’t it make you seem that much more impressive if you were the one to find it, whatever it was?”
“I said quit talking!”
“What if I told you that I know exactly what you’re looking for? And that you’re never going to find it without my help?”
The man stands up and walks briskly to The Geek. “Why is it that every time I tell you to quit talking, you keep yammering?”
“I’m just saying if it would help you all out and if it might give you reason to take things easier on me, I’d be more than willing to point you in the right direction. If you’d be willing to put in a good word for me with the boss.”
“I said shut up!” the man shouts, leaning in close to The Geek’s face. The Geek, looking appropriately frightened, makes a gesture of locking his lips. I see a smile cross his face as the man turns to return to his spot on the couch.
The room is quiet. I glance at Eve who has a solid, yet blank, stare burned on her face. She appears to be blocking everything out. Or maybe she’s trying to intimidate the guys across the room by making them think none of this affects her. Or maybe she has finally broken down and realizes we’re in our final hours.
I notice the man sitting on the left side of the couch whispering something to the man in the middle. The middle man shakes his head curtly before the man on the right joins in on the discussion. This goes on for a matter of minutes before their conversation escalates enough for me to be able to hear their rising voices.
“—but you know the kid’s got a point,” the man on the right says. “Mr. Alexander has been in a mighty terrible mood ever since we got here. Think of how happy he’d be if we were able to find it for him.”
“No, not a chance. This kid has obviously got something up his sleeve and if we end up being tricked because of it, the boss will be a hundred times angrier at us. There’s no chance I’m—“
“I promise you I’m not going to trick you,” The Geek says loudly and confidently. “What have I got to lose at this point? You’re going to find it one way or another. And if I can make things easier for myself by helping you find it quicker, well, let’s just say that I’m really not into the whole torture thing.”
The three men stop talking and stare at The Geek. Then the two on the outside of the couch turn to look at the one in the middle.
“We could at least hear him out,” the man on the left says finally.
“Fine,” the middle man says with a loud groan. He stands and walks to The Geek, his companions following behind him. “Where’s the disk?”
“Well, for one thing, it’s not a disk, it’s a flash drive. For a second, it’s not here,” The Geek answers cheerfully. “For another, I want some way of knowing that whatever happens to us, you’ll make sure we don’t have to suffer.”
“I can’t make any promises that the boss isn’t going to want you to suffer. And if Mr. Alexander tells us to jump, we’re supposed to ask how high, not go about saying how we were helped by some kid he hates.”
“I get that. But let’s just say that maybe, just maybe, when he tells you to take us out and beat us to death, you choose to, I don’t know, shoot us in the head first or something.”
“Billy!” I shout.
“I’m just saying,” The Geek shrugs, looking at me. “We’re on death row here. Might as well make sure our deaths are as painless as possible.”
“So, that’s it?” the middle man asks. “In return for helping us, you just want us to make sure we don’t hurt you too much?”
“Yeah, I guess,” The Geek answers.
The three men look to each other to gauge their individual responses to The Geek’s proposed offer.
“You said it’s not here,” the man in the middle says finally. “Where is it?”
“Well, that’s the thing,” The Geek answers thoughtfully. I can tell he’s putting a lot of effort into holding back his excitement over whatever plan he has coming to fruition. “I hid it at the neighbor’s house a few weeks ago. And if I’m not mistaken, their house is not in the best condition.”
“So, you’re saying we need to go digging about for it in the rubble?” the man on the left asks.
“Well, you could, or I could just show you where it’s at. I mean, I could tell you it was in the living room, but I’m guessing, based on the state of it from when I saw it last, you’re not even going to know where that is, much less how to locate the exact spot I hid it.”
“Great,” the man in the middle says in an I-told-you-so manner, “so we just go up there and start digging around in the dirt. I suppose we should all three go up there and hunt for it while leaving you three down here without any supervision?”
“No, of course not. First, I think you should take me up there so I can show you exactly where it’s at. Second, I think you should leave your friends down here with my friends as collateral. I couldn’t possibly run off then, right? Not if you still have my friends.”
“That seems pretty well thought out,” the man on the right states.
I have to agree. This really feels like The Geek has come up with the perfect plan to make sure we are definitely going to be stuck here for the rest of our inevitably short lives.
The man in the middle takes a moment to size up The Geek’s offer. I can see the wheels turning as he attempts to decipher all the different ways this could go wrong for him. I’m guessing he’s not coming up with any, since I’m on the side of the guy who came up with the plan and I don’t have any ideas.
“Okay,” the man finally says. “You and me. But we have to make it quick. I don’t want you keeping me out there for hours pretending like you can’t find it or something. We go up, we find the disk, and we come back.”
“Deal,” The Geek says, standing up and offering his hand as a seal to the arrangement. The man looks at it in question before slapping it away and pulling The Geek to the basement exit. He chooses the one which leads immediately outside, obviously wanting to avoid coming across Alvin upstairs.
“Luke, Dave,” he says to the other two men, “if I’m not back in ten minutes, I want you to kill one of these two. Probably the girl. Mr. Alexander is far more interested in the boy.”
The two men nod as though that was a completely normal thing to say when leaving a room and he opens the door to the exit.
“Oh, wait,” The Geek says, rushing to me and Eve. In a voice so quiet I’m not even entirely sure I heard him speak, he says, “Step one, divide your enemies,” and then winks at me before pretending to grab something off the floor. “The key must have fallen out of my pocket. Wouldn’t want to get locked out and have to go back in through the front door.”
The Geek walks back to the man and the two leave the room.
Eve and I look at each other as it dawns on me. I know The Geek’s plan.
Go to Chapter Thirty-Two