23 - Sam
"I'm gonna get you out of here."
Behind the glass, Mike looks hopeless. His eyes droop, rimmed in red, his skin sagging - he hasn't smiled in so long. He's a hollow shell of what he once was, this place chipping and chiselling away at him until there's nothing left.
"Just," I insist, hissing through the receiver, my eyes determined as they latch onto Mike's. The passion inside his is nonexistent, "Prolong the trial for one more day. Please."
He averts his eyes, sighing, and his shoulders droop. "I was," he starts pausing, as if he's forgotten what words are. "I was going to plead guilty."
"What?" I snap, staring at him. "Mike." He refuses to look at me. He feels like he's betraying me by pleading guilty - but betraying himself by pleading not-guilty. "Mike!" I hiss sharply. "Look at me."
He does. It takes a long time but he does. And the look he gives me, I know, will haunt me forever; he's giving up.
"Nobody is pleading guilty. Okay?"
He nods tiredly but I can't trust that he's being genuine. For all I know, he'll go behind my back and plead guilty anyway.
"Okay?" I repeat, catching his eyes so at least he can see how serious I am. Then, with a final farewell, I add, "Trust me." Then I replace the receiver back on its stand, stand up from the seat and start my mission of saving his ass.
But first, I've got to make sure another ass hasn't been arrested in the process.
Every step I take makes my heart thump harder, bashing against the prison bars of my ribs. It would only take seconds. 1 second for someone to look, 2 seconds for them to recognise Josh, 3 seconds to call the police.
"Keep your head down," I had repeated for about the fifth time before we'd left my apartment. "Don't look at anyone. Don't say anything." I felt like a criminal.
As much as I don't want to admit it, I need Josh. He's the only one who knows where the tapes are, the only one who can access them... if they're still intact.
I had practically barged into the local police station, demanding whether they knew anything about video tapes from the mountain. They had insisted that they could not disclose any information, even if it wasn't their sector that had excavated the site. That meant no. They knew nothing.
And so I had no choice but to find it myself.
The cable car creaks and sways to a standstill as it clicks into its final destination. I swallow. The wind is howling outside, whistling through the cracks like it's trying to squeeze it's long, clawed fingers in to scratch us. It's too soon to be up here - it will always be too soon.
I keep Wolfie close to my side, just for protection. Josh hates having him here, eyeing him every second, his eyeballs rolling in their sockets. But Wolfie is the best, sane chance I have at surviving this mountain. He knows this place inside out; not that long ago, it was his home. I lean down to clap him affectionately. I'm glad to have his company.
The doors slide open with a screech, rusting metal grating against metal. And the wind clutches on to me as soon as it can.
"Why are we here?" Josh's eyes almost bulge out of their sockets as he squeezes himself into the far corner of the cable car, his arms wrapped around him protectively. It's like, when I forced him to wear Chris' clothes, I had peeled a layer of skin off him and now he's bare and raw. "We- We shouldn't be here!"
"Josh," I say as calmly as I can, though I can feel my own panic creeping up my back. The more we stand still, the more distressed I feel. We need to move fast, get up there as fast as possible – and get out as soon as we find the video. How ironic that 2 years ago, it was opposite that ensured our safety. "Remember," I step forward, reaching out to place my hands on his shoulders. For a second, his eyes are flashing with fear, darting to Wolfie. I motion for the wolf to step back otherwise Josh could be unpredictable. But as soon as I touch Josh, he calms down. "The video? We have to get the video."
He nods slowly, realisation passing over his face. "The video," he repeats, some wilted form of confidence building as he straightens himself and bravely follows me out the door, Wolfie using his instincts and leading the way.
The mountain looks different without its coat of snow. It looks naked. It only wears small, insignificant patches of snow in places that the sun couldn't pry it's fingers into.
And yet I still shiver. It's still the same place, still the place where we almost died... where Emily did die. And Beth. And Hannah.
No. This is not about them. It's not about you, Sam. This is about Mike. This is about getting justice and standing by each other and surviving. The horror didn't end when we stepped off that mountain. It was always hovering behind us, waiting to pounce. Now Josh and I have returned to it's playground. I can just imagine it grinning in menacing excitement.
It's not just the two of us anymore.
"Josh," I breathe, stepping out across the wooden, cable car platform, in the direction that Wolfie is slowly progressing towards. I know that Wolfie wants Mike as free as I do - he probably misses him. Josh follows close behind me, his eyes looking around as if his memories are adjusting, recalling this place that he used to own. Every single movement is just that little bit hunched. "Listen to me," I attract his attention, pulling his eyes to mine. He blinks twice, three times, his mind churning only in one direction at once. "When we get up there, you take me straight to where you recorded the footage. Alright?"
He cocks his head to the side like a dog, his mind processing my words. Then; "Don't leave."
"I'm not leaving," I promise through a sigh, trying not to sound exasperated. Calm down, Sam. For his sake. For yours. "But we need to find-"
"The footage," Josh nods, it finally clicking. His mind locks onto his target and then he's tugging on my wrist and leading me forward. Wolfie looks doubtful but I whistle for him and he obeys. "Follow me."
It's the first time I've trusted Josh Washington in a long time.