32 - Sam
The freezing cold still finds me in the basement. It sinks its fangs into my skin, my body convulsing and shuddering in reaction. I hadn't exactly expected the basement to go completely unscathed. But a little bit more roofing would have been appreciated. The fire had chawed off chunks of the flooring of the upper room, leaving gaping holes above our heads, the remains of beaming criss-crossing over them like little bridges. Or tightrope wires.
Uneasiness crawls up my skin, having a battle against the cold wind that has already claimed my body. I can almost hear the metallic chunk of sword against sword, fighting over which would make me feel worse. In a minute, a little flag will be stabbed into my shoulder, declaring victory for whichever side wins. Right now, I'm really hoping for an invasion of warmth. Or, you know, anything at all pleasant.
Because that's something this place seriously lacks.
The floorboards had creaked violently underneath my feet, threatening to give way, as I'd dipped my feet into one of the holes. "Whoa, hold on, Nelly," Tag had muttered, grabbing me around the waist before I'd fallen forward, down into the basement. I'd instinctively jerked away from him - thankfully, away from the hole too - sending Tag a warning glare to keep his distance.
Tag had shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, but one of his hands was rubbing his arm - I think Josh might have hit him. Almost amused, I'd smirked. At least Josh was on my side.
We'd eventually climbed down one of the more stable holes, jumping down into the basement with a thud. And now here we are, pushing through rubble in a seemingly aimless fashion through the tunnels of the basement.
It stinks of rotting blood. Whatever remnants of pigs bodies were left down here is making me gag. I cover my mouth with a hand in an attempt to shove it back down my throat.
"This is disgusting," I cringe, feeling Josh's presence behind me. He's muttering numbers. Like directions. Coordinates. His breath is almost reaching the back of my neck.
"This way," Tag shines his torch through some crumbling rubble into a narrow corridor. Wolfie has claimed his spot at Tag's ankles, bravely venturing into the corridor, ash from crumbling concrete coating his grey fur.
I've been keeping my distance, no matter how much Wolfie trusts this guy. I'm not getting anywhere near him if I can help it.
"Oka-" I inhale through my teeth, dragging the words out. But Josh grabs my arm before I can step forwards.
"No," he snaps.
"What?" I twist my neck to look over my shoulder at him, his features distorted in the dim light. He's not looking at me though. His eyes are set ahead of him, his eyebrows drawn into frown lines.
"No. No, no, no," he mutters over and over again, each no gaining in volume and confidence. "It's this way." And he pushes past me, striding towards a corridor in the exact opposite of Tag's proposition. "It's this way," he peers in, nodding as if he can see a clue buried in the walls. He twists his head in my direction, his eyes the strongest and most steady I've seen them since... well, for a long time. "Come on, Sammy."
Tag rolls his eyes. "Are you seriously going to trust a guy like that?" He scoffs, though he somehow manages to do it in his infuriatingly casual, nonchalant way.
I set my jaw. "You know what?" I bark, taking a step of defiance forward. I snap my gaze to Tag's to make a point. But my foot almost trips over a stray chunk of concrete. I catch myself just before I can lose my balance. Oh, great job, Sam. Way to make yourself look intimidating.
But I shake it off and readjust the hard stare in my eyes. "I'd rather trust him over you. And," I add as an after thought, "I'd trust you not to insult one of my friends." And I pace forward, hooking my arm into Josh's - who looks surprised at my sudden action. Though a smug smile spreads over his whole face - and tugging him towards his chosen destination. "Come on, Josh," I say, loud enough so that Tag can hear me. I try and avoid the pleading look in Wolfie's big, black eyes because I know even a glimpse of it will tug at my heart strings.
And I grit my teeth, preparing for the consequences of my actions, as I guide us into the dark, swallowing corridor littered with rubble.
Well done, Sam. Way to go and leave the guy with the torch behind.
Not that that has ever deterred me.
"This way?" I breathe, barely able to see my breath in front of my nose.
Josh humphs beside me, shifting his shoulders up and down.
"You know," I'm growing impatient, feeling like we've been going around and around in circles in this place. When Josh had been so adamant this had been the way, his eyes had been so set on confidence. It had deluded me into trusting him. Now he's reverted back to his liquid demeanour, swaying back and forth. "I would appreciate a little help here. If I'd known you'd be so... iffy I would have-"
"Shh," Josh cuts me off. I sense him cocking his head in the direction that we've just come.
I hold my breath. Train my ears to hear what he does. What? What the hell is it?
But I know enough now to trust his judgement. He's been right twice so far.
"What is it?" I breathe.
And then I hear it. A whimper.
In seconds, I'm tearing back down the corridor. If the rubble trips me up, I don't even care anymore. What has that guy done to Wolfie? I should never have trusted him with that guy. Stupid Sam! Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Mike is going to kill me.
I'm going to kill me.
"Wolfie!" I'm shouting down the corridor, the dim light from the other end carving out the shape of a doorway.
Josh's footsteps are uneven behind me. But I can still hear them. Oddly, they calm me, just a little. They assure me I'm not alone.
My heart is thumping, squeezing up to my throat.
If that guy has done anything to Wolfie, I'm going to rip into him!
"Wolfie!" My voice is raspy, feeling tears sting my eyes as my limbs burn from running. All I can see in my mind is Wolfie lying on the floor with his side gashed into, blood pouring over the floor. I let out a frustrated cry, choking on tears. I crash through the corridor into the direction that Tag and Wolfie had gone.
Another painful whimper, closer this time.
And then I'm shooting into a room. And almost stumble over Wolfie's lump of a body.
A breath of relief rips from my throat. He looks up at me with those big, black eyes of his. Completely unscathed.
"Thank heavens," I breathe, collapsing to my feet and wrapping my arms tightly around the animal. He whimpers next to me, as if he's glad for the company. I'm suddenly overwhelmed with my love for this animal. I'm sorry, Wolfie. I shouldn't have left you behind. I should have trusted you.
"Sammy," I hear Josh's hoarse voice behind me break my sobs. "Look."
I lift my head. The room is empty. Tag, wherever the hell the asshole is, isn't here. Wolfie is staring into space, like he's waiting for Tag to appear in that spot again.
But it's not completely empty. There, on the wall, above a desk, is the smearing of blood.
I choke, almost gagging. This was where Emily was shot.