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Where I Live (Part 20)
Slowly, carefully, I turned the handle and opened the door, thankful that it was well oiled and didn’t squeak. It opened up onto a grated metal catwalk and I stopped again, sure that Ethan and Kole’s shoes would make noise. Turning silently, I put a finger up to my lips, then pointed down at the floor. Only after they had looked down and nodded did I continue.
I walked softly on the balls of my feet, making no noise and to their credit, Ethan and Kole barely made any. I closed the door behind us and took the lead again. Looking out below us, I saw only a long row of rooms. The doors had little windows in them. The scents were much stronger here and I knew that this must be where he was keeping everyone, but there was still the matter of getting them out.
There was a human down there too.
A dark-haired woman was sitting at a desk in the middle of the wide hall, her back to us, writing something down studiously. I felt a growl building in my throat and fought it back with an effort. There was a dull clang in one of the rooms and our little group ducked further back into the shadows as the woman jumped about a foot into the air. She took a few settling breaths and sat back down as she fixed her papers.
I smiled slowly. She scares easily. I stepped as close as possible to the others and spoke so low it could barely be called a whisper. “I have a plan. I’m going down.”
“What do we do?” Ethan asked just as quietly, his eyes on the woman down below.
“It depends. Think you can balance on this bar?” I pointed to the hand rail. He shrugged and nodded. “Good, then I want the two of you to crouch like gargoyles.”
He paused for a few seconds. “. . . What?”
“What did I say before? Just crouch like gargoyles, look as scary as possible and open your wings when I give the signal.” I took a step towards the rail and stopped. “And don’t knock each other off when you do it. That would probably ruin the image.”
They nodded and I put one foot up on the railing, pulled my hood up over my head and launched myself off. I hit the ground in a cat-like crouch with my hands on the floor between bent knees. I landed only about six feet or so away from the catwalk, making sure I was just loud enough to be heard. The woman jumped again, nearly knocking off her glasses and glanced over her shoulder. When she saw me, she froze, the fear in her eyes clearly evident. I swished my tail back and forth so she was sure to notice.
“Did I come in at a bad time?” I asked with a smile, showing my canines. I knew that with my hood pulled up and forward, she could only see below my eyes.
“Y-You’re . . .” She stammered, her voice small. “You’re not . . . H-How did you get in here!?”
“How else? Through the door. . . I’m only going to ask once. . . What’s inside these rooms?”
She opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again.
“Oh, sorry, let me rephrase that. Who are inside these rooms?”
“Th-There are . . . B-Birds of Prey a-and Wolves . . .”
“Are they locked in?”
I stood up and held out my hand. “Give me your keys.”
“A-And why sh-should I?”
Wow . . . that’s actually kind of surprising. I looked up enough to give her my fiercest glare and slowly walked towards her. Once I was at her side, I gestured upwards with both arms. She slowly looked up and I looked up too so I could see the show. Ethan and Kole were crouching on the bar like I had told them to and snapped open their wings, only a few milliseconds from being in sync.
Looking as imposing as possible, like I had told him, Kole looked like an angel of death. Ethan . . . well, he looked as angry as he had when Kole had found us behind the big boulder. The black against white feather contrast made for a pretty intimidating picture. Thankfully, they hadn’t ruined it by knocking each other over.
I looked back down to see that the woman had started to shake. Thankfully, she hadn’t screamed. I held out my hand to her and she reached into the pocket of her long white coat, then dropped a single key into my hand.
I gestured to Ethan and Kole and they swooped down in front of us. “Does this key open all of the doors?”
The woman nodded, backing against her desk.
“Is there more than one?”
She nodded again. “I don’t have the other.”
“Fine, we’ll do this one by one, then.” I looked at Ethan and Kole. “I’ll unlock the doors, you get whoever’s in there and get them out.”
When I’d unlocked the first two doors, I looked inside for a few seconds. The first one was a girl. She was wearing shorts and a tank top, her wings unconcealed. When Ethan rushed in and picked her head and torso up off the ground, she looked at him with dull eyes.
“H . . . Hikaru . . .” She said quietly, looking weak. “I knew you’d come. . .”
I didn’t wait to see more and opened the next one. Kole went in. I went to the next door and hurried inside, recognizing the person on the floor. He was a Wolf. I hurried inside and got him up into a sitting position.
“Ran!” I cradled him close to me. “Ran, it’s okay. It’s okay now.”
He looked up at me, dazed, confused and exhausted, probably still under the effect of the tranquilizer. “K-Kryn . . ?”
“It’s okay.” I petted his head comfortingly, smoothing his hair away from his face. “We’re gonna get you out of here. There’s a couple of Birds outside, but don’t be afraid. They’re going to help. I have to go but they’ll take good care of you.”
He was going to say something but found it took too much energy and nodded once. I lowered him carefully back down onto the ground and got out of the room. I started to move on to the next door when I heard another one open. I spun just in time to see the lab-coated woman dash out of the room.
Ethan was just coming out, the Bird girl hanging heavily on him, her legs weak. I tossed him the key and he barely caught it without dropping her.
“She’s getting away.” I said loud enough for him to hear as I ran towards the door. I stopped when I reached it. “I’m going after here. Unlock all of those doors and get these people out of here. If I don’t come back, don’t look for me.”
“You agreed! Don’t argue with me!” I paused, feeling scared yet determined. “Ethan . . . I know you have no reason to forgive me, but I might not get the chance to say this so . . . I’m sorry.”
I ran out, closing the door behind me, effectively cutting off his reply. I ran as fast as I could while still remaining silent, following the woman’s quickly receding footsteps. I couldn’t lie to myself. I was nervous, scared, apprehensive and angry all at the same time. The disinfectant smell was everywhere because of the air vents. I would have to rely on my eyes and ears to protect myself. I turned a corner and saw a door as it just started to swing closed. Picking up the pace, I caught the door before it closed and sprang through.
I stopped dead.
The Hunter was there.
He had Ty Lan and Kadin.