Inside Out Page 75

Another man entered and unlocked Riley’s cell. Glad to see him free, I watched him leave, but all pleasant thoughts disappeared when the door shut and I was alone with Vinco.

He entered my cell and began his work. Jabbing me with the tip of his knife, I recoiled. With my pain-addled mind, I was surprised when a plan to escape formed. Not a great one, but better than being Vinco’s playmate.

During a particularly intense bout, I shouted, “Enough. I’ll talk.” I tried to ignore the satisfied smirk as he drew back.

“I’m listening,” he said.

“I’ll show you where Domotor is hiding on level two. It’s all I know, honest.”

A doubtful, but interested expression creased his ugly face. “Tell me.”

“Can’t. The entrance is hidden. It’s easier if I show you. You’ll need to bring bolt cutters.”

He considered and I tried to appear pathetic and weak. Not hard to do, considering I was pathetic and weak.

“Okay.” Vinco unlocked my cuffs.

Burning pain shot through my arms as I moved them, sitting up turned into an effort of will. I rubbed my hands together, avoiding my blood-soaked sleeves.

“Come on.” He jerked me to my feet.

I swayed and stumbled against him. He shoved me away in disgust. As I fell I grabbed his stunner from his weapon belt. Aimed for his chest. Pulled the trigger. A grunt of surprise and he collapsed on the floor with a wonderful thud.

The effort left me winded. After a few huffs of air, I stepped over Vinco’s unconscious form and knelt by the heating vent. Nothing visible through the bars, I slid my hand inside. My fingers brushed cloth and I pulled a narrow bag from the duct. Tied with string, the sack contained a number of useful items—a sparkly metal cutter, Logan’s decoder, bandages, a bladder of water and a handful of protein nuggets.

I ate the nuggets and downed the water. My stomach rebelled for a moment, but I kept the food down by pure force of will. I would need the energy.

Pulling off my mangled uniform, I wrapped the bandages around my arms, legs and torso. I stole Vinco’s shirt. It fell to my knees. I also snatched his knife and stunner, leaving the kill-zapper on his belt.

Coated with diamond dust, the metal cutter sawed through the bars. I worked as fast as I could, but it still felt as if hours had passed. Every sound caused me to jump. Finally I finished the last bar and slid into the vent. Making sure I didn’t leave a bloody trail, I hurried to…where?

Only one place to go—Doctor Lamont’s. The warm air inside the shaft sucked at my energy. I used our storeroom on level four to switch to the air shafts and then to the Gap. The space between levels felt as it always did, hollow and unoccupied. I thought the Travas would have it filled with Pop Cops by now.

I dropped into Doctor Lamont’s office, thumping hard on the ground. She showed little surprise when she came to investigate.

She bent over me. “Can you walk to the treatment table?”

Now that I had arrived, all my cuts throbbed and burned for attention. I nodded and she helped me stand, keeping a hand on my elbow as I wobbled to the table and collapsed on top of it.

Starting with my legs, the doctor unwound the bandages. She clucked and tsked and cleaned the cuts. I, in turn, cringed and winced and hissed in pain.

“Four need stitches, and that’s just your legs.” She crossed to her supply table and filled a metal tray with various instruments, including a needle and thread. “This first.” Handing me a glass of water and a small white pill, she gestured for me to swallow it.

“What’s it for?” I asked.

“Sleep. Unless you want to be awake when I stitch your injuries?”

I popped the pill into my mouth, wasting no time. After all the hours spent with Vinco’s knife, I had no desire to feel metal sliding through my skin ever again.

It didn’t take long for the room to soften and for shadows to gather in the corners of my vision. Soon a blanket of black settled over me as I slipped into a dreamless heavy sleep.

LC Karla’s voice woke me. I nearly groaned aloud. My escape had just been a dream! But through slits in my eyelids, I discovered I still lay on the exam table. However, I had been wheeled into surgery. A sheet covered my body up to my neck. Blood stained the cover in the area around my midsection, and a mask rested over my nose and mouth. Some kind of soft cap held my hair.

Doctor Lamont argued with the LC beyond the double doors. “You cannot go in there,” she said. “You are not sterile and could cause a horrible infection.”

“We have a dangerous scrub on the loose and you’re worried about an infection?” Karla asked in amazement.

“I haven’t seen this scrub. I told you no one is here but me and my patients. And Ella, of course.”

“Why is she in surgery?” Karla demanded.

“Appendicitis. In fact, if I don’t finish the surgery soon, she could die.”

“Then you should want to cooperate fully with our search.” The surgery doors banged open and Karla’s voice sounded right next to me. “I’ll be quick, Doctor, so you can return to your patient.”

22

I LAY STILL AND KEPT MY EYES CLOSED. KARLA’S HEAVY footsteps sounded all around me followed by the clang of metal hitting metal.

Doctor Lamont pressed her fingers into my neck as if checking my pulse. “Do you want to search the incision, Karla?”

The sheet near my h*ps bunched as if she gripped it. I held my breath, terrified Karla would call Lamont’s bluff, but at the same time impressed by the doctor’s courage.

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