The Death Cure by James Dashner

Page 25

 

  “What do you mean what do I mean?” the man said, despite the gun at his head. “I work for the freaking Right Arm. Why’s that so hard to understand?”

  Thomas pulled the gun away and sat back, confused. “Then why would you be out capturing Immunes?”

  “Because we want to,” he said, eyeing the lowered weapon. “You ain’t got no business knowin’ nothing else. ”

  “Shoot him and move on to the next one,” someone in the crowd called out.

  Thomas leaned back in, pressed the gun against the man’s temple again. “You’re awfully brave considering I’m the one with the gun. I’ll count to three one more time. Tell me why the Right Arm would want Immunes or I’ll just have to assume you’re lying. One. ”

  “You know I ain’t lying, kid. ”

  “Two. ”

  “You ain’t gonna kill me. I can see it in your eyes. ”

  The man had called his bluff. There was no way Thomas could just shoot some stranger in the head. He sighed, pulled the gun away. “If you work for the Right Arm, then we’re supposed to be on the same side. Just tell us what’s going on. ”

  The guy sat up, slowly, and so did his three friends, the bloody-faced man groaning with the effort.

  “If you want answers,” one said, “then you’ll have to ask the boss. We seriously don’t know anything. ”

  “Yeah,” added the man next to Thomas. “We’re nobodies. ”

  Brenda stepped closer with her Launcher. “And how do we get to this boss of yours?”

  The man shrugged. “I have no idea. ”

  Minho groaned and snatched the gun from Thomas’s hands. “I’ve had enough of this klunk. ” He pointed the weapon at the man’s foot. “Fine, we won’t kill you, but your toe’s gonna be smarting something real awful in three seconds if you don’t start talking. One. ”

  “I’m telling you, we don’t know nothin’. ” The guy’s face was pinched in anger.

  “Fine,” Minho replied. He fired the gun.

  Thomas watched in shock as the man grabbed his foot, wailing in agony. Minho had shot him right in the pinkie toe—that part of the shoe and the toe itself were completely gone, replaced by a bleeding wound.

  “How could you do that?” the guard next to him on the ground yelled as she moved to help her friend. She pulled a wad of napkins from her pants and pressed them against his foot.

  Thomas was shocked that Minho had actually done it, but he had to respect the guy. Thomas couldn’t have pulled the trigger, and if they didn’t get answers now, they never would. He looked over at Brenda, and her shrug showed that she agreed. Teresa was watching from a distance, her face unreadable.

  Minho kept at it. “Okay, while she’s working on that poor foot of his, someone better start talking. Tell us what’s going on or we’re going to lose another toe. ” He waved the pistol at the lady, then the other two guys. “Why are you kidnapping people for the Right Arm?”

  “We told you, we don’t know anything,” the woman answered. “They pay us and we do what they ask. ”

  “And you?” Minho asked, pointing the gun at one of the men. “You wanna say something—save a toe or two?”

  He held up his hands. “I swear on the life of my mom I don’t know anything. But …”

  He seemed to regret that last part immediately. His gaze shot to his friends and his face paled.

  “But what? Spill it—I know you’re hiding something. ”

  “Nothing. ”

  “Do we really need to keep playing this game?” Minho moved the gun directly up against the man’s foot. “I’m done counting. ”

  “Stop!” the guard yelled. “Okay, listen. We could take a couple of you back with us to ask them yourselves. I don’t know if they’ll let you talk to the one in charge, but they might. I’m not getting my toe shot off for no good reason. ”

  “All right, then,” Minho said, taking a step back and gesturing for the guy to stand up. “See, that wasn’t so bad. Let’s go visit this boss of yours. Me, you, and my friends. ”

  The room burst into a rush of voices. No one wanted to be left behind and no one was going to be quiet about it.

  The woman who’d brought in the water stood up and started yelling. The crowd went silent. “You people are a lot safer here! Just trust me on that one. If all of us tried to make it to where we’d need to go, I can guarantee half wouldn’t get there. If these guys want to see the boss, then let them risk their necks. A gun and a Launcher aren’t going to do a bit of good out there. But in here we have a locked door and no windows. ”

  When she finished, another chorus of complaints filled the room. The woman turned to Minho and Thomas and spoke over the noise. “Listen, it’s dangerous out there. I wouldn’t take more than a couple of people. The more you have, the more likely you’ll be seen. ” She paused and scanned the room. “And I’d go soon if I were you. From the looks of it, these people are only going to get antsier. Pretty soon there’ll be no way to hold them off. And out there …”

  She pursed her lips together tightly, then continued. “There are Cranks everywhere. They’re killing anything that moves. ”

  CHAPTER 47

  Minho pointed his gun at the ceiling and fired, making Thomas jump. The noise of the crowd collapsed into complete silence.

  Minho didn’t need to say a word. He gestured to the woman to speak.

  “It’s crazy out there. It’s all happened really quickly. Like they’ve been hiding and waiting for a signal or something. This morning the police were overpowered and the gates were opened. Some Cranks from the Palace joined them. They’re everywhere now. ”

  She paused and took the time to meet a few gazes. “I promise you don’t want to go out there. And I promise that we’re the good guys. I don’t know what the Right Arm has planned, but I do know that part of it includes getting all of us out of Denver. ”

  “Then why are you treating us like prisoners?” someone yelled.

  “I’m just doing what I was hired to do. ” She turned her attention back to Thomas and continued. “I think it’s a stupid idea to leave this place, but like I said, if you’re going to, you can’t take more than a couple of people. Those Cranks spot a big group of fresh meat walking around and it’s all over. Weapons or no weapons. And the boss might not like it if a crowd shows up—our guards see a van full of strangers and they might start shooting. ”

  “Brenda and I will go,” Thomas said. He didn’t even know he was going to say it until it popped out of his mouth.

  “No way,” Minho shook his head. “Me and you. ”

  Minho was a liability. His temper was too short. Brenda thought before she acted, and that was what they needed to get out of this alive. And Thomas didn’t want to let her out of his sight—plain and simple. “Me and her. We did pretty well for ourselves back in the Scorch. We can do it. ”

  “No way, man!” Thomas could swear his friend almost looked hurt. “We shouldn’t split up. All four of us should go—it’ll be safer. ”

  “Minho, we need someone back here to watch over things,” Thomas said, and he meant it. This was a whole roomful of people who might be able to help them take WICKED down. “Plus, I hate to say it, but what if something does happen to us? Stay behind and make sure our plans don’t die. They’ve got Frypan, Minho. Who knows who else. You said once that I should be the Keeper of the Runners. Well, let me do it today. Trust me. Like the lady said, the fewer we are, the better our chance of going unnoticed. ”

  Thomas looked his friend in the eye and waited for a response. Minho didn’t answer for a long time.

  “Fine,” he finally said. “But if you die I will not be happy. ”

  Thomas nodded. “Good that. ” He hadn’t realized how important it was that Minho still believe in him. It went halfway to giving him the courage he needed to do what he had to do.

  The man who’d said they could take Thomas
and his friends to the boss ended up being the one to guide them. His name was Lawrence, and regardless of what was outside, he seemed eager to get out of the room full of angry people. He unlocked the big door and gestured for Thomas and Brenda to follow him—Thomas with the pistol and Brenda with the Launcher.

  The group made their way back down the long hallway and Lawrence stopped at the door leading out of the building. The dull light from the ceiling shone on the man’s face, and Thomas could see that he was worried.

  “Okay, we have to make a decision. If we go on foot, it’ll take a couple of hours, but we have a lot better chance of getting through the streets. We can hide on foot easier than if we take the van. The van would get us there faster, but we’d be spotted for sure. ”

  “Speed versus stealth,” Thomas said. He looked at Brenda. “What do you think?”

  “The van,” she said.

  “Yeah,” Thomas agreed. The image of the bloody-faced Crank from the day before haunted him. “The thought of being out there on foot scares me to death. The van, definitely. ”

  Lawrence nodded. “Okay, then, the van it is. Now keep your mouths shut and those weapons ready. First thing we gotta do is get in the vehicle and lock the doors. It’s right outside this door. Ready?”

  Thomas raised his eyebrows at Brenda and they both nodded. As ready as they’d ever be.

  Lawrence pulled a stack of key cards out of his pocket and unlocked the many latches lined up on the wall. He clenched the cards in his fist and pushed his body up against the door, then slowly cracked it open. It was dark outside, a lone streetlamp providing the only light. Thomas wondered how long the electricity would hold up before it stopped, like everything else eventually would. Denver could be dead in days.

  He could see the van parked in a narrow alley about twenty feet away. Lawrence peeked his head outside, looked left and right, then pulled it back in.

  “Seems clear. Let’s go. ”

  The three slipped out, and Thomas and Brenda sprinted to the van as Lawrence secured the door behind them. Thomas felt like a live wire. Anxiety had him glancing up and down the street, sure he’d see a Crank jump out at any second. But though he could hear the far-off sound of crazed laughter, the place was deserted.

  The van’s locks disengaged and Brenda opened the door and slid inside just as Lawrence did. Thomas joined them in the front seat and slammed the door shut. Lawrence immediately engaged the locks and started the engine. He was just about to gun it when a loud pop came from right above their heads and the van shook with a couple of thumps. Then silence. Then the muted sound of a cough.

  Someone had jumped onto the roof of the van.

  CHAPTER 48

  The van shot forward, Lawrence’s hands gripped tightly on the wheel. Thomas turned and looked out the back windows—but there was nothing. Somehow, the person on top of the van was hanging on.

  Just as Thomas spun back around, a face started creeping down the front windshield, staring at them upside down. It was a woman, her hair whipping in the wind as Lawrence sent the van tearing down the alleyway at breakneck speed. The woman’s eyes met Thomas’s, and then she smiled, showing a set of surprisingly perfect teeth.

  “What’s she holding on to?” Thomas yelled.

  Lawrence answered, his voice strained. “Who knows. But she can’t last long. ”

  The woman’s eyes stayed locked on Thomas, but she had freed one of her hands and balled it into a fist, then started pounding the window. Thump, thump, thump. Her smile stayed wide, her teeth almost glistening in the lamplight.

  “Would you please get rid of her?” Brenda shouted.

  “Fine. ” Lawrence slammed on the brakes.

  The woman flew into the air, shooting forward like a launched grenade, her arms windmilling and her legs splayed, until she crashed to the ground. Thomas winced and squeezed his eyes shut, then strained to get a look at her. Shockingly, she was already moving, shakily getting to her feet. She regained her balance, then turned slowly toward them, the headlights from the van brightly illuminating every inch of her.

  She was no longer smiling, not at all. Instead her lips had curled into a fierce snarl; a big welt reddened the side of her face. Her eyes bore into Thomas once more, and he shivered.

  Lawrence gunned the engine, and the Crank looked like she was going to hurl herself in front of the vehicle, as if she could somehow stop it, but at the last second she pulled back and watched them pass. Thomas couldn’t take his eyes off her, and in his last glimpse, her face melted into a frown and her eyes cleared, as if she’d just realized what she’d done. As if there was something left of the person she used to be.

  And seeing that made it worse for Thomas. “She was like a mix of sane and not sane. ”

  “Just be glad she was the only one,” Lawrence muttered.

  Brenda squeezed Thomas’s arm. “It’s hard to look at. I know how it felt for you and Minho to see what’d happened to Newt. ”

  Thomas didn’t answer, but he put his hand on top of hers.

  They reached the end of the alley, and Lawrence swerved to the right onto a bigger street. Small groups of people dotted the area up ahead. A few were struggling as if they were fighting, but most were digging through trash or eating things Thomas couldn’t quite make out. Several haunted, ghostly faces just stood and stared at them with dead eyes as they drove by.

  No one in the van said anything, as if they were afraid that speaking would somehow alert the Cranks outside.
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