When I reached a thousand, I took a breath and set the flashlight down. I couldn’t risk waiting any longer, not if I wanted to get the codes to Scotia in time. With Knox gone, she was my only option, even if she’d likely turn me in on sight. At least the Blackcoats would have a fighting chance.
I pushed against the door, but to no avail. The cabinet must have been blocking it. With a grunt, I shoved the door with my good shoulder, wincing as pain radiated down my injured side. The cabinet hadn’t been that big. I just had to push and—
I jumped away from the door, and it swung open, revealing the smashed cabinet in the middle of the cellar. I swore and leaped out, grabbing a pair of knives from the nearest rack. Ducking underneath the stairs and into a dark corner filled with cobwebs that tickled my skin, I waited for Mercer to come thudding down the stairs. This time I wouldn’t hesitate. One knife to the gut, another to the throat—if one of us was going to die tonight, like hell I would let it be me.
But nothing happened. Either the cellar was soundproof, or the manor was abandoned.
At long last I dared to climb the steps. Two of them creaked underneath me, but still no one came. I didn’t wait around and wonder how I’d gotten so lucky—if this was a trap, then I had no choice but to walk straight into it. And at least this time I was armed.
The entrance hall of Mercer Manor was dark and abandoned. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach at the thought of what Mercer might be doing to Hannah for letting me go, but I didn’t have the luxury of looking for her. She’d known the risks involved when she’d released me, and she’d done it anyway. If I had the chance to help her, I would, but not until the codes were safely in Scotia’s hands.
I paused long enough to tug on my boots and a thick black coat that must have belonged to Hannah. Without my red jumpsuit, I would stick out like a sore thumb, which meant disappearing in plain sight wasn’t an option. But the sky was still an inky-black, and the moon was only a sliver. As long as I stayed off the main streets, I had a chance of making it to the bunkhouse without being seen.
I jumped from shadow to shadow until I reached the gate of Mercer Manor. The cold cut through my pajama bottoms, but my heart was pounding hard enough to keep me warm for now. With my shoulder injured, I had no chance of climbing the gate, and when I tried to push it open, it remained shut.
“Thought I saw someone lurking by the tree,” said a low but jovial voice. I spun around.
“Rivers.” I swore softly. He stood on the other side of the gate, rifle still strapped over his shoulder. “Think you could help me out?”
“The entire section is looking for you,” he said. “Mercer’s livid.”
“Good. He tried to cut my toes off.”
Rivers’ eyebrows shot up. “Would’ve been more than that, sweetheart. If they catch you, you stole my gun and forced me to open this for you, all right?”
I shook my head and held up one of the knives. “Knifepoint.”
He grinned and punched a code into the keypad of the gate. “Smart girl.”
I darted into the grid of gray buildings, taking alleyways when I could and sticking to shadows and darkened streets when I couldn’t. I knew the way between Mercer Manor and my old bunkhouse well enough by now to avoid the cluster of guards that seemed to be gathered at every crossroad, and at last, I reached the right block.
I peeked around the corner, and my heart sank. No less than a dozen guards stood up and down that street, with two stationed in front of the bunkhouse alone. There was no way I could slip past them, not if I valued my internal organs. And even if dying was worth it, I had to get to the bunkhouse alive to give Scotia the codes in the first place.
As I was trying to work out whether or not I could get there by jumping roofs, a cold hand clamped over my mouth, and another wrapped around my chest, narrowly missing my broken shoulder.
“Don’t say a word,” whispered a rough voice. Scotia.
I remained still, and together we waited in the darkness. Suddenly a beam of light filled the alleyway running perpendicular to ours, and a guard shouted, “Clear!”
The light disappeared, and Scotia eased her grip. “Where the hell have you been?” she whispered. “Mercer’s on the warpath—said you attacked Hannah and disappeared. I’ve been out here for an hour looking for you.”
I blinked. “Attacked Hannah? How? Is she all right?”
“Don’t know, don’t care. What the hell happened?”
I slipped the folded piece of paper out from my waistband and handed it to her. “The armory codes.”
Scotia’s mouth fell open. “How did you—”
“Doesn’t matter. You’ll make sure the Blackcoats have it?”
She nodded and tucked it into her pocket. “I will. Thank you.”
“I didn’t do it for you.”
“I know.” She glanced up and down the alleyway. “You should go now, before they come back. Stick to the shadows. If anyone catches you—”
“I’ll be dead anyway, so there’s no point thinking about it,” I said. “Whatever you do, don’t die before using those codes.”
“I’ll do my best.” She looked at me for a long moment, her brow furrowing. “I’m sorry about Noelle.”
I swallowed hard. “You did what you had to do. I just wish—” I shook my head. It didn’t matter.