I wasn't a world class spy, but give me a break- a dead man could have heard this inmate coming from a mile off. Between his dry wheezes and shuffling steps, I managed to give him the slip coming up to the seventh floor. I positioned myself behind him, pressed up against the rock wall, poised and ready to strike. I counted only a few seconds to ready myself, then shot forward, throwing my shoulder into his back. He choked out a yelp of surprise, falling onto the ground with a loud thud. I gave a mental curse before I jumped over his tangled limbs and slapped my hand over his mouth. It was only a moment before his eyes met mine, and he let out another squeak of surprise. In response, I tightened my grip, curling my free hand into a fist and raising it threateningly. "Who are you, and why were you following me?"
I let out a disgusted sound, immediately pulling my hand away from his mouth and wiping it furiously on my jeans. "Did you just-"
"Yep." He rose to his feet, regarding me with a nonchalant expression. I, on the other hand, was watching him carefully, calculating how far his arm length could reach, how many steps he'd take to reach me, what weapons he could have on him. It didn't take long for me to notice how weak and frail his frame seemed- emaciated for someone his age. So the rumors were true. If at first glance you could tell the inmates weren't eating much- and whatever they were eating was obviously not enough- there was no telling what other atrocities were being committed down here. I was almost afraid of what else I would find in Furnace. What other rumors were true about the horrors of this prison.
My concentration was cut short by a whistle. "You don't have to stare, shweetie." He winked, stirring something close to hatred in the pit of my stomach. Cocky little... I cleared my throat, keeping my temper in check.
"I wasn't staring."
He regarded me with an amused expression, and I gave an inward grown. Come on! You can come up with better comebacks than that. You're in a top security prison- man up!
Sensing a pause in the conversation, he sidled up close to me, trying to be as charming as he could. I growled, stepping away. "Don't come any closer."
He sniffed. "Touchy."
I watched him for a moment, then turned and walked back to the stairs. My hope that he had stayed where he was dwindled as I heard a shuffling sound behind me. I lowered my hand, touching the hilt of my knife for reassurance. I couldn't be too careful- I had no idea who I was dealing with. He was either a petty criminal, or a mass murderer ready to strike. Obviously, I wasn't going to take the chance of having a knife shoved into my back. I whirled around quickly. "What-" I broke off with a squeak of alarm.
He was laying on his stomach, scooting himself along the floor in an attempt of an army crawl. He gave a cheerful laugh as he crawled, reminding me of a demon in a horror movie I had seen. In response, I kicked him. "Would you go away already?"
He jumped up, anger flashing in his eyes. "What the hell? That hurt."
"It was supposed to!" I snapped back.
For a moment, we stopped, glaring at each other, daring each other to make a move. My fists clenched at my sides, my heart starting to race with the threat of a fight. Would he attack me? I paused, thinking about my knife again. No matter...I'd be alright. I could outfight him. After a while, I slowly uncurled my fists. Even so, neither of us moved from our spots. I half expected a tumbleweed to roll between us.
Eventually, he let out a whine, his shoulders slumping.
"I said I'm bored."
I crossed my arms with a smirk, seizing the moment. "Sounds like a personal problem to me." That should have been enough to make up for earlier.
He paused, and I could see the gears turning in his head as he groped for a retort. He finally settled with: "You're mean." He stuck out his lower lip, green eyes blinking as innocently as possible at me. "Come on," he said, "you don't want to hurt this, do you?"
Between his mood swings and ridiculous antics, I let myself relax. I didn't think he was too much of a threat. Besides, this was why I had fought my way down here, wasn't it? The whole goal of this mission was to infiltrate the prison and bring back some kind of proof. Befriending an inmate would help me fill in the missing pieces, wouldn't it? I paused as he shuffled a little closer, batting his eyes. I edged away a little, my annoyance growing.
Acquaintances would work.
I looked at him, taking another step away. "What's your name?"
He straightened and smoothed his hair back, trying to be suave. "Alexander the Great!" He proudly exclaimed. He winked at me again, and I tried to ignore his eyes flickering to the floor and back at my eyes. Creep. "But you, shweetheart, can call me Alex Sawyer."
I crossed my arms, giving him a scowl. "Charming." I started past him, but he held out an arm, blocking my way. "What is it now? I have something I have to-"
"You didn't tell me your name."
"Yes, for very good reasons." I made for the stairs again, jumping over his leg he stuck out to trip me. He grabbed my arm, opening his mouth to speak again. Before he could say anything, I jerked it away, giving him a glare. "Don't touch me." He watched me, silent now, and I was slightly afraid of what was going on inside his mind. "Listen, I'd rather have my visits here secret, and that's kind of hard to do when my name's floating around from cell to cell-"
"I won't tell anyone."
He paused, as if he was going to argue, then shrugged. "Yea, I'll probably tell D."
"My point exactly." This time I pushed past him, a little rougher than I had meant. But I didn't bother turning around to apologize. Instead, I kept a steady pace down the stairs, almost desperate to get away.
"Come onnnnnn! Are you a criminal too? Some psycho assassin? Because you and Gary could get along great if..."
His voice faded away as I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. Muttering a curse, I slipped my phone out of my pocket and unlocked it.
"How the hell do you have cell signal down here?"
"Magic," I muttered, opening the text. My heart dropped into my stomach, which was twisting in fear at the words.
I expect you home in one hour.
I started down a hallway, shoving my phone back in my pocket as I walked. I paused, turning around. "Listen, I'll make you a deal."
Alex's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Alright. What's the deal?"
"I tell you my name, and you don't follow me."
He smirked. "And what if I-"
"-break the deal?" I finished for him, slipping out my knife and holding it out threateningly. "I'll kill you. It's as simple as that."
His shoulders slumped, and he glared at me through his mess of blonde hair. "Fine." He growled.
I turned and ran down the hall, pausing long enough to look over my shoulder and give him a sharp grin. "Emily."