We drive around the back of the building through a gate and past more armed guards. Then Judge pulls up to a plain door.
“We’re here,” he says and turns to look at us. “Has anyone been bitten?”
We all shake our heads. Well, we haven’t in a sense, not in the way they think we have. Conor looks at us, but doesn’t say anything. I give him a quick reassuring smile.
“Then let’s go,” Judge says. He gets out of the car and Max opens the door. I’m surprised it opened, somehow I expected it to be locked. The other thing I’m shocked at is their acceptance that we haven’t been bitten. We could be lying.
Instead of voicing this I get out and start toward the door. Conor still has hold of me and I can feel a slight tremor from him. He is so scared.
“Can you lower the guns?” I ask Judge. “You are scaring Conor.”
Judge stops and looks around. We have passed into the building, into a lobby of sorts and we are surrounded by about five guards, all of them holding guns. Judge sighs and waves a hand.
“Sorry,” he says, “we are all jumpy. A couple of days ago a friend changed in front of us and tried to attack.” He runs a hand through his hair and I can see the weariness behind his hard eyes.
Everyone has lowered their weapons except Beetle. I don’t push it. There is a tightening around his jaw that suggests he knew this guy who had become one of the gone. Conor tightens his grip on my hand. I look in the direction he is gazing and I see a motley crew of four people walking toward us. One is a woman and very small, Asian I think, one of the men is extremely tall and looks like he could do with a good meal. The other two are non-descript. One is wearing a suit whilst the other jeans, both have dark hair and brown eyes, and I have a feeling they are brothers. They look like they ought to be brothers.
They are all looking at us with curiosity and hope.
The tallest comes forward. “Hi.” He extends his hand to Max but he is looking at me.
“Hi,” Max says. I can hear the gruffness of worry in his voice. I understand. I want to walk out of this alive too.
I nod, but don’t say anything. Conor is peeking from around me. He says nothing. Both Colin and Aaron mumble a greeting.
I watch as the scientists flick their eyes around our group, but they land back on me.
“You are Bitsy,” says the tall one.
Max steps in front of me. I place a hand on his side and push him out of the way. I give him an exasperated look. I don’t need protecting and I think I know who this is.
“I spoke to you on the computer?” I ask.
“You did. I’m Jonas.” He holds out his hand and I shake it. There are very few men who can make me feel small. Max does and so does Jonas. His hand engulfs mine and I feel very tiny.
“Did you bring it?” he asks.
“Sort of,” I say.
For a second his hand tightens, and then he releases me. “Come with me.”
“And Max,” I say. “He knows more than I do.”
Jonas nods and turns away. “The rest of you can get comfy in the rec room.”
I turn to Colin and Aaron. “Can you take Conor?” The kid looks so scared. I kiss the side of his face and as I do I whisper, “Pretend to be human and stay with Colin and Aaron.”
Conor nods and reluctantly releases my hand. “You will come back?”
I suddenly have a very bad feeling. Looking into Conor’s face I push it to the back of my mind and smile. “I will.”
I give him a hug and try not to feel as if I’m saying good bye. I will be back as soon as I can. But everything I am is saying that something is very wrong. Standing, I start to follow Jonas, the others he came with follow behind Max. We all traipse off in one long line. It reminds me of the queues we were made to form in school. Everyone following the leader. Except I don’t know if Jonas is the leader.