Uh oh. Griff eyed the trap door. She wanted him to go down first? What if the guards opened fire the moment they saw his leg come down? How would they even know it was him? That was probably Sky’s plan, wasn’t it? They’d shoot him, and he’d fall down dead, and in the moment of confusion after they realized what they’d done, Sky would swoop down and take them by surprise.
“Well?” Sky prompted him. “I said hop down there. And if you try to communicate with them on your way down, I’ll kill you.”
Griff gulped. His heart was racing furiously.
“Quit stalling,” Sky ordered. “Or if you’d prefer, I could save us both some trouble and end your life right now, instead.” She rubbed her thumb and middle finger together.
“No, I’m going,” said Griff quickly. Crouching beside the trap door, he grabbed the embedded handle and pulled the door open on its hinges. A ladder descended about eight feet onto a dimly lit concrete floor. He couldn’t see around the corner, but he could sense the guards stirring.
Death above him, death below… Might as well try something.
Griff placed one foot on the top rung of the ladder, swung the other foot over the empty air, then threw himself straight down, shouting, “Don’t shoot!” as he fell. He hit the concrete floor and twisted into a roll, expecting the whole time to be struck by bullets from one side and pierced by… well, whatever projectiles Sky fired from her fingers from the other.
Someone cried, “Wait!”
Griff opened his eyes and looked up into the barrel of a gun and a pair of unwavering eyes.
“Griffin!?” Francis’s voice was indignant. “What do you think you’re—”
“It’s a trap!” said Griff.
Then he heard the trap door slam shut above them.
“You’re right,” sighed Francis, lowering her gun. “And they’ve caught us in it.”
The two guards flanking her shook their heads, and one punched a wall with a gloved fist and swore. His voiced echoed down the short hallway. Griff saw two doors opening on each side of the hall, and there was a small alcove at the end. A man was sitting there, blindfolded and tied to a chair. Griff guessed it was the guy who had been driving that van, though he’d only caught a brief glimpse as the guards had brought him in.
There was a soft rumble over their heads. Francis said, “There goes the freezer back in place. Just when we thought someone was going to let us out of here.”
“Wait,” said Griff, “what?”
“Still just the two of them?” asked Francis.
“Yeah,” said Griff. “I think so. But what do you mean—”
She interrupted him. “Do we have anyone else still alive topside?”
“Yeah.” Griff nodded. “The two western sentries. They’re almost—”
“Warn them!” barked Francis to one of the guards. “Griffin can help them coordinate their approach.” She reached down and gave Griff a hand up onto his feet. “Where are the intruders now?”
Griff cast his senses out. “One of them is still right above us, and the other one’s standing at the corner of the garage. The sentries are just about…” He winced.
“What?” demanded Francis.
The guard with the walkie talkie said, “No response. Should I keep trying?”
Griff shook his head. “Too late. They’re dead.”
Francis swore, paced three steps, and swore again. Then she grabbed a cell phone from her pocket and hit something on its speed dial. The call was answered immediately, and Francis launched straight into a rapid diatribe:
“It’s worse than we thought. They’ve got us holed up in the basement, myself and three others. How far out is our support?” She swore under her breath. “That’s too long! … Of course we’re armed, but we’re sitting ducks! Any kind of flashbang or hand grenade tossed down here is going to completely take us out. … We can’t fight our way out. They’ve got us locked down tight. … Well it wouldn’t be much of a prison if it was easy to escape from, would it!? … Look, we set this place up to have an unbreachable perimeter, and it’s been breached. You want a backup plan? You’re it. So unless you want to lose some very significant assets, I suggest you find a faster way to get us some support. … I don’t know! Flash your badge and commandeer a civilian helicopter if you have to!” She slammed the cell phone shut and nearly threw it across the hallway, but thought better of it at the last second and crammed it back into her pocket instead, muttering, “We warned them about the cutbacks. Bunch of morons.”
She took a deep breath to settle herself, then said, “Okay, for the next 15 minutes, we’re it. If these people get down here and free the prisoners, it’s game over, and not just for us: failure here will cause a lot of problems for a lot of people. So we’re going to play this smart. We can probably rule out grenades; from their perspective, there’d be too much risk of hurting the people they’re trying to break out. But flashbangs are a very real possibility, so I want you two to watch the hatch while Griffin and I stand by Cell 1—it’s empty right now—so we can duck inside and avoid the blast if we have to.”
The guards nodded and returned their attention—and their gun sights—to the trap door above them, while Francis pulled Griff over to the empty cell and stationed herself in the open doorway. “Don’t shut this thing behind us,” she warned. “It locks from the outside.”
Griff tried to form a confident-sounding reply, but his tongue felt heavy and his lips were dry. How had he landed himself inside this death trap?
Francis smirked grimly. “You seem nervous, kid. Never been under siege inside a secret underground prison before?”
“I don’t even know what I’m doing here!” said Griff. “I mean, I knew I was hiding something from someone and getting paid for it, and I thought that was good enough for me, but this is insane!”
Francis shrugged. “You signed the nondisclosure agreement when you took the job. A lot easier for you to keep this place’s secrets if you didn’t know what they were. But hey, if it’ll make you feel any better, here’s my badge.” She flipped open her wallet to reveal a plastic ID card decorated with a poorly lit headshot, an RCMP crest, and the words SPECIALS UNIT. “At least you can know you’re playing for the good guys.”