When Vengeance returned, I was crumpled in corner, silent and expressive as a stone. The sight of Jeremy Wayne again had shaken me, and I had retreated to the dark annals of my mind, remembering when I had last seen him. The shiveringly white face in the dim, bluish light of the Alarborian High Palace's record room. But he didn't know that I had won. He didn't know that I still possessed the Kamarov File.
On the other side of the cell, Vengeance dropped heavily to the ground and began tearing into the food that had been laid out for him. He devoured it in seconds and I watched in mild disgust as his long, coarse tongue licked the filthy metal tray clean. It made me feel slightly sick to think that I could be eating from that same tray tomorrow; and I was certain that they did not wash them.
"Vengeance," I grated in a hoarse voice, rough and cracked from lack of water and lack of use. "I need to ask you something."
Vengeance raised his head and set his tray down, his tongue slithering out to lick his lips and his nose. He nodded for me to proceed.
"You've been here most of your life, haven't you?" I said. "Has anyone ever gotten out? Has anyone ever been set free or escaped?"
"Don't think so," grunted Vengeance. "Few times they've taken people away. Don't know where they end up, though. Probably dead. Someone wants them killed, and if the arena don't do it after a while they probably get killed for sure. Inject some poison into them, and it's over.
"As to escaping . . . well, some have tried. A lot of them have tried. But it never does no good. Bunch of them die, but they cart most of them back here. The Phoenix tried to escape once, but they caught her. I know a lot of others, same story. Few years back, there was a big attempt at a mass prison break. But the guards have got weapons, and even if you get out, where do you go? My feeling's that it's not possible."
It didn't make me feel hopeful, to say the least. It was like being in a box that was sunken underwater. Eventually, I would run out of air, but if I tried to escape I would drown. Death was closing in on me from every side, and I could not avoid it. But I could not let myself die, for if I did, the Kamarov File would be lost forever.
I glanced over at my cellmate and wondered if Vengeance realized what I was thinking about. I doubted it. He wasn't so good at picking up on hints and social cues, I had noticed.
There was one thing he had said that had given me hope, though. Kris had tried it before. She, at least, would be a place to start. If nothing else, she could tell me what not to do.
I knew now that I could not wait. Wayne had put a deadline on my life. He had vowed to have me killed before the year was out. So before the year was out, I had to escape.