My lungs felt so incredibly tight. I didn't want to take a breath, lest I disturb the air particles in the room and I set off some sort of crazy alarm like I had the last time I had been in there.
You may ask, what in the world was I doing back there again? Hadn't I just run from the the place in hopes of not getting caught?
Well, this was Mariano's doing.
"Irena, I want you in there and getting that painting!"
Geez, why was the guy so determined? I mean, yes, we didn't get it today, but we could wait until tomorrow instead of barging in less than an hour after our first attempt.
We had taken a different approach to the matter this time. I was the one creeping about inside, and Sergio was speaking to me through an earpiece and giving me directions as to where I should go.
"Are you inside yet, bella?"
"You insult me," I growled lowly into my microphone. "Of course I'm in, doofus."
"Whoa, don't get your panties into a bunch."
I screeched to a stop, narrowly avoiding a marching guard. As the burly man disappeared into the exit, I took the liberty to answering Sergio.
"I am not getting my panties into a bunch, pizza boy. I just want this over and done with! I've never failed before."
"There's always a first time for everything..."
"Okay, I get it. Just tell me where to go next."
"Grump. Uh...you should be in the middle of a long hall. Third door from the left."
I traced my way along the wall, sticking to the shadows and making sure my feet were pressed firmly to the ground before taking another step. I wanted this to be absolutely perfect. No slip ups would be tolerated for a second time, and I was determined not to screw up my record.
My thinly gloved hand slid over something round and cold, and I immediately recognized it as a doorknob. I turned it slowly to the right and pushed open the door.
I closed the door behind me as I stepped soundlessly into the lush room.
I looked around. This wasn't what I remembered from the last time we had gotten inside. There was a thick, burgundy carpet beneath my booted feet, and the room itself was darkly colored.
It was illuminated by several amber-colored lamps, which spread their rays everywhere and cast shadows of me over and over into the carpet and onto the walls.
My gaze crawled from the floor to the leg of a bed. That was when I became aware of a hissing sound - like a decompression of air. The sound made me feel stifled. The sound repeated, over and over again. It sounded like a deranged version of breathing.
A slight whiff of nausea passed me by when I saw what was lying on the bed.
I didn't know that a child could be that thin.
An IV was hooked into his arm, and it was dripping steadily. His scant breath fogged the oxygen mask over his mouth. I already knew what the hissing sound was, and I didn't want to observe to confirm my thoughts.
Well...I had no doubts now, did I?
Sergio's voice blared into my ear again. "Bella, I think I gave you the wrong direction...I was looking at the map wrongly."
I didn't answer. The boy's eyes had opened. He had seen me.
He couldn't say a word.
We just stared at each other. There was a terrifying electricity in the air; it stretched in a taut rope between me and the sick boy. I couldn't break myself away from his gaze.
I guess I knew what I had to do at that moment. It seemed as simple as blinking, but I didn't know the consequences I'd suffer later for my actions. I took the earpiece out and whispered into it, hopefully sounding urgent.
"Someone's inside the room!"
I couldn't hear what Sergio said next, because I had sidestepped and hit the alarm button protruding from one of the walls. A siren honked over my head, nearly blasting my ears out with the noise. I creaked open a set of French doors to the west of the room.
"Sorry about this, Sergio."
I did not look at the boy as I slipped out into the darkening night.