“What are you talking about? Why not?” I asked.
“Civilians are not allowed in there. I mean, unless you’re going to the stockade, and that’d be harder to get out of than would be getting in, so don’t even think of that as an option,” he looked at me sternly.
“What about if I’m really hurt? Like if I need surgery?” I suggested. I could fake a major injury, or I could actually get one, if necessary.
“No. We come to you,” Blue explained. “That’s sealed up tight. They don’t want to risk contamination. Their research in there is the most valuable thing in the world right now.”
“Okay, so what are we looking at here?” I tried to think of it all rationally. “What do I have to get through, step by step to see Max?”
“Um, the main doors, for starters,” Blue nodded back at the guards standing by the door. “Then the first floor is all military, and they’re like frat boys in there.
“Second floor is mostly living quarters and basic first aid type stuff,” Blue went on. “That wouldn’t be so hard to get by. If you could get up there, I could get you some scrubs, and nobody’d give you a second glance.”
“Why can’t you just steal me some scrubs then?”
“The guards keep track of every person who comes in and out,” Blue said. “They’d notice that you hadn’t gone out and didn’t belong in scrubs. They have such high security at the doors, once you’re in, they assume you belong.
“If you could get past the first floor, I could get you to the third floor.” Blue chewed his lip, thinking. “If you gave me some time, I could get a pass key… but it doesn’t matter. I don’t know how you’d get in the first place.”
“I can do it,” I nodded confidently, and Blue raised his eyebrow at me. “I know a guy. He can get me in.” I’m not sure how Tatum would feel about that assertion, but I could do it. I had to.
“You really think so?” Blue asked, because he clearly didn’t.
“Look, if I can make it this long in once piece, I think I can handle getting through a door.”
“All right.” He didn’t argue with that logic.
“Can you get a passkey by tomorrow?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe. It’d be better if I waited another day or two.”
“But you could get it by tomorrow, if you really had to?” I pressed.
“I guess,” he shrugged uncertainly.
“Okay. Then… we’ll plan on tomorrow night. After supper. That’ll give you twenty-four hours to get everything in order,” I said.
Blue reluctantly agreed to it, but I knew that if anyone could help me with this, it was him. Since I’d known him, he’d proven himself to be trustworthy and capable at every turn. He went back into the building, and I made my way over to the mess hall for supper.
Now all I had to do was convince Tatum to get me inside.
– 19 –
Lazlo slept on the couch, and I didn’t try to talk him out of it, mostly because I didn’t want to talk to him. Harlow had heard us arguing earlier, I’m sure, but she didn’t say anything about it. She attempted to chat through the tension, but it didn’t work for either of us.
I went to bed right after we got back from supper so I could hide out, and I lay awake most of the night, anxious about everything. Sometime before dawn, I finally fell asleep.
Light streamed through the slits between the curtains when I awoke to the sound of someone opening the closet doors. I shifted in bed, half sitting up and pushed back the covers so I could see.
Wearing only his boxers, Lazlo sifted through the closet, looking for his clothes. Red lines and imprints stretched across his back, reminders of his night spent sleeping on the rough couch.
“Morning,” I yawned and pushed myself all the way up.
“Oh, sorry.” He looked sheepishly over his shoulder at me. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I just came to get some clothes so I could take a shower.”
“No, it’s okay. I should get up anyway.” I hadn’t been able to find Tatum last night, and I didn’t know how long it would take me to convince him to get me into the building.
“Oh. Good. I guess.” Lazlo turned back to picking out something, so I swung my legs over the edge of the bed to stand up.
I didn’t have pajamas to speak of, so I slept in my underwear and a tee shirt. My bare legs were covered in fading bruises and cuts. A thick scab ran over my knee, and I touched it, checking to see that it was healing without infection.
I glanced up and saw Lazlo staring back at me. Feeling self-conscious, I grabbed my pants up off the floor, and his cheeks reddened when he quickly turned back to the closet.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, looking down at a tee shirt.
“It’s fine.” I pulled on my pants. “Have you seen Tatum?”
“What?” Lazlo turned back to me in surprise, his expression bewildered. “No. I just got up. Why? What do you need him for?”
“I need to talk to him.” I slept with my hair up, but the tie had loosened, so I pulled it out and ran my fingers through the long tangles.
“Why?” Lazlo repeated, his voice tightening with anxiety.
“About my brother.” I put my hair back in a messy bun. “He was supposed to check into something.”
“Why?” Lazlo said yet again, and I didn’t feel like answering him, so I brushed past him out the bedroom door. With his clothes in hand, he went after me. “Why is this Tatum guy helping you? I thought he kind of seemed like a jerk.”
In the living room, Harlow was already up and sitting at the table, sketching something on a pad of paper. She twirled her cross absently around her neck and looked up at me when I came out.
“What are you doing? Are you going somewhere?” she asked as I slipped on my shoes.
“Yeah, I just have to find Tatum,” I opened the main door and leaned on the screen door for a minute.
“That soldier guy?” Harlow wrinkled her nose in confusion.
“Yeah, exactly,” Lazlo chimed in, giving me a hard look. “I don’t trust that guy.”
“Maybe you don’t, but I do.” I shrugged and left.
Harlow called after me, reminding me about breakfast, and I told her I’d make it if I could.
I had no idea where to look, and I didn’t exactly understand how this place was laid out. They really should’ve handed out maps when people got quarantined. I found Bishop hanging up clothes to dry, but when I asked her about Tatum, she gave me a vague, terse answer.