The ceilings were shockingly high, at least twenty feet above us. Three of the walls were the same brick as the tunnel, lined with a few dim lights and a couple electrical boxes. The cement floor ended in a cliff, but I could see the smooth concrete wall thirty feet across from it.
I walked to the edge and stared up and down, but the wall across from it seemed to have no beginning and no end. A few pipes jutted out from it, letting water flow from it, pouring like never ending waterfalls into the bottom. The water smelled fresh and chlorinated, so I guessed it was clean water here, not the sewage from the tunnel.
“Wow. That’s an impressive drop,” Jack whistled, looking over the edge with me. He leaned farther forward than even I did, and his foot slipped on the moss that grew over the edge. I yanked him back from certain death, and he smiled sheepishly at me. “Sorry.”
“I’m not sure how Mae would feel about that,” Peter said, nodding towards the cliff. He turned and admired the cavern. “But the rest of this is good.”
In one corner, a few blankets were piled up, next to a stack of books and a few items of clothing. Peter stepped closer to inspect it, but before he even got to it, he realized what it was. He looked back at Leif.
“You stay here?” Peter asked him.
“Yes.” Leif shrugged. “It’s quiet and dry here. Nobody bothers me.”
“So, you’re inviting us into your home?” Peter asked.
“You can say that, I guess.” Leif turned away from Peter’s apologetic expression and his bare feet padded on the concrete as he went over to the edge of the cliff. “It’s a nice place to hide out.”
“It is nice,” Peter agreed. “But there are no showers or bathrooms.”
“The sewer is in the tunnel,” Leif nodded to the door. “The river is right outside for a quick wash up, but it’s not that hard to leave if you need to do laundry or shower.”
“But there aren’t any people around,” I said. “It’d be impossible for Daisy to get into trouble here.”
“I don’t know.” Peter chewed the inside of his cheek mulling it over. “But we can’t stay at home. Ezra won’t let us even if it wasn’t dangerous. This would work better than your place until we find a house that suits our needs.”
“You think you can sell Mae on this?” Jack asked.
“I don’t have much of a choice. I need time to find somewhere even more out of the way and uninhabited than where we lived before,” Peter said. “That’ll take some time. This will keep Daisy under wraps until then.”
Peter and Jack started talking about what they could do to it make it more homey down here. Peter was good with home improvements, and Jack liked to pretend he was, so he joined in the discussion with unfounded enthusiasm.
I walked around, admiring the surprising detail in the architecture of the cavern. It was strange to think that a hundred years ago, people put more detail in building their sewers than they do in building most homes anymore.
Leif’s pile of belongings looked sad in the corner. It consisted almost entirely of things we had given him. The comforters he had spread out were actually a Christmas gift from Milo to him. I’d thought they were a horrible gift since we didn’t know if Leif even had anywhere to live, but Milo said that was all the more reason he’d need blankets.
The books had most likely come from Milo or Ezra. A thick copy of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky was stacked on top of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. A few other Russian books were in the stack, and that made the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird sitting next to it stand out.
Before I’d even picked it up, I knew it was the same copy that I’d just finished reading. I flipped through the dog eared pages, and a makeshift bookmark slipped out. I snatched it before it fell to the ground, and my breath caught in my throat.
Leif had been using a picture of Milo and me as his bookmark. It’d been taken on New Years of this past year, and we both had on too much silver glitter. Milo had stuck it on the fridge because he loved the way his cheekbones looked in it, but it had gone missing a few days ago. I’d assumed it had fallen off and slipped under the fridge or the stove, but here it was. Leif had taken it.
“What do you think?” Leif asked from behind me, and I shoved the picture back in the book, afraid that Jack might see it. I had no idea what Leif would want the picture, and I tended to think his motives were more innocent than Jack did.
“Um, of what?” I turned to face him, forcing a smile so I didn’t look as flummoxed by his picture thieving as I really felt.
“The cave.” Leif smiled faded from bemused to concerned. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” I smiled wider. “Yeah. I was just, um, admiring your books.” I pointed to his pile of Russian literature with the copy of Mockingbird.
“I’m going through a Russian phase,” Leif said, then gestured to the book in my hand. “I decided to take a break with some lighter reading after I saw you reading it.”
“Oh. Well… it’s a good book.” I handed it to him. Part of me wanted to take the picture from it, but I really didn’t think he’d do anything bad with it. It just felt weird that he’d stolen it.
“Ezra knows I have the books,” Leif explained, misreading my reaction. “He lent them all to me.”
“Ezra has a really big library,” I nodded my head more quickly than I needed to. “He has a lot of really good books, and he loves to share them. He’s really… good like that.”
“Yes, he is.” Leif paused. “Are you sure alright?”
Thankfully, I didn’t have to answer that question again. A bat flew over ahead, distracting us all momentarily, and after that, Peter decided we should go. He’d already made a lot of plans of what he wanted to do with the space so Mae wouldn’t freak out, and he had to get started on them.
Leif stayed behind when we left, and I took Jack’s hand as soon as we stepped out into the tunnel. I’d never felt weird about anything Leif did before. As soon I’d met him in the forest of Finland, I had liked him, even though he was a member of the brutal lycan pack.
But something about stealing a picture of me and Milo. It felt personal in a weird way. Maybe it was because Milo was in the picture, too.
I understood a bit more the way Jack felt now. I knew that whatever connection I had with Leif, it was harmless. But when it came to my brother, I felt more protective. What exactly did Leif want with Milo?