I make it down and reach for the knob. To my dismay, it’s locked.
“Damn it,” I mutter, rattling the door like it will magically open. I guess he doesn’t want people in it tonight. Understandable.
I step back and look to my right, but then my eyebrows pinch together, spotting another door. It’s smaller, all black with a black doorknob.
I don’t know how I didn’t notice it before, but seeing as it’s nearly tucked behind a column and blends into the shadows, I don’t think I was supposed to.
I walk toward it cautiously. This is one room that I haven’t been taken into. I grip the doorknob, but it too is locked.
Releasing a heavy breath, I take a step back, looking it over. I hear the guests upstairs, still boisterous, the music playing loudly, proving the party won’t be ending anytime soon.
But then I hear something else.
Something that isn’t the guests at all.
It’s a heavy, loud groan.
It transforms into a deep, long moan, almost like a cry for help. It’s coming through this locked door. In there.
Leaning forward, I press my ear to it again, listening harder. I don’t hear anything for a few seconds, to the point that I think I’ve imagined the sound, but as I start to pull away, I hear it again.
It’s a man.
What the hell?
I reach up, rapidly searching the top frame of the door for a key. He usually has them around. To my luck, there is one taped to the top and I snatch it down, stuffing it into the lock and stepping inside. I check over my shoulder before shutting the door behind me. When it’s closed, I’m engulfed in darkness.
My heartbeat doubles in speed. I don’t know what I’m walking into, but the person sounds like they’re in terrible pain. I need to see who it is.
I tip toe down the wooden steps, but each one creaks, giving me away. Whoever it is, they already know I’m here. I hear chains rattling, the groaning becoming louder. When I hear the chains, I know no one is hurt by accident. This is for a reason.
Chains mean punishment here.
With each step down, a small light comes into view. It’s dim, reminding me of a nightlight.
My breathing becomes chaotic as I take the last step, the click of my heels giving my presence away even more. At first I don’t see anything. The light shines on small things that are stored down here. Baskets. Buckets. Towels. Boxes stacked in the corner. Garden tools and hoses. The built-in shelves carry over to a darker corner, cutting off all access of light there.
“Please,” I hear the voice croak, and I gasp.
I stop where I stand, knowing this isn’t a good idea. Someone’s here. Someone I probably don’t want to see. What Draco does to people isn’t my business anymore. He handles people his own way for a reason. I don’t need to interfere . . . well, that’s what I tell myself, but I don’t turn back.
“Please,” the crackly voice calls again. “Water. Anything. Please.”
That voice. It’s so familiar. My eyes narrow. I walk to the shelf to pick up the LED lantern at the top. When I switch it on, it illuminates the dark corner.
I’m in a basement, but not the same one Draco killed Kevin in. This one is smaller, the air dryer.
But that’s not what surprises me.
What surprises me most is seeing the man sitting against the wall, wrapped up in chains. As I remember, he has no arms. But now, he has no clothes either. He is completely naked and even skinnier than he was before. His lips are cracked beyond anything I’ve ever seen, and his face is bruised, eyes blackened, hair a damp, sweaty mess.
I wince at the sight of him, my heart dropping.
“Oh my God! Ronaldo!” I whisper, rushing his way. I drop to my knees in front of him. He looks horrible. The chains are wrapped up so tight on his body that they seem to be squeezing the air from his lungs. “What are you doing down here? What happened? I thought you were dead!”
His head moves from side to side. I can tell it hurts to talk, to move his damaged lips at all. “The Jefe . . . is what happened. That fucking jackass.”
I sigh. At least he still has his wits about him. “Why is he torturing you again?”
“He assumes I know something.” He swallows hard, in pain. “Shit.” His tongue runs over his bottom lip. “Water? Over there.”
I pick up the lantern and look in the direction he’s looking in. I keep looking, stretching my arm out so the light can fill the dark spaces, and that’s when I see the cases of purified water against the far wall.
“He leaves it there so that I can see it. Beg for a drop,” Ronaldo rasps.