Chapter Fifteen

I took off through the woods, but, deep in my heart and gut, I knew that I was too late. They wouldn't have left the sirens on this close to the house if they were after me. The cops knew that would have tipped me off. If they had left them on, they were confident that they had me surrounded enough to catch me. I didn't have a chance, but I wasn't going to go down without a fight, not after the past four months that I had. The feelings that I had had earlier had disappeared. The fire had returned. Adrenaline fueled the high. I wasn't going down without a fight. They knew that and they were most likely prepared for it, but so was I. Or, so I thought.

I tripped over a root and sprawled onto the ground. Now that I was out of the cave, I could hear the shouts of the cops, the sounds of dogs barking. I scrambled to my feet, but when I took a step, my ankle gave in, and I grabbed onto a tree to keep from collapsing to the ground while I pressed a fist to my mouth. If I cried out in pain, then it was definitely over for me.

Gritting my teeth, I forced myself to keep moving. It was slow going, but I had to go. Where, though? Did I go back to the house and try to get a car? No, I couldn't do that. The cops would be waiting for me there. The highway was off limits, too. I had to go farther into the woods. The rain was going to work to my advantage a little. At least it would wash away part of my scent. I just had to stay hidden.

My ankle screamed as I hobbled through the woods, taking more care now to avoid tree roots. I was going too slowly. I knew it and the cops most likely knew it. Their voices were growing closer, but I forced myself to keep going forward.

The problem came whenever I spent too much time looking down and not enough time looking up.

"Freeze," a voice said in front of me. I did freeze. I found myself looking into the eyes of one of the cops that had been there that night at the warehouse. Not the one that had gotten shot, but one of the ones that had initially saw me. "You're under arrest." I swallowed hard. It was game over. I knew it. His partners were closing in around me and the fight drained out of me as the clamped the handcuffs on my wrists and read me my rights. Not that they really thought that I had any at this point, but because they had to.

x.x.x

I sat with my hands handcuffed behind my back in the police cruiser as it headed towards the station. There had been reporters all over my parent's front yard. My dad and Kylie were standing next to a couple of cops, giving them a report, when the cops who had caught me brought me out of the woods. I had met their eyes briefly before I turned away. Kylie had helped me in the beginning, but, in the end, she was the one who stabbed me in the back.

When we arrived to the police station, I was taken to an interrogation room and left there rather than left sitting on the bench with the other convicts who were waiting to be questioned or waiting to be booked. A guard stood outside of the room after my legs had been shackled to the table. Apparently, they thought that I was such a pro at escaping that I was a flight risk. The thought of escape was not one that was running through my mind. The thought of the fact that my own sister had turned me in was.

The door opened, but it wasn't a cop that entered. My mom, still dressed in her hospital uniform, entered, her face pale. She looked at me for a moment before she took a seat next to me. Neither of us said anything for several minutes while we waited for the cops.

"I knew it was you," she whispered finally. I stared at the concrete wall across from us. "As soon as I saw you, I just knew."

"You might want to keep quiet about that," I told her, slumping down in the chair. She turned towards me.

"Why, Tyler?" she asked, shaking her head. I gritted my jaw and remained silent. "I just don't understand." She couldn't and she wouldn't. I knew that. That was why I had never told anyone about the thrill that I got from what I did. "Talk to me, Tyler."

"I'll talk to the police when my lawyer gets here," I told her, "and then you can hear the full story, too." She sighed in frustration, but didn't say anything more. A cop entered and spoke to us long enough to tell us that my lawyer was on the way.

It was about twenty minutes later when my lawyer walked into the room with two cops. I didn't know these cops, but I was grateful that they weren't the ones who had arrested me initially. That would have been a long interrogation. I watched as my mom shook hands with Alice before they sat down and the interrogations and negotiations began.

I didn't pay much attention to what went on throughout the next few weeks. What difference did it make? They had proof that I shot a cop, they had witnesses that I had been there, they had evidence that I had been there, and they had everything they needed to convict me. There weren't any plea bargains offered, which I hadn't expected. I didn't try and plead my case to the cops or to the judge or to the jury or even to my parents. There wasn't anything that I could have said to change anyone's minds, so I didn't.

What I did do was listen to what I was told. I didn't try and fight the authorities. In the county jail during the trial, I spent my sleepless nights counting the tiles on the ceiling, not plotting to get out. When I was at court, I sat there with what I hoped was a blank expression on my face. I did what Alice said. I did what the judge suggested. And, when the verdict was read, I didn't even flinch. I had known for months what was coming, so why was I expected to fall to pieces as soon as I was in court?

I didn't see the newspapers, but my father told me that people were criticizing my lack of emotion. I should have felt remorse, resent, sadness, something, but apparently people thought I didn't. Of course I felt something. I felt drained because that fire was no longer burning inside of me. The cops had snuffed it out as soon as they had clamped those handcuffs onto my wrists.

However, no one understood that. How could they? They didn't know how amazing it had felt, that thrill, the adrenaline coursing through my veins. No one had known. They wouldn't have understood. That was why I hadn't said anything about it. Not to my parents, not to Alice, and certainly not to the judge and the jury.

When I left the courthouse on the day of my sentencing, I turned and looked my sister in the eye. The tears streaming down her face did nothing to warm the coldness that I felt whenever I saw her or looked at her. She was supposed to be the one helping me. She had wanted to help me and I had done my best to protect her from being accused of aiding and abetting me. She was the one who turned on me, so why was I supposed to forgive her just because she was crying at the close of my trial?

When I looked at Kylie, the blank mask I had worn throughout the trial dissolved. With one look, I made it clear to her that I did not forgive her. That I wouldn't forgive her. Her mouth opened into a small "o" shape, but I turned away and allowed the guard to lead me away. As I walked out of that courtroom, a cold, numbing feeling settled over me.

I had thought that I was strong enough to get through it all, that if I kept the right mindset, it might take a few years before I went nuts as I rotted away. If I wore that coldness as a blanket, I would be okay. That was a lie, though. It would turn out that I would never be the same. The Tyler Martin that I had been up until then was not going to be the Tyler Martin that my parents would sit across from in a visitation room one month later.

In a way, I had gotten my wish. I had been careless with my experiments because I hadn't really cared about my life. I hadn't really cared how an explosion caused by the mixture of two wrong chemicals might affect my family. But, a part of me had died. Not by the hands of an explosion, but by the hands of my sister. As I changed into my state prison issued uniform, I realized that the old me had died, had disappeared once I undertook that first job. It had changed me and I hadn't realized it until I was being led to my cell and introduced to a man named Carl "Biffy" Morgan, a man who had murdered his own wife. The first thought that I had had was not one of shock or horror, but, rather, I thought about how much Biffy and Richard had in common. It hadn't been until later that night when I had realized that I should have felt differently. Even when I had that thought, though, I still wasn't repulsed by Biffy.

Trey had been different, though. He hadn't killed a single person himself, but the drugs that he had made might have. When I had met him and he told me what he was in for, I realized that he and I had something in common as well. He got his high off of pain killers or speed or marijuana or whatever concoction he came up with. I got my high off of theft and breaking and entering. He had been the only person other than Biffy that I had had a conversation with that lasted longer than five minutes. They were the only people who managed to break into my mind. They were the only people that I found I was able to relate to.

When I told Alice this, she had looked at me for several moments before she spoke. "You're not in prison to make friends, Tyler. You're here because you failed to listen to what I told you."

"I don't think my lawyer should be the one telling me that I wouldn't be in this situation if I had only fled the country," I had replied coldly. She shrugged nonchalantly.

"You're only saying that because you know that I'm right," she told me. "You could be relaxing on a beach in Mexico right now instead of sitting in a concrete prison cell for the rest of your life. Don't blame me."

"I wouldn't be relaxing on a beach," I spat out. "I would be glancing over my shoulder for the rest of my life. I would be making sure that my hair was properly dyed or that I had enough colored contacts or that I hadn't screwed up something about my supposed life story!" I leaned forward and shook my head. "I may have screwed up at that warehouse, but I do not regret coming back even though I got caught. Running from the law is not something that I want to spend my life doing and you know that it's impossible to hide from them. Sooner or later I was bound to screw up and maybe it's a good thing that it happened in my hometown rather than in some foreign country where I can't even understand the language." She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"I know, Tyler," she whispered. "I've known you for three years now. I should have known that you were bound to mess up, that you couldn't run forever. It's not you." I nodded and sat back in the plastic chair I was cuffed to. It's just . . . It's just that I wanted you to have a second chance. You aren't a bad person, Ty, no matter what people say. You've just made some bad decisions and you need help getting back on track."

"It looks like that help isn't coming in time," I said sarcastically. She had a sad look on her face when she answered me.

"Yes. Yes it does."

x.x.x

When my parents had first came to see me, they had brought Kylie with them, claiming that all she wanted to do was apologize, to explain why she had turned me in. I didn't want to hear it, though. I told the guards to take me back to my cell. Kylie had nothing to say that I wanted to hear.

My parents came back the next week without Kylie. We didn't say much. The tension in the room could have been cut with a knife. My mom, I could tell, didn't really know what to say other than to ask how I was, was I eating, and how much sleep I was getting. My dad just updated me on the records of sports teams and athletes that I never had cared about, but at least they were trying.

Kylie hadn't been the only person that I had refused to see. Charlie was on that list as well, but for a different reason. I didn't want her to see the person that I had turned into. I didn't want to see the hurt or the disappointment on her face. After everything that I had been through, I was still trying to protect her even though she probably hadn't looked at it that way. In a way, I was also protecting myself. I knew that if I saw her that soon after the trial, my resolve would have been diminished and at that point in time, that was something I couldn't afford to happen.

So, I kept to myself. I watched and I observed what happened in the prison. I learned the ins and outs. I learned the guard schedule. I learned as much as I could because I was going to get out of there. I was finally going to listen to Alice and escape, but, just as I was figuring out my plan, I was thrown a curveball. The list of the new test monkeys for the medical program had been announced and my name had been added to the list. That automatically made me a high security concern and specific guards were appointed to keep an eye on me, making my chances of escape to diminish completely.

It took a few days for me to accept that it was over. I would never have the opportunity to fix my life, to move on to bigger and better things. The wish that I had had all along was going to come true. I would never see my twentieth birthday, let alone my twenty-first. It was over and I was supposed to be happy because I had gotten my wish. A sickness had settled over me, though. Deep down, I had never wanted to die. It was the thrill of the danger that I loved, not the actual realization that my life could end abruptly. I had never truly wanted to die, and, yet, I was going to. I was going to until the Aitu arrived at my cell door and then the fight that I had suppressed came back full force. The government had never truly had me. They believed that they did, but they didn't. After I was taken from my cell, a new feeling settled over me. I wasn't going to let them win. The fire within me had returned.