He stopped and looked at the ground, smiling in a wicked way. “You have no idea.”

Alice studied his face, trying to find some sort of positive emotion on his face. She didn’t succeed.

Jonathon tensed against his bonds, struggling with everything he had. “You can’t do this, Peter! This isn’t like you!”

“Tell him, Alice,” he replied. His voice was laced with bitterness. “Tell him the truth.”

“What–? He’s lying. You don’t know anything!” Jonathon locked his gaze onto Alice, and she fought hard not to turn away. She couldn’t do this. She couldn’t possibly…

“TELL HIM THE TRUTH!” Peter thundered impatiently.

She hung her head back. “Jonathon, I…” She couldn’t go through with this. Jonathon’s pained expression stabbed into her.

Peter’s eyes brightened with a hint of insanity. “All those years accompanying her, Jonathon, and not once, NOT ONCE, did you think she could be on my side, now did you?”

“What do you–?”

“It was all a hoax,” she blurted out, and now there was no turning back. “The partnership, the…the plan, Jonathon–I set you up. I’m sorry. I had to.”

“You–you can’t…” Jonathon strained against the ropes desperately. “You’re lying!”

Alice shrugged. “I’m not. I wish I was, but I’m not.”

“If he threatened you in any way, Alice, I swear…Whatever this wicked man did to you, he’s going to pay.”

“Don’t you get it?” she yelled. “The entire thing was a lie! I was never your friend. I never loved you. The past four years have been a charade. It’s over, Jonathon.”

“But, I…” He relaxed, giving up on the bonds. “I love you.”

“I know,” she said, calmer.

“Well, enough chatter, I’d say!” Peter smiled gleefully and grabbed at Jonathon’s ropes. “It’s time for some fun, Alice…or should I say Alex?”

A silence hung in the air for a single moment, broken only by Jonathon’s struggling breathing. “Alex?” he quietly repeated. “You don’t mean…THE Alex?”

“I’m afraid it’s true,” she replied. “Makes sense now, doesn’t it? The notes on your doorstep, the scratches in the trees…”

“It was all you.”

“A kind, honest man is easy to manipulate, I’m afraid,” Peter said. “Besides, your time has run out. To the basement!”

Alice glanced at Jonathon one more time before following Peter down the stairs. Her last reminder of him was a gentle weeping, a sound that tore into Alice’s heart despite her stone walls, a sound that remained ingrained in her soul for much longer than she would have ever liked or imagined.


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