Thank goodness, I had the foresight to belt myself in. I’ve rolled sideways off the fork and I’m facing the ground, held in place by the belt, one hand, and my feet straddling the pack inside my sleeping bag, braced against the trunk. There must have been some rustling when I tipped sideways, but the Careers have been too caught up in their own argument to catch it.
“Go on, then, Lover Boy,” says the boy from District 2. “See for yourself.”
I just get a glimpse of Peeta, lit by a torch, heading back to the girl by the fire. His face is swollen with bruises, there’s a bloody bandage on one arm, and from the sound of his gait he’s limping somewhat. I remember him shaking him his head, telling me not to go into the fight for the supplies, when all along, all along he’d planned to throw himself into the thick of things. Just the opposite of what Haymitch had mid him to do.
Okay, I can stomach that. Seeing all those supplies was tempting. But this… this other thing. This teaming up with the Career wolf pack to hunt down the rest of us. No one from District 12 would think of doing such a thing! Career tributes are overly vicious, arrogant, better fed, but only because they’re the Capitol’s lapdogs.
Universally, solidly hated by all but those from their own districts. I can imagine the things they’re saying about him back home now. And Peeta had the gall to talk to me about disgrace?
Obviously, the noble boy on the rooftop was playing just one more game with me. But this will be his last. I will eagerly watch the night skies for signs of his death, if I don’t kill him first myself.
The Career tributes are silent until he gets out of ear shot, then use hushed voices.
“Why don’t we just kill him now and get it over with?”
“Let him tag along. What’s the harm? And he’s handy with that knife.”
Is he? That’s news. What a lot of interesting things I’m learning about my friend Peeta today.
“Besides, he’s our best chance of finding her.”
It takes me a moment to register that the “her” they’re referring to is me.
“Why? You think she bought into that sappy romance stuff?”
“She might have. Seemed pretty simpleminded to me. Every time I think about her spinning around in that dress, I want to puke.”
“Wish we knew how she got that eleven.”
“Bet you Lover Boy knows.”
The sound of Peeta returning silences them.
“Was she dead?” asks the boy from District 2.
“No. But she is now,” says Peeta. Just then, the cannon fires. “Ready to move on?”
The Career pack sets off at a run just as dawn begins to break, and birdsong fills the air. I remain in my awkward position, muscles trembling with exertion for a while longer, then hoist myself back onto my branch. I need to get down, to get going, but for a moment I lie there, digesting what I’ve heard. Not only is Peeta with the Careers, he’s helping them find me. The simpleminded girl who has to be taken seriously because of her eleven. Because she can use a bow and arrow. Which Peeta knows better than anyone.
But he hasn’t told them yet. Is he saving that information because he knows it’s all that keeps him alive? Is he still pretending to love me for the audience? What is going on in his head?
Suddenly, the birds fall silent. Then one gives a high-pitched warning call. A single note. Just like the one Gale and I heard when the redheaded Avox girl was caught. High above the dying campfire a hovercraft materializes. A set of huge metal teeth drops down.