Live by the Knife
By J.M. Hart
Copyright 2011 J.M. Hart
Copyright 2011 J.M. Hart
Back at the place where we had come in, I peeked out of the grate first to check if there was anyone there. I couldn't see anyone so I started to open the grate.
Suddenly there were voices coming around the corner. “I don't care what you do with the body. Give it back to the family or just dump it in a river. I just don't want it around here.” The voice purred coldly. I recognised it as Electra's and she soon came into view while a young man, a guard, came running after her, holding the dead scientist’s body. He looked flustered and kept looking back.
They stopped just outside the grate, where Max and I could see them both very well.
“Dispose of the body. I don’t want to see it again.” Electra said menacingly. “And check if he has any family…”
“Should I tell them he had an accident in the laboratory, Ma’am?” The guard said nervously.
“No, just check. I don’t want them contacted again, ever!” Electra smoothly walked away, swinging her arm gently.
The young man was left with the repulsive, mangled body in his arms, unsure of what he was meant to do. Max and I glanced at each other while he whined aloud and trudged away.
Once the coast was clear, we stepped out of the air vent and retraced our steps towards the hole we had made earlier this evening in the fence. Just as we were approaching it, we noticed there were some guards around it.
“Shit!” I breathed as we quickly dived into a nearby tree and clambered up it. Max and I looked at each other in despair. Fortunately the tree we were in was tall and bushy and we were near the top of it. We looked through the branches and saw some of the guards run off towards the buildings while the rest of the group stayed by the hole in the fence, mending it.
A few minutes later the alarms started to go off, screaming “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!” I just hoped that Tom, Skye and Harvey had made it to the other side or had found a brilliant hiding place like ours. Soon enough there were guards running all over the place with their dogs going absolutely frantic from excitement. Lots of these search parties came very close to the tree but miraculously appeared not to have noticed our scents.
I realised that there was a bird in the tree next to us. It had been sleeping, but now the noises had woken it. I prayed that it did not see that we were there and went to sleep again. However my prayers were to no avail. The bird squawked loudly and took off, disturbing our tree as it flew away. Some of the men had noticed, and they ran towards the tree.
Suddenly, the alarms stopped just in time and the men stood still. There came a new voice over the loudspeakers. “The intruders have been found. Repeat, the intruders have been found. There is no more trouble. Please return to your stations. Thank you.” The men slowly started to walk away, grumbling that they couldn't be the ones to find them.
One of the men jogged over and stood by the tree, lighting a cigarette. A few minutes later, a voice came over his radio and he picked it up.
“Malcolm, I found them! It's incredible! They're promoting me to polar bear feeder for it!” The voice said.
“Good work Albert! But… who did you find?” The man asked in a gruff Scottish accent.
“I found the intruders! They were hidden in the warehouse where I go when I want to get smashed. Two kids and a dog. Quite some fighters they were too, but in the end with some back up, we managed to tie them up and get them to the boss!” The guy on the other end said.
“Well, that's great, Albert. Who would have thought that you would get lucky while you were trying to get pissed?” The man walked away, laughing down the walkie-talkie to his mate.
Max and I sat completely frozen. We could not believe that Tom and Skye had been caught. After a few silent moments of pure shock, I shook myself into action, blinking my eyes. I touched my audio-earrings and pressed the little button. “Simon, we have a huge problem. Skye and Tom have been captured and are now in enemy hands; Crost’s men took them away. What are our instructions?”
“What were you doing before?” His voice crackled over the miniature speaker in my ear.
“We were in the air vents, watching people.”
“Okay, you have to go back in there and find them. I'll get some men closer in case you need back up, okay?”
“Rodger that. Over and out.”
I double-clicked the button on my earrings to end the transmission and we slowly climbed down the tree, anxious not to disturb anything. We sprinted back to the building and found the air vent. There was no one there so we quickly crawled in and sat panting in the semi darkness. I glanced at my watch. One 'o'clock am. I wondered why I wasn't so completely exhausted. Maybe the adrenaline was still pumping through my system.
We shuffled down the air vents until we heard barking. We went towards the noise and looked in the grate. It was just some of the guard dogs in their kennels. Some of them began to sniff the air and I'm pretty sure that they could smell us. We turned away sharply and travelled onwards down the narrow and dingy vent.
Fortunately neither Max nor I suffer from claustrophobia because if we did then it would have been awful. The vents were narrower in some places than others, and it was dark. We couldn't turn on our torches in case there was a gap in the vent or it shone into a grate and someone saw. We couldn't take that risk. We looked in every grate we came across and soon knew where the centre of the vent system and branching routes well as we continued our journey.
We had only been travelling on one floor though and I suddenly felt air above my head. I felt upwards, my fingers scrabbling along the ceiling to find a tunnel leading upwards. “Bingo!” I breathed as my fingers caught on an edge. Max went first, using the grips on the soles of his boots and the palms of his gloves. I found it much harder because my heels couldn't retract. I ended up using the strength in my knees and the grips on the palms of my gloves and squeezed myself up. Max pulled me out at the top and we continued silently.
“Good thinking, S!” He told me in a barely audible whisper. I smiled wryly and we padded on through the shaft. It was very narrow here and I could feel my shoulders on both sides being squeezed by the sides of the vent. Crawling in front of me, Max had broader shoulders and he grunted quietly as he moved through the vent.
Shortly, we found a grate where I could hear Crost's voice and we looked down into the room. I lay on my belly and watched him talk. He was standing in front of his henchwomen Electra and Sparkal, and they were all facing someone that Max and I couldn't see. I suppose that it must have been Skye and Tom. “Where are you from?” He demanded. No answer. “I will not ask again. Is it the FBI or the CIA? Who sent you, or are you British? MI6?” He stood tapping his cheek with his finger, looking thoughtful.
Electra stepped towards them and stopped. She raised her hand and motioned two guards to pick up Tom’s chair. They pushed the chairs closer to her then she stepped back again. I could see Skye and Tom tied to chairs with Harvey lying caught up in a net on the floor beside them.
“Are you Scottish? Let’s get one thing straight, children. You have two options. Option uno, you speak and tell me where the fuck you are from. Option duo, you’ll have the chance to meet a very close friend of mine. So what’s it to be: option uno or option duo? I would make up my mind quickly, children, we wouldn’t want you running into trouble, would we?” As Skye and Tom continued their silence Crost became increasingly agitated, marched across to Tom’s chair and promptly kicked it onto the floor facing away from Skye. Crost leaned down close to Tom’s face and spoke firmly. “Now you listen to me boy. I can see you like this girl. I can see it in your eyes. How would you like it if I was to rearrange her face for you?”
Crost reached inside his inner pocket and withdrew a silver knife. “This is Scott. Do you remember that very close friend of mine that I was telling you about two minutes ago? The one that was supposed to be very sinister but neither of you really reacted. It was a bit of an awkward situation... This is him. You know it just struck my mind– Scott goes with Scotland! I knew a Scot once. His name was Scott. I remember his face so clearly now… the way his face turned grey after his body spent a day under my floorboards.”
He stared at Skye and Tom, and slowly his calm expression turned to rage.
“I am losing my patience with you people. How many times do I have to ask nicely before you tell me?” He screamed as he threw the knife into the wood of Skye’s chair missing her leg by a millimetre. “Girl, tell me who you work for, please” he said almost in tears and jumping around the room. He stopped jumping, I watched him walk to the wall and bash his head against the white surface. His face looked genuinely shocked by the pain it caused. He turned to stare at the defenceless teenagers. “Speak, damn you!” He yelled impatiently.
“Sir, why don't we go about this some other way?” Electra said smoothly.
“Whatever you have in mind will probably be better than my shouting at them so go ahead! Wait, first I might take back my knife…We wouldn’t want it to get lonely over there.” Crost said, smiling as he reached near Skye’s thigh to retrieve his knife.
Harvey was looking around, stupefied by the sudden lack of shouting. He looked directly at me, and I knew he recognised me because he tried to get up but I shook my head. He understood and lay back resignedly. Skye had noticed his movement too as I saw her eyes flicker up to me. I stayed long enough for her to realise it was me before I drew back to make sure that no one else saw us.
“How old are you; you can't be more than twenty.” Electra waited for an answer but none came so she continued. “We have forever to wait, and you're not going anywhere if you just sit silently. It would be best for all of us if you just talk.”
Tom sighed. I prayed he would put on an accent or something so they couldn't guess he was British. “We're fifteen.” He said in an Australian accent.
Sparkal and Electra looked at each other in confusion while Crost glared at Tom in frustration. “Okay, so you're fifteen and you're from Australia. Are you spies?” Electra asked suspiciously.
“I’m bored and my wrists hurt.” Skye said in an Australian accent as well. “Do you want to let us go now?”
Electra stared at her, steam practically flowing from her ears. “Not until you answer our questions.” She said.
“Do we have to? I swear we’re not under oath.” Tom said, trying not to laugh. Max had to cover his mouth and crawl back down the vent to stop himself from cracking up. I looked on worriedly. It was all very well for them to wind these people up, but I wasn't sure that Tom and Skye knew how bad they really were. This guy fed scientists to polar bears for Christ’s sake!
“What are your names? You look like you would be a Robert or maybe a Thomas?”
“My name is George.” Tom told her, visibly bored. “My sister here is Gemma. Can we go now? We've told you everything you wanted to know.”
Crost frowned. “No you haven't. You have been avoiding the question we posed earlier! Are you spies?” He was working himself up into a fury again.
“No! Why would anyone want to spy on you? Why is that one of your main questions? It's like you expect us to be spies.” Skye's eyes widened and her face brightened into a smile. “Have you got something to hide? Please tell us, I swear we won't tell a soul!”
“Well,” said Crost. “Since I'm going to kill you, you may as well hear my marvellous plan!” Skye glanced up at me again and I started recording on a little tiny microphone I had dangling just near the grate. “You see, children. There is this thing going on in the world called global warming, and all of us grownups are very upset about it and we are trying to stop it.”
Tom frowned and cut in. “Dude, we're not four! We’re basically already adults and we know all about global warming.”
“Oh, right, okay…” said Crost, He looked confused, but he quickly righted himself and carried on. “so, I have decided as a leading citizen of this planet that there are far too many people on the planet and we must either stop reproducing for the next two millennia or kill off some of the population. Obviously I think many would find it hard to refrain from reproducing for two thousand years so I have decided for the whole of the human race to go for the easier option and destroy the American continents. My scientists are trying to create a nuclear bomb powerful enough to perform this mighty feat and also that it is small enough that when left in Central America that I can get away and be back in beloved London before it goes off.”
Skye and Tom sat shell-shocked. I confirmed my beliefs that this man was mad through this utterly illogical thought process and plan. “But won't the deaths haunt you forever? You would have killed everyone!”
“Ah yes, but you see I do not feel the weakness of guilt, not since I suffocated my wife on her pillow in bed one night!” Here he paused dramatically. I lay there appalled while it was obvious that Skye and Tom were astounded and distressed. “And, just so that the world can know that I feel for them and have done it for them, I am sacrificing my two only daughters who are currently at school in England now!” Crost finished jovially.
I stared at the man. “No!” I breathed, just too loudly. The noise echoed on the hard metal. Max grabbed me and pulled me back and we crawled quickly round the corner. I could still hear what they were saying, but only just.
Skye was quick in covering for me. “But that’s just dreadful! They are your only daughters. When you die, you won't have any heirs to take up your fortune! Don’t you love them? If I had the choice of killing my children, I wouldn’t do it if my life depended on it!” She exclaimed.
Sparkal wasn’t fooled. She jumped up onto a ledge, and grabbed onto the grate and looked in. We had no idea that she would try to jump up and see and I barely had time to duck behind the corner. After hanging there and looking for a while, Sparkal dropped back down and walked back to Crost.
He whispered something in her ear and she left the room silently. We crawled back to the grate and watched as Crost turned back to Skye. “Even if I wasn't going to do this, they wouldn't get any of it anyway. I am giving my fortune away to global warming research centres like my own back in London. I feel that the future is the most important thing in the world!” He smiled. He really did believe that this thing he was going to do was the right and only thing.
“Dude, you're crazy, cuckoo in the head! Did you know that?” Tom said laughingly. “This is the craziest idea I've ever heard. If you're trying to reduce global warming and carbon footprint and greenhouse gasses and stuff, then this is just dumb! The explosives will not only blow up like half the world, making the orbit and earth rotation to go completely out of control, but will also leave huge amounts of smoke and nuclear waste lying around for hundreds of millennia! Leave it to the world leaders, the people who know what they're doing.” Tom shook his head, while Skye smiled. I think both of them were sure that Tom had knocked some sense into the guy. Instead, he went ballistic!
“How dare you!” He shouted. “I am a world leader! One of the richest and most powerful men in the entire world! I know a hell of a lot more than you know, and a hell of a lot more than you will ever know! Australians are stupid anyway, because they live on their heads, upside down!”
“I believe that actually you are only the fifth richest man in the United Kingdom alone.” Skye smiled sweetly at him, threatening him to make another outburst.
Suddenly, just as he was about to scream at her for being so insolent, Max behind me collapsed on the bottom of the vent noisily. I turned around to see what had happened and was confronted by a wall of white gas. I gasped, but that was foolish.
With sleeping gas you should never try to breathe it in.
I sank to the floor in despair but managed to stay awake just long enough to see that the person picking me up was Sparkal, wearing a hideous gas mask.