Sunday, October 16, 2005

 

the child, one hundred eleven


It was almost unbelievable. How had they gotten in so easily? Unless...

Could this be a trap?

Stone made his way over to Forest. 'How'd you manage to get inside like this?'

The boy smiled. 'I knocked.'

'Oh, come on.'

'No, really. There was only one guard on duty. The rest had gone up front to help bring the helpless guards in. When he opened the door, I told him, "Didn't you hear the call for everyone to go help those poor guys in? Why are you still here? Go! Hurry!" ' Forest muffled a laugh, still amazed. 'And he went! Can you beat that?'

Jack frowned. 'You mean he mistook you for one of the guards? But how could he do that? You don't look a bit like any of the guards. You're not even dressed right.'

As Forest responded with a grinning 'No clue,' Stone and Starr looked at Mac. 'What did you do?' Stone asked him.

'Me? Nothing,' the angel replied innocently. But as he said it, he glanced in Malachi's direction...

'So - now we're in,' Lucy was saying. 'What do we do next?

They looked about. In the dim and wavering torch light, everything looked weird and a bit scary. The moaning of miserable men didn't improve the atmosphere. But as they stood, listening, trying to think what the next move should be, Stone tilted his head.

'What?' whispered Starr.

He pointed. 'This way.' Leading them away from the main part of this dungeon - and away from the bulk of the moans - he soon came to a door by itself.

'What is this?' asked Joy softly.

'Solitary,' Stone answered shortly. The play of emotions over his face as he stood looking at that door could barely be seen in the torch light. Only Starr truly looked and saw.

Then the man sighed and stepped closer. Putting his ear to the door, he listened.

No sound.

Glancing through the small barred window, he saw nothing but darkness. No movement, no anything.

'Who has a key?' he asked softly.

'We all do,' Linda replied at a whisper. 'Remember? That was one of the things each pack had in it, when we first got them from the house Jessie claimed.'

'Right,' Stone muttered back. He unslung his pack, rummaged inside for what seemed like forever, and finally produced a small and elusive key. Half-turning to Starr, he gave a crooked grin and said, 'Here goes.'

He fitted the key. Slowly turned it. Gritted his teeth, hoping the key would not make any noise in this deep place.

No, no sound. The merest small clunk as the lock turned over and opened. But would the hinges scream when the door was opened?

A tug. The beginning of a groan of protest from the hinges. Stone stopped. What now?

'Wait,' whispered Joy. Now she was rummaging in her pack, looking for... 'Ah!' She held up a small bottle, unstoppered it, and poured a little of the contents on each hinge. 'Cooking oil,' she said softly. 'Now try.'

This second tug went much more smoothly and silently. Jack took the nearest torch from the wall and shined it inside the room.

Empty.

'Perfect,' said Forest. 'This will be our first base of operations.'

'All of us, crammed into this tiny room?' Lucy objected.

'For now. We'll see what else we can do later. Now.' And Forest rubbed his hands together. 'The guards aren't expecting this room to be occupied. So they won't come by here. Right, Stone?'

'As far as I know.'

'So as long as no one down here gets thrown into solitary...'

'That's assuming a lot,' Lucy frowned. 'We shouldn't stay here any longer than we have to.'

'And we won't,' Forest promised. 'We'll need to scout out our people - the ones Walker found for us - set them free, set Walker free...'

'Oh, very simple,' Lucy interjected.

'...and get out again. What do we do first?'

Mac spoke up then. 'First, we pray and ask the Master to give us direction. And then - whatever he says to do, we do.'

'Amen,' said Starr.

And so they prayed.

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