QUENTIN JAMES and the UNDERCOVER AGENT
Familiar with the old house creaking and groaning during the night he knew the sound didn’t belong.
Creeping silently back up the stairs, keeping to the sides so they didn’t creak or crack, heart pounding in his chest, breathing shorter, faster, skin tingling with excitement he moved across the landing; stopping now and then to listen, straining to hear any noise out of place.
A footstep, not a light footstep of a bare foot, but a heavy one; a boot.
Working his way along the corridor, he checked if any doors were open, placing his ear to the wood to hear anything from inside before going to the next.
One was open.
A shiver ran down his spine.
Something loomed out of the darkness. Blacker than the black of night it emerged from his room and headed towards him. Flattening himself against the wall Quentin closed his eyes and stilled his breathing, the air wafting against his face as the man moved past him.
Eyes open again; he watched the blackness walk away down the corridor.
Breathing out slowly, he started towards the door when the darkness shifted again and another person came out of the room.
He blushed without knowing why as he noticed she was a girl; her profile visible for just an instant as she turned and walked away from him. It’s just a girl, he told himself crossly; annoyed and puzzled why he was hot all of a sudden.
Tip toeing inch by inch towards the door, his heart missed a beat as someone slipped past him, quickly, lithely and equally silent. Quentin darted inside the door and stood against the wall.
He strained to see as the blackness seemed to swirl and move, two bodies becoming one as they struggled.
With a start he saw Miss White had a third intruder locked in her grip, her arm tight around his throat.
‘You chose the wrong house to burgle my friend.’
The menace in her voice made the hairs on his arm stand on end.
‘It’s me, Unwin,’ Quentin heard the man croak.
Quentin watched as Miss White let go her hold and place her hands on her hips.
‘What are you doing here?’
How she conveyed annoyance, surprise and interest all within a whisper amazed Quentin.
‘I’ve come for the boy where is he?’
‘The boy? Why now? What’s happened?’ asked Miss White.
‘We moved up the schedule, the others are at the school already.’
Quentin’s mind went into overdrive. It was his room so they must have come for him. Why? What had he done? What others? What school?
All this took about a second before his mind snapped back to the people in the room.
‘There’s something else?’ said Miss White.
Unwin nodded, ‘The boy’s whereabouts has become known.’
‘I don’t know, yet, but I’m not taking any chances, we move him tonight.’
‘Agreed, I’ll get the boy ready and meet you downstairs.’
Quentin could see Unwin nod and go to walk past Miss White to the door, and his heart pounded in his chest, fearing he would be seen.
‘Where do you think you’re going? Out the way you came in,’ Miss White whispered firmly.
‘There are rose bushes out there, with thorns, big thorns.’
‘Oh you poor baby. Tough! Now get going.’
Miss White walked towards him, ‘Now where is he?’
‘I’m here,’ Quentin said stepping forward.
Miss White gave a squeak and Quentin, pleased his grin was hidden by the darkness, noticed Unwin only shifted his weight, his stance now one of readiness and pent up energy waiting to explode if needed.
‘Why does anyone care where I am?’
Unwin looked at Quentin, ‘Your parents,’ he said before slipping out of the window.
Quentin saw two shapes moving in the doorway, but gave no outward sign of his awareness of their presence, but his curiosity was peeked about those two.
A few seconds later he heard the faint snick of the latch downstairs and guessed they had used the front door.
Grinning, he imagined them waiting at the bottom of the rose bush as Unwin climbed down, pricked by the thorns. They were really big thorns.
‘OK quick, change out of your pyjamas, get your things together and I’ll be back in a minute with a suitcase,’ said Miss White.
Quentin watched her hurry out the door before turning to look around his room.
He had little to gather, a few clothes and his puzzle books. The toys and books he left.
With a sigh he pulled on his shorts.
I am far too old for shorts, he thought.
Miss White came bustling back in holding two cases. She handed one to Quentin who bundled his clothes into it and snapped it shut. Stashing a Sodoku puzzle book into his pocket he looked up, ready to go.
‘Here, take this,’ Miss White said, handing him a backpack. ‘There’s a drink in there and a sandwich.’
Quentin threw the backpack onto one shoulder and followed Miss White down the stairs.