Crossing the line.
It took the group about another twenty minutes to reach a field surrounded by tall trees. They paused while Dave checked up and down the road.
“Right.” He said. “Follow me.” And he disappeared between the trees.
The rest of the group followed him through the gap, to find they were hidden from all sides. The field was an odd shape with a small copse of trees near its narrowest point. There were houses and gardens nearby, but there was no one around. The sun was starting to set, and they were losing the light.
Dave spoke quietly but firmly.
“OK everyone, we need to change into our dark clothes while we can still see what we’re doing. Hide your bags over there by the trees, you girls can hide behind them to change. C’mon, let’s get going!”
Changing into their dark clothes was not easy, trying to keep their stuff clean, putting their ordinary clothes in their bags as they were getting the other clothes out. Scott remembered the biscuits and put one of the stockings over his head, lifting it off his face for the time being. He put the other stocking in his pocket, just in case.
The girls came back from behind the trees, and Dave motioned them to gather round. He told Scott to take the stocking off.
“Don’t put your masks on yet, we don’t want to frighten anyone before we get to the laboratory! We have about half a mile to go. Scott, you can share those biscuits round, and keep warm, we have to wait ‘til it’s a bit darker yet.”
Some of the group sat on the grass, but got up again pretty quickly when they realised that the dew had started to fall, and the ground was now quite wet. They ate various biscuits and nuts, and Debbie came over and wrapped an arm around Scott’s waist.
She was looking very attractive, the tight fitting black clothes she was wearing showed off her amazing figure. Standing in the presence of that odd group of people Scott started to feel very happy that he had such a beautiful woman pressing herself against him. The fact that she wanted to be that close to him, and that she was quite happy for other people to see it, made him feel very special. He raised his own arm and slipped it around her waist. She looked up into his eyes, and he returned the look, smiling. She gave him a bigger squeeze, turning and putting both her arms around him, resting her head on his chest for a second time that day. He embraced her fully, wrapping her in his arms and protecting her from the cold.
“A’right, let’s keep our minds on the job!” Dave warned them in a load whisper.
“When do we get going?” Scott asked, Debbie still wrapped in his arms.
“Five more minutes.”
The others were looking nervous too, eager to get going, to meet whatever challenge lay ahead.
“We ‘ave to time our move.” Dave continued. “In a little while the fuzz will be responding to a series of break-ins down the road. That’s our opportunity to get into the lab and free all the animals.”
The five minutes seemed to pass unbelievably fast. Standing around, just waiting for the time to pass, it should have seemed like hours. With Debbie nestled in his arms, worrying about her and what was about to happen, thinking about the diversion taking place elsewhere, he was surprised when Dave called them to order, and they were led back out onto the road.
“Debbie, you’re with me.” Dave gave out his instructions. “We’re going to move in pairs, keeping just in sight of the pair in front. When we get there we’ll re-group.”
They avoided the lit areas, keeping away from the street lights and houses. They walked with about 50 yards between each couple, the smell of a late summer barbeque wafting in their direction from one of the houses. One or two cars passed, but paid them no attention.
Their walk to the lane beside the laboratory passed off without incident. Dave led them through a gap in the hedge big enough for them all to crawl through, and called them all to order yet again.
“OK, we’re about to start, so listen up. The outer fence ain’t alarmed, but as soon as we get within ten feet of the building, they’ll know something’s up, because of the motion sensors. Me, Debbie and Scott are going for the main building, we’re looking for anything that proves they’re doing illegal experiments. The rest of you split up and take the outer buildings, that’s where most of the lab animals are. Once we’re through the outer fence, we have about 15 minutes before the security firm can get people here, the police should be tied up already, no way they can be here in less than 20 minutes. We only have to worry about the two guards on site and any technicians that might be hanging around.” He handed out cans of pepper spray to each person. “Use this if they try and stop us. It works better than a swift kick in the balls!”
Dave slipped a balaclava over his head and they all followed suit by covering their faces. Dave’s mates made swift work of the fence with some wire cutters. Everything remained calm and quiet as they slipped through. A few steps more and the night was suddenly pushed back beyond the hedge as everything was lit up by bright lights mounted on the sides of the buildings. Surprisingly there were no alarms, but lights were coming on, in each of the three buildings. They all ran to the pathway. Dave, Debbie and Scott headed straight for the main building, the others split up and headed towards the other blocks.
Dave, Scott and Debbie stopped at the door, which had a pass-key entry system. To the others’ amazement, Dave produced a plastic card from his pocket and held it to the sensor, there was a brief click and Dave pulled the door, which yielded to reveal a small hallway with stairs off to one side. They slipped in and the door closed behind them.
“Where did you get that from?” Debbie asked, but Dave just tapped the side of his nose with his finger, and stuffed the card key back into his pocket.
They had been nervous enough outside, but now they were closed in, their escape route sealed behind them. Scott checked the door, no way of opening it apart from with the card key. He looked at Debbie, who looked back, both sharing the same thought.
“The fire alarm works if the card doesn’t” Dave obviously sensed their concern.
Apart from the stairs, the only other features were three doors, the one they had come through, one straight ahead and one off to the side. The one to the side was anonymous, a simple lever handle and a key-hole. It was unmarked and Dave ignored this one and headed towards the one remaining door, straight ahead.
This door was wider than the other, had a self-closing mechanism, and a small window set at eye level. There was light coming through the window, but no sign of danger. They opened the door and went quietly through. The space inside was far more than a room, it was closer to a warehouse, but clean, well lit and sub-divided at ground level. Cupboards lined walls, numerous work stations were covered with equipment and walk-ways were defined by different coloured flooring. The partitions rose to about 7 foot high leaving an open airy upper half to the whole area. Glass windows looked down from the second storey on the two longer sides, but the windows were dark and un-lit.
They moved forward, Dave waved towards the partitioned areas, “You’ll probably find what you’re looking for in one of these rooms.”
“What are you looking for?” Scott had to ask.
“I’m off to plant a few bugs,” was the unexpected reply, “In the computers.” And he held up what looked like three flash memory sticks. “Just got to decide which computers look the best candidates.”
“What’s up there?” Scott asked, pointing to the dark windows.
Dave left it at that, and headed deeper into the laboratory.
“See what you can find.” Scott instructed Debbie. She went off towards one of the rooms, and Scott headed for another. He wondered if the offices upstairs might provide more information, but Dave seemed to know a lot more about this place so he looked where Dave had suggested.
The first room had filing cabinets on three walls and an empty desk beside the door. He started looking through one cabinet, each drawer contained many sheets of paper, and each sheet was covered with columns of figures. He didn’t understand the data, the terms used, the numbers, it was all gibberish to his accounting brain. He was beginning to wonder if this was going to be of any benefit. If he couldn’t understand it, how was it going to help? The other drawers were much the same, so he removed one of the sheets, folded it and stuffed it into one of his pockets.
Debbie and he both emerged from their rooms at the same time. She had obviously not found any more than he, but was holding a set of slides in a container. Holding up the container, she shrugged, her expression said she had no idea what she was holding. They each opened another door, he stood and looked into his next room, but Debbie seemed to have given up. She took one look into the room and moved onto the next, pushed open the door and moved on again.
Scott’s room seemed much like the previous one, so he watched while Debbie went down the row of cubicles, pushing open the doors. She pushed against the last door, but this one did not open. She tried again, uncertain if she’d turned the handle properly, but the door held firm. Once again, she tried the door, putting her weight on the handle and her shoulder against the door. A strangled “help” caused her to jump back.
“Was that you?” Scott asked, starting towards her, but immediately he’d asked he knew the answer. She looked frightened, and she was shaking her head. He reached her and put a reassuring arm around her shoulders, and turned to the locked door. Somehow he knew that this was what they had come here for, this room was hiding a secret, and they were just a few inches from discovering what it was.
He tried the handle himself, he didn’t doubt that it was locked, but it was an automatic action. There was more noise from within, shuffling and muffled voices. There were people but who were they? Had they locked themselves inside to protect themselves and their secrets, or had the door been locked from the outside?
The door felt stronger than it looked, it was solid wood with a sturdy frame, not what you’d expect from a partitioned office. “Dave,“ he called, “there’s someone in here.”
“Well, let’s see who it is.” Dave had picked up a stool and was bringing it over. He placed it beside the door. “Unless you’d like to?” He offered.
Scott hesitated, which was enough to make up Dave’s mind. He climbed up on the stool and looked over the top of the partition. Scott wished he’d been more positive, but he was concerned about what he might find.
Dave was looking down into the room. “Help us!” came the shout from inside, and was followed by more shouting, pleas for help and warnings of danger.
“Who’s in there?” Debbie asked.
“’’Bout six people.” Said Dave, “but we’ll need the wire cutters. We’ll getcha out.” He reassured the people below. He jumped down from the stool. “Be back in a minute.” He said, and started for the door.
Scott climbed up, eager to see who was there. Debbie came close too, her hand to her mouth, staring up at the top of the partition. Scott looked over the top. Separating them from the people below was a wire mesh, similar to a fence, but laid horizontally from wall to wall. There were six people, each with their hands clasped in front, bound with plastic cable ties. They were huddled in the middle of the room, mattresses were laying on the floor against three of the walls. Their clothes looked dishevelled and dirty, faces showing fear and relief, looked up at their rescuer.
Scott looked from face to face, there were three men and three women, but his attention was drawn to one woman in particular. The other five had originally been dressed quite smartly, pressed trousers, smart shirts and blouses, but this one woman was wearing jeans and an old sweat-shirt. There was also something familiar about her face. She was young and pretty, but her hair was tousled. She had no make-up, but he was still able to recognise her, it all seemed to fit into place. He was looking at the real Francoise!
“Scott, It’s Francoise!” Debbie exclaimed as she grabbed his leg.
“Yes, I know, but...” His voice trailed off as he realised she was not talking about the woman in the room. She was staring towards the other end of the laboratory, where a chicken had appeared. “...Oh! I see.”
The chicken started walking towards them, clucking slowly and aggressively. Debbie moved back behind the stool. “It’s only a chicken.” He said reassuringly, jumping down to protect her, but remembering the terrible wounds that Toni had suffered. It continued coming straight at him.
As it approached, he realised it was not the same chicken that had pretended to be Francoise, it was slightly larger, somehow more muscular and aggressive. Within about five feet, it suddenly sprang up, wings flapping, aiming for his face. He ducked, shielding his eyes with his arm. The chicken flew past, landing a few feet away. Debbie had screamed as the bird attacked, so Scott glanced behind him to make sure she was alright, and then prepared to face the chicken again.
It leapt, once more aiming for his face, claws open, wings flapping, difficult to fend off, but instead of just shielding his face, this time he also swung his arm to bat it away. He made some contact, but not enough to deter it. Once more they faced each-other. This time it was slower to attack, giving him time to plan his move.
When it sprang, he was ready for it, ducking under its path and watching it all the way, so that when it landed he was in perfect position. He dived forwards, and as it hit the ground, he grabbed both feet with one hand. For a couple of seconds it screeched and pecked and flapped as it tried to free itself, but Scott managed to get to his feet.
Triumphantly he held it up. It went quiet, wings open, feathers ruffled, its head back and its beak open, staring at him angrily while it hung upside down from his hand. It was very light, surprisingly so, but it was no longer a danger to anyone. Its heart was beating very quickly, its neck pulsing as it hung angry and defeated.
“Ha!” Scott exclaimed, victorious, turning to Debbie as he held up his prize. But just then the lab was filled with fluttering, scraping and a shout from behind them. Chickens appeared from all round the room, flying up from different hiding places and landing on the top of the partitions, the work stations and the filing cabinets. Dave had returned just at the right time, and was shouting to them to hurry.
“C’mon! The guards are here.” He was planning to make a quick departure, holding the end door open for their exit, but he stood in amazement at the sight of the birds all round the laboratory. “Bloody hell, what ‘ave you done?”
A guard also appeared from the opposite end of the lab, radio in one hand and a baton in the other. “Stand still and release the hen.”
“Stay back or the hen gets it!” Scott responded, holding up the chicken in one hand while grabbing its neck with the other. He felt stupid, and didn’t think he’d actually be able to throttle the bird, but it was the best he could come up with. “Go with Dave.” He instructed Debbie, and started backing towards the door where Dave was standing.
There was another great flurry of activity from the birds perched around the lab. They all attacked together, flapping and screeching as they came. Debbie started to run, chickens clawing at her back and her hair, the stocking covering her head had swiftly been ripped open. As the first one reached Scott he swung the one he was holding and knocked away the attacker. Unfortunately the bird he was holding was not very effective as a club. Flapping its wings and trying to escape it was like trying to swat a fly with a paper fan.
The birds were now all over him, pecking and clawing as he tried to move to the door. He was able to pull them off easily enough, but they kept coming back. Dave had joined the affray and was clouting any he could reach with the wire cutters, having a great deal more success than Debbie or Scott. Scott then found the best way to deal with them was to grab their legs, pull them off but keep hold of them. He had about seven birds swinging in his hands before Dave shouted.
“OK, Let the fox in!”
Suddenly the trio were free of the pests, as they flew up for safety. Debbie, who had curled up into a ball on the floor, now uncovered her face to look around her. Scott threw his handful of hens back towards the middle of the room and started to help Debbie up. It would only be a matter of seconds before they realised they had been suckered. But, by this time, the guard was approaching very quickly.
Dave stepped forward and planted an expert kick on a dazed hen that was recovering from an earlier blow from his wire cutters. The bird flew up in the face of the guard, catching him off balance, giving the trio time to get out through the door. He held the pass-key to the sensor, and the outer door also yielded as they piled through.
Dave quickly brought them up-to-date. “Four guards turned up in a van at the front, the others have gone, but we don’t have much time. This way!” And he started heading back towards the hole in the fence.
“Quickly.” Scott said to Debbie, and guided her in front of him as they left the doorway, but the door swung open and caught his trailing leg as he started to run. He went down in a heap as the guard gave him a hefty blow on his upper arm with his baton, and stepping over the sprawling Scott, swiftly caught Debbie too. Scott got up in time to see Debbie being clubbed by the guard, he had her by the hair, clubbing her legs to force her down.
“Stop!” Scott pulled the pepper spray from his pocket, marching towards the guard with the spray held out in front, pointed at the guard. Debbie fell free and the two men squared up to each-other, the guard holding his baton like a sword. They cautiously circled each-other, Scott staying out of baton range, and the guard wary of the can in Scott’s hand.
Eventually he had turned the guard sufficiently to reach Debbie, trying to help her up with one hand while keeping the spray held out towards the guard. Debbie still struggled to get up. “Leave me.” She said. “I don’t think I can walk.”
Ignoring Debbie’s plea, Scott released her hand and took another step towards the guard, who swung out with his baton, to keep him at bay. “Leave us, stay back, and we’ll just go.”
“Sorry, can’t.” The guard replied. “They’ll be watching. It’s either you or me”.
“That’s easy!” Dave appeared from out of the darkness, delivering a neat jet of pepper spray into the face of the guard, who went down, dropping his baton and rubbing his face, coughing and spluttering. “Right, you two, let’s go.” And, he disappeared back through the fence.
Scott managed to help Debbie up, and they hobbled off She was really struggling, so once through the gap he helped her onto his back, and carried her, piggy-back style down the lane.
“So much for giving ourselves up.” Debbie teased him.
“Well, if he’d asked nicely.”
Dave shouted from the opposite direction. “Not that way, we’ve got to go through the airfield. We’ll be seen if we go up that way.” So Scott turned back, and headed in the direction of the airfield, struggling under the weight of his passenger. It had seemed easy enough for the first hundred yards, but it was rapidly becoming very difficult, his legs starting to burn with the effort. They reached a gate where Dave was waiting. Scott took a breather while Dave helped Debbie over. They were now well away from the lights of the laboratory, with no sign of the guards they were beginning to feel safer.
Once over the gate Scott picked Debbie up again, and they made reasonable progress for another two hundred yards or so.
“My turn.” Dave could tell Scott was struggling. They made it round the airfield by sharing the work and without being seen, and were able to reach the main road via a small lane on the other side of the airfield.
Scott had no idea where they were in relation to their original route, but fortunately, Dave knew where to go. They needed to get to the lanes that would take them back to the copse and their hidden bags. Carrying Debbie all that way was going to be difficult, so she said she’d try and walk. It would be slow going, but easier in the long run.
They crossed the road and found a lane in no time at all. Scott was supporting Debbie, who had an arm round his shoulder, he had an arm round her waist, and so they proceeded at a slow but steady ‘three-legged’ pace. The lane was very narrow and quiet, but also offered no cover on either side of the road, just open fields. They soon recognised the lane they had followed earlier in the day, and were starting to gain in confidence.
Car headlights approached, but with no cover and Debbie moving so slowly they decided to act as normally as possible, stood by the side of the road, and let the car pass.
They were lucky, it was a couple returning home from an evening out, and paid them no particular attention.
Shortly before they reached their field another car passed them by, travelling in the opposite direction. They were yards from the gap in the hedge, so waited until the car was far enough away that it could not possibly see them. Then they moved forward as quickly as possible, Dave went through first followed by Debbie, and Scott brought up the rear. As he was going through he heard another car approaching, and its lights lit up the road before he disappeared. They must have missed it when the previous car passed, confused the car noise and the lights as being that of the other car disappearing rather than the new car approaching.
Dave was helping Debbie across the field when Scott caught up with them.
“There was another car, it may have seen me.” Scott said in a loud whisper.
“Yeah, heard it pass, hopefully nothing to worry about.”
They found their things and started to change back into their normal clothes. The others had obviously got away too, their bags were gone. Debbie was managing to move unaided, but Scott held her as she crossed the field, because of the uneven and unpredictable surface.
Dave went through the gap first, and out onto the road, and Scott released Debbie so that she could follow. “Evenin’ officer.” They heard Dave say. “What’s up?”
Scott held Debbie back, she turned to look at him and he signalled to stay quiet.
“Come on you two, join your friend.” They heard another voice.
“What other two?” Replied Dave.
“Don’t give me that, we’ve been watching you for the last five minutes. Hurry up, we’ve not got all night.”
They decided to give themselves up. Making a run for it across the field, did not seem like a good prospect with Debbie moving so slowly. Uniformed officers awaited them on the other side of the trees.