Going from one darkened place to another, the friends found themselves falling over each other as the van trundled along the long-forgotten road. For what seemed like an eternity, the van rambled over potholes and bumps that made their journey all the more painful.
Finally, they felt the van beginning to slow down and eventually stop. The men left the van and went round the back to bring the teenagers back into the outside world. As one of them opened the doors, a pair of legs that were resting on the door fell forward and onto the ground, bringing its person along with it. Leddy groaned as he felt himself being picked up and cut loose. He gazed into the van and found the other three all to be in jagged positions and groaning more than he had done.
As the four friends eventually had all their ropes cut off, they found themselves facing a large country mansion, as tall as the trees that surrounded it. The shimmering windows gave the illusion of a cathedral. Snarling gargoyles gazed down upon them from the level of the first floor, which seemed to laugh at their misfortune.
As they made their way up the marble staircase that led to the entrance, they noticed a window that had light streaming from it, and a darkened figure looking down on them. The front doors themselves slowly opened, like a mouth ready to devour its meal. From within, bright lights shot out into the darkening night time, and they and their capturers made their way in.
“He likes his descriptions, doesn’t he?” Gary piped up.
“Personally, I think he rather bled it to death a bit.” examined Fiona.
“I never knew you were a literary man.” said Sandy, somewhat astonished.
“Shut up guys, he’s doing a good job. Anyway, I want to find out how we get out if this mess, so shush!”
They soon found themselves in a huge yet bare entrance hall and before them lay a great, winding staircase that spread itself high into the building reaching the upper floors, like an angel spreading its wings.
“Okay, he’s over-doing it now!”
“C’mon, let’s just hope he gets on with the story.”
I’m only doing my job. Anyway, around them stood several closed doors, behind which they could hear the sounds of much activity going on. They were then led up the spiraling staircase and along the landing, where they stopped outside a door that looked more cared for than the rest. One of the capturers gave a gentle knock, and a deep yet slightly trembling voice answered.
The door opened and the capturers ushered the four friends into the room. Compared to the grand, sweeping halls they had passed along the way, it was a very modest room. It was the shape of a perfect square, with everything in neat and tidy perfection. A tall window looked out onto the grounds and the entrance of the building, with the curtains drawn and light beaming through the window and escaping into the night. Sat at a finely varnished desk and in a velvet-bound chair, a man was ensconced in a book with one hand and holding a black cigar with the other. He then looked up at his guests.
“Oh, thank you Boris, you may go now.” The capturers left the room and the man, placing his book and cigar down on the desk, rose from his chair and extended his arms, which shuddered like his voice. “Welcome, welcome, my dear friends.” He bounded over to them and shook each of them by the hand. “Lovely to meet you all, I’ve heard so much about you. Won’t you take a seat?”
He held out a helping arm towards several chairs and returned to his own, leaning in as he watched the boys settle down into their chairs.
“What’s your name?” asked Leddy as he sat down.
“My name is Arthur Mainwaring.” He spoke in a hushed, relaxed tone, despite its slight quiver, and seemed keen to make the friends at home. He leaned back into his chair and reach for one of the drawers in the desk. Out from the drawer he pulled out several cigars. “Would anyone care for one?”
“I’ll have one!” Gary reached for one excitedly, but Leddy shoved him back in his chair.
“Why are we here, Arthur?” he asked, a growing anger rising in his voice.
“My, my, my, you really want to get down to business don’t you?”
“Well, my dear chap, what is it you would like to know?”
“Everything, you douche!” Fiona suddenly leapt from her chair and landed on Arthur’s desk, her face a mask of blood red anger. “First you lock us up in some crappy washroom, then you get your thugs to tie us up, shove us in a van, drive for hours to this dump, and all you’ve done to rectify the situation so far is offer us chairs and cigars. Seriously, what the hell is going on?”
“Oh my darling, I’m so sorry such things had to happen to you and your friends. You must understand that up until now; I’ve had no control over your safe-keeping. But now you are here, I can assure you all will be well for you from now on.”
“How do you mean?” asked Sandy, trying her best to hide her quivering voice. Leddy slowly reached out for her hand and gently clung onto it.
“Well now, my young friends, the reason you here, is because I want to help you.”
“Cigars don’t help people much.” noted Fiona.
“Quite, but I can.” retaliated Arthur. He leaned back once more into his chair and clasped his hands beneath his chin. “You see children; this is a difficult time for the world. I remember in my youth, the world was filled with almost nothing but happy events, war being declared over, great strides in peace and progress for everyone. But now that all seems to have changed, the world now seems only to be full of terrorism, recessions and paedophiles.”
He then got up from his chair and slowly made his way towards the teens, his hands clasped behind his back and his head looking down in deep thought. Leddy turned to Sandy and spoke in a hushed voice, almost as hushed as Arthurs.
“Y’know, this is all starting to remind me of a dream I once had after I ate all that cheese and watched that Monty Python/Young Ones marathon.”
“That’s why,” continued Arthur, “I would do my best to make the most of today’s world and try and give some salvation to those whom I could.” He moved to the front of his desk and leant against it, giving each of the friends a cold, demanding stare. “Children, I want to give you the opportunity to become part of my family.”
The four friends looked at him with slight shock.
“That sounds just a little paedo-y to me mate.” said Leddy rather nervously.
“My dear chap, there is nothing for you to worry about. Why don’t I take you downstairs?”
“That sounds even more paedo-y, you dirty bastard.” said Fiona.
“Oh now look kids, I’m being honest here. Please, just let me show you what I’ve got down below.”
“Oh now your just taking the piss!” said Sandy.
Arthur led them downstairs and reached one of the doors that stood closed yet a buzz of activity resonated from the other side. Two of the capturers from earlier were leaning against the door, guarding it. Arthur nodded to one of them and the capturer gave a knock on the door. Instantly, the entire buzz died, leaving a cold silence. The door opened ajar and a darkened face peeped out from the side.
“Sir would like to show the visitors the production line.”
The face disappeared behind the door as the hubbub started up again. Arthur led the four friends into the room, once a living room or a library, but now changed beyond recognition. The room was filled with people at desks handling several small items. Arthur became eloquent once more as he wondered down the lines of workers.
“The world is becoming increasingly divided. People are moving to larger communities to try and survive, leaving little villages like yours to wither and die. I am giving those villages a new lease of life. The people of this village deserve it!”
The four friends however had become slightly distracted by the goings on as they began to recognize what was being dealt with on the worktops. Each worker seemed to be dealing with several packs of white powder and several sparkling things. They also had a variety of tools and each had a small machine with a tiny saw and drill attached to it.
“Those are the di-a-monds from the restaurant!” exclaimed Gary, having trouble pronouncing the fourth word.
The person working at that particular worktop was too engrossed in her work to notice the friends. She kept her head down, but Leddy could just make out a horridly haggard expression on her face, as though she’s been at it for days. Her hair smelt unwashed and looked unkempt, but there was still something very familiar about this woman to Leddy. He then lent forward, cupped her chin in his hands and lifted her head up, and the friends gave a gasp as they saw who it was.
“Muriel!” the four friends gasped all at once.
Muriel’s eyes looked bloodshot and worn out, but they lit up in shock when she saw Leddy and his friends, who were regular customers in her sweetshop.
“Ah, you know each other? Good,” said Arthur, turning to face them, “it is nice when two separate generations are so well acquainted with each other.” He walked over to them and placed his hand on Mrs. Roger’s shoulder, which was shivering slightly. She slowly looked up to him. “Sir, why are these kids here?”
“They’re new additions to our family my dear, now, don’t let us disturb you, you crack on with your work, if you’ll pardon the expression!” Arthur led them away from Muriel and along the line of workers. “Perhaps you recognize some of the other members of our happy little family?”
Indeed they did, as they walked up and down the multiple lines of workers hard at their task in hand, the friends recognized several residents of their village, all engrossed in the same task.
Fiona, who was tailing behind the group, was fixated with the workers just as the workers were deeply concentrated in their work. She stopped by yet another worn-out looking villager whom she vaguely recognised. The villager had placed a diamond into the machine and was using the saw and drill to cut away at it. Having used the tools to loosen the diamond, the villager then turned a switch on the machine on, sending a bright red laser from within the device and into the diamond, removing its head completely.
Once that was done, he poured some of the white powder into the diamond, and then used the machine once more to place the top back. Fiona was utterly confused and horrified, already forming an idea in her mind as to what was going on here. She pushed her way through and sidled up to Arthur, placing a tense arm around his shoulder.
“Okay mate, you’ve obviously gone to great lengths to get these guys here,” she then started squeezing down into Arthur’s shoulder, as hard as she could, “but you haven’t done anything to enlighten us as to why we are all here, so you best come out with some answers now!”
Arthur carefully removed Fiona’s clutch on him and stopped in his tracks. The four friends were each giving him a distinctive stare. Fiona gave him a look of disdain and anger, Leddy eyed him of curiosity and caution, Sandy looked at him apprehension and fear, almost from the corner of her eye, whilst Gary only emanated jovial innocent smile.
“Perhaps we should retire to the lounge.” said Arthur, turning once more and leading them through another door into a smaller room, but no workers to be seen, only several leather-bound chairs and a roaring fire blazing away. In fact, the fire was blazing away on several of the chairs, rapidly growing larger and larger. “Tompkins!” Arthur called.
The group waited for what seemed like several minutes, watching the flames spread from chair to chair, rapidly coming towards them.
“Shouldn’t we run or something?” inquired Leddy.
“No need, my dear boy.” Arthur ensured, “Tompkins will be here any second now.”
After several more minutes, during which the flames had now almost reached the ceiling, a disheveled and geriatric butler entered the room.
“Ah, Tompkins there you are. Put out this fire out will you?”
“Very good sir, I’ll just go and fetch the extinguisher.” He then left the room in the same slow, worn out manner he had done so as he came in and several more minutes passed. By the time Tompkins came back with the extinguisher, much of the room was beyond saving. But that didn’t stop Tompkins from carrying out his duty. He lifted the nozzle squarely at the heart of the flames and began squirting.
Unfortunately, no foam came out of the nozzle. Only the squealing sound of an animal in pain erupted from Tompkins’ efforts. He kept on squeezing and squeezing until he could squeeze no more. “Excuse me sir,” he said, rather dejectedly, “but the extinguisher doesn’t seem to be working.”
“That’s because you’re using our cat as the extinguisher and its tail as a nozzle, put him down at once.”
Tompkins slowly began to put the cat down, until it leaped from his hands itself and, regaining its posture, gave its audience a sophisticated glare.
“I do trust you will be more careful next time.” said Arthur.
“As do I.” said the cat.
“Tompkins, can’t you get rid of this fire?” inquired Arthur.
Tompkins moved to a nearby window and opened it as best as his decaying bodily frame would allow him. He then waved his arms in the air moving towards the fire.
“Go on, shoo! Get out of it!” At first, the fire did nothing. “Come on, leave! I’ll bring you out some nice treats for you if you go outside!” The flames then gathered itself up and shot out of the window like, well, like a, like a fire shooting out of a window. Closing the windows carefully, Tompkins turned to his employer. “Will that be all, sir?”
“Yes, thank you.” Arthur appeared to be slightly singed but didn’t seem to notice this.
“Would sir care for a refreshing glass of brandy?”
“Tompkins, you read my mind. Ask these children what they want as well, will you?”
“I can’t sir.”
“What?!” Arthur pulled himself up and strode over to his employee. “Honestly, I just can’t ask you to do two things in the same room, can I? It’s not like it’s a difficult task to do, I mean, your pouring me a drink aren’t you? Now why don’t you want to do the same for our guests?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to, sir. Nothing would give me a greater pleasure sir.”
“Then what on earth is the problem, old man?”
“There’s no-one to ask, sir.”
Arthur instantly spun round to discover he and Tompkins were in fact the only two people in the room. The four friends, having escaped from the burning room, were now being chased by several brute guards.
Chapter Seven comes next week!