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The Secret Adventurer's Club Second Adventure (part 11)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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They had been walking for nearly an hour. Onetooth and Worms had stopped crying long ago and now trudged along without complaining, finally accepting the new situation. Casper stared fixedly at Justin… that was his name… at Justin’s boots thrpp-thrpping through the long grass a metre or so in front of him. Finny walked beside Casper, occasionally trying to catch his eye but failing every time. Poor Casper, she thought, all his nightmares seemed to be coming true.

Justin and Sadie had tied everyone’s hands behind their backs. Then Sadie had tied each end of a length of rope around the necks of Onetooth and Finny. Justin had done the same with Finny and Casper. And now the four orphans were being led across the wild grass like puppies on a leash. It had taken them a little while to learn how to keep their balance walking without the aid of their arms but if anyone tripped and fell then a kick and a curse soon had them back on their feet.

They were going uphill again and the sun had been slowly turning one side of Finny’s face red ever since they had set off. She was thirsty too, and hungry, and her feet hurt and her legs ached and, and… And it was all her fault. She bit down on her dry, cracked bottom lip. She was not going to cry.

While they trudged across the never-ending sea of clumped grass Justin and Sadie chatted to each other like they were on a Sunday afternoon stroll around the pond in New Flagstaff. Mainly just the usual boring stuff that adults talked about. Sometimes Justin would tell Sadie a joke and she would laugh. Finny recognised the laugh. It was the same laugh the older girls used when some boy or other was trying to impress them and she wanted them to think they had. Justin and Sadie were boyfriend and girlfriend then, maybe something more.

This hypothesis was confirmed when Justin and Sadie started to discuss what they were going to do with the chips they would get for selling Finny and her friends. New guns from the Gunman, a bigger yurt – whatever that was, booze, drugs, the list grew as they walked on, oblivious to the four kids they towed along behind them. This revelation was the moment Casper chose to look up at Finny and the hopelessness in his eyes made Finny’s chest hurt. She tried to smile reassuringly but Casper didn’t acknowledge her and just went back to silently staring at Justin’s boots.

Finny was so lost in her own guilt that she didn’t notice their captors had stopped and she nearly walked into Justin’s back. They had reached the top of the rise at last and what lay beyond filled Finny with a mixture of dread and faint memories of running barefoot through a noisy, smoke-smelling chaos of barking dogs and walls of brightly coloured canvas.

Below them, stretched out across the bottom of a shallow valley was a camp of strange round tents and crudely built shacks. Dozens of figures, mainly dressed in black like Justin and Sadie, were going about their business just like the folks of the city Finny and co had left that morning. Around the lip of the valley armed men and women patrolled, some with big, fierce looking dogs. With an envious lump in her throat, Finny also saw children playing on the slopes and in the sparse coppice off to the side of the camp.

Then Justin tugged on the rope, making Finny’s head jerk backwards and they set off down into the valley. When they entered the camp proper the inhabitants momentarily stopped whatever they were doing to stare at them as they passed. Then, amazingly to Finny, they just went right back to what they were doing, paying them no more heed than a farmer fetching his animals to market around the pond. The previous lump in her throat became a knot in Finny’s stomach as she realised that that is exactly what She and Casper, Onetooth and Worms had become, but it was the absolute normality of it that scared her more than anything.

Justin and Sadie led them to one of the round tents about half way down the northern slope. Sadie gave Justin the rope leash that bound Onetooth and Worms together and disappeared inside the tent. Justin then all made them sit down in a line and padlocked the leashes to a steel pole that had been sunk into the ground.

“Gonna untie your hands now. If’n you try and escape then folks will set their dogs on you so stay sat where you are. An’ if I see any of you even try to touch the rope round your neck I’ll beat you to a goddam pulp. Got that?”

Justin waited for all four of his still dazed captives to nod.

“Good. Now Sadie is gonna give you some water and if you behave then she might just feed you too.”

He waited for Sadie to reappear with a jug of water and a tin cup.

“Okay Sades. Ah’m gonna spread the word about our new friends here. Keep your eye on them.” He paused to give Finny a little kick. “’Specially this one here, she’s got the look of trouble about her.”

Justin disappeared into the throng. Even without Justin it seemed that word was already spreading because people would wander by while Sadie watered them by turn from the tin cup. A crowd of ragged arsed little kids from the nearby tents gathered to stare at them. From their looks of simple curiosity, Finny guessed that she and her friends were not the first tied up newcomers they had seen. Sadie’s voice broke her thoughts.

“Y’all hungry?”

The growling in her stomach was probably loud enough to answer the question on its own but Finny nodded along with the others just to make sure.

“Yes’m. Starving.”

Sadie laughed.

“Well, you better start getting used to that coz nobody is gonna be wasting much food on yous.”

Still laughing at her cruel joke, she disappeared back into the tent with the jug and cup.

The small crowd of little kids continued to stand and stare and pick their noses.

Comments

Hyle Troy's picture

**  sound of grinding teeth over popcorn...**

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers



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