“What I don’t get,” the short guy said, but was interrupted.
“What do you fucking get?” said the skinhead as the volume of his laughter tailed off. Cramps were pulling at my calfs, but I feared a stretch would make too much noise. Instead, I tried my best to relax, to keep my concentration on their words.
“Fuck off. Seriously though. What I don’t get is how after only two days of this shit, there’s already a field hospital.” His voice was getting quieter. A rush of excitement spiked up through my stomach as I realised they’d forgotten to check our hiding place.
“Only two days,” the skinhead said, a vein of sarcasm running through his tone. I couldn’t make out the rest of what he was saying. I tried to stand and felt Cassie’s warm hand reach for mine. Ignoring her pleading grip, I tried again, standing, tentative at first, searching out their decaying voices, each word less distinct, all while I listened for the first signs of a report from under my feet. The sound of their footfalls had been so obvious and I knew the same would be for where I stood. Still, I had to take the risk, just had to hear what was being said. This hospital sounded exactly the place we needed for Nat. She was in no condition to travel, but maybe we could convince someone to come to her. A house call, if we ever got out of this cupboard.
I crept to the door clutching the screwdriver in my fist, the voices getting louder than the difference a few steps should have made.
“Look. There’s an evacuation on New Year’s Eve. No one explains a thing, but then it stops before it gets going, leaving behind whoever wasn’t around to get the first call.” There was a long pause. I had no idea why. According to the floor boards and their changing volumes, they were back in the bedroom and moving around.
“Then this morning we saw those military helicopters buzzing around, with their massive machine guns shooting at the ground. We must have hid three or four times. Right?” Another pause. “They seemed to have stopped too. Haven’t seen any for a few hours. Right? But in all that time someone’s set up a field hospital and stocked it with supplies and found people willing to help. That’s what I don’t get.”
The voice changed for the first time in a while.
“You think it’s bollocks?” the skin head said, his tone showing the first sign of a serious edge. The short guy spoke again, finding a new confidence.
“I’ve got no fucking idea. I’m just saying it don’t seem right, that’s all.”
The skin head huffed a reply, his voice all of sudden loud as if he was the other side of the door. I tried to calm my breath, fearing he was so close he could hear the pound of my chest.
“I tell you what don’t seem right. When a place like this gets done out like a New York apartment and is abandoned for ten months of the year because their London pad has better internet access and the local shop sells beard oil, leaving people like me, honest and hard working, priced out of the market.”
“Honest?” came the short guy’s reply and I heard what sounded like a pained call.
“Anyway, for once you might be right, but wrong somehow. I reckon there’s more going on,” said the skin head.
“Huh?” said the short guy, their voices getting quieter. I crept up closer to the door, but still I couldn’t quite make out the words anymore. I looked back to Cassie, but even though we’d been in here for an age, my night vision needed at least something to work with. I was blind. Swapping the screwdriver to my left hand, I found the handle with my right. Slowing my breath, I tried again to listen. A hurrying call came from out on the road. I could only make out the tone.
“It was four or five days ago, I think. It wasn’t even mentioned on the news,” came the skins head’s voice suddenly clear. “Shit. The cupboard.”
I’d missed the interesting part of what was said, only the last few words coming through clear as day. The floorboards under the carpet creaked, vibrating with a speed that left me no time to decide, no time to hold the handle firm, to lean against the door, or move my meagre weapon to my strongest hand before the light poured in and forced my eyes into a squint. I wasn’t surprised to see the short guy stood there. Wasn’t surprised to see him pull up to a stop, his hand right hand still on the handle as he swung it open, his left hand empty. He looked up from the floor and our eyes locked, our faces sharing the same shocked expression.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One