“Where do you think you’re going?” said Blink.
Stan ignored him. He left the living room and headed for the front door.
“I’m talking to you!”
“Stan?” said Clifford.
Stan spun to face them. “Gabby’s the only one of you I trust. If she isn’t coming back, I’m out of here. I’m going get my mum.”
“How you going to do that hero?” said Blink.
Stan ignored him and yanked the door. It didn’t move. Halfway down were mortice and Yale locks. The top and bottom bolts had been secured with padlocks.
He took a step back and landed a solid kick alongside the locks. The door remained implacable, barely rattling under the impact. He slammed the sole of his foot into it again, channelling his energy down his leg. Again nothing. Gritting his teeth, he attacked it ferociously.
Blink was shouting at Clifford. “Use it. Go on use it now.”
“He’s a boy.”
Stan kicked the door one more time, then panting turned towards the deathlings. “Open it now, or I’m going to start shouting and everybody from here to town will hear.”
“Please calm down, Stan,” said Clifford.
“Just do it,” said Blink.
Clifford pulled a red plastic box from his pocket.
“Use it now!”
Clifford changed his grip on the plastic box and Stan realised what it was. When the floater pulled the trigger, two wires shot out and darts at the tip of each wire embedded themselves in Stan’s chest. Suddenly, he was on the floor, body ridged and thrashing, jaw clenched, waves of pain washing through his body.
A Taser, like the police used to subdue violent criminals. They were electrocuting him.
He passed out.
His eyelids flickered open and closed. Clifford had looped a towel under his body and arms and was hauling him upstairs. Stan’s head bumped against every step. Clifford cursed. Water tumbled from his mouth. Blink offered advice. The deathlings argued. Clifford stood on the bed, hauling him up with the towel. The door closed. A lock clicked.
His eyes closed.
When he came to, it was dark. He had a pounding headache and every muscle in his body ached. He’d bitten his tongue and the lump of healing skin rubbed against his teeth. Dried blood crusted his lips. They’d left him a glass of water and a couple of painkillers on the bedside table. He swallowed them and gulped down the water.
The bedroom door was locked. He rattled the handle, banged on the door and called out to them. Clifford padded upstairs.
“Let me out, now.”
“It’s for your own good. If you go out there they’re going to get you.”
Stan thumped he door. “There doesn’t seem much difference between you and them to me.”
“Sorry.” Clifford’s footsteps headed back down stairs. “I’ll bring up supper later. I’m so sorry.”
Nobody answered Stan’s calls after that. He peered through the curtains. Maybe he could call out to a passerby. Claim he’d been kidnapped, get them to call the police; but now his anger had subsided, a nagging fear held him back. Blink was right; what if Sergeant Moses’ armbands were in the street? They could be clambering over the rooftops on patrol. They could be anywhere.
He sat on the edge of his bed and thumped the pillow. He could hear Clifford and Blink talking downstairs. He was sick of being lied to. All these years his mum had been protecting him, running from Sergeant Moses, moving from flat to flat; protecting him, but lying to him. Now Gabby was doing the same. She’d said his mum was safe, that she had a plan, but how could any of them be safe when there was a traitor in the resistance.
He realised that the voices weren’t downstairs, they were floating up from the front garden. He couldn’t hear words, whoever was out there was talking in low tones, but he could sense their urgency. He crept to the window and peeked through the curtains. Heart thumping he jumped back.
“No … No … No.”
The full moon had offered him a glimpse of the scene below and a glimpse was all he needed. Moonlight lit Blink’s eyeballs. Opposite him was a tall, shadowed figure. Stan wouldn’t have known who it was except for the glint of moonlight on the knives sticking out of his chest.
He peered out the window again. He was too late. They’d moved to the side of the house. A key rattled in the front door. They were coming in.
Blink was the traitor.
Stan opened the curtains. The big tree moved under a gentle wind. He tugged at the old-fashioned sash window. It wouldn’t budge. Six inch nails had been driven through the frames deep into the brickwork.
Voices downstairs. Footsteps climbing towards the bedroom. The stairs creaking. Laughter.
The bedside table wasn’t as heavy as Stan expected. He heaved it above his head, staggered on the spot as he fought for balance, then rushed forward and hurled it through the window. Glass shattered, falling in a moonlit shower. The bedside table crunched and burst into pieces.
Feet thundered up the stairs. Voices shouted. Blink’s deep tones, Clifford and another.
Stan wrapped a sheet around one hand and punched out the remaining shards of glass.
A key rattled in the lock. Hurry up you idiot, said somebody.
Stan backed up to the bed and took a deep breath. The lock clicked. Hinges squeaked. He ran as fast as he could, launching himself head first through the window. For a second, he was in midair, two storeys up, the moonlit garden beneath him. A branch smacked into his stomach, winding him, and he dropped down to a lower branch. Smaller branches and leaves whipped his face. He bounced from branch to branch, unable to grab hold, like a ball in a bagatelle. He scraped his back against bark.
“Stop.” Clifford’s voice from above.
Stan grabbed a branch and it bent beneath his weight. Twigs and leaves snapped free as he slid down its length. He skinned his palms. The air smelt of sap.
His knees buckled. For a second, he was disoriented, expecting another branch to snap and his fall to continue. He straightened up. He was standing in the garden.
“Get back here you idiot.” It was Blink this time.
Stan didn’t look back. He didn’t see Clifford duck back inside, followed by Blink. He didn’t see the third deathling lean out the window; a tall deathling with three cameras strung around his neck. In the moonlight the camera lens flashed almost like metal dagger hilts.
Stan ran into the night and was swallowed by shadow.