Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 59

It was then that I realised that I was naked, at least semi-naked. I had my pants on, but a pair of boxer briefs do not provide much warmth to the upper body. So, that partly explained the cold, but what about being uncomfortable. That was due to the fact that I seemed to be lying on a solid floor, stone or something. Suddenly a feeling of empty fear seemed to fill me. Was I alone here? Where were Simone and Joseph? I felt like I wanted to cry.

There was one piece of the blackness that did not seem quite as black as the rest of the blackness. I raised my head a bit to try to look at it.

"Johnny?" Simone's voice asked from the darkness. At least I was not alone.

"Where the fuck are we?" I asked. "Where's Joseph?"

"Joseph is next to you. He's the smallest of us, so will probably be out longer. Where we are, I have no idea. It seems to be some sort of cell."

As she said that, her voice got closer, and I could make out a human shape in the darkness. Reaching out, I touched Joseph and was relieved to feel his chest rise and fall. I also realised that I could make out other shapes in the darkness. Everything was black, but some black seemed blacker than others, an observation I expressed.

"Your eyes are getting accustomed to the dark," Simone told me. "There is some sort of window high in the one wall. I guess it must be night out, but a vestige of light is coming in from the stars."

I sensed more than saw Simone sitting next to me.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

"Like the morning after a booze-up but without the headache," I told her.

"You'll feel better soon."

I sensed a movement from Joseph. There was some incomprehensible mumble from him.

"Just lie still for a bit, Joseph," Simone instructed. "Open your eyes slowly."

There was stillness for a few minutes, then I felt a movement from Joseph.

"I can't see!" he exclaimed.

"That's because it's dark," I told him.

"What time is it?"

"I've no idea," I told him.

"Where're my bloody clothes?"

"I've no idea," I stated.

"Can you stop repeating yourself, Johnny?"

"I've no idea," I said, unable to resist the temptation. Simone laughed.

"Alright, you two, let's try and work out what we can about our situation," Simone instructed. "I've been awake longer than you two, so I've done a bit of feeling around."

"How come you've been awake longer?" Joseph asked.

"Probably because I've got a bigger body mass than either of you," Simone replied. "That was a jet injector they were using. It would have supplied a standard dose to each of us. Probably of a fast-acting tranquilizer such as lorazepam that can be delivered intermuscularly. That would not have kept us out this long, so I suspect they gave us something stronger while we were out. I doubt they worked out the dosage for us all individually, so we probably all got the same. I must have a good ten kilos on Johnny and even more on you, Joseph, so it wore off faster on me."

"How long do you think we've been out?" I asked.

"No idea, but it must be at least eight or nine hours," Simone replied. "Any idea what time sunset was?"

"Just after nine," Joseph replied.

"Then it must be well after ten by now," Simone stated.

"How'd you work that out?" I asked.

"Johnny, after sunset there is a period of twilight, when it is not totally dark. There's a window up there — it looks totally dark to me outside now — so I guess it's well past ten."

"So, we've been out for at least seven hours," I stated.

"Probably longer," Simone stated. "If they gave us what I think they would have used, we were probably out for at least twelve."

"That explains why I need to piss," Joseph stated. Now he said that I realised I needed to piss, too.

"If you feel towards your left, Joseph, you will find a wall. Follow that to the end; there is what feels like a bucket in the corner on the floor. At least, I hope it's a bucket, as I've already pissed in it."

I felt Joseph start to edge away from me towards his left. I decided to follow. As he moved, I could sense him getting up onto his feet, a stance I thought might be wise to assume. Joseph confirmed he had found the wall. As I was just behind him, I stretched out my arm past him and touched the wall. Somehow, finding a solid barrier in that darkness was comforting. It meant that there were some confines and we were not likely to go stumbling off into some unseen void.

Carefully, Joseph and I felt our way along the wall. Simone told us to be careful; we did not want to bump into the bucket and knock it over since she had already pissed into it. Joseph kept up a commentary of what he could feel as he edged his way forward. Suddenly, he stopped, informing us that he had felt the bucket with his foot. What followed was a bit of a dance in the dark as we each tried to position ourselves so we could use the bucket.

Simone suggested we should kneel so we did not have to aim, commenting that she did not want our piss all over the cell floor. It was advice we took, and soon I heard Joseph's flow of urine depositing into the bucket. My own flow of fluid quickly joined it.

That task completed, the two of us made our way back, with some care, to where Simone was. By now, though, my eyes were a lot more accustomed to the dark — at least I thought they were as I could make more shapes out. I could make out that Simone was wearing one of those things that form both a bra and a corset. There is a special name for them, but I could not recall it, a fact I commented on. It was getting lighter.

"It's called a basque. I think you're right; it's getting a bit lighter outside," Simone commented. "Maybe the moon has risen."

I looked in the direction where I knew the window was. She was right, now I could clearly see a lighter grey area in the overall darkness.

"There'll be no moonrise," Joseph told us. "It's the dark of the moon."

"Blast! We'll just have to hope it's the first sign of dawn," Simone stated. As if to dash her hopes, it suddenly started to get darker again.

"It's clouds," Joseph stated. "There must have been a break in the clouds which allowed more starlight through."

"I hope we get another break soon," I commented. "It makes moving around in here easier."

Both Joseph and Simone agreed.

"I suppose the fact that they took our phones and watches means—"

"Enough, Johnny," Simone said. "Don't talk about anything unless we are sure that they already know about it. We don't want to give them information they do not have."

"You mean this place is bugged?" I asked.

"Best to assume it is. I know if I was running this operation, I'd have it bugged," she replied.

"We'll just have to hope they are not as clever as you, then," Joseph commented.

"We can always hope," I said.

"That's all we can do," Simone stated. "However, I think these guys are pretty clever."

"What makes you say that?" I asked.

"Well, for a start, they knew that our watches and phones had trackers," she stated. "Sending them off with that drone will confuse things no end. Then they knew about the security details and the security staff at the Priory."

"What about those at the Priory?" I asked.

"They had blocked the junction with Marsh Lane," Simone informed me. "Neal and Allen were on their way to us after we were stopped. They had just got down the hill to find the junction to Marsh Lane blocked with an abandoned artic right across it."

"They clearly knew where we would be when," I stated.

"That they did; the question is how?" Simone replied.

"Well, somebody must have told them," I stated, being careful not to mention that we knew that there was a spy in the camp.

"Who knew you were picking up Joseph today?" Simone asked.

"Well, my Dad knew; no doubt he told Mum. I told Neil and Allen my travel plans; of course, Joseph knew," I stated. "Steve knew I was coming into college to collect my results. Oh! Colin knew I was picking up Joseph."

"Colin knew!" Joseph exclaimed "How?"

"Well, Steve asked him to work Thursday, so I explained why I would not be able to give him a lift. He asked what time I was coming back from college to see if I could pick him up on the way back, but I told him I had to pick you up, about two…"

I paused for a moment, thinking about that conversation before I continued. "Actually, he asked me which route I would be coming back — if I would be passing the yards."

"That would give them enough information to target us," Simone stated.

"You think it was Colin?" I asked.

"Who else could it be?" Joseph replied. "You told me he had been involved with the Hendersons."

"He was their victim!" I pointed out.

"So, he claims," responded Joseph.

Somehow, I did not want to go there with that line of thinking. The idea that Colin might have betrayed me made me feel sick.

"You know it is getting lighter," Simone stated.

I looked up at the window. It was now clearly lighter than it had been.

"It's probably the false dawn," Joseph commented.

"I wish I knew what time it was," I stated.

"Probably about five-thirty," Joseph replied. "Sunrise is around six, and in the UK, we get about half an hour of twilight before the actual sunrise at this time of year. That's the false dawn."

"Actually, it's not," Simone stated. "The true false dawn is something different. You only tend to see it in the East.

"Joseph's right about the twilight, though. You notice it about half an hour before sunrise."

The room we were in was becoming discernible. I realized I knew where we were.

"I know this place," Joseph announced.

"So, do I," I stated.

"Well, where are we?" Simone asked.

"We're in one of the cells the blockhouse on the Nase," I told her. "It belongs to Steve, but he's not using it. It hasn't been used for ages. They must have cleared the place out, it was full of wood last time I was here."

"That makes sense," Simone said. "I could not work out how they could have got us away from where they snatched us. It's certain that all roads out would have been closed before we were even out of things. Neal already had the police on that."

"But we were only a hundred yards or so from the chain ferry," I pointed out. "There is a public dock there."

"And there was a motor launch there when we came past this morning," Simone stated.

"Was there? I never noticed," I said.

"Well, I'm trained to notice things like that."

"Wouldn't that have been risky?" Joseph asked. "Anybody could have seen them."

"Not sure that's so," I replied. "You can see the loading ramp for the chain ferry from a couple of the yards, but you can't see the public dock. That's on the inlet at the side of the loading ramp. It can't be seen from any of the yards. In fact, I am not sure you can see it from the loading ramp on the other side. About the only place you can see it from is from the top of High Marsh if you are directly across from it."

"So, you two know this place," Simone stated. "What can you tell me about it?"

For the next hour or so, Joseph and I told Simone everything we knew. She kept asking us questions, some of them very detailed. I was just starting to tell her about the layout outside when I heard voices approaching. They were speaking German. Then, one of the voices instructed no more German and it went quiet. Then we heard the clanging of a metal door.

"It seems our captors are back," Simone observed. "I suggest we get as far back from the door as we can. Cuddle up in a corner, if possible."

"Why?" I asked as another door clanged.

"I'll tell you later," Simone stated. "For now, just do it."

We did. Then another door clanged, and I could clearly make out voices. They were speaking Spanish.

A couple of minutes later we heard a scraping noise from outside the door to the cell. Then the door swung open, allowing light to come in. A man stepped into the cell holding a pistol. He instructed us to stand up and stand against the back wall. When we did, he stepped further into the room. Then the tall man with the blond hair entered, followed by the woman we had seen yesterday. She appeared to be carrying a rolled-up newspaper.

"Give the boy the newspaper," the tall man instructed. He did not indicate which of the two of us she should give it to. She looked at him as if about to ask a question. "It does not matter which one."

She walked forward until she was about a metre and a half from us, then extended her right arm, pushing the rolled-up newspaper towards me. "Here, take this."

I did. She scurried back to stand beside the tall man.

"Open the paper and hold it in front of you with the front page showing," he instructed.

I did as I was told. There was a flash, followed by another, and another. The woman was holding a camera, taking photos.

"That should do," the tall man said. "Now get their supplies."

The woman scurried out.

The tall man addressed us. "I am Master Hans. While you are useful to me, you will live; obey me, you will live. Should you disobey me or no longer be useful to me, you will die. I will make sure your death is enjoyable, at least for me."

The woman came back in with a pack of what looked like bottles. She placed them down at the far end of the cell, then went out again.

"There are twelve litres of water there, which should be sufficient for you." The woman returned with a large bag she placed down by the bottles. Master Hans continued. "There is some food and basic supplies you might need in the bag. We will be back this evening with more supplies for you. After all, we do not want you to starve."

While he was talking, the woman took the bucket we had been pissing in. For what seemed to be ages, everybody just stood in the room, silent. By the look of things, Master Hans was getting annoyed.

"Erika!" he shouted.

"Coming, master," the woman shouted from some distance away. Shortly after she came back into the cell, panting and carrying the bucket. She had clearly been running. The bucket was put back where it had been before. Once that was in place, Master Hans left, followed by the woman, and finally the gun-toting thug. The moment he stepped through the door, it slammed shut. Simone ran across the room to the door.

"What the—" Joseph shouted. Simone signalled him to be quiet. She stood by the door listening. I joined her. We heard the scraping sound, which I assumed was them making the door secure. Then they were speaking in Spanish.

After a few minutes, the voices faded. We heard a door clang shut, then the next, and the next, and finally the final door.

Simone repeated the sign for silence and listened at the cell door. I got the impression she was counting. Her left hand was curled up, but every few minutes she uncurled a finger. Finally, as the last finger uncurled, she let out a sigh.

"I'm fairly certain they are gone," she said.

"Yes, but they are coming back this evening," Joseph said.

"Yes, to kill us," Simone stated.

"What! You're joking. Aren't you?" Joseph asked.

"She's not, Joseph. They were saying that tonight the yacht will be offshore. They will take us there before they dispose of us." I felt like screaming but knew I had to remain calm and put on a show for the other two.

"But it sounded to me like they were speaking Spanish," Joseph said.

"They were," Simone stated. "Both Johnny and I speak versions of Occitan. It's actually closer to Italian than Spanish, but most Occitan speakers can follow the gist of a Spanish conversation."

"Actually, for me things are a bit simpler," I stated. Joseph and Simone both looked at me. "My mother insisted I do an immersion course in Latin American Spanish during the holidays when I was ten or eleven. She made me do the Michel Thomas language course, as well. I don't speak it but can follow the language."

"So, we need to find a way out of here," Simone stated.

"How the fuck are we going to do that?" Joseph asked. "There's a wanking great plank of wood across that door, secured by two metal things it drops into."

"A drop bar. Is that all that holds the door shut?" Simone asked.

"Yes," I told her.

"Well, first let's get something to drink," Simone stated. She went over to the pack of bottles, tore the plastic wrap open, then removed one of the bottles. Opening the top, she took a good swig of it, before offering the bottle to Joseph. "I'll just have to hope you two are both clean. You are swapping so many juices it does not matter if your share the bottle."

"You could have your own," Joseph pointed out.

"Best to share," Simone replied. "Water is likely to be valuable for us; no point in opening a bottle if it is not necessary. Too much risk of knocking it over and it spilling."

I could see the point in that and took a good swig from the bottle before passing it back to Simone. The bottle made another three rounds before it was empty. It was then placed to one side.

"Right, better get down to business," Simone stated.

She started to undo her basque.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"What does it look like? I'm taking this off."


"Because it's boned." I looked at her puzzled. "Johnny, it's got boning in it. If we get the boning out, we can use it to slide through the gap each side of the door and lift the drop bar. Now, give me a hand."

I did but found it a bit embarrassing. As I undid the last hook at the back, the whole assemblage fell forward, revealing a bosom that was a lot more ample than I had realised.

"Never seen a girl's tits before?" Simone commented.

I realised I had been staring. "Not that big," I replied.

"Now we need to find a way to cut this stitching," Simone said. "Wish we had a knife."

"Johnny, can you hoist me up on your shoulders so I can get to the window?" Joseph asked.

"Of course," I told him, going down on my heels so he could climb onto me. "Why?"

"If I remember right, there are some broken panes in the window, so there is likely to be some glass shards on the sill."

Joseph was right. That is why we could hear the voices as they approached this morning and why it was so cold in the night. The window was broken.

With Joseph perched on my shoulder I walked over and stood under the window. Joseph leaned forward and reached out. It was a good job I was up against the wall, otherwise his movement would have toppled me over. As it was, I could support myself against the wall.

"Got them," Joseph shouted triumphantly. I eased down, still using the wall for support, to allow Joseph to dismount. He went over to Simone and placed some shards of glass on the floor by her.

"Johnny, check what's in the bag, can you?" Simone instructed.

I went over to the bag and started to remove the contents, announcing them to Simone and Joseph. Sandwiches, six packs, a couple of rolls of toilet paper. Considerate of them."

"We'll probably need them," Simone pointed out.

"There are three packs of wet wipes and some nappy disposal bags.

"Bring a pack of wet wipes over, will you, please?" Simone asked.

I did. She opened the pack and removed a couple of wet wipes, then wrapped them around the end of one of the shards of glass. She then took hold of the wrapped end of the shard and started to attack the stitching at the base of the basque with the unwrapped end.

"Why wet wipe? Why not just toilet paper?" I asked.

"Wet wipes, Johnny, are reinforced, usually with plastic thread, to stop them falling apart whilst damp and still allow them to disintegrate when immersed in water. So, for things like this, they are stronger than toilet paper," she informed me.

With some effort she managed to slice through some stitching. Then she started to unpick it.

"Why not just cut the cloth?" Joseph asked.

"It's Kevlar under the silk," Simone informed him.

"A bullet-proof basque!" I exclaimed.

"Not quite, but it is stab resistant," Simone replied. "Has come in useful a couple of times. Now let's see..."

From within the body of the basque she withdrew a length of metal, about a centimetre wide and a good twenty-plus centimetres in length.

"That must cause problems with airport security," I commented.

"Why do you think I prefer to use ferries and the tunnel," Simone replied. I laughed.

Another couple of minutes work and another set of stitching was undone and another length of metal extracted from the bodywork of the basque.

"Thank God, Madame Jenni is old fashioned," Simone said.

"Who's Madame Jenni?" I asked.

"My corsetier in Toulouse. She insists on using metal boning. Most modern corsetiers have gone over to plastic. Now, help me back into this."

"You sure?" I asked, thinking it must be a bit uncomfortable.

"Don't want you looking at my tits and getting distracted." Simone quipped as I helped to fasten the hooks on the back of the basque. "Anyway, I'd like to have the bit of protection it will give."

"And I can assure you that I do not find your tits distracting. They are nowhere near as nice as Joseph's."

Simone gave me a clip to the back of the head. She then set to work. First, she wrapped the ends of the two pieces of metal in wet wipes.

"We'll leave these to dry for a bit. Should not take long," she informed Joseph and me.

"How long?" I asked. "And why?"

"Should not take more than about half an hour. They dry out pretty fast. Why, is simple. As they dry, the fibres of the paper contract. Ever tried to tear a dry wet wipe?"

"No, can't say I have."

"Well, Johnny, it's not easy. Dry, they are a lot stronger than when they are wet. They will make better handles for us on the lifters when we come to use them."

"Lifters?" I asked.

"The two pieces of metal with which we are going to lift that drop bar."

Simone than started to ask us about the layout of the place again and its surroundings. It must have taken the best part of an hour to go over everything. While we were talking, I heard a steam whistle sound.

"It must be eight o'clock," I stated.

"How do you know?" Joseph asked.

"The whistle, Joseph. It's the works whistle at the wood mill on the road to Lynnhaven."

"But that's miles away," Joseph objected.

"By road, yes, but as the crow flies, I doubt if it is more than half a mile down the coast."

Joseph was quiet, thinking about things. It was not long before he nodded to himself. "You're probably right. I remember hearing it when we were at Uncle Joseph's, and he is on the other side of the Blackwater. He used to time our sailing by it. When he heard the afternoon whistle, it was time to sail back so we would be at his place in time for dinner."

"So, it goes off at set times?" Simone asked.

"Yes," I told her. "Eight in the morning for start of shift, then at twelve-thirty for the start of the lunch break, again at one-thirty for return to work and at five for end of shift. Of course, nobody is dependent on it these days, but the sounding of the steam whistle is a bit of a tradition."

"At least, it will give us some idea of time," Simone pointed out.

It was not long after that, that Simone decided the wet wipe wraps had dried enough to be useful. She handed one of the pieces of wrapped metal to me. Told Joseph to get the wrapped piece of glass. Then she took the other piece of metal and led the way over to the door.

"Johnny, at what height is the bar on the other side, roughly?" she asked. I indicated a point about halfway up the door.

"Any idea how deep the fixtures are it slots into?"

"Sorry, Simone, I don't know," I told her.

"They're the same depth as the bar is wide," Joseph stated.

"Are you sure?" I asked, wondering how he knew.

"Yes, I remember pointing out to Steve that the bar must have been the original as it fitted the hooks perfectly. The top of the hook was in line with the bar."

"That makes life easier," Simone commented. "Right, Johnny, I want you to push the metal strip you have through the gap on that side of the door at about the same level as I have pushed mine through. OK?"

I looked over at her, saw where she was pushing her metal strip in and nodded, then replied, "OK", as I pushed my metal strip through the gap at the side of the door.

"Now, slowly slide your strip up the gap between the door and the frame until you feel resistance. Don't try to push anything up yet."

I did as Simone had instructed. About fifteen centimetres from where I had inserted the strip, I met resistance and stopped. I looked across at Simone, she was still pushing her strip up. She stopped and looked across at me.

"Can't be the bar. We would have been level on both sides. Most likely a hinge. Joseph, can you make a scratch on the door level with the top of Johnny's strip?"

Joseph did as directed.

"Right, Johnny, pull your strip out, then reinsert it at the same level as mine."

I did.

"Now slowly take it down till you meet resistance." I did. It was stopped about five centimetres above where I had met resistance before.

"Joseph, can you mark the bottom point of Johnny's strip on the door, please?"

Joseph complied with the request.

"How far apart are the marks?" Simone asked.

"Three, maybe four, centimetres," Joseph replied.

"Almost certainly a hinge then," Simone stated. "Right, Johnny; reinsert your strip level with mine and we will start again."

I did as requested. We slowly started to move our strips up, keeping level with each other as much as we could. The strips had not moved up more than about ten centimetres from where I had reinserted mine, when we both met resistance. Simone asked Joseph to mark the positions.

"That, boys, is the bottom of the retaining bar. Now we have to find the top."

"Why?" Joseph asked.

"So that we can know how far we have to move it," Simone replied.

Simone withdrew her strip of metal, then reinserted it about thirty centimetres above where it had been before, telling me to do the same. I did. We then slowly moved the metal strips down the cracks between the door and its frame until we found the top of the bar. Again, Joseph scratched marks into the paint of the door to show the position of the bar. Simone stepped back, pulling her metal strip out from the door and indicating that I should do the same.

"Looks like it's about ten centimetres," she said. I think mostly to herself. "It's going to be heavy."

"Right, Johnny, this is not going to be easy," she continued. "These strips are designed for boning corsets, not lifting heavy pieces of wood, but they are all we have. What we need to do is make sure we keep them as level with each other as we can. There is going to be a lot of pressure on them, so we will probably need two hands to lift. Best to start using two hands from the start, like this."

She showed me how to grip the end of the metal strip with one hand and then wrap the other hand around it.

"Joseph, when Johnny and I start lifting the bar, we will need you to keep an eye on where we are. As soon as we are two centimetres above your top mark, you'll say NOW. Johnny, when Joseph says now, tilt your strip forward, like this, to about forty-five degrees. The bar should then fall forward and away from the door."

As she said this, she demonstrated what she meant. I told her I understood.

"Right, let's try this. Put your strip in, Johnny, about five centimetres below the bottom mark."

I did as instructed. On the other side, Simone was doing the same. Joseph stepped between us.

"Now bring it up to the base of the bar," Simone told me. I did.

"Alright, Johnny, take a few deep breaths, then when I say go, we start to lift the bar. Do it slowly. Try to keep your side level with mine."

I nodded to Simone that I understood. She gave the signal to start, and I tried to lift the bar. At first nothing happened, then I felt the bar start to move. Slowly, trying to keep level with Simone, I moved my end of the bar upwards. It seemed to take an age, but then Joseph shouted, "NOW!"

I tilted my metal strip forward and felt the bar start to slide on it. Simone must have done the same because after a second or two, the weight of the bar vanished and there was an almighty crash from outside the door. Simone pushed on the door, and it opened a couple of inches, then jammed.

"Fuck!" Simone exclaimed. "The bar's jamming it."

I stepped back, then threw my whole weight at the door, hitting it with a full-on shoulder strike, using everything I had tried to forget about since playing rugby at school. The door moved. Not much, but it moved. There was now a somewhat wider gap.

"I can get through that," Joseph announced and immediately started to squeeze through the gap and around the end of the door. He vanished from sight. There was a scraping noise of something being dragged, then the door swung open. Simone and I stepped through it into the room beyond. However, it was difficult to see anything, the only light being what came through from the cell door.

I could just about make out the furniture in the room. There was a pile of something on the table. Joseph moved over to see if he could make out what was there. Beyond that there seemed to be a larger pile of stuff in the corner, blocking the door to the second cell. I guessed that was the stuff that had been cleared out of our cell.

"It's our clothes," he announced.

"Can you bring them by the door so we can see what's what?" Simone asked.

Joseph picked up the small table with the pile of stuff on it and carried it over and placed it in the light that came through the door. Even then, it was difficult to make things out. One thing I could clearly see was Joseph's white jeans. He grabbed them and pulled them on, then dug into his pocket. A moment later he pulled out his key ring. Then there was a beam of light shining on the tabletop. Joseph had a mini-torch on his keyring.

"Don't know how long this will last," Joseph stated as Simone and I sorted out our clothes. "If we had some matches, we could use candles."

"Do we have candles?" I asked, pulling a tee-shirt over my head.

"Yes, there were some in the first storeroom," Joseph informed me.

"I have a lighter," Simone stated.

"Didn't know you smoked," I commented.

"I don't, but there is a Zippo on my keyring. You never know when one might come in useful. You better tell me what you know about this place."

Joseph explained the layout of the blockhouse to Simone. We were at the back of the blockhouse, in what was the rest room or mess. Beyond this was a comms room, which was separated from this room by a blast door. The comms room had another blast door which led to a corridor about thirty foot long, off which were a number of storerooms and the first aid room. At the end of the corridor was another blast door, beyond which was the main room and a final blast door which led outside.

I finished dressing, then took over holding the torch, enabling Joseph to finish dressing. We then went in search of the candles. Joseph was right, there were some candles in the first storeroom. We set one up and lit it, then had a look around the storeroom. Joseph pulled a box down from one of the shelves and opened it.

"Distress flares! We can fire these out of the window. That should summon help."

"It might also summon them," Simone pointed out. "I suspect that they have left someone to keep an eye on things, if only to warn them if we are found."

"You are probably right," I admitted, disappointed. I rather liked the idea of firing distress flares out of the window.

I took another candle and lit it, then went into the second storeroom, hoping my memory was correct. It was. There were some old hurricane lanterns on one of the shelves. I just hoped that there was some fuel around we could use but thought I had seen some cans in the first storeroom.

I took the lanterns back into the first storeroom. Simone and Joseph had cleared a space on one shelf, where they were now placing stuff they thought we could use.

"Hope this works," Joseph said, holding up an old, wind-up alarm clock that he had pulled from a box.

"Try it," Simone instructed. "If it does, we can make a guess at the time and have some idea of how long we've got to get out of here."

"We can set it to the next time the whistle at the timber mill goes; it'll be twelve thirty," I pointed out. Joseph wound the clock up; it started to tick. I told him I thought it was probably about ten. Simone agreed, so he set the clock to ten.

I could not see the cans that I thought had paraffin in them; Joseph was standing in front of where I thought they were. When I asked him to look, he informed me there were five tins. He pulled one out. It was empty. So was the next one. I was beginning to despair, but the third tin was part full. The next thing was to work out how to pour the paraffin from the can into the lamp. The filling cap on the lamp was, at the most, a centimetre and a half wide. The opening at the top of the can was almost five times that. Any attempt to pour the paraffin from the can into the lamp directly would, no doubt, have resulted in most of the paraffin spilling. That was something we did not want. For a start, it would present a fire hazard in a situation where we could not cope with a fire. Second, we needed to conserve all the fuel we could, as I did not know how much we had.

Simone told me to go and get the empty water bottle and some wet wipes from the cell. I took one of the lighted candles and followed her instructions. When I got back, she was busy heating one end of a junior hacksaw blade in a candle flame. She took the bottle off me and quickly applied the heated hacksaw blade to the plastic body of the bottle. It took a few goes, but she did separate the bottle into two halves cross-wise. While she had been doing that, Joseph had been searching through some of the boxes that had been put to one side.

"Will these do?" he asked holding up what looked like a pair of long handled pliers. "This looks useful, as well." He held up an adjustable wrench.

"Not ideal, but we'll manage," Simone stated. She took the pliers off Joseph, I took the wrench off him and shoved it in my belt. Simone then removed the cap from the top half of the bottle. "Have you found a nail or something?"

"Not yet," Joseph replied as he kept on rummaging. Then there was: "Ah, this will do." He handed a bradawl to Simone. It was about twelve centimetres long with a wooden handle.

"Perfect!" exclaimed Simone. "Won't need the wet wipes."

She placed the bottle cap in the jaws of the pliers, then held it a few centimetres above the flame of the candle. After about a minute she started to poke it from the inside with the bradawl.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Moulding it," she replied. "Bottle tops are thermoplastics. I am heating it up enough that the top gets soft, and I can mould it. However, the pliers are a big enough mass to disperse heat from the sides, so they do not deform."

It did not take Simone long to do what she wanted to do. After less than a couple of minutes, she had deformed the top so it now bulged outward. However, the sides seemed to be as before. Simone removed the bottle top from above the heat and now brought the tip of the bradawl to just above the flame. It was not long before it started to glow. She then jabbed the bradawl through the bulge in the top and wiggled it around to make a larger hole.

"Well, that should do it," she stated. She withdrew the bradawl, then took the top out of the pliers and screwed it back onto the half bottle. "One funnel."

I looked at it and saw how it could work. It was not perfect; there was a little bit of spillage as we filled three of the lanterns. Then we had to pressurize them. Luckily none of the washers had perished, and we soon got all three lanterns pressurized. Although we had no meths to preheat the burner, I remembered being told that you could do it with any flame, so I used one of the candles. It was a bit difficult, but I was able to get them all lit. We now had plenty of light.

We took a quick look in the first-aid room. Simone mentioned that most of the medications would be out of date and probably unsafe to use. I then led the way to the first room in the blockhouse. Simone examined the outside door. Then she asked me to describe how it was secured on the outside. When I told her, she just sighed.

"Well, that puts an end to that idea," she stated.

"What was that?" Joseph asked.

"That we could force the door open from the inside and get out. We'd need an hydraulic jack, at the minimum, to open it with the hinges on the outside, and I've not see one around."

"Neither have I," I stated.

"There's piles of chemicals in the storeroom; couldn't we blow the door?" Joseph asked.

"I don't have the knowledge to make explosives," Simone stated.

"But I do," Joseph told us.

"You what! How?" I asked.

"My Uncle Joseph, the one who had the place across the Blackwater. He had a pyrotechnic licence. Used to make fireworks for big displays. I used to help him, at times. Told you about it at New Year."

I admitted to Joseph that he had, but I had completely forgotten.

"We can look, but the problem would be triggering the explosion," Simone said. "I've seen no electronics around, so it would have to be triggered locally, which means that whoever triggers it could get caught in the explosion. Not desirable."

"Unless that's what you want," I stated.

They both looked at me.

"Think about it, if we could get Master Hans and his acolytes to trigger the explosion it would work in our favour."

Then I thought of something. I looked around the room and confirmed I was right. In the corner were a number of acetylene bottles. Going over to them I checked the gauges. None of them were full, but they all had some gas in them.

"What are you thinking?" Joseph asked.

"The door from this room to the corridor is a blast door that opens into this room, correct?" I asked.

"Yes," they both answered.

"And the other doors down the corridor are blast doors?"

"Yes," Joseph said. Simone just nodded her head.

"This place is a bunker; all the walls are a couple of feet of cast concrete."

"So, what's your point?" Simone asked.

"If we rigged a trigger that would fire when somebody tried to open the outside door and then filled this room with gas, the resulting explosion would blow the door open, probably injuring whoever was outside. The blast doors and walls would contain the explosion to this room."

"Only one problem," Joseph said. "How do we keep the gas in this room? The window is broken, and it will seep round the blast doors and fill the rest of the blockhouse and we'll all go up."

"There are some tubes of silicon sealant in the second storeroom."

"There are?"


"It could work," Simone stated. "Only problem is if anyone friendly finds us first. It would blow them up."

"First, what's the chance of them finding us first?" I asked.

"Probably bloody low," Simone admitted.

"Second, the path down to here comes by the back of the building, where the cell is. We can keep watch from there for anyone coming."

"Are you sure?" Simone asked.

"Yes," I told her. "We would need something to stand on to look out of the window, but we could see them. Then, we could set off one of the distress flares to get them to come to the window and warn them."

"We could pass them some of that rope in the storeroom, so they could fix it to the door and pull it open from a distance," Joseph suggested.

"That would work," Simone observed.

"I'm hungry," Joseph said. The moment he said it, I realised I was, too.

"Let's go back to the room next to the cell. There are chairs there. We can grab a sandwich. Joseph, can you get the clock from the storeroom; we might as well have it with us," Simone said.

Joseph said he would, and we made our way to the back of the blockhouse with one of the lanterns. I went into the cell and came back with some of the sandwiches and a bottle of water. We sat eating our sandwiches and talking about the pros and cons of my idea. There were a lot of cons, but there was one very big pro. There was a good chance it would blow Master Hans to smithereens, an outcome I found I had totally no objection to.

We had just finished our sandwiches when I heard the whistle from the timber mill.

"What time is that?" Joseph asked as he picked up the clock.

"Twelve-thirty," I stated. Joseph looked at the clock, then started to adjust it.

"We weren't that far out," he stated. "It was showing one. I wonder what time they will come?"

"It will be after six," I said.

"Why after six?" Simone asked.

"They won't want to be seen. Sooner or later Steve's going to come here, and when he does, he will know we've been here. At least that someone's been here, and he will no doubt call the police. It would not take long to put two and two together and guess we were held here. If they have been seen coming here, they can be linked in.

"They won't come here until the yards are closed. They took too big a risk bringing us here when they were open."

"You're right," Simone stated. "So, it will be after six. I would guess they will probably play safe and leave it till gone seven, but it will be before it is dark."

"Why before it is dark?" Joseph asked.

"Because they won't want to use torches as they might attract attention; you told me that the path down here is pretty rough."

"It is, Simone," I assured her. "What time is sunset?"

"It's about eight-thirty," Joseph said.

"Well, we'd better get started setting our trap," Simone said.

We got up and made our way back to the storerooms. I was pleased to find that I was right about there being tubes of silicon sealant there. They were in the second storeroom, a couple of tubes lying on top of a box. I took the tubes; then, for no particular reason, I opened the cardboard box. It had another dozen or so tubes of sealant in it and two applicator guns.

"We need something to cut the nozzle," I pointed out. "In a pinch, we could try the glass shards."

"There must be some knives in this place somewhere," Simone opined. We started to search. No knives were found, but I did find a packet of single-edged razor blades, which for what we wanted, was just as good. I placed one of the tubes of sealant in the dispenser, then cut off the end of the nozzle. I made a cut well up the length of the nozzle. There was no point in being neat, I wanted to make sure we had a good amount of silicon sealant in place to prevent the gas leaking.

"What are we going to do about the window?" Joseph asked.

"Get the plastic shopping bag the food was in and bring me a chair," Simone instructed Joseph. "I'll get some cardboard."

Joseph and Simone went off, leaving me piping sealant around the entry door to the block house. I had just finished one side of the door when Simone returned with a sheet of cardboard, obviously cut from one of the bigger boxes in one of the storerooms. She also had a roll of what looked like duct tape. Joseph arrived back with the bag and a chair. Simone placed the chair under the window, then standing on it, cut the cardboard using one of the razor blades so it fitted in the window. She then got down off the chair. She slit the bag along its two edges; the plastic was then spread out on the floor and the cut-out piece of cardboard laid on top of it. Simone folded over the edges of the plastic and affixed them in position using the duct tape. Then she placed the plastic-covered card into the window, blocking out what light there was. Fortunately, I had brought one of the hurricane lanterns into the room, so had light for work.

"Johnny, when you have finished sealing the door, can you seal around the card in the window, please?" Simone asked.

"Yes. What are you two going to do?"

"I'm going to look at the chemicals and see if I can find something we can use to trigger this explosion," Joseph stated with some degree of glee.

"And I'm going to see if we can find anything else useful in those storerooms," Simone announced.

I finished the sealant around the door, then put a bead of sealant around the card in the window. I put another bead around it just to be on the safe side.

"FOUND IT!" Joseph shouted from the first storeroom.

I went to see what he had found. He was showing Simone a jar of something and holding a bottle of something else in his other hand.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Iodine crystals," Joseph said shaking the jar, "and an ammonia solution."

"What does that do?" I asked.

"What did you learn at school?" Joseph asked. "Every schoolkid knows how to make nitrogen triiodide ."

"I don't. What is it?"

"It is a very powerful, sensitive and highly unstable contact explosive," Joseph explained. "Didn't you make it at school and paint it on the blackboard, so there was a loud bang and purple smoke when the teacher went to write on it with chalk?"

"No," I stated. "All the schools I went to used white boards."

"That's probably why," Simone stated. "The teachers would be able to see if anything had been painted on the board.

"I had heard of it. My grandfather used to talk about doing it when he was not talking about blowing safes. He never told us how to make it, though."

"Well, I just need something non-metallic to mix things in and then a brush to paint it onto the surface. Johnny, there's some thin chain in the other storeroom. Could you break a length off? It needs to be fixed to the door handle of the outside door and laid across the doorsill. You should be able to break it with those pliers we found," Joseph said.

"You could use the bottom of the bottle Simone used to make the funnel to mix it in. I'll sort the chain out. There is a pile of brushes in a box on the bottom shelf in the other storeroom."

I left Joseph to it, grabbed the pliers and went to find this chain he had mentioned. It was on one of the shelves in the second storeroom, I think it was the type of chain that used to be used for lavatory pulls. The links were of thin metal and were not welded together, so I could easily undo them with the pliers. Making a loop, I affixed it to the handle of the door, then ran the chain down and along the sill of the door. That done, I returned to the storeroom where Joseph was. He had clearly gone and got one of the brushes, because there was a two-inch paint brush lying on the shelf he was working on. As both Simone and I watched, he poured a quantity of the iodine crystals into the bottom half of the water bottle. He then poured in sufficient ammonia just to cover them. The stink of the ammonia filled the room. Joseph stirred the mix until the crystals were dissolved.

We then went back to the main room with the outside door. As we entered Simone put her hand out and stopped me. She pointed to the door jam.

"Have you looked at this?" she asked.

"No," I replied then I looked. I saw what had caught her attention. There was a rim all around the door jam and it appeared to be lined with felt. It even continued across the floor where there was a small, raised sill that the door would abut against when shut.

"Is that what I am thinking?" Simone asked.

"That depends on what you are thinking," I said.

"Gas doors?"

"It would make sense. This place was built at the start of the Second World War. They were paranoid about gas attacks then," I stated. "The felt seals are pretty well perished, but…"

"How long does the sealant take to set?" Simone asked.

"About half an hour, though it is a couple of days before it's fully cured."

"So, if you put a bead of sealant around the jam before we turned on the gas, would that help?"

I nodded. "It would make getting a good seal easier, I would still want to put a bead on the other side," I commented.

"Then let's do it."

We then went to look at what Joseph was doing. He was painting the mix he had made onto the sill by the entry door and onto the chain that lay across it. That done he started to paint the floor immediately in front of the door.

"How long will it take to dry?" I asked him.

"No idea, but not more than a couple of hours. I'll be finished in five minutes."

I went back to the storeroom and got the sealant applicator with a new tube of sealant in it. Whilst Joseph finished painting his infernal mix, I put a double bead of the sealant around the inside of the door jam and across the sill of the door to the corridor. I had just finished when Joseph walked up to me.

"Stay well away from that side of the room," he instructed, pointing to the door. I nodded in understanding, then commented he had left the brush and pot of stuff by the door.

"Johnny, if they come at the time we think they will, that lot will have dried out. It will be more bang." With that, he stepped through the door.

"Here, hold this," I said, passing him the sealant applicator. "Are we ready to set it, Simone?"

"As ready as we will be," she replied.

I walked across the room to where the three gas cylinders were in the corner. Taking the wrench from my belt I opened it enough to fit the release valve. Then, I leaned across to reach the third cylinder at the back. It was then I realised it was not acetylene; it was oxygen. What the hell? It would add more to the bang, so I released the valve, and the gas started to hiss out. I did not release it all the way, only enough so there was a good flow of gas. We had plenty of time for the room to fill. Then I did the same to the two acetylene cylinders. As soon as they had been opened, I went back across the room and stepped through the door, looking around quickly to see if I had missed anything. I noticed that Simone had removed the chair from under the window.

Once through the door, I pulled it closed behind me, hearing a slight squish as it closed on the sealant. Taking the applicator from Joseph, I started to apply another bead of sealant around the door, giving thanks to Steve for all the caulking he had been having me do. I knew how to make something watertight, so hopefully it would be airtight.

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