Friday, August 13, 2010

Chapter 18

The Febwith Goes Down

When the team at last reached the location, they met up there with Kevin and Edward.
“Anything to report?” Jon asked.
“He closed and locked up already,” Kevin said; a pair of binoculars hung from its strap around his neck, “He released the gallanashes, turned the big lights on, spent an hour or so doing various chores here and there, and then disappeared into his shack. The lights inside have been out about thirty minutes. He drew the shades when he went inside, but you could still tell when they went off.”
“Tell ‘em about the wagon.” Edward said.
“Oh yeah,” Kevin said, “When we got here, the wagon had already been moved.”
“We expected as much.” Jon said, “Can I borrow the binoculars for a second, Kev?”
“Sure.” he said, and handed them to Jon.
Jon brought the binoculars to his eyes, and looked down upon their target destination.
Light poles illuminated the car dump like daylight, and created long shadows in places, mostly in the Labyrinth. Five gallanashes roamed freely inside within its high fenced domain. A dirt road split off the main road, winded it's way down into the basin, and up to the dump’s front gates.
Jon handed the binoculars back to Kevin.
“Okay let’s move, people.” he said.
Jon, Mike, Rak, and Woodrow walked down the dirt road that led to the front gate, while Callie, Kevin, and Edward took a more direct route, down the descending hill, to get to the spot from where they intended to feed the animals.
The gallanash team got to their destination first. They hooked one of the bags of Tullaxiffan-treated meat to the fishing pole.
“Send it off, Kev.” Edward said.
Kevin put the pole to his shoulder, and with as much force as he could muster, whipped it up and forward. The bag flew up, and the expanding line made the reel clickety-clack; but the bag snagged on the pointy tops of the fence, and split open like a slit belly. Its meat guts spilled out and plopped to the ground on the other side of the fence like giant turds. The bag remained stuck to the top of the fence. Kevin pulled on the line hard until the plastic tore, releasing the hook.
“I’m glad we decided against just throwing the bags.” Kevin said.
“Come on; let’s get another one over there.” Callie said.
“And try to get this one across, would’ya?” Edward added.
“I’ll try.” Kevin replied.
Callie and Edward hooked another bag. Kevin hurled it across with better results. This one made it to the other side, and even tore loose of the hook, as it fell. 
It hit the ground intact.
Callie and Edward gave Kevin good-natured slaps on the back for this success.
“Good job!” said Callie.
“Well done!” said Edward.
Kevin then drew back the line, but the hook caught and lodged itself into the cross-twist of two fence wires. Kevin fought to unhook it, but it wasn’t moving.
“Shig!” he said, “It’s stuck!”

Mike, Jon, Woodrow, and Rak arrived at the front gate. Rak took out his lock picks from his little black bag, and worked on the padlock. There was a “click”, and the padlock sprung open. Rak removed the padlock and the chain, and put them aside. The fence doors had wheels that allowed them to slide open.
“We wait,” Jon said, “Until the others say it’s safe to go inside.”

The Gallanashes came, all five of them, drawn by the scent of meat. They were not unlike panthers, except that they were hairless; their naked skin a pale and mottled grey. They ate the meat with gusto, and tore open the bag that had remained intact. There were three more yet to deliver.
“I’m going up there.” Callie said.
“To free the line?” Edward asked.
“Shig the line!” Callie replied, and grabbed one of the bags.
She slid the bag’s handle up to her shoulder, and climbed the fence. Edward and Kevin did likewise. The three of them reached the top, and tossed the bags over and down to the gallanashes; who tore into them, and devoured their contents.
“Eat ‘em up, kitties.” Callie said.

“Look at this.” Rak said, gesturing Jon and the others closer to the gate, “What is this?”
There was a line of fishing wire running low across the fence; interwoven with the fence itself. It began somewhere to the right of them, across the right-hand side sliding door, and ended in a single-prong hook that was hooked on one of the links of the left-hand side sliding door. The wire was tied to the hook through an eyelet, and was nearly invisible.
“Looks like some kind of homemade security device.” Jon said, “The unknowing thief slides open the door, pulling the wire, causing what?”
“An alarm,” Rak said, nodding, “And if we hadn’t had to wait, we would have missed it.”
“So, what do you think?” Jon asked, “Do we cut it?”
Rak scratched his chin. “I need to see where this wire leads,” he said, “I don’t want to cut it before I know what it’s connected to.”
Hunched down to the wire’s level, Rak walked off to the right, around the turn of the fence, and followed the wire to its conclusion.

The gallanashes finished their meal, stumbled around comically, like drunks, for a few minutes; and then dropped off, one by one, till none were left standing.
“Okay, they’re all under.” Callie said, “Time to join the others.”
The three left Rak’s fishing pole there by the fence, and took off running.

Rak returned.
“The wire leads to a pin,” he said, “If the pin is pulled out by the action of sliding open the fence door, it sets off this contraption of soda cans, cow bells, tire rims, engine parts, and other metal junk that makes a ruckus like the end of the world.”
“Cut the wire then.” Mike said.
“It’s not that easy.” Rak replied, “It’s a double-sided thing. The pin is spring-loaded, so if the wire is loosened from its taut position, the pin is pulled out from the other side; to the same effect. It’s quite brilliant, really. I might just rip off the design one of these days.”
“Braneegan’s gotta have a way of disarming it.” Woodrow said.
“Yes, but we’re not inside, so we can’t disarm it the way he does.” Rak said, “However, I do have an idea.”
At that moment, Callie, Kevin, and Edward arrived.
“The gallanashes are down.” Callie said, “We can go in now.”
“Not quite yet.” Jon said, and explained the situation.
“So what are we gonna do?” Edward asked.
“Rak’s got an idea.” Jon said.

Rak took out a pair of wirecutters and a pair of needlenose pliers from his black bag. Jon and Woodrow followed him a few strides to the right of the right-hand side sliding door.
Rak gave the pliers to Jon and pointed, “Hold the line right there. I don’t know how much pull-back it’s gonna have when I cut the line, but be ready for it. Woodrow, you go over to the hook and be ready to bring it to me once the line is cut.”
Woodrow nodded, and did as told.
“You got a good hold on it?” Rak asked Jon.
Jon nodded.
“Good thing Braneegan keeps all these lights on,” Rak said, “I’d hate to have to do this by flashlight. Here we go.”
Rak took his wirecutters, and cut the wire some twelve inches to the left of where Jon was holding the line. There was immediate heavy pullback on the wire from the source, but Jon’s deathgrip on the pliers kept it from snapping back.
Woodrow was already there with the hook. He handed it to Rak. Rak used the wirecutters to remove the wire tied and knotted to it. He then passed his hand through the fence, and grabbed the twelve inches of slack wire to the left of the pliers. He ran the wire through the hook’s eyelet, and tied a new knot. He then tensed the line as tight as he dared, and hooked the hook to a fencelink.
“Okay, Jon,” he said, “Let it go, carefully.”
“And get ready to run like hell if this doesn’t work.” Woodrow added.
Jon eased his grip on the wire, and the hook held the wire taut.
“You did it, Rak.” Jon said, breathing a sigh of relief.
“I do what I can with what I got.” Rak said.
They slid the doors open and walked through.
“Time to split up, folks.” Jon said, “Good luck everyone.”
Callie, Kevin, and Edward went off in the direction of the sleeping gallanashes, while Woodrow headed toward the Labyrinth, and Mike and Jon walked toward Braneegan’s shack.
Rak remained behind, to await their return. He closed the gate doors after them.

“So how did our scouts miss Braneegan setting the alarm wire?” Callie asked Kevin and Edward, as the three rushed to where the gallanashes were sleeping.
“He was moving around for an hour,” Kevin explained, “Doing this and that. You know how dull it is watching anyone do anything for an hour?”
“It’s BORING!” Edward added.
“So maybe our attention lagged at some point,” Kevin continued, “Or we were distracted by small talk for minute or two. So SUE me!”
“Don’t bite my head off!” Callie laughed, “I was just asking.”

Mike and Jon approached Braneegan’s shack and climbed the two steps up the roofless porch landing. They retrieved their Tullaxiffan shots and popped the caps off the needles.
“Try not to poke yourself with that.” Jon warned, “I’d hate to have to haul your carcass all the way back to the Wherehouse.”
“I’ll try to remember that.” Mike replied.
Jon went up to the solid and windowless front door and tested the knob. It was unlocked. He pulled it open and it moved easy and without a single creak. The utter darkness of the shack stood ready to be breached.
“Well that was easy enough.” Mike whispered.
Jon took a few cautious steps inside, until his foot snagged an unseen tripwire low to the floor. From within the depths of the shack came the loud crashing sounds of metal clanging against metal.
Apparently, Brannegan was quite a paranoid fellow.

Woodrow, only a few steps into the Labyrinth, heard the unearthly metal racket. A moment of uncertainty stopped him, and he was unsure whether to turn back, or go on ahead and hope the others could deal with Braneegan. 
He decided on the latter.

Callie, Kevin, and Edward, having just reached their sleeping wards, suffered no such uncertainty. They turned and ran back toward Braneegan’s shack without a second thought.

Rak, back at the front gate, knew what those sounds meant: the febwith had gone sharfle. Or, as Mike and Callie would say, the plan had gone awry.
Rak knew what he had to do.

No comments: