Laurie saw the blimp coming long before anyone else around the manor did. She sat on a park bench and waited till it got a bit closer.
She kept one eye on the blimp and waited for the first cry from the grounds before she moved. She walked at a pace that could easily be written off as a very early morning stroll.
By the time she reached the fence the blimp was looming huge in the sky, and everyone within the grounds was watching it grow larger.
Laurie vaulted the fence like it was the most natural thing in the world; and started walking over the grounds.
She didn’t sneak or try to dart from tree to tree; those were amateur mistakes that would be certain to get her caught.
Laurie shivered with excitement and kept walking. She passed the first guard without drawing his eye, and she smiled to herself; she loved this part of the job.
Her objective was the old stone building at the base of the well maintained hill; but the building was a natural source of cover and she saw several guards camped around it.
Laurie didn’t break her stride; that would give her away.
The Guard’s were all watching the blimp as it closed in on them. None of them had seen her; but she knew that they would notice her if she did anything as obvious as trying to open the building up.
She also knew that this was her only chance; she couldn’t change the direction she was going in because that would make the guards aware that there was someone on their territory who was trying to hide something. If Derek didn’t come through on his distraction in time then she would have to try the door anyway and come up with some excuse when she was caught.
She was about ten seconds from reaching the door. She was confident that she would get through. Derek wouldn’t be able to see her from where he was, and they had no way of timing the operation; but Laurie sincerely believed that she was lucky.
She was five seconds from the door, and the guards were still watching the blimp. Now that she was closer she could see that they were getting restless. What was Derek doing?
Three seconds to the door. One of the guards hadn’t shaved properly this morning.
Two seconds to the door. Laurie’s foot brushed a stick and one of the guards twitched and started to turn.
There was the sound of blaring trumpets and a surge of bright light. Fireworks exploded across the sky and formed the shape of naked ladies dancing in suggestive ways. The land surged into life as lights came on in every house within eyeshot.
Laurie averted her eyes and walked through the spellbound guards. She opened the door to the stone house and closed it behind her with a firm click.
The sound of the halftime show was still blaring through the door and she knew that she probably had a few minutes before any of the guards realized that something might have happened while they were all staring at the blimp.
It wasn’t smart to risk it through, and Laurie took a look around. The equipment in the building looked like it hadn’t been used in many years. Laurie focused through all the cobwebs and found a door in one of the walls.
Laurie picked her was through the refuse on the floor and tried the door; it was locked; that would be a problem.
Laurie sucked her lip and looked back at the entrance of the building; the sounds of the show were starting to die down. She looked back at the door; it could only lead to the steam tunnels; and the steam tunnels were the only way in.
Laurie took a look at the lock; it was an old, poorly designed one, but she had left her lock picking tools with Derek. Laurie tried to think of the most interesting way to get through the door.
Thirty seconds later Laurie was running through the door with some sort of water heater held out in front of her. She didn’t bother to shut the door behind her; if the guard who came to check was vigilant enough to notice an open door at the back of the building which was covered in cobwebs; then he would definitely notice the damage that she had done to the door if she shut it.
Laurie ran half way up the tunnel before dropping the cooler; she hoped that there wasn’t another locked door at the end of the tunnel; if there was then she would have to go back for it.
There were cobwebs filling the tunnel like a thick mist, and Laurie soon collected a trail of confused spiders so big that it made her look like a comet. There were thick pipes along one side of the tunnel that looked about to fall apart; in fact the whole tunnel looked like it was in danger of caving in; Laurie though that it was all very exciting.
She reached the end of the tunnel and was relieved to find that the door at the end wasn’t locked. She skittered out into a basement under the house, and ran straight up the stairs she found there.
She stopped just before she opened the door at the top of the stairs and thought about the way she looked. I may as well get changed here, she thought, and walked back down the stairs peeling off as many of the cobwebs as she could.
She took of her own clothes and hid them in a dry spot under the stairs. Then she took out the rubbery package that Derek had gotten for her from under the mountain house. She unfolded it and slipped it on; it had picked up a few wrinkles, but it was way too late to deal with them now.
She picked up the teddy bear as well and hugged it to her. Then she started back up the stairs.
She stood out of the basement as proudly as she could manage. There was no one about and Laurie was glad; she was very excited by the idea of being so deep in enemy territory and being about to do something that was illegal in about half a dozen different ways; but she hoped that she would manage to finish the mission without too many people seeing her like this.
She walked down the hall and thought through her next move; she had to find Ernest Mckingle’s room was and get him alone. She was sure that’s she could manage the second part but she wasn’t sure about the first.
She walked down the hallway; it would look bad if she gave herself away now by looking unsure.
Where would he be? The top floor, she decided, and she started to look for a staircase.
She spotted one at the end of the hall and started towards it. As she was walking, the door of what was clearly the kitchen opened and spilled several household staff into the hall.
Heart hammering, Laurie smiled warmly at the middle aged ladies and was pleased to see that they all looked away; denying them a good look at her face. No one challenged her, she noticed, apparently Derek had been right about Mr. Mckingle’s probable tastes.
She climbed the stairs and moved automatically towards the room with light in it. She had kept her glasses with her of course, but everyone always told her that she had pretty eyes; and she knew that she would need all the help she could get if she was going to get close enough before he yelled out.
She reached the door and opened it by leaning on it seductively. She could see that there was someone in the room; staring out the window; but the bright room lights were playing tricks with her eyes and she couldn’t make any detail out. ‘Ah well’, she thought, ‘if it’s not Mckingle then some old butler is going to have one of the best nights of his life.’
She waited until the figure turned around and then walked across the room; making sure to sway her hips as she went. The figure was standing completely still and watching her; it was either transfixed or horrified by the sight of a woman in a fetish ‘Alice and wonderland costume’ walking toward it, but either way it wasn’t screaming for help.
Laurie smiled a bit more a walked the rest of the distance to the uncomplaining figure. As she closed the last bit of distance her shadow fell over the figures face and she could make it out clearly.
It was the face from the photo in the file; she was certain. It had a crusty ring of yellow stuff around the mouth and it was staring at her transfixed.
Laurie felt her stomach turn; but she kept her grin on her face and embraced Ernest Mckingle. She held him tightly to her and pressed the teddy bear tightly into his spine. She felt the odd clicking sensation as the bear injected the man with quite a potent knockout drug.
Laurie did the man the service of holding his confused gaze until he passed out.
So far so good, thought Laurie, as she slipped her sunglasses back on. She took a better look around the room, and spotted a woman cleaning the bandstand. Laurie took a closer look; her maids costume really didn’t look like a fantasy outfit.
The woman was clearly very old and was wearing glasses slightly thicker than the polar icecaps; the fact that Ernest hadn’t called out was probably the only thing that had saved Laurie.
Laurie wasn’t willing to risk herself on the chance that the woman’s glasses wouldn’t work. She opened the door to the balcony and let herself out with Ernest over her shoulder.
Laurie carried her Ernest to the edge of the balcony and looked down; it was a long way to the lawn, but she could clearly make out the guards all running towards the stone house; it looked like her little redecorating trick had been noticed.
Laurie knew that she was in trouble; there was no way that she could get off this balcony without help; and while Ernest turned out to be fairly light, it had still tired her even carrying him as far as she had.
She looked to her left; the blimp was still making its way around the building; Derek had no way of knowing where the bedroom was either.
The plan had been for the blimp to nudge its way around the building and for her to climb in as it went past; it had seemed ambitious when they had been discussing it in the 2CV; now Laurie looked at the drop over the balcony and decided that it seemed positively suicidal.
There was no other choice though, and Laurie thought about how she could get the blimp over faster; even if the guards didn’t realize where she was, they would send a small detachment up to warn and guard the master of the house.
She ducked back inside the room and looked around; the maid was still cleaning the bed and there were a lot of things on the floor that she hadn’t paid attention to before. Laurie ranged her eyes over all sorts of expensive toys before she noticed the one thing that would be impossible to ignore as a signal.
She grabbed the thing and headed out outside; it was much heavier than she had expected and it dragged along the ground as she moved.
She got to the edge of the balcony and tried to swing the thing on like a backpack; as a result she was almost thrown to the ground. Laurie picked herself up and squatted down in front of the thing; she slipped the cords over her shoulders and stood up as though she were doing a squat.
With the thing supported on her back she wobbled to the very edge and swung the barrel around to point at the underside of the blimp. Then she had a thought; the instant she used this thing she would be displaying her location to everybody on the grounds below; then she thought about the guards that were probably streaming up the stairs as she thought, and she decided it didn’t matter anymore.
She pulled the trigger.