RELEASE DATE 15th DECEMBER 2016
Inside the high brick wall it looked like any ordinary playground. The grass was clipped neatly and the edges trimmed. A thick rubber compound covered the ground under the climbing frames, swings and sea-saws. Several young children played or sat under the covering shade sail. That’s where the similarity ended. There was no laughter. No sound of children yelling to each other as they played. Two women stood to one side, arms folded, eyes on the children, neither talking. They were dressed identically in grey trousers and tunics reminiscent of hospital scrubs, as were the children – the children who were all identical to each other.
Three short hooter blasts sounded. The twenty-minute time period allowed for the day’s recreation was up. The two women stepped forward as the children silently formed a line and with downcast eyes marched towards the doorway of the adjacent building, back to their training. All the children but one. She was the only girl. She hadn’t been playing with the others. She had slipped off by herself, somehow unobserved, and sat still as stone, knees drawn up to her chin, hands clasping her ankles, hair covering her down-turned face. She was hidden from view underneath the shaded canopy of a large shrub. No sound. No movement. Maybe they wouldn’t find her.
The girl was tiny. Her grey tunic gaped at the neck and covered her almost to her ankles. Her knees, drawn up as they were, fitted inside it. She didn’t respond when one of the women came out and called, her voice rough with impatience. “Severn! Severn!” The child cringed and shuffled back further into the shrubbery. “Severn! Where are you?” There was no response. The woman strode across the grass muttering loudly about what she would do to the child when she found her. She yelled, shook the leaves of the shrubs and trees, and kicked at the lower branches. “Damn that child! She must’ve gone inside.”
The soft light that began to glow within the shrubs went unnoticed as she turned her back and walked off. The light brightened. The forlorn little girl curled up tighter.
“Child.” A gentle voice spoke beside her. “Child. Don’t be afraid.” She felt a feather-light touch of a hand on her shoulder and raised her head. The figure of a man stood beside her. He radiated a gentle, inviting light and warmth that dispelled her fears. She looked up and was drawn into the depth of his eyes. He smiled. She smiled back. It was the first smile that had ever lit her face. The soft light spread out from him, covering her, enveloping her, embracing her. “Come, child. You belong to me.” He reached out. With no hesitation she placed her tiny hand in his, stood and gazed up at him with absolute trust and wonder. “It is time. We must go.”
Man and child disappeared and the glow of light faded under the shrubbery as alarm bells rang out across the grounds. Panic had hit the compound. Mere seconds later urgent calls rang out as a group of searchers rushed outdoors. Frantic, grey clad men and women searched every inch of the playground, underneath every bush and in every tree. Every nook, cranny, crevice and corner of the whole facility, inside and out, was thoroughly searched. The girl was nowhere to be found. How did she get out? It was impossible. Fear began to creep into the hearts and minds of the search parties. The two women whose job it had been to watch over the children, knew, without doubt, there would be hell to pay for losing the child. In fear for their own lives they searched again.
Deeper inside the facility, in a separate secured area, a woman was working with a single little boy. He was not a strong child but he showed much intellectual promise. For a long time now the woman had been regretting her involvement with the training and development of these children. Her heart was gripped with an agonising pain at her part in their suffering and now, in a moment of overwhelming remorse, she made up her mind. Taking advantage of the commotion and activity throughout the compound, she saw an opportunity and took her chance. In one fluid motion she picked up the little boy, wrapped him roughly in her woollen coat and fled the building.
A sudden shiver passed through Tamsin’s body. With a flick of her head she shrugged it off. Nothing was going to spoil this day. This day was her sister’s wedding, and it wasn’t just the union of two people who were very precious to her, but it was also a celebration of family and freedom. A culmination of events had finally brought her to a place where she could call her life her own and look forward to a promising future. She treasured this day and it would forever remain a landmark in her journey through all that was yet to come. Looking forward, free from captivity, was an amazing thing to experience.
Wedding party and guests were making merry. The bride and the groom were about to depart for their honeymoon and their pilot, brother-in-law Glenn Warriner was heading out to warm up their chopper. Another chopper waited ready to do a shuttle run to the International Airport in the City. Some of the guests, mistaking the bigger machine for the wedding carriage, were busy decorating it with silk flowers and ribbons from the reception rooms. With much glee they transformed the inside and tied bows and flowers to the struts. Tamsin stood back watching, taking in the joy of being part of such a wonderful group of people. Suddenly the involuntary shiver hit again. An icy chill crept up her spine. She wrapped her arms around herself. A sense of foreboding filled her. Disturbing pictures flashed through her mind. She physically shook herself to shift the images and lift the mood before turning to give her sister a farewell hug. She watched as the chopper rose from the ground. She could see her sister, seated snugly beside her new husband, waving from the nearside window. She smiled as she returned the salute but could not quite shake the feeling of icy fingers stroking the inner side of her spine. She shivered once more. The chopper swerved off towards the south, picking up speed.
Tamsin stood watching, shading her eyes as Maddy strolled over and wrapped an arm around her waist. Maddy, too, had an uneasy sense deep in her gut. Together their eyes followed the receding body of the craft. Suddenly, the chopper veered to the right and turned, heading back. Both women tensed. It returned to the take-off point and landed. Amber threw open the door and jumped down, scrunching her dress up in two hands as she rushed over to her sister.
“I just needed another hug, Puppet. Are you sure you are going to be all right staying here? Maddy will be here and Brian and the others will be calling in when they can.” Amber drew her into a close embrace. “If you need me, or should I say ‘us’,” a huge grin lit her face, “just call and we will come. Don’t you hesitate Puppet.”
Tamsin laughed, relieved there was nothing wrong. “Okay! I’m not a kid, you know. I’ve told you, I will be fine.” She clung to her sister’s neck for a moment then drew back with a reassuring grin. “I don’t want you to spend your honeymoon worrying about anything else but enjoying your start to married life with Zander. You have both so-o-o earned this. If I have to I can go over to Granny Angel’s and be with Thomas.”
Amber gave her another tight squeeze then turned to Maddy, giving her a hurried hug as well. “Take care of her, Maddy.”
“You know I will. Besides, Brian is leaving the dog here. Nothing is going to get past Brute. We will be fine. You go and have the best honeymoon and forget about anything else until you get back.” Maddy laughed. “I’m sure that hunk of a husband of yours won’t give you any time to think of anything else but him.”
“Mmmm. And vice versa.” Another quick hug for her sister. “See you soon. Love you.” Amber swathed her skirts around her, she hadn’t wanted to change out of her beautiful dress because this was the only wedding she would ever have. She hoisted herself back in beside Alexander.
While they’d been talking, the second chopper began to fill with commuters who needed to catch early flights from the city. They were cracking jokes about decorating the wrong vehicle and riding in the style they deserved. Soon both choppers were well on their way, heading in different directions.
Tamsin watched Amber and Alexander’s chopper until it was too small to see. Then, again, that icy chill clutched at her. Something, somewhere was not right. Jacobson was behind bars. There should be no more problems. Closing her eyes, Tamsin breathed deep. Another picture flashed through her mind and she distinctly heard the words, “It’s not over yet.”