“There’s something wrong with this mission,” said Marlow. “Someone is screwing with us.”
Kate, the agent in charge, said nothing as the helicopter descended, but across from her, Brock raised his eyebrows to say “How do you mean?”
“Deserted town not showing on any map; vague orders about finding and rescuing kids but no indication where they were taken from or when – no real details.” He looked into the rear of the cabin where the SWAT team were checking their weapons. “And far more heavy ordnance than we should need for this kind of trip. I mean, what are they expecting us to face down there? And why the hell won’t they tell us in advance.”
Brock shrugged but his eyes were sober; digesting the facts.
“Treat the environment as extremely hostile… I almost laughed in the guy’s face! It’s like they’re sending us into a warzone rather than hunting down some paedo kidnapper. Something very wrong is going on and I don’t know why the rest of you are just going along with it.”
They said nothing more. The helicopter set down in an open square and Alpha; the investigative team; disembarked: Kate, Marlow, Brock, Annie and Carl. Beta; the SWAT team; remained on board, ready to be called in if necessary.
The town was deserted; the buildings a mixture of ruins and dilapidated, but intact, structures. It was difficult to pin anything down to a particular period or architectural style but if anything, the primary influence might have been European and very old fashioned, but alongside this was a mismatch of more modern structures.
Team Alpha spread out and started searching. The men went separately; the women stuck together; keeping in contact by radio. It was Marlow who spotted the children through his monocular, huddled in the ruins of a tall building, tied up. He put the call out and they all started closing on the building, moving slowly and listening. The kidnapper was likely to be close by and they didn’t know his capabilities. Marlow kept thinking about the order to treat the environment as extremely hostile, but so far they had seen no indication of anything dangerous.
He was first to the building, the others close by, but as he stepped into the ruin there was a roar and the kidnapper was upon him, leaping from the shadows. He wielded two enormous axes and whirled them down. Marlow narrowly rolled with the dual blow but it knocked him backwards. The kidnapper attacked again, his eyes strangely blank, his cries animalistic; but before he could strike he was riddled with bullets from Brock and Carl.
The kidnapper fell dead and Marlow ran across to the children but Annie paused to take a closer look at the corpse. There was definitely something wrong with the man but no clear indication what. He had almost looked like he was in some kind of trance.
Carl and Marlow untied the children. They were pale and chilled to the bone but clearly grateful for the rescue. Each agent but Kate took a child by the hand and led them out onto the street.
“I guess we don’t need the SWAT team after all,” said Annie. “Why on earth did they send them? Surely the five of us were too many agents for this situation.” She looked down at the little girl beside her. “I’m just glad we managed to find you.”
But she froze. The child’s eyes were gleaming red. Her brittle smile was cracked and malicious. And her teeth were fangs. All of the children were the same. All of them smiling cruelly as though a vicious practical joke had been revealed.
And then they pounced.