“Get up Miles!” cried Alice, banging on his bedroom door “Mum needs help with the shopping. Come on lazy bones!”
It wasn’t like Miles to lie in bed, but he hadn’t slept terribly well the night before, owing to a dull ache in his stomach. Groaning, he pulled the covers over his head and cursed his rotten luck. “Couldn’t be on a school day, oh no!” he thought “like when there’s a maths test or anything. Has to be on a Saturday when it’s football practice!” And he swore never again to eat more than three apple pies at a sitting - least not on a Friday.
At the thought of food, he vaguely considered getting up for some breakfast and was trying to decide between scrambled egg and corn flakes when he heard another bang.
“All right, I’m coming!” he yelled crossly. But then he realised it wasn’t Alice this time but someone at the front door, hammering so loudly, the house began to shake.
“They’ll break the door down in a minute” Miles murmured to himself. From downstairs, he heard his mother’s angry voice. “Who on earth can that be!?”
“It could be those Jehovah’s Witnesses….” Mr Hadwin said as he made towards the door. But he stopped mid-sentence as a huge crack, then a mighty thump, resounded from the hall.
“What’s going on?!” cried Richard Hadwin.
From that moment, pandemonium ruled. Miles heard shrieks from Joe and Alice, Mum and Dad protesting, the sound of a scuffle as strange male voices yelled “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” over and over again.
Now fully awake, Miles leapt out of bed and pulled on the first garments he could find lying on the floor. Shaking, he flew down the stairs to see one man standing in the now empty doorway barking orders while two other men, all in black trench coats, manhandled his mother. His father was being held face downwards on the floor by yet another three burly men, his hands manacled behind his back.
“Richard and Jennifer Hadwin! You’re both under arrest!” the first man said.
“What for?!” cried Mrs Hadwin.
“Shut up! Shut up!” one of the other men yelled.
But Jennifer Hadwin was not easily intimidated. “Our MP will hear of this…” she began. The first man laughed unpleasantly. “He can’t help you, we arrested him this morning…..”
“Shut up! Shut up…” his colleague continued.
“Not me, you idiot!” the boss snapped and whacked the offender across the face.
“Sorry Mr Mordant, got a bit carried away there.”
“As I was saying” continued Mordant, “there’s been a coup. You’re under a new government now.” He laughed again and began toying with a large signet ring.
It was Joe, crying pathetically as Alice held him tightly, her face white and rigid with shock. Miles was standing on the bottom stair, frozen to the spot, his eyes fixed on Mordant‘s finger. He felt his spine tingle just as it had under the street lamp when Uncle Jeff showed him….”The snake” he gasped.
Up until then, the intruders had ignored the children, but now Mordant, his gloating interrupted temporarily, jerked his head towards them.
“Get them!” he snarled. We’ll take them to the Babel Retreat.”
This stirred Richard Hadwin to his senses. With superhuman effort, he raised his head from under the heavy black boots that had nailed him to the floor and yelled to the children with all his might:
And suddenly, Miles remembered Uncle Jeff‘s warning about the three-headed snake, the same symbol now glaring menacingly from Mordant’s ring. “When you see it, run! Run for your lives! Run! Run!”
Then his mother joined in, shouting at the top of her voice “Run children! Run!”
“Come on!” cried Miles and flew from the stair and dashed towards the kitchen and the back door. Alice and Joe needed no further prompting and chased after him, narrowly dodging the clutches of two black coated men.
“Skinner, Brown, Griswold - get after them!”
Hearts pounding, legs pumping, sucking in air, the children fled - out the back door, across the yard and into the field behind where the local rugby team was practicing.
“If we can just make it to the woods….” thought Miles, his mind racing as he dodged the rugby players, intent on reaching the other side of the pitch. Fortunately, their pursuers were not so nimble and found themselves the objects of some rather fine tackles. After freeing themselves from the unseemly scrums that followed, the men resumed their chase, but Alice, Miles and Joe, now far in the distance, had disappeared over a hedge and were now heading, full-pelt into the woodland.
Then something awful happened. Joe let go of Alice’s hand and stopped. He didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t know why Miles and Alice were running, or who the big men were. All he knew was he wanted to be with his parents. Slowly and deliberately, he started to walk home.
In her panic, Alice didn’t notice Joe slip away. She and Miles kept running, not daring to look behind them, jumping over ditches, scrambling under barbed wire, panting until they felt their lungs begin to burst. At last they reached the trees and flung themselves into a mass of dense undergrowth until they could catch their breath.
Only then, did they realise that Joe wasn’t with them anymore. “Where’s Joe?” cried Alice, looking around frantically. “We’ve lost Joe!”
“They must have got him!” said Miles between gasps. Alice started to panic and made to stand up, “Joe!” she called and would have gone on screaming had Miles not put a hand over her mouth and dragged her down again into the bushes.
“There’s nothing we can do” he reasoned. “There’s too many of them…..” But Alice wasn’t listening. Tears welled in her eyes and she started shaking with terror. “Joe, Joe…” she whimpered.
Miles grabbed her shoulders and shook her briskly. “Look, we know where they’ll take him, that Mordant man said. So we’ll wait until those men have gone and then we’ll find him and get him out! Please Alice, we have to stay calm, it’s our only chance. We’re going to find him Alice. And Mum and Dad too. Everything’s going to be all right! It‘s going to be all right.”
In the distance, they heard the men shouting to each other as they raced in pursuit.
"Which way did they go?" they were yelling. "Spread out" one of them said, and Miles and Alice could only freeze at the sound of shrubs being kicked and of twigs being broken underfoot. At one point, a man came within yards of their hiding place, and was just about to find them when one of his colleagues called out, "There's a ditch to your left. Look down there!"
With the man out of earshot, Miles and Alice began crawling on their elbows, commando-style, through the prickly bushes to get deeper into the wood. Before long, they came upon a fallen hollow tree trunk which had just enough room for the two of them to curl up inside. Miles pulled a branch up behind them so as to conceal the entrance, and from their hiding place, the children squashed together, hardly able to move.
Before long, an enormous pair of feet could be heard approaching the old tree trunk. "Stay here, Skinner." was the command. "I'll station myself at the north end of the wood, Brown will guard the west side and the others can flush them out."
"Okay, Griswold," said his companion. Once his superior was out of sight, Skinner sat down on the trunk. He was easily the biggest of the men with an unbelievably wide bottom, and as soon as he made contact with the fallen tree, it creaked ominously. All Miles and Alice could do was pray their hiding place would hold up under the strain. Moments later and to their great relief, they heard another shout.
"Oi! Skinner! Get off your fat behind and start searching! The boss ain't moving 'til we get those brats!"
Skinner leapt up, but in doing so, the weight of his bottom dislodged the tree which jolted into motion and began to roll downhill - slowly at first, then gathering speed, flattening everything in its path as the hill dropped perilously towards the river that gushed through the gully below. Miles and Alice held their breaths, unable to scream, helpless and stiff with terror. Being so tightly packed into the trunk helped brace their bodies against much of the impact, but it was still the most terrifying white-knuckle ride they‘d ever experienced!
"This isn't doing my tummy any good at all" Miles thought to himself, as the hollow log continued to roll faster and faster downhill, stopping only when eventually, it hit the river with a tremendous splash. Instead of being spun head over heels, the children now felt themselves being thrust from side to side as the current swept them along.
Miles could hear Alice hyperventilating and instinctively reached out a hand. "It's alright now," he said. At least they were safe from the men who, convinced their prey were still hiding in the wood, had found sticks to probe the foliage inch by inch. Some time later, Griswold had another bright idea. "Set fire to the place!" he yelled. "We'll smoke the beggars out!" But by this time, Miles and Alice were speeding down the river.
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UK : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Runaway-Children-Flight-Nunjas-ebook/dp/B005FY0CNG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393782457&sr=1-1&keywords=the+runaway+children+by+jacy+brean