“Put them with the others – unharmed,” Keller said to Grinder and Slick. Both men looked disappointed nobody else was going into the pool – but they hauled everyone to their feet and guided them out of the room in a shuffling line. Pipa looked back at me worriedly before I was left behind with Keller and Samson. Keller looked at his wristwatch, then at Samson. “It’s 13:00. I want to get going before 14:00. Inform everyone to be ready to go.”
Samson nodded and left us alone. My wrists were still tied behind my back – so I wasn’t in a position to do anything. Keller grabbed my arm and walked me along the slippery edge of the pool. At that moment I could have pushed him in the scummy water where the zombies could have attacked him for me – but a dumb move like that would not have saved anyone. Keller smiled like he knew what I was thinking
I could still taste the foul pool water ten minutes later, when Keller forced me to make a radio call from the bus with him listening in. I spoke to Lynchpin at our HQ. I wanted to give Lynchpin a subtle hint that all was not well – but Keller had given me explicit instructions to not improvise from the lines of script he had prepared. He pointed to whatever words he wanted me to say next so I didn’t try anything stupid (or clever, like sending a secret SOS message). Keller had me tell Lynchpin that I had not found any of the missing people yet – but I was still searching for them. Then he made me end the message.
“That was good, Kris,” Keller said. “You did well. He believed you. That will help us. I appreciate your cooperation.”
I felt like a traitor. “I told you I’d cooperate.”
“Keep doing that and you’ll soon be free,” he promised. “Here – have a drink of this. It’ll get the taste of the pool out of your mouth.”
He offered me something from a black hip flask. He had untied my hands to make the radio call. I took the flask and sniffed the contents. It smelled like whisky – but I didn’t want to drink it. “Uh – no thanks.”
Keller rolled his eyes. “It’s not poison. It’s an excellent Scotch. It’ll sterilise your mouth better than a mouthwash.”
“I’m good,” I said.
“You don’t believe me?” He drank some to prove it. “Happy now?”
He returned the hip flask. I gingerly sampled the liquid. It was whisky. I rinsed it around my mouth, then I spat it out. My mouth no longer tasted disgusting. I didn’t drink more, though. I wasn’t going to enjoy a drink with the enemy. I held it out for him. “This is yours.”
Keller took the flask back.
“Come with me,” he said.
He turned his back on me and walked back to the leisure centre.
He had not retied my hands.
I wanted to attack him.
There appeared to be nobody watching us.
We were alone.
When would I get another opportunity?
All I had to do was knock him out and take his weapons and –
Freeze frame. Keller would never have turned his back if he thought I was a danger to him. That was obvious. It was another test.
Doing nothing, I followed him into the building, where Samson had been watching the whole time with a rifle trained on me. I was glad I had not done something rash like attacking his CO. That would have earned me a bullet in the head. Keller sipped his whisky and sighed with satisfaction. “Take Kris to see his friends. Then tell everyone to get ready to leave in thirty minutes.”
“Move it,” Samson said, making me walk ahead of him to a squash court guarded by two Pure Bloods. One wall had been made from transparent plastic so spectators could see the players on the court. Only there were no players now. The court had been turned into a prison for about twelve civilians and the five members of my team. Samson pushed me through a door and locked me in.
I joined my team. “Did they hurt you guys?”
“No,” Pipa said. “They just locked us up like a bunch of chickens. What are they planning?”
“Their captain made me contact HQ, telling Lynchpin we were still looking for people. They’re planning on leaving in thirty minutes.”
“What are they going to do with us?”
“I think we’re safe for now because Keller wants hostages – but I don’t like to imagine what he’ll do with us later. The Pure Bloods don’t exactly have a good track record. We have to behave like we believe they won’t harm us – while working out a way of escaping.”