The central feature of the brick-lined lockup cavern was the camper van. It was off white, probably thirty years old, and had a dried out old wasp-nest hanging from the doorframe. To one side of the van stood a folding table littered with boxes, and a single set of footprints in the thick dust led to the single room at the back, which bore a card on the door saying ‘armoury’.
Morag leaned against the table and perused the file she had brought inside.
“Interesting,” she announced in the hope that either of the others were listening. “There’s a town in Surrey which has had three reports of ‘alien abductions’ – all three look similar. The same lights in the sky, the same ‘pillar of fire’, then some kind of pressure, and next they remember was waking up in a curved silver room. They got poked and prodded for a while, then woke up in the same place they were abducted from with some scratches in their arms and a burn mark somewhere on them.
“What makes it odd,” she continued, tapping her teeth with the file, “is that the reports are all very similar. I used to get a handful of these every month at the paper – and none of the reports were ever the same. These three are almost identical, and the witnesses’ve got nothing in common. A kid working in a garage, a farmer’s wife and a police sergeant. It was only the policeman that meant that someone started taking this all seriously. Hey! Are you two even listening?”
It wasn’t altogether clear that they were. Mills was unpacking a burlap sack onto the table. It contained a laminated sheet of instructions, two black tubes marked ‘Stage 1’ and two long black suitcases marked ‘Stage 2’.
Looking at the instructions, Mills snorted and threw them back onto the table before turning his attention to the armoury door. Glancing at the sheet, Morag saw it was headed ‘Alien Containment Instructions’ and a series of pictures showing that a mesh device was to be removed from the round container and flung over the stereotyped alien, and then… “oh, no…” She unfastened the clips on one of the ‘Stage 2’ cases, and nestled in foam padding were two baseball bats wrapped in masking tape. The last series of pictures showed matchstick ‘Burnplank People’ striking a netted alien with the bats.
Norman didn’t seem to be listening either. The last to enter the garage, as soon as he laid his eyes on the van, his right hand leapt to his temple, and he stretched the other hand towards the vehicle. Almost feeling his way inch by inch, he stepped to the van, opened the driver’s door and flipped down the sun visor. The keys dropped down into his hand, and he grinned triumphantly at the turned backs of the other two.
“Oh, no, man, armoury? No way I’m going in there, dude. Bad karma, dude.” He stepped up into the back of the van.
Once unlocked, the others saw that the footsteps continued into the armoury, stopping where a black plastic box had been left on a shelf. Lifting the lid, Mills saw a heap of plastic bags, each with the same label; ‘evidence’.
Tearing open the bags and spreading the guns out across the shelves, Mills checked and stripped the guns with the efficiency of a true expert. A sawn-off shotgun lay next to an antique Sten-gun and a group of pistols; a luger, a revolver and a .45 which had been inexpertly painted gold by its previous owner. Sweeping the guns back into the box, Mills left the police evidence bags behind and carried the crate to the rear of the van.
Still inside, Norman looked up as the back door opened, a look of gleeful excitement over his face. “Dudes! Look! There’s stuff in here! There’s a whole bunch of test tubes and sh*t!”
He snatched one of the test tubes and uncorked it, sniffing deeply and then succumbed to a fit of coughing. “Dust,” he choked as he reached for another test tube with a gleam in his eye.
“Keys,” demanded Mills as he slid the black box into the back of the van. “I’m drivin’.”
It took three hours to drive to the town of Beccles in Surrey where the reports had originated. During the journey, Morag spent much of her time reading the file, whilst despite repeated suggestions, Norman tinkered and mixed chemicals in the back.
The van pulled into the Travelodge car park mid-morning, and the three decamped and went inside. A stressed and brittle-looking blonde young woman looked up and smiled at them.
“Hi, how may I help you?”
“We’re here for the conference,” said Norman; dropping his hand from his temple. The girl flashed the smile on and off at him again.
“I guess you must be. We’ve got two, but you’re not going to be part of the Chinese restaurant awards. Best South Eastern Chip Shops? You’re lucky you have rooms reserved.”
“That’ll be us,” confirmed Morag, shrugging at the others. “Can we have our keys please and we’ll be on our way.”
Bags were moved from the van, and then the three met in Morag’s room at the end of the corridor next to the fire escape. The decision was quickly reached to head straight out to see the closest of the three abductees; Neil West, the teenaged night-time garage attendant.
As they headed out of the shabby hotel, Norman and Morag both spotted a man with spiked hair and a razor-thin beard sitting on one of the chairs near the dining area. As the three walked near him, he looked up, and seeing Mills his mouth fell open.
“What the f*ck do you want, you little ba*tard?” Morag looked apoplectic and her face flushed the same colour as her hair. She lunged at the man in the chair. “Leave him alone, you wa*ker, or I’ll do you, and your mum and dad will weep over your broken f*cking body ‘coz of what I’ll do to you!”
Norman and Mills froze in astonishment as Morag charged towards the man. Mills just had time to note the basic prison tattoos on the man’s hands as he leapt up and looked for somewhere to run. The only way out was past Morag and the others. Turning on the spot, he ran towards a large window, and swung his chair, smashing it before leaping out of the building.
“You’d better run, you little sh*t!” Morag wasn’t finished. She snatched up a concrete angel statuette and flung it at the fleeing man. The throw missed badly, snapping the emblem off the front of a very large Porsche, scraping along the bonnet and then smashing through the darkened windscreen.
“Wa*kers,” muttered Morag as she turned to rejoin the others. “I know I used to be press, but I can’t stand the little sh*ts when they’re looking at me…”
In silence they walked to the van, though as they went, Mills was shaking his head. "I don't reckon he was press," he growled.