I’m so happy that I’ve managed to sort out a huge tangle in my least favourite chapter, that I feel almost giddy. Be happy with me – here’s a little excerpt from further on in the book, to get your blood racing.
They’d already been on the Carousel, Bumper Cars and the Pirate Ship and now Newton watched broodingly as Marsh lead the small party from the Teacups ride past an ice-cream stall and stop in front of a counter which offered the chance to win a huge stuffed orang-utan to anyone who could topple a pyramid of cans three times in a row by launching coconuts at the target with the aid of a slingshot.
They paused there for a minute, watching, and then walked purposefully towards the Hall of Mirrors. Newton adjusted his position to get a better view of the entrance and side exit doors. He saw them enter – Marsh first, Tequila last. It was sheer agony, not having them in full view, but the metal shed that housed the mirror maze was not that big. They’d probably be out in five minutes at the most. Strangely apprehensive, Newton closed his eyes for a minute and rubbed his hands over his forehead, trying to release some of the tension.
“Two-Seven! Repeat, code two-seven!” Marsh’s voice burst through at high volume.
Shit! Newton sprinted to the Hall of Mirrors, cursing Tequila for her stubbornness and himself for giving in to her unconventional work tactics. Damn woman! With a bit of luck, Marsh would be able to keep the others safe until he found them. He’d never forgive himself if he’d endangered Maxine and Cameron Hunter’s lives because of his own stupidity and the chance to wrap up some poxy investigation.
Newton left a dent in the shiny metal door as he threw himself into the room and immediately found himself faced with a T junction. “Two” – Marsh was fine. “Seven” – someone was missing. Left or right? He turned left and ran down the narrow alleyway until he came to the metal wall of the shed. Typical! He flew back the way he’d come and took the only other option. The make-shift walls of mirrors shook as he thundered past, right, then left, then right again. Through an archway and then off to the left. To the end of the narrow corridor, turn again, and there was Marsh forming a one-man shield to protect… who? Whom had they lost?
“Sir!” Marsh shouted and stood to one side.
Maxine Hunter turned her face towards him. She was holding Cameron so tightly to her chest, Newton’s first reaction was to save the child from certain suffocation. Tequila was conspicuous by her absence.
“Shit, Marsh! Where the hell were your eyes?” The Constable shrugged and mumbled about the ‘woman who said she knew what she was doing’. “How long has she been gone?” Newton barked.
“Don’t know… not long. We barely made it through the archway when I noticed she wasn’t following anymore.”
Newton turned on his heels and sprinted through every corridor and every archway until he was certain he’d run out of options. No sign of Tequila. If she wasn’t in this shed, she’d have to be somewhere else in the fair. He would have to search every nook and cranny. No way was he prepared to lose one of his charges.
He returned to Marsh. “Let’s go.” He pulled them out and down the path to the car park. “I’ll escort you to the car and then I want you to lock yourselves in it and stay there.” He stared at the young Constable with a stern expression. “Marsh, I give you permission to shoot. In fact, I order you to shoot if you need to protect the lives of Maxine and Cameron Hunter.”
Marsh swallowed visibly, but nodded.
Newton rushed back to the Hall of Mirrors and circled it on the outside. There were no exits, other than the designated ways in and out. He walked over to the orang-utans tent, but the guy behind the counter had not seen anyone to fit Tequila’s description. Newton searched every stall and talked to every helper in every attraction, but no one had seen Tequila or anything else suspicious. It was as if she’d vanished into thin air.
At a loss to knowing what to do next, Newton trudged back to the starting point – the Hall of Mirrors. He was so lost in thought, he nearly walked straight into a trolley piled high with toy orang-utans. A youth in a hooded jacket was pushing the trolley around to the van parked behind the tent. Newton swore as he regained his balance and entered the glorified shed one last time. He scrutinized every mirror, running his fingers around the frames, and paid attention to every scuff on the linoleum floor, leaving the place where he’d found Marsh guarding Maxine and Cameron Hunter for last.
There, he found the only clue: the wire Tequila had worn was coiled up, torn, on the floor. Dusty shoes had trampled it and the tracker to pieces.
Gingerly, Newton picked up the bigger chunks of plastic and stuffed them in his pocket.