The creak of floorboards below them tipped off the two agents that their hiding spot was under threat. They listened with bated breath as the seeker’s position was given away by protesting timbers; the groans and squeaks dancing their way through the old house frayed the nerves of the concealed agents. The atmosphere was suffocating; their unease lending viscosity to the darkness which surrounded them.
It was when the sounds arrived directly beneath them that their muscles bunched in wary anticipation; preparing for the possibility of confrontation. Only the awareness that shifting positions too much would upset the timbers that they themselves rested upon caused the agents to school themselves. The glinting of a searching torch became apparent now as well; shafts of yellow light slicing up through the floorboards, briefly illuminating their tense faces. Despite both agents being acutely aware that it was due to paranoia, they felt as though their adversary was spending longer here than anywhere else in the building. It was as though he could feel the presence of the pair nearby. The agents scarcely dared breathe.
Finally, their hunter moved on; a departure heralded by light rays bursting up through the floorboards in succession like a finger drawn along a keyboard. The inky black was quick to reclaim the space, patching up all the intrusions of the torch beam as quickly as they appeared. The stairs crooned out a descending scale, punctuated by the door slamming. The house grumbled one last time as it settled itself, silence arriving to muffle all but the shaky exhalations of relief from the remaining occupants.
Though the house had now descended into a deep quiet, April’s mind immediately whirred into action. Was that it? Had he left, or was he still searching outside?
Would it be safe to assume that the house was now written off by THRUSH as being empty? Should they stay where they were for a while until their pursuers moved away from the immediate area?
Or would they be back again, bringing more manpower and equipment to search through the house with greater efficiency. Was this their best chance to leave the attic and make a run for it?
Her racing thoughts were interrupted by a soft voice beside her.
“Don’t worry, love, I’ve gotten out of worse situations than this before.”
Though he couldn’t see it, April couldn’t help but smile at his favourite phrase. The familiarity of it was comforting as he well knew.
“Is that right?” She whispered back, “Then what’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?”
She could practically hear the grin in his voice when he answered, “Well, I heard that the company was to die for.”
“Up here or down there?”
“Now that would be telling.”
“Do you think we should move on?”
Mark seemed as undecided as she was. “It’s risky. There might only have been one of them in here, but who knows how many are out there.”
“And if they all decided to come inside?” She questioned, “somebody would be bound to notice us.”
“You make a good point.”
“So, we chance it, then?”
“We chance it,” he agreed.
Both agents moved gingerly to where they knew the trapdoor to be, April grasping onto the latch carefully and easing it open while Mark peered through, on the lookout for danger. The door opened with quiet complacency and the two agents eased themselves through, dropping silently to the floor below.
They could just barely make each other out as dark silhouettes; the presence of windows letting some of the weak early-evening light into the first floor. April touched Mark on the shoulder and gestured towards the stairs, the two sliding through the shadows in that direction.
It was painstakingly slow work to navigate the steps without triggering the quarrelsome wood. April kept casting glances down to the front door, which was now visible to them, expecting any moment for a whole team of THRUSH agents to come bursting through, guns blazing. It was now that she was starting to regret their initial plan of infiltrating the THRUSH base by getting themselves captured; it complicated their escape not having anything to defend themselves with, let alone not being able to communicate with UNCLE. Admittedly the plan had actually been ‘plan C’ and it was possible that it had only been initiated by Mark as they were already in the process of being caught. But who knew, some of these facts might be forgotten by the time it came to them writing their reports, so much tended to happen that it was hard to remember it all.
Once they reached the ground floor, April positioned herself beside the door while Mark made for the window. Crouching out of sight below the sill, he carefully raised himself to peek into the yard. It was seemingly deserted, the rival agent not being within view (and with any luck then he had left altogether). There was hope for them yet. He nodded to April and she swung open the door, both agents darting through and into the cool night. Two shadows melting away into the landscape.