We rose at five, well before the sun, and rooted through the bags of clothing Julie had given us. We both decided on jeans, sneakers and long-sleeved shirts with out own leather jackets on top. The early December air was a little chilly. It didn’t really affect us, but it would seem strange if we weren’t wearing them. Anyway, we needed somewhere to hide our weapons.
Using the tiny mirror in the car’s sun visor, we applied the bronzer and a little makeup. Using the eyeliner, I positioned a small beauty mark above my lip. Mouse stuck a little plastic gem to the side of her nose. I pushed on my black-rimmed glasses and we were ready. It felt strange having so much stuff on my face.
We couldn’t take the car with us into town, in case it was recognized, so we armed ourselves with everything we could carry discreetly. I tucked a small hand gun into a holster in the back of my pants, under the shirt, and added a shoulder holster below the jacket. A knife hid against my forearm, strapped to my cast. Mouse was similarly armed. We took some cash and tucked it into our pockets, but left almost everything else in the car.
We drove a little closer in and left our car at a station on the outskirts of town. The bus came at seven-thirty and we arrived, a block away from the library, at exactly ten past eight, according to the cheap plastic watch that now adorned my wrist. We walked the short distance to the building and sat on the steps in front until it opened its doors at eight-thirty.
As soon as the library opened, we did a quick search for other exits, in case we needed them later. We needed an escape plan if they somehow managed to track us down.
Mouse made a beeline to the bank of computers available for public use. I, on the other hand, settled myself in a small room with, what seemed like, millions of newspapers. The room smelled musty and dust coated everything.
I paged through one after the other, searching for any mention of the labs. After an hour I’d lost count of how many I’d read, but I wasn’t even halfway along the first shelf. There’d been no mention of the labs at all, so I dragged myself to my feet and walked into the maze of books to find Mouse.
“Any luck?” I leaned on the back of her chair.
“A little,” she said. “I’ve found planning permissions for the building and blueprints. They’re fake, though. There’s no mention of the sub-terrain levels whatsoever. The land is owned by Chimaera Pharmaceuticals Limited. They’re a privately owned company, but I can’t find any record of sales or products. It’s a front to hide exactly what they are doing.”
“Is there any point in me continuing with the newspapers?” I asked.
“Probably not.” She shook head. “I’ll be done here soon. There’s pretty much nothing we can use here.”
I dragged a large book of photos from a shelf and settled around the corner from the entrance to look at the pictures.
About fifteen minutes later a terrifyingly familiar smell hit my nose.
Turning my head and casually surveyed the room like a bored teen; I wasn't exactly acting. I knew what I was looking for and found it. Two men stood by the doors, scoping the place out.
They were dressed as builders, or some sort of tradesmen, in work boots, jeans and rough shirts, but their eyes flicked around the room with unusual alertness.
They passed and my gaze followed them. Their tops bunched at the back where their guns were hidden. The scent coming off them was unmistakable: gun powder, oil and the slightest hint of blood. Not just any blood, though; the coagulated, infected blood of those creatures. It was old, perhaps a few days, but still it lingered on their skin.
The room was busy now, which worked to our advantage, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I met Mouse’s eye, giving her a meaningful look over the top of my book.
She jotted something onto a scrap of paper and walked between two of the tallest shelves, as though browsing for books. There was a window in that direction. It was a little off the floor, which meant that it wasn’t alarmed, and the shelves were sturdy enough to climb up to it.
I got to my feet and placed the book on the chair. I thanked my lucky stars we’d had the presence of mind to change our appearance. These men would be searching for girls matching our previous description.
In front of the building there was a four-wheel drive vehicle, parked on the sidewalk. Sitting at the wheel was a man who looked familiar; he’d been one of our guards at the labs. Sparing him no more than a cursory glance, I kept my pace up. I carried on by foot toward our meeting point, the fast food place we’d ordered from the night before.