As we waited for the girls to come back, Dudley continued to try and stack the stones even though no one told him to and we weren’t shouting at him any more. He just wanted to do it. Once an idea took hold in that brain of his, it really took hold.
“So,” said Maurice, “we going back in there, then?”
I nodded. “They’ll be ready for us this time, but I think we can still take them. That spear he had looked pretty nasty, but he could hardly hold it. If we rush him, I don’t think he’ll be able to stop us.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Maurice. “There was something else I wanted to ask you. About Claire.”
I turned to face him. “Oh? What?”
“Is there something going on between you two? Just wondering, you know, because you’re always at each other’s throats. If this was movie, the couple that’s always fighting are the ones who end up together at the end, right?”
“If this was a romantic comedy, maybe. But this more like a horror movie. Believe me, there’s nothing going on. Why? Are you interested in her?”
“Who me? No. No, of course not. I mean, I’m probably not her type.” He pushed his glasses up his nose and I’m pretty sure he was blushing, although it’s hard to tell with black people who have very dark skin like him. And no, that’s not racist.
Claire and Flossie returned and I told everyone we were going to try again. They looked a bit apprehensive, but no one objected. Flossie had calmed down but was smiling more than normal, although I couldn’t tell if she was pleased at being told she had a sexy bum or grinning out of embarrassment. Maybe a bit of both. We made our way back to the cave and prepared ourselves once more.
I pointed my finger at Dudley. “This time, get hold of the guy and don’t let go. Doesn’t matter what happens to the rest of us, that’s your only job.”
Dudley nodded, his face a picture of earnest determination.
I turned to the others. “Ready?”
“Hold on,” said Maurice and he started fiddling with the collar of his onesie. I’ve mentioned before that it had a Batman theme, although it wasn’t made to look like a costume, it just had lots of bat insignia printed on it. So it was a bit of a surprise when Maurice unzipped part of the collar and pulled out a hood. Or should I say cowl. With little bat ears.
It covered most of his face and the eye holes didn’t quite match where his eyes were, although when he put his glasses back on, they sort of held the mask in place.
“Right,” he said in a low growl. “Let’s do this.”
I didn’t say anything. I was just thankful he didn’t want to wear one of the blankets as a cape.
We stormed into the tunnel and ran all the way down. We burst into the end room, ready for battle, to find it completely empty.
This wasn’t completely unexpected. I had told them about the trapdoor and when I went over to the rug—a large mat woven out of reeds—and pointed at it, they all understood. I bent down and whisked the rug away, to reveal… the ground. No trapdoor, no sign of any kind of entrance.
I got down on my knees and looked closer. I brushed away the dirt to try and find any edges or a hidden handle. Nothing.
“Are you sure it was there?” asked Maurice.
Was it a magic door? Or just really well hidden? I went over to the fire which, was still burning away, and picked up the pot hanging over it. The contents were a fishy stew. I returned to where I had seen the trapdoor and poured out the contents of the pot.
The steaming liquid spread out and then sank into invisible crevices, showing the outline of the door and a flat circular handle. I was about to yank it open but before I had a chance the door flew open and with a yell the old mouse leapt out of the hole carrying the spear.
I’m not sure how good real mice are at jumping—Dudley obviously would know, but I didn’t want to distract him—but the mouse-man was out in one bound. He waved the spear at us. It was too big for him to hold properly, so the end drooped, but it could still inflict a nasty wound so no one wanted to get too close.
“You will all die here,” he squeaked. “Death is your reward for attacking the innocent.” Behind him, the female mouse had emerged and held onto his shoulder, like she was lining him up.
It made me feel a bit awkward to hear him talk. A wild beast was one thing, but this was an actual person. We all stood around, unsure how to proceed.
“Listen to me,” said the mouse. “I am prepared to allow you to leave. We are peace-loving people. If you leave us alone, we will leave you alone.”
“I heard you, before,” I said. “You were planning to attack us as soon as more of your men arrive. You aren’t peace-loving.”
The mouse jabbed his spear at me. “Only to defend ourselves. We were attacked in our sleep by your people. Slaughtered. We will find those cowards and deliver justice. That is our right.”
He had a point. Were we really heroes fighting monsters here? It didn’t feel like it. I lowered my spike.
“Now!” screamed the mouse. The female behind him threw out some kind of dust that filled the air. My eyes stung, making it hard to see. I heard the others call out in pain. Then, almost too late, I saw the spear coming right at me. I lurched sideways so it went between my body and arm and grabbed hold of the shaft. A push-pull struggle ensued.
Batman, of course, was unaffected. Not because of the outfit, but because he wore glasses. Maurice, jumped in and shoved the female. Through blurry vision I saw her suddenly disappear. Not by magic, she had fallen down the hole.
The mouse turned to check on her and I yanked the spear out of his grasp. Dudley swooped in. He grabbed the mouse from behind, wrapping his arm around the creature’s tiny throat, and lifted him off the ground. I moved in, wiping away tears with my sleeve.
The madly kicking feet and whipping tail made it hard to get close, so I kicked it between the legs hoping to hit mouse balls, assuming he had them. I must have hit something, or maybe winded him, because he stopped struggling. I dived in and started stabbing. My vision was still blurred and my aim was a bit wild, so I hit Dudley’s arm a couple of times. He didn’t let go.
I could feel the spike enter the mouse’s head, strike against the skull, push through to its brain. After five or six direct hits, the mouse went limp. I retreated, breathing hard. The girls were still trying to see straight, most of the dust had gone in their direction.
Maurice picked up the fallen spear and walked over to the hole just as the female mouse jumped out screaming, something held aloft in her hand. Instinctively, Maurice thrust the spear forward and sent the tip straight into her open mouth and out the other side. She fell to the floor. The thing in her hand was a rock.
Maurice dropped his end of the spear which was stuck in the mouse’s mouth. He looked stunned. Dudley was still holding the male mouse in a vice-like grip, taking his newly learned lesson to heart.
“You can let go now, Dudley,” I said.
He nodded and the dead mouse slumped into a heap next to the female. We had won. Or at least, we hadn’t died, which was a victory in itself. Now, someone had to go down the hole and claim our reward.