Chapter Sixty-Three

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Blue lights flashed all around her. The cavalcade was travelling fast, their journey unobstructed. Hannah was in a dark, stretched vehicle, two cars behind the one Briggs was travelling in. All around her, police on motorbikes helped hurry them along. Briggs had insisted they travel separately for security reasons and for that she was thankful.

"Five minutes away now, Miss."

Hannah nodded to the agent sat to her right. On his lap, rested a small device showing the journey that they were currently taking. Several red warning triangles flashed along the route and yet by the time they neared each one, the signs disappeared from the screen.

"What are those red triangles?"

The agent pressed on the nearest one to them. A small message popped up but from where she was seated she couldn't make out the words.

"Nothing to worry about, Miss."

The engine of the car suddenly roared and the car lurched forward pushing Hannah further into the seatback. Several loud thuds came from the side and rear window and the agent reached over and pushed Hannah off the seat and down into the foot well.

"Keep your head down, Miss."

The car swerved a couple of times and Hannah was awkwardly thrown about.

"What happened?" She called out, as the agent shouted furiously into a mouthpiece, clipped to his lapel, completely ignoring her, his hand still trying to keep her head down. In the distance she thought she could hear gunfire.

A few seconds later the car engine slowed to a more leisurely pace. "Apologies, Miss. Just a few distractions along our route. Everything is fine now."

Hannah pushed herself up and back into the seat. Through the tinted grey glass she saw the remains of several eggs sliding down the outside of the window. She turned and looked out of the back window, but the glare from the vehicles headlamps behind prevented her from seeing anything.

A few minutes later the car slowed and turned left. The car passed through a giant set of gates, through a security check point and then down a long drive, lined with tall trees, their silvery branches like skeletal arms clawing at the night sky.

The car slowed further as they approached the house, a huge brick building lit up on all sides- The Red House. Hannah had seen pictures of the General's home before in a book at school- one of the oldest buildings in the country, dating back to the early eighteenth century. While the palaces and stately homes of the ruling elite from days gone by had been lost to civil war, looting and decay, this one house had stood resolute, waiting for the powers in the land to be regained and the ruling order to reclaim their titles and their positions. From here, within the rust-red, bricked walls, the society they lived in now had been designed and constructed. Or as Briggs described it earlier, her new home.

The car door opened. The agent got out first and Hannah reluctantly followed. Stepping out onto fine gravel, her eyes struggled to adjust to the brightness of the spotlights after the shaded interior of the car.

"This way, Miss."

Hannah followed the agent as he moved quickly up a flight of stone steps. As they approached the front entrance, Hannah glanced around her. The car Briggs had been travelling had already pulled away. Several guards restrained fearsome looking dogs on tight leads, while patrolling the perimeter.

"Inside, Miss." Another agent said, pushing her gently in the small of her back. She took one last glance and went inside.

"This is the business end of the house, Miss. This is where state visits are held. Hannah stood, staring open-mouthed at the opulence before her. Beneath her feet was a blood red carpet that spanned the entire entrance hall, not a join or seam visible. The carpet was so thick, she almost felt she was bouncing off the rich pile with every footstep. Before her, a wide staircase rose up and off to both sides of the house. For a fleeting moment, Hannah imagined herself flying down the fine curve of the dark wooden hand rail on her belly. Every other surface was littered with marble or oak or gilded marble and oak. In the centre of the cavernous entrance hall, hung a chandelier, a huge waterfall of cut-crystal beads, strung together on barely discernable wires, throwing off rays of lights across every surface. At the top of the first flight of stairs was a mural of General Briggs in full uniform, his lapels weighed down by medals and stripes, brandishing a fine silver sword and staring off into the distance. It was beyond imposing.

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