Chapter 3: Explorations

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Cassie and Novel's plane landed early the following morning. The airport was full of people and Cassie was continuously aware of Novel's tight grip on her waist. From the airport, they got a taxi to one of the local hotels – which had been designated as base station.

They waited in relative silence for the next few hours. Their entire journey had consisted of careful glances around her - she could feel eyes following her everywhere.

Her musing was interrupted by a knock on the door. Agent Smith was quickly let in and they were handed an envelope while he greeted them warmly.

"We leave in the morning," he informed them.

The briefing envelope informed them that the plan was to leave the following morning and head out towards the jungle. This would be a good days drive away an then they had to cross a river. Interpol had acted as a liaison to organise travel clearance across borders. From there they could only go towards the last theorised place of encampment for the gang.

It was early morning when they left. The air was full of a thick mist and it was difficult to see more than 100 yards ahead. There was a team of 20 of them piled into the back of an old and rather rickety 4 by 4. Smith was currently driving and Cassie – being the only female – had managed to gain herself the passenger seat. Novel was not amused with having to sit in the back with the 'lads'.

The day passed at a slow clawing pace. They were stopped for over an hour by an over eager police officer – who had a gun shoved in Smith's face. A few high level phone calls were required with the satellite phone. This informed the officer that what was going on was not his business and that he needed to back down. He did, but after that they attempted to gain some more ground quicker because of the risk someone unsavoury might be told as an act of revenge. They needed to get over the border before day break if they hoped to stick with their time frame.

They arrived at the lake a few hours after nightfall. Smith exited the vehicle for a few minutes. Cassie watched him walk over to a small shack beside the lake, he was let in by a gentleman around the age of 40 and the light of a candle briefly lit up the scene. For those brief seconds Cassie could make out what seemed to be a relatively old boat. She would almost go as far to say that she was not entirely sure she believed that it would float.

"He recons we can make it across in one trip," reported Smith when he arrived back at the car.

Cassie chose not to vocalise her opinions and nervously followed Novel over to the boat.

"I hate this thing," she whispered to him as they squeezed themselves into the relatively small boat. Looking down at her feet she could see that it was only the waterproofing on her walking boots that were keeping her feet dry.

"We'll be across soon," Novel informed her, "just think about how much fun my mother and the cat are having together."

Cassie had almost forgotten about the cat. The image of it chasing - or at least attempting to chase - birds around the garden almost made her smile.

When they reached the other side the boatman quickly returned to the original shore. Smith gestured for them to follow him west – leading them into the forest.

The group moved as silently as they possibly could – their tight clothing preventing unwanted insects making skin contact. In the night the entire forest had gone deathly quiet. It was a bit like something out of a horror move that Cassie had seen on telly.

Novel was of a similar opinion. He had quickly decided that any more work involving traipsing through wooded forest areas were to be avoided at all costs. With the light of his head torch he could make out all manner of small insects scuttling along the floor and he had never been a fan of any creature with more than two legs that was not a cat or a dog. The sudden movement of branches – seeming ten times louder than it was – almost making Novel feel a bit skittish. Not wanted to further alarm Cassie he managed to rain himself in. She seemed to be slowly returning to her usual abilities. However, he doubted she would be on full cylinders until these inconveniences were apprehended.

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