The Cupido’s house was just like ours. Built in the sixties, a square block with a small recessed stoep. “We can’t get in there,” I said as we flitted up the short drive. “Someone might see us. Come, let’s go round the back.”
The Cupidos had the same back door as us and of course it was well and truly locked.
“It’s a Yale,” Peter said. “We could break the window and slip the catch from the outside. But Charlene, if we get caught, that’s breaking and entering.”
“So what? We can say we thought we saw someone inside and this was the only way we could find out. And that would be true. I did see someone. A small hand, Peter. Not a man’s one. I bet it’s a girl.”
I stopped. Once again I was forcing him into this. And we weren’t his problem. “Look Peter. You don’t have to do this. Thanks for all your help.”
“Are you totally insane?” Peter was indignant. “Do you think I’d leave you all alone here? Besides,” he smiled, “what would I say to Melissa?”
I squeezed his hand. “Thanks, Peter Cho.” I looked over my shoulder. “We’d better move quickly though. These meetings never go on very late.”
Peter wrapped his sweat shirt around his hand and smashed his fist into the pane. The glass broke and tinkled onto the kitchen floor. I snaked my hand through the hole and slipped open the catch.
“OK?” I clutched his hand.
He gave my hand an answering squeeze. “OK Melissa Peters. Let’s do this.”
We crept through the kitchen and into the musty, dimly-lit passage. All the doors were closed. I stopped outside the one closest to the kitchen. “This is where I saw the hand,” I whispered. I pressed my ear to the door. “I can’t hear anything.”
Peter scratched on the door lightly. “Hello,” he called softly. “Anyone there?”
And then I heard it: a faint scrabbling sound as if someone was scratching the floor. And then, another noise, louder this time. Thudding.
“Charlene, look.” Peter pointed down.
There staring us in the face was a key.
“Locked,” he said.
“Ja…” I giggled (a little hysterically I have to say), “from the outside.”
“He’s certainly making it easy for us,” Peter grinned.
He turned the key and tried the handle. The door was stiff.
“Here,” Peter handed me his sweat shirt, then put his shoulder to the door and shoved.
The smell hit us before we saw what was inside.
A thick smell of unwashed bodies and urine. And rising sharply above that, the rancid, acrid, animal smell of fear.
And then, the wild muffled sound of someone struggling to speak.
The room was dark. Very dark.
“We can’t switch on the light,” Peter said. “Close one eye for a few seconds.”
“Whaaat? We don’t have time for this,” I hissed (again).
“Just do it.”
Amazing. Suddenly I could make out shapes. A large table in one corner. And in another, two huddled shapes, writhing frantically. Peter and I crept towards the source of the smell. Two young girls, thin as shadows.
“Shh,” I soothed, trying to sound reassuring even though my heart was racing faster than a humming bird’s. “Just keep very quiet.” I fumbled to untie one gag, trying not to retch at the smell of very bad breath. The gag was slimy in my hands as I eased it away gently.
Peter was busy untying the other. “We’re going to get you out of here.” His voice was deep and very calm.
“Oh, I don’t think you are,” said a quiet voice from the doorway.
Councillor Selvin Cupido. Home early from the ratepayers meeting – or did he get suspicious? He’s reaching into his pocket. And – you guessed it – pulling out a small, but very ugly little pistol.
Tell us what you think: Would you have taken this kind of risk and broken into the house?