Hanging with the Bear
by Maureen Crisp
‘Wow! What a start to the Titanium Games in the pool. The Cross The Pool Flotation race has a live looking polar bear centrepiece. This is just ground breaking or shall we say ice breaking stuff! How will the competitors cope?’
The news camera man gushed ecstatically into his microphone. Mozart and Debussy looked at one another. They knew there was no centrepiece. A real polar bear was sitting on a rapidly melting piece of ice in the swimming pool!
Mote’s brain quickly computed the implications of a dangerous meat-eating protected species being found in a public event with no barriers. It all added up to disaster.
Debussy moved fast. She marched up to the cameraman and waved her finger in his face. ‘How did you get into a restricted area? This complex is closed to the public and media until tonight.’
The cameraman looked surprised. ‘I was told a side door would be open.’
The polar bear began to growl and then it crouched down.
‘That is the most realistic robot I’ve ever seen,’ said the cameraman, trying to get another shot of it. Debussy jumped in front of the camera.
‘You’d better get back through that side door, she said. ‘We won’t tell on you if you leave now. Our dad’s head of security and he could cancel your media pass just like that.’ She snapped her fingers. The cameraman hoisted his camera on his shoulder and scuttled away.
Mote grabbed Debussy’s arm. ‘How do you think of stuff like that?’
Debussy grinned, ‘It’s true.’
And so’s that bear! We’ve got to get help.’ Mote pulled Debussy by the arm back to the travelator.
Behind them there was a splash. Mote looked over his shoulder. The Polar Bear was swimming to the side of the pool heading in their direction.
‘Let’s run,’ said Mote. The Polar Bear’s seen us... we could be lunch.’
They sprinted down the passage and jumped onto the moving travelator and kept running.
Through the loud speaker they heard a familiar voice. Attention! Attention! The pool complex must be evacuated due to a chlorine leak. All personnel to the exits immediately! This complex will self-seal in two minutes. Evacuate all personnel!
A siren started to wail.
‘Good,’ said Debussy, running easily down the travelator. ‘They’re on top of the problem.’
‘And the polar bear’s nearly on top of us,’ screamed Mote, trying to keep up.
Behind them they could hear growls as the polar bear tried to get on the travelator.
‘Keep running, we’re nearly there.’ called Debussy from in front.
The travelator stopped, with a jolt. Debussy stumbled. Mote skidded, his feet leaving black streaks on the rubber surface.
Behind them the growls got louder.
‘It’s not two minutes,’ yelled Debussy. They were nearly at the complex doors. They just needed to get past the security desks and they were safe. There was a loud clunk.
‘No,’ yelled Mote. He sprinted to the doors. They were locked. Debussy and Mozart stared at each other for one panicked second. ‘The souvenir shop, it must have a back entrance,’ Debussy spun round.
Mote grabbed her. ‘You can’t! Don’t Deb! he yelled. Deb tried to get her arm free. ‘The polar Bear’s right there... probably looking for a Titanium beach ball.’
Escape routes, screamed his brain. Think escape routes not lame ball jokes. Mote looked all around. Up! Above him were huge ventilation tubes running the length of the pool complex. They carried warm air out of the building. Mote jumped on top of the security desk. ‘Come on Deb, I’ll hoist you up.’ He grabbed a chair and hauled it up on the desk as Debussy climbed on.
The polar bear knocked over a rack of souvenir hoodies and got tangled up in the clothing.
Debussy climbed on the chair and reached for the edge of the ventilation tube. She was too short.
‘Climb on my back,’ said Mote, balancing on the chair. He gritted his teeth as Debussy put a foot on his hip and clambered up his back, struggling to get her feet on his shoulders.
Then her weight was gone. He looked up. She was straddling the tube, leaning down to reach for his hand.
The polar bear tore the clothes apart and started for the security desk.
Mote reached for Deb’s hand and swung up as Deb pulled. He hit the tube hard on his stomach and struggled to breathe as he clutched the smooth sides.
Below him the chair toppled off the table. With one swipe the polar bear broke the chair in two and settled down to chew the wood.
Mote closed his eyes in relief.
‘You know,’ said Debussy sounding remarkably calm for someone hanging above certain death, ‘I think whoever got that polar bear in here just made one huge mistake. Everyone will be trying to figure out how it was done. You can’t move a polar bear on your own. There must be a few people who knew about this.’
Mote snapped his eyes open. ‘You mean all the wolves are in on this,’ ‘Barker, Le Zard, the Byrd woman and Captain Pejalmer? But why? It doesn’t make sense.’
Debussy ignored his question and continued thinking out loud. ‘You would need to make sure no one was around. This place has security guards 24/7.You would have to have a strong alibi.’
Mote stared down at the polar bear below them. It finished with the chair and started on the desk.
Motion caught his eye and he squinted to see through the security glass. ‘Great, they’re here. We’re about to be rescued. He sat up to wave.’
‘No Mote! Keep still! Don’t let them see you!’ Debs kicked out with her foot and caught him a good one on the arm. Huh, Mote blinked. Debussy must have lost it. He knew it, too much Sherlock Holmes watching.
Debussy looked back at Mote. ‘We know one of the security team must be doing this and maybe more. They’re all going to have alibis. If we run around telling people what we know, that just plays into their hands. Whoever it or they are...they will try to get rid of us.’
Mote stared at her. He opened his mouth to say don’t be silly, but the words wouldn’t come. His brain made a few unwelcome connections and he knew she was right.
‘So we just lie up here, keep our mouths shut and watch what happens.’ Mote cursed quietly. ‘I hope they don’t take all day to get rid of the polar bear. I’m getting hot up here and I need to go soon.’
Well just hold on,’ Debussy said.
‘I am,’ snorted Mote, ‘by my fingernails.’
‘Sssh,’ Deb hissed. ‘I think I see guns.’
We’re heading into the middle of the story. Chapter Five ups the stakes for Mozart and Debussy...can things get any worse? Can they crack alibis? Can Mozart go to the toilet?