WELCOME TO THE COTTAGE

By: CindyR

He could feel his heart pounding wildly in his chest. Above him the red light glowed indicating that the security system was armed . and aware of him.

For the fraction of an instant he considered turning around, just forgetting the whole thing. It was dangerous; could easily mean his very life. But pride mixed with desperation to stiffen his spine. Things had been difficult lately; so many responsibilities had drained the last of his resources. He was exhausted but there was no one else. No one.

Besides, this was his job and he was good at it - the best there was. If anyone could accomplish this mission, he could.

Stealthily he approached the wall, unhooking the grappling hook from his belt and loosening the attached rope. The top fo the wall was scattered with broken glass, and he'd have to negotiate the climb one-handed. The other cradled the precious raison d'etre for the mission itself. It would have to be held absolutely steady at all costs. Tip it even a few degrees in either direction and..

No, best not to consider the possibility. He'd have to keep his mind on the target or failure was imminent.

With a soft swoosh of parting air the grapple sailed over the wall, hooking securely in the limb of an overhanging oak. A tug ensured that it was firmly ensconced in the stout branch, then he was off, climbing carefully across the wall and dropping catlike to the moist earth beyond. Stage one accomplished successfully.

Eyes darting nervously to right and left, he started off into the night, always careful to remain in the thick gloom of the woods. Just in time he avoided the infrared detectors set precisely at knee height to avoid the myriad of small life on the grounds. The visual monitors were well hidden, and it was only by virtue of night vision an owl might envy that they were seen in time. Only one way across this stretch.

Slowly, silently, he dropped to the ground. When flat on his back he began to wiggle across the open space beneath both the IR and visual monitors. If the area was mined, he was finished. But.. no, there was no way to mine an area your own people were going to frequent. And he hadn't felt any pressure sensors in his passing..

Confidence restored, he wiggled a little faster, excruciatingly careful to avoid a tilt of even five degrees in either direction. Rocks and sticks abraded his back even through the rough shirt, but he paid them no heed. Mind on the mission. Only the mission. Remember..

There! At last he was through. So far, so good. His presence had registered as a non-threatening one, he was sure - no more than a stray cat, perhaps. And he was out of range of the detectors.

Again gaining the shadow, he rose ever so carefully to his feet. Target was in sight.

The house loomed large and solid against the starry backdrop. A fitting termination point for the mission.

A light flickered on inside what must be the sitting room. Had he been discovered? No matter. The occasion for stealth had passed.

It was time.

Boldly he crossed the final gap, the grass crushing beneath his heavy boots. Six feet . five. Then one. Trembling fingers reached out and pushed the button. He smiled grimly at the startled exclamation from within. Who was it? Indeed! At last - the moment of truth! Taking a deep breath, he made himself known to his target:

"Mr. Drake? Mario's Pizza. We deliver . anywhere."