THIS COULD BE THE START

CHAPTER FIVE

A/N: First, I would like to thank everyone who reviewed or alerted me. I am glad that you all like where this story is going. I know I am being a broken record, but I am sorry it takes me too long to update. Between my job, my health issues and my muse, it does get challenging sometimes to update quickly. But, fear not, for I DO plan on finishing my works, however long they may take to complete. That said, on with this chapter.

Dedication: To Donald B, who continues to aid me in some of my technical issues.

Previously: His eyes flicked to Steed. "So," the guide finished, "I only arranged for one room."

Mrs. Peel looked as though she'd protest, but Steed gripped her arm, saying, "We'll take the room. Thank you."

She calmed down, but the look in her eyes indicated that this discussion was far from over.

"I'll arrange for better clothes for both of you," Norieta said. "you will appreciate them when we are walking or riding in this hot climate."

He motioned for them to follow, and presently, the trio arrived at his jeep, a green vehicle with huge tires and a dented door on his side. Norieta opened it, ushering Mrs. Peel into the back seat, and together, they were off.

The vehicle stopped in front of a hut made of bamboo pieces held together by strong ropes. The structure had three openings where glass windows would be. They were about three feet wide by three feet long, and they were covered with suede pieces held down with string. The roof, which looked like it had been thrown together with hay and little else, jutted out far enough so that the deck/porch that ran along the whole house was shaded. On the deck/porch were two rocking chairs. They were made from a medium brown type of wood and they had a criss cross design, as though they were woven. Steed and Mrs. Peel exchanged a look; both hoping that the inside looked a lot better than the outside.

Oblivious to their disappointed stares, Norieta pushed open the bamboo door with the diamond shaped opening in its middle. Mrs. Peel went in first...and what she saw took her breath away.

"I take back everything I thought about you just now, Steed," she said, boldly going further inside. Puzzled, the agent followed her inside. He glanced at the inner sanctum, and he saw a well-furnished interior that had furniture made not with bamboo, but with pau rosa, a rose tinted wood famous in that region.

Norieta pushed back a door with a tiny glass window which revealed a small, yet serviceable water closet. There was a sink and a shower with the toilet (which looked like fixtures out of the 1920's,) and they were all white and they rested on the only tiled floor in the whole cabin.

When one emerged out of the water closet, one saw that there was a small cook stove with some cabinets which, Norieta showed, were fully stocked with canned goods. There was, however, no sink except for the one in the water closet. When he glanced at the open cabinets, Steed noticed another problem: there was not a single bottle of liquor to be had.

Obviously, he mentally concluded, I'll have to fix that! "Norieta," Steed asked.

The guide turned to regard the agent. "Yes?" He responded.

"You wouldn't happen to have some drinks of the alcoholic persuasion, would you?" Steed queried.

While he waited for an answer, Mrs. Peel looked with some dismay at the single bed that was in the living quarters. It had two pillows for each side. The pillows were atop maroon colored thin sheets and seemed big enough like a Queen size, she noticed. Perhaps, she thought, she could move closer to the edge. Emma also reasoned that, if he was any kind of gentleman, Steed would be clothed, so nothing untoward would happen. She focused on Norieta.

He smiled, saying, "I will see what I can do, but, Senior Steed, a trip into town and back will take a few hours." His eyes stared at Mrs. Peel, and he caught her expression. "And for you, senora? What can I bring you?"

"A second room, when it's convenient," Mrs. Peel muttered. Norieta's only response was to grin again.

"Tomorrow, I will take you both to the area where Senior Peel last was," he told them. "They should have better accommodations there."

Steed thanked him, and when the tracker left them alone, the spy undid his shirt's first two buttons and ran his fingers through his raven curls. Although he looked like he suffered a little from the heat, Steed didn't appear to sweat at all. How, she wondered, did one do that? Emma had begun to feel some beads of perspiration running down her neck.

Steed, meanwhile, had found a can of stew and seeing a can opener in one of the cabinets, proceeded to open it. Mrs. Peel was about to take off Steed's blazer when she felt something cylindrical in the pocket. It was a tiny pill box. After he'd finished putting the stew into a pot to cook, Steed looked back at her.

In response to her inquiring stare, Steed told her, "They're vaccine pills. The laboratory at Headquarters developed them. There are a lot of dangerous creatures here, Mrs. Peel. An agent has to be prepared."

Mrs. Peel said wryly, "I don't doubt that." Swallowing one horse sized white tablet, she commented, "The least they could have done was to make it sweeter."

Steed swallowed the bitter concoction; then, he handed a smaller red tablet to her. "Did your husband ever come up with something similar?" He asked, wincing slightly at the aftertaste. "I'd heard he was a chemist of the first order."

Mrs. Peel shook her head, saying, "You heard falsely. Chemicals were not his specialty; they were more mine. But, we hadn't developed anything for the deadly frogs, spiders and snakes of Brazil yet. What's the red one for?"

"I presume you've heard of the vipers and elapids in Brazil?" he asked. When she nodded, he started stirring their dinner, telling her, "That takes care of their venom, and the blue pills inside are for the poisonous dart frogs."

Mrs. Peel was amused as she pulled out the last coloured pill. "Leave it to your agency to provide a rainbow of medicine," she lightly teased.

"It was either that or eat a pill the size of, well, Brazil," Steed responded. "We should be protected for at least seven hours." He placed the medicine into the jacket's pockets and together they consumed the blue tablets.

By the time they had taken all three pills, Steed had fetched two bowls, and together, the pair dined on stew and some cool water in a canteen courtesy of a small refrigerator that was on the opposite side. Mrs. Peel saw that the electrical wire attached to it ran outside the hut, presumably to a generator.

"Mr. Norieta sure thinks of everything," she remarked. A second later, she yawned and said, "I am going to sleep like the dead."

Putting their dirty dishes in the bathroom sink, Steed rolled up his sleeves and washed them and, finding a rag, also dried them. He walked out, saying in all seriousness, "Prophetic words, Mrs. Peel?"

Taking off the blazer, she laid it on a chair by the bed and responded as she closed her eyes, her camisoled form stretching out like a lazy cat, "You don't trust that we'll reach our destination safely?"

Steed put his bowler on a hook by the water closet and approached the bed. He didn't lie down yet, but waited expectantly. Mrs. Peel looked up at him, and giving her silent consent that he could lie beside her, she moved toward the edge of the bed's left side. As he settled down on the bed's right edge, Steed turned away, preparing to sleep on his side.

Finally, he said, "I don't trust anything, Mrs. Peel. I'm sure you've observed that by now."

Thoughtfully, as she drifted off in the arms of Morbius, Mrs. Peel remarked, "I wonder if Norieta is hiding anything. He smiles too much for my taste."

They both hugged their edges of the bed, determined not to snuggle up to each other. Before long, Steed's soft snoring echoed throughout the cabin. Mrs. Peel's arm flung itself across his hair, coming to rest on his pillow at the top of the bed.

XXXXXXXXXXX

The man crept closer to the cabin that night, his square cage with its occupant nestled in his arms. He had the wildness of a jackal in his eyes; the lust of the kill in his thoughts. The people who had hired him had chosen well, he thought. They wanted the job done on the two strangers quickly and quietly. He would have liked to have slit their throats, particularly the woman. There was something magical about blood running down a lady's body as she screamed.

Of course, he mentally reassured himself, there are always creatures for me to hunt.

Besides, he knew, the other profession that he was known for served him well.

He released the lid on the glass cage and watched as the killer made its way up the electric cord over the generator and up toward the middle opening. Then, he lifted the material covering it very carefully and stepped way back to let Number Six, as he lovingly named his sixth out of twelve, crawl into the room.

He knew that it would become part of the jungle again after it had completed its job. Regrettable that he would lose one of his own creatures, but, he thought with satisfaction, he could always find another.

He softly withdrew from the cabin, going back as stealthily as he'd come to report to his superiors.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Mrs. Peel awoke mere moments later. She went into the water closet, pausing to look at Steed. He lay perfectly still; one of his arms extending outward. The creature inched across the floor as she splashed some water on her face. While she answered nature's call, the diminutive attacker, which moved at incredible speed, crawled up the sheets on the bed.

Mrs. Peel emerged from the water closet and her jaw dropped when she saw the eight legged spider the size of a tarantula making its way up Steed's side and coming to rest on the middle of his other arm.

She swallowed softly; she knew exactly which type of spider the creature was. If her colleague moved even a fraction of an inch….She whispered frantically, "Steed, don't move."

Steed's eyes fluttered open. He couldn't see the thing on his arm, but his ears processed Mrs. Peel's warning, his instincts telling him to freeze. She backed away very slowly so as not to frighten the eight legged visitor. It continued to stare at the agent, but it made no moves yet. Mrs. Peel went to Steed's blazer, hoping that she would find something…anything that she could use to get it off of the agent.

Mrs. Peel dug in Steed's pockets and pulled out a small card reading, "to John Steed, and an unforgettable evening in London, eternally yours, Lizette." There was a phone number written in bold letters.

Figures…she thought.

Next, she pulled out a bracelet that was very small with a tiny wineglass charm on it. She didn't want to know where Steed had gotten that. She then found a pair of handcuffs covered with pink fur. Ignoring those, Mrs. Peel saw a beautiful picture postcard of a nude beach with the most sexually provocative message on its back. When she thought she wouldn't find any kind of weapon, she felt a small book and withdrew it from Steed's pocket. It looked like an address book, she guessed.

That would do, she reasoned. Waiting somewhat impatiently, Steed was starting to sweat a little. He had never been afraid of anything, but as he wondered what was taking so long for his roommate to act, Steed worried that she might not be fast enough. Mrs. Peel slowly inched her way toward the bed. In what seemed like hours, (at least to Steed's way of thinking,) she finally reached his side, using the book and carefully flinging the unwelcome intruder off of his body.

After a brief pause the spider started going up and out of the opening. Steed and Mrs. Peel wondered if it might return. Silently, he pointed to the peg on the side nearest the bathroom where the bowler hung. She grabbed the hat slowly so as not to scare the arachnid, and before it reached the ledge of the bamboo opening, Mrs. Peel let the bowler fly. The sharp metal tip sliced through the spider, impaling it to the wall.

Both breathed a sigh of relief. A minute later, however, Steed frowned. "That was my best bowler!" He yelled.

Mrs. Peel responded dryly, "A simple 'thank you' would suffice."

Steed regarded her, saying, "Many thanks, Mrs. Peel." They pulled down the openings and as they secured them, she sighed, suggesting, "I'll take the first watch."

Thinking that was appropriate that they take turns watching for other signs of treachery, Steed agreed, his voice shaking somewhat. "Of course, Mrs. Peel, he said, "Ladies first." He settled down on his side of the bed to an uneasy sleep.