فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Red 4x4

The doors of some of the stable buildings were open. I went into the buildings and I looked around. Some of the stables were quite small - they had stalls for only two horses. But some stables were large - they had stalls for five or more horses. Many of the stables were locked. I looked into some of them through their windows. Every stable had a number.

I watched two men bring a horse from a small stable -Stable 32. They put the horse into a trailer and they drove away. The stables area was quite busy and nobody looked at me. It was now early evening. Many horses were coming back from training on the track. Their jockeys took them to the stables to rest.

I walked along the roads between the stables.

‘I’m not going to find The Chief here,’ I thought. ‘And I’m not going to learn anything more here. I need to talk to Sandy Bonner again. I’ll go back to L.A. now. Sandy will phone me this evening.’

Suddenly, I saw a red 4x4 with a trailer. It was near a large stable - Stable 14 - which was a hundred metres from me. A tall, slim, dark man was shutting the stable doors.

‘Is that the 4x4 that I saw at Sandy’s ranch?’ I asked myself. ‘I don’t know. There are hundreds of red 4x4s in L.A. And there are thousands or tall, slim, dark men.’

A minute later, the red 4x4 went past me. It was going towards the gateway. There were two people in the car. As the car passed me, I saw the driver’s face. He was the tall slim man that I had seen at Sandy’s ranch. He was the man that Sandy had hit. I couldn’t see the other person clearly. Was it a man or a woman? I didn’t know.

I watched the car. It stopped at the gate for a moment and then it left the stables area. I walked towards Stable 14. There was no one near the building. The doors were closed. I went to the side of the building and tried to look through the window. But I couldn’t see into the stable. There was some wood fixed inside the window.

I put my hand in my pocket and I took out my special keys. My special keys could open many different doors. Perhaps I could open the stable doors with one of these keys. I put one of the keys into the lock on the stable doors. I tried to turn the key, but it didn’t turn. I put a different key into the lock. No luck! Then I heard a car coming towards the stables area. I didn’t want anyone to see me near Stable 14. I put a third key into the lock. This time, the key turned! I opened the doors quickly and I stepped inside the stable. I locked the doors behind me.

There was very little light inside the stable. There was a smell of horses and straw. I looked around me. Along the wall to my left, there were stalls for horses. But there were no horses. All the stalls were empty. There were no stalls on the right-hand wall. And there were no doors and no windows in that wall. But there was a big cupboard on the wall, half-way along it. The cupboard was three metres high and two metres wide. There was nothing in it - it was empty.

Then I heard a noise. The noise was very close to me. Was it coming from the big cupboard? No, the cupboard was empty. And there was nobody in the stable. I did not understand.

I opened the stable doors a little and I looked outside. I had a shock! The red 4x4 with the trailer had come back. It was reversing towards the stable doors. I closed the doors quickly and looked round again. Where could I hide? There was a pile of straw in the corner of the stable. I ran to the corner and hid myself under the straw.

I heard the stable doors open. Suddenly, there was more light inside the stable. Then I heard the car and the trailer coming in. I heard someone open the back of the trailer. I didn’t move. I waited. I heard people moving in the stable.

After a few minutes, I heard someone shut the trailer. They opened the stable doors. The car and the trailer left the stable again and stopped outside. I heard someone shutting and locking the doors. The stable was darker again. Then I heard the car moving away. I was safe!

I lay under the straw and I waited. There was straw in my ears and in my nose. I waited and listened for a few minutes.

Then I got up and I walked towards the stable doors. I looked around. There was very little light and I almost fell over something. There was some more straw in the stable now, near the doors. And there was a bag of horse food.

‘Someone is going to bring a horse here soon,’ I thought. ‘I must leave quickly.’

I unlocked the stable doors and opened them. I did not see anyone outside. I stepped out of the stable and turned round. I was going to lock the doors.

Suddenly, there was a terrible pain in my head. Someone had hit me on the head. Someone had hit me very hard. I fell to the ground.

A man’s voice said, ‘You were right, Dick. There was somebody hiding in the stable.’

Then someone put a bag over my head. And someone tied my hands behind my back with a rope.

I lay on the ground and waited. What next? There was a terrible pain in my stomach, then in my arms and then in my legs. Someone was kicking me very hard. Someone was kicking me again and again. Was I going to die?

Then another man spoke.

‘Don’t kill him! I want to ask him some questions!’ he said.

The kicking stopped.

‘OK, mister,’ the second man said. ‘What were you doing in the stable? Tell me! It you don’t tell me, I’ll kill you!’

I thought for a second. Someone kicked me again. This time, someone kicked my back. Was it Dick? Who was Dick? Dick Gates?

Another kick!

‘S-security,’ I said. ‘I’m a racecourse official. I’m checking security.’ A hand touched the yellow security pass.

‘He is an official,’ Dick said. ‘What shall we do?’

‘Leave him here,’ the first voice said. ‘He hasn’t seen our faces.’ I heard the two men walk away. I lay on the ground. I could not see because the bag was over my head. I could not speak. I could not stand up. My hands were tied behind me. My whole body was painful. I fainted.

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