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 The Christmas Treasure Hunt

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bsbilsed

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Posts : 30
Join date : 2010-09-24
Location : Mechelen, Belgium
Humor : Yes, I laugh a lot at good humor.

PostSubject: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:14 am

Just moving from the previous site to here.

Prologue

Christmas Eve – Paris

Seb walked into the house shaking off the snow. He had just spent some wonderful time playing in the snow with his children. He loved a good snowball fight, building a snowman. It happened so rarely that there was enough snow in Paris.
Walking in he heard a text message had arrived on this mobile phone. While taking off his coat he looked at the picture that had been sent to him. It was a bit of hair. That was odd. Looking a bit closer, he recognized Carlos’ curls. Smiling he opened the accompanying message:
‘Keep an eye on your phone for a special Xmas present.’
Shaking his head he wondered what Carlos was up to this year.

Christmas Eve – somewhere in the Alps

It was wonderful standing on the slopes again. Urs had enjoyed his skiing all afternoon and was now aiming to go down for the last time. The darkness was falling and he was looking forward to some warming drinks with his friends and family.
Suddenly his mobile phone signalled he had a message.
A picture showing a hand had been sent to him. That was odd. Studying the photo a bit closer he recognized Carlos’ hand.
He read the message that came with the photo:
‘Keep an eye on your phone for a special Xmas present.’

Christmas Eve – New York

Their first Christmas as a married couple. David had been looking forward to this for so long. And now he was getting the last presents. Yes, again he had left it too late but with all the travelling he hadn’t gotten to it until this afternoon.
Thinking of the box from Victoria’s Secrets, he looked at his cell phone when a message came in.
A picture showed a foot. Wondering what that was all about he nearly stepped into the traffic. Quickly he looked at the accompanying message:
‘Keep an eye on your phone for a special Xmas present.’
Returning to the picture, he recognized Carlos’ foot. What was he up to? Did Carlos miss him already?


Chapter 1

3 Days ago – 21 December 2009

The last Christmas concert in the UK was already upon them. And the guys felt giddy, exited to take a break, looking forward to having some time off with their loved ones over this wonderful Christmas period. They were still laughing with a joke told in the back when they got on stage.
Carlos had grabbed a bit of mistletoe from their dressing room. At the time he had wondered who had put it there, who wanted to kiss who? Never mind now. He had grabbed the small branch and hid it in his suit pocket.

Seb just finished one of their songs and Carlos walked straight to him, holding the mistletoe behind his back until he was right next to his friend. Seb turned to see why Urs and David and the public were laughing. He looked at Carlos holding the mistletoe above his head. Carlos laughed and gave Seb a kiss on each cheek.
‘Merry Christmas, Seb!’ Carlos said. David and Urs were in stitches.
‘Ladies, Seb is a wonderful friend but . . . . who would like to be under the mistletoe with me?’
Putting on his most seductive smile, he walked along the front of the podium until his eye fell upon a young woman, blond, tall, curves in all the right places not by nature, definitely with the help of a plastic surgeon. But she was a stunner. Carlos caught her eye and she rushed over to him.
Holding the mistletoe over his head, he quickly kissed the girl.
‘Carlito, you want to kiss all the lovely ladies out there?’ Seb joked.
‘If only I could, my friend.’ Carlos joined them again for the next song.

All too soon the concert was over. The public went home, having enjoyed the unusual banter between the men, full of the Christmas spirit.

After their shower, they decided to go for a drink before each going their own way. They would meet up again after Christmas. So this was a good time to hand out some presents. They each had gone through a lot of trouble finding something special. For Urs, the guys had bought a new gadget for him to learn to play the drums. Special wristbands were linked to drumsticks in his hands. With headphones on, he could hear the drumming which was done in the air. Much like air-guitar is done. And the good thing was that Urs could play it as much as he wanted without the other noticing the noise . . . or should that be sound, music?

When they walked out a few hours later, it had just started snowing. Remembering the film White Christmas, Seb started singing:
‘Snow’
Followed by Carlos, Urs and David with the highest note. Laughing, they hugged and left to go home. Tomorrow David, Urs and Seb would fly home. Carlos still had some shopping to do in London.


Chapter 2

2 Days ago – 22 December 2009

Carlos loved walking through London in the snow. He had slept in so it was nearly lunch time before he got out and walked to his car. The snow was still there and he remembered last night’s song. Silently he started singing again.
It had been such a wonderful year with all the travelling and success they had enjoyed. He was still with his head in the clouds when he walked into Harrods and promptly walked into someone. All around him presents were dropped on the floor.

Apologizing, he quickly helped to collect all the gifts. When he finally got up he recognized the woman in front of him. She looked as beautiful as last night.
‘Oh, Hello again!’
He gave her his most charming smile.
A bit shy, she smiled back.
‘Hello, Mr. Marin.’
‘Thank you for the kiss last night. I’m sorry for making you drop all your lovely parcels in the snow. I hope nothing has broken.’
He continued.
‘I’m sure they are all ok, thank you.’
She seemed a bit lost for words. He did not want to make her uncomfortable.
‘Well, have a nice festive season.’
She nodded but did not move. Carlos tipped his hat and started walking into the shop. Looking back, she was still standing there with her parcels. He walked back out again.
‘Would you like to have coffee with me?’
She startled for a moment.
‘That’s ok. My husband should be here any minute to collect me.’
Just then a message arrived on her cell phone. She quickly read it.
‘Or not. Seems he has been delayed. I would love a coffee with you.’
Carlos helped her with some of her bags and they walked to a small bistro down the road to have something to drink.
It was nice and warm in the bistro. They found a table close to the window so she could keep an eye on the road for her husband.
They talked about family and plans for the Christmas season. It was all very comfortable.
After about an hour, Catherine said her goodbyes expecting her husband’s car any time now. Carlos helped her with her bags, walking back to the entrance of Harrods. After a last kiss on her cheek he left her.
He finally walked into the shop, thinking what a lovely lady she had turned out to be. If only he could find someone like that.
He turned around once more and saw her get into a car.
A man looked at him, fire in his eyes. Carlos shuddered at the intensity of the gaze. He quickly moved further into the shop, pitying Catherine a little.
But now, shopping time! His mum would not be pleased if he did not come home with presents for the whole family.

Chapter 3

1 Days ago – 23 December 2009

Carlos stretched out in his bed. He should get up but the covers were so warm and comfortable. He snuggled down a bit more and looked out of this bedroom window. A bit of sunshine was out and illuminating the snow on the meadow. Nearly Christmas Eve, a wonderful time.
He should get up. He still had to do some wrapping, pack his suitcase and do a last bit of shopping. And it was already 10 am.
He sighed once more and then threw back the covers. He shivered as the cold air hit his bare skin. A nice warm shower would solve that!
By lunchtime, he had the house sorted. He had a few last things in the fridge to have for lunch. Opening a bottle of Cava, he settled in front of the fireplace with all the wrapping paper, ribbons and bows. Quite a few of his presents were already wrapped beautifully but there were a few still to do. Soft music played in the background and for the next couple of hours Carlos got into the Christmas spirit, imagining already how each person would react to their present.

He wanted to take some Deluxe Mince Pies with brandy cream to give to his uncle so he took his car to the local Sainsburry. He knew the shop would stock them. He just hoped he was not too late.
Everywhere in the shop, people were busy doing their last minute Christmas food shopping. There were turkeys and geese, lovely cheeses, and lots of sweets. He decided to treat himself to some Turkish delight.
By the time he walked out, it was already getting a bit dark and it looked like it was going to snow again. As long as it would not stop him from flying home, Carlos did not mind.
He quickly opened his car and got in. He turned to put his shopping on the back seat when suddenly the other doors were opened and three men got in the car.
‘Excuse me!’ Carlos said surprised, ‘What are you doing?’
The man next to him in the passenger seat pulled out a gun and aimed it straight at Carlos.
Carlos didn’t move.
‘What do you want? Money?’
The men smiled briefly.
‘Drive.’ The man with the gun ordered Carlos.
With shacking hands, he started the car and backed out of the parking spot. When he got to the end of the parking lot, he did not know what to do.
‘Drive to your place.’ The man said again.
Carlos didn’t know what to think of that. Was this a kidnapping or did they hope to steal more from his home. They could have everything as long as they didn’t kill him. This was not how he had anticipated his Christmas vacation to go.

They soon reached his house and he parked in front of the door. Carlos was ordered out of the car and made to open the front door. Everyone walked in.
Immediately, two of the men started rummaging through the house, opening all the cupboards and drawers, pulling things out, pushing over delicate figurines, breaking glasses while going through his things.

The man with the gun had lead Carlos to the living room and pushed him on a chair. He opened the box of Turkish delight and ate them slowly one by one. No one spoke.

The men came back into the living room, shaking their head to the man with the gun.
With that, he turned to Carlos and asked:
‘Where does she put her stuff?’
Carlos looked confused.
‘Excuse me? Whose stuff?’
The man slightly turned away from him, smiling and sighing at the same time.
‘Mr. Marin, don’t play with us. You will not like it if you play with us.’
It sounded very menacing but Carlos still didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
‘Honestly, I don’t know what you are talking about.’
The back of the man’s hand hit his face so hard he was thrown off the chair onto the floor.
Carlos stayed on the floor for a moment, dazed and even more confused. This was not going well.
‘Argh, blindfold him and take him.’
Carlos was pulled up and a piece of cloth was tied over his eyes. They lead him back outside. He heard the motor of a second car running and was pushed against it roughly. Someone opened the boot and pushed him in. Before they closed the lid, his hands were tied with a plastic tie, cutting into his skin.
Then it was dark and the car started moving.

Chapter 4

23 December 2009 - evening

It was a long drive. Carlos had lost all sense of direction, lying in the dark. He tried to bite through the plastic tie but the plastic was too hard. His hands started hurting and he tried to move them a little to ease the pain.

The car stopped. Carlos heard footsteps coming closer and the boot was opened. Two men pulled him out and removed the blindfold. They were in front of a large mansion. Leading him inside, no one spoke.
In a large living room the fire was blazing. A large Christmas tree adorned the room and everything felt warm and cosy. Like Christmas is supposed to be.
A man got up from a large chair and walked to him.
‘Guys, please. . . ‘ He pointed to Carlos’ tied hands.
The gunman quickly cut through the plastic.
‘Mr. Marin, my apologies. This is not how you should treat a guest. Will you join me for a drink?’
Carlos rubbed his hands and followed the man to the fireplace. The man pointed to the settee, inviting him to sit down.
Carlos did so but very slowly.
‘I’m sorry but can you please tell me what you want.’ Carlos asked.
The man handed him a whiskey. Carlos didn’t like whiskey too much but didn’t dare refuse it. He took a small sip while the man walked to the fireplace. Slowly, he picked up a piece of burning wood with the thongs and used it to light his cigar.
‘Do you know who I am, Mr. Marin?’
‘Euh, no, sir.’
‘My name is Giovanni Tatalia.’
The man looked at Carlos expecting him to immediately recognize the name.
Carlos shook his head.
‘Nice to meet you.’ Was all Carlos could say.
‘You don’t know me do you?’
Carlos slowly shook his head again.
‘I am a very influential man, Mr. Marin.’
Carlos kept on eye on the man who finally put down the piece of burning wood and sat down in the large chair next to the fire.
‘I hold your life in my hands.’
That startled Carlos and he jumped up.
‘Please, sit down. I have not yet finished.’
Carlos only then noticed that two men were standing behind him. Slowly he sat down again.
‘Are you married, Mr. Marin?’
‘No.’ Carlos said hesitantly.
‘That would explain your behaviour. Well, Mr. Marin, I am going to teach you a very valuable lesson.’
Everyone stayed quiet and didn’t move. The man, Giovanni Tatalia, looked at his watch and got up. In the distance a door was opened and someone was coming closer. Carlos could not see who it was because of the Christmas tree. But then she reached them.
‘Sweetheart, I think you know our guest.’
Catherine turned around and saw Carlos sitting very quietly. She startled, looking back at her husband now.
‘Yes, your lover.’ She quickly shook her head.
‘No, no. He is not.’
Giovanni slapped her so hard she was thrown on the floor. Carlos got up immediately but was stopped by the two men.
Giovanni looked down at his wife.
‘I’ll take care of you later.’
He turned to Carlos.
‘We don’t have a relationship.’ Carlos said immediately.
‘Mr. Marin, first you kiss my wife in full view of the world. Then you meet up for coffee and you kiss her again. What is a man to think? Please tell me.’
‘I’m sorry. I should not have kissed her the other night. And we met up by accident. It was cold so we had a coffee. There is nothing going on.’
Carlos tried but it was obvious from the man’s face that he did not believe him. Giovanni lifted his hand to make Carlos stop talking.
‘Mr. Marin, no man takes my wife from me. She is mine. And you, you need to be punished. I think it is only fair, don’t you.’
Carlos started shaking a bit.
‘Please, finish your drink.’
‘I have lost the appetite.’
‘As you wish. Boys, take Mr. Marin to the room. Get him ready. I’ll join you later, after I have had a word with my wife.’
Carlos was pulled along. No longer a guest in this man’s house, he had no idea what was in the room they were taking him to but he was sure it was nothing good.

Giovanni helped Catherine up.
‘See what you made me do. And so close to Christmas.’
Catherine sat on the settee, not daring to move.
Giovanni lifted her face.
‘I forgive you.’ He slowly kissed her.
Turning he started to walk out.
‘Darling, what are you going to do to him?’
He stopped for a moment and looked at her.
‘Don’t you worry now my dear. He’ll be looked after. And when I’m finished, he won’t try to steal a man’s wife again, ever.’
And he left the living room.


Chapter 5

23 December 2009 – late evening

Carlos was lead to a room at the far side of the house. It was obviously the man’s gym. Different machines were available for work outs. But Carlos was pushed to the back of the room. A sparing area had been created.
‘Take off your shirt.’ Carlos was told. He hesitated.
‘Why?’
The men just laughed.
‘Cause that’s what boxers do!’
‘I have no intention of fighting.’ Carlos said defiantly.
The men just shook their heads.
‘As you please.’
They walked to him and forcibly tore off his shirt. Then they put a long rope on each hand. Carlos was confused and tried to stop them but to no avail. Then the men put some boxing gloves on his hands.
And then they sat down, each on one side of the ring, holding on to the ropes.
They didn’t have to wait too long before their boss joined them, already attired.
‘So, Mr. Marin. You like the noble sport of boxing?’ Giovanni pretended to care.
‘Not really. Look, Mr. Tatalia. There is no reason for us to fight. Your wife and I are not having a relationship. I like to flirt. What can I say. I’m Spanish.’
‘And I am Italian. Assume the position.’
Giovanni lifted his hands, ready to start fighting. Carlos could only follow his example. He escaped the first few attempts of the Italian, not returning any of the blows.
‘Please, can we not talk about this?’ Carlos pleaded again.
Again Giovanni missed him when Carlos ducked under his hand.
‘Guys!’ Giovanni shouted to his men. Carlos looked at them, not understanding the message.
But the next time Giovanni came at him, his hands were pulled to the side and Carlos was fully exposed. This time he could not avoid the blows. One after one, the fists hit him, again and again. He tried to lift his hands, to protect his face, his abdomen. But the ropes prevented it. Until he went down on his knees, everything going black, unconsciousness gripping him, pulling him away from the onslaught.
Giovanni spat at the man who tried to steal his wife, angry that it was already over. He had wanted him to suffer a lot more.
‘Kill him and dump him.’
Giovanni turned to leave the room.
‘Heu, boss. You think that is a good idea?’ One of his men said nervously.
Slowly Giovanni turned around again to look at Carlos.
‘I only say, he’s very famous.’
For a moment Giovanni was thinking about it. Then a small smile appeared on his face.
‘Well spotted. I just may have plans for him yet. Tie him down so he can’t escape.’
Giovanni left it to his men, walking back out the room. Now for his wife.


Chapter 6

24 December 2009

Carlos was finally released from the arms of unconsciousness only to realise he was tied down. He was sitting on a chair in the dark. His face hurt and he could hardly open his eyes. The sticky wetness of blood moistened his lips. He spat some of the blood out on the floor. It did not make him feel any better.
What time was it? For that matter, what day even? For a moment he thought of his friends, safely with their families, far away from all of this. But who would rescue him? Who was left?

Carlos watched the sun come up through the windows of the gyms. The freezing cold gave the garden a fairy like appearance. How he wished he was walking away from this house, to the bottom of the garden where fairies and angels live.
He tried to dream away but his body was protesting the rope, the pain making it impossible to sit comfortably.

Finally someone walked into the room again. It was Giovanni Tatalia and his men. Carlos looked up at him but stayed quiet.
Giovanni was lighting another cigar, blowing the smoke is Carlos’ face. It made him cough and wince at the same time, turning his head away from the fumes.

‘Mr. Marin, do you think your friends would try to find you?’
That got Carlos’ attention and he looked back at the man, not answering.
‘What would they do to get you back?’ Giovanni asked.
Carlos refused to answer, noticing it bothered the other man.
‘You will answer me.’
And to make his point, Giovanni pushed the tip of his burning cigar against Carlos’ chest.
Carlos tried not to moan out load when the fire burned his skin, trying to breathe through the pain, all his muscles tense, balling his fists.
‘I ask again: will your friends try to get you back?’
Carlos took a few deep breaths and looked up again.
‘Please, leave them out of this. They are with their families.’
Giovanni looked startled.
‘Mr. Marin, do you honestly believe I would spoil their Christmas? No, no. A few things have to be put in place. Then the treasure hunt can begin.’
Carlos shook his head.
‘Please, just let me go.’ He pleaded again.
Giovanni got up close to his face. Carlos could smell his foul breath. And suddenly he saw an opportunity. His hands were not tied down and he grabbed the man’s shirt, trying to pull him down to his knees.
But Giovanni struggle hard and was able to pull himself free. With a swift move he grabbed a knife from one of his men and plunged it through Carlos’ hand, pinning him to the chair. Carlos screamed, tears running down his face.

Giovanni took a moment to compose himself.
‘See what you made me do.’ He reprimanded Carlos.
Carlos didn’t react. He wanted this to stop, now.

‘Now, let’s get this started.’
There was a lot of activity going on around him and Carlos could not imagine what they were doing. He looked down at his hand, trying to move his fingers. He still could but it was very painful.

He looked up and noticed a camera pointed at him.
‘Mr. Marin, won’t you say something to your friends?’
The red light was on, showing the camera was filming.
Carlos just shook his head. He was not going to be a willing participant to this show.
‘That’s ok. I’m sure they’ll get the message.’
The camera was moving slowly over his body and Carlos was sure they were filming him in every detail.
What would the guys do when they saw this? He didn’t want them to get into danger as well. So when the camera pointed back at him, he started shaking his head.
‘Don’t come. Don’t do anything this man wants!’
Giovanni started laughing.
‘Mr. Marin, your friends won’t come here. They need to find you. And hopefully in time!’
Carlos was confused. How should they rescue him then?
‘Don’t worry, it’ll become clear before Christmas!’ And Giovanni laughed again.

After filming him, they took a few photos and then left Carlos alone. For hours he just sat there, slipping in and out of consciousness. Once in a while, when he lifted his head, he looked out of the windows. But it was getting more difficult to see. His face had swollen up and both his eyes were nearly completely closed now.
This was not the Christmas evening he had looked forward too. He thought of his mum and his family, awaiting him in Spain but he would not be there.

Elsewhere in the house, a new website was being created. The film was uploaded with instructions. And three photos were sent to three mobile phones.
The hunt could begin.


Chapter 7

24 December 2009 - evening

A normally deserted and dark back road just outside of the village of Bovingdon was disturbed by a lot of commotion tonight. A truck was parked, all lit up and surrounded by cars. Men were walking about. A wooden crate was standing in the middle of the road.

Only for a moment all the noise and the shouting around her disappeared, remembering that one moment when she had kissed his lips tenderly. But then the harsh reality crashed back into her life.

He looked scared, tears slowly slipping down his face as he lay in his box, hands tied together, tape over his mouth.
One last moment he looked at her and then the lid was hammered down hard.
‘Carlos!’
He heard her call his name. And there was nothing he could do about it.

It was dark in his cell. The wooden box forced him to lie on his back unable to sit up. He could reach up a bit but not a lot. This wooden box would become his coffin if word did not get to his friends, this wooden box the last thing he would ever see.

The box was loaded onto a truck. The doors of the truck were closed and the motor started. Pulling away from the roadside, the truck soon disappeared in the distance. Catherine turned to her tormentor.
‘Now what?’ she asked, fear sounding through her silent whisper.
‘Send his friends their Christmas present. I don’t know if he’ll last very long where he is going.’
For a second anger flashed through her eyes. But she knew better. She had caused this situation. Quietly she asked:
‘Where have you sent him?’
The man just smiled.
‘By the way, we’ll make sure they are kept up to date of his situation. Just so they know when he’s going to die!’
The man laughed loud, turning away from her.
He got into his car and slowly drove to her.
‘This is their treasure hunt, not yours. Now get into the car as a good girl.’ His voice was cold again. She hesitated but not for long.


Chapter 8

25 December 2009

What a Christmas day. Sebastien sat in his chair for a moment. Since early morning his kids had been super active, wanting to spend all their time with Dad. It had freed up his wife to prepare a wonderful dinner. And now he was full, could not eat anything any more. The kids were settled in front of the TV watching a Walt Disney Christmas story and he finally had some quality time with his sweetheart. She lay comfortably on his lap, enjoying her family around her. What a great way to spend Christmas.
‘Did you hear back from Carlos?’ she suddenly remembered. Seb had told her about the mysterious message, wondering what his friend could be up to.
‘As a matter of fact, no. But I’m sure he’ll be in touch.’
And with that a message arrived on his mobile phone.
‘Told you.’
For a moment Seb hesitated getting up. But he knew Carlos would be waiting for a reply to his Christmas surprise. So Seb grabbed the phone.
Indeed, the message showed it came from Carlos. But when he opened it, there was only a weblink. With a sigh Seb walked to the laptop in the corner of the room and switched it on.

Urs was finishing off the last bit of dessert. He would have to spend some time in the gym to work off all the goodness he had had today. He felt his phone go in his pocket and absentmindedly pulled it out, knowing it would be Carlos.
Strange, only a website. What had Carlos been up to? That man had too much time on his hands.
He quickly finished the last bite and walked to his room. With Carlos you never knew what was going to come through.
Switching on his laptop, he looked again at the web address and typed it in.

Christmas morning. David lay lazily in bed. They had not slept a lot after he had given her the Victoria Secrets box. But then they had all day to lazy about. They were expected at his sister’s place by 16:00 only. So plenty of time.
His phone went and immediately he knew it was the present Carlos had promised. Wondering what it was, David had a quick look. A web address? Carlos was making progress. He was not one to use the computer a lot. Maybe he was trying to show off. Lazily David got out of bed and switched on his laptop, entering the web address in the message.

Three laptops switched on, one web address typed in. The site was decorated for Christmas and three doors showed each with a name: Urs, Sebastien and David. Three men smiling as they clicked on their door.
They each saw the little piece of photo they had received the other night. But slowly the picture became bigger, revealing the full horror. Carlos’ desperate pleas for release played over and over.
Eyes going wider, smiles disappearing.
When the picture froze, it showed Carlos on a chair. A message appeared: 07:00 at Carlos’ house.
This must be a joke!
Urs grabbed his phone and dialled Carlos’ number. There was no reply. In stead he received a message which only read: 7.
He called David but his phone was engaged.
‘David, get off the phone!’ He shouted.
But David was already calling Sebastien.
‘Seb, this has got to be a joke!’
Seb was silent, too stunned to say anything.
‘Seb, you there?
‘Yes, yes. David what about Urs?’
‘Hang on, I’ll conference him in.’
David went off the line and Seb sat quietly, replaying the same image again and again, also looking behind the Urs and David doors to make sure this was not some sick joke.
His wife joined him.
‘Sweetheart, what is the matter?’
Seb startled from her voice behind him. Then she saw the picture and gasped.
Seb quickly got up to hold her.
‘Ssht, don’t alert the kids.’
‘Seb?’
David’s voice came through the phone again. Seb sat back down, turned towards the picture.
‘Urs, you there?’ He asked.
‘Yes, I’m here. Guys, this is serious. I’ve already looked at flights and I’m booked on the 7 o’clock flight tonight back to London.’
‘I’m driving over. I can’t get a plane out of Paris today but with the Eurotunnel I’ll get there by 7 am.’
‘I can’t make it to his house by 7 am.’ David realised.
He had been browsing to book a flight back. But the only flight with a free seat on it was at 18:50. That would get him to Heathrow by 7 am. A little earlier with tail wind. But it would still take him and hour to get to Carlos’ house.
‘David, get there as soon as you can. Seb and I will be waiting for you.’
They ended the call with promises to be careful themselves. They didn’t know if this was an attack on Carlos only or someone had targeted them all.

Somewhere outside of London, a truck started up again. The driver had spent Christmas day with his family but now he had to leave to catch the 23:15 ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland.


Chapter 9

25 December 2009

Carlos woke up when he felt the truck move. Christmas day had passed by him in silence, cold and solitude. But last nights events were fresh in his mind.
By nightfall Giovanni Tatalia had turned up again with his men. They had undone the rope and pulled out the knife. That had caused his hand to start bleeding again. They had used a piece of his torn shirt to put a make shift bandage around his hand. Only so no blood would spill on the floor.
It was difficult for Carlos to stand up. Usually so proud and upright he now leaned over, holding his abdomen. His face was a bit less swollen but he still had problems seeing properly.
They had escorted him out where a few cars were waiting. In one of them Catherine was sitting, staring straight in front of her.
He was pushed into a car and they all drove off. Ten minutes later, the cars had stopped again.
Bright lights were on and in the middle of the road stood a box.
Two men grabbed Carlos and walked him to it. Carlos tried to stand up better when Giovanni approached him.
‘Your friends have been told to expect a present from you.’
Carlos remained silent.
‘Goodbye, Mr. Marin.’ And Giovanni walked away.
Quickly the two men picked up Carlos and laid him down in the box. Carlos struggled to get up again but he was pushed down while his hands and feet were tied again.
A piece of tape was put over his mouth. That made him panic. His nose was nearly blocked from the beating so it was difficult to breath. Carlos feared he might faint. He tried to pull it off but one of the men held his hands.
Something was put in the box next to his head. He had one more glimpse of Catherine and then the box was closed.
Immediately he pulled of the tape and took a deep breath. Now what would happen?
He felt the box being lifted and after a while he felt movement. He was being driven away.
But where to?


Chapter 10

26 December 2009

Sebastien carefully pushed the door open. He had seen Carlos’ car in the drive and for a moment he hoped all of this was a bad dream about to be turned around into a wonderful party with family and friends.
The front door hadn’t been locked and when it finally opened, Sebastien felt the house was deserted and cold. No, this was not a dream. This was torture!
Slowly he walked in, moving to the living room. Everything had been turned over, pushed down, thrown on the floor. And Sebastien’s heart sank deeper.
He knelt down to pick up one of the figurines tossed to the floor. It depicted a man and a woman, obviously in love, bodies entwined. Well, that’s what it had been. Now it was broken in pieces. Sebastien remembered the day Carlos had found the figurine. It was on one of their free days during the tour in Germany. Urs and David had done some interviews but he had gone shopping with Carlos. And in one of the backstreets, in a small shop, Carlos had seen it. It wasn’t really for sale as it had been part of the shop for many years. But Carlos had pleaded with the owners to let him buy it. In the end they had relinquished. He had loved this couple and now it lay in pieces in Sebastien’s hands.
For a moment he closed his eyes but all he saw was Carlos, tied to that chair, looking terrible. He had sounded so desperate.
Sebastien opened his eyes at the sound of someone entering the house. Quickly he carefully put the remains of the figurine on the table and picked up the leg of a chair. Standing behind the door he got ready.
The door opened slowly and Seb was about to strike when:
‘Seb!’
Urs called out just in time to stop Sebastien. Immediately he dropped the piece of wood.
‘Urs, I’m sorry.’ He said shakily. He walked to his friend to give him a hug.
‘You ok?’ Urs asked worried.
‘No, I feel so helpless, Urs. Where is Carlito? What did that man do to him? Did you see that film?’
Sebastien was getting more and more distraught.
‘Seb, calm down. This will not help Carlos.’
Seb took a deep breath. Of course he knew getting upset would not help Carlos. But what else could he do?
‘Did you have a look around the house?’ Urs asked.
‘Just here, this room.’
‘Well, let’s have a proper look around. You go upstairs. I’ll check down here. Any clues, anything out of the place, keep an eye out for it!’
Urs made Seb focus on one task at a time. And that‘s just what he needed.
But half an hour later, they rejoined in the living room, empty handed.
How were they supposed to find Carlos without clues? They sat down on the settee silently.
Suddenly the picture on the TV came on.
‘Gentlemen, welcome back to London. As soon as your friend Mr. Miller has arrived, you can get started!’
Giovanni Tatalia’s face showed hugely on TV. And it was then they noticed the webcam.
‘Bastard! Where is Carlos?’ Sebastien shouted into the webcam.
‘No need to shout, Mr. Izambard. I can hear you. Or are you trying to shout so loud Mr. Marin can hear you?’
He started laughing with his own joke. Urs had to hold Seb back as he would have thrown the webcam through the room.
‘No, I don’t think that would be possible. Even with your voice.’ Tatalia finally settled down.
‘Where is he?’ Urs asked angrily between clenched teeth.
‘Patience, Mr. Buhler. I don’t think it’ll be too long before Mr. Miller arrives. In the meantime, make yourself comfortable, have a cup of coffee, relax. Enjoy before the start of the hunt.’
And with that the picture went black again.
Seb and Urs were furious. Seb grabbed a pillow and started hitting it. Urs let him for a while until Seb threw the pillow through the room. Seb slumped on the settee.
‘Feeling better?’ Urs sat down as well.
‘Not really. Sorry, man. I just want to do something.’
‘I know. I feel the same.’
It was quiet again between them for a while.
‘How about that coffee?’
Urs pulled Seb up and pushed him to the kitchen. Urs knew Seb would not have slept all night, just like he had not been able to.
The hours seemed to go slow before he could leave for the airport to get his flight back to London. Again and again he had watched the short film, hoping to pick up a clue.
Carlos had been in a gym of some sort but there was no way to find out a lot more, except that it looked like a private house.
He had tried to focus on the surroundings but his eyes got pulled to Carlos time and time again, his hand with the knife still in it, a wound on his chest, his face all bruised and bloody. Was Carlos even able to see out of his eyes still?
The smell of coffee and Seb getting some cups out brought Urs back to the present. He had been on automatic pilot, putting coffee in the machine, adding water and switching it on.
‘Hey, you’re back.’ Seb noticed.
‘Excuse me?’ Urs was confused.
‘I was talking to you but you seemed miles away.’
Urs nodded. ‘Carlos.’ Was all he said.
‘Thought as much. Come on, you can do with some coffee as well.’
They sat at the kitchen table, sipping their coffee in silence.

A door was thrown open.
‘Urs! Sebastien!’
David’s voice boomed through the house.
‘David’s arrived.’ Seb stated the obvious while finishing his third cup of coffee.
Pouring out a fresh brew, Urs and Seb walked to the living room, nearly colliding with David who was rushing from here to there.
David opened his mouth to say something but Seb shut him up, pushing the coffee in his hand.
‘Drink this.’
For a moment David wanted to protest but Urs and Seb just walked on to the living room. They sat in the settee and signalled David to do the same.
‘OK we’re here!’ Seb shouted.
Again David wanted to say something but then the TV came on again.
‘Gentlemen, thank you for joining me. I assume you are wondering where Mr. Marin is. Before I tell you, I need to explain the situation a bit.’
‘Explain?! Just tell us where he is!’ David shouted.
‘Now, now, Mr. Miller. Drink your coffee, there’s a good boy.’
David was stunned. He had recognized the man on the TV as the same man on the film.
‘As I said: some explanation. I have a beautiful wife. But when someone tries to steal her from me, I have to stop it.’
The three men on the settee looked at each other. They were sure Carlos was not in a relationship at the moment. And he couldn’t have gotten into so much trouble in just two days. Or could he?
‘First he kissed her in front of the world.’ The man showed a picture of the concert with Carlos and the mistletoe bending down to kiss a girl.
They remembered the moment immediately.
‘But that’s not a relationship!’ Seb protested immediately.
‘No, I agree Mr. Izambard. However, they met again, had coffee and again he kissed her.’
With that he showed some pictures taken from a distance but it was obviously Carlos and the girl again.
‘So I invited Mr. Marin to my home. And he agreed he needed to be taught a lesson.’
They could all imagine how agreeable Carlos would have been to that.
‘I could have just killed him but as it is Christmas, I am giving you the chance to find him, a bit like finding your present under the Christmas tree.’
‘What do you want us to do?’
David was getting impatient.
The man smiled for a moment. He was enjoying this very much.
‘Very easy, find Mr. Marin. But gentlemen, do it before the end of the year or . . . ‘
‘Or what?’ Seb swallowed hard.
‘I believe we have contact with Mr. Marin but the signal for the picture is getting weaker.’
The picture on TV switched to a dark image. The camera moved a bit and finally they recognised the image. It was Carlos, unconscious in some sort of wooden box.
‘May I just point to the red glow next to his head.’
The camera focused on it. A counter was going down.
‘As you see: 135 hours and 50 minutes to go before midnight 31 December 2009. Either find him or there will be extra fireworks! Oh, and one more condition: don’t call the police. This is our game. Make sure no one recognizes you because with one phone call I can accelerate the count down.’
He left that hanging in the air for a moment.
‘Gentlemen, I am sending you now a picture of a sign. Find the place this sign belongs to. In the post office your next clue is waiting. We will not be in contact again. Unless I see you on TV or hear the police is involved. Then . . . caboum!’
He laughed until the picture went out again.
A message arrived on Seb’s phone.
The photo was not clear. It did not show the full sign of the place where they had to get to.
‘We need a computer.’
David got up and rummaged through one of the cupboards where he knew Carlos kept his laptop. He installed himself at the table and started the machine.
‘Let’s find our friend!’

Miles away a truck rolled of the ferry.


Chapter 11

26 December 2009

Finally the movement stopped. Carlos felt horrible. He could only imagine that he had just spent hours on a boat to somewhere.
He had lost track of the hours that had passed. He was cold, hungry and thirsty.

When the truck had finally started moving again the evening of Christmas day, he had the hope it was a short journey. And indeed, only an hour later the truck started to slow down.
Carlos knew how much time had passed because of the timer next to his head. In an effort not to loose his mind completely, he had calculated. That many hours, what day would it be when the countdown reached 0? It hadn’t taken long for him to know that was midnight, New Years eve.
And from there it had been easy to keep track of the hours and days that had passed.
But his mind was getting tired. He felt weak. He knew it had been about 24 hours now that he was locked in this coffin. And he was cold, so cold.
For a while the truck stood still. Then it moved again. It sounded like it was driving over a metal bridge. And then it came to a slow halt. Had they arrived? Carlos was hopeful again.
He had tried on and off to push the lid off the box but it wouldn’t move. Now he started shouting, hoping there would be someone about who heard him.
But all had turned quiet again around him. He became aware of movement, but not the way a truck drove. For a moment he panicked. If he left England, how would the guys find him?
He laughed. How were they going to find him anyway? They were not even in England but home with their families.
A lone tear ran down his face. He put his hands over his face, trying to stay strong, not to give into the despair he was feeling. But his mind and body were battered and he cried unashamedly, letting the tears run freely.
He knew immediately the moment they left the safety of the harbour. The ferry was rocking a lot more now. A bad storm was blowing over the Channel, making this a rough crossing.
Carlos, stuck in his box, was unable to prepare for many of the bumps. And although he hadn’t eaten anything in the longest time, his stomach started to protest. With a painful cramp his insides turned outside. Carlos panicked, unable to swallow or breath, his chest now covered in bile. Oh, and the smell.
For a moment he wished he’d just slip away again, not knowing what would happen next, drifting off never to return again. But the weather and the sea were determined to make him feel alive, even if not in a pleasant way.
He was even colder now, and wet and dehydrated. Carlos was very fit so he knew his body would be able to hang on for a while longer. But what about his mind?
Finally the sea had settled down again, allowing Carlos to slip into a restless sleep.
Hours later, the ferry entered the harbour.

Somewhere outside of London, three men got information on how to find their friend.
The hunt for Carlos had started.


Chapter 12

26 December 2009

David was concentrating on the screen. The picture only showed ‘vingdon’. Where could that be?
He googled ‘Towns in the UK’ and it brought him to an information website ‘Information Britain’, listing all the different towns in the UK. That was a good start. In the search function where you can enter just part of a name, David typed vingdon. Keeping his fingers crossed he hit the search button.
Only one result: Bovingdon Open Air Market, Bovingdon, Hertfordshire.
Could they be that lucky, finding the town so easy?
He read: BOVINGDON MARKET is the best Saturday and Bank Holiday Market in England and has been drawing huge crowds for over 20 years. The market is held on one of the runways of Bovingdon Airfield, a former airforce base to the north of the M25 near Hemel Hempstead.
That was not too bad. From Windsor where they were now, it should only take them about an hour if the M25 was not solid. It was still early Saturday morning.
David downloaded the driving instructions to his phone and got up.
‘Let’s go.’
Even though Sebastien had been driving all night, he insisted on taking the wheel again. Urs sat in the back and David in the passenger’s seat, giving instructions.
They didn’t talk while driving. Sebastien stared in front of him, grunting to acknowledge David’s instructions. Even though he had drunk plenty of coffee, he felt tired.
Last night when he left Paris it had snowed slightly. But by the time he reached Calais, he could hardly see anything. He made it to the Eurotunnel only to find it was running on a reduced service. It wasn’t until 5 am that he drove onto the train. All the long hours in between, he sat in his car, cold but not wanting to go to sleep in case he missed his turn. But mostly because he did not want to see the image again that seemed to be burned onto his retinas.
The loading seemed to take forever but finally all the doors were closed and the train started moving. At least when it reached the tunnel, it went at full speed and 30 minutes later he saw the skies over Dover. With the time difference it meant he arrived at the same time he left. It was 5 am. Another 15 minutes later, he drove off the train and onto the motorway.

When they reached the town of Bovingdon it was 9 am. The small town looked deserted. But the post office was easy enough to find. They got out of the car, inhaling the cold winter air and walking to the door. Locked! The door was locked! The post office was closed today but in case of emergency, the post lady could be found at her stall on the market, a sign on the door read.
‘Darned!’ Urs said under his breath.
‘I think this classifies as an emergency.’ Seb was sure.
‘It is, Seb. But we now need to get to this market, with lots of people, who know us.’ Urs was spelling it out but it took a moment for Sebastien to realise what Urs was saying.
‘People will recognize us and Tatalia will find out.’ David also now realised.
‘Exactly.’ Urs said.
But Seb was already looking around, spotting the second hand clothes shop in the corner.
‘Let’s go!’ He pulled his friends to the small shop. They stared through the window.
‘Could work.’ David said.
‘No, David: WILL work.’
And Urs walked into the shop.
Half an hour later, they had traded their clothes in for some old things. David had added a baseball cap, Seb a woollen hat and Urs an old leather cowboy hat. You’d have to get close to them before you recognized them. The fact they all looked exhausted only helped the disguise.
Seb drove them to the market. They parked the car and went in search of the post lady and her stall.


Chapter 13

26 December 2009

It was cold and snow was coming down harder and harder. And yet, the market was alive with people. Boxing Day brought out everyone who had recovered from feasting the previous day, and even those still nursing a hangover.

Three men walked passed the stalls. Obviously searching for something. The smell of freshly baked bread and bacon, made David’s stomach rumble. He was attracted to the stall and stopped to buy something to eat.
Sebastien turned around when he noticed David was no longer walking next to him. When he saw David coming with a big bacon sandwich, Sebastien was furious.
‘David, we don’t have time for this!’ He shouted.
‘For your information, I did not get to eat my Christmas dinner!’ David said annoyed.
‘Neither did Carlos!’ Sebastien threw in his face.
Suddenly they were pulled to the side.
‘Will you two stop shouting! No attention, remember.’ Urs hissed angrily.
David looked at his feet, having lost all his appetite thinking of Carlos again. Slowly he walked to a bin nearby. He opened the lid but his hand was stopped.
‘No, David. I’m sorry. I should not have shouted at you. Please, eat.’
Sebastien had felt guilty the moment his accusation left his mouth. He knew how worried David was about Carlos as well.
David looked at Seb.
‘Please.’ Seb said quietly.
Urs joined them.
‘We all need something to eat if we are going to keep our strength up. We haven’t slept already; we can’t afford not to stay alert. Eat your sandwich, David. We’ll get some more on the way out.’

The post office stall was way in the back of the market, strategically placed so people would have to pass all the other stalls just to get to it. The three men waited until no other patrons were around the stall to approach the lady behind the table.
‘Excuse me. But the sign on your door said to find you here in case of emergency. We were told a message would be waiting for us at your post office. And it is most important that we get this message immediately.’ Urs said charmingly.
The woman looked them over one at a time and made up her mind.
‘Friends of Giovanni, are you?’
The three looked at each other briefly. Friends? Not quite but if it got them the message….
‘Yes, friends.’ Seb confirmed quickly.
The woman started smiling.
‘Such a nice man, isn’t he. And that beautiful wife of his. He is usually here on Saturdays but he said he couldn’t make it today and asked me to give you this envelope.’
A small brown envelope was handed to Urs.
‘Thank you.’
They quickly turned and opened it. A document was inside it. Was this the clue? What was this document?
‘Oh, he’s giving you a parcel, how nice!’ the woman suddenly said from behind them.
‘Sorry, I couldn’t help but notice. Giovanni is always so attentive to his friends but he does like to play a game. Looks like you need to travel for your present.’
‘How do you know?’ David asked.
‘Let’s have a look.’
Urs showed her the form properly now.
‘This is a CMR, an international transport document. It shows here that a truck picked up a crate from here on the 24th. That was day before yesterday. And it is going from Harwich to Hook of Holland. It doesn’t give you the final destination, which is odd. But when you get to Hook of Holland the port authorities will be able to help you further.’
Happy that she was able to help the young men, she gave the form back to Urs.
After some last ‘thank you’s they left the post office stall and started back towards the car.
They were all silent. Day before yesterday. It kept going through their heads. Carlos had been in that box already for such a long time and now he may not even be in England any more.
They nearly reached the car when suddenly Sebastien went through his knees. Urs and David quickly helped him up again from the snow, leaning him against the car.
‘Sebastien?’ Urs asked worried.
Slowly, Seb focused again.
‘Sorry, dizzy spell.’ He whispered.
‘You need some food. David, get us all something please.’
They first helped Sebastien sit down into the car and then David shot off to get some food and drinks.
Urs tried to find a map in the car but there was none. Sebastien sat quietly, pale, eyes closed.
After a short while David returned with some more sandwiches. He gave some to Urs. Seb had fallen asleep by then.
‘Better to let him sleep. He’s taking this very badly.’ Urs looked at his friend. Seb and Carlos were so close and both so temperamental, quite the opposite from himself.
‘So are we, Urs. Don’t try and deny it. I’ve seen you phasing out when you are thinking of Carlos. I know I’m having a hard time. He’s our friend, our brother. I never believed when other groups talked about the members as brothers. I mean, how can you be so close to someone you consider him your brother. But I understand now. Carlos is my brother, he is part of me, part of my life. I want him around, he’s got to be an uncle to my kids, he’s . . . He just has to be there, like always.’
David was upset and he did not know what to do.
‘We need to get moving.’ Urs said quietly. What David just said was true. He could not imagine his life any more without these three guys. And now one of them was not here. Time to get their family back together.
‘CARLOS!’ Sebastien shouted, waking up again.
‘It’s ok, Seb.’
‘No, he’s far away. We need to get going.’
‘We were just about to do so.’ David got behind the wheel and started to motor.
‘Eat something.’ Urs gave Sebastien his sandwich. Even though he was reluctant, feeling guilty even, he was too hungry to say no.
‘How do you know where to go to?’ Urs asked.
David got his phone out.
‘I googled.’
David showed his phone. A map was displayed, indicating a route to the coast.
Urs noticed the time on the screen.
‘Two hours!’
‘More likely going to be four with this weather.’
Leaving the parking area, Urs looked out over the snow covered fields. Would they find Carlos in Harwich or were they already too late.
A message arrived on his cell phone. He opened it.
‘Well done. Found the clue. But don’t take too long. It’s cold out there.’
The message came with a photo: Carlos, pushing against the lid of the crate.
‘Urs?’ Sebastien pulled him back.
Urs gave his cell phone.
‘He’s alive.’ Was all he said, turning his face back to the window. In the reflection, Sebastien noticed the tear running down Urs’ face. The Swiss was just as much a mess as David and he. But they had a glimmer of hope now. Carlos was alive or at least he had been when this photo was taken.

Chapter 14

26 December 2009

What day was it? What time? Carlos didn’t care. The soft movement of the truck caused him to balance on the brim of consciousness. He knew his body was shutting down slowly. But he had no strength left. His body felt stiff and cold. He could hardly feel his legs any more, his hands hurt, and his head was starting to feel numb. The cold was slowly dragging him down into oblivion, into another existence where he would no longer be able to sing, make jokes with his friends, argue with Sebastien, or flirt with girls. And all of this over a cup of coffee and an innocent kiss.
Carlos never noticed the truck stopped. Final destination reached.

She had actually volunteered for this shift? She must have been high on Christmas spirit. But at the same time she knew it would be a fun day.
To allow personnel to enjoy their Christmas vacation, someone from management took a shift each day, receiving the goods that came in from all over the world. Nothing was shipped out so it was just a matter of accepting the crates and goods and storing them at the right location so after the Christmas vacation everyone could get started again. Today was her shift. She had brought some food and hot coffee to share with the forklift drivers. So far it had been quiet.
Couple of hours to go and then she could go home. Another truck arrived at the gate and she got out of the guard house to accept the papers from the driver.
That was odd: just one small crate.
‘You sure you need to drop this off here?’ She asked puzzled.
‘Says so on my papers.’ The driver just said.
‘Actually, no. The final destination is not on this document.’ She wondered sometimes how stuff got send here without the proper information.
He got out his phone.
‘This is the text from the boss saying it needs to be dropped of here today.’
She accepted the phone and read the message. Indeed, it said this address. But she didn’t have a clue what was in the crate. It was not on the list of trucks expected today. What to do? She could send it all back. But what if it was something important and the order had just gone through without all the required paperwork just because it was the festive season?
‘OK, I don’t quite know for which department this is, so please drive to the back of the factory. I’ll send one of my drivers to unload.’
The truck driver started up again and made his way to the end of the factory area.
She walked back in the guard house.
‘Dave, can you please unload this one crate. I don’t know what it is. I’ll have a look at it later. Just stack it out by the trees.’
Dave put on his jacket and left.
She finished the paperwork that had to go back with the driver, confirming the goods had been received unexamined.
Over the rest of the afternoon, three more trucks arrived. Some tanks were delivered and some radiators.
Finally time to go home. They locked all the stuff away and got ready to go to their cars to drive home.
‘Mella, don’t forget to check on that one crate I dropped in the back.’
‘Thanks Dave!’
She had nearly forgotten about this one shipment. But now that she thought of it, she was curious to find out what was in it. She dropped her bag in her car already and picked up a crowbar. She found the crate where Dave had left it, between some trees. She’d have a quick look at what was in it and put a note for her colleague so he would be able to store it in the proper location.
It was obvious whoever had nailed down the lid, had done so with a lot of force. Finally it cracked open a bit. She put down the crowbar and put her fingers under the lid. With a last effort, it finally came away.
‘Wow!’ She took a step back. Was that a body?
Slowly she walked forward and leaned into the crate, putting her head on the man’s chest, listening for his breathing.
‘Ayuda me.’ A voice whispered in her ear. He was alive! She turned to look at his face only then noticing the red numbers going down very fast. Attached to it she recognised explosives.
‘Oh shit! Can you get up?’ She shouted. But the man did not move.
‘Darned!’
She did not have a lot of time. One more minute was left and it was going down very fast.
She grabbed the man’s hands putting them over her head, lifting him as much as possible until she was able to grab his belt at the back and lift him out of the crate. She dragged him through the snow, away from what was going to be one hell of an explosion.
She turned just in time to protect him from the impact of the explosion, both falling in the cold snow.
‘Aah,’
‘What? Did I hurt you? The ambulance and police will be here in moments.’
The explosion would have been noticed on the security cameras. Being the type of factory it is, the disaster plan would be implemented immediately. Luckily they would only find a destroy crate and some of the trees on fire and not the whole factory.
‘No, no police.’
She was confused. Why no police where it was obvious this man had gone through a terrible ordeal just getting here.
‘Por favor.’
She didn’t know why but she trusted him.
‘Can you get up?’
The man shook his head. Only then did she notice his legs were still tied. She ran to her car to get her knife. Within moments she had cut the ties around his legs and around his hands. He moaned again. Movement was difficult, his legs started cramping, he could hardly breath through the pain.
‘Come on. You need to get out of this snow. My car is close by.’
She helped him up. He leaned heavily on her but they managed to get to her car. She laid him down on the back seat and got some blankets to cover him.
‘I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
She locked the car and left him.

Carlos started shivering. Although he was covered by two blankets his body reacted to all the movement again. He could not believe he was out of the crate. Who had saved him? Who was this woman? Where was he? What were all those sirens?


Last edited by bsbilsed on Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:15 am

Now again one by one. enjoy!
Chapter 15

26 December 2009

Two hours had turned into three and now into four hours. A blizzard was coming over the southeast of England, slowing down their rush to get to the port. No one spoke. There was not a lot to say. Each wondering where Carlos was by now and why things were going so bad. Why did the weather have to turn on them.
Sebastien was in the back lost in thought. David was still driving.
‘I’ll take over in a minute at the next stop.’ Urs said.
David just nodded. He was feeling the strain as well and the weather wasn’t helping.
‘Thanks.’
The road was a bit busier with truck so hopefully they should reach the port soon now.
David felt immediately the moment the car lost grip of the road. No matter which way he turned the steering wheel, the car did its own thing. The truck was getting closer and there was nothing he could do to stop metal hitting metal. The car was catapulted against a slow truck, flipping on its side and sliding into the ditch. Cars coming from the other direction tried to avoid the crashed car only to end up in a pile when the treacherous black ice took away all safety on this part of the road. And then there was silence.
Urs did not dare move. Something heavy was on top of him. Opening his eyes he noticed it was David, thrown to his side of the car, unconscious.
‘David, wake up.’ Urs struggled. But there was no movement. The airbags blocked some of the view and Urs didn’t know how bad David was hurt.
‘Oh, my head.’ David moaned.
‘David, you ok?’ Urs asked with difficulty. David took a moment to focus and realised he was on top of Urs.
‘Give us a moment. I’ll get up.’ David took a deep breath and pulled himself off Urs a bit.
‘We need to get out. Urs, I’m going to undo my seatbelt. I’ll probably fall on you again. You ok?’
Urs just nodded. He had to get out of this car, feeling trapped already.
Carefully David undid the belt and slipped a bit further down before he got hold of the steering wheel and pulled himself up. The windows had all broken. Careful not to step on Urs, David pulled himself up and out of the car. Looking around, he noticed other people getting out of battered cars and in the distance some sirens were coming closer. He turned to help Urs out of the car.
‘Oh no.’
His eye had fallen on the back seat of the car. Sebastien lay crumpled against the broken window, not moving at all. Urs followed David’s gaze and noticed Sebastien as well. Undoing his own seatbelt, Urs turned around to feel Sebastien’s hand closest to him. He felt a strong pulse.
‘He’s alive.’
David sighed relieved. Urs had turned around completely, stretching his hand out to caress Seb’s hair.
‘Sebastien, please wake up.’ But there was no reaction.
And then the noise was upon them. Fire brigade and ambulances arrived.
David was pulled from the car and taken to an ambulance.
‘Sir, if you can, please come out of the car.’ One of the firemen asked Urs.
‘I can’t leave my friend!’ Urs yelled in a panic.
‘We’ll get him out, sir. Please, but we need the room to get to him.’
Reluctantly, Urs climbed out of the car but he did not walk very far.
Immediately more firemen went to the car with tools to cut of the roof. A paramedic had climbed into the car to assess Sebastien’s situation. David joined Urs, both waiting helplessly.
Luckily it did not take long for the men to get Seb out of the wreckage. They all got into an ambulance and were driven to the closest hospital. All the time, Sebastien did not wake up.
At the hospital, Sebastien was taken to the emergency room. Urs and David followed. Someone had given them a blanket each to put over their shoulders. They were stopped at the doors.
‘Gentlemen, this way. Someone will have a look at those cuts and bruises.’ A nurse led Urs and David to a cubicle, away from Sebastien.
David had not even noticed he got hurt. His hand had been cut on the glass of the window and needed a few stitches. Urs had had the wind knocked out of him but beside some bruises had survived the crash reasonably well.
‘I’m going to check on Sebastien.’
David nodded. He was not squeamish but really could not look at David’s hand being stitched up.
Urs walked back to the emergency room. Looking through the window he noticed Sebastien had woken up. Smiling he walked into the room.
‘Sebastien.’ Urs was so pleased to see his friend sitting upright a bit.
Seb turned to look at Urs. He was obviously in pain.
Urs felt for him.
‘Doctor, what is the matter?’
‘Mr. Izambard has a dislocated shoulder. We’ll put it back in. With a bit of luck it should pop back in the socket. He was very lucky.’
For a moment Urs closed his eyes. Could this day get any worse?
‘Urs, you need to get on without me.’ Sebastien said between puffs of the sedative.
Urs shook his head immediately.
‘We’ll see. I’m afraid your car is a total loss. I need to find another car. David is getting his hand stitched. We’ll do this together.’
Urs held Sebastien’s hand for a moment, reassuring him that everything would be ok. Then he had to leave again and let the doctors do their work.

Urs walked out to reception. Where was he going to find a car on a Saturday evening, moreover Boxing Day evening. But he had to try.
He had been calling around for half an hour, without much luck. The roads were all blocked because of the snow and multiple accidents. No one was going to move today anymore. Urs was getting frustrated. His phone went and he picked it up, knowing from the melody that it was Simon calling.
‘Urs, are you guys ok? Where is Carlos? Why was he not involved in the accident?’
Urs was confused. What was Simon on about?
‘Simon? What are you talking about?’
‘Were you guys in an accident?’ Simon asked slowly now.
‘Yes, the car started slipping. Simon, how did you find out so fast?’ Urs now wondered.
‘Internet. A home movie of you and David standing next to a wreck was just posted on YouTube. I could just recognise Sebastien being pulled from the car. So where is Carlos?’ Simon was worried but Urs didn’t hear him any more. He had gone pale. Cutting the call, he ran to David.

David’s hand had been stitched and he had been signed out. He sat in the waiting area to the side. His phone notified him he had a message.
David opened the message and stopped breathing.
‘Oeps, caboum!’ he read. The photo attached showed a bright red flash of fire as the counter reached 0.
David dropped his phone, bursting out in tears. He had killed Carlos.

Urs ran through the corridors, trying to find David. When he turned the corner, he saw him, his phone on the floor in front of him, sobbing.
Urs stopped running. No, no, no, no, no, no he kept repeating in his head.
‘David?’ But David did not react.
Urs picked up the phone and read the message. Seeing the photo, he went through his knees and sat on the floor, crying unashamedly.
Nurses came towards them and brought Urs and David to a family room. They sat in the settee, tears slowly running down their face, neither saying a word. They were brought a cup of tea but it was left untouched.
When Sebastien finally walked into the room, he immediately realised something terrible had happened.
‘I killed Carlos.’ David softly said.
But Sebastien shook his head.
‘No, no David. That man killed our friend. Not you.’ Sebastien tried to stay strong but he couldn’t stop the tears either.

When they left the hospital hours later, the snow had stopped falling and darkness had come to the land. Simon had booked them into a local hotel. A taxi took them for a short drive.
Urs helped Sebastien onto the bed. The sedation was wearing off but the hospital had provided them with some more tablets. Reluctantly Seb swallowed the pills and was soon asleep. David had been given some tablets as well and he lay on the bed next to Sebastien. For Urs there was no such relief. Sleep evaded him completely. He sat in the settee, staring at his two friends. And he made up his mind. He would bring Carlos, or Carlos’ body home, to Spain. And then he’d take care of his murderer.

Miles away Giovanni Tatalia was screaming to his men. For one or other reason, the crate had already exploded. That had not been the plan, not the dreamed finale to his game.
‘What happened? I was not done with my game yet!’
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:41 am

Chapter 16

26 December 2009

It took the fire service and police about an hour to get the fire under control and clear the site again. As promised, she did not reveal the presence of the strange man in the crate to the police. But now she wanted to get on with it.
‘I’ll finish the report tonight and get it to the SHE (Safety, Health & Environment) officer for Monday.’ She promised the fire chief.
Finally everyone left the factory and she could get back to her car.
She opened her back door to see how he was doing. He was shivering uncontrollably, even under the blankets.
‘Hey there.’ She gently caressed his hair.
‘No, Urs, please . . . don’t want to get up yet.’ The man mumbled.
‘Poor man. Let’s get you home and warmed up.’
Luckily she did not live very far from her work and within minutes she stopped in front of her house.
She helped him sit up in the car first, before supporting him out. He leaned heavily on her shoulders. She unlocked the front door but as soon as they stumbled into the hall, the man collapsed again.
‘No, please get up. The floor is so cold.’
But Carlos was still shivering, unable to move any further.
She rushed to her phone.
‘Doc, you need to come urgently. I found this man. He’s hurt and cold and. . . .’
She listened for a moment to the doctor on the other side of the line.
‘I’ll be there as soon as possible.’ He ended his instructions.
She walked back to the man on her hall floor.
‘Sorry, Sweety, but I need to get you upstairs.’
She forced him up again. He moaned loudly as his body protested to all the movement and the cold.
‘No, please.’
‘Sorry, but we need to warm you up.’
She put his arm over her shoulder and held on to the belt of his trousers. Lifting him, she forced him back on his feet. Slowly they made their way up the stairs. She led him to the bathroom and sat him down on a small chair she had there. He leaned his head against the cold wall tiles. She kneeled in front of him.
‘Doc says I need to put you under the shower for a while. Is it ok I take the rest of your clothes off?’
Carlos did not react.
She took off his shoes and socks. While undoing his belt, Carlos moved, moaning: ‘Cold.’
‘Yes, I know you are cold. I’ll take care of you.’
She turned on the shower but left it on cold. Then she took of most of her clothes to her T-shirt.
‘Can you get up?’ She helped him to his feet and out of his trousers. Walking into the shower, he wanted to pull back.
‘Cold.’ He complained.
‘I know, Sweety. But I can’t warm you up too quickly from the outside. If I do, the cold will go further inside your body and that is not good for your heart or your other organs. Please trust me.’
She saw he was distressed, tears running down his face.
‘Please stop.’ He pleaded.
‘A little longer, Sweetheart, just a little longer.’
She held him close to her. The water was cold but it had to go slowly or the cold would just kill him all together. She pulled the small chair also into the shower to sit him down. Then, using a lot of soft soap, she covered his body. That seemed to relax him a little. She washed away all the grime and dirt, the dried up blood. She noticed the bruising and the different wounds covering his hand, body and face.
‘Who has done this to you?’ She asked more to herself.
She rinsed off all the dirt and kneeled in front of him. She was soaking wet by now.
‘Sweety, I need to wash your private parts as well, is that ok?’ She gave Carlos a moment to react. He turned away his face for a moment and then slowly got up to drop his briefs. With a soft flannel and lots of soap, she carefully washed him.
Despite the cold water, he had stopped shivering. She turned off the water and wrapped him in a large towel. She started rubbing him dry, his head gently leaning against her now.
She left him sitting on the chair for a moment. In her bedroom, she got out some pyjama bottoms. For a second she had a flashback, seeing the face of the last person who had worn them. Then it passed and she walked back to the bathroom. After helping him into the pyjamas, she slowly walked him to her bedroom. The bed felt soft and comfortable when he finally lay down and relaxed.
She covered him lightly to start warming him a bit more. He seemed to fall asleep immediately.
‘Rest, Sweety. The doctor will be here soon.’
‘Carlos.’ He whispered.
‘Excuse me?’
‘My name. . . . Carlos.’ He repeated.
‘Nice to meet you, Carlos. My name is Melossa. But everyone calls me Mella.’
Carlos smiled.
‘Honeydew.’
‘So my parents told me.’
Not a lot of people knew that was the meaning of her name.
The doorbell rang and she left him for a moment. The doctor had arrived.
‘Mella, warm this bag of saline up in some warm water.’
While she did so, the doctor examined Carlos. He inserted a needle in his hand to attach the warm saline to start warming him up from the inside. Then he put some stitches in his knife wound. Lastly he had a look at Carlos’ face.
Mella returned with the warm saline and the doctor first attached it to the syringe.
‘Where did you find him?’ The doctor asked casually.
‘Can you believe, a crate.’
‘He is seriously dehydrated. The saline should start warming him up now. I’ve taken care of his hand but keep an eye on it. I’m worried about his eyes. His face is all bruised and I fear there may be some damage. I’ve put some cream in his eyes. Leave the pads on them so he can’t rub the cream out. I’ll leave you with another bag of saline. Warm it up like you did this one before you attach it. Do you know who he is?’
‘Carlos.’ Was all she said, looking at his sleeping face.
The doctor left her with some last instructions. When she closed the door behind him, she walked back up to her bedroom. She could now cover him up properly, under a nice warm duvet. She checked to make sure there was no blockage of the tubes. Feeling his hand, she could already feel the difference in warmth.
She sat down in the small settee, next to her bed, and watched him sleep. She picked up her book and made herself comfortable. He was doing fine. Hopefully the night would bring him the necessary rest and warmth.
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:31 am

Chapter 17

27 December 2009

The night seemed to last even longer. Urs sat watching his friends sleep. But even their sleep was not peaceful. Sebastien’s face was showing the pain he was still feeling. David was very restless.
Urs walked through the room like a caged tiger. He wanted out, he wanted to do something. But what could he do. He was stuck in this place, wherever it was. The snow had finally stopped falling. But he could see the roads were covered in a deep layer.
Morning came without notice. The dense clouds outside made everything look even darker. Perhaps it was just his mood. There was a heavy weight on his heart. Dead. He could still not believe it. But the picture showed the explosives go off. Would he have suffered? Had dead come quickly to his friend? Urs didn’t dare close his eyes. Each time he saw Carlos, burned, hurt, out there alone, calling out for him.
Shaking his head, he grabbed his coat and left the room.
It was a small village. The bakery had just opened and Urs decided to get them some fresh breakfast. He’d have to tell his friends he was going to get Carlos. Of course they could not go with him. They were both hurt.
While walking back he got the phone number of the harbour.
‘Yes, I’d like to book passage on the next boat to Hook of Holland.’
‘That’s only sailing tonight, sir. Yesterday we didn’t have any boats out due to the weather.’ Urs was told.
‘What time tonight?’
’23:15, sir.’
‘I’ll take it. One car. What time will we arrive on the other side?’
‘Early tomorrow morning, sir, around 8 am.’
Urs passed him his credit card information to pay for the ticket and ended the call.
When he got back to the room, David came out of the bathroom.
‘Where did you go?’ He asked Urs.
‘Got us breakfast.’ And he showed the fresh croissants.
David sat back down on the bed, fussing with his bandages. They needed replacing. David got them off but just stared at the wound, the accident clear in his mind again.
‘I couldn’t stop the car.’ He whispered.
Urs turned to him.
‘You couldn’t.’ Urs confirmed. He walked to David and sat down next to him.
‘David, it was not your fault.’ Urs put his arm over David’s shoulder and pulled him closer. They sat quietly together for a while.
‘Let me help you with that hand.’ Urs said. He took some bandages and carefully wrapped them around David’s hand again, hiding the wound from view.
‘Are you David’s personal nurse now?’ Sebastien had woken up, feeling terrible. He may have been asleep but he did not rest. Worry lines were showing on his face.
Urs walked around the bed to check on Sebastien.
‘Can you sit up?’ Seb nodded.
Urs got the croissants out and they had breakfast on the bed.
‘What’s on your mind, Urs?’ David had noticed the Swiss was even more quiet than usual.
‘I’m going on. I’ve booked passage on the boat tonight. I’m going to get Carlos’ . . . I’m going to get Carlos and take him to his family.’ Urs stated matter of factly. But Seb and David knew better. They had heard the hesitation when he talked about Carlos.
‘I’ll get Simon to come and pick you two up.’
‘No you won’t!’ David and Sebastien immediately said together.
Looking at each other, Seb continued:
‘David and I are going with you.’
‘But you are hurt.’ Urs protested.
‘You are too.’ David simply stated. That stopped Urs. He had no argument against that. Yes, he was hurting. And he wished he could take some tablets to take the pain away like Sebastien and David could. But there was no tablet for that type of pain, no relief. He just needed to get to Carlos and then start grieving.
‘What time is the boat?’ Sebastien asked.
‘Tonight around 11.’
‘Good. Then I can have some more tablets and sink away for a while longer.’ Seb was obviously still in pain. Urs smiled briefly and handed Seb some more tablets and a glass of water. He also gave some to David.
‘I’m going to get us a car.’ Urs said when he saw his friends settled again. David just nodded.
They had some hours waiting before they could get going again. But there was no more urgency now. What they were searching for now would be there whenever they got to it.
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Mon Oct 11, 2010 4:01 am

Chapter 18

27 December 2009

Mellosa startled. She must have fallen asleep, her book had dropped on the floor. What had woken her?
She looked at the man in her bed. Who was he? His name was Carlos. And he looked kind of familiar. But his face was so distorted. Under his eyes blood had collected and had now turned black. His lips were still swollen, bruising slowly turning colour, evidence he had been in this state for a few days already.
‘No, no please.’ Carlos started moaning. Mella took his hand.
‘No, no more!’ He pulled it away violently.
He was getting agitated and Mella feared he would hurt himself.
‘Sht, Baby. You are safe.’ She whispered.
But he didn’t seem to hear her. Carlos was back in his box, trying to get out, slowly suffocating.
Mella noticed he was having problems breathing. Worried she sat down on the bed next to him.
‘Carlos?’
She shook him gently but he did not wake up. Carlos was now back in the gym, trying to stop the man from hitting him.
‘No, don’t hurt me. Stop hitting, please!’ He now shouted.
Suddenly he sat upright pushing Mella hard on the floor.
‘NO!’ His voice boomed through the room.
He was awake immediately. His hands went for his eyes but they were stopped ever so gently.
‘Who?’ Carlos was confused. Where was he, who held his hands?
‘It’s me, Mella. You are safe now.’ She still held his hands away from his eyes.
‘My eyes?’ He asked scared.
‘Just some cream to help them heal. But you shouldn’t touch them.’
She carefully let go of his hands now.
‘Thank you.’
He didn’t lie down again.
‘What’s the matter?’ She asked.
Carlos hesitated.
‘You don’t want to sleep?’
Carlos shook his head.
‘When I sleep, I go back.’ Carlos said silently, annoyed with himself. He was a man, he should not be afraid of some images in his head. Yet, he was, afraid to get beaten up again, afraid to wake up next and find that he was still in his box and not safely in this room.
‘Shall I lie with you?’ Mella carefully asked.
‘Would you mind?’ Carlos asked shyly. Mella just smiled.
‘Let’s get you comfortable again. I’ll just change this bag of saline first.’
She helped Carlos lie down again and checked the syringe. Making sure the duvet covered Carlos, she carefully lay down, spooning him. His hand reached out for hers, wanting to hold it. Slowly she felt him fall asleep again.

Three o’clock in the afternoon, a knock on the door. Urs got up and opened it.
‘Simon?’ Urs was startled seeing their boss. And the way he looked, he was not pleased.
‘Come on in.’
But Simon had already pushed passed Urs into the room.
David got up and Sebastien sat upright a bit. Simon looked around the room.
‘What the hell is going on? I can’t reach Carlos, you three look like shit. And I have to drive out in this horrible weather to find my stars in some dingy hotel in the middle of nowhere.’
Nobody spoke.
‘Why don’t you start by telling me what you are doing here and where is Carlos!’ Simon ordered the men.
He looked from one to the other, waiting for one of them to start talking.
‘I killed Carlos.’ David said quietly.
Simon turned to him.
‘You what?’ He shouted.
‘Simon, sit down. It’s a long story. And no, David did not kill Carlos.’ Urs stopped their boss from exploding all together.
Reluctantly, Simon sat down. Urs took a deep breath and started to tell Simon everything, from the first photo on Christmas Eve to where they were now.
Simon became more and more quiet.
‘Shit’ was all he said at the end of it.
‘Tonight we continue on to Holland. We need to bring Carlos home.’
Simon nodded.
‘I understand. Can I. . . .’
‘No, ‘ Sebastien stopped Simon asking his question, ‘I’m sorry, Simon. But we, the three of us, need to bring him home.’
Simon nodded again.
‘Let’s go for a walk.’
Reluctantly they all got up and put their coats on.
Feeling the fresh crisp air, made them realise they had been locked in the room for too long. They followed Simon silently, not really knowing where he was taking them. As it turned out, he took them to the local pub. They sat down and Simon ordered them each a beer and some food.
He looked around the table, drinks and food untouched.
‘You need to eat something.’ He waited a moment. They didn’t move.
‘Eat! That’s an order. You have to take care of yourselves.’
Sebastien took his arm out of the sling and took his beer. He drank the pint in one go. Putting it down on the table he looked defiantly at Simon.
Simon knew when to back off. One by one they started eating but after an hour most of the food was still taken away untouched.
Simon paid the bill and walked back to the table.
‘I’m going back now. Please, be careful.’ He didn’t get a lot of reaction.
He left the men in the pub and started walking back to his car.
‘Simon!’ Urs had followed him.
Simon turned and waited for Urs to catch up with him.
‘I need a favour.’ Urs hesitated.
‘Can you ask, whoever, to locate Carlos’ phone?’
Simon was confused.
‘Want to tell me why?’
Urs just shook his head and walked back to the pub.
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Mon Oct 18, 2010 4:30 am

Chapter 19

27 December 2009

Oh, this was so nice. It had all been a dream after all. He was safely in her arms, snuggled up against her, holding her hand as he always did.
Mella slowly opened her eyes, still smiling. Focusing she knew immediately it had not been a dream after all. The man in her arms did not have long dark hair, it was short and curly.
Silently the tears came again. They hadn’t for such a long time and now this man had brought them back. She did not want to remember, she would not survive if she remembered. She needed to look forward. Carefully she slid of the bed and walked around it to see Carlos asleep.
His face had a worried frown.
’Mella?’ He had not been asleep after all.
‘I’m here.’ She quickly reassured him.
‘You left.’
‘Only to get us something to eat. I won’t be long.’ Mella quickly left the room. But Carlos had noticed the sadness in her voice. Had he done something wrong? Perhaps he should try and leave. But he still felt so tired. His eyes closed again and he drifted off to sleep again.
When he tried to open his eyes again, he knew he was still alone. How much time had passed?
He pushed the duvet of his aching body. His legs did not want to move. He lifted first is right and then is left leg of the bed, sitting upright. His head started turning, dizzy from weakness. Annoyed he pulled off the pads over his eyes. He blinked a couple of times but he still could not see clearly. He had to go, had to leave this nice woman before she got into problems because of him. Something was holding back his hand. When he looked at it, he vaguely noticed the drip attached. He was just about to stand up when Mella walked in.
‘What do you think you are doing?’ she said cross.
‘Don’t you dare get up!’
Carlos didn’t move. Even if he wanted to, he knew he could not get up. His legs were painful and weak. Mella put down the tray of food she had carried up.
‘Please, don’t get up.’ She said more calm now.
‘But. . . . but I need to get going. . . . you don’t want me here.’
Mella was startled.
‘What makes you think that?’
Carlos hesitated.
‘I heard you cry, I heard the sadness in your voice. I have a good ear for sounds and music.’
Mella was not sure how to react.
‘It’s not you. I was remembering someone I cared for a lot.’
Carlos waited for her to continue talking but she didn’t.
‘You think you can sit up?’ She only asked.
Carlos slowly nodded. Mella helped him sit up in the bed, adding pillows to support him.
‘What day is it?’ Carlos asked.
‘It’s Sunday, the 27th. 4 in the afternoon already. You wouldn’t say so as it’s so dark outside already. But it’s been snowing again.’
Carlos was sitting comfortably now and Mella picked up to bowl of soup she had brought.
‘Some soup?’’
Carlos nodded. Mella slowly fed him some of the soup. He ate only a little bit.
‘Sorry, I can’t eat more.’
‘How long were you locked up? Mella finally dared ask him.
‘Christmas Eve.’
Mella startled. Poor man.
‘How are your eyes?’
‘I still can’t see clearly. But it’s my legs and arms that hurt.’
Mella got some cream.
‘May I?’
Carlos nodded.
Using lots of soft cream, Mella first massaged his arms. The warmth of the movement helped his muscles relax. He was feeling better already.
Then she first lifted his right leg, bending it at the knee. She pushed the trousers as far as possible and slowly massaged the cream into his tired and aching muscles. Then she did his other leg.
By the time she had finished, Carlos had fallen asleep again.
She covered him with the duvet and sat down, eating her bit of soup, watching the sleeping man.
It was nice taking care of someone again, being needed. Maybe it was time for her to open up again, time to leave the lonely life.

Urs walked back into the pub and sat at the table. They drank their beer in silence.
‘How did Simon find us so easily?’ Sebastien wondered out loud.
‘These high tech phones Simon gave us.’
Seb still looked confused.
‘They have a GPS tracker in them. I’m sure Simon knows someone who can pinpoint where we are at all times.’ David continued to explain.
That worried Seb a little and at the same time he felt secure knowing someone would always find him as long as he had his phone with him.
After an hour they walked back to the hotel. Time went slowly but by 8 they all got into the rental car and drove the short distance to the port. Mostly trucks, their car seemed to disappear between them. When it was their turn, David drove them onto the ferry. They parked and walked up the stairs to the top of the decks. They watched the ferry leave the safety of the harbour.
Only 9 hours to reach the other side of the channel. But what would they find there?
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Tue Oct 26, 2010 3:56 am

Chapter 20

28 December 2009

The ferry had been out an hour, hitting the open sea. The water was always choppy here, leaving the channel area and moving into the more open North Sea.

The three men sat quietly in some chairs on the upper deck. They had been told about bunks they could use but they had declined. None of them felt much like sleeping.

David had his eyes closed. Suddenly he rushed up and out of the door onto the open deck. Urs and Sebastien looked at each other, only hesitating for a moment to follow their friend. When they got outside, David was leaning over the side, throwing up.
‘Sir, please don’t lean over the side, just throw up on the deck. The deckhand will use the hose to clean it up.’ One of the sailors shouted.
Urs hurried to David to pull him back. He doubted David had heard the man. The sailor came closer.
‘You better lie down and stay there for the next few hours.’
Urs helped David to a bench, trying to avoid the dirt already on the deck. Sebastien sat at one end and Urs on the other end of the bench. David lay flat between them. It took him another hour to settle down.
David had not been the only person affected by the choppy sea. But everyone seemed to be over the worst now that they were lying down. Most people had returned inside, into the warmth. But the deckhand found the three friends still outside. David’s colour had improved from green to pale now. None of them dared move, fearing David might get sick again. They were given some blankets.
And that’s where they stayed.

Urs looked out over the rough sea, his mind racing to Carlos and how he would have survived this crossing. Once in a while he looked at Sebastien. Although his shoulder and arm were strapped in and immobilised, Urs saw he was still in a lot of pain. He had refused to take any more tablets as he wanted to stay alert and not asleep.
Sebastien had closed his eyes. Not to sleep but to try and cope with the pain. A lone tear ran down his face but he didn’t bother wiping it off. He was so cold. And to think Carlos had been even colder, not wearing a shirt, locked in a box, in the dark. How he must have suffered. But now they were on their way to bring him home. Where he was now he was not cold anymore, he would never be cold again.

The hours went slowly but finally the port was getting closer. With the sea settling down, David slowly sat up as well.
‘This must have been horrendous for Carlos.’ He quietly said.
Sebastien and Urs stayed quiet. All of them had spent hours thinking of their friend.

Finally the ferry stopped and they were allowed back to their car to drive off. It was 8 am. Urs drove the car to the customs station. David and Sebastien got out to use the toilet while Urs walked to the officer in charge.
‘Excuse me; I wonder if you can help me.’ He asked. Showing the transport document he asked if the customs officer knew the final destination of the box.
‘Actually, he didn’t put it on the document but I remember he showed me an address in Belgium.’
‘Belgium? Can you be any more precise?’
The man was thinking. Suddenly his eyes lit up.
‘Look, out there!’ The man pointed to a truck about to get in line to board the ferry back to England.
‘There’s the driver.’
Urs didn’t hear anything else the man said, running to the truck, jumping on the side board and opening the side door.
‘STOP!’ He yelled.
The driver startled. Who was this mad man? What did he want from him?
Sebastien and David walked out of the rest room only to see Urs pull a man out of a truck, not too gently. They rushed over.
‘Urs!’ David wanted to stop him. But Urs threw the man against his truck, pinning him under his arm.
‘Where did you take the box?’ He shouted. The man was trembling.
‘What box?’ The driver tried.
Urs pulled back his fist.
‘No, no, wait. Here!’ The man pulled out his cell phone and showed the address.
David took the phone and forwarded the message to his own number.
Urs let the man go after David had returned his phone. Still surprised of his own reaction, Urs started to walk back to the car, closely followed by Sebastien and David.
Today they would find Carlos or at least what was left of him.
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Mon Nov 08, 2010 9:19 am

Chapter 21

28 December 2009

She woke up in his arms again. Last night Carlos had insisted that she lay under the duvet with him. And while sleeping their bodies had entwined, comfortable in each others arms.
When she opened her eyes, Carlos was looking at her. She smiled, closing her eyes again, not wanting to get up and leave this warmth.
‘I have . . . had a figuring at home, two people in love, bodies close together, just like us.’
Startled she opened her eyes.
‘What are you saying?’ She asked carefully.
Carlos had seen the panic in her eyes. Why would she be afraid of being loved, of loving?
He took her hand and gently kissed her fingertips.
‘Thank you for taking such good care of me.’ He left it at that and Mella seemed to relax again, her smile reappearing.
‘Your face is looking a lot better today. How is your hand?’
‘I’m doing fine, hungry but fine.’ Carlos assured her.
‘I can even see you clearly today. And what a beautiful sight it is!’
Mella blushed.
‘I better get you some food. You are delirious.’ She joked.
Mella quickly got some breakfast together with some tea. Carlos was already sitting up when she brought the tray in the bedroom.
She opened the curtains a bit. Everything was covered in bright white snow. But today the sun was out and the world looked so much better.
They took their time to have breakfast. Carlos had to eat slowly to allow his stomach to get used to solid food again.
He was still very weak. Eating had tired him out and he was already asleep again by the time Mella cleared the dishes.

Urs got into the drivers seat, putting his head on the steering wheel. He could not believe he had just manhandled this driver. What was he becoming? Was he no better than the man who beat up Carlos? For sure not, he could not be!
David and Sebastien also got in the car.
‘Urs, it’s ok.’ Sebastien touched Urs’ shoulder.
‘Is it? I nearly hit that man.’ Urs sat upright again.
‘But you didn’t. And you go the address.’ David was already adding the location into Google Maps to get the driving directions.
‘Only three hours drive.’ David announced.
‘Are you ok to drive?’
Urs just nodded and started the car.
‘Just tell me where to go.’
The roads were fairly clear and the sun was out. It was such a contrast to how they were feeling.
Once they hit the motorway, the driving was easy. But they were all quiet. They wanted, needed to get to Carlos and see what was left. But each step closer also scared them of exactly what they would find.

True to the driving directions, they arrived at the address after three hours. It was a very large factory, obviously closed for the holiday season. They found the main entrance where trucks were parked, waiting to get the ‘all clear’ and drive on the site to unload their cargo.
They parked their car and walked to the guard house.
‘Yes, gentlemen. Can I help you?’ A friendly man asked them.
‘A box was delivered here by accident. We would like it back, please.’
Urs showed the man the transport document. He studied it for a moment, face worried.
‘Yes, I remember the box. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. Your box exploded, went up in flames. We were lucky Mella had it dropped away from the factory or it could have been a lot worse.’
‘Is it possible to see the box, or what is left of it?’ David asked casually.
The man hesitated only for a moment.
‘You do understand we did nothing wrong here.’ He said a bit more careful.
‘No, we fully understand. But we would really like to see the box.’ Sebastien promised.
After another moment’s hesitation, he allowed them onto the site. They needed to walk 10 minutes to get to the back of the plant.
Already from a distance they noticed the burned trees, smelled the charred wood. The intense heat must have been enormous.
There was indeed not a lot left. For the longest time everyone was quiet. Sebastien kneeled, trying to hide the tears running down his face. David was just staring at the burned remains.
Urs turned to the guard.
‘What happened to the content of the box?’
‘Oh, that. I don’t know. I wasn’t here, you see. Police and fire brigade came to put out the fire. But Mella was here. Yes, she should know.’
‘And where can we find this Mella?’ Urs tried to stay calm and not show his own distress.
‘She’s home now. Won’t be back until the new year.’
‘It’s very important we speak to her today.’ Urs insisted.
‘I don’t know. I can’t just give people’s private information.’
Urs looked him in the eyes. The guard became very uncomfortable under his stare.
‘I guess, if you are really the owners of the box, I guess it won’t hurt.’
The guard turned and Urs followed him.
‘Is your friend ok?’ The guard asked while walking back. He had found it very strange behaviour over a burned box.
‘He’ll be fine. Urs answered him.
While Urs got the address, David walked to Sebastien.
‘Seb, we need to go.’ David pulled him back to the present. Reluctantly Sebastien got up and started walking back. Urs was already waiting for them by the car.
‘It’s only 5 minutes from here.’
They all got into the car. Not long anymore now before they learned of the terrible faith of their friend.
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:25 am

Chapter 22

28 December 2009

Out of the plant to the right, first road to the left, at the end to the left again. Then first road on the right and the fifth road on the left.
‘You have reached your destination on the left in 100 meters.’ David announced.
Urs parked the car on the side of the road. This was it.

Carlos woke up just as Mella walked back into the room.
‘Time for you to get out of bed, young man.’ She smiled.
Carlos was not sure. He still felt very weak. Would his legs hold him already? Mella helped Carlos to sit on the edge of the bed. Holding his hands firmly she asked:
‘Ready?’
Carlos just nodded, gritting his teeth and carefully lifting himself up with Mella’s considerable help.
His head started spinning and Carlos grabbed hold of Mella so he would not fall down. He closed his eyes for a moment, allowing the dizzy spell to pass. Mella gave him all the time he needed. He felt nice against her. Shaking her head, she looked up at Carlos’ face, his eyes opened in the meantime.
Their eyes locked, the world around them fading. Carlos gently bent down and kissed her lips. Mella was caught in the moment, allowing him access to her mouth, tasting his warm lips. When they parted she immediately missed his tender touch. Carlos was smiling at her.
‘If I had known this was my reward, I would have stood up a lot sooner.’
Mella smiled.
‘How do you feel?’
‘I’m floating!’
Mella laughed.
‘You should have your feet on the ground. ‘
‘How can I in your arms?’ and he kissed her again. Mella could have kissed him all day but he had to start walking again.
‘Now, no more kisses until you have walked.’
Carlos pretended to pout. He wanted more kisses from this beautiful woman, he wanted more of her all together. But he had to be a lot better before he’d be able to honour her like she should be.
So he tried his first step. It was a good think Mella was holding him because he was still very unsteady. His legs hurt because he had not used them properly in such a long time. After three steps, Mella lead him back to the bed to sit down. He didn’t let go of her however.
‘And my reward?’ he asked cheekily.
Mella gently caressed his face, tracing his lips with her thumb only to replace it with her lips. She was allowing this man into her heart and she didn’t even know who he was but it felt right.
‘Time for some rest again. We’ll walk some more later. I’ll get us some lunch.’
Mella finally broke away from his eyes and sweet embrace.
‘If you have to.’ Carlos smiled.
Then the doorbell rang.

They sat outside the house for a while, not speaking, not moving. They needed to collect their courage to move ahead and face what was coming. So far it had only been a red blur on a photo. Once they walked to this house and talked to its owner, it would all change. The truth would no longer be hidden.
Urs was worried how David and Sebastien would react being faced with this reality. Perhaps they should not go in and just leave Carlos’ memory in peace. But he knew he could not be able to live with this uncertainty. Urs opened the car door. David and Sebastien got out immediately as well. Clenching their jaws, they walked to the front door, tension radiating from every pore of their body. They looked at each other once more and then Urs rang the doorbell.

Mella helped Carlos sit down on the edge of the bed and walked to the window.
‘I can’t see who it is.’
She turned to Carlos. His eyes were worried and scared. Had the men found him again? Did they know he had escaped?
‘Sit quiet. I’ll get rid of whoever it is.’
Carlos nodded.
Mella walked down the stairs. Through the window in the front door she saw three men standing. She couldn’t see their faces clearly.
She opened the door a bit.
‘Good afternoon.’ One of the men said.
Mella just nodded.
‘We got your address from your office. It’s about the box. Could we please come in?’
Mella hesitated. Who were these men? Did they hurt Carlos?
‘Please?’
Reluctantly Mella opened the door fully and allowed them inside. She just hoped Carlos would remain quiet.
‘Thank you.’
Mella nodded. Why was only one of them speaking and not the others? She could see they had their fists balled and she took a step back, away from them all.
‘How can I help you?’ She finally asked.
‘It’s about the box that was delivered and exploded.’
‘Yes.’
Suddenly a loud bang was heard from upstairs.
They all looked up. Mella looked back at the man who had been talking, scared, panicked. He looked back at her, angry.
Urs rushed up the stairs two at the time. Mella ran after hi, trying to grab him before he could reach Carlos.
First door: bathroom.
Second door: an empty bedroom.
Mella pushed Urs further in the room, giving herself the time to get in front of him.
She got to her bedroom, finding Carlos unconscious on the floor. He’d have to wait. She turned around as she heard Urs rush in.
‘Stop! Don’t even think of touching him!’ She yelled standing in front of Carlos protectively, her hands fisted ready to fight him off.
David and Sebastien walked in the door also now. No one spoke.
Urs squatted down, reaching out to Carlos’ hand.
‘Don’t!’ Mella shouted.
Urs pulled his hand back, using it instead to cover his eyes for a second. Sliding his hand down to his mouth he carefully opened his eyes again. Was it really Carlos on the floor?
Sebastien hadn’t seen what was in the room. He noticed Urs squatting down and David coming to a dead halt. He pushed passed David and gasped. The shock was too much for his pain stricken body. His eyes turned up in his head and Sebastien sank through his knees, fainting. David caught his just in time and carefully helped him to the floor, cradling Sebastien in his arms.
Mella was confused. They didn’t react as she thought they would.
‘Who are you?’ She asked. The fainted man was coming around again already.
Before they could answer, Carlos stirred. Shaking his head he pushed himself up to sit against the wardrobe.
‘Mella, who was that? I thought I heard ….’
Then Carlos saw his friends. He could not believe it! Urs crawled to him, grabbing Carlos’ hand and pulling him into a bear hug. This time he let his tears run free.
Urs let go of Carlos and just looked at him, smiling. Standing up, he helped Carlos to his feet also, supporting him. David had helped Sebastien up in the meantime. As soon as Carlos was up David and Sebastien hugged him as well, smiling. Tears were running down their face.
‘I take it you know each other?’ Mella stated the obvious. They only then seemed to notice her. Carlos turned to her.
‘These are my best friends: Urs, David and Sebastien.’ Carlos presented them proudly.
‘Why does that sound familiar?’ She wondered.
Carlos pointed to a book behind Urs.
‘Urs, if you please.’
Urs got the book out.
‘You didn’t tell her yet?’ He smiled looking at the picture on the front of the book as he handed it to Carlos.
Carlos smiled and showed Mella the book.
‘Romancing the world.’ Mella read out loud. Her eyes opened wide and she took a step back.
‘I know we don’t look like that now but it is us.’ Urs said smiling.
Mella looked from the book to the four men. And now she recognized them, scruffy as they were, the eyes were the same, especially now they were shining and smiling again and not like before when they had walked into her house, all sad and broken.
For a moment she closed her eyes as it struck her she had been in bed and had kissed THE Carlos. Hell, she had washed him!
‘You all look terrible, please sit and rest. Carlos, Sweety, back to bed.’
She helped Carlos walk back to the bed and sat him down.
‘What happened?’ She looked him over to make sure he hadn’t hurt himself.
‘I heard Urs. I got up too quickly and everything went black.’
He stopped her hands going over his head searching for wounds. He gently kissed her fingertips and made her look at him.
‘I’m ok.’ He reassured her.
‘Please. Sit down with us.’ Carlos pulled her down and gently kissed her lips.
‘Careful, Carlos. That’s how all of this started!’ David smiled while sitting down on the bed. Sebastien and Urs joined them.
’Tell me, how did you get here?’ Carlos wanted to know.
‘This Tatalia character send us on this Christmas Treasure Hunt.’
At the sound of that name, Mella jumped up from the bed.
‘Melosa?’ Carlos looked at her.
‘I’ll get us some tea and give you guys time to catch up.’
She quickly excused herself and left the room.
‘Where did you find her? She was actually ready to fight, take on the three of us?’ Urs asked.
‘She found me. Got me out of the box just in time. But tell me how you got her. Sebastien, how did you hurt your arm? And David, what happened to your hand? Did he hurt you also?’
‘No, not directly.’ Urs calmed Carlos and he continued to tell Carlos about their quest. Carlos told them his side of the story so far.
Mella had returned with hot tea which was gratefully accepted by all. Then she sat down and listened to what had happened to these men, her mind drifting off once in a while to some years back. How did Il Divo fit into all of this? Why were they here, in her house?
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Wed Dec 29, 2010 7:30 am

Chapter 23

28 December 2009

The house was quiet again. Mella had locked the doors and walked quietly up the stairs. The light in her bedroom was subdued and she saw Carlos asleep, smiling, relaxed. Carefully she sat on the bed next to him and looked at his peaceful face. Gently caressing his hair she had not noticed Urs sitting in the corner of the room on the floor.
‘Thank you.’ He whispered quietly.
Mella startled and turned to Urs.
‘I’m sorry, I hadn’t seen you there.’
After looking at Carlos once more, she walked to Urs and sat on the floor beside him. He looked so lost on the floor, in the dark. She put her arms around him and gave him a hug. He leaned against her.
‘Are you ok?’ she asked worried.
Urs nodded.
‘I think I’m just too tired to go to sleep. I’m afraid I’ll wake up and Carlos won’t be here, that this is just a dream.’
‘You care for him a lot.’ She simply stated.
‘We all do. And so do you?’ he asked hesitantly.
Mella quickly looked at Carlos and smiled.
‘I didn’t know who he was but something made me trust him.’ She shook her head for a moment.
‘You should have seen him in that crate. Urs, when I got him out, he looked so terrible. How can someone do this? I first thought he was dead. And then he whispered. He was tied together, had been for days. He was dirty, Urs you can not imagine how dirty he was.’ She shuddered, closing here eyes for a moment to try and stop the tears threatening to spill over. Urs noticed she needed a moment.
‘We saw him when he was first beaten up, all bloody and hurting. I can only imagine what additional days locked away in a small box did to him.’
‘He was so scared of sleeping, afraid to be back with this man or in his box.’ Mella and Urs were quiet for a while.
‘You probably think it’s very strange I didn’t recognize him, or for that matter either of you three. But I just didn’t expect to see you here, not in my house, not in my life. And you are all so clean shaven and nicely dressed on most pictures. You look a lot better now.’ Urs smiled looking down at the pyjamas he was now wearing after his shower.
‘You haven’t answered my question yet.’ Urs stated a bit worried.
‘Which one?’ Mella tried to avoid.
‘Do you care for Carlos? And I don’t mean just taking care of his wounds, but care from the heart?’ Urs insisted.
Mella hesitated.
‘Years ago I had some special people in my life. I loved them with everything that I am. Still I lost them. Since then, I’m afraid to care, afraid that if I … love again, that it will be taken away from me again. And now I have let him into my heart, even before he kissed me. And it scares me, you can not imagine how much it scares me. What if he’s taken from me also? What when he gets to know me better, he doesn’t like what he learns? He can just walk away, back to England, Spain, wherever. And I’m alone again.’
She let go of Urs. This time Urs took her in his arms for a hug.
‘Yes, I care for him. But I’m also very afraid.’
Urs nodded.
‘Carlos is a very good man. Don’t believe all the things you read about him or us in the magazines. I don’t know you, but I know him. He has a gentle and great heart. But it is also very fragile. Please don’t break it.’
After a while, Urs got up, helped her to her feet and kissed her on the cheek.
‘Thank you for what you have done for all of us.’
He walked out of the room, ready for some much needed rest now.
Mella walked to her side of the bed. Carefully she got under the covers, nearly afraid to touch Carlos now. But Carlos turned around and snuggled up against her.
She hadn’t noticed he had been awake during her conversation with Urs. And he didn’t want her to find out now either. But he needed her close to him. She was in his heart as well, even more so after what she had done for them all today already.

Carlos remembered the afternoon.
They had first talked about the last 4 days. And then they all had gone quiet, enjoying their cup of tea but also getting hungry now that the stress had fallen of their shoulders.
Mella looked around the group. They seemed so comfortable with each other, even in quiet times.
‘Not to comment on you guys but I think you can use a nice shower, don’t you think?’
David pretended to smell under his armpits.
‘You could be right, dear lady.’
‘I take it you didn’t pack a lot of clothes. I’m afraid I only have some pyjama bottoms. But if you guys are comfortable in them at least for tonight, I can wash the clothes you are wearing now and have them all clean and fresh for you for the morning.’ Mella suggested.
‘That would be wonderful, thank you.’ Sebastien admitted.
Mella rummaged through her wardrobe. She pulled out some things. The way she held them, it was obvious they were dear to her. She smelled them once more and then gave each man a pair.
‘David, they may be a bit short but I’m sure they will be comfortable to lounge about and sleep in.’
David accepted them gratefully. They all got up and followed Mella to the bathroom. She showed them where to find everything - toothbrush, shaver - and got for each a nice big soft towel.
Urs took his shower first and while he was using the bathroom, Mella got the bed ready in the second bedroom.
‘Is it ok two of you share this bed? I have another mattress upstairs which I’ll bring down in a moment for one more person.’
Sebastien sat down on the bed already. He was feeling the pain in his shoulder a lot more now that it was the only thing to worry about. Mella noticed.
‘Are you in a lot of pain?’
Sebastien nodded. He felt so tired, dirty and relieved he felt like crying. When a tear escaped his eye, he tried to wipe it quickly. But Mella had noticed. She sat down on the bed next to him.
‘I think you need a hug.’ She carefully held him and allowed him to shed his tears of relief. David sat down as well and gently rubbed Seb’s back.
‘Seb and Carlos are very close. They can be best of friends and then shout at each other.’ David tried to explain.
‘It’s ok, David.’ Sebastien sat up again, feeling a bit better.
‘Let me help you out of this sling so you can have a nice shower. David, I’ll look at that hand for you in a moment if you like.’
‘That would be great, thanks.’
By the time Urs got out of the shower, he felt all better again. He walked into the bedroom still drying his hair which sprang in curls.
‘Now I recognise you!’ Mella smiled.
Urs smiled as well.
‘Especially in this attire?’
Mella was quiet again, her smile fading a little. She turned back to Sebastien, gently taking of the sling and helping him out of his shirt.
‘You going to be ok in the shower?’
Sebastien nodded, took his things and disappeared in the bathroom. Mella quickly finished making the one bed and then got the other mattress from the attic. She put it on the floor next to the bed and got some fresh linen and blankets. Urs had sat down on the bed and watched her. He had only made a joke about the pyjamas so why was she so distant all of a sudden.
‘David, let me just check on Carlos and then I’ll have a look at your hand.’
David nodded while getting undressed.
Mella escaped to the second bedroom. She needed some breathing space. All these year she had been alone and now there were four men in her life. And Urs brought back so many memories, especially now, wearing his pyjamas and his hair long and curly. Mella sat on the edge of the bed, looking at Carlos. Even just looking at him, made her relax and calm down again. She smiled even though he didn’t see it, sleeping peacefully for the moment.
She returned to David when she heard the water from the shower stop.
‘Is he ok?’ Urs asked.
‘Yes, he’s sleeping.’ Mella smiled. Urs noticed immediately her changed attitude. She was relaxed again, comfortable.
Mella undid the bandages around David’s hand and had a look at the stitches.
‘Looking good. Try not to get it all too wet in the shower. If the skin gets too weak they may tear.’
David nodded. Sebastien walked in looking a lot better as well. While David took his turn in the shower, Mella helped Sebastien with his sling and gave him some tablets against the pain.
‘I need to pop out to get some food for us. You rest a bit and let the tablets do their work.’
She didn’t have to tell Sebastien twice, he was already closing his eyes.
‘Urs, can you please keep an eye on Carlos while I’m away. He still has nightmares and I don’t want him to be alone.’
‘Not a problem.’

Mella quickly drove to the local shop for some more food, fresh fruit, veggies and some roast chickens.
When she walked back in the house she heard a lot of shouting from upstairs. Immediately alarm bells went off in her head. What was going on?
When she rushed into the bedroom, the three men around the bed looked completely helpless.
‘What is going on?’
‘Carlos won’t wake up. We tried shouting but he’s just thrashing about.’ Sebastien said panicking.
Carlos lay on the bed, arms stretched out with hands fisted, his head shooting from one side to the other, his stomach muscles contracting. Silent moans escaped from his clenched mouth and tears were running down his face.
‘He’s reliving the beating, very vividly. Shouting won’t help. They were probably shouting at him during the beating so your voices just get lost between the rest of them.’
Mella sat down and gently started rubbing his tummy, much like you settle down a child.
‘Sht, Sweety. You are safe now. You are home, with your friends.’ She whispered quietly.
‘Urs, David, take a hand each and gently stroke it.’ Mella ordered.
‘Euh, are you sure?’ David asked a bit awkward.
Mella turned to them, fire in her eyes.
‘Don’t be shy now, David. This is your friend! Carlos needs your help. He needs to know you are there. He will feel you rather than hear you.’
David and Urs carefully held a fisted hand each and stroked it gently. Slowly his hands relaxed again and released the cramped fists.
‘That’s it, Sweetheart. You can come back to us. We are all here. Sebastien, gently call him back.’ Mella didn’t take her eyes of Carlos. He was settling down but was still far away.
‘Carlito, please wake up. We are here for you. You are safe now.’ Sebastien whispered.
‘Yes, Carlos. Come back to us, buddy.’ David also said.
‘Come home, my friend.’ Urs whispered.
‘See, you are not alone. It is safe to let go. It was just a bad dream, long gone now.’ Mella whispered again, her hands always keeping contact with Carlos, assuring him she was there.
Carlos started to calm down and opened his eyes but didn’t say anything. He looked to his right where Urs was now holding his hand, then to his left where David was holding his hand and to Mella, her eyes worried, her hands soft on his skin.
‘What happened?’
‘You had a bad dream.’
Carlos closed his eyes again.
‘I was back with him. They pulled my hands to the side so he could hit me. Please help me sit up.’
David and Urs helped him settle against the pillows.
‘Thank you.’ He looked at David, Urs and Sebastien one after the other.
‘I heard you.’
Then he looked at Mella and pulled her closer to him. She settled against his chest, feeling his warmth and steady heartbeat. He knew he didn’t have to say anything to her, he knew she would feel it in his heart. Quietly David, Urs and Sebastien left the room.

Half an hour later, Mella came down the stairs finding the three friends settled in the settees.
‘Can one of you help Carlos down the stairs. I’ll get some food on the table.’ Immediately David and Urs got up while Sebastien followed Mella into the kitchen to help with the food.
‘That was scary.’ Sebastien had to admit.
‘But you helped him through it. It will happen again. But now you know what to do.’
‘Except, we won’t do what you did.’ Sebastien smiled. Mella had a quick mental picture of that and started laughing.
‘No, I don’t think he would want you to go that far!’
They got everything on the table just as David and Urs carried Carlos in.
‘I can walk now, thank you!’ Carlos said smiling.
They sat around the table, enjoying the food and some light conversation. Mella looked around the group amazed at their close relationship.
By night time, Carlos slowly walked back up the stairs helped by Urs, David and Sebastien. He was feeling better all the time, stronger, amazed by the strength his friends were giving him. And then of course there was Mella.
Time for everyone to get some rest. Mella was the last one to go upstairs after checking the last bit of laundry in the dryer. She closed the house, switching off all the lights and walked upstairs. Seb and David were sharing the bed, already fast asleep. She couldn’t see Urs on the mattress in the dark but assumed he was fast asleep by now as well. She walked into her bedroom, only to find Urs on the floor in the corner.
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PostSubject: Re: The Christmas Treasure Hunt   Fri Jan 23, 2015 11:12 pm

Hi Ilse,

I just found these stories. I was really, really enjoying The Christmas Treasure Hunt. It's so hard to find Carlos' stories. There are so many more Urs and Seb ones. As a Cutie, I was really into the story. I have to ask if you ever finished it. I really would like to know what happened.

Distressed Cutie,

Meg
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