Number Four, or Number 4 as she preferred to be known, was a complex woman. Two distinct halves of a personality. In actual fact, if she was to be split down the middle she would be two Number 2's. But as it was, everyone who met her thought she was a complete Number 2, so therefore a Number 4. But that's just getting confusing.
Her personalities were split like a pro's legs on pay-day. Half of her an amiable, laughing socialite, the other half a sharp-tongued, psychic psycho.
Chosen to be head of the Gerbils Of Hell, by simply stamping her feet and threatening to leave, until the boss gave her her own way, she had in all fairness really turned the squad around of late.
The group had, until 4's arrival, been somewhat of a laughing stock amongst death squads across the land. Slowly falling from grace with the loss of their previous leader in a historic sea battle, the once majestic horde of death dealing Gerbils that struck terror in to the very hearts of those that heard their name, had seemingly lost their way.
Reduced to picking up work where they could, but with no real direction, they had hit seriously hard times. Gone were the days of torture for fun. No more were they to be employed by Royalty to extract information from traitors and heretics. They were seldom called to track escapees and runaways.
Now it was all about seeing old ladies across the road and opening school fête's, giving children rides on their back's and the occasional shoplifting spree on their days off.
The highly feared Hammerfist Hamsters of Hampstead had taken to calling the Gerbils 'Hulls Shrews', and the Mighty Mice Of Munster had been heard several times to refer to them as 'Santa's Slippers', during their recent acceptance speech for 'Best Worst Torture Method' at the annual Exquisite Violence In Life awards (or EVIL's).
However, under the tutelage of Dr. 4 Ph.D, and her sidekick Three and a half (or 3 1/2), the Gerbils had begun to regain their 'fear-factor' and had once again started to climb the ladder of respect amongst their peers. They were finally breaking out, and the work was coming in.
MC watched 4 intently, from his position in the haybale.
She surveyed the surrounding area with wonky eyes. Looking to and fro, sniffing the air and cupping her hand to her ear, listening for the faintest of giveaway sounds.
He noticed the cart that was attached to the bo-legged horse 4 had dismounted from. It was stacked high with books. Maybe a hundred in all. All of them brand new and seemingly never read. Amongst the pile sat another, younger girl. Aimlessly chewing her nails and twisting her multi-coloured hair around her finger, playfully.
"3 1/2, come here please," snapped 4.
"As you wish, ma'am," replied 3 1/2, snapping back to conciousness and hopping down gingerly from the book wagon.
"Make preparations for the Gerbil Horde's arrival," she said sniffing the air again, "the heathens are here, it's faint but I can smell them."
"What do your powers say, ma'am? Your mind powers, that is!" 3 1/2 quietly asked, a hint of admiration in her voice.
"Oh, uh, well I have a headache at the moment, so it's not very clear at present, but it'll be better in a while I'm sure," mumbled 4, "anyway, the psychic arts can not just be turned on and off willy-nilly you know! I've done tests to prove it, and I have certificates!"
4 looked accusingly at 3 1/2, with a sideways glance. Holding the glare for a moment, she relaxed her face and carried on, sure that her secret was safe, for now at least.
"Anyway the Gerbils will find what we search for. The Gerbils always find what we search for."
"You must prepare bedding for the horde," she continued "they will need fresh water, and some dry food. Don't skimp on the treats either, it will have been a long march. Fresh lettuce and a chocolate drop each is the way forward."
"Now go, I need to contact my publisher about moving these bloody books. I can't keep carrying them round, he must have cleared out the storeroom by now, it's been six years since I paid him to publish my manuscript."
"I will seek my poetic revenge on the scum that wronged me, I will seek and I shall destroy!!"
4 began to laugh hysterically.
And then choked, she had a cold and something phlegmy dislodged itself unexpectedly.
MC turned to Olivia, who was intently watching the scene unfold before her.
He lightly touched her arm and she jumped. Letting loose the tiniest of squeaks, they both froze immediately.
In unison their eyes swivelled slowly towards 4 and her underling.
4 and 3 1/2 stood motionless. They were staring, menacingly straight back at them.
"Oh bugger, that's gone and done it, isn'it?" said MC.
Olivia gulped, "bugger" she breathed.