The holding house was a rectangular stone building whose corners were so sharp they might have been cut with a knife. It stood of the edge of a pond rimmed with cattails. It would not be difficult to find Mara inside, if she was there, because the house was small and looked like it could hold two, maybe three prisoners at most. As the sisters approached the swamp the murky, dank smell of its waters seeped into their noses. The air was uncannily silent.
It’s perfect, Morgan voice said inside of Marie’s head. Look how much water there is.
Wait, Marie said back, holding Mina’s hand tighter. We can’t just run in. Let’s check out the situation first.
Trust me, Morgan said. I know.
Morgan turned off the lights in the house so that everything went black. “Hey!” they heard a male voice inside exclaim, and some furniture shifting. Quickly, Morgan held up the fire in her hand up to the window, casting a light inside so that they could see without being seen.
Through the window, they saw the front area of the holding house. It was sparse: occupied only by a desk and two chairs, on top of which two policemen had been sitting. One of the policemen was on his feet, grasping blindly on the walls for a switch. The other was asleep with his head on the desk. Behind the desk was a back metal door with a lock on its handle. The girls ducked down and out of sight behind a bush, and Morgan lit up the room again. Inside, they heard the policeman who had been up walk toward the door and open it, glancing out, then settle back into his seat.
“They only have two guards!” Morgan said. “This is going to be so simple. Marie, you get some of the water in the pond to grab these guys and trap them in the middle of the pond, and then I’ll melt the locks on all the doors. Mina, stand watch.”
“Are you crazy?” Marie shook her head at Morgan. “We might as well publish an expose in tomorrow’s paper saying that we’re all witches and got Mara out by magical means.”
She closed her eyes and thought. “No,” she said finally. “We have to get the keys.”
“And where are we going to get those?” Morgan demanded.
“There was a set, hanging around the awake officer’s belt.”
“I saw them too,” Mina said.
“Okay, so I didn’t,” Morgan said. “So what?”
“Another thing you probably didn’t see,” Marie said, “was the room off the side. It’s a bathroom, with a sink and running water.”
“Okay,” Morgan squinted at her twin, trying to read her thoughts. “How are we going to get the keys off from around his belt? And what are we going to do with the sleeping guy?”
Marie smiled. “We need to make sure they’re both safely out of the way. We need a distraction.” She gathered her sisters around and told them the plan.
While the policeman who had been disturbed by the settled comfortably back into his position, attributing casually the sudden lights out to some kind of electrical fluke, the sisters got into position. Marie took her place next to the wall right next the bathroom. Morgan hid behind a shrub by the front door, and Mina ran quietly to the far edge of the swamp, where she disappeared amidst the cattails.
Marie counted down in her head. Ready, she told Morgan. Go. The waters in the pond started to churn, its waves disrupting the stillness of the night. The officer who was awake stood up hesitantly, came to the window and peered out. A thick smoke had accumulated outside the window, causing the officer’s eyes to open wide. He took two large steps to the door and swung it open again.
What he saw was this: a trail of smoke leading to the far edge of the pond, where a patch of grass near the cattails seemed to be smouldering and catching fire.
“Shit!” he said, and ran back inside, where he could be heard shaking his partner awake.
“Hey!” Marie heard him saying. “I gotta go check something out. There’s something burning out there.” Following this Marie heard chairs shifting across the ground, a yawn, and a grunt of approval.
“I’m awake,” the other officer said.
The first guard walked out the front door holding a bucket, and as he did Morgan slipped a long thin branch into the crack of the door before it could close. He jogged to the far edge of the pond to examine the smouldering grass, looking cautiously over his shoulders.
Meanwhile, Marie turned her energies from the pond and concentrated on the water flowing through the pipes in the bathroom. She churned the water in the toilet, and then, pushed water up the pipes out of the faucet.
Inside the house, she heard a stir. “What the heck?” The sleeping officer had gotten to his feet. Marie heard him close the faucet on the sink and take the top off of the toilet tank. She closed her eyes. Now! she communicated to Morgan, and as she thought it a pipe burst, sending a stream of water flying toward the bathroom door, shutting it. The guard inside the bathroom cursed. Morgan dashed inside, and just as the officer reached for the doorknob she put her hands around it. “Ach!” the officer shouted. The doorknob had become whitehot. He leapt backward and cursed again. Morgan looked intensely at the space where the door met the wall, taking deep breaths. She had to get it just right or the plan would fail. She heated the handle just enough so that the part of the door that clicked into the wall melted around the edges, molding to its metal casing and effectively locking the officer in the bathroom. It was subtle enough that later someone might just think that the lock had jammed. Done, she communicated to Marie. Marie ran to the door, where Mina seemed to appear out of nowhere.
“Did you get it?” Marie asked. Mina held up the keychain. While the first guard had been examining the fire, Mina had snuck her hands stealthily from the cattails and removed the keys from his belt. She was young and hadn’t yet developed any powers, but her size made her nimble and difficult to spot. She also seemed to be able to run extremely quietly, as Marie had noticed from earlier in the night when she had snuck out of the house after the twins.
“You’re amazing,” Marie said, patting her on the back and leading her inside the house. They closed the door behind them and locked it. Morgan had already replaced the lightbulb with a ball of her own flame, hanging loosely over the lamp. Marie looked at the lock on the black door and sorted through the keys on the chain. She put the key in the keyhole and turned.
The lock clicked open.