Trenches Manned: Hammersmith (thirty)
Mossbunker had secured his contract with the American Expeditionary Force; in theory, his works might be targeted by spies. Their owner had not altered arrangements.
Aimee, with Curach, lay flat against the slope of a ditch, at the rear of Mossbunker’s factory, outside the wall and the two tracks with a switch between, by the platform to which rail cars could be drawn, unloaded, and reversed. Here cranes hoisted steel and copper ingots onto rollered conveyors that carried them from dock to furnace shed. Sometimes, the heavy objects unloaded here were those giant wooden spools Mossbunker’s cable was wound on.
Letting into the wall was a gated sentry box. Intermittently this brooded unoccupied…as the guard had his rounds to make. He circled, when the hour called for it, at the pace of a man on a pleasant warm evening, strolling in the dark. The dark was never a profound one, for there were strong electric lights at the factory yard’s four corners. The danger of a whack in the face from a moth-seduced bat stuck the guard fairly high…and he kept himself back in the shadows.
Aimee’s immediate future was in custody of her companion. She had on Chilly’s spare trousers and Ralph’s old suitcoat, a costume apt for ladder scaling and quick getaways, but exacerbating to the embarrassment of being caught at these activities.
A snatch of “After the ball is over…” faded with the guard’s second departure. He’d come back, forty minutes after sunset, when the spies in question (or saboteurs…Curach had not confided so much to his lookout), first perched themselves under the rim of their hillock. Curach, motioning the Kendrick brothers about their business, had taken out his watch, nestled it on a bed of clover, and found the ambient light would suit. Nine minutes and thirty-four seconds passed. The guard’s voice came to them greeting someone, at first in surprise.
Then at once, it was Mossbunker’s voice floating to them indecipherable, its tone staccato. Someone else spoke, a diffident mumble, so far as his auditors were concerned…but Aimee knew this to be Abel.
“What can they be doing?” she asked Curach.
“Secret war work.” He put a finger to his lips, then carried on. “As I understand it from Piggott. It’s the Professor, now, being go-between for the supplier. Shaw has a notion it’s guns.”
Shaw had been reticent as to his notions, in Zetland’s hotel room, mooning fairly openly over Minnie, probably thus taciturn to spare her womanhood. And Aimee had been expecting that afternoon…yesterday…to dust her hands of this gang of miscreants, get back to her own house, speak sternly to Carey, apologize to Mrs. Frieslander…
(2018, Stephanie Foster)