Hammersmith: A Few Laws Broken (chapter thirty-one)
A Few Laws Broken
Mossbunker’s wall rose a few feet higher than Ralph’s eight-foot ladder.
Perched on this, Curach whispered, “Hand me up that feather bolster.”
Chilly’s answer to a mechanical problem, was to roll the bolster tight around a fat stick. He hoisted this to Curach; Curach flung the stick, then tugged and tucked to his satisfaction. The bolster’s job was to damp Mossbunker’s embedded glass…an ugly sort of warning, but like a snaggletoothed cur of a watchdog, present only to force a position. Choose to obey the law or not.
They had, opting for the latter. Rungs creaked, and the first insurgent sprang, dropping beyond sight, but within earshot…the sound of Curach’s landing feet a practiced squnch, squnch.
“You next, ma’am, if you can.”
“Oh, now, Chilly, of course I can,” she answered. The boys at first had worried about her managing the signal. The signal was the string of firecrackers in her right coat pocket; to be deployed if she spotted Mossbunker’s militia on the move.
“Sakes, I’ve lit plenty,” she had said (somewhat truthfully).
She mounted four rungs at speed, Chilly bracing the uprights.
His whisper rose: “Now, over the top, ma’am.”
He tried again: “Easy does it, Mrs. Bard.”
There was, as yet, no over the top. She had come waist-height to the summit, even standing tiptoed on the last possible support. Strength of arm and breadth of beam felt to her in opposition.
“Catch you when you come across,” Curach hissed.
“That glass won’t let the bolster shift. You take hold,” Chilly urged.
“Curach”—she had an inspiration—“that stick of Chilly’s…”
The stick came nosing the bolster’s edge. Aimee, purchased on a quivering handhold, achieved a belly flop.
Something else occurred.
This something was a blur, after which she found herself lying, dazed, on a patch of earth. Zetland’s voice had seemed to speak a word, her feet had been given a firm heave, an intervening body that was Curach’s had, with fortitude (though failing to use its arms to any purpose), stood its ground…and Aimee had, in two thuds, landed.
Zetland leapt down, to grunt in an assessing way over his handiwork. Chilly straddled the wall long enough to haul the ladder up behind him, dropping this into Curach’s hands. Aimee, meanwhile, had answered Curach’s, “You’re yourself, ma’am?” with “Absolutely!”, but struck, in the act of springing to a demonstrative pose of all-parts-in-working-order, a frozen crouch.
Crunching steps were growing louder.
Zetland with silent semaphore ordered his troops. Aimee made for a shed, sited unflush to the factory wall, a width of around three feet interposing. On the toes of her gardening boots she scurried across a patch of light, and hit a deep contrasting shadow.
By a saving grace, she hit more than that…
A metal rail in the stomach had spared her a yawning void. The accident was preoccupying, but she thought something like an “oof”, timed nicely to cover hers, and a modest chuckle of Zetland’s, had caught her ear. Now a voice, two voices, spoke below her feet. A door creaked, the light of a lantern flooded the pit—
The light was snuffed.
One voice had been Elton Bott’s…but she knew that, having just glimpsed him. He and his companion stalled. To consult, perhaps.
“Come on, Elton. This is all a little foolish, isn’t it? Why does Mossbunker need to know my business? What’s my daughter got to do with Mossbunker?”
“Vic, quit complaining. Don’t forget it’s an officer’s right to restrain a prisoner. Tie you up if you make me. You let the Chief decide what’s his to know!”
Elton whispered on, a fierce lecture on the ways of the great, which are not the ways of the humble, and Aimee had a moment, peering down on the unsuspecting pair, to address a plaint of her own, inwardly, to Vic.
How do you do it? How is it you turn up here, in the thick of things? What’s wrong with you, Victor Mack?
These sentiments were well in tune with the burden of Elton’s lament, that ended: “Go on, Vic, go on.”
Curach tapped her on the shoulder, and handed her the bolster. He might have meant her to put this aside, safe. The men were stumping up the incline, the prisoner leading. The rail, Aimee found, had just room at the end to edge past. Like Aladdin’s carpet, the bolster took flight, its rider tackling Elton Bott and bringing him down flat.
A Few Laws Broken
(2017, 2018, Stephanie Foster)