Boxed Goods: Hammersmith (thirty-two)
Vic, like a nine-pin, fell too, the second time of an evening in collision with Elton. He liked to count himself almost as spring-loaded as in the days of Rubillard’s Volunteers, albeit thirty years gone now. He thought he wasn’t missing the trend, either. From thin grass strewn with palm-scoring nuts and bolts, he heaved to his feet, and at once flung to the aid of his rescuer…a young fellow whose weight seemed slight for pinning Mossbunker’s deputy.
This one’s mouth, dimly seen under a cap pulled low, seemed to express something…something Vic would have read, had the stranger been Aimee Bard, as an exasperated determination to make do with him. The stranger put finger to lips and gestured. Vic handed across his tie. In a trice, Bott was effectively gagged.
That was to say, that while at first noising with deep inarticulate feeling, Bott shut himself up straightaway when Vic whispered, “Don’t shoot!”
The inspiration was for his own protection.
The canny figure caught up the laces of Bott’s shoes, and tied them together. He gestured again. Vic searched himself mentally…yes, he might trust his gut to hold up his trousers. The braces served to secure Bott’s wrists. None of these arrangements would serve for long.
The figure beckoned, moving in stealth past Vic, to the top of the ramp.
Here, a form more familiar loomed out of darkness. It kissed its fingers and flung them to the air, then bowed low before Vic’s new comrade.
“My esteem is boundless. Now!” Zetland said, in a thrumming near-whisper. “We will make fast the two prisoners together, and have them back in the tunnel. I have not omitted to bring rope.”
The second prisoner proved the guard, woozy and pliable at present, his head having had been struck by something more resounding than a brown bat. Enlisted thus in Zetland’s latest round of malefactoring, Vic accepted the neckerchief, its intended use telegraphed with a nod…and replying to the undertaker’s eye of mournful reproach with a feckless shrug, Vic blindfolded him. He hoped to God Bott had not managed being introduced to Zetland, and would believe a passing madman imposed duress, merely, on a true but helpless Patriot.
“Count!” The voice, descending softly over the rail, was Biyah Kendrick’s. “I don’t know where Curach’s gone off to. We got two of the boxes pulled aside, but we need another hand to bring ’em back to the gate.”
“You have lost the Irish fellow.”
“He was there with us, then he wasn’t.”
(2018, Stephanie Foster)