Sunday, 22 June 2008

Making a deal

Following on from last week - Possibly part of a series.

He stops in front of her, crouching down to examine her. She looks into eyes etched deep within a heavy forehead.
"I don't know you." She says. "You're new. You can't tell me what I can do. I've been here a long time. People know me."
"I'm waiting for a boat." He says. "Probably the same one you are looking for. The thing is, I know where it is, because unlike you I didn't sit here while it rained hoping for luck to come with me."
She shakes her head.
"I don't believe you."
"The trouble is, as you say, I'm new here. I have no-one to sell to. You do. Sounds like we can make a deal."
She looks around, the rain is dying off, the boats are moving slowly, their crews busy with preparations, cursing each other as they collide, their horses getting into each other's way.
"How can I trust you?" She asks.
"I'm the one with something to lose." He replies. "You're looking for the Fragrance of Philanthropic Dissonance." He scratches at the greying stubble on his chin. "I'll tell you where it is."

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

watching the boats

The rain splatters on the ground in heavy, crushing smacks. The scent of it seeps through the woman's cloak as she clutches her body with spindle thin arms. Dark, blue eyes look out at the passing carts, the people ignoring her with unfocused glances, while she scratches herself with a sly grin. She is watching the canal, lodged tight with narrow boats waiting to unload their cargoes. She examines the etchings on their solar panels, dim in the darkening light, looking for the sign of the boat she is waiting for. The one that she will be paid to spot if she can find it and then get to Jarrod before any of the others.
"Hey, you." A man's voice calls out and she feels that it is directed at her. She looks for the source: A man dressed in a faded and torn overcoat is looking right at her. "You've got no right to be here."
"On the man's business. You got no right talking to me like that." She replies.
He moves towards her and the ordinary folk move out of his way, as invisible to them as she is.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

in progress

She walks into a room shaded in dark browns, punctuated with ripples of grey light that fold themselves around the odd shapes contained within but without illuminating any of them. As she moves further in she realises the pieces are mechanical instruments, a ghost orchestra of gears and cogs matched to notches in metal and paper, poised to play. The effect of the room is obviously meant to impress, to test the visitor as they wait for their audience. She examines each one slowly, tracing the delicate working of wood, the engraved silver, bronze and gold that signify makers, companies, owners and lovers in languages documented only in libraries. She pauses at one topped with tin automata, one sat with hands over a piano while the other is frozen halfway through a chord on a violin.
"That's my favourite." Says a man's voice, quietly. "Although its repertoire is even more limited than most."
She makes a show of finishing her inspection before looking back up again to see the source of the voice.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

bees (4)

LeStrade jumps to his feet, the excitement of the game suddenly striking through him and I see the man of twenty years ago, when he was still a policeman.

"Where?" He barks.

"Looks like he's heading towards Crawley, sir."

"Get lamplighters out on the roads. I want him tracked."

The young man snaps off a quick salute and disappears back to the car.

"Why is he on the way to London?" LeStrade asks, mostly to himself. "I had expected him to make for the coast. It's the easy choice from here. A dozen small beaches."

"Perhaps," I offer, "He is looking to meet someone in London. But it does seem strange."

Slowly, my head still sore and my world a little stiff and unsteady, I go to the desk and scrabble through the drawer for a map. As I unfold it LeStrade is behind me, looking to see. I can sense he is keen to get going, to join the hunt.

After a quick study I realise what is likely the man's destination.

"There." I point. LeStrade looks a little confused at first, seeming to have to spell out the meaning of what I am saying.

"We are watching the airfields as much as the ports. It still doesn't make sense."

"I read recently that a new section has been opened there. For private fliers who require frequent access to the continent. It even has its own special entrance, one that is not commonly known, that has few checks or customs controls for those who can pay."


The movement of the car pushes me back into the padded leather with the creak of well designed springs beneath me. My head is starting to hurt and my eyes force themselves closed.

“Are you ok, Doctor?” Asks the young man in the driver seat. I look towards the mirror where his young eyes reflect a kind of fear that the venerable old man behind him might be about to die.

“I'm fine.” I hear myself say. A part of me suddenly realises that it is feeling to tired for this chase, that it is little to me even if the device is taken and used for some nefarious purpose. My only real concern these past couple of years has been the bees. The concerns of crime and Empire have seemed a long way away and with only a small amount of regret I was happy with that. Things are in the hands of younger, smarter men and their own devices. Men who have seen the horror of the War and are struggling to make sure that it might never happen again. Even my regular, weekly readings of the papers to HOLMS have become more sporadic and our discussions of events shorter and of less interest to me. I no longer play through the scenarios with him. Suddenly I feel older than ever, the world gone from me.

“Concentrate on your driving, Sergeant.” Lestrade barks. “We haven't much time.”

“Sir.” He replies. The car accelerates again.

Lestrade turns to face me.

"We will be there within twenty minutes. We've radioed ahead and there's no sign of them there yet. Likely they are keeping a low profile. Probably they weren't expecting us to be able to react so quickly."

I watch the dark, green hedges and white-washed buildings of Sussex rush past me at speeds I've never contemplated before, even on the train, as the young driver wrenches the car around bends and along narrow lanes that had known only silence before our passage. During one particularly tight corner the car skids with a squeal and a curse. I am thrown forwards and to the side, my arms reaching out as I smack into the Major.

"Damnit, Wilson, what are you doing?"

We both look forwards at the cows in the road. Wilson puts the car into reverse and starts to swing it around as fast as he can. Something catches my eye though. The gate to the field is open, explaining the cows, but there is no farmer to watch over them. I look around to see a car, half-hidden under an old oak providing majestic cover against the sun, standing proudly ahead of a small wood. I recognise it with a start, and the figure unloading a collection of boxes into some kind of netting.

"I was wrong." I say. "He was heading towards the airport but not with the intention of going in."

A dark shape looms over treeline. Over the noise of our engine I can hear the high-pitched whine of propellers. It is some kind of airship, smaller than the usual type, with thick, stubby wings lined with six, of maybe more, propellers, each pointing in slightly different directions giving it a movements of purpose and control I have never seen in such a craft before. Men tumble down ropes tossed from its sides, their dark silhouettes broken with the unmistakable shape of sub-machine guns.