Shot In The Dark : (Part 9 of 18)
Shot In The Dark : (Part 9 of 18) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Why does Joe want Finny to go down into his cellar?

Shot In The Dark : (Part 9 of 18)

Whatever terrible spell Joe had cast was broken as the tailor turned to rescue his meal.

At the same time, and without looking up from the cremation, he called out in a voice that was now surprisingly strong and clear of inflection.

"Get in here you lazy bitches. We have work today."

The couple of young ladies called in by the old gentlemen appeared in a rush; one of whom was named Bet, and the other Nancy.

They wore a good deal of hair, not very neatly turned up behind, and were rather untidy about the shoes and stockings.

They were not exactly pretty, perhaps; but they had a great deal of colour in their faces, and looked quite stout and hearty.

The women paused to take in the scene, looking from Joe to Finny but too alarmed from the old man's tone to ask who was who and what they were about. Fingal waved his sausage fork at Finny.

"A suit for the little cracksman my dears. Measure her up proper now, no waste."

Suddenly all was flying tape measures and pencils in mouths as the two women set about Finny while the old man went back to rescuing what he could of his sausages.

Joe watched the flurry of activity for a few moments before turning to Fingal.

"Where's Bill? He's got a part in this too."

Bet and Nancy exchanged worried glances at the mention of the name. Fingal paused with his sausages halfway to his plate.

"Bill? I'm sure I don't know my dear. He's not beholding to tell me his movements."

This time Finny caught a shadow of the face seen earlier by Fingal. It was enough to jog the tailor's memory.

"Oh, now wait. It's coming to me. I believe Bill did say he would be in the Three Cripples until luncheon."

Joe nodded and turned to leave.

"Joe!?"

Finny's anxious face stared up at him as she fought to free herself from the measures and pins that held her.

Joe stopped and crossed over to her.

"You stay here and let them measure you up. I won't be long, I just need to see a bloke about tonight."

"But Joe..."

Again, the reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"I won't be long. You'll be fine. I promise."

Finny paused for a pair of heartbeats. Then, without taking her eyes off Joe's face, she lifted her arms again to let the two seamstresses continue their work.

"Just... don't be, ok?

Joe smiled and nodded. Then left.

The Three Cripples wasn't your usual kind of bar. Basically, it was the ground floor of a house at the end of a row of falling down tenements.

The walls had all been knocked through to create, more or less, a single large area of floor space.

Supporting walls had not been spared and were now replaced by thick steel or wooden props with concrete pads at the bottom to try and spread the load a bit.

They didn't work very well and the ceilings sagged worryingly low as a result.

The bar room was thick with low hanging smoke. It seemed that everybody who came in smoked.

The resulting mix of tobaccos and more exotic leafs made the eyes water until you got used to it, but at least you always left the bar feeling 'happier' than when you came in,

even if you hadn't had a drink.

But of course, everyone who came into the Three Cripples drank, or you'd soon get ejected. And age seemed to be no barrier.

More than one table was occupied by youngsters scarcely in double figures enjoying a beer while they puffed away on pipes or spliffs. There was even the occasional homemade bong to be seen.

But Joe's gaze passed over the heads of the juvenile patrons, seeking one among the half dozen or so adults in the bar.

A voice was raised above the low hubbub of misery and general chicanery that passed for conversation in this place.

"Elsie! 'Ow much longer do I 'ave to wait for me scran?"

The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half-boots,

and grey cotton stockings which enclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves.

He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long, frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke.

He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a beard of three weeks' growth,

and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.

"Wind yer neck in Bill." Came a female voice from the back. "It'll be ready when it's bleedin' ready. 'Ave another beer Luv."

Bill's retort was lost in the suds of his beer.

Joe half grinned and made his way across the sawdust and stale vomit decorated floor.

He dropped into the seat opposite the speaker, an action which provoked a defensive response from Bill who half rose, his ham-like fist curling around a short but solid-looking club.

Joe's hand dropped below the tabletop.

"Easy Bill. It's only me."

Bill stared until Joe came into focus, then he slumped back down into his seat.

"Dodger said you 'ad a job for me, Joe."

The two men huddled together in whispers for the next twenty minutes. Finally, Joe stood up, spit on his palm and held out his hand.

Bill, not quite yet able to stand unaided, reciprocated from where he sat.

Deal struck, Joe left Bill to enjoy whatever poor animal had ended up wrapped in pastry and presented as 'Today's Special'.

When he got back to the backstreet tailor's, Finny was already outside, sitting on the step, chin on hands, waiting for him.

Joe opened the car door, and Finny jumped up and hopped into the waiting passenger seat. Joe drove off.

He turned to Finny.

"Did he say when it would be ready?"

Finny was watching out of the window as the narrow streets, and dismal derelict houses slid past.

"He said to come back when it's dark."

Joe just nodded and said nothing.

Outside, the whole world seemed to grow brighter as the car left The Borough and returned to the safer parts of New Flagstaff. Finny's nose wrinkled and her freckled brow furrowed.

"So, what's he making for me? What do I need a suit for?"

Joe swerved around a biker who obviously had no consideration for other road users.

"Twat." Then he glanced at Finny. "Think of it as the other part of your present. A proper suit to go with the proper tools of the trade."

The answer didn't really satisfy her curiosity, but Finny knew that if Joe had wanted her to know more then he would have said. Oh well, she would find out tonight.

"Where are we going?"

The car was heading west, away from the orphanage, away from the factory.

"My gaff."

Finny's face brightened. She would get to see Silja and Annie.

Joe set Finny to work.

Silja and Annie followed silently and increasing awe while Joe took Finny through the house and had her pick every lock he could find, even Kirsten's jewellery box wasn't spared.

Door locks, cupboard locks, padlocks, drawers, bureaus, cash boxes and, although it took her half an hour, Joe's study safe finally fell to Finny's dextrous and, by now, aching fingers.

Then Joe sent her off to eat while he descended into the cellar. When Joe returned, it was to hand Finny a pair of thick goggles.

"These are night-vision goggles that have been tinkered with to be more useful to, errr, people that work mainly at night in unfamiliar surroundings.

" He showed Finny how to use the various settings and then the modifications designed for work up close.

Finny was a keen and quick learner and immediately fell in love with the strange-looking goggles.

Once he was satisfied, Joe led Finny to the cellar door.

"Down there is a locked, 'thing' with something in it. I want you to fetch me the something."

Finny nodded solemnly, it was to be a test. She was ready. Finny expected Joe to open the door then, but he just stood there with his hand on the door handle. She looked up at him.

Joe had his serious face on.

"Sometimes it's not just locks you have to get past Finn. You might find tripwires, pressure pads, cameras... and booby traps." Finny swallowed but Joe wasn't finished.

"So, also down there is a booby trap that probably won't kill you." Finny's lips went numb and it took huge effort to keep a very vocal Fear from getting out of the box she had forced it into.

Joe was looking at her steadily. She nodded again.

"I'll be careful."

Joe's nod was almost imperceptible. The lump in Joe's throat definitely wasn't.

"Good. You'll be fine then." He opened the door and, after a second's hesitation, Finny disappeared into the darkness.

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