The Locket : A Finny Story (Part 8 of 10)
The Locket : A Finny Story (Part 8 of 10) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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In Joe's office, Finny finds more than she is looking for.

The Locket : A Finny Story (Part 8 of 10)

Getting to her feet, Finny painfully hauled herself up so that she could get an elbow hooked over the edge of the pipe.

With a bit of fishing and tugging, she managed to pull what was left of her still sodden sweatshirt free of the fan.

Sliding back down to the walkway, she grimaced as she pressed the ruined top against the wound on her stomach.

Then, slowly and painfully, Finny made her way down the stairs to the factory floor. For the moment, the locket in Joe's Ditty Box was forgotten.

Trailing wet footprints behind her, Finny headed for the toilets. As best she could, she washed away the blood and cleaned the wound with water from the single tap above the cracked sink.

Her tattered sweatshirt was now so blood-soaked as to be useless. Instead, Finny looked around for something else she could use to cover the wounds. Her first thought was toilet paper...

or rather the cut-up squares of newspaper and old wrapping paper that passed for toilet paper.

But how to make the paper squares stay on?

It was only when she realised that she was drying her hands on a thick linen roller towel that Finny felt that, since she had first started to climb the drainpipe, something was, at last,

going her way.

After pulling the wooden roller free, Finny worried away at the seam of the towel with her teeth.

Once she had bitten away enough to create purchase, she stood on one side of the tear and pulled upwards on the other, ripping the towel in half along the seam.

What Finny now had was, effectively, a two-metre-long by half a metre wide bandage.

A few minutes later, Finny's torso was tightly wrapped from armpits to hip in a clean, dry covering of comfortable linen tied at the top with a big bow.

She even took a second or two to admire her handiwork and pose in the dirty and damp-speckled mirror that had somehow managed to survive The Fall still attached to the wall.

Spirits lifted somewhat, Finny left the toilets and looked up to where the frosted glass in Joe's office door glowed yellow with the only light left on in the building overnight.

Back to business.

Fishing the traitorous roll of lock picks out of her britches, Finny knelt outside of Joe's office door and unrolled the wet cloth onto the floor.

She examined the lock closely, and not for the first time since starting work here. Good, still the same. Taking the small, barrel tension wrench, Finny chose a basic number thirty pick.

However, what would usually have taken her less than a minute to open, took well over two.

Stabbing pain in your left side, not to mention soaking wet clothes chaffing your legs didn't help with concentration.

Finally, the door lock gave up with a click and Finny was able to stroll triumphantly into Joe's inner sanctum, cum office cum makeshift schoolroom. It felt good. Finny took her time.

The Ditty Box was in Joe's bottom desk drawer, and Finny casually strolled around the desk.

Grinning, she sat down in Joe's chair, then winced as the compression of sitting squeezed her belly wound.

The pain went away though and Finny found herself for the first time seeing the room as Joe would.

She would generally be sat over there, in the corner, where she could see what was going on and if Joe was paying attention to them or working on some paperworky stuff.

Thinking of which made her sit up and look at what Joe had on his desk. Invoices, letters, orders, crap and crap and crappity crap. Then her eyes fell on two thin books.

The Attendance Register and the Work Roster. Finny opened both.

Those kids from the orphanage who wanted to work were only supposed to do so for half a day. But Finny could see from the register that some of the older kids were working full days.

Now that was interesting. Then she turned to the Work Roster. At the end of every shift, the on-duty overseer handed in the production sheet showing who had produced what, and how much of it.

Finny grinned to see that, since she had started on the bullet crimping machines, she had regularly outperformed the boys in her bay.

But making bullets was only half of the shift for her and for One Tooth and Casper and Worms. They also had to do reading and writing.

Finny liked the writing part, making little curly drawings that actually meant something. It was the reading she hated. With a deepening frown, she looked at Joe's daily comments.

Without fail, next to her name Joe had written, in increasingly irritated lettering 'Won't try.' 'Won't try'. 'Won't try'. Finny's lips thinned into an angry white line.

Why should I try? It's boring! She shut the Work Roster with a slam. The sudden draught sending several loose papers floating off Joe's desk onto the floor.

Still angry, Finny got up to retrieve them.

Returning to the desk, she had no idea which piece of paper had come from where, so she put one each down on separate piles and hoped Joe wouldn't notice.

It was then that she saw the big wet bum mark on Joe's chair. Worryingly, it wasn't just water though. Finny looked down at her side.

The makeshift bandage glistened red, and the blood had also soaked down into her britches. Finny used her hand to clean most of the wetness that hadn't already seeped into the leather seat.

She wiped her bloody hands on her wet britches to clean them. The sight of so much blood scared her. She was going to have to be quick about getting her locket and getting out.

Finny sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the drawers that supported the left-hand side of Joe's desk.

She unrolled the lock picks in front of her and picked up the size two single lever barrel blank.

Drawer locks like these were easy; you could open them with a hairpin, except Finny had never owned a such a thing.

With what she had, then, it took her only about thirty seconds before she was able to slide the drawer open.

The Ditty Box took up the front half of the drawer. Finny lifted it out and up onto the top of the desk. As she went to close the drawer, she noticed what had been behind the box.

Finny already knew that Joe kept a bottle of booze in there along with some glasses. She had seen both taken out several times when Joe was trying to make a deal with a customer.

Unknown to her, though, there was also a gun. Finny stared at it. She had seen guns before, lots of them, but had never got to touch one, like actually hold it.

She reached out a hand, then stopped short.

Just like she had seen lots of guns before, Finny had also seen what they did to people. She had seen someone's head turned into a knob of raw meat just because they had been in the wrong place.

She had seen people running and screaming, and she had run and screamed with them. Some had tumbled into tangled, bloody heaps and Auntie Onetit had had to drag her away to avoid them.

Old memories, but they haunted her dreams still. Finny slowly pulled back her hand. She stared at the big revolver for two seconds more; it looked old and oiled... and well used.

Then she quietly closed the drawer.

Picking up the roll of slender locksmith's tools, Finny stood up and set them out on Joe's desk in front of the box. She squatted down to scrutinise the lock.

The small barrel lock was too small even for her smallest tension wrench.

Making a mental note to acquire the next size down at some point, Finny used the same number thirty pick she had used on the office door as a makeshift replacement.

For the actual picking, she used a tiny number twelve pick.

Barrel locks aren't particularly tricky locks to pick once you learned how, but the small size of this one made it fiddly work.

Again, the pain in her side and the general discomfort of being in wet clothes wasn't helping.

But it was only when the lock, at last, gave that Finny realised that the numbness in her fingers probably didn't help either.

Feeling what the pick was doing was a big part of picking a lock and, looking at her numb, white fingertips Finny was glad that she hadn't put off getting her locket any longer.

She stood up again and lifted the lid.

It was truly amazing the variety of things that got confiscated from the kids employed in the factory.

Balls, candy, cigar and cigarette ends, home-made lighters and the unidentifiable things that little kids hoarded in their pockets.

Oh, and there were shivs, of course, about half a dozen of them and of varying quality. No doubt the better ones would be the first pick of any kid who got a free dip...

that is if her locket hadn't been in there.

With a feeling of triumph that shone in her eyes and warmed her whole body, Finny lifted out the locket by its boot-lace necklace and pulled it over her head.

She squeezed the locket hard for several seconds.

"Sorry, Momma."

Finny suddenly felt very cold and she wrapped her arms around her bare shoulders as if to hold in what warmth she could.

She started to shake and her teeth chattered just as they had on the roof. It was perhaps half a minute before the shaking slowly stopped. Finny looked at her hands.

Most of her fingers were now white to the second finger joint. Useless for relocking the locks. Finny jammed them under her armpits to try and coax some warmth back into them.

She paced up and down for several minutes to generate body heat and eventually, most of the feeling returned to her fingers.

Finny had been cold before. She knew cold. But this was more than that. She had a feeling that the wound in her side was making her sick, and that's why she was feeling cold.

A little more scared now, Finny set about relocking the Ditty Box. Then the drawer.

But by the time the last tumbler fell into place and the office door was again locked the numbness was returning to her fingers... And she could no longer feel her toes.

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