The Assembler

Chapter 32- Mysterious Dark Places

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

 

“Richard,” Ned repeated. He was leaning on a wound in Richard’s shoulder, trying to staunch the blood leaking out of it whilst he was shrugging out of his torn clothing in order to make a more practical emergency bandage.

Richard was unconscious, hopefully from pain and not in some sort of coma or worse.

Ned looked around. He had no idea where they were.

He finally got the shirt off, ripped it up as best he could with bare teeth and hands and packed it down onto Richard’s wound. It wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, be life-threatening. But he had to find something to use as a better bandage and he really needed something to clean the wound. Alcohol, medicine, something!

He stumbled upright. For some reason his balance was messed up, and he couldn't hear. Mostly he heard a ringing in his ears and his own voice sounded as if it were coming from some very far distance away. He turned to examine the room they were in. It was not particularly revealing. It was a sort of workshop. The Assembler was there with him, silent and dead now that it was separate from its power source. He turned where he stood, looking for some sort of doorway. He finally spotted it. Above him. There was a drop-down laddered set of stairs.

Ned staggered to the stairs and pulled them down. He turned as he heard Richard groan. He hesitated. No, he needed alcohol and clean bandages. He decided to see where the stairway led before ministering further to Richard. He’d done what he could do for the moment.

He hurried up the ladder only to be stymied by the swing down door that refused to move when he shoved at it. He cursed bitterly then set his shoulder against the wood and heaved as hard as he could.

He’d felt it give. He thought. Or had he imagined it? He took several breaths sucking in oxygen and trying his best to ignore the fact he was so dizzy he was afraid he'd fall off the bloody ladder. Then he set his shoulder against the ladder and heaved again.

It gave a bit more and he was certain he was making progress. The problem was he had no idea what was blocking it from opening. If it were some sort of padlock and hasp he’d never get the bloody thing up enough to get out, as he had nothing to use to pry it open.

Well, nothing for it but to keep working at it. He was taking a deep breath for the next attempt when he heard Richard groan.

“Stay still. I’m trying to get us out of here,” Ned responded.

“Wait,” Richard said between gasps of pain. “Secret door by bookshelf. Easier.”

Ned scuttled down the stairs and went to the bookshelves that lined one wall. He looked for a secret lever or latch but nothing seemed obvious.

Richard was breathing hard, obviously fighting waves of pain and struggling to remain conscious.

“At eye level. Far right stack. Feel under the shelf. Back deep.”

Ned, doing his best to hang onto consciousness himself, felt carefully along what he hoped was the right shelf. Finally his fingers found a tiny round button. He pressed it.

The bookcase swung away to reveal a normal hallway in a normal sort of home.

Ned looked around. “I’m going to get something to bind up that wound. Don't move.”

Richard gave out a sickly sort of laugh. “As if I could.”

Ned hurried out of the workshop. It was a servants hall, empty of anyone. He hurried along and finally found a bathroom where he collected clean towels and a clean washcloth he lathered up with soap. He found no medicine there however so he went looking for a liquor cabinet of some sort and finally, after the fourth door, found a small study which had a sparse drinks tray. He grabbed up the gin and hurried back to Richard.

He knelt down to discover Richard had passed out again. Just as well. He poured gin onto the wound which woke Richard and made him shriek.

“Baby,” Ned muttered. “Stop whinging.”

“Oh, easy for you to say,” Richard hissed back through the pain.

“Hush. And stop squirming. Let me bind that up until we can get you to hospital. Where are we, anyway?”

“My..” Richard paused long enough to groan then annoyingly pass out.

When Ned was done binding up the wound as well as he could under the circumstances he took several good swigs of gin.

“Don’t hog it all,” Richard muttered.

“Back amongst the living, are you?” Ned propped Richard up well enough so he too could take some medicinal pain killer.

“Where are we?” Ned asked again.

“My townhouse.”

“I didn't see any servants around,” Ned replied.

“Don’t have any that live in. Listen, I think I can stand.”

“Oh right. I’ll just bet you can. The problem is, I’m not certain I can hold you upright.”

“Ah,” Richard replied. “I suppose we ought be happy we’re alive at all.”

Ned frowned and nodded. “Thanks for getting us out of there.”

Richard looked startled. “I thought you’d done it.”

----------------------

Rory trudged along the spookily dark tunnel, trying to guess where it might lead. There really was only one way to go. He had run into a side tunnel but it hadn't gone more than a few feet. When he spotted a very expensive silver dessert spoon shining away in the pathway, he wondered for a moment. An expensive form of breadcrumbs? He shrugged then trudged onward.

He’d come round a bend then suddenly he was diving to land face first in the dirt as bullets sped past. “Oi! Stop that! I’m Chief Inspector Rory with Scotland Yard!” he shouted angrily.

He could hear muffled voices. Sounded as if they were arguing. “Oi! No matter what you’ve done or who you are, shooting me gains you nothing, other than more coppers on your tail!” Never hurt to remind bad guys of that. “I’m unarmed!” And, dammit, he was. Too bloody many people were shooting at him lately. He might have to admit that carrying a pistol was wise, even if he hated the thought of it.

There was more conferring ahead of him. Then, “Rather coppers on our ass than Ainsworth.”

“Well, it’s your lucky day, fellows. I’m pretty sure Nathan Ainsworth is dead!”

There was more conferring and Rory did his best to be patient about it. Then finally one of Rory’s attackers walked out of the gloom, his weapon nowhere in sight.

“All right, look,” began the dark figure. “We were hired to protect Ainsworth’s property. We had no idea you were a copper. For all we knew you was one of them mercs hired by the African Consortium. They were trying to kill us!”

“A reasonable fear considering if Nathan Ainsworth is dead it was mostly by their hands. I’m coming out now, and I’d take it as a personal favor if you stopped shooting at me. We can continue negotiations in a more reasonable, not to mention comfortable, fashion.”

“All right,” said the merc. “Keep your hands where we can see them.”

Rory got to his feet and walked forward. He was sure to make no sudden movements with his hands. He wore an irritated scowl. He hated being dirty. He'd never been lacking in courage; some said he did lack for common sense and a reasonable amount of a sense of self-preservation, however. Now he demonstrated both as he sauntered up to the merc.

Rory looked the guard up and down, and noticed the huddle of others who were watching him warily. He flipped out his warrant card. The guard gulped as he squinted at it.

It felt good to be feared, Rory thought, grinning to himself. Especially when he was particularly helpless. “All right then, where does this tunnel lead?”

“To Nathan Ainsworth’s townhouse, Chief Inspector.”

“Right then. Let’s see what we can see. Lead on.”

 

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