“I make a hundred and fifty feet,” said Lieutenant Arthur McTeague, without taking his eyes from the binoculars.
“Decrease elevation two degrees,” called Lieutenant Augie Dechantagne.
“Ready!” called Corporal Worthy from the centermost 105mm howitzer.
“Fire!” There was a long pause and then a distant explosion.
“Oops. You’re long,” said McTeague. “I mean, longer.”
“Kafira damn it!” yelled Augie. “I said decrease elevation! Decrease!”
“Sorry sir! Ready sir!”
“On target,” said McTeague, after the wait.
“Lay down a pattern of fire!” The five guns began rapidly firing, only to be immediately reloaded and fired again.
McTeague lowered his binoculars and pulled his earplugs from his pocket. Stuffing them into his ears, he walked over to stand next to Augie.
“Why are we shelling this village again?”
“I didn’t ask,” Augie replied.
“Do you suppose they’re going to counter-attack?”
“It’s not my job to worry about it. It’s theirs.” Augie pointed to the line of Royal Marines, their red coats and white pith helmets clearly visible halfway between the guns and the lizzie village that was rapidly becoming a flaming hell.
“Well, I suppose they needed to be taught a lesson. Put the fear of God and his Majesty into them.”
“This will certainly teach them something,” said Augie.
* * * * *
“It says here that the remaining robber will be moved to Herinnering Gaol as soon as he is ready to leave hospital,” said Mrs. Colbshallow, her face buried in the morning paper. “And Miss D is being considered for a Citizen’s Safety Award.”
“It’s considered safe to shoot two people now, is it?” It was Merriman, the main floor butler. “If I’d shot two men, I’d be in prison. She shoots two men and they give her a bloody medal.”
“Best not to think things like that,” said Zeah.
“Especially out loud,” added Yuah.
“It’s you, Yuah, that she usually wants to shoot,” said Barrymore, the upstairs butler, grinning.
“She can’t shoot me. She couldn’t live without me.”
“Don’t get cheeky,” said Zeah. “I had to hire four new ones this week.”
“Well, it’s not as if these men didn’t deserve to get shot,” said Mrs. Colbshallow. “Imagine trying to rob someone in broad daylight. We need more police, that’s what we need.”
“I’m going to be a copper in a few years,” said Saba, walking in from the front hallway and sitting down.
“No you aren’t,” his mother informed him. “I would be forever worrying. It’s far too dangerous for any child of mine.”
Saba didn’t reply to his mother or point out that he was the only child of hers. He just scooped up large mounds of fried eggs, white pudding, and sausages. Mrs. Colbshallow went back to commenting on the news, particularly how information of the coming eclipse did not belong in the weather section. With Saba’s addition there were eleven people eating breakfast in the servant’s hall at that moment, a good portion of the staff having already eaten and started on their morning duties, and those few who had the overnight shift had mostly already gone to bed. Marna, one of the last of the latter group came in from the side hallway, looking like she could fall asleep on her feet at any moment.
“Yuah, Master Terrence wants to see you,” she said.
“I’m not interested.”
“I’m just the messenger.”
Yuah turned to look at Marna, and saw Terrence standing in the hallway several paces behind her.
“I’m not his valet.” With careful precision, she lifted her chin into the air and turned back to the table. “I’m the dressing maid.”
A minute later, under the guise of reaching for a scone, she cast a sideways look at the spot where he had been standing to find that he was now gone.
* * * * *
Karl Drury was a shadow of his former self—literally. As far as anyone knew, he still made his rounds through the fortress of Schwarztogrube, he still hurled insults at almost everyone, and he still stuffed his ugly face in the mess hall. If he beat some of the prisoners less than he used to or abused the boys less than he used to, who was going to complain about that? The only one who seemed bothered by Drury these days was Nils Chapman. He began to shake every time Drury entered the room and he refused to look at him. But Chapman knew what nobody else did. That was not really Karl Drury. The real Karl Drury was dead. He had dropped the sadistic guard’s body into the ocean himself. Of course Nils Chapman was a shadow of his former self too—figuratively. His eyes had gone dull and his skin was pale. He didn’t sleep anymore and he could hardly eat.
“One thousand nine hundred eighty-three days,” he muttered to himself over and over again, from his spot, curled up in a ball in the corner of the cell.
“Don’t worry, Pet.” Zurfina reached down and stroked his hair. “It’s almost over. This time tomorrow we’ll both be gone.”
Chapman grabbed hold of her leg and held it close as he kept his eyes pressed tightly shut. He couldn’t bear to see the walls, all four of which were covered in ghastly markings of smeared blood, and all four of which pulsed and throbbed sickeningly.