I’m doing a continuation of my last post for Master Class – An Unlikely Team. this week’s prompt, I got to choose. Kind of a lot of fun trying to find something in a book that is both more interesting than ‘he walked into the room’, and less overly specific than “He was a land magus and so wore the colours of the magic he favoured.”.
It was the kind of alleyway down which respectable citizens didn’t wander, The oil slick water he splashed through would be reason enough, as would the moist smell of unidentifiable things rotting. Anyone with a lick of common sense would also realise that going down this kind of an alleyway was a guaranteed way of losing one’s watch and wallet, at the very least.
Daniel suspected you were just as likely to lose your coat, shoes and life.
They seemed, in a circuitous way, to be making their way over to a pile of old rags in a sheltered angle between two buildings. Some pigeons had wandered over to inspect it.
“Humphrey,” he hissed, snagging the boy’s sleeve. “Where the devil are you taking me?”
“It ain’t Humphrey! You brung the sammiches?”
“It certainly isn’t Scrapper. And yes, though your certainty that we’ll require sustenance before we leave this accursed place is not reassuring. Where are we going, Wilbert?”
“Nope,” he snapped. “We’re gonna pay a visit on Old Mad Calver. He sees pretty much everythin’ ‘round town. Follow my lead.” The boy didn’t even jump when a corner of the pile lifted and slapped aggressively down on one of the inquisitive pigeons. The rest of them exploded into frightened flight.
He kicked at a garbage can near the ominously still nest. “Sarge? Reporting for duty, sir.”
The pile of rags shook itself like a terrier and a scrawny old man pulled himself out of his nest. “Corporal Scrapper? In’t it? What Ho! They’re bombing on the Southwest walls? Blast! Prepare to meet the enemy!”
The old man bared his teeth under a bush of white hair, spindly arms raised in a sort of bear claw formation. He’d have looked a bit fiercer if he’d bared more tooth and less gum.
“Aye it’s Scrapper, Sarge. Lucky we ain’t out by the southwest. Calm in the north. An’ this’s me new mate, er… I mean… Captain… um… Pee Eii.”
“At ease, corporal!” The old man’s raspy voice still held some of the command it held in a past life. He sketched a salute, slapping himself clumsily in the forehead as he did it. Scrapper returned it, stomping his feet smartly together. He peered short-sightedly and suspiciously at Daniel. “Pee-eii? That foreign? You foreign, boy?”
“Um. No sir.”
“Oh, too damn bad. Them foreigners, they know how to handle themselves. You ought to be a ninjer, boy, then you’d really give the enemy what for, eh? Blast!”
Daniel frowned at the boy, standing in his own imagined version of at-ease. “I’m told you have some information regarding some events on Morningside about a week ago?” He felt a sharp elbow dig into his side and added, “Sarge?”
“Ninjers, that’s what. Creeping up the side of the bleeding building, but I knows what’s to be done. I knows it, now don’t I?” He squinted at Daniel, unsure if he really did know what was to be done.
“I knows what’s to be done,” he muttered softly. “Ninjers, well I never.” He patted at his pockets, increasingly agitated until the boy pulled a cigarette out and placed it in his trembling fingers.
“Sarge?” Daniel nudged him tentatively.
“What? To yer battle stations, ye lousy curs!” The old man jutted his chin out aggressively, glared nearsightedly at Daniel and added, “Peanut butter!”
“That’s what ninjers never think on. Peanut butter. Makes ye look up, see?”
“And what’d’ye see when you looked up, Sarge?”
“Them crawlin’ down the damn wall, that’s what! Good rope, I have ta give ‘em credit, bloody foreigners.”
“What would we need to do to get that equipment, Sarge?”
Daniel traded Old Mad Calver two pastrami sandwiches on rye, though the old man would only accept them after the pickles had been removed.
In return, he got a coil of rope and assorted carabiners for rope climbing. The brick in the side of the building showed where camming devices had been, and, in one case, still were. The how, he could now answer.
There was half a peanut butter sandwich mashed up amongst the ropes, but he was confident that it could be mashed in with ‘ninjers’ and ‘the enemy’.