So then. Fast and hurty and over quick, or slow and hopefully not so hurty. Fast or slow, fast or slow. Finny decided on slow.
Something had happened. Her exploring fingers soon found the problem. The material of her top had caught on the jagged spike and was effectively pulling it down into her flesh. Gritting her teeth, she managed to tear the material free but, realising that it was bound to happen again as soon as she moved, Finny resigned herself to having to wear the orphanage issue dress, otherwise known as the ‘blue sack of shame’ until something decent came up in the donations box, Then she did the only thing she could and continued to tear her favourite, and only, sweatshirt all the way up to the shoulder.
Taking another deep breath and holding it to flatten her stomach as much as she could, Finny started to once again pull herself through the tiny gap between the fan blade and the support.
It was hurting too much. Gritting her teeth and squeezing her eyes tight shut Finny gave one last enormous yank on the fan.
Then her hips were over the edge of the pipe and Finny’s own bodyweight did the rest. Finny reached both arms back out straight behind her head and let the momentum take her. With a final ripping tear she pulled free of her sweatshirt and slid feet first out of the vent pipe to land in a heap on the planks of the welcomingly familiar walkway.
Finny groaned and sat up with her back against the wall. Steeling herself, she looked down at her side. There was an irregular gash all the way up her side from her hip almost to her armpit. From her ribcage upwards it looked like she had gotten away with just a deep scratch, except for her bottom rib which had taken the brunt of the bent piece of aluminium and had even bent it away. Not without damage to the rib though. It hurt like hell and it was one of the places that was bleeding quite a bit. The gash in her belly was the deepest, though, and even the eight year old Finny knew that she was going to need stitches. Blood seeped from both sides of the wounds and Finny could see torn white fleshy stuff on the ragged edges of the cuts.
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 top free of the fan. Sliding back down to the walkway she grimaced as she pressed the sweatshirt against the wound on her stomach and slowly and painfully 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 purchase she stood on one side 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. She even took a second or two to admire her handiwork 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 down outside of Joe’s office door and unrolled the still rain-soaked 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 normally 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 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 normally 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.
The kids from the orphanage, those who wanted to work that is, were only supposed to work 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 been put 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 actually 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 she saw the big wet bum mark on Joe’s chair. 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 soaked into it off 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.