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 hairpin. It took her about thirty seconds before she was able to slide the drawer open.
The Ditty Box took up the front half of the drawer and Finny lifted it out and up on 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 had the opportunity that now presented itself to actually 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 ran and screamed with them, even as some of those running with her had tumbled into a tangled heap in front of her. 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. She closed the drawer.
Picking up thee roll of slender 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 difficult 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 finger tips 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 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 a several seconds.
Finny suddenly felt very cold and she wrapped her arms around her shoulders as if to hold in what warmth she felt. 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 where 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 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.
Finny turned to the left. At the end of the walkway away from the stairs was a small window.
This window was the only window in the whole factory that wasn’t guarded by thick bars. That was because this was Joe’s escape route. Secured to the wall next to the window was a knotted rope that reached the whole way down to the small back yard below. There, under a heavy tarpaulin, Joe kept a motor bike with the keys already in the ignition. Next to the bike was a big red button that disengaged the lock on the back gate.
This was to be her way out. An easy climb down a rope and out over the back gate. Finny looked at her hands. The whiteness now extended to the knuckles on half of her fingers. Only her thumbs seemed to be relatively unaffected. She rubbed her fingers with her thumb, they felt like someone else’s. She would not be able to grip the rope, even with the handy knots, well enough to make the climb. Finny needed another way out.
Despondent and desperate in equal measures, Finny looked down onto the factory floor. She needed a ground level escape route. Front door, no chance, even the back door to the yard had three locks on it and bolts and then a heavy bar across the middle of it. The windows then. Nope, still barred. No window fairy had materialised to magic them away for her.
No holes in the wall for her to wiggle through either, even the air vents had solid looking bars across them now. Joe had replaced the steel vent grills with heavy brass frames, each with a single thick brass bar across the middle. Anything metal that might cause a spark had been replaced with brass where possible, even the drains…
Down the middle of the factory floor was a wide gutter. Spaced along the length of the gutter were drain holes, each of them covered by a heavy grill. Whatever the factory had been used for before Joe bought it had needed drainage. Even though that wasn’t needed now, it had been cheaper just to replace the iron drain covers with brass ones rather than to get a builder in to fill them in and cement over them. Now they were just used by the boys to wee in rather than go all the way to the toilets during their precious break time, even the overseers sometimes used them.
Finny hobbled down the stairs to the factory floor and stood over the nearest drain. Normally she would have been able to look down into a square conduit about forty centimetres wide. The trough continued out under the front door, under the sidewalk and into the main sewer that ran under the middle of the road. A distance from where she stood of about ten metres. Finny knew the sewers well, again, it was kid thing. This one went all the way down the road where it joined another sewer that ran under the road in front of the orphanage. Right in front of the orphanage front door, in the middle of the road about seven metres from the junction, was a manhole cover.
Finny had her escape route. Just one problem remained. Instead of a dusty, urine stinking tunnel down which she reckoned she could just about fit and then slither her way to the sewer, the conduit below was now a raging torrent of fast moving foamy rain water.