As Finny ran the short distance down the street to the ammunition factory the first heavy drops of rain began to spatter against the cracked pavement. Soon she was standing, catching her breath, across the road from the familiar entrance. She had surreptitiously examined the big reinforced front door months before. There were three locks. Two of them were big, heavy multi-lever monsters requiring big, heavy multi-lever keys. The third was one of those high tech things that needed you to do everything except wee on it to get it to open, maybe even that too. The point was, though, that Finny knew she had no chance of opening any of them with her little lock picks. No, she wasn’t going to be getting in through the front door.
Finny looked up. Near the top of the building were three pale concrete circular cowlings, each over a metre in diameter and equally spaced across the front of the façade. These had been installed by Joe soon after he had bought the place and each of them held a big fan that kept the interior of the factory cool and the air dry. But only the fan in the middle was left running at night to save chips.
On the outside, the cowlings stuck out maybe a metre from the brick wall. On the inside they protruded only a few centimetres and were covered with a wire grill to prevent birds getting in. Directly behind the grill was the fan, it’s big, heavy blades filling the whole diameter of the concrete tube they sat in. The cowling on the left and the one directly above the front door opened onto empty space and a drop of about eight metres to the factory floor. The cowling on the right, however, opened up directly above the stairs leading up to the walkway to Joe’s office and this left a drop of only about a metre and a half to the walkway itself. Finny focused on the right-most of the three circles. That was her way in. The next problem was, how to get to it.
Actually, the problem wasn’t how she was going to get up there, she already knew the how. She had seen it in her mind’s eye as she held the roll of lock picks back in the orphanage. The problem was going to be one of if she could do it. Tucking the roll of lock picks firmly under the waistband of her britches, Finny crossed the street. Making sure she was the only soul around, she turned left around the corner and into a narrow alley that ran down the side of the factory. It was very dark. Dark alleys were normally something avoided by any sensible person on their own. She stopped and listened. Not hearing anything after several seconds she allowed herself to be swallowed by the darkness and hoped she would not die.
The reason for her entering such a dangerous place was about halfway down the alley. A thick drainpipe emerged from the ground where it joined the sewer system, to then climb vertically to just below the top of the factory wall. Finny knew about the drainpipe, but she had never given it a close look. She was banking on it being firmly fixed to the wall. At around ten metres to the top Finny would be out of the broken bone zone and well into the bloody mess on the ground zone if she fell.
Inside, Fear was having a bit of a panic attack and demanding that she get her little butt back to her bed before… Finny closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Fear found itself gagged and hogtied and pushed into a corner. That thing that Finny had yet to find a name for emerged dusting its hands together with a contented look on its face.
Finny put both hands behind the drainpipe, interlacing her fingers. She raised her right leg and pressed her foot firmly against the brickwork, then she put her muscles to work. Finny had climbed drainpipes before, what kid hadn’t? But they had all been half as wide as this one and only three or four metres long at most. And it hadn’t been raining either. The pitter-patter of the heavy raindrops had now turned into a steady downpour, leaving the bricks, the drainpipe and Finny’s hands and sneakers wet and slippery.
At five metres Finny’s arms were starting to shake. If she turned back now she could make it back to the ground with no problem. At six metres her arms ached but going back was probably still doable. By seven and a half metres Finny’s whole body shook as exhausted muscles fought to do what was being asked of them. Going back now was no longer any kind of safe option.
At eight metres the Fear inside was free again and screaming at her ‘YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!’ and Finny felt the strength in her arms and legs begin to slide away like a wash of warm water. She was going to die, but that was okay. She’d try and land on her head so that it wouldn’t hurt. Hot tears leaked out from under tightly shut eyelids. But it wasn’t fair. It was her locket. Joe Spivey’s face materialised.
Finny’s eyes flashed open and hot red-haired Anger gave Fear a kick in the balls it wasn’t expecting. Finny forced her burning muscles back into action. Her locket! Injustice joined in with a savage uppercut and Fear sank to its knees. Nine metres. HER locket! Even resentment got in on the act, always happy to give a kick when they were down. Fear rolled into a ball and whimpered. One skinny arm lunged over the parapet at the top of the wall.
“My fucking locket!”
The rest of Finny’s exhausted body hauled itself over the parapet to fall into the now centimetres deep river of rain water that had collected off the roof and was being funnelled towards the very drainpipe she had just conquered. Finny wanted to just lay there let the cold water revitalise her. But her tortured body demanded revenge for what she had just put it through. Her stomach heaved, and heaved again and the exhausted eight year old could do nothing except watch the half-digested lumps of the wonderful sandwich float away into the mouth of the gurgling pipe.
Once there was nothing more for her stomach to give Finny rolled over and over until she was clear of the deepening stream. She flopped onto her back, her arms, still pretty much useless’ lay by her sides like dead things. Overhead, thunder rumbled and the downpour became suddenly heavier. As she watched the pretty rain falling out of the sky onto her face and body Finny grinned. I should have brought that soap, she thought.