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The Thirty Days of Magrat (part ten)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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Amy froze for a moment and then slowly released Magrat. She sank back onto the bed, pushing herself backwards while staring at Magrat with eyes that had seen, and were now remembering, too much.

Magrat opened her mouth to speak but Maisie’s hand on her arm stopped her.

“Stay behind me.”

The teenager followed Maisie towards the top of the stairs, unable to bring herself to look back but just as unable to wipe the little girl’s look of betrayal from her memory. Together, she and Maisie slowly went downstairs to Stella’s temporary nursery.

Stella was not present. Just four men Maisie recognised as being residents of the men’s hostel across the road. As her head came into view, the same voice that had called upstairs to them came from an angry looking man, with a still healing burned face, standing in front of the other three.

“You’ve got some nerve bringing ‘that’ here.” The up-nod of his head to indicate Magrat was accompanied by a lip-curling sneer to emphasise the hate in his voice.

Maisie continued down the stairs at a measured pace, followed a couple of steps later by a rather more hesitant Magrat. Maisie stepped off the last step to stand toe to toe with the man who seemed to be speaking for the group. She took her time deliberately looking the man up and down before replying.

“By ‘you’ do you mean me? Or do you mean Mayor Troy, by whose authority you have a roof over your head and care for your sick and injured? Or maybe you mean the people of Hope, by whose compassion you have food in your belly and clothes on your back?” She tilted her head. “So exactly who do you mean when you say ‘you’ like that?”

The men behind Burned Face shuffled their feet. Burned face himself struggled for words.

“Look…”

Maisie tilted her head to the other side and raised her eyebrows.

The man tried again, pointing an angry finger at Maisie’s chest.

“Look. It’s not that we ain’t all grateful and such.” He turned his head for support from his cronies who quickly nodded their heads, mumbling in agreement. Encouraged, Burned Face went on. “But y’all can’t go fetching one them.” His arm straightened out to point accusingly over Maisie’s shoulder to the wide-eyed Magrat halfway down the stairs. “In amongst decent folk. We’ve all lost friends and family to raider scum like her. It ain’t right!”

It was at that moment that Stella McFarlen sidled into view along the passageway from the parlour. She leaned, arms folded, against the stair post. Burned Face took a step backwards towards his cronies. He licked his lips, clearly disconcerted by Stella’s appearance.

“It just ain’t right.”

“I… I’m not a raider.” All eyes turned to where Magrat stood nervously on the stairs. “I was taken by the Devil’s Own when I was eight, I think, or seven, I can’t remember. We were walking along the road and they came…” Her voice trailed off as the memories fought to be remembered. Magrat pushed them away. “Anyway, they took me and some others. I’ve been a drudge ever since.”

Maisie added her voice.

“In case you didn’t know it, a drudge is a slave.”

The men behind Burned Face looked at each other. Burned Face wasn’t having it.

“I know what they do. When the kids they take get old enough they join the gang. Don’t they?”

The question was aimed at Magrat.

“Yes. That’s what happens. After years of deliberate brutality, it’s the only way to escape… To join the gang.”

Burned Hands sneered.

“So, you might not be one of them right now. But you will be, won’t you?”

Magrat dropped her head.

“Yes.”

Burned Face looked triumphant.

“In that case. The only difference is that killing you now means that you don’t get to kill us later.”

Stella pushed herself upright, stamping the ground with her crutch.

“Nobody’s killing anybody Hank. Why don’t you just take your buddies and go home?”

Hank turned his disfigured face to Stella.

“And why don’t you mind your own, Stella. While we take care of what needs doing.” He took a step towards Maisie and the stairs. “You need to hand her over. Do it quiet like and we’ll make it quick.”

Stella stood next to Maisie. She was about to say something when there was movement from behind the group of men. One of the young girls who had been helping Stella with the children, pushed past the four men to join Stella and Maisie at the foot of the stairs. None of the men noticed the other figure who had appeared in the front doorway. Not until he spoke in a quiet but slightly threatening way.

“You’ll make ‘what’ quick exactly?”

Surprised, the men turned to be face to face with one of Hope’s newly formed constables.

Sensing victory evaporating, Hank pointed up the stairs to Magrat.

“She a damn raider!”

The constable leaned sideways to see past the three women blocking the foot of the stairs.

“Looks like a nurse to me.”

Hank noticed that his three cohorts were now putting an increasing amount of space between him and themselves. He looked at their bowed heads in disgust. His head snapped around to Magrat, the disgust turning to vitriol.

“You’ll get yours. You’ll see.” Then he looked at the wall of women, ready to turn his anger on them. But a movement on the stairs caught his eye.

Unseen, Amy Pond had crept down the stairs. Hank just caught the little girl quietly slipping her hand into Magrat’s. That was enough for Hank. He pushed past the constable and out into the street. Rather more shamefaced, the other three men slid through the doorway after him.

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Hyle Troy's picture

In the Town Hall the staff could hear the sound of a pen tapping on the desk-pad coming from Hyle’s office.

There was hush in the outer office. All listened to the tapping, Dansk muttering, footfalls. Finally none were surprised to hear the scraping of a chair which preluded Hyle’s office door opening and all watched the purposeful stride of their boss as she headed for her car.

 

Less than a minute later, Stella McFarlen watched the car pull up outside of the men’s hostel. The occupant sat for a full minute, hands still clenched on the steering wheel.

 

Eventually, Hyle felt as if she had put a sufficient lock on her anger to go inside.

 

 

A place where men gathered together and lived together has it’s own atmosphere quite distinct from that of the women’s refuge across the street. Ostensibly the same, groups gathered here and there, older men, the older of the boys, the younger boys were still under the care of their mothers across the way of course.

 

But men gathered together and talked, some smoked, some drank beer, but the room rumbled with male conversation. Until the door opened of course, then hush descended.

 

Hyle smiled at the turned heads. “God Morgen! How is everybody?”

 

She boldly stepped forward into the room to a mixed sound of welcomes varying from good natured hello’s to respectful nods, and wary glances from one particular table in the corner. Hyle noticed. She approached the group closest to her and exchanged a few words, nodding and listening to their concerns, making a few notes here and there.

 

As she moved through the room, Hyle still kept one eye on that particular table in the corner, especially the gruff man with the burned face. So, she noticed immediately when that group stood up and looked as if they were heading for the door.

 

Undskyld.” Hyle gave her apologies to the group she was talking to when the men has got to their feet. She made beeline to intercept them before they went out.

 

Mr Godsen?” Hyle called towards the man with the facial burns. It had the effect she wanted. the group halted as Hyle crossed the room to them.

 

Hyle stepped past and over the men between herself and Godsen, leaving muttering in her wake.

 

Good I saw you,” she smiled. “How have you settled in?” Hyle nodded towards the entrance door indicating she preferred to talk with him outside. Godsen complied and they both stepped out into the daylight. Godsen following her past the side of the building. Some ten metres past that Hyle stopped and turned to face him. Godsen wondered why he had actually followed her, but he had.

 

How are your injuries, Getting better?” Hyle, still smiling, asked as he got closer.

 

Still hurts like a bastard, Miss Troy, er.. Mayor.”

 

But the medics are doing good work, hmm?”

 

Godsen nodded.

 

Good,” Hyle’s good natured smile had lessened somewhat and her face took on a more serious look. “Because that’s what we are here for,” There still was the hint of a smile in the corner of her mouth. “The road here is dangerous as hell, as you and I both know. Which is why I set up …. All this.” Hyle waved at the two hostel building with her right arm.

 

Godsen nodded again, still sullen. Hyle went on.

 

Everyone you see, and a good number more in the town suffered at the hands of bandits. Of course, you know that only too well though, hmm?”

 

Godsen growled. “Murderin’ scum… If I get a chance….”

 

You would go back and kill every last one of them?” Hyle supplied the words. Godsen found himself nodding, involuntarily, then he stopped himself, realising he had shown too much of his hand. Precisely what Hyle was expecting.

 

Although he was a good 30cm taller than Hyle, although he probably weighed as much as two Hyle’s, Godsen felt un-nerved as Hyle’s icy blue stare came back to him.

 

Then what?” She asked simply, curtly.

 

Hyle stood silent. Giving Godsen ample opportunity to fill the silence. He could only growl.

 

Hmm?” She shoved her hands into her jacket pockets, tilted her head.

 

Still nothing, except a sullen, unrepentant glare.

 

So you begin your crusade with a skinny fifteen year old girl.” Hyle’s tone became more accusative. “Then what? Then fight off a hundred or so Devils Own? Because they will want exactly what you want. Vengeance!”

 

Godsen found himself eyes locked with Hyle. Anger and frustration building.

 

Which makes you no better than them.” Hyle added coldly. “And why? Because it’s right? Because you take an eye for an eye?”

 

Because that’s right ain’t it?” Godsen still stared down at Hyle defiantly.

 

No, because that’s not how it works. How it works is it becomes a head for an eye, a body for a head and so on. We think it’s fine to kill an innocent young girl because it is righteous?” Hyle’s eyes burned cold. “Tell me, Mr Godsen. Where exactly does it stop. Where do we stop the race to the bottom, morally?”

 

Godsen shrugged.

 

I’ll tell you where it stops. Mr. Godsen. It stops right here and right now!” Hyle’s eyes narrowed as her voice rose. She pointed at the ground. “Hope used to be full of hate like yours. We could stack the bodies shoulder high. So, if you want that again, you go right ahead, and you can help put the fires out and bury our children afterwards because that is YOUR future if you carry on like you are. It is NOT my future, or this town’s. Do I make myself clear?!”

 

Godsen shuffled on his feet, cleared his throat. He watched as Hyle turned toward her car.

After a few steps, Hyle turned and looked at him coldly. “Oh yes, if anything should happen to the girl Magrat, or anyone else connected to this morning’s incident…. You can be sure Mr. Shadow and his constables will be in touch with you. Damned soon!”

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

((Ouch!

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.



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