LEAP OF FAITH extract Part 2.
Statues, Tunnels, Cellars, and Knights
One minute I was munching on a bread roll in the 21st century Olé Grill and the next I was in London standing on top of Nelson’s famous Column, spitting out crumbs like confetti at a baker’s wedding.
That’s a bloody awesome view! I thought, and it was. Then I looked down and thought Oh piddle! and I nearly did. I swore some more because Nelson’s statue wasn’t there and I was a hundred-and-fifty-feet above the ground covered in pigeons. My legs turned to rubber and I lay flat out on the platform gripping its edges with my hands and feet as all sorts of gut-wrenching thoughts came to mind. Like, what if Nelson decided to make a sudden return and I got squashed? Like, what if no one noticed I was way up on the Column for weeks and I starved to death? Like, where was the bloody statue anyway and what was I doing replacing it? Like, there’s never a spare pair of knickers around when you want them. And lastly...HELP!
Way below, a man was stammering through some sort of loudspeaker and I reckoned the odds were he was shouting at me. Gritting my teeth and fighting down the remains of the bread roll, I moved my arms and legs one at a time until I was in a sitting position as near to the middle of the plinth as possible. I gave a thumbs-up sign, though I don’t know whether he saw it or not because there was no way I was going to look vertically down.
While things got sorted out below I chatted to the pigeons...anything to take my mind off where I was because four square feet is loads to dance around on when you’re on the ground, but sweet nothing when you find yourself a hundred-and-fifty-feet up in the air without a net.
The birdy conversation was getting a bit one-sided when a cage on the end of a long arm appeared with the loudspeaker man crouching inside. With my keen detective insight I could tell he wasn’t at all happy with life, mostly because his face was green and he was looking very sick.
“Hello.” I probably said it too loudly considering he was only a couple of feet away, but his attention was definitely elsewhere. He opened an eye, looked at me sitting cross-legged in front of him and gagged. Okay, so I wasn’t at my windswept best, I was wearing a robe covered in weird symbols, was in my low to mid-teens, and sitting exactly where Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s statue had stood for more than a hundred-and-fifty years. But I’m not that bad looking for a time-traveling girl and yet the stupid man closed his eye again.
“Oi, you! Wake up.” I clapped my hands because nobody goes to sleep when I’m talking or I soon become their worst nightmare. “It may be a great view from up here, but it’s bloody chilly. So if you’d be so kind as to open the gate on that box thing I’ll join you and we can both return to solid ground.” I carefully stood up, wobbled a bit to give the folks below something to gasp at, took a short run-up and launched myself across the two-foot gap, or to be more exact the one-hundred-and-fifty-foot drop into a sickening void, and grabbed the top of the cage. I swung inside and tapped the man on the arm.
“Hi, I’m Tertia from the TDA. What’s your name?”
“Smollett.” It wasn’t all that clear because he was throwing up as he said it. I pitied those below.
“Inspector Smollett.” It didn’t look like he was going to tell me his first name, not that I was really concerned because I knew enough about police ranks to realize that an Inspector could make life very difficult. On the other hand, so long as we were suspended in the cage and the copper was losing his breakfast, I had the upper hand.
Inspector Smollett muttered something that sounded like, “Where’s the bleedin’ statue? You nicked it, we know you did. Retch. Where’ve you bleedin’ hidden it? It’ll go easier for you if you tell us. Retch.” I ignored him because he was obviously delirious. Besides I don’t think his heart was in it and his stomach was certainly otherwise occupied.
“So, where do you come from, Inspector?” Small talk seemed a good idea. “Somewhere nice? Been on vacation this year yet? Did you fly?” The cage gave a lurch. “Sorry, wrong time to ask that. Still, you can see a lot from up here.” I was standing by the open gate, holding onto the mesh roof with one hand and pointing to various buildings with the other. After the fright of the plinth I was beginning to feel a whole lot better. “What’s that place?”
Inspector Smollett opened one eye. “Buckingham Palace.” Retch.
“Nice! What’s that one then?”
I pointed at another.
“Houses of Parliament.”
“Really? Looks different from up here. What’re those two big holes over there?”
“Marble Arch,” he muttered. “Oh Gawd!” Any remaining color disappeared from his cheeks almost as completely as Marble Arch had from Hyde Park. We both stared at Speakers’ Corner where there were two perfectly good rectangular holes but definitely no arch.
I tapped him on the shoulder. “You can get up now, Inspector.”
“I can’t. You don’t understand, I hate heights.” He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
“I know and I do sympathize, but we’re back on the ground and there are lots of people looking at you. People with notebooks and pencils mostly and some with cameras.” I’d picked up a thing or two about journalists on my travels and already knew what the headlines would be on Monday morning.
‘Marble Arch disappears!
Leaves big hole in the ground!
Inspector Smollett says:
“Police are looking into it”!
I patted his hand, smiled and prepared to give the first interview of my life. I turned to the reporters, gave a genteel cough and began.
“Well, it all started like this...”
I decided not to tell the whole story. To be honest no newspaper in the world would have printed it and anyway my friends wouldn’t have been impressed. That meant I had to leave out about ninety percent, but the rest was pretty good stuff and stubby pencils scratched away busily. All the time I was talking, Smollett kept pulling at my sleeve trying to interrupt and using the words loved by all coppers, “You’re booked, kid.” I smiled at him sweetly.
As the last scribble ended, I took out an old metal cup and spoke into it, ignoring the thermos of tea and handcuffs offered by my Inspector as well as the astonished looks from the crowd of journalists. A muffled reply came from the cup and seconds later an ultraviolet archway materialized in the middle of the column’s fountain. It wasn’t the most convenient of places, but with a wave and a smile I splashed into the arch followed by the Inspector’s increasingly distant words “Stop in the name of the Law. Oh, bugger... where’s she gone?” and disappeared.