Thursday, 30 April 2015

Publishing Demands (part 5)

We entered the bottom floor of the Glasgow Gazette's buildings and went over to the main reception desk, where I used the power of Lodders at my injured shoulder to demand entrance to the basement, where the printers were. The receptionist, who was surprisingly frightened, gestured one of the security people over and asked him to take us over. As we walked, Robin said, "I guess it makes sense that they'd be hidden here, as then they wouldn't have had to make the getaway in the black car."
"Exactly." I said.
"I did find one flaw with your logic, however." Robin said.
"You did?"
"Indeed. The police searched the entire building whilst you were in the hospital, so they would have found them."
"No." I said, shaking my head. "Because there's one place where you aren't allowed to go during the day, or night, remember?"
Robin went to say she didn't, but immediately remembered. "The printing press." She grinned.
"Exactly. And, if I'm right, we should find our culprits in the very centre of it."

The presses were huge machines, rolling cylinders encased in metallic struts, health and safety signs littering every destination of the eye. The sound of it's thundering printers echoed through the blue painted hall they inhabited, known as the Pressroom in most places. We went over to one of the many operators and told him to shut down, Lodders flashing his warrant card again when he refused. There was about ten minutes of the thunder calming and then a minute of gentle whirring, before the press' closed down. Lodders came back over to me, having spent the eleven minutes talking to his sergeants and the operator. "I hope you're right, Rathbone, because they're charging us twenty pounds for every half hour they have to have it switched off."
"You can tell he's angry cause he's calling you Rathbone." Robin pointed out.
I nodded. There was quite the chance I was wrong, but it was certainly worth the risk if I was right.
We thundered up the metal steps, over the bridges that looked down onto the rivers of fresh paper, and then jumping onto the iron platforms that were the control house. The Glasgow Gazette had unusual press' because they were controlled from the inside, meaning that during operating hours, they wouldn't be able to leave. It was also the entrance to the engine room, which was located directly beneath and housed the paper and ink supplies when they were filtered in. The operator in the room looked annoyed at the pause to printing, probably because it meant he wouldn't be paid, but he cheered right up when Lodders flashed his badge.
"This is becoming ridiculous how many people are scared of your badge." Robin said.
"The power of the law is a glorious thing." He replied.
"Mr Douglass, can you let us into the engine room?" I asked the operator.
He was hesitant at first, as if there was a reason why we couldn't enter the room, but then he nodded slowly. He went over to his desk and pulled out a single drawer, from which he drew a brass key on a length of ribbon. Then he put it into my outreached hand and wandered off, his eyes displaying an absent mind. I saw Lodders stick out a thumb and gesture for one of the sergeants to follow him, as Robin and I stepped around the circular entrance to the engine room. "Unto the abyss." I said, making my voice as melodramatic as possible.
"You are such a dramatist." She said, shaking her head. "I think you're in the wrong profession."
"And so are you." I said. "Such cynicism doesn't fit journalism- actually, yes it does. Ignore that."
I levered the key into the hole and twisted it, the manhole cover clicking and then opening as we heaved it up. There was a circular cage encased ladder leading down, but before anyone could go down it, I dropped something from my pocket down.
Six loud gunshots echoed from the hole.
"That must have hurt." Robin said. "I'd estimate they were fifty calibre bullets from the sound of the guns."
"Don't worry, those things wouldn't have felt a thing." I said. "They were painkillers."
She sighed.
"Peters!" Lodders called, gesturing the only one of his sergeants who'd thought to bring a bullet proof vest over. "You're going down first."
Peters gulped.
"When you get down there, check around for gunmen. If you see any, come straight back up. Do you understand?"
Peters nodded and went over to the ladder, beginning to make his way down. We heard each of the rungs thudding with his footsteps, felt every one of his worried breaths. And our hearts thundered with his as he landed on the floor at the bottom. We expected to hear more gunshots, the reverberations of the last still present in the ether, but there was no such sound. Just a surprisingly high voice shouting, "All clear down here."
"That means we're going to have to go down, doesn't it?" Robin asked.
"The things we do for justice." I said, and went over to the ladder.

The engine room was lit well, by strip lighting on the roof, and when the rest of the policemen entered, their fluorescent jackets only went to further shine alongside the barrels of paper. "This is gigantic." Robin said, staring at the pure immensity of the room. "Absolutely gigantic. It'll take hours to search. I'd be surprised if the Strathclyde Police's budget wasn't entirely spent on paying them upstairs for turning off the machines and, more importantly, forming a party to search this cavern."
"Found them." Shouted an officer about twenty yards in front. We all raced to him and looked down to the clearing of paper barrels, where the hostages were all- minus the editor, of course- being held.
"Well, that was quick." I said. "Where are the kidnappers, though?"
"Good question." Lodders said, turning around and raising his hand above his brow in a prolonged salute. He stared around the room and then shook his head. "They're nowhere to be seen. Something's wrong."
I hummed in agreement, and then there was the seventh gunshot of the evening. It was even louder down here, the sound waves reverberating from every wall, every fixture and every barrel, until they hit our ears and drowned out our hearts beating, never mind our thoughts. We all ducked behind the barrels instinctively, apart from Peters who looked very pleased with himself and showed that off by remaining standing. And getting shot in the head. I tell you something, if you think looking at corpses is horrific- which, in all rights, it is- try looking at a person becoming a corpse. Completely revolting doesn't evens stretch to cover it.
Lodders threw out his hands to gather his sergeant's attention, and began to tell them what needed to be done. "Priority is to get the hostages out. We don't go after the gunmen unless ordered."
But I didn't listen to him as I said that, because the gods of cliche and stereotypes were chattering away to me, and this time it was personal.
I leapt up and raced towards the gunmen, ducking behind barrels as they discharged their guns. Somehow, a bead of sweat must have eased it's way beneath my tightly packed shoulder because I felt a sudden spike of pain propel itself through my head, despite the explosions of sound around me as bullets dug holes into concrete pillars and metallic struts. My vision centred upon the gunmen and I realised that there was a definite chance I wasn't going to come out of the scrap with all of me left. It was in that instance I realised how much of an idiot I was.
I smashed into the main man with my good shoulder, knocking him to the floor and kicking him in the side. The other men turned their guns on me, so I rolled over with him on top of me. He became riddled with bullet holes, the close proximity gunshots hurting my ears. For a second I laughed at the fact that, with a pulverised shoulder, I was doing better in a fight than I'd normally do completely able bodied. Funny how things work out.
I slid one of my feet out and kicked one of the other men in the exact same way I'd once accidentally kicked the school's best promising footballer in Year Nine. That poor chap had gone on to become bank desk helper. A paralysed bank desk helper, which was surprising because I'd always suspected footballers wouldn't be able to count. That guy fell to the floor, dropping his gun, which accidentally set off and shot one of the other men in the ankle. It was going surprisingly well up to that point, but there were still another four men, and they were getting quite annoyed.
They nudged their dead boss from me and began to kick my sides, my legs, my head, anywhere their Dickies Boots could get. I squirmed up on the floor, each blow a thousand lights pushed up against my eyes, but ever worse, and thought happy thoughts. Like rabbits, books, Rachel and Pot Noodles.
Ah, how beautiful. Pot Noodles.

"So how was it done?" Rachel asked, as she drove me home from hospital three weeks after she was meant to have originally.
"How was what done?" I asked.
She sighed. She'd been doing that a lot recently, sighing. I think I'd annoyed her, potentially by being reckless in the engine room or possibly by running away from the hospital, but everything I'd tried to do to make it up to her had simply made it worse. I had that effect on people, I guess you could say. "The picture with the newspaper." She said.
"I thought that was obvious." I said, and then kicked myself for using such a term.
"Of course it is." She replied, offended I'd think she wouldn't understand. "I was just wondering whether your cognitive faculties were still working."
"Well, I guess that makes sense." I replied. "The kidnappers were in the basement all along then, right? With the hostages and the editor, more importantly. They came up with the picture thing around the same time we did, it was the obvious thing to do, really."
"And so they took a copy of the newspaper from upstairs on the day it was written, took the picture and arranged it. Then they sent it up to their guy in Comrie, how, I'm not sure, and set about killing the editor whilst we went about all our top secret shenanigans with the multiple letters, and everything."
She smiled. "Exactly what I thought."
"I was going to say you were looked beautiful when you smiled." I said. "But then, you always look beautiful."
She became silent as we drove, until we pulled onto the road where our apartment was. I went to over my mouth and she turned and snapped, "Don't think that I'm forgiving you, Gabriel. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's the cold shoulder."

Rathbone will return! (However, whether he'll be out of trouble or not by that point is another matter altogether.)

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