Saturday, 26 March 2016

Working Title (part 4)

Nimet saw the piece of paper and felt her jaw wanting to slide open. For some reason, the presence of paper surprised more than the presence of a live, rampaging dinosaur would. She wondered how anyone had managed to get a scrap of paper into the Writers' Gaol and, if such a feat was so easy, how come it had taken her a week of imprisonment to see one.
Seven days had passed since her fateful meal with Emily and since then, no further details of the plans had been given. The escapers had started using her as a messenger, taking messages from one table to the next. The sci-fi writers told her to tell Hemming a piece of ‘material’ would be prepared pretty soon and then Hemming told her to tell Emily that he’d managed to get the lemons to work. Upon telling Emily this, Nimet was told to go around everyone involved to tell them all to get ready for the plan to be carried out.
Once a week, there was a whole prison assembly. Emily explained it was one of the recently joined governor’s ideas; get all the inmates in one room at one time to inform them of any regime changes and then make an example of anyone who tried to break the rules. It also meant that it was the best opportunity for chaos, and that was exactly what Emily wanted.
The room began to flood with prisoners, each of them being escorted by their own personal guard. As soon as they were in the room, however, their hands were uncuffed and they were left to their own devices. Nimet quickly navigated towards Emily, who was in turn waiting with the scientists who’d so far turned up. 
“Did you get it?” Emily said. “The material?”
The lead scientist, a tall woman with bushy hair, looked over both of her shoulders and then reached into her pocket. What she pulled out was a square of paper, maybe no bigger than a piece of toilet roll. Emily accepted it and looked it over. “That is incredible. Absolutely incredible.” She said. “Well done.”
“Thank you.” The scientist said. “We were only able to synthesise one sheet but given time, I’m confident we could make another.”
“If all goes well, you won’t need to.” Emily said. Through the corner of her eye, she spotted a guard approaching. She quickly passed the piece of paper to Nimet. “Go give this to Shaun, will you?”
“Of course.” Nimet said. She had a full and honest belief in the power of the written word, but even she doubted that a single piece of paper could break them out of the Writers’ Gaol. It all came down to Shaun. 
She wove through the writhing crowd of prisoners, sneaking under arms and bustling through chairs. She’d never liked being small; it had always been something her mates teased her about but she was now beginning to appreciate it. 
She was just stepping under the barrier made by someone’s arm balanced on a chair when she caught a glimpse of Hemming on the other side of the room. She raced forwards and caught up with him. “I’ve got the ‘material.’”
“You have?” He said. There were bags under his eyes and his nails were freshly bitten. His skin was paler than it had appeared in the whole time Nimet had known him. The only part of him that had colour on it was his nose, which was red and runny.
“Yes. It’s incredible.” She passed it to him covertly.
“Thank you.” He slid it into his pocket. “I’ve got the lemons too; the doctor said I needed Vitamin C just like we reckoned it would. I’m going to use my finger as a stylus, so bear with me.”
 “Okay. I’ll go tell Emily.” She paused a second, on the verge of turning away, and then turned back to him. “My mum read me your short story before she passed away. I knew every word off by heart.”
“That’s not hard.”
She smiled. “I never really got it when I was little; I only liked it because of the silliness of having a longer title than the body of the story. But I think I understand it now. ‘Once, I saved her.’ You believed you failed someone. You lost your love. You broke your own heart. I don’t know for certain but that’s the feeling I get. I think that, when we escape, you need to go and find whoever this magical person is and I think you need to say sorry.”
“How old are you, girl?” Hemming said.
“Old enough to recognise a broken man when I see one.” She said, hurrying away before he could say anything. The guards were quickly forming a ring around the huge columns of chairs. She took a seat next to Emily, a few rows behind Shaun. “He’s got the lemons.” She whispered. “He said he’s using his fingers, so he may be a few moments.”
“Right, of course. The calmer the room is when he’s finished, I suppose, the more chaos that’ll be created. Now, be quiet. Speak whilst the governor’s speaking, you get a longer service. I’m currently serving two lifetimes.”
There was a sudden thudding as the door on the stage at the front swung open. Everybody who hadn’t already sat did just that, taking their seats on the rows and rows of chairs. Nimet stared at the back of Hemming’s head for a second and desperately hoped that her prep talk had worked. The Blind One had told her plenty of times the emotion could be a wonderful motivator and, when she’d seen Hemming looking terrified, all she could think was that he needed that extra motivation. Hopefully, it’d pay off.
The door opened and out stepped the governor. He was a small man, ugly looking and smarmy. He wasn’t wearing glasses, although Nimet could tell from the way he was squinting that he should have been. Probably didn’t want to risk being given any material to read. He took a seat in one of the prearranged chairs, next to the head of guards, and looked forwards at the crowd. “Hello everybody.” He said. “Another a week, another day. You’re all closer to freedom than you’ve ever been before. So, please, listen when I say, work with me. With the wardens. Do all you can to make the rest of your sentence peaceful, relaxing. Repent your sins, overcome your mistakes, please don’t make this harder than it has to be. Because if you do, if you think you can mess with us-“
Before he could continue, one of the guards noticed Shaun, sat with the piece of paper resting on his knee and a lemon in one of his hands. “Oi! You!” The guard shouted, marching towards Shaun. “What’re you doing?”
Shaun quickly finished the sentence he was tracing with the lemon juice, poking down a huge full stop. The guard raised a taser, pointing it at Shaun’s head. “Pass me that piece of paper. Now.”
“Is there a problem?” The governor demanded, from the stage.
“Nothing I can’t handle, sir.” The guard said. He poked his taser a little harder and said, “Give me the paper.”
Letting the lemon fall to the floor and squidge against the white marble, Shaun passed the piece of paper over. The guard slid his taser away and studied the paper. When he saw no words, he sniffed it and said, “Thought you were clever? Using invisible ink? Thought that was clever did you?”
Shaun sighed. “Yes. Yes I did.”
“Well, you’re not.” The guard reached for his lighter from his belt. “Let’s see just how clever you are when we see what you’ve had to write.”
He lit the lighter and the lapping flame began to roast the paper. The words began to appear, browning suddenly as the rest of the paper remained white. The guard’s eyes danced across them. There were only ten. About halfway through, however, he suddenly remembered who he was dealing with. The award winning short fiction writer. He finished reading the sentence and found himself incapable of moving. He was too inspired, too saddened, too overjoyed by what he’d just read. He didn’t notice as Hemming leapt up, grabbed the taser and spun the guard around. He held the taser to the side of the guard’s head and shouted, “No one go for their weapon, or I’ll fry him like a fish.”
Emily and the scientists leapt out of their chairs too, grabbing the nearest guards unaware and drawing their tasers. Emily jumped a top a chair in front of the stage and pointed it straight at the governor. “We’re getting out of here even if we have to sting every last one of you.”
“Even if you get past that door, you still won’t make it anywhere. The automated systems will shoot you down.” The governor said, squinting harder.
“I think you’ll find that’s complete nonsense.” The scientist said. “There are failsafes in place, triggered by certain criterium. Such as, for example, children being threatened.”
Emily grabbed Nimet, heaving her up and putting the taser to her head. Nimet struggled but she couldn’t quite get herself free. She felt terrible words, curses and profanities, rising to the forefront of her mind. She swallowed them and stayed silent. She supposed this was still all part of the plan.
The governor sighed. “She may be a writer but she’s still a child. Guards, do as she says. Let them go.”
Emily grinned and set about leading the scientists and Hemming across the room. They hauled themselves onto the stage, walked straight past the governor and then through the door which he’d entered by. Security cameras with machine guns connected spotted the sight of the taser against Nimet’s head and instantly deactivated. Emily grinned and they set off even quicker.
The corridors were longed and grey, feeling oddly cold as if there were anti heaters in them. Nimet felt Emily’s grip loosening as they ran until eventually they got to the fire exit and she was dropped to the door. There was a huge set of stairs leading upwards to the emergency exits. The scientists sighed, complaining about their lack of exercise. Emily shook her head and began to climb. 
After about twenty steps, she turned to Nimet and said, “Sorry about threatening you. It was the only way I knew we’d be able to get past the security system.”
“I wish you’d told me.” Nimet said.
“I needed you to be surprised.” She said. “I’ll tell you things in the future.”
“You say that like we have a future.” She laughed. “There’s a reason why nobody has ever escaped the Dark Tower before.”
“I hate that name so much.” Emily said. “It’s so… incorrect.”
Nimet shook her head and they kept climbing. They climbed for what felt like years, with no guards attempting to follow. By the time they reached the top of the stairs, she felt almost ready to die. She reached for the plastic bar that crossed the emergency exit. She pressed it in felt the doorway squeak open. Half a dozen alarms went off but they ignored it, stepping through the opening crack. Light flooded down, blinding them. Nimet stumbled forwards, across a few metres of gravelly stones. She kicked one and heard it clattering away. When her vision regained, she saw they were once surrounded by crop fields. She would have liked to go out with some wooden boards, to have made some crop circles, but such days of childhood innocence were long gone now. 
There was a sudden screeching of engines. Cars seemed to pull out of nowhere, spinning around to a dusty stop. The doors kicked open and men jumped out. A few of them were grabbed by the sight of the Gaol’s opening the ground but the majority, the professionals, kept their mind on the job. They reached for their Tommy guns and raised them, pointing them straight at Emily. Nimet stared at the men and observed they were all wearing a white flower on the lapel of their long black jackets. The wind played slightly with their bowler hats but not enough to dislodge them. A man climbed out of the car with a loud hailer.
“You scientists, Carmine Leone sends his regards.” The man said, his accent heavy. “Rest of you, get in the goddamn car.”
Nimet looked at Shaun Hemming who looked at Emily. She shrugged, walking over to the car. “It’s not like it can get any worse, is it?”

And so with that, the three of them climbed into a gangster’s car and left the sound of gunshots behind them.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Working Title (part 3)

Nimet had gone through every escape plan she had ever read, but almost of all them were useless. They all revolved around tunnelling through dungeon floors or abseiling down tower walls but such plans didn't work when you were so deep underground that you were almost out of the other end. Her head hurt from thinking so hard so she lay back to rest, only to then hear a deep bell ringing. For a moment, she hoped that it meant someone had started a fire. For a moment, she thought she could use the distraction to her advantage, she thought she could suddenly escape.
Then she realised that it simply meant it was lunch time.
A guard in a long jacket, armed with a plasma pistol and a sword, walked over and stopped outside of her cell. "Get up, newbie."
Nimet stayed where she was, staring at him. She'd been told that staring sometimes scared people. She hoped it worked the trick this time.
The guard looked unimpressed. "You know, we got a new shipment of equipment the other month. New vests, new shoes. My personal favourite? Electrocoils. They say, you wrap one around a prisoner's arm, it'll kill her in nought point one second. Nought point one! I hardly believe it." He frowned at her. "Do you want to put it to the test?"
Nimet stood up but she didn't stop staring. She wanted him feeling uncomfortable, or at least unhappy. The guard smiled a patronising smile and pressed a button to open the cage door. It swung open and Nimet stepped into the corridor. She saw that dozens of other guards lined the hall, and stepping towards them were dozens of other prisoners. She saw all the prisoners were offering their hands up to their guards, so she did the same and felt a pair of iron cuffs clapped around them. She winced as the guard pulled the cuffs tight, but the guard grinned at her pain and pulled them even tighter.
Once all the prisoners had been cuffed up, the guards turned on their heels and began to march down the corridor. Nimet didn't follow for a second but then felt her arms being yanked in that direction and realised she had to. The cuffs seemed to be chained to a moving track on the floor. She joined the massive snake of prisoners and guards, trailing mindlessly through the Gaol's corridors.
Eventually, the snake led into a huge hall full of tables. Chains were released by the moving track and people went about taking their usual seats. She stood for a second, staring around for a friendly face, anybody who looked like she could trust them. Then she caught a glimpse of someone beckoning her over. She frowned, mouthing, "Me?"
The person nodded and she hurried over.
Two huge men moved aside to allow her to sit down and Nimet did just that, opposite the lady who'd beckoned her over. She was exceptionally tall but wispy, not particularly glamorous but giving off the air that she never wanted to be. She frowned at Nimet for a second and then said, "Why are you here, girl?"
"You beckoned me over." Nimet replied.
The men on either side of her began to laugh, their huge frames bumping into her as they chuckled. 
The lady shook her head. "I meant in the Tower, girl."
"Oh. Possession of a Shakespeare."
"Which one?"
"Love's Labour's Lost." 
"Good play. I prefer the Cycle of Kings, but that might just be me." She offered her hand. "Emily. My parents named me after Brontë but I, unlike them, have taste. I like to prefer to imagine I was named after Emily Dickinson. What's your name?"
"Hello Nimet. How old are you?"
"Twelve. Wow. This bloody prohibition really doesn't have any mercy, does it? Tell me, Nimet, how'd you get a copy of a class B Shakespeare? It's hard enough to get a copy of Class Cs or Ds like Pericles, Prince of Tyre, never mind Love's Labour's Lost! I don't suppose you have Richard II in your pocket, do you?"
The two big men laughed. Nimet looked at their wobbling faces and realised they were twins.
"Well, little lady? How'd you get it?"
"My master gave it to me."
"Oh!" Emily grinned. "You're a writer! That is truly fantastic. Glad to see the trade hasn't died. I'm a poet myself but I admire you writers. So much devotion. What’s your genre?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“How exciting! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Who’s your master? Is it the Blind One?”
Nimet frowned. “How did you guess?”
“Most masters force a genre on their apprentice straight away. Is she coming to rescue you?”
“I don’t think she even knows I’m here.”
“Good.” Emily said. “She won’t be wasting any efforts then.”
Emily shook her head quickly. Nimet looked up and saw a guard pass by. She looked back down, staring at the bowl of cold soup that had suddenly materialised in front of her. She itched the side of her head and then, once the guard had passed, she looked back at Emily.
Emily grinned and swept a hand through her auburn hair. “We’ve got a plan to escape. It’s taken us five years but we think it’s pretty good.”
Emily looked around and gestured to the corner of the room. There was a table with a man sat on his own and then another table with a group of blokes all clustered together. “You see over there?”
“The gang of blokes?”
“No!” Emily cried, disgusted. “We don’t mix with them.”
“Why not?”
“Why not? What not!” Emily cried. “I shouldn’t have to explain it.”
One of the twins nudged her and whispered, “They write erotica.
“Oh.” Nimet said.
“Exactly.” Emily shuddered. “They deserve to be locked up. Now, you see the lonely man?”
“He’s an award winning writer of short fiction. He beat even Ernest Hemingway with his four word short story, ‘A Story of Love and Heartbreak’. Do you know it?”
“‘Once, I saved her.’” Nimet quoted, nodding. She knew the story well; the title was actually longer than the contents. “So, that’s Shaun Hemming?”
Emily nodded. “And you see those ladies over there? The ones with the steaming food.”
Nimet turned to stare and then nodded. There were a selection of ladies all sat together around a bowl of steaming soup. They were cackling like mad scientists. “Yes?”
“They’re ex-scientists turned science fiction writers. Again, not our usual crowd but we’re willing to work with these guys. We’ve all been brainstorming and we’ve devised a brilliant plan to get out of here.”
“Which is?”
Emily grinned. “All in good time, Nim. Now eat your soup.”
The curdled, orange slop didn’t look that appetising so Nimet decided to leave it for a bit. Instead, she looked up at Emily and said, “Why are you telling me all this?”
Emily shrugged. “You look like you’re a promising writer; such things aren’t easy to come across these days.”
Externally, Nimet beamed, but deep down she couldn’t help but wonder about Emily’s ulterior motives.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Working Title (part 2)

They called it the Dark Tower, but that was an utterly incorrect description. It wasn't dark, lit by gargantuan stretches of LED dots and it wasn't a tower. Instead, the Writers' Gaol was a huge chasm that descended thousands of metres into the ground. But that was the thing about literary creative sorts; they loved being ironic or making references to pieces of fiction and they loved it even more when they could do both.
Nimet climbed out of the police carriage and strolled across the ground towards the ring which surrounded the chasm. The sky was beginning to roll with huge clouds; dark, rolling explosions  of misery and vengeance, as if the Gods themselves were angered by the Creative Prohibition. It cast a dark shadow over the surrounding crop fields, and the sandy gravel that sat in the centre of all the fields, around the circumference of the chasm's entrance. Nimet kicked a stone and watched as it clattered across the floor and towards the edge of the Gaol. She heard it hit the wall once as it went down, and she never heard it hit the bottom.
The only other sound was the slow scrabbling of the crops as a wind idly played with them, as well as the droning buzz of the huge electricity pylon sat in one of the crop fields. Nimet stepped forwards, ever closer to the round fence that surrounded the chasm's opening up to about waist height, but felt a powerful hand grab her collar. She looked back up and saw one of the policemen. They both wore long, navy jackets that came to around their ankles, the lapels pulled back to hold the symbol of the Order in a pin badge form. They both wore poly-carbine vests, able to repel any type of artillery. Blue ties lay beneath them. "Watch where you go, young lady." One of them said. "Once you fall down there, there's no coming back."
Nimet let them lead her over to a porter cabin sat at the side of the huge chasm. Another officer, this one not wearing the same busby hat, opened the door and welcomed them into a small room. There was a desk with a typewriter on it, a filing cabinet with a television perched on it next to a side table holding a kettle. The officer walked over to his desk and turned off a spinning gramophone. He reached for a piece of paper on a clipboard and grabbed a pen. Nimet walked to where he pointed, the wall opposite his desk. There was a height chart on it. She stepped towards it and let them take a picture, her head reaching a line which declared she was five foot four.
The officer took several notes on his clipboard, exchanged it with one of the officers who had escorted Nimet in for their notebooks, and then pointed them over to a door next to the height chart. "Any of you lot get motion sickness? Or vertigo?"
"I do!" Nimet said.
"You don't count." The officer said.
The two escorting officers shook their heads. "Nah, we'll be fine, George. Don't this plenty of times."
"Suit yourselves. East wing, if you don't mind."
They went and opened the door in the corner and led Nimet into a small room with nothing but a bench and a clock in it, a lever poised upwards underneath the clock. They pointed her to the bench and then went over to the lever. One officer locked the door behind him and the other pulled the lever. For a second, there was nothing but the grinding of gears and the whirring of cogs and then the room was suddenly rising through the air. Nimet fell forwards onto the floor, causing the officers to hurry over to her and heave her back onto the bench. As they got to her side of the room, however, it all began to tilt that way.
Nimet sat back down and looked through the windows. Besides the shaky view of the crop fields and the electricity pylons, she could see nothing. Then the chasm seemed to open up next to them and the room swung towards it. Through the window, she saw a huge crane from which they were suspended. Before she could wonder why she hadn't seen it on climbing from the police carriage, the room was being lowered into the Writers' Gaol.
They were consumed by the chasm, like a kraken's writhing gullet but with bulbs rather than venom coated fangs. The room dropped rapidly, sending a strange rushing feeling through her stomach. She felt a headache seeping into her, sickness rising up her gut. One of the officers nudged the other and grunted, giving a half laugh at her.
Eventually, after what felt like a veritable eternity, the room came to a stop. The sickness in Nimet's stomach solidified and she found herself having to take very deep breaths to stop herself from vomiting. She looked up at the officers, her eyes begging them for sympathy, but they simply grunted and pulled another lever.
Outside the suspended room, gangplanks were sliding out of the rounded walls. They came from each of the compass points, converging on the room hanging in the centre. It shook as hidden mechanisms bolted onto them and solidified the connection. Any feelings of vertigo were partially cured.
Doors opened at each of the four points that the gangplanks had connected to; one on each wall. The officers dragged her towards the door on the right of the room and led her across the gangplank. She looked down momentarily and, despite not being able to see anything, felt a pang of vertigo flash through her. Trying to undo it, she stared up and was instead consumed by claustrophobia. Besides a very small circle of light; she couldn't see the opening.
She left the gangplank and stepped onto the balcony that ran around the circumference of the Gaol. Another officer, this one in the uniform grey of a prison guard, accepted a clip board, nodded, and pointed to a door about three cells away. "Through there, please."
The officers marched her along the balcony, passing three cell doors. Two were filled with men and the third had a woman. All three of the people were covered in tattooed writing. The writing had once been quotes, from literature or plays, but now it was nothing more than a grey splodge, wiped out of existence by acid spray.
The doorway they led her through wound back and forth like a snake, leading past various new cells. She saw sights she'd never seen outside of her nightmares; people with iron clamps over their eyes to stop them reading and boxes over their ears to stop them from holding a pencil there. She saw people who had metal face masks, probably because they'd had quotes branded into their skin. One of the cells they passed held a gentlemen who was writing something on a piece of paper. One of her escorting officers headed over to the cell, pulling his laser truncheon, and hit a button that caused the cell door to swing open. He threw himself in and began to beat the prisoner half to death.
"Is it illegal to have paper in here?" Nimet said.
"No." The remaining officer said, continuing to walk. "But it is illegal to write literary quotes."
"How does he know he isn't just beating the guy up for nothing? He didn't even read the quotes."
"What and risk poisoning himself with that dribble?" The officer laughed. "We're not as gullible as you writers seem to believe we are."
"I'm not a writer!"
"Then why did you have Love Labours Lost, hey?" The ears of the prisoners they passed perked up.
Nimet said nothing.
They rounded another corner and found the door of an empty cell. The officer pressed the button on the side of it and let the door slide open. He pointed in. "Get in."
Nimet sighed and stepped into the cell. She let the door slide across in front of her, trapping her in. She watched the officer walking off and then let herself fall back, irritated. For about five seconds, she almost enjoyed the tranquility, and then she was setting about trying to work a way out to escape.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Working Title

There was a loud bang and, with that, Nimet knew it was time to get up. She pulled back her covers, walked over to the window, slid it open and climbed out. She shut the window behind her, danced across the rooftop towards the gutters and slid down the drain pipe, just as the door to her bedroom splintered and a troupe of clumsy police officers barged in.
She found the floor, her boots squelching in the mud of the floor, and began to walk. An old woman at a flower stall was staring at her but Nimet ignored her. Who'd believe an old woman? She passed by a fruit and vegetable cart, nicking an apple, and strolled out into the road in front of her. There was a carriage approaching, but she kept walking all the same. The driver whipped his reigns, summoning the horses to a stop, sending their legs flinging upwards, striking through the air. Nimet lazily raised her hand, a brief apology, and kept walking.
In front of her materialised a doorway, out of the cloud of smoke pouring from an underground chimney. She wondered if she knew the person being cooked and prepared deep beneath, and then realised she'd prefer not to know the answer. He hand reached for the handle and she gave it a twist, causing the door to swing open. She stepped through, smiling at the security guard and kept going. On her either side, statues reared out of the ground, gigantic stone edifices depicting famous acts from greek mythology striking out towards her. She danced around a statue of Perseus, his hand deep in the writhing hair of Medusa, and found a doorway with a sign above it. Neo-Classical Exhibition, it read.
Nimet stepped in and hurried towards the centre. There was a bench upon which you could rest, or sit and observe the art. The only person in the room was not doing either. Nimet sat down on the bench and said, "You were right."
"Was I, deary?" Said the lady, about three foot tall and doing a handstand. She was old enough to be Nimet's great grandmother but she was more flexible than Nimet could ever hope to be. "Right about what?"
"You said the police would come to get me. And they did."
"You can't say I was right about that. I've met three year olds with the smallest inch of intelligence get that right, love. You were trading Class Ten Adjectives."
"How'd they know where to find me?"
"Because I told them." The lady said. She rolled out of her handstand and went to sit down next to Nimet."You needed the experience and you weren't going to get it unless I ensured you did."
Nimet was partially heartbroken. "That ain't fair. You can't just shove opportunities my way."
"I'll have you know, young lady, that you aren't going to get anywhere with your drafts unless you have something to write about."
Nimet said nothing for a few moments. Then she said, "Why an art gallery?"
"I get we writers ain't allowed to have official meetups and that, but why an art gallery? I mean, no offence but-"
"You're about to make a comment about me being blind, aren't you?" She said.
"You've gotta admit it's a good point."
The lady shook her head. "If you were going to look for someone who was blind, where would be the last place you'd look?"
"You can tell you've been in this game for so long."
The lady readjusted her black glasses. "Indeed you can. It's showing in my writing. All the same tropes, all the same ideas, I can't do anything original."
"It's cause you need experience."
"I've got more than enough of that, deary. Have you written anything for me this time?"
"Don't be so loud about it!"
"This is an art gallery and it's ten in the morning. There's no one here to hear anything. Now, answer my question. Have you written anything?"
Nimet paused and then said, "Yes. I posted it to the old library. You'll have to be quick about it though; they're knocking it down in a couple of days."
"What genre?"
"Caper." Nimet said. "It's about a female adjective dealer who outsmarts a load of cops."
"Wrong genre." The lady said. "That sounds autobiographical."
Nimet laughed. "I'm not a dealer; just a dabbler."
"Better keep it that way. Writing may be a crime but it's a noble felony. There's no honour in dealership."
"I suppose not."
A mournful silence took over the room, and then the lady broke out laughing. "I crack myself up sometimes, lovie. Right, I better be getting off; I've got a novelette to collect."
"It's not quite a novelette; more of a short story."
"And to think I took you on because you told me you had potential." The lady reached to her bag and opened it. "I've got a present for you."
"What is it?"
"Latest thing. Class A, as illegal as it gets."
"You don't mean?"
She nodded. "Shakespeare. Love Labour's Lost."
"Where'd you get it?"
"I know a couple of bootleggers up country; sneaking in the entire canon. I managed to wrestle a few off them. Be careful with it now."
"How much do I owe you?"
"Write me anything- anything- darling, and it's your's for free. Even if you think it's bad, write it. You can improve five hundred words of nonsense. You can't do anything with nothing." The lady grinned. "I'll be seeing you."
"Oh but you won't." Nimet said.
As the lady tottered off, Nimet looked at the book. William Shakespeare, it read, with the words 'Love Labour's Lost' printed beneath. Between the two phrases was a picture of the Bard himself, public enemy number one. She took in the deep scent of the book, inhaling the intoxicating aroma. She felt a smile dancing across her lips.
The sound of a guard's footsteps suddenly sprang to her ears. Like a rewound gunslinger, she slipped the book into her pocket and stood up. She began to walk, rather quickly, passing through the doors to the gallery opposite the guard. She moved furtively, quickly, passing through another room of Neo-Classical art, depicting different events from recent history. There was the destruction of the Publisher's Guild, showing Central Library burning as a policeman led a struggling writer towards their van. A famous painting held an image of an Inspector standing on a crate of books, pouring a bottle of gasoline onto it. There was another image, of a typewriter being smashed under a mallet. The final image before the fire exit depicted the sinister features of an Orwellian Writer, killed in the Valentine's Gunfight between the police and a group of Literary Gangsters known as the Water Stones.
Nimet hurried through the fire exit, out into an alleyway. The walls were plastered with Wanted posters, for criminals such as Stephen King, Phillip Reeve, J.K. Rowling and a dozen more that were too eroded by the weather for her to be able to make them out. The fog from gutter chimneys obscured the space in front of her until it was too late. A couple of figures loomed out of the fog, policemen. "Well, 'ello, 'ello, 'ello. What 'ave we got 'ere?" Said one of the policemen.
"Good morning officers." Nimet smiled, trying to walk between them. They closed the gap.
"Hello, young lady." Said the other officer. "What're you doing down here?"
"I got lost."
"'course you did. Wouldn't, perchance, be connected to the call we've just received."
"What call would that be?"
"Well, we 'eard," said the first officer, "that a writer and her apprentice had been sighted in the gallery. We were just making sure that neither of them were trying to sneak out of the fire escape. Wouldn't mind if we searched you, would you?"
If they found the Shakespeare, she'd be dead on her feet. What was possession of a Shakespeare worth nowadays? Ten, fifteen years? She took a deep breath and smiled. She had no choice. "Of course, officer." She said. "Go ahead."
"Thank you. Won't take too long." The officer said, smiling. He burst out in a laugh. "Unless you're guilty, of course! Then it will take however long the judge decides!"
She gulped.