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.

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