Above ground. Another chapter. And two things spring to mind.
The first is that the Lucretia-bait that Silas used to get me back down into the tunnels wasn’t explained in chapters 21 to 23 and the second is Patrick and filling you in on his story. And the third … I’m a hopeless counter … is to update you on the Agatha situation; we think we know where she is. Because Lucretia was with her. And since she escaped from Silas and isn’t here, she might be back there, with Agatha. We just have to figure out how to tell one of you where that there is. It’s not a bad place. That I can tell you. It’s a surprising, obvious place – if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron. The fourth … you see! Bad bad counter! … is that the table tennis nets have been replaced! The actual netting ones were too dangerous to incoming pigeons, too altogether catapulty. Nothing’s going to be catapulted by the replacement, plastic ‘nets.’ They look like sheets of white gorgonzola, or is it edam – the cartoony mouse cheese with the round holes in it. Lucretia won’t be happy!
But first Patrick. Or is it second Patrick, since the Lucretia escaping from Silas bit is mentioned in the paragraph above? I don’t know the details but Lucretia is cunning and clever and gossip suggests her escape involved a door and a packet of crisps which sounds a bit too easy; there must have been more to it than that. Anyway, back to that first or second thing …
… Patrick coming up the steps out of St Paul’s underground station. Walking slowly. Past the man with the newspapers. Past the standing clusters of coffee drinkers. Blinking in the sun.
If you take a grand old tree and ring bark it – you weaken it. Ring barking cuts through the columns of rising sap in the bark and effectively strangles the tree, draining it of its life blood. The tree becomes stressed. It’s leaves fall early. It sheds unwanted branches. And starts to lean. Patrick had been ring barked. They’d cut away at everything he held true. He was stooped; as near to broken as a human being could be. He shuffled and stopped and touched his brow and shuffled again and stopped again. He looked lost. As though his head was stuck in its own private heavy fog and he couldn’t see his way through it. If I could have taken his hand or blown away the fog I would have done. I hovered in front of him. I saw him look through me. Then squint, touch his brow again and focus. He blinked heavily and stumbled, too tired to yawn, too tired to write any expression across his face. Too tired almost to go on.
But he knew where he was going.
And his friend knew he was coming. Mungo sat where he had been told to sit. And waited.