Scarlett sat on the hard, wooden stool, staring vacantly out of the window. Father would have been home by now, she thought to herself, except that last month he traded the horse carriage for Professor Bunt’s new steam powered contraption. Although it was a beautiful thing to look at when it was cold and unused, once Groves had fed the small boiler at the back it changed from being a docile engineering sculpture to a living, breathing monster. Indeed, it was a good job that father had traded the carriage as it had meant moving PeaceRiver (her favourite horse) to the neighbouring stable block as it had been scared with the various hiss, pings and sighs that came from this new copper and brass beast as it cooled.
The latch on the cottage door clicked up, and a dishevelled man entered the small kitchen.
“Father!” cried Scarlett. “What has happened? ”
The man stumbled across to the kitchen table and sat down. Scarlett looked at him – his face was badly scratched, the jacket sleeve was torn away and there was a huge tear down his trousers, the grey now heavily discoloured from… Scarlett surpressed the gasp as she realised that there was a huge deep wound in his leg.
Scarlett’s father looked forcefully at Scarlett. His breath, rasping, clawing at getting air into the lungs, was desperate and urgent.
“Get… out… of… the house. Flee… while you can. I’ll… distract… them…”
“Father! Who? What! Speak to me!!!”
Father slumped forward – the effort of getting to the house had obviously taken it’s toll on him and it was almost the final straw to get those words out. Scarlett was confused – and more than a little scared. This feeling was intensified when she heard the sounds of hob nail boots kicking hard at the door to open it. The latches splintered and cracked as they tried to resist the forces trying to break through.
Fortunately, Scarlett was a prepared woman and grabbing her bag, she fled through the back door that father had come in through. Just as she was closing the door she heard the final snapping and cracking of the bolts as they gave way. She heard the menacing tones of the men as they stormed into the cottage – but she was away. She turned right to head for the road – and bounced off the huge beast of a man standing in her way.
“Going somewhere?” he said.
To be continued…