Clocks and Boxes — Part 26: Drive

Delia had never been in the back of a police car before, but nonetheless she made herself at home. She shared her seat with Alfred and Fanaka, who were the only others who had been arrested. Gwen had avoided arrest by knocking a policeman to the ground and fleeing with the protesting Christian thrown over one shoulder.

"Wait, I haven't committed a crime," the young man had cried as his lover dragged him away.

Karl had disappeared in the confusion with Ron in hot pursuit, and so once again law enforcement proved meaningless to anybody who wasn't already law abiding.

Well, mostly law abiding. To Delia's exasperation, Alfred seemed to have had some sort of extremely quick identity crisis, and reinvented himself from 'aging shopkeeper' to 'teenage hooligan.

"Did you see that? Did you see Gwen take down that copper?" he laughed.

One of the constables in the front of the car turned around with a look that was meant to say 'imposing authority' but which Delia read as 'hurt feelings.'

"Fucking pigs," Alfred whispered under his breath.

"Alfred, this is a police car," Delia said. "Not a limo. There's no soundproof partition. They can hear everything you say."

"When did it become a crime to speak your mind?" Alfred demanded. "This bloody country!"

"You must excuse my friend," Delia said. "He's not used to excitement, and he seems to have wound himself up too much."

"That's understandable," the sergeant in the front seat said. "But I must formally caution all of you under the High Spirits Act of 2017 against any further displays of exuberance or merriment."

"Really?"

"Nah, but I had yez going."

Both cops laughed at this, but they made the mistake of looking in the rear view as they did so. Delia used the opportunity to silence them with a glare.

"So, Fanaka," Delia said. "Without saying anything that might incriminate anyone, what exactly were you up to?"

Fanaka tried to scratch his head, but his handcuffs wouldn't let him reach. He settled for biting his lip. "Hm well, hypothetically, let us suppose that there was an evil pyramid, and someone – again, hypothetically – wanted to blow it up – "

"Hypotheticals aren't really your thing, are they?" Delia said.

"No, not really. How am I going to get out of prison without the head of my clan to stand parole on our family honour?"

"Good question!" Alfred demanded. "Good question! Got an answer for that, eh, Mr Plod?"

"I don't really know what he's talking about," replied the sergeant. "And that's Sergeant McKenzie-Plod to you."

Delia sighed and screwed up her eyes. It looked like the people around her would be breaking into another comedy sketch. Annoying, yes, but it did give her time to think. So… Fanaka was concerned that someone was going to try to blow up the Pyramid and decided to stop it with AA emplacements. This didn't make a lot of sense to Delia but everyone said that Fanaka was a genius, so possibly his plans worked on some rarefied level that was beyond her understanding. Possibly.

The people who Fanaka believed might fire upon the Pyramid had not done so, but the Barnlings seemed to have their own reasons for wishing the Pyramid to be vulnerable to missile attack. What could that be? Delia had always agreed with Ms Shan that the Barnlings and the Pyramid were related but… what if they weren't? The Pyramid had risen on the ruins of the DIY Barn, and there had been an unspoken assumption that the Pyramid was the Barn's successor. But what if it were not? What if it were the Barn's usurper? Not an ally of the good people of South Hertling, necessarily, but still another enemy of the Barn…

Delia's train of thought was interrupted, but strangely it wasn't by someone saying something silly. She was interrupted by the sudden return of a memory of a recent conversation. Returning her thoughts to the police car, she found that Alfred was arguing at cross purposes with the constable, in an improbable play on words based on two different meanings of 'waffle'. She rolled her eyes, and whispered to Fanaka:

"Do you have the Watch and the Measure?" she said.

"In my pocket," Fanaka said. "Oh, by the way, that weird woman who gave the Measure to you and the Watch to Alfred said that they were meant for you and Alfred."

"Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it," he added.

"She said the same thing to me," Delia said. "And yes, I suppose it does make a lot of sense. Everything probably would have run more smoothly if we'd realised that from the start. Though maybe it would have been less fun as a journey."

"Meh."

"Yeah, I guess 'meh'. Anyway, can we get the Watch and Measure before we get to the station and they take your stuff?"

Fanaka wriggled in his seat. "No," he said. "Not with handcuffs on."

That was a good point. Before Delia could even begin to think what to do about it, the police car came to a sudden stop.

"What was it?" the constable said.

"Almost hit that cat," Sgt McKenzie-Plod replied.

Delia's eyes opened wide. A rescue?

The car was in a narrow lane, seemingly with no way to go around an obstacle. The sergeant honked his horn, but apparently the cat was unwilling to move. "Constable, go move that animal."

Groaning, the constable opened the door. Instantly, he was set upon by a dozen cats, all brightly coloured and somewhat rubbery in appearance. He screamed in a satisfyingly high-pitched way, and went staggering away under the weight of his attackers. The sergeant barely had time to take this in before his door was opened by a cat the size of a human child. The animal took a moment to remove his colourful top-hat before butting the sergeant in the face. It took something from the man, and tossed it into the back seat.

"Take the keys!" it shouted.

Delia took the keys and began undoing her cuffs. She'd freed herself and her friends by the time the sergeant had fought the cat out of the car. Delia tried to open the car door, but the policeman seemed to have retaken control of the door locks.

"Here! Here!" Fanaka said handing the Watch and Measure to Delia and Alfred.

Delia kissed Alfred, then slammed the Measure into the Watch. The world seemed to fall away, though whether that was a romantic thing or a science fiction thing took her a little while to figure out.

Next -- Interlude: Underground

Previous: Part 25 -- Mayhem

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