Another Unusual Fire
After the breakfast rush, the group took taxis to the burned pub location. By chance or choice, men took one and women took the other. Stephan grumbled the entire way. Edward pointed out various sites along the way as the hansome cab made its way to the river. At the ruins of the burned pub, everyone got out and stared at the ruins of the pub. Stephan was silent. Abigail moved forward and Wynn joined her. A bobby was on patrol in front of the ashes, “You need to move on folks. Taint safe.”
Abigail ignored him, but Wynn said, “Do they know what caused it?” The policeman eyed him suspiciously. Wynn stuck his hand out, “Wynn Maynard. Me uncle owns a pub and I shorly don’t want this to happen to it.”
The policeman relaxed a bit and provided information, “Oh I’d say your Uncles pub is safe. Strangest fire I’ve heard of. Windows was blown in first like it was an explosion and the door caught on fire. But ain’t no sign o’ explosives like nitro.” Abigail looked closely at the burn marks on the door.
Wynn continued his queries, “I ‘eard that it was overcrowded.”
The policeman said, “That’ another right puzzle. Pub was closed. Seems theres some meeting or such. Anyway, only interviewed the owner, the rest scurried off. He swears there were only twenty or so. Swears people were burned when they left. Well… he’s gonna say that anyway ain’t he.” Abigail was looking at the walkway. Wynn could see a mark in the steps.
She stood up, grabbed his arm then said, “Come along Wynn. You promised me a boat ride.”
Wynn tipped his cap to the bobby and returned to the group.
Stephan looked at Abigail, “What did you find?”
Abigail said, “The ignition came from long streaks. Like beam weapons. Same sort of scorching we saw after the battle at <>.”
Stephan’s face darkened, “Damned pirates.”
Abigail added, “Pavement was scorched so they weren’t holding back too much.”
Wynn said, “Not like the Pig and Cow. They got it started and then left. Shot the first two coming out. Then let the panic and smoke do the rest.”
Stephanie and Kimberly came back. “The local shops were all closed at that point. One person said there was a group of fancy dressed people who were hurrying away from the fire. Seven or eight.”
Stephen scratched his chin. “Why here?”
Wynn said, “There was some sort of meeting. I’ll chase that down and see if it helps any.”
Stephan nodded, “Ok…keep it low. Abby, anything else?”
Abigail pursed her lips, “I’d have to get inside to see to know for sure. We know it’s beam weapons. The one pointed at the door was strong. Nearly burned through the oak door. Melted the brass. Scorched the brick. Probably fried whoever ran out first.” If that had been used inside, it would have been explosive.” She looked at the building, “I would guess pistols into the windows. But wouldn’t know for sure.”
Stephan nodded, “All right. Wynn find out about that group in the pub. I am wondering about that fancy dress group. Edward, can you see if there is something going on in your crowd.”
Edward looked sheepish. “I haven’t been around for awhile.”
Stephan shrugged, “Not expecting miracles. Just check.”
Stephanie moved forward. “What about us?”
Stephan eyed her. “First, you got something for defense?”
Kimberly said, “We are in the East End. Yes.”
Stephan said, “All right. See if you can trace this fancy dress group.”
Abigail looked at Stephan, “And us?”
Stephan said, “You and I need to figure out what we are going to do when we find these people.”
Wynn left the group and headed towards the docks and airship field. He found a new bar and parked himself on the bar. He opened the conversation with the bartender, “Any work for machinists these days?”
The bar was still light so the bartender stayed, “Kimberly airships is real busy these days, but the bosses are pretty harsh. The O’Malley’s are looking for repair monkeys.” He looked at Wynn and said, “You might be a bit small for them.” He put the glass down and picked up another, “You ok working on regular ships?”
Wynn took a drink. “Work’s work. Got to work my way up no matter where.”
“Cor ain’t that the truth. If you are ok with ocean ships, Doxford and Sons is good honest work and they treat folk right.”
Wynn shrugged, “I came from Manchester. Everyone’s a bastard there. Can’t be worse here.”
The barkeep put the glass down and leaned on the bar, “Thought so until last night.” He leaned in, “Kimberly’s been so bad, the folks was starting to plan.”
Wynn asked, “Plan?”
“You know. Plan stuff…slow downs. Problems. The bosses there make the rest of the docks look like kindergarten teachers.” Wynn whistled. “Anyway, seems the workers was meeting in another bar…thank god. And that bar caught fire under mysterious circumstances.” He said the last two words carefully as if he had a hard time forming the words. “Four of ‘em died.” He crossed himself. Wynn did likewise.
“I’m thinking I avoid Kimberly’s”
The barkeep leaned back on the bar. “I hope it all ends there. Street word is that any others acting like they was organized was going to get similar treatment.” He sighed, “Hate to do it, but I can’t lose this bar because o’ loose talk. Going to throw out anyone who breathes a word about ‘workers’ and ‘organizin’.” He grabbed another glass and said, “Just stay away from Kimberly’s and you should be ok. Hell…you could work at O’Malley’s if you can take a punch.”
Wynn drank his beer, ordered a lunch and listened to the crowd. The talk was the same. Kimberly Airships was hell to work for. Everyone was sure Kimberly bosses had torched the bar. Wynn paid his bill and headed back to his room. Edward was there. Wynn asked, “Have you heard of Kimberly Airships?”
Edward stretched on the bed, “Who hasn’t?Anyone who wants to work on airships, wants to go there.” He looked thoughtful, “I think Winifred’s father works there. He might even be on the board.” He sat up suddenly, “That isn’t a coincidence is it?”
Wynn said, “No laddy, I don’t think it is.
I had some lead in to this section, but it was long already and the intro (while entertaining) is not essential to the story. The story is progressing nicely. I have found a new twist involving Abigail and a distant relative. I have just shy of 25,000 words. And, yes I am behind. I am trying to get caught up.