Challenge: Flavour of the Day
Word Count: 1171
Summary: If Ghost doesn't hurry she'll be late for the express.
Notes: I think I'm building up to something, but I don't know what, so please excuse the fact these don't seem to be going anywhere for now. Brain still isn't functioning. I think we'll get there in the end.
Also, er, sorry if you can't have the FotD on its own... I saw the Dictionary.com email and it just inspired this, I don't know where it came from...
The urchin had looked sullen as Ghost stalked back toward her workshop, loitering with his filthy hands firmly behind his back. "You Ghost?" It was more of a formality than anything else, since he already knew who she was; if she sent him away with a flea in his ear, at least he could say he was sure it was her.
Shifting about, without moving his hands, the boy muttered, "gent said to give you a message, ma'am."
"What 'gent'?" The words came out more sharply than she'd intended and the boy flinched. He'd met her wrath before, not through any fault of his own, and momentarily Ghost felt a pang of guilt - until she recalled how many tips the urchin had earned from her over the last year or two and how little cause he truly had to fear her. A little fear did a boy good.
"Fat gent," he said, glaring defiance up at her. "Wide bloke, wider than he was tall he was. Nice suit too."
Ghost relaxed unexpectedly. She hadn't realised how tense she'd been, every muscle expecting the next word out of the child's mouth to be 'Mr. Sable said'. "That'd be Mr. Bulmer, would it?"
"Yes ma'am." The boy looked almost relieved. As if the name was a magic word he withdrew his hands, bringing forward a handwritten letter. It was unlikely he could read it, she surmised, and it wasn't unlike the broad Mr. Bulmer to tell the boy that Ghost could only have it once she guessed who it was from. Despite everything, she liked the mad old goat, and it was all she could do to suppress a smile. "He says he wants to see you urgently, ma'am."
"Urgently?" She took the folded paper from his hand and peeled the seal away from the sheet. A ticket loosed itself from the cage of Bulmer's unruly handwriting and slipped into her hand. She gave it a blank look.
"Sir said that you'd best catch the Tantivy at 1 sharpish, ma'am."
She felt her heart skip a beat or three and cursed her hurried exit with the accursed Mr. Sable. "What time is it now?"
With great solemnity the boy dragged an oversized hunter watch from his tattered waistcoat pocket. "It's ten to, ma'am."
Usually Ghost found the sight of the boy's pretensions to grandeur amusing. This time, she realised with something approaching horror, she wouldn't get the time to appreciate them. "Dear God!"
"You'd best hurry," the urchin intoned. She almost clapped him round the ear for it. Instead, she found herself throwing sixpence his way. He missed, not expecting it to come flying through the air toward him, and scrabbled for it as she left the street again at a flat-out run.
The train was sitting in the station as she approached, almost entirely out of breath but refusing to let her body get the better of her. With no watch on her person it was impossible for her to know if she was early or if the train had been delayed, but the relief she felt at seeing its vast red engine still puffing out plumes of steam was indescribable. The shocked looks she received passed her by as she charged through the station, flashing the ticket Mr. Bulmer had kindly already provided at the startled porter before ripping open a carriage door and flinging herself inside. She was just glad to get there on time.
And not a minute too soon, it seemed: as soon as she had settled herself and begun to regain her breath, the whistle sounded, shrill in the autumn air, and the heavy chuff-chuff of the engine rattled throughout her otherwise empty compartment. Slowly the station began to slide away.
Ghost settled back against the hard seat and waited for the ticket master's distinct call as he made his way through the train.
Mr. Bulmer's relationship with her had reached the point now where she no longer needed to know what it was he required before she headed out to his country estate. He was the kind of man obsessed with the latest gadget or steam-powered curiosity, and the kind of man who bought before he knew anything about the object he was buying was the kind of man who needed a friendly and, above all, patient mechanic ready to help with the latest crisis.
The Tantivy Express wasn't named for frivolous reasons. With her chin rested upon her palm Ghost watched the scenery make its steady way past, the fields and hedges that made up the countryside, and tried to keep her mind on trying to anticipate what it was Bulmer might want now. Try as she might, without her permission, her mind kept slinking back to the thought of Sable and the Lemnoscope like a dog sneaking its way back to a forbidden treat. How something little more than a myth could attract her so she didn't understand, and she grew still more irritated at the already exasperating Sable than before. It was his fault, after all, she told herself severely, and it should be put from her mind as soon as possible.
It refused to be, of course. The whole journey was spent in warfare with her own thoughts.
Mr. Bulmer was waiting for her at the station, flushed red complexion all the more violent for his excited demeanour. "Ah Miss. Ghost, I am so glad to see you!"
He offered his hand to her as she stepped down from the carriage; she ignored it, landing lightly on the balls of her feet. To her silent amusement, he didn't seem in the slightest bit nonplussed by her actions. Instead, he offered her his arm, which she took with as much delight. The looks they received as they walked toward the entrance, he in his smart suit and her in workman's trousers, oversized boots and a too-big orange jumper, were a source of much mirth to her employer. Ghost was sure he did it on purpose. "I did say to you, Nathaniel, that you shouldn't call me 'Miss'." She tried her hardest to sound stern, and knew that she failed impressively.
He pouted, an impressive sight to behold. "Ah, you know how I feel about formality."
She smiled up at him. "It's something I feel should be stood on at any opportunity. Particularly if I can crush it. What is it you're needing my help with now, Nathaniel?"
"Oh, that's a long story," he said with a deep exhalation. "I think perhaps it's better I show you than try to explain." He patted her hand on his arm absently. "It might be a little complicated."
Raising her eyebrows only a fraction, Ghost nodded her assent. A little challenge was what she enjoyed. A big challenge, however, was something to relish.
She put to the back of her mind the last time she had heard the phrase a long story and, smiling and nodding, walked with Nathaniel Bulmer toward his country estate.