The sky belched and opened. Faster than you can say promenading poodles, I was drenched.
'Fug!' The wind obscured the word. I slipped on the cobblestones, half-blind now and stumbling.
Lights in a squared window caught my attention. Like will o' the wisps, they called me, though the only treasure I desired was food. The sign creaking overhead was unreadable. A smile, my first in a month, pulled at the edgeof my lips. The more obscure the pub, the better.
The storm inside raged as fiercely as outside. A fight was already well underway, fists flying, while a woman screeched words to some obscuresixties musical on the karaoke machine. My head and limbs retreated furtherinto the oversized black jacket I had stolen for the escape. I muddled through the crowd, sidling up to the counter.
'No food.' The bartender replied, oozing snark from the pores. Her nails, long and curled like pig's tails, clattered against the draft pull. 'Just peanuts.'
I stuffed the peanuts into my mouth, shells and all. Heaven.
'Oo's this then?' A burly giant thumped down next to me. Bloody wads of toilet paper stuffed up his nose identified him as a brawl contestant. Two friends joined him.
'Alice,' I mumbled.
'Wrong!' he said. 'All wrong. I'm Killer Yap. This is Galleycat,' he pounded the lanky red-head on the back. 'And that's Bat Secundo.' The man opposite me smiled. I quivered as my eye caught something moving in his teeth.
Killer Yap scratched his head with a gnarly fingernail.
'You can be Tremblin' Terrapin,' he said. 'Now's that we're all acquainted...more drinks!'
The food in my belly made me bold. 'What happened to Bat Primero?'
In a split second, my cheek was pressed flat against the table. Bat's slimy hand pinned down my neck, his snaky voice in my ear, 'no one talks about Bat Primero.'
'Why you here?' Galleycat asked. I massaged my neck.
'Running from my mother. She's a...' the word caught in my mouth, and came out as barely a whisper, 'a literary agent.'
The pub door slammed against the wall, an enormous silhouette blocking the entrance. All noise drained from the pub, except for my whimpering. I knew that shadow.
She was dressed in camouflage gear, with steel-toed boots that laced up to mid-calf. As she strutted in, the beer mugs shook worse than I did.
'Alice!' she barked.
One of Killer Yap's bloody tissues dropped from his nostril. His mouth gaped open. 'Your mother... wears army boots?' He patted me on the head, pity in his eyes.
'Yes!' She answered for me. 'And they don't half give you bunions, especially when you've got to trudge around the countryside following this troublemaker.' She pulled me up by the ear.
'Now drop everything and give me ten... books. You will have them finished by tomorrow! Remember,' she grinned maniacally, batting the peanuts out of my hands and squishing them under her muddy boots. 'No write-y, no eat-y.'
Miss Snark just faints dead away. Scores to come if she revives