Look at that dumb kid, Petharic thought as he approached Johhny Dawkins and his chubby urchin companion. Standing around at the trolley stop leaning on a stolen shovel like he doesn’t have a care in the world.
It was well past eleven-thirty. The sun was just approaching the noon hour apex on one of the shortest days of the year, setting the fresh snow to sparkle. With his belly full from an early lunch at the Bucket of Blood, Petharic took a deep breath of winter, exhaling a great plume into the late morning air. It really seemed quite festive in the city this past week
“What’s new kid?” Petharic said as he joined the two New Babbage urchins standing near the tracks.
“Hey Mister Petharic. Me ‘n Tubby is goin’ over to Clockhaven to see all them snowmen people is buildin.’“ Johnny explained. “Who knows praps we’ll even enter one ‘r two ourselves – ain’t that right Tubby?”
“I might make a morlock,” said Tubby. “I saw one once when I was with Petra.”
“Wanna come, Mr. Petharic?” Johnny asked.
“What the hell, I got nothing better to do,” Petharic grumbled. “By the way, that is a nice shovel. You steal that from Lighthouse?”
“I just borrowed it is all,” the boy replied.
“I got these shoes from him,” said Petharic, indicating the shiny patent leather loafers. “I don’t like the style very much but they fit perfectly.”
“Mr. Petharic,” said Johnny. “When we was stayin’ at Mister Emerson and Miss Junie’s place, did you see what Mr. Emerson was keepin’ in his cellar.”
“Didn’t you say that cellar door was locked?” asked Petharic.
“I jimmied the door,” said Johnny. “Just before I buggered off with this shovel.”
“Then stop beating around the bush and just tell me what you saw.”
“Hold on,” said Tubby who pointed to something he’d noticed parked across the rails several dozen meters ahead. “Look at that.”
“Is that a baby carriage on the tracks?” Johnny sounded incredulous as the trio slowed to a stop to assess the situation.
“I cannot tell if it is empty or occupied from this angle.” said Petharic.
A sudden burst of laughter from a group of workers breaking for coffee and cigarettes cut across the air. Petharic regarded the men huddled together on the snow-cleared secondary tracks alongside the main trolley-line.
“LOOK!” hollered Tubby. He was pointing wildly at the incoming trolley which seemed to be approaching with far too much speed to stop before smashing the baby carriage to bits. “That runaway trolley is going to kill the baby!’
“Let’s not panic. We have some options,” said Petharic. “For example, we could do nothing and watch the trolley obliterate the baby carriage. After-all there may not even be a baby in it, we don’t know for sure.”
“Or, over here, see,” said Johnny pointing to a transfer switch. “We could pull this lever and send the trolley onta the secondary tracks.”
“But that’d run it right through all them workers,” Tubby pointed out.
“There is a third option,” Petharic mused, “I could throw the fat kid onto the tracks. His size might be enough to derail the trolley.”
“Johnny, is he joking?” Tubby shouted.
“Don’t even say it, Mr. Petharic!” Johnny exclaimed. “That’s right evil it is.”
“Not so fast now,” cautioned Petharic. “Think about it. It seems to be a better than even trade-off. I mean what has that kid really done with his life anyway? Why shouldn’t we?”
“‘Cause it ain’t right and you know it!”
Petharic didn’t hesitate another moment. He started to run. Of course it wasn’t right. He had never had any intention of throwing the fat kid under the trolley. There had only ever been one option. Sometimes he just liked to goad little Johnny for the hell of it.
Under normal circumstances there would have been more than enough time to reach that baby carriage before the trolley hit it. However as Petharic picked up speed he started to lose his traction on the slippery winter sidewalks.
“Damn that idiot Lighthouse and his leather-soled loafers!” Petharic swore after regaining his balance. The conditions and the footwear required he slow his speed.
Petharic eyed the approaching trolley. This was going to to be much closer than it should be…
To be continued