The big doors to the factory opened a crack and a small figure slipped in, immediately attracting the attention of the youngsters working at the benches. Two came over and confronted the boy clocking in.
“Tepic?” Myrtil asked, followed by Jimmy, who said “‘ello Tepic, Mr. Popplefot will see you tomorrow, so be on toime!”
The fox boy looked at his friends vacantly for a moment then piped up “i made sure i didn’t wake Snotty Charlie……”
The others exchanged glances, with Jimmy whispering “oo’s thet?”.
“Snotty Charlie is a shame for all urchins..” Myrtil stated, a little primly, knowing the boy had been set to watch over Tepic in the Clinic, she was not happy he had fallen asleep on duty and was determined to have a few stern words with him next time they met.
“he was watching me in the Clinic….” Tepic expanded, “so i waited till he was asleep before coming out, so’s not to worry him….”
The penny dropped for Jimmy, who spoke crossly “Wellm oy guess ‘ee didn’t do a good job, eh?”
“That was kind of you,” Myrtil interjected soothingly, wanting to find out more from her friend, “but you should have stayed there with him.”
“well, the chair is very comfy…” the boy replied, almost wistfully.
“Oh I know, I’ve tested it!” the girl said, “But I didn’t fall asleep!”
“Most of the watchers only manage a short bit before napping, so i have plenty of time to come an work or do me vole rounds, all works very well….. what time does Mr Popplefot want to see me?”
The change of subject threw the pair for a moment, Myrtil looking to Jimmy for the time, and he replied “Mr, P said ‘ee’d be ‘ere faw th’ 2pm shift, an’ expects ta see ya.”
Tepic seemed to consider that, then continued “course, it helps since i put the juice out…”
“The juice?” the girl asked, puzzled.
“yes, i makes sure there is a glass of juice for the watchers.”
“ooooh… that’s very considerate”
“yes,” the boy continued, holding up a small bottle of dark glass, “an with a drop or two from this little bottle, they sleeps for at least two hours….”
There was a shocked silence then Myrtil exclaimed “Oh you drug them!!! Why do you drug them?” while Jimmy asked at the same time “Wot’s thet? Laudanum?”
The object of their astonishment seemed to consider both questions, then replied to each in turn, “oh no, it’s just herbs an stuff, all natural, ‘s good fer em…. lets em rest an not worry..”
Exasperated, Myrtil put her hands on her hips and stated “That’s what should happen to YOU!”
“oh… is it?” he asked, as if this was a new concept.
His friends looked at each other, turned to him and chorused “Yep!”
“oh…” came the subdued reply.
“But you don’t look ready to give up on working”
“well, i rest before they drinks the juice, an before they wakes up….” Tepic explained, then looked a little confused, “an it’s strange, they never mentions to the next watcher they been asleep, wonder why?”
“Probably cuz we’d roll ’em a bit ifn we fond out, which we just did.” Jimmy said, a touch of menace in his voice.
“They’re not proud of falling asleep,” Myrtil said, taking a more conciliatory position, except it was followed by “and yeah, we’d give them a hard time if we knew!”
“oh…. well… it weren’t their fault, cus someone slipped em a micky…”
Myrtil shrugged at this, seeing the logic of the argument, leaving Jimmy to continue.
“So woy are ya doin’ thet, Tepic?”
“so they don’t worry.” His friend stated again, as if this was the most reasonable thing in the world.
“Woy don’t ya just get th’ rest ya need, then they won’t worry either.”
“well, can’t do that, got things to do, places to be….”
“Wot places?” Jimmy asked, obviously getting trapped in the circular logic.
“here,” Tepic replied, looking round, “an …… there?”
“You ain’t supposed ta be here,” Jimmy said, then brought in the heavy guns with “Doctor’s orders!”
“oh ……. you sure?”
“Doctor Watson will be most upset when ‘ee returns!”
This was a most compelling argument, after all, no urchin wanted to annoy one of the medical fraternity to whom they might need to turn in extremis, even one with the reputation of chopping limbs off, but Tepic could see a ray of hope.
“not if he drinks the juice..?”
“Oy don’t think Dr. Watson will want any juice, Tepic.”
“oh…. tea, do yer think? Or coffee?”
“You do realoize we’ll tell ‘im about it?” Jimmy said.
“oh….. errrrr…..”, Tepic’s brow furrowed in thought, then inspiration struck and he held out a flask to Jimmy, “fancy a drop of juice?”
The reply was firm, “No, thenks.”
Myrtil jumped in, trying to reinforce the Doctor’s authority with “He said you should rest cause if you don’t it would impair your ability to work.”
Tepic looked at the flask in his hand and considered this for a moment, “oh…… maybe i should drink the juice?”
“Yes,” she exclaimed, “you should!”
“Not ‘ere though,” Jimmy interjected, “go back ta thet noice warm bed at th’ clinic.”
At that moment the doors to the factory were thrown open and in strode Mr. Szondi, resplendent in his uniform, and all the workers turned to admire him, including Jimmy and Myrtil. Behind them Tepic looked at the flask in his hand, considered for a moment, took a hefty swig and gently collapsed to the ground…….