Major Sole stood paralyzed in shock, terrified to move toward Audrey lest he set the young girl off again. She kept waving the gun and time seemed to melt into a heart-pounding phantasm of confusion. Finally he noticed a shadow approaching and heard a familiar voice say something unintelligible, possibly in Irish.
Before anyone could see what was happening, Eloise stood before him with the young girl in one arm and the gun in the other hand, the look in her eyes making it utterly uncertain whether she might use the latter on anyone present.
The young girl was so shocked she began to whimper softly, while Sole stood still frozen, now terrified of someone else.
“Vitals! Check her vitals!” Eloise hissed at him as gently as she could.
Sole shook himself to action just as Audrey stood up and shook herself off.
Audrey looked surprised, but tried to appear detached. “My plan worked, I see…”
“If you planned to get shot, you’re due for a vacation,” Eloise quipped without taking her fiery eyes off Sole. “Are you all right?”
Audrey seemed indignant. “I’m fine! I was playing along with Jigs. She ‘got’ me, so it was my turn to get the gun,” Audrey spat smugly. “All according to—“
“You tricked me!” the young girl started crying.
Still staring ferociously at Sole, Eloise finally handed him the gun and then gently set the young girl down and knelt down calmly in front of her. At last taking her eyes off the Major, she softened as she focused on the girl. “What’s your name, little one?”
“Jigs,” the child mumbled between sobs.
Eloise looked puzzled. “Jigs? Is that a nickname?”
“Yes,” said Jigs, calming finally as Eloise gently consoled her. “I don’t like my real name: Eunice.”
“Okay, Jigs. I’ll call you that if you like. Where are your parents, Jigs?”
“I don’t have any,” the girl said casually.”They didn’t want to play anymore. They wouldn’t get up when it was their turn.”
A pall of horror fell over the group as the implications of the girl’s words became clear. All stood silent except Eloise, who immediately went back to work: “Jigs, where did you get the gun?”
The reality of nearly getting shot dead sinking into her mind Audrey fainted, Sole leaping and barely catching her before her head hit the cobbles.
“I found it. It’s not a real gun, is it?” Jigs blurted, shaking and starting to cry.
“I’m afraid so, Jigs. We’d better go explain things to the Militia so they understand, okay? Everything will be okay, they’ll take care of things,” whispered Eloise as she stood and took Jigs’ hand.
Picking up Audrey and preparing to carry her along to the Militia headquarters, Sole nudged Eloise. “Weeze, the Colethwaites…”
Nodding at him, too busy to still be furious, Eloise continued to work on the girl. “Jigs, is your last name Colethwaite?”
“How did you know?” Jigs quizzed, seeming to be over the adventure.
Both conscious adults sighed relief realizing that the girl’s parents had been found shot and saved in another city, feared to have been victimized by random gang violence–never knowing who had fired the gun or where their daughter had been taken.
Part way along the journey to Wheatstone, Audrey regained consciousness and thrashed angrily, “Put me down!”
Dropping her onto her bustle, Sole grinned, “Gladly!”
“Ouch!” Audrey blasted shooting him a nasty stare, and as quickly as her sister generally did went right back to business, glaring at the young girl: “I think I know who wrecked my goggles!”
Audrey safely on the ground, Sole quickly checked the gun’s contents and found it empty.