It had been some days since his strange encounter with Beryl, and Tepic was wondering where he had got to. Then he remembered the conversation they had after the Go-Devil races and that he had to find a way to search the Asylum. It wasn’t going to be easy, last time he had tried to go in the front door, Beryl and one of the Cabbits had dashed out as he got near, running him over, and the time before that he had opened the door and that Cortman bloke had given him a black eye…
He packed his bag and pockets carefully, then sauntered over to inspect the Asylum building. It was a formidable structure, with a tall wall surrounding the front yard, and huge gates to the front. All the windows seemed to be on the front of the building, and it was quite clear they were strongly barred, so no climbing to the upper stories and through a skylight, as the urchins had done before. Although it was by the water, there was no way in for boats, meaning that even though they had remade the urchin submarine, it was going to be of no use here.
However, Tepic noticed that Mr. Footman’s new observatory tower was quite close to the Asylum building, and there was a huge chimney just by the tower. Quickly, he nipped over to the harbour, and wheedled a decent sized fish from the boat crews. Then it was back to the Observatory, and time to negotiate with the clockwork penguin guarding the door. One day Mr, Footman might realise just how easy the penguins were to bribe, but until then…
The boy made his way up to the observation platform at the top of the tower, There was a good, strong railing around the whole thing, and, less than ten feet away, was the chimney. He grinned to himself while tying a large loop in the rope he had brought, then climbed to the top of the railings. Several throws later, he had managed to encircle the chimney, and secured the other end of the rope to the railings. When you are young, you are either terrified of things, or oblivious to dangers, and Tepic was one of the latter, so it was no trouble to clamber over the thin rope suspended five stories in the air. He used the rope around the brickwork to edge up the roof and behind the chimney.
This was his goal, he was now hidden from sight, secure in the valley between brick and slate, safe to begin the work of the brave rescuer! Carefully tapping the side of a slate, his jemmy wrapped in a covering of cloth, he rotated the slate on it’s securing nail until he could see the nail holding the next slate down. A quick moments work removed that nail, and the slate came free. From then on, it was easy to open up a decent sized area, stacking the slates by the chimney.
To his surprise, instead of the lattice of beams and lathes he was expecting, there was solid wood planking beneath. They were not too long though, so he was able to expose one, and gradually release the nails holding it. Once it was removed, there would be just enough space for him to drop into the air gap beneath the roof. At least, that was the plan, for once he had lifted the wood, he found that directly below was a sheet of iron, streaked with rust. It was no thin sheet either, that might have given under the metal shears he was sure he could borrow from some workshop. This looked more like the armour plating used on the warships that visited the City regularly.
He looked over the expanse of the roof, down at the metal, and then over to where the edge of the building met the sea and began to feel a little uneasy. Though young, he had seen a lot of building in the City, even helped out on one or two sites fetching and carrying, and he had the feeling that it was not really a good idea to have this much weight at the top of a building…. Still, Miss Rouse knew what she was doing.
It was quite clear he was not going to get through the roof, unless he had one of the Palisade Cannons with him. He though over that idea for a few moments, then discarded it as probably impractical, and started to examine the chimney. There had to be a hole in the metal where it came through, and the mortar was still fresh enough to pry out. If he could remove enough bricks, maybe he could squeeze through to the roof space.
It took some work, but he prised the first brick loose, then raked out several others to join it at his feet. Progress at last, he thought, then his jemmy tapped against metal. The chimney was a metal box with a skin of bricks. He sat down on the exposed wood and thought. It was not often he was stymied, but it looked as if a quiet scout through the roof was out of the question, at least without an industrial scale tin opener, and that might make a bit of a racket. Going down the chimneys he had discarded earlier, as there was smoke issuing from all of them, and when he had reached up, the heat was quite intense. This would take some planning, and there was no point hanging around on the roof, so he clambered back across to Mr. Footman’s, pulled the rope back, and headed down the stairs.
On his way down, he did wonder if maybe he should have put the bricks and slates back, but there was no use crying over spilt milk, so shrugged and carried on. He waved to the penguin as he passed, it was still chewing on contentedly on the fish but raised a flipper in greeting. Tepic was not quite sure why the clockwork birds loved fish so much, but it wasn’t that important. Certainly they had no interest in voles, as he had discovered in the past, really was no accounting for taste.
Standing in front of the Asylum once again, he studied the depth of the windows and the height of the building, and did a quick bit of estimation. His eyes widened at the possible answer, and he wondered how good Mr. Footman’s and the Militia’s insurance was. He had already thought up at least three new ways to get in the building, though all involved using the main door, now the only question was, which to use?