Mr. Harvey ambled up Abney Parkway as he always did each morning, stopping at the Duchess’ shop for a pastry, fresh coffee already well in hand.
Odd to hear bells at this time of morning, in The Gut…
Odd to smell so many open fires in summer.
Odd to see such a bright glow from — Cogs above!
He dashed his mug to the cobbles (not before one or two last sips though) and ran for the Gut Memorial Circle. There was the Ladies Fire Brigade, dumping canal water from a bucket line into the twin buildings making up Huxley Hall and Wilde Hospital.
He could see the cause already and inquired the brigade for details. The windows were smashed in when they arrived, the place had been lit on purpose. They had arrived only too late, The Gut being rather remote to the fire station.
The wooden beams holding the brick structures together already had creaked and groaned, and as he watched, they started to collapse like dominoes, bricks and glass smashing into a heap where his proudest establishments had stood.
For the third time, his dream of the steamlands’ only true public hospital was dashed into bits. The first one fell prey to an old boiler explosion. The second, under water, was rebuilt before it could sprout a leak, and ironically the redesign made things worse! Now this one, he was sure it would stand. And he made a deal with the Pennyfarthing Boys…
He made a deal! And they still took their delight in vandalizing a house of peace, a symbol that no one moves into their territory.
Or… could it have been someone else? Mr. Underby and the Bucket of Blood was just up the road; Underby had always been polite if cool to him, but rumor of the man as some vicious monster kept cropping up. Or his ex-wife, Phaedra? Word on the street has it that she was the mastermind behind whatever it was he was accused of doing.
But why would they want him gone? He helped Phaedra when she was injured and lost her memory… though Mr. Lionheart said she may have been faking the whole time.
It hardly matters now, he thought. This is it. The Builder, the Boys, someone has spoken and said no more.
He kicked away a few of the bricks and embers, recovered the tattered portrait of Thomas H. Huxley and a small brass caduceus, and slumped back toward the cafe’.