It was almost three in the morning, and the streets were quiet as a small figure slipped through the shadows towards the grim and imposing building. At this time of night the perpetual smog had dropped almost to cobbles in the cold air, waiting to rise with the morning sun, but it cleared the air allowing the moon to shine brightly down, giving enough light to see. There was a slight noise as the night visitor dropped a pack by the corner of the building, and examined the wall above him, stepping back to have a better look at the structure. It was as he remembered, there were gargoyles built into the walls at each floor level, not too far for a well tossed stone.
He bent to his pack, drawing forth a length of line already tied to a rag wrapped stone, then lobbed the weighted end high above his head. The first couple of throws dropped back to the ground with a muted thud, but then it looped over the back of the first gargoyle before returning, dragging the line with it. With a satisfied hurmph, the figure picked up the stone, tucking it into the waist of his trousers before pulling on the line. Following every convention of fairy stories, the line was attached to a thicker line, which in turn was attached to a climbing rope. Once he had the two ends of the rope in his hands, the figure spun them around each other until they were firmly entwined, slung his pack over his shoulder, and began to shinny up the rope, tail swishing back and forth behind him.
Reaching the gargoyle, he hauled himself onto it’s back, reached down to untwist the rope, then repeated the exercise to gain access to the next gargoyle up. It was not a climb that a larger person could have contemplated, though the building was new, the statues would have been insufficient to hold the weight and the climbing line to cumbersome to bend over, but the small intruder proceeded almost with ease. The final stage of the climb, onto the roof, was the most tricky, as he had to loop the rope over the corner stanchion, then swing out over open air beneath the guttering, and pull himself bodily onto the tiles. The gutter was wet and slippy, and it was with considerable effort that he managed to keep his grip as he swung, to land precariously on the edge of the roof.
After several gasping breaths, the figure rose lightly to his bare feet, crouching momentarily before padding softly up the slope. He threw a loop of rope up to the top of the tall dormer window, and pulled himself up to the window ledge. Thankfully, unlike the windows on the lower floors, these ones lacked the security bars – obviously no one expected the inmates to be up in the belfry! Looking closely, he could see it was as he suspected, one panel of the tall window opened, to allow for cleaning. Feeling round the frame for a few seconds, he nodded to himself. He drew a thin blade from his pack, and slid it under the frame, reaching for the catch. A quick twist, and with what sounded like a loud crack, the latch broke. The figure froze, still as the gargoyles he had climbed earlier, listening and looking for any sign that he had been heard. It was then that the bells in the belfry below him began to peal the hour, the sound ringing through the building and rocking the roof below his feet. He fell flat, holding on as tight as he could until the reverberations died away.
Slightly unsteadily, as if the sound was still running through his body, the figure regained his feet, and began to lift the access pane, pausing only to drip a little oil on the hinges when they threatened to creak. Dropping the end of the rope through the opening, he swiftly descended, glancing round at the spookily moon-lit room, taking in the dark shape of the bells and the moving cogs and gears of the mechanism. He was careful to note the position of the mechanics in relation to the windows, this nights work would help, but he was under no illusion that it would be the end, and one should always have at least one more plan for the future.
He listened again, and sniffed the air before confidently continuing, drawing bundles of rags from the bottom of his pack. Going to the first bell, he wrapped the clapper in a thick layer of cloth, tying it securely then going to the next. Once all the clappers had been treated, he returned to his pack, fishing out a small hammer, a bundle of wooden spills and a jar of grease. Returning to the first bell, he leapt onto the clapper, perching on the ball and pushing up to the top. Pulling a little bottle from his pocket, he held it in his mouth, letting the fireflies inside buzz into luminance, allowing him to examine the join between the bell and clapper. As he had suspected, it was held in place by a simple cotter pin! It was a matter of moments to tap the pin free and replace it with one of the wooden spills, then a quick coating of grease blended it in with the surrounding metal. He slipped the pin and bottle into his pocket, and dropped to the floor, landing crouched on all fours to deaden the sound. Now he had to work quickly, as he had the rest of the bells to do and make his escape before the half hour struck…..
It had been close, he admitted to himself, as he strolled around the corner of the street. He had finished his work, exited onto the roof, and was just shaking his rope from the last gargoyle when the half hour had struck – or rather thudded mutely! He had smiled to himself, quite pleased with the effect, quickly gathered his kit, stuffed it into his pack, and made himself scarce. It had been weird that no one had seemed to notice, probably all needed the sleep, but he doubted it would be long before the alarm was raised. The rags would be discovered of course, and he doubted it would stop them for long, but with luck, the replacement of the cotter pins would be undetected – until, of course, the bells began to strike the latter hours, then the pins would break and the clappers would work free! He giggled with glee at the trouble that would cause, and it would take them far longer to sort that out, giving the inmates at least a period of rest from the interminable pealing. Slipping through a broken doorway, the fox boy ducked into one of the many urchin hideouts, snuggled into the blankets kept there, and fell asleep content in a job well done!