Under The Streets Of London – Episode 07


Though Seamus was the elder brother, he was quieter than Niall and here, missing Brigid so much, he was more withdrawn than ever. Niall had to protect him, or who would?

Shouldering the timber more securely, he led Seamus forward. The great wooden strut had to be slotted into a strengthened foundation hole against the side wall of the tunnel, and then lifted up to form a vertical bar in the intricate lattice that would support the tunnel once it was closed over.

Seamus had the bottom end and as he lowered it, Niall pushed upwards towards the wall, checking the lad on the pulley was above them.

It wasn’t just for his brother that he was concentrating now. One false move here and the timber could slip from the rope’s tenuous hold and fall on them both. If it didn’t kill them it would certainly crush one limb or another, and if that happened they’d be out of work. With no money coming in they might just as well be dead.

“Got it!” Seamus called and Niall loosened his grip a little to let the wood fall into its slot. It clicked in with a satisfying clunk and together the brothers pushed the strut up against the wall.

Another navvy from home, Aidan, was already scrambling across to bolt it to the crosswork and Niall was able to step back and flex his sore muscles.

Instinctively he glanced up again. The girl at the window was gone but the other one, the one with the smart dress and the notebook and the pen caught between her lips, was even closer than before.

Niall sucked in his breath – the Lord be praised, she was an angel!

“Have I died and gone to heaven?” he muttered.

His brother glanced up.

“She’s a looker, all right,” he admitted, relaxing a little now the tricky strut was safely in place. “But think, lad – smart clothes, a posh little hat, shoes too delicate for this rough ground? She’s way above the likes of us.”

Niall blinked. His brother had a point. The girl was no duchess but she was very well turned out. It wasn’t her fancy clothes that had caught his eye, though, but the blush in her pale cheek and the sparkle in her pretty eyes.

She looked . . . Niall sought for the word and found it. Precious. A girl a man could treasure, as Seamus treasured his Brigid.

She was looking all round, her quick eyes taking in the details of the trench almost as if it really interested her. Niall liked that. He found the railway’s intriguing construction fascinating and couldn’t understand anyone who didn’t share his passion for it.

“Be careful, Eliza,” someone called. “You’re terribly close to the edge!”

Eliza!

“Of course I am,” she agreed crisply, not even looking back. “How else will I see how it works?”

Niall drew in a longing breath; this girl was a marvel!

“But it’s dangerous.”

Suddenly a young man stepped up at her side, in smart suit and modish whiskers. Niall groaned softly but couldn’t take his eyes away, all the same.

“Nonsense, Henry,” she was saying to her companion. “The great John Fowler is in charge, remember. It’s perfectly safe.”

“But . . .”

Niall strained to hear the reply. The girl’s – Eliza’s – voice was soft and warm, like sunshine on Lough Ree, but it was being drowned out by a strange creaking.

“What on earth?” Niall began, but suddenly Seamus was grabbing him and pulling him back and he saw the earth begin to crumble around the strut they’d just secured. As if in some weird nightmare, apples and pears fell into the trench.

“God on high, ’tis Judgement Day!” young Aidan screamed as he was pitched off the shaking frame.

Niall caught him and set him on his feet.

“Rubbish, lad,” he said sternly. “’Tis just the tunnel collapsing.”

It was little comfort, for they were stuck in the middle of it.

“This way!” Seamus called, heading up the centre of the trench towards the stronger, roofed section. “It’s our only chance.”

Niall nodded and picked up his feet to follow his brother. As they started to run, however, he heard the terrible sound of timbers cracking behind him and then, above it all, the heart-rending scream of an angel falling.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.