Under The Streets Of London – Episode 18

“Stress?” John laughed. “It was an accident, nothing more. Now, if you don’t mind . . .”

The man bowed again, though he still stood in their path.

“You must be very busy. It’s been hard for everyone. Here, take my card. Eugene Thetford, lawyer specialising in such cases. My offices are not far away. Do feel free to drop in whenever you like.”

He leaned in closer.

“The Metropolitan company will make a fortune out of this train line, sir. Why should you suffer for that when they can easily afford to help you out for the damage they have caused to your property and loved ones?”

John took the card and looked down at it, then across to Mary. She had no idea what to say.

She didn’t like this man at all – he was as slimy as a slug amongst the veg and, she somehow feared, every bit as damaging to their business – but he had made a valid point.

“We’ll have to think about it,” she said crisply.

Then, grabbing John’s arm, she pushed past Eugene Thetford and made for the children. It had been a terrible morning and right now she was keen just to get everyone home, safe and together.

*  *  *  *

Niall stared at the card the funny little man had just handed to him.

“Er, thank you very much but why would I be needing your services?”

Eugene Thetford leaned in, so close Niall could smell his sickly aftershave.

“Compensation,” he said with a strange twist of his eye.

Niall took a hasty step back.

“Are you winking at me?”

“No. No, sir, of course not. Just an unfortunate tick of mine.”

Niall turned away, disgusted. The man reminded him of the po-faced do-gooders who’d spent all the potato famine stirring up trouble against the English when they could have put themselves to far more use digging the soil.

This man was as much of a parasite as the crop-blight and he wanted nothing to do with him.

But Seamus, sadly, had woken up at the word “compensation” and now he grabbed the man’s arm.

“Why would we get compensation?”

“Loss of earnings, sir.”

“We’re on a full wage,” Niall snapped.

“For now,” Eugene said slyly.

“The works will be up and running again in no time,” Niall insisted.

“No doubt, no doubt, and you’ll be paid more then, will you?”

“More? Why?”

“Given that we now know this to be dangerous work.”

“Dangerous work,” Seamus echoed. “He has a point, Niall.”

“Don’t be stupid, Seamus. We knew it was dangerous before. Any fool would know that, and our wages already reflect the fact. They’re higher than you’d make in most labourer’s jobs – that’s why we came, remember?”

“But what if I’d been crushed?” Seamus demanded. “What would Brigid and Ciara do without me to support them?”

“Exactly!” the lawyer said, taking Seamus arm, clearly spotting a weak prey, but Niall seized his brother’s other arm and yanked him away.

“We’re not interested!” he shouted, dragging Seamus aside.

“What did you do that for?” Seamus demanded, riled.

“The man’s a leech. He just wants his cut, that’s all.”

“Which is fair enough if he does a good job. Why should we not try for compensation?”

“Because, you idiot, we’re on temporary contracts and there’s plenty more men clamouring for the work. Why would they raise our wages when they can just release us? And then what? You’ll have to go home to Brigid’s father with your tail between your legs and beg to live under his roof.”

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.