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That's The Ticket!
Main Street Station
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone and her lieutenant - a scrawny ginger lad calling himself Albert - confer, while the army sweeps the crowds."Tee Dee, Bert. that's what we're looking for. any connections to that."
Albert nods emphatically, his eyes shining with the thrill of the hunt. "Tee Dee." he climbs up onto Callia's shoulders to peer through the Station Master's office window.
He spits on the window, and rubs at the grime with his fist. This does not make the window an awful lot clearer. Rather, it serves to transfer more grime onto the glass.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone says, "'y'see anything, Bert? anything that looks important? that might earn us a few bob?" Albert frowns, pressing his snotty nose to the window pane. "errr. . . dunno. . .i think. . .somethin"
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone hops with excitement, nearly dislodging Albert from his perch. "whatwhatwhat? what can'ysee? is it a MURDERER? are they cutting their victim into BITS and putting it in a CASK?" suddenly. . .
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone realises the significance of this thought, as her usual squeamishness catches her up. she turns pale green, and staggers momentarily. Albert squeaks, and clings onto the window ledge.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone recovers her senses, and steadies Albert, as he gasps out "no, norraMURDERER i don't think! but something BIG and DARK, and it's COMING TO GET US!" he recoils from the window in terror, as a dark shape looms behind the glass.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone yelps in fright as Albert tumbles off her shoulders onto the platform, and the office window is thrown open. The stationmaster, irate and dark-uniformed, leans out.
"Now will you young ruffians get away, I tell you! look what you've done to my nice glass, and my beautiful platform, g'WAN get AWAY with you before i come out there myself"
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone looks like she might argue. But Albert is back on his feet, and tugging at her sleeve. He's pointing. "train's here, calli, let's gerron quick before he can tell us off more"
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone hesitates. The Irregulars swarm. The stationmaster shakes his fist. Albert tugs, the train chuffchuffs and the Driver leans out and waves. that settles it.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone gives the stationmaster a cheeky grin, while Albert whistles to round up the Irregulars. As the train pulls to a halt, doors bang and passengers disembark, and in their midst. . .
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone and her army of snotty-nosed detectives fight their way into the carriages, and lean out making faces at the stationmaster. He looks like he might blow a gaskett, but fortunately,
The train does not stay long. There's a long Hooot from the whistle, and a vast billow of steam, and then with a slow and steady chuffing it sets off to continue its run.
The stationmaster sighs. Some days were sent to try him. He pulls a shammy leather out of a drawer, and sets about cleaning Albert's snot from the window, before returning to his desk.
On The Train
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone and a swarm of equally grubby Local Kids swarm aboard the train. After a few moments' chaos, they collect around Callia and her lieutenant - a scrawny ginger youth by the name of Albert.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone gives Albert one of her spare passes, and then says to the rest of the gang, "hssht, make yourselves scarce, ticket collector's coming and i ain't got enough for all of you."
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone and Albert assist the Irregulars, as they clamber into luggage racks and under seats, and collide with the water boy and put sticky fingerprints on all the windows and leave chewing gum on the seats, and in a few moments, the entire carriage is devoid of evidence. Well, at least, the Irregulars themselves are not visible. Nor do they scarcely dare to breathe, while Callia and Albert set about looking as nonchalant as you please.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone hears a commotion, and grabs Albert's arm. "it's him, he's here!" and an expectant hush settles over the invisible army. but she's wrong, it's not the ticket master, it's Elias.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone tugs Albert towards the lucky dip. "you go first." Albert grins at her, and nearly up-ends himself into the dip. Elias gently gets him by the collar to haul him out.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone bounces. "whatchagotwhatchagot?" she peeers over his shoulder, as Albert unwraps his lucky find. He wrinkles his nose. "s'just a pack of cards" he says, disappointed.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone claps him on the shoulder. "better luck next time, eh Bert? anyway, my turn now." and she follows his example. Once more, Elias' aid is needed, to extricate the questor.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone waves her prize a loft. "a cigarette! i got a cigarette!" but then she notices Albert's crestfallen expression. she hesitates, but only for a moment. "here. swapsies."
Albert looks up. "what, really?" his face is full of not-quite-daring-to-hope.
"well course i am" she replies, giving him a friendly shove. "i can get other cigs. you have this. i'll take the cards." Grubby Sleuth calliaphone pushes the cigarette into Albert's hands. he offers her a grin in reply, and gives her the pack. she turns them over in her hands. and frowns. "here, Albert. these aren't no ordinary cards."
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone opens the pack to show him. He peers at them, open-mouthed. "what is it then? one of them funny joker ones?"
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone shakes her head authoritatively. "naw, nothing like that." as if she would know. "but look. they're not all yer funny spades and whatnot. they're engines!" she holds up a card. It displays a picture of the Flying Scotsman. And underneath the picture, in small print . . . the locomotive's specifications.
Albert ooohs, and rummages through the pack. He says, "not just engines, calli! lookit this! it's a MONSTER!" the picture is of a stegosaurus, with the beast's weight and length and diet and other trivia displayed beneath.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone boggles. she looks at more cards. "wow, we got the Volkswagon De Luxe here, 1192 ccs, 36 bhp, top speed 69 mph!" her eyes are shining.
Sydney Fletcher feels something, something very dirty and dare she say it, sticky, scroffling about down around her feet.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone continues, "and the Lancaster Bomber, top speed 485 kmph! Bert! this aren't boring old CARD cards! these are TOP TRUMPS!" Albert stares at her, still open-mouthed.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone says, suddenly uncertain, "er, Bert. you sure you don't want 'em back?" he shakes his head. "yours, fair'n'square calli. a deal's a deal. besides . . . a cigarette, y'know?"
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone does know. she puts a hand on Albert's shoulder. there are few words for a moment like this. she simply says,"we'll play 'em together, though. s'no good on yer own." they exchange grins.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone looks up, and sees Sydney Fletcher. Also, she sees a station arriving, and the ticket collector still nowhere in sight. she nods to Albert. he whistles, and the Irregulars emerge from hiding.
Sydney Fletcher swings her feet up and puts them on the seat next to her, neatly avoiding the wet smacking noises that are now coming from under her. She produces a beaten old book and begins to read.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone grins and waves to Sydney. The sticky, grubby, scroffly youths all swarm around their Captain and Lieutenant, as the train pulls into Kittania. "c'mon you lot, this stop's ours"
Sydney Fletcher grins back, wipes some extraneous slime off her boots, and makes herself more comfortable for the rest of the journey.
Grubby Sleuth calliaphone and the Irregulars pour off the train onto the Kittania platform, leaving almost no evidence behind. almost.
(Back to Assembling The Army)
(Forward to The Irregulars In Cyberia)