As interesting as it was to be in Ye Olde Barnsley Prison Yard(e), it didn’t take long in that blazing heat to make me sincerely regret not quitting while I was ahead back at the L&E tower lost and found. I could have found another way to navigate up Prince Philip Street to Collins square, or worst-case I could have waded through the muck. Headed Rose off at the pass, so to speak – or, dare I say it, headed her off at the past?
Looks like I dare.
But seriously. Would a shoes-off, cuffs-up slug through the ooze really have been as bad as this awful, enthusiastic, probably-maybe-early-Twentieth-Century sun?
Well, it didn’t really matter, because if the interior of Colonel McOldentimes’s cupboard was any indication, whatever I’d stepped through to get here was one-way. So the best way through was forward. And besides, my logical deductive reasoning and problem-solving ability was enough to tell me that Rose must have known – or found – a way to escape this era, because if she’d come here by accident while trying to cross the basement of the L&E tower, she would still have been somewhere in the vicinity of Colonel McOldentimes, having a nervous breakdown or giving him a piece of her mind, or possibly both at the same time.
I was momentarily distracted by the mental image of Colonel McOldentimes declaring Rose “hysterical” and giving her a good old-fashioned head-clearing slap in the face. Then I reminded myself that getting distracted by mental images while standing on the edge of a salt lake in the blazing sun was a good way to get heatstroke.
No, Rose had walked in here like she owned the place, had taken full advantage of Colonel McOldentimes’s continuum-protecting lack of damn-givey, and had strode purposefully on towards what was evidently her intended destination. A one-way door back out of this nasty oven of yesteryear, and into the nasty septic tank of the present day. Preferably …
Preferably out of the main affected stink-hole and swamp area, and even more preferably somewhere near Collins square. Could it be that simple? Could Rose be so magnificently persnickety, she was actually willing to travel in four dimensions if travelling in three dimensions meant getting her shoes dirty?
Rose had very obviously missed her calling. What a super-sidekick she would have made.
Looking back across the baking sand at the administration office where Colonel McOldentimes was still sitting and puffing his pipe with every indication of intending to continue doing so until the L&E tower was constructed around his undernourished colonial arse, I squinted and tried to calculate in my mind how things would look in the present day. Okay, so for a start there’d be thirty feet of additional sand and concrete and other stuff, but the general floorplan – and, zooming out, street map – was simple enough. At the moment, for example, I was standing fairly close to the point where the corridor from lost and found opened out onto the lobby, so another couple of dozen paces in this direction would get me to the equivalent of the front doors, or at least a level beneath them. From there, a left turn would take me up the underside of Prince Philip Street.
But that wasn’t the direction Colonel McOldentimes had pointed me in. According to him, Rose had gone the other way, between a couple of other sheds and out towards the fence. Where there were no doors or buildings or anything I could see.
I tried to think four-dimensionally, which I confess was difficult enough for me in three dimensions. Where, in the present-day world, was she heading? It looked like …
I blinked, uncertain, and then I managed to coax a trot out of my ill-advisedly-black-clad body. I still wasn’t certain, but the way my luck was running, and the way complications just seemed to be piling on top of complications in this ridiculous case, there could really be no doubt about it.
Rose was heading for the Prism.