Perilous Artifacts: Dressed for Success
Pieter gabbled an inarticulate sound of protest, but Olive shook her head at him. She swiveled in her seat and demanded, “Can’t this rust bucket go any faster?”
Harry gunned the engine and honked the horn at the produce truck trundling along ahead of them. With a loud steamy hiss, it pulled off to the side of the tunnel. They rumbled past, turning into a narrower, poorly lit tunnel.
Olive gripped her satchel and stared hard at barely glimpsed figures hunched deep in the shadows, but none of them showed any signs of interest in the steamer. There was no traffic to delay their passage. Harry opened the throttle, sending the steamer racketing through the tunnel at a terrific rate. Thirty blocks on, the tunnel ascended a steep slope between high walls constructed of rubble and fill. After five hairpin turns, they exited into a cleared space beyond which lay The Ravine.
Olive alighted from the steamer, waiting only for Pieter to jump down off the running board to clear the way for her.
A guard stood a lonely vigil in the post to the left of the nearest ladder leading down into the allotments. Olive nodded in his direction and stopped her escorts out of his earshot. “Harry, do you have any canvas sheeting in your boot?”
“I might. It depends on what you want it for,” he said cautiously. “Some of it is rather filthy.”
Olive nodded. “Give Pieter your boot key. Pieter, we want the cleanest of those sheets. Please bring them down to the first landing, and turn right. Wait for me beneath the overhang.” She wanted Harry manning the rope as she descended.
“How much do you think we’ll need?” Harry fished the key out of his pocket and handed it over.
“Three or four ought to do it.” She handed her basket to Pieter. “You can carry them in this–if you find it easier.”
“There ought to be three or four good sections in the boot,” Harry agreed.
Demoted from “sir” to errand-boy, Pieter meekly headed for the boot of the steamer.
“’Ere now, I’m coming with you,” Harry hurried to join Olive as she quickened her steps toward the outcrop hanging over the ravine.
Well back from the edge, she stopped and handed the satchel to Harry before removing her rope and other climbing gear. Below the outcrop, terraced gardens descended to a narrow stream that sparkled faintly with sunlit reflections from the steep far wall of The Ravine.
A tough, gnarled old tree grew out of a crack running back into the outcrop. Harry double-tied one end of the rope to the trunk while Olive secured the other around her waist and tied crampons over the soles of her boots. Then she draped the netting over her hat and swathed it about her neck before securing it with pins to her jacket.
Harry assisted her in pinning it securely in the back as she pulled on her gloves. Then he grabbed the rope and passed it behind his waist, leaning back well away from the edge of the rock as Olive lowered herself down over it until she swung free below the overhang with the rope dangling beneath her.
Bees flew past her on both sides, intent on their own private business, as yet unaware of her designs on their treasure.
For the next installment (available next Tuesday), read Perilous Artifacts: Vernise Bees, where Olive makes a worrisome discovery.
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