MR PADDY’S PORTAL CHAPTER 13 IT’S NOT OVER TILL IT’S OVER

 

CHAPTER 13

IT’S NOT OVER TILL IT’S OVER

Time stood still in the little London flat that night.  It had been late as Pippa had made her way back to her flat.  The city, Pippa thought, had been made for the night. She sensed the city waiting as she moved through it.  People were everywhere looking happy, sad, busy or bored.  The city itself, that wonderful city of London never slept.  The tourist areas were lively and the pubs were full with people spilling out onto the footpaths.  The souvenir shops were still open and the fashionable restaurants were doing a lively trade, so it was a slow and steady walk, which had given her plenty of time to think.  Pippa knew her way through the maze of London streets close to her home as if she had been born there.

Pippa lay perfectly still in the darkness, waiting.  She was waiting quietly, without impatience or urgency, waiting for something, she knew not what. She breathed deliberately, deeply to displace the fear with sorrow, an emotion she felt she could cope with more easily.  Finally Pippa slept, finally, out of sheer exhaustion.  But her sleep was a troubled one filled with disturbing dreams. For some unaccountable reason in one of her dreams the clocks stopped at midnight. All of them.  And there were plenty of clocks, large and small, scattered around in the small space, so it was quite a mysterious development.  When Pippa woke up the next morning she felt terrible.  The speed of her pulse and the tension in her stomach proved the existence of the fear.  She had not transformed it even into sorrow.  Pippa realised that Louisa had figured prominently in her dreams. She felt a deep-rooted longing reflecting the need she had for Louisa to know of their success in bringing Lady Alicia Allways’ evil plans undone.

‘Louisa had been right,’ Pippa muttered to herself, ‘There was no such thing as coincidence or accident.’  Louisa used to tell her that every event, however random in appearance formed part of a design too vast and too alien to be comprehended by limited human understanding.  Pippa had not believed her at the time but she did now.

But of course Louisa was not there, so Pippa rang Merle instead and had a long talk with her.  In one sense though she was. Pippa stopped in her tracks when she considered that.  Louisa have may even organised the clocks collective stoppage to get her attention.  Her theory could not be proved of course.  Probably she realised later it reflected simply how much she missed Louisa in a practical sense. But when Pippa found that not only all the clocks had stopped but her watches too that she smelt the ‘proverbial rat’.  It made her careful. It made her cautious. She thought about staying home and not going to the bookshop but the excitement of the previous evening was still with her so she knew she simply cold not stay away.  She also knew that it was her method of leaving home that could betray her should anyone be watching the building. She changed her tactics and her methods to complement her new thinking.

It was time to go.  Pippa drank the rest of her coffee, washing her coffee mug and leaving it positioned to drain. She felt extremely silly.  Why was she sneaking out the back way from her block of flats?  It simply was not her style.  She was not the criminal. She seemed to have become a nervous wreck. But once there was no possible option then that was different.  That was the time when she stood up for herself. The shattering after effects of Lady Alicia had taken their toll. She drew herself together, drew herself up as much as she could and went out.  It was time to stand up and be counted once again.

So out the back entrance she went, passing the caretaker who did not even see her leave.  Milo was one of her guardians too, even though the word had gone out that at last they could stand down from full alert. They were still supposed to be on duty as some members of the gang remained at large. ‘Don’t remind me,’ she thought. She emerged tentatively into the raucous normality of Russell Square.

Pippa’s circuitous route became fun.  She made it so. She walked down through the adjacent park, past the British Museum and on down into the heart of the Covent Garden market.  Here she stopped and bought herself a cappuccino and a sticky bun from one of the many vendors treating herself and enjoying the carnival atmosphere.  Then she saw a rainbow-coloured umbrella that suited her happiness as she twirled it around. She could not resist it.  It rained so much in London that a rainbow umbrella would cheer her up on a gloomy day.  She smiled at the vendor as she made her special purchase and moved on. Pippa forced herself to walk right past the Grenadier Guard Bear who had literally saved her life. He was still on duty outside the toyshop. He seemed to nod his head gently at her in the breeze. It was an amiable walk through more colourful street vendors and brightly decorated shop windows until she arrived at her destination.  The difference between the teeming metropolis and the funny quiet backstreet in which the bookshop was situated was extraordinary.  One minute she was in bustle and the next minute in peace and it seemed today as if the peace was of a nurturing and wonderful depth. When she reached the comforting environs of the bookshop Pippa’s spirits soared.

But as she entered her happiness was short-lived. The first thing she noticed was the quickening sense of absolute recognition on the bears’ faces.  They were all seated in their usual spots and everything appeared to be back to normal. But Teddy looked as if he wanted to jump of his shelf.  Pippa thought the state of emergency was well and truly over. Still, if she took the trouble to listen to her inner self, she had to admit she felt as if there was a premonition of unfinished business.

Pippa felt even more unsettled when she saw the look on Tina’s face.  It was one of mute appeal. They did not have an opportunity to speak as Pippa had been followed into the shop by a couple of keen customers. There were practicalities that had to be completed.  The income from the bookshop’s daily business was well and truly down and so Pippa put aside everything else and dealt with her customers who demanded specialized attention.  They had been existing on unusual hours and irregular customers.  Regular clients could not take the ups and downs of their recent opening hours. Pippa served her customers like semi automation. Ostensibly she was thinking about how to restore the day to day fortunes of the bookshop.  In fact she remained worried about the missing members of Lady Alicia’s gang.

Once the customers had left she put the closed sign on the door and went to talk with Teddy.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Teddy with a worried frown on his face.  The other bears came down from their various spots and mingled with Teddy.  All of them, even Angela, looked concerned.

‘I don’t know,’ Pippa said. ‘I really, really don’t know.  But I feel as if this business is not over yet!’ She was sorry she had said a word because some of the smaller bears were crying.  Kristen Bear, in particular, had tears all over her furry face, which she was trying unsuccessfully to brush off with her little paws.

‘Nigel is coming,’ was all that Teddy could say.  ‘He will explain everything.’

‘Well, I am keeping the shop closed till he arrives,’ Pippa said with more certainty in her voice than she actually felt.

Nigel erupted into her orbit about an hour later.  He was like a breath of fresh air.  He picked Angela up and danced around the shop with her. ‘Do you think Pippa will come to lunch with me?’ he whispered in her ear. Angela became coy and said ‘You had better ask her that question, but I certainly would!’

He invited Pippa to lunch and she accepted.

‘It’s all over,’ he announced proudly to the bookshop in general as it was then customer-free and still closed.  He knew that the bears would be delighted.  They were tired after last night’s celebration but they seemed to regain their bounce as Nigel said this.  Pippa knew Nigel had been on the prowl during the early morning hours to try to deal with the other members of the gang who had threatened to destroy the whole sacred mapping programme.  By the look on his face he had been successful.  The bears, particularly Teddy and Tina, sat up and looked alert as he began to speak to Pippa.  She waved him away and went and spoke quite directly to Teddy and Tina.

‘I am keeping the shop closed until I get back from lunch, Ted,’ she said, ‘Make sure you all go back to your spots in case anyone is still watching the shop. I will be back before you know it.’

‘What about Abby?’ Teddy suggested.  But Tina shook her head.  ‘

I don’t want to bring her into any danger,’ Pippa replied and Teddy nodded and smiled at her. Tina opened her mouth to speak and then shut it again.  Her beady eyes looked wisely at Nigel and Pippa.

‘It looks as if everything is okay, ‘ Pippa added, just so Teddy and Tina did not worry.  And then she and Nigel were on their way.

When they settled down in their favourite pub ‘The Goose’ and Nigel had fetched the Guinness and ordered the meals he told her the story.

‘I went out to a few of the gang’s regular haunts,’ he said. ‘Because I had researched them I thought I knew where to find them.’  Pippa sat back listening attentively and sipping tentatively at the white froth of her Guinness as she did.

‘I lurked in the shadows outside Terry Twoshoes’ flat like a villain,’ he told her.  ‘I was determined to get things straight especially after what you had done with Lady Alicia!’ He took a dainty sip of his Guinness, watching Pippa’s reaction closely over the rim of his glass.

‘But how did you know where to go?’ Pippa asked him with curiosity etched all over her face.

‘It was so simple,’ he said, ‘When I finally thought of it I brought in Cawfield’s cousin, Candy, you remember,’ he added as if she could ever forget, ‘the one who went to the bookshop to deliver Mr. Paddy’s message just before we met.’

He took a quick and excited sip of his Guinness. ‘I set Candy looking everywhere possible to see whether she could find Big Arthur.’  He looked proudly out at her through his gorgeous eyes.  ‘I knew that Big Arthur would be more of an easy target resistance to ampicillin for the crows. And of course just after we arrived at the bookshop last night Candy came and told me that they had found him.’

Pippa was so excited she could hardly eat any of her generous serve of bangers and mash that had suddenly been delivered to their table.  Nigel tucked into his without any hesitation.

‘You look terrible,’ Pippa said bluntly. He looked up at her with an unguarded look of longing in his eyes.

‘Cut to the chase,’ she begged Nigel.  ‘Just tell me and tell me now, Nigel, have they all gone?  Are they all in gaol or somewhere where they cannot affect us any more?’

Nigel looked at her the candor now gleaming in his eyes and she knew she was going to hear the truth.  ‘I got Benton,’ he said.  ‘Benton was visiting Terry Twoshoes in his filthy flat.’  He paused and thought for a moment collecting his thoughts so that he could continue.

Meanwhile the lips that Pippa no longer controlled smiled at Nigel.  ‘Thank you,’ was all that she said. ‘All in a day’s work, but there’s more yet!’  Lines of fatigue and strain were etched into his  face.

‘Terry Twoshoes and Big Arthur had vanished by the time I dealt with Benton.’  He looked at her regretfully. ‘And no-one knows where Sava is, she has completely vanished.’

He waited before he continued.  ‘But you don’t have to worry Pippa, the others are small fry and now that the leaders are gone, then nothing else will happen.  We are free to continue the work and to move forward with the implementation!  Our celebration last night was certainly not too soon!’

Pippa sat back against the fading red of the pub’s pseudo leather furniture.  She gradually found herself really relaxing.  The rest of the lunch passed in a blur whilst Nigel talked and she just listened. It was a nice change, she thought, not having to worry and not having to do anything.

Nigel had handed Benton over to the police.  His record was as long as his arm so they had been delighted to claim him for their own purposes. ‘He’d been in so much trouble before.  Anyhow….’  Nigel paused, drank, and grinned. ‘Anyhow he was the mastermind we wanted.’   Nigel let his head rest against the back of his chair.  He raised an inquiring eyebrow at Pippa and they decided to return to the bookshop by mutual consent.

Back at the bookshop she spoke to him with concern in her voice.  ‘You do look tired.  Nigel, you’ll have to tell Mr. Paddy what has happened won’t you?’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll fix all that.’  And then he was gone. They all knew that a big celebration was planned in Ireland and Nigel and Pippa arranged to meet at the party, if not before.  Nigel would be calling into the bookshop but he still had work to do. It was not quite finished yet.

In the bookshop after hours there was a great deal of activity.  Whilst Nigel and Pippa had been running around the countryside dispatching villains, the bears had been getting on with in-depth work. The individual components of the maps of London were being completed.  Nigel had agreed to ferry them to York, thus saving Pippa yet another job.  She did not know how he got around.  He just seemed to appear and disappear but she had no time to worry about that right then.  She had too much to do to catch up, finish off the project and then prepare for a trip to Ireland.

It had been decided that the party would be held at Gerry’s private residence, an exquisite castle by all accounts, at the Bridges of Ross. She was excited about this because she knew from the crow vine that everyone who had participated in the success of the sacred mapping project would be there.  And that meant everyone. The list was extensive when you really came down to it.  Everyone seemed excited except for Pippa.  The bears were trying to cheer her up.  Angela had a bottle of vintage champagne opened immediately the bookshop closed that same night, but for the first time Pippa felt a little anti-social.  She told the bears she needed a quiet night at home and that was exactly what she did.  The phone rang repeatedly but she simply refused to take the calls.

On her way home that evening Pippa stopped to look at a jewelry shop window after opening hours. It was still boldly displaying some amber, which she absolutely loved.

Suddenly a low menacing voice that she immediately recognized hissed in her ear. ‘Make the most of your moment of glory, Miss Robbins.’ She turned startled.  It was Lady Alicia’s unusual messenger who had originally accosted her at the Hat Party.

Her look was malevolent.  ‘I assure you it won’t last. I’ll make certain of that.’

As Pippa opened her mouth to reply the woman turned away and before Pippa could do or say anything she had disappeared into the boisterous London crowd.  Pippa walked home despondently barely noticing the busker outside the pub not far from her flat sitting with his guitar his cat and his up turned hat soliciting donations. The cat was Big Arthur.  Big Arthur watched Pippa balefully as she headed for home. Pippa turned and went slowly and rather despondently inside.

There were words seemingly ringing in her ears.  ‘It’s not over till it’s over!’  Her head was dizzy with fear and worry.  Her mind seemed to have been affected by trying to absorb the incredible  implications of looking so far ahead into the abyss of time.  She was giddy with the sensations the new pictures of the re-mapped London gave to her.

The flat was stark and cold.  It had an unlived in feeling about it.  Pippa turned on the hot water heater and waited impatiently until she could squeeze herself into the small bathtub.  She added some bath salts and some of her energetic remedies to make a lovely relaxing mix so that she could wash away the memory of another threat. When she finally got out of the bath darkness had descended on London.  She had picked up an ‘Evening Standard’ on her walk home.  There was a headline in the paper that she had not seen before.

LONDON HOMELESS NUMBERS DECLINE

Pippa shouted herself a gin and tonic on the strength of it.  This was a sign that their work had actually had a very quick result.  What they were about to celebrate at Gerry’s party had been confirmed in reality.  The homeless were being looked after.   Pippa felt a deep sense of relief.

It was three days later and for the first time she walked to the bookshop without feeling frightened.  She opened up to some early customers and had sold ten books before noon, quite a passable result.

The day passed normally and Pippa walked home as usual.  She still loved London more than anywhere she had ever been.  Her experience was limited, of course, but her love of this teeming metropolis was real.  Suddenly Pippa noticed that a car up in front of her brought to a halt in one of London’s many traffic jams waiting patiently to move forward was familiar.  It was sitting there quite openly in the middle  of a stream of unending traffic.  Pippa stared at it and then she recognised the back  of the driver’s head and his dark curly hair.

It was none other than the inimitable Terry Two Shoes.  Her feeling of defeatism immediately fell away.  She was consumed by the desire to reach this man and knock his teeth through the back of his head.  She took no notice of the London cab driver who sat moribund in his cab breathing threats or curses.  She knew these things were only there to take her mind off the real job, the real job of getting to the heart of the trouble, and that was Terry.

‘Too bad,’ she thought, as she kept on going.  His day of reckoning had come at last. Pippa took notice of the people getting down in despair from the large double decker red bus in front of Terry’s vehicle apparently deciding it was easier to walk.

Pippa was filled with untapped energy as she vaulted over the railings separating her from the London traffic, took the passenger door handle in both her hands, almost falling to the ground as she wrenched it open.

‘Hi Terry, surprise, surprise.  Remember me.  We have some unfinished business.’

She managed to let this all out through clenched teeth.  His appearance in the flesh had acted as a circuit breaker for her.  She had resumed her old real self again and here she was in action. She knew unequivocally that she would always fight for what she believed in, with passion and dedication.  She knew that the untapped energy rising up in her was irrevocable even if it took her out on a limb.  She refused in that precise moment to be what at school had been termed ‘mealy mouthed’ any longer.  As she flung herself at the car she asked for someone, anyone who happened to be listening to her prayers to send her courage.  At last she had found the courage to be exactly who she really was.  Her voice was strong as she spoke the necessary words to Terry and she was afraid no longer.  Accosting him might straighten out her dreams, particularly if this time their personal battle resulted in her death or injury.  But still she was not afraid.  She just went ahead and did it.

Terry’s face as he looked down on Pippa from the heights of the big black car was an absolute picture of dismay with hints of delight.  But it was when she began to try to climb aboard the car that he got really angry. He shot out a powerful arm with his hand folded in a fist and punched her just near her heart.  She slid down the side of the car having been saved initially by the open door that broke her fall.

Terry’s face broke out into a grin of triumph because he could see that the traffic lights up ahead were about to change.  But luck, or was it more than luck, was on Pippa’s side once again.  Terry was so busy concentrating on Pippa that he failed to see the large London bobby who was at his car door. The door was opened and he was arrested before he knew what had happened.  The bobby had witnessed Terry’s punch but he decided, as a precaution, to take them both into custody.

Of course the first call that Pippa made from her confinement was to David Toddhunter. David appeared without too much delay and Pippa was able to walk away free.  David gave the documentation to the police that they needed and they realized that Pippa was a heroine not a criminal.  She had been trying to make a citizen’s arrest. She had succeeded with the help of the London bobby in bringing the infamous Terry Twoshoes to justice.  Sava, she knew, would not be able to function without Lady Alicia, Benton or Terry Twoshoes.  She was a puppet, an automation and not a woman in her own right.  She would probably  just disappear and all would be well at last!

And so tiredly but no longer dejectedly Pippa went back to her sanctuary at liberty at last from the perils that had lurked and threatened her in the dark nights.  She was free and she knew deep within herself that she was her own person now. Nothing could ever change that again. The events of the day had cast shadows across her face.  She needed time alone to clear out her demons wherever they were hidden within her.

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