Lucy made sure the house was tucked in snug and tight before she threw her white pea-coat on to attempt the crime of her lifetime. It wasn’t exactly her stealthiest of outfits but it would have to do. Besides, she needed it for the deep pockets – not the odd colour choice.
Thoughts of her twin flashed here and there but Lucy pushed them back. She had no time for her past -even as she walked to the dreaded Clock Tower. What mattered was her mother – their mother.
Lucy wrapped her grey scarf further around her neck. She decided to take the long walk down by the Times river, rather than a cabbie. There was no need to get anyone else involved in this affair. Besides, taxis cost money. Money that would be needed for doctor’s bills.
The night was still young, and the pubs were still quite full of rambunctious rebels and desperate escapees. Lucy tugged nervously at the ribbon in her hair as she passed. She didn’t need to get held back by some drunken idiots. Lucy walked faster, knowing that time was ticking away – knowing that she was wasting time.
Her boots hopped over puddles until she finally reached the Clock Tower. Her blood pounded in her ears. Was she really ready to do this? Lucy closed her eye, knowing she couldn’t debate it once more. Yes, she could easily turn around, go back to her family and wait for things to simply happen – to become a bystander. . . to her mother’s funeral. Passion filled her and determination took over.
Guards were posted at each corner of the huge Clock Tower’s gates. Yet the lit stairway leading to the double doors was left alone.
“Typical,” Lucy whispered to herself.
But she knew she needed to only be patient. While Top Hats were available at any time, the guards around the building would need to change eventually. Then it would be just a matter of avoiding the Top Hat at the receptionist desk and remembering all the little details Adrian had told her when the Giles had taken him to the Top Hat Equinox Masquerade.
“It was amazing, Lucy! There are men posted at the corners and then there were these really grand doors. Amazing structure – just windows going on forever. We went past the archways and there was this giant hall with stairs leading every way. I couldn’t help it, Mr. Giles tried to lead me immediately into the Immortal’s Hall, but I had to look at this side stairway. . .
Lucy laid on the nearby bench and pretended to sleep, turning over her younger brother’s Clock Tower stories. It may not be much, but each door – each stairs, it she couldn’t afford to forget even the smallest detail. But for now she would simply need to wait. Finally, nearly an hour later, the guards changed. The two facing guards casually walked off towards the Gentlemen’s Door.
Lucy sprung forward like a prepared cat. It wouldn’t be long before the other two would arrive. She had never moved so fast in her life. Her eyes scanned the door made of wood and gold, then the thick windows scaling the wall, wrapped in winding iron. Fear set in. Lucy had no way to break a window nor could she waltz straight into the Central Hall.
“There was this old grey door. Didn’t like anyone had touched it in ages. I mean the stairs themselves were tiny. I bet your feet could have fit easily, haha! Anyways, before ‘curiosity killed the cat’, this Top Hat yanked me back. Absolutely uncanny. I swear his grin was like something out of one of those dark novels you read. . .”
Finally, she crept into the door. If she could just get to that door. . .perhaps there was a chance. She held her breath as she slipped in the softly lit corridor. She felt her heart pounding in her neck as she pressed the door quietly closed. Yet, the slight click bounced against the marble pillars. Lucy looked at the pairs of black stone statues the lined the hall in perfect symmetry. Each displayed a dragon different from its neighbor. Some were curled up on defense and others wings were flung out with teeth bared.
Behind them were tapestries of each dragon with a masked Top Hat in combat. One caught her eyes as she leaned forward and squinted at the woven strings. Yes, it had to be the same one from her dreams. Instead of a top hat and gentleman’s attire, he wore a green hood with a black tunic and pants. But the mask was all the same. The dragon behind him was made of blue fire and black scales like the armor of the knights of old.
“Bloody hell, bloody hell,” she repeated over and over as she calmed herself. She found the small passage just across from the locked doors of the Immortal Hall. It was just as her brother had said, a small out-of-the-way staircase wrapped in dust and cobwebs. It was no wonder with the stairs being so small, her feet fit just right. Lucy’s heart pounded in her chest as she rested a hand against the door and gripped iron knob.
“The place is massive but so much of it is restricted from the public eye. Very private men, those Top Hats are. I’m guessing they don’t have many people wanting to clean those hidden passageways between room. I think I hear they are there for emergencies. You know, to get people out as fast as possible if a fire or something happened.
Lucy’s mind went reeling as she turned the knob and opened the old door. She begged it to remain silent in its old age. Yet the door couldn’t help but give a small groan as she slid her body through the way. Her fingers worked quickly to easy the door shut in time for a Top Hat to call down the hall.
Her brain ticked away at her new problem – she had no idea where the Top Hats would keep such a cure. Her eyes adjusted to her dark setting, taking it what it could from the moon and street lamps outside reflecting in the narrow upper windows. The narrow stairway led up and spiraled about. There was no turning back now.
Lucy took each step, careful not to press too hard on her heels. As she went upwards a chilly breeze whistled through, raising her blood pressure. Lucy held her breath as her hands reached up against the wall and found a cold edge ending the stairway. She looked out at the line of windows and the narrow balcony. She clung to a thick rope that lined the iron edges. This must be how one would get up to wash the windows of the Clock Tower. But Lucy hadn’t the ropes, pulleys, clips to keep her confidently balanced. Rather she held her breath as she wrapped her arms around the rope and ducked down as far as she could. She caught sight of an opening on the other side. As quickly as her footing would allow her, she pressed forward. She took in a stuttering breath keeping her eyes leveled with her goal.
Lucy slid onto the small ledge onto the next stairway that Top Hats had available. Sweat rolled off her forehead, and she quickly shrugged off her coat, knotting it at her waist. Lucy looked back on what she had just cross – specifically down at the painfully far grass and gravel ground. Her heart leapt up to her throat as she turned and quickly took to the next stairway. The way became wider and the stairs went from a spiraling to square along the wall. Lucy found the next door came before the stairs had properly ended. Yet, a basement seemed like an unlikely hiding place for Top Hat treasures.
Resting her ear against the old oak door, she listened for any sort of movement. She tested the knob and found the hinges more cooperative than the last. The hall was dimly lit with low burning flames. Lucy looked closer and could not find how they stayed lit without any gas or old containers to be seen. She looked further down from the dark red carpet to the high wooden and steel ceiling. Around her were paintings of various demon hunters – old and new. Along the passage were tall doors with sleeping dragon stained glassed along the tops. The sounds of rustles and snores startled Lucy as she slipped past each dormitory with care.
Lucy sighed in relief once she turned left at an side corridor and leaned her head back against the cool stone walls. When she looked again, she was met with the same dim lighting only this time with solid doors with small hooks for hand lanterns. Luckily, each slot was empty.
“Where the bloody hell am I?” she murmured, tipping to her toes. Lucy bit her lip as she turned down yet another small hallway. She froze as she noted the line of long windows traveling up to the ceiling on the right side of her. The left wall was luckily solid with rows of statues and ancient armor and a pair of solid Medieval styled double doors.
Lucy turned to catch a glimpse of what appeared to be an arena of sorts past the darken windows. She exhaled and began to walk down quiet passageway. She couldn’t help but find herself leaning into the window to catch a glimpse of what so many whispered on the streets.
“Were you on Fleet Street the other night? Lord, those flames. . .I have never seen anything like it. . .”
“They showed up out of nowhere. Those kicks and punches, quicker than any of them in the ring. . .”
“I swear it on me mot’er’s grave! I saw one! I saw me e drag’n!”
“What do you think it looks like in there? Some sort of magic dungeon? Or a boxing ring?”
Lucy clung tighter to her coat as she inched closer.
There was moonlight draping in from the thick glass roof to rest on the hard white and black marble floor. When she squinted, she could make out stone patterns as various dragon wings overlapping one another. The walls were harder to make out whether they were steel or wood. Suddenly, a small flame came to light in the middle of the arena.
Lucy’s jaw fell with her complexion. She screamed in her head as she rushed back to duck behind one of the flashier armor pieces. Desperately, she pursed her lips to keep herself from breathing so heavily as rumbles and murmurs came from the arena. After a few minutes had passed, she finally grew brave enough to peak over the excessive purple cape.
Flames of all colours flew from the ground as shards of what appeared to be metallic disks spun out from defensive opponents. There were low booming shouts as the Earth shook and the floor flooded with water.
Lucy was shaking in awe of it all. Was this what it meant to be a Top Hat? The rumors were true, to witness this was completely eye-opening. Four shadows danced amongst one another, while a handful of others watched. Even as her adrenaline pounded at her temple, she found the spar mesmerizing.
Suddenly, one of the metallic disks lost its directional pattern and flew straight at one of the windows.
“Oh bugger!” Lucy hissed, jumping back in fear. She had to run – now!
©2016 E. M. Vick