After the storm comes the bomb
I will never forget that stormy October night when everything changed unexpectedly. I was at home suffering for my plants, because the specimens in the yard were receiving the blows of the storm. The wind roared as if the apocalypse came, and to make matters worse, suddenly the electricity was cut. I started searching for some candles I kept for such emergencies, but couldn't locate them; after colliding with lots of objects in the dark, I resigned myself to wait for a better dawn.
Don't know how long I was asleep, but suddenly a flashlight came through the windows of my door and heard a desperate knocking. I immediately went to open, and great was my surprise when I had in front of me the man I had read about so much. Quillsh Wammy was completely soaked and holding a destroyed umbrella, but even then he didn't lost his characteristic phlegm.
—Good evening, —the gentleman said taking off his spoiled hat—. Would you be so kind as to provide shelter for my driver and a server? As you can notice, it is impossible to continue on our way.
I immediately invited them in. Mr. Wammy gave me his lamp so I could find the candles and bring towels and dry clothes. Fortunately there was enough hot water for both to take a bath.
—What brings you here? —I ventured to inquire.
—My sister died.
—I'm really sorry. She was buried in London, right?
—It's correct. I came to find a new director for the orphanage.
—Will be hard to find someone with the virtues of Miss Victoria. Here live simple people with little education.
—What I want is an honest person, who can inculcate values to the boys and have time for them. What is your occupation?
—I'm a gardener— I said proudly—. Although lately I haven't had work —I added, less conceited.
—I don't understand. The flowers I see here are magnificent.
—I use organic farming techniques that are slower than those that rely on chemicals and pesticides. I am a bug lover, and instead of destroy them I seek for plant combinations that keep them controlled.
—Very interesting —replied Mr. Wammy rubbing his thick mustache—. I see you have several books on the subject.
The rest of the evening we were talking about entomology. My interlocutor was so concerned, so my heart felt happy. No one had given me so much attention before. We went to bed late in the midnight, but the fury of the storm didn't decreased. I left for them my little room and settled into an armchair, but the truth is I couldn't sleep; I was afraid that my guest could discover the photo collection that Margaret had sent me. What a weird impression he would have gotten finding his portraits under my bed!
England suffered "The Great Storm of 87", so the travelers decided to stay in my home until the danger ended. I wished I could offer better food and attention, but I was not used to visits. Nevertheless, I think the great inventor got a good impression from me, because he ended up hiring me to plant flowers to fill the children's home.
On Sunday we finally moved. Along the way we encounter people who were in trouble by fallen trees or electrical failure, and my gentle boss stopped to provide all the help he could. Deservedly was a celebrity, and I felt honored to be integrated into his world.
Wammy's House worked in an elegant building that once was a convent. At that time it had beautiful stained glasses that an Italian artist designed to fill the place with multicolored lights, so I imagined I'd live in a castle. I liked so much those windows, that I wanted to hit L when he broke them, not knowing the windows would be destroyed anyway.
I have always liked to start working before dawn, because there are few interruptions, the air is fresh and you can see how some insects wake up and relieve the nocturnal critters. So, on my first day of work, at eight I had finished conditioning the soil and sowing the fine roses that would embellish the orphanage. To impress my boss, I brought him breakfast and correspondence personally.
Quillsh was reading the newspaper with a worried face. The headlines spoke about the hardships brought by the cyclone.
—You got a letter from Mr. Melbourne —I announced.
—How strange! What could he want from me?
—Can I read it for you?
He nodded, so I began: "Dear Mr. Wammy: I am pleased to invite you to the opening of the second Melbourne factory, which will be located in the new industrial area of Winchester. It will be an honor to have you here next Wednesday 21 at 6:00 PM to share the joy of this success. Sincerely, your friend Thomas Melbourne. "
—It's a shame, but I can't go —my employer said sarcastically—. At that time I have to play chess with my friend Roger Ruvie.
I smiled sheepishly, knowing that other entrepreneurs were able to displace Wammy's products. In a part of his daily he noted: "I feel uninspired to create. I've noticed that my inventions make life easier, but they do not fight the real evil of mankind, which is loneliness. "
Quillsh turned the page, and immediately his expression became jubilant.
—¡Eric Clayton will perform at Dunsfold! He will offer a charity! —exclaimed jumping from his seat, and went in haste to get into his car.
—Are you going to leave without breakfast, Sir? —I cried.
—The tickets are limited —he said, while Ralph the driver started up the vehicle.
I understood his enthusiasm, who did not love Eric Clayton? Such question acquired a dramatic tinge when L found the answer.
That day, my employer did not return. Later I knew he was preparing the property known as "The Lions Mansion", which would serve him as residence during his stay in Winchester.
The next morning, the aristocrat came to the orphanage carrying up two tickets as a sign of victory.
—I did it, Mr. Ruvie! There were no tickets available, but I managed to get these from two friendly gentlemen.
—Did you have to aim at their heads? —I dare to joke.
—This time my rifle wasn't involved —Wammy laughed—. I just had to get the list of attendees, identify among them the ones who owe me money and pay them a "casual" visit in their homes. When they knew how much I want to see the artist, could not refuse to let me have their passes.
—And who will acompany you ? —I asked with excitement.
—I don't know yet. Maybe I'll make a casting —he continued with good humor—. But first I must find the new manager of this place. Could you help me, Mr. Ruvie?
I knew the staff who worked at the orphanage: they were all working people, with a large family to attend, but Wammy needed someone to stay with the boarders 24 hours a day. For a moment I wanted to apply, but I felt unconfident because of my little education. Also, if I'm honest, I have never liked children very much.
On Wednesday we left very early to buy new clothes and books; my boss was planning to give them to the children during the birthday of Willy, the oldest of the thirteen orphans. They were in good health, and their knowledge was acceptable, but my boss lamented that they had no scientific aspirations. I expected at any moment we would go to the inauguration, but at six o'clock we were playing chess as predicted.
"A fire near here!", the children shouted in unison, betwixt excited and terrified to see the morning news. Quillsh and me rushed to the living room and saw the images of the Melbourne II factory being consumed by flames. The incident began at eleven at night, when there was no one inside, as the watchman had gone to investigate a cry for help coming from the outside.
Wammy asked me to take care of the hospice, and headed to the disaster zone. As creator of anti fire systems, the event aroused great interest in him. He came into a roped off area enveloped by smoke of very unpleasant smell. Firefighters had already achieved smother the fire, and were removing debris off the paths. From the big sign with the word "Melbourne" only the letter "L" remained, hanging half charred. Quillsh felt a look at him and turned his head to discover a small figure with a brown coat on top of a neighboring building. The intruder disappeared quickly, and my friend had the urge to go to haunt him until shouts distracted his attention.
—All of you are idiots! I shouldn't have trusted useless people like you! —Thomas Melbourne insulted the policemen flanking him as he left his devastated property. My boss waited for him to go away to request officers to allow him to inspect the ruins; accustomed as he was to go everywhere, never imagined a negative.
—You cannot trespass. —A guardian blocked him.
—Let me look. I'm specialized in this type of disasters. My knowledge could come in handy.
—You can't access. It is a delicate matter. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Quillsh had no choice but to leave. He was about to get into his car, when he remembered the guy with the brown coat. Why the hell was he looking at the ruins? Came to his mind the adage: "the criminal always returns to the crime scene" so he decided to look for him.
Since all the industries of that section had been evacuated as prevention, would not have to be civilians hanging around. Wammy revised the structure where the intruder was, and found that all doors and windows were tightly closed; however, around the building he found several barrels that allowed reaching a ladder to the roof. The floor was covered with charred fragments with a series of footprints confirming that someone went up there and ran away swiftly. For a moment my boss wanted to report the find to the police, but remembered the bad treatment they had given him and decided to continue by himself following the trail down the long corridor of the industrial area. As they left the site, the marks ceased to be light holes in the ash, to become black footprints revealing the fugitive was not wearing shoes.
The tracks ended in a park with traces of soot indicating the pursued one had wiped his feet on the grass. There was no way to continue in his footsteps. It was difficult for a child to burn down an entire factory, so Quillsh thought it was rather a very short man. Knowing that such an individual doesn't usually go unnoticed, he interrogated traders around the garden, but everybody denied seeing the suspect. Feeling tired and hungry, my friend decided to go to the orphanage to eat and comment what happened.
The evening news didn't give better details about the fire; it was said that a failure in the electrical systems had caused it, but Wammy believed that the outsider was the real culprit, so we decided to launch a new investigation. I accompanied my boss to review the way he followed in the morning, but all signs had already been erased. We sat in the park to decide what to do.
—I've thought a lot, Mr. Ruvie, and I conclude the lack of shoes of our suspect may indicate two things: he removed his shoes to make no noise, or he is an indigent, maybe an orphan.
—In that case, we should investigate the second option —I said—. A person without money cannot go very far; however, if we face a professional criminal, it will be almost impossible to find him.
—It's a practical reasoning. I propose to divide us: I will go investigating through the houses of this block, and you will locate potential hiding places.
So we did. I devoted myself to look into alleys, under cars, benches and any place where a child could fit. My partner had estimated his age based on his height.
—Have you seen around here a little boy about eight years, barefoot, using a brown coat? —Quillsh asked an old woman.
—Yes, I have seen him —she replied—. A few hours ago I gave him a sandwich and a drink. I'm glad you're going to take him to the orphanage, because the unfortunate is very skinny.
In the homes of the zone, Mr. Wammy received similar reports, and regretted not having continued his inquiry before. On another street, he found a beautiful beagle that barked frantically until his master went to answer the door.
—That boy is Reizo —declared the resident—. He worked looking for lost pets, but then everyone said that he stole dogs for the reward, and we never saw him again.
Meanwhile, I had found three abandoned buildings in the area. One had a terrible smell of insecticide; it was obvious they had just fumigated. The second had trellises at all entrances and windows, so hardly anyone could enter and exit from there. Reviewing the third, finally found what I wanted: a small child, dressed in a brown coat was kicking the door trying to open it. I walked in silence, but he discovered me and took off running.
—Don't be afraid, my friend! I'm from Wammy's House! Would you like to have dinner with us? —I cried.
—Do you really come from the orphanage? —He said, stoping. His face was very hurt—. I am scared. My parents hit me and I don't want to be with them, but my life in the street has gone very wrong. I'm starving.
I hugged the boy and took him to the car, where Quillsh already was. He opened the door and looked at the tearful kid, but said nothing. All the way, we were silent, until we came to a notary office.
—You can stay with us as long as you want, but it is necessary to do some paperwork. This way your parents cannot recover you by force —told my boss.
The three of us entered the office. In less than an hour, the lawyer drew up a document that allowed us to custody the boy, whose name was John Dunne. Later we went to a hospital for him to have the necessary cures, but since he had nothing serious, we could take him home immediately.
Our orphans were silent while they observed the sad face of the newcomer. They had the bad habit of welcoming with a savage ambush, but that time they kept composure. When John went to bed, he made a gentle smile and said: "Today was my lucky day. In the morning, that boy gave me his coat, and at night, I received a home. "