61: Breaking Out The Big Guns

The sound goes: stomp stomp shuffle stomp.

Rosalyn is the first to hear it, her ears twitching under her mass of hair. All that time in the dark has made her hearing fantastic. She can hear things that are normally inaudible to the human ear. She can sniff out things, too. And the smell in the air is one of impending violence, of too much testosterone and pent up aggression. And it is getting closer.

The stomp stomp shuffle stomp becomes a swarming mass of bodies. They are coming through into the Staff Only area, into that sacred space where books are catalogued and tagged and barcoded, and where the under-appreciated frontline staff can take some respite from the screaming hordes by tapping quietly on keyboards and worshipping at the altar of Dewey. But The Borrowers have crossed that magical line. It can only mean one thing: WAR.

‘What the pig?’ says Bob, puffing out his chest.

Katerina looks around for Linda. Linda would know what to do, which rules had been broken, which bye-laws had been contravened, and she would sort these Borrowers out with a few short sentences. But Linda is still off on the mission with Mike, and as Katerina realises this, her heart sinks.

‘What’s going on?’ Garry asks. ‘Do you think they’re angry about being cooped up in here all day?’

‘No. This is something else entirely.’ Katerina whispers.

‘No Petition Will Right This Wrong!!’ comes the chant. It is repeated over and over until it fills the entire room and starts rebounding off the walls. Rosalyn squeals and runs into the lift, disappearing back down into her subterranean world. Garry is not quick enough to follow her. He turns to The Borrowers, angry now.

‘Get out of here!’ he yells. The first missile hits him square in the chest. It is a book of Monet’s paintings. It is two inches thick, and even though it is a paperback, it still manages to knock the wind out of Garry. It is a warning shot.

‘Oi!’ grunts Bob, and he is greeted with Wendy Richards’ biography smacking into his shoulder. Picking it up, Bob mutters ‘I’ll give you My Life Story!’ before hurling it back into the midst of grunting, seething Borrowers. In unison, Bob and Garry sweep everything off Bob’s desk and up-end it, taking cover behind the wooden frame. Katerina pushes John to the floor and crouches down next to him. She wonders where his fighting spirit has gone. Can’t he see there are books being damaged? John just holds his knees and rocks like Arthur Fowler did when he stole the Christmas Club money. Katerina wonders if she should invoke Google. That would get John fighting again. But twice in one day? John has never had to deal with Google twice in one day before. They could lose him forever. It would have to be a last, absolutely final resort.

More books come flying over their heads. The brick-like Whitaker’s catches the leg of the desk and slams loudly to the floor.

‘This is getting pigging serious now,’ says Bob. ‘They’re breaking out the big guns.’

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