0051 – Bull & Hope: The Tower, Part 7

The tiny, extendable saw blade was making slow but steady progress on the chain. Life as a thief came with the ever-present possibility of imprisonment, and Hope had taken to carrying this emergency tool for such a scenario.

Freeing a chained book from a lectern wasn’t precisely what she’d had in mind when she picked it out, but this did technically count as an imprisonment situation: Bull couldn’t hope to squeeze through the hole that led, ultimately, to this chamber, and the book posed the pair’s only means of progress through the sealed rooms of the tower. If she couldn’t bring Bull to the book, she would simply have to bring the book to Bull.

She stood still, using the book’s own weight to hold its chain taut against the face of the lectern while she worked. She was nearly through already, and a few more methodical strokes with the saw severed one side of the first, largest link in the chain.

However, try as she might, Hope could not bend the ring, or part the two halves of the cut to allow the link below to slip out of its loop.

Her mouth tightened into a horizontal line of pure annoyance, inwardly cursing as she went through the whole labourious process again on the other side of the ring.

Finally, after much patience and the slow building of a numbing soreness in her hand, the link snapped into two neat C-shaped halves. The book fell to the floor, landing in a sprawl of empty pages.

As Hope left the sparsely furnished chamber, book in hand, she realised with hindsight that Bull’s suggestion would have been to simply smash the wooden lectern.

——————–

Bull’s clothes lay in a messy, expansive pile on the stone platform which formed the only dry spot in the room. He may not have been able to squeeze through the underwater passage, but Hope had been taking her time, and he wasn’t about to let the opportunity for a dip in the water go to waste.

He floated on his back, staring up at the ceiling. The sensation was extremely relaxing. Despite his huge size, and the narrow confines of the room, he had managed to find a position in which he could float with his arms and legs spread and still touch nothing at all.

Bull closed his eyes, his ears below the waterline. He could see nothing but the faint red of the blood in his eyelids, the occasional patches of colour where light had left an impression. He could hear nothing but the vague rumbling of the still water. All he could taste was his own saliva, and the clean, neutral smell of the surprisingly fresh water filled his nostrils. It was a meditative experience, and his mind began to relax and unwind.

This process was only interrupted when all the water drained from the pool suddenly, giving him a rude knock to the back of the head when his body hit the floor.

Bull rose up, cursing loudly. He stood, naked, on the slippery floor, and realised with some alarm that in the absence of water, he could not hoist his massive, heavy frame up onto the platform.

The platform that held his clothes.

Hope began to crawl out through the drained, exposed tunnel.

Moving with the speed of a man a third of his size, Bull retreated to the opposite side of the platform, hiding himself from her view.

“Y-you’re back, then.” He observed, gritting his teeth, wondering if she had seen him.

“Yeah.” His partner stated, sliding out of the tunnel easily, finding sure footing immediately despite the awkwardness of the maneuver.

“You couldn’t, uh, go up onto the platform and throw my clothes down to me, could you?”

“Your what?” She stifled a laugh.

“I was swimming!”

“You couldn’t sit still for twenty-five minutes?”

Bull neglected to respond, sitting down with his back to the base of the platform, offering nondescript grumbles. He could still hear Hope trying not to chuckle even as she hoisted herself up onto the high surface. A few moments later, he heard her voice from above him.

“Catch.”

He looked up just in time to catch the ball of clothes as it fell on him. His underwear fell loose from the bundle, landing in the shallow dregs of pool water at his feet. A stream of loud curses and cries of frustration filled the air as he donned his sopping boxers in a complicated series of movements that allowed him to move his arms and legs while still pinning the rest of his clothing between his midriff and the wall.

“Come on.” Hope chided him gently, amusement in her tone.

“Yes, yes, give me a moment.” He was nearly fully dressed now, his trouser braces snapping over his shoulders with a satisfying twang. It was a warm evening, and he had elected to leave his jacket and tie at home, on the basis that it would probably be a long night of punching people in the face and stomach in comfortable indoor conditions.

His partner eventually lowered herself from the platform with a wet squish. She was still more or less soaked through, and it took conscious effort to keep his eyes in respectful places.

“How did you drain the water?” He asked her.

“Well, we both worked out that whoever built this place doesn’t want any intruders to actually die.” Hope said. “So I lay in the tunnel until I nearly drowned.”

“And the water drained automatically?” Bull raised an eyebrow. “That proves it, then.”

Hope nodded.

“But why did you bother? Couldn’t you just swim back through?” Bull asked.

“Because I had to keep this dry. I came back for it afterward.”

She grinned, producing the book from the lower floor, wrapped neatly in cloth. It still bore the hole through which it had been chained to the lectern.

Hope handed Bull the book. “Would you care to do the honours?” She asked him.

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