“It could be worse,” Carli said, patting her uncle’s arm.
Luke stared at her and then looked back to the smoke filled building. “I suppose so,” he said.
“No-one got hurt,” Carli said. “The fire alarm worked, everyone shut down and got out and it was all quickly contained.” She glanced across to Gareth who was sweating and smoke stained.
Gareth coughed as he came over. “Everyone got out fine,” he said. “And it’s only the stuff in the stores that got burned.”
“This could ruin us,” Luke said quietly.
“No!” Carli cried. “It’s just a little fire. The building is still here.”
Luke shook his head. “We’re going to have to get rid of almost all the stock,” he said. “We’ll have to dump it all. The stuff that isn’t burned or soaked from the sprinklers and fire fighters will stink of smoke. We’re talking a loss of thousands. The stores will have to be completely refitted.” He sighed. “And if it’s to go again then the whole place will need to be rewired.”
“At least it was only the stock areas that got soaked,” Gareth said. “That and the knitwear looms. And what about insurance? You must have that.”
“That’s something,” Luke said. “It’ll cover the lost stock. But I only got the basics. It won’t cover lost time and it won’t cover the rewiring.”
Gareth slowly walked over to Carli and hugged her. She sagged a little and leaned against him. “It’s okay,” he said. He took a deep breath and looked around. “This is salvageable. We just need to be methodical about it.” He looked around and started giving orders. “Jed, Syed, Jasmine, I want you to start getting all the electronics out of there. It’s going to be damp and smoky so the quicker that they’re out of there, the better for them. Label each computer, printer, scanner, whatever, tape the wires to the item and get them over to the old drying shed. Keith!” Gareth looked around for the boggart normally found in on the weaving floor. “Keith, find some trollies for the office stuff, then we’ll need your help checking over the machines. Most of the sewing room should be fine but we need to check.”
“Gotcha,” Keith said before loping off towards the sheds, closely followed by Jasmine, Syed and Jed.
Gareth looked down at Carli. “Go to the warehouse, pick up a load of boxes and start packing up your office. Take photos as you go for the insurance, just in case,” he said. “Pat from the canteen should be able to help you.” He gave her shoulders a quick squeeze and then gave her a little push towards Pat. “Load up your car and mine and you can start working from the cottage,” he added. “The work isn’t going to stop.” Gareth moved Luke a little away from the rest of the workers who were milling around. “The electrics are toast,” he said. “All the wiring is fried. We’ve got a few working electric outlets in the old sheds and that’s it. We’ll need to check and see what’s survived. The computers had surge protectors, but I’m not sure about the new looms. Their computer parts are probably fried as well.” He watched Luke go pale. “It’s okay. That will be covered by the insurance and we can take the opportunity to upgrade,” Gareth said. “And we still have the old looms that we were using for the blankets for the special orders. They can run on generators and I know for a fact that you’ve got a couple of those stashed away in the sheds.”
Luke nodded. “That’s right,” he said. “And we’ll get the night shift working if nothing else,” he said.
“We need to get a price for washing, drying and folding all the smoke damaged stock,” Gareth said. “If we sell it off at a bit over cost, we’ll at least keep the cash flow.”
“You’ve been paying attention in those classes,” Luke said. Colour was returning to his face as he started to pace. “The dyes were in the storerooms along with most of the yarn.”
“It won’t take long to order replacement stock in,” Gareth said. “Besides, we need to be methodical.” He looked around. “Get in touch with the insurers. You need to know what we can do and when. If we take pictures as we go, we can get the building empty.” Gareth waved a hand. “There’s plenty of people here right now who need to keep busy until they’ve had a chance for the adrenalin to wear off. We need to get as much cleared out, dried off and into the sheds as we can.” Gareth took Luke’s arm and lowered his voice. “The night shift, those workers on that particular loom? They’re brownies. If you want the best cleaning job you’ve ever had, they’ll get you the best contacts and the best price. It won’t be cheap, but it will be worth every penny. Trust me.”
Luke looked at Gareth for a long time. “Since you came with your new ideas, business has soared,” he said. “And with Carli’s designs, the money is rolling in. On the other hand we’ve got werewolves, brownies, goblins, boggarts and the fair folk all over the place and some strange stuff happening.” He shook his head. “I know that the electrical short was overdue, and it could have been a lot worse, and that the deal with these other types could save our bacon, but it’s not canny.” Luke shuddered. “And still no sign of Kidder?”
Gareth shook his head. “We’ve got people out looking but there’s been no sign,” he said. “The main hope that we have now is a magic ritual, believe it or not.”
Luke stared at him. “I’ve heard everything now,” he said. He looked at the people milling around. “I suppose I do believe it because with everything else…” He pursed his lips and nodded to himself. “You get everyone moving. You’ve got a way with you. We’ll need the room with the old looms sorted, the other old looms brought out of storage and put roughly in the right places. Vince can sort out the generators and Carli can sort out some extra patterns for the blankets. They’ll keep the lights on for a week or two.” He nodded. “We can do a fire sale on the internet and keep people busy there.”
“Your office and the archives need to be packed up,” Gareth said. “You should supervise that, with all the confidential stuff.”
“We need to get everything out,” Luke said. His gaze roamed over the old mill building. “Like I said, you and Carli have changed everything…” He turned suddenly to Gareth. “Are you two getting on okay?”
Gareth was thrown by the change of subject. “Yes, we’re fine,” he said. “I mean, we’re doing okay.”
“And you’re looking after her?” Luke said. “After she got stalked by that werewolf, well, we were all worried. It’s better that she’s safe up here.”
“I’ll always look after,” Gareth said. He looked over towards Carli as she and Pam discussed their plans and his heart warmed a little. “I’ll always be there for her.” He shook his head. “But what were you saying about getting everything out?”
“That mill hasn’t had a proper clear out since 1902,” Luke said. “There may not be attics, but there are cellars that have been locked up since I was a lad and there are all sorts of junk stuffed into the corners. It’s like the dyes, remember, those months ago? Everything has been just stacked and dumped and shoved to one side. We’re going to empty the mill, give it a good fettling and get everything set out. Besides, I don’t want to wait until there’s another accident.”
Gareth stared at Luke and turned back to the mill. “That’s big job,” he said quietly. The mill was massive and less than a quarter was in use.
Luke nodded. “But it’s overdue, lad, and now’s the chance.” He nodded to the rest of the staff. “Keep them busy today and they can have tomorrow off. You, Carli and me are going to sit down at my house tomorrow and work out what happens next. I’ll call Syed in as well, and Keith.” He nodded to himself. “I’m getting too old for this game, but you and Carli can make the difference. It’s not winding down anymore.”
It was Bron that replied. “It sounds like you have a lot of plans in mind,” he said. “Plans which could use an assistant manager.”
Luke frowned. “Yes, an assistant manager would be very welcome but it’s not going to be you, lad, not with your second job,” he said. “Just get everyone moving and send some boxes up to my office.”
“I’ll get on it,” Bron said.
“Hang on a minute,” Luke said. “This magical ritual thing – will you need space for it?”
Bron nodded. “I’m no expert,” he said. “But there’ll be a lot of people standing around and doing what they do. Why?”
“Kidder’s one of ours,” Luke said. He nodded at the mill. “And there is a lot of empty floor space in there, in an empty building, and it will all be nice and clean. Don’t make too much mess, just get Kidder back to us. I’ll make sure that you have the keys and the alarm codes.”
Bron swallowed a lump in his throat. “Thank you, sir, it’s a help.”
Luke grunted. “Glad to hear it. Now let’s get moving.”
Dan jumped as Edragor shut the door to his office. “I didn’t hear you come in, my lord,” he said.
“I know,” Edragor said smoothly. “You were deep in thought.”
“I’ve been researching a suitable subject for your… experiments,” Dan said. “But I’m struggling a little. Any subject will have some damage. I’m not sure how to prioritise.” He looked briefly up at Edragor. “If we could consider the sort of damage that would be unimportant to a resurrected subject then I could refine my search.” Dan felt his gut heave at the thought of it.
“That’s a valid point,” Edragor said. “For the Halloween project, I think we should use Claire. That will give us a baseline. Mark is unlikely to last the night, so we don’t need to worry about him.”
Dan tried to stifle his sigh of relief. “And you asked me to look for a suitable place to perform the rituals,” he said.
“Yes, of course,” Edragor said, pacing around Dan’s small, paper-strewn office. “The space here is a little limited, especially as there will be two rituals with different requirements to run in sequence. Besides, I know that they will be on the watch for magical influences so I don’t want to lead any hostile onlooker to our home. Have you found somewhere useful?”
Dan grinned. “I’ve found the perfect place,” he said. “Kidder was working at a place called Ossett Mills, not far from here. Yesterday there was a small electrical fire and the mill was evacuated and closed until all the electrics can be checked. The place will empty.”
“How bad was the fire?” Edragor asked.
“Not too bad,” Dan said. “But they’ve cleared the entire building. We would be undisturbed. And it’s not even in the main buildings,” he added. “There are some cellars that haven’t been disturbed in years. They’re empty, they’re not part of the alarm system, and because the building was in use, the cellars are in pretty good shape.” He risked a glance at Edragor’s face before looking quickly back to his computer. “And Kidder may appreciate it.”
Edragor reached out and caught Dan’s chin in his thin fingers. “Look at me, Dan,” he said. “You should be comfortable when you look me in the eye.”
Dan stared helplessly into Edragor’s hypnotic gaze. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said.
Edragor smiled a thin smile. “You are still too tender hearted,” he said. “You can’t bear the thought of pain to our… subjects.” He wagged an indulgent finger at Dan. “We’ll practice on Claire straight after we link Kidder to the Orache Stone. We can collect data then.” He frowned. “And perhaps we can do some small tests on cats or dogs, to see how they react after being killed by drugs and then revived.” He patted Dan’s cheek. “That makes a lot of sense. Start making the preparations for the ritual. I’ll go and inform Kidder of the good news.”
Dan watched him go. He’d found out about the fire and the cellars from a delivery guy who was hanging around Dan’s favourite coffee shop. According to the delivery guy, though, the mill was far from empty. There were electricians around all day and patrols at night. All the alarms and cameras were functional. Dan may not be able to stop Edragor, but he may be able to catch the attention of those who could.
You can read the story from the beginning here