Research gets results
Out in the corridor she closed the door behind her, knowing that the Margrave wouldn’t want his son to see him like this, and called to Edgar.
“Have you finished?” he said as he appeared round a corner. “I hope you’ve cheered him up a bit, he’s been so glum lately, ever since you went away in fact. It’s better now though isn’t it, now you’re back?”
Laura couldn’t bear to think about what was about to happen to them all but she didn’t feel sad. Seeing Edgar’s trusting face, and thinking about how the Margrave seemed to have given up, enraged her. She wasn’t going to just sit about and wait for the flood, she had to try and do something.
“Can you take me to the entrance near my flat please?” she asked.
“Which one was that?” Edgar sounded doubtful.
“In Queens Wood, you took me there before.”
“Oh yes, after you fell down the drain.”
“No problem, follow me.”
Soon they were in the disused plant room, at the bottom of the rusty ladder, and she remembered the way home.
“I can manage from here.”
“Okay. See you soon Laura,” and Edgar was gone.
At least she hoped she could manage. The iron cover above her head was stiff and awkward, but with a big push she was able to work it loose. A narrow shaft of daylight shone down onto her and she stopped her efforts. It had been night the last time, what if someone saw her? She debated for a few seconds and then gave another heave, she couldn’t afford to wait the hours until darkness, she’d just have to take a chance.
There was no one there as she climbed up into from the shaft, but a runner jogged into view as she was putting back the cover. She stood up hastily, grabbing a stick from the ground and poking at the undergrowth.
“Dropped my phone,” she muttered towards the runner, but he ignored her, headphones on and eyes fixed on the path ahead.
When she reached Muswell Hill she didn’t go straight to Kings Avenue as she’d realised she had no way of getting into the house. Mr Angelou at the shop had a spare set of keys so she went there first. He asked after Mrs Patterson, worried as he hadn’t had any orders to deliver. Laura apologised and told him she’d gone to stay with a great niece out of town, and when said that she’d locked herself out he handed over the keys without asking any more questions.
The front door took even more effort to open than usual, such was the pile of paper behind it. Laura poked at it with her foot but it was mostly leaflets and local freesheets that she could tip straight into the recycling bin. Unable to leave complete disorder, she extracted the proper post and stacked it neatly on the bottom step before heading up to her flat.
The air was stale inside and she flung open the windows. She opened the fridge, and then quickly shut it again as where previously there had been milk and cheese there now appeared to be an interesting science experiment going on.
Water and black tea it was then, and biscuits and crisps to go with it as she’d found two unopened packets in the cupboard. She took the meal of sorts to the table, where all her papers were still spread out, covered in a layer of fine dust. She’d decided to look through it all again, from start to finish, hoping that the answer might still be in there somewhere.
Laura organised the papers into various piles to ensure she didn’t miss anything. She flicked through the collection of recent news stories, but didn’t expect any breakthroughs there, they just confirmed what she already knew – changes in the water and the happenings out at sea. Those papers went into an ‘out’ pile on the floor by the radiator, leaving a bit more space for her to spread out the rest across the table.
The big research projects that she’d worked on in the past had taught her there was always plenty to be gained from going over the historical background to recent events. It was not just in songs that history was always repeating itself, and so she mapped out a rough chronology and started at the beginning.
It was several hours and much black tea later that she found what she was looking for, and thought at once how obvious it was and how she should have spotted it sooner. Towards the bottom of her stack of information on the great flood of 1953 there were two short sentences, tucked away at the end of a periodical article from a few years after the event: “Out of this disaster came the plans for a barrier to ensure this can never happen again. Construction of the Thames Barrier is expected to commence sometime after 1970.” The Thames Barrier, that was it. If Laura could get the barrier raised before the flood surge came, the city would be safe.
She looked at her watch, eight thirty, too late to do anything now, she would have to wait until the morning. At least that would give her time to work out what on earth she was going to say.
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