A half hour later, a loud shout and whip crack sent the paddy wagon skidding around yet another corner on its way uphill. All of its occupants were thrown against each other and onto a single bench, sliding along the rough wood like toy dolls. It bumped, bounced, jolted, every cobblestone ringing through the iron wheels and metal walls like a fusillade.
The other police wagon could barely be heard behind them, driven by a much less reckless driver. After all, it carried all the cops who’d torn apart the beer house.
Somebody landed on the floor with a loud yelp.
Brian grimaced sympathetically, bracing himself against similar misfortune. He’d been lucky enough to be loaded last, next to the door and what passed for clean air. Losing his bowler was the least of his problems.
Somebody grunted and cursed. Somebody else prayed to a litany of saints. A third man, far more pragmatic, choked and prayed not to be sick.
The horses thundered forward, harnesses jingling and hooves clattering down the street. The guard was singing something about good beer and pretty women.
Brian braced himself and leaned once again toward the pallid light creeping in through the window high atop the rear door. He had a nicked cheekbone and every breath was an effort, thanks to a policeman’s heavy boots thudding into his ribs.
BOW WOW WOW WOW! A dog’s deep bark challenged the paddy wagon from immediately ahead. The horses reared and screamed in alarm, bringing the wagon to a complete halt.
What the devil? Brian started to rise but rapped his head on the roof.
BOW WOW WOW! The dog was barking continuously, triggering all of its fellows in the neighborhood.
The driver cursed and the wagon swayed wildly. The prisoners began to shout and beg to be released.
The first dog was barking at the top of his lungs, apparently running back and forth at the horses. They reared and lashed out. One of them neighed again, a high-pitched plea for help.
The wagon lurched forward and back, then stopped with a screech of iron wheels across the cobblestones.
Brian grabbed for the door.
BOW WOW! The dog proclaimed triumphantly.
The other police wagon sounded its trumpet, ordering all citizens to clear the way.
“Hold the reins, you fool,” the driver exclaimed. “I must untangle the horses.”
WOOF WOOF WOOF!
Brian pulled himself up to the window. Had the dog arrived by chance? Did he have friends?
His fellow prisoners started to slowly untangle themselves, complaining bitterly of filth and bruises.
They’d stopped in a narrow stretch of street, marked by tightly shuttered shops on both sides. A single, ornate streetlight flickered next to a solidly built wall. The atmosphere was dark and damp, smelling of rain, wet stones, and neglect.
Brian looked down. The earlier rainstorm had broken up, letting the stars peep between the storm clouds.
The girl from the riot at the beer house cocked an eyebrow at him, all the while slipping a key into the paddy wagon’s lock. Her face was drawn, etched with tearstains in the unforgiving light, under her small, woolen hat.
Dammit, she shouldn’t be here! The cops would be here any minute.
“Go away!” he hissed.
“Hush!” She frowned at him and went back to teasing the stiff lock open.
“If they catch you, they’ll destroy you.”
“You’re wasting time and attracting attention.”
She wanted him to wait patiently while she risked her neck?