The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 13, Part 11: In the Clutches of the Witch [section 6 of 7]

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Well, he certainly needed a great deal of body momentum to shake that tree –

If I were to catch Captain O at the moment when his body was its farthest from perpendicular and then induce a disturbance, I could possibly make him lose his balance and fall.

But all I had was a leftover mirror or two, the charm, the pouch of dust – and myself, my own body.  How could I use them to make him fall? I decided the safest bet was to drop a palmful of the dust from the pouch on the Captain, tackling him with my body at the same time.

Then I remembered when Jenny and Ian had gotten into a debate about falling objects. Jenny had relied upon Galileo’s theorem and demonstration that all objects fall at the same rate of speed, regardless of weight. Ian had replied that Galileo was dated, and that too many other variables had to be considered. He’d pointed out that, for example, rain fell at 25 feet-per-second whereas human beings fell at 200. I figured that I was about 25 feet above ground and about 10 above Captain O.

Assuming that the dust fell at a rate similar to rainfall, then if I dropped dust and jumped off the tree at the same time, I’d hit the ground a fraction of a second ahead of the dust, and Captain O and I would both get covered by the dust at approximately the same time.  If I dropped the dust, I’d have to do so less than half a second before he reached the angle farthest from upright, let the dust do its work, then jump down upon him, probably like the “cannonballs” that we did at the pool.

I watched Captain O shake the tree, and dropped a “test load” of the dust on the other side, just as his body was beginning to swing out again, but before it was fully extended.

Yes, I’d waste some of the dust this way, but I’d only have one chance to do it right and had to be certain the timing was perfect. He wasn’t quite wholly extended when the dust floated by; I’d have to drop it a slight fraction of a second later.

When he saw the dust drift down, he called out “Yuoh Miszjd!!” and began laughing hysterically – not like a madman exactly, more like a toddler who’d done something especially naughty and couldn’t stop nervously sniggering and chortling over his own perceived accomplishment. It made him rock back and forth even more as his laughter increased, giving me a greater range of motion with which to work. I whispered a prayer to St. Cecilia, that she’d give me perfect timing, and dropped another palmful of pouch dust directly on the Captain, when he was farther from the tree than he’d ever been.

He remained frozen there, his eyes suddenly bulging so much that they nearly dwarfed his caterpillar brows.

He knew he was in peril – that now I could almost breathe on him and knock him down. But what then? I had to be prepared to act quickly once we hit the ground. I again wrapped the tie and chain around my left wrist, and put the charm in my left hand. Saying another prayer to St. Cecilia, I did a cannonball off the limb and aimed directly for Captain O’s ribcage. I was off, landing on his throat and collarbone instead, but it was close enough to send us both off the tree.

I covered us both in another pinch of pouch dust as we hit; it caused us to descend at a slower rate, slightly faster than a leaf, floating down. It wore off just before we hit, and ours wasn’t an entirely soft landing; but it was soft enough that I sustained no injury and remained on top of him. Before he could react, I pressed the charm into Captain O’s forehead – hard. It left a charred imprint, as if I’d branded him, and he howled in pain – but this time, I hadn’t destroyed him.

I rolled off quickly, stood up and ran, ducking behind the statue angel Drusilla had unsuccessfully tried to spray paint. I took the charm and chain off my tie, put the tie in my coat pocket, the charm and chain back around my neck. The charm had done what it could offensively; now I needed all the protection I could get. Captain O was getting closer. Within a minute, he was on one side of the statue, I on the other, chasing each other around.

We were at a standoff: I couldn’t escape and he couldn’t catch me.

He lunged across trying to grab me, but I jumped back, out of harm’s way. I threw another palmful of dust in his direction, but in my panic, I tossed wild, hitting the statue angel instead. Again, oscillating iridescent currents enveloped the statue, but as they did, it began to glow a brilliant, dazzling white and, though still in statuary form, it left the pedestal and stood before Captain O, the wings unfolding.

 

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

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