Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Gross Pollutant Indeed, Excerpt (NaNoWriMo Bonus Post November 23rd)

The probably-Indian artifact (the MacGuffin) has vanished down a storm drain, and Bebe Ballinson, who is responsible for its safekeeping, is reassured by her uncle that they can probably recover it once the freezing rain dies down a little. This scene describes the recovery of much more than they expected:

    A tiny crowd gathered around the open access to the storm-drain's vault. The thick metal cover was propped against the wall of the police station near the opening, and Chief Ryan had been pressed into duty to hold the high-powered lantern that Ian Gerald would use once he was down in the manhole vault.
    "I wouldn't worry," Ian had said to reassure Bebe when he realized the reason they wanted the drains inspected right away. "All the manhole accesses here in Indigo have GPTs installed at the bottom of the vaults. Gross Pollutant Traps. They usually catch coins and tennis balls, leaves and branches and the like. Even when there's a gutter-washer of a rainstorm, only the lighter stuff will float away down the pipes."
    "That rain this afternoon didn't really qualify." He gave a knowledgable nod to the chief. "You know, Ryan. You 'member some real flooding." He nodded again. "That might have cleaned out the GPT here. Even then, heavy stuff like rocks and coins and nails and the like, they will still be in the trap."
    Ian drew on heavy work gloves, preparatory to descending the steel brackets that served as ladder rungs in the concrete vault. The rib that supported the ladderway projected from the wall of a vault that opened widely beneath the sidewalk. The vault was deep as well as wide. Ian would descend to the vault's floor, and once his hands were free, Ryan would lower the battery-powered lantern to him on its attached tether.
    Now, Ian's body blocked most of the light from the lamp. An occasional gleam or flicker reflecting from the pool of water below the sewer worker lit the space around the descending man. Water in the pipes chuckled and plashed, and Ian's boot-steps woke ringing echoes in the vaulted space. At last, his feet were on the floor, straddling the edge of a broad pool of water. 
    The lantern went down on its tether, lighting a ring of concrete as it descended. Ian took the handle as it reached him, and set the lantern on the wet edge of the concrete next to the pool, unclipping the tether. He looked up at the ring of faces above him.
    "The GPT is gonna be in the center of this runoff pool here." He explained, "I'll need to kneel in the water to make sure I get the whole floor of the trap cleared, and don't miss anything. Could you pull the tether up and clip it to the handle of that pail I set down up there, Chief? If you'll lower that too, I'll just collect anything that stayed in the trap and you can pull it up."
    He didn't wait; he knelt in the edge of the pool, hissing as the icy water soaked through his trousers. His gloves had long wrist-guards. Nevertheless, the edges of the guards dipped below the water's surface as Ian groped in the catchment trap. He started a running commentary, his voice echoing weirdly in the vault. "That feels like a branch, that's a big cobble-stone... branches, twigs and leaves mostly will have floated off before I got down here, but there's still some in the trap... Aha! That feels like the scarf you told me about."
    He pulled a wad of greenish gauze from the pool. The scarf was no longer wrapped around the necklace. Instead, caught in its threads was an inch-long twig, gleaming whitely in the lantern light. Ian extracted it from the folds of cloth, and held it up. 
    "Put it in the bucket, Ian!" Ryan called down to him. "That looks like a finger-bone, maybe human!"
    Ian glanced up at the chief, his expression unreadable. "I thought it was a twig. Maybe the other things I felt..." He placed the small bone gently into the pail, and still on his knees, turned back to the trap. The branch he had felt at the close edge of the pit was not wood, but bone, a thin humerus. 
    The watchers above cried out in surprise as he drew the 'cobble' from the water, to reveal a gleaming skull. Between the skull's bony cheek and Ian's thumb was the thong from Tuck's necklace, and the stone medallion dangled below his glove.

Total: 45,839 words.