It’s time for a bit more Granny Battle! Before we get stuck in to Chapter 14, there’s a small amendment to the end of Chapter 13. I’ve updated this on the Granny Battle page, so if you’re catching up or reading from the beginning, you won’t miss out.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin – with the tweaked end of Chapter 13…
Before Granny could answer, a screech erupted from the shadows. It was such a screechy screech that Ellis felt all the hairs on his entire body stand up, and his ears tried to close in protest. The screech was followed by a looming presence which oozed authority to such a degree that Ellis knew the screech’s owner possessed a total unwillingness to even slightly bend even the most loosest of rules. At all. Ever.
‘MISTER MOUSOLE! ACCORDING TO ITEM SEVEN CLAUSE THREE BEE OF OUR STATION BYLAWS, NO PERSON OR OTHERWISE SHALL SPIT ON THE RAILWAY. YOU JUST DID. SO GET OFF MY STATION AND TAKE YOUR MISERABLE LITTLE FRIENDS WITH YOU. NOW!’
The last word was screeched so loudly that Ellis’s ears rang, and Ian stopped fizzing and thrust his head into Ellis’s armpit, whimpering.
The be-hoodied figures had frozen. For a tiny moment there was total silence; then, as one, they all turned tail and fled silently – except for the smaller tubby one, who ran into a lamp post in panic, re-bounded onto his back, scrabbled himself back to his feet, hitched up his robe, then (throwing a terrified glance over his shoulder at something behind Ellis) scurried after the others whimpering.
Granny turned to the owner of the screech and nodded. The owner of the screech inclined its head to Granny. Then it turned to Ellis and eyeballed him with interest.
‘Ellis,’ said Granny, ‘This is Mr Fishplate, the Station Manager.’
Ellis got to his feet hurriedly, forgetting Ian for a second who slid off his lap, tried to hang on to his trousers with a hasty claw, failed, and landed on the platform with a soft thud and subdued squeak. Ellis nervously shook the wing that was extended towards him. The wing belonged to a large – Ellis corrected himself – a very large seagull, that at first glance appeared to be all beak. Big, yellow, sharp, hooky beak. Then he saw a pair of dark unblinking eyes in a gleaming white head that felt like they were looking right through his skin, into his soul, and out the other side.
Mr Fishplate cocked his head to one side, and Ellis was quite impressed that his smart peaked cap, deep blue with gold frogging, didn’t fall off.
‘You look very much like your father, young man,’ said Mr Fishplate, and before Ellis could answer, the gull turned back to Granny.
‘I must say, Madam, I’m surprised to see you here without your protection. You of all people must know that to come here without it is certain to draw out The Undesirables – unless, of course, that was your intention?’
‘Busted!’ she said cheerfully, ‘I need to know exactly where they are, see – Mousole in particular. And the only way to do that is…’ she paused, and looked at Ellis expectantly.
Ellis, who’d picked up Ian and was trying to stop him from climbing on to his shoulder, realised he was being looked at and replayed Granny’s last words in his head.
‘Oh!’ he said, ‘…is to get him – well, a bit of him – into your map app.’
Granny nodded approvingly.
‘Off you go then,’ she said.
Ellis looked down at the glistening gobbet on the ground and wrinkled his nose.
‘I’m not touching that!’ he said hotly.
Granny sighed. ‘I don’t expect you to pick it up with your bare hands,’ she said, ‘find a twig or something and dip it in.’
Ellis lifted Ian – who’d stopped whimpering – carefully off his lap, slipped down off the bench and went off moodily in search of a twig. When he returned, Granny was deep in conversation with Mr Fishplate about train times and connections. He tentatively dipped the end of the twig he’d found in the gooey glump and walked over to Granny.
‘Good lad,’ said Granny, whipping out her phone. ‘Hold it up a bit higher.’ Ellis did so, making sure the goo didn’t ooze down the twig onto his hand. Apart from looking disgusting, it also stank. Then heard the sharp whistling buzz and this time closed his eyes against the painful blue flash.
Mr Fishplate returned the large pocket watch he’d been consulting to the pocket of his impressive blue jacket and gave a low-pitched screech. There was a rattling of claws, and a small, rotund owl wearing a miniature version of Mr Fishplate’s uniform but with less gold frogging appeared from the gloom, struggling with a large bucket and mop. It proceeded to mop up the rest of the gloopy gobbet.
‘My youngest,’ Mr Fishplate explained proudly, ‘he wants to be train driver when he fledges.’ Ellis couldn’t help himself and looked from the tiny owl to the huge gull in disbelief.
‘Adopted,’ said Granny, patting the young owl on the head as he scurried off, bucket and mop clattering, stopping to politely take the twig from Ellis on his way.
Granny picked up her bag, and tucked Ian under her arm. ‘Mr Fishplate has kindly offered us a brew whilst we wait for our connection,’ she said to Ellis, ‘and I still have a bit of explaining to do, which he can help with – he’s probably a bit more up-to-date than me, what with being here on-the-spot, like.’
Mr Fishplate nodded gravely and led the way down the platform to the station building, which looked very much like Granny’s cottage except it was immaculately clean and tidy, so really didn’t look anything like it at all except in shape. He ushered them through a door and into a small office. There was only one chair, apart from the one behind the large, highly polished desk which the gull settled into, and Granny plomped herself down in it, whilst Ellis looked round and settled on a large wooden trunk. Ian wriggled out from under Granny’s arm, trotted across the floor and hopped up onto Ellis’s lap where he promptly fell asleep.
Ooooh, whatever next?!