Brass Carriages and Glass Heart - Nancy Campbell Allen Page 0,1


Emme winced as the crowd’s energy pushed at her from all sides. She forced herself to block it out. She couldn’t afford to be overwhelmed by it now.

“Law enforcement are already watching,” she shouted back to Veronica. “Let us hope they’ll manage them.” And leave us alone. Emme finished her thought as she pictured one very angry detective-inspector who always, always, was on hand to interfere with her duties as London SRO president. Oliver Reed was the bane of her existence, and she ran faster toward the wagon situated across the street from the committee buildings. She must hurry if she wanted to make herself seen or heard outside before he arrived.

She clambered up on the empty wagon bed, pulling Veronica along with her. They were joined by three other SRO members, who flanked Emme on all sides. She waved her arms at the crowd.

“Steady!” she shouted. “We do not accost individuals!”

She looked over the crowd as night continued to close in and gas lamps flickered to light. The sheer size of the gathering would make the morning headlines, and she hoped their efforts would be rewarded with success. Then she spied several buckets of rotten vegetables and mentally apologized to her mother for the inevitable ruination of her custom material.

Constables emerged through the crowd and began erecting a temporary barricade to keep the crowd under control. Emme watched their efforts with skepticism but knew that many of them identified with the population gathered and thus were unlikely to be hurt or accosted. If they hadn’t been present for official duty, they might well have been part of the protesting crowd.

The crowd suddenly roared and booed, and she whipped her attention to the building entrance. Bryce Randolph, the Committee chairman, was only just visible as members of his security detail guided him quickly to one of two carriages that had pulled alongside the curb.

Other Committee members emerged, and the crowd roared. Emme flinched involuntarily as refuse began to fly, winging across the square and thunking against the carriages, the street, and the buildings.

“Not part of our plan!” Veronica yelled as they ducked down.

She was right—it hadn’t been part of their plan this time. The fact that they’d done it before, at carefully chosen venues and functions, seemed to lend permission for people to hurl garbage each time they protested anywhere.

“If we are separated,” Emme shouted to the others in the wagon, “meet back at the offices.”

“Suppose we are arrested again?” one of the others yelled.

Emme laughed breathlessly, dodging to avoid a rotten tomato that flew past her head to splatter on one of the carriages. “Sit comfortably while I secure bail money,” she shouted back. “Never fear, we’ve endured worse!”

The wagon tipped, nudged forward by the encroaching crowd. “Jump down,” Emme ordered the others. “Try to get clear of the mess!”

She looked over her shoulder at the constables, who barely kept the protesters back. In the distance, a familiar figure caught her eye, running at a full sprint into the mayhem.

No! Detective-Inspector Reed would not haul her away this time.

She made certain the others had jumped down from the wagon before climbing to the edge, looking for a spot to slip down and away into the crowd.

The wagon lurched as the crowd surged again, and Emme knew a moment of fear for the people close by who were in danger of being crushed. She shouted to them to clear the way, and as the contraption was roughly jolted again, she lost her balance and fell to the ground.

She scrambled up, dusting her stinging palms, and looked around desperately. She was petite, and being so small in such a large crowd was an extreme disadvantage. Dodging elbows, shouts, shoves, and one soggy, flying cabbage, she edged toward the carriages.

Bryce Randolph had climbed inside, followed by his security and two other Committee members. He made eye contact with her, and smiled.

She saw red and heard roaring in her ears that had nothing to do with the crowd. Her rage grew until she thought she might choke on it.

Climbing up on the carriage’s running board, she slapped her palm flat against the window. “You will not do this, do you hear me? I will never rest! I will see you finished, Randolph!” She continued pounding on the window, gratified when the glass cracked and his smirk slipped. “This is not over! The International Organization has been notified, and I will see you finished!”

Food and foul-smelling refuse flew about her on all sides, and