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Behind them, the half-roof above the bench seemed aglow. Janet froze for a few seconds, unsure of what she was seeing. At first, she thought someone was shining a light. But it wasn’t a light. She could smell fumes. She shone her torch and immediately recognized what the shaky beam exposed. The metal casing with fins was familiar from her training. It was sparking and smoking. It must have bounced down onto the half-roof covered by the noise of the guns and was now resting snugly on pitch-encrusted tiles, covertly doing the job it was designed for. Her instinct was to panic. Then her training kicked in.


She flashed her torch on the bomb as the Beatties turned in alarm. Auld Beattie, to give him credit, was quick off the mark.

“Ah’ll pump, you spray!” he shouted and made for the bucket and stirrup pump while Margaret, fearful, backed into the far corner. Dropping her torch into her greatcoat pocket, Janet grabbed the end of the hose, climbed on the bench and stretched up over the edge of the roof. Auld Beattie had begun to pump furiously. Luckily the bomb had lodged only a couple of yards away. With her left hand, she covered her mouth and nose with her scarf. With her right, she pointed the nozzle at the seat of the blaze just as Auld Beattie’s frenetic pumping produced the desired stream of water. Although she could breathe, her eyes were starting to sting from the fumes.

“Keep pumpin’!” Her voice was muffled by the scarf but Auld Beattie needed no telling on that score. Her wrist was starting to hurt but she kept the hose firmly pointed at the blaze. Surprisingly quickly there was a final flicker, a hiss and it was out. Janet lay there, half on the roof and half on the bench, staring at the steaming bomb casing and the charred roof tiles, now soaking wet. She half-turned and said over her shoulder, “Get the fire rake!” Auld Beattie was quick to oblige and between them they hooked the teeth of the rake around the bomb and pulled it down with a clatter off the tiles and onto the flat roof. They replenished the water in the bucket and soaked the whole area where the bomb had been, as well as the casing. As far as they could see, the fire had been confined to a small area of the roof. Janet flicked her torch on. The three of them stood staring down at the sleekit, blackened, alien thing that had insinuated itself so noiselessly yet so violently into their lives. What had they done to deserve such evil?

Image by Jack Melrose