A series of corridors. Breathing hard, neither speaking. Their footsteps falling from the walls, the ceiling. The moon in the windows, repeating. The fire door. The way out. Great gulps of cold night air, both doubled over, looking all about themselves, sweating heartbeats.
They were stood on a short, wooden jetty on the south side of the canal. Slatted, black water, slapping beneath. The water whispering something. A fire burned in the distance, imbuing an aspect of Saint Pancras with a wonderful orange glow that guttered and flared, silently. Nearby, behind the warehouses, the street was bright with laughing voices and late night shouts. The night was glass. Bug life click in the bank weeds. And, among the lurking trees, a row boat on a rope in the shadow of the towpath. He helped her down and she crouched among the weeds and watched him
The rope was wet and wound with stink weed. Hand over hand, he drew the bobbing row boat in. Luella sat at the lip, climbed in. He soaked an arm to the elbow, bumped his chin getting in. Knelt awkwardly, wet kneed, Knott dropped the rope. But the boat didn’t budge. Luella, haunted looking, sat in the snub bow, bedraggled and saying fuck with a sorry sounding voice. He scooted up toward her, between her legs, held them, and the boat began to swing from the bank. Row, she said.
The warehouses and the wharfs, all black brick blocks and rot wood, towered above them. He rowed and, slowly and in silence again, they passed along the canal beneath the plate moon. Dub reggae, shouting. A siren. Four figures sat on the roof of a canal boat drinking, saying nothing, watching them as they passed. Knott nodding them, but nothing coming back.
She took the bag from her bra and cupped it in the dark as if it were light to her. “Let’s get out here,” she said, looking around, hopeful, pleading, as if they could.
A long-drawn siren wail and blue light flashing on the water, brief glimpses of oil and oar and Luella’s pale face. Darkness. A window smashing. Another. He stopped rowing and they stayed for a while in silence, just breathing. A chill breeze swelled and the small snub nosed vessel turned slow circles, almost invisible, watching the flames on the water. The dirt smoke clouding the skyline.