Shad Thames

The Anchor Tap nestles between towering warehouses in Shad Thames, a corner pub on a cobbled street criss-crossed by walkways two storeys or more overhead. Inside, the furniture is distressed, the shabby décor predominantly faded blues, and the floor is bare boards. The cockney barmaid welcomed them with practiced bonhomie. Slasher got a round in for the ship’s company by way of thanks to the Kronstadt sailors. Somewhere round about the second pint the sailors began to sing, the gang relaxed into an alcoholic reverie and Barrymore walked into the saloon bar.

“Barrymore! How did you know we were here?” asked Boz.

“She would,” said McGoogs.

“It’s my job to know,” Barrymore replied. She stood, paws on hips. Her bottle-green cap and blazer were causing something of a stir amongst the stevedores and seafaring clientele of the dockside hostelry; mainly on account of their doing nothing to hide her silky, long, bronze and buff with a touch of red legs, her furry buttocks, or elegantly curved tail. Grabbing a bentwood chair she turned it to face her and straddled it. A collective sigh spun round the saloon bar.

“Finish your drinks. Larry wants to see all of you, pronto.”

“All of us?”

“Not the Ruskies, just you reprobates,” Barrymore gave an apologetic nod towards Augusta, “And you and your Tibetan if you’d be so kind, your ladyship.” She picked up the nearest pint and downed it in one, ushered the company out into the street, put her fingers to her lips and gave a long piercing whistle that started low, rose dramatically and ended in a baroque twiddle. With a purring of its vectored thrust Stanley steam-turbine aero-engines Larry’s dirigible runabout manoeuvred overhead, came to a halt and dropped a rope ladder.

“Not another ladder,” exclaimed Ferdy. “Can’t we take the tube?”

Slasher McGoogs melted quietly into the shadows and was gone.

“The underground is not running,” replied Larry’s factotum. “Up you go. One at a time.” She was last up.

“There’s a selection of single malts in the cocktail cabinet,” she said as she made her way to the empty flight deck and took the helm. Boz appeared in the doorway.

“How do you do that?”

“What?”

“Control this airship from the ground.”

“Confidence.”

Before long they were standing in Downing Street.

“Evening all.” The policeman on duty outside the gloss black door with its brass number ten below the Georgian shell fanlight nodded to Barrymore and directed the party inside. Larry was at his imposing mahogany desk in the old Cabinet Room.

“Can you rustle up a pot of Earl Grey for eight, Barrymore? And perhaps some scones?”

Barrymore gave Larry a reproving glance and left. After a few minutes she returned with a tray, perched her bum on a corner of the desk and poured out nine delicate china cups of builders tea, including one for herself.

“It’s PG. Scones are just coming, there’s only raspberry jam I’m afraid.”

“London seems very quiet,” observed Boz.

“Evacuated. Les Chats have overrun the underground. We’ve tried to board up as many stations as possible. Limehousesailortown is so cosmopolitan quelques Chats more or less makes no difference and it’s business as usual on Ratcliff Highway. But much of the city is deserted. Fortnum’s is locked up and the staff have left town.” Larry whimpered. “I don’t feel I’m in control any more.”

“You never were,” said Ginsbergbear.

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