A White Feather, Pt. 4

Twenty-Two Short Films About Wellington Wells: A White Feather, Pt. 4

Work had become very tense. Hickinbotham knew he was in hot water and was being scrutinized. He had been reassigned to patrolling the records room, which gave him a lot of time to ruminate on the man he’d nearly killed and who’s career he’d definitely ruined. It weighed on him, but all the same, he could still comfort himself with the knowledge, the simple fact, that all that unpleasantness need not have happened if that man hadn’t run, if he hadn’t been buying illegal drugs in the first place. It was his own fault that Hickinbotham had beaten him to a pulp.

Eventually, Hickinbotham was given an assignment. An arrest, another chance.

Arrests weren’t exactly common these days. It was more likely that a criminal would be collected by the doctors than the bobbies anymore. Perhaps though, despite the problems he’d created in apprehending Miss Boyle’s client, he’d distinguished himself as someone who could bring in a perpetrator in one piece.

He reported to Carmarthen House, determined to redeem himself.

Sergeant Sargent was his partner on this job. His presence suggested Hickinbotham wasn’t entirely trusted to do this with another lower ranking constable, but it also meant that when he did do a fine job of it, Sargent would see it firsthand.

“You’re going to need this,” Sargent said, handing him a loaded syringe. “Knockout Juice. We can’t use our truncheons on Dr. Faraday or we might knock the smarts out of her. Best to sneak up on her and tranquilize her instead.”

Dr. Faraday! What on earth could she have done to merit an ambush like this? He was dying to ask, but thought better of it. It might seem impertinent and he couldn’t afford that right now.

“Her domestics left half an hour ago so there’s no one else home and she’s a woman so she shouldn’t put up much of a fight,” Sargent explained. “It should be a simple apprehension. Just make sure she’s not mucking about with chemicals before you make a move on her.”

“Right,” Hickinbotham agreed. He grasped the syringe in his fist and placed his thumb at the ready over the plunger. He didn’t relish manhandling a woman, but his career was on the line. “Let’s get this over with.”

Sargent picked the lock on the front door and they let themselves in. They crept up the stairs and peered around the door frame into Dr. Faraday’s lab.

She was preoccupied with the huge machine in the center of her lab. She walked around it, humming to herself and checking things off on her clipboard. When she turned the corner around the machine, Hickinbotham crept out into the room to sneak up behind her.

He inched closer and closer, and when he was close enough, he threw his left arm around her shoulders to hold her still and jammed the syringe into her neck with his right. She didn’t even have time to scream before she was out like a light. She sagged in his grasp and he swept her up into his arms.

“Let’s get going,” Sargent said. “That Knockout Juice won’t last forever.”

They left the house, and Hickinbotham made to head back to Central but Sargent stopped him.

“No. We’re going to Lud’s Holm.”

“What? We can’t take her there. It’s full of pl-” he cut himself off. “It’s closed for beautification. She’s not a Downer. We can’t just toss her out there.”

“We’re not tossing her out,” Sargent explained with some impatience. “The Executive Committee has set up a lab for her out there so she may continue to contribute to society during her incarceration. It’s almost an exact replica of her own house actually. She’ll be perfectly safe there.”

Hickinbotham supposed that was quite a nice way for someone like her to pass a prison sentence. Dr. Faraday would be comfortable and able to continue making her devices. It hardly sounded like a punishment at all. He nodded his understanding at Sargent and they hurried to Lud’s Holm.

When they arrived at Dunsinane House, they laid Dr. Faraday out on the bed set up in her lab and locked her in. Then they waited. The bed was arranged behind the containment unit so as to afford her some privacy, so they didn’t see she was awake until she got up and out of it. She glanced around the room with a look of deep suspicion. Sargent tapped on the glass of her window to get her attention.

She walked up to the glass.

“This isn’t my lab. Where am I?” she demanded.

“By order of the Executive Committee, you, Dr. Helen Faraday, are hereby sentenced to house arrest until such a time as you willingly resume your work for the security and betterment of Wellington Wells,” Sargent declared.

Dr. Faraday stared, dumbfounded. They could see her glance in the direction of the doorway and see that it was shuttered.

“You can’t do this to me,” she said. “This is extortion!”

“Just doing my duty, Doctor. As should you,” Sargent said. “They’re not asking a lot, Dr. F. The sooner you give it to them, the sooner you can go back to St. George.”

Dr. Faraday stood glowering in her cage.

“There’s a letter for you from the Executive Committee on the table there. And we’re arranging some caretakers for you as well,” Sargent informed her. “We’ll have them here before nightfall.” He pressed the button to the left of the window and the shutters slammed shut.

“Is that true? Did she really not do anything wrong?” Hickinbotham asked. “She just decided not to make something the Executive Committee wants?” Had he just participated in a kidnapping?

“Constable Hickinbotham, if you do not come to a swift understanding as to what your job as a constable is,” Sargent said, “then I worry you may not be one for much longer. Suffice it to say, it is not for us to arbitrate right and wrong. Our duty is to keep Wellington Wells from falling into chaos, by whatever means necessary.”

Hickinbotham wasn’t sure he had the constitution for the constabulary after all.

1 thought on “Twenty-Two Short Films About Wellington Wells: A White Feather, Pt. 4”

  1. Reading Comprehension Questions:

    1. Dr. Faraday and Constable Hickinbotham have both expressed dissatisfaction with the state of things in Wellington Wells. What is the significance of this?

    2. How does the author connect Part 4 back to Part 1 and what effect does that have on your understanding of the story? Use quotes to support your answer.

    (EXTRA CREDIT) Briefly describe a time in your life when you stood up to authority. How did that experience affect you?

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