||[Jan. 14th, 2006|03:23 pm]
Deciding to give the foxboy plenty of time to get away, we turned instead to the round pipe leading from the small nexus up the hall from the fox’s cell.|
The pipe was just wide enough to allow a mule entrance, but it was not wide enough to allow a mule to be turned, and while mules are fully capable of backing up if they feel like it, they generally exact a heavy price from their handlers in the process. We decided to take a very quick look inside the pipe, leaving Mirabelle at the nexus, and see if there were any immediate openings where a mule could be turned.
It turned out that our conversation about what we ought to do lasted rather longer than our actual exploration of the pipe. The pipe went in, made three tight hairpin zags, and then dead-ended at a large grille.
The grille appeared to open high on the wall of a room, with a split-level ceiling dropping low to the right. Below were the remains of a fire and a pile of random debris.
It took a moment because of the angle, but eventually I realized that we’d come out behind the grille high on the wall of the place where we’d stayed when trapped by the rising water in the room full of mussels. That was our old fire. If I craned my neck, I could even see the neat stack of nested mussel shells Heinrich had left next to the other debris.
The grille was relatively solid, despite the rust, but I suspected that Heinrich could smash it out in relatively short order, given a pressing motivation like approaching death. We couldn’t take Mirabelle, but in case something very bad happened, it was nice to know of an escape route.
Assuming the tide was out, of course.
The only other notable detail was on the inside face of the grille itself. At the very bottom of the tunnel, so small that I would never have noticed if not for the color, were a set of ten tiny line drawings of a bird in various postures--hopping, perching, in flight. The drawings were in bright yellow, and a band along the top of the bird's head was filled in with the same vivid color. I had to lay my cheek along the floor to get close enough to examine them. The bird's eye was no larger than a pinprick, and if there was a signature, it was so small that I could not make it out at all.