Dortmunder looked down at a lot of nuns. His ankle gave another twinge, and his grip on this rough-timbered rafter became less sure by the second, but what mostly bothered him was nuns . He had many reasons to be depressed by the sight of them all, scurrying back and forth down there twenty or thirty feet below, occasionally looking up in his direction, gesturing at one another, running in and out of this church or chapel or whatever it was, many reasons he had to be depressed, and all of them good.
Nuns, for instance. Well, just to leave it at that; nuns . Was that crowd likely not to call the law when some clown loaded with burglar tools comes through their roof? Not a chance. So, because it was nuns he'd fallen among-oops; almost fallen among, keep holding tight-it meant that among the choices he'd enumerated for himself up there on the roof he'd won the daily double: a broken ankle and prison for life.
Also, for a second reason to be depressed, nuns . Born in Dead Indian, Illinois, and abandoned at three minutes of age, John Dortmunder had been raised in an orphanage run by the Bleeding Heart Sisters of Eternal Misery, and when you mentioned nuns to him no sweet images grew in his mind of kindly penguins feeding the homeless and housing the hungry. No, what Dortmunder visualized when he heard the word nun was a large, bad-tempered, heavy-shouldered woman with a very rough and calloused right hand, usually swinging. Or wielding a ruler: "You've been quite bad, John. Put out your hand." Ooo; a smack across the palm with a wooden ruler can create quite an impression. Just looking down at those black-and-whites-still in the traditional uniform, he noticed, not updated with the rest of the Church-just looking at them, even after all these years, could make his palm sting.
Like his ankle. Having decided not to drop onto that lower roof, having started to climb back up, he'd been in the wrong posture when his hands had slipped and he'd fallen any which way, landing heavily on an angled roof, bouncing, hitting various portions of himself, and rolling at last down into a trough, his head dangling over the edge, staring down maybe thirty-five feet at extremely hard sidewalk.
Had he yelled when falling, or when he'd hit? He didn't know. He did know he had a whole lot of new aches and bruises and pains and stings all over his body, but he also knew that the sharp fiery twinges in his ankle made all the other pains pale in comparison. "Just like I figured," he muttered, rolled over, managed not to slide off the edge of the roof, and looked back up at the dark mass of the building he'd just left. No cop yet, no flashlight yet, but there sure would be.
Scrambling up the steep slope on all threes-his left ankle hurt by now most of the way to the hip-he came to a small dormer, with a square wooden louvered shutter instead of a window on its front. This shutter was merely held in place by four small metal wings which could be turned aside, so Dortmunder turned them, crawled through into a small dusty black space and pulled the shutter closed behind himself. It kept wanting to fall away from the window, so he reached a narrow screwdriver through the louvers and put two of the little retaining wings back in place.
The space in which he found himself was absolutely black, and apparently quite small; not an attic, not a useful area, but merely a bit of waste between the outer and inner designs. Turning this way and that, trying not to hit his ankle against too many hard unyielding surfaces, Dortmunder blundered across the trapdoor, opened it, and found just below him the wide rafter far above the chapel. Having no choice, out he went.
At first, it had seemed as though he could crawl across this rafter to a pillar on the far side, then shimmy down the pillar (somehow), and thus make good his getaway, but this godda