15. Montgomery

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I laughed right along with Brooks, although I didn't feel much like laughing. I felt like beating the dust out of some of the divan pillows for fun and giggles while pretending it was myself.  Maybe I would. I was both ashamed and terribly put out by my own actions. I'd need time to work through this new perspective before I approached James again.

I simply hoped he wouldn't come in that night. I didn't know what I would do if he did. 

The sounds of crashing and banging coming from the kitchen continued and I assumed Daniels, our kitchen manager, would probably be washing one of the night assistant's heads for knocking things around fairly soon.

I started to give some witty retort, but was cut off by the sound of a screamed order. 

"Douse them! Douse all the flames! NOW!" 

Both Brooks and I stared at each other wide-eyed. 

All I could think when I bolted into the corridor was where the gas lines in the house ran and how many men were theoretically near a source of danger if flames reached the gas drums. 

A fire was the worst thing that could happen at Cloud Hill. Not only because of the damage it would do, but large fires were a common trigger. The impact of being near a large blaze might cause hysteria among some of the men, and then who knew what would happen.  

As I sprinted down the main corridor and swerved left into the next one, I could hear the voice, louder now, shouting more orders.  

"Fetch Murphy, Dumfries and Hammond!!" That was clearly Daniels, whose voice rose above the cacophony of continuously smashing pots and God knew what else.  

I skidded and caught myself against the kitchen doorway a good several yards before Brooks. For a moment, I stood shocked as I took in the scene. 

Pots, cutlery, chunks of food, pans, the herb rack, containers of spices all thrown higgledy-piggledy and in the middle of the chaos stood Montgomery, blindly hurling anything he could get his hands on and bellowing like a steer.    

Montgomery. I hadn't seen him in months. 

He lived alone in one of the gamekeeper's huts, helping with tending and monitoring the wooded areas of Cloud Hill. Towards the end of the war, a German flamethrower had badly burnt most of the left side of his body -- including his face. The medics had done their best, but  he still looked like something out of a horror tale, one eyelid strangely melted into the rest of the rough skin that even now somehow resembled raw meat. His hair was long and looked like it had been trimmed with a knife. It probably had been. 

Daniels was in one corner, a large stew pot held in front of himself like a shield. Lewis had taken cover behind the eight-hob stove and Patterson was squeezed into a corner holding a iron hook in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other, looking for all the world like he was ready to take on an entire battalion of enemy soldiers.

"Steady on, man!" Daniels screamed, deflecting a flying ladle with his stew-pot shield. "The fire's been put out! It's out! Gone! You're safe!" 

A terracotta pot exploded into shards as it slammed into the wall near Patterson, sending onions flying in every direction like crazed, brown tennis balls. 

I hastily ran through all the possibilities for disarming him in my mind. He was reacting far too violently to be approached directly; we'd have to do something else. 

At that moment, the hulking shapes of several men appeared in the kitchen garden doorway. For a few moments we all looked at each other, attempting to agree upon a feasible strategy through eye-contact. 

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