The argument ended with the pretty thief handing two of the wristwatches to the one with the lance--who immediately turned to Malc, grabbed his waterproof and pulled at it, snarling something. Malc pulled his waterproof off over his head. The others hurried to do the same.
The pretty rider gestured at their other clothes. Take them all off, he seemed to mean. Certainly, when they hesitated, there were more peremptory gestures and snarled words.
Caro saw the way the footmen gathered closer as she pulled off her sweater, and she stopped, only to be shoved, and staggered on her feet, by the horseman with the lance. When she still hesitated, he grabbed at her shirt, pulling the buttons undone and exposing her bra.
"Caro, do as they want," Tim said. "It'll be all right. We're here." Malc, Tim and Dave all edged closer to her, trying to shield her, but she knew perfectly well that there was nothing they could do to protect her, outnumbered and unarmed as they were. She took off her shirt, shaking with fear. There was nothing remotely exhilarating about the feeling. She felt sick and desperate, and wished she'd never left the humdrum safety of the 21st side.
They took off all their upper clothing, but still weren't undressing quickly enough for the liking of their attackers, who dragged at their arms, and pushed them, to hurry them up. One of the footmen, by pointing, made it clear that he wanted their boots--and then, when they were seen to be wearing thick socks, the socks were pulled off their feet and their trousers tugged at.
They stripped down to their underpants, which caused hilarity, and the pointing and jeering was as threatening as the shoves.
Despite being so funny, their underpants were taken too, leaving the survey team standing naked in the breeze. Their skin roughened with goose pimples. The survey team were left, shaking but still alive, to walk over rough country, naked and barefoot, all the way back to the Tube and the 21st.
Copyright Susan Price. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Harper Collins. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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