Thursday, 17 July 2014

Number 2 L & D Penny Dreadful:

 “The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler”

Beasts Part Two


Rosie Lee shifted her weight, fists on hips, her Pre-Raphaelite tresses reflecting the flame of her cheeks.                                                                                                                                                        
“Sir! I would ask that you keep your ‘ands to yourself.”                                                                   
Jeering laughter from the table of young bucks. A plate of steaming stew and dumplings was tipped into a lap.                                                                                                                                                       
“You trollop!”                                                                  
“You todger!” came the rebound.                                                                                                        
Amidst the cursing and laughter, Rosie turned on her heel and returned behind the bar. Bosom heaving as she spit cleaned glasses.

I had met Rosie Lee ten years ago, when she was only about 16 years of age, (I was a wee bit older!) at a meeting of the Ladies Guild of Art and Archaeology, a lecture was being given by Sir Lawrence Tadema on ‘Merovingian Chess and its place in the Boudoir’. We found common ground in that neither of us were their type of people. Rosie is a chirpy working class lass with a choice vocabulary. I? Well, I fall between the cracks of not being a lady and not being working class; preferring to acquire my wealth through adventure and stealth. Sir Lawrence, a paunchy little fellow with a penchant for the younger girls, used his own paintings to demonstrate that the female form was the same through the classical ages to today. Rosie was part of a female gang of buzzers called The Muffgate Five, led by one Kitty Fisher, a dark, rough beauty. They regularly attended meetings where actual Ladies would be present, following the money. Rosie had dipped my pocket only to discover with a squeal, a mouse-trap. We became firm friends.

“Hello Rosie.”                                                                                                                                               
“Locket!” she brightly exclaimed.
She always referred to me as this since trying to pick my pocket and telling Kitty Fisher my name, as one to avoid in future.                                                
“How’s business?”
I was of course referring to her other activities, not her barmaid work. We chatted about the past, persons known to both of us, a lost gang member, a new gang member, Kitty’s time spent in gaol and so on. Rosie was one of those people who heard a lot, told little, and she heard a lot in her work as a barmaid. Rosie had contacts all over who paid well for her courier services; of information as well as objects of interest. She didn’t need the bar work, it was simply a cover.                                                                                                  
“Rosie, I need to find something in particular and was wondering if you had anything."”
I quietly told her what we were looking for, she hardly reacted to what I was asking her for, only a girl like Rosie wouldn’t make a deal out of wyverns brains.                                                     
“Meet me in the upstairs snug in an hour. I’m on a break then.”                                                              
I turned from the bar with a small beer. Theodora was sitting alone in a window seat, reading. One of the young bucks was attempting to engage her in conversation and getting nowhere, so resorted to lewd suggestions. I strolled over and placed my beer down on the table next to her, and sat with my cane against my right knee.                                                                                                                                
“Afternoon gents.” I smiled.                                                                                                                                 
“Oi.” Exclaimed one, “You ain’t from around ‘ere.”                                                                              
“How perceptive of you.”                                                                                                                        
“You bein’ funny or somethin?”                                                                                                               
“Not at all. Just came for a quiet drink with my companion here.”
I indicated Doppler, who barely glanced over her book.                                                                                                                        
“Think you’re too good for us, eh?”                                                                                                              
Oh dear, I thought, here we go. I looked around the bar. There were about six others in here besides these five, I didn’t know how many upstairs. The door we came in by was to our immediate right, the bar directly ahead with Rosie and the innkeeper busily occupied. One of the lads stood and approached Doppler, feet apart, thumbs in pockets,                                                                                                                                         
“How about a nice drink with us then girl? Leave your old pal here.”                                                 
Old? Old?!!                                                                                        
Doppler looked up, smiled and,
“No thank you. I’d rather not.” 
“When I says I wants a drink with you, I mean I wants a drink with you.”
He spat as he made to grab her upper arm.                                                                                        
What happened next surprised us all. Whilst sliding along the velvet seating just out of reach, Doppler slammed the book she was reading shut with a one-handed snap then thrust it, edge first into the guys face; just under his nose. It did more than make his eyes water. Her cane appeared, as if by magic, in her other hand and she jabbed him in the sternum with the end. The would be drinker stumbled into his, now arisen, comrades, knocking chairs aside as he fought to keep his footing. Inwardly I sighed, I hadn’t wanted to attract attention, and Gods dammit, I had a new blouse on. The last time we had a similar kerfuffle, my new jacquard bolero was slashed, I simply couldn’t afford to keep buying new outfits!
Well, here we go.                                                                                                                                           
A small, stocky chap came at me with balled fists, while his taller friend shuffled to his side to assist. I lifted my cane and swung it overhead, bringing it down sharp on the stocky head, then immediately spun it around to catch the other one a blow across the ear. Both howled and grabbed at their respective injuries. Doppler meanwhile was having at another two with book and cane; she slapped one hard with the book on the side of his head, kicked him in the shin and smashed her cane into the ribs of the next. A fifth drinking companion had kept out of the fray and was now making for the bar as if he had nothing to do with it all – sensible chap. They were now outnumbered. However, Mr ‘I wants a drink’, was well and truly riled, he had been made a mockery of –he had no idea. Doppler and I caught each other’s eye, grinned and stepped forwards as one. I saw the glint of a blade, an evil grin, a lunge;                                                                                                                                                              
“Watch my drink!”
I exclaimed, rescuing my glass from the toppling table. I jabbed at a waistcoat, then as it doubled over, hit the lowered head. At the same time Doppler had poked the end of her cane into a somewhat sparse chin growth then hooked her cane around his neck and pulled him towards her. We both brought up our knees, and at the same time made contact with a couple of conks. As I stepped back, I saw blood on my pants – blood is really hard to remove, there’s all that soaking and scrubbing to be done, if you take it to a professional they charge you more. There were some smart bruises coming up now and three of the remaining four realised that we weren’t easy targets, we were doing something they hadn’t seen women do before – we didn’t fight like ‘girls’.
Doppler now had her ‘admirer’ all to herself and was laying into him with a series of left and right swings of the cane…
each word accompanied by a vicious strike. He could only cover his head and face with his arms, backing into the bar with nowhere to go.                                                                                                                                           
I had a sip of my beer whilst resting on my cane. The bar was still and silent, apart from the swishing of a cane, amazing effect Doppler was having, customers, seeing me gaze about, suddenly found interesting things in the bottom of their glasses or on the ceiling. And then it was all over, just like that, as my friend Tom the barrel maker would say upon finishing a job. The five companions left; limping and leaking, scowling and snivelling. I downed my drink and went upstairs with Doppler to chat with Rosie. We didn’t have a scratch between us.                                                                                                  
 Rosie informed us of a certain, well known, Monster Hunter who would be out in the Counties hunting exactly what we were after, this weekend.                                                                  
“Looks like we’re off to Kent” says I to Doppler.

To be continued…

©Alexandra Peel



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