Number 2 Penny Dreadful:
“The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler”
Beasts. Part Four
My boots pounded the earth before the lad even began his fall. I had heard and seen the rifle blast. My viewpoint had made it look like Doppler had been shot. I ran fast, skidding on the damp grass before her and grabbing hold of her arms. Doppler gave me a weak smile and feinted.
Blazes! I thought, as I knelt with Doppler in my arms and the slumbering form of one of the hunting party before me. Doppler had a narrow gash on her upper arm where the bullet had skimmed her soft flesh. I quickly and skilfully bandaged this. Lowered the wyvern head and cutting some of the length of rope, tied young Wills hands behind him. Grabbing Theodora’s clothes, I patted her cheeks firmly, then trickled some water from my canteen into her mouth. I wasn’t sure what to do with the lad, as Doppler and I had arrived on horseback, (which we had to return to their paddocks before they were missed), we had a lumpy parcel to get back to Bath.
“He shot me!”
The first outraged words form Doppler’s mouth as she awoke,
“He bloody shot me!”
She was absolutely furious.
“You did stab him in the neck and drug him remember.”
I was making ready the horses.
“But he shot me. I could have died!”
I slung the wrapped wyvern head onto her horse and made it secure. Then hefted the lad under his armpits, indicating for Doppler to assist me in positioning him across my mounts shoulders. I looked at his face for the first time
“He’s not bad looking is he?” I mused
“Oh, for goodness sakes, he’s young enough to be y…”
She saw the look on my face and stopped.
We mounted up, Doppler riding side saddle as befitted an English female in skirts. I rode astride, with the slumbering youth between my thighs. Doppler grumbled and quibbled all the way about why she should have a ‘stinky’ head, rather than the lad on her horse –no pleasing some people.
We arrived in Royal Tunbridge Wells. Will riding pillion. Dismounting, I sent Doppler to the station for two singles to Bath and began removing our possessions. I returned Wills’ rifle to him.
“No hard feelings?”I enquired.
Swinging the rifle to his shoulder and aiming right at me he replied,
“None at all Ms Lockhart. Now I know who you both are. And you will come with me to answer for what you have done.”
“What I’ve done!” I laughed. “What? Taken a head from a dead creature, come on Will. What were your lot going to do with it?”
“If, by ‘your lot’, you are referring to the honourable Royal Order of Dragons, I’ll have you know…”
I had turned away from him now to see Doppler returning with a hover trolley.
“Get them?” I asked.
She nodded and ignoring the pointed weapon, picked up her knapsack and grabbed one side of the canvas package.
“Misses Lockhart and Doppler, I am making a citizen’s arrest! You will leave that alone, step away from the head!”
He waggled the rifle. We stepped away from the head, I stepped towards Will. The sounds of approaching steam engine caught my attention.
“Now look here” I began walking closer “You can just make this all easy on yourself, stop playing the copper and walk away.”
He pulled himself to his full height, feet set slightly apart, his left shoulder somewhat forward as he had the rifle butt firmly tucked into his right shoulder, he eyeballed me along the barrel. He had nice eyes, I thought to myself as I stepped against the muzzle. Will stepped back, I grabbed the barrel, he fired.
“You really are a stupid boy. Did you actually believe I would give you a loaded weapon?”
A tinkling sound behind as of dropped bullets. Wills eyes flickered towards Doppler. The train was arriving and Doppler loaded the head onto the hover trolley and began to head for the train. A battle was taking place across Wills’ face; he was struggling with his loyalties, his allegiances, reputation, societal pressures regarding hitting a woman, his sense of honour and duty. He was breathing heavily, grinding his teeth, I thought he would pop.
I still had a hold on the rifle.
“Let me make this easier for you”
I said grabbing his face in both hands, I delivered a kiss full on his mouth, his lovely eyes widened, then crossed as I brought my knee up sharply. He gasped and doubled over. A whistle blew, steam steamed, pistons hissed. I ran for the nearest carriage door, Doppler flung it open and I leapt on board.
“Farewell William! I shall tell how honourable you have been.”
We watched the slowly diminishing figure scrabble about for scattered bullets, loading his rifle from a semi bent position, raise the rifle, lower it and cover his eyes with his hand. A small, lonely, defeated figure. I felt bad for the kid. Ho hum, time for some lunch. We headed for the dining carriage.
We found two window seats at a linen covered table laid set table d’hote. A waiter arrived and poured wine, took our order and took his leave. I pulled my silver cigarette case from my inside pocket, Doppler made a face. I tapped the end.
A silver lighter appeared. I looked up into a rather handsome face, fair haired, blue eyed, a small, trim moustache smiled down at me. I leant over and lit my cigarette. Blondie snapped the lighter shut.
“I do beg your pardon.”
He continued, extending a hand gloved in cream leather.
“Hanson, Eric Hanson.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance Mr Eric Hanson. Lucy Lockhart and this is my companion Miss Theodora Doppler.”
Hanson was attired in all cream, apart from a glimmer of pattern on his waistcoat. A fine cane rested next to him. A chain could be glimpsed around his neck, the small medallion on the end coming in and out of view appeared to be a Greek stylised head. It niggled at the back of my mind.
He asked if he may join us at our table, we consented and a pleasant time was spent conversing around a passable meal of omelette to start; cold mutton, potatoes and greens, followed by creamy custard tart and cheese and biscuits. Hanson made for a convivial lunchtime companion, he was well read, well-travelled and appeared genuinely pleased to be in our company. I don’t usually go for fair haired types, but, I could have made an exception in his case. Except, there was something about Eric Hanson that made distant alarms go off inside my head. I couldn’t put my finger on it at all.
Arriving in Bath, Hanson offered to assist us with our luggage. We actually only had knap-sacks, the canvased head being stored in the postal carriage, so declined with grace. He bid us a pleasant visit, tipped his hat and strolled off. I watched him go as Doppler arranged for a porter to collect our cargo. A small boy passed with his mother, he seemed absorbed in a picture book, and she was chivvying him along.
“Oh do hurry Arthur, or we’ll miss the train.”
“But George is about to kill the dragon mama.”
Dragon! I started. And then I remembered what the Greek head on Eric Hanson medallion is. Mr Hanson was a member of the Royal Order of Dragons.
To be continued…