Howdy all…well, it's a week late, but I made this week's installment an extra long one to try to make up for it. I have a million and one disclaimers about how I'm not a historical writer…how I suck at research…how I can't do this or that. I'll save it. It's late. (g) I just hope you enjoy it. I'll admit it was a bit disturbing to write, but yet, fun. J
It really isn't all that graphic, but this installment does have some rather disturbing subject matter. If you get squeamish around violence and what not, you might want to skip this.
If that isn't the case…erm…Enjoy! (g)
For the first time Simon felt a moment of indecision. Too many had been lost already. Would it be left to him to make the final call between life and death for even more of his friends? The thought sent a shiver of fear through him and he took a step towards Samantha—Sam—needing nothing more than a quiet moment of reassurance. To feel her close. He stopped. She too was there, waiting. Needing him to decide in which direction they should go.
"Very well, we shall…"
He clamped his fists tight and turned away from her then. Her wide-eyed, gentle expression. Her innocence. She couldn't understand—couldn't begin to fathom—just what saving Frank might cost them all. What it had already cost him.
Simon bypassed the tea and grabbed a decanter of whiskey, pouring himself a solid three fingers and downing it in a quick, angry gulp. It burned a path down to his stomach but didn't succeed in filling the emptiness that resided there now. Livy. For just one moment he allowed the thought of her to overpower his senses. Just one moment before he clamped down on the memory hard, forcing it away from himself.
Brahman, Midnight, Clarissa, Nemo. Not all would survive this night. For them, he must be strong.
He placed the stopper back on the glass decanter and turned to face his comrades, his defenses securely in place again.
They hadn't even noticed the shift.
"We shall go to Frank—Sam and I alone. Brahman, Midnight—you know what needs to be done."
Sam glanced between Simon and Brahman. The latter's face remained expressionless, but there was tension in his shoulders that belied his otherwise calm exterior. Whatever it was Simon had ordered, it would come at a dear cost to them all. Midnight, though outwardly bedraggled, also calmly accepted whatever Simon was ordering, casting her eyes downward and for once remaining silent. A shiver of apprehension slid along Sam's spine.
"What's going on?" she asked, darting her eyes back and forth between the trio. No one would answer. Simon simply took her arm to lead her into a hallway that was dimly lit by small sconces spaced along the walls. She held back, but his grip tightened, forcing her to follow. At the last moment, she twisted in his grasp and took one final look into the library. Brahman stood there. Their eyes met and he raised one large hand in farewell. Midnight, she saw…Midnight was crying.
"What the hell is going on?" Sam demanded at Simon's back. He kept a steady pace, dragging her up a steep flight of steps, around corners, through rooms she barely had time to register. Her breath seared through her chest and she pulled back, trying to slow him down even a fraction.
"We haven't time to waste," he said, guiding them down yet another dimly lit corridor. "Cooperate or I shall be forced to carry you."
Sam had visions of making a stand—of forcing him to tell her everything that was going on. But from the look on Brahman's face, and the shocking tears she had seen Midnight shed, this was no time for such questions. She reluctantly allowed him to pull her through a house which seemed to go on forever. Finally, he pulled her through one last doorway. The room itself was quite plain…lots of open floor, very little ornamentation. It took a minute for her eyes to hone in on all the weapons hanging on the back wall. Swords of all shapes and sizes, all kinds of foreign looking weapons she wouldn't even begin to know the names of. It was a deadly arsenal that left her feeling more than uncomfortable.
Simon quickly loaded up at a back cabinet. When he was finished, he turned to her, hesitant.
Sam didn't need to be a mind reader to know which direction his thoughts were headed. "You volunteered to take me even though you lost…her."
For whatever reason, Sam couldn't bring herself to say Livy's name. Not to Simon. And not when she saw such fear in his eyes. He was scared to take her. She didn't know whether to feel flattered or insulted. In the end, she supposed she felt a little of both. Would he care so much if Livy weren't a part of her now?
"We should go," Simon said, not meeting her eyes. Perhaps Simon knew her thoughts, too.
Despite wanting to trust him, Sam couldn't help the vein of fear that ran through her. "What if I don't survive?"
Simon took a quick step towards her, shaking his head. "I won't let anything happen to you."
His blue eyes burned with such intensity that Sam very nearly turned away. She wanted to believe him, but he had lost Livy—a woman she suspected he would've died for—and who was she to him in the end? Just a vessel for another woman's soul.
"I won't let anything happen to you," he repeated, moving even closer. When he put his arms around her, she didn't shrink away.
The first thing Sam noticed was the smell: an oppressive mixture of human waste and filth that crowded into her throat to steal her breath away. A reflexive gag spasmed through her and she turned on her side, choking on the taste.
The second thing she noticed was that she was lying on the ground, and Simon…Simon wasn't with her.
Sam jerked into a sitting position and blinked through teary eyes. The abrupt motion only intensified her need to retch, but she swallowed hard and forced herself to stand. A wave of hysteria threatened to rush through her. Wherever she was, she was alone. The small room in which she found herself was windowless and dark—she couldn't detect even the slightest play of air moving throughout it. Nothing to break up the stagnation that lingered over it like sickness. And that's what this room was, she realized. Sickness. Death.
"I'm here," Simon said. A hand brushed hers in the darkness. Forgetting her resolve to keep her distance, Sam propelled herself towards his voice. Strong arms hesitated before encircling her waist to hold her close.
What if he had lost her? The question went unvoiced, yet hung there between them. The trip had been a study of disorientation. All flashes of color and the sensation of floating outside herself. Only Simon had been there to anchor her back down.
"Where are we?" Sam said after a moment, covertly wiping her eyes on her sleeve and stepping out of Simon's arms. A flush rose up her neck. She hadn't meant to appear so weak in front of him, but the trip had rattled her to the core. Then to find herself alone in the darkness… "Is Frank here?"
She ignored the hard edge of anger and impatience beneath his words. "What is this place?"
A spark ignited in the darkness, forming between Simon's cupped hands. They parted, spreading the light into the furthest corners of the room. It was a small room, barely large enough to hold the worn bed and table pressed up against the far wall. She couldn't explain why, but Sam instinctively shrank away from that side of the room. Simon's eyes followed her, emotionless.
"W-what is this place?" she asked again.
Simon motioned at the bed with a quick jerk of his chin. "This is where it all began."
The door swung open then.
"Do not fear," Simon breathed into Sam's ear. She struggled against him like a cat scrabbling to get away from water. She trembled in his arms and he held her tighter, pressing his lips to her temple, willing her to hear him. "They cannot see us."
Sam glanced up at him, her green eyes disbelieving. But when the man guided a young woman past them without taking notice of either, she at last took in a steady breath. "Neat trick," she muttered, fighting hard to hide the tremor in her voice. Simon would give anything to spare her the next few moments, but there was simply no other way to impress upon her the urgency of their mission. She had to see. To know what they faced.
"Who are they?" Sam asked, taking a hesitant step away from him.
"Have you no idea?" Simon asked, flicking his eyes over her, measuring for a reaction.
Sam studied the pair, almost as though she was willing herself to find the correct answer. To please him, perhaps? But Simon could see no recognition in her eyes.
"It's Lispenard," he said. "And she…one of many to have had the misfortune of meeting up with our good doctor."
Sam glanced at him sharply. "What?" But she knew. Simon thought deep down she knew. He watched as her eyes swept around the room, taking everything in. The dirty floor and linens covering the much abused bed…the stink in the air that no amount of fresh air would ever erase. And now, in the dim light cast by the small lamp on the bedside table, the dull instruments laid out for the doctor's use.
A shudder went through her. "He isn't going to…she isn't…" She choked on the word as the doctor led the young woman to the bed. She was plump and dirty—straight off the boat most likely. How quickly the men must have flocked to her, and she to them. All in the hope of finding comfort in this new world. "She isn't…." She stopped, unable to finish the question as Lispenard gently nudged the woman into a reclined position and lifted her skirts to reveal creamy white thighs that trembled beneath his hands.
The woman was muttering something under her breath in guttural, broken English. Her 'mon dieu's' were worthless at this point. Simon watched, hardening himself to the scene before him. Had he the ability to bend the past, he would gladly take the rusty implement Lispenard was contemplating with such fierce concentration and ram it into the man's skull. But it was not within his abilities to act. He was confined to mere observation. Now, that is. Things in the future were not nearly so…constrained.
"I can't watch this," Sam said, backing away and covering her face with her hands. Lispenard had placed a mesh mask over the woman's face, onto which he dripped liquid from a small brown bottle. Ether, most likely. The woman's eyelids fluttered and closed.
"You must step closer if you wish to see," Lispenard said, his voice rough with barely contained excitement. Sam flinched as though caught in a trap and turned terrified eyes to Simon. He shook his head and motioned behind her. She hadn't seen him yet, and the shock, Simon knew, would be immense.
He was barely more than a boy. Twelve…thirteen, perhaps..and rail thin. A shock of brown hair made him look wild—a young ruffian barely able to pass in civilized society. Simon knew his family took little notice of him, love being a luxury that did nothing to fill the hunger in their bellies. Most his age would eventually drift into a life of crime. It was their lot. Francis Tumblety, however, had stumbled into something of an altogether perverse nature.
"Frank," Sam gasped, taking in the younger version of her lover. She looked to Simon for an explanation. "Is Lispenard – is he Frank's father?"
Simon shook his head silently, and turned his attention back to the bed. Frank had moved into the dim circle of light, his eyes filled with so many emotions. A flash of excitement. Dread. Curiosity. Eagerness to please. To be a man in the eyes of this monster. There was also a deep rooted revulsion for what was transpiring. A small boy's fear and need to hide from the dark things of the world. It was upon this precipice all of their fates rested. Should the boy simply turn away—run away from this place. Leave before evil could settle into his soul, so many lives…so many souls could be saved. Perhaps even his own.
But alas, Simon knew such hopes were fruitless. What had transpired could not be changed.
"Mentor," Simon said quietly. "He is his mentor."
To her credit, Sam did not swoon or faint as so many women are wont to do. She simply moved in closer to him, placing her small hand in his and pressing her cheek into his shoulder. She watched, yes, but from the safety of his arms.
Dr. Lispenard ran a lucrative business servicing young females in the motherly way. Most were of the lower class, but occasionally a lady of higher breeding called upon his services. He enjoyed watching them grovel, lowering themselves down to his level despite their bred inclination to do otherwise. Some died, of course, but he could hardly be bothered by such trivialities. Occasionally, a particularly appealing specimen came his way and then his real amusements would begin.
This young Parisian slut was just such a creature. Oh how the boys must've loved burying themselves between her milky white thighs. She was simply delectable. Plump and rosy. He should like to amuse himself with her, but such games would have to wait. First he must deal with the boy.
"Come closer," he ordered, pleased to see the boy step forward immediately. He was scared, yes, but so desirous of pleasing him. He would do quite nicely, Dr. Lispenard thought. Just needs a bit of training up.
Lispenard's fingers danced over the various tools laid out on the bedside table. Glass rods, a large pair of sewing shears, hair tongs—even better when heated, though he had no fire upon which to do so now, several knives of varying lengths, and a rather large piece of scrap metal. Such an implement would shred such a petite young girl. The thought of the damage he could inflict curved his lips upwards. Yes, that would do nicely.
He took hold of the metal piece, but paused. "I think..." he said, as though the idea had just occurred to him in the moment, "Yes, I think it is time for you to prove your loyalty to me, Frank." And with that, Lispenard laid the tool in young Frank's hands.
The boy's hands shook, and his eyes couldn't position themselves on any one thing. They jumped from the girl lying on the bed, to the tool in his hands, to the doctor's face, and back again. "I-I—I can't," he managed at last, the metal bit falling from his hands to clatter onto the wooden floor.
Anger shot through Lispenard. Unable to control himself, he showed the boy the backside of his hand in a blow that left the boy's head spinning. "You miserable little fool. Is this how you repay my kindness to you?"
The boy, unable to control himself any longer, burst into tears. "I'm sorry, Doctor. I-I-I just can't . Please don't be angry."
The boy cowered away from him, which only stoked his anger to a heated pitch. Lispenard made to strike the boy again, but checked himself. He must be patient. The boy was young, perhaps, but he had been doing this for a very long time, and he knew young Francis Tumblety would be well worth the wait. Someday perhaps he would even rival the Master himself.
"Stop that crying this instant," Lispenard snapped. His patience could only be stretched so thin. If the boy insisted on mewling like a girl, he would flay him open like one. Young boys weren't nearly as satisfying as girls, but even they could provide some amusement. "Stand back and watch if that's all you can do."
The boy stifled his cries and stepped out of the circle of light to stand at the foot of the bed. Dr. Lispenard was glad to see that mixed in with the dread on the boy's face, there was also an eagerness to watch. A curiosity that left unchecked would perhaps dissipate over time. He, however, had no such plans. He tested the heft of the metal bit in his hands—the sheer size of it alone would destroy this young girl.
That thought alone brought back his good humor.
Sam was rendered speechless after it was over. Without a word, she turned from Simon and quietly retched in the corner of the room. He whispered no words of comfort to her—he didn't touch her or offer so much as a handkerchief with which to wipe her mouth. He simply let her be. Let her digest all that had just transpired.
It was too much, and she eventually succumbed and slid down the wall to stare numbly at the dead girl lying on the other side of the room.
"This is how it all started," she said, caught unaware by the wetness sliding down her cheeks. She brushed a rough hand across her face and steeled herself for whatever was next. This night was far from over. "Where did it end?"
The trip back—or rather, forward—this time was a mere blip on the screen. A couple of seconds of disorientation followed by a lightness in her limbs, and all came crashing back to reality again. This time she didn't pass out, and this time Simon was there when she same through, arms around her, holding on to her as though she were a precious artifact that might crumble in his hands should he hold her too tightly.
"This is it, isn't it?" she asked, searching his face. "This is what we came for?"
Simon nodded. "July 21st, 1865. The day Frank's father killed his mother."
This time they were outside, the night air cool against
their skin. A crescent moon hung in a sky dotted with silvery clouds that moved swiftly with the rising wind. Sam's hair whipped away from her face, a few strands catching in her mouth. She brushed them away, quickly realizing her hands were shaking. Whatever this night brought, whatever Simon had to show her, she didn't want to see it.
"This way," Simon said, motioning with his chin towards a four story building that was little more than a rotted frame held together by the sheer will of its tenants. Even from the street, Sam could hear the rising crescendo of an argument well underway. A man's voice blocking out the fainter, softer sound of a woman pleading for him to calm down. Brought up in a loving home, such sounds were foreign to Sam. A thing of fiction that had always seemed so distant. But this night was nothing if not a crash course on the uglier side of life. She hesitated, but followed behind Simon after a brief moment to steel herself for what was to come. Even then, there was no way she could've prepared herself for what the night would reveal.
Sam told herself the scene before her wasn't real. It was a movie. A stageplay. Actors putting on a show for a paying audience that wanted a lot of gore for their buck.
There was no way of telling what started it. Arguing was clearly a way of life for this family, as was a certain level of abuse. You could see it in the resigned faces of all the children—in the wife's face, even. This was a storm to weather, nothing more. Tomorrow they would go on living hand to mouth as they had the day before, and the day before that. Soon enough the tide of anger would recede. It always did.
The shock that registered in the woman's eyes when the father drew a knife and sank it into her soft belly spoke to the fact that the possibility of such an attack had never once entered the woman's mind. Frank's father was a wife-beater, yes. A bastard, yes. But a cold-blooded killer? No, even she, a woman who cowered at the sight of her own husband, had never dreamed he would dare take things that far.
Sam was all too aware of Frank as she watched this murder unfold. He stood with the other children, awkward in his body. He couldn't have been much older than he had been in Lispenard's little office—fifteen, max. But he was tall for his age and unable to control his awkward limbs. Large wrists stuck out of shirt sleeves that were much too short, and though his pants had obviously been let out several times, the bottom of his pant cuffs barely skimmed the top of his work boots.
An overwhelming urge to hold him to her breast and comfort him struck her. To take the memory of this night away from him forever. No child deserved such a fate as this. But even as the thoughts struck her, she couldn't help but notice the way he watched with a calm passivity. He was so like that young boy in Dr. Lispenard's office. Scared, yes, but also curious. He shushed the younger children and tried to comfort them as his mother lay dying on the floor, but his eyes kept wandering back to her prone body, eager to take in every last detail.
Whatever Dr. Lispenard had taught him, Frank had learned well.
"Let's go," she said. "I've seen enough."
Simon remained impassive, waiting, and she had no choice but to remain where she was, eyes averted to the sight before her.
The police weren't called, and no one came to the woman's rescue. Eventually Frank's father stumbled off into the night, no doubt in search of a drink. Tomorrow perhaps he would mourn his wife, but right now the call of liquor was much stronger. The children—those old enough to realize what was going on—cried themselves to sleep, not knowing what the future would bring. Soon Frank remained alone in the shabby room, hands tucked in his pockets as he studied his mother.
He bent over her, studying her face. The stab wound, every last detail. Eventually, when he'd gotten his fill of the scene, he stood up straight and spat in the dead woman's face. "Nasty slut. Had to get yourself knocked up again, didn't ya?"
Sam recoiled at the harshness of his voice. Frank had always been so good—so kind. She couldn't reconcile the two.
"You know what to do, don't you?" a voice said from the shadow of the front door. Sam hadn't noticed it had been left ajar. Dr. Lispenard stepped inside the apartment.
There was a moment of hesitation in Frank's eyes, Sam thought. A brief play of doubt that was gone almost as soon as it appeared. But it had been there. In the days to come, she would cling to the memory of it. Its presence meant there was hope for Frank. Some small outside chance that all would turn out okay in the end.
She clung to it like a talisman—even when Frank pulled out the knife in his mother's stomach and went to work on her womb.
(Dunt dun dun!!)