The Vigil For Johnny's Mission
Johnny crawled back to the shutter, reached up, peeked outside. Two bolts of light split the night! Two gunshots! For those instants the bridge and the river were visible. He hunkered down, crawled to the row of nails for his coat … jerked it down. Rummaging through the pockets, he snatched his pistol, rolled out of the room and into the darkened middle office. Up on his knees, he peeked around the doorway into the front office. Aiming at the glaring bulb, he killed it with a single shot. His ears rang, his breath was overdoing it, his heart too. He sat back hard on the floor, motionless. The front door thudded.
“Johnny! Open up!” Tiggit yelling. “Open up! Help!” Dark. Black night. Dye sprang up, swung the door open. Lilly Somanet! Thank God. Carrying the lantern. Faint light, they had light. She reached for the overhead light switch. Dye slapped her arm down, she could be electrocuted.
“I killed him!” Tiggit shrieked. “I killed him!” He pitched his .38 onto Johnny’s coat spread out on the floor … grabbed Dye’s arms to get his attention. They both shook. “I shot somebody! Call the law!”
“Yeah, he did!” Somanet shouted, breathing hard, both had been running.
“Hold it!” Dye bellowed. “Wait a minute, you two, quit it! I thought somebody was gunning for me!”
“No—us!” Tiggit barked. “I mean, that was me shooting. Somebody was after us!”
“Somebody who, Supe? Sit down,” Dye commanded.
“A man jumped out at me,” Somanet gasped. “He tried to grab me.”
“He thought we had the payroll!” Tiggit rasped. “I emptied that thirty-eight right into his belly. Call the sheriff!” Tiggit whisked off his hat, spun it, counted to three and put it back on. “Call Eddy!”
“Who was it?!” Dye shouted. “Could you tell?”
Maidens in the Night
On a fine and fair summer’s morning, Michelle caught the ’bus to Whitechapel High Street. She disembarked to find five women closing; laughing and talking cheerfully as was the way in the East End. Happy despite their circumstances. One of those women caught Michelle’s attention. She was tall: head and shoulders above her companions despite not wearing a hat. Blue eyed, fair skinned and she had the loveliest red hair. Michelle was drawn to that young woman. She and that woman were the same height and had similar fine, red hair. Michelle approached the group while wondering what to say. The footpath was crowded and partly blocked by barrows so they had no way of passing.
“Good morning to you all,” Michelle said.
“Good morning to you too,” the red-haired woman said with a soft, lilting accent to her voice. “It’s a fair day.”
“Indeed it is.”
A dark-haired, scrawny woman glared at Michelle with eyes narrowed. “You’re not one of them—”
“No, not at all,” Michelle interrupted. She grasped for words. She wanted to get her message across without putting them down. “I’m interested in the circumstances of women, because we are all disadvantaged. It’s plainly wrong that a woman can work as hard and as long as a man only to be paid a pittance for her labours.”
“That is so true,” the red-haired woman said. “There are few jobs for women and none pay enough to live on.”
“I agree,” Michelle said. “My name is Michelle and I’m working in this area.”
“Pleased to meet you, Michelle. My name’s Mary and these are my friends: Kate, Alice, Lizzie and May.”
“I’m pleased to meet you all.”
“So what will you do about the circumstances of women?”
“She don’t belong here and she don’t know what it’s like,” Alice, the scrawny young women, snarled.
“It’s true that I’m well-off, but I have been helping women such as you for many years now,” Michelle said. “I know much of what it’s like for all of you.”
“I haven’t seen you before,” Mary said.
“My work has been in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but now I’m based here.”
“In the East End with the lowest of the low?”
“In the East End. I have set up a refuge to train women to be domestic servants.”
“Them toffs wouldn’t take the likes of us into their homes,” Alice, the prophet of doom foretold.
“My sister’s a servant,” Mary said. “There’s little money in it and much hard work.”
“This is true and the decision is entirely up to you,” Michelle said. “I do know how much you earn and I do know how much you pay for the basics of life. With domestic service your board and lodging are covered.”
“I could never work as a domestic.”
“I understand, but if you change your mind or if you know of anyone…”
“They can see you, isn’t that right?”
“My refuge is at number five just down there. Call in anytime during the day.”
“We’ll remember that Michelle.”Michelle stood to one side to let them pass. They continued on with Michelle fascinated by Mary with the lovely accent. Michelle hoped Mary changed her mind and sought assistance. As for Mary’s friends, maybe there was hope, except for Alice. Maybe indeed.
Ahan still had a confused look on his face. “Are you saying that he is your real uncle? I mean his kids aren’t your second cousins, but first?”
“Yeah! Why is that such a puzzle to you?”
“Because of the curse,” Ahan said.
“You must know,” Ahan said, but now he looked a little scared of her. “There aren’t any girls in your family. You must have noticed.”
Raina smiled suddenly and then turned away from him. She licked her lips and then looked back at him. “That’s just absurd.”
“Everyone in town knows it too,” he continued. “People still remember Aadita and what she said.”
“Your great-aunt,” Ahan said. “Are you telling me you haven’t even heard of her?”
Raina tried to remember if her parents had ever spoken of her and realised they hadn’t. “Even Grandpa never spoke about her.”
Ahan shrugged his shoulders. “True to Aadita’s words, there wasn’t a single girl born until... well you of course.”
“That’s just stupid. You’re obviously pulling my leg,” Raina said and started to walk towards the house. The house was in complete darkness except for the study where she could spot her uncle and aunt deep in discussion.
“I’m not,” Ahan said. “You can ask anyone in town. Heck, ask my grandfather. He was there when Aadita died.”
Coming Next Month
Bells on Her Toes by Dianna Febry
Beresford At Bay by Kev Richardson
My Jungle by Gabriel Timar
Noddy in Wonderland by Paddy Bostock
Once Upon A Crime by Evelyn Cullet