WARNING: Features bad language, sexual references, and gore.
Lot and Bran visit Atticus to discover more about the murderer.
Nine Shillings and Victorian Mistress are also available on Wattpad.
London – 1844
‘You look delicious in that coat, chuckaboo,’ I said, leaning against the wall of an alley as Bran passed.
He stopped and turned to face me, allowing me to appreciate the full effect of his black greatcoat. According to the ladies he looked like a roguish highwayman, it was only fair he got to complete ensemble so I’d brought him the coat for Christmas. It made him look broader, and complimented the battered hat he’d been wearing for years. Perhaps I should’ve got him a new hat but it wouldn’t have been long before it fell in a puddle or got squashed by a child.
He smiled and looked at the cobbles, blushing. He didn’t seem to notice I wasn’t the only woman looking.
‘Were my thoughts a little too obvious?’ I tugged my hood lower and stepped out of the alley.
‘Do you know where it would look better?’ he whispered.
I moved closer. ‘On the floor?’
Bran glanced at the people passing and stooped towards me. ‘On you.’
I made a show of looking down, Bran was over a foot taller than me and the coat brushed his ankles. ‘If I put that on I might disappear.’
He folded my hood back and set his hat on my head. It fell down over my eyes and I pushed up to perched askew, at risk of blowing off in the first hint of breeze.
‘Better already,’ he murmured.
I laughed. ‘Lucky you look good without it, I might keep it.’ I slipped my hands under his coat and cupped his rear. ‘The problem with this coat is it hides that delectable arse of yours.’ I drew him into a hug. ‘My chuckaboo.’
Despite being in the middle of the street he hugged me back, no-one passing paid us any mind once he decided he didn’t want them to.
I pressed my face into his chest and inhaled his bookish scent, a tad marred by Edward having vomited on him that morning. Bran put his hand over the hat before it fell off into a puddle, again.
‘You always satisfy me, Bran,’ I murmured.
His doubt was etched into the tense muscles of his back. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe me, there was always a voice in his head nagging at him and picking at his weak spots. I was no mind doctor but I had no doubt he would be carrying that voice around for the rest of his life. I’d always be there to contradict it.
I tilted away enough to look up at him. ‘I’ll take you to a hotel for some peace and quiet, put on your coat, and fuck you till you come so hard the bed breaks.’ I paused. ‘Then I’ll do it again.’
He chuckled, put his hat back on his head, and drew my hood back up. ‘Atticus is waiting.’
I slapped his backside. ‘Lead the way.’
He grinned and kissed my forehead. ‘You’re incorrigible.’
‘I blame the coat.’
He took my hand. I suppressed a smile; he’d taken my hand, I hadn’t taken his.
We found Atticus waiting in the entrance to his dungeon of death, leaning against a table and eating a sausage sandwich. Bran masked the uncomfortable shift of his shoulders by fussing over tucking his hat under his arm. I could say with certainty it was actual sausages, made of people but definitely sausages.
‘Come to overthrow me with your silly hood?’ Atticus asked.
‘Depends if you’re a rapey bastard.’
He considered me for a moment. ‘No.’
‘Good boy,’ I replied.
He looked at Bran who shrugged.
‘Well, I’ll be taking that under advisement.’ He flicked his fingers and we followed him down the steps in to the cellar, it was thick with the stink of rot but somehow didn’t seem as bad as the first time I’d visited. ‘I haven’t found your first victim but I think I’ve found a new one, and they won’t be making the newspapers.’
Atticus pulled back a sheet to reveal a young woman with no eyes.
‘The fish ate them,’ Atticus said then took a bite of his sandwich.
Bran and I exchanged a look and decided by silent consensus it was better to say nothing.
The fishes had snacked on her face too, and there was a hand-shaped burn mark on her throat.
‘No idea who she is but I’d hazard a guess at a prostitute or a very unlucky wife,’ Atticus said.
I glanced at Bran.
‘The sour scent is syphilis,’ he murmured.
‘You don’t have to be a wife or a prostitute to get syphilis,’ I muttered.
Atticus eyed me as if he was wondering whether I had syphilis when I was alive. I looked at him. He cleared his throat and looked away.
‘I’ll ask around,’ I said. ‘I know plenty.’
‘A woman and a street urchin, you will be popular.’ Atticus grinned and took a big bite of sandwich. ‘Most prefer to get their progeny from “better” stock these days.’
‘If I wasn’t already dead the shock would kill me,’ I said.
Atticus laughed. ‘You picked a good ‘un, longshanks.’
‘I don’t think he picked me.’ I rose on my toes and kissed Bran’s chin.
He smiled and nuzzled my nose.
Atticus frowned at the young woman rather than look at us. ‘I’ve marked on a map where she was found and the possible places she could’ve gone in the river. It might help you narrow down places to look. And I sketched pictures for you to show people, with eyes.’
‘What’s a poor woman got to do with a bunch of rich folk?’ I asked no-one in particular. ‘Unless she was a maid like Sarah. Plenty of maids get syphilis.’
The fellas exchanged a look. Bran touched his hand to the small of my back, where it would rest when we snuggled together in bed, and I leaned into him.
‘I’ve been doing this a long time,’ Atticus said. ‘Some supernaturals get a taste for it that goes beyond our appetites. Poor people are easy targets.’
‘I don’t need that explaining,’ I said with more snap than I intended.
He bowed his head in apology.
Bran’s thumb caressed my spine and he kissed the top of my head. ‘There’s a connection, we just don’t see it yet.’
I squeezed his waist. ‘Ever the voice of reason.’
‘If you two get any sweeter I’ll need a bucket,’ Atticus said. ‘Waste of a good sandwich.’
I chuckled and relaxed.
‘So…’ Atticus covered the woman’s face again. ‘You’re The Reaper… I like it.’
‘So do the newspapers,’ I replied. ‘But they did come up with it.’
‘Reaping vengeance, very nice.’
‘They’re not that clever. It was the hood.’
He coughed and for a moment I thought he would choke, except dead people couldn’t choke. Not to death anyway.
‘Suppose I’d better be off to talk to some old acquaintances,’ I said, but didn’t move from Bran’s side.
‘Not inviting darling husband? A little concerned, longshanks?’ Atticus asked.
I gave him a look. Bran was embarrassed by our own sexual escapades, a brothel was the last place he’d want to go. The invitation was silent, as was the ‘no, thank you’.
Atticus raised his hands. ‘I see the line. I’m stepping back from the line.’
‘Be sure to,’ I said.
Bran smiled and kissed my temple. ‘My Athena.’
‘I like that one,’ I said.
‘God give me strength,’ Atticus muttered and turned away. ‘I’ll get you those papers. Don’t have sex anywhere.’
From Bran’s expression his tastes didn’t extend to sex amongst dead people. I resisted a laugh, he might not appreciate the irony.
There’s a new episode of Nine Shillings everyday until 20th January.
A Lot and Bran playlist is now available on YouTube, more coming soon.