WARNING: Some magical violence
Lot discovers sometimes she doesn’t have to go looking for trouble.
London – 1844
Everything slowed and the volume of the world dropped, although the main street was only a few yards from me, in front and behind.
‘Hello, Tessa.’ I turned to face the way I’d come.
Tessa stepped into the alley. She was wearing a long hooded coat, very impractical for sneaking with all the snapping and catching on things. It would pick up a lot of disgustingness crawling across rooftops. ‘I’ve been watching.’
‘Using the classic lines, I see,’ I said. ‘You’re looking better. How many people did that cost?’
She smiled. ‘Still cracking jokes.’
I shrugged. ‘Humour masks the horror.’
‘I’m doing what I need to survive.’ She came closer, but not too close. ‘You should understand that.’
I rubbed my thumb over the release of my knife up my sleeve. ‘If you’re trying to make me feel guilty it won’t work. If I’m going to kill someone I’ve got to be certain and I’m always certain.’
She leaned against the wall and looked up at the darkening sky. ‘I felt your power that night on the roof. You’ve been hiding things from me and now you can’t hide,’ she said. ‘I can find your power anywhere.’
‘Given that my day often consists of picking up toys and wiping noses, must be fun for you.’
‘You could’ve saved me.’ Energy flared through her hands lighting the alley. ‘Instead you’re saving people you don’t even know.’
My gaze flicked to the street end but no-one appeared to have seen.
‘The Reaper…’ She arched her eyebrows at me, trying too hard to be tough and dramatic.
‘You’re trying to pluck my non-existent guilt.’ That wasn’t strictly true; I could feel guilt but I saved it for important things, like putting the wrong amount of cinnamon in Edward’s cocoa.
She sucked her teeth. ‘Gale doesn’t know I’m here, I’m giving you a chance. We can still run away like we always meant to.’
I edged forward, shortening the distance between us. ‘I got tired of running.’
‘You’re really going to stay here and play wife to a man who pays you to open your legs?’ she asked. ‘You don’t want that, Lottie, you never did.’
‘I wanted never had any significance.’ I slid another step forward.
‘We have power. You have money. We can do whatever we want. I just need to find enough power to heal myself.’
‘It will never be enough, Tessa,’ I said.
‘Is that why you won’t leave your man? It’ll never be enough money? You want more, more, more, and we poor folk can’t give you that.’ She raised her hands and purple energy crackled through her fingers casting shadows across her face.
My feet had a momentary disagreement with my brain about moving forward. ‘What about Sarah? She was a maid who happened to be in the wrong place and you stepped over her corpse.’ I pushed myself a little closer. ‘Or that young woman who was fished out the river. Don’t go pretending you care about poor folk, you’ll kill them just the same.’
‘Collateral damage is unacceptable.’
My knife stopped short of her hand. Our magic sparked. The hilt turned hot, my hand sizzled.
‘Still stuck on knives?’ she asked.
I dropped my knife and it clattered against the cobbles.
‘You never learn.’ She flicked her fingers.
I slammed into the wall and fell to my knees. Pain bloomed through my chest as if I’d been punched.
Her foot connected with my shoulders and my face hit the damp ground. Her hand wafted over me leaving a burning trail. She crouched down beside me, the burn in my back had me pinned. My feet scraped and my nails scratched the cobbles.
‘I don’t want to kill you, Charlotte,’ she whispered. ‘I didn’t protect you when I should have.’
My heart stopped. My limbs turned heavy. My fingers gripped the cobbles and threads of energy tangled round my fingers. So close and away from Gale’s brothel I could smell her in Tessa’s blood, mother, aunt, sister, I couldn’t be sure. If I’d taken Bran or Josef with me they would’ve known straight away.
The last of the welts on her face disappeared. ‘I’ll let you have a chance. It doesn’t have to be you or your man.’ She leaned closer. ‘I’ll take the one you had with you that night on the roof.’
I shoved up and bounced off her power like it was a shield.
‘I saw his power,’ she said. ‘A life for a life.’
‘You should kill me now then,’ it came out quieter than I intended.
‘Make a decision.’
‘I did.’ I pushed up, our magic ground together throwing sparks.
The light etched her frown deeper and she gritted her teeth with concentration. ‘That wasn’t the choice. Pick one of them. You’re good at tough decisions.’
The burn in my back intensified. I groaned through gritted teeth.
‘I hate for there to be collateral, Lottie.’ She flicked the side of my face and I snarled at her hot-coal touch. ‘You’ll be hearing from me.’
The heat disappeared and she walked away.
I lay, breathing heavily, closed my eyes and drew in more energy. My skin warmed as it spread up my arms, through my chest and down to my toes. I grabbed the wall and pulled myself to my feet.
I was angry, tired, and hungry.
It was time for dinner and I had a list.
Read more episodes of Nine Shillings, or read Lot’s first adventure, Victorian Mistress, here.
Nine Shillings and Victorian Mistress are also available on Wattpad.
Nine Shillings concludes 30th June 2018