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Soulbound ‡ waif

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 8

We see life cursed by drink, brutality and vice, and loaded down with ignorance and poverty. Such is the dark side of the picture, which, perhaps, looks the more black to our eyes owing to the heightened demands of a rising standard of life, and the expectancy of better things; as it is said that the greatest darkness precedes the dawn.

-- From Life And Labour Of The People In London by Charles Booth

Reggie grimaced as he bent over to spread hay in the stall. Standing up, he gingerly massaged his butt.

Jack smirked. "Feeling a bit sore this morning, Reg?"

With a painful expression on his face, Reggie still managed to chuckle as he turned to Zavy and said, "Didn't think you'd split me open, cousin."

Zavy scooped up a pile of horse shit and dropped it in a barrow. "I tried to go easy on ya', Reg. Sorry if you're a-hurting a bit this morning."

"A bit?" Reggie replied, grimacing. "I feel like you shoved your whole bloody arm up me arse."

Jack began giggling. "You'll get used to it. And when you do, you can take my thick pego next!"

Reggie shook his head slowly from side to side. "Hell no! You may be shorter than Zavy, but that cock of yours is a lot thicker. No bloody way I'm letting you near me with it."

Jack laughed and grabbed his groin, shaking himself suggestively.

Zavy leaned the shovel against the wall and approached Reggie, gripping Reggie's shoulder gently. "And the bite? How's it feel?" Zavy nodded at Reggie's neck.

Reggie lifted a finger and touched his neck where the two puncture wounds lined up, one above the other, in the crevice of his neck. "To be honest, I don't even notice it. My arse hurts far worse."

Zavy smiled. "I guess I've just about got the hang of it then. Just the right amount of blood sucked out first. Then the venom."

Reggie shivered involuntarily. "So I'm a vampire now?"

Zavy shrugged. "I imagine you are. The sun seemed a bit too bright to you this mornin', didn't it?"

Nodding, Reggie replied, "Ya, and things … well … things smelled different and food tasted different. I don't know how to explain it. And my right leg felt wobbly this morning."

Zavy frowned and looked at Jack. "Did your legs feel funny after I bit you?"

Jack looked down, blushing. "Well, lads. Ummm. There might be another reason for that."

Reggie and Zavy stared at Jack, waiting.

Jack glanced around, and seeing no one in the stables, moved forward and pushed Reggie into the closest empty stall. Then he started tugging at Reggie's pants.

"What are you doing, mate?" Reggie asked. "McCoy might come out anytime."

Jack shushed Reggie and continued working Reggie's pants down, pulling his underpants off too. Then he pointed at Reggie's inner thigh, where two red puncture wounds, much like those on his neck, pierced the skin of his leg next to his hairless sack.

"What the hell, Jack?" Reggie exclaimed, bending over to pull his balls aside and study the wounds more carefully.

"I couldn't help meself," Jack whined. "I could smell the blood in your thigh, pumping into your leg, and when I was sucking on your pego, I… ummm…"

"You bit him too," Zavy finished, shaking his head.

"But I didn't drink much blood," Jack added, lamely. "And I did the other thing you taught me, Zavy. Pushing on that spot in the top of me mouth to squirt out that venom stuff through me fangs." Jack rubbed the skin on Reggie's leg. "See. Almost healed already."

Reggie tugged up his pants, flustered and frustrated. "You think this is a bloody game, Jack? It's not a quick suck in an alley somewhere. You shoulda just sucked me cock and left it at that."

Jack nodded, blushing again. "I did suck your cock. I even swallowed." He gave Reggie a bashful, apologetic grin.

Reggie snorted, then started chuckling. Soon all three were laughing.

Reggie stepped forward and pulled Jack into a hug. "You did do that, indeed." He rubbed the back of Jack's head to show he wasn't mad. "And I think you should suck it again up in the loft to show how sorry you are."

Jack pulled away, smiling brightly. "You mean that?"

Reggie tugged up his pants, grabbed Jack's hand, and pulled him toward the ladder to the loft. Turning to Zavy, Reggie said, "Keep a lookout, mate. I might even try some of Jack's arse while we're up there."

The three stood across the street from the mercantile. It was getting late and most folks were heading in for the night. The boys knew they'd be expected home soon too.

"There has to be a way to do this," Reggie mumbled. "Vampires are extra powerful, ain't they?"

"I'm not going in and knocking the storekeep about," Zavy said.

"I'm not saying you should," Reggie replied. "I'm just saying there might be some other power you have that will help."

"Like what?" Jack asked.

"I don't know," Reggie replied, frowning. "Maybe turning invisible or something. Then ya' could walk inside and take what we need."

Jack sighed. "If we could do that, we could walk into a bloody bank and walk out with an armload of pounds sterling. Then we could buy whatever we wanted."

"We're not breaking into a bank," Zavy said. "We ain't thieves."

"I ain't saying we are," Jack replied, defiant. "The bank's got plenty and wouldn't miss a bit here and there. And think of how much we could help people around here who got nothing and no hope of every getting any."

"It ain't right," Zavy insisted.

Reggie put his arm around Zavy's shoulders. "Jack's got a good point, Zavy. The rich got everything and they never bother to help out folks like us. Like that woman and her girls who lived in the hall. That little girl died of her cough, Zavy. And what are the rich doing to help folks like us. Nothin'!"

"Yeah," Jack added. "They sit in their fancy gardens having their afternoon tea. Their lives are butter upon bacon, Zavy! And what have we got? Crawley up our arses every day to earn a few pence shoveling horse shit, and him keeping most of what we make, not even sharing it with Mum."

Jack's face was bright red now as he stared at Zavy. Zavy had no answer to give. Jack was right. The poor of Whitechapel died with the heels of the rich firmly planted on their necks, and nothing anyone could do about it.

"You don't want to be a thief," Jack said. "Fine. I'll do it. I'm a vampire too. I'll go into that big bank on Commercial Street and damned if I don't walk out with me pockets stuffed with pound notes."

"You think they'd let ya' get away with that?" Zavy asked with a frown. "They'd tackle your arse to the ground and lock you away."

"I'd throw 'em through a wall if they tried," Jack said, squinting in defiance. "And I'd run so fast they'd never catch me. Like you did when we was fighting the Worthies."

Zavy was quiet, thinking about the last thing Jack had said. He turned and started walking down the street. Glancing back over one shoulder, he grunted, "Come with me. I wanna try something."

"When we were fighting those lads, something happened I can't explain." Zavy was frowning with concentration as he led Reggie and Jack into the nearest alley. "It was so crazy there for a bit that I didn't realize what had happened until it was over. And when Jack snapped that lad's neck, all I could think about was getting the hell out of there. But now I wanna see if I can do it again."

"Do what again?" Jack asked.

The alley was empty and dark, perfect for what Zavy had in mind. He pointed at a stack of boxes several yards down the alley. "Stand over there, Jacko. You stay here, Reg."

Jack trotted down the alley and turned. "Right here?"

Zavy nodded. "That'll do fine, mate. Now just give me a second." Zavy stared at Jack, then closed his eyes and disappeared, reappearing a moment later standing next to Jack.

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL!" Jack exclaimed.

They both turned to look at Reggie, whose mouth was hanging open in surprise. "How'd you do that, Zavy?"

Zavy held up his hand, silently asking them to hold off on their questions. He studied Reggie carefully for a moment. Pop. Pop. He disappeared and reappeared next to Reggie.

Reggie grabbed Zavy's arm and exclaimed, "What the hell just happened, Zavy?"

Jack ran to where the other two stood and tugged excitedly on Zavy's arm. "Is that one of our vampire powers?"

Zavy nodded. "It must be. I remember when we were in the middle of the fight, I saw Worthies coming up behind you two. I thought, 'I gotta get there.' And then I just was."

"What do you mean?" Reggie asked.

"One second I was in one place," Zavy explained. "And I thought, 'I need to be over there, helping Reggie and Jack.' And the next moment, I was over there next to you guys."

Jack turned and looked at the stack of crates at the other end of the alley. There was a soft popping noise. He disappeared and reappeared next to the crates. "BLOODY HELL!" he shouted.

For the next hour, the boys experimented jumping from spot to spot in the alley, then tried longer jumps down to the river and back to Hanbury Street and over to McCoy's stables. There was only one scary moment, when Jack appeared in the middle of a group of drunken revelers, who shouted and dropped their beers to the ground. Jack laughed and disappeared again, leaving chaos in his wake.

Zavy called a halt, suddenly feeling a cold premonition that what they were doing was potentially more dangerous than fun.

But it was also useful, and after thinking carefully about Jack's complaints from earlier in the day, Zavy had decided that Jack was right. The rich were going to start helping out the poor of Whitechapel, starting that night.

"You lads slide around to the back of the store," Zavy said. "Wait for me there. I'll nick the stuff and back slang it."

"Why bother running out the back door?" Reggie asked. "You're gonna use that vampire jumping trick to get in there. Why not grab the stuff and … boom … jump outside again?"

Zavy chuckled, embarrassed he hadn't thought of that. "I suppose that would work too."

"Of course, it'll work," Reggie insisted.

Jack grabbed Zavy's arm. "We wanna go with you."

"No," Zavy replied with a shake of his head. "If I get nabbed, no reason for the lot of us to be caught."

"How they gonna catch us?" Jack asked. He disappeared and reappeared a dozen yards down the street. Then as quickly, he jumped through space back next to Zavy. He raised his eyebrows and asked, "And how are YOU gonna stop us from going with you?"

With a sigh, Zavy nodded and said, "Then let's get it done. You lads remember what the inside of the store looks like, right?"

The other two nodded.

Zavy closed his eyes and pictured an empty spot inside the dark store. Then he disappeared.

Reggie hissed, "Found 'em."

Zavy and Jack turned to see Reggie holding up a pair of dark eyeshades. Reggie waved the eyeshades and whispered, "No more sun in our eyes." He pocketed the eyeshades and pulled two more from the shelf.

"I like this," Jack whispered, pulling a twill cap from a bin and pulling it on his head at a jaunty angle. "You want one, Zavy?"

Zavy grabbed loaves of bread from a box and dropped them in a sack on top of the potatoes he'd just loaded up. Turning to Jack, Zavy whispered, "Just get stuff we can use. Things the family needs."

Jack found a stack of blankets and picked up a few, mumbling to himself, "Maybe I need a cap to keep me head warm." He glanced at Zavy, and seeing that the taller boy was preoccupied loading food into his sack, grabbed two more caps from the shelf and shoved them inside the folds of one of the blankets.

Reggie walked around a counter and found the store's cash box. He tried to open it, but found it locked. Gripping the lid firmly in one hand, he twisted and heard a popping noise as the lock snapped and the lid popped open. He reached inside and pulled out a handful of paper notes.

"Bloody hell," Jack hissed, noticing what Reggie had in his hands.

Reggie nodded. "Must be ten … fifteen pounds in here. And enough shillings to buy Mum wine for a year."

Zavy walked quickly to Reggie's side. "Put it back, Reg. We didn't come here for that."

Reggie glared defiantly at Zavy. "Then what did we come for. A few trinkets. A bit of bread that will feed the family for a day, maybe two. We're thieves now, Zavy, but we're honest thieves, and we'll make sure this money goes to people who need it, starting with our own family."

Zavy tried to stare Reggie down, but Reggie refused to look away. Reggie put a handful of pound notes in Zavy's hand. "I know a lot of lads would do the wrong thing with this. Go out and spend a month drunk, whoring and acting a fool, but I trust you, Zavy. And you ought to trust me. And Jack too. We're brothers, ain't we? We won't let this change who we are. We'll do the right thing."

Zavy looked down at the crumpled money in his hand. He thought about the haggard woman with her two little girls, sitting in the hallway, coughing and hungry. They were gone now. The little girl dead. Maybe the mom too by now. And quickly taking their place were others, just as desperate, just as hungry, just as cold and suffering. He nodded and stuffed the money in a pocket, then reached into the cash box and removed a handful of coins, dropping them in his other pocket.

Reggie smiled and clapped Zavy on the arm. "Good man, cousin."

"Hey! Guys!" Jack hissed.

Turning, they saw Jack holding up a silver tube that gleamed in the moonlight coming through the front windows. "A piccolo, like Zavy's, only better."

Zavy walked slowly forward and took the piccolo from Jack, turning it over in his hands and caressing the polished metal, touching the holes along the length. He shook his head and put it back on a shelf.

"What are you doing?" Jack asked. "You love playing your piccolo."

Zavy nodded. "My old wooden one is good enough." Turning to Reggie, he said, "Get the rest of the money. Then let's go home."

Mum was very upset.

The boys wouldn't tell her where all the food and extra blankets had come from. Zavy had actually defied her when she demanded an explanation. For the first time in his fifteen years, he stood before her and refused to answer her questions, saying only, "I know what I'm about, Mum. The family needs all this, and it don't matter where it came from." Then he took an armload of blankets out into the hall, handing them out to the grateful people huddled there.

Many were surprised when they opened the blanket to find a shilling or two wrapped inside.

They looked up with gratitude, thanking the three young men walking down the hall handing out blankets. What handsome lads they were too, though a bit odd in attire, wearing dark eyeshades and twill caps. But even if the lads had messed around and picked up a bit of the bad blood, they were good lads, and many families would eat well that day and sleep warm that night because of them.

Walking out into the sun, Zavy was grateful for the eyeshades. They did indeed help. He looked at his brothers and had to smile. They looked right proper, they did, in their twill caps and eyeshades.

Perhaps they'd get some new coats next to replace their threadbare jackets.

And shoes. Without holes in the bottom that got your feet wet every time you stepped in a puddle.

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