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Soulbound ‡ waif

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 10

The immorality involved is entirely different, in character and even in origin, from ordinary loose conduct between the sexes. Its sole aim is the satisfaction of male sexual passion … The woman's passions are hardly involved at all, she is moved neither by excitement nor by pleasure … she merely seeks her living in the easiest way open to her.

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

With the morning sun turning the sky orange behind them, Zavy, Reggie, and Jack rounded the corner just down the street from McCoy's stables. Blocking their path were two drunk women, barely able to hold each other up. Seeing the young men coming up the street, one stumbled forward with her hands out. "Give us a kiss, me lovelies."

The other tried to follow but fell onto the ground, laughing. Looking up at the boys, she chortled, "Kisses be free. A quick suck'll cost ya' a pence. Just a pence to get your pego sucked, lads."

The first woman laughed and dropped her bodice, lifting out two slack breasts. "For two pence, you can have a taste of your first woman. What do 'ya say, lads?"

Reggie sneered and replied, "I say, 'Fuck off, you nasty tramp.' I've seen better bubbies on a cow."

The woman squinted at Reggie, then turned to her friend. "He called me a cow, Polly." She turned back to Reggie. "They's no call for talking that way, you young scamp. We's good girls, we is. Just trying to buy a bit of breakfast this morning."

The woman on the ground wasn't listening, having passed out.

Reggie turned to Zavy. "Should we help 'em out? With a pence or two?"

Zavy pulled Reggie and Jack into the street to walk around the women. "Leave 'em be, lads. The pence would go to beer this afternoon, not breakfast this morning."

They walked past the women, only to have the one still standing begin screaming at them, "That's right! Leave us be, you little fags. Not a pego worth sucking among the lot of ya'!"

Reggie turned and lifted his hand, pointing his middle finger at the woman, who cackled and returned the gesture, but then suddenly she stopped laughing, choking slightly and staring at the lads walking away from her. Jack was looking back over his shoulder, and his eyes were glowing bright red.

Her heart began pounding beneath her breasts, suddenly fearful, though she didn't know why. She quickly yanked her bodice up to cover her breasts and turned to help her friend up off the ground. They had to leave. Quickly. To flee and hide. Though she had no clue what they should be running from. Stumbling off into a dark alley, the two women disappeared. Jack's eyes stopped glowing and he simply glared at the alley where they'd gone.

"Bloody tramps," Reggie muttered, shaking his head.

"They're trapped," Zavy replied. "No way to improve their lot, so they do what they can, using their bodies to get their next meal."

"Or their next beer," Reggie added.

Jack angrily kicked a stone along the street. "They're whores. Disgusting, filthy whores. Leaving their little ones home to find what food they can while their mums walk the streets and get FUCKED by any man who has a few PENCE in his pocket."

Reggie glanced at Jack, shocked by the venom in his voice.

Zavy noticed too and put his arm around Jack's shoulder. "What's got into you, lad?"

Jack leaned into the warmth of Zavy's side. "I hate 'em. Fucking whores. They should be home, caring for their children, not out here selling their bubbies."

Reggie started to speak, but Zavy cut him off with a quick shake of his head.

Jack didn't say anything else, but started weeping softly.

Zavy held Jack tight as they walked, whispering, "It's okay, now, Jacko. You're with us, your brothers. And our Mum is your Mum."

Jack sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "She didn't even care when I left, Zavy. She was half drunk still after walking the streets all night, fucking whoever would hand her coin for lifting her skirts. I said I was leaving. Forever. To live with you and Reg. She just looked at me and laughed. 'Go on with ya, then,' she said. 'One less mouth to feed,' she said."

Zavy stopped and pulled Jack into a hug. Reggie wrapped his arms around both of them, squeezing Jack between them.

"Bloody fucking whores, that's what women are," Jack mumbled, his voice muffled with his face pressed against Zavy's chest. "Bloody fucking whores who leave their boys alone all night, hungry and afraid, then don't fucking care when their boys have to wander the streets, begging for a bite of bread. Bloody fucking whores."

Jack wept softly as Zavy held him tight while gently rubbing the back of Jack's neck.

Reggie, unsure of himself, stroked Jack's arm. "Jack, me lad, that's all over now. It'll never happen to you again, now you're with us. We'll never beg for bread, now we're vampires."

Jack pulled away, his mouth twisted into a furious grimace. "Ya. We're vampires. We oughta use our powers to send every one of them damned whores to an early grave. Then other little boys won't be hurt like I was."

Zavy turned Jack around to face him, gently asking, "And how will that change anything, Jack? Chuckaboo. Me love. Think about it. We're doing what we can to help people out. One person at a time. The women out at night, selling their bodies for what they can get … those'll always be with us. So we look after their little ones, hungry and afraid, and we help them out as best we can. That's how we change Whitechapel, Jacko."

Jack took several deep breaths, but his heart was still pounding. He pulled out of Zavy's arms and said, "We'll be late for work." He took his eyeshades out of pocket and put them on. The sun was coming up, and it was getting bright out. "Come on, lads." He started walking down the street, his steps stiff and angry.

Zavy sighed and followed, gesturing for Reggie to come too.

They reached the stables without further incident. McCoy was pulling the large front doors open when they arrived. "Ah, early to rise, me lads, as always. Ready to work?"

The boys nodded.

"Every stall's full today," McCoy said. "You lads best get started."

Jack led the way into the stables, opening the storage bin just inside and reaching in for a shovel. He handed it Zavy, who stopped Jack with a hand on his shoulder.

"You gonna be alright, lad?" Zavy asked.

Jack nodded curtly, handing a second shovel to Reggie before reaching in to pull out a rake for himself.

Then Jack pushed past Zavy and headed for the back of the stables to begin work.

McCoy handed them five pence each, pleased as always with the work they'd done that day, and sent them on their way after checking the streets first for Wentworth lads hanging about. Strangely enough, the Wentworth boys had stopped coming by, and McCoy wondered why, but it did make things easier and he much preferred having the Hanbury lads working for him. They gave him a good day's work for their wages.

He watched the three Hanbury boys walking off down the street. They had new twill caps, all three of them, jauntily tilted on their heads. He smiled. They were good lads, they were.

Turning around, McCoy saw a bearded man dressed in a black suit coming up the street. The man wore dark eyeshades, not unlike those the Hanbury boys had been wearing. He supposed it was becoming a fashion, but he certainly wouldn't wear anything of the sort. Didn't want folks assuming he had the bad blood. That wouldn't do, not at all.

The man stopped in front of McCoy and asked, "Are you the owner of these stables?"

McCoy nodded. "Aye. What can I help ya' with, sir?"

The man removed his eyeshades and reached out to shake hands. "I've heard you have a brother moving here from Glasgow? Willie McCoy?"

McCoy shook his head. "Nah. Me families from Edinburgh. And I've no brothers by that name."

The man seemed surprised to hear that. "I must have heard wrong. Do you know of any Willie McCoy moving here to Whitechapel? He'd have a son or two. Young lads around fifteen."

McCoy shook his head again. "No, sir. Afraid I don't."

The man nodded his head slowly. "Well, then, I'm sorry to have bothered you." He began to walk away, then turned back and asked, "Do you know of any lads, around that age, who come around every now and then. They probably live on Hanbury street."

McCoy's eyes narrowed. He didn't know who this bearded man was or why he was asking so many questions, but something about the man set the hair on the back of McCoy's neck curling. "Nah. No lads around here from Hanbury. They'd get in fights with our lads every day if they did. The lads from one street don't mix with another."

"So I've heard," the bearded man replied. He nodded his head and continued on his way.

McCoy watched him go, then walked into the stables to pull out the horses he planned to use that day.

"Okay, Mum, you can open your eyes!" Reggie exclaimed.

The table in front of Mum was loaded with food. Beef galantine. Roasted potatoes. Veal stew. And an enormous fruit cake for dessert.

Mum shook her head. "Lord help us, what have you boys done?"

Zavy took Mum's hand and pulled her to the table. "We worked extra hard today, Mum, and we wanted the family to have a special meal." He pointed at the food.

"But … it's so much," Mum complained. "It must have cost a shilling or more."

Reggie nodded. "Eighteen pence, Mum. And worth every bit."

Mum narrowed her eyes. She suspected the food cost more than that. And then there were the gifts the boys had given the family. Her dresses. The toys for the little ones. And where did the lads get the money for the dashing twill caps and new coats they'd been wearing the last couple of days. In her heart, she knew they couldn't have earned all that money working about town, but she didn't want to admit to herself that her boys might be stealing or something worse.

She bowed her head and offered a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the food and for protection for her children, especially Zavy, Reggie and Jack. Then she filled a plate for Crawley, who had refused to come out of the bedroom all day.

With full stomachs, the family went to bed early that night.

Lulling them to sleep was a soft melody Zavy blew upon his piccolo. It was a Celtic lullaby he was fond of playing when he wanted to relax and allow his thoughts to drift away to happier days. With money to provide all the family needed, Zavy earnestly hoped those happy days would return again, this time to stay. It was late in August, and there was a storm brewing outside, preparing the country for the onslaught of winter, but his family would be safe this year.

Reggie sighed contentedly. His stomach was so full he didn't even want a suck from Jack. Besides, they'd fucked twice in the loft at the stables that afternoon, and for once, Reggie's hunger for food and sex were both completely sated.

Jack lay on his side, staring out the window at the tree branches whipping from side to side. Listening to Zavy's music. Smiling wistfully. Thinking about his mother. Losing his smile. Remembering the whores on the street. Gritting his teeth in anger.

Zavy finished the song and put his piccolo away. He tried to hug Jack from behind, but his mate's body was stiff and unyielding, as though he didn't want to be touched. Zavy was confused, but he rolled onto his back and closed his eyes, hoping Jack would snap out of his angry mood soon.

An hour later, when the house was silent and everyone else had fallen asleep, Jack rolled off the pallet and gathered up his pants, shirt, and shoes. He tiptoed to the door and quietly put his clothes on. He lifted his coat from where he'd left it on a chair and slid it on. Then he carefully opened the door and slipped out into the hallway.

Mary Ann Nichols, known as Polly to her family and friends, was having a miserable night. It had started well enough, with two late night revelers coming out of a pub to piss in the alley. She'd offered to blow them for two pence each, and they'd been drunk enough to take her up on her offer. But the wind started picking up, and neither man wanted to have his cock out in the chill breeze, even for a good suck, so they zipped up and went back into the bar to drink some more.

Frustrated with her misfortune and cursing the weather, Polly tried several other pubs on the same street with no better results. It was getting close to midnight, and she had just about decided to call it a night when she found three drunken sailors leaning on one another at a streetlamp on Buck Row. Hoping her luck had changed, she approached them with one breast hanging out of the top of her dress.

"Care for a bit of fun, boys?" she asked, jiggling her breast seductively.

The least drunk of the three asked, "How much?"

"What did ya' have in mind?" she asked.

The sailor approached and took her flaccid breast in his hand. He squeezed it and then laughed. Turning to the other two, he said, "This one has seen better days, mates. We should charge her for dropping our pants!"

All three began laughing at Polly, who tried to slap the first sailor, but he caught her hand and shoved her roughly away.

"Keep your claws in, tiger. We aren't interested in the rough stuff."

The other two laughed even harder.

Polly stomped her feet, then ran down the street and slipped into a darkened gateway, where she slid her breast back inside her dress and tugged her shawl around her shoulders. She felt chilled suddenly, as though the wind had changed and a freezing breeze was now blowing on her back.

Turning her head, she saw a shadow moving in the yard behind her.

"Who's that?" she asked.

The shadow came closer.

"Best speak up," she said, her voice quavering. "What do ya' want?"

A boy's voice spoke. "Just a bit of fun."

Polly sighed with relief. "I can be fun," she said. "You have coin?"

The shadow came closer. In the dim light of the gas streetlamp, she saw his face at last. He was just a lad. Couldn't be more than thirteen or fourteen. She shook her head in disgust. "Look, boy. I don't give it away. Not even to eager lads looking for their first taste of quim. If you haven't got the coin, you're wasting your time."

The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of shillings. He held them up for Polly to see, and when she reached out to take them, he closed his hand and pulled it back. "What can I get for this?" he asked.

Polly gave him her most sultry smile and lifted a hand to stroke his cheek. "You can have whatever you want? For the entire night, lad."

When her fingers reached his jaw, the boy clinched his teeth and snarled, "Is it really that easy?"

Polly nodded. "You want a bit of fun. I like giving handsome boys some fun. Yes, it's that easy."

She brought her other hand up to cup his face, but his hands snapped up and clinched each of her wrists in an iron grip. She gasped at the sudden pain and tried to wrench her hands away, but the boy's clasp was unbreakable. She shouted, "Oy, let me go. You're hurting me!"

The boy forced her hands down and leaned closer. His eyes were glowing red now. "You left them alone? Didn't you?"

"Who? Ow. That hurts!"

"Your children. You left them alone while you went out, looking for your FUN!"

"No. It ain't like that," Polly said, struggling to free her hands.

"And they're sleeping in a cold room with empty stomachs tonight, wondering where their momma is." The boy's face was inches from Polly's and his breath was icy, wafting over her face with each word he spoke, freezing her heart and stealing her ability to speak. She shook her head desperately from side to side.

The boy released her hands and grabbed her shoulders, shaking her. Polly tried to scream but only managed a strangled, choking gasp.

The boy's eyes were bright red now, shining in the dark. "Your little ones miss their momma, their FUCKING WHORE of a mother, and after tonight, they'll never see her again."

Polly screamed.

Back on the street, the three sailors heard Polly's scream and stumbled toward the dark gateway. They saw a boy bending over the broken body of a woman.

"Oy!" one shouted. "What's going on here?"

The boy stood up, blood dripping from his mouth, and disappeared.

The men shook hands.

"Inspector Spratling, Metropolitan Police, J Division," one said.

The bearded man took a seat on the other side of the desk. "Good to meet you at last, Inspector Spratling. I am Abram Schreiber. I work for Minerva Smyth."

The inspector gulped nervously. "Then Lady Smyth is now concerning herself with this unpleasantness?"

Abram nodded his head. "Naturally. It occurred in our streets, and she is always concerned with murder."

The inspector blinked and replied, "Please reassure the lady that we are doing all we can to find the one responsible."

"Then it was the work of a single man?" Abram asked, making a note in his book.

The inspector shook his head. "Actually … the work of a boy. A young lad."

Abram looked up. "He was seen?"

"Yes, by three sailors, though they were drunk enough that their description is highly unreliable."

"What did they see?"

"A small lad, thin, standing over her body." The inspector paused and then added, "With blood dripping from his mouth and eyes glowing bright red."

Abram's lips curled into a smile. He chuckled. "A young vampire, perhaps?"

The inspector grimaced. "The resemblance is unfortunate."

Abram sighed. "Inspector Spratling, I understand there is an early draft of a novel circulating around London, a rather fanciful tale called Dracula? Have you perchance come across it."

The inspector nodded. "Yes, indeed. A most entertaining account."

"Do you know who wrote it?"

"Well … yes, Mr. Bram Stoker. A fine novelist, and one Britain should be proud to claim as her own."

Abram smiled coyly. "Indeed. I'll be certain to pass your praise along to Mr. Stoker."

"Then you are acquainted?"

Abram nodded. "We are … quite close, you might say."

Spratling smiled. "How fortunate for you. I would love to meet him sometime."

"Perhaps that can be arranged. However, we seem to be getting off the topic."

"Ah, yes. The murder victim and the young vampire who killed her."

Abram chuckled. "That would certainly make for an entertaining report, one your supervisors would be most amused to read."

Spratling frowned. "I see your point."

"I'm certain you realize that Count Dracula is pure fantasy? That vampires do not actually exist?"

"Of course, sir."

Abram smiled and added, "And do you think perhaps these sailors have also read this imaginative novel?"

"I wouldn't be able to say, sir," the inspector replied, frowning.

With a shrug, Abram said, "Even if they haven't read it, they've no doubt heard tales of vampires, and in their drunken stupor, their imaginations ran wild. Certainly, this is a grisly enough murder without adding the ridiculous charge that it was committed by a juvenile vampire?"

The inspector nodded slowly. "Perhaps I should interview the sailors again. It could be they have changed their tale in the light of a new day."

Abram's eyes glowed slightly. "I'll report to Lady Smyth that you are diligently investigating this horrific crime, no doubt committed by a mad man, a very strong, very insane man."

"Yes, indeed," Spratling replied. "A strong, though undoubtedly unbalanced man. Thank you, sir."

Abram nodded and stood up. "Have a good day, Inspector."

"You as well, sir."

Abram left the office, concealing the irritation he felt. Minerva would be furious when she heard. Furious.

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