Whilst Constable Rowan had not been attached to the Black Museum for very long, he had already faced some particularly challenging encounters; the Black Pig of Awdry Gardens, the Merton Cask Murders and, although he wished he could forget it, the Strange Case of the Vicious Match Girl. However, none of these had prepared him for his most difficult challenge to date…
Ayesha is NOT wearing THAT!
Stanley flinched as the words echoed around inside his skull. Ayesha sat perched on the side of his bed, disgust evident on her elfin features, as she gazed contemptuously at the dress he was holding up for her inspection. He had been assured by his sister Molly that this garment did represent what demure ladies about town were wearing this season, but Ayesha had taken offence at his suggestion that perhaps she should show a little less exposed skin before appearing in public. And he had not even broached the subject of the veil yet…
“I know it’s not what you would normally wear, given the choice,” said Stanley, “but you do kind of draw the eye and this will help you blend in a bit better. It’s for your own protection and you did ask me to protect you…”
Ayesha scowled at Stanley, then her features relaxed somewhat, although her pout still remained. She sighed.
Stanley is correct…but Ayesha does not have to like it.
“Look,” continued Stanley, shrugging into his jacket, “I have to go to work now, so you don’t have to make a decision immediately. At least try it on and if you don’t like it, I’ll try to come up with an alternative idea.”
He buttoned up his jacket, attached his whistle to the front and hung his truncheon from his belt. Casting about, he retrieved his helmet from where it had rolled under the bed and brushed dust from it, before tucking it under his arm.
“And please stay away from the window – we don’t want to alert those who are searching for you to your whereabouts.”
Ayesha regarded him through her lashes, before turning her head coquettishly on one side.
Will Stanley bring Ayesha some dates?
Stanley sighed, “Yes, Stanley will bring you some dates.”
Then Ayesha will not watch Stanley through the glass…this time.
Stanley stepped out in to Hob’s Lane, closing and locking the door behind him. He saw the curtain twitch out of the corner of his eye and frowned pensively. He really should inform Inspector Neame of the situation, but was worried what would happen to Ayesha is he did. She had been a prisoner once before, of the mysterious ‘fat man’ she had mentioned, and Stanley did not want her to suffer the same fate again, even if it was at the hands of the forces of law and order. Preoccupied with his thoughts, he did not notice that Ayesha was surreptitiously watching him from the window, as he strode off into the deepening twilight.
However, not all eyes were turned inwards and the one good eye of the disreputable-looking man lurking in the mouth of a shadowed alley across the street noted Ayesha’s presence. He grinned around his pipe. Word on the street was that a certain party was prepared to pay handsomely for the location of a young woman with blue skin. And now it appeared that he, Henry Jackson Esq. of this borough, was about to become rather wealthy as a result.
Jackson peered at the house across the street and noted its number. The fact that the house was occupied by a peeler was not his problem, but it would probably be best to mention it when he received his reward. He was about to step out into the street, when he felt the cold touch of metal at the base of his skull.
“Not so fast, friend,” said a voice from behind him, “You look like a smart guy, so you know I’ve got my gun on you. So, let’s keep this nice and easy.”
Jackson froze. He had kept his head down, not crossed any of the local gangs and restricted his thievery to rolling drunks or lifting the occasional purse from unsuspecting pedestrians, so why was he being threatened in this way? Especially by what sounded like an American.
“What d’ya want?” spat Jackson, “Ain’t got no coin…”
“Well then, today’s your lucky day, friend,” drawled the American. This was followed by the sound of several coins falling to the ground at Jackson’s feet. He involuntarily glanced down, momentarily forgetting the threat of violence and saw a good handful of large silver coins lying amidst the detritus of the alley. He then noted the gun was gone from his neck. Looking back, he saw the American holstering his gun and nodding to the coins.
“Help yourself, friend,” he said.
Avarice warred with Jackson’s sense of self-preservation, but greed won out and he scrabbled for the coins, gathering them all up. Holding one up to the light, he examined it more closely – it appeared to be a silver dollar, but something was not quite right about it. Flipping the coin, he noticed that it had two heads…in fact ALL the coins had two faces.
“Hey Mister, these coins ain’t right,” said Jackson, “they’ve got too many heads.”
“Ain’t no such thing as TOO many heads,” said Jefferson Lake, and swung the axe.