Jack meets Agnes

This is a partial scene from the only NaNoWriMo project I actually completed last November. Jack Wish is the main antagonist in Two Souls and a Pocket Watch, which I currently plan to publish in a hundred years time.

Agnes Ditton was a hard woman to track down, not least because she now went by Agnes Grey. She lived above a pub in Whitechapel, the bare stone walls decorated with shelves of mismatched crockery. Every piece of furniture was built from a different type of wood, some of it rustic, some of it ornate, with one chair too delicate for all but the smallest of the three women to sit on.

The scent of freshly baked scones and salted ham tricked Jack’s stomach into believing he was hungry. He was already sitting at the table breaking bread with Agnes—a huge, ruddy-cheeked woman with amused eyes and a quick smile—when he realised she was a vampire. The other two women buzzed around them, quietly building a landscape of food on the table.

“Help yerself,” said Agnes, slapping the small woman on the buttocks when she put a glass of frothy ale on the table in front of Jack.

“Thank you,” he said.

The woman kissed Agnes on the cheek and dragged the spindly chair closer, plopping into it and resting her smirking face on Agnes’ shoulder.

Agnes admired the younger woman’s face, then assessed Jack. “I wondered when you’d show up.”

“Madame Margeurite sent me.”

Agnes cast him a shrewd look. “Did she now?”

“She implied someone warned my brother away from you?”

“Implied, is it?” She grunted. “I’ll tell you this. Don’t matter how strong you are if men wanna laugh at ya. Course, they can only whistle through what’s left of their teeth now, but that’s what happens when you play with the big girls.”

“That ain’t all what happens when you play with the big girls,” the third woman said, to peals of laughter from Agnes. She pulled off her apron and sat on Agnes’ thigh, one arm draped around her shoulders, the other stroking the younger one’s face.

“Me wives,” said Agnes. “This mouthy piece here is Eliza.” She gave the dark-haired woman on her knee an indulgent smile. “And this sweet little pea is Tilly.”

“A pleasure,” said Jack.

“Tell me, Jack Wish, what do you think of Madame Margeurite?”

“Do you mean besides the fact she’s no more a witch than I am? Or that her alleged love for my brother is a sham she’s clinging to because she still wants something from me? Or that the only reason she is still alive is because she has been feeding me morsels over the years that I now find myself wishing she’d provided in one sitting so that I might wash them down with her blood? The question is this: why does she want me to pursue you? After all this time, why am I here?”

Agnes smiled, her eyes disappearing behind the rise of her bunched cheeks. “You’re smarter than your brother, I’ll give you that.”

Jack’s muscles twitched. “Is that so?”

“Now, don’t go taking offence. He was good to me, was Dickie, but he weren’t the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer. He’d be the first to own it. That’s why he needed muscle, and that’s why Margeurite and her sister fought to remove everyone from Dickie’s life that could help him improve himself. If it weren’t for Eliza, there’d have been nothing left for you to inherit.”

“What do you mean?”

“Dickie weren’t the best with money. Eliza told him where to invest, Tilly taught him every escape route in London, and I … well, that whore threw me out, but we met in secret … I tried to keep him out of trouble.”

“You said she had a sister?”

“Aye, rotten piece of work. She still don’t know I figured her out. They were sold, see? Two daughters of a disgraced merchant. His finance partner inherited the girls one day, sold them out of spite the next. Sad to say your brother was an easy target. He always was a fool for a pretty face.”

“You can talk,” said Eliza, fluttering her eyelashes.

“Who was her sister?” said Jack, already knowing the answer, but wanting to be sure.

“Delilah Solomon.”

“What is Madame Margeurite hoping I will find here?”

“My guess,” said Tilly, speaking for the first time since he arrived, “is that she thinks we have the other keys.” Her voice sounded rusty from disuse, and Jack’s gaze shot to her throat where an old scar, parallel to the collar of her shirt, slashed her neck like a smirk.

“What keys?” he said, his own voice sounding far away.

“The keys to Underhill,” said Tilly.

Eliza put on a mystical voice. “The White Raven’s Roost.”

***

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