Drive…

Drive myself to distraction,

Drive the demons away,

Drive beyond the borders,

Beyond the mistakes of today.

Drive the stakes down deeper,

Drive to the depths of despair,

Drive like there’s no tomorrow

For the likes of terror and fear.

–C. Green

Drive

Unpredictable Miss

7/16/16

Summer Short Story #8

(Prompt: Write a story featuring only dialogue between two very different characters. You may write it in script format. Make sure to capture each character’s personality in their dialogue to make them unique. Include “unpredictable” per the WordPress daily prompt.)

 


 

“What’s your name, pretty lady?”

“Lady? In this establishment?”

“She’s sitting right in front of me. Now don’t play coy? A pretty thing like you shouldn’t be sitting all alone.”

“Oh, coy I am not, and it’s Captain, to you.”

“My, my… a captain. My mistake.”

“Indeed. Not your only one, mind you.”

“My only what, Captain?”

“Mistake. Look around. Tell me what you see.”

“Giving orders now? We’re not on board your ship. Why should I follow?”

“You seem like a man who likes playing games.”

“Games, huh? Well… if we’re playing, Captain.”

“The bartender, a pretty lady—excuse me, a pretty captain—a couple men in the corner seat.”

“Do you know the bartender’s name?”

“Of course. Everyone does.”

“His full name?”

“…”

“What about the two gentlemen over there?”

“Your point?”

“I do… know their names.”

“So you fancy yourself a regular and those blokes too.”

“I fancy myself not alone… but you are. Alone in a pub that is now being locked by my good friend and bartender.”

“What the hell kind of game are you playing?”

“One where you do as I say.”

“Lady, I don’t know what you think you’re playing at, but it’s with the wrong man.”

“Uh, uh… I know exactly what I’m doing, and I’ve got the right man.”

“Leave his jaw intact, gentlemen, please. I need him to talk.”

“Get your hands off… mmhh”

“You don’t need to struggle hardly so much. My friends are simply holding you still. Mind you, it’s so you’ll listen very, very closely. Someone has been spreading information. Let’s call them rumors, for now. About a certain girl and the doctor who hired her on as his maid. Familiar? No? Funny… Just the other day, the good doctor was speaking to the Mayor, and he learned that his employee’s name and circumstances were being bandied about as if common knowledge. But you already know that is most certainly not the case.

The situation has proven most distressing. To her, to the doctor… to me. But do you know who really dislikes hearing rumors? The Mayor. Would you like the Mayor hearing your name and certain… indiscretions linked? It’s a bit of a touchy subject, but I’m privy to some of his sister’s lesser known proclivities. Oh? You didn’t know? How unfortunate.

Now, as you—yourself–said earlier, ‘don’t play coy.’ Ms. Barrington dallies with you—a strapping fellow, you are—I don’t blame her, truly. That you choose to deal in information with her eldest brother… now that, I find remarkable.

If you would like to maintain your current financial security and your good looks (I make no judgements on being a kept man. I am for equal rights and opportunities, I’ll have you know!), cease your digging. If you choose to ignore me, I will know. You are not the only one who likes to play spy games. Proceed with caution. These are unpredictable times, Mr. Brooker. Unpredictable, indeed.

Gentlemen, if you would see this man out? I thank you.

Go, enjoy your lady and leave my little miss alone. ”

Unpredictable

Nightmare From Above

7/15/16

Summer Short Story #7

(Prompt: Write a story featuring a character very unlike you. Put the character in a situation where his/her reaction would be vastly different from your own. Include “nightmare” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


(Immediately following the attack on Doctor Gadson’s house.)

The private airship, known simply as the “Arcadia” was a fine example of the Orca class of vessels—a yacht upon air. Sleek and mysterious, like its owner and current passenger, it was perfectly outfitted with every luxury. Zina didn’t need the ship to loom large. She just needed to own it and everyone on board.

“Hurry up; get in the basket. That’s a good boy.”

She’d let any other creature climb up on his own. The ladders tethered to the docking platforms were sound enough, but her Gingersnap was an entirely different matter.

“There you go.”

                With her pet sitting secure inside, she had the cabin boy haul him up into the airship.

She didn’t bother with a dismissal. As soon as Gingersnap hopped out onto the deck, the boy was forgotten. He didn’t exist.

“Show me what you’ve got Snap, Snap.”

Taking the cat’s go-cam from its collar, she synced the device to her handheld and watched with absolute glee. The fact that everyone escaped from Gadson’s house unscathed bothered her, but striking terror and burning his abode nearly down was a comfort.

So focused on getting the footage, Zina nearly skimmed over her cat’s appearance. He was always getting in scraps. Both of his ears were ragged affairs, one split from a bite, and his fur showed tufts out of place nearly every chance he went carousing in the city. Today, however, he was the worse for wear.

“What the hell, Snap?”

Her cat was wasn’t just wet and bedraggled. He was covered in who knows what foulness. Taking him by the scruff, she hauled him into the lavish bath on board and rang for another cabin boy.

“Clean him up. Rinse him carefully! Or else. I’ll know if you get shampoo in his eyes.”

                Not actually children, the cabin boys were very nicely shaped young men, paid to obey her every beck and call. Eyeing him savagely, she almost wished he’d make the mistake—almost. Her Snap, Snap wouldn’t like it, though. So she tempered her thoughts—barely–delaying the gratification of confrontation and violence. To assuage the desire, she reviewed the recording once more and thought how wonderfully solicitous the good doctor was of his own pets—both his pretty cat and the new girl he’d been lodging.

Who is this girl to you, Gadson?”

                As she watched more closely, the expressions on his face, his hand gestures and proximity, she thought, “Clean, fed and housed… another pet. Another way to hurt you.”

                She thought of the doctor’s pain and smiled at the amusement. The Beshalm assassin had been good fun, but not very effective. She thought he’d, at least, maim the man. When Victor had suggested she hire him, she had her doubts. Gadson was a wily creature, having already evaded one or two of her nastier traps. But she would have enjoyed being wrong in this instance.

Pulling her thoughts back from the morose failure, she focused on the dark-haired girl, again. She’d have to hire an informant to get her name and other pertinent information. Clearly, she wasn’t just some pretty maid.

Again, she smiled, talking to the image the doctor presented on her screen, “You don’t know what’s coming, do you? She laughed, unable help the glee at the prospect. “A perfect nightmare. You might never sleep peacefully, again…

She kissed the screen in mock tenderness, “If you are to wake.”

Nightmare

Penny Versus the Storm

Summer Short Story #6

(Prompt: Write a story featuring a character very like you. Put the character in a situation you’d like to find yourself in, make something go terribly wrong and describe the (three weeks after the Doctor’s visit to the Mayor) reaction. Include “storm” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


(Three weeks after the Doctor visits the Mayor.)

“Prrrmeow… rre, rre, ming…”

Penny twitched her tail, expecting a reply, and then sneezed delicately. She lazily blinked her citrine shaded eyes and let their slits expand in the dim light.

“That’s right, human, I sometimes am forgetting. You are not yet fluent in feline, as my Doctor would say.”               

                Eyeing the new girl (“the Rosamond” as Penny would say), the nearly solid black cat washed her paws. Deeming them sufficiently clean, she then went to the water dish and dipped a paw in, bringing the drops to her mouth. Unlike some other cats, she was refined.

“Get yourself off, you nasty tom, shoo!”

The Rosamond was not beyond chasing that ginger vagabond away. Penny knew all about the girl’s fierceness with a broom. She’d seen if first hand, quite exciting, and wouldn’t mind more entertainment. But he’d sprayed the Doctor’s front door again, and the smell was not to be ignored.

Normally a pacifist, she’d twitch nothing more than a whisker, if that. Today, however, was one insult too many. The Rosamond had knelt with pale and sponge nearly every day this week, and it could not be born any longer. So Penny slipped out behind the unsuspecting girl and made to follow the wretched tomcat.

“You would be coming. I had the knowing, Penny.”

“You have nothing but a bladder of fault, scoundrel.”

“Scoundrel?”

“Indeed. I am knowing of truth! You mark a gentleman’s door… the mark of a scoundrel!”

“My master is saying always yours is an upstart. You are getting your mighty airs from him.”

“Master?” Penny twitched her whiskers and an ear. She’d always assumed the tomcat was feral.

“What is the saying of your master about my Doctor?”

“You would like the knowing, dreadful Penny, but what will you be paying?”

The horrible tom leered with a flicker of his tail, and Penny hissed. Words weren’t need for his distasteful suggestion. It was time for action, and so the usually tranquil cat, shook her head mightily—making her bell peel in a flurry of fur.

A raucous chorus of cawing echoed overhead, right before the first volley of bombs dropped on the flea-ridden ginger.

“Rrreeeeow! Hsst!”

He didn’t complain for long, bolting for cover, instead. Whatever catty curses he fouled the air with were left to the bricks and mortar of the alley into which he scurried.

“Graww, gra! Graw huha. Gruh, gruh!”

If anyone should’ve happened upon Penny, they would have exclaimed in shock. For a cat, she spoke Raven remarkably well. Although, her accent left much to be desired. The black birds cared little, though. She managed to get the raven-haired girl she lived with to leave the tea time crumbs to them fairly often. Beyond that good fortune, however, was the fact that Penny was their sister of a different feather, a raven in heart. They would gladly give aid whenever asked.

Humans called their group an “unkindness of Ravens,” but Penny knew better. They were the very best sort.

Thanking them again, she doubled back and returned to the Doctor’s house just as the Rosamond was finishing her unfortunately task.

“Penny! How did you get out?”

“Prrmeow! Ming. Rrr.”

“I know. Wasn’t that a nasty tomcat? Let’s hope this is the last we see of him. I’ve poured vinegar on the doorstep. Mind you hold your nose.”

She gently scooped the Doctor’s cat up and carried her inside so she didn’t have to be so close to the deterring scent. All the while, Penny began to wonder if—perhaps–the Rosamond wasn’t beginning to learn feline, after all. She’d understood her remarkably well just then.

Some hours later, her Doctor returned from his calls and was about to begin receiving appointments in his front office.

As he carefully closed his wet umbrella, he said, “It’s just begun to rain. I think the weather’s taking a turn. It’s a bit nasty outside.” Placing it in the umbrella vase, he asked, “Have you see that atrocious tramp of a cat outside by the steps?”

Both she and the Rosamond answered simultaneously, “I have, Doctor. He’s terrible, marking your door every day this week. I hope he’s not done it, again! I’ve just poured vinegar there.”

“Ah, that’s why its smells as it does.” Taking his coat and placing it upon the rack, he replied, “I don’t think he has. He’s just been standing there—looking rather determined. I thought, perhaps, he was stalking an unseen rodent.”

Penny grew unsettled as she listened. More than just the skies were turning grey, she could feel it. Her whiskers were growing twitchy—never a good sign. As the afternoon waned into the evening hours, Penny’s sense of foreboding grew even worse. She couldn’t attribute it to the ginger’s continued presence. He’d left hours before, but she couldn’t help the sensation that his feral stare was aimed at her and the rest of the house’s occupants.

At eight o’clock that night, the worst happened. A window from one of the street-side rooms broke, sending shards raining inward. Something hurled from outside thumped ominously upon the floor and rolled unevenly, and then she became unhearing for many moments. The explosion was maddening to her feline ears, but she heard the Doctor clear enough, despite the assault.

He yelled from the library, running to the hallway, “Is anyone hurt? Call out! The house is on fire!”

Everyone, including Penny, found their way to his voice, and the Rosamond asked a frantic question of him as the rain fell in monsoon sheets.

“That wasn’t lightening and the clash of thunder, I’m afraid. It was an explosion, dear girl, and we must make haste!” The Doctor’s calm voice belied the severity of their problem.

Grabbing a fire extinguisher, he ran to his office, where fire licked at the curtain. But his efforts were in vain. There was only the one apparatus, and the fire spread quickly.

“Out! Out! It’s no use.”

So Penny, her Doctor and the other humans of the house, stood outside in the rain, watching as the fire brigade tried valiantly to save the structure. In the end, it looked as if they’d be able to salvage much of the home. However, the Doctor’s medical records were all burnt or water damaged. Most of the furniture was ruined, and everything smelled of smoke.

“Prrmeow.”

“I know, my Penny Dreadful, we’re lucky,” her Doctor exclaimed, as he stroked her fur meditatively.

Storm

Journey From My First Person

Summer Short Story #5

(Prompt: Write in the first person perspective, try in the present tense. Describe an event and how it affects the narrator. Include “journey” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


(Ten months prior to meeting Dr. Gadson, three weeks after the fall of Septmet’s tomb.)

They lay them to rest today, and I can only observe from a vantage hidden. My father, General Altman, all those soldiers… so many men. My heart pours grief as I cry among the angels and think of ways to join their ranks. A single thought stops me, though, as the final mourners empty from the Black Chapel Cemetery.

If I perish, by my own hand or another’s, I will have no marked grave to hold my body.

They think me already dead, crushed by the weight of fifteen meters of sand and stone. There, before me, lying to the world, my headstone lays next to Father’s—the casket occupied by a symbolic rose.

Rosamond Elizabeth Wadsworth is hiding. Lizzie Worth goes to St. Giles this day, and they will have her for as long as she can stand. I think this as I lay atop the mausoleum roof, hiding behind the angels at its corners. I think it strange and realize I am not myself, will never be myself again. I wonder how I’ll fair in a poorhouse. It is not what I’ve been raised for.

But I must leave. The cemetery is not meant for the living to stay.

“Father, I love you.”

I whisper to him and close my eyes. I don’t open them for many minutes. The sun is too brilliant for such a day as this. Noon is upon me, and I must make my way further into New London. The journey scares me. Traveling unseen to follow my father’s body seems but someone else’s actions, a tether upon which I was drawn. Now that singular mission is complete, I am anxious and weary. Heartsick, I think.

I’ll be heartsick for a long while.

Journey

Guest at the Party

Summer Short Story #4

(Prompt: Write a 100 word drabble. Include “guest” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


“Did you truly think we’d not celebrate?”

The doctor scoffed, while Rosamond tried to keep a dignified facade—failing miserably. She didn’t think there would ever be anyone to mark the day with again.

“No, sit. You’ll not act the maid today. No shocked looks.”

She’d no control over her eyes, though. They wept.

“Mrs. Cooper, the cake!”

Lemon drizzle… all because she’d mentioned the treat—a shared favorite with her father.

“There, now… Ah, right on time. Here comes Clarice and John.”

No better family of friends existed, she thought.

“To Rosamond, our honored guest! Happy Birthday, my dear.”

Guest

Cowardice and a Cup of Tea

Summer Short Story #3

(Prompt: Write with the following 4th grade spelling list words included: raise, mayor, airplane, remain, blame, state, frame, holiday, relay, waist, pail, gain. Include “cowardice” per the WordPress daily prompt.)

______________________

“I daresay, Captain Windigo would have a conniption if she heard you refer to her vessel as an airplane. Clearly, it is not.”

The Doctor had to correct the roving journalist. To see the Hermes correctly portrayed was but a small kindness he could do for the now, temporarily, land-bound lady. Such a grievous state of affairs, this more recent episode of events weighed heavily on the Doctor’s narrow frame.

“The HMA Hermes is a Haroeris B-221 airship of the Osprey class. Now you’ve all the facts. Off with you. Relay the particulars for your editor. I have an appointment to keep and must be on my way.”

The reporter was in the midst of replying or retorting, hand raised to pad at the ready for another bit of information. The good Doctor wasn’t certain; neither was he particularly interested, however. It was near time for high tea, and if he were to remain a minute longer, his housekeeper—the formidable Mrs. Cooper—would blame him for the tea gone cold. And all deities forbid, tea going cold… She’d likely threaten to leave for an extended holiday, and if anyone was deserving of a holiday, it was he and poor Rosamond.

Dear Rosamond… He mused as he strode away, his cane hitting cobblestone with consideration. The poor girl was a having a rough time of it, and his invitation for Mr. Stockholm’s visit helped little.

“If you don’t stop pestering the poor girl, your supper will be a lamentable affair, Mr. Stockholm—just you see.”

Mrs. Cooper was in the middle of a matronly tirade when the Doctor arrived.

“My dear, what is this about?”

“Don’t bother with Mrs. Cooper! She’s no sense at all. You, though! Hear me out… Your little maid has been in the tomb—the tomb—the one everyone said was found and cursed to oblivion, unopened,” Mr. Stockholm carried on with fervor.

“You gain nothing by insulting my housekeeper, John. If you keep at it, she’ll throw your supper in the waste pail later, and then where would you be?”

“With a trimmer waist. The fit of my coat could use my slimming down. Besides, I came here seeking adventure… and here, it’s come to me!”

“Mr. Stockholm! Rosamond’s life is not your adventure to pursue!” Mrs. Cooper would not be subdued and railed further, “You are a beast for even suggesting going back there where all her woes began.”

The trio of voices persisted in civil argument until Rosamond stepped forward from the receiving table where she’d been standing silent for some time.

“Doctor?” She had a letter in hand, poised to raise it higher. “There’s a letter for you Doctor, a letter from the Mayor.”

“The Mayor? Now that’s a welcome surprise. Let’s see what it says.”

Taking the letter in hand, he paused briefly at what he saw between the folds, and then quickly read it aloud.

Turning to his housekeeper, “Well, Mrs. Cooper, it means you won’t have to fuss with the lot of us tomorrow.”

“The tea! Oh, Doctor, how could you let it grow cold?”

“Oh, no. No, no, no, my dear, Mrs. Cooper. That blame falls squarely on Mr. Stockholm, I do believe.”

“Doctor, you devil. How do you come by that conclusion? Mrs. Cooper has been a right banshee. Blame her.”

Mrs. Cooper could not bear the outrage and let loose a torrent of unpleasant suggestions before whirling away, leaving the tea service to the object of her ire. He, rather dejected by the whole business, took to the library–brandy being better than tea at any hour in his mind—leaving Rosamond and the Doctor looking at one another in a now more spacious room.

“Rosamond, fancy tea down the street at the corner?”

Less a maid and more a companion now in the very best sense of the word, Rosamond nodded her head.

“Yes, please.”

They would need to talk. The Mayor asking them to tea, just as he’d invited her father to tea what seemed a lifetime ago… it was about the tomb. Of course it was. Clarice had called earlier saying there were strange whispers on the winds. Having more time upon her hands than usual with the Hermes being in land-dock for repairs, she’d done her customary rounds at the pubs, and the men had enjoyed talking with the lady captain around.

“I know what you’re thinking, dear girl.”

She should hope not, turning guardedly to the Doctor, after they’d left his house.

“You are thinking that Mr. Stockholm is a sorry bother and in many ways, you are correct.” Looking at Rosamond a little more fully now, “However, he’s a good man to have near in a pinch. You’ll see. He really can be a good friend. Just as you took it upon yourself to act the role of my hero, so has he.”

Rosamond looked surprised as the Doctor continued, “Indeed! Don’t look so stupefied. Looks can be deceiving. Clearly, we’d underestimated your blood thirst and facility with firearms. Now don’t glare at me like that, my dear. I mean it in the fondest of ways.”

She didn’t understand how his observation equated fondness, but he didn’t give her the chance to question.

“I would not be here before you without the man, as I would not without you. So there. You two are dear to me.”

“Then I am grateful to Mr. Stockholm, but I think—perhaps–you should remind Mrs. Cooper, as well. I, truly, didn’t get a word in edgewise. You heard the conversation much as it was without your presence.”

“Duly noted. We shall have our tea, and we shall talk. I think there is much to discuss. I was partially jesting earlier. I, indeed, know what you are about to say… and it will be alright, my dear.” And with that pronouncement, they stopped at the practical and well-visited tea house down the street.

“Ah, and so we find ourselves at our destination. Find a table for us outside. The day isn’t so dreary that we need to remain indoors. What I must say needs no ears beyond your own, I think.”

The two shared their tea and their troubles, more related than any would guess, but passersby would only see a silver-haired man and a dark-haired girl in focused conversation—a grandfatherly vignette–if only they knew. Within the Doctor’s hand, lay a single white feather, a silent condemnation he’d found between the folds of the Mayor’s invitation.

“Clearly, the Mayor does not know you well,” Rosamond very seriously surmised.

“No. I think he rather does. Sometimes, the bravest course of action is to run. Who you take hands with to pull along… now that speaks to your character.”

“Will we be running, Sir?”

“You, me and the entire world…” He paused in recollection, not a very nice one, and said, “I do think I’ll be pulling this entire planet along with me this time.”

Rosalind was too much in her mind to reply.

“We best be getting you better shoes before long.” Startled, she looked up, and he admonished, “Drink up, drink up—don’t want your tea growing cold.”

And so they finished their tea.

Cowardice

Desert Rose

Summer Short Story #2

(Prompt: Write for 30 minutes about a character and his/her limit. Include “desert” per the WordPress daily prompt.)

_________________________________

“John, she’s not at all what you’d led me to believe.”

“And how have I done that, love?”

Clarice Wendigo, captain of the HMA Hermes, looked past the mooring lines up to her airship—the port noisy with docking sounds– and then back down to the man walking at her side.

“I’m not your love, John.”

“Not yet, not yet.”

Tenacious, she’d give him that. For his sheer persistence, she answered, “She’s just a girl, a slip of a thing. You’d have me believe she was a creature from Hades.”

“She is! Have you seen her eyes? Too large, utterly, and sunken in. Her whole face is nothing but eyes.”

“She hasn’t been fed well for a long time, I gather.” Stopping, she seriously appraised her would-be suitor. “Truly, what’s got you in arms about the child?”

“What’s the Doctor doing with her? She’s dodgy. He hasn’t said a bloody thing about her past, just that she turned up at his door one day, and she’d be staying on. The whole business is dodgy.”

“Isn’t it just that, though, his business?”

“I thought you were his friend? Of course, it’s his business, but something’s not right?”

“What’s really got you bothered, John? Truly, you should be more concerned about what the doctor’s doing with so young a thing. I am his friend, but you men can be… well, such men! Why are you so unconcerned about her welfare?”

John, a fastidiously well-dressed man, began removing invisible hairs from his jacket sleeve. Many questionable seconds passed by before he finally answered–Clarice’s implacable eyebrow raised in earnest having something to do with it.

“She threw a lamp at me.”

“Pardon me? I didn’t quiet hear you correctly.”

“Too right you did! Don’t feign you didn’t.” When she merely raised her brow higher, he repeated, “She threw a bloody lamp at my head. There, satisfied? She’s off her rocker. Who does such a thing?”

Clarice made him explain the situation, the circumstances, and her verdict remained much the same throughout. John deserved a lamp thrown at his head. He’d scared the poor dear. How had Rosamond to know he’d felt comfortable enough to let himself into the house and that he had his own key? The Doctor, being the Doctor, had forgotten to acknowledge the fact. Expecting no one in the house except Mrs. Cooper, with the Doctor being out on house calls, the deep (and alarmingly loud at times, if she was being honest) voice of John Stockholm III would be unnerving. And so his “Hello, poppet” from the dimly lit corner of the parlor had been greeted with a toss of a lamp.

“Well, I still say she’s dodgy. The whole situation is dodgy.”

 

(Three weeks later over the deserts south of Algiers)

 

“I told you she was dodgy!” John shouted past Clarice, as he ran through a maze of crewmen.

“Stop! Get that girl! Stop her!”

He was releasing nothing more than carbon dioxide, as far as Rosamond was concerned. She wouldn’t halt, even if her life depended on it. The Doctor’s own depended on her running faster.

“She has my service revolver! Stop her!”

Mr. Stockholm kept bellowing behind, but the Hermes was a long ship, and there was so much more distance to cover. She ran harder, thanking her days on the streets of New London for her swiftness, if not her too-lean physique. Finally, she found the prow of the airship within sight, and there! The fiend stood too close.

She shrieked as she drew up her weapon, “I’ll shoot. I will! Step away from the Doctor!”

But the Beshalm spy did not. Instead, he drew a knife from his cloak and made to fulfill his intent.

“Wha-?”

Before Mr. Stockholm finished his question, she pulled the trigger—catching the assassin in the arm. Spinning about, the momentum carried him over the railing, but not before he grabbed the Doctor’s long coat—pulling the man nearly over. Very nearly, but he was wily for his years, and was more spry than most gave him credit for. The Doctor looked down upon the wretched individual holding fast upon his sleeve, as it began to tear along the seam.

“Give me your hand!”

“I’d give you my knife instead!” The other man spat out.

A Beshalm assassin, indeed. He’d nearly mistaken him for something else, but no more.

“It’s no longer in your possession. So give me your hand.”

“Your own death upon you, then.”

As he began to comply, Rosemond’s feet propelled her forward once more.

“Give me that!” Mr. Stockholm yelled, grabbing the revolver from her.

“You don’t understand! He’ll kill him,” she screamed right before biting his restraining hand.

Rosamond sobbed, “No!”

Not again, not again… never again. Retrieving the Doctor’s cane from the ground, it was a swift and violent attack. The Beshalm man plummeted to his death, as she sunk to the deck’s planks, crying.

“Why did you try to save him? Why? He’d kill you!”

They gave the wild girl a wide birth—each for his own reason.

“I’m a doctor. What would you have me do?”

“Live!”

“I would have. Rosamond, look at me.”

She refused, her tears making a mess of her stricken face, as she answered, “No. He’s killed everyone… everyone. They’re all gone because of him.”

“Who? Who’s gone?”

“Everyone, the General, my father.”

“Who was your father, Rosamond? Surely, you can tell me now?”

She didn’t for several moments.

“Can we interrogate in a cell? She should be restrained,” Mr. Stockholm spat.

“Shut up, John.”

Silent too long, Clarice gave her command. As captain of the Hermes, her voice carried most weight.

“She will remain as she is and where she is until she may stand, and then we may retire to my quarters.”

Clarice looked harder at the girl who would wield a gun in the Doctor’s defense, and a memory came. Before the girl spoke further, her own shoulders became weighted.

She realized, “Her father was that Brigadier General…”

“Davis Wadsworth was my father.”

By then, many a crewman was privy to the unfolding scene, and there were colorful invectives released.

“My dear girl. My dear, dear girl.”

The Doctor came undone and shed a stalwart tear—begrudging its post at his lash.

Mr. Stockholm had no such sentiments and spoke, “You’re Rosamond Wadsworth?”

Clarice answered, “Well, clearly. The greater question–it would seem–however, is why was an attempt made on your life Doctor?”

“I suspect it’s because Rosamond might have shared information with me, presumably something over which it was worth dying… or, perhaps, my living proved a stumbling block–one would assume was the acquisition of Rosamond. Still yet, there may be no connection at all to Rosamond, an unhappy fluke of association without causal relationship.”

Rosamond chose that moment to look up at the Doctor because something felt terribly wrong beneath her.

And Clarice boomed into the telephone on deck, delivering an all-call, “All hands at post! Engine report! Chief Officer, to me!”

All the while, John Stockholm III grumbled, “Dodgy as hell. This is a mess.”

Desert

A Physician, Foreign Letters and the Runaway

Summer Short Story #1

(Prompt: Write for at least 15 minutes about a physician, foreign letters, and a runaway. Include glass per the WordPress daily prompt.)

___________________

“Please, just open!”

One door and another, she frantically turned each knob, but they all held—until this last. Wrenching it open, she flung her body inside.

They thought she was a Tinker–a lock-pick and thief. By the looks of her, no wonder. More waif than ragamuffin, she fit the typical description. Except, she was not part of the gang. Today had been a bad day to edge around New London. The constabularies were too eager. She’d scrambled through more back alleys than she thought she would have to. The officer wouldn’t stop and another had joined him just now.

She quickly shut the door as shrill whistles grew closer, breathing quietly while her sides hurt.

“What if the master’s home?”

Better the owner than the police for now—she rationalized—and locked the door behind her.

“Prrmeeoww”

A black cat. No, a spotted cat. There was a light patch on its head near its left ear.

“Shush, no one’s here.”

“Prrmeeoww”

“Penny, have you got a mouse for me today?”

Freezing in the corner by the door, she looked wide-eyed towards the voice. A man’s–deep and cultured–surely, someone who wouldn’t welcome her here. Where could she hide? There were no cabinets to squeeze into. She should go back outside but when she turned, footsteps loomed just beyond–the voices belonging to them official and harassed.

“She went down here. She did.”

“Lay off it. We’ve been chasing her for bloody too long.”

“These damn Tinkers are getting the run of the city…”

Their voices drifted back down the ally, away from her door, and she let go the breath she’d been holding. Raising herself up to quietly undo the latch, she hoped the cat wouldn’t bolt—a stupid thought to have at such a time. Perhaps, it was because she was so very tired.

“Halt there, why are you bleeding on my floor?”

Caught, she blurted—because the master of the house was now upon her, with his cane barring the door.

“There’d been glass on the ground.”

“Well then, come here. Let’s have a look.” When she didn’t move, he hastily added, “I’m a physician, and you’re now bleeding upon my cat.”

He was right, the cat had rubbed up upon her shins, and its coat was wet in patches.

“Penny, you truly look the dreadful tale.”

Picking the feline up under its belly, the man shooed it away.

“Come here, girl.”

Then he bent an arm under her own and prod her further into his household with his cane.

“There, in that chair. Just put those letters aside on the low table. Yes, yes. Right there.”

She did as told because he was being kind, but her hand held onto some of those letters because she was nervous. Italy, India, the Americas… they were all postmarked from abroad, and they made her remember. She once had letters from far away countries to read.

“Why are you helping me, Sir?”

He briefly stopped from wringing the sullied clothe of water, looking to the tired girl in his chair.

“What’s your name, girl?” When she hesitated, he said, “Just your given name. I would not know you from a thousand others with just the one label.”

“Rosamond.”

Though, there was once a time when loved ones called her Rose.

“Well, Rosamond—a very fine name, I might add—I am helping you because I am a doctor.”

“But I’ve no money to pay.”

By the time he’d cleansed and covered her knee, an unlikely arrangement had been proposed. For room and board, a few coins—for pin money and clothes–the doctor would have her be assistant to his housekeeper and his errand runner.

“I don’t understand. For all I know, you could be a Ripper, and you hardly know me. I don’t even know your name.”

“True.”

“What?” Rosamond’s exclamation was a shocked question.

“Good God, girl. I’m not another Ripper. True, you do not know me.” He paused for grander effect and then continued with a flourish of hands.

“Doctor Gadson—not a Ripper. Phineas William Gadson. Of the three, I prefer Doctor. How do you do?”

“Fine, thank y–” Manners once bred well were hard to dismantle. “Where has your maid gone?”

“Off to get herself married, can’t think of why she’d go and do that—nice enough fellow, though, can’t fault her taste in companions. I was about to advertise, but here you are. Her old room with my housekeeper is quite vacant, and Mrs. Cooper, would welcome the help. So, would you like to stay on and work for me?”

“Why me?”

“Why not? Do you have an intolerable disposition?”

“Not that I’ve been told.”

“Nefarious tendencies?”

“Hardly.”

“Criminal intent?”

“Ordinarily, no… I’m sorry for barging into your house, Doctor.”

“Or course, you are. Then what? Do you lack the skills?”

“Cooking is not my forte, sir.”

“Can you prepare tea?”

“Yes.”

“Then, you are redeemable. What say you?”

What was there to say? Homeless, a runaway from the St. Giles’ workhouse, Rosamond had no better offers.

“Thank you for asking me. Yes, please.”

“Very fine manners, indeed–except for that lapsed display earlier… No, no. I shan’t say another word of it from now on–We’ll get along famously. Besides, Penny likes you. She never bothers to show unless she’s a mind to, and she’s discerning. A good judge of character, my Penny girl is.”

Taking his pet in hand, he set her upon his lap while he arranged himself in the great winged chair by the window.

“Mrs. Cooper will be down in another half hour with tea. I expect you to join me, of course. Introductions and details… In the meantime, since you’ve my letters in hand, read to me. I daresay you’ll find some of them fascinating.”

Carefully tearing the envelope open, she began:

My Dearest Doctor,

 I require your aid once again, my friend. May I reply upon your sense of adventure and goodwill? Please tell me you’ve not yet given up on my wretched soul. It would make me the sorriest of men. I will be traveling to New London on the eve of next month. Business of a most lamentable kind brings me your way, but there is hope for a silver lining—both in adventure and coin. May I call upon you to discuss?

Write to me and say yes.

Ever your servant,

John Stockholm III
Glass

What Matters If My Skin Is Pale?

I can see a child’s tears.

I can hear him crying.

I can see the wife, now widow.

I can hear her husband dying.

What matters if my skin is pale?

The blood beneath is red.

Most would say grief knows no color,

That a heart reaches into the head.

But what say you if that heart is black?

What image first comes to the mind?

All except our faultless babes,

Prejudice and racism find.

–C. Green

*Of course, it matters that we all should live… But, America, we have a problem. To call attention to it, spread awareness and moral support: #BlackLivesMatter.*