It has been some time since I was able to sit down and get some quality (or not so quality) writing time in. I thought of different ideas for writing prompts, then stumbled upon the above picture, which gave me a couple of ideas. So, my writing project for the day is below. Here goes:
Sean heard the footsteps, slapping against the pavement behind him. He dared not glance back. He could hear two men – no, three men – pushing their way through the crowd on Mayfair. If he hadn’t been paying attention, if he had been absorbed in the open-air market, or the festivities of the harvest festival, he would not have noticed his pursuers until they had pulled him away. That would have been the end of it, of him; if the Reapers had taken him, no one would ever see him again. Not Natalie, the children, or Granny James. He would be only a distant memory.
He passed the livestock stall, the odors of pig, cow, and chicken mingling into a putrid stench that made him heave. No, it mustn’t happen. He was still far enough ahead of the men. If he could make it to the end of the street, There were hansoms passing through all day, eagerly picking up new fares.
Sean moved faster, his jog breaking into a full run. His earlier attempt at blending in abandoned. A gruff voice shouted from behind. “Oi, He’s running!” Another voice, high-pitched and angry responded. “Quick, boys! Nab him now. Spread out!”
Sean sprinted, weaving his way in and out of the narrow gaps between happy revellers. The occasional gentleman or young woman would shout in surprise, but he paid them no mind. The end of the street was only mere yards away. Freedom was only a few short steps in front of him. Except-
A huge mountain of a man stepped between him and freedom. He recognized the barrel chested creature as Nelson. He worked at the pub. His glowering face, and truncheon in hand-made it clear that he was not standing there to help Sean to safety. The small man whimpered, glanced around the vicinity, and hoped.
Off to the right was an alley. It was narrow, dark, and unpleasant. Much too narrow for Nelson. In an instant, Sean veered to the right, and sprinted with all of his energy into the alley. “With any luck, they will lose me in the crowd.” he thought, his spirits rising.
He passed through the alley, reaching a darkened side street. More of an alley, it ran between the rear of the buildings on either side. But, to his delight, he saw a network of alleys that ran between each building along the stretch. He would be quite safe. As a precaution, he ran past several tenements, removed one of his leather gloves, and dropped it at the entrance.
He continued to run, seeing light at the far end of the street. It should take him back in the direction he came. His pursuers would not expect that. He was safe.
An arm shot out from the alley he as he passed, grabbing him by his collar. The force of the grab yanked Sean back, and he fell to the ground, breathless. He looked around, eyes wild. Finally they landed on…him.
The man stood to his left, dressed in a long, black coat, black gloves and boots, and a black mask. The black mask. The Phantom of the Lower Quarter. Sean wheezed as the man stepped forward.
“Greetings, Mister Mahoney.” The voice was a cheerless rasp. “I was afraid that we would miss each other in the – mob on the street.” The man held a hand out to Sean. Sean trembled, tears forming in his eyes. He had only peeked at the cards. Not even a real cheat. Why would those goons send this man after him.
The man held his hand out for several seconds before sighing. “Honestly, if you don’t want my help, you can stand on your own. But be quick about it. I haven’t got all day.” The terrified young man sat up, pulling himself onto hands and knees, before reaching a standing position. He stared at the man in black. He had heard stories. The Phantom of the Lower Quarter. He had a habit of finding those down on their luck and – disposing of them.
This man however, seemed less a monster, and more a frustrated businessman. He seemed annoyed with Sean, rather than filled with murderous rage. Seeing that his prey was standing, The Phantom spoke.
“You know why I am here this afternoon.” It was not a question.
“You have been accused of malfeasance by the establishment known as The Cracked Jug.” Sean nodded, whimpering.
“As you are well aware, the proprietor, a Mister…Levinson, I believe, is a just, moral man.” Sean’s eyebrows raised. “Well, moral for a pub owner with a gambling license.” The man conceded.
“Nonetheless, it falls to me to bestow justice, and punishment for the crime that has been committed.” As he spoke, the man in black unbuttoned his coat, and reached inside. Sean began to cry. a trail of hot, dirty tears streamed down his face as the man in black removed a curved, shining blade.
Sean Mahoney sobbed, realizing the end was near. The man in black took him by the shoulder and guided him to the brick wall of the tenement to the left. He consoled his bounty, as best he could.
“This gives me no pleasure, Mister Mahoney,” he rasped, a sudden sympathetic tone descending. “I promise you, it will be over before you know it.” He turned the young man, so that he faced the wall. “Now, Mister Mahoney…may I call you Sean?”
Through his sobs, Sean managed a tiny “Yes,” and a nod.
“Good,” said the man in black. “Now, Sean, please place both of your hands on the wall in front of you.” The young man did as he was told, his shoulders heaving as he tried to catch his breath.
“I know that this is difficult. But it must be done. All debts must be paid.”
Sean nodded, not hearing a word that was said.
The man raised his blade above his head. He paused, and asked, “We cannot make any exceptions, you know. It wouldn’t do to look weak in front of my employers. Unless…”
Sean turned his head. “Unless?”
The man tilted his head, deep in thought. “Unless, you could be rehabilitated. If you were willing to sign on as my apprentice, I might be able to spare you. I cannot guarantee that you would be allowed to live, but I could try to convince my superiors of your…value.”
Sean wailed. “Yes, anything you want! I’ll be your apprentice. I promise I will never commit a malfeasance again!”
The man chuckled, amused at his bounty’s eagerness. “Very well my young apprentice. Your training will begin in one month.”
Sean couldn’t believe his luck. “A month? of course, but…why so long?”
The man bowed his head. “You will need time to heal.”
“To heal? What do you-”
The man brought the curved blade down with all of his might, severing Sean’s left hand, which caused the young man to collapse to the ground, screaming in agony.
The man calmly produced a cloth from a pocket, and wiped the blood from his blade. He returned the blade to the interior of his coat, and tossed the cloth to Sean. “Bind yourself with that. I will ensure your safe transport to a hospital. There is always a price for malfeasance. Be glad that I was in the need for an apprentice.”
He turned, and walked back into the alley from whence he had appeared.
“Oh,” he said, turning back one final time. “As I am now your employer, I suppose I should introduce myself. I am Mister Grim.” He disappeared into the alley, leaving his new apprentice. For now.