Maybe I’m cheating, maybe not. I am, however, taking advice from Chuck Wendig (thanks to 250/500 Ways To Be A Better Writer) and my friend Shiri, and outlining Blood on the Quarter. The flash fiction challenge this week called for a protagonist that was unlikeable but still compelling.
Doctor Thomas Jefferson Reddington is not a nice man.
He’s also one of the characters in Blood on the Quarter. This flash fiction challenge is to feel out his character and to help me out with the storyline.
At any rate, I hope you guys enjoy it!
Bit of a warning: there is implied sexual content in this story. If you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, look away now. You have been warned.
A London Particular
An automaton sits guard outside a closed door. If it had the capability, it would surely be embarrassed for all the knocking about and muffled moaning it hears behind the tightly locked door. A small button sits affixed to the wall behind it. If it hears the front door open, it will press the button and cease the activity inside the secret room.
A mouse scuttles by the automaton, sitting up and wondering just for a moment at the shiny metal thing sitting calmly on a stool.
Thomas adjusts his lover’s hair behind her ears, allowing his fingers to stroke lightly over her flushed cheek, down her neck and collarbone, flattening his hand against her slightly rounded belly. She smiles at him, eyelids fluttering open. He has allowed her to pillow her head on his muscled arm, giving her comfort and allowing him to play the part of dangerous and beguiling lover.
“My husband will be home soon,” She says, a twinge of worry in her voice, hand covering his on her belly. “How can I explain this away?”
He gives her his most reassuring smile, kissing her forehead. “You won’t have too.”
A sparkly ring finds its way on her finger. Tears on both sides, smiles, nods and whispered promises. Thankfully, she doesn’t ask too many questions. More promising is her lack of interest in her husband’s circumstances.
When she is asleep, he gets dressed and slips on a tarnished wedding band he never lets her see.
A London Particular obscures the surrounding houses, late night pedestrians, and cobblestone streets. Gas lamps attempt to illuminate the fog, succeeding only in a small halos that do nothing to penetrate the thick blanket covering the city. Thomas wishes the fog would do something for the rancid smell coming off the nearby Thames. Then he remembers his own contributions to the polluted river and is glad for the stench.
A hansom pulled by a clunky steam horse finds him. Thomas gets in, giving the cabbie his address in Kensington.
It is a long ride made longer by the fog. Thomas’ patience runs thin. The cabbie keeps aplogising. Finally, they lurch to a stop.
“Here we are, sir.”
Thomas opens the door, concerned that every light in his house is on and silhouettes are flitting back and forth, from window to window and floor to floor.
The front door flies open.
“Doctor Reddington!” His wife’s servant-Momma or something-cries. “It’s the missus, doctor! Come quickly!”
Fat, dark fingers close around his hand and pull him upstairs.
His wife’s room is brightly lit and sweltering. Thomas jerks in surprise. He knows what the servants see; a gaunt, ashen-coloured woman thrashing about in her large bed, hands knotted around sweat soaked sheets. They won’t go near her, too afraid of whatever afflicts her. With calm detachment, he watches as her ghost tries to pry itself away from her skin, tearing against the skin of her stomach and chest.
“Why won’t you stay inside?” He hisses under his breath, glaring at his wife.
A pair of bright eyes stares at him under a patch of carroty red hair, calm and steady. Pride comes before anger. There might be hope for the boy yet.
“Who let my son in here?!” Thomas demands.
The servants panic. Already terrified, they turn circles, too stupified by his wife’s skeletal features and thrashing about to comprehend his words or the emotion attached to them. He tries a simpler tactic.
“Out!” He rages, pointing to the door, “Take my son with you!”
He waits until the door slams shut before he goes to the nightstand nearest him.
“No,” his wife begs, holding out a shaking hand.
He ignores it, brushing away her feeble pull against his greatcoat. From the nightstand he pulls an empty syringe and a small bottle. His wife stares at it with wide, fearful eyes.
“Please. Please no,” she rasps.
“Don’t worry, darling. This will make the pain go away.”
Tears fill her blue eyes and she turns her head away, letting her hand slip back onto the bed with a quiet thump. Grateful for her silence, he picks up the thumb sized bottle and turns it over, sticking the needle through its cap. Deep red liquid slowly fills the syringe. She whimpers.
“Come now, it will be over quickly.”
His words make her tremble. Her ghost glares at him and he sees the thin silver line keeping the two attached. The apparition tries to attack, pounding her fists, rippling his wife’s stomach, making her cringe in pain.
“Poor darling Patricia,” he soothes. “I’ll make the pain go away.”
Damn the fact. He had been so close.
He sits next to her, the bed shifting under his weight. His wife offers no resistance as he picks up her arm and slips the needle under her skin. With something like regret nudging his mind, he presses the plunger carefully, watching the liquid snake up her arm.
Perhaps it won’t be so bad, marrying his lover. After the child is born he can make a new experiment out of the mother.
Lines spiderweb Patricia’s body, climbing up to her throat.
A new disease, maybe malaria. Something to make regular injections an acceptable regimine.
He watches her breathing become shallower and more rapid, pressing his finger against her wrist, checking her pulse.
The problem was the Ghost. Once they understood what was happening, they fought back, hastening death.
Patricia opens her mouth.
He watches her ghost fizzle out of existence, hearing her final scream as a dim echo in his ears. Patricia lies stiff and cold on the bed, dying without so much as a shiver or moan.
With a sigh, he lets her arm go. The servants and his son would need calming down and a believable story. Gravediggers on his payroll would need to be called.
Another experiment. Failure before eventual success. Patricia would be swallowed by the Particular, another gift to the putrid Thames.