Before I start this chapter, I'd just like to dedicate the idea to Pamena, author of the amazing Passing Strange. The idea came from one of her other fantastic Sweenet fanfics, Proof of Heaven, in which Mrs Lovett is accidentally put into Fogg's Asylum, and Sweeney has to rescue her. All of Pamena's stories are mind-boggingly good, and if you haven't read them, you must do so, just as soon as you've reviewed this chapter.
Fogg's Asylum is located a few miles away from Fleet Street. I only have a limited amount of time before someone makes note of the disappearance of the Judge and the Beadle, so I wash and change into the clothes of a wealthy man as fast as possible, knowing that it will make whatever story I decide to make up more believable, while Toby and Thomas go to find a coach. When I hear the horses outside, I slide three of my razors into the holsters on my belt and march swiftly downstairs.
"Fogg's Asylum, as fast as you can," I say as I swing myself into the carriage. The man cracks his whip and the horses set of at a rocketing pace, much to my relief. The two young boys are sitting across from me, Toby looking determined, Thomas avoiding my gaze. A pang of sadness hits me in the chest. Of course, he must hate me. Even I knew that. But it still hurts. "Thomas . . ." I murmur. His eyes flick up to mine, and I am shocked by the sadness that I see them. "I . . . I'm so sorry."
He looks away again. "'S not your fault," he mutters. "Just a shock, 's all." I know he's not telling the whole truth, that he's grieving over what could have been, but it's not my place to stop him. Instead, I tentatively reach over and pat his shoulder. It feels like an awkward gesture, but he seems to take comfort in it, resting his head tiredly against the wall of the carriage.
It feels like an eternity before the horses slow to a halt, and I am beginning to worry about how fast new spreads in London. Maybe I should have finished off that maid. Or at least paid her to keep her mouth shut. Either way, it's too late now.
I pay the coach driver, and usher the two boys outside. It occurs to me that I have given absolutely no thought to how I'm going to get my girls out, but I have no time to plan. A substantial amount of money might do the trick, I think, fishing around in my pocket. Sunday, I remember, is the day when visitors are allowed to go and spend time gawking at the loonies of London. A stroke of luck, on my part. I usher the boys over to a street corner.
"Listen to me very carefully," I begin. "I'm putting you two in charge of getting Johanna. Go with the crowd to the blonde section. Poke some sticks or something. But don't touch her. Cause a distraction that might get them to unlock the doors. I'm going to get Mrs Lovett."
I can immediately see the flaws in this plan, and it seems that Thomas can as well. "How the bloody hell are we supposed to get the doors open? We need to get a key or something."
My mind is whirling, when another idea passes through. It is a horrible, sick idea, but it might just work. "Get Johanna's attention," I tell them. "I'll find N-Mrs Lovett, and we'll go from there. I might be able to get a key, but we're going to have to work on that distraction.
"And your name, sir?"
"Brunette, red or blonde?"
"As you wish, sir. Right this way."
When the man's back is turned, I curl my lip in disgust. I'd heard the rumour that rich men were allowed to pay to have their way with the women here, but now that the rumours have become fact, I can barely contain my horror. This is the only way, however, and I know that it is necessary.
I follow the greasy man who is known as Mr Fogg, resisting the strong urge to slit his throat there and then. Before long, we arrive outside the cell full of thin women with pasty white skin and dirty red hair. Their dresses are tattered, and I'm inwardly glad of the decision to wear a suit. Knew it would come in handy.
Fogg draws a large key from his waistcoat pocket and opens the door. The women all cower away from him, whimpering and sobbing, and he lunges towards a group, cackling as they scream. I clench my hands into fists to stop myself from lashing out at him. "Take your pick, sir," he says, turning around and spreading his hands wide.
My eyes dart around the cell, trying to find her. Where is she, where is she, where is she? A flicker of movement catches my eye, and that's when I see her, in the corner furthest away from the door. Already her hair is mattered and there are bruises on her fair skin. I force myself to keep my voice low and measured. "That one there will do nicely," I say, gesturing towards her.
Fogg frowns. "She's a feisty one, that. But, as you wish, sir."
Moments later, guards appear and hoist Mrs Lovett to her feet. I keep my face indifferent, containing myself by imagining what their necks would look like with dripping red smiles of rubies around them. She hangs her head, and I know that she is closing her eyes as they drag her out of the cell and down a corridor. Fogg and I follow.
We reach a room, and he takes out a key, unlocking the door before leading me inside. The guards throw Mrs Lovett to the ground and proceed to chain her hands and feet. "That won't be necessary," I say quietly. Fogg gives me a look.
"If you please, sir, this one's been causing us a bit of trouble. Wouldn't want her to be the same to you. I'll give you the key, you'll be able to unchain her if need be." I nod curtly, and he gives a sick smile before backing out of the room. "Just call the guards if she's any trouble. Enjoy her!" The door slams shut.
My eyes adjust to the dim light, and all I can see is her body, trembling on the ground. Unable to stand it any longer, I walk over to her, my fancy shoes making loud clunking noises on the floor. I can see her flinch with each step that I take, but still she doesn't open her eyes. "Wouldn't expect you to just lie there and take it," I say finally.
Her eyes snap open at my voice, but I can see her take in my clothes and shoes, and know that she thinks she's dreaming. Her eyes close again. I sigh.
"Mrs Lovett." I crouch down, and unlock her chains. She lies still. "Nellie," I breathe.
Suddenly, her eyes flash open, and she leaps at me, clawing at my chest with her nails, kicking my legs, hitting me again and again. I catch hold of her wrists and hold them fast in mine, waiting for her to stop struggling and realise who I am. "Eleanor," I bark. "Nellie, it's me. Mrs Lovett! Just stop this . . . stop!" In one swift movement, I drop her hands and sweep the top hat off my head, revealing the shock of white hair that identifies me. She freezes, and I take her face in my hands for a moment before pulling her into a crushing hug. "It's me, Nellie, it's me. It's going to be okay." She clings to me with desperate arms, sobbing into the crook of my neck. I keep murmuring comforting things to her, and eventually she loosens her grip on me.
"Sweeney," she breathes, and our lips find each other without a second thought. My arm grips her waist and my other hand tangles in the hair at the base of her neck as she locks her arms around me so tightly that it feels as if she will never let go. Her lips move against mine as if we have been doing it forever, and the kiss becomes hungry, ravenous even, the hot anger and lust and desperation and love that we have clearly both been holding back pouring forth. My hands find their way to her chest, hers up my shirt, pressing her body hard against mine to stop herself from trembling. I move my hands over her breasts again, before holding her tightly to me, keeping her from falling. The kiss goes on, just as frantic as before, but there is a nagging at the back of my mind, and it is over far too soon. I pull away, taking her face in my hands, and kiss her on the forehead.
"We have to go," I tell her. "I've killed the Judge and the Beadle. Someone will be coming for me soon."
Tears fill her eyes. "Where will we go?" she whispers brokenly.
A ghost of a smile alights on my face. "The sea, of course."
I really start to worry about what has happened to her when she doesn't smile back.
So yeah, the idea that wealthy men were allowed to come in and rape the mad girls came from Pamena, again, all the credit from that idea goes to her. Hope you don't mind, love!
Sorry this chapter was a bit short. The next one will be longer, promise. And another thing. REVIEW! Seriously, guys, reviews are love.