"Not While I'm Around"
"Here, love." Mrs. Lovett handed Johanna a cup of tea and poured a splash of gin in it before settling down in her chair. "I think we could all use a drink tonight, don't you?"
Johanna sat on the settee in front of the fire, accepting the teacup with shaky hands. She hadn't spoken since she brought her down here. Without lifting her eyes off the ground, Johanna spoke with a blank expression, "What's going to happen to me?"
"Well, Mista T is taking care of our little blunder upstairs, so I suppose we'll just wait down here for the sailor to come for you."
Johanna looked at her apprehensively. "You're really not going to go to the law?"
"No sense in that, wouldn't be good for business. Can't have people thinking we run a madhouse of our own here, can we?" Mrs. Lovett said lightheartedly, trying her best to not give the girl any insight into how she was really feeling.
"But won't you or Mr. Todd get in trouble?"
"Don't you worry about that now, we can handle our own."
The older woman's calm demeanor bewildered her. Johanna stared into the fire and the two sat in silence for a few minutes.
"I didn't want to hurt him," Johanna said suddenly, the flames reflecting in her eyes, "I had to."
"I understand, dear… You were only protecting yourself." Mrs. Lovett tried to assure her, surprised at how quickly the girl seemed to calm down.
Poor girl must be traumatized, Mrs. Lovett thought to herself, shaking off the uneasy feeling she got from seeing such a familiar vacant expression cast over Johanna's young features. She glanced at the clock on the mantle, it had been an hour since she locked Toby down in the bakehouse.
Everything that transpired this evening made her realize that until tonight, she had been so caught up in the thrill of her and Mr. Todd's unorthodox business venture to stop and think about the possibility of anyone catching on, let alone what they would do in the event that someone did. If they disposed of the beadle like all of their other victims, surely someone would notice if Judge Turpin's very own henchman disappeared. Realizing she needed to communicate this to Mr. Todd sooner rather than later, Mrs. Lovett cleared her throat.
"When did you say the sailor was coming back for you?"
Johanna blinked, clearly unaware of how much time had gone by until now, and looked at Mrs. Lovett worriedly. "He should be back by now."
Mrs. Lovett noticed the concern in her voice, and replied comfortingly, not wanting her to pick up on her own worry. "He's probably just running behind, it being late and all."
The minutes continued to pass by, and there was still no sign of Anthony's return.
Someone could come in search of the beadle anytime now... Almost thinking herself into a panic and growing increasingly impatient, Mrs. Lovett moved abruptly from her chair and into her bedroom.
She came back out with a pistol in her hand. Johanna looked at her in alarm.
"I want you to take this. I am going to go upstairs and check on Mista T, you wait here for the sailor. Do not open the door for anyone but him. Okay, love?"
Johanna nodded in reply as Mrs. Lovett hastily put the gun in her trembling hands.
In the shop above, Mr. Todd was kneeling over the body of Beadle Bamford. He was covered in blood and appeared slightly dazed until the sound of knocking and Mrs. Lovett's voice brought him out of it.
Knowing that Mrs. Lovett was the only one that would be knocking on the door separating his apartment from her own living quarters, he got up and quickly let her inside. "Has she gone?" He asked quietly.
"No, she's still waiting downstairs. But, the beadle -" She was talking quickly, but he wasn't listening, too caught up with the thought of his daughter alone downstairs as she'd been up here.
He interrupted her, springing back to life before her eyes."You left her down there alone?" He raised his voice, almost growling at her, causing her to jump at his sudden change of tone.
"I had to come up here before you did anything more with him!" Mrs. Lovett gestured to the body on the ground. "Do ya really think I'd just leave her down there for no good reason? 'Sides, I gave her me gun."
He gawped at her, "since when do you have a gun?"
"Living alone as long as I did, 'course I have a gun. It was Albert's. Anyway - that's beside the point. We can't make the beadle disappear out of nowhere and expect no one to come looking for him. We can't get rid of him like we did the others."
He hadn't thought that far. He loathed how much he depended on her at times, and resented how she seemed to always be the voice of reason.
"What are we to do then?" He asked, having managed to calm himself back down.
As he predicted, Mrs. Lovett did not disappoint having already thought of a backup plan. "Well… we could dump him somewhere, make it look like a simple muggin', It'll be a stretch considering the lovely gash in his throat but as long as we don't leave anything tying it back to us, what can they do?"
Mr. Todd nodded.
Mrs. Lovett thought out loud, her gears turning, "now, how do you suppose we move him without anyone noticing?" She put a finger to her lips in deep thought, looking out the window. "The vegetable cart from across the street should be close to empty considering today was market day. We'll put him in there, cover 'im up and dump 'im a few blocks over."
Without looking at her, he replied, "What about the boy?"
"The sailor should be back any time, I don't know what's keeping him."
"No, not him. The other one." He was referring to Toby.
"No sense in looking for him now, The beadle was already here, wasn't he?"
Mrs. Lovett went over to the body on the floor and sighed, putting her hands on her hips. "I suppose we can't send him down the chute or he'll be too much of a mess..." Her eyes widened as another thought came over her, the bakehouse. "I need to take care of everything in the bloody bakehouse before anyone else decides to come poking around tonight. But this can't wait, we have to get rid of him before anyone notices he's gone."
Before she could say anything else, Mr. Todd spoke up,"I'll deal with the beadle. You go down in the bakehouse and burn everything."
"I don't know, Mista T, can you get him down the stairs by yourself?"
"I'll manage." He grumbled, rolling up his sleeves and looking down at the beadle with disgust.
"Wait", Mrs. Lovett kneeled down and started rifling through the beadle's pockets.
He shot her a look. "Really, Mrs. Lovett? I hardly think-"
"It's supposed to be a muggin', innit?" She remarked as she stuffed her findings in her apron.
She reached for his hand to help her up, "Mista T, be careful. Dump him over by that shotty pub on Farringdon." She squeezed his hand and gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek. "Meet me in the bakehouse when you get back."
With that, she took off down the stairs, leaving the barber to dispose of the beadle's body.
Mr. Todd did exactly as Mrs. Lovett instructed and tossed the beadle's heavy corpse in the empty vegetable cart he took from across the street. Of course of all the bodies he sent crashing down into the bakehouse, the beadle's was the one he actually had to lug down the stairs. It took a great effort on his part but managed to get him outside without anyone noticing as it was dark and Fleet Street was practically deserted this time of night.
He covered him up with the fabric meant to cover the produce and casually pushed him along the deserted street. He was sure to move carefully and keep his head low, as to not draw any attention his way and managed finally to leave the beadle's body in the alleyway behind the pub.
On his way back, he continued to walk stealthily down the street and was just about to turn down Fleet Street when the voices of two men coming towards him made him retreat into the shadows. He pressed himself against the wall, listening.
"There was a break-in at Fogg's asylum tonight, can ya believe that?"
He heard the other man hiccup. "Ya don't say?"
"Guess they's lookin' for the bloke who done it. Took one of the girl's he did, and not just any girl… It was Judge Turpin's girl… didn't even know he had a daughter. Guess he's got everyone at the docks keepin' watch."
"Sorry sonofabitch won't be goin' anywhere if the judge has anything to say about it."
"Ya got that, he's ruthless. No girl is worth the trouble, let alone facin' the wrath of him..."
"Ain't that the truth?" The two men chuckled amongst themselves and walked past the alleyway where Mr. Todd was hiding. He took in a sharp breath and gritted his teeth.
The letter. It never occurred to him that his plan to get the judge back in his clutches would fail so miserably. He assumed Toby had been the one to call on the beadle, but now he realized with bitter anguish that of course the judge would send the beadle to do his bidding. But, it still did not explain why he showed up so early. After all, he told the judge that Anthony would not be coming with Johanna until long after they'd be gone… Unless Toby did manage to get to the beadle who was, unbeknownst to him, making his way there anyway?
Tonight had been a disaster and he partially blamed Mrs. Lovett for insisting on keeping the boy. He told her from the beginning that it wasn't a good idea to have someone living and working so closely with them. In a sense he supposed he was partially to blame for letting her get her way, not caring how she got the job done as long as he could get his revenge in peace. Still, he couldn't ignore the fact that the judge had no other way of knowing Anthony's plans to run away with Johanna tonight if it hadn't been for him. He should have known that the judge would stop at nothing to make sure the sailor didn't get very far but he was too distracted by his own overwhelming thirst for revenge to give it much thought. Ever since Anthony ruined his first attempt at killing the judge, he promised himself he would never let another opportunity like that pass him by and it was all too obvious now that by acting in haste, he managed to get the judge further from his grasp.
He cursed at himself and hoped that Anthony managed to escape with Johanna safely, despite everyone being on the lookout for him. He supposed that people would be looking for him anyway, considering he did break Johanna out of Bedlam. The judge knowing that the sailor planned to run away with her couldn't have changed that... right?
In the bakehouse, Mrs. Lovett had just finished burning every leftover limb, every scrap of clothing, and every piece of evidence she could find in the bakehouse. She was finishing up throwing the rest of the leftover body parts and clothes into the oven when she felt the presence of someone else in the room.
She reached up and wiped the sweat from her forehead and looked around, "Mista T? That you?"
Silence. Must be the rats…
Suddenly, a figure stepped into the light emanating from the oven.
"Toby!" Mrs. Lovett gasped and went to rush over to him.
"Stay back!" He had one of her butcher knives in his hand and was back towards the wall.
Mrs. Lovett stopped and looked at him calmly, "Put that down, love."
"What? So you can kill me? Just like you did them? I know what you and Mista Todd been doin'… It's sick and wrong!"
She took another step towards him, "I don't want to hurt you, Toby."
He held the knife out in front of him, shaking.
"Let me explain." She continued to move closer to him.
"Explain what? That you and Mista Todd are murderers? I was suspicious about him, ma'am, but you…" Tears welled in the boy's eyes, "I wanted to protect you. I thought you was different than the rest… and you locked me in here only to fetch him. I heard you callin' for me, you was gonna kill me!"
"Toby, listen to me!"
"No, I won't listen! You're mad!" He moved to make a run for it, but she managed to grab him from behind and grab the knife out of his hands. She threw a hand over his mouth to stifle his cries.
"Keep it down, someone'll hear you."
He squirmed against her to no avail, Mrs. Lovett was much stronger than him and maintained her vice-like grip around him as they sunk to the cold stone floor.
She felt his tears drip onto the hand clasped firmly over his mouth, bringing her own to the surface.
"I never wanted to hurt, ya… Honest." She whispered, tears beginning to fall from her eyes. The thought of strangling the boy while she had the chance flashed across her mind, but it instantly made her feel sick and she cried harder.
"Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around…" She rocked him in her arms as he continued to struggle.
"I never wanted to hurt ya, Toby… You've been like a son to me." He stopped struggling against her grip, sensing the sincerity in her voice.
"I only got Mista T to make sure you wouldn't talk. I wasn't going to let him hurt you." She lied.
She felt him relax a little. "I'll take my hand off of your mouth if you promise to keep quiet, alright?" The boy nodded and she loosened her hold on him. Toby drew in a shuddering breath.
"So you brought him down here to keep me quiet, is that it?" He asked.
Mrs. Lovett nodded and silence fell over them for a few moments as they continued to sit on the floor, Toby practically in her lap as she held onto him. As smart as he was for his age, he still couldn't wrap his head around the situation. He wanted to believe her, and he liked to think that Mr. Todd made her do all of this as it was the only reason he came back. Still, he felt uneasy and completely untrusting.
"Is he making you do all this?" He asked.
Mrs. Lovett, who usually knew what to say, was speechless.
She let him sit up from her arms. He asked her pointedly, "Why'd you do it? You can tell me if he's making you do this."
"It were only bad people, Toby."
He turned to face her, "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Mrs. Lovett looked down in shame.
"I just don't understand, ma'am. I really don't."
Neither do I, she thought honestly. She didn't know how to explain her actions to herself, let alone to a child. She couldn't tell him the true nature and reason behind their crimes and she knew that she had to give him some sort of explanation to put his mind somewhat at ease.
"Toby, I don't expect you to understand, just know that it were only bad people - criminals, and men that beat on poor innocent children like you." She lied again, trying to soften the blow.
"So this was your answer? You ground 'em up and put them into your pies!" He raised his voice again, positively flabbergasted.
She shushed him. "Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. 'Sides, we won't be doing it anymore."
He furrowed his brow, still trying to understand everything. He supposed that made things a little bit better but not by much. "But doesn't that make you just as bad as them?"
He made a point, and it was a point she had not thought of until now. Mrs. Lovett got up from the floor and rifled through the pocket of her apron. "Look, if Mista T comes back and finds you here he'll have your neck for sure. I don't want that to happen. Please, take this." She took out the Beadle's purse and offered it to him.
"That's it then? You're just gonna bribe me and hope I don't change my mind and run to the law?"
She was surprised at his response, the boy was a lot smarter than she had given him credit for and wondered why the beadle decided tonight of all nights to pay them a visit, if he didn't call for him.
"You haven't gone to the law?"
"No, 'course not. I thought about it, was almost there when I decided not to. Figured maybe Mr. Todd made you do it and if it weren't for you I'd be stuck in the workhouse or someplace worse... Promise me you'll stop all this, ma'am. If anyone else finds out, they'll hang you and Mr. Todd both. I don't care what happens to him… But I still meant what I says earlier… About you, I mean."
He looked into her eyes, and while lying usually came naturally to her, she found herself struggling with her answer. "I promise."
Toby must have known that she was incapable of hurting him, otherwise, she would not have gone and fetched Mr. Todd to do the deed. Looking at him now she was glad that the barber didn't get his hands on him and preferred it if he kept quiet and went their separate ways.
They continued to stare at each other, which in turn made Mrs. Lovett uncomfortable given her guilt, so she cleared her throat and put the purse in Toby's hand, "That should be enough to get you someplace safe and some food in your belly. Get away from here, love. "
He eyed her suspiciously, "How do you know I won't change my mind?"
"I don't," she said honestly, guilt and regret bubbling inside her, "I just trust that you won't." This was especially true now that she knew he didn't go in the first place, therefore making it very unlikely that he would in the future. She now knew more than ever that he had a soft spot for her and she had no choice but to take advantage of it. The boy wasn't stupid and if he wanted to stay out of the workhouse and away from Mr. Todd, he would keep his mouth shut for both of their benefits.
"'Spose this makes us even then... You save my life, I save yours?" He said thoughtfully, looking at her with bewilderment.
"That's a way to think of it." She smiled, putting her hand over his as he clutched the purse. In just a few hours, you've grown so much older...
She heard footsteps approaching the bakehouse door and suddenly appeared very worried.
Toby looked between Mrs. Lovett and the door. "If he's making you do this, you can tell me I -"
She cut him off. "I'm fine, son. Go." The mechanism of the metal door turned, and she and Toby looked at each other one last time before he turned and ran away towards the sewers.
Mr. Todd appeared from the doorway and made his way inside, glancing around the room in his stride. "What was that?"
"Just me, you know how it echoes down here 'specially with the rats and all…" Mrs. Lovett said nervously as he continued to scan the room.
He decided to let it go, figuring it wasn't out of the ordinary for Mrs. Lovett to be talking to herself, and they had much more pressing matters at hand.
"Is that taken care of then?" She asked as she went over to him.
"It's done." He confirmed. "I am afraid that we have yet another issue on our hands, Mrs. Lovett."
A/N: I decided to stop picking at this and let it be. I hope you like where this is going!