Owning His Truth is Justice Enough for Mr. T
Here's to all of us who believed in Johnny. x
Hands clasped in chains behind his back, the bobby was roughly pushing him to the dimly lit passage leading to the court room. Birdcage Walk, they called it. And with the shadow casted by the iron lattice roof, he understood why they named it as such.
It was not the first time he threaded this path. More than 15 years ago, he was manhandled as roughly while he was scared trembling, his head bowed down to hide his crying. This time, however, his chest was puffed out and his head held high. He had his revenge after all.
The court was full to the brim as he expected. It was more like a circus than a place of any importance. Many me—and women included—regardless of class, have made sure to bring their arses there to gawk on the murderer of the horrible Judge Turpin.
He had failed to consider one thing in his revenge plan. While he stood over Turpin, high in bliss with his revenge, bloodied razor in his hand, spatting "Benjamin Barker" over again while Turpin gargled his last breaths, the bobbies forced his door and caught him red handed. He was too lost on relishing his vengeance, he had missed the chance to send Turpin down the chute to Mrs. Lovett waiting in the bakehouse.
They dragged him out his barbershop into the street, beating him out of his wits, with the very intention to kill. Only Mrs. Lovett's piercing scream that woke up the whole of Fleet Street spared him. It was only because of Mrs. Lovett that his bruised body was delivered to the Old Bailey alive. Remembering her, he craned his neck to the gallery hoping to get a glimpse of her. It did not take long for him to spot her. She was there up front, dead center—of course—with little Toby by her side. Her face was void of emotion, saved for the almost imperceptible down pull in the corners of her mouth. He could not pull his eyes from her but look away he must lest there were people scrutinizing.
The second night after he was dumped in a rotten cell in the Old Bailey, she was there, triumphant in hoodwinking the prison guards. Though he could not see her on the other side of his bolted door, in his mind, he could see her eyes bloodshot with tears. But the strong woman that she was, he was hoping that she was dropping no tears.
"I can't go to the sea without you, Mr. T." She whispered as if she too was facing the end of her life, and maybe she was.
It was all she had raved about, dreaming of a life by the sea with him and the boy. Her heart was so set on it, she trapped him into promising he would go with her. And he figured he really would, had he not been arrested. He was grateful though that she was spared from this misfortune. Maybe it was ordained by the stars that the bobbies came in at the right time. Had they witnessed him sending the corpse down to her in the bake house, surely, they would both be dead by now. At least, he had not managed to bring her to hell with him. At least, she could still go to the sea.
"You must go, Mrs. Lovett…" He meant both out of the Old Bailey and to the sea. To silence her incoming protests, he added after swallowing the bile in his throat, "I'm…sorry…I broke my promise."
He heard her sniffing for a while until she mustered a cheerful voice. "Oh no, you don't, Mr. T. We'll get there."
Then he heard her sang her favorite ditty until she was whisked away but the prison guards.
"By the sea
Don't you love the weather?
By the sea
We'll grow old together
By the seaside, whoa-oh
By the beautiful sea"
The guard unceremoniously pushed him to the stand, but he did not sway. He stood there looking proud as Turpin's replacement judge—Cook they called him—sneered at him, baring his pointed teeth. He would bet his good penny to Mrs. Lovett that the grisly judge was bald too underneath that curly wig.
The judge swept his eyes around his premises, without even bothering to hide his glee. Sweeney knew, he would make a true circus out of this spectacle. Cook was the type of man who exalted in every bout of fame he could get.
He did not mind Cook to orchestrate his show—this would have given him a longer time to look at Mrs. Lovett. He was irritably surprised, however, when Cook called his attention, demanding to glue his eyes on him.
"You have been brought here before this bench for the murder of His Excellency, the honorable Judge Desmond Turpin. Before I proclaim your verdict, do you have anything to say for yourself, Sweeney Todd?"
This was new. Fifteen years ago, he was not allowed to even utter a single word.
"Barker," he corrected.
"What do you mean barker?" Cook asked, quite perplexed.
"Barker. Benjamin Barker that's who I was."
"Benjamin Barker eh? Are you not the barber occupying the upstairs establishment of Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Emporium in Fleet Street?"
"Then isn't the establishment called Sweeney Todd's Tonsorial Parlor?"
"It is." "Now, why are you calling yourself Benjamin Barker?"
"I am Sweeney Todd. But more than 15 years ago, I was Benjamin Barker."
The judge clapped his hands gleefully. Seeing an opportunity for more spectacle, he seized it with both hands. "A double identity, I see. Pray, tell us, what is the story of Benjamin Barker."
"I was a barber. I have a wife, Lucy, and she was beautiful. Turpin lusted after her, but she was virtuous, he could not get her. He transported me, a naive innocent man, to Australia so he could violate her! And violate her, he did! In a ball, for everyone else to see! When she took the arsenic because of grief and shame, Turpin didn't stop. He took our baby, Johanna, so he could also violate her as he did my wife. He was a demon."
An incredulous amount of weight lifted off his chest. He had told the story, the truth. Benjamin Barker could now be at peace.
"And for that, you, Benjamin Barker or Sweeney Todd thought he deserved to die?"
Sweeney was incredulous. For all he was worth, he roared, "Did he not? We all deserve to die! Even you, Judge Cook, even I!"
The gallery erupted in cheers. "Order! Order in the court!" But the poor crowd was still up on their feet, cheering. Cook repeatedly pounded his gavel with full force. And on top of his lungs, he shouted, "Sileeence!"
"You are an abomination," he told Sweeney accusingly. Cook may have wanted the attention, but his ego could not tolerate this shame. Without preamble, he handed out Sweeney's verdict. "I hereby sentenced you on the 21st of May to hang by the neck until you are dead and may the Lord have mercy on yourself." Swerving his attention to the guards, he added, "Banish him from my sight!"
"Court is adjourned!" Cook pounded his gavel one last time before he too swept out of his courthouse.
Sweeney initially fought the guards. In the commotion, he wished to take one last look of Mrs. Lovett. But he was overpowered. He only managed to take a glance of her ruby-hued locks before he was dragged away.
Sleep had not visited him in his prison cell. And he thought it fittingly that he would remain wide awake for his last night living, with only his thoughts for company. With his arms and feet shackled to the wall, he contemplated his life.
What more could he regret from this life? He had exacted his vengeance. But more importantly, he had freed Benjamin Barker—and him, Sweeney Todd—from the lies that ruined their lives. Proudly, he could say that he had served them both justice.
He closed his eyes, contented. His mind filling with the images of his family—the last thoughts he wanted to carry with him before he was hanged. There were the blurry faces Lucy and Johanna then the clearly outlined one of Mrs. Lovett. Maybe there was one thing he regretted.
His musing was interrupted with the door being unlocked. He had not opened his eyes, however, wishing to prolong the vision of Mrs. Lovett's face in his mind. With death so certain by the hour, he was no longer afraid of what the bobbies could do to him.
The sound of approaching boots became nearer but his commitment to Mrs. Lovett's face was steadfast in his mind. He wondered when he smelled the scent of flour and vanilla and blood that to him was uniquely her if he had completely lost his mind. He could feel warm breath fanning his face, but his eyes remained closed. Only when he felt warm hands caressing his cheek did he dare peek.
It was her, smiling tenderly at him. He tried to summoned words, but her finger shushed his lips. "Hush now, love. We have no time. Let's get us to the sea."
I hope you all like it. x