“Okay, whoever you are. You’ve been waiting a long time. Talk to Tess.”
She eased the cover gently back.....
I never thought my life to be exciting or different but looking back, even my younger years were unusual for a girl in Victorian England. Long before that cold Whitechapel night in 1888 when I first encountered the Professor, I had already lived enveloped in a swirling cloak of mystery that was invisible to me. At the time, I thought events unconnected and coincidental. It is only now with the power of hindsight, that I am able to untangle the threads of this story to reveal an intricately woven web of lies and truths, deceptions and revelations. I refrain from using the word destiny but I am in no doubt that we were all at its mercy.
Do I wish I had known then what I do now? It is a question that I have asked myself many times since but I believe that those secrets were kept from me for a reason by those who loved and cared for me, those that sacrificed so much to save me from myself. I blame them now for nothing other than their absence in my life. I am grateful for their selflessness, grateful to those who kept me safe and prepared me for the challenges to come. And there were many..
That fateful night, I had fallen to the bottom of a deep well. It would have been so easy to give up; to sink silently beneath the freezing water and slip away but I had always been taught to fight. And my determination to unearth the truth, in turn, fuelled my desire to survive. To begin, I must tell you my story for I have learned that even in time, the reach and power of Professor Moriarty indeed does know no bounds. The events that led to that fateful night, where I know I met my salvation yet had no idea that it was the devil I was being protected from..
Aldgate, London 1888
The room smelt more decaying and putrid than ever before and the rain had made the damp patches seeping through the brickwork spread like ominous puddles on the walls; thick black clumps of mould spitting out their poisonous vapours and spores. It was no wonder we had all been so ill.. I shivered as I ran my hand across the wet mirror wiping away the condensation from my hot breath on the glass. It was so very cold and the little coal we could afford now barley lasted the nights.
I remember staring at myself in the mirror and hardly recognising the woman looking back at me.. Icy, empty eyes that once sparkled and the painted rouge I had caked onto my cheeks...the revealing neckline of my bodice. To the sound of the rain pelting on the window I wound the black velvet choker around my neck, fastening it with a cameo broach; my mother's. It was all I had left of a life long forgotten. My fingers felt the intricate carving in the ivory as if the contours and ridges were somehow a map to the past. Carter always told me that my parents would have been proud of the lady I had become. I believed they would have been disgusted and disappointed if they could see me now, knowing what I was about to do.. I gazed with such regret at the stranger in the mirror.. I didn’t know how or when she had replaced me or how it had come to this. The sheer despair and helplessness I felt at that moment, I have only ever felt again once in my life..
Until the age of five, I had led an idyllic life filled with adventure growing up in North Africa, the only daughter of Harry and Tara Brown - missionaries. I believed I was christened Lilith Brown, born on the 11th day of October 1862. I say believe because whether I was indeed subjected to this a Christian ritual now seems most unlikely. It is all so long ago, that all I can remember are sights and sounds...flickers of images as if leafing through the pages of a forgotten photographic album; distant memories of a happy and carefree time. If I close my eyes, I can still see the azure cloudless sky and feel the hot sun beating down on my face, shielding my eyes from its rays reflecting brightly in the sand. The vibrant colours and sounds of the bazar, the exotic fragrance of Cinnamon and Cumin spicing the air with every breath and the dizzy feeling as I spun around, arms stretched wide listening to the call to prayer from every direction.
The clear night sky with it’s galaxy of stars sparkling like a sea of diamonds. I would lay with my mother and stroke her long dark hair, comforted by its exotic perfumed scent. She would whisper to me.. You, my darling Eset, are like the stars. Your light all that is left of that which died millions of years ago.. And then she would look sad and hold me close until I fell asleep. In time, I have come to understand her words and my only regret, is that I myself have now heard myself speak them.
The snake charmer in the square.. I watched Ali whenever I could as he played to charm his snake. I would begin by kneeling beside him but would always end lying on my front elbows on the floor...chin in my hands directly in front of the basket, inches away from the deadly snake. I was mesmerised.. Even then I liked danger and Ali would always have to pull me back.. "Most wilful young lady..” He would warn me in Arabic. Ali told me that even the most deadliest and poisonous of snakes could be charmed if you were brave enough and played the right tune. And he declared that I, the little Eset would be able to charm anything.. Eset was what everyone called me...it was an affectionate name that I had had ever since I could remember. In Egyptian, it was also Isis. Even now decades later, somewhere in the darkness of my dreams I still hear the snake charmers’ pungi…the hypnotic tune calling me once more to awaken that buried deep within the light. My mother was wrong, so very wrong. It hadn’t died, it was merely sleeping..
Life was perfect until the accident that took my parents from me. As a child so young I couldn’t comprehend that they were never coming back and I remember feeling confused, sad and angry. The prospects for a little foreign orphan girl in Egypt were desperate but I still had Carter, who came to mean so much to me. John Carter was a writer and my father's old friend and colleague. They had been at Oxford together and he often accompanied my parents on their missions, documenting their travels. He survived the accident in the desert that killed them. John was left with a bad limp but nothing that the use of a walking stick couldn't help. He knew that I had no one, so decided to look after me himself. It was what my parents would have wanted.
Carter was a good man and he did his best for me. He took me home…to his home, to the dark, depressing rain of England where there were no vivid colours, no adventure and no sun. He had an impressive house in the wilderness of Cumbria that had been left to him by his father; an isolated manor house in the middle of no where with the nearest village some miles way away. To me, it looked like a prison compared to my previous life running wild through the streets and sand dunes of Cairo yet in spite of how circumstance had thrown us together, our relationship and bond slowly grew. He could never replace my father but he became my best friend.
We lived a secluded existence but he made sure I had an education. He taught me Latin, Arithmetic, history and English and I never appreciated how unusual this was compared to the young ladies in the local town who had long since replaced books with deportment and piano. And I was a receptive and bright student, excelling under Carters tutoring. I lived like a princess and wanted for nothing in our utopic if unconventional world. It was a safe and happy world that I thought content to never leave.
I ran wild through the estate, climbing trees, wading in streams and learning how to ride my beloved horse. I lost count of the times Carter was furious with me for galloping too fast or jumping things too high. It never mattered to me if I fell and my sense of fearlessness was never quashed. I admit I deliberately sought out danger and took on its challenge with a relish that made Carter uneasy. He told me I had to channel it.. Rather than sending me to my room and forbidding me to visit the stables, Carter put a sword in my hand informing me my tutor would be here every day at ten o’clock except Sundays. I should have been puzzled at these new lessons but I was filled with excitement at the prospect of learning how to fight with a sword, while the only sharp objects the girls I saw at church every Sunday were fighting with were in their needlework. I threw myself into the challenge and my fencing lessons became the highlight of my day. I made good progress and within the year, I was beating my long suffering tutor with ease. He was nonchalant and baffled by his appointment to teach me at first, a young woman and entered into our daily lessons with scepticism. That soon vanished when he realised I had a natural ability and flare that he had never seen in any of his male students and I soon became a proficient swordsman. Life in our world was idyllic again for a while..
When I was eighteen, Carter's aunt suddenly took an interest in me. To this point, she had disapproved of him taking in the little heathen girl with the brown face.. But away from the African sun, I blossomed with pale porcelain skin, long flowing auburn hair and emerald green eyes.. Lady Bowker had decided it was the right time for me to marry and insisted on the appointment of a governess to teach me the finer qualities of being a lady. She took it upon herself to oversee this task personally before I could be presented to society. Her real motive for throwing her self so enthusiastically into my cause was to get rid of me and she provided a generous dowry to speed up the process. She feared that that I would inherit the estate by marrying Carter or even worse, her precious son would have to instead to secure what she saw as rightfully his. I had no intention of marrying either or anyone else that I did not love.. And with this, the endless stream of suitors began calling. I wasn't interested in any of the boring, shallow and arrogant men and it was often clear that if it wasn't for my apparent beauty, they wouldn't be interested in me at all. I had no inheritance, no money of my own for them to acquire. Carter and I therefore made it our business to thwart Lady Bowker's plans. I made it difficult for my suitors...saying things considered inappropriate and tying them into knots on history and literature thus leading to labels of 'insolent', 'difficult' and 'tiresome'.. No marriage proposals came and we somehow played this game and won until my twenty fifth year. I often wondered why Carter did not choose to marry me himself. True, he was older but not old enough to really matter. Maybe he knew I would never accept. I loved his company but I did not love him. I concluded that he would rather me live a rich happy life than an unhappy life with riches. Now I know that he most likely didn’t in order to keep living..
That same winter, I became worried about Carter and concerned that he was unwell but kept insisting there was nothing wrong. I persuaded him, charmed him even into seeing a Doctor in the nearest town. While we were there, he insisted that in return I have my photograph taken. So I sat for a portrait photograph. It was one of the few times we ever left the estate together other than for church and it was to be our last..
One night soon after, I was awoken by raised voices in the night. I crept out and sat on the landing straining to make out the words.. Through the bannisters I could see the shadows of people in the hall way from the low glow of the gas lamp. There was a voice I didn’t recognise...crisp and stern. I imagined a soldier giving a report as the conversation carried up the staircase.
"There has been silence for years but we would be foolish to be complacent. They will never stop searching.." His words were precise and firm.
A terrible hollow cough rattled in Carter’s chest. "She is safe here..”
There was a silence and I was suddenly aware of my heart thumping in my chest. Where they referring to me? A million thoughts flooded my head and I could feel fear beginning to knot in my stomach.
The military voice again.. "The photograph you sent was most appreciated. He wishes to be introduced."
There was the sound of spluttering as Carter choked back another cough as he spoke again. He sounded distraught. "No…no! I pledged to protect her…not hand her over to the devil!"
That cough bothered me more than I dared admit and I wondered if he had been coughing up blood again. The serious voice continued.
“As he pledged to protect her too. As we all did.. You're sick Carter. Think of the future."
Another pause before Carter spoke again. "I won't allow this. As long as I live I won't allow it!"
“Well, I doubt then that we will have long to wait. Although that can be expedited if you wish.."
As the stern man laughed there was a crash of a something falling violently as Carter stormed and then stumbled to the door.. I jumped up and ran back to my room, diving under the covers. I did not sleep for the entire night, torn between my fears and wanting to go to Carter. My instinct was to go to him but I didn’t have the courage. I was too frightened to face whatever fate might be awaiting me. It is one of my deepest regrets. In the morning, Carter was dead; He had succumbed to consumption. I pledged to myself that never again would I be afraid but if I had understood the significance of that conversation, I would have had every reason to be terrified. The presence of Professor James Moriarty was in my life long before he stepped out from the shadows.
As I stood by Carters grave, the smell of wet earth turned my stomach and with every handful of earth I threw onto the coffin, it felt that my life went with it. I was desolate, despairing and alone. This time, I felt the loss like an endless void of blackness opening in my world. The reading of the will was pointless. The house was left to Carter's nephew as was the law of the land; the last surviving male relative. There was nothing else. Nothing.. No money, no legacy...I was penniless. I couldn't understand, my education, clothes...I had wanted for nothing. The Wordsworth first edition in my room alone was worth a fortune. Where had the money come from? The triumph in Lady Bowker's eyes as my tearful and resigned gaze met hers across the drawing room positively danced with glee.
"Well Lilith, I'd marry you but you are worthless.." Her son Herbert was as awful and creepy as usual. His greasy oiled hair slicked sideways to cover his premature baldness. "Did you know I am to be engaged to that Duchess? She's a frigid cold fish but has a marvellous dowry although you could always stay and be my resident whore.. I rather think you'd be much more fun."
His lips turned into a wolf like grin as he ran the back of his slimy hand down my neck and across my collar bone. I remember shuddering with revulsion but I was incensed with rage at his audacity. I was not his too touch. I did not belong to anyone. It was if everything Carter had taught me had led up to this moment. I didn't need them.
"I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man on Earth...even if my very life depended on it." I swung my right arm back and punched him deftly on the jaw with all the strength I had to send him squealing for his mother onto the best china. It was a pleasing feeling.
For my insolence I was rewarded with a slap from Lady Bowker and fifteen minutes to collect as much as I could carry. I took only the things that meant anything to me. My mothers cameo, a picture of my parents and Carter, and the Wordsworth first edition. In my carpet bag, I forced in as many clothes as I could and put on just as many in layers, before walking out of that house with as much dignity as I could muster forever. I never returned to Cumbria. I do not regret my actions. I had been right to teach Herbert a lesson but I doubt he learned anything. I was wrong however in my notion that I did not belong to anyone..
With the little money I had saved, I bought a ticket to London and its cobbled streets. It wasn’t without direction that I chose to this as my destination. Anyone who knew London was aware that the streets were lined with anything but gold but I had been there once before with Carter. We stayed at a little boarding house in Aldgate, in the East End. I remember John telling me that should I ever need a place to run to, this is where I should go. At the time I thought it strange as I could never imagine a time when I would need to. It was in fact another indication that there had always been forces moving in my life that I was unaware of..
My dearest Eset,
If you are reading this letter then I am no longer with you. You have found Mrs Brady as I knew you would, you clever girl. You have a place to stay and she is to be trusted.
Eset, I came to regard you as my daughter, my loyal little friend and companion but I do not deserve your grief. I have lied to you but in time I can only hope that you will understand and forgive me. I swore to protect you but I have failed. There is so much to tell but for your own safety you must discover the story on your own. Danger hides in written words, in every corner, every shadow. Beware of the Moors for they will never stop until we are all dead. But you Eset, you are the only one who can read from The Book of the Dead and understand. From beyond the grave I will try to help and guide you still. Tell you the secrets I should have told you in life.. And I tried Eset, I tried to keep you away from him for as long as I could. My wish in death is what I should have given you in life; to set you free. But you will never be truly free until he is dead. Your suffering at his hands will never be as great as mine. I deserve to burn in hell forever. May god punish me for my sins.
I love you dear child never doubt that I did. You have your Mothers beauty and spirit, your Fathers intelligence and strength. They would be proud of the lady you have become. Forgive me..
I allowed the letter to fall from my hands and cried, cried properly for the first time since his death. After my tears came questions and I was confused. But there was more, much more; enough money for a few months and a newspaper cutting from the Gazette. I stared in disbelief at the picture of her father and the headline as everything else in the room seemed to disappear. ‘BRITISH EXPLORER KILLED IN EGYPT.’ It was dated 14thNovember 1867.
I read on in disbelief..
"The famed archaeologist Harry De Tamble has died in suspicious circumstances whilst on a dig in Egypt. His death in Luxor came days after De Tamble hinted at a 'significant find.’ Foul play is suspected as the bodies of the explorer and his wife, Nefertari were discovered amid the debris of an explosion that sealed the dig they were working on. Both had been decapitated in what appears to be a ritualistic execution. Possible motives are unclear but local people suggest it could be punishment for sacrilegious crimes as customary in ancient Egypt. The body of their five year old daughter has never been recovered from the rubble and is missing, also presumed dead. De Tamble’s friend and colleague, writer John Carter suffered injuries in the blast but survived. The British high commission has promised an extensive investigation into the deaths and that those responsible will be brought to justice.
De Tamble originally found fame discovering a number of antiquities and important artefacts but his reputation had been tainted recently by rumours of links with the criminal underworld in England although this has never been proven. Mrs De Tamble was the daughter of a British Officer and Egyptian woman....
I stopped reading and felt my head spin.. I was Lily Brown, daughter of Harry and Tara Brown - Christian Missionaries. But deep down, I knew it wasn't true. It was there in black and white on the page of the newspaper. I had so many questions but no answers and I would have to wait patiently if I were to believe it, for Carter to help me from the grave. Not part of the letter!
Again there was mention of a man…a man I was to be afraid of. It made me uneasy but I had to trust that this would also become clear to me in time and that I would know him.
The revelations in the letter were momentarily overtaken by practicalities and surprisingly, fun. I found work transcribing Latin scripts and accounts work. They were not keen on giving these jobs to a woman but I did them twice good and as twice as fast as the men in their employment. And as long as no one could see it was me doing them in the privacy of my room, they were happy. Mrs Brady's boarding house was full of eccentrics…waifs and strays that she had taken in. All were like me with no where to go but the streets. She proved to be a formidable and compassionate woman. No one had any money but we often stayed up late into the night talking....artists, writers...all sorts and when we had enough money, we would visit the music hall. At Wiltons we stood with the peasants in the stalls while the upper classes languished in the dress circle. I loved it and it was my escape from reality.. I often went there with Ben. He was an artist with whom I had struck a particular friendship. His real name was Montague John Druitt but he felt it betrayed his upper class roots. I was oblivious to the fact that he was smitten or maybe I chose to pretend I didn’t know. I was very fond of him as he was an interesting and kind young man. I valued his company but there was no passion...he didn't stir anything in me at all.
He asked me to pose for him and painted my portrait.. After a week of sitting and painting he finally plucked up the courage to kiss me.. For him, it was obvious to me that it the most amazing moment but for me, I felt nothing. He was sweet and embarrassed and I was apologetic and sorry. The next morning he had vanished. He never came back.. I felt terrible and blamed myself for rejecting him. They forced the door to his room and discovered it had been wrecked, his paintings slashed and my portrait was gone.
They found Ben in the Thames a few days later. He had been tied up and weighted down with rocks in his pockets. He would have never have surfaced but the bow of a barge had dredged his corpse up. His hands were missing and carved ruthlessly into his arm were words.. ‘You dared touch what is mine."
With the murder of poor Ben, a downward spiral began.. The protection gangs turned their screws tighter on Mrs Brady, demanding more money. The tenants rallied around trying to do as much as they could but it every time we paid, their demands increased. I took on more work and stayed up night after night by gas lamp and candle. My eyes began to strain and I huddled in blankets at the desk writing constantly. Food was scarce and the cold winter took its toll. Everyone around me was ill, dead or dying. But anything was still better than the streets. I didn’t realise how unwell I was despite the cough and night sweats where I would awaken drenched from head to toe.
The final straw came when Mrs Brady was beaten badly. The circling vultures were about to move in on us all and I saw the way they looked at me, what they wanted the pretty girl with the green eyes for..
My money was almost gone and things were as desperate as they could be. I only had one thing left I was prepared to sell, myself. With the last of her money, I bought the best dress I could afford that was appropriate. The dress I saw now in the mirror before me. Yes Lily, I thought. You look every inch the whore you are about to become.. However if I was going to do this, I would do it myself. No pimps or brothels.. I had witnessed the road where that went and I decided to rely on my own merits. It was a risk but I had no choice but to be reckless. I had seen how the more classy girls went to the music hall where there were an abundance of rich men looking for a little diversion from their boring passionless marriages. It frightened me how easy it was but I was unaware of my rare beauty, my unusual colouring and look with the hint of unexplained exotic. Within moments men approached me and their lack of tact and arrogance was shocking but not surprising.
"How much then lovely?"
"Can't wait to get between your legs beauty.."
It was repulsive but I tried to remain dignified..
"Can you afford me though gentleman? I require a high price.. I'm offering you something special...my virginity."
They just laughed at me.. "Well how would we know? You can't trust a whore.."
"I'll give you tuppence maybe or even a shilling.."
The way they looked at me like I was a piece of meat was appalling and I suddenly lost her nerve.. This was not for me. I was worth more, much more surely? Feeling nauseous, I turned and stumbled through the crowds.. "I had a reserve bid and you didn't bid high enough.."
I was still muttering to myself as I walked.. "I'm worth more...will no one bid higher?" I glared back at the bastards still laughing at me and turned back around. I collided heavily into the arms of a man that was standing directly blocking my path and into my destiny..
As Lily made her way hurriedly through the crowd in the music hall, she could still hear the mocking laughter of the group of men....hear their lewd comments. This had been a huge mistake but how else was she to get enough money for them to survive? As she pushed her way through the crowded foyer, she lost balance in her haste and fell against a tall man blocking her path.
Her automatic reaction was to grab hold of his arms to prevent herself from falling as her feet seemed to disappear from underneath her. His hand gripped her arm - tightly...He looked down at her....and smiled.
The hand that held her arm was like a vice and kept her on her feet effortlessly. Once her feet found solid ground again, Lily looked up at the man's smiling face. For a moment she just found herself staring intently into his eyes.
He saw a pair of bright, alert, intelligent eyes in a face that was pale and very, very hungry. A stray strand of auburn hair fell across her face
There was something about the way he looked at her.....something in his eyes. It frightened he yet she couldn't look away.....she didn't want to look away.. It was almost felt as if she needed to wake herself from a dream but she regained her focus and tore he eyes away from his..
Pulling her arm from his grip, she mumbled an apology..
"Thank you. I am so sorry.."
The genteel, well spoken accent didn't fit with the way she was dressed at all. Lily backed away for a few steps...knowing she had to get out but wanting to look at him for a few more moments before she did. And then she turned and dived back into the crowd towards the doors..
She stumbled out onto the street and the cold night air hit her. Lily stopped to take a few deep breaths and then began walking. But she didn't manage to get very far before the impossibility of the situation caught up with her. Lily heaved and tried to be sick.....just a burning horrible bile. There was nothing there to be sick with.. She hadn't eaten for days. She was tired. So very tired.. She couldn't sleep for fear of the bailiffs visiting and beating up the landlady again or worse. And disgusted with herself for what she had been prepared to do. She leaned against the wall, wiping her mouth and sobbed in despair covering her face in her hands
She didn’t see the hard bright eyes in the darkness of the alley across the street that had been watching her since she left the theatre.
Lily hit the wall hard with her hand in frustration, anger and hopelessness .She looked up into the night sky.. "John, why did you have to die and leave me?"
Her crying set off her coughing again...it had been gradually getting worse exacerbated by the cold. She hoped it was just the damp and malnutrition....if she had consumption she would most certainly die without any money for a Doctor. She pulled her hand away from her mouth and saw with relief there was no blood. She wouldn't panic until she coughed up blood. Slowly and slightly unsteadily, she pulled her shawl around her tightly and walked....covering up the provocative dress she was wearing. She looked like a common street whore but she was anything but.. How she wanted to scrub the horrid rouge from her cheeks..
The eyes in the alley widened. The hand carrying the medical case tightened on the handle...he watched. Quietly. Patiently. It had been three weeks since the last one.
Time for Jack to go to work again.
He smiled to himself and stepped from the alley towards her, where she was leaning unsteadily against the wall .Sensing that someone was approaching, Lily looked up at the man walking towards her.He paused "Good Evening my dear...."
Middle height. A tweed inverness cape. A bowler hat which he lifted in greeting. Carrying a small bag of some kind. A smile that seemed friendly. A wide smile. Bright eyes that twinkled in the gaslight
“Excuse me young lady, are you unwell?"
She looked him up and down suspiciously. No one offered their services for nothing in this town.....there was always a price. Acts of genuine kindness and compassion...well, they were almost extinct. Lily stood up as steadily as she could and smiled politely.
"No...I am fine. Thank you for your concern." She bowed her head and began to walk....hoping that was the end of the conversation.. He followed her. Quick light steps
"I'm a medical man....." there was something in his accent ....American? "My name is Tumblety. ..Francis Tumblety...of New York City...sojourning in your great capital ...." He continued....walking level with her now. Rolling her eyes, she quickened her pace as much as she could..
"That's a very unhealthy cough there...you need something. I happen to market a range of patent medicines. Just the thing you need, I'll venture."
"I really don't need anything.."
Her silence had no impact on him "My lodgings are just up here...Batty Street. I only mean it as a courtesy, an act of Christian charity..."
"I don't wish to be rude but I don't need charity from anyone.." The smile again...
"Of course, I quite understand" She mentally pictured where Batty street was and began planning a route in the opposite direction.. As they reached the next corner, she suddenly veered off to the left, crossing the cobbled street heading towards the other end of commercial road
"Good evening.." She glanced back and smiled..
He tipped his hat and turned away. Lily sighed with relief as he turned and waited to see where he went. He was going nowhere. He was standing in the middle of the darkened street. His eyes glinting like shards of moonlight. Her eyes grew wide as she tried to swallow back a rising panic as he unfastened the clasp on the small bag and produced a small gleaming knife. His voice was a taunting, soft whisper.
"Race you home......whore."
For a moment she just stood there, unable to believe what was happening...the danger. He stepped towards her his eyes now wide, dead and pale....the smile wide with evil mouthing in a soft singsong "Yankee doodle came to town....just to meet the ladies...."
She was immediately aware of the malevolence and menace about him. This wasn't someone trying to frighten her. He was going to kill her. She was certain of it in his eyes, the cold and madness in his voice. Yet he'd picked on the wrong girl. She had nothing, absolutely nothing to lose.. Lily knew she was sick and probably going to die..
"Aren't you going to scream, honey...." His voice was still soft and coaxing "All the others screamed..."
Reaching down under her dress, she pulled a long knife from her boot and pointed it at him with as much confidence as she could muster. It wasn't a sword but the principles were the same.. "Do you need a head start?" Her voice trembled but her hand didn't..
His smile widened "Kitty has claws does she?"
There was no way that she had enough energy to fight effectively but she would have more of a chance trying than running.....she wouldn't make it to the next gas lamp.
"I think I am more of a lioness than merely a cat.." Lily summoned her energy and stepped back with her right leg taking a fighting stance. The fencing lessons had been worth every second of hard work for this moment alone.
If she kept him talking long enough maybe someone would come to assist her. With a movement too quick for her to see, his hand lashed out and knocked the knife from her hand and grabbed her fiercely around the neck. He pushed her savagely against the wall. His face barely inches from her. The blade held up in front of her. Lily screamed and the sound turned into a tortured whine as he literally squeezed it from her throat.. He had her pinned against the wall and no matter how hard she thrashed, she couldn't kick or hit him hard enough..
At the sight of the blade she gave up. She was going to die and maybe that was a blessing. Lily hoped it would be quick .His eyes burnt with pale fire "One less whore. One less dirty deceiving slut. Say your prayers...time for Jack to clean the streets ...time for-"
His breath seemed to catch in his throat. His face froze. The smile died on his face as he staggered backwards, The blade clattered to the cobbles. Lily gasped and spluttered as he released her throat...fighting the dizziness and faintness. Tumblety sank and sprawled backwards onto the pavement
And then she looked up to where the man from the theatre stood framed in the pale glow of the gaslight. A glittering length of polished steel caught the lamps glow as he slid it back into his cane. He shook his head.
He looked up at Lily, watching him intently. She looked at him mesmerised and wiped the beads of moisture from her forehead...she was hot and feverish. He extended a hand towards her. Lily tilted her head studying him for a moment and then took his hand tentatively..
"You're unwell, I think and these streets are hardly safe. May I escort you home, Miss......?"
"Brown, Lilith Brown.." Brown was safer than her real name. He tipped his black silk top hat.
"Miss Brown. I am James Moriarty" He looked down at the lifeless body sprawled in the street "The police will be here soon - and I generally avoid their company. Perhaps Miss Brown would not object to being my companion for a late supper?" At the prospect of food, her eyes couldn't help but light up. But what would he expect in return? She looked at him warily, desperately hoping he was the gentleman he seemed to be...that she hoped he was. Lily glanced down at the dead man on the floor.
"I'm not what he said I was.."
Moriarty's eyes looked appraisingly at her over dark tinted spectacles "I know all the working girls in Whitechapel.... I know that you're not one of their kind. And in answer to your unspoken question, I merely request your companionship. Nothing more." He offered her his arm.
She smiled and went to take his arm. She suddenly stopped "I cannot.....I have to get back to my lodgings. Those bailiffs could return at anytime and goodness knows what they will do.. The landlady has already had one beating and everyone is sick and....and...." It was so like Lily to think of everyone else before herself..
"Who else is going to help them?"
"Then we may have to walk to supper via your lodgings.....Shall we?"
Lily looked at him....she had confidence in this man. She felt safe with him.. Nodding she took his arm. After a few steps she felt her feet give way and the street spun.....she was more unwell than she realised. His arms held her and gently supported her as he picked her up. She clung on to him tightly..
His footsteps rang out in the night as he carried her gently down Commercial Road.