Sophia sat in the one quiet corner of the singing mandrake, looking over the crowd. It was full of loud Bohemians, arguing about the merits of literary techniques, complaining about the stiffness of the upper classes and debating which year of mushroom wine was the best. It was all so extravagant and pointless. She preferred the medusas head-the patrons were more…real. There were fewer poseurs and certainly none of these pseudo-intellectuals. She absolutely detested people that put on airs. She may have been a writer herself once open a time, but wrote for the joy of it, she certainly never pretended that writing made her better than anyone else. She took a rueful sip of her mulled wine and realized slightly-she had to admit, they absolutely had better drink up here. It was pricier, but she certainly felt like she was getting what she paid for. She took another sip before pulling her pocket watch from a pocket in her dress. He should be arriving any minute now.
She was right. Only five minutes later she spotted a dark-skinned young man come striding into the bar. He was dressed in a pea-green three piece suit and a chequered yellow shirt. He had on id gloves and his hair was shaved close to his skull. He had a confident, self-assured manner to him; an easy smile and the kind of cockiness that one usually only found in the young and wealthy. In his left hand, he gripped a cane of dark, polished wood with a brass handle that the erstwhile spy was willing to bet wouldn’t cool if she left it at the bottom of the zee. She had been told by her sources that he frequented this place after a successful robbery. Amateur. Knowing better than to try and approach him straight off the bat, she sat back and watched him for several minutes. He moved with steady grace, each footstep measured and certain while at the same time seeming utterly effortless. It did not take much for Sophia to believe that this man was a cat burglar. Unfortunately, he was a cat burglar that had stolen from the wrong person. He had found his way to a table and was conversing animatedly with two other men. She noted that he kept his cane firmly gripped the entire time.
She took a final swig of her wine before rising, replacing her cold, calculating stare with a smooth, clever smile. She stepped lightly, weaving through the modest crowd before pulling up a chair from another table and sitting beside him. “Well hello handsome.” She purred softly. “I saw you from across the room and just had to come and say hi. I do hope I’m not being forward.” She leaned forward in her chair, making sure to display a tantalizing hint of cleavage in her dress. She graced him with a playful smile she had spent years perfecting before she had set foot in the Neath. It seemed to work.
“Not at all little bird.” He almost hummed, looking her up and down briefly. “In fact, my friends and I have a great love of forward women.” He assured her, gesturing to the two other men-a portly man in a cravat and a handsome, pale man with long, dark hair. They were both smiling conspiratorially at their friend. “Good God man, I know you’re charming, but if you’re going to start attracting fine young ladies like this without even trying well, I think we just might have to end our acquaintance.” The larger man laughed good naturedly. The Burglar spread his arms helplessly. “What can I say? I have simply been gifted with that implacable thing we call charm.” He said in false modesty before turning to Sophia. “Now please my fine woman, what are you drinking?” The detective allowed her smile to widen with genuine pleasure. Clearly this particular thief had a weakness for the feminine form-she hadn’t dared expect it to be this easy to get close to him. “I’ll have whatever wine you think is best. I’m sure such an obviously well-to-do gentleman like yourself knows far more on the subject than I.” She demurred, brushing a strand of brown hair behind her ear. She felt a hand on her thigh and her smile didn’t move an inch. “Ah, good choice dear. I promise you won’t be disappointed with my choice-I recently came into some money and I can’t think of anything better to spend it on than a beautiful woman.” He declared before attracting a waitress to take their order.
Sophia then spent the next several hours with the men, laughing at their jokes, drinking with them, listening to their stories and telling stories of her own carefully crafted to make her darkly mysterious and enticing. Soon the hour draws on and she decides to make her play. “Ah, it has been such fun with you three. I would hate to see the night end so soon.” She sighed. It was the dark haired man, the one who had spoken the least among them that too the bait. “Well I don’t see why it has to. I know a place not too far from hear that serves a very fine house wine. We should go there.” He suggested jovially.
“Hah! That’s a perfectly brilliant idea!” The effervescent Burglar declared, rising from his seat and offering his hand to Sophia to help her stand. The detective noted with some pleasure that he wasn’t standing quite so steady as when he first arrived. She accepted his hand, staggering slightly as she stood up despite the fact she was barely drunk-she had learned long ago that there were a number of tricks one could use to fool companions into believing you had gotten yourself drunk. And even without those tricks, she was confident she could have drunk these three under the table. “That sounds absolutely capital my good man.” She giggled, batting her eyelashes seductively. “Hah! You are certainly our kind of woman!” Laughed the more portly member of their party.
Soon they had staggered out into the mostly empty streets. She walked in a staggered line, giggling the entire time. She didn’t know Veilgarden as well as she knew some of the other parts of London, but she had familiarized herself with the area around the Mandrake, so she knew that there wouldn’t be many people around at this time of night. She let them lead her along for a while before she made her move. Giggling like a lunatic, she lurched to the side, pretending to trip towards the long-haired man. As she fell, she thrust her hand out, striking his jaw with the heel of her hand. It impacted with a dull thud and a grunt. If he hadn’t been knocked out by that, then it was probably the brick wall he stumbled back into, knocking his head hard against it before tumbling to the ground like so much dead weight. “Oops, look at clumsy old me.” She tittered, kneeling down beside him, as if to check on him. His two companions did not seem to be particularly bothered by this little mishap. “Hah fancy that! A little tap like that sending him tumbling down!” The burglar guffawed. He tapped his portly friend on the chest. “Hey, go help her get him up. Try breathing on him, I’m sure you have enough alcohol on your breath to wake him.” He chuckled.
While they chatted, Sophia had found the knife she had spotted on him earlier in the night. She soon wrapped her fingers around the hilt of the knife and had it drawn, hunching over so the other two wouldn’t see it. As the portly man walked over to her, she used her free hand to gesture him down. “Come here, help me stand him up.” She asked. “Guh, no need to rush. I’m sure the old booze-hound will be fine. We should just leave him here. A night in the gutters would probably-” He didn’t get the chance to finish that sentence. As soon as he had crouched down to lift his friend, Sophia had pressed the slender blade to his throat. She held a finger to her lips, signalling for him to be quiet. “Run.” She whispered. Sophia had surmised that this one wasn’t a hardened criminal. He was probably a fence or something similar, not used to threats of violence. She had figured that a simple threat would be enough to get his compliance. She was pleased to see that she was right, as he nodded rapidly before stumbling to his feet and running, threatening to trip over as he barrelled off into the night.
Sophias target noticed his friend running scared and looked confused. “Huh? What’s that d__nable fool doing now? He looks like he’s seen a ghost.” He complained as he went to meet Sophia, still blissfully unaware of the full depth of the situation. Sophia stood up, gripping the handle of the knife tightly. As soon as the burglar got close, she spun around and pressed the knife against him, digging the tip in just beneath his ribcage. “Alright, just give me the cane and there’s no need for any ugliness.” She said steadily. She knew that down here in the Neath death was usually an inconvenience at best, but she still felt less than comfortable with inflicting it casually. Not when she didn’t need to.
The Extravagant Burglars handsome face twisted into a mean sneer. “So that’s it? You’re a fellow thief, after my take?”
“Sometimes I’m a thief, but right now I’m just someone who wants what you have.” She said calmly, pressing the dagger just a bit more firmly into him. She was close enough that she could easily hear the sharp intake of breath that the subtle action elicited. “Hm, very well then.” He raised the hand that held the cane. Just as she moved to take it, he dropped it. She looked down at it and then suddenly, before she could act, the Extravagant Burglar fell back onto the cobbled street. Once there, he drew up both legs and kicked out, impacting her gut with a thud. Sophia went stumbling back, tripping over the still unconscious man behind her. She grunted as she landed, wincing on the impact. The burglar was scrambling back onto his feet, clearly slowed down from all the drink he had had earlier. Rather than waste time doing the same, the detective twisted onto his front and managed to launch herself at the burglar, driving her knife into his side as she did so. He let out a strangled cry as Sophia rolled on top of him, straddling his waist and twisting the blade. Another strangled cry rang out from his throat as he struggled beneath her. She grabbed him by the throat with her free hand before releasing the blade and punching him in the head, dazing him. “If you leave now, you’ll be able to get help before your blood winds up staining the streets. Or you can keep fighting,” she yanked the knife free and stood up. Your choice.”
The Burglar glared at her as he made his way back on his feet. There was a moment where Sophia wasn’t sure whether or not he would try and fight again, but the moment passed and he went staggering back to the Singing Mandrake. Smiling, Sophia tossed the knife back over to the unmoving form of the burglars friend before bending to scoop up the cane. She gave it a once over in the dim light of the street lamp before she twisted the handle and popped it off. There she found a several tightly rolled documents hidden within. It took her about two minutes to skim through over the documents to make sure they were what she needed before she put them back. She smiled and replaced the handle, taking stock of the evening. She had gotten the documents she was tasked with collecting, ensuring a rather generous payment-more than enough to justify the mess her dress was now in, an evenings exercise and possibly a fence that was scared enough of her to give her a good price when she went to him. And to top it off, she had a rather nice cane. All in all, a rather productive evening. She went sauntering off into night, swinging her cane and whistling as she searched out a hansom carriage.
[Just a short fiction I typed up of my alternate character. Feel free to comment.]
edited by Arabella Gray on 7/17/2016