Chapter 1: Mr. Solomons
“Does Thomas know you’re back yet?” Polly inquires, dipping her thin fingers into her cigarette case.
Groaning as I lower myself into the steaming tub I prepared, I begin adding petals of lavender, sage, and the poisonous amaryllis oil. “I’ve already sent a telegram right after, just like always,” I respond, scrubbing my bruised and battered body with soap.
She sits down on the stool next to the tub, somewhat behind me and begins watering my brunette hair with a jug. “I told him not to send you to that cutthroat; the Kimbers have been rueful since Tommy shot Billy Kimber.” Her expert hands add my heavily scented shampoo, the one I reserve the use for after a hit.
I close my eyes as she scrubs it into my scalp, being careful to avoid the laceration on the side of my head. “Will you hand me some gin, Polly? My head feels like it’s been hit by a bloody rhino.”
“More like Billy fuckin’ Kimber’s brother,” she mutters, but proceeds to get up and pour me a glass of the gin. “He could’ve sent John, or even Arthur to deal with him. But no, he sends the five foot two girl to kill a monster.” She sits back down and hands me the glass, as well as setting the bottle down next to me.
The burning of the alcohol is welcome flowing down my throat and warming my stomach. I normally don’t over-indulge myself in any kind of consumption, so I can already feel the relaxing effects of the drink dulling my pain. Taking out Robert Kimber was more daring than I originally thought. When Mr. Shelby had assigned me the task of finishing off the potentially dangerous brother, I thought it would be a breeze since the man had a wooden leg already from the war. But of course, I underestimated him and he got close. Too close. Until I lodged a frenzied bullet between his ribs in the corner of some fancy restaurant I “happened” to bump into him at. Luckily nobody noticed anything, including me leaving with a dress covered in blood spots.
“Polly, you know as well as I do that John has enough on his hands with his youngins’ and Arthur is too hooked on the drink for a discrete task as this.” Feeling her finishing rinsing my hair, I stand up and wrap myself in a towel. I squeeze the water out of my hair and pick up the bottle of gin on my way to collapsing on my creaky twin bed. “And who knows,” I say, taking a swig of gin and directing my glassy eyes to the cracked ceiling, “maybe there were two monsters tonight.”
“Oh, Lord,” I moan, quickly covering my eyes from the direct silver light hitting them.
“Get the fuck up, Amary,” I hear Mr. Shelby command quietly, probably after seeing the empty bottle laying next to me.
Removing my hands from my eyes and cracking them open, I yank a spare blanket over my body, having fallen asleep in the towel. “Yes, Mr. Shelby?”
He drags a beaten wooden chair over to sit by me, elbows on his knees, eyes focused and almost frantic. “A letter as arrived for you from Mr. Solomons’ bakery.” I jolt right up. “You are to meet with him this afternoon at three to discuss your position there.”
Nearly two months ago, Mr. Shelby had me send in a resume to apply for work at Mr. Solomons’ coveted bakery. Since them both meeting, he wants me to watch over the Jewish gang leader and report back everything I witness. It’s not the first time I’ve spied for the Shelby’s. It was actually the first ever assignment they gave me, to see if they could trust me after I appeared, twenty-three years old, a sack of bones with Polly pulling me off the streets. But after Billy Kimber was gone and the IRA have gone silent, it’s been months since I last did any surveying. The possibility electrified me.
“What time is it?” I grumble, standing up with the towel and blanket still protecting most of my modesty. Forcing my aching muscles to move, I grab my bottle of amaryllis oil on my beauty table and begin rubbing it everywhere it hurts. Normally the oil would either make someone violently ill or most likely kill them in a few hours, but my body thrives on its toxicity, somehow.
“Quarter past ten,” he replies, already standing up and taking his leave.
With him gone, I let the blanket and towel slip off me. I’ve already thought of my persona to be while I pursue the Jewish man. Picking out a satin, purple slip matching a purple knit dress reaching just below my knees, I start the process of becoming a wealthy woman wanting to find work for independence. Now, there’s obviously no baking of any kind of bread at his distillery, but a sweet, confident woman wouldn’t know that, would she? Word has it that with Sabini putting pressure on Mr. Solomons of late, he needs a distraction from his distillery, like actually showing he has a bakery. Who could be better than a petite woman like myself to be the front to that kind of operation going on behind the scenes?
I apply some light pink powder to my eyelids to compliment my brown eyes, rub my mascara brush into the block of black square in the tin and apply it to my lashes. For the past two months, ever since I’ve been assigned to Mr. Solomons’ case, I have learned numerous ways of manipulating bread in that time frame, wasting away my days in the kitchen, chucking burnt bread and giving away those that turned out to be edible. Along with baking, I’ll be posing as a single, Jewish woman which required extensive research on my part into everything that makes up a good Jewish woman.
“You got your fukin’ dress on, Mary?” I hear Arthur bellow right outside my door before letting himself in anyway as I’m hooking my garter into place. He covers his eyes mockingly, peeking around them. “All that for Alfie fuckin’ Solomons?”
Pulling my dress hem back down, I face my mirror again to start on my hair. I made the mistake of just passing out last night without putting any pins in my hair so now I have to resort to using a lot more pomade than I wanted. “Arthur, I’m pretty sure Mr. Solomons has more business on his mind than a woman like me. Nobody has ever seen him with a woman, who knows if he even likes women?” My voice came out slightly hopeful at the end, it would certainly make it less stressful as long as the man doesn’t make any advances. Spineless men like Robert Kimber are easy to deal with, but Alfie Solomons? A gang leader ruling the whole part of Camden Town with a history of unpredictable violence? I’m not sure if I can keep the bear away if he decides it’s me he wants.
Arthur releases a loud bellow of a laugh, slumping down onto my messy bed, wincing a bit as he must have hit a spring. “Fuckin’ ‘ell, Mary, how do you sleep on this wonky thing?” He bounces a bit, testing the lack of quality.
I take my pins out after having applied the pomade, finally sticking two needles through my hat in my hair to keep it in place. “By closing my eyes and the help of a bottle of gin.”
He doesn’t seem satisfied with my answer, but lets it go. “Anyway, Alfie’s religion don’t allow no homosexual shit. He loves his Jewish women, so maybe give him a little taste, eh?” He chuckles at his own joke that only serves to make my cheeks burn.
“So are you going to escort me and ruin my alibi or did you just want a chance barging into my apartment to see me in a state of undress?” I slide on my coat, slip on my gloves, and gather my purse with a pistol inside. Nearly forgetting, I take a dagger out of my drawer and slide it blade first between my cleavage, hilt settling on my bra. Seeing as he’s just sitting there and grinning, I go with my second presumption. “You can see yourself out, Arthur. It takes hours to get to Camden Town by car and my meeting is in four hours.”
Just as I’m making my way out, I hear Arthur. “Good luck, lass! And remember, Jewish men don’t fuck their women on the rag!”
The way to Camden Town felt like an eternity, the driver silent the whole way. Mr. Shelby had paid him well, some common man who works at the coal factory so as not to arouse suspicion of a seen Peaky Blinder in London. Many still wonder why I refer to Thomas as Mr. Shelby, but it’s quite simple. I’ve formed a bond with his brothers and the people around him, but he’s always out of arm's reach from me, so I display my respect by calling him Mr. Shelby. Even though he’s tried to get me to call him Thomas over the two years I’ve known him, recently having given up and not mentioning it anymore.
I know we’re no longer in Birmingham when the stench of coal turns to petrol. There’s more people who can afford a car around here, but there’s still people begging in the streets for food and children naked, playing in puddles.
“‘Ere we are, miss,” my driver speaks, pulling in along the curb outside the “bakery”.
“Thank you,” I say and hand him a wad of pounds to keep him silent.
Stepping out of the car and watching it drive away, I look up into the belly of the monster: Alfie Solomons’ illegal rum factory. I walk up to the luminous doors, clear my dry throat, and knock lightly on the door. Checking to see that all my bruises and cuts are covered underneath my nylons, gloves, and hair, I fiddle with my purse before one of the doors opens slowly. Revealed by the door is a tall man with dark curly hair on top of his head, along with the standard black kippah. I recognize his face as Ollie, the right-hand man of Mr. Solomons and also his lawyer.
“Name?” he demands, looking me up and down as if it’s impossible that a lady looking like me is about to enter the brewery.
Clearing my throat again, I hold out my gloved hand and give him my best smile. “Hello, my name is Amaryllis Smith.” I use my real first name, but give a generic maiden name. He seems lost for a second and then shakes my hand. “You must be Mr. Solomons. I have to say, it is a pleasure to meet you, sir. I am just overjoyed that you responded to my letter, to be quaint with you.”
He becomes increasingly confused the longer I speak, but there’s a slight tint of pink in his cheeks now. “I’m not Mr. Solomons, Miss Smith.” I let him see my face turn up in confusion now. “I’m Ollie, his assistant and lawyer.”
I giggle behind my hand and he gives a quick open smile. “I must apologize then, Ollie. Something about you made me think you were him.”
“Oh, well, uh,” he stutters and scratches the back of his head. He checks his watch and then jolts back up and waves his hand inside, holding open the door. “Well, come along. Your meeting with Mr. Solomons is in just a few minutes. He doesn’t like it when his schedule is off.”
Giving him another warm smile, I step inside and immediately the smell of rum assaults my nostrils. Ignoring it the best I can, I follow Ollie to Mr. Solomons office, watching everything around me. There’s no other doors in sight for now, but there’s hundreds of barrels lined up along with at least a dozen men working. Ollie turns a corner and there’s a room, four walls put up in the middle of the warehouse with windows surrounding the upper walls of it. He motions for me to stay where I am so he can pop his head into the office, speaking a few words.
I hear grumbling inside and a shiver runs down my spine. I’m about to meet my most dangerous target yet. The cold steel of my dagger pressing flush against my skin becomes more noticeable by the second.
Ollie opens the door wider and leads me inside, him closing the door behind himself and standing in the corner. I enter with a smile and get my first look at the Jewish gang leader of Camden Town. Mr. Solomons is sat in his chair behind his desk, shoulders hunched forward as he scribbles away on the paper in front of him, numerous rings around his fingers and golden half-moon glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. There’s no kippah on his short hair, I notice. His gruff beard doesn’t seem to cover some scars he got from the war, or so Mr. Shelby presumes. I’m surprised that even though he runs the second most successful gang in East End, that he’s wearing a worn shirt and pants.
“Alright, sit the fuck down. No need to stand there like a fuckin’ boy on the front lines,” he rumbles, still not looking up.
I quickly take the seat in front of him. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Solomons. Thank you very much for responding to my letter for work as a baker.”
He finally looks up and our eyes lock, stealing some of my breath away. It’s almost like his oceanic eyes are unraveling every secret I have, which is plenty. “Right, Miss . . .”
“Right, Miss Smith. Are you Jewish?”
My brain halts at his rough introduction. Blinking, I nod. “Yes, although I didn’t live around here. My family and I lived in Liverpool for the past-”
“A criminal record?” he interrupts, squinting his eyes at me, hands folded in front of his face.
Feigning surprise, I portray shock. “Uh, no. Not at all.”
He continues to squint at me, then turns his attention down to his desk. “Our day, right, starts at five o’ clock.” He nods, as if to get the point. “So you’ll ‘ave to get that pretty ‘ead up in time to get ‘ere by then, because I don’t hire fuckin’ waps, okay?”
“Of course, Mr. Solomons,” I reassure him, assuming my visage as spoiled rich girl again. “My jeweler was very busy from where I’m from and demanded that we wake up at the crack of dawn to wait for him every week. Poor man needed the time to assort gems for my mother’s exotic tastes.”
Giving Ollie an annoyed side eye, he tips back in his creaky chair and crosses his arms. “If you were gettin’ gems every week, why come here when you were playin’ fuckin’ dress up all your life?”
I give him a sheepish smile and tuck a lock of hair behind my ear, which doesn’t go unnoticed. “After my father tried to set me up with several suitors, I grew tired and saw no end in sight so I moved down here. It was time to; they’ve finally accepted my life of a spinster.”
He purses his lips and slams his hands on his desk, making both Ollie and I jump. “Eight pounds and seven quid a month, so don’t fuckin’ run that pretty fuckin’ mouth o’ yours about unfair payment. You will be ‘ere from five to six at night, dressed less like an ol’ cunt’s wife and more like a baker. No fraternizing with the men, yeah? So long as you wish to keep your legs closed, you’ll leave ‘em be. And uh, ‘ere’s your uniform.” He reaches into his drawer and my body immediately tenses, hand gripping my handbag. But he doesn’t reach for the whiskey or pistol I know he has in there, but for a worn apron.
Catching the apron that he throws, I almost can’t believe I’ve fooled a gangster leader. “Does this mean I have the job?”
“Yes, you do. Now I’ll be showin’ you around then you can fuck off.” Groaning as he stands, I notice him leaning heavily onto his simple, wooden cane with his right hand. At least if Mr. Shelby ever did order a hit on him, it wouldn’t be too difficult.
I follow behind him through the warehouse, thinking up a few ways he could go, just in case. There’s just under two dozen men working in the whole building, very few windows and the few are quite high, a few oddly-placed bread loaves around, and plenty of rum barrels.
We’re now in a nice-sized kitchen that looks to lead out into another room looking like a storefront. “This’ll be where you make the magic happen,” he says with a wide spread of his hands. “You make and sell the bread; if anyone asks for white or brown, you are to direct them to the other door ‘round back to speak with Ollie, alright? Now,” he spits in his hand and offers it to me.
Without removing my glove due to the scrapes still scattered on my knuckles, I shake his massive hand that just envelopes mine. His grip is firm, but not bone-crushing like I expected. It even sends a warm thrill through my body at the contact.
I give him another one of my big smiles. “I’ll you tomorrow then, boss!”
His intense gaze burns into the back of my head as I take my leave.
‘I have broken bread. Down to two dozen loaves, but rations in sight.’
Hopefully, the telegram will be able to reach Mr. Shelby by tomorrow morning, if not then afternoon. I’ve already cleaned up and am now laying awake in my slip, in yet another apartment paid by Polly under my name I gave Mr. Solomons. Just in case he ever got curious to where I live.
Tomorrow morning will be my first day at the Jewish gangster’s “bakery”. Just thinking those words sends a shiver down my spine. Never have I been this close to a potential threat like Mr. Solomons. I fall asleep dreaming of the simple days when all I had to do was eavesdrop on the IRA and maybe take a few of them out.
Chapter 2: Exodus or Leviticus?
Amary has her first day at the bakery with another encounter from her frightening boss, Mr. Solomons and an encounter with a new friend.
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The shot of a peashooter hitting my window awakes me from my rather light sleep. I sit up slowly, settling my feet on the floor, but not getting up. The gravity of my first day at Mr. Solomons’ bakery presses down on my shoulders and I just stare at the wooden floor underneath me until the peashooter hits my window again. Sighing, I finally stand up, wrap myself in my robe and approach my window, waving to the woman below that I’m awake. She smiles and waves back, making her away to the next person needing to wake up at this time.
I stretch my joints a bit, relief flooding me now that the pain in my body has been reduced to an ignorable ache. The scrapes on my knuckles are very much still present, but faded, along with my cut on the side of my head by my hairline. It’s four in the morning and I have to be at work by five. The Shelby’s specifically chose this hostel because it’s only a few blocks from the warehouse; Mr. Shelby wanted it closer to Mr. Solomons’ home, but nobody knows where that is. They daren’t have the already suspicious man followed him.
With the last bits of exhaustion leaving my body, I go to the rickety table and chair squeezed into the corner of the squat room, to set up the oils, petals, and crushed herbs I’ll be putting into my tub once the hostess fills the tub that’s already in the center of the room.
Half an hour later, I’m freshly bathed and dressed, making my way through the dim streets of Camden Town. Following Mr. Solomons’ instructions, I’ve put on a simple salmon blouse tucked into a long brown skirt that still accentuates my petite figure. My heels meet the gravel-laden pavement loudly as if to call out to others that I do not belong here. At least the air here is less clouded with smog than it is deeper into the East End where Birmingham presides.
Quite a few slouched men walk to work with their hands shoved in their worn wool pants, a fag between their lips accentuating the lack of a razor recently in use. Mothers have already sent their children out to play, probably finding them unbearable at this time in the morning, tired of hearing their pleas for more food they don’t have. It just reminds me how fortunate I was when I was growing up on a farm in the north, having three meals a day, albeit small meals, but it was food. Nothing could have prepared me for the poverty I suddenly entered when I was sixteen in the streets of East End, at first begging for food and then stealing it when I had little to no results. Pickpocketing became easier after that, but with success becomes uninhibited ambition that turned to being roughed up a bit after trying to sell a stolen watch. Something so precious a scrawny girl like me could not have possibly owned back then.
Approaching the doors to the bakery shop Mr. Solomons showed me yesterday, I take out the key that was in the apron he gave me and slid it into the lock. A bell rings twice when I enter, positioned above the door to announce arrivals. I lock it again and make my way behind the counter to remove my gloves, hat and pins, and coat. Clutching my purse still, I go into the back kitchen and put it down onto the corner of the island in safe distance to me still.
The start of the day is easy enough. I manage to cram two dozen loaves into the massive ovens and prepare the starters that will have to sit for a day at least so they’ll be ready tomorrow to bake. Kneading the bread brings peace to my mind, knowing that my hands that have been covered with blood in the past are doing something so domestic as making bread. A smile slips onto my lips for a minute as the image of me being a good housewife dances around in my head. What a silly thought.
The two dozen breads sell out fast, as do the bagged pastries I also wedged into the ovens. No one seems at all confused at the bakery’s sudden appearance onto the street; they just pay for the bread and leave for the day, to be back later tonight for dinner bread. I make sure to keep the ovens full at all times as I make quick bread, just imagining tomorrow when I’ll be able to utilize those starters for more quality bread.
I finally turn the Open sign to Close so I can eat my lunch in peace. The hostess at my hostel prepared a ham sandwich with a shrimp smear and a cuppa of tea. A shadow passes by the back door leading into the warehouse, but my eyes don’t catch anything in time. The thought slips my mind and I finish off my lunch and return back to kneading dough.
Beads of sweat begin to form on my forehead from exerting myself and being around the warm ovens emitting their own heat. Suddenly a man walks through the door leading to the warehouse and my shoulders relax when I notice it’s not Mr. Solomons. The man is dressed in worn clothes meant for working and grime is all over his body, probably from transporting boxes in the yard.
“Hello, darling,” he leers, walking around the island to stand next to me, hands on his hips as he watches my hands kneading the dough. “You look new, what’s your name?”
Already smelling the alcohol coming off of him underneath all the soot, I feign indifference. Maybe he’ll leave once he sees I’m not interested. “I am new and my name is Miss Smith. I didn’t catch yours?”
“Name’s Hughe Goff, Miss Smith. Mind if I ask what your beautiful first name is?” His hand has crept up in between my shoulderblades.
My teeth begin gritting, but I continue kneading. “No, you can’t. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work and so should you, Mr. Goff.”
His hand leaves me only to reach for the dough I’m kneading. Seeing his filthy hands, I quickly smack his hand away. “Don’t be like that, sweetie. I just want to show you how to properly knead the bread is all. Such a woman with your figure must require some help with such a complex job.” He reaches again for the dough and yet again I smack his hand out of the way, more harshly this time. His face contorts into one of extreme irritation and his hand grabs my wrist roughly, making me cry out both in surprise and pain.
“Listen, you bitch,” he spits in my face. “All you have to do is keep those lips shut and legs open. Make a fucking sound and I’ll make sure you can never use that tongue again to disrespect your superiors.”
All the while he’s talking, I try to indiscreetly bring my hand up to my chest. He’s focused on my face the whole time so he doesn’t notice my fingers wrapping around the hilt of my dagger.
The door bangs open and Mr. Solomons walks through. I notice the absence of his cane and that he’s dawned a loose waistcoat today. His golden half-moon glasses dangle around his neck along with his golden watch around his waist. His expression is one of surprise for a second and then it quickly turns to rage.
“The fuck you doin’, mate? You think that’s how you get Jewish women nowadays, eh?”
The man shrinks back from me as if I’ve burned him and I remove my hand from my chest. “I’m so- sorry, Mr. Solomons. It won’t happen again,” he pleads. “I- I’ll pull more shifts without pay! I can bring some of my cousins in to help-”
“You fuckin’ what?” Mr. Solomons marches over to him quicker than I thought he could move with his hurt body. He gets in the man’s face, hands balling at his sides. “You want ta bring men into my fuckin’ bakery to what? So that they can bring this whole bloody building down, brick by brick by brick onto my ‘ead?” His voice speaks softer now, but the man’s head is still shaking side to side, his face pale. Mr. Solomons leans in close to his ear. “You’re Sabini’s rat, ain’t ya? Come ‘ere to spy and report back to him tomorro’ like the filthy whore you are?” He pauses, leans back, and his eyes lighten up. “Mate, you gotta find yourself a betta’ job. How about my assistant, ya? You’d like that?”
“Uh, yes, sir,” Hughe says, a small smile slowly sliding onto his face to show his relief. “It would be my honor.”
Mr. Solomons nods with a smile and then his hand raises up to strike Hughe across the ear harshly. I wince at how loud and how powerful the hit was, immediately rethinking of how easy I thought it would be to dispatch of the gang leader. Hughe collapses onto the floor, clutching the side of his head in pain.
“Right, well, get back to work and don’t think of bringin’ those dumb fucks you call cousins over. Can’t even dig a fuckin’ trench if they wanted.” He turns to me as Hughe scatters from the room. “Now, how’s my new baker doin’ today?”
Still coming to terms that this man just knocked another man swiftly off his feet with one hit, I turn back to my dough and continue kneading so I don’t have to look at him. “I’m doing alright, sir. The Challahs are resting right now so they’ll be ready for tomorrow’s Sabbath. Um, I have those starters over there proofing for tomorrow, but I was able to whip up some fast loaves to get started.”
He looks rather impressed from the glance I give him. “You might be the most useful worker I have at the moment, even with what’s between your legs.” Now he’s standing across from me around the island.
A blush warms my cheeks and neck. “Mr. Solomons, I thought the story of Exodus says not to embarrass others?”
There’s a silence that grows thicker and I finally look up at him. His eyes tell me I’ve screwed up somehow. It seems like he’s in deep thought until he starts walking slowly around the large island towards me. His movements are calculated, footsteps still loud hitting the cracked tile of the kitchen. “Being Jewish is a fantastic thing, innit?” He purses his lips and nods, looking away from me and stopping just two feet from where I stand. I force my shaky hands to work the dough. “Even after three thousand years, we’re ‘ere, right? After all that mess of slavery and unrightious persecution of our people, we’re still fuckin’ ‘ere. All the love and sacrifice we bestow unto Him, He sees through our many sins and brings mercy upon our souls.” He looks straight into my eyes, locking us in a stare. “But some of us, he just has to look at us and tell us to fuck off after seeing just a glimpse into our many sins, eh?”
I nod my head, not quite understanding where this whole history lesson is going. “Not everyone is damned just because of something they did in the past. Redemption is for everyone. It says it in our books.”
He tilts his head back, nodding back. “Our books, ya. Forgot you were Jewish from the stench of pork and shrimp on your tongue there, love. Sorry ‘bout that.”
My heart is beating a million miles per hour. “I- I don’t-”
Just like Hughe, his hand whips forward and crushes my wrist in his steel grip, but this time I refuse to make a noise. His eyes have hardened considerably and now only standing half a foot away. “You think I didn’t see you enjoying that ham sandwich like it was your last meal while back? Or how you somehow mistook Leviticus for Exodus? Fuck off, mate.” There’s barely space between our faces now. “You think you can come into my fuckin’ bakery and lie?! What a cunt you are, ain’t ya?”
Breathing heavily, I’m not sure where to look that would make him less furious and dangerous. “I’m sorry, Mr. Solomons, bu-but nobody would hire me on ac-account that I’m am woman, sir,” I shakily get out, peeking up to look at his expression. I bring my other hand up to fiddle with my collarbone just in case I need my dagger and I won’t be able to get to my gun across the island.
His eyes follow my hand and linger a bit and that’s when I decide he is definitely not into anyone but women. The silence is like a wet wool blanket, weighing down on me to see if he’ll kill me or fire me. Jaw clenching and teeth grinding, he slowly releases my wrist only to grab my jaw in his hand, our faces so close to each other.
“You will not lie to me again, Miss Smith. Careful now,” he breathes and then hums, letting his fingers slip gently from my jaw.
After he leaves I’m still shaking in shock and adrenaline from being so close to dying. Or am I shaking and breathless for another reason? I can’t tell, but I know there was a shiver that ran through me when he touched my jaw, his breaths fanning my lips. Noticing the clock, I realize it’s already seven so I toss the dough I clearly over-kneaded, checked that the ovens were off and didn’t smell of gas, that the starters were growing, and making sure the storefront was locked. Just as I’m about to twist the key to lock the shop, a woman maybe in her early thirties comes rushing up, giving me an apologetic and pleading look.
Sighing, I let the woman in. “I was just about to close for the day, miss,” I say, but not unkindly.
The blonde woman nods and slips off her gloves. “I realize that and I’m very sorry for it, but I had to pull a late shift and making bread completely slipped my mind until now. My boys and husband will be expecting it on the table tonight.”
“Alright, I can whip up a fast one. Won’t be the best, but still good for dinner.” I lock the store door so nobody else comes in and make my way to the back, waving her to follow me since she’s the only customer. “I’m Amary Smith, what’s your name?”
“Thank you so much, miss!” She says and sits down tiredly in a stool in the corner. “I’m Emilie Bradford. I didn’t expect to work a double-shift today until one of the girls didn’t show up for her afternoon shift.”
I gather all the ingredients and begin mixing. “What’s your occupation?”
Emilie gives a tight-lipped smile. “I work down in the factories as a seamstress and laundress.” It’s just then that I notice her hollow cheeks, sunken blue eyes, and pronounced collarbones. “I’ve worked there since I was seven, became head seamstress at fourteen. It’s how I met my husband.” The sad look in her eye contradicts the happiness expected to accompany her last words.
I begin kneading the dough for the required ten minutes, adding flour to the stickiness every so often. “Have you always lived in Camden Town?”
Her smile comes back. “For the most part, yeah. My father had us moved from Wales to here when I was a wee lass.” She takes out a dainty cloth bag of cigarettes. “Do you mind if I smoke?”
“No, not at all.”
After a puff, she seems more relaxed. “Anyways, I’ve lived here for most of my life. Now that I’m thirty-two with four scraps and a man, there ain’t no way I’ll be leaving here.” Her voice is almost wistful.
“I was in spots of trouble when I was younger,” I admit, deciding to tell some of the truth because some part of me wants to tell her. “But it’s all in the past.”
Emilie flicks her cigarette. “Yeah, well, who wants to look into their past, anyways, huh?” Her smile is full of childishness happiness, as if she’s been repressing her spirit for so long. “Although my body constantly reminds me of how my tits used to be up here and how my tummy wasn’t always this wrinkled.”
We giggle and I place the shaped dough in the oven. “But really, do you know much about Camden Town? I live nearby, but it hasn’t always been that way.”
She takes on a contemplative look. “Hmm, I know poverty exists here just like everywhere else. And everyone seems to be afraid of this bakery, even though I’ve never seen any bread until tonight here.”
I lean against the island, dusting my hands on my apron. “Why would people be afraid of this place?” This is my chance to see more insight into Mr. Solomons’ business from the public eye.
“Well,” she exhales some smoke, “for one, all the men seem to know everything about this place and a few women, warning us about being around here and all. Mr. Solomons is quite a private man. Arrives at the break of dawn and leaves hours after dark. Poor man needs a wife to settle him down before he collapses beneath all the work.”
My ears perk up at the mention of his name and the ache in my wrist comes back. “Have you ever spoken to him, Mr. Solomons I mean?”
She laughs lightly. “I expect you’ve talked to him, Amary. He is your boss after all, I presume. Unless you’ve done more doing than talking.” Her eyebrows lift suggestively and I can feel my pink skin betraying me as it warms my cheeks.
“Mr. Solomons is my boss and this is my first day. I very much doubt he would fraternize with his employees in such an inappropriate manner.”
“Okay, okay, no need to get all flushed.” The mischievous glint in her eyes makes me match her smile. “I’m just so glad to be able to gossip with another woman who isn’t so morbid like the girls I work with. Going on and on about boring suitors and what they want to call their babies.”
After checking the bread, I take it out of the oven to find it finished. Emilie gets out a cloth wrap from her basket and wraps the still warm loaf before tucking it away in the basket. “Thank you so much for helping me tonight, Amary. You’ve saved me another night of screaming youngins’ and a cranky man. Thank you,” she says sincerely.
“Of course, any time. And walk safe!” I wave her out.
Now officially done with the day, I dispatch my apron and start the process of putting on my gloves, coat, hat, and purse. I walk through the warehouse to take my leave and notice Mr. Solomons’ windows brightened from the lamp still on inside. It must be nearing nine, yet he’s still busying himself in his office. Nevertheless, I walk past the brightly-lit office.
Chapter 3: Objective in Sight
A phone call disrupts Amary's day, Alfie Solomons is continuously intrigued with the woman, and they become closer.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! I really appreciate comments so I know what I'm doing is right. <3
“Have a good night, Emilie!” I wave at her outside the shop, watching as she carries a fresh loaf in her arms along with leftover pastries I managed to stuff in her bag. Returning to the shop, I close the door and lock it up, gathering all my things.
I open the door leading to the warehouse to see Ollie just about to open it. “Well hello, Ollie,” I greet, managing a tired smile. “How are you?”
He smiles back, but apologetically. “Hello, Miss Smith. I’m afraid Mr. Solomons wishes to see you immediately.”
My heart skips a beat and my hand subconsciously moves to my gloved right wrist where bruises now lightly decorate the skin. “Of course, I’ll make my way over there.”
The walk to his office seems to last an eternity, but it’s still too soon when I lift my dainty hand, rapping my knuckles on the wood. “Come in,” he barks from inside, sending my blood pressure through the roof and the smog of London into the Heavens.
I take a deep breath to steady myself and push the heavy door open, the smell of paper and ink filling my nostrils. Mr. Solomons is sitting behind his desk, shuffling at least a hundred sheets of paper around on the surface, unhappy grumbling accompanying the flourishes of his ink pen. “Sit,” he says without looking up. I take a seat with my hands gripping my purse in my lap, awaiting how unpredictably mood he’s in currently.
He stands up abruptly and begins rifling through the stacked officer drawers behind me. “What you’ve done, ya, in the past two days ‘as been the only thing keepin’ you in this bakery. Cunt!” He slams a drawer shut, startling me and I hear him open another one roughly. “I actually ‘ad Ollie look into some other bakeries for you, but they all seem to be completely occupied, simply cannot squeeze a littl’ thing like you in, at all. So, I thought to meself, ‘Alfie, why get rid of the best baker you’ve seen, apart from meself, just because she’s lied and isn’t in fact Jewish?’” I feel the air move as he walks past me and back to standing behind his desk, his hands leaning on the surface towards me. The constantly intense look in his beautiful hazel eyes draw me in. “As long as you don’t lie again, right, I won’t ‘ave to get rid of ya, okay?”
The way he says the last sentence sends a shiver down my spine at the implication. We’ve maintained strong eye contact for a full two minutes now, it’s nearly impossible to look away. “Not another lie, Mr. Solomons. I swear.”
Our eyes hold each other for just a moment longer before he settles back into his chair, chucking a clipboard and pen to my side of the desk. “Good, good, but I still ‘ave eyes on you, lass, ‘cause I can’t trust ya, now can I?”
Bottling up all the courage I have, I say, “Do you have all the ladies watched, I wonder, Mr. Solomons?” I accompany the light teasing with a matching smile.
It takes a few seconds for him to smile, he leans back into his chair, scratching the skin underneath his beard. “Fuckin’ ‘ell, Miss Smith. You would like that, wouldn’t ya. Knowing I’m watching you?”
Under the intense smolder of his eyes and teasing, I feel the deep blush coloring my cheeks. “How would you know what I like exactly, Mr. Solomons? A spinster like me?” The distasteful word rolls off my tongue now, not always having been said so easily until I finally accepted it. Everywhere I go, the men always see the ring missing from my finger and call me by that name.
He seems to have caught sadness in my eyes because he leans forward again and holds my eyes. “How old are you, lass?”
My blush deepens. “I’m twenty-five, sir.”
His eyebrows shoot to his hairline. “Shit, should I be callin’ you mother, then?” Mischief twinkles in his eyes and I giggle, the atmosphere around us not so intense as it had been when I first entered. “But it ain’t ‘cause you believe in all that independence shinanigans, is it? As if ‘aving a man between your legs constitutes as lock and bolt for the lady.”
Just as my blush almost had gone away, it returns again. “Uh, no, Mr. Solomons. I’m not one of them. I don’t mind the meeting of the lock and bolt.”
I can see I’ve surprised him with my words at his quick look towards me. He sweeps his hand down his beard and I can see his eyes flicker down to my crossed legs where my dress has hiked up a bit, showing the milky skin of my thighs, a quiet grunt escaping his throat. “Right, well, that,” he points to the clipboard he tossed in front of me earlier, “is a shipment order for you to scribble what you need for the shop. I need your signature at the bottom, as well.”
As I fill in the paper with pounds of flour, yeast, milk, sugar, and salt, I can feel his gaze on me. And not always on my face. To test the theory, I lean back in my chair, continuing to give the task at hand my full attention, and cross my legs slowly. A rumble comes from Mr. Solomons and I can’t help but look up into his eyes. They’re now as intense as yesterday when he grabbed my wrist, but it’s a different type of intensity. I set the clipboard and pen down on the desk after I’ve finished, him unashamedly looking at my legs.
“Right,” he mumbles, almost to himself, grabbing the clipboard to sign his signature.
There’s a knock at the door and Ollie comes in with a portable phone. “Miss Smith, there’s someone on the phone for you.” He sets the heavy equipment down in front of me and leaves.
Mr. Solomons remains silent, watching me. Is it the Peaky’s? But why would they call the bakery for me? Mentally shaking my head, I clear my throat and pick up the phone, placing it to my ear. “Hello?” Silence is on the other end until a voice I never thought I’d hear again breaks through.
“Amaryllis?” It’s as if someone has removed my vocal cords. “Sweetie, is that you? Please answer.”
His gaze is heavy on me. I clear my throat, shifting uncomfortably in the chair. “Yes, this is she.” My voice is hoarse.
“Oh, darling, it’s so nice to hear your voice after so long. Unfortunately, this is not a check-in call, even though it’s taken me nearly a decade to find you, sweetling. I’m afraid I have some terrible n-news.” I hear sniffing on the other end, as if she’s crying. My heart breaks into a thousand pieces.
She sighs. “Your father, darling, has passed.” My eyes go blank and I can’t see anything, my breathing catching in my throat. “I’m so sorry, dear. It’s been a few months, I had to look into public records office to see where you’re working and I only just found it today. Although I don’t understand why your last name is Smith. Did you marry?”
There’s hope in her voice, but my head is still reeling about my father’s death. “No, I’m not married. How did he die?” I glance up at Mr. Solomons, him looking the other way, but I know he’s listening to everything.
“H-he was mugged.” The heartbreak in her voice completely shatters me. “The coroner’s office says he was stabbed nine times. Nine times, Amaryllis!” A mourning wail comes from the other end, making me shut my eyes for a minute. She’s in obvious agony from losing my dad, as expected. “Amaryllis, you need to come home! I know why you left, but you can come home now, no one will remember you. You probably look different than you were when you were only sixteen. I promise, they won’t remember you!” I don’t speak. “Darling, please! It’s only me now and I don’t know how I can do this alone. They gave me a pension from his farm work, but it’s not much. I need help, dear.” And the words I’ve dreaded coming out of her mouth ever since she called comes. “I need you to come home, please!”
“I’ll need to talk to you later. Who's phone are you calling from?” She tells me the address and I write it down on a piece of paper. “Okay, I’ll get back to you in a few days, alright? Don’t worry.” I hang up the phone and stand up, avoiding looking at him. “Good night, Mr. Solomons, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Before he can say anything, I dart out of his office before he can see the tears beginning to flow down my cheeks.
After sending a telegram to Mr. Shelby, I begin entering the number belonging to Polly’s new home. The other end seems to ring on forever before Polly finally picks up. “Hello?” Polly’s voice sounds impatient, but not harsh. It seems like there’s a frog in my throat, restricting me from talking. There’s a sigh on the other end. “Hello, anyone there?”
“Polly?” My voice is small and weak. “Polly, it’s Amary.”
“Oh uh, hello, darling. I-I’m a bit busy at the moment-”
“I got a phone call today, Polly. From my mother.” I chew on my lip and fiddle with the skin on my fingers. “She, uh- My father is-” I clear my throat loudly, “-he’s dead, Polly. Stabbed in some alley being mugged by a goddamn low-life with a death wish.” By the end, tears are streaming down my face and my hands are shaking, the room is blurry. “And now she’s begging me to come see her, be with her, but how can I when the last time she saw me my hands were covered in blood, Polly?! What am I supposed to do?”
There’s only a split second of silence. “You listen here, Amary.” I can just imagine her holding a cigarette, pointing with it to emphasize her words. “You go to your mother and then you come back to us. She needs you now, more than ever and she hasn’t seen her child in nearly ten years. It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past because that’s where it is - the past. I know what it was like to live without my children, but now-” Her tone changes to one of contained excitement. “Now my son, Michael, is with me. Safe. And I would have come tearing through the fucking country if I knew he was holed up with some bitch in the countryside pretending to live in a marble house. I’ll tell Tommy know where you’ve gone, if you do choose to see her. Now, tell me about Alfie Solomons. Is he treating you fair?”
I wipe the tears from my eyes. “Wait, you have a son? And he’s back?”
“That’s beside the point, but yes. Thomas pulled some strings and found him, but my daughter . . . my daughter is dead. Just recently. How is Alfie Solomons treating you, Amary?”
“Well, he’s found out I’m not Jewish-”
“What?! Are you okay? Did he hurt you? I knew it was too-”
I interrupt her before she goes on a tangent. “Polly, I’m fine, still employed even. He just grabbed my wrist and threatened me about lying again, but that was it. I, um,” a blush creeps up to my cheeks for the millionth time today, “I think he’s been looking at me. You know, in the way men look at women.”
She gives a lilting laugh. “He’s only a man, which means his cock does all the thinking. Did you bring that silk garter belt I packed for you? ‘Cause you might need it to get some information out of the man with the direction his eyes must be going.” She takes my silence as nervousness, which would be absolutely correct. “Have you done this before, Amary? Seduced a man?”
“I-I’ve just touched over clothes, I’ve never had to persuade a man much more than that to get him isolated for the hit.” Men have been the easiest to dispatch of since, like Polly said, they think with what’s between their legs instead of their brain.
“It’ll be alright-” There’s a man’s voice somewhere in the background. “Darling, I’ll talk with you later, Michael is still a bit anxious of me I think. Good luck and be careful.”
I hang up the phone and go to curl up underneath my covers. Sneaking a bottle of gin from underneath the twin bed, I take several swigs before coming to the realization that I might need to sleep with Alfie Solomons. Refusing any further thought on the matter, or else I won’t get any sleep, I take one last sip from the sweet gin and let my brain rest for the first time today.
I wake with a pumping headache, not from the gin, but from all the crying I released last night. Forcing my feet to get up, I walk over to the window, waving at the peashooter, and decide against a bath this morning. I dress down in a simple, grey cotton dress without much detail at all. There are bags under my eyes shadowed with pink and grey, as if I need another reminder of how I poured my tears last night.
The walk to the bakery seems to last longer today, maybe because I’m overthinking everything. At least the scabs on my head and knuckles have healed up plenty, much less visible now. I left a telegram for Mr. Shelby declining a day off to go see my mother, even though that’s what I truly desire to do. But he sent me to Camden Town for a reason and I won’t fail him. Not after he let Polly include me in their lives and gave me my own apartment.
It’s as if the day goes by in a messy blur, burnt loaf after burnt loaf being thrown away due to my inattention. Customers notice my distance and keep their own, whispering behind my back about me being odd. Instead of having lunch, I take a walk around the town, marking mentally where children are incase they work for Mr. Solomons. Their innocence would be the perfect target to hire and pay since they are in poverty and would do anything to help their families.
With blisters on my heels, I return to the bakery for the rest of my shift which goes by quicker than I can blink. Emilie didn’t show tonight, so I lock up the shop, put my coat, hat, and gloves on and walk through the warehouse to where my walking route is home. Just as I’m about to pass Mr. Solomons’ office, Ollie comes running towards me from the dark office, holding up his hand for me to wait.
“Yes, Ollie?” I ask, confused by his behavior and the absence of Mr. Solomons in his office at this time of night. Every time I pass his office after my shifts, he’s always still there. And Emilie pointed out how he works too much.
Ollie catches his breath first. “Mr. Solomons has offered you to ride with him tonight, Miss Smith. He’ll have you dropped off at your home.”
My lips begin to form my refusal before I remember why I’m in this town in the first place. Giving him a small, forced smile, I nod. “Alright, Ollie. Where is this car of his?”
He leads the way out of the warehouse, stopping on the sidewalk outside in front of a Model T where I can just make out a driver in the front and Mr. Solomons leaning against the side, clearly waiting for me. “‘Ello, lass. Thought you’d ride with me t’night. Bloody dark out, innit?” He stands up straight and opens the car door for me in the back, hand outstretched to help me inside.
Surprised, I hesitantly put my hand in his and accept the boost he gives me inside. I scoot to the other side so he can climb in that way, hearing him grunt before sitting down, slamming the door hard. “Thank you, Mr. Solomons. This is very kind of you,” I say in a quiet voice, not entirely comfortable with being so close to him. Last time we touched, it had been him nearly breaking my wrist and now thoughts of last night swirl in my head. Will I have to seduce him to get information?
He waves his hand for the driver to move. “Well, kindness is my middle name, innit?” I keep my hands folded in my lap to keep the cold and ache away. After hours and hours of kneading bread, the joints in my hands are protesting rather loud. His eyes never miss anything as he must have seen me rubbing my hands since he takes them in his own, making me flinch hard, yet he doesn’t let go. “Relax, luv, just noticed you littl’ ‘ands must be achin’ after a day like today,” he reassures me. He gently slides my gloves off, swiping his rough thumb over the knuckles where the scabs still haven’t fully healed, but he doesn't mention them. “Your ‘ands are fuckin’ cold, mate.”
I sigh in relief as he starts massaging my hands in his own, the contrast between my frigid, dainty hands and his large, rough ones creating a pleasurable feeling. I realize that I haven't told him my address, yet the driver knows where to go. Just after a few days of working with the man, he knows where I sleep at night. Lucky Polly is smart and expected this, having put the hostel under my name and false maiden name. “The, uh, cold water I wash them with seems to keep them that way.” My voice betrays me, quivering slightly, my body not used to this kind of attention.
The weight of his eyes focusing on my down turned face grows. “Who was that on the phone, yesterday, hm?”
Should I tell him the truth? It couldn’t hurt and I realize suddenly that I do want to talk about it, to somebody who isn’t a mother like Polly. “Um, that was my mother,” I start and look up into his eyes to try to find the courage to continue. His eyes are surprisingly soft, but hard around the edges, urging me to go on. “My father, he was killed a few months ago. She’s been trying to get a hold of me ever since.” There’s no more tears for me shed, thankfully, or else I’d be bawling right now.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell, Amary.” A jolt goes through my body as he says my name for the first time, but what does that feeling mean? I look away from him, staring down at his hands enveloping mine, no longer moving. “Well, I’m sorry, lass. That’s ‘ard news.”
Breathing in and out slowly, this whole scenario I’m in comes crashing down on me. I’m virtually alone in a car with Mr. Solomons when my task is to get information from him and here I am complaining about my life. Clearing my throat, I squeeze his hands. “It doesn’t matter. It’s been years since I’ve last seen either of them. What were your parents like?”
He sits back, sighing loudly. “Well, me mother was Russian, me father British, right? They were fuckin’ butchered by the Russians, so killin’ some of those commies during the war gave me great pleasure.”
Poor man, I can’t help but think. He must’ve had to grow up without both of his parents, and here’s me who willingly ran from mine. “I thought the Russians were on our side of the war?”
A smile forms on his lips. “You’d be right.” There’s a dangerous glint in his eyes, sending my heart racing. I’m holding hands with this murderer, yet I’m enjoying the feeling of being in a little bubble with him, warm and safe.
“What was your rank?”
“Captain,” he says with a wink. “After my superiors saw me take down a fuckin’ dozen Italians with a homemade explosive, they promoted me. Those cunts had enough time to look down from their horses to congratulate me on murdering those shits.”
I lift my hand from his grasp, lightly running my fingers across the skin that looks dry and flaky underneath his beard. “Is that where you got these? And the scars?” My fingers go to the long horizontal scar along his cheek.
He eyes me suspiciously out of the corner of his eye, but leaves my hand alone. “Italians thought I was too handsome,” he quips, eyes now obviously looking at my chest and legs.
“They weren’t wrong,” I say truthfully before I can stop myself.
Now blushing madly, I withdraw my hand only for him to grab it, making me wince when he touches the bruise he and the other man caused. Noticing my discomfort, he rotates my hand and sees the deep markings decorating my bones like lace. Instead of dropping my hand, he brings it to his lips and leaves a single kiss on the inside of my wrist, softer than I could have imagined him capable. The car comes to a halt, but Mr. Solomons slips his calloused hand to my thigh, his eyes almost like a challenge.
Should I stop his advances? What would happen if I let him continue? Flashes of sensual skin to skin contact plagues my mind, clouding any other thoughts from entering. I push it aside and pick up Mr. Solomons’ hand gently in my own, putting it in his lap. Giving him a genuine small smile, I caress his cheek once more. “Thank you for the ride, Mr. Solomons. I’ll see you at work tomorrow.” And then I climb out of the car, skin alight. The look of desire was in his eyes last time I looked and also a curious one. He must be wondering who I am. Am I a whore? Or a clueless girl, a curious, naughty girl?
Just as we all must, I end my day in my bed, underneath my sheets and staring at the silver bars of light on the opposite wall. It’s clear what the Jewish gang leader wants and what my own body secretly yearns for and has yearned for for years. Will my first time ever be with the second most powerful man in London? Will my first time be taken by a ruthless gangster who makes my heart pump faster with every look he gives me? I mull over the decision for what must feel like hours. It is the best course of action, I decide at last. Like Polly often says, have their cock do the thinking.
Chapter 4: Failure
Some new information has leaked, but Amary is too late.
Thank you guys so much for the kudos and comments! I love to read them, they make my day! It's taken me a while to write this chapter because there's so much I wanted to squeeze in it, but I decided to split it into another chapter. So many ideas, probably going to be too many chapters. <3
My plan did not get off to a very good start. It’s been nearly three weeks since Mr. Solomons and I have exchanged more than a few sparse words to each other. His driver still takes me home at the end of the day, neither of us ever speaking. I’ve attempted at asking Ollie with a combination of lash fluttering and smiles, but he only ever says, “Mr. Solomons is always extremely busy with a full diary. He’s just had less gaps these past few weeks because of meetings.”
The gang leader has brushed his hand against mine whenever we happen to be close, like when we walk past each other or when he simply asks how the bakery’s numbers are. Even Emilie has been sparse, only having come in twice within the weeks, looking even more tired than normal. I’m beginning to worry for the woman who’s only joy in life, it seems, are her children.
It’s also been nearly three weeks since the news of my father’s death. I have decided I’ve poured enough tears and have begun to send some pounds to my mother each week, after I’ve been paid. The use for money has been unnecessary for me other than buying rations. My hostel is paid off for several months by the Peaky’s, so I don’t need to worry. Also not thinking about my family has stalled any further communication between my mother and I. Only pain will accompany another telephone call with her.
It’s nearing the end of my work day and I go ahead and lock the door a few minutes early. I go back to the kitchen and begin whipping up some starters while munching on some bread fresh from the oven. My slight injuries from Robert Kimber have fully healed by now and I’m itching for some kind of distraction from baking fourteen hours a day. I even miss Small Heath, a place I’ve called home for the past two years because of the Shelby clan.
The door to the factory opens up to reveal Mr. Solomons walking through, looking rather exhausted. “Mind if I check in, Miss Smith?” he inquires, standing there and just watching me mixing ingredients.
I see the dark shadows under his eyes and how heavily he’s leaning against his cane at his side. “Of course not, Mr. Solomons.” I drag a chair from the corner to the island I’m working at. “You should sit down, you look like you need some rest.”
He grunts, walking around to my side of the room and drops down onto the chair with a groan, hanging his cane on the arm of the chair. “Do I really look that bad? These fuckin’ meetings have been driving me up the bloody walls.” He tears his apron around his waist off, crossing his arms.
“You just don’t look like you’re a hundred percent is all,” I say as I begin slicing up some bread and cheese, spreading them out on a plate in front of him with a cup of tea. “Here, I doubt you stop long enough to eat properly.” I pull up another chair to sit down in, facing him.
Lifting his eyebrow for a second at me, he starts pulling apart the bread with his fingers, taking little bites at a time. “It’s the life I chose, I s’pose,” he grunts, taking bits of cheese now, making me smile in amusement.
“Do you always eat like a baby?” I ask, showing him my smile to let him know it’s not malicious.
He gives me an incredulous look. “You’ve got massive balls, don’t ya? Makin’ a man like me conscious of how I’m eatin’.” Despite his supposed self-consciousness, he continues breaking the bread apart to eat.
I laugh my first real laugh in awhile. He faces me in his chair, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. “I haven’t poisoned the food or tea, if that’s why, Mr. Solomons. Not this time, anyways,” I tease.
Him being completely unaware of my actual stash of poison back at my hostel boarding, chuckles. “It’s habit, innit? In my line of work, ya can’t trust nobody.” His eyes skim over my body. “Not even a pretty lady, such as yourself, ma dear.”
His light flirting breaks me out of the fog I find myself in around him, reminding me of my task yet again. My blush burns my cheeks and I stand up, stepping behind him. “But that certainly doesn’t help your body relax, now does it?” I say as I lay my hands on his shoulders, digging my fingers into his stiff muscles, finding them in knots. “I suppose all your stress is held in your shoulders it seems. These meetings must be terrible.”
He groans deeply, my fingers feeling the vibrations. “Fuckin’ Italians don’t ever shut their cunt mouths, do they? Neither do shitters with red ‘air.” I can see him gripping his fists, getting worked up over just thinking about the cause of his stress.
Italians? What is he doing speaking with Sabini? The redhead is obviously Billy Kitchen, the lad that seems to get on everyone’s nerves. Although, he’s just doing what men do and bragging about how tough they are as if women don’t get shot in the streets and survive, never making a fuss of it. I’ve only been shot once in my life, luckily, but it’s permanently marred my skin on my left hip where it nicked my common lilac artery, according to the doctors. But not having been ever intimate with a man, I’ve never had to worry about ‘til now.
Without seeming to obvious, I take a step closer to Mr. Solomons, the back of his head now barely brushing against my breasts. “Italians, hm? I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, see the sites and such,” I speak wistfully. Truth be told, I still want to see the world, or what’s left of it after the war. I dig my fingers into the gangster’s spine between his shoulderblades where a particularly nasty knot is. “That was, until the war started.”
Another light groan escapes him. “Nothin’ much to see, luv. Now France, that is beautiful. Before I blew it up, ‘course.”
I roll my eyes, but can’t help but let my lips slip into a smile. “Oh, Mr. Solomons, you are quite the wicked man, telling a girl like me how you destroyed something beautiful.”
His hand roughly grabs my forearm, yanking me towards him and then onto his lip. Fear grips my lungs and I can’t breathe, not with him so close now, the heat pouring off of him like a train working too hard. What is it now? Did I say something wrong? His hazel eyes are intense on mine, constantly skimming my face as if calculating whether or not I’m a threat. Sitting astride his lap makes me notice something underneath my leg and a blush quickly stains my cheeks that must be permanently damaged by now from all the blushing this man makes me do. With all these thoughts racing through my mind, his hands come up to cup my face firmly and then his lips are on mine.
It’s like he’s relit a flame inside of me that has long been snuffed out, with each movement of his lips feeding the flame. I soon find myself responding to him, my own hands coming up to his jaw and one to his solid shoulder, holding on for dear life. My body completely melts against his to close any space between us, his kisses feeling as if they’re traveling down my body and underneath my dress. My brain has stopped thinking clearly while my body is taking over.
The scratch of his beard and the callouses of his palms are a sharp contrast to the softness of my skin, creating a sensation that’s indescribable. His hands move from my face down to my legs, quickly picking me up by the bum and spreading my legs around his hips. The thin material of my dress and apron are now bunched up around my hips, the garter belt straps very much visible along with my stockings. Before I can think, he’s back to kissing me, his hands staying on my backside as his tongue slips past my lips. Never have I been so close to a man, let alone the second most dangerous gangster in all of Britain. His desire for me is firm between my legs and how hungry his full lips suck and bite my own lips. I gasp and instinctively roll my hips, attempting at relieving some of the pressure building inside my body from his attentions. He grips my tighter to him with a groan, hands suddenly fumbling underneath my skirt, my pulse jumping.
“Mr. Solomons, Mr. R-, oh.”
Mr. Solomons and I jump a little, or so I thought. I push back against him and see that he has a gun pointed at poor Ollie. His large hand is still resting on my bum underneath my dress. “Get the fuck out, ya cunt,” Mr. Solomons says, or should I say Alfie considering the position we’re in? He tucks his pistol back into his pants, fury in his eyes. I’m frozen in my spot, feeling conflicted on if I should get up or stay. His steady breathing under my hands easily calms my nerves of being caught.
Ollie shifts from one foot to the other nervously. “It’s Mr. Romano, sir. He’s here . . . for the meeting.” His eyes glance over to me, trying not to say too much it seems.
“Fuck,” Alfie mutters under his breath, looking away from Ollie to me. I hear the door close and know that we’re alone again. “Sorry, darlin’, but this’ll ‘ave to be put on hold for another time.” He helps me stand up before he does, running a hand through his hair. He must have seen the nervousness in my eyes because he brushes his thumb over my cheekbone, his expression soft but the dangerous glint never leaving. “Don’t be in the flap, luv. I’ll see you tomorrow, won’t I? Now, I just have to deal with this fuckin’ zevel , ‘right?” He kisses my hairline and begins to walk away into the warehouse. “My driver is in front waitin’ for ya.” And then he’s gone.
The car ride is silent as always, which doesn’t aid in keeping my thoughts from bombarding me. Alfie’s lips and gruff beard still tickle my reddened lips despite it having been nearly half an hour ago. My heart weighs heavy with each mile put between us, comparable to weaning off of a drug and coming to sense afterwards. Now the air around me is no longer safe or warm without his presence. Mind cleared, I recollect him mentioning the Italians. What is he bloody doing with them? Ollie even mentioned Alfie having a meeting then with a Mr. Romano, another Italian.
The car stops in front of my hostel and I let myself out, not looking forward to reporting to Mr. Shelby tonight. Dread fills me as I leave a telegram describing everything mentioned about the Italians, but skimming over what happened between me and the gangster. Although, I briefly mention my persuasions are becoming accepted by him. Some part of me wants to keep that moment between me and the man himself, just for a bit longer.
It’s barely five in the evening when Alfie finds his way back inside my kitchen the next day. I’ve dressed in the silk black garter belt Polly mentioned the other day, just in case I can get a quiet moment with him to gather information. My fingernails and toenails are newly painted in red lacquer, lips lightly reddened, eyes shadowed with a heavier hand to accentuate my deep brown eyes, and my dress is a light blue to stand out amongst the dull colors of Camden Town. Considering yesterday’s interaction between me and him, I thought it’d be a safe choice to dress up a bit.
His eyes narrow a bit when he sees me with a slight glint of desire in his eyes, but it’s overburdened by another emotion I can’t pinpoint. Is it concern? “Right, Amary,” he waves his hand towards himself to get my attention from the bread baking in the oven. “I know I said we’d ‘ave time today, but go on and ‘ave an early night. There’s business I need to attend to without your distractions.”
What business? I go ahead and take the fresh bread out of the oven and set it down on the side counter. “What business requires me to leave due to me being a distraction?” I say, adopting a lighthearted tone.
He walks leans more pronounced onto his cane, looking vaguely uncomfortable. “Ya just gonna ‘ave to trust me, ya? Go on, be back tomorrow.”
“Isn’t tonight the Passover, though? You shouldn’t be working too late, Al-Mr. Solomons.” Is he hiding something from me?
His eyes lower slightly, a hint of shame in them. “I know, I know. It won’t be long, go ‘ome. Car’s in the front.” He leans down to give me a chaste kiss on my lips, making my heart beat faster.
He turns to walk out the door, but I stop him by his arm. “Alfie, what’s wrong?” Concern weighs in me as I see him struggling internally about something.
Just before he’s about to speak, Ollie appears, looking pale and very stiff. “Mr. Solomons, Mr. Arthur Shelby is here along with the others.” His eyes flit over to me before going back to his boss.
Arthur is here?! I try to keep my face void of how I feel on the inside. Connecting the dots slowly, between the look of guilt in Alfie’s eyes at the mention of the Jewish holiday and Arthur being here along with Ollie’s behavior, I let go of Alfie. I force myself to kiss his cheek, displaying calmness and indifference. “Well, goodnight, Alfie,” I say before gathering my things and leaving through the front shop.
Just as I get outside in the pouring rain, I yank my heels off and begin sprinting down the sidewalk to the closest place I know has a telephone. Jagged pieces of gravel and shards of glass break through my skin on my feet, but I don’t dare slow down. Something is about to happen, something horrible even if I don’t know what that something is yet. Utter foreboding encompasses my entire body, fueling me with every block I run, having two now. Seeing the local bar called the Siren’s Wail, I push through the doors into the hectic bar scene before me. I barely register what everyone is doing on my way to the telephone, quickly dialing for the operator to Mr. Shelby’s telephone.
Neither he or Lizzie answer, leaving me with the operator asking if she should leave a message. I hang up, my heart pounding nearly out of my chest. Not giving up, I frantically call for Polly with my hands shaking, rambling off her line to the operator. After several rings, the noise stops and she actually picks up.
“Gray residence,” she answers.
“Polly? It’s me, Amary,” I gasp out, still catching my breath and trying to keep from hyperventilating. “Polly, something is happening. Mr. Shelby or Lizzie aren’t picking up and Arthur is at the bakery. I think something bad is going to happen.”
There’s silence on the other line for just a few seconds until I hear her speaking to her son. “Michael, you need to leave now-”
The deafening sound of breaking wood blasts through the ear piece and I can hear Polly yelling. “Don’t take him! You can’t take him again!” I listen, sobbing as I hear her begging who I presume to be police officers taking away her son she’s just got back. I cover my mouth to keep the sobbing to a minimum, hanging up the telephone and slouching against the wall.
Arthur! With my heels still in my hand, I run from the bar, feet leaking fresh blood all over the ground but the cold is beginning to numb them now. My lungs are screaming desperately for air as my naked feet barely touch the ground and my ragged breaths make up for my silent footfalls. The thin dress I decided to wear now is completely soaked through and my makeup runs down my face along with my undone hair reaching a bit past my shoulders.
Just as I’m a few yards from the bakery’s warehouse doors, I freeze at the sight before me. There’s at least half a dozen coppers and three police cars, two of the men carrying someone and the rest loading covered bodies into the cars. My heart, recently beating out of my chest, has nearly frozen. The man the coppers are carelessly carrying is Arthur, still alive and breathing, but bloody and unconscious. What have I done? Or what have I not done? I was sent here to collect information from Alfie, to prevent anything like this happening, and yet I’ve failed. For the first time working for the Shelby’s, I’ve failed.
Underneath the ominous shadows, I see Alfie Solomons straightening from the brick wall, observing the situation calmly. I quickly slip my heels on, wincing at the sharp cuts, and wipe the running makeup from my cheeks so as not to look like a crazed lunatic. He looks over at me and I had no idea what emotion I would be feeling. Fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and longing all battle it out inside me at once. How am I supposed to act around him now? He starts to walk over towards me and the darkness hides his expression, the fear surging inside of me along with anger. I find my fingers wrapping around the gun in my purse, the cool metal tangible through the soaking material.
Alfie doesn’t hesitate like I do as he stands in front of me. He slips off his huge wool coat, wrapping it around me and I notice just how much I’m shaking and how cold I am. My hand loosens on the gun as I set my eyes on his, how careful they look as he observes me.
“What ya doin’, Amary,” he inquires softly, tilting his head. I don’t speak out of fear I’d yell at him or cry. “Get in the car.” He nods towards the T Model.
With a blank mind, I do as he says and climb in with his assistance. He goes around the car to sit next to me, his hands enveloping mine like they did that first night we were in the car. It’s different this time, however. His touch is still oddly comforting, but entirely not wanted now. I want to lean into him, pretend that I didn’t just see what I’ve seen, and yet, I want to utilize my knife burrowed between my breasts. We sit silently together, his hands holding mine, his intense gaze constantly falling on me. He must be expecting me to have a meltdown at any moment. What girl wouldn’t after seeing a pile of dead bodies being loaded into a car, even if it was a police car?
The car comes to a stop finally. It’s now lightly misting outside, mocking me. I feel Alfie turning his body towards me, so I look up into his face, my own visage expressionless to hide the chaotic feelings inside. I wait for him to speak, but instead he leans towards me slowly, kissing me gently. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to spook me. His affection is what aids in my task and I force my lips to move against his, mirroring his actions. There’s no pleasure or reassurance from this kiss, there’s just nothing. All the intense emotions I’ve just felt are gone.
He pulls away slightly, capturing my stare in his. “Forget what you saw tonight, ya? No one needs ta know, alright?” His thumb brushes against my lip. “Take the day off ta’morrow, Amary.”
Nodding, I grab my purse and get out of the car, masking the pain-filled stumble as imbalance. As soon as I get up to my room, I sit down roughly onto my bed and slip my heels off. Most of the cuts are shallow, but there’s some deep ones closer to my toes. The red lacquer on my toenails is chipped.
“What the fuck ?” I whisper.
Chapter 5: Veering Off Course
Following the previous night's events, Amary must answer to Mr. Shelby. Her relationship with Alfie becomes more complex as her mission gets clouded.
My stomach is in absolute knots as I sit quietly in front of Thomas Shelby. Since Alfie told me to take the day off, and considering last nights events, I have come to meet with Mr. Shelby in person. He sits quietly, not once acknowledging my presence since I’ve set foot in here a minute ago, sifting through paperwork on his table. I nervously pick at my fingers in my lap, awaiting my fate silently.
He clears his throat, stubbing his cigarette out and looking me in the eyes. “Amaryllis, as you know, Arthur and Michael have been taken into custody because of Sabini and the help of Solomons. They didn’t get Ada, though it seems Sabini ordered his men to rape her.” My heart plummets all the way down to my feet. I’ve never been a fan of Ada, but she never, ever wanted to be apart of all this. And it’s my fault. “If we had known that this would happen, we could’ve stopped it all.”
I stare straight back into his ice cold eyes. “I know, Mr. Shelby. But I’ve-”
“Tell me everything,” he says, eyes staring coolly back at me. “Tell me everything about Alfie Solomons that you’ve discovered in the past month.”
And I tell him everything, mostly everything. I manage to get through it all with a cigarette in my hand, just dwindling away into nothing but ash because I forget its existence. My tongue is sour with everything I confess to my boss, it feels as if I’m betraying Alfie. But that’s the assignment I signed up for, spying and extracting secrets from the opposing gangster. It still doesn’t lessen the disgust I feel with every word I say. I tell him everything from my first day’s observations to even how Alfie has kissed me, but I don’t give any detail other than his assumed fondness of me. I tell him how the man doesn’t seem to mind I’m not Jewish so long as I keep my mouth shut and do my work. Even though I feel like retching, I divulge the facts of his mother being Russian and father being British, his military status, and his violent streak on the field.
Mr. Shelby lets me ramble on for over half an hour, his expression unreadable as always. I finally finish, a pit in my stomach weighing me down. “You’ve done fine work, Amaryllis,” he says, reaching for a cigarette and lighting it. “And yet, here we are. Fucked.”
I clench my teeth. I’ve never disappointed the Shelby clan, not once. “I’m sorry, Mr. Shelby. I am, it’s just-”
“What?” he interrupts, anger briefly flashing in his eyes. “What is it? I assigned you to this task because you’ve exceeded in everything I’ve laid out in front of you. And yet, you’ve failed. While Michael and Arthur were bloody, Alfie Solomons held your hands and drove you home. Have you even fucked him yet? Or do you not care about this family?”
Shocked at his words, I take a moment to gather my thoughts and shove down my own irritation. “No, I have not become intimate with him. There’s other ways I can-”
“Well, they haven’t worked!” he yells, standing up with his hands planted firmly on his desk. Rage and frustration and mourning burn in his eyes. “I don’t fucking care if you want to keep your legs closed. We’re all whores for something - money, sex, power, control. You won’t get information from him by just whispering in his ear and caressing him. If you’d - last night wouldn’t have happened.” He sits back down in his chair carefully, diverting his stare to the paper strewn on the desk. “I would have kept my promise to Polly, Michael could still be with her.”
Guilt and shame consume me from the inside out. I’m reminded of my background, of how I started out with nothing to offer this world until the Shelby's have me a purpose in exchange for a meaningful life. Killing, surveying, torturing - that’s my life now and I’ve somehow forgotten it within a month. All because a gruff bear of a man has gotten underneath my skin. Because of my hesitance to hold onto something I thought was mine and mine alone, three people I know are hurt. But the Shelby's secretly own everything about me - my virginity, even though they don’t even know it, my body, my mind, my soul. They gave me purpose two years ago, but I didn’t know that meant selling myself to them.
Mr. Shelby runs a hand over his face once, takes a puff off his cigarette, and stares solemnly out the grimy window to his left. “Fix this, Amaryllis, while I try to clean up the mess I’ve made. I’ll get the boys out, you focus on preventing anything like this from happening again.” His eyes drift over to me. “There’s a driver waiting outside for you back to Camden Town.” And then he looks back out the window.
Feeling stiff and cold, I stand up from my chair and make my way out of the building. I’ve prided myself on never failing, not once. And here I am now. Everything seems to move in slow motion as I walk through the halls and rooms to get to the exit, the smell of cloves and alcohol reeking everywhere. I see Polly sitting at an empty desk, nursing her own cigarette, her gaze moving to me but not with the usual warmness I receive. This stare is cold, like Mr. Shelby’s. I’m the reason her son has been taken from her again, I was supposed to protect everyone. Before I throw up, I hurry out the door and practically jump into the car awaiting my arrival outside.
The whole car ride I think up a plan. Polly has always had the best advice and yet I ignored it. I couldn’t seduce Alfie in that way because I’ve never done that before, in any context whatsoever. It couldn’t be too difficult, though, I imagine. Just get Alfie riled up and let him do the rest, whether there be pain or not. I’m undaunted by being punched or stabbed, but I never felt exposed in those moments.
The driver pulls up outside my hostel, but I’ve already decided. “Wait here, I’ll be right back,” I declare, sliding a few pounds into his hand before exiting the car and pass briefly by the landlady, demanding a hot tub be filled in my room.
As soon as I reach my room, I begin filing through my clothes in the closet, desperate for anything not cotton. I settle on a vibrant, short-sleeved, sapphire blue silk dress with a plunging sweetheart neckline hemmed with same colored lace. Setting that aside on my bed, I pick up a pair of cream colored heels and the onyx silk garter belt Polly snuck into my bag when I first got here. Here goes nothing.
“Take me to the bakery,” I instruct my driver after I get back into the car.
After soaking in the bath with lavender petals, rose petals, and a few drops of honey, I had quickly gotten dressed, fixed my hair, repainted my nails, and touched up my face with a minimal amount of makeup. I can’t stop myself from picking at my thick coat covering my exposing dress, knowing what will happen in a matter of minutes. Alfie should be in his office still, even though it’s nearly dinner time. I’m craving his touch, the scratch of his beard and the softness of his lips. I also am conflicted with how I feel about him now after last night. He had beaten Arthur unconscious, yet he sets my nerves on fire with every touch. He’s a powerful, dangerous man, so why am I attracted to him if I feel threatened by him?
The bakery comes into view too quickly for my liking. I pay off the driver and watch him leave, almost waving him down again to take me back. I breathe in and out slowly, gathering my wits. I must do this so that no one else suffers from my mistakes. Some part, though, is yearning for his comfort, the only comfort that can help me forget for just a little while. After a solid minute of calming myself, I walk up to the doors of the bakery and pry them open, set on Alfie’s office. It only takes a few minutes to locate it through all the barrels and the man bustling about.
Without further thought that would give me time to back out, I yank the door to his office open. Two police officers are sitting across from Alfie Solomon’s desk, looking as if they’re in a meeting. Pretending they don’t exist, I walk right past them and to a very surprised Alfie.
“Luv, what you do-”
I interrupt him as soon as the words leave his mouth, pressing my lips against his in a passionate kiss. As soon as our lips touch, a spark goes off and sets a fire in both of us. I make my way onto his lap and bury my hands in his hair, his skin warm from a days work. He reaches up and cups my face, gently pushing me away from him. It didn’t work, it didn’t work , is all I can think.
But instead, he looks at the two coppers and says, “Fuck off.”
His eyes are back to me and there’s a curious glint overshadowed by lust. Our bodies are so close to each other, my breasts pressing against his chest and my legs fitting snug around his hips. A heat pulsates between my legs and I don’t know what to do other than to kiss him again. He buries his hand in my hair and moves the other down my back, his fist balling up my coat. I shrug out of the coat quickly, revealing the scandalous dress I’m wearing beneath.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell,” he groans, his lips drawn to my décolletage, sucking and biting the skin. A sharp gasp elicits from between my reddened lips at the sensations his teeth are making, sensations that travel all the way through my quivering body.
His calloused hands slide underneath my dress to grip my buttocks, lifting me with him as he stands up, and sets me on his cold desk. Now he’s standing quite snugly between my legs, no air separating our bodies scrambling for some sort of satisfaction from one another. There’s a hardness digging into my panty-covered slit, something warm. Alfie’s lips snatch mine before I can think further and my hands are clutching onto his shoulders for dear life, his own hands travelling painfully slow up my dress and to my lower back. I involuntarily roll my hips into his, desperate for any relief for the almost itchiness-like feeling down there.
His breath hitches. “Amary,” he breathes against my lips, sucking my lower lip between his teeth and rolling his hips back towards mine.
That’s when I notice a slight spasm that affects his hips afterwards, but it’s not from pleasure. I feel him leaning heavily onto his right leg and how his back is undeniably tense underneath my fingers. He must be in pain from whatever is wrong with his back and hips, probably brought on from picking me up.
I break the kiss, gently pushing him away by the shoulders to create enough space so that I can think clearly. The look on his face blows me away; his eyes are blown, cheeks pink, lips reddened, and hair ruffled from me. “Alfie, are you in pain?” I ask quietly, trying to catch my breath and unsure of how he would react to a question regarding him in a weakened state.
He merely shrugs and takes a step closer to me, now just a foot between us and his hands rubbing the tops of my thighs. “It’s just the sciatica, acts up now and again,” he dismisses my concern and leans towards me again.
I turn my head away, his lips kissing my neck instead, becoming quite distracting. “Alfie,” I say breathlessly, “I don’t want you in pain.” That makes him lean back a little bit, looking me in the eyes. A thought pops into my head and I motion for him to move. “Turn around,” I say.
His eyes squint at me suspiciously. “Listen, luv, I’m-”
“Turn around, Alfie,” I say in a stronger tone, giving him my best no nonesense look.
He gives a short chuckle and does as I say. “It’s just the fuckin’ sciatica, yekiri . Caused by sittin’ on my arse all day or not sittin’ on my arse all day,” he complains, shifting his feet from side to side.
With his back turned towards me now, I run my hands over his muscles and find several in tight knots. The soft, worn cotton of his shirt is barely doing anything from keeping the heat radiating off of him from my fingertips. Finding a suitable area to start on his right shoulder, I dig my thumbs into the knot, gently coaxing it to unwind without causing pain to Alfie. He gives a low hum every now and again as I make my way all the way down and across his back, making sure to leave no knot untouched.
My hands travel to the front of his hips and massage there as well. A louder hum travels up from his throat in response to my caresses, seemingly spurring him on even more to elicit those delectable noises coming from him. I can tell he’s resisting the urge to move his hips just by how tense he is right now, how much willpower he must be mustering up.
“Fuck it,” he grunts, turns around, and digs his head into my neck, sucking and kissing the sensitive skin there. I jerk from his surprise kissing. “I don’t care ‘bout the pain,” he says, hands gripping the hem of my dress.
Giggling, I push him away from my neck. “Alfie, stop, that tickles.” I look up into his intense eyes and stroke his cheek with my right hand. Something hits me in my gut, something that shoots through my whole body when I look into those eyes of his. The conversation I had with Mr. Shelby earlier today goes around and around my head, along with Polly’s disappointed eyes, and the made-up image I have of Arthur beaten in a prison cell. “Will you hold me, Alfie?” I ask hesitantly, searching for any comfort I can get. Since I haven’t seen my mother in ten years and Polly is indisposed as well as Arthur, Alfie is my closest to any kind of comfort I’ll be receiving for some time.
He simply wraps his arms around me again without hesitation. His chin rests on top of my head and I have my arms tightly wound around his back with my face buried in his chest. “What’s wrong, luv?” he inquires, his hands now stroking my back. “Is it your mum, hm? She callin’ you again?”
Fighting back the invading tears, I nod my head, knowing I can’t tell him anything else that I’m truly upset with. “I haven’t seen her yet, I can’t bring myself to see her.”
“Well, if ya want, I can take you to see her when you’re ready,” he says in a low voice. “Family comes first, ya?”
Wrapped up in the warmth and firmness of him, I look up into his eyes and lean into his lips. No way will he ever meet my mother due to the fact that he thinks I’m wealthy, but just the offer warms my heart. There’s no rush in this kiss, no frenzy or desperation, just a sensual joining of two pairs of lips without rush. I can stay in his arms all day if it meant we could be left in peace for the meantime, to escape from reality.
It’s him that pulls back now, his finger under my chin. “As much as I’d love to fuck you right now,” I blush immensely, “I’ve got a meetin’ soon to get to.” His other hand and eyes stroke over the side of my breast that’s barely being concealed, beginning a tingling feeling where he touches. “However,” he continues, “there will be a car for you at seven that’ll take you to a fancy banquet with me. I need someone to keep me occupied from the Italian cunts.”
The Italians! This is a perfect opportunity to follow through on my task, something that doesn’t directly affect Alfie, but also helps Arthur and Michael! Containing my excitement, I lift an eyebrow at him with a teasing smile and resume my role as a wealthy woman. “I’ve been looking for an excuse to wear one of my nice dresses ever since I got here.”
Amusement glints in his eyes and he leans forward to press his lips to my ear. “Wear gold,” he says and gives the skin behind my ear a chaste kiss.
Alfie is right on time with his car showing up at exactly seven. I’ve been waiting by the front door for a few minutes already, excited to see his reaction to my dress and to do my job. I’ve went a little dark on the makeup tonight, applying a mauve lipstick and deep purple eye shadow. My choice of nail lacquer tonight matches my eye shadow, one side of my hair is clipped back, dew drop ruby earrings shimmer from my ears, along with a matching necklace around my neck. The dress is something special I had tucked into the very back of my closet from the moment I arrived here, knowing that Alfie liked gems and the colors gold, ruby, silver, and sapphire were the safest choices of dresses to bring. Tonight though, I’ve dawned the gold dress that reaches my feet with a slit in the middle to show off my legs and black heels, a low neckline, an open back, and if I happened to lean forward then the sides of my dress would reveal some of my breasts.
I step out of the hostel and see Alfie standing in front of the car looking sharp himself. He’s got a similiar overcoat on compared to the one I still have from him, but I can tell the suit underneath is of high quality. A white shawl is neatly tucked under the collar of his overcoat as well and a wide brim hat sits on top his head. He looks up at me and I can see his lips part just the tiniest bit before he composes himself within seconds. Joy sparks inside me knowing that he’s impressed.
“Good evening, Alfie,” I say in the most sultry tone I can muster.
He tilts his hat towards me. “Same to you, Amary. You look lovely,” he says in an almost hoarse voice. “Well, go on inside.” He opens the car door and offers me a hand getting in.
The car ride lasts for just twenty minutes or so, but Alfie cannot stop himself from nuzzling into my neck, stroking my thigh, or staring at the rubies I have. By the time we get to the banquet, my body is humming from all the attention. Alfie steps out first and helps me out and up the stairs to the massive building holding the event. There’s actual pillars holding up the roof in front and the windows reveal the brightness inside, the dim noise of classic music giving us a hint of what’s inside.
Once inside, I can see that nearly everyone here is Italian or businessmen. I suppress my rage and tuck myself tighter into Alfie’s side to create some sort of distance. Alfie retracts his arm from my arm and wraps it around my waist instead, pulling me in close and bringing his lips to my ear. “Everythin’ alright, luv?” he whispers.
I nod and dazzle him with a smile. “Of course, just nervous. I haven’t been to a banquet for a few months now,” I lie smoothly.
“Mr. Solomons!” I hear a man yell from the crowd of minglers. He emerges and I can see that he’s Italian with short black hair, thick black mustache over thin lips, and a slight frame. Finally reaching us, Alfie stares him down, already getting into gangster mode. “Mr. Solomons, Mr. Sabini would like to welcome you.”
Alfie nods at him. “Alright, well where the fuck is the cunt, eh?”
The man looks taken aback and looks at me. I glare at him, daring him to say something. Instead, he dips his head and motions for us to follow him through the crowd. Alfie’s hand on my waist grows tighter the farther we walk and I grip my purse containing my gun tighter as well.
Finally, the crowd finally parts to reveal Sabini sitting at a round table with a smoking cigar in one hand and an arm around a woman. Four burly Italians stand nearby him without invading personal privacy and a man with slicked back hair and a thin mustache sits two feet from Sabini. I’m guessing that’s his right hand man and the woman could be anyone. The Italian leading us shrinks back into the crowd away from the table.
“Alfie, sit, sit!” Sabini says joyfully, his voice slick like an eel and just as disgusting. “Who’s the whore you brought with you tonight?” His eyes fall on me, looking me up and down slowly. Anger boils inside me.
I feel Alfie tense next to me. “‘Ey, mate. Call her an ‘hore again and you’ll be holding that cigar with three fingers, alright?” he delivers calmly.
Sabini narrows his eyes and suddenly the everyone is uncomfortable. But, being unpredictable as he is, Sabini relaxes and raises his hands in defeat. “Of course, Alfie, I understand. Hands off your property.”
Alfie squeezes my side when I clench my jaw, reassuring me that I’m not his property. Before he opens his mouth again, I step forward and extend my hand towards the Italian in greeting. His bodyguards all look at me, but don’t act. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Sabini, I’m Amaryllis Smith.” I force a pleasant smile onto my face, feeling as if I’m more baring my teeth.
He scoots the woman on his right out of the booth and stands up from it to shake my hand, the action lasting a few seconds longer than what is normal. “Pleasure is all mine, tesoro ,” he leers, giving me eyes that says everything he’s thinking about me.
“So,” I say as I extract my hand, “how long have you lived in Britain, Mr. Sabini? I can see that you’re Italian, is that right?” Knowing his paranoid personality, I start off with a casual question. “I’ve lived here all my life myself.”
The woman standing a little ways behind him squints her eyes at me. Her eyes rimmed by dark brown eye shadow watch my every movement. “Been here since I was little, ran the fuck out of Italy, wasn’t I?” He sniffs haughtily.
“How about your family? I’ve heard families are closer in Italy than they are here. I’m not too close to my mother,” I say, chipping information slowly from him.
He stares at me before answering. “Always been bymeself, haven’t I? Don’t need no family telling me what the fuck I can and cannot do. What about yourself, sweetheart? Any beau in your life?”
I can feel Alfie behind me looking around the joint, but he’ll be listening to every word I say. “Maybe,” I confess, swaying my shoulders a little to act playful. “But enough about me, is this your belle?” I inquire, referring to the woman standing behind him giving me the bitch glare.
He gives a short laugh. “Beatrice? No, no, she’s only good for bending over a table now and again or typing up my letters. Can’t marry your secretary, can you?”
I look at the woman again. She’s obviously Italian if she’s with Sabini. Her ebony locks are curled in the current fashion, dress dark with beads sewed in, makeup dark in general, and her brown eyes glinting with intelligence. It doesn’t seem that what Sabini said has disturbed her in any way. I turn back to Sabini. “I would love to speak with her, if I may. Need to work on my typing skills.”
Alfie comes up next to me. “Why don’t we sit down and you can tell me why I’m ‘ere, Sabini. Let the women gossip.”
Sabini gives me one last appreciative look and walks away with Alfie. “Hello, I’m-”
“Amaryllis Smith, I know,” she says in a soft voice. “I’m not deaf.”
Shocked at her bluntness, I’m about to respond when Alfie suddenly reappears, grabbing my elbow gently to steer me around. “Time to go, luv. Waste of my time, I apologize,” he says and begins walking us to the entrance again.
“Is everything alright, Alfie? I thought you were talking with Sabini?” I ask innocently. I can see Sabini must have said something in the short few minutes they were talking by the way Alfie’s ears are red and his jaw is twitching.
“Nah, just got to wash the stench of Italians off is all.”
All the while we’re walking back to the car arm in arm, I can’t get my mind off of Beatrice. She knows something, it’s in her eyes. I now know where my next lead on the Italians are. Alfie won’t be making a deal with them again for a while, not after tonight, so she’s my next chance at getting information. Just how do I get it out of her?
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Chapter 6: Busy Night
The car ride home proves more exciting than the banquet itself, except Amary knows she has business to finish tonight.
Alfie helps me into the back of the car again, his hand warm in my hand. Once I’m safely inside, he shuts my door and all light is stripped from the black interior. I stare at the divider in front of me that separates the driver from the backseat passengers. The other door opens and Alfie hobbles in, hanging his cane on a hook attatched to his door. He bangs on the divider and we set off, presumabley to my place.
I can tell how much whatever words Sabini had spoken to Alfie has bothered him. His ears and neck are a faded pink now rather than red, but there’s a hard stare in his eyes, as if he’s plotting murder. He catches me staring and his gaze softens. “Luv, I’m sorry ‘bout tonight. Shoulda’ known the Italians would fuck it up,” he apologizes, reaching over to grasp my hand closest to him. “But you do look stunning tonight, yeah?”
Blushing, I give him a smile. “Thank you, Alfie. I got to spend some time with you outside of work, and that’s why I accepted your offer, not because of some Italian banquet,” I lie smoothly.
There’s a twinkle in his eyes and I can see his lips shift underneath his scruff, but he just squeezes my hand and turns to face forward again. Pity swells inside me as I think of how badly he must have been put in his place earlier. Sucking in the air as if it’s liquid courage, I lean towards him and plant a soft kiss on his cheek. I can see him looking at me sideways, a fire instantly lit behind his irises. Not being able to move more than a few inches from his face, I feel the air thicken with anticipation when he moves his head to face me, his lips so close to mine now. Our hungry eyes connect and we both surge towards the other, locking lips and grasping any part of the other person. Alfie grabs my hip farthest from him and pulls until he can slip his hands underneath my thighs so he can lift me onto his wide-spread legs.
I gasp lightly when I feel his tongue invade my mouth, urging my other tongue to spar with his. He tastes like rum and cheese, probably from one of the cheese squares going around the banquet. My hands tug his hair on the back of his neck, wanting to be closer to him somehow, desperate to have nothing inbetween us. His rough hands slide to where my garter hooks are and he unhooks all of them in a matter of seconds, a feat I have deemed impossible previously. He tugs them down to my knees on either side of him and I feel his finger nudging my underwear to the side. My breath catches in my throat, a gasping moan slithering out between my lips when he begins stimulating my clit softly with his other hand spread on my lower back.
Being a man that tends to multitask, he also pushes one of my dress straps down my shoulder and latches onto my nipple with his wet lips. A shock runs through my quivering body at the sensations, never having felt anything like this. I’m suddenly glad that I decided to forgo my knife this evening. For once, my mind has gone blank with blind need that I barely notice how I’m whimpering in his ear.
“Please, Alfie, please,” I whine, gripping his upper back muscles.
He moves his finger and sinks it inside of me, groaning loudly. “You’re so fuckin’ wet, luv,” he huskily says.
There’s very little pain, more of a stretching feeling as he pumps his finger within me. Just as I relax around his finger, he slips a second one in and continues stimulating my clit with his thumb. I rest my chin on his head, mouth hanging open as he suckles my nipple and slowly withdrawing his fingers before sinking them back inside of me. Sensations I’ve never thought I’d feel before are running through my whole body in waves that give me goosebumps.
The Jewish gangster of Camden Town is fucking me with his fingers in the back of his car and I can only moan and writhe under his touch. Pressure begins to build where he’s circling my clit and I begin having convulsions between my legs, as if my body is trying to keep his fingers within me. My moans get louder and louder until I feel the sudden urgency to pee.
I quickly grab Alfie’s wrist he’s using between my legs, trying to pull him away. “Alfie . . . sto- . . . -op,” I plead, gasping for air. The muscles keep flexing in his arms, rippling underneath the skin.
“Just come luv, come ‘round me fingers,” he pants, lightly grazing my nipple with his teeth and looking up at me, his beautiful hazel eyes engulfed now by his pupils. “Let your pretty cunt come.”
Those words undo me completely. For the first time in my life, I have no control over my body as I convulse everywhere and an explosion of pure ecstasy where his fingers are makes me dizzy. I can feel him pulling his hand away to hold me tightly to him with both arms, his head lightly kissing my neck.
“Was that good?” he asks me, looking deeply into my eyes with a glint of amusement as soon as my orgasm finishes.
I slap his chest, a smile pulling at my lips. Unable to trust myself to speak yet, I bury my face in his scruffy neck, feeling his fast pulse and grazing my lips over the skin. I have finally obtained my first orgasm at the age of twenty-five, and to one of the most dangerous men in Britain. My affection for him seems to have grown exponentially within the past ten minutes and continues to grow as he soothingly rubs his hands up and down my back, waiting for me to recover. With one last inhale of his woodsy scent, I detach myself from him to slide back into my seat. We do not converse yet, he simply helps me tug up my panties and hooks all of my garter hooks to my stockings again. There’s a wetness between my legs, but I ignore it out of embarrassment.
Once I’ve looked in my compact mirror and fixed my hair, I dare to look at him. He’s looking away respectfully, although I see him trying to discreetly adjusting his trousers around a large bulge. A blush creeps up onto my cheeks. The car stops, presumably in front of my hostel. “Do you want to come in, Mr. Solomons?” I suggest, still fueled with adrenaline from earlier while also still yearning for him and to please Mr. Shelby.
He looks at me slowly with slightly squinted eyes and a smile he’s fighting against. “Not tonight, yekiri. I’d love to, but I got a meetin’ in an ‘our an’ I plan on spendin’ more than just an ‘our with ya when that time comes.” The implication in his words smolders behind his eyes with such intensity that it takes all of my restraint not to lunge for his lips again. I nod and he presses his lips to my forehead. “Goodnight, luv. I’ll see ya t’morrow.”
Stepping out of the car, I watch it drive down the road, away from where I stand in the dark. So many thoughts flood my brain all at once that I cannot contain them. Duty sets in amongst those thoughts so slip off my heels and begin walking towards the direction of the banquet. It took about ten minutes for us to arrive at my hostel, so with the speed I’m walking, I’ll be back within twenty to thirty minutes.
Shivering slightly from the cold night air, I arrive at the banquet with my heels back on and I head straight to the bar as soon as I spot Sabini’s secretary, Beatrice. She’s knows something, I know she does. But how do I get her to talk? Torture is a possibility, but I don’t have my blade with me and she might be willing to talk if there’s an ounce of distaste for Sabini in her veins. Gliding as smoothly as I can onto a bar stool next to her, I order two gin and tonics, which I receive immediately.
I turn towards Beatrice who hasn’t noticed my presence quite yet. “Cheers to dream jobs?” I jest lightly, offering her one of the drinks.
She turns around towards me, her large doe eyes outlined by charcoal assessing me. She takes the drink from my hand cautiously, her gaze locked onto my eyes. All she does is nods and moves her eyes from me.
“So,” I begin, using a rather bold angle to grab her attention, “what’s it like being used by your boss?”
Her eyes turn to daggers as they whip over to me. Hatred burns deep in the chocolate pools as they’re directed towards me. “You think, that just because you try to sympathize with me, that I’ll want companionship from you?” she says slowly, looking as if she sees through all my lies and intentions.
I take a sip from my drink. “Us girls got to stick together, Beatrice. It’s a man’s world, but soon it’ll be a woman’s world. One woman can’t make that happen.” Maybe she’s a suffragette?
Disgust is evident in her face. “You know, I once killed a whore after Mr. Sabini had her?” A small smile creeps up on her face, making a chill run down my spine. Not a suffragette. “She, uh, she wouldn’t stop screaming until I finally cut her throat. I gutted her before that, and then I fucked him after. So no, I don’t want another woman in my life, or near it.” Her deep eyes are like windows to her hardened soul. “Thanks for the drink. Fuck off.”
Just as she turns away, I slide as much opium powder as I can into her drink before watching her walk away. I grab my drink and follow her discretely, brushing off the men wanting a chat. Much has happened tonight, but I know how it’ll end. My nights months before surveying Alfie always ended like this. It’s like a routine almost, the excitement electrifying my skin so it’s especially sensitive, my breathing getting shallow.
After thirty minutes, Beatrice is giggling all over the place and dancing vigorously without a partner. I see one of Mr. Sabini’s men guide her towards the stairs, her hands feeling his biceps as he practically drags her. Waiting five more minutes, I see him return downstairs without her. She’s alone.
Moving as swiftly and undetected as possible, I hurry up the stairs to reveal a hallway of eight-foot tall doors. There’s only one room with light streaming out from under it and it’s at the very end. The Persian rug underneath my heels makes me silent, the only sounds I can hear now is the thrumming of my veins and the jazz from downstairs getting quieter. I test the door knob and find it unlocked. Before I enter prematurely, I crack the door open and peep through the sliver of light. Beatrice is clumsily undressing herself, giving up with the top of her dress down, her chest bare. She’s unsteady on her feet as she plops down on the couch, humming to herself.
Opening the door wider, I close it behind myself. She’s still in her own world, eyes open, but glossed over. Seeing as she’s preoccupied with the drug, I begin dragging a chest of drawers a few feet away from the entrance to block the door. It would be unfortunate if anyone were to walk in.
“Beatrice?” I lightly say, not wanting to spook her.
She looks over at me and sighs. “What do you want?”
I walk over and sit on the couch armrest near her feet. “I was just thinking.” My words are crucial now more than ever. “I just, I wish I knew how to help your Mr. Sabini in someway. With so little knowledge out there, I cannot help. And it hurts me.”
Beatrice squints her eyes at me. “Why would you want to help Mr. Sabini? You’re with Solomons.”
“I’ve always admired you Italians, the beauty of how you operate. The British, unfortunately, are cowards. I should know, I work for Mr. Solomons, as you say.” Have I fooled her?
She rolls over on her side and closes her eyes. “Unless you have the ability to seduce men, then you’re worthless. Sabini doesn’t need more worthless people working for him.”
“And what if I have seduced men before?”
Sighing more heavily, she turns on her back again to look at me. “We needed a woman to fuck Alfie Solomons, but he’s rejected three now. Three, beautiful women that could’ve been his. Since that won’t work anymore, Sabini is bringing him to a meeting at some eatery. That should end the Jewish scum.”
“Him, you mean Alfie?” I say, in utter disbelief. “When, Beatrice, when is the meeting?” Could Alfie be on his way to his own death?
“In three days, I think. That’s all I know ‘bout it.”
I have three days to decide whether I should tell Alfie or not. If I tell him, then he’ll know who I really am and will likely kill me. My brain can’t help but tease me with the memory of how gentle he was with me this evening, how the feeling of his lips were feathering over my skin. How he so selfless pleased me without any expectations of his own pleasure afterwards. But if I don’t tell him, all that will be gone. I won’t see his expressive, bright eyes anymore, or the crinkles under his eyes when he smiles. None of it. And I would have failed the Shelbys. No matter how infuriating Mr. Shelby finds Alfie, Alfie is a remarkable ally in the battle against Sabini. Mr. Shelby knows he cannot take down Sabini alone.
It’s my turn to take in a deep sigh. “You’ve made me make a very difficult decision,” I say calmly, my mind made up. I take the rest of the opium powder out of my purse and pour the remaining of it on the table in a line. Since I decided not to bring my knife with me tonight, I thought I should have another weapon with me other than my gun. “Beatrice, sit up.” She struggles sitting up, looking extremely tired. I’ve already given her too much, but not enough. “I know you feel crummy right now, but this’ll make you feel better, alright? You take it just like snow, but make sure you take all of it or else it won’t work, okay?”
She nods and bends forward to sniff up all of the drug. I must tell Alfie, just at the right moment. Maybe I can surprise him in his office tomorrow afternoon, make him happy the only way a woman can make a man happy, and then tell him. No, I couldn’t lower myself to do that. I want to pleasure him because I want to pleasure him, not so he won’t kill me. Beatrice begins to cough next to me, blood sprinkling on her fist she raised to her mouth.
The thrill I felt earlier anticipating killing Beatrice has subsided since the fate of Alfie was spoken. It feels like I’m in my own bubble as I watch her fall back on the couch, half-nude body seizing and blood spilling from her nose and mouth along with foam. After a few minutes, she stills and her whole body goes limp.
I've been reading your comments and it just makes me so happy! It really does make my day reading your comments. Thank you guys so much for waiting patiently for this chapter, a lot has just been going on and I've been thinking of how to formulate this chapter.
Chapter 7: Pandemonium
Amary is awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call from Mr. Shelby and she must answer for her actions the previous night.
I’m awoken by a blissful slumber from my landlady, shaking me awake. I sit up quickly, hand gripping the knife underneath my pillow until I notice that it’s her and my heart stops thundering beneath my rib cage. She hands me one of those portable phones that weigh twenty pounds and says quite bluntly, “Someone very upset wishes to speak to you, madam.” And then she makes her swift exit.
I set the telephone down on my nightstand and rub the sleepiness out of my eyes, leftover make-up from the banquet staining my hands. Who would be calling me at this time of night? It must be just before dawn since the landlady was in her nightdress and I only just fell asleep after midnight. Shaking my head, I pick up the ear piece and press it to my ear while holding the receiver in front of my lips.
“Hello, who is this?” I yawn out.
“What the fuck happened tonight, Amaryllis?” Mr. Shelby’s voice booms from the ear piece. I’m suddenly awake, my spine straightens and my heart is back to hammering in my chest. “I’ve been made aware that Sabini’s secretary is dead from a drug overdose. Which happened to be where you were tonight. And my source swears up and down that she doesn’t touch drugs, so what happened ?”
Wetting my lips with my tongue, I arrange what I’m about to say in my head. “The information I have to share is too critical to say over the telegram, Mr. Shelby.” There, that’ll have him leave me alone, at least for a few days until I can gather my thoughts. He doesn’t mind me killing, so long as it’s righteous, unless it leaves a mess for him. And this, me killing a close subordinate to his most powerful foe, is a massive mess.
I can hear him taking slow breaths from the other end, clearly thinking of what to do. He must have called me as soon as he got the news, unable to properly form his thoughts collectively. “Meet me at the garrison in the morning, we’ll discuss it then,” he finally spits out.
“I can’t,” I rush out, “I’ve got work from five to seven tomorrow. It-it might look suspicious if I don’t show up for work and I might miss any information on Al-Mr. Solomons.”
“Alright,” he begrudgingly says. “After your shift then. I’ll be waiting.”
And then the line is disconnected. I set the phone components down and lay back on my bed, the wires from the mattress prickling my back. I have less then twenty-four hours to explain why I killed Beatrice and sound convincing. Thoughts start racing around my mind, defending me and vindicating me all at once. I had to kill her, she was a witness. Even through the glaze of dope, she would work out how she got the drugs. And then, the unbidden, most unwelcome thought speaks volumes inside my skull. The way she talked about Alfie being killed so off-handed, as if she were listing off grocery ingredients, targeted her as a possible threat to him and I eliminated the threat.
Groaning into my hands, I slap my head a few times to rid me of these thoughts, at least for tonight. I roll onto my side and imagine myself in his arms, my head resting on his chest. His breathing moving his ribs up and down, up and down along with my head. I slip back into sleep, dreaming of being in his arms, and then being wrenched from him by Mr. Shelby.
My shift goes smoothly enough, as smooth as it can get after committing murder the previous night. But this day is different than all those other days I’ve had after ending someone’s life. Usually I’m sated, almost like recovering from a full meal and sitting by the fire with wine. Although, today my ears are pricked for any sound and my hand instinctively reaches for the gun in my purse every time I hear the door open. Almost as if I’m expecting Sabini’s men to walk through those doors any minute now.
At least Alfie keeps my mind off of those thoughts every now and again. He’s walked in multiple times already today, spewing an excuse for seeing me, like making sure the ovens are working. Those excuses all lead his hands to my body, caressing and rubbing while his lips suck and lick my own or my neck. As soon as the warmth of him leaves my body, he returns and lights it again.
I’m now sitting on the flour-covered counter with Alfie wedged between my legs, his gruff hands squeezing my waist and lips attacking my neck. I resist letting any noise out, but a few slip through my open lips, so I dig my face into his shoulder, smelling the rum and bread from the fabric. His rough beard scrapes against my delicate skin of my neck, but his soft lips are there to soothe it again. A wetness builds between my legs, though I can’t close my legs since he’s there, like a brick wall.
“Alfie, stop,” I gasp out, pushing against his chest. He groans and reluctantly pulls back just a bit, looking down at my lips. “I have bread to make, you’re distracting me. Unless, you want burnt bread for your customers?”
He doesn’t hesitate. “Fuck the customers,” and he leans in again.
I’m prepared and push him back again, giggling. “Seriously, I need to work.”
“Come home with me,” he practically begs, his eyes dark and pupils dilated, heavily concentrated on me. My breathing quickens at his implication while his thumbs rub my sides. “Let me fuck you properly in my bed.”
I almost moan at his words and begin forming the word “yes”, until I remember I’m meeting the Shelby family after work. Damn it! “Um,” is all I can manage with how his fingers are now pressing into the sides of my breasts and how much he’s pressed up between my legs. I can feel the heat coming from his trousers and I’m praying that my wetness hasn’t transferred to the fabric.
“Hm?” he hums, knowing full well what he’s doing to me, the smile growing behind his scruff and the mischievousness twinkling in his eyes showing it. He shifts his feet, which causes his erection that’s pressing against his trousers to rub against my panty-covered core. I bite my lip, an odd whine emitting from my throat nevertheless.
“I, uh, I have to write a letter tonight,” I stumble out the first excuse that pops into my head.
The corners of his eyes crinkle in suspicion. “And how long does it take you to write down your fuckin’ day in one letter?”
I laugh. “With my mother, she requires at least five pages with all the details, and I need to get myself some groceries.”
“You gonna tell her about the man trying to get between those wet legs of yours, are ya?” I slap his arm playfully and see him reigning in his amusement. “Alright, alright, I’ll leave ya be, fuck.” He gives me one last scorching kiss, helps me down from the counter, and leaves with a longing glance over his shoulder.
The last hour of my shift goes by and I’m just putting the last loaves away when I hear the customer door opening with a jingle. I peak around the kitchen door to see a rather thin woman standing near the front counter. Sighing, I leave the kitchen and go to greet the woman when I recognize her as Emilie. Emilie, who hasn’t been in for weeks since the last time I saw her. No wonder I didn’t recognize her when she walked in, her appearance has become more dismal than last time. She’s even more frail than usual, he cheeks hollow and shadows underneath her eyes with red splotches staining her pale cheeks from the cold wind outside. Her hair is rougher and in a messy bun behind her head. She looks like a complete wreck.
“Emilie?” I finally choke out. She gives me a small smile. I walk around the counter to face her and pull up a stool for her to sit down on as soon as I notice her swaying on her feet. “I haven’t seen you for quite some time, how have you been?”
She sits on the stool. “I’m fine, how are you?”
Her bubbliness the few times I’ve seen her is gone. “I’m alright, but are you sure you’re okay? You look . . . different.”
“I promise you, I’m fine,” she waves off my concern. “Just here to get some bread for my boys.”
I go ahead and take her grocery bag, cramming it full of all the bread and pastries I can fit in without ripping the seams, refusing to charge her even though she still leaves a few coins. “Will you be back on schedule from now on?” I ask.
“Yes, yes, I will,” she says rather curtly. “I’ve just been so caught up with working at the laundry and one of my boys was sick.”
I watch her back as she walks away from the bakery, her bird-like bony shoulders hunching forward. Her sudden appearance after weeks of absence tickles my brain, but I can’t worry about that right now, I need to finish cleaning up and catching the first ride back to Small Heath to meet the Shelby clan.
It’s nearly eight when I finish cleaning the kitchen counters and soaking the stuck dough from them when a car pulls up outside, its lights illuminating the shop. The engine continues running, no one coming out of it. Tentatively, I gather up my things and see that, upon closer inspection, it’s a car driven by a man wearing a flat cap. Knowing that that means he’s a Peaky Blinder, I hop into the back seat and he starts to drive me away.
He doesn’t speak so nor do I, preoccupied with cleaning myself up before the meeting. I dust some flour off of my violet dress, apply another layer of lip color, and touch up my panstick. It’s not as if Mr. Shelby hasn’t seen me without makeup before, but I must look put together and makeup is like a shield to hide my emotions behind. He must be already speculating my affection towards Alfie, I see it in his intellectual stare. Mr. Shelby never misses a beat.
After three hours of continuous driving, the car finally stops a few yards from the Garrison. Breathing in and out slowly, I budge open the car door and take the step onto the coal-covered gravel. The crunch seems like a warning somehow, as if it’s my own bones being crushed. I slam the door shut and make my way to the bar, my thick noir coat wrapped tightly around me and my hat concealing most of my face. I’m not very liked within Small Heath, what with all the petty thefts I was involved in before meeting Polly and the fact that the men don’t like being afraid of a woman, and yet they are of me.
I step inside the Garrison, the warmth immediately greeting me like a welcome home party. Except, there is no party, just a few drunk stragglers, looking very out of place around the shimmering gold accents. Clutching my purse, I enter through the door into the private room right next to the Garrison entrance and shut the door behind me.
Thomas, Arthur, Polly, and a young man I’ve never met before all sit in the curved booth. Arthur stands up instantly and wraps his arms around me, a tight bear hug that knocks the wind out of me. I hug him back, holding my tears in. It’s been a month since I’ve spoken to him, and just a few days ago I saw him carried out of the bakery, beaten and unconscious. "Arthur," I breathe into his tweed jacket. "I'm so sorry, I'm so, so sorry."
He pushes me back a bit by my shoulders, looking bemused. "You don't have to be sorry, Mary. S'not like you could've ran in there for me. Solomons wouldn't've told you anythin' with you being there only a month, neither."
His words are the most comfort I could have received, although seeing the bruises on his face and ripped skin on his knuckles still twists my stomach. He sits back down next to the boy wedged in between Arthur and Mr. Shelby, so I have no choice but to sit down next to Polly, who is looking rather stone-faced.
"I'm Michael," the boy across the table introduces himself, standing up slightly with his hand extended. I see the bruises on his face and dirt stuck underneath his blunt fingernails. So this is Polly's son.
"I'm Amaryllis, but people call me Amary," I reply, shaking his hand. His hand is soft. He's most likely hasn't worked a day in his life or fought for food. "And I would like to apolo-"
"No worries." He waves his hand and sits back down. "Like Arthur said, not your fault" I notice he’s sitting away from his mother, not even looking at her.
I settle back down, feeling like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders until Mr. Shelby speaks. "Amaryllis," Mr. Shelby starts, his cold gaze falling on me. "As I told you over the phone, the body of Sabini's secretary was discovered last night where you and Mr. Solomons attended a banquet. Now, the girl supposedly never liked dope, so what happened?" Arthur’s head whips around to focus on me, his face one of confusion; Michael looks surprised, but is still focused on Mr. Shelby, clearly not suspecting me; and Polly’s expression hasn’t changed, most likely because she already knows. Whatever Mr. Shelby knows, Polly has a ninety percent chance of knowing as well. “I put you in Camden Town to provide me information on our new ally, Mr. Solomons,” Mr. Shelby continues, obvious suspicion highlighted in his tone. “Just bits of information, and yet you’ve not only failed to prevent the Passover dinner from happening-”
“Tommy-” Arthur tries to interrupt him.
“ -but ,” Mr. Shelby continues without missing a beat and spares a warning glance at Arthur, “you’ve become the most likely person to have been the cause of that girl’s death last night. So, you killed her?”
Sucking in my lips for a second, I gather my thoughts and calm my mind. “Mr. Shelby, Beatrice was Sabini’s secretary, so I knew she had information on him. I thought, since I’m there, I could get some information out of her.” A look of horror flashes across poor Michael’s face, realization finally dawning on him that I’m the killer and that I’m not freaking out about it like a common girl. “After Mr. Solomons dropped me off at my place, I went back to the banquet, so he wouldn’t be suspicious. I attempted normal conversation with her, which she rejected, so I slipped some opium into her drink and waited for her to be separated from the crowd. I followed her into a bedroom alone and inquired about Mr. Sabini. She told me he has tried to infiltrate Mr. Solomons’ bakery by giving him girls, but he’s rejected them all.” My voice has become more rushed and urgent, Polly listening intently now, no longer bothering looking indifferent. “Mr. Shelby, Sabini plans on killing Mr. Solomons in two days at an eatery, but I don’t know the time or place, yet. She was too much of a liability after that, she could have snitched. So I gave her more opium and she had a fit and died. Nobody saw me enter or leave.”
Mr. Shelby’s curious eyes have widened slightly. Arthur catches my eye and silently asks if I’m okay. He’s always worried about me and killing, knowing the same rage overtakes him, although in a different manner. Where he loses all rational thought in his fit of violence, I keep mine. I give him a small smile and turn back to Mr. Shelby. Polly seems to be concerned about something as she stares at me.
“Seems about right, Thomas,” Michael speaks up, his elbow resting on the table and his fingers rubbing together. “The girl is better off dead-”
“Michael!” Polly scorns, giving him a warning look. He huffs, but doesn’t say anything else, looking away.
Mr. Shelby leans back and has a look that shows he’s decided upon a decision. “Alright, Amary. Keep Mr. Solomons by any means necessary, without revealing who you are. Can you do that?” I nod. He stands up and I do as well. “Alright then, keep me up to speed on any new developments. I’ll hear from you soon.” Arthur and Michael scoot out of the booth to let him leave and Michael trails after him, looking like a puppy trying to be a grown dog. I catch Polly looking longingly after him.
“I’ll see you ‘round,” Arthur says, pulling me in for another hug. “You be safe, okay?” I reassure him I will and he lets go of me and leaves too.
“Amary,” I hear Polly lightly speak behind me. I turn around to face her, seeing that she’s still sitting. Her eyes are watery, but focused on me. “You’ve fallen for him, haven’t ya?”
I got a tattoo from the show! The flower is a pink carnation often used at funerals for remembrance. ^-^
So sorry I haven't been active! The story is getting more intricate as it comes along and I'm trying to incorporated pieces that will become important later on down the road. And this story is nearly 100 pages! Also, I decided to get the tattoo a week ago and am in love with it! <3
Chapter 8: Bad Dinner
Amary deals with the dinner situation.
Two chapters within two days! I'm finally past my writer's block. Reading your comments really puts a smile on my face and brightens my day, thank you so much! <3
For the past day, Polly’s words have echoed in my mind. Am I in love with Alfie? Could I be in love with a man like that? My thoughts immediately respond back with a resounding yes . I roll my eyes at myself and lean further back into Alfie’s warm chest, resting my head on his shoulder. We’re sitting in his office midday, his large hands absentmindedly caressing my thighs underneath my dress. It’s been about half an hour of us just talking about little things.
Is this love? I doubt it is for him; I’m just another little thing that’s flown herself onto him. He’ll tire of me when another girl comes along. The truth in that hurts me, but does that pain mean what I think it means? I mentally try to think of where it hurt to think of that, just to be sure.
“You’re awfully quiet, eh?” Alfie interrupts my thoughts, turning his head so his lips are in my hair on the side of my head.
I quiver from his hot breath on my neck. “Just thinking. What’re you doing tomorrow night?” I inquire, knowing full well what he’s doing.
He shifts a bit in the chair, probably trying to soothe his sciatica. “Gotta go to a fuckin’ meetin’, now don’ I? Though, it’d be fun to see the look on ol’ Sabini’s face afta’ his whore died.”
“Hm?” he grunts.
Curiosity gets the better of me. “Would you consider me a whore if I slept with you?” There, it’s out.
Alfie wraps his strong arms around my waist and shakes me side to side a little. “Didn’ know you was so self-conscious. What with that dress you wore last night.” He lets out a tight groan and places a kiss behind my ear. “I can still smell ya like I did in that car, luv.”
I notice the lack of an answer accompanying my question, but I let it go. It’s not my job to make him believe that I’m not a whore. “So you’re going out tomorrow? With that man I met last night?”
“Ya, to some fancy mop place in his part of London. Bloody Italians are gonna be swarming the place.” I can hear the dread in his tone. Alfie doesn’t like going somewhere he can avoid, especially if it’s anywhere the Italians are since he’s probably expecting to be teased for being a Jew every minute he’s there.
Turning around slightly in his lap to face him, I run my fingers through his beard on his jaw, drawing his eyes to my slight cleavage from my dress. “Alfie,” he looks up at me quickly, “why don’t you take me tomorrow night, hm? Since I didn’t get to eat at the banquet with you, this could be an apology?” The sides of his eyes crinkle up in a small smile, but his eyes tell me no. “And then,” I say, lowering my voice and dragging my nails a bit behind his neck where he likes it; he stares at me with darkening eyes, “we could go to your place?”
“You women,” he utters, shaking his head slightly while keeping eye contact. “You was just worried a minute ago about being a fuckin’ whore and now you’re tryna get in me pants!” I giggle and shift in his lap over his groin and he tightens his hold on me, giving me a warning look. “I can’t take you to the meetin’, lass. ‘S too dangerous, alright?” I disentangle myself from his arms as he watches curiously as I slide from his lap and down to the floor on my knees between his legs. Realization dawns on him as I start caressing his legs, slowly getting closer to the bold erection straining against his trousers. “Now, now, don’t be naughty, Amary. Jus’ ‘cause I said no-ah!”
I’ve decided he’s said enough and put my hand where he really wants it and start massaging him there, stroking over the fabric. He’s closed his eyes, leaning his head back, trying not to lose it. “What were you going to say, darling?” I ask, looking innocently up at him.
He looks back down at me with absolute hunger in his eyes. “What?” he says, a little bemused and then squints at me with betrayal behind his eyes. “You, you little vixen.”
I shrug and unbutton his pants, quickly darting my hand inside before he can stop me. My hand touches something hot and smooth, yet firm, surrounded by a dusting of hair and I know I’ve got him when I hear his breathing getting heavier. I pull out his cock and awkwardly rub my hand against it. Is this what big looks like, or is it just because I’ve never seen one before? He must be nearly seven inches, but what’s the average? I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I can’t let him go to the dinner alone if he’s not going to go at all. I’ve never even done this to a man before, I should’ve asked Arthur or Polly, damn it!
“Luv?” Alfie pants, amusement in his voice as he looks down at me. “You done this before?” I shake my head and he looks pleased. “Alright, I’ll show ya.” He covers my hand with his around his cock at the base and tightens his hold, pulling upward and then down again. My fingers aren’t even touching around him! He repeats this a few times and lets go for me to do it. I can see he’s about to say something, but I don’t want him to talk about me not going to the dinner. It’s out of the question, so I dip my head down and suck the tip of him in my mouth, just to quiet him. I overheard Polly and Ava talking somewhat about it a while ago. “Fuckin’ ‘ell, Amary!” Alfie groans, reaching down with a hand to grip my hair, his hips jerking closer to me, feet lifting a bit off the floor in shock.
I wonder how much I can go down? Is that what’s normal? With my hands on his thighs, I look up at him to gauge his reaction and slip more of his hardness into my mouth. He takes a quick breath in through his nose and holds it there while I move my head up and down slowly. There’s still a few more inches left, so I utilize my hand and do what he showed me earlier on the part I can’t reach. Listening to his breathing becoming more shallow, I notice my hand touches something else and I move my hand down to see what it is. It feels like two round spheres in rough skin. As I begin feeling them, Alfie jerks in his chair harsher and pushes his cock deeper into my throat, making my eyes water.
“Amary,” he pants, grunting when I suck hard, as if to say no more talk. “Fuck lass, I doubt you know ‘ow to swallow so-”
Swallow? I know how to swallow, that’s how I’ve been eating all these years, the idiot! But I come to realize what he meant once he lets out the loudest groan yet, caught between a roar and moan. Hot, sticky fluid jets out from his cock and into my throat, so I swallow since that must be what he meant. It’s a bit salty, but I barely taste it in a rush to swallow it all down. After about a minute, making sure there’s nothing left, I detach myself from him, rub my mouth and look up at him nervously, blushing so hard.
He's the most flushed I've ever seen him, chest puffing up and down, breathing through his mouth. His eyes rest on me and he's suddenly bringing me up closer to him by my arms, smashing his lips to mine. It's the most rough kiss we've ever had, his tongue sneaking into my mouth with strong movements. He's holding my face tightly, thumb pulling my bottom lip down. Once we part, he rests his forehead against mine, breath a bit calmer now. "Amary, fuck , come home with me tonight."
Knowing I've got him in the bag, I pull away from him. "I will go home with you tomorrow night if I can go to the dinner with you," I bargain. He starts tucking himself in his trousers again, seemingly about to say no. "Come on, Alfie, how many men are you bringing with you anyway? I always see you with your men out and about."
He works his jaw, thinking. "'Bout twenty, but none will be in the actual room, luv."
"And imagine Mr. Sabini's face when you bring me to show off, when his partner isn't with him," I suggest hopefully.
Alfie's eyes express so much emotion, amusement being the present one now. "You're as ruthless as me, you know that?" he teases, but I can see he's cracking. Decided, he holds up one finger towards me, looking intensely down at me. "You can go, if , you don' talk and I get to open that treasure between your legs after." I laugh and nod, throwing my arms around his waist, still kneeling between his legs. How strange is this? My task was to spy on him and now I'm protecting him. "And you have to wear yellow," he finishes, rubbing the back of my neck and sighing.
It feels like the night of the banquet all over again, except I already know what’s going to happen. After withdrawing from a lavender bath, drying myself off, I powder my face and apply my smokey makeup for Sabini’s dinner party. Alfie is picking me up in half an hour, simply told me to look as “pretty as fuckin’ possible, yeah?”. I pin my hair, slip on the requested yellow dress he wanted, and cover my shoulders with a fluffy coat. Over the past few days Alfie has left his mark several times on my neck, decolletage, and around my breasts, so the coat covers that marred skin. Without a second thought, I slip my usual blade in between my breasts, adding two others into each stocking on my thighs. I hear a horn honk outside so I hurriedly gather my purse which is heavy with my pistol, and take off outside.
“Lovely place, this is, Sabini,” Alfie admits, looking around the golden dining room empty of all tables but our rectangular one.
Sabini nods and swells his chest, obviously pleased his wealth has been acknowledged. “Not used to this, are you? What with that bakery you run and your little shack down the street.”
I hear Alfie growl under his breath and I rest a hand on his thigh underneath the table. He gives me a side look and relaxes slightly. We arrived just ten minutes ago to Sabini’s dinner and it’s not going so well. There are at least as many as thirty of Sabini’s men here against Alfie’s twenty and he has not eased up on any Jew or any sort of cruel joke directed towards our end of the table two feet from him. The men sit across from each other and I sit diagonal of Alfie, an empty chair next to me.
Sabini spears a piece of meatball on his plate and chews it noisily. “So much has happened, dear friend, over the past few months, haven’t you seen it?” He points his fork at Alfie. “I mean, the fucking Gypsy scum are spawning everywhere nowadays, eh? It’s up to use to stop them.”
Neither Alfie nor I have touched our food or wine, seemingly both thinking the same thing. Poison? “Ya right with that one, mate,” Alfie says gruffly, stiff and never straying an eye off the Italian. “Say they live in caravans, but I see them in the gutters ‘round here.”
Sabini finishes slurping a spaghetti strand, holding his fork and spoon up rudely on the table in his fists. “Oh, I wasn’t talking about the poor folk, it’s the Peaky fucking Blinder scum I’m talking about. Nosing in everybody’s business, including my own pub. Thanks to you, though, they’re put back in their place.” He leans forward conspiratorially, hooking his finger as if he wants Alfie to lean forward. Instead, Alfie just raises an eyebrow. “Not their place for long, now is it, though? Once they’ve humiliated me, they’ve humiliated all Italians, so I must humiliate them back.”
“Hm,” Alfie grumbles, finger tapping lightly on his leg I’m not touching. “While we’re on the topic of the Gypsies, yeah, why don’t we talk about Epsom, hm?” I can tell by the way he shifts his feet that he’s irritated by Sabini’s banter.
The Italian waves his hand. “Ah, that old news.” Alfie’s eyebrows shoot to his hairline, but his eyes remain relaxed. “Why’d’you want to have your men down at Epsom, anyway? Your . . . franchise is doing well, innit?”
Alfie’s eyes go dark with contained rage. “Listen, you fuckin’ mop, I ‘anded you the Shelby’s, now honor your agreement or I’ll just have to mosey down to them Gypsies with an apologetic lamb, say sorry, an’ they fuckin’ despise you lot already so they won’t ‘ave time to blink before saying yes,” he delivers his threat quickly, but steadily. “An’ that don’t count ‘ow many men I got in your precious territories, because us Jews, we’ve been here since the beginning, yeah? We’re like . . . fruit. Been ‘ere forever.”
Sabini has put his utensils down and his hand has disappeared underneath the table. I let go of Alfie’s leg and take my knife from my stocking out to grip it. “Such a shame, old friend,” he says in his smug voice, “that you brought your slut with you to such a nice dinner. I didn’t plan on her being here, you see. Such a shame, what a waste.”
It’s as if it all happens in slow motion, when really it’s over in a few seconds. I see Sabini drawing his hand out from underneath the table, holding a cocked gun and pointing it directly at me. Alfie’s arm comes across to cover me, but it’s not enough. With the blade I have already in my hand, I raise it high and sink it right through Sabini’s left hand resting on the table that’s on my side and I feel the blade sinking through flesh, bone and into the table just as he fires a round. The pain is absent at first, I’m merely knocked back out of my chair, hitting the ground from the blast. Smoke fills the room and I look over to see Alfie lunging at Sabini, who managed to dislodge the knife, lay a massive blow to his head. I see a flash of brass on his fist and realize he’s wearing brass knuckles, the only weapon Sabini’s men didn’t find on him when they searched him earlier. Lucky for me, they were too afraid to search me in the presence of Alfie’s stare on them.
Alfie is just raining down blows on Sabini as the door bursts open with five Italians with guns all aimed at Alfie come in. I barely have time to open my purse and grab my gun, not bothering to fully remove it. Three rounds empty my gun as I lay on the ground and three of the men go down, the other two trying to yank Alfie off of Sabini. The first man to attempt pulling at his shoulders is grabbed by the Jewish gang leader by the head and I hear a sickening crack as his head is twisted in an unnatural way. Before his body even hits the ground though, Alfie grabs the other man by the face and slams the back of his head into the wall, small cracks forming in the wallpaper.
All of the six Italians are either unconscious or dead. Sabini lays in a crumpled mess of blood, as do the other men. I drop my gun and purse, struggling to my feet. There’s a slow, steady stream of oozing blood from my right shoulder, meaning that the bullet must be inside still. “Alfie, I think I’ve been shot,” I pant just before falling to my knees.
He rushes over before I fall on my face, scooping me up over his shoulder and that’s when everything becomes fuzzy. As he walks out of the room and through the building, I hear a few more gunshots and then it’s quiet again, until we get to the entryway. Flashes of Alfie’s men lay dead on the ground, having been killed previously by Sabini’s men, quietly killed by having their throats slit ear to ear. Alfie curses, stepping over the bodies.
I wake up again briefly, in a car this time. It only takes me a second to realize what woke me up when the pain emitting from my shoulder has me crying out. “Shh, luv,” Alfie reassures, pressing his scarf to my shoulder to stop the bleeding, “needs to be done. You’ll be alright soon, yeah? I made a phone call, we’re goin’ somewhere safe. Just sleep.” He pulls me close to him while holding the scarf down still, his warmth like a sleep aid that instantly soothes me.
When I wake up again, my head feelings lighter and my thoughts foggy. It must take me several minutes to realize where I am. Polly comes into view near my head in the Garrison, holding a bottle of some type of alcohol I can’t focus on completely. I barely feel hands holding my arms down and I look to see Arthur and John there on either side of me doing it.
“Drink this,” Polly stiffly orders, holding a cloth under my chin and pouring the burning liquid down my throat. I cough and splutter, unused to such heavy drinks. She wipes my mouth afterwards.
Mr. Shelby comes into view and through the haze of my mind, it reminds me of the nightmare I had the other night, of him tearing me from Alfie’s arms. Is this going to be the same, but more permanent? Does he know how I feel about Alfie. This is a horrible, horrible dream. He’s going to kill him, he’s going to kill me.
“No one is going to kill you,” he says exasperatedly. I must have been speaking my thoughts. My head is killing me! “Now hold her down. She’ll be alright, Arthur, just hold her down.”
A pain worse than Alfie stopping the bleeding shoots into my shoulder like a red hot prodder, sinking into the flesh and muscle, burning through it like butter. Twisting and sinking deeper into me, I scream the loudest I’ve ever had before, tears running down my face from the pain of it. I’m dying, this must be death. If not, then does death feel worse than this? I feel a rag being stuffed into my mouth, presumably by Polly. Why is she doing this to me? A light bulb goes off in my head. She knows how I feel about Alfie, at least she suspects. I managed to dodge her question that night, but she must’ve told Mr. Shelby, they tell each other everything. She betrayed me.
Finally, the worst of the pain is over until liquid is poured onto the damaged area, it must be acid. A few minutes go by and the pain has dropped to a deep throbbing and the rag is pulled from my mouth. I’m sweating and shaking, gasping in cool area through my lips to replenish my lung supply. I look to my shoulder to see the damage they’ve done to see my bullet wound and blood still leaking from it. I’ve been shot. Sabini, the dinner, Alfie; it all comes rushing back to me now. The Shelby’s don’t know anything about my feelings for Alfie, just Polly, and she wouldn’t tell. Mr. Shelby was just taking the bullet out and through my crazed mind I thought he was killing me.
I look around, but it’s only us five in the Garrison. “Where is he?” I pant out.
“Gathering his men and securing a building across the street for you two,” Mr. Shelby says, looking worn out but with a very small amount of amusement in his voice. “I received a telegram from him and he gave me information I wanted in exchange for peace, at least for now. He looked rather worried, though he didn’t exactly show it by means of expression. Broke a man’s nose for looking at you. I gathered Arthur and John and now here we are.”
“You look like you’ve been having some success, though,” Polly adds, raising her eyebrows with a smile to the skin exposed on my neck and shoulder area. I know what she’s looking at, the marks Alfie has left over the past few days from his kisses.
I breathe out steadily through my lips, feeling a bit cold. “I stuck Sabini’s hand to the table at dinner,” I say. “He looked rather surprised.”
Before I can help it, I start to laugh. The most dangerous gang leader in London looked surprised by a woman stabbing his hand in the table. Everybody joins in the laughter, even Mr. Shelby cracks a miniscule smile. The room starts swirling, so I stop myself from laughing, too much oxygen I must be using. The men start talking amongst themselves, I hear bits of security issues from now on to make sure no Italian steps foot here. I look to Polly and see her smiling, until she looks back at my shoulder and her smile slips from her face.
“Shit. Thomas!” she calls and I look at where her gaze is. A large pool of blood has spilled from my wound and down to the ground. So much blood, more blood than I’ve seen. I form words with my lips, but they never come out. I slip into blackness for the third time.
I wake first from the bright morning light shining on my eyelids, and then from the throbbing pain in my shoulder radiating down my side. My dry mouth has a horrible taste to it that won’t go away no matter how many times I swallow. Squinting my eyes open, I realize that I’m in a bed twice the size of mine with a plentiful of wool blankets and fluffy pillows. The room is sparse of furniture, but looks warm with red wallpaper and heavy espresso wood accents. Water drips from somewhere nearby along with splashing and low grunts. Balancing on my good shoulder and making sure I don’t move too much since I’m still weak, I look over to wear the dripping is coming from. Alfie’s bare back is facing me, the muscles rippling in his hunched shoulders as he seems to be using a soaked rag to clean up blood from his skin. His suspenders hang around his waist.
“You lookin’ at me ass, luv?” he teases, his eyes looking at me through the mirror he’s using. He picks up a clean water bucket with a sponge inside and brings it over to me, setting it down and sitting down by my hip. His finger wipes a lock of hair out of my face, leaving his hand on the back of my neck. “Now, I have a few questions for you, understandable, innit? After seeing ya pop off three men like nothin’.” He narrows his eyes. “Like you’ve done this before.” The hand on my neck tightens warningly, imploring me not to lie.
My mind amazingly goes blank with any elaborate excuse I could think of. The truth has worked out so far for me, so I go with that. “I killed a man when I was sixteen,” I venture, avoiding his blazing stare and plucking at the sheets. “I brought shame on my family, so I left. It was an accident, but that didn’t matter. I went on thieving and getting food where I could and I made enemies. I had to defend myself, so I made myself familiar with weapons I stole.”
He nods. “And why did you have those weapons on ya last night?”
“Protection. You said you were bringing twenty of your men, so I was scared and brought my stuff.”
“Alright,” he concedes, dropping a kiss on my forehead. “Well, we’re safe now, yeah? The Peakies are on our side, I gave them a littl’ somethin’ so they like me now. Thomas and I . . . are not on the best of terms, but he’s not a backstabber. Littl’ honorable shitter, won’t ‘urt us when we’re down. And that’s why he ain’t winning in London.”
I just nod, not trying to pick apart his words right now while my head is cloudy. “I need a bath,” I blurt, the grime becoming more apparent to my nose.
Alfie pushes me down when I try to get up. “Nah, nah, nah; I get the pleasure of bathing ya. Can’t be gettin’ that wound wet.” He bends down with a groan to reach into the bucket, withdrawing the soaked sponge and drawing the covers off of me. I look down and see that’s I’m only in a slip Polly must have changed me into. “I’m not thinking’ of that sweetness between your legs now, yekiri. You did good draining me the other day.” I muster the remainder of my strength to smack his arm. “Oi! What, a man can’t recall a lady’s lips around his cock for the first time?”
I ignore him and let him carry on with sponging the blood, sweat, and grime from my skin. He comforts me with his quick wit and dirty jokes, taking my mind away from the pain and shyness. How I’ve kept my shyness intact after what Alfie and I have done is a mystery all in its self. Once he’s all done cleaning me, he picks up the bucket and dumps the filthy water into the streets below outside the window. He comes around the bed and I can hear him dropping his trousers before sliding in behind me, sitting against the headboard.
“No naughtiness from me, luv, promise,” he reassures, pulling me against his warm chest that’s spotted with hair. I lay on my unharmed shoulder, resting my head on his chest and putting my hand on his waist. “Sleep, we’re safe ‘ere.”
I’m reminded of my dream a few nights ago, the night of the banquet. I dreamt of the same position I’m in now, resting on Alfie’s chest, except for when I groggily see Alfie’s hand putting my knives and pistol into his nightstand drawer, locking it shut. Locking my own weapons away from me, as if he’s unsure of his trust in me now.
Banishing the unwelcome thought from my head, I snuggle in closer to him and quickly fall asleep.
Chapter 9: Fuck the Shelbys
Amary is recovering from her wound when a certain guest disrupts everything.
I awake again sometime in the afternoon it seems. Sun is shining in through the thin curtains, illuminating my face and effectively waking me up. The pain in my shoulder is throbbing and my throat is parched. I sit up and am about to put my foot on the ground when I see a glass of water and two white pills sitting next to each other. This must be pain medication. Nobody else can enter without being searched and verified by the Peaky Blinders or the Jewish gang, so I swallow them, gulping down the remainder of the water. After a few minutes, the pain ebbs away.
Grunting comes from outside the door and Alfie comes through it, carrying a tea tray. “Mornin’,” he greets, setting down the tray on the end of the bed, beginning to pour. “Might not be used to this chipped china, but as long as the tea ain’t leakin’, they’ll do. Must be used to that tea made of gold where you’re from, eh?” He hobbles over to me with a teacup and saucer. I take it and take a few sips. “Now don’ get used ta me servin’ ya in bed, tea and biscuits every mornin’. You’ll have ta get shot again for that.” He shoots me a look as he puts two biscuits on the sides of my saucer. “And that won’ ‘appen again, now will it?”
“No, Mr. Solomons,” I agree, letting a glimpse of tease into my eyes.
He just puts the tea set on my nightstand, takes in the absence of the pills and empty water, then sits down by my hip like last night. His hand lifts to feel my forehead and goes down to rest on my hip. “You feelin’ betta?”
I nod. “Just a bit achy in my shoulder and stomach. Probably from you swinging me over your shoulder like a soldier would.”
He just huffs and stands up, walking over to the window to peak through the curtains. I nibble on my biscuit, taking in small bites to appease my gurgling stomach. Once satisfied, Alfie comes around the bed to lay down on his side, stretching out his legs and he grabs one of my biscuits to pull apart and eat. It feels as if there’s someone’s fist gripping my tummy and I feel a wetness underneath me. Must have been from the sponge bath from last night.
Alfie finishes his biscuit quickly and rests his hand on my thigh underneath my slip, slowly drawing circles with his thumb. “Been thinkin’,” he says, eyes focused on the bare skin of my thigh. “You’ve promised many nights with me, yeah? I thought I told you no more lies, hm?” His eyes are teasing.
I narrow my eyes at him playfully. “I did get shot last night, you know. Doesn’t exactly put someone in a mood.” The tea is almost empty.
“Now I got to wait awhile before I feel those soft lips ‘round me cock, don’t I? Quite a fuckin’ tease if you ask me.”
I set my tea down, the blush I feel spreading over my cheeks and chest. Now I definitely know that those pills were painkillers since I no longer feel uncomfortable in my tummy or my shoulder, a fire lighting between my legs at his gentle stroking on my thigh. I can’t help myself and lean into him, pressing my lips to his scratchy neck and breathing in his masculine scent, putting it all down in memory.
“Careful now, luv. Remember your shoulder. I was just teasin’ ya,” he warns, stopping his stroking, but leaving his hand on my thigh. “Luv, you’ve never sucked a man off before, does that mean you’ve never laid with a man?” His voice his low and soothing. He sees the frightened look on my face and feels me stiffen. It’s not like I’m ashamed to be a virgin, but I’ve heard men don’t like it. Will Alfie not like it? Instead, I get my answer with how his eyes darken when he’s aroused and his hand starts stroking my thigh again. “My sweet littl’ virgin, hm? My petite vierge ,” he purrs and captures my lips with his.
I practically moan at the touch of his lips, having felt like we haven’t touched in ages. Electricity flows through my bloodstream and strikes between my legs where his hand is steadily climbing, battling past my pressed thighs. He seems to have forgotten about my shoulder as he is half over me, his beard scratching my cheeks. Suspense haunts me with how slow his hand is moving and I clutch onto the back of his shoulder, gripping his muscles there. I feel his hand skim me between my legs, but he pulls away. He breaks the kiss and looks down. I meet where his eyes are and see his hand with a bit of blood on it, having just come from between my legs.
“I’m surprised ya got any more blood in ya,” he teases, looking back down at my mortified face.
Embarrassed, I stumble out of the bed without thinking, only knowing that I must distance myself from the cause of my mortification. Alfie reaches for me but it’s too late, I feel the pain and stretching in my shoulder as I reach out with my right hand to grab the windowsill ledge to avoid collapsing from my weakened legs. I let go immediately after feeling the burning sensation in my right shoulder, my knees breaking the fall. Alfie rushes over and scoops me up underneath my arms, helping me make my way to the bed where I see a sizable blood stain where I was sleeping.
He bends down and kisses my forehead. “‘Ts not like I ‘aven’t seen any blood, Amary. Don’ make it different where it comes from. Still blood.” Relaxing, but still ashamed, I watch as he pulls a rag from his pocket and wipes the blood from his hand. “I’ll get that woman Shelby in ‘ere to ‘elp clean ya up. I’m guessing ya don’ want me between ya legs right now, to clean ya up?” I shake my head. “Won’t be long, dove.”
I watch him go and bury my face in my hands, hiding the tears dripping miserably down my cheeks. My shoulder and stomach are aching from the movement, my emotions are running high from my cycle, and my whole body aches in general. While alone, I make a mental list of everything Alfie knows about me now, whether it be truth or fiction: he knows I’m a virgin and knows I’m a killer that’s run from her wealthy family. And he knows that my father has been killed a few weeks ago. Shit, my mother! It’s completely been dismissed from my mind that I still need to write an actual letter with words in them to my mother, or even leave a telegram. But I don’t know how I could handle her voice again, how miserable and lonely she sounded. With the money I have already sent her will keep her supplied for quite some time.
Muffled voices permeate the peaceful silence outside the door, a woman and a man. Alfie walks in with his cane, holding the door open for Polly, who looks as peeved off as ever. “Don’t think I’m going to clean up your little bird every time she falls, Mr. Solomons,” she spits, walking over to me and putting her hands on her hips. “I’m Polly, dear,” she says, acting as if she’s never met me before. Alfie sets down a bucket of clean water with a sponge inside next to me and watches Polly closely. “Will you be in here, sir? Or can we girls get some privacy?” she snaps at him.
“You seem like a mother who spanks her children,” he says, eyes serious. “Oh, wait, sorry, child.”
Coldness is reflected in her eyes when she looks up at him. “Do you want me to clean her or not? Because I can let you do it, though I know your people don’t like how women’s bodies work.”
Alfie looks slightly impressed and focuses his attention on me, kneeling next to me since I have my knees clamped shut to hide my shame. His hand grips onto his cane and his other is on my knee. “I’ll be back, dove. I’ve got some business with Tommy, so you relax ‘ere until I’m back. Let this Shelby clean ya up and I’ll be back t’night to warm ya.” He leans in and kisses me briefly, standing up with a groan and leaning on his cane. “And if she fuckin’ touches ya in a way ya don’ like, or says somethin’, you let me know, alright?” He turns to Polly with a warning in his eyes and leaves.
Polly simply looks down at me and raises her eyebrows. “He’s quite fond of you, Amary. He might be a cunt, but he likes you. Might love you, too.” I look down and Polly drags a chair to sit in front of me, soaking the sponge with water. “Well, at least your monthly means you’re not pregnant.” When I don’t respond, I feel her lift my chin to look at her and she strokes my cheek. “Dear, I’m not mad with you anymore, I was, but I’m not now. I think getting shot evens us out.”
Looking into her eyes, I feel the tears coming back and my chin beginning to tremble. “I’m sorry, Polly. I really am. I’m sorry I didn’t go to that dinner, that’s why I went to this one. Dinners seem to always end in bloodshed with these men.”
“That’s men for you, darling,” Polly simply replies. “But they’re our men.”
Over the next twenty minutes or so, she cleans me up and helps me into a garter belt with a pad attached, under a plain deep brown dress with long sleeves. While I’m applying my makeup and fixing my hair, she rips the sheets off the bed and flips the mattress over, leaving briefly and returning with fresh sheets.
Just as she’s straightening the sheets, I blurt, “Alfie . . . and I actually haven’t, um, you know, done it yet.” She turns around with a contemplative look. “I-I don’t know what to do when it does happen, if it does happen.”
Sympathy is in her eyes now and I immediately regret saying anything. “It’s not very difficult for a woman, we just have to open our legs. But,” she continues, perching herself on the edge of the bed with a mischievous gaze, “men do appreciate a break and might prefer you on top. I can imagine a powerful man like Mr. Solomons would find it quite appealing.”
With that, she leaves me be. Just imagining being in his lap in that state, with our glistening bodies covered in sweat, moaning and groaning, has me hot and bothered again. Hopefully my cycle will end soon so that I can get my emotions back in place. I decide to get some fresh air, careful to keep my arm tucked tightly to my side to avoid any harm swinging that might irritate my shoulder. The streets of Small Heath are littered with children running amok, workers lugging bags of coal, and the armed men of the Peaky Blinders and Alfie. Once I’m inside the Garrison, I see that no one is inside, so I turn right into the private room belonging to the Blinders. Inside is Alfie sitting next to Mr. Shelby and John on Mr. Shelby’s other side.
“And what the fuck are you ‘ere for, luv?” Alfie loudly inquires, glaring at me, but I know it’s only because he wants to look tough in front the Shelbys.
“I have a right to know what you’re going to do about Mr. Sabini, since I’m the one he shot,” I declare, squaring my shoulders as best I can without pain.
He sighs heavily and waves his hand for me to sit at the empty spot next to John. “Well, sit your ass down, then. No need to stand on formalities. It’s only the Gypsies. They don’ bite, only slice.” I sit down and I don’t miss the way Alfie glares at John warningly before turning back to Mr. Shelby. “So, Thomas, what is the plan of yours that is most certainly going to cost more Jewish lives than Peakys?”
Mr. Shelby clears his throat and lights a cigarette, bringing it to his lips. “For now, the town is impenetrable, every man and woman is being searched upon random entry points.” He clears his throat again. “You and your lady are safe.”
Alfie nods and looks around the place, as if seeing it for the first time. “Yeah, nice place ya got ‘ere. You know how gold makes me all flustered, Thomas. Safe might be a loose term to you, but not to me.” He fixes his hard stare on him again. “Last I ‘eard of the Garrison, it got blown up by two litt’ ladies from the IRS. I mean, I love what you’ve done with the place an’ all, but I wouldn’t keep my sheep safe in a slaughterhouse, now would I?”
I see Mr. Shelby’s jaw working. He’s fighting between being amused and being irritated. “The explosion was from an unfortunate gas leak. As you know with your bakery, gas and alcohol don’t mix very well.”
“Hmph.” Alfie looks at me and gives me a mock look of being stunned. “It was a gas leak, you ‘ear that, Amary, dear?” I fight back a smile. “Now, Mr. Sabini is being doted on at the London hospital, why don’t ya get me in there, yeah, and I’ll blow his face with me pistol, alright?”
“Can’t do that, Alfie,” Mr. Shelby shakes his head. “That place will be guarded up and down, on every floor. It’d be suicide for our men just to ease the earth’s burden of another damned soul.”
Alfie’s lips work underneath his beard. “Out of thirty of his men, myself, my men,” he looks at me with a nod of acknowledgement,” and me dove killed twenty-five of them. But they killed all twenty of me own, so,” he reaches into his pocket and puts a wrinkled paper on the table, jabbing it with his finger, “I got the five who survived down on this list. Their address, their next of kin, where they work, the whole lot. Be dead by tomorrow by me own men. If they follow me orders correctly, the widows won’t want an open casket, will they?” He leans back. John sniggers. Alfie’s eyes flash to him quickly, that nutty look in his eyes. “What the fuck is his problem?” He directs his question to Mr. Shelby, but stares at John. “He a little wet behind the ears?”
“Excuse my brother, Mr. Solomons.” Mr. Shelby puts his hand up, letting John know to not speak, but he does glare at Alfie. “He’s the Devil behind a gun, but not civil within civilian life.”
Alfie nods and stands up, spitting in his hand and holding it out to Mr. Shelby. “I’ll be the one to kill Sabini, alright?” Mr. Shelby spits in his own hand and the pair shake.
It’s been a week since we’ve arrived in Small Heath, the familiar coal dust settling back into the space beneath my fingernails. My bullet wound has healed exponentially, but flashes of pain continue to disrupt moments. Although Alfie and I are sleeping in the same bed now, he doesn’t attempt to seduce me again, probably because now I have a bullet wound and I’m suffering from my cycle. Every night, though, he massages my aching back before bed, giving me sweet kisses and soothing words until I fall asleep in his burly arms. Having nothing to do during the day, I sleep in long and make my way out to my old bedroom when the birds have stopped chirping. I wallow away the hours reading my favorite novels I never get the chance to read and actually begin writing letters to my mother. They’re filled with cash and promises to visit soon, using the excuse of work to not visit currently.
Once it’s nearly evening, I exit my room above the gambling den and make my way to the Garrison. It’s filled with men who have just gotten off work and women who look head over heels with their grunge. Polly sits alone at her booth, so I sit across from her. We chat over gin for nearly half an hour until the front doors burst open and the pub falls silent.
A woman who must be in her fifties looks frantically around, searching for something or someone. Her graying brunette hair is up in a tight bun, her skin pulled tight over her bones in a frail form, her clothes worn, and her eyes the exact shade of brown as mine. My blood runs cold and it’s in that moment that I realize I’m looking at my mother. She’s aged greatly since I’ve last seen her nine years ago. Her frantic eyes fall on me before I can hide and they glisten with unshed tears.
“Amaryllis, where have you been?!” she screams and sobs at the same time, making everyone in the pub uncomfortable. A few patrons slip out, but the rest want to see what’s going on. Mom takes a few steps towards me. “Why haven’t you written to me, or called? You know I’m alone, what I’ve been through. When I called, it wasn’t for money that you send me, it was so I could see your face again.”
The door of the private room bangs open and Alfie steps out, notices the woman and rounds on her. “Why the fuck you so loud, madam? ‘Nough crazy in this place already.”
But she’s not listening to him, her eyes are locked on me. “You look so different,” she mumbles, her eyes roaming my frame. “Different since I last saw you.”
Seemingly unable to help herself, she rushes towards me and squeezes me in a tight embrace. Pain erupts deep in my shoulder and let out a yelp, trying to push her off. Alfie is there in a split second, yanking her off. “And who the fuck are you?” he demands, using his stature to intimidate her.
“That’s my mother,” I whisper, my eyes never leaving her in fear that she might disappear and is actually a figment of a nightmare. She’s not supposed to see me right, not supposed to see her daughter wounded. And she’s definitely not supposed to be surrounded by ruthless gangsters, disturbing their place of revenue.
Stunned, Alfie looks her up and down, first taking in her eyes that identical to mine and then the tattered remains of her clothes. I can see the gears working in his head of what I’ve told him, how I’ve reminded him several times of how rich my family is and how proper my mother is. How I said I was writing to her, giving her all the details of my life. Confusion is replaced by anger, anger towards me. Releasing her, he looks at the leftover people in the pub. “Get the fuck outta ‘ere, now!” he yells and the people scurry out the doors in a rush. Polly stands up, not leaving and Mr. Shelby steps out of the private room, leaning against the wall and analyzing the whole situation with a plain look on his face. But I can see him panicking on the inside, knowing that my cover has been blown wide open, although reluctant to step in to help.
Releasing my quivering mom, Alfie takes long strides towards me and leans in close, his fury barely contained in his voice. “Dove, tell me what the fuckin’ ‘ell is going the fuck on. Right. Now.” Panic sets in and I look to Polly, which doesn’t go unnoticed to Alfie. He grips my chin hard, but Polly got my message. She grabs my mom and steers her out of the room and towards the back. “Get up,” Alfie growls, grabbing my forearm of my uninjured side and pulls me out of the booth.
We exit the Garrison, Mr. Shelby watching us leave. Alfie roughly takes me down the road and I realize where he’s going. How does he know? He goes to the gambling den’s door, pushes it open and drags me upstairs to my old bedroom that I’ve been frequenting when he’s out. The book I was reading earlier still lays on my bed and the letter I was writing and waiting for the ink to dry remains open on my vanity.
“Don’t think I haven’t seen ya sneakin’ in ‘ere whenever I left,” he glowers and turns me around to face him. Never have I seen so much fiery calm battling within his hazel eyes. “Why don’t you enlighten me, luv, about why your mum looks like a she lives in the slums when you’re supposed to be rich, how you’ve managed to become the best of friends with that witch Polly in a week, and what the fuck is this room?”
“I, uh, it’s-” I can’t seem to stop stuttering, my eyes constantly darting around the room and to the door, briefly thinking of running away amidst other irrational thoughts provoked by my fear.
Suddenly, Alfie grabs my forearms and slams me against the wall, knocking the air out of me and starting a throbbing in my healing shoulder. His eyes are crazed and his lips are pursed underneath his scruff, his breathing hurried. What can I tell him? That I lied being wealthy to get the job? No, that wouldn’t make any sense. Maybe I could try to convince him that she’s not my mom, just some woman who has the exact eyes as me? I have two moms and forgot to mention it? I lied about being rich to get closer to him, admiring him from afar? No, he would definitely take that as a threat, not an excuse. My breath hitches when I decide that the truth will make the most sense, no lies will cover up such a large blunder as this. The worst thing he can do is kill me, and I’ve almost died a few times before. He killed Sabini’s men within seconds, so there shouldn’t be too much pain. The only pain I’ll feel will be inside me, intangible, yet sensitive.
“No lies,” he growls, his face an inch from mine and his grip on my arms tightens.
“No lies,” I repeat, forcing myself to look into his eyes and seeing the beast everyone has talked about for the first time. I take a shaky breath in and exhale. “Nearly two months ago, I was sent to you to gather information on you and to watch for any immediate threat.” Murder is raging in his eyes, so I rush on. “I’ve lived with the Shelbys for the past two years, the seven years before that I was on the streets. I haven’t seen my family for nine years because the last time they saw me, I had shot a man. I’d never killed anyone before, but he was trespassing and threatened to kill my father. I left, having shamed them enough. I’ve been operating intelligence tasks and hits for the Shelbys while they provided me with safety and friendship.” Alfie is absolutely seething, shaking with rage. “But no matter how many times you’ve annoyed me, Alfie - and there’s been many times - I-” my voice shakes, “I have fallen for you.”
A low sort of growl emits from his throat. “Did you know about Sabini’s dinner, what would happen? Did you have anything to do with his whore’s death?”
“I gave her opium, she told me of the dinner. She didn’t need to die, she wouldn’t have remembered me afterwards most likely, but she insulted you so I gave her more. I knew I couldn’t prevent you from going to that dinner, so I made sure I’d be with you, to protect you.” I grab the front of his linen shirt, attempting to reach the man within the beast. “I wanted to protect you from harm,” I implore him, tears glazing over my vision.
“I don’t need protection from a girl!” he booms. Twisting me around roughly, he slams me back into the wall face first and presses himself against my back so there’s no space between our stifling warm bodies. He leans in, his face right next to mine, close enough that I feel his lips skimming my ear. “Who needs protection now, hm? Me or you? Hm? I’ve killed nearly thirty-six men in the war, and countless others on the streets. You pickpocket in the mangy gutters with the Gypsies, fancying yourself a mercenary when you’ve got barely any under your belt.”
My thoughts are pulled to the blade biting into my skin between my breasts, but I don’t want to hurt him. He’s being a bully right now and that, I can handle. I’d rather have him end my life now than to stab him in the heart, having him die thinking that I never actually liked him. It’s not his hot breath on my shoulder, or his powerful grip on my arms, or even the gun I feel tucked in his pants that frightens me at the moment. It’s the hardness pressing firmly into my bottom from between his legs that sends my pulse sky rocketing, and not in an enjoyable manner.
Without warning, I feel his hands let me go and a moment of relief floods me until he shoves his hands underneath my dress. I let out a quick shriek when he tears my garter belt and knickers from my body, leaving me bare between my quivering legs. “I wonder if you really are a virgin,” he hums thoughtfully, his lips back at my ear. “Or if that was a lie as well.”
He grabs my hips and pulls, jutting my bottom out against him, but my fear finally wins out and I snatch my blade, spinning around to press it to his throat. His eyes narrow, as if he doesn’t see me as an actual threat. “Do it,” he gruffs out with his hands up slightly. “Slice me throat and be done with me. That’s your mission, innit? You’ve got enough information from me, NOW SLIT MY FUCKIN’ THROAT!”
My hand is shaking so bad as I press the dagger to his skin and a sob momentarily racks my body. I know that I’m not going to be able to kill him, but even he won’t violate my body unless I let him. And I’m not letting him. He already knows my intentions, just wants to see me weak in front of him. His hand comes up and hits my wrist aside, my knife falling from my hand and clattering onto the floor. Without second thought, he grabs me and takes a few steps to my twin bed in the corner, throwing me onto it. I curl up into the corner, shielding my face from him. He knows I’m not going to hurt him, so he knows he can do whatever he wants to me. My bluffs have never been good. After all the killing and thieving I’ve done in my life, I suppose I deserve this. How many lives have I taken? Five? Ten? And how many lives have I ruined as a result? How many children have I orphaned, how many people have I widowed?
When nothing happens after a few seconds, I peak through my hair and see conflict in his eyes. It’s the first time I’ve seen him unsure of himself. He stands there for a few more seconds and then leaves, slamming the door behind him. Contained sobs shake my body with their force.
It’s now nighttime, the stars barely visible in the heavy smog of the place. I’m back in the bed Alfie and I have shared for the past week, now free of that wretched period garter. My bleeding may have stopped, but my heart still feels like it is. I’m on Alfie’s side, inhaling his woodsy scent heavily, trying to forget what happened, but I can’t. He’ll never be back. Forget disappointing the Shelbys, I’m done with them. They’ve pulled my heartstrings too long, I’ve given enough. Thomas can kick it. After two loyal years with them, he didn’t try to protect me from Alfie. I’ll be gone in the morning, after writing Polly and Arthur a note, telling them I’m sorry. Thomas will receive my letter of resignation on his desk.
My body is sore from Alfie’s treatment of it, bruises forming on my back and arms from the brute force of his hands. I wonder where my mother is now. Knowing Polly, she must be back on a train to home with a pocket full of cash and a polite warning to wait for me to contact her. But where is Alfie? Has he confronted Thomas yet, or has he taken his men and left? I hadn’t bothered looking around when I ran from my old bedroom to here, I was too consumed with grief and loss over possible love. Even after I poured my heart out to him, Alfie, the murderous Jew gang leader, rejected me. What did I expect? Forgiveness?
In between states of sleepiness and awareness, I feel a heavy arm wrap around me. I tense, but a voice interrupts any further movement of mine. “No more lies, dove,” Alfie warns in my hair. “No more lies, or you’ll end up in the same ditch as Sabini’s men, alright?” I hear him smell my hair. “You’re mine, petite vierge , and I can’t abandon ya, can I?”
It takes a surmountable amount of time for me to finally slip into sleep in his arms. Instead of being comforted by his breathing against my back, I’m reminded of the bruises there. His heavy breathing comes sooner than mine, easily having fallen asleep amidst flying bullets before, I imagine. He can sleep after killing someone and wake up refreshed. Tonight is no different.
While Alfie clutches onto Amary, a shadow appears in the window. A thin, tiny thing quietly slips a pocket blade into the latch, unlocking the window unnoticed. The person lifts the window, a few squeaks of resistance filling the room. Only a snore from Alfie Solomons is heard. A light breeze blows the curtains out, hiding the suspicious person for a brief second. They creep towards the bed, and pause, until moving again around to Amary’s side. Amaryllis Walker is tucked tightly into the man’s stomach, her brows knitted together as if she’s concentrating on a dream. Or a nightmare.
The figure pulls out a long blade, nearly a foot long. Their hand raises with it, about to follow its path directly to Amary’s chest. Alfie’s eyes flash open in time to see the blade on its path to his dove’s sleeping body.
I’m jostled awake from something heavy on me. Opening my eyes, a surge of panic goes through me when I see Alfie on top of me, not bothering to keep his full weight off of me. And then I see the flash of metal before Alfie grabs the wrist it’s attached to, bending it back until there’s a loud snap of breaking bone. A feminine cry is heard and he tackles the woman, gripping her throat in his hands, her breath rattling until it becomes quieter. Once she’s passed out, Alfie stands up, his chest heaving in surprise and exertion, coming over to check on me. He must have leapt onto me to possibly take the blade himself if he weren’t able to stop its path in time. And in that moment, the moonlight strikes the face of my would-be murderer. And I can’t help but gasp.
Emilie Brandford from the bakery is lying unconscious before me.
Whew, twenty-one pages! I already have the next chapter typed out and halfway through with the next one. Stuff is finally happening! Your comments keep me going, letting me know that you like my story is amazing. I really appreciate your support and the time you put into your comments. Have a wonderful day, I'll be uploading the next chapter in a few days.
Put what you think down in the comments! Was what Alfie did jusitified? What do you think of Amary so far? How has she changed?
Chapter 10: The Forty Elephants
Emilie's allegiance is revealed and now Amary has another thing to worry about. Alfie has a plan.
Thank you guys for your support! I really enjoy writing this story more and more with every new chapter. We're almost at two hundred pages! Reading your comments puts a smile on my face every time, so let me know what you think of this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
I had no idea how this night would play out, but I certainly didn’t expect this . After Alfie choked the breath out of Emilie, he urged me into a robe over my slip, ordering me to follow him as he flips her over his shoulder like he did to me, although less gently. His booming voice seemed to have woken Thomas up, who in turn woke up his brothers and Polly, all heading to the Garrison. Alfie dragged a chair from the front area of the pub to the back room where only reservations are held, plopping Emilie’s limp body down onto it. He had reached up to touch my cheek, but I flinched from his touch, so now I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, the absence of him heavy in the air around me. Polly stands beside me, her hands on my shoulders as Arthur uses thick rope to tie Emilie to the chair, effectively immobilizing her. Thomas sent John to fill a bucket of cold beer in the front and now his attention is focused on me.
“You know this woman, Amaryllis?” he implores me, those steel cold eyes never leaving my tired ones. I just want to sleep and never wake up. How could this night become even worse? “If you know her, I need to know right now. Right, fucking, now.”
My breathing is steady as I reply calmly back. “Emilie Bradford; she came in a few times to the bakery, loved to talk. She didn’t show up for a few weeks. Last time I saw her was a few days ago.”
“What did you tell her?”
Polly squeezes my shoulders comfortingly. “Nothing of importance, I’m sure. I didn’t really know her well. She has children and a husband, works at the laundromat, seems poor.” Do I really know her at all? She’s obviously not the innocent woman I thought she was, so who is she?
John arrives with the bucket and wastes no time on dumping its contents on her. She startles awake, her sunken eyes taking in every detail of the room before she focuses on me and her eyes shock me. They are no longer round with excitement, but rather devoid of any emotion at all. Her gaze falls on each of the Shelby men. “You all look rather dashing in your . . . ensembles,” she carefully observes, taking in their disheveled appearances of untucked shirts over pants pulled on in a rush.
“And who the fuck are you, eh?” Arthur sneers, pacing around her.
Emilie doesn’t hold back, a smirk pulling the corners of her lips up. “Don’t worry, I have nothing to hide.” Those empty eyes fall on me. “But you may not like the answers I give,” she warns, looking at Thomas, seemingly picking him out as the leader. “I’m a member of the Forty Elephants, been so for a few months now. Annie Diamond will be most interested to hear that one of her own has been captured and questioned, Mr. Shelby. Are you ready for the consequences?”
He merely grits his teeth. “Annie Diamond, huh? She the young one ruling over you women, getting you to steal gems and other fineries?”
Emilie’s smile grows. “Indeed. But that’s not all we do. A selected few, like myself, are chosen to carry out special tasks. Hits and such, you know how it goes. She’s got diamond rings on eight of her fingers, each one representing a man she disposed of herself, many men having tasted those diamonds themselves.” Her voice takes on a wistful tone. “I know you might not fear us women, Mr. Shelby, but I know you’ll know of the Elephant and Castle gang, no? Hardened criminals, our hardened criminals whenever we need some man power.”
“Why is Miss Diamond interested in Peaky Blinder affairs?” he inquires, his face giving away nothing.
She coldly laughs. “Sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just - she doesn’t care about you . We don’t like to meddle with other gangs much.” Those eyes lock onto me. “Men, right? Think everything’s about them. If they only knew how little they matter. My task, Mr. Shelby,” she looks up at him, “is to catch Amaryllis Walker off guard, when she feels safest, and then sink a blade between her ribs.” She rolls her eyes at me. “Don’t look so shocked and innocent, dear. It’s really not appealing on you, knowing what you’ve done.”
Arthur kicks one of the legs of the chair, tipping it so that it falls onto its side, Emilie merely emitting a grunt through her bared teeth, glaring at him. “Stop playing, tell us why you want her dead or you’ll be sent back in pieces to your mistress.”
She spits on the ground. “Your plaything over there killed one of the Elephant and Castle members nine years ago. He was sent to kill her father, who knew too much and decided that the sins he carried were too much. He was going to snitch to the coppers about his involvement.” I’m standing now, not of my own free will but because my body is responding for me, it seems. My brain isn’t functioning correctly, I must have heard her wrong. My father, in a gang? “That’s right, sweetheart, Daddy was an informant for my allies, feeding information about other gangs to us in exchange for protection. The man you decided to shoot was the brother of the gang leader. An eye for an eye.” She yanks against the rope biting into her wrists. “And there’s more of me, thirty-nine more of me and the men. It won’t matter if you kill me, there will always be more.”
Unable to process what she’s said about my father, I find something else that’s been nagging me. “Why did you stop coming to the bakery if you were supposed to befriend me?”
“Initiation,” she spits out bitterly. “Isolation for weeks without sunlight, little food and water, being beaten a few times a week.”
“What about your children, if you even have them?” I question. That must be why she’s so frail now - starvation.
A weak chuckle is barely heard from her. “I have them, four of them. Pushed ‘em to the curb, can’t have distractions. Killed my useless husband, too. Always coming home drunk, not of any use other than putting another wretched baby in my belly.”
The distant sound of wood hitting wood echoes from the entrance of the Pub. Thomas’s eyes whip to Arthur. “Arthur, John - get a boat ready. Go now.” He eyes Arthur until Arthur finally follows John out the back door, knowing full well that he can’t be trusted around Alfie since the last time the two saw each other, it was Alfie beating him. When he walks in he surveys the room, humming when he sees the woman he choked earlier tipped on her side on the floor. Thomas walks over to him, explaining in a low tone what Emilie has said and probably my involvement with her. Them talking together without yelling surprises me. Has Alfie not let on that he knows Thomas sent me to spy on him yet? Fear flashes in Emilie’s eyes for the briefest moment at the sight of Alfie’s lumbering figure. He nods to whatever Thomas is saying and with pursed lips, he turns to Emilie. “Alfie . . .” Thomas warns, trying to get the Jewish gang leader’s attention again. “Alfie, don’t. It’s be war if anything happens to her. I already have John and Arthur preparing the boat for her to be sent back.”
Alfie hums again, eyes not leaving Emilie. “So you’re tellin’ me, right, that this cunt walks free to try to kill ‘er again, yeah?” He jabs a finger at me. “I got plans to ‘ang ‘er body in her city, so her mistress may look upon ‘er face and see the wrath of my God. I don’t think this is a negotiation, mate.” And he draws a pistol before anybody can react, sending a bullet right between Emilie’s eyes, the deafening bang making everyone flinch and thick smoke emits from the end of the gun. He sniffs and stuffs the gun back on the inside of his heavy wool coat, turning to Thomas who looks shocked and fighting back angry words. “My men will take ‘er and use your boat, since you were so kind to plan ahead. After my men leave ‘ere, consider yourself fucked, mate, because I’m takin’ your littl’ spy with me. I will shoot your fuckin’ ‘ead meself if I see you or your cunts in Camden Town or on my property, alright?” He strides towards me, eyes softening just a tiny bit. “Come on, luv. No longer safe with the Gypsies, what with an assassin sneakin’ in.”
I accept his extended hand, letting him slip it through his arm as we walk through the Garrison. Thomas and Polly are left looking at each other with surprise. There’s a car waiting outside already and Alfie helps me inside in the front, no driver but himself. “Where are we going, Alfie?” I ask, wrapping my arms around myself, only having my slip and dressing robe on.
He reaches into the backseat, pulling a blanket out and putting it in my lap while keeping his eyes on the road. “I got a place in the countryside, no one will know where we are. It ain’t nothin’ grand, but it’ll do.” I feel him glance at me, but I can’t bring myself to return the gesture. He grabs my hand in his gloved one, pressing it to his lips.
Dawn greets us after several hours of driving, Alfie stopping the car occasionally to cool the engine, check the oil, and fill with gas. We never stop for long, though. Out of city limits, the path has turned to nearly untouched earth, every rock felt as the wheels roll over them. The smog disappears to clean country air and rolling grass hills accompanying the massive trees. I’ve been in the city for the past nine years, so I watch the scenery, fascinated that there’s this much green. Alfie’s eyes fall on me a few times as I lean out the window, a smile tugging at his lips that I don’t notice.
A property comes into view with six foot, white brick walls surrounding what must be at least ten acres. He hops out of the car, jostling it with his weight, and he goes to yank the rusted gate open before hopping back in the car. We drive through the gate, he closes it, and we continue onto a straight road without a building in sight yet. It’s at least ten minutes until a house comes into view, a crumbling, two-story cottage with moss climbing it’s walls and a window broken on the top story. It looks abandoned, except for an older, plump woman waiting out front, seemingly the maid. Her hair is grey and her expression sweet.
Alfie stops the car and helps me out by the hand, the blanket still wrapped around my shoulders and my hair unmade, tumbling down to my shoulders. The woman rushes forward. “Oh, you poor thing! What’d you do, boy? Woke her up and dragged her to your dreadful car without at least giving her time to dress?” She scoffs and puts her arms around my shoulders, leading me inside. “I’m Mrs. Ebba, by the way.”
I hear him follow quietly behind. Even the inside of the cottage is chilly, but the maid rushes to the fireplace in the left room, throwing a match inside on the wood logs. She ushers me to sit on the sofa, promising tea and a warm breakfast. Alfie sits down on the armchair across from me, groaning on the way down and as he props up his dirty boots on the ottoman. He tosses his hat onto the table and keeps his coat and gloves on. Fear is no longer present towards him, but I do feel anxious to speak, unsure of what his intentions with me are now that he knows I’ve relayed information to Thomas.
“Dove, I’m sorry,” he sighs, running a hand over his face, using his thumb to scratch a patch of dry skin on his chin. “For ‘andling you like I did, not my intention to ever be rough with ya. Although, it was pretty fuckin’ shockin’ news you gave me, wasn’t it? Didn’t know if ya faked yourself around me, or not, until I saw ya curled up.” He glares into the fireplace, the fire crackling and spitting. “I won’t touch ya like a man touches a woman, not unless you want me to whenever ya decide.” The fire licking up the wooden logs reflects in his hazel eyes, gleaming with some strong emotion within. “Violence has become a part of me soul, you see. I was born bad, that’s how it is. A black mark burned into me the moment I left me mother’s womb, marred, born to kill.”
I toe off my heels and draw my knees up to my chest, encompassing them in the blanket. “What if I don’t want you again, though?” I ask, curious for his answer. I already know the answer myself, how could I ever not desire him? He was angry and lashed out, the same as I would’ve done to him if I found out he was spying on me. Except I would have probably stabbed him instead of taking his clothes off like he did to me.
It looks like he’s biting the inside of his lip behind his beard, but doesn’t respond. “Dinner is ready,” Mrs. Ebba announces, rushing over to me to urge me to stand up. “You need a hot meal in you, a warm bath, and some sleep, dear. Especially if you were involved with anything regarding Mr. Solomons’ business.” She leads me across the living room, briefly through the entryway, and into the kitchen that has a circular dinner table with four chairs around it. There’s two bowls of what looks like potato soup with chunks of assorted vegetables swirling inside, two glasses of water, a bread basket in the middle, and a glass of some sort of alcohol next to one of the bowls. “Sit down, sit down,” she ushers, sitting me on the side without the alcohol. “Eat up while I draw you a bath, takes a bit to warm the water, but at least we have running water.”
Alfie saunters in, passing her and sitting down at the table, taking a swig of the alcohol first. Breakfast is silent as I force myself to swallow all the drops of soup out of politeness, munching on the bread and sipping the water. Outside the window reveals the grey clouds covering the sun, sprinkles of rain starting to pour down. Chickens roam the front, pecking for any morsel in the ground, fluttering their feathers with every rain drop that lands on them. There’s a shape in the distance, two sticks tied together to form a cross. A shiver runs through me, reminding me of Alfie’s threat of being buried with Sabini’s men if I lie to him again.
Once I’ve eaten my fill, I look over to Alfie and see he’s left his food untouched, having drained his alcohol instead. Mrs. Ebba comes bustling down the steep steps outside the wall of the kitchen, her cheeks reddening with exertion. “Are you ready for your bath? Let’s get you out of those filthy clothes, I’ll have to run into town to get you some proper equipment, but you can have one of my old nightgowns. Now, I know it’s not like the fashion nowadays, but it’s clothes.”
With one last glance at Alfie, who is staring intently outside, I follow Mrs. Ebba into the entryway and up the stairs that turns after stepping onto a landing. There’s another hallway with multiple doors on either side. She leads me to the first one on the left, which reveals a quaint bathroom, complete with a bathtub with faucets, a sink, a stool in the corner, and a pine cabinet on the ground with towels stacked atop. The bathtub is already filled with steaming water and what looks like a few rose petals floating. Mrs. Ebba pulls the blanket off my shoulders, folding and setting it on the cabinet. The cold air from the tiles erupts goosebumps all over my body. I don’t think twice when she takes my slip off over my head, leaving me bare to the elements.
“Dear God, you’re almost as sculpted as a man!” she exclaims, examining my arms which are merely toned with muscle, something very rare among women I’ve seen. And then I feel her hands running down my shoulder blades, feeling soreness where she touches. “I’m not going to ask about these bruises, lass, but know that I am here if you want to talk.” Saying nothing more on the subject, she guides me into the tub, its warmth shocking to my frigid skin. She pulls up the stool and begins washing my hair as I wash my body, all thoughts in my head void. It seems that the cold has frozen my body along with my thoughts. So much has been revealed in the past few days that my mind is still catching up with the bruises on my body.
Once clean, she leaves me at my request so that I may dry and dress myself alone. Ever since what happened in my old bedroom with Alfie I have not been alone, and that was little less than twelve hours ago. The nightgown Mrs. Ebba has donated to me is greatly out of fashion, too large, and rests at my shins, but the worn white cotton is comfortable. I leave my hair down, damp around my shoulders and wrap the blanket she folded around me again. What I didn’t expect when I stepped out of the bathroom was Alfie leaning against the opposite wall, seemingly waiting for me to exit.
He’s got his suspenders down around his waist now, his rugged white short opened at a few buttons, his wool coat and gloves absent, and his muddy boots are replaced by bare feet. I remain standing in the doorway, waiting for him to say something. Clearing his throat, he stands up from the wall, opening the door to his right and then opening the door next to the bathroom on my side. Both reveal different bedrooms. “I won’t force ya to sleep in the same bed as me, so you can either sleep alone or join me. No funny business, either,” a remnant of tease disappears in his eyes as soon as it appeared.
Lowering my eyes, I step into the bedroom next to the bathroom and closing the door before I dare see his reaction. A few seconds pass and I hear his door click shut as well.
Air is squeezed out of my lungs, my heart beat is ripping out of my chest, I’m dying. I sit bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, the salty droplets rolling down my face and chest against my cold skin. Gasping for air, I put my hand to my chest to wait for my heart beat to return to a normal pace, although it takes quite some time. Without realizing what I’m doing, I reach for the other side of the bed, but no one is there. Alfie is not there.
Emilie had crept through my window again, appearing with a scythe this time, swinging it down towards me and that’s when I woke up, when the blade was inches from me. Nibbling on my lip, I stand up and am immediately assaulted by the freezing temperature slipping through the cracks of the cottage. Thankfully my door doesn’t make a sound as I open it and neither does Alfie’s. What will he think? Will he accept me, or is he too tired? I wonder if Alfie gets grumpy when he’s tired. Booming snores come from his bed where he lays on his stomach, one hand underneath the pillow and the other stretched out to the other side of the bed.
I creep up to the side opposite of him. “Alfie?” I whisper, afraid of scaring him awake.
His glazed eyes open slowly, looking around until he focuses on me, his expression one of confusion and then it softens. He rolls onto his back, making room for me to slide in next to him. I dive under the covers, curling up against his side, inhaling his scent. “I’m sorry, luv,” he rumbles, kissing the crown of my head and putting his arm around me from behind.
Two killers in a bed, there must be a joke for that. Both fully capable of dispatching of the other, but neither willing to do so. Our hands are covered in blood, having shed it just a within the past week. I watch the sun rise further into the sky and snuggle my face farther into his naked chest, wrapping my blanket and his blanket around me tightly. His snoring eases me into my own, uninterrupted sleep.
The Forty Elephants and the Elephants and Castle were actual gangs during this time, although not so violent. Thought I'd drop some history into this story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below what you think about this chapter.
Chapter 11: Acceptance
Everybody is settling in nicely. Maybe a bit too nicely . . .
Glowing sun streams in through the circular window in the bedroom, dew drops from the remnants of the rainfall earlier glistening on the glass. The side of the bed next to me is empty and cold, as if it’s been vacant for quite a while now. I throw the blankets off of me and stand up to stretch, walking over to the opened closet boasting women’s and men’s clothes. Numerous dresses, coats, skirts, blouses, and such are draped on hangers in my size with a few pairs of shoes sitting on the floor underneath them.
“Mrs. Ebba went shoppin’ for ya.” Alfie is leaning in the doorway, fully dressed with his usual loose white shirt, black trousers, now-polished brown boots, suspenders down around his legs, and his numerous rings on his fingers, bracelets and necklaces shining in the sun. I nod and turn back to the clothes, running my fingers down a maroon sleeve poking out. Alfie must be doing well to be able to afford all of this and see this as just another expense needed. “I, uh, ‘ave ta go down to a factory of mine in a few, just a littl’ ways off from ‘ere.” He smooths his beard with his hand, his eyes darting down to my night dress and then back to my face. I glance in the mirror across the bed and see that the worn white fabric of it is somewhat see through in light, just barely illuminating my figure underneath. He strides over, slowly so as to read my acceptance or disapproval. When I stay put, he wraps his arms gently around me from behind, his chin resting on my head. “No need to fear my affections, yeah? You’re mine and I protect what’s mine pretty well, don’ I?”
I turn around in his arms, putting my hands lightly on his chest. “Alfie, you did threaten to kill me if I lied to you again, remember that? Doesn’t exactly heighten my trust in you.”
He squints his eyes at me a bit. “Welcome to my world, luv. ‘Ard to trust anyone in it, let alone a woman whom confessed to relaying every word I said to ‘er back to a man I thought was an ally.” He tilts his head. “Well, before I betrayed him, that is.” I raise my eyebrows at him and he rolls his eyes to the ceiling in response. “Didn’ say I was the best ally, did I? Big fucks small, and Thomas Shelby drew the short straw, yeah?”
“So,” I drift off, my arms stretching over his shoulders to wrap around his neck, his arms still around my waist, “we’re two people who don’t quite trust each other, yet. How is that going to work, Mr. Solomons?”
With my body now flush against his, his breathing is deeper and hands now squeezing my hips. “You tell me, lass. I can’t read a female’s mind. Tell me, do you still want a gruff ol’ bear like meself to fuck you, or are you repelled by the touch of me bloody ‘ands?”
“Would I be this close to a bear if I didn’t think I can handle him?” I inquire with my first smile since Alfie found out who I was, albeit a small smile not reaching my eyes.
Ever so slowly, he leans in to me, his lips searching for mine. There’s enough time for me to turn away or to stay, the decision all up to me. I know that if I reject him that he’ll accept that and leave for the day, not holding a grudge against me. He’s repeated that I don’t have to fear him in that manner, only if I betray him again, but I don’t intend to do that. When his lips reach mine, I kiss him back, softly molding our lips together gently, yet passionately. His beard tickles my cheeks and his thumbs massage my waist.
Pulling back, Alfie lays one last kiss on my nose affectionately. “I’ll be back before the sun sets. Roam the property, but not beyond the walls, s’not safe out there alone. Mrs. Ebba will feed ya and treat ya needs.”
So for the next several hours, I walk the boarder of the six foot walls, Mrs. Ebba having tasked me with feeding the chickens. A flock of six follow me around, picking at the bucket I swing absentmindedly with irritation. I ate the lunch she put before me and escaped outside after she thrusted the bucket in my hands. A nice breeze fights the warmth trying to desperately penetrate appear and the vibrant green grass and trees sparkle with leftover rain. I dressed myself in a calf-length navy skirt, tucked-in light blue blouse that’s short sleeves, and I have my hair down, not bothering to put it up since no one will see it other than the maid and Alfie. When the chickens start pecking my exposed feet instead of the bucket, I finally remember to toss their feed to them.
Farther back in the property are a few scattered horse, a donkey, lamb, goats, and even a peacock flaunting its tail dragging behind it. A brick building even farther in the distance beyond the walls has a thick plume of smoke emitting from its chimney. Men hurry around it, dirty with earth and soot. That must be Alfie’s factory, producing something. Maybe gunpowder or rum?
Back in the front of the cottage, the cross in the yard catches my eye again. I walk over, curiosity taking over. A name is etched on the wood in jagged handwriting: Ken Ebba . He must be a relation to Mrs. Ebba, but who? I notice that the grave is rather small to fit an adult and pity swells inside me for her. A child, presumably her child lays here. But why would Alfie have a woman and her child here if this is his safehouse?
The sudden, sharp wind brings me back inside near evening time. Mrs. Ebba descends upon me, drawing a fire in the sitting room, muttering about not wearing shoes outside. A chicken dinner is sat on my lap and I chew thoughtfully on it while staring into the fire. Should I ask her about the grave? I really just want to know how she convinced Alfie to have her stay here with her son. How long ago was it? The wood looked worn, but that could just be because of the constant rain the countryside is not immune from.
“Mrs. Ebba?” I call.
She walks into the sitting room, expectant. “Yes, dear?”
I chew on my lip for a moment. “How long have you known Mr. Solomons, if I may ask?”
Her lips pull into a smile and sits herself down next to me on the plush couch. “Oh, it must’ve been nearly eight years ago years ago. Right before he went over to Europe for the war. Just twenty-six years old when I met him.” A sobering look comes over her face. “He was so filled with life before he left, all of that left when he came back. There was no welcome party, since his parents were no longer with him, bless his mother. His father was a different story, an absentee father who’s only mark on this life was having a son.” She gives a bashful laugh. “I’m sorry, I’m rambling! Just all the memories come back.”
I rest my hand on her forearm. “No need for apologies, Mrs. Ebba. I’d love to hear more about him. There’s so little he doesn’t say in all the nonsense he says, I can’t discern all of its meaning,” I reassure. My mostly eaten chicken dinner is forgotten about on the side table and my tea is cold in my lap.
“Well, in that case, I have so much to tell you!” She sits back, relaxing beside me and looking thoughtful. “Let’s see, he didn’t start running that dreadful bakery until he was in his early twenties. Already knew that dreadful Darby Sabini, you know. I think he wanted to outrank him, in a sense. Always been hot-headed when it came to those sorts of insults.” I remember when Alfie had left the banquet because Sabini had said some distasteful things. And then my mind temporarily strays to how I had eased his worries. “He was a riot back then, but nothing like he is now. The war changed him, refreshed his hatred for the Italians, you see. Such a shame.”
“How did you come to know him?”
A sad smile comes across her face. “I had a son of my own when I met him. My son had been four at the time, had started helping him by being a spotter. I found out one day when I pulled a six pence from his pocket and asked him where he got it. I don’t think Mr. Solomons has ever been slapped so hard until me.” She huffs. “He irritated me to no end, but he was kind to me. Made it up by getting me a better tenant and all. Then he went to war, by the time he got back,” she blinks her eyes several times and licks her lip, “my son, Jeffrey had passed away. Cholera, they called it. Nothing I could have done, they said. Mr. Solomons moved me into here, where I could bury him in the countryside. Said I was to keep the place tidy for when he needs it.”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Ebba,” I comfort her, not entirely knowing what to say. “I couldn’t imagine going through that. I wouldn’t have the will.”
She pats my hand on her. “It’s been a while since it happened, dear. I’m better now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t dream of his face every night.” She clears her throat and puts on a teasing smile. “I hope you don’t have to experience what I had to, but maybe a child is in your future, is it? Don’t think I heard you sneaking to his bedroom last night,” she says after I open my mouth to defend myself. “I’m not here to judge, I’m just very observant. You should know, Mr. Solomons has never brought another woman here before you, always said I was the only girl he needed.” Her eyes roll. “What a cheeky bastard, isn’t he?”
I laugh with her. “He definitely is.”
Standing up, she brushes my hand off and straightens her skirt. “I have to go clean the kitchen, but before I leave, let me tell you. He seems to limp heavier when it’s colder, like tonight. I’m sure he would appreciate a warm bath, after working the better part of a day. He was becoming mad, pacing up and down the house until you woke up, wanting to say goodbye to you.”
Just as she turns around, I set my tea down and stand up. “Mrs. Ebba?” She turns around. “When does he usually get back?”
“Not until dawn, but he’ll be back before it’s completely dark, since he has something waiting for him.” She winks and walks into the kitchen across the hall.
Right, it’s almost dark out now, so I hurry up the stairs and to the bathroom. Thoughts of him in the bathtub invade my mind as I turn the faucet with hot water gushing from it. I throw in some lavender oil from the counter into the steaming water, making the air foggy and humid in no time. It should cool a bit before he arrives so as not to scald him. When the tub is full, I turn off the water and go into the bedroom and to the chest of drawers. A sleeping shirt is tucked away, so I take that into the bathroom, fold it on the counter, and leave. For the next hour or so, I help Mrs. Ebba in the kitchen, making my own quick bread recipe and assisting her with green beans, mashed potatoes, and the chicken. The table is all set for him when I hear the front door click open, heavy footfalls dragging towards me. Mrs. Ebba disappears and I hear her and Alfie speaking. She leaves up the stairs, sparing me a smile.
Alfie rounds the corner into the kitchen without his outerwear on, presumably taken by Mrs. Ebba. “What’s all this?” He points to the apron still around my waist, sitting down at the table and immediately drinking first from the whiskey glass.
I untie the apron and sit across from him. “I thought I’d help Mrs. Ebba in the kitchen this evening, so I made my bread. And when you’re done, I’ve drawn a bath for you upstairs.”
He looks suspicious, but pleased. “And what’s with this special treatment, hm? Tryin’ to get in me pants, are you? Tryin’ to steal me virtue, you are,” he says around some mashed potatoes.
Giggling, I wave my hand at him. “Oh, do be quiet. Just thought it’d be good, I’ve got a lot to make up to you,” I admit, chewing my lip. “You can make up to me later,” I tease.
The rest of dinner is silent and is over quickly with how fast he eats. Does he always eat like this? Once he finishes, he stands up, places a brief kiss on my cheek and heads upstairs. Knowing that he doesn’t like wasting much time with feeble things such as bathing unless he needs to, I walk upstairs after I hear the bathroom door shut. In the bedroom, I pull out a violet purple slip, ridding myself of my clothes to pull it over my head. I stuff my dirty clothes in the laundry hamper and dive under the covers, seeking its protection from the cold. As predicted, the bathroom door opens just after a few minutes and his dragging foot sweeps across the floor. Grunting, he pulls the covers back on his side and I feel the mattress dip when he lays down. His heavy arms wrap me up and I can feel that he didn’t waste time drying himself off completely before coming to bed, his skin moist.
I wake up lightly gasping, my skin sensitive and heat between my legs that I’m subconsciously rubbing together to relieve the feeling. I’m lying on my back, looking up at the ceiling. Although blurry, I dreamt of Alfie pressing me to the wall, but not roughly like he had. No, this time I had my legs wrapped invitingly around his hips that were thrusting into me leisurely. Oh, the feeling of him pressed against me, how he made me feel still resonates, making it impossible to go back to sleep anytime soon. Looking to my left side, I see Alfie rolled over on his side facing me, his eyes open and contemplative.
“‘Aving a good dream or a bad dream, luv?” he rumbles, sleep heavy in his speech.
Blush mars my skin, so I turn away from him on my side. “Um, it was nothing. Can’t remember.”
As if testing my resolve, he scoots closer, digging his face into the curve of my neck and putting his hand on my hip. “Didn’ sound like fuckin’ nothin’.” He groans quietly, but doesn’t move his hand or kiss my neck. His breath on my skin has my own breathing hitch. “Use your words, luv.”
I turn back around to face him, the moonlight shining down on us. His eyes search my face that must be practically the color of a peach now. “I . . . It was a good dream,” I stutter, avoiding his unwavering stare. “I’m not ready, but I-” Why is it so difficult to say what troubles me?
He takes pity on me after seeing my lost look. “There’s a few things I can do that’ll help, alright? You’ll ‘ave ta trust me, though. You want that? ‘Cause I can’t have ya writhing next to me all night, moanin’ in your sleep. Fuck, can’t expect that much from a man, can ya?”
Too shy and sensitive to speak, I just nod my head. I expect him to reach down with his hand, but he takes me by surprise when he yanks the covers off of me, scooting down the bed until he’s situated his shoulders between my knees. What is he doing? Surely he wouldn’t, would he? Surely men don’t like that? My speculation is answered when he folds my slip up above my hips and kisses me down there. His whole mouth covers me and I don’t expect it when his tongue laps all the way up and down. The sheets are clutched tightly in my grasp, too much pleasure coursing through my veins.
“Al-fie,” I gasp, moans spilling out.
His eyes watch me as he sucks, licks, and nibbles the most sensitive parts of me. It’s almost as if he’s using his beard as a further stimulant against the inside of my thighs, tickling and sending electrical shocks through me. The callouses on his palms grip my hips, keeping me from bucking against him too hard, usually when he sucks on my tiny bud there. It seems the pleasure from my dream was just a fraction of what it could be, how it could be. When he groans against my sensitive lips, it sends vibrations through me, making me let out a particularly loud groan.
When I start making small squeaking noises he focuses his attention on my bud and I feel two of his fingers diving easily into me. One of my hands fling to his hair, gripping the damp strands in my grasp so much that it must be uncomfortable, but I only receive a groan in return of his own. He watches as I fall apart, my body shaking as it had that night in the car, when his fingers were buried deep inside me as they are now. The curling of his fingers doesn’t stop as I tumble down, the sensations now almost painful. He uses his other hand to keep my legs from crushing his head between them as I shiver.
Finally, he stops and wipes his face on the blankets, returning to pull my limp body against his. “Your cunt tastes fuckin’ delicious, dove,” he says in his rough, deep voice. “Can’t get ‘nough of its smell and taste.” He tugs my slip down, rolling the bed covers back over us.
I’m too tired and sated to keep my eyes open. I merely hum before drifting off.
The days drag on, with Alfie leaving early and returning late, looking completely exhausted but too proud to admit it. I write many letters to my mother and have Mrs. Ebba send them out to the post office, my letters expressing my guilt and feelings for the first time to Mother. At first, I was fearful that the Forty Elephants would go to her and harm her, but they aren’t women killers, no matter how deranged they are. For now, she is safe on her little farm. Each night, I draw a bath for Alfie when he gets home and has gotten something to eat. More and more of the food is produced by me, Mrs. Ebba being so kind as to teach me some of her recipes where mine are lacking. When we’re settled in bed, he pleasures me with his tongue and fingers, calling it his “sweets” for the night, asking nothing in return, although I know it’s difficult for him. It makes me chuckle to myself when I think about it, but I’m nervous about making the first move to our next step. Me, a thief who has killed nearly ten people, is nervous about sex. But, Alfie being a man true to his word, hasn’t initiated any further affections beyond our current wordless agreement.
And then he came home rather early one night. Usually he gets home near midnight, but the time is eight when he bangs the front door open, frightening Mrs. Ebba in the sitting room. I’m filling the tub with warm water and poke my head out of the door to look down the steep stairs just in time to see him briefly pass the hallway into the sitting room. Nothing seems amiss until I see a few blood drops in the cracks of the wooden floor. My heart stutters and I abandon my bread, rushing through the hallway into the sitting room.
“The thing about business meetings, right, is that they never go as planned, do they, Mrs. Ebba?” he rambles, slouched in the arm chair without his outwear on and Mrs. Ebba shakily unbuttoning his waistcoat where a red stain is. He looks indifferent to her worry, looking lazily around the dim room with a glass of whiskey in his hand. “Didn’t think to check for a grenade, didn’t think I fuckin’ ‘ad to in me own bakery, so I thought. “‘Course, Ollie, the littl’ cunt, thought he’d let a gangster tie his lace next to a few of me barrels. ‘Ave you ever seen a gangster tying his lace, turning his back on someone he ain’t plannin’ on trustin’, hm? I work with a bunch of dumb shits, I do.” His eyes finally see me standing in the doorway. “Oh, ‘ello, luv. I’ve seen ya writin’ letters to your mother; could you write one to Thomas Shelby, for me, yeah? Tell him where he can fuckin’ shove his thirty percent, will yeah luv? Fuckin’ cunt, he is,” he grumbles, looking away.
I slowly move to his other side that Mrs. Ebba isn’t on. She’s opened his waistcoat and has tugged up his worn shirt over his abdomen, bruises decorating the skin along with several deep cuts. “What happened, Alfie? Did Thomas do this?” Thomas wouldn’t dare do this, would he? I know they didn’t leave on the best of terms, but why get another enemy than Sabini?
Alfie raises his hand dismissively. “Nah, don’ let broken mirrors get too close to me, do I? Fuckin’ cursed, that one is. He’ll be gettin’ his own soon. And I’ll be there to get the seventy percent.” He sees the look of growing impatience on my face. “Alright, alright. A few pricks from that Elephant or whatever group jumped me and Ollie. Probably didn’ like how I strung up Ms. Emilie on their car, I s’pose.”
“You bloody what?” I cry, hands on my hips. “You thought you’d go showing off and not expecting any consequence by doing what? Displaying one of their member’s body on their car? There’s forty in the women’s gang and the same in the men’s. How many do you have, Alfie? How many allies do you have?”
“Don’t huff at me, Alfie,” I scorn, receiving an appraising look from him. “How many men do you have?”
He watches Mrs. Ebba as she uses a damp cloth to clean up the blood on his abdomen. “What, so you could tell Thomas?”
Mrs. Ebba carries on like nothing happened after I slapped Alfie across the face. He looks mildly surprised. “You know why I’m asking, Alfie, so that I know if we stand a chance against those people. Don’t fucking dare pair me with the Shelbys like that again.”
“Two hundred or so,” he grumbles, gently pushing his maid off of him. “Woman, I’m fine. A few nicks. Need a bloody bath is what I need now.” He groans when he stands up, wincing and grabbing at his ribs, which are most likely fractured.
“What happened to those men who jumped you?” I call after him when he’s halfway up the stares.
“Mrs. Ebba, I need ya to tell the factory workers to dig three deep graves by morning. The bodies will be here in a few. A pound each will do.”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake!” I cry, throwing my hands up in the air. “He can’t go a week without killing someone, can he?”
She gives me a sad smile. “Like I said, the war changed him. Some men are lured to the darkness by opium or alcohol, others by blood.” And with that, she gathers the blood-soaked rags she used and moves into the kitchen.
I march up the stairs after Alfie. No need for him to drown in the tub because he has too much pride to ask for help bathing, even if he’s been slashed and stabbed. A loud groan is muffled through the bathroom door, probably him sitting down in the tub. Without a second thought, I open the door to help him.
A gun is pointed at my face from across the room, Alfie glaring. He lowers the gun when he sees it’s me. “Don’ badger me, woman. I wouldn’t’ave done what I’d done if I didn’ know that I could win, alright?”
Just like Mrs. Ebba did to me, I drag the stool from the corner and set it next to his hips, facing his face and avoiding looking down further. He waits for me to continue after I sit, curious. “Just like how, I’m assuming, you tried to take all of Thomas’s business, but ended up with only thirty percent? Because he brought a grenade?”
“Fuck off.” I give him the chance to continue on. He huffs. “He didn’ bring a grenade, just told me he did. Oh, I got some of me own explosives if ya want ta include that in your letter to him, luv. To blow off those massive balls of his, of course.”
“Do be quiet,” I giggle. Thomas was actually able to convince Alfie that he had a grenade. That sounds like what he would do. I pick up the cloth that’s been on the side of the tub, dip it in the water, and start washing him from his shoulders.
His lips are formed in a small smile. “Thought you’d be braver, dove. Can’t seem ta look down, can ya? No matter how many times I put me fingers or tongue in ya, or how many times ya wrap your lips round me cock, you can’t look. Ma petite vierge .” I can see him looking unashamedly at my cleavage revealed by my loose blouse when I lean over to wash his other shoulder. “Oi!” he yells, pushing my hand away when I press the cloth a little too hard on his injured stomach.
A grin spreads my lips. “You’re clean enough for tonight. Products are just going to sting your cuts until they can close. Go on to bed, I’ll clean up in here.”
I help him out of the tub, his soaked arm around my shoulder. Grabbing one of his nightshirts, I can see the full extent to his injuries when he carefully lifts his arms up for me to put the sleeves on. There’s just two stabs, only a few inches deep with one being on his lower back and the other between two ribs. The rest are surface wounds, luckily. It looks as if he had been fighting one when another was able to bury their blade in his back.
After he drags his feet to the bedroom, I close the bathroom door and empty and clean the tub before taking my own bath for the night. It’s almost like clockwork, how my body has become sensitive these past few nights, expecting Alfie’s tongue on my body. How the more of him I receive, the more my addiction grows for his touch. I need more of him, but that would require me to initiate it, to verbally ask him. I want to be closer to him finally, I crave his undivided attention. Knowing that he’s not thinking of anything other than my skin underneath his touch is an addicting thought in itself.
Before I can frighten myself with rational thought, I step out of the water and tie my silk robe on, the helm reaching my ankles. The thin material clings to my wet body, my nipples erect through it. Alfie is sitting up in bed, reading a newspaper with his gold glasses low on his nose. He seems to be doing the crossword puzzle of the day.
“Is it time for my sweets, luv?” he asks without looking up, scribbling something onto the paper.
Not responding, I walk over to him and finally draw his attention when I lift my robe to straddle his hips, the bed quietly creaking. Curiosity mixes with fiery heat in his eyes as he carefully observes me. As I talk, I pluck the paper and pencil out of his hands, along with his glasses, setting them on the nightstand. “I thought, I would give you sweets tonight, Alfie,” I force out, anxiety pounding in my chest. What if he says he’s too tired or he’s in too much pain?
“You sure, luv?” he inquires, resting his hands on my hips, his thumb drawing soothing circles.
Instead of using words, I reach down and slowly untie my robe, letting it slip off of my shoulders and onto the floor, revealing my entire nakedness to him for the first time. His breathing becomes more audibly, his eyes eating up every inch of skin, but he still doesn’t budge, being the stubborn man he is. I cover his hands with my own, lifting them to my breasts and then resting my hands on his forearms. It’s enough for him to move. His thumbs skim my hardened nipples, a quiet whisper of a moan exhaled through my lips. He continues to roll his fingers over them, squeezing as if he’s testing the weight of my breasts, which fill his hands. Desire spears me between the legs when he draws one of my nipples between his lips, his tongue laving it up and down. Hips rolling against his, I actually feel him growing between my legs, feeding my want for him. Our skin brush against each other on our legs, since he’s wearing his nightshirt tonight he won’t be wearing any underwear either.
His lips cover mine when I let out another soft gasp, sneaking his tongue into my mouth. I’m so captured in this slow-paced kiss that I jerk when he slips a finger easily into me, curling and pumping steadily inside of me. “Fuck, you’re wet, dove,” he groans against my lips. “You want my cock inside of ya, don’t ya? Be the first man to claim ya, fuck ya until ya can’t walk straight tomorrow, hm?”
The combination of the baritone of his voice and his finger still curling deep inside of me has me panting and clutching his hair. “Alfie,” I moan, our foreheads pressed together, him waiting for my response but not letting up on his advances. “I need you, please.”
No further consent required, he momentarily forgets about his injuries and tears off his nightshirt, grimacing. He pulls his finger from and I look down to see him positioning himself below me, one hand around himself and the other flat against my back. I feel him rubbing the tip against my slit, my juices lubricating him plenty. With his head bent back and eyes watching my face, he gently pushes my hip down onto him. The stretching gives way to a tiny burning sensation as he buries his cock deep within me for the first time, my walls clenching around him. There’s pain, but he doesn’t stop until our groins meet at the base, his hair there tickling my clit, shivers running down my spine.
“Hm, fuck, you fit so snug ‘round me cock,” he groans, sweat breaking out across his brow, waiting for me to move.
I lift my hips, and when there’s no pain I slide myself back onto him, his cock stretching my walls and scratching an itch I myself could never reach. Our lips lock again, my hands on his chest and his on my hips, carefully setting a pace that’s steady enough for us to kiss still. My nipples drag across his chest, our hot breath mingling together in pants between our kisses. Salty sweat joins the bath droplets on my glistening skin, matching his own glowing skin.
Drawing back from me, he wraps his arms around my torso and suddenly I’m underneath him, his forearms on either side of my breasts and my arms around his neck, fingers digging into his hair. His thrusts become more powerful, hips digging into the backs of my thighs every time he slides back into me. I pull my knees up until they’re around his ribs, the feeling of him digging deeper into me more tangible. And then he shifts ever so slightly so that with every thrust into me, his cock brushes against my clit, sending shocks through me. His grunting in my ear, the muscles of his back flexing with every snap of his hips, and the kisses he sucks on my neck has the tight coil in my stomach growing. He moves like he does when he fights, as if his physical ailments don’t exist and there’s only one thing he wants in that moment, something he wants strong enough to ignore the pain. I find that he moves faster when I moan into his ear, or dig my nails into his scalp, or when my walls clench around him.
With the bed creaking in protest of our ministrations, our saliva marking each other’s bodies, I feel like I’m about to explode. His face moves from being buried into my neck when my moans turn higher pitched. He grabs my face in his hands and roughly kisses me, his beard scratching my face and lips there to cool the sting. It’s as if a grenade goes off inside of me, shaking my body in its aftershock, my skin more sensitive than its ever been. I find myself pushing against Alfie’s shoulders to get away from the continued pleasure bordering on pain, but he keeps pounding into me until I feel the same explosion as before, tearing through my body forcibly just moments later. He grunts loudly, his thrusts becoming stuttered until he finally stops, heating pooling in my tummy. Panting and exhausted, he pulls out of me gently, although I still wince a bit.
He lays down next to me, pulling me half on top of him so that our legs are entangled together. “This is usually when I leave,” he says after he catches his breath, pulling me closer against him. I struggle to listen, exhaustion and sleepiness fighting my eyelids from opening. “But I’m not leavin’ now, luv. Not gonna leave ya - I can’t leave ya, can I? My littl’ dove. Can’t leave the woman I love, of course.”
Even through my tired state, I smile against his skin. “I love you, too, Alfie.”
Whoo! One of the most difficult chapters I've written for sure. Let me know if it's any good, I'm not very good at these "intimate" scenes. Have a beautiful day, lovelies!
Chapter 12: Songs I Listen to While Writing
Just some songs I've discovered I like writing to with this particular story. Some of the songs have significant meaning and I imagine several situations where I can imagine it playing as I make up a part.
Glitter & Gold
All My Tears
What He Wrote
Don't Forget About Me
(Graphic Lyrics that might offend some people)
The Rolling Stones
(Also, I literally downloaded this song without reading the lyrics, just enjoying the sound of it. At least I found out before playing it with the windows rolled down in my car, hehe).
Please suggest any further songs that seem to fit with this story or just songs you think I might enjoy writing to.
I'm unfortunately that person that watches/listens to new things at least fifty times in a row so this playlist doesn't last long.
I'm nearly finished with the next chapter; for some reason every chapter I intend to make as twelve pages, but they currently are ending up as more than twenty . . .
(We're nearly at two-hundred pages! Last time I wrote that many, the computer crashed and I lost all of it years ago. Now I use Google Docs to save it).
I was waiting for something to download on my PS4 last night just after I drank coffee, so I put my headphones in and listened to this playlist, "resting" my eyes.
Then I woke up two hours later. After drinking coffee. That I'm not even supposed to have (my stomach doesn't like tasty things).
Thank you guys for your continued support, I don't think I would have dropped more chapters without your guys' encouragement. I already have a plan outlined for the Season 3 story line.