Part Nine

A month had passed since Turpin had taken Johanna away from the woman who had become more like a surrogate mother to the girl than simply, "Auntie Nellie". Nellie could slap herself for it having taken this long for her to put her plan into action, but she had to be absolutely sure that she would succeed. She had been watching Turpin and the servants working within the walls of his luxurious manor for the past few weeks. If she planned carefully and correctly, she was sure that things would work out as planned. Surveying the building she had come to learn that the girl's bedroom was on the second floor, to the left of the front entrance to the manor. Bamford would usually come around a few minutes before Turpin would leave for the old bailey. She had also realised that when the servants would go on their breaks, many would get somewhat more idle after Turpin and Bamford had left for the day. Once Turpin and Bamford were out and down the street, Nellie knew that luck need only be on both her and little Johanna's side.

It was a rare sunny and somewhat warm spring day when Nellie felt confident that she was finally prepared to put her plan into action. On a day such as this, it was entirely plausible that Turpin and Bamford may be more inclined to walk to and back from the courthouse instead of a speedier trip by carriage, giving her more time to complete her goal.

She stood against the pillar at the entrance to the small park directly across from the judge's grand manor, casually turning every couple of minutes watching for Turpin and Bamford to leave for court. Donned in a dark green dress and hooded coat, Nellie hoped that it might camouflage her among the shrubs in case either might catch a brief glimpse of her. If she were cunning enough, however, -and she certainly was- neither one would even have a chance of spotting her. She tapped her foot restlessly as she watched the pair walk out the front door, only to stop and continue whatever conversation they were having. She was a very patient woman and was certainly one to talk, but she wasn't sure that she knew any men that could chinwag as much as these two did. She finally caught sight of the pair leaving the manor, grinning like a Cheshire cat when Bamford began to hail a carriage but Turpin stopped him and motioned forward. Nellie watched as their forms became more distant, giving herself a few more minutes before running across the street and into the corridor that led to the back of the building.

Taking quiet steps, she eased her way into the house and looking around at the empty hallway, she continued to sneak about. Upon hearing footfalls suddenly getting closer, Nellie concealed herself in a closeby room, keeping the door open a crack as a maid walked by and stepped into another room. She knew that she was taking a sizeable risk by breaking into Turpin's manor, especially after his threat against her neighbour, but she certainly had no intention of being caught as soon as she set foot inside the home. Letting out a slow breath, she took a moment to gather her thoughts when a thought hit her. Quickly untying and removing her boots, she tied the laces together and wrapped them around the back of her neck like a scarf. She shuffled back out into the hall and continued, spying a staircase and mouthing a silent thank you to no in particular. She began to slink up the stairs with slow movements, her mind repeating continuous prayers that the steps wouldn't make any creaking sounds or that no one would be around to hear if she did. A light smile appeared on her face as she reached the top of the stairs and walked right into a tall figure.

"Who might you be madam?" No! No! No! She had been watching these servants for weeks, and they would all typically become more idle and even take an opportunity to find respite when Turpin was away. Nellie's head rose slowly to see a man that she didn't even recognise with a book under his arm, was he some new hire? Perhaps he was the doorman that had previously sent Clayborne Lainey away? She racked her brain, desperately attempting to find an excuse for why a strange woman would be in Turpin's manor, but nothing would come out except for nonsensical sounds. She was smarter than this, but perhaps… her mouth quickly came out with a story about being a woman that Turpin had brought to his bed the night before. The man was such a shag bandit, he probably had a different woman in his bed every night; that combined with having a young child around was enough to made Nellie want to be sick with disgust, but she resisted.

Her plan didn't seem to work out in her favour, however, when he raised a brow at her. "Madam, I am the master's most trusted butler. I am aware of every woman that he entertains on these premises, and if you do not leave immediately, I will not hesitate to call the peelers on you. You do know who owns this property, do you not? I would not say that it is wise to break into the home of a man of the court, especially when he is one Judge Turpin." Nellie tried to reason with the cold man, telling him that she only wished to speak with Johanna, and she would willingly leave immediately.

Before the butler could ask why she should need an audience with the child, however, a deep voice could be heard from the bottom of the staircase. "Well, Peacock, I returned because I left something behind, but who might this lovely creature be?" Immediately recognising the voice of Judge Turpin, her flushed face after being discovered by the butler was replaced with one of fury. She spun on her heels and Turpin's blank face quickly turned into a smirk. "Well, if it isn't the lovely Widow Lovett." His accentuation of the word widow sent a shudder up her spine; she was well aware that his intention did not simply serve to remind her that her late Albert was gone from her life.

She stomped down the stairs and hastened towards him as if about to pounce. Before she had a chance to act however -if in fact she was moving to attack- he struck her hard across the face and sent her back. She grabbed onto the newel cap to keep herself from falling. "Remember yourself! If you have any sense at all, you will leave this instant. Even threatening to attack a man in my position can land a common bitch like yourself in a very dark place, if not hanging from your pretty little neck! I am not an imbecile, I know damn well what you've come for, my property is not for you to steal away." Turpin rolled his eyes and began to ascend the stairs again, then turned when he saw that she hadn't moved. "Do I really need to repeat myself to a lowly quondam whore? Leave this place before you are escorted out by the proper authorities!"

Nellie stomped back up to him and gave him a hard glare. "First of all, ya bleedin' wanker. Johanna is a lil' girl, not your fuckin' property! She's a livin' being, not some object tha'cha paid for! Second, if you dare to 'ave me removed, I'll be sure to tell 'em tha'cha kidnapped 'er. I don't think it would look very good for a judge to be duly accused of kidnappin', not to mention the other crimes that you've committed 'gainst 'er parents. Wrongful imprisonment, I believe is the legal term, stalkin', rape, m'sure they'd be very interest in all of that!" Her eyes darkened as she yelled at the older man. Turpin frowned in return and yelled for Mr. Peacock to send Nellie away. The man took a firm grip on Nellie's shoulders, leading her back down the staircase and giving her a light shove out the front door before slamming it behind her.

The baker turned and gave the door a few aggressive knocks and kicks before swearing and storming off. She looked up at Johanna's window, watching as the little girl played with a doll that looked far nicer than Little Johanna or the "Woofy" that she had gotten for the girl's birthday. Johanna looked out of the window and, catching sight of Mrs. Lovett, began to pound on the window and looked to be shouting something at her. Mrs. Lovett couldn't hear a word, but lifted a finger to tell the girl to keep quiet just in case the judge was coming to her room. She laid her fist over her chest, mouthing a 'I Iove you, little bug' and smiling gently as the little girl returned the gesture. She was gone nearly as quickly as Nellie had seen her, however, as Turpin appeared in her bedroom, giving Nellie a smirk as he took the small girl away.

A few weeks passed before Eleanor made her next attempt. This time she was far more cautious about what her next plan of action would be. Upon closer investigation, she had come to learn that there was a time when all of the help in the Judge's manor would gather to eat breakfast after Turpin and Bamford left for the old bailey. Even that butler, Peacock, would undoubtedly be there, likely serving himself before the other servants of the house. She had to roll her eyes when she had first witnessed this through the servant's entrance window. Of course, even being a butler, the man had an undeserved air of condescension. She wouldn't be surprised if he had picked up this sense of grandiosity from the judge himself, the very master of unmerited megalomania.

Turpin, Bamford, Peacock, did every man become so cocksure the very moment that they set foot in this damn house? She shook her head of the distracting thoughts that were suddenly plaguing her and retuned her focus back to her goal at hand. If she waited a bit longer and snuck in the same way that she had before, she would be far more successful, and Johnna would be back home where she truly belonged.

So here she was, standing by the park once more. Only this time around, she didn't immediately rush for the corridor when she spotted Turpin and Bamford leaving for the courthouse. Instead, she remained in the park, though still occasionally turning to glance at the manor in front of her. After a few extra minutes she slowly began to approach the large building. Confining herself to the shadows, she slipped in through the door and slowly made her way to the staircase. She held onto the banister and took a deep breath as her eyes scanned over the long way to the top landing. The memory of being caught during her last attempt flashed in her mind, but she would not let that stop her. No, she would not allow a mistake to keep her from protecting the innocent little girl from those depraved monsters. She needed to be with someone who would care for her, and no amount of care would come from the same man that had taken her parents away from her for life.

She made it up the stairs without trouble, though she did take extra care not to make noise. Looking in both directions, she made her way down the expansive hallway, whispering Johanna's name and checking every keyhole as she passed by door after door. She threw her hands over her mouth when she heard movement behind one wall. Cursing under her breath, she looked around frantically, hoping to find a place to conceal herself if it happened to be a servant. A string of expletives weaved their way through her mind, she could slap herself for allowing this to happen again. She had been so close this time, so confident that all of the servants would be downstairs in their dining quarters having breakfast.

She was about to give up and just slide through any door, until she heard a soft little voice cry out in a harsh whisper from behind the wall. "Who's calling my name? Is that you, Papa? Oh please, please let me out, I promise that I'll be good." Nellie gasped and threw herself at the door. Grasping onto the doorknob, she continuously turned, pushed, and pulled at it with all of her might, choking out Johanna's name as frustrated tears welled in her eyes. Johanna called out; Nellie could feel her heart breaking as she listened to Johanna's cracking voice. "Auntie Nellie, is that you? I knew that you would come and get me! It's no use pulling on the door, though, Papa's been keeping it locked."

A scowl appeared on Nellie's face as soon as she heard Johanna use the word papa to refer to that sleazy bastard, no doubt he had put that name in her innocent little head. She ran her hands through her hair, pulling out one of her pins and picking the lock. Nellie threw the door open and Johanna nearly knocked her to the floor as she ran into the baker's arms, a broad smile on her sweet face. She gave Eleanor a loud kiss on the cheek before hiding her face in the woman's curls.

Lovett rubbed her back slowly, asking the whimpering girl why she was locked in her room. "Papa locked me up after you were here before. He said that he had to do it to keep me safe. Oh, Auntie Nellie, I just knew that you'd bring me back home! I kept trying to tell Papa to bring me home, how much you love me and take such good care of me. He told me that you couldn't afford to care for me and that you said I was a… buh-buhh-bird hen. I didn't know what it was, so he told me that it's when someone has to take care of someone, even if they don't want to. No, no I told him, I said that you would never ever call me a bird hen, not my Auntie Nellie!" Mrs. Lovett giggled at the little girl's mispronunciation and held the girl close to her as she ran a hand through her blonde locks. She got down to Johanna's height and held onto her arms, telling her that she did love her and would never dare to think her a burden, Johanna gave her an affirmative nod and wrapped her arms around the woman's neck, crying on her shoulder.

Nellie attempted to pick the child up but gave up quickly and let out a breathy chuckle. "I ain't much more than skin n' bones, and you've done nothin' but get bigger ya 'ave, can barely pick ya up anymore, little bug." Johanna wiped her tears away and gave the baker a quiet giggle. "Come along now, you're gotta 'ave ta keep real quiet, like when we'd play our game, right?" Johanna bobbed her head and gave Mrs. Lovett's hand an affectionate squeeze.

They made their way back down the stairs, Johanna's arms wrapped tightly around one of Nellie's as if she'd float off if she dared to let go, but the pair soon came face-to-face with two very unwelcome faces. Johnathan Turpin and Simon Bamford stood looking at the pair, a repugnant smirk on Bamford's face and a seething outrage in Turpin's eyes. The judge clicked his tongue as he shook his head at her. "I had really hoped that it wouldn't have come to this my dear, Widow Lovett. I really thought that you would've heeded my warning the last time, but I was wise enough to get outside help, just in case you were obdurate enough to try it again. I've had a few friends watching over the house. I gave them your description and instructed whoever was on watch at that time to come to me if they spotted you. It would appear that I was right to put my faith in them."

Turpin reached out and before Nellie could stop him, he grabbed onto Johanna's arm and gave it a tight pull. The girl yelped out in pain and Nellie lurched forward to take a desperate hold of Johanna as Turpin pulled the girl close to his chest. "Mark me, if you dare to step foot in this manor one more time, it will be your last and I will see you hanged at the gallows. Not only for breaking and entering, but for attempted kidnapping and for threatening a man of the court as well." He gave Johanna another yank and began to walk away. "This has been your last warning, whore baker. Now, I'm going to bring the girl back to her room. You can handle the, lady, from here I'm sure, my friend." Turpin gave the beadle a crooked grin and chucked darkly as he pulled an obstreperous Johanna behind him. Though she did fear for the little girl's safety, Eleanor didn't attempt to hide the smile that lit up her face when the girl gave the older man a harsh kick to the shin, making him resort to picking her up kicking and screaming for her Auntie Nellie.

Mrs. Lovett scoffed and took a bold step closer to Beadle Bamford as Turpin made his way back up the stairs with Johanna. "What 'bout you and the, ever honourable, Judge Turpin?" Mrs. Lovett stressed the word honourable with as much acrimony as she could muster. "He threatens me with kidnapping, right! Ya bastards are the ones that stole that sweet lil' girl away from me! If you take me in for anythin', I'll 'ave plenty to say against the two of-."

She didn't get the opportunity to finish her sentence, however, as Beadle Bamford brought his cane down on her knee. Nellie crumpled to the floor, meeting with another strike whenever she made the slightest movement. She managed to kick her leg out and to trip him, causing him to fall to the floor next to her. She began to slowly pull herself up, but Bamford grabbed onto her arm and turned her over so that she was facing him. The smirk returned to his face as he held her there, she kept her eyes focused deeply on him, not daring to betray the sudden fear that took over her body. Bamford got to his knees and held her down, a hand on her neck. "You come back here and try anything again, and you put the girl's life at risk, as well as your own. Not only will you swing by that pretty neck of yours, but we'll make sure that the girl is sent to an orphanage or somewhere else where no one will care to listen to her screams or excuses."

Eleanor grabbed at his hand wrapped around her throat, her nails digging into his flesh. She brought his hand to her mouth and gave it a deep bite. He pulled it away screaming, "You insulate little bitch!" He delivered a harsh strike to her cheek, sending her on her side. He stood and held her tightly by her hair, the knife end of his cane revealed and aimed at her neck. "It's a real shame you know, you really are a very attractive woman, Mrs. Lovett. In fact, I've heard from a very reliable source that you used to put that beauty to good use, I think that we both know what I'm speaking of. How much would it cost for a fine gentleman such as myself to have a woman so preprocessing all to himself for a few minutes?"

Nellie gritted her teeth and forced herself not to gag as his foul breath assaulted her nostrils. Only seconds later, however, her nostrils weren't the only part being assaulted. He had plunged his arm under her dress and was groping her inner thigh, starting to slowly pull down her stockings. A blush began to rush to Nellie's face, but this quickly gave way to rage and a deep growl as she turned over and lifted her leg to give his chin a rough kick, sending him onto his back. She pulled herself up and made her way over to the man that now lay exposed before her. She let out a guffaw at the sight of him struggling about on his back, reminding her of an overturned turtle.

She moved to stand over him, her feet positioned at his own. She dropped down so that she landed with her knees pushing hard against his rotund stomach, her hands quick to wrap around his throat. Her grip tightened slightly as she repeatedly spat on his face, whilst occasionally removing a hand to deliver a fist to his face. She watched as small trickles of blood appeared from where Albert's wedding ring scratched his cheek, enjoying the fact that she was now the one with a smirk on her face. She returned to choking the man until her eyes widened. She looked down slightly and wrinkled her nose, her eyes narrowing at the smug grin on his bloodied face.

"Why, ya repugnant scum o' the earth, is this actually getting' ya-? Cor blimey! Ya perverted son of a bitch!" She jumped off of him and gave him a hard kick to his newly risen appendage before crossing her arms over her chest. The beadle roared out in agony as he rushed to cover himself in case she should make another attack. Eleanor burst out in laughter as the beadle rolled onto his side and tears rolled down his cheeks. "Ya really is pathetic, aint'cha, Beadle Bamford? Well, even if ya knew 'ow to please a woman with that thing, which I 'ighly doubt, looks like ya won't be usin' it any time too soon." At this point, the discomfort was too great and humiliating for the beadle to string together much more than some prosaic obscenities.

When the pain had somewhat subsided, he took out his handkerchief and dabbed at the small trickles of blood left on his face. He coughed into the handkerchief and within seconds Turpin had returned and stood behind the baker. He wrapped his arms around her form, one arm limiting her breath as he wound it tightly around her neck. "I am not the type of man to do harm to a proper woman…", she would've laughed at this fallacy if he weren't holding her so tightly, "but I hold no such reservations towards a dirty puzzle such as yourself. Plus, some even enjoy it a bit rough, do you, Widow Lovett?" He used his body to push her up against the nearest wall, both hands wrapping tightly around her throat, his breath hot against her cheek. "Is my friend not up to your standards, Mrs. Lovett? I'm surprised that you've become so vainglorious. The last time that I had a nice view of you, I had you underneath my own body, a lowly whore in a brothel." Nellie desperately scratched at his hands as she thrashed her body in a failed attempt to escape from his hold on her. This only forced him to put more pressure on her, and for her to find it more difficult to breathe.

She closed her eyes and made her body go rigid, hoping it would convince him to loosen his hold on her. She was almost relieved when he released her throat and placed his hands on her shoulders, beginning to slowly run his hands up and down her arms. Her mind was buzzing as she pushed it to come up with a way to get away from him when a sudden idea flashed in her mind, and no matter how she despised it, she knew that it just had to work. Squeezing her eyes shut to mentally prepare herself, she flashed Turpin an enticing smile, giving him the eye from under her long lashes. "You're absolutely correct, m'lord", she purred while lightly trailing her fingertips along his shoulders, "I ain't no more than a common tart." In his confusion, he released his grip on her, allowing her to take a few desperately needed breaths. She brought her lips up to his ear and whispered, "In fact, let me shows ya just 'ow naughty I can be, darlin'." Turpin's eyes widened and his mouth continuously opened and closed, resembling a fish. She mentally readied herself before wrapping her arms around his neck and biting down hard on his ear.

Turpin let out a yowl and pulled away from her, his hand rushing to cover his stinging ear. He sneered when he saw the small amount of red smeared on her lips, not knowing whether it was from her lipstick or his blood, sighing in relief when he looked into a hanging mirror to find his ear unharmed. He began to throw every insult that he could possibly think of at her in some meagre attempt at showing dominance over her. She smirked at his fuming countenance once he came to the realisation that she wasn't cowering, and when he responded by giving her a reverberating thwack to the face, she burst into uproarious laughter. "Those scars that I left all those years ago seem to be healin' fine, but you'll surely 'ave somethin' new to talk about for a bit. It would seem that your influence over women ain't so powerful as ya thought, Turpin. Well, at least when it comes to women that ain't as delicate an' mousy as Lucy Barker was." He moved to slap her again, but she took hold of his wrist and twisted it painfully until she heard the satisfying crack of bone.

She let go of him and began to make her way back to the stairs for Johanna, but Beadle Bamford had righted himself by this time, grinning as he made his way back to the baker. Turpin cradled his maimed wrist whilst shouting to the Beadle, "What are you waiting for? Grab the nosy shrew and throw her out!" Bamford nodded and approached Mrs. Lovett, his arms struggling to wrap around her as she fought him off. He finally managed to grab her from behind, his hands reaching around to grab at her chest, causing her to let out a shrill shriek. Turpin shouted back, "Don't bother with her, the trollop isn't even worth grabbing at. She's probably riddled with diseases."

Nellie managed to somewhat extricate herself from Beadle Bamford's grip and gave him a jab with her elbow. She let out a laugh and turned to Turpin. "I ain't got shite 'cept contempt for ya and that prick," pointing to the Beadle who was now grabbing his ribs. She approached Turpin again and scrunched up her nose as if smelling something putrid. "If I 'ad any diseases, though, I'd honestly consider givin' 'em to ya, just to watch ya suffer! Then again, wouldn't wanna risk it. From what I've 'eard 'bou'cha, you're fine wiv' grindin' down your tool in just 'bout any woman tha'cha can get it up for. I'm sure that I ain't the one that should be concerned wiv' spreading some disease." She could only cackle loudly as Judge Turpin roared that he didn't need to listen to that sort of codswallop from some boorish bygone dollymop.

Turpin let out a growl as Bamford took hold of her again, giving a derisive chuckle as Turpin gave her face four burning blows with his good hand. "Show her out, my friend, and don't waste any more of your time on her. We can both appreciate a pretty woman, but this one is far too ruined and too bold to be attractive to decent men of our stranding. Moreover, based on what I've heard about her business, she won't be able to afford to keep up with what's left of her appearances for much longer."

Beadle Bamford let out a small snicker and pulled the struggling baker along with him to the back door where she had entered. "We can't be having filth let out in front where everyone can see it now, can we? Such a shame, too, I would have liked to see what glories you had hiding under those teasing layers." He pushed her out the door and threw her to the ground. "Now, you heard the master. If you even think of trying this shit again, not only will you hang by that pale little neck, but the girl will be put away. So, unless you wish to see the brat in agony, I'd keep away!" She rose back onto her feet, wiping the small trail of blood away from her forehead where she had collided with the hard ground.

The Beadle was already gone. She wanted to shout out every obscenity that came to her mind until her voice was raw, but that wouldn't do a damn thing. Instead, she propped herself up against the wall for support until her body wasn't so sore. When she managed to get out of the alley and stood in front of the manor, her gaze immediately moved up to Johanna's window. The girl was there of course, her small hands and face pressed against the window. Nellie balled her hands into fists and ran to the front door, pounding on it until her hands stung. The same damn butler, Peacock, answered the door and stepped aside after she demanded to have an audience with Turpin again.

Peacock enquired as to whether he should get a peeler to have her escorted off the property and back to hers, but Turpin only smiled and dismissed it with a wave. "Mrs. Lovett, while I do admire a woman with perseverance and determination, I do not admire it in you. I find this all very tiring, and I thought that you would have taken my warning to heart." He held a glass of wine in his hand and took a sip as he eyed her over the rim. A small smile crept onto his face as he thought that he'd caught her already.

Nellie pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. "I 'eard ya all right, and you ain't gonna do a damn thing to that sweet lil' thing. 'cause I'm leavin' right after this. First though, I request that you allow me to visit 'er at least once a week so I can see 'ow she is. I won't do nothin' wiv' her or take 'er, but I demand to 'ave access to 'er. We both know quite well jus' how stubborn I can be, Turpin. If this demand is denied, I don't give a damn what it costs me personally, my life or my freedom, I will go to someone above ya and tell 'em all about what you've done!" Turpin's smirk abated slightly, though it still remained on his lips. He nodded his head and spoke his approval, however, he requested that she change it to once a month. Her first instinct was to fight this, but knowing that it would only cause him to make it all the worse for both her and Johanna, she agreed to the compromise and left.

She turned again and brought her gaze back to Johanna's bedroom window. The girl was there again, if she had even left, her lips in a deep frown. The girl opened the window slightly and called down to the baker. Nellie brought the shaking hand that was over her mouth to her face and wiped away the tears that had begun to fall. "It's goin' to be all right Jo, don'cha worry. I'll be back before ya know it, jus' stay strong lil' bug. Stay strong for yourself, mummy, daddy, and me too." She stood stuck to the spot, just staring at the window, even long after Beadle Bamford appeared behind Johanna, closed the window and took her out of Nellie's range of sight.

As she began the walk back to Fleet Street, she couldn't stop thinking about the last day she has spent with Benjamin. She had left feeling so hopeless because she had to leave him helpless and alone in a prison so cold. And while Johanna's may be filled with the most lavish of possessions, she was nevertheless locked away in a prison as well, and Nellie had no way of getting her out without putting the innocent girl at risk.