AN: I have returned, after months of disappearing from ff. However, this is my debut into this fandom, so it may be true that none of you recognize me.
Thanks very much to Mervin for all your support. I'm sorry I couldn't get this fic to you before posting, but I felt it didn't need much beta-ing, and I've been eager to post. I more or less wrote this to entertain myself while waiting to post the other one.
Yes, there is more coming!
No maddening creaking tonight, on the floor above her head. That was new. Nellie Lovett had grown so accustomed to the sound lulling her to sleep at night that its absence was almost disconcerting. She wondered if he had finally caught the peace of mind to sleep that he'd been chasing for weeks now. Although, she had begun to doubt whether Mr. Todd was in the shape to be catching anything , lately.
But she just couldn't rest without that sound. It seemed as if two people could not sleep in that house at the same time. One had to stay awake to watch the ghosts creep around in the shadows--or in her case, hear them above her head. Sometimes it seemed as if he were already dead and buried in the ground.
He paced so slowly, and it got to her sometimes. When he'd first begun that particular habit, it had frightened her into thinking she was insane, since she hadn't been able to tell whether it was the building creaking or his footsteps. But she'd soon grown used to the sound, and had learned not to look at his eyes when he was doing that. It was better for her head that way.
He hadn't opened the shop that day. Neither had he stopped drinking. He'd worn the same bloodstained shirt he'd had on the day before, and refused to wear anything over it. He also refused to leave, or to put down his razor. She had been a little concerned, making sure to watch him carefully, but he'd lost it weeks ago. There was only so much she could do, after all.
She wondered if he was all right, now, though. Maybe, she thought with a soft chuckle, maybe he'd passed out. It wouldn't have surprised her, but she figured she'd at least put him to bed properly.
Her own bed gave a tortured groan as she sat up in it, and she shivered as the cool air chilled her skin through the thin nightgown she wore. The bed protested once more as she rose from it, padding over to the tableside to light a candle. Despite the way she mentally reassured herself that he was fine--fine as he ever was, anyway--her fingers trembled uncertainly as she lit the candle.
The stairs creaked too, disturbing that eerie silence as the candle's limited halo illuminated the gloom of peeling wallpaper and molding wood. A metallic scent laced the air--all that blood seemed to permeate the room, no matter how much they cleaned.
When she reached the top of the stairs, her scream rent the air like a razor rending flesh.
The barber lay slack in the chair, his head tilted back to reveal the gash in his throat. He'd cut so deep she could see a bit of white bone revealing itself in the back. The razor hung limply in his hand; the silver glittered tauntingly. The blood glistened black like ink in the firelight, rather than the crimson his eye loved so much to dwell upon. It dripped in grotesque ribbons, staining his already-stained clothes and the discolored fabric of the chair, to pool on the floor. The moon shone mockingly from the window, fully turned to show the whole of its obscene face. She shuddered.
Lucy, all day he'd babbled about Lucy. About her yellow hair, about how she'd done so well birthing Johanna, about how virtuous she was, how sweet. But he'd sounded anything but happy. On the contrary--he'd been moaning and growling and flinging open razors across the room. Even in his darkest moods, he avoided doing that. He valued them too much to be tossing them around carelessly. At least, he used to. That seemed to have changed in the past couple weeks.
She'd been tempted to joke that he belonged in Bedlam, but if she said such a thing, she knew it'd be a poor excuse for a joke, seeing as it was mostly true. He usually didn't appreciate her attempts to lighten his mood, anyway. Or her attempts to improve his health.
She'd come up that day to bring him food, and not only had he refused to eat it, but he'd all but threatened her life if she so much as opened the door. She did it anyway--she wasn't afraid of him--and he'd dragged her right back out again by the neck. It was her opinion that the only reason he hadn't slit her throat right then and there was that he hadn't gotten around to retrieving it from the opposite side of the room yet.
She'd no idea how he managed to appear so respectable to his customers. Probably because he kept everything so neat. That, and his demeanor seemed to change entirely when a client would walk through the door: he became soft-spoken and polite--not at all the way he was with her. He seemed--to her surprise--a gentleman.
But she had only witnessed that a few times; usually she left him to himself. She'd never stuck around to see his razor "slip'.
But now he'd let his razor slip across his own throat, and all she could think was Why? He'd had a fierce determination, a stubbornness she hadn't been able to reason away. He couldn't be dead, not really. He was too obstinate to die, the bugger.
"Mr. T, wake up, now.." Her voice wavered anxiously as she struggled with the sight of him. "You'll 'ave customers in the mornin', y'know." Her body shook with repressed emotion.
When she was answered with nothing but silence, she snapped, "Dammit, Mr. Todd, you can't be doin' 'is, now!" Her voice reached the shrieking pitch of hysteria. The razor escaped his loose grasp with a clunk; a low moan of anguish grated from her throat. It was all too horrific.
Her tremulous hands threw the light around the room, its erratic movement mirroring her panic. She knelt and set the candle on the floor carefully, wandering close to the body. She whimpered as she stepped in something warm and wet: blood. "Mr T...get up, please..."
Silence. Seconds passed like hours.
Well, she was going to have to dispose of the body sooner or later--why not sooner?
"Come on, yeh great useless thing," she sighed as she lifted his body from the chair. He really was dead weight, this time.