Author's Note: I admit, I have reluctantly fallen in love with the tale of Sweeney Todd. Trust me, I didn't want to, but it has taken me by surprise. Darn that Johnny Depp. And Helena Bonham Carter. And Tim Burton. And Angela Lansbury. (Well, I think she deserves credit).
Some things to keep in mind: this is an alternate universe fiction. Like, WAY alternate universe. Not even this universe-Alternate-Universe.
I am setting it in the 1840s. Why? Because I feel like it. That's why.
Also, this chapter may feel rather slow. It is a set-up chapter. I hope it is at least interesting, in a rather sick and twisted math-geek way.
And now, without further ado, I present to you:
A Lesson in Economics
(sounds thrilling, doesn't it?)
Chapter One: What A Bloody Wonder
During the 19th century, many Londoners supported a laissez-faire, or free market, economy. Entrepreneurs could run businesses and institutions with minimal government intervention. Shops flourished under mixtures of market economy (items bought and sold with money) and bartering (or trade). This was a popular practice, but never institutionalized as a permanent fixture.
More common was capitalism, and the relationship between supply and demand. As much as the customer needed, the higher the price could be raised. Similarly, as much as the business supplied, the higher the price could be raised. The key was to find a delicate balance between having too much and too little, too high prices and too low, too few customers and too many.
This, of course, never occurred to Mrs. Nellie Lovett. She understood enough economics to know that the more good pies she had, the more good customers she would have. She paid meticulous attention to demand. Unfortunately, she had underestimated her own supply.
These were dark times in London, Mr. Todd thought. He sat in his barber's chair, contemplating the current situation. Never could he have anticipated this result: no customers. Indeed, he had anticipated very little regarding his life after killing the Judge.
The streets outside London were silent. No laborers hurried from home to job, or job to home. No upper or middle-class gentlemen strutted the streets in their finery. Only a few widows and shopkeepers gloomily swept the dusty snow off their steps.
It had been one year to the day, Mr. Todd realized, since he had returned from Australia. And how much he had accomplished since then!
When he killed Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford, his life felt complete. To make a "happy" ending happier, he found his Johanna, and she was happily married to Anthony in a town far away from London. It was best that way, reasoned Mr. Todd. The farther she was from her nightmares (and his), the better.
But the murderous barber did not give up there.
Mr. Todd had woken the morning after completing his mission feeling elated. He had risen, phoenix-like, from the pool of blood on his floor and looked into the mirror. He saw the white streak, the dark eyes, the pale skin, the rusty blood, all thrown into contrast and torn by the deep split in the glass. He smiled slightly, and picked up the towel lying on the table. Quietly and efficiently (as always), he set about his next task: tidying the barbershop.
Every day, it was the same: he rose, full of joy, and continued his work as the murderous barber. Now, it was not so much for a need-to-cleanse-the-world-of-filth as it was out of sheer habit. He greeted the customer, shaved the face, slit the throat, and pressed the lever. Simple as pie, quite nearly.
That had been six months ago, and business had slowed considerably since then. Most of the men coming for a shave were higher class, the wealthy employers. There had already been a very few of them, and they were gone. There was the occasional sailor (a salty lot, according to Mrs. Lovett) or traveling salesman. Mr. Todd wondered where all the other men were—the clerks, the factory-workers, the sweeps, and the like. True, they probably could not afford a shave, but they did not even wander the streets nowadays.
Of course, Mr. Todd did not understand capitalism. The wealthy men whom he had so charitably sent to their maker employed the general populace of London. When the men who owned businesses and companies died, their companies either moved or died with them. The men under their control, the labor class, moved with the companies. They had dispersed all over England, in the country or the more distant cities.
All great men have great women behind them, and these women were quite happily endowed with their inheritances. The wealthy men left wealthier widows, who maintained a certain amount of self-sufficiency. They had maids, and could send out for food. There were still imported goods at their command. There were Swiss bank accounts with high-interest rates, and offshore taxes. Finally, these widows had each others' company—every society lady belongs to a society.
What did they not have? Men.
When supply is down, demand rises. At times when the supply is devastatingly low, economic chaos might erupt. Depressions could arise in the wink of an eye.
Mr. Todd did not realize this all at once, but he became quite aware of one vital fact. As he strode to the window and pulled back the curtain, he gazed objectively out at the near-empty street and held one thought in his mind: he was the only man left in London.
All right, still awake? smiles lovingly at snoring audience Good, good...
Will update soon. Unless, of course, I don't. The next chapter will be Mrs. Lovett-centric.Unless, of course, it is not.