Hello darlings, here at last is the final fragment of my story.
I hope you enjoyed it - please leave me a review, even if it is to criticize and tell me there are ten thousand plot-holes and everybody's 'voice' was wrong! Just knowing someone read my story utterly makes my day - squee :)
By the way, Dr Mark Inghram is my version of Mark Ingesterie who is of course another version of Anthony Hope - but you probably guessed that! (In a film he'd be played by Nicolas Farrell, a lovely British actor who can make one believe implicitly that some people do good for good's sake - totally Inghram.)
You seem to be under the misapprehension that you're safe, boy, Todd complained darkly. No idea where you got that fuckin' notion.
Look at you! Safe? You're in a bay, bleedin' like a stuck pig in shark infested waters – and I'm the raft that's holding you up! You think Inghram can keep you safe?
He laughed, an unpleasant sound that boded ill for someone.
He's bought you time, is all. This ship – this crew and the captain – you think they give a spit f'you? You ain't worth the food it'd take t'keep you. They'd drop you back where they found you if they knew you was Macquarie scum.
You need me.
His words were flat and leaden, like a pipe frozen in winter that tears the skin from your hand because it's cold, so cold.
You've got a choice, boy. You can tell me to get out and I'll leave you be. I'll disappear like you never knew me, and watch as the sharks circle closer when they catch scent o'your blood. I'll get meself a penny-seat in the stalls an' fuckin' laugh as they tear you apart – because they will – you mark me, they will.
I ain't got patience for half-wits. You got a choice, boy, and you gotta make it now – cos it won't come again. You can take your chances. Lock me out an' see how far you get on ya own. You might have friends, an' that might be enough. But you'll always be a dead man walking – a sorry thing the world has spat on that ain't got the guts t'kick back. You might find Lucille, she might even have you. But know this: you will always fail her – you'll never be able to protect her from anythin' and you'll spend your life pissin' y'self every time the likes o' Him come anywhere near you.
There was silence but it was a silence filled with his stare, which in turn was filled with the dark between the stars – so unknowable, so unreachable, so blank and so damn cold.
Or ya can let me in. Let me do the talkin' from now on. I won't teach you how t'swim in these waters... I'll teach you t'be a fuckin' shark! A hungry ghost who lives for justice, blood and vengeance. And I swear t'you, I won't let you down, I'll watch your back for as long as you need me.
A thin smile.
An' when we're done; when He's nothing but a name on a tombstone then I'll fade away like the morning mist on Hampstead Heath – you got my word. Lucile can have you back, her naive and beloved Benjamin, a little worse f'wear but nothin' she can't fix – no blood on his hands 'cos it's all on mine...
Silence; a courtesy only because they both knew what the answer would be – both knew there was only one answer there could be.
So,said Todd. What d'you say?
Inghram awoke from a restless sleep to find the occupant of the bunk gazing at him; it was a chilling look despite its utter lack of malice. In fact it showed a great lack of anything at all which was why the doctor found it so off-putting.
It was as if all confusion, fear, doubt or hope had been obliterated; buried beneath uncountable fathoms of volcanic glass that shone so clear and black in those eyes. All that remained was a patient purpose – although what task that purpose might seek to complete Inghram didn't know and didn't care to know.
He felt that he had watched a metamorphosis; the sea had drowned this man for all that he'd been rescued, he had died by degrees despite the doctor's care. And what had awoken in his place was a colder, stronger and far more certain creature.
"I owe you my life." The voice was rough and low, the London cadence more pronounced than before. A glance towards his arm, aching and bandaged on the sheet. "You have my word that I'll not attempt t' waste it."
The relief Inghram felt was immense; he'd feared the strain and fever had irreparably addled the man's senses, breaking him into something that only sought destruction for himself or others.
"I'm glad to hear it. I feared I was at fault; pushing you towards company when you were not ready."
A small shake of the head. "The blame is mine. I was... unsettled. It won't happen again," he said softly and with great certainty. He fell silent after that, although his expression showed calculation, as if he was measuring his words carefully before committing them to sound. "I thought perhaps... I might dress an' tidy myself." There was a hint of questioning in those words, a seeking of the doctor's approval.
"Of course!" Inghram smiled. "Although I can't promise as to the fit of the clothes..."
The man hauled himself upright and sat, tired and straight-backed, gazing down at his bandaged wrists as they rested upon the blue cotton of his borrowed under-britches. Clothes and cleanliness didn't make a gentleman of course, but they could in his experience make a damn big difference.
"You've done more f'me than I could ever repay, Mr Inghram."
The doctor looked up, a little surprised to hear his name for in truth he'd thought the man near insensible when he'd offered it.
The unknowable obsidian eyes held his gaze. "I beg your forgiveness f'my lack of manners." One thin wrist lifted from his lap as he held out his hand in formal greeting. "My name is Sweeney Todd. At your service, sir." A small smile, sharp and vulpine. "An' I would be honoured t' dine with Captain Flemming at his convenience."