Chapter One: Soho's Spider
Darkness. Total and utter darkness surrounded Feather as she struggled to awake from her drugged sleep. As her chocolate eyes opened she raised her hand to her eyes only to find that she was bound by leather thongs and was lying on her side in an uncomfortable position. Suddenly the terrible events of the previous night came rushing back and she panicked. Her eyes snapped open and her scream of terror was muffled by the rag in her mouth. She searched the endless, silent darkness, her eyes darting frantically back and forth. Suddenly a low chuckle pierced the silence. A match was struck, its soft glow illuminating the sinister face of Joseph Belmont.
"Finally awake I see. Good morning, Miss Firestone." A wicked smile twisted his features and Feather repressed a shiver. If looks could kill Feather's glare would have pierced Belmont through the heart in an instant. Her eyes were sharp, icy daggers and, had she not been bound and gagged, she would have spat on him and strangled him with her own bare hands.
"Now, now my dearest…you mustn't be angry. I did it for your own good."
WHAT GOOD YOU SON OF A BITCH?! LET ME GO! Feather's muffled cries only fueled Belmont's sick pleasure. He gently brushed his gloved fingers across her cheek and leaned closer.
"So beautiful…" he murmured. "Just like your mother…"
Feather held back a growl of disgust and flinched as his eyes found hers and she could smell peppermint and tobacco on his breath. For once Belmont was silent, content with boring his sinister blue eyes into her chocolate ones. When she squeezed them shut, he chuckled and sat back in his seat. She smelled smoke as he blew out the match and she grunted wishing she could cough.
"No need to worry my precious darling. We're almost at our destination."
She opened her eyes once again only this time she did not search for Belmont's shadowy figure but for a window instead. Her eyes scanned the darkness searching for the smallest glimmer of light that would herald an opening. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, for her mind was still clouded by the chloroform, she saw a thin white line peeking through the darkness. When she tried to inch closer to the light she found that her legs were also bound. Cursing Belmont once again she lay still all the while staring at the small sliver of light on her right. It broke through the darkness, sending soft beams that landed gently on the blood red carpet beneath it. The glow gave her hope and she attempted to smile around the rag. A small jolt of happiness went through her when she succeeded. Suddenly the soft floor beneath her jerked and she gave a muffled gasped when she hit the wall behind her.
"Ah here we are. Spider will be pleased, we are right on time."
"Eh?" Suddenly her small sliver of light became a blinding explosion of light. She felt herself being lifted as she struggled to clear her vision. This time she was on her back and she quickly shut her eyes as the ceiling of the carriage brushed her nose. Then for a moment all of the appalling things that Belmont had done to her vanished. Her father's betrayal and her brothers' pain never happened; all her suffering was a distant, faded memory. All there was in Feather Firestone's universe was light, air, and the sky. She forgot about the dirty rag in her mouth and smiled. So crisp and clean was the air, so strong and beautiful was the sunlight! She sighed contentedly. Nature always found a way to calm her. She looked up to the baby blue sky and in a moment she was once again on her feet. Instead of the sky she stared at gloomy, gray cobblestones while her spirits plummeted. She lifted her eyes as muffled gasp escaped her bound lips as she surveyed the area. At that moment she noticed a foul stench in the air, urine mixed with alcohol and the smoke from dying fires. The streets were littered with bits of garbage and the poorest of the poor. Feather's heart went out to the families she saw, most fast asleep on dirty doorsteps in the early morning light. A few children were awake and they ran over to Belmont begging for money. She flinched as he slammed his cane on the head of a scrawny little girl. She's around Tatiana's age…Feather's eyes seemed to have a mind of their own as they continued to scan the shady neighborhood. Dark smokestacks reached up into the blue sky begging for release from this modern Hell. She cringed as she noticed the rotting wood and brick buildings that lined the streets, their once flawless walls soiled and destroyed. One word stood out in her mind, the name of this wretched place: Soho. London's very own red light district filled with deceit, murder, sex, and lost dreams. Then her eyes widened in horror and disgust as she turned to face the building she was being led into. A tattered sign hung in the doorway, the bright red letters seemed to mock her and her plight.
"Ah I see you recognize the famous Red Rat!" Belmont chuckled when he saw the frightened look in Feather's eyes. "You guessed right, my dear. This will be your new home! Oh come now! You must hurry! We can't keep the Spider waiting…"
"Look behind the façade…" whispered the man standing in the middle of the darkened room. Feather's eyes widened as she took in his shaggy figure. His long hair hung low over his face reminding her of long spider's legs. His eyes were hidden behind large black sunglasses but she could feel his eyes roving over her, looking at her figure, searching for the slightest flaw on her tan skin. She noticed how ragged he looked, his beige trench coat was covered in mud and a few crimson stains…she quickly averted her eyes. They rested on the pitch black cane he held in his right hand. The handle was made of silver and shaped into a snarling wolf's head. The golden eyes of the wolf seemed to follow her as she was led closer to him.
"Good morning, Spider." Belmont said and bowed slightly before the ragged man.
"'Ello Belmont, you rich bastard," Spider hissed, a thick cockney accent present in every syllable. Apparently nothing that comes out of his mouth will ever be pleasant, thought Feather. She flinched as Spider continued his dark sunglasses now facing her. "This the gwel?"
"Yes. Her name is Feather Firestone. Her father was the drunk." Belmont smiled. Feather growled and rushed towards the old man. Suddenly strong arms had snaked around her waist, restraining her. She glared at Belmont and the Spider her eyes red with rage and bloodlust.
"A feisty one, eh?" muttered Spider, his dark gaze washing over her once again.
"Just like her bastard father when he was sane, of course." said Belmont almost to himself.
"No worries, mate. Won't take tha much trouble to break 'er." Feather's eyes flashed with fear and apprehension.
Break me indeed! I'd like to see you try, you scum! Not even Mama on her worst days could take me down! She felt a pang in her heart as she thought of her mother. She wondered how her family was…did Cedric and Eldon recover from their injuries? Did Papa really mean to do this to her? What was the meaning of all this?
"See? She's surrendered already." Before she could react, Spider's dirty fingers had grabbed her chin, forcing her eyes to look into his dark sunglasses. She resisted the urge to shiver as she noticed spots of crimson red blood on his battered fingers and cut gloves. He smirked and suddenly she was on the floor again. She winced as she felt a boot making its mark on her back.
"Get outta here, Belmont. Go back to yer money. The gewl is mine."
"As you wish, Spider and remember…we had a deal." Blue eyes met chocolate brown as Belmont smiled. "Good-bye Feather, my dearest. I shall give your love to your family." She whimpered as Belmont walked out the door, chuckling as his men followed.
No…she thought desperately, No…come back! I want to go home!
"And now my lil…Featha was it? It's time…you work for me now and you WILL obey every command you're giv'n." He roughly untied the rag around Feather's mouth and she spat it out. Then his disgusting hands were in her hair, twisting it and making her kneel before him. She bit back a cry of pain. He grinned and her eyes glittered with fury.
"You'll never have me." She growled, ignoring the sudden dryness in her throat, "Never!"
"We'll see 'bout tha' my dear." Spider snarled, "I wai'nt jokin' when I said I could break you!"
"Well we'll see about that, Spider!" she hissed. "You look as though you could hardly break bread let alone a girl like me!" SLAP! Feather held her cheek which bore the red mark of her captor's hand. They glared at each other, one look murderous the other defiant.
"You'll pay, Feather Firestone…you will pay dearly!" Spider grinned menacingly and to Feather's horror he grasped the head of the wolf and pulled from his cane a long silver sword.