My absence…is inexcusable. I can only give you reasons for it, some of which are not so pleasant.

But, instead of going into sad and woe-is-me detail, I'll leave you all with this: I had been undergoing a bit of a depression, due to certain circumstances in my life. As a result, my desire to write was slowly abandoned. But I could never completely forsake it.

The absence of writing only made things worse.

And now I'm back, and I feel alive—writing for me, writing to please.

Since I feel that you guys deserve a little bit more than an apology and one last chapter…I'll be writing a Chapter 51 to thank you all for your patience and support, as well as to compensate any literary skill this chapter may lack due to my time off.

You guys may not know it, but your reviews and support have pulled me from a very dark place, and brought me some light, hand-delivered.

From the beginning to end—thank you!

Chapter 50

He dragged her away from the Judge's corpse, her feet trailing out from beneath her, as she clung to his arms. Her nails were imbedded in his flesh, blood dotted around the crescent-shaped imprints.

"Johanna"—he took note of the gash in her leg, her dress blotched with the blackness of dried blood—"God dammit."

Her fists, shaking with pressure, were clenched against the nape of his bear neck. The blood caking his body—Turpin's blood— smeared his daughter's pale cheeks, and clumped in her matted hair—coating her, tainting her. He looked down upon her, freed one hand, and gave a futile attempt in wiping away the crimson beneath her eye with his thumb. The pad of his finger only smeared the gore, until the flesh beneath her eye appeared to be a deep, red bruise.

Johanna shifted herself away from Todd's arms to grant her upper-body a fraction of motion, to center her gaze on Turpin, her eyes a glassy white. Her neck, creased from the strain of keeping it turned towards the Judge, ached and burned. Her body remained firm against Sweeney's, his sweat icy, and his face raging with anger—and even as his eyes drowned in fire, concern floated to the surface as he glimpsed at his daughter.

Johanna uttered something short of a scream—and more so a squawk—through trembling lips as her body fell into tremors, as her father attempted to still her with the force of his arms roping her back into him. When he gripped her chin, forcing her to look back at him, and arched his neck so that their brows touched, she finally ceased her fit. Only soft cries, sometimes fragmented words, could be discerned through her hastened breaths.

"What in the bloody 'ell"—Mrs. Lovett burst through the bake-house doorway, her keen glare taking in the scattered occupants. Toby, who had outrun the baker's frail legs in the chase to reclaim Johanna, had shoved his spine flat against the brick wall, gawking at Mrs. Lovett after her abrupt entry. John had been staring at the father and daughter as they remained in their slumped embrace, but the large ex-con lifted his head towards the baker as her heels clicked against the stone floor, and he twisted his lips into a weak smile.

Johanna had huddled her coiled figure into the shell of her father's body. Her form was almost hidden against him, swallowed whole by his arms and tilted head, but her sobs and sputtered words emanated from the spot, and easily marked her presence.

Mrs. Lovett fell into place, next to John, pulling Toby from the wall. She smoothed the boy's wind-tousled hair, guiding his cheek against her stomach. His hands locked behind her waist as his nostrils filled with her scent—pie dough and the salty mist of the Channel. Toby could not see, with his eyes tucked against Lovett's lacy dress, how the woman's eyes had widened, barely blinking, and almost shining with relief as she stared at the Judge's corpse. Her grip around the boy's shoulders was strong; the lad made no movement against her.

John was the first to break the group's vigil. He began a quick approach toward his friend, the heel of his boots clapping against the moist stone, and the proceeding echo absorbed by the thick, wet air.

"'ere mate," John mumbled, pausing to unbutton his coat. The shirt he wore was thin with stretched hems, glued to his skin with sweat. With another set of steps, though these were slow and cautioned as he drew closer, John approached the barber's front, with his coat brandished before him like a peace-offering. "Put this on."

With a glance at his own bear chest, Sweeney recollected how he had torn his blood-soaked shirt from his body, minutes prior to then. He murmured, "Just throw it on," regarding John's jacket with a frown, like wearing it was some sort of burden.
But it was the task of donning it that was the burden. There would be no sense in even trying to peel Johanna away for a second, let alone for the amount of time it would take to pull on a coat. She would have a fit—his frown grew at the thought.

John swallowed a quick breath of air and circled the slumped pair, until he faced his mate's back. It was not a surprise to him, the thick, white lines that rose above the barber's flesh. Nor were the jagged, pink strokes that were scattered around his ribcage, his lower-back, and the nape of his neck. Patches of discolored flesh were clumped on his shoulder blades. The row of rounded bone that lined Todd's back had been whipped out of alignment, and had healed in a crooked, misshapen pattern. There were the remnants of disjointed ribs prodding from beneath his skin, shaped like the tips of pyramids.

Johanna had felt the coarse bumps strewn across her father's shoulders as she clung to him. And as she battled another tirade of tears, she ran her fingers along his uneven scars, and kissed the bone of his shoulder, where calloused skin had clumped over old injury.

While John hid Sweeney's wounds and distortions with his coat, his memory triggered and flooded, like a dam collapsing under a flood of water. He remembered Barker being beaten into the dirt of the plantations with a rifle's butt as he gripped the guard's boots; the numerous times he was strapped to the poles and whipped with leather claws, and held to the floor as the guards stomped on his spine, on the area over his kidneys, yanking his arms backward until they both gave that empty popping sound.
But that had been all John had seen; all he could remember. The barber's mutilated back had revealed so much more.

After this, John receded to the Judge's body, and pretended to hold a solid interest in the bleeding mass.

Still, Sweeney's attention had never diverted from his daughter. "Why did yeh come back, love?" he sighed. The breath of his words brushed against her hairline. "Huh?" he insisted.
Her failure to respond made his arms twitch.
A pinch grew in his chest.

He should not have questioned her return—he did not have to. The answer was written everywhere, like an imprint on her actions: She had felt he was in danger. So she had rushed home to aid him.
Sweeney could only lay the blame on the bond—their bond. The line that kept their minds tethered to sanity, to safety, to connection. The bond that had been so terribly tight and strained, it could bring him to his knees, and rip his soul in two when they were separated. And yet, the damned thing was what kept him alive while in her presence.

Her voice, though it was pressed against his clothed shoulder, produced something credible—an apology.

"I'm sorry," Johanna said. Her voice was a mere whistle of air; her chest heaved with bated breath.

He could not suppress a soft chuckle, one that rested at his own expense. "Don't be, Johanna. I'm a damned idiot." Craning his neck, he met her irritated, red eyes. Beads of moisture were tangled in her eyelashes.

"You're not," she denied in a whisper. Her hollow tone, thin and fragile, was chipping away, and cries were creeping up her throat. "Y-y-y-your m-my angel, 'member?"

Her ribs throbbed as he doubled his arms around her waist, his voice submerged in silence. She rested her brow against the sharp accent of his jawbone, clasping her hands behind his neck. Silent tears marked her cheeks.

Sweeney Todd, again, released a sigh. There was an emotion, now, that eased his heart to a normal tempo, and soothed his wiry nerves into equilibrium. It was contentment; no more empty, soulless voids. Like a piece to the puzzle, the gap that had dug into his mind had been filled with the satisfaction he sought—to plunge his blade into Turpin flesh, to see the bastard's mouth leak with blood, but the greatest contentment lay with his daughter—she would remain with her rightful guardian.
His objectives were complete; the Judge was dead; the years of meticulous schemes, the lies—over.
And this sudden feeling of wholeness was almost too good for his stomach to bear. He swallowed down his nausea, and glimpsed down at Johanna; the other fragment of his being that had been restored. This was for her—not revenge, but protection.
He had to remind himself of that.

The stench of carrion flesh was beginning to drive into his nostrils, and it surprised him how much the smell sickened him. But how ideal it was for him to remain there, cradling his child, gazing down at his enemy's corpse…

"Johanna." Anthony's voice was like a blunt knife, cutting painfully through the barber's thoughts. Todd glared at the boy, whose feet were facing the backhouse doorway as if he wished to depart, but his upper-body had pivoted to face the pair.

The girl sniffled, and pulled back from her father's chest. To her surprise, his firm grip had loosened for her mobility. Father and daughter wore almost identical expressions—confusion, written in the depression of their brows; an odd sense of calm that kept their words clear, though their eyes were shadowed and restless.

"He won't ever hurt you again," the sailor said, his young face scribbled with thought.

Johanna sniffed again, turning back to her father. She brushed his collar with her finger, lost in thought. "Yes, Anthony," she recited, her thoughts obviously elsewhere.

"Tell me that you believe it," Anthony said, his feet picking a rhythm as he advanced upon her.

Todd's glare was matched with a low, throaty growl. His anger seared, until it poisoned his body with aggression. He stood, bringing Johanna with him, and pushed himself in front of her, his body barring a path between the two teens. His fury burned, not because of the boy's choice to comfort Johanna, but because he was holding his hand out to her, willing her to leave.

The barber's arms prickled with shivers as his daughter slipped a hand onto his arm. She maneuvered her way past her father's blockade, and positioned herself against Sweeney's chest, facing Anthony. The look that crossed her face was ambiguous—too torn to discern a single emotion. Grief and wonder glided across her eyes, bereavement and joy in her words. "I believe it," she said.

Anthony paused, and selected the opportune position on his knees, kneeling like a knight before his lady, staring up into her face. His face was twisted also, but like picking glass from flesh, Todd detected the tears streaking the sailor's pale cheeks.

A sudden awareness pierced Todd's skull, and it delivered pain beyond measure. He glanced around, and finally took notice of a weapon lodged in the dead man's chest, the heat of a furnace he and his partner had used to cook and burn their murder victims, and how horrifying it was to see blood slicked across his Johanna's cheek and onto her innocent, child's hands. He broke the contact between him and his daughter by taking a swift step back.
With erratic fingers, he fastened the buttons of John's jacket up to his neck, his eyes bulging from his skull as he gawked at Johanna's stained skin. His icy chest was soon concealed in the flappy, brown leather.

Seeking the barber's eyes in a quick glance, Anthony held his hand out for Johanna to grasp. She did so, webbing her fingers with his.

"Turpin will never hurt you again, Johanna." With his free hand, Anthony rose, and gripped her quivering chin. His words deviated from a soft volume, but rose with strength. "You are free."

She could barely meet the boy's gaze, let alone speak to him.
To think, she had used this sweet boy as a ploy for escape, and abandoned him the moment her skin touched the stone of London street. She had ensnared him with weak, empty promises of love and a future, and disregarded those words when she received what she wanted—her father. All those words, those sweet promises of a future together; rubbish.

Her heart shuddered as she raised a free hand to the sailor's shoulder, letting it remain there. Only when she whispered an apology did she dare look into his eyes. After that, it was back to staring at the floor, as if a trace of comfort could be gathered from the cold cobblestones.

The barber observed this, but sustained a distance from the two of them. Though he was silent, no one seemed to notice how his body had gone unnaturally still. Unbeknownst to anyone, Todd's mind had begun a painful shift in perspective; his parochial view of the world was being impaled. Not everyone deserved death, and the city's fire that fed the madness of London was beginning to slumber.

The change was cataclysmic, to the point where the man's head began to blister. Todd bit into his lips, his rampage of thought like wood to the wildfire.

Johanna was ogling at Sweeney, a squeak of concern produced from her small voice. "Father?"

Sweeney disregarded his daughter's concern. He could not bar the sailor from Johanna because he had been right. This child—this life—she who kept his soul suspended, and injected meaning into his life, was free.

Todd's sanguine thought passed. Johanna may have been free—free of the Judge, at least. There remained, still, those toxic strings connecting her to a life of hardship, confusion, anger—and he was the most taut, venomous string binding her to it. Her own father, her blood, was most likely the worst thing for her.

And yet, she lived only for him!

Todd's voice was strangled. "Take her," he meant to say, but the sound he released was non-committal.

"Papa, you must stop that!" Johanna shifted, ready to approach him, but Anthony's arm hooked under her arm, around her waist, keeping her fastened to his side. He had seen Todd trapped in one of his rages, and—God almighty— the man was capable of anything during such a tirade; even harming his daughter.
Though Johanna protested Anthony's precaution, the boy remained firm.

Todd continued to ponder, the empty intervals of his thoughts filled with glances at Johanna.
She reached for her father, those blue eyes he so adored now clouded with terror. Her lip twitched, and she leaned away from the sailor, her energy renewed with the growing violence of her protests. She gripped Anthony's hand, prying each individual finger from her arm. "Let go of me, Anthony!" she cried as he renewed his grip with another hand.

Todd came up to the sailor's side, speaking softly, like calming a frightened animal. "Johanna, you must go with him." He allowed himself to smile softly, though the result was not as desired. His lips wore a grimace, but the swift jerk of his head towards the door reaffirmed his purpose—Go.

Still, the hesitation bound her to the spot. "You…you come with me," she sniffed, her hand straining forward. Sweeney became immobile once her fingertips grazed his chest.

"No, my love," he shook his head, whispering. "Not this time."

"Father, please, come here, now." Her words were built on nothing other than cries; no strength, no will. Her energy was depleting from this constant battle—why did she always have to fight for her father?

But the barber's stone-will subsided to her plea. He walked forward and gripped her shoulders, ignoring the hand she had offered.

Anthony abandoned his grasp on the girl, receded to the judge's body, and molded a frown onto his lips. Inside, his heart throbbed when the two began to speak. The love that poured from the girl's face when she was with her father—Anthony sighed, his thoughts lost in wonder. When would that fervent, desperate affection ever be directed towards him?

"Go with the boy," Mr. Todd said to his daughter. "I 'ave to take care of him," Todd flicked his eyes towards the corpse.

Johanna's voice was soft and wearisome.

"But you'll come back to me?" she asked, pain-creases imbedded in her brow.


Sudden energy boiled beneath her skin. "I'll not let have it any other way, dammit!" she shrieked, hurling herself against his chest.

His brow rose, and despite the gruff quality of his admonishment, there was a trace of amusement in his voice. "Language…"

Rather than battle his reprisal, all traces of anger drained from her expression as she drew away from his chest. She fought a tiny sob and placed a palm on his cheek. "You are my father."

His own uncertainty left him speechless.

"This man…here," she brushed her fingers over his breast and circled the area where his irregular pulse thumped through the jacket, "is Benjamin Barker. And he is the only father I'll ever love."

He chose to speak then, his words brutal; a croak of sound. "He's dead, Johanna. Dead."

"No, he isn't, papa. I wouldn't be alive if he was."

Todd took in a breath, as if he was to reply. But he was speechless, again.

Their hands met in a soft, secure grasp. Sweeney glimpsed down at her fingers, how they supported his limp arms, and drew him back to her world—the real world.

A half hour had come to pass. Anthony and Johanna were long gone, up to the barbershop, where Anthony was instructed to dress Johanna's leg wound. Now it was Toby's turn to depart, after he had summoned enough sense to push his way to the exit. Mrs. Lovett followed, reaching forward to cup his shoulder as he hovered in the doorway. The boy's hair swayed as he glimpsed between Mr. Todd, the corpse that streamed blood, and the dark, amorphous stairwell.

Somewhere, as he processed his own unbalanced thoughts, Todd detected an upset in the young lad's eyes—an upset that alerted the barber, but had not the strength to uproot him from the spot. Sweeney's head was keeling with his own ill-ease, though he was certain sympathy for the child had managed to invade his sub-conscious. Yet again.

He cursed beneath his breath, as he broke his own rigidity to approach the lad.

"Boy," he began. The worst thing he could associate with his comment was the insight of how stupid it was—what was he going to do? Threaten the child into silence over the murder of a government official? Yes, that would work out perfectly well!

"Mr. Todd," the child raised his hand, holding it before his face to indicate a wish to speak, rather than self-defense. "I ain't sayin' this because I'm scared or dull or anythin' like that. I might not know a hell of a lot, but I know one thing—and I'll tell anyone who asks." He took a man-sized step away from Mrs. Lovett, and gazed at the barber, dead on. "Judge Turpin never came 'ere."

Again, Todd pondered over what to say. Thank you?

To his horror, his thought line had traveled past his lips. "Thank you?"

Toby's lip raised in a half-smile. His small stature seemed to perk up, his eyes began to gleam.

Mrs. Lovett rubbed his back, drawing him to her side. "I'd say it's far past your bedtime, li'l man," she mumbled, but her voice was far from discontent.

And soon, they had retreated up the stairs, too.

John's speech reminded the barber of his presence.
"Looks like they left the body-dumpin' to the ex-cons, eh?" The man piped up, breaking his solemn watch over the stiff carcass. "It's good to know we keep the company o' intelligent people." His large, toothy grin seemed to outweigh his face.

Todd snorted. "If it'd had been you, you would 'ave had the children do it," he mumbled, closing in on the body. His eyes ran over his razor, jutting out from Turpin's shirt, and the barber knelt down so than his knee rested on the Judge's block of a shoulder. With his knee pinning Turpin to the floor, the barber yanked his weapon from the bone it was encased in. The blade sliced through the Judge's flesh, the sound like a metal hiss. Once freed, Todd inspected his razor, and with a nonchalant grunt, pocketed it in his holster. Dried blood crumbled from his fingers.

With a roll of his eyes, John lowered himself into a squat over the body. "You mean the sailor and that Toby lad? Cleanin' up this bloody mess?"" He glanced at his partner, and caught notice of the man's smirk.
"Not for nothin, Ben, but I think we've traumatized them two enough as it is." The serious look in his eye was unbefitting. "They ain't really kids anymore."

John tersely stood, stepped over the immense torso that blocked his path, and hoisted the Judge's legs into the air by clutching his heels. John soon found the man's boots slipping off as he attempted to pull the Judge by his feet, and with a growl, he yanked the shoes off and threw them into the furnace fire. This time, he gripped the Judge's bear ankles, and attempted to drag the body towards the exit. He managed only a few inches on his own before throwing Turpin's legs to the ground, sending a wad of spit onto the bloodied head.

Todd, severing his own silence, muttered, "Just burn it."

"Naw, Barker, that's too modest." John prodded both hands upon his hips, shaking his head as he scoffed at the Judge's beak-like nose, dripping with beads of snot. Like a child, John's voice held a note of imploration. "Let's do as we said—Paint the Thames red!"

"You mean dump it in the river?"

"No, I intend on inviting him to dinner," John spat, busying himself with another heave of the body towards the door, clutching at the dead legs with a vice-like grip. Still, his grip fumbled, and Turpin's legs slapped against the floor.

"Come on, Ben, help me with this'n." With his hands dragging the Judge now by his listless wrists, John's shoulder squared from the effort, a fine sweat broke across his skin. "The bugger may have been old, but Jaysus Christ, he weighs more than me wife."

Sweeney stormed forward, and with a burst of aggravation, began to drag the Judge towards the door by his ankles, with more success than John's previous attempts. The dead man's head bopped against the cobbled floor, and smacked against the large, metal doorway.

John snickered, "You're having too much fun with this, Ben," and rushed forward to assist his friend.

They had the body wrapped in Lovett's old bed-sheets—the ones that were moth-eaten, stained to a pus-color, and littered with lint-balls. Then, with the assistance of the baker, the ex-cons were given a wheelbarrow—frequently used to cart raw meat from vendor stalls to her furnace—in which they placed the wrapped corpse.

After they brought the body outside, the men carted their victim into the outside dining section of Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pie Emporium, where they stuffed handfuls of dirt from her wilting flowerbeds into the pushcart to conceal the corpse. Once they were through, their hands were caked with filth, and granules of pebbles and dirt had burrowed beneath their nails.

London's streets were not vacant, but they were by no means crowded at this hour. From what Sweeney gathered, the position of the moon and the lack of human activity indicated it was at least three in the morning.

John and Sweeney had drawn their coat collars up to their chins, and had both donned hats which Mrs. Lovett had provided for them. (She neglected to mention they had belonged to her late husband, Albert, but thought it pointless in mentioning the fact anyway.) The rims of the headwear sunk pas their brows—for their previous owner was obviously a large gentleman—and barely cut across their eyes. It served well in masking their faces, especially in the ill-lit roads.

John kept his hunting knife unsheathed, and tucked away into a sewn-in pocket; Sweeney had his razor stashed in its holster. Anthony's pistol was nestled beside Turpin's body in the wheelbarrow, covered by only a thin layer of soil.

Well-concealed and equipped, the two set off to the piers, carting their prize through the vacant backstreets and passageways of London. Of course, there would be a ruffian or two that would spare them a fleeting frown, or a bawdy whore who would offer the two of them a discount before having a shot at her flask, and falling into an alley with a snickering customer.

The only Constable that spotted the pair had been pressed to the wall of an abandoned pub, with a girl settled on her knees before him, undoing the straps of his belt.
"Evenin', gents," he slurred, tapping his fingers on the tip of his uniform headgear. He glanced down as the girl struggled with his bronze buckle. "To the deuce with it!" he roared, wrenching it off himself.

After that particular disturbance, the barber and his partner went undisturbed by any nightly vagabonds.
There was something about two men with heavy coats, large hats, and a large wheelbarrow with unknown cargo that remained unsettling to a passerby.

They reached the docks within an hour, the weight of the body tacking on an extra twenty minutes at least. The streetlamps were brighter here, and their glow bounced off of the Channel's glass-smooth surface. John advised they travel down the side of the dock, until they reached the more distanced ports typically used for smaller ships, fewer passengers, and little cargo. As they drew further from the heart of London city, the orange shine of street lanterns turned into a soft, white glow—into moonlight.

There lay small docks, where merchant boats were tethered to the wooden planks. Though the body may never have been found in such an obscure area, the risk of recognition was far too dangerous with the streetlamps and large ports hovering in the near distance. And the piers extended only a few yards or so, before a large state building sealed off their path, and ended the journey along the Channel. It was either here or nowhere.

John scanned the water from the safety of the pier's edge, nodding to himself.

"Yes, 'ere will 'ave to do. With any luck," he briefly noted a bridge than hung miles above their heads, extending from the great stone city like an iron promontory, "some bloke up there will spot the floater." His voice was growing softer, "or someone strollin' by o'er 'ere..."

Sweeney kept his head bent, but glanced up only to take note of his surroundings. No one, be it someone on the bridge, or someone passing by the dank, barren pier would see the Judge's body.

"It won't matter," Todd mumbled, the heel of his boot dragging along moist gravel as he joined John by his side. "Turpin was chokin' after we 'ad at 'im…on blood…He didn't have any air left—he won't float."

John gave an aggravated sigh, but the sound his mighty lungs expelled was more of a growl. Snow drifted down, and dotted the water, its surface blooming with ripples.

A slap of wind tore over the Channel, and ripped the smooth waves into choppy ringlets.

A grin crawled onto John's lips, his features pale and dim in the moon's rays. "A strong wind," he remarked, turning to Sweeney, "makes a strong current." The mischief in his eyes, tucked beneath the hat, gleamed like fire—there it was again, that uncanny resemblance to a child in the eyes of a middle-aged ex-con. Sweeney had to keep from rolling his eyes.

They started with recovering the mummified body from the cart of dirt. Todd bent over the carcass, and began unwinding the sheet from the bloody flesh, first exposing Turpin's feet, then his knees, his torso, and finally his head—which rested askew on his large shoulders. White bone peeked from beneath the skin of his collar-bone, like a large, crooked finger poking through the man's shirt-collar.
Must have happened when he fell through the trap-door, Sweeney thought, though he was thoroughly surprised he had overlooked it.

John drew himself into a crouch. His grimace was hidden behind the leather of his jacket as the pain in his knees dug through the core of his body.
"Alright, Ben; roll the barrow here, and dump it—I'll make sure the bugger don't make a sound."

Sweeney gripped the wooden handles, and wheeled the cart to the edge. The tip of the pushcart hung over the water, dipping closer and closer to the restless waves. John held his hands beneath the metal rim, creating a net with his arms in which he cradled the body as it slipped from its confines.

"Jaysus," John huffed as he dipped the Judge's legs into the water. The blackness began to swallow the corpse whole, devouring his knees, his waist, then lapping past his chest.

John held the Judge beneath his arms, so that the head of thick, grey hair remained above the water. The waves sluiced around his neck, and frothed against the spikes of stubble upon his chin. His mouth, dumb and open, filled with brackish water as he bobbed over and under the waves.

"Ben, take a good look," John said. "I want yeh to make your peace. Put them demons to rest."

"Just let the fucker sink—"

"I will, Ben, but I'm goin' to bloody well wait for yeh. Now hurry it up and get your closure—this bugger isn't goin' to stay afloat for long."

Todd nodded, and then fell into a moment of silence. As much as he wanted to, as good as it would have been to purge himself of such hatred then and there, he could not. The moment was too forced, and his mind was at war with the reality of the Judge being dead to begin with. Fifteen years of wishing it and now it seemed all-together impossible. It was like trying to summon sleep as he lay in a prison cot, or willingly pushing the nightmares from his brain for a moment of peace. It could not be done.
Sweeney took a small step back. "Let 'im go."

"Brilliant, Ben. Now gimme a moment, too. Mr. Judge Turpin—" For a moment, John appeared sincere. There was a hesitance in his voice. His face began a transformation of pain written in his brow. The amiable glow in his eyes fell into something forsworn. A nostalgia that Sweeney had never before seen in his friend seemed to dampen John's face with a frown.
"Kiss my rotten cooler!" He brayed with laughter, abandoned his arms from the Judge's body, and extended his middle finger towards the sinking heap.

The body disappeared under the black water, and only the moonlight provided sight as the silver hair sank deeper through the abyss. Within a moment, the oil and pollution of the Chanel coated the body, and a thick film spread over the surface like a sheet of ink. The disturbance on the surface soon melded into the rippling tide.

John brushed the dirt sleeked onto his hands against his trousers. Placing the flat of his heel against the wheelbarrow, he uttered a soft grunt, and sent it over the edge. It splashed into the water, gurgled as pockets of air sprouted from its soil-filled belly, and eventually dipped under.

Sweeney stared at the foul surface—the once powerful, feared, and revered Turpin would be imbedded in oil, sand, and refuse before the barber's eyes could tear from the water.

Only now did Sweeney Todd surrender the moment to think.

Unspoken words began to bubble to the surface.

He has stolen my freedom—laughter—smile—tears. He drained me of life, filled me with hate. He murdered me.

Todd turned from the pier, and began a brisk stride to the end of the dock.

I can barely remember the life had before those fifteen years. When I close my eyes, I feel blood. I hear screams. I see him.

John managed to meet the barber's pace, so that the two walked in sync down the cobbled road.

He has taken away my chance to be a husband—the chance to watch my baby grow.

"I can't forgive him."

John switched his gaze, which had been centered on the street passing beneath his feet, to the side of Sweeney's face.
"Ain't no one asking yeh to, Ben," he said.

"I know," mumbled Todd, but his feet lagged in step, and he suddenly came to a stop. His eyes shot up; widening an inch, bright with some sort of revelation. "But if I'm to be a father to my daughter, her real father"—the stony foundation that was always set in his brow began to break; the gravel in his voice became watery—"then I have to try."

"Try to forgive him, you mean?" John clapped his palm onto Todd's shoulder, easing him into walking again.

"Yeah," Todd nodded, his eyes still raised with purpose as his feet moved on their own accord, his mind detached from the rest of his body. "Then at least," his words were becoming fainter, "I won't be to worst thing for her…I won't have to keep myself away…"

John chuckled, drawing his collar down to his neck as the two approached Mrs. Lovett's shop. "I asked for yeh to gain closure ages ago, and now 'ere it is." He gripped the door handle, and gave it a wrench to the left, easing the wood open with one broad shoulder. "But it's as the ol' sayin' goes—better late than never, aye?"

Before Todd could follow into the bakery, he spared the sky one last glance.

The horizon was threaded with gold, as the sun reached towards the sky in an earnest climb. Clouds drifted over the rays, and their moist haze faded as rivers of sunlight seeped through their translucent bodies.
A slightly warm wind, rather than a frosty, winter sting, brushed over the vacant streets, like a hand caressing the stone and the very few who tread upon it.

With a sigh, Sweeney Todd turned away from the sight, entered into Mrs. Lovett's shop, as the wind eased the door shut in his wake.

As I have said before, there will be another chapter after this. You all deserve it :)

And I am so looking forward to reading your amazing reviews once again. They truly make me happy! Please drop me a line, tell me how you felt about the chapter. I did all I good to make it a decent read.

Until next update!