Wickham's Close Shave

It was late at night, or rather, early in the morning when a Mr. Wickham left the gaming tables and stumbled into the streets in a seedy part of London. His pockets were far lighter than when he arrived, and so was his head. With so few coins lining his pocket, Wickham couldn't risk taking a hackney cab back to his lodgings. So he set off walking in what he hoped was the right direction. As the sun began to rise, and a few other souls began bustling about down the street, Wickham's head cleared enough to realized that his vision had been blurred enough the night before to mistake street signs and landmarks and he was soon in unfamiliar territory.

He wandered for quite a bit longer before his stomach began to rumble and he kept his eyes open for a place to get a quick bite. Luckily for him, up ahead was a pie shop and he was quite pleased to say that he recognized it. His new friend Lieutenant Denny, whom he met not long after purchasing a commission in the same militia troop, took him there for lunch before returning to Hertfordshire. Well, maybe Wickham didn't purchase the commission so much as stole it off a man who had drunk too much at the end of a card game as to render himself unconscious. Wickham, who had lost £20 to that same gentleman, took it as compensation for his losses.

But was it too early to hope for a meat pie? Wickham sniffed the air but was disappointed not to smell anything cooking. He paused outside the shop and peered inside the glass, but nothing was moving about in there. As he took a step back, he caught glimpse of his reflection in the mirror and was startled by the gruff beard that was beginning to take hold of his face. He grimaced at the sight; he was expected in Hertfordshire that afternoon to meet up with Denny and meet his future commanding officer. It would not do at all to been seen in such a state if he was to lay on his usual charms. He sniffed his clothing and decided a bath would be in order, but that could be accomplished at his lodgings before he skipped out. But the first thing he needed was a shave. He followed the window bank to the corner and turned to follow it. There was a terrace adjoining the pie shop where several tables were set up to accommodate the large dining crowds for supper. At the end of the terrace was a staircase that Wickham followed with his eyes up to a striped pole. Red and white, what luck! A barber!

Wickham whistled merrily as he bound up the steps and knocked briskly on the barber's door.

"Come in!" shouted a gravelly voice and Wickham let himself into the shop. His first sight was a large bank of windows along the opposite wall with a view over London. Silhouetted against the window was the barber, shaving a young man. "I will just be a few minutes sir, take a seat." Wickham turned to the left and sat on a long trunk next to a very fine wench with an unfortunate baby bouncing on her knee. The woman smiled politely at him before returning her attention to her child. 'I must really be in need of a shave,' thought Wickham, who had sent the woman his most winning smile. That same smile had Georgiana agreeing to a number of things she should not have. Wickham grinned wolfishly at the memory.

The barber quickly finished his work and the young man placed a few coins on the shave table. "Thank you Mr. Todd," he said, collecting his hat and wife. "I shall see you in a few days,"

"Of course, young Belham. Mrs. Belham," answered Mr. Todd as the young man and his family exited the room. "Just a few moments to clean up sir. Mr. Todd at your service,"

Wickham nodded to the barber, a man with wild black hair with a streak of white, and watched as he brushed off the chair and began sweeping up the hairs on the floor. "I am Mr. Wickham, sir and am in dire need of a shave,"

Mr. Todd grinned, "Yes sir, indeed you do. But I don't think I've seen you around here before."

"I have only lately been in London and shall soon be off to Hertfordshire in hopes of joining the militia. My lodgings are by St. Clements, close to the docks."

"An army man, that is quite impressive. Though a little late at your age isn't it? Though I'm sure with hard work and a little luck, you'll be able to afford a wife. You are still a bachelor, yes?"

Wickham shrugged, "I haven't had much luck with careers, though plenty with the ladies. My only wealthy connection disowned me merely because I tried to elope with his sister for her £30,000. The only work I ever want to have to do is convincing a young lady of fortune to accept me as her lawfully wedded husband. Until then, I'm sure that being in a militia uniform will attract all the young girls to my already handsome person and I will be able to persuade them to share a few of their charms. Discreetly of course. When I was in Cornwall, I got a tradesman's daughter pregnant and she blabbed to her father about me. I nearly was run out of town. I'd like to make a fresh start. Maybe I can get a girl young enough that she couldn't carry a child yet,"

Mr. Todd had paused in his sweeping and stared at Wickham for a long moment before nodding and gestured to the barber's chair. "Come now Mr. Wickham, almost ready. Take a seat."

Wickham rose and moved to the large chair and sat down. Mr. Todd placed a warm damp cloth upon his face. After he removed it, he brushed on the shaving lather.

"I think you'll find sir," began Mr. Todd, as he religiously sharpened his fine silver razors, "that you'll be needing a bath first if you plan on seducing any girl, lady or not. Perhaps you'd like some French cologne?"

Wickham laughed, "Yes, indeed a bath is in order, but first, sir, I think, a shave,"

Mr. Todd settled himself behind Wickham, brought the razor in close and whispered, "The closest I ever gave."

A flash of silver later, with his life blood flowing freely from his neck, Mr. Wickham was slid lifeless through a hole in the floor and landed dead in the cellar below. Sweeney Todd wiped away the squirt of blood that had landed on his face and set the barber's chair to rights. Mrs. Lovett would be pleased; there would be scoundrel on the menu tonight.