My first official foray into non-humor Dark Shadows fanfiction. Hopefully you find this story worth sticking with.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dark Shadows

Warning: this is very AU or PT.


Prologue- The Mute and the Madame

"That mute's outside 'gain, ma'am."

The woman peered out the pitiful window. The girl was right- it was the same man from the night before. Beggars came by the rancid house each day; one man made no difference, but this one, she suspected, was scaring away her customers.

It was time to greet the "mute." He was still sitting on the dusty steps when she stepped out of the joint, bosom almost fully exposed and old dress dragging behind her feet. She knew what she would appear to him- an aging, washed up failure, covered in make-up and reeking of heavy perfume. But she knew her presence would alarm him nonetheless.

She stood before him, arms crossed. He refused to make eye contact; from the look of things, he had seen better days. The remains of a silk cravat still hung around his neck. Even his dusty, torn coat had aristocracy written all over it. But whatever glory this man once had clearly no longer existed.

He was no better than the drunkards who passed out within her walls. Dirtier, even. The man was filthy, covered in grime and dried blood.

The first night he showed up, the girls expected him to come in begging. All he ever did was sit, back straight, and heavy-set eyes staring down, the cruel lines in that face still adjusting to some new life.

The second night, they had expected a brawl. Coming to a town like theirs, dressed the way he was, it was about time a robbery occurred. Nothing happened. He stayed sitting while the men picked him dry.

The third and fourth nights, he disappeared. She lost two girls.

He returned on the fifth night, splattered with hardening blood, as if inviting the law to come after him. Of course, the law did nothing.

It was time for confrontation. No man dared approach the joint with his eerie presence so obvious.

"Can you talk?" she asked.

"…"

"I'm speaking to you. You kill my girls?"

That sparked a response. He looked up at her.

"They're not free, you know."

Maybe he really was mute.

She laughed harshly. "But there really was nothing here for them. Guess you lucked out."

"…"

"I don't know who you are or where you came from, but this is a business I'm trying to keep here. There's a plague on this town and these women need their jobs, do you understand? I'm not asking again- please leave."

He kept the same blank stare.

"My name is Julia Hoffman. Unless you've got something to pay, go away."

"…"

"You got a name?"

His mouth moved. Silence.

"Collins… They used to call me Collins."


Thanks for reading!