Paternoster Tales: Chapter 18

Strangle-hold

“You have to come back! Silas wants to see you.”

‘What if I don’t want to see Silas?’ is what I thought but didn’t say. This was exactly what I had feared. Silas wanting me. My stomach … okay – so, I don’t have one, but you know what I mean! … churned. I didn’t want to see Silas. I didn’t want to be within spitting distance of him ever again.

Silas has perfected spitting. Not wet spits, not the ones you do. His spits hurt. They fire splinters and bits of grit and any small bit of rubbish he finds on the ground straight at you. Usually they pass straight through and that hurts in itself, but sometimes they lodge in your clothes or on your hair and that’s when you realise that his spits don’t just hurt, they also reek. Think dog poo and a smell that gets up your nose and lingers and you’ll have an idea of how awful his spits are. And understand why it’s a bad idea to be within spitting distance of Silas.

There are many things I want and many I don’t. Seeing Silas is way beyond the top of the don’t want list. If I had skin, standing in front of that poor messenger, it would have been crawling. I didn’t want to hear more. I dreaded the words that might follow. One return, following Paternoster’s orders, was enough. Silas hadn’t ordered me to return. Wanting me to return though, was possibly worse; there’s more thought behind wanting, more raw emotion and anything raw and emotional from Silas was destined to be worse than burning-the-roof-of-your-mouth-with-hot-soup and falling-into-the-Thames-when-you-can’t-swim bad. I started to shake my head and the waif-messenger, a wretched mole shielding his eyes from the sun, started to cry. Then wail. Only Silas could do that to another waif. I knew the feeling. The shame. The emptiness left behind by the loss of self. The fear, sitting heavier than an elephant crushing your chest, of being trapped for eternity with Silas in the London underground tunnels.

“He can’t come up here his-self. You know he can’t,” he sobbed. “He wants you back. He says …”

I interrupted him; flushing at my own cruelty, “I don’t care what he said.”

“He said … He said ‘It’s Lucretia,” the waif continued. “Lucretia knows where the child is. Silas has Lucretia. Or had her,” he gushed, grimacing as if he suddenly remembered something.

Lucretia.

What did I just say about Silas not ordering me to see him?

Lucretia.

Now everything was different. And I knew that Silas had planned it this way.

He had issued an order. And finally, I’d heard it.

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