On the dark night of October, a man ran along the lonely sidestreets of London.
The package he was carrying would be the last one.
The last service he would do.
Then he would be free, so the woman had promised him.
The twine-tied box rustling and moved in his hands.
"Do not look inside", had been an absolute command.
But what to do when the box vibrated when the inside-bound creature hurtled by panic.
The long-whisked snout find a weak spot, and penetrated under the deck to smelling rotten-smelling air of the ginnels.
The man slammed his hand over the lid, closing the rat back in its hole.
Unnoticing the small black dot that had sneaked out and now scuttle up on his arm, toward the safety on sleeve.
The next morning revealed the distorted features of the dead man.
Blood on his lips, horror in his eyes.
Passers-by's screams brought polices, whom did not notice the small, dead flea when they examined the body.
And they did not know that a box full of death had disappeared.
”On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lillies blow
Round an island there below
The island of Shalott.”
I sighed, and tossed the book down to the floor from the couch where I drowsed reading.
It had been more than three months since I had moved from some strange power to England in the late 19th century.
Just at the beginning of June I had been a freelancer-writer who live a fairly normal life, shuttled between of work tasks, the maternity of a ten-year-old daughter and the role of a wife of musician.
Then I woke up one day in a strange room, and I learned that I had moved not only in time and place, but also in some kind of parallel reality, in which, besides people, lives demons, angels, grim reapers and who knows what else too.
My host had made a contract with the demon, who served in the mansion butler.
In addition, he served as Queen Victoria's personal watchdog, task of keeping an eye on events in the underworld and resolve threats to national security events.
Heavy burden for only 14 years of age.
And I, the 2000s Finnish woman, I was stuck in a foreign language-speaking country, and oppression of Victorian manners.
When I had survived the worst jolt of culture shock, life had gradually begun to settle down pattern.
I was a respected guest in the mansion, though I tried to refuse excessive pampering and I got to work at the house when needed and when the situation so demands.
The servants of the manor had become some kind of friends and substitute of family for my loneliness.
The chef Bard, who, although he did not usually have to do the kitchen just because of his explosive ambition, had kindly taught me to shoot with his single-fired Sharps rifle that he had brought with him in America serving as a sergeant in the army.
Mey-Rin, who was a brilliant sniper (and very long-sighted), was always eager to chew the fat while we were fold the bedsheets or be busy in the kitchen. It was easy to laugh properly with another woman, and I enjoyed her company sincerely.
Young Finnian, who served as a gardener at the mansion, was a bright spot in the life of inexhaustible sunniness and overflowing cheerfulness. Merely his presence got the sun feel warmer and worries more lightly.
I say young, but in reality I have no idea how old Finny was.
When asked about the matter, he did not know it. He could as well be a fairly tall twelve-year-old or a childlike eighteen years old. Asking beat about a bush I had discovered that Finny had been some kind of medical examiner, from which derive his ability to lift the fallen tree trunks and break the ribs with an inadvertent hug.
He was extremely happy at the mansion where he could always be outdoors, where he had friends, an important job he enjoyed, and the name instead of just a series of numbers.
Master of the manor, Earl Ciel Phantomhive. Son of Earl, grandson of the Earl. Who know how many generations in a family that has carried burden of the title and status. Funtom.co was a family company whose extensive repertoire was the main product of confectionery and toys, but it was also an export and import company, food business and had started cosmetics. The sale of the new lily-of-the-valley parfume had been quite detonating, when the famous opera singer Irene Diaz start give her faces for the publicity.
The business had grown manyfold after the young Earl entering into the reins, and no wonder, since the more politicly human will have to look for. Only just over 150cm tall, fragile body contained Albert Einstein's intelligence, Margaret Thatcher's willpower and Garri Kasparov's calculation capability. I have never been regarded as a stupid woman, but in him company, I prefer my mouth shut and follow orders.
And I do not even dream of playing chess with him.
Then Sebastian .....
And the thorn in my side.
To Earl Sebastian was a bodyguard, entrusted and a man who kept everything running.
For other service, Sebastian was the supreme authority, guide, father figure that was respected and feared, but also relied on unreservedly.
For me, he was a flesh of temptation who did all that my resistance would crumble.
Our current situation prevailed somewhere between the cold war and the armistice.
Courtesy and expectation of the next move.
Which one's self-hitch would cometo a end first ....
I groaned and picked the book back in my hand.
”Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.”
I loved Tennyson, but reading the familiar poems from time to time was dull.
It was actually my biggest problem.
I spent my days eating, reading, and wandering in the garden.
The first few days the case was suitable for me. The unconsciousness of the weeks and the starvation had caused my healt tremendously, and it took time to return to my former condition.
But as the weeks passed, I had read almost everything interest in Earl's library (exept of French and German writings that I did not understand more as a few words), I eat myself in my former weight, and as magnificent as the Finny's garden was, its limit as well as how much time you can spent there time just watching.
Especially, because I was redhead, I have to sitting in the deep shadow, or I would burn my skin on the scorch in English swelter.
The opera's balls and the captivating of the murderer had been a welcome adventure, but the weeks after it had been quiet as in the tomb.
I straightened my leg on the couch and lifted an open book over my face in the idea that I would take the nap to shorten the long afternoon when I heard the door open.
I peek under the edge of the book, and I saw Earl and Sebastian came in, latter the white envelope in his hand.
Should some fun come to the life at last?
Only hours later, I sat in the carriages opposite Earl and listened to how he told me about the letter. Apparently, a man was found dead in London, whose cause of death seemed to be the same as some workers who found in the countryside about a month ago. The Queen feared the possibility of some kind of sabotage and had ordered Her Watchdog to investigate the matter.
We went to Phantomhive Town House to live there during the research.
The Queen had invited Earl to speak on with Her the day after tomorrow, so in tomorrow's program there would be an examination of the body and its place of discovery.
The wagons stalled in front of a small, brown-tiled mansion, and we stepped out.
I had been waiting for a traditional London townhouse, but obviously the value of a nobleman was not suitable for living by the side of street.
As we approached the door, it opened a tall, indian-looking man dressed in green.
"Good evening, Agni", Earl greet.
"Shiva is merciful, we will see the Young Lord here again," man wished his hands joined together at the height of his chest.
If I had any doubts about the nationality of a man, his words wiped them away.
We walked into the vestibule, I just one step behind Earl when someone rushed down the stairs.
"Ciel!" Ring out an enthusiastic voice.
Earl stepped quickly aside, and I totter backward by the collision.
"I like your way to greet, but is not that a little bit extravagant, with a first meeting?" I smiled at a violet-haired Indian man who was quite amazed to get his arms full adult woman instead of the young boy he assumed.
I chuckling amused, when the young man fall back blushing and grope embarrassed his hair.
"Krhm, nice to meet you, Lady, and please, forgive me for that ..."
"It is okay. Just do not take the habit, "I grinned.
"Please follow me, Lady, I'll show you your room," Agni stepped into the vestibule with my suitcase.
"Dinner provided after half an hour."
Autumn seemed the first signs next morning in London.
Heavy clouds dangle low and pour out their load when we walked along the sloppy Raymond Road towards to the firm where Earl wanted to drop in.
I stopped for a moment in front of the facade.
On both sides of the door was standing coffins, like as samples, and a large placard told the owner's profession.
What a hell Earl needs here, I wondered when I walked into the dark room after Earl and Sebastian.
There was no lamp in the room, only a pale, noon light from the windows revealed around the room laying coffins to customer's gazes.
I walked in to the room, and looked curiously in different sizes of coffins.
"Undertaker, where are you?", I heard Earl calling.
As a response, a hoarse snikcer carried from the standing chest beside me, and I boggle startled when the coffin deck open and the gloved hand appeared.
I stepped until my back hit the wall when the coffin opened and the inhabitant step forward.
Dressed in a dark, slim figure turned his face toward me, and a smile rose to the scarred, long gray hair-covered face.
"My, what a beauty here has come. You will look so ravishing on the white satin, darling. I'll make you a fabulous coffin for your last trip. "
"Do not scare Lady, Undertaker. I need to talk to you, "Earl blurted out.
"Ah, the young Earl. Would you like to fit coffin, which I have prepared for you? ", Man with a silver hair asked, turning to the young man's side and leaving me gasping my breath.
"No thank you. I do not think I need it in the near future. I need some information from you. "
"A-a-ah, you know that I have my price."
"Alright. A good laugh, as always. Sebastian! "The young man said.
We raised all three of our eyes, surprised by a sharp forbiddance.
"I want her," the man continued, pointing to me.
"Unfortunately, I'm not a very funny person," I said, leaning on the wall with my arms crossed under my breast.
"I did not mean it," the mortician said.
"I want half an hour to twosome with you."
Two indignant breaths echoed in the air when the morician stepped in front of me and raised his hands to my face.
"Absolutely not!", I heard Sebastian's voice.
I took the man's cool hand and lifted it off my skin.
"I am not a commodity that can be used as part of barter," I said coldly.
"Bummer. However, it is my price. "
Earl swept his steel gray bangs irritating.
"I need to get the information."
I did not listen to the men's speeches.
I followed with my eyes the movements of the Undertaker.
Despite his silver hair, he was moving lightly and flexibly, moving hinting at the powerful body beneath worn clothing.
The long bangs covered bright, almost luminous pale green eyes, but there was no wrinkle in the face besides a long scar.
If I saw him in ordinary clothes, I would probably see him as a man at his best age, but he had the same feeling of timeless as Sebastian.
Perhaps grant would not be a bad thing...
However, I had been alone on my bed for a long time, if the prudish expression was allowed.
"Out," I said.
Earl and Sebastian looked up in the middle of the conversation.
"You heard me. Out. Go shopping or something, "I command.
“Are you saying you agree? "Earl sighed.
"Yes, on two conditions. When they come back, I have to be physically and mentally in the same condition as it is now. And this will not become a habit. Only this one time. "
I looked sharply at the Undertaker, who smiled awry to me.
When Sebastian disapproval stiff back disappeared out of the door, the mortician turned a door's signboard CLOSED-side forth.
"Come on, my dear. I would think that in upstairs would be more comfortable..... "
Less than an hour later, I sat down on the coffin downstair in the shop, and untangled by comb my hair when the door opened.
Young Earl stepped inside, behind him Sebastian, who looked stormy.
I smirked to Earl and continued to coif my hair.
Flushed boy looked around hesitantly, and I lifted up my eyes towards the curtain, what separated the store from the private space.
Undertaker stepped into the room entail a cup of tea, that he put down beside me on the coffin.
"Well, young Earl, what do you want to know ...?"
My try of listening was interrupted when Sebastian kneeled in front of me.
"How could you?" he croak.
"What do you mean, how could I? Do I have to remind you that I am only one who had an authority of my body? You can ask, you can beg, you can even pray, but me, and only I create of the rules and what I do in my body. The only thing that's belong for you even little, is that my corset ribbon is tied to a quagmire! "I said, and put my comb back in my bag.
I'm not a religious person, but God save me from jealous demons.
This is exactly why I had not consented to Sebastian's temptations. More intimate relationships caused, in addition to physical satisfaction, strong emotions, and bedding with a member of the same household was the perfect way to ruin the peace of the domestic life.
Unfortunately, it seemed that my trying had failed.
The jealousy exude out from Sebastian like the heat of the stove, and I was afraid that the suppressed feeling would explode in one way or another.
I decided to remove myself from the equation, just in case.
I stood up and lifted the empty cup on the counter.
"One block away was a drugstore. I go there now, before we go on. See you in the carriage. "
" And thanks for the tea, "I went on and walked out.
The rain had ceased, and the cool, humid air caressed my warm skin.
I hummed under my breath when I step towards the nearby business building.
Lunch in the townhouse's dining room was solemn.
"The cause of death of the bodies was consistent, but individual symptoms were visible. Two men died in the same way as a man found in London. Their body had a lot of subcutaneous bleeding, and blood was also on the lips as if they were in pain or in the throat.
Other dead also had strong inflammation in their armpits, groin and neck, as well as large sphinxes in the armpits and groin areas.
Everyone had died painfully, but there were no external injury traces.
Apparently, the death caused by a disease, "Earl explained.
The symptoms seemed badly familiar.
"What kind of place in the countryside were the dead men found?" I asked, pushing my plate farther.
I had lost my appetite.
Earl checked the paper stack.
"From a small farmhouse. From the hous discovered cages, which had been dead rats, as well as a little bit of medical equipment. Test tubes and the like. "
I swallowed hard.
"When in London was last plague?" I asked.
"Not for a long time. Tuberculosis and cholera occur in the waves, but there has not been a direct epidemic for decades. "
"Is there been the plague epidemic occurred after the year 1666?" I asked with a dry mouth.
"No. Why do you ask?"
"The symptoms match with the lethal disease caused by Yersinia pestis bacterium, commonly known as the plague," I went on and stretched my hand toward the bottle of wine.
I needed something mind-numbing.
"Sebastian, what do you know about this disease?" Earl asked butlers.
"I have witnessed the destructive power of plague twice. For the first time in 514 A.D when I served the warlord Belisarius in of the time Byzantine area. Constantinople came to a terrible pestilence that resulted in the deaths of most of the city's population. The victims were suddenly fevered, some were sleeping, some were walking or in the middle of their chores. In the Illnesses armpits and groinings appeared abscesses, and many died in pain. Some fell into unconsciousness and died while sleeping. People died like flies, in the end the corpses were just left to rot when the healthy ones were not enough to bury them. "
"The second time was 1374 Catania in Sicily when my Master was Catania's duke Giovanni d'Aragona, Fredrik III and Eleanor Anjou's fourth son, who also died in Black Death following year. Even then, most of the sufferers got swollen wounds on their armpits and groin, but there were also patients who died faster, only within 24 hours, and received similar big bruises as the dead man had, "the butler continued seriously.
"The method of spreading the disease is unknown, but it gets very easy. If one family member gets ill, the rest are gone within a week. Only a quarter of the sick, if even so many, recover, and they too often stay infirms. "
"Fleas," I croaked.
Two heads turned to look at me.
I emptied my glass and pushed the bottle away. Better drink only water, though.
"There are three different types of plague, all of which are infected by a flea carrying a disease in their body, and the manifestation of the disease depends on where the pathogen spreading. The most common form of abscesses caught directly by the bite of the flea, causing the patient to fever after a few symptomless days after infection. Other symptoms include headache, cold shivers and general weakness, which is why the disease can easily be confused with influenza at an early stage. The parasitic bacterium gravitate to the nearest lymph gland and start to grow in it. The lymph glands beging to sore and swell and the skin begins to form abscesses, and in the final stage also purulent wounds. "
I drank my glass of water empty. Nervousness and speaking made my mouth dry.
"How do you know so much?" Earl asked.
"I did disserrtation at the University of plague, and in particular the second pandemic, which also the Black Death belonged to. It's been more than ten years, but I still remember the main points. "
"Continue," I was urged.
"In septicemic plague symptoms also include fever and chills. In addition, the patient gets stomach ache and subcutaneous and internal bleeding. Skin and other tissues are subject to change black and may have gangrene, especially in the extreme parts; in the nose, fingers and toes. This format is the fastest. If the bacterium gets into the bloodstream, you will not even be able to do your will if the lawyer is not already in the house. The mortality rate is a full 100% "
The next option was so creepy that my stomach twisted.
"Rarest form of plague is a pneunomic plague. It is also the only form that can transmitted directly from one human to another, as a droplet infection directly into the lungs. The special symptom is bloody cough and chest pain and may also occur at the end of other forms of illness when the affected organism is full of bacteria. "
"How people can protect themselves?" Earl asked gravely.
"In no way," I replied.
"The first effective vaccine against the plague is being developed only in 1897 in India. I do not remember the developer's name anymore. In my time, the plague is rare and it is mainly found in Asia where it is endemic to local rodents, and in Africa where cases have been growing in recent years. In the 2010s, the worst plagued country in the world has been Madagascar, with epidemics every year. The disease is treated with effective antibiotics, which will not be developed for decades. "
"In a word, if this really is a plague, we are moving towards a helter-skelter hell on earth."
Earl and Sebastian exchanged worried glances.
"Oh, how I hope it is winter already," I sighed and buried my face to my palms.
"Plague bacteria do not survive the cold and dry. They need heat and moisture to survive, even though the bacteria bearing the fleas are alive for how long ... "
Suddenly the thought came to my mind.
"How long is it when a man was found out of the street?"
"In the morning becomes full three days," Earl replied.
"Plague incubation period is three days, no more than four. If this is a plague, there may be cases of illness around the city. "
"Let's hope, then, that this is not it," Earl sighed and got up from the table.
"We can not do anything right now."
"Yes we can," I said as I climbed up.
"Let's keep damn good care of the fact that nowhere in the houses is not a single animal that could carry fleas."
The next day, when Earl and Sebastian had left to the audience with the Queen, I asked Agni to order me wagons.
"Where are you going?" Soma wanted to know.
However, I had a second goal, which I did not want to share.
When the wagons stopped in front of the funeral home, I felt a slight nervousness waving in my body.
But I reminded myself that the worst thing for me could happen would be to throw it out.
And remembering the last day, it would be unlikely.
I straightening my posture and stepped through the door.
My arrival got the bell to ring above the door.
"Just a second, I'll come right away," I heard the mortician shouting behind the curtain.
I breathed deeply, and put the scarf over my head down to my shoulder.
"Well, I did not expect to see Lady anymore. Are you run Earl's errands? "The mortician asked when he walked to the store, drying his hands on the towel.
"No, I'm here with my own," I replied while I stepped closer.
"I thought that you said yesterday will be the only time?"
"I said it was the only time I agreed to be a means of payment," I replied as I pulled on his thick bangs to the side so I could look straight at the man's yellow-green eyes.
"Do you want me to leave?" I asked.
"Do you have work?"
"The dead have the patience," the man answered and pressed his lips in my palm.
The pale afternoon light flow over our naked bodies, intertwined with each other when we lay down on the messed up bed in the upstairs living areas.
I lay on a silver-haired man side, head on his shoulder, and I brush lazily in the long, moonlight shades tress over my fingers while our hearts slowly calmed their beats, and the sweatdrops were drying on our skin.
"What are you aiming for?" I heard a man say with a low voice.
"I do not understand the question."
"By coming here."
What I really thought, when I decided to give the address to the driver?
Did I just want physical satisfaction?
Did I want to fill the hunger of the touch, need to be caressed, feel peace in the others arms?
Or was this the need creating by approaching death, want to feel to live, to sense it?
"Shilling of your thoughts."
The run of my thoughts broke into the man's words.
"Hmmm, quite expensive. In my country, they say 'penny your thoughts.' "
"They do not value the secrets very high," the man whispered.
"But you did not answer my question."
"Hmm, my last ambition was to have an orgasm, and I think I get on top of trade a few extra ...." I smiled.
I felt how the man's chest jolt out of laughter.
"Always at your service, Lady."
"But I meant why you come to me, when in the mansion ..." the man did not finish his sentence.
I looked up into his eyes.
"I do not know what you thinking of me, but I'm not interested in little boys. I prefer adult men "I answered without knowing if I should be upset or not.
"Well, in that case, you made the actual choice," the man chuckled by laughter.
"Older then I is hard to find." The last words were spoken so softly, I did not know whether they were meant to be heard.
"I could say that you are very well-preserved, old man," I teased as I run my fingers along outlines the man's abdominal muscles.
My eyes hit the clock, and I rose to sit on a bed.
"I should go," I sighed.
I feel how a man got up to sit behind me, and strung long, cool fingers on my hair, starting to clear up my tangled curls, circling my hair around his finger, causing them to rotate like corkscrews.
I closed my eyes and sighed with pleasure when the touch stayed on the skin of my neck and shoulders.
His fingers switched to lips and I bent my head to give them more space.
"If you continue that, uh, I never get to go ....."
"I do not want you to leave ..."
Cool hands brush over my skin, craving, trying to touch everywhere at the same time.
"If I stay, Earl sends Sebastian's looking for me, and I do not really want it. The whole quarter would end up to the ground ... "
His fingers twist over my breasts, thumbs teased my hardened nipples.
"Will you come again?"
I had to lick my lips so I could answer.
"I do not know how life takes us. Who know, maybeyou see me next time to your customer. "
I turned to kiss a man.
"If that's the case, I'll make you the most beautiful customer I've ever left ..."
"It is most, I guess, what anyone can ask," I replied, and reluctantly get out of his embrace.
I stepped down from the bed, and started to collect my clothes from the floor.
"Would you help with the corset? Not a quagmire this time, please .... "
This is going to be my last update for a while, probably for the rest of the year. My dear laptop computer is going to be under the knife (screwdriver?), and because Christmas is coming, I am overworked because of the gifts. Since I own only two hands, knitting and writing can not be done simultaneously.
Great thanks to Jexo304 about bookmark. You're my first one, you know?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Agni was just fixing the buttons of my high-neck lacy blouse when we heard how the chariots drove in forward of the front door.
I had pop in a bookstore before returning to the town house by buying a newly published work by Mark Twain, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I had read a many of Twain's works in my own time, but I did not make this specific, and the story of time travel corresponded to my own situation to an amusing degree.
Originally, I was thinking about the book just an alibi if someone were ask to my absence, but a good book is in itself valuable, and I expects a lot to open the tome.
Agni got the last button finally caught up, and I picked up a hairbrush with a sigh. After the bath, my skin glowed warmth, and infuriatingly curly hair was damp and like a halo around my head. During the months my hair had grown so that the curls touch on my collarbones, long enough to go to the eyes, but still too short to tie up.
Energetic brushing got rusty wisps to bend out of my face and curl into the blouse's high collar, which gracefully covered the reddish marks on my skin.
The garment, as well as the bath covered the real cause of my absences, hopefully also from Sebastian, whose senses won many times the equivalent of humans.
Yesterday was proved his opinion of the matter, and even if I do not give it effect on my own actions, I can at least avoid deliberately causing the fit.
I owe Earl more than I could ever pay back.
So, until the last day, I would avoid hurting his life.
But I was greedy and selfish.
I wanted something for myself too.
I wanted someone to be good to me.
I wanted a moment's break from the world which was dire, waiting outside.
I wanted a pleasure that I could only achieve in the man's bed.
And I wanted to oblivioning, that moment when in the world was nothing but me and him, throbbing heartbeats, panting breath and man upon me, around me, inside of me.
I leaned my head in the cool window glass.
Gray rain lash the landscape, the drops poured into the clouds on the glass surface, mirroring on my skin like tears.
"How many of us would still be alive when this would end?"
Back in bisnes.
I sat in the evening in the salon, following by Earl's and Soma's chess game. Prince was impatient and inexperienced, but eager to learn the game, which was so important for the young man, who he called his best friend.
The opinion was not mutual.
I spun the wineglass in my fingers and watched the reflection of light on the Baccarat-crystal's facets.
Dark red liquid was like blood.
The fluid of life.
Death was an uninvited guest in my mind, arrived unsolicited due to the conversation of the day before, and apparently reluctant to leave.
I did not want to die.
Even though my life had changed, perhaps irreversibly, without my own will, I don't still want to give it up.
I did not want to die crying of pain, abscess tearing my skin.
Or suffocating on my own blood when fever burn in my body.
Or changing to black, rotting ruin when my blood vessels cracking and spreading their innards under my skin.
I thought in my mind how the people of the house got sick.
The young Earl, feverish, torment in bed.
The prince, the abscesses growing under his skin ....
Only Sebastian, immortal, unchanging, would survive.
I pressed the cool glass against my forehead.
The anxiety thrust inside me like a sticky wave.
I will not like drink more than one glass at a time.
My country has for decades had the dubious reputation of promised land of heavy drinking, and I myself carried the curse of alcoholism in my genome too.
I liked wine, too much, but that's exactly why I forced myself to be a moderate user.
I did not like myself drunk.
And I was inclined to the creepy hangovers.
But now I was ready to fetch a couple of bottles with me, and lock myself in my room, at I dont, in my drunkards, wandering anywhere, and drinking myself into stupefy, unconscious.
Despite the fact that the next morning I would probably first be afraid of dying, and then I will afraid I would not die at all.
At least the vomiting would be a variation for fear of death of the plague .
I blinked my eyes.
Sebastian was standing in front of me, had apparently been standing for some time.
"Let me take this away," he said, and pick up the crystal glass away from my fingers.
"Drink this, it calms you and gives you a good sleep," he continued giving me a cup of tea instead.
I had forgotten his ability to pick up the thoughts and moods.
The aromas of the grass and the flower drifted on my nose when I drank from the cup.
Sleep and oblivion.
Without nausea the next day.
I could almost say I loved him for this.
I woke up to a strange feeling.
I swing, and something thumbing near of my ear.
I open slightly my eyes, and I realized that I was carried.
I had apparently slept in the saloon armchair.
I looked up, and saw how Sebastian looking at me a strange look on his face.
"You are adorable. Fluffy like a sleepy kitten. "
My speech was muddled than for at least a half-asleep.
I snuggle closer to him and I pressed my face against his chest.
The familiar aroma of cinnamon and cloves rose from his clothes, and made me feel oddly safe.
I was protected.
Hiding from the vicious world.
The spicy scent tickled my nose.
I kept my eyes shut and I was trying to figure out where I was.
There was something hard under my head, and my hands were firmly hold on to something.
Yawn escaped my lips and stretch make my jaw vertebras snap.
I waved my eyes open in fright, and looked directly at Sebastian's face.
I tried to retreat, but I realized my fingers still stick to his shirt spasmodically.
My fingers were in the cramp, I had to work to straight the joints and sever my grip.
I sat up in bed and stretched earnestly.
The hard thing under my head had been Sebastian's arm, and I had slept all night on his side, keeping so tightly on his clothes that the man could not get away without hurting me.
I rubbed my face with both hands to wake up myself properly.
My mouth tasted awful, my eyes were sticky and I was sweaty and itchy the whole night's sleep, blouse and baizecloth skirt on me.
"You were very anxious last night, so I gave you a tea that made you sleepy. When I carry you in your room, you clinged my shirt so I did not get your twisted fingers off. So I asked Agni to take care of the Young Lord for the night and the morning, and I slept next to you. "
“What a way to get to the same bed with me. But thanks."
I turned to him.
"I gave too much power to the fear and the panic, and the anxiety ran away from my control. Thank you for your care. "
"It's just my duty as Phantomhive's butler. Do you want me to draw you a bath? "
I felt myself terribly musty.
Sleeping in full garments is never a good idea, at least at room temperature, and the wine glasses of the previous evening and the cold sweat have not really been refreshing.
In addition, every seam and button on my clothes seemed to dig into my skin.
I'd certainly like embroidered by scartattoos thanks my Brusselian-laced shirt.
I severe the clothes on my skin while the bathroom began to sound like the flowing water.
I bent my arm behind my neck and started to open tiny beads one by one.
At least I did not have to worry that the marks of the previous day would stand out my skin ...
I winced when cool fingers touched the back of my neck.
"Let me continue, Lady."
I groaned deeply and closed my eyes when cool air caressed my skin when the garment opened.
As my skirt rustled on the floor, I stepped out from the ring of fabrics and to the bathroom, straight into the tub.
The warm, rose-scented water was like a balsam to my tender skin, and my numbed emotions.
At the same time, when the water soak sags into the invisible, it relaxed and calmed my mind.
The horror of the previous night was nothing but bad sleep, alrady half forgotten.
Few are the things that a decent sleep and bath do not improve.
Or as they say in Finland, spirit, tar & sauna.
If they do not help, the disease is fatal, says the proverb.
I do not know about the tar, but the spirit disinfect and put to sleep, and the bath runs the sauna's task by cleaning and relaxing.
But since I was not able to get into the heat, I did not really despise the option available.
I flushed my face when I heard Sebastian's voice behind me.
"Would you please tiltt your head back, lady?"
I had forgotten the presence of a man because I was used to bathing myself.
Now, however, I was grateful for the company.
I bent my head back and closed my eyes when I felt the warm water of my hair.
Strong hands began to foam shampoo on my hair, and I hum to pleasure when my scalp was rubbed.
In my home I had always thought that if I won a lottery, I went twice a week with a hairdresser just to washed my hair to get the feeling that someone was massaging my head.
I felt how my muscles began to relax, and my thoughts turned from sharp imagery to a soft stream.
I relaxed, and I felt how my limbs began to float.
"Do not fall asleep, Lady."
I winced when Sebastian spoke at my ear, so close that his breath tickled my ear.
"Your fault ... feel comfortable ....." I muttered.
I felt him tilting my head, and flush water flowing into my hair.
His hands wiping too much moisture from my hair, and they continued on my shoulders, rubbing, petting ...
I purr deeply from my chest and bowed my head forward.
This felt absolutely far too good .....
I felt how my hair was wiped behind my ear and the soft lips caressed my ears
The lips slid down the back of my neck, and tempted sensitive skin, biting, torturing ....
Loud knock on the door within the corridor made me startling, and the man behind me straighten out.
My door opened, and after a second, the Indian prince burst into the bathroom with eyes wide of great concern.
"Agni told me you were not okay last night, Lady. I was worried and wanted to know your form. "
I groan frustrated, lifted my arm on the edge of the tub and leaned my chin back of the hand.
"It's not an explanation for running in to the woman's bathroom like in to tavern, boy," I said irritably.
"I am grateful for your concern, but why not you could wait until I came to the downstairs?"
"I'm not a boy, I'm 17, and of course I was worried about you when Agni told me what happened."
No longer a boy, hmm? Well, he could still be my son for his age, and the position he should have in my eyes before something could make me change my mind. And with that attitude, the situation would be permanent.
I ran my fingers through my tangled hair.
"Whatever. Now, out of both. Give a little privacy to the woman "I shoo the mens out of the room before I rose from the bath and take a toothbrush.
There were things, which I could not do anything, but at least this taste of rat nest in my mouth should get be saced.
The first thing that I saw when I entered out of the bathroom towel wrapped around me, was the Prince, who sat cross-legged in the middle of my disordely bed.
I chuckled to myself when I opened my cigarette pack and lit one.
"You make me feel myself exhibitionist. Did not your mother teach you that peeping a naked women is naughty?" I asked when I opened the window for a cool and damp, but at least temporarily rainless weather.
"My mother did not really pay attention to me. Besides, I do not peeping, but I'm here quite openly. And you are not naked. "
"The last point is just a matter of time. And if the truth is spoken, you will not bother me. I'm just more used to the fact that around here attitude towards the nudity differently. "
"Why does not it bother you then?"
"I've lived most of my life in a culture where matter are viewed in different ways."
I run my fingers through the messy curls and sighed.
Seems like I have to once again to drop in at the pantry to find some vinegar and oil.
Victorian time does not know mediocre hair care products, and I did not want to keep on walking around like a poodle after an electric shock.
I stub out my cigarette, took off the towel and started pulling lingerie on me.
"What's today's program includes, Sebastian?" I asked with a muffled voice when I wriggle myself on the corset.
I turned and took a firm grip on the bed ends, when the butler took the cords and began to tighten them.
Damn, I have to really reduce eating chocolate, or I'm soon really in trouble with this garment ....
"After breakfast we go to explore the place where the body was found. Next, Earl wants to go to the funeral contractor, because our knowledge of the cause of death requires certain measures. "
I scrunch my teeth together.
The thought of Sebastian, me, and the Undertaker within the same four walls seemed to be a natural disaster, waiting to happen. Even the smallest spark, and ....
"Lastly, in the beginning of the evening branch manager Lau of Kong Rong Company will be meeting with the Earl," Sebastian stopped.
"Do you want a blue or green walking gown today ...?"
Gray clouds hung down same level with chimneys when we slowly advanced by messier cobblestones paved Whitechapel 'Road along the East End.
Narrow streets, garbage next to houses, gaunt-faced kids who peek out of the side alleys and the smell of boiled cabbage everywhere told their own language about the region's poverty and degradation.
I could well imagine what everything behind the grimy facades was hiding.
And what was all that, which I do not even could imagined.
I stood and looked around.
We were at the crossroads of three roads, or rather a lane.
The faded nameplate in the corner of a ramshackled brick house told the road that suitably called Back Road.
The hoary shield over the smeary shop windows advertised the trade in second-hand goods, and two scabby stray dogs cave, furiously snaling, into the waste bin just a few yards away.
As Earl and Sebastian examined the environment, I stepped on the side and ignited the cigarette.
"Pretty lady, isnt´?"
"Is she nice ...?"
Quiet whispering caught my attention, and I noticed two scraggy little boys peeps from behind the barrel.
I smiled gently at the boys, and stoop down to the same height with them.
"Hello little ones. Do you live here? "
The smaller, dark-haired ragamuffin hid a shy behind the older boy, whose blond hair looked like they had not seen soap then birth bath.
Shy, dirty hand reached out to stroke my green skirt.
"You two must be here every day, right?"
"And you see everything that happens?"
"Did you see the man who died there a few days ago?" I asked and I put my bag on my lap to safety, away from the prying fingertips.
"Yeah, that guy ran and it had a pack under arm. Then it stumbled and crash. We went to see what happen´ if we had a coin when we´ helpin´ but then came another guy and we didnt´ dare to. It was a bit dark, but we cant´ go home b´cos Mum had a client and we cant´ be there. "
"Okay ... What the other man did ?!
"It jostle that fallen guy and then check its´ pockets. Then it took pack and shook it. Then it kicked that man and spit, and went away. In that direction", the older boy explained excitedly and pointed in the direction from which we had come.
"Did the man take the package with him?" I asked.
"Yeah, that was the armpit."
"What did it look like?"
"Package or guy?"
I smiled shortly.
"Box was brown and it was a rope around it. It was abou´ this big”, the boy show with his hands around the size of a shoe box.
"What about a man?"
The boy thought for a while.
"It was tall. Longer than that man there, "said the boy, pointing to Sebastian, who talked with Earl at some distance.
"Then it had a brown hair, and it was long and tied to the neck. It was dark glasses, which was silly b´cos then was quite dark. "
"You're a fine boy, so insightful. Did you notice how he was dressed? "
"Dont´remember, something dark ..."
"It had a long coat that had a awfully glittering buttons" emanate a little voice behind the older boy.
"He drop one, I found it," continued a smaller boy, apparently proud of hearing that he knew something the bigger boy could not tell.
I thinked a moment.
It was a surprising stroke of luck that I happened to come across the right pair of people who had been witnessing the situation, but the tangible evidence would be even more brilliant.
"Can I see that button?" I asked the boy.
Boy hide behind his older brother suspiciously.
"I'm not going to steal it from you, I just want to look. If you worry, you can keep it in your hand, and I keep my own hands all the time behind my back. Like this, "I show the boy.
The dowdy hand was stretched out, and on the dirty palm shine a silvery shank button, with a engraved lion in the middle.
Picture seemed strangely familiar, until I realized the animal's poste was approximately equivalent to the Finnish coat of arms.
I would recognize that picture anywhere.
But I had to get that button.
"Thank you," I said and straightened my back.
"Listen, kid," I went on and started digging my bag.
"Would you like to change that button to this?"
In my hand was my silver cigarette case.
Both boys stared at the filigree-decorated object with their mouths widening.
The box was bigger and more valuable when the boys had probably ever seen, and full of hand-wrapped cigarettes.
Simply by selling cigarettes, they would probably earn their food for days.
The smaller boy closed his hand tightly in the fist, clearly reluctant to give up his treasure.
An intense whispering reach when the bigger boy tried to assure younger barter's profitability.
The conversation ended with the victory of capitalism, and the little boy give the button in the first fist while the other hand was stretched to take the box.
I did not release the box right from my hand, but I whispered;
"If you see that long-haired man again, would you tell me? I will make sure that you get the proper compensation for your service. "
"Yeah, just what lady just asks. But where will we come? "
I gave the boys the address of the town house, and I let the case out of my hand.
Two boy run along the dark alley, when I stood up and wiped my stained skirt.
"You owe me a cigarette case, Earl."
Oh, how I hate it when work hampers hobbies.
Earl's and Sebastian's effort of the place's research had proved useless.
It had been too long for an incident, too many walkers had messed up the traces and picked up all loose outgoing.
All we had was the boy's story, and the body of the dead man.
"And this," I said to Earl, and I picked up a button on my bag.
We walked along Mile End Road to the northeast toward the funeral shop, dodging people in the noontide throng.
Earl stretch out his gloved hand, and I dropped a small shank button on his palm.
"The boy said the man was wearing a long dark coat, which front was a long row of these buttons."
"So the man took the dead man's packet when he went, and left this behind," Earl pondered under he's breath after examining the object.
"The theory of Locard is true again," I smile softly.
"The forensic term. When you are dealing with someone, you always leave a trace of yourself and take something with you. For example, if I brush your cheek, like this "
- I stroke the boy's cheek by smiling at his startle.
"Your skin will have fibers from my glove, and my fingertips your skin cells, both of which can be seen by a microscope."
The young man rubbed his cheek, vexed.
"The story of boys gives rise to a whole new problem.
What was in the package?
And is it related to death?
And what's worse, is it the source of death? "
"I asked the boys to tell if they saw the exporter of the package again. Maybe we still have the chance to catch him before things get out of hand. "
Wishful thinking, which improbability I was ready to admit myself.
But human is ready to seize even the cobwebs, if it is the only hope of salvation.
Funeral home doorbell rang familiarly when Sebastian open the door, and Earl and I step in.
Behind the curtain of the back room hear thud and a curse.
"I'm sorry that you got to wait, I'm a little overstretched right now .... M'Lady!"
Undertaker´s so weary voice picked up considerably after noticing me.
I quickly lifted my hand with caution and continued without stopping the movement, referring to Earl.
"Young Lord wants to speak with you."
Earl sat down gently on top of the coffin, and gave his hat and walking stick Sebastian before he began to speak in a hushed voice.
"There has been some evidence to support the likelihood that a man who has been found dead, as well as those who have been found on a farm, will die of a deadly disease that will adversely affect and spread like a wildfire opportunity", the boy said seriously.
The usual joyfulness of the Undertaker's face evaporated to seriousness as the topic of the meeting became apparent.
"Tell me more."
"Lady, would you continue?"
I sat down on the coffin and a cross my finger over my knees.
I stared at my laced fingers while I was repeating the facts I told him last night at the dinner table.
"What you must keep in mind from now on is that in addition to the signs of the symptoms, the parasites are accompanied by dead bodies. Because the signs of the epidemic apparently are not ....? "
I looked at the funeral director, who shook his head to my question.
".... I'm inclined to believe that the bacterial strain is a genetic dead end. Either naturally, or deliberately created. So it only affects the one who got the first injured. The host of the disease is a rat whose bladders fleas gets the bacteria into their own bloodstream. When it bites, a flea will vomit and transfer the pathogen to the human body, but the flea dies just like the bee when it sting. Secondary infection is not caused because the rat does not catch other rats, especially if it is kept isolated, and there is no contamination between fleas. So far, people have died so quickly that they have not been able to spread the disease as a droplet infection, but it may be just a matter of time. "
I sigh deep, and harder than ever I longed for a cigarette.
And Bloody Mary.
Perhana, a bottle of vodka on the table and forget about the appendages.
"The priority is now to identify the bodies of the cause of death, and rapid eradication of infected corpses, preferably by burning. As well as the burning everything with them so that any live fleas can be eliminated and disincentives for the spread of infection. If you have the opportunity to deal with unclear cases in some other, most isolated, state where the prevalence of parasites and their carriers can be controlled and the destruction of bodies can be performed without moving from one place to another, I recommend that you do so. Direct."
I quieted, my voice hoarse and palms sweating.
I lifted my eyes from my fingers, and noticed, that mens following me with their gaze, worried.
"Victoria Park's cemetery has a building group that could fit in my purposes. The crematorium is located there, so the destruction of bodies does not cause any problems. I suppose you are in contact with Scotland Yard, and you informed them on behalf of me?" The burial contractor asked Earl.
"Yes, we will go there next."
"One thing caught my ear from M'Lady´s report. The disease is from Asia. Maybe our common friend could tell something about it? "
"Lau. His company has a wealth of business between Asia and England, including channels that are not publicly displayed. If the disease is imported, he may be able to suggest potential middlemen."
"Almost anything can be trusted from Lau, but I find it difficult to believe that he would convay rats who carry pandemic," Earl snort.
"I did not say he was guilty. But he may know something that will benefit us," Undertaker corrected.
"Lau is coming tonight to meet me. I'll talk to him about it," Earl decided and rose, taking his hat and his cane back from Sebastian.
I slowly rose up and gave Earl and the butler to go before me.
"I've missed you."
I turned and saw a silver-haired man behind me, looking me sadly.
"And I, you," I responded, sweeping my hand to the man's hair to the side so that I could look directly into his yellow-green eyes.
"Take care of yourself," the man whispered pressing his lip on my fingertips before I turned and gave the door close behind me.
I do not know what I expected to meet, when Lau was announced to have arrived, but certainly not what I saw.
Slightly longer than me, a slender man wearing a traditional blue-silk dress, entered in the library room with beautiful, but chilly Chinese woman whose long hair was wrapped around her head as small ears, a few plaits revealing the actual length of the hair.
Where the eyes of the woman were large, golden, and totally devoid of emotion, the mongolians eys of the male were so narrow that only the lack of stumbling ensured the man would see at all.
I rose up from the couch and walked to the couple when Earl introduced us.
"Here is Ran-Mao, and Lau, the UK's country leader at Kong-Rong, who imports spices, cloth ..."
I leaned closer and my nose reached out the smell, which tickling my memories.
I went around the man, and sniffed the woman's hair.
".... opium", I continued with Earl's words.
Lau looked up, and I discern a glimpse of the dark brown irises.
"I was in college a roommate who was...hmmm... willing to experiments. The scent was stuck in her clothes. I have not smelled it for years, but there is no chance of mistake. I can feel the aroma clearly on your blue cat's hair. "
"The blue cat? Nǐ shuō zhōngwén? "
"No, I only know a few words."
It was obvious what the man asked me.
If I told I knew some language, without exception others wanted to know if I was talking about it too.
I do not have a language genius, but I know what a cat is the most common languages.
And because the Chinese language does not have an "r", it was easy to deduce the correct diction of the front part of the name.
My roommate studied the siniology, the Chinese language and culture, and thanks to her desire to name the objects with phonetic notes, something caught my mind too.
The couple have a seat on the armchair, and I went to the couch, close enough to hear the conversation, but away from the immediate outlook.
However, I could only sit for a moment when the Indian butler came into the room and walked over to me.
"Lady, at the kitchen door is a boy who says he's important to you."
I got up straight away and followed Agni, nodding to Earl on my way out.
In the kitchen I was confronted by the older, blond boy of the couple, standing in the middle of the room and wringing his hands.
Seeing me was obvious relief to him
"Lady, we saw it long-haired man, really! We followed it, and it went to the pub. Luka was left to watch over, and the I ran here as fast as I could! "
"Well done, you did really well," I commended with a smile, and asked Agni to feed the boy well.
I checked the pub's name and location, and I promised to send his little brother to the house next to him, as long as we had met a boy, and I went to Earli's office.
"Package exporter has been found!"