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The Witch of Birmingham

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Birmingham was vastly different from Galway . With that singular thought, Bianca made her way off the over-packed train, and onto the equally crowded platform, using some effort to stay afloat with the mass of strangers that she was crammed in between. She hissed out a curse when she almost tripped over the heeled shoes of a blond woman. Shooting out a hurried apology to the woman, Bianca was once again sucked into the departing crowd. Soon enough the crowd thinned, and she was able to separate herself from the lot of them; she took a moment to gather herself, not used to being in large crowds. 

Once she took stock of both herself, and her belongings she looked around the platform, watching as others boarded the train; some hurrying off to wherever they’re meant to be. Her gloved hands fisted over her suitcase, chest twinging at the sight of families reuniting, or bidding farewell. Her mind conjuring up the image of her own family, before she willed it away: there was no time thinking of that . No, instead she should focus on finding her way to her newly purchased flat, a thought that felt odd to her--of having her own space, but she welcomed the feeling, even though it frightened her. Be brave, Bianca .

Taking a deep breath, she held it and closed her eyes. No more ‘Theo’. once I open my eyes, I’ll only be ‘Bianca’. Exhaling, a smile bloomed across her face, and her eyes snapped opened a second later. With her head held high, Bianca strutted through the doors of the train station, and out into cobbled streets of Birmingham.

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The moment her neighbors started screaming at each other, was a clear indication that she needed to get ready, and start the day. Bianca groaned into her scrunched-up pillow, rolling onto her side and sitting up, haphazardly tossing her quilted covers to the side, as her bare feet touched the worn hardwood floor. Who needs an alarm clock, when you have the Hughes? 

Lord, bless them! Sighing in resignation, Bianca sluggishly rose from her creaky mattress, and began her morning routine. She was never a morning person, and moving to Birmingham sure as hell didn’t change that. 

Setting her copper kettle to boil, she finished pinning up her blonde hair, all-the-while glaring heatedly at the wall across from her. Throughout the month she’s been here, the couple have made it a habit to argue from the early hours of the morning, to the very moment Mr. Hughes arrives home from either work, or the local pub. The only time she gets a hint of peace, is when she is out of her bloody flat, and those few precious hours before Mr. Hughes gets home.

Thankfully, she had managed to concoct something during her second week here, that could instantly knock her out when she needed to rest. 

Though, perhaps I won’t need that now? Bianca had made it her personal mission to either befriend, or get to know her neighbors to some extent. What she had learned during her first week, was that Mr. Baker hated visitors, but he had liked the apple crumble she had brought him; the Millers, were an elderly couple who were very fond of her pies.

Finally, there were the Hughes: Mr. Hughes was a short, and stocky man with a ruddy face, and even ruddier hair. Mrs. Hughes was a thin, bird-like woman with short brown hair, and a tired face. They had been pleasant, completely different from the screaming entities she had conjured within her mind in those first few days. 

She eventually found out that the Hughes were having trouble in the marriage bed--or rather, Mr. Hughes was, ahem, having trouble downstairs, to the increasing frustration of Mrs. Hughes. So, naturally the couple began taking their frustration out on each other--thankfully, their fights never escalated to anything physical.  

With that train of thought, Bianca made her way to her small pantry and briskly opened it. Finding what she was looking for, she snatched it within her grasp, and closed the pantry door with her hip. The kettle let out a startling hiss, almost causing her to drop the small vial, but she quickly righted herself and stuffed the glass solution into her bra.

After finishing her morning tea and toast, Bianca slid into her coat and donned the matching hat. Mr. Hughes had left just as she had finished fixing her tea, so she was secure in knowing that she wouldn’t be spotted by him. Gathering the rest of her things, she exited her flat and locked the door, before she ambled to her neighbor’s door.

Rapping thrice upon the scuffed wood, she waited until a haggard looking Abigail Hughes opened the door. Her friendly grin was met with confused eyes, before they turned sheepish.

“I, I’m sorry Bianca, were we too--?” The woman’s apology was cut short, when Bianca reached into her blouse, and plucked the safe-kept vial from the insides of her bra. Holding it out for the woman, who took it after a few short beats, Bianca instructed her to place a drop of the liquid into either her husbands food, or drink.

“W-what--” Once again, the woman was cut off. 

“No more than a drop, eh? And first time’s free charge--the next will be three pounds 50.” With that, she turned on her heel and strode out her apartment building.

________

Her earlier cheeriness lasted until she stepped through the door of her workplace, and punched in her time card, where she happened to catch sight of her desk, riddled with piles of meeting notes--notes that she would have to spend all day typing up, and filing away. Shoulders slumping, she withheld a sigh and replaced her card in it’s designated slot, then made the short trek to her, now, cluttered desk. She had just placed her purse down, when her boss suddenly opened his office door with a bang, startling her before abruptly barking her name.

“Ms. Kovac!” upon not immediately seeing her, the man called for her again, before said woman pushed the door back a smidgen more, revealing herself. Mr. Thompson jumped, though was quick to try and play it off as a mere shuffling of his feet. 

“Yes, Mr. Thompson?” she asked, forced smile stretching across her face. She could already feel a headache coming on, and it was barely the start of her work day. The man produced an even larger pile of documents for her, carelessly thrusting them into her limp arms, causing her to scramble in order to not drop them--which was possibly his intent, if the unsatisfied frown was any indication. 

After briskly informing her that these documents, along with the ones on her desk, will need to be finished today, he closed his office door and then headed for the door.

“Oh, and keep tabs on my messages, yeah?” with that, he exited the building, leaving her slack-jawed and wide-eyed. 

Oh, damn that man! Snapping her mouth shut, she huffily slammed the papers on her desk, before closing her eyes and took in a lungful of air. Counting to ten, Bianca told herself to calm down--she needed this job, that she should bare a stiff-upper-lip and march through the day. It was only six hours.  

Reaching ten she exhaled, and opened her eyes. Sitting down at her desk, she readied her type-writer and officially began her day.

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The suddenly door chimed around lunch-time, though Bianca was far too focused on her work to notice it. She had made a surprising amount of progress with the mountain of documents, and with her decision to work through lunch she was confident that she wouldn’t be forced to work over-time. The only sound after that, was the fast rhythmic tap, tap, tap of her type-writer, eyes solely focused on her task and mouth absent-mindedly chewing half of her sandwich, the other half hanging from her sealed lips, waiting it’s turn to be consumed.

A throat clearing broke her out of her trance, she idly glanced up, and nearly had a stroke right then and there when she registered who stood in front of her desk; along with the sudden influx of mortification at the picture she no doubt made. 

Thomas Fucking Shelby!

She may not have been in Birmingham long, but she sure as fuck knew who the Shelbys were--especially the one who happened to be looming over her desk currently. Face burning, she reached for her sandwich and bit through it, setting the rest down on the napkin she had wrapped it in, and desperately sought to reclaim some-sort of dignity. Swallowing, she tried mustering a smile, though it fell short and morphed into a grimace. 

“How can I help you, Mr. Shelby?” She’s heard quite a bit about the Shelbys--especially about Thomas Shelby in particular. She had once heard that his icy stare alone, could melt a man’s face off--though the man who said as much was drunk at the time, so she didn't have much faith in his word. In fact, he didn’t appear that frightening, if anything he appeared amused--most likely due to having caught her off guard. He gestured a bit to his mouth, glancing to her own before she caught on and hastily wiped the mustard away with a quick swipe of her tongue, face once again heating in embarrassment. 

Dear Lord, please strike me down. 

“Is Jimmy ‘round?” At the mention of her boss, the frustration from this morning reared its ugly head, but she was quick to stamp it out--she didn’t want to come across as defensive or hostile towards Mr. Shelby, especially when she realized he was really alone, two Blinders were standing guard outside the door. Shaking her head, she informed him that he had left in the early morning; no, he hadn’t told her where he had gone, nor when he would be back. 

Seeing Mr. Shelby grow frustrated at her employer’s absence, if the sharp quiet curse was any indication, Bianca was anxious to placate the man. 

“Was there anything you were expecting, or wanting to discuss with Mr. Thompson?” she asked pleasantly, a sudden thrill racing down her spine when he looked at her, a dark brow raising at her inquiry. 

“I was expecting a payment two days ago, and ‘ave yet to receive it.” He reached into his pocket, and slid a cigarette from it’s cartridge before lighting it. Bianca had frozen in place as dread started slinking it’s way into her stomach, becoming the likes of a boulder. 

 “I’d graciously given him an extra day to get the money, and still, I haven’t received the three-hundred quid he owes.” a pause, accompanied by a ghost of a smirk. “Now with interest, of course.”

She cursed. She couldn’t help it, finally realizing what this was, and why her boss had made sure she would be present during this time--no doubt having learned that she would rather work through lunch than work a second of over-time--and why he wasn’t.. That kreten ! (1)

“Now, I know--” Bianca cut him off by standing abruptly, the two Blinders jerked to attention, but she paid them no mind. Oh, she was furious with her boss--why, if he was here this moment, she’d strangle kozí kurva (2), God forgive her, but she would! 

Making her way to her employer’s office, a litany of slovak-shelta curses following her wake, she began to fumble with one of her hair pins. She jerked the door opened--the bastard didn’t even lock it --and marched towards his desk, her heels clicking against the hardwood floor.

Reaching for the tasteless painting that hung behind his office chair, she yanked it from the wall and carelessly tossed it aside--if the kretén had any problems with her treatment of his things, she’d tell him to shove ‘em up his arse. He’d had thought himself so clever; thinking that he was the only one in the world with a safe hidden behind a painting, that they’d neither find him, nor his money--forcing her to deal with the gangsters, the complete ass. Well, he won’t be laughing for long when he finds his money’s gone!

 Spotting the safe, she ended up letting out a haughty snort; he hadn’t even bothered to purchase a decent one, she’d have no problem cracking this one--hell, a babe could crack this pathetic excuse of a safe.  

“What’re you doin’?” Glancing over her shoulder, she found Mr. Shelby standing in the doorway, smoking all care-free like, and watching her with a sort of detached amusement. She finally managed to pluck a pin from her hair, then gave the man a one-armed shrug. 

“Quitting.” she said simply. She heard something suspiciously like a laugh, but when she glanced back at him, he was as grim as the reaper. Crossing herself at both the thought, and for what she’s about to do, Bianca set to work. 

She was severely disappointed, with barely any thought, she heard the tell-tale click and voila: the safe was opened and the money inside was ripe for the taking. 

“Three-hundred quid , you said?” she asked absentmindedly, already counting out the notes.

“Plus interest.”

“Ah, right.” having counted out the correct amount, including the required interest, she placed the stack of pounds on the desk so he could do so himself. While he began his own counting, she turned back towards the safe and took the rest. Grasping the left over pounds, she turned and began walking back towards her own desk, all-the-while stuffing half the notes down her bra, and folding the rest with her purse being their future home.

Feeling eyes one her, she found Mr. Shelby once again watching her. Giving him her best smile, she began gathering her things and idly asked him, “You won’t mind too much, if such an outcome happens, that I tell the authorities that the Blinders took all the money?” 

“I doubt you’d have to talk to any copper.” he informed her, and after a second of contemplation, she nodded in acquiescence, tossing her forgotten lunch away. Her employer--ah, former employer--would be too much of a coward to confront the Blinders, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to contact any officers.

“Well, then I bid you a pleasant day, Mr. Shelby.” She went to gather her coat and hat, and punched her time card, before tossing it in the bin near-by.

“You as well, Ms…?” She twisted to face him, and smiled once again.

“Bianca. Bianca Kovac.” He tilted his head in acknowledgement, and she took that as her que to leave. Well, time to find a new job.

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Translations:

  • 1.) Asshole
  • 2.) Goat fucker

Chapter Text

“Huh, Monaghan Boy won.” Ruth commented offhandedly, casually flipping to the next section of the morning paper. Bianca paused in her idle stirring, gaze sharpening as she took in the woman across from her. 

“What, really?” Ruth nodded, before returning to her previous page, and folding the paper back so Bianca could read it. After scanning the printed words, a smug grin broke out across her painted lips, causing the other woman to dramatically roll her eyes and groan. “Well, I guess you have two choices: pay for lunch, or pay the five shillings you owe me.”

“I still have no idea how you knew --were you tipped off?” Bianca smiled enigmatically, shrugging a single shoulder.

“Call it a gut feeling , more like.”

Her friend shot out an indelicate snort, “That’s some ‘gut feeling’, you got there.” 

Looking out towards the canal, Ruth took upon a look of consideration, before cutting her dark eyes back to Bianca, who decided to finally finish off her tea. “Who’d you think will win the next one?”

Bianca smiled over the rim of her cup, eyes twinkling with mirth. “I’ll only tell you, once you pay for lunch, and give me the five shillings. ” Jaw-slacked, the woman balked at her friend’s cheeky demand.

 “You’ve got to be joking!When Bianca continued to grin, Ruth forced her mouth shut with a snap , then sighed in resignation; already twisting towards her purse.“You’re a bloody menace.” she growled.

“I know, that’s what makes me so enduring!”

Snorting once again, Ruth valiantly tried repressing a smile. Waving down the waiter, she paid for the pair’s lunch, and slipped the betted money to her friend as they were leaving the cafe. Bianca obnoxiously counted the coins aloud, knowing it would immediately irritate her friend, then she unceremoniously stuffed her winnings down her shirt. Ruth shook her head at the woman’s actions; looking at her expectantly, she pulled out a pack of Camels , plucking one out for herself, before offering one to Bianca, whose face scrunched up in distaste.

“I don’t know how you can smoke that rubbish.”

“Like this.” Placing the pack away, she pulled out her lighter and lit the stick, inhaling a long drag before exhaling a cloud of smoke. Bianca rolled her eyes, pulling out her own pack. “ Sweet Aftons, or nothin’--you’re goin’ to smoke, do it right.”

They then spent the rest of their lunch period walking through town, doing a bit of window shopping, and gossiping about their colleagues at work. Bianca listened as Ruth began to prattle on about her neighbor, who couldn’t take a hint.

“I finally informed David that I wouldn’t go out with him, even if he was the last bloke on this God-given Earth!” she rolled her eyes towards the heavens. “Which went completely over his fat-head; he asked me out thrice more, before I had to lie and say I had to go visit my sick mother.”

“Your mother passed when you were ten; God rest her soul.” Bianca crossed herself, while her friend gave her a flat look.

“I know.”

Laughing at her friend’s tale, her mind went to her own neighbors, the Hughes. Among the many changes her life had undertaken, since that day three weeks ago, the married pair was one of them: instead of being woken by a pair of screeching Banshees, she was now woken by the furious banging of the Hughes’ headboard. Bianca had to admit, she was impressed; though the couple were far from teenagers--they sure did fuck like ones. Well, good on them .

“So? Who's going to win, eh?” Ruth’s question, broke Bianca from her thoughts. Blinking, she hummed, tapping a finger to her chin. She began a mental conversation with herself, her expressions morphing too fast for Ruth to decipher, before settling on a look of agreement; a resolute nod soon following.

“Bet on Monaghan Boy , he’ll win again.”  Ruth raised a brow.

“That sure are you?”

“Whose the one short of five shillings? Oh, plus the twenty you paid for our lunch?” she smiled impishly at Ruth, who grumbled and stomped out her cigarette butt.

Touche.

__________________________

The very moment she punched out her time card, Ruth was on her. Intertwining their arms, the other woman barely gave Bianca time to place her card in it’s slot, before she was practically dragging her out the office doors, and onto the cobbled street. Shooting a bewildered look towards her friend, who looked as the Devil himself possessed her-- God protect her-- she asked why Ruth was in such a hurry--to which the woman rolled her eyes.

“We’ve got to get to the betting shop, before they stop taking bets!” Finally understanding, Bianca picked up her pace, soon matching Ruth’s hurried strides. 

They swiftly weaved through the influx of people, and practically ran across the bridge, entering Small Heath with barely a breath in their bodies. Ruth took the lead soon after, having made the trip to the betting hall several times, and Bianca tried her best to keep up with the woman’s long strides. 

Once the pair reached the building, which was fit to bursting with eager men waiting to bet their money away, Ruth finally paused in her hellish pursuit, allowing Bianca to finally regain her breath.

“All right, here it is; how much should I bet?” Ruth asked, releasing Bianca’s arm while she began rifling through her hand-bag. 

“Have you already paid rent?” She asked; her friend looked up with a quirked brow, before nodding. “Then all you have on you.” 

Dark eyes widening, Ruth held the other’s stare; about to ask if she was serious, but decided against it. Mouth snapping closed, she grabbed her friend's hand, and the pair began to push their way to the front of the crowd. Both women ignored the curses, and disgruntled looks thrown their way. One man had went so far as to block their way, but with a swift kick to the shin (courtesy of Bianca), and a rough push (courtesy of Ruth), the man was swiftly dealt with.

Reaching the book keeper, who only spared a raised brow, he gruffly asked them who they were betting on. Ruth released Bianca’s hands, and reached for her purse; much to the surprise of everyone around them, she unceremoniously dumped the contents of her bag onto the table. Shillings and pennies fell upon the table, some rolling off the worn table, but Bianca was quick to snatch them up and placed them in the pile of currency. 

Some cosmetics also fell from Ruth’s bag, but once again her friend was there to collect them and get them out of the way, a lipstick almost making a successful escape attempt, but Bianca had managed to stop it’s pursuit.

A few notes also joined the pile, before Ruth pushed all the money towards the now slack-jawed book-keeper.

Monaghan Boy .” she proclaimed, attention turning towards Bianca, who had taken it upon herself to return her friend’s things back into her bag. The man set about counting Ruth’s money, also shooting an expectant look towards Bianca’s form. Catching both looks, Bianca sighed good-naturally, and reached for her own, much larger purse. “Oh, what the hell-- Monaghan Boy for me as well.”

Slapping down the five shillings she had won onto the table, the man was quick to collect the coins, plus the single note she hastily decided add; writing down both amounts down in his thick, leather-bound book, before asking their names to attach to their bets. Ruth gave hers, and Bianca followed suit. 

The most curious thing happened as soon as she did; immediately, she felt a set of eyes fall onto her, causing her body to unconsciously to straighten, becoming tense. With practiced subtlety, she casually cast her gaze around the shop; blue eyes bouncing from man to man, before they were caught by a set of glacial blues. 

She froze for a moment, her mind processing, before it finally registered on who the person--man --was.  Thomas Shelby, I’ll be damned; wonders never cease.

He stood between a pair of Blinders--one looking as if he lost a fight with a bear--both hat and jacket absent from his person, quietly conversing with the pair, but his sharp gaze was locked solely on her. Though wariness had initially welled up at the sight of him, she couldn’t help but smile at him, the memory of that day swallowing up her caution, and replacing it with giddy amusement. He seemed to be thinking along the same lines, as she caught that ghost of a smile makes a brief appearance, before it vanished as quickly as it came. 

Before she could decide if she should approach him or not, the choice was made for her when Ruth suddenly linked their arms once again, and maneuvered them out and away from the betting hall: she couldn’t decide if she was disappointed or not.

“Well, I guess drinks are on you then!” she shot Ruth a questioning look, who was quick to inform her that they were going out tonight; that Bianca was going to go home with a nice bloke, and have raunchy sex till dawn. Said woman blew out a scoff, shaking her blonde head.

Ever since she revealed that she hadn’t gotten laid in two years, her friend--among many of her female colleagues--made it a personal mission to get Bianca laid. 

“After all: you’re a young, beautiful woman who deserves to have a plethora of suitors at her beck-and-call.” Bianca disagreed; she didn’t need a man in her life. 

“It’s not about needing a man, love; it’s about going two years without sex!” She threw Bianca a look of incredulity. “What’re you, a nun? Next you’re going to tell me you adopted a stray cat: the damnation of any single woman; might as well join a convent!” 

Bianca was about to laugh at Ruth’s proclamation, but the sound died on her throat, and her face drained of color. She stopped in the middle of the street, forcing Ruth to jerk to a stop. Before the woman could ask, Bianca swore; revelation crossing her pale face. 

“Dear, God: I need to get laid.” Her friend looked at her accusingly, mouth flopping open in horror.

“You adopted a fucking cat.”

“I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should adopt a cat; there’s a difference!” With a harsh proclamation of ‘Just barely!’ , Ruth once again began their trek to the nearest pub, only this time, Bianca didn’t trudge along, she matched her friend step for step.

Chapter Text

“Have you heard ‘bout that new copper?” Margaret inquired, swirling her third gin and tonic, the liquid almost spilling outside the rim. The pair ran into their fellow secretary on the way here, the Garrison , and decided to tag along--much to Bianca’s irritation. Out of all her colleagues, Margaret was the most adamant that she find a man; the thought that Bianca had been celibate for over two years, was blasphemous to the brunette, who tore through men like she did with a box of bonbons: devouring a single row without a moments pause.

Hiking a brow, Ruth shot Margaret a look, “‘Course I have--who hasn’t?” Bianca began tuning both women out as they began to talk, believing that they wouldn’t mention anything of interest. She was immediately proven wrong.

“Inspector Campbell, I believe his name is.” The very title had drew her attention, but the name that followed, had her spin straightening and her hackles rising. Pinning her blue orbs onto Margaret’s oblivious form, Bianca asked her to repeat the copper’s name. She received a questioning look from both women, but they didn’t push the issue.

“Inspector Campbell,” Margaret repeated, doe eyes watching Bianca. “You know him?”

Bianca remained silent, rifling through different scenarios, before choosing the simplest one--one where there wouldn’t be too many prodding questions. “In a sense, I have friends in both Dublin and Belfast, and they have mentioned him a time or two.”

She downed her whiskey, subtly peeking through her lashes to take in their faces. Both seemed appeased at her answer, not prodding her for more, so she decided to fish around a bit.

“Know why he’s here?” She questioned, tone casual with barely there curiosity. Ruth answered first, expelling a stream of smoke after doing so. “No idea--probably hunting for Communists, or some of those IRA fuckers.”

Margaret nodded along with Ruth’s response, “That’s what I’d heard as well.”

Her shoulders relaxed, her heart-rate slowing at their blithe answers. Still, now that she was made aware of exactly who the new copper was, her learned suspicion began raising it’s head, and had her nose twitching--a habit she’s had since she was very young.

So, ” the coy utterance of that single word, had Bianca’s eyes snapping shut in poorly disguised irritation. Oh, here we go. “Bianca--have anyone special in your life?”

Ruth’s amused snort was answer enough for Margaret, who’s face lit up like a candle, mouth splitting into a pleased grin. “Oh, good ! Then you won’t mind more company, will you?” 

Without even waiting for her response, she suddenly gestured to someone over Bianca’s shoulder, and immediate dread flowed through her, turning the whiskey in her stomach to lead. Glancing at Ruth only increased the feeling, as she was grinning like the cat who swallowed the canary. Oh, no; oh no, they didn’t!

She’s been had, bamboozled, duped ! Had they bloody planned this behind her back? She would’ve been impressed, if she wasn’t the one currently in this position.

“Damn you both.” she hissed, forcing a smile as a man suddenly appeared before her. He was handsome enough, she supposed: clean-shaven, and nicely dressed, but he was far too short for her tastes. Both of the traitors smiled pleasantly at the man, who Margaret was quick to reveal his name was Richard; a factory worker. Bianca smiled as sweetly as she could manage, and greeted the man--who she could instantly tell, was more interested in Margret than her. Not a fan of blondes, eh? Good. 

____________

As the evening progressed, the group now well into their cups, Margaret seemed to forget that she had set Bianca up on a blind date, and had shamelessly began flirting with him, who easily returned her attentions--much to Ruth’s chagrin, and Bianca’s relief. 

Though she had agreed to a bit of fun, she hadn’t agreed to being strong-armed or fooled into a date. Was it really so bad that she hasn’t fooled around an entire two years? She had been rather occupied with the aftermath of the war, trying to keep her family from falling apart, which she quickly realized was akin to saving a rapidly sinking ship.

She went to refill her glass, and found the bottle empty, surprising her. A glance around the table showed her why her bottle was empty: Richard had helped himself to her bloody whiskey-- čurák (1). 

Quietly grumbling, she rose from her seat, informing the table that she was heading to the bar and set off--making a point to take her things with her. Upon reaching it, she slapped her glass down onto the counter, tossing  her coat and gloves carelessly onto the barstool next to her, but placed her large purse rather carefully on the floor, in front of her crossed legs. 

“Whiskey.” she called curtly, her creeping exhaustion shortening her tone. Her head firmly planted into her bare hands, she hadn’t seen the bartender make her way towards her.

“Irish or scotch?” the feminine, brogue accent had her head snapping up, eyes blinking as she took in the woman in front of her--who looked startled to see her. Staring at the woman, an excitable smile broke out across her face.

“Grace? Grace Burgess?” The woman in question continued to stare at Bianca, before smoothing out her shock into a tense smile--which dimmed Bianca’s excitement, but she still held onto the feeling.

“Theodosia, what a pleasant surprise. A bottle of Jameson then?” her words were warm, contradicting her expression, but it eased Bianca’s anxiety all the same. It must’ve been a right shock to see me, after all these years.  

Nodding, Bianca abruptly struck up a conversation with her old friend. “Oh, it’s Bianca now; you know: new name, new start?” Furrowing her brows, a thought suddenly striking her. “Wait, why’re you here? Working as a barmaid; you’ve never--” the bottle was placed in front of her with a little force, and her eyes snapped up to meet Grace’s pale green ones. 

The look she was given spoke volumes, cooling her burning questions.

Placing two shillings onto the bar-top, she grasped the bottle and poured herself a generous amount. “How’s Birmingham treating you?” 

The casual question eased Grace, she could tell by the minute shifting of her face, her smile warming. “The city’s a bit rough, but in so far it’s been decent.” 

Abruptly, the side window inlayed into the wall opened, revealing the dour face of one Mr. Shelby. She nearly spat her drink in surprise, instead she forcibly swallowed, coughing as she choked down the harsh liquor. Her little spectacle managed to draw his eye, causing her face to redden for an entirely different reason. Can I once , not embarrass myself in front of this man?!

“Perhaps, the lady should stick to a less harsher spirit?” She managed to glare his little quip.

“Perhaps, the gentleman should shove his ‘concerns’, up his arse?” his brow rose at her sarcastic reply, and Grace shot her a wide-eyed stare. As for Bianca? She was currently cursing herself, once it sank in: she just mouthed off a fucking Shelby.

Luckily, all her words garnered was another quirked brow, and amused snort. Well, at least I amuse him, that’s gotta be somethin’

“You two know each other?” his question threw both women, who were quick to glance towards each other. Bianca began to gradually sip from her glass, not bothering to answer until Grace did.

“We’re both from Galway,” the woman began, face adorned with a practiced smile. “We met at a fair in Dublin, she and a few of her clan had ordered drinks at the pub I was employed.”

Bianca instantly fell into the role, smiling widely and donned a nostalgic expression. “Ah, now that was a time! Still remember the fiasco Mary and Dale pulled with their little drinking contest.” 

Shaking her head good-naturally, she lent a bit towards Thomas, as if sharing a secret. “They both had gotten so bloody drunk; by the end of it, Mary lost her clothes and she had to run back to camp with nary a stitch on her--we found Dale an hour after, professing his love for Mr. Edgar’s prize-winning pig--Edith!” She lent back and laughed, slapping her knee. Grace joined her, though her laugh seemed lack-luster compared to Bianca’s lilting one. 

“I take it the affair didn’t last long?” Was the drink getting to her, or was that a smile she glimpsed? Didn’t matter, for it soon followed it’s usual vanishing act. Undeterred, she chuckled, shaking her head. 

“Oh no, a bucket full of water sobered him right up.” she feigned wiping away a tear. “Poor Edith!” He definitely chuckled at that. 

“Was there something I could get for you, Mr. Shelby?” Grace asked, regaining Thomas’s attention, which instantly put the woman on edge, Bianca noticed. He watched her, taking her in with an analytical eye, which only seemed to increase her wariness, though she made a heroic effort trying to hide it. She’s still too stiff , Bianca idly thought, before shaking herself and returning her attention towards her drink.

He ordered a bottle of whiskey-- Irish whiskey, which she couldn’t help but grin at, sucking down her own, then closed the little window. Grace waited a beat, then sighed and turned towards the other blond, “I don’t know how you do it.”

Widening her eyes, and donning a look of ‘ Who? Me ?’ she coyly asked, “Whatever do you mean, Grace?’ 

Shaking her head in amusement, Grace dropped the subject, about to start up another  conversation, but she was interrupted by another thirsty customer. She shot Bianca an apologetic look, but the woman waved her off--she was about to head home anyway.

Polishing off her glass, she slipped into her coat and gloves, and lugged her purse from the floor. Casting a glance at where Ruth and Margaret had been, she saw the table occupied by a trio of men. Must’ve left a while ago

“Right.” seeing as she needn’t bother with farewells, she set a path towards the exit. She was just about to pass one of the private rooms, when the door opened and almost smacked her in the nose.

“Oi! Watch where you’re--” She cut herself off, when she took in Thomas’s striking form. Before she could say anything--possibly demand an apology--he extended his arm towards her. She looked at it, as if one would a tiger, speechless for once: a fact that had his eyes lighting up. 

“No gentleman , would allow a lady to walk the streets alone at night.” he made sure to emphasize that one word, bringing back her previous quip to mind.

“Why thank you, Mr. Shelby: Epitome of Gentlemanly Behavior.” she damned her loose tongue--which she quickly blamed the whiskey’s influence--tucking her gloved hand into the crook of his elbow.

To say she was surprised at his offer, would be an understatement, but she didn’t dare question it.

______________

The walk to her flat was surprisingly pleasant, Tommy asked her how she was settling in; if she managed to find employment quickly, after that fiasco with her previous employer. She told him that she had managed to find employment as a secretary at a shipping company across the bridge; about how she gained a few friends among her colleagues, and revealed to him their plot to set her up.

“Was that why you were at the Garrison?” He questioned. She groaned, and confirmed it--quickly stating that they had tricked her into it; otherwise, she wouldn’t have gone.

“Thankfully, the čurák was more interested in Margaret--the brunette--than me.”

“Why do you call him a čurák ?” She shot him the stoniest look she could muster at the moment.

“He drank me fuckin’ Jameson! ” her accent was thick when she spat the words, and she was instantly granted the beatific sight of a shit-eating grin--even a few chuckles . God preserve her!

He coughed, trying to disguise his mirth, and with a swipe of fingers the grin vanished but amusement still inflict his speech.

“I’ll make a point to remember that,” he met her gaze. “Least I invoke your ire.”

Grinning, she told him, ‘ You better!’ and they continued on their way. Once they reached her apartment, she politely asked if he wanted something hot to drink; the night had grown quite chilled, and her mother would’ve rolled in her grave if she hadn’t made the offer. She’d probably even rise from her grave, and swim the distance just to tan her hide--Bianca wasn’t risking it.

His response threw her completely off.

“Are you inviting me up for a quick fuck?” though she sputtered, and redden at the question, she couldn’t deny that his words had instantly shot desire straight to her core. 

“N, no! Just a drink,” she stressed. “For walking me home.” He watched her for a moment, before nodding, and she released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been withholding.

“Right,” she led him up the stairs, casually pointing out her neighbor’s doors, more to distract herself, though the abrupt sound of a door opening had her stilling both her stride and her words. 

Abigail Hughes had burst out her door, practically leaping in front of Bianca and waving an empty vial around like a madwoman.

 “Oh, Bianca: please tell me you’ve--” finally registering who happened to be behind the woman in question, Mrs. Hughes’ face drained of color; instantly the woman straightened, and lowered her eyes to the ground, practically tripping over herself as she moved out of the way. 

Streaming various forms of apology towards the man behind her, Mrs. Hughes made a fast exit, though shut her door more quietly than she had opened it.

“.....That’s Mrs. Hughes.” Tommy hummed in acknowledgement. Pushing through the awkwardness, she led him to her door, shaky hands managing to unlock it on the second try. Pull yourself together, Bianca! It’s just a drink--nothing more.

Walking through the door, she hung up her coat and hat, enter hostess mode as soon as she placed her bag down. Divesting him of his coat, placing it in the crook of her arm, she reached for his hat only to be stopped by a firm grip on her wrist. 

“Careful,” he warned, taking his cap into his hands, and gave her a peak of the razors sown into the brim. After setting everything aside--coats and hats hung up; gloves placed on the little table near the entrance--she led him to her living area, asking if he wanted either coffee, tea, or whiskey. He shot a look her way when she mentioned whiskey, which she playfully rolled her eyes at, before he settled on coffee. As she fixed a pot, she could hear his heavy footsteps as he walked around her apartment. 

She twitched minutely, past experience making her wary of anyone, besides family, traipsing through her space. Her apartment was small, but cozy reminding her of her family caravan in a way. 

He was spread out on her sofa by the time she entered the living room, making himself right at home, cigarette casually held between his lips; his very presence taking up every nook and cranny of her apartment. Balancing the drink tray, she carefully made her way over, the whiskey finally kicking in, compromising her perception. Setting the tray down on the low table, she fixed her cup to her preference, afterwards gingerly sitting in the only living chair she owned; he fixed his own cup, snubbing his cigarette.

The silence that stretched between them, was surprisingly comfortable, not awkward like she had feared; both contently sipping away, the only noise being the occasional creaking of floorboards.

“No man in your life, I take it?” she blinked at his question, before nodding, smirking with barely there humor.

“I believe the fact that I had been tricked into a date, is damning evidence of the fact.” 

“A beautiful woman like you?” he sounded surprised; her face heated at the compliment.

“I’d just moved to a new city, alone--I had other things on my mind.”

“And now?” peeking through her lashes, she allowed a coy smile to inch across her face.

“I believe this is where you ask me out on a date, Mr. Shelby.”

_________

Translation(s):

1.) Dick

Chapter Text

Waking up naturally, without the sound of unholy screaming, or the rapid slam of a headboard was anything but usual for Bianca. What was even more so, was the fact she had a date. A bloody date with the notorious Thomas Fucking Shelby! 

She was still in a state of perpetual shock, utterly convinced that she had dreamed the whole conversation that led her to her current state: idly shuffling into her cramped kitchen. The sight of two mugs sitting in her kitchen sink, however, was evidence enough that she wasn’t dreaming. 

She flew through her morning routine, and practically choked down her breakfast, before sprinting to her wardrobe in search of an outfit. She tore through her clothes, occasionally pausing on a dress, or blouse, before chucking the article over her shoulder into the ever growing pile.

They were going to the Fair, so nothing too fancy, but nothing too casual either. Quickly reaching her wits in, she was starting to contemplate if being a lonely spinster was that bad--she could rely on her cats for company; no need to scramble for a decent outfit, her cats wouldn’t care. She quickly tossed that damning thought aside, when her frantic eyes caught on a silk blouse.

Yanking it from the hanger, she held it close to her front, and admired herself in one of the mirrors attached to the wardrobe’s doors. The pale silk blouse was embroidered with sapphire blue thread, which adorned the edges of both the wide, rounded neckline and the loose sleeves. The blue thread would match her eyes, and the blouse was both simple and tasteful, so she’ll still look good, but won’t appear as if she was trying to hard--wouldn’t want him to think she was desperate, or anything of the like. 

It also brought a happy memory: she had bought it on a day she had managed to coaxed her sister out of their camp, getting her to smile and laugh for a while, and forget about the ghost of her husband.

Smiling sadly at the thought of her big sister, Bianca placed the blouse delicately onto her unmade bed, and began rifling through the mountainous pile of discarded clothes. Now, time to look for a skirt.  

________

Before seeking transportation, Bianca made a point to stop by the Hughes residence. Mrs Hughes once again apologized profusely for her behavior last night--though she felt like it was more for Mr. Shelby’s benefit than her own, despite the man not being present. 

Waving off her apologies, she simply held out a new vial of Mr. Hughes’ ‘ medicine’ , which had the woman’s eyes practically bugging out her head. Before she could snatch it up, Bianca was quick to remind her of her policy: “First one’s free, the rest you have to pay for.” 

After procuring her three pounds fifty, from Mrs. Hughes, who surprisingly didn’t put up much fuss at the price, she set off for the transportation carriages: they were much cheaper than a mobile car driver.

_______

She stood waiting at the entrance, arms crossed and fingers tapping nervously, as she glanced around the crowd of faces that were making their own way into the Fair: children and their strung-out parents; couples, both young and old. Sighing she looked up at the clock near the entrance, relieved when the clock hadn’t reached the appointed time, meaning that there was still time, she was just early--plus, she got the feeling Tommy wasn’t the type to arrive late, or go through the trouble of standing someone up. 

At ease, she decided to smoke in order to distract herself. Pulling her cartridge of Sweet Aftons , she was shocked when it felt lighter than usual; sliding it open, she gazed horror-struck, as she found no more than four left in the pack. 

“Oh, bloody hell. ” she hissed quietly, now she’d have to limit her smoking until she could purchase more on Monday afternoon; she made it a point to neither smoke nor drink on Sundays--exempting communion, of course--that includes purchasing said items. Sunday was God’s day, after all.

She closed the pack, and shoved them into her skirt pocket. She had left her large purse at home, switching it out for a smaller one, so it wouldn’t become a bother; she felt naked without it.

Finally, the prophesied time had arrived, and before doubt could properly settle in, she heard her name over the noise of fair-goers. Following the voice, her eyes landed on Tommy’s approaching form. Just as she was about to smile and wave at him, she caught sight of  two other men and a small boy trailing behind him. Oh. 

Her morning doubts began to resurface; had she took it the wrong way? Had she put thoughts into her own head? No, she distinctly remember him asking her out to the fair. So who are these men? Was the boy a runner for the Blinders?

“Hope you don’t mind the extra company miss,” Blinking away the creeping thoughts, her attention was drawn to one of the men, who bore a striking resemblance to both Tommy, along with the other man that flanked Tommy’s side. “Finn here wanted to come to the fair.” 

He ruffled the boy’s head, causing his cap to fall further over his eyes. His adorable face scrunched up in irritation, as he hastily fixed it,  and she was immediately reminded of one of her nephews, causing her lips to split into an endearing smile. 

Approaching her, Tommy placed his hand on her upper back and introduced the trio: from left to right, there was Arthur, Finn, and John; Arthur the eldest, and Finn the youngest. He then moved on into introducing her, and upon finding out her name, both Arthur and John sported looks of amusement, while Finn looked up at you with admiring eyes.

You’re the pretty lady that broke into her bosses safe?” was his awe-filled question, causing her brows to rise in surprise. She glanced at Tommy, who made a point to not meet her gaze, before meeting Finn’s sparkling eyes. 

“Trust me miláčik (1) , it wasn’t that hard to crack.” Her comment had the men chuckling. 

After another brief bout of conversation, they made their way to the entrance, Tommy paying her fee before she could even reach for her purse. He reminded her that despite the company, they were still on a date; he held out his arm, which she grasped and off they went. 

She and Tommy had broke off from the group shortly after they entered the fairgrounds, though they all agreed to meet back up in two hour’s time. Finn had wanted to come with, curious about her, but Arthur managed to entice him with the promise of cotton candy, and so he stayed with his brothers with little arguing. 

“Are you really okay that they tagged along?” Tommy suddenly asked. She confessed that she had been a bit put-off when she found out that he wasn’t alone, but was ultimately fine with it.

“We have two hours to ourselves, plenty enough time to have fun and get to know each other.” she smiled at him, a smile that abruptly morphed into an impish grin that had Tommy stiffening. 

So, ” she began, voice syrupy sweet. “‘pretty lady’, am I?” 

“Finn’s words, not mine.” he was quick to refute, but she wasn’t letting him get away with that.

“But, I’ve never met Finn until today, and I’m assuming he’s never seen prior to now,” she playfully tapped a single finger to her chin, “and his little face practically lit up when you introduced me.” He opened his mouth, probably about to make another excuse, but she was quick to speak over him.

Meaning ,” she stressed. “You’ve been talking about me--at least to your family.”  His mouth parted, but no words came to his aide, and she relished his mouth snapping shut, and the appearance of a little crease between his brows. His mouth hadn’t stayed shut for long.

“Has anyone told you, you’re a bloody menace?” She laughed.

“Oh,  frequently .” 

________

The hour was spent with the pair getting to know each other; what their childhood was like; their family, even their favorite brands of spirits. She was of course, resolutely loyal to the Jameson brand, and claimed that anything else was second-best; not worth entertaining. She managed to get him to chuckle at that, and she had decided right then, that she’d try her damnedest to coax more from him; the world seemed to brighten, every time he laughed.

After playing a few games, and consuming a bag buttery popcorn--along with a candied apple for each of them--the pair found that their time was nearing its end. 

Strolling down the row of concession stands, her gradually eating the sugar-coated apple, while Tommy had long since finished his, she once again got him to laugh, by telling him a story from her childhood.

“--by the time Da’ found us: Rik was stuck in a fox hole, shoes missing, and I was strung up in a tree by me ankle, screaming bloody murder.” She laughed along with him, wavering her half-eaten apple around absently, before ending her story. “And so, Da never asked us to go trapping again!” 

“Well, I’ll be damned.” The statement came out of the blue, drawing the pair’s gazes away from each other; only to find a slack-jawed Arthur staring at them, disbelief plainly coloring his features. To her displeasure, Tommy replaced his stoic mask, and straightened his relaxed shoulders; acting as if he hadn’t been  laughing for all his worth a moment ago.

“Where’s Finn?” he asked after a moment. Arthur hooked a thumb over his shoulder, where Finn and John were playing a shooting game. John leading, while Finn was struggling to hold the rifle properly. 

Tommy led her past Arthur, and towards the pair of brothers, with Arthur following them shortly after.

They reached them, just as John laughed triumphantly; hip cocked, and sporting an arrogant smirk, while Finn had become the embodiment of despair.

“Not fair, not fair!” the boy cried, pouting for all his worth as John took the rifle from him, handing it back towards the connie. With a light smack at the back of his head, John was quick to remind him that, “Life isn't fair.”

Finn was a sad sight, which wouldn’t do; no, it wouldn’t do at all. From what she could tell, the stand doesn’t offer any prizes; just a game for men to prove their marksmanship. Or for women , to prove their marksmanship.

“Could I try?” her question seemed to through the men off; both John and Arthur letting out different variations of amused chuckles, while Tommy looked downright tickled--he had his brows raised and everything, as if finding her question ridiculous.

“What?” she watched as the brothers exchanged pointed glances, with the exception of Finn, who was curiously watching her. 

She turned to John, chin raised in challenge.“Scared you’ll lose against a woman?” That’s right, underestimate me, samoľúby bastardi! (1)

Her taunt worked, like she knew it would; immediately, John’s shoulders straightened, and his chest puffed up like an overstuffed turkey. “Alright, if the lady wants to embarrass herself,” he spread his arms with a flourish, “then be my guest.”

The others hung back, as John and Bianca paid their fees; the connie had given her that same patronizing look, increasing her irritation, but she hid all that behind a smile. “How ‘bout we make a bet? Since there’s no prizes to win?”

John looked at her quizzically, before an impish grin replaced it. “How much we betting?”

She pretended to mule it over, quirking her lips to the side before naming the amount, “Five shillings ?” John readied his rifle full of blanks.

“Easiest five shillings I’ll ever make.” he quipped. There were ten targets in total, and with a pull of a mechanism, the targets began moving at a rapid pace. John shot down eight targets; Bianca barely hit one, which amused the brothers to no end.

“So, about those five shillings --”

“Again!” she said, already placing another penny for the stand keeper. “Another five shillings ?” 

John snorted, throwing a condescending look over his shoulder, before setting down his own penny. “Sure sweetheart, if you’re alright with owing me ten shillings after.”

Again the mechanism started, and again John won the round. Before he could make another smart ass retort, she again asked for another round; adding another five shillings to the betting pool. “You certainly are a stubborn woman.” 

The game started, with John putting hardly any effort into it, shooting down five targets. Once his turn was finished, Bianca stepped up; no longer struggling with lifting the gun; feet spread apart, and eyes staring down the barrel; gaze focused on the targets.

She shot down all ten targets without pause. 

There were no jeers, no patronizing looks or chuckles; just the sight of slack-jaws, and one awe-struck grin. She gave back her rifle to the equally shocked stand keeper, primped her curled hair before turning towards John.

“What the bloody hell just happened?” John asked, rather dazedly. She patted him on the shoulder, her smile sickeningly sweet.

“I believe you’ve just been had, John.” Bianca informed him. “And conned out of-- oh , I believe it’s fifteen shillings now?” He turned to look at her, realization clear on his face. Arthur finally picked his jaw up off the floor, in order to laugh at his brother’s expense.

“You’re a bloody fuckin’ menace.” John proclaimed, still frozen in disbelief. 

Bianca grinned mischievously, eyes meeting Tommy’s; he was currently smoking a cigarette, eyes brimming with amusement as he shook his head at her antics.

“Oh, so I’ve been told.” after a bit of heckling, John finally passed over the fifteen shillings, and she couldn’t help but tease him further.

“Easiest fifteen shillings I’ve ever made.” with that, she strode towards Finn, who was staring at her, as if she’d place the sun in the sky. “Come’on Finn, let's leave these doubters, and ride the Ferris Wheel.” 

The boy grinned and grasped Bianca’s hand, tugging her along.

“Did Finn just steal your date?” Arthur asked, laughter still present in his speech. Tommy expelled a cloud of smoke, huffing good-naturally.

“I believe he did.” snubbing his cigarette on the ground, Tommy rounded up his brothers, and followed the pair. 

Though no one would know, behind his stoic mask, his mind was filled to the brim with pressing questions; one seemingly running on loop within his ever working mind: Who exactly is Bianca Kováč ?

_________

Translations:

  1. Sweetheart
  2. Smug Bastards

Chapter Text

 

The day had been joyous; care-free, full of teasing and laughter, Tommy still trying to keep up his stoic mask, but unable to suppress a fleeting smile or a laugh. Bianca had won a stuffed dogged for Finn, and hadn’t held back a smug smirk as she did so; the elder Shelby brothers each donning various looks of exasperation at the action. After it had been time to leave, Tommy had offered a ride back to town, and though he had warned her that it would be a tight fit, she had agreed without a moment’s pause; she had squeezed into the back with John, Finn sitting on her lap and rambling about anything, and everything that entered his bright, young mind. 

Again, the day had been joyous; but that joy had evaporated like smoke, the moment they had turned onto Watery Lane.

“My God,” Bianca uttered, right at the same moment Arthur had asked, “What the bloody hell happened here?” Tommy slowing the car at a snail’s pace, as they each took in the chaos around them.

She was appalled at the sight of children huddled together with their siblings, trembling in fright; half dressed woman--some battered and bruised--frantically discussing with each other, no doubt talking about what had taken place prior to them arriving. 

Most of the  men are gone. She thought, as her eyes roved about, falling on a few who were sprawled on the ground like discarded trash; beaten badly, bleeding, and appearing to be barely breathing. She couldn't help but compare this event to the many such occurrences she had witnessed before--in Belfast and Dublin; her hold on Finn tightening unconsciously, protective, at the memory. 

Tommy eventually stopped the car, and sprang out, his brothers quickly doing the same; she was about to get out herself, but Tommy stuck his head back in and pointed towards both her and Finn, eyeing both of them. “Stay in the car, while we sort this out.” 

And with that, he shut the door. Any other time, she would’ve put up more of a fight--not one to take orders from anyone but her Da--but this was Peaky Blinder territory, it was blinder business--not hers. So, she bit her tongue and tried to distract Finn from the scene--something that she immediately knew would be impossible: the boy was practically pressing his face to the glass, breath fogging the surface.

So, with nothing to do but wait, her mind began to spin as she took in the chaos around her. 

This was definitely Campbell’s doing; she could spot his handy-work from a mile away; she’s seen and experienced his ‘methods’, of rooting out IRA members and petty criminals alike--those he deems a threat to the Crown, and the “civilized” image their country strove to maintain.

He was akin to a ruthless blood-hound; God have mercy on whomsoever scent he’d caught wind of, for he would go to any lengths in his pursuit to catch his prey: She knew that personally.

Just as she knew this was an obvious slight against the Blinders; a challenge issued towards Tommy himself. It was just like him, to attack his enemy when they were away; leaving those under the blinder’s protection vulnerable; thinking he’d gain the upper hand-- that the blinders would easily surrender to his demands, whatever they may be.

But, if what Bianca had learned so far about the man, then she knew without a doubt that Tommy always had an ace up his sleeve; one that would have Campbell on the defensive, instead of the other way ‘round. Her gut feeling was proven true, when she watched Tommy make his way back to the car, seeing his mind at work behind his steeled gaze.

Though she had planned to stay out of it--it wasn’t her business after all--the sight of terrified children, distraught wives, and barely breathing men had her mind set on the issue. Plus, she couldn’t in good conscious, walk away from this--it wouldn’t be right. 

She eyed the brothers as they made their way back to the car, her own mind turning; wondering if she should offer aid the blinders; tell them of her past with Campbell, but thought better of it--though she enjoyed today, spending time with both Tommy and his brothers, ultimately she was unsure if she could trust them--unsure whether or not Tommy would use her as a bargaining chip, once Campbell finally learns she’s in Birmingham. No, better keep my mouth shut on the matter--until I can trust them.

She could write to her family-- She cut the thought off; discarded it as quickly as it came. No, she has to do this on her own. 

Since she couldn’t trust the blinders--or anyone in this city--at the moment; she had no choice in the matter, she had to do it herself--Campbell still had to pay for what he’s done. 

________________________

Once the brothers dropped her off at her flat, she strode purposefully towards her door, tossing a quick ‘good afternoon’, to Mrs. Miller as she was checking her Saturday post. Once in her apartment, she haphazardly tossed away her coat and hat onto the floor; her keys found themselves missing their designated dish completely, sliding off the edge of the small side table completely, and hitting the floor with a thump .

Let’s go with Spotted Dick. Entering her kitchen, she grabbed her apron and tightly wound it across her waist; then she set about washing her hands, and gathered her needed ingredients. Luckily, she had went shopping Thursday, so the produce was still good; grabbing the currants and lemon the recipe required from the ice-box, her mind ran through her mother’s recipe.

Her mother had been an extraordinary woman; a gypsy through and through, plagued by an endless amount of wanderlust, and a fiery personality that charmed everyone she met--her Da’ being one of them; it still amazed her, that he was able to get her settled down with his clan. 

She had traveled from Czech-Slovakia to Hungary; as far as India, before setting her sights on the island countries of Great Britain & Ireland, where she eventually crossed the Young clan, and met her Da’. 

With every country she visited, she had learned their language, and their culture--which included both their religious beliefs, and their traditional dishes. Bianca could still hear her mother’s boisterous laughter, as she informed her daughter, that the only reason she bothered to learn the recipe, was due to the ridiculous name. “‘ Spotted Dick ’, Theo: can you believe it?”   

Chuckling at the memory, she turned on her stove top, about to start preparing the custard sauce, when there was a furious rapping on her door. Turning the stove off, she made her way to the door, picking up her discarded coat and hat, placing them on the side table before opening the door. 

Blinking in puzzlement, Bianca took in the sudden appearance of Finn, who appeared to be lugging ‘round picture frames under his small arms. Before she could ask, he was already talking.

“Tommy told me where you lived--2 pence for your picture of the King.” Blinking again, she was about to ask, but decided against it; instead she turned and made her way to her living room, where her small picture of the king hung. Yanking it from it’s rusted nail, she turned and found the boy had followed her into her apartment. 

Pursing her lips at the boy’s lack of manners, she nonetheless handed him the picture and told him to keep the pence previously offered for the portrait. Watching him struggle momentarily, she offered to help him, eyes momentarily flitting towards her kitchen, before falling back onto him. He denies her help, saying another blinder was helping him; which was proven when another boy stuck his head in and told Finn to hurry up. 

“Oi, Finn you coming?” the boy briskly asked, with Finn hastily agreeing before waddling towards her doorway, the other boy was quick to help take some of the burden from Finn.

With a distracted farewell from Finn, the two ran off without another word. Closing her door, she wondered why they wanted the king’s picture, but decided it wasn’t something she needed to worry about. Instead, she had a batch of spotted dick that was in desperate need of custard; with a hum, she made her way back to the kitchen.

_________

Hurry up, you kozí kurva . She was nigh impatient at this point; foot-tapping, brows furrowed, and shoulders hunched together to stave off the night chill. She was directly across from the police station, cleverly hiding within the shadows of an alleyway, where she had a perfect vantage point of Inspector Campbell’s office. Though the widows were smaller than she had expected, she could still detect movement within the office--along with able to see the slight bit of light coming off the small desk lamp he used.

After another hour of freezing her arse off, the light finally extinguished, and a few lip-biting minutes later, he finally exited the station without bothering to offer a parting to the night-shift officer, who looked some-what annoyed at that minor affront.

Her lips curled into a restrained snarl, even after all these years, the very sight of the bastard still sent her blood boiling within a blink of an eye; more often than not, she allowed this anger consume her, so her mind would ignore the gut-wrenching sorrow that frequently accompanied the fury. 

Once he completely vanished from her line of sight, did she forces herself to calm; she wouldn’t be able to pull this off, if she was out of her mind with anger. Deep breaths, Bianca--deep breaths.

Her tense body eventually relaxed, gloved hands intermediately flexing against the container that withheld her means to sneaking past the night guard. With one last exhale, she fixed her head scarf for what seemed to be the sixth time that night, before exiting the alleyway with an easy gait. 

Nervousness hit her with the velocity of a run-away train, knotting her stomach to bits when she was half-way towards the station’s doors; her legs felt like they were made of pudding--no structure to hold them up, and near collapsing. She hadn’t done something like this in years, worry filling her head with doubts and ‘what-if’ scenarios, but she fought the feeling down into a tight little ball--it was too late to turn back now: the copper caught sight of her through the windows inlaid within the double wooden doors. Besides, her nerves might sell the act.

She shot him a nervous smile, and waved fleetingly at his heavy form. He shot up from his seat and lumbered towards the doors, cracking the door open with nary a moment of hesitation. She jumped back, as he had opened the door suddenly, almost catching her arm.

He stood there, face shadowed as he sized her up; from her faded, worn shoes to her moth-eaten head scarf--noting her dirty face and mousy brown hair. She smiled again, which drew his shrewd eyes to her blackened front tooth. He sneered down at her shabby form.

“Off with you, whore--no one’s buying.” with that biting remark, he made to shut the door, but she frantically shoved the container at him with a harried, “Wait, please, sir!”

Seeing the dessert that she was offering, he shot her a confused look before gruffly asking her, “What?”

Seeing as he wasn’t about to slam the door in her face, she once again shot him a nervous smile, that slowly morphed into one of awe. “I, well, I’m not very good at words-erm, good with words, sir.” she fumbled, nervously tapping her fingers against the dessert container. “So, I, I made something as thanks--for the officers.” 

She once again shoved the container at his dumb-struck form, and he hastily grasped it when she abruptly released the container, preventing it from falling to the dirty, cobbled street. Wringing her hands, she hastily explained what the dessert was--which she noted brought a spark of delight within the copper’s dark eyes--and that she was extremely grateful at the fine work the officers were doing. 

“‘Bout time these streets were put in order--no doubt you officers are doing you’re absolute best , to rid Birmingham of these communists.” she simpered at the overly puffed officer, who seemed to become even more so with every praise she threw his way. She suddenly made a face of realization, mouth falling open in shock as she made a show of looking towards the sky.

“My goodness, a chatter-box I am,” she shot him an apologizing look. “It’s already this late, and here I am talking your ear off!” He brushed her apology off, stating that it was no trouble, and wishing her a pleasant night. She found it immensely amusing, when he did so; he went from calling her a whore, to a well-meaning citizen of Birmingham. 

She made her way back towards her hiding spot, shedding her nervous persona with the likeness of a snake, and watched with growing amusement, as the copper wasted no time in indulging in a bite or three of the custard drenched pudding. He had practically devoured the pudding within seconds, and with every bite his eyes drooped a little more. 

Finally, with what she imagined was a sound thud , the copper’s head dropped against the table and his procured spoon fell from his limp grasp. Smirking, Bianca once again secured her face scarf, and noting the emptiness of the streets, before setting off back towards the station’s doors.

Rummaging through her soot-covered hair, she secured a hair pin, and after another survey of her  surroundings, she set to work picking the lock. Though the lock was of a better quality than her former employer’s safe was, it proved an ill opponent against her dexterous fingers; with a click , the lock released and she was in. 

Still got it! Grinning, she slid through the doorway, wincing slightly when the hinges squeaked too loudly; she released a breath of relief when no sound of footsteps sounded towards her, and made her way fully into the station, shutting the door with a soft click.  

Creeping her way past the night guard’s desk, she took a moment to take in the full intensity of the man’s loud, obnoxious snoring before setting off towards the Inspector’s office; occasionally consulting with her mental map of the exterior, figuring it wouldn’t take long to find it, and was proven correct when upon turning a corner, her eyes were snatched by the sight of the man’s name etched into a plaque right outside his door. 

Eyes sparking with triumph, Bianca quickly crept her way to the locked door, fingers already itching to pick the lock. Once again, she had no difficulty in gaining entrance, and before she languished on the lack of challenged, she set about searching his office.

The room reflected its occupant, she noted: austere, organized, and down-right predictable. Meaning, he would keep his ‘secret’ files close at hand. Her eyes landed on his desk, and after circling it, they then fell onto the bottom drawer that sported, what seemed to be, a custom made lock, inlaid within the wood. Smirking with derision, Bianca couldn’t help but shake her head: after all these years, the man still used the same methods. 

Well, I guess it’s true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Knees cracking, she knelt on the hard floor and inspected the lock, and from what she could see from the limited light she was working with, it wasn’t a normal run-of-the-mill lock--meaning she’d actually have to put some effort into picking it: much to her delight.

As she broke her first hair pin on the damned thing, it reminded her when she was a little girl, just starting this little hobby of hers. She remembered being frustrated that all her pics were breaking, annoyed that it wasn’t as easy as ol’ Nan made it seem. But along with that frustration, was also determination, as her curiosity ate away at her, urging her to try again to find out what was hidden inside Mum’s locked box. 

She had managed to pick the lock--after the thirtieth try--and was immensely disappointed when all she had found were letters written in Hungarian; sure, she could speak the language, but she sure as fuck couldn’t read it. Hopefully, the Inspector will have something more interesting than simple letters, and that it would be something that she could actually read .

Well that’s a stretch--I’ve seen the man’s hand-writing. After a few frustrating minutes, the mechanism finally gave, and she let out a whispered “eh!” , then she wrenched the drawer open and was greeted with the sight of neatly organized files. 

So sweet that man is--making my life easier.” chuckling, she began deftly flipping through the files, scanning the names of each one, until three names abruptly drew her attention. 

They appeared simple enough, the usual, unassuming beige folders; the only thing that caused them to stand out from the others, were the damning words TOP SECRET , stamped onto each of the three she happened upon. 

Sliding the files from their places, she opened the first of the three: Shelby, Arthur

The sudden sound of a door slamming shut, ceased her examination of the eldest Shelby’s record. Panic began bubbling up within her, as a new voice bellowed out from the station’s entrance, and she began hastily looking for a stack of extra parchment.

“Oi, Reed what’re you doin’, sleeping on the job?” the man’s--Reed’s--abhorrent snoring was cut short, and the scraping of a chair could be heard.

“Wha--” Bianca forced herself to stop eavesdropping, and ordered her mind to focus. She opened the top drawer, and found what she was looking for. Taking the contents from the folders, she folded each record and, upon realizing there was no other place to stash them, she lifted her worn blouse from her skirt and stuffed the papers into the waistband of her skirt, then re-tucked her shirt. Taking a small stack of blank parchment from the drawer, she stuffed a few in each folder, before replacing them in their designated spots. 

Campbell will definitely notice the missing contents, and the thought of his enraged and confused face, brought a cheeky grin stretching across her face. Closing the drawers, she used the same bobby pin to lock the drawer back up, before quietly closing and locking Campbell’s office door. Now, she had to find a way to escape unnoticed. 

Her eyes fell onto the windows.

They were high up, and she will definitely have to wriggle about to fit through one. After a second of hesitation, she relented: there was no other way, she hadn’t exactly planned this, nor did she take full stock of the station’s interior or exterior. This was impulsive; something she would’ve never have done two years ago, but alas, here she was. 

She was startled into action, when footsteps sounded towards Campbell’s office. She knew it wasn’t the man himself, but she still didn’t want to be at risk of getting caught. Silently as she could, she climbed the cabinets that sat under the windows, and went to unlatch the one before her. Lifting the window, she realized she had to exit feet first, lest she wanted a sprained, or even broken, wrist.

It was tricky, but she managed to get her bottom half out of the window, and with a wriggle or two, her top half popped out. She had to scramble for the window sill, to prevent her from falling on her ass; freeing an arm, she reached back inside to grab the window and pull it closed. Counting to three, she freed her other arm from the sill, and used her momentum to slam the window close, as she fell the short distance from the window to the street. 

She earned a few scrapes, but nothing her salve couldn’t heal. With that, she set a hurried pace towards her flat.