A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 2

Once Strax had brought the coupe to a standstill inside the prison, Jenny and Constable Miller disembarked onto the uneven cobbles of a prison courtyard, Miller's hand firmly around Jenny's bicep, making any attempt at flight far more challenging, even if she could somehow have escaped from the yard. Above her, watchtowers stood proud from the high, brutal walls, capped with barbed cables set onto the castle-like walls, dampening all thoughts of escape.

It wasn't the first time she'd been inside Newgate prison. She'd accompanied Madame Vastra on visits several times, usually to visit prisoners whose guilt she was unconvinced of, or to watch the executions of those she'd snared, but had handed over to the authorities, rather than carrying out her own, somewhat more unique, brand of justice. It had always scared her when they visited. The cacophony of heavy metal doors slamming shut against equally strong frames, the rattle of hobnailed warder's boots on the metal staircases and walkways had been frightening in its own right, but what made it truly terrifying was the lack of any other sound. There were no yells from prisoners, even those who could see a pair of women walking past their cells, just silence.

When they reached the door, she was surprised that it was a small door, set into a different wing than the central structure that was so terrifying. It was still a large, dark door, with a high lintel that left her feeling her lack of height more than usual, and studded with heavy, blackened nails. But it wasn't the ten foot high main door, usually entered through a wicket gate, with a portcullis above to allow the door to be easily and effectively secured by the warders, in the event of a riot or attempted escape. It was just a large, nail-studded door, with a heavy latch and a peephole set into it.

Inside, there was a large room, with several booths along the walls and a desk at one end, next to a large grill, with a lock that looked designed to defeat lock picks and anything other than the official key. Beside it, behind the desk, was a large, brutal looking man with roughly cut hair, an oft-broken nose, a permanent scowl and several missing teeth.

He looked up when he saw the door opening.

"''Ello, Miss Jenny. Come to pass the time o' day while your mistress pays someone a visit?"

"Hello, Mr Thomas." She replied, trying to make a polite gesture of respect with her cuffed arms, before Miller took a step forward.

"'Ello Mick." Miller said. "Miss Flint here is in a spot of bother. You see, Madame Vastra was holding a cocktail evening, and it seems on of the young men who'd been brought along to dance with young women took a bit of a liking to her, after having had a couple of drinks too many. I saw Miss Flint in the pig and hound earlier, and she polished off two glasses of sherry faster than you can say tally ho. She must have used the front door, and when our wannabe Casanova made a move, she walloped him right in the chops."

"Aye, I'll bet she did. There was one time when she and her mistress were in here talking to someone, when he suddenly came to his feet and tried to attack Madame Vastra. This one," he gestured warmly to Jenny. "She stepped in front of her mistress before we could even react, and by the time we were in the cell, she had him in an arm lock and one knee between his shoulder-blades, and was pushing fit to dislocate his arm before we took over."

"Where did you learn to do that?" Miller asked, curious.

"I went to a small dojo near the docks for a while." She replied. "It was being run by a Japanese woman, some sort of noble, I think, judging from the way her retainers treated her. They didn't mind who they taught, just as long as you were willing to learn and don't mind a few bruises now and again."

"Is it still there?" Thomas asked, seeming intrigued. "My daughter Liz wants to learn a few tricks to keep off the toughs round our way."

"If you take a walk down past the east India docks, it's the small shop with a flag with funny writing on it out front. Ask for Kasumi-San."

"I think I might." He responded. "Would you like a cup of tea, before I do the honours?"

"If you'll trust me with the kettle, I'd much appreciate that." She replied, as Miller loosed her handcuffs. "I know what sort of thing seems to pass for tea around here." She said, rubbing her wrists slightly and smiling at the old joke between her and Thomas.

"I know I'm not up to your standards, anyway." He replied, with a broad smile in return.

"If it's that good, I think I'll have one as well." Miller said

"Madame Vastra is very particular about her tea." Jenny replied, deciding that telling Miller and Thomas exactly where the boxes came from would be unnecessary. They were delivered by the doctor a couple of times a year, labelled; 'Mantellean tea, Mantel system.' and was what he described as the best tea in the universe. It was also brewed, when she would be the only one drinking from the pot, with a few teaspoons of blood. Jenny had steadfastly refused to try the resultant brew, which, according to Vastra, was delicious.

The warder's stash of tea was in the same place as always, inside the end of an old baton hung on the wall next to the small stove. Before she put the filled kettle on the hob, Jenny opened the firebox briefly, before shoving a handful of sticks from the basket next to the stove inside.

After giving things a few minutes, she put the kettle on the hob, before turning to the teapot, sitting on a small shelf just above the truncheon. Gently, she removed the aged bone china, salvaged from a man in a pub, shortly before his arrest for selling stolen property and theft from a horse-drawn conveyance. She winced slightly when she remembered the man had received five years for the theft, and had been lucky to escape the noose. Pushing down her nausea, she used a nearby teaspoon to scoop a teaspoonful for each person into the pot, before adding the now boiling water.

Putting the teapot to one side, she carefully extracted the bottle of milk from under the damp cloth that kept it cool, before pouring a measure of a fingers-breadth into three earthenware mugs, chipped from heavy use, and then letting the tea stand for a couple of minutes.

She spent the time looking out the small stash of rich tea biscuits she knew to live under the sink, before placing one on each of the small plates that accompanied the mugs, before returning to the now brewed pot of tea.

She'd heard the gates briefly open, and the clatter of hooves and iron-rimmed wheels on the cobbles told her that Strax had departed, returning to 13 Paternoster Row with the carriage.

The tea was consumed, and enjoyed by all parties, before Jenny held out her hands for the second time that night, allowing Miller to fasten the handcuffs back around her wrists.

Putting aside his mug, the warder returned to behind his counter.

"What have we got here, constable? He asked, picking up a clipboard with a custody form on it.

"Assault and Battery." Miller replied. "She struck a guest at a party at 13 Paternoster Row."

"Name?" Thomas asked.

"Jenny Flint." Jenny replied, her voice shaking slightly.

"Age?"

"''Bout Twenty five."

"Residence?"

"13 Paternoster Row."

"Occupation?"

"Ladies maid."

"Place of work?"

"13 Paternoster Row."

The information was entered onto the form.

"If you'd follow me, Miss Flint, we can give the officer back his handcuffs."

With a hand firmly on her shoulder, Jenny was taken down a narrow corridor, bounded by metal doors on both sides. The warder's hobnailed boots clattered on the stone floor, sending out tiny chips, several of which penetrated Jenny's stockings and drew blood.

The cell she was finally led into was small, barely large enough for the narrow, shelf-like bed, with a thin straw pallet on top, which was its main feature, along with a bucket in one corner. Behind her, the door slammed shut with a dull clang, before a hatch in the door was opened.

"Put your hands through." Thomas instructed her, before the handcuffs were removed, and the hatch closed, leaving her locked inside the dark cell, with almost no noise around her, except for the receding clatter of the prison officer's boots.

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