A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 4

Jenny woke up sore.

When she sat up, her surroundings were strange. Bare, whitewashed walls surrounded her too close for comfort, and the smell from one of the corners suggested that it hosted a rarely cleaned bucket used to store human waste. The only window was small, set high up in the wall opposite the heavy, white painted metal door, with a hatch set into it. There were bars on the window, and the sight of them brought her memories of the previous night crashing back; the blow, her arrest, a friendly enough chat with a friend on the force, before she was booked in, and led to a cold, unwelcoming cell, then locked in for the night.

A clatter in the corridor brought her back from her reverie, and she rummaged under the uncomfortable bed for a bowl and spoon, finding them, and quickly fetching them out. They hadn't been cleaned recently, if ever, but she fought down the sudden bout of nausea by reminding herself of the time she had spent as a match-girl, and admittedly, though only to herself, a prostitute. Clean plates had been an unimaginable luxury for that skinny sixteen year old, as had warm food and any sort of bed.

The hatch flattered open, and a warder she didn't recognise looked in through it.

"Plate." He instructed her, holding up a jug of porridge, half congealed, and with flecks of colour she did not want to look too closely at.

Wordlessly, she held the bowl up the hatch, receiving a portion of perhaps three ounces of oatmeal.

The smell was not the welcoming aroma she associated with properly made porridge. It smelt of ergot, and she suspected that Vastra would have detected multiple additional aromas that would have been even more concerning. Despite her qualms, she forced herself to eat, knowing that another meal might be a day away. It was a set of programming she'd grown extremely attuned to on the streets of London.

The taste was about as far possible from the smooth, pleasant taste she associated with the porridge she produced for herself and Vastra in the kitchens of 13 Paternoster row, and she smiled at the memory of Vastra complaining about the idea of eating the seeds of a type of grass soaked in lactate, before being won somewhat grudgingly to the idea that it might actually taste good, and be worth eating. The addition of honey, along with a small amount of the powdered bone meal that served her as a main condiment, had completed the dish for the Silurian.

It took her several minutes, despite the extremely small serving, to gag down the food, before she gathered herself upright and began working to make herself at least moderately presentable for her appearance in court, in front of the Major the Right Honourable Geoffrey Clarence, a retired officer who'd served in Afghanistan and India, and brought an inflexible, if somewhat kind, approach to his role as magistrate for the district court.

Once she'd brushed off most of the straw and other assorted debris, such as brick dust, she sat back on the bed, waiting for someone to come and collect her.

Eventually, the rattle of keys in locks and the harsh clatter of hobnailed boots on stone floors and metal walkways died away, to be replaced with a surprisingly cheerful whistle as the guard who'd doled out the rancid, mouldy and quite possibly rat dropping containing porridge stamped is way down the corridor in a rattle and slam of hatches, the jingling of a heavy, well-populated keyring, and the ring of hobnailed boots on the old, worn granite floors. When he got to her cell, to her sudden alarm, he stopped, looking carefully through the hatch.

"Well, now. What do we have here?" He said, the tone dripping with the petty malice of the small-minded tin-god.

"I'm a ladies maid, sir." She replied, keeping her voice low.

"Not feeling "lonely" at all? Don't want some comforting?"

"I don't, sir." She told him, tensing in the same way she would have if confronted in an back-alley by a large man, with no clothes on and a hard on, wielding a butcher's knife.

"Well, you look cute enough." He lowered, reaching a hand into the cell. "You keep nice and quiet, and I won't find you knocked over your slips bucket in the night, and slipped, breaking your neck."

"Come in here and try it." She said, suddenly angry. "I'm Jenny Flint. I'm married to a lizard-woman from the dawn of time, and I survived the Battle of Demon's Run. I've fought against creatures that would tear you apart as soon as look at you, and I'm still here. You think some overweight, over-muscled and oversexed screw is going to be able to make me do anything I don't want you to?"

"You what?" He said, staggering back, trying to forget the momentary feeling that the small girl had just become far larger and far more threatening than he could ever have imagined.

"I'm too much trouble for you." She said. "You want to go and have a cup of tea." She punctuated the phrase with a gesture that would be entirely meaningless to the guard, and to anyone else, for about seventy years. The Doctor had taken her and Vastra to watch Star Wars in the original cinematic release. Vastra had burst out laughing at the lightsaber sequences, and had received a firm slap around the tympanic membrane for her trouble from Jenny, and had a pop-corn bucket placed on her head by Clara.

Of course, the toy lightsabers that had appeared in the house since had not been brought when Vastra disappeared briefly at the end of the film, and she had not seen her knock several expensive vases over when what could only be described as playing with them. Nor had she asked the doctor if: a. She could have a real one, b. Where she could get one or c. Couldn't he take her to a universe where real ones existed and get her one. She smiled slightly. Her funny old lizard had a habit of turning into a teenager in a cutlers at the oddest moments.

Then there was a rattle of nails on stone, and the unamused bellow of the greater helmeted prison warder came echoing down the corridor.

"Sykes, I told you what would happen if I found you in here again unless you were busy doing something useful!" Thomas bellowed down the corridor.

"Mike, I was only..."

"I know your sort, Sykes. I know you'd be hung for looting a widow's wedding ring if they let you join the army, or slung off the yardarm for raping a barmaid in the navy." The contempt in the voice was sufficient to make Jenny take a step back, and Sykes quailed back from the speaker, one arm rising in instinctive defence.

"Mike..."

"It has never been Mike to you, Sykes. It's Mr Thomas. And if you call me Mike again, I'll put my truncheon so far up your arse that it'll come out a nostril." The last sentence was delivered with a cold, calm intensity that was far more intimidating than a regimental sergeant major's barking roar could ever be. It was a promise.

"I was just passing the time of day with the prisoner, Mr Thomas." He lied, in response to the A's yet unspoken question.

"Pull the fucking other one; it has a bell on it." Thomas replied. "I know you, Sykes. I know you were suggesting something that would make the padre faint, and I know I can't prove it. It'd be your word against hers, and you'd probably be believed, given you've never been caught."

"I was just going, anyway. Good to meet you, Miss Flint." Sykes almost gabbled, before hurrying away, heading for a different part of the massive building.

"Goddammed piece of worthless trash." Thomas muttered. "Sorry about that, miss. He thinks he can use his position and size to take advantage of vulnerable girls like you."

"If he'd come in here..." She said.

"You'd be in a whole heap of trouble. The world would be a better place if he had two broken arms, a smashed nose, and whatever other injuries you'd have inflicted, but you'd probably be facing a few years for it, and he ain't worth that." He smiled, or at least showed his teeth in a way that could be called a smile, in a technical manual on facial expressions. "Still, I'm sure he'll fall over in one of the corridors in the Georgian wing soon enough. I know two or three other warders here who'd be happy to help give him a shoeing."

"I can imagine." She replied, suddenly feeling the adrenaline leaving her body.

To her surprise, Thomas had the cell door open in a heartbeat.

"Easy, miss Jenny." he whispered in her ear. "He's gone now." She realised that she was in his arms, sobbing in fear.

They stayed that way for about a minute, before Thomas helped her back to her feet. "Major Clarence will see you in half an hour." He said, gesturing for her to put her wrists together. "It's a pain, but the law is the law."

Without anything more than a slight quaver, she allowed herself to be handcuffed, and didn't resist as a set of manacles were clamped around her ankles, limiting her stride.

Once she was bound, she was led out of her cell, and towards the magistrate's court.


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