A Minor Misdemeanor

Chapter 5

Encumbered by the heavy shackles, Jenny was led back down the corridor she'd taken the previous night, with one hand on her shoulder for support, rather than as a show of authority. The irons fastened around her ankles considerably shortened her stride, and made walking far more challenging as a result. With her hands secured together close in front of her, and connected by a chain to her ankles, any stumble would likely end in a broken nose or damaged eye, as she simply wouldn't be able to catch herself in the same way a person with their hands free would be able to.

"Careful, Miss." Thomas said; his voice almost fatherly. "This corridor through here is right uneven, so it is. Someone might do himself a mischief through here one of these days."

Carefully, he guided her through the section of pitted, weathered stone slabs, with sand crunching underfoot.

"Apparently, this was an exercise yard once, back in the days of King George. When they built the cells, they left the old slabs down. Easier than shiftin' em, I guess. These are proper granite blocks."

After they'd finished navigating the cells, they exited the building through the same door she'd entered by, hours earlier.

The massive gatehouse, made from dark rock, and streaked with lichen and guano, looked even more intimidating by day than it did by night. At night, you couldn't see the half perceived glimpse of eyes, the brief, if dull, flash of light as a rifle tracked you across the courtyard, the man behind it seemingly praying that you'd do something stupid, or simply attack the warder escorting you, and give him an excuse to pull the trigger, sending a high velocity round just under fifteen millimetres across, and made from soft lead, tearing at better than four hundred metres per second into and through the body of any miscreant.

In front of her, a black horse, towering above her, stamped a huge foot, sending sparks into the air off of the hard cobbles of the prison yard, then snorted, sending out a vast plume of steam, which joined with the plumes rising from around its body, a result of the cold February morning.

She was led around the back of the horse, to the rear of a heavy black wagon, with four foot diameter wheels rimmed with thick, pitted tyres of beaten iron, as black as the rest of the intimidating cart.

The gate at the rear of the cart was down, along with a more tiered step than seen on most wagons, allowing a shackled prisoner to enter and exit the cart without having their ankles freed. There was a handhold just within reach of a pair of hands shackled close together and connected to a prisoner's ankles, and she used it to pull herself up into the cart.

The smell when she was inside, even with the rear gate open, was appalling. Vomit mixed with stale beer and spirits, alongside smells generated by a lack of hygiene, and those from illnesses such as gangrene. The sickly sweet stench of the last nearly caused her to lose the measly breakfast she'd gagged down, but by a dint of willpower, she kept it in.

Once she was aboard, the rear door was slammed shut, leaving the only source of light inside the twenty foot long box as the small, barred window barely a foot to a side set into the door, and another, currently closed, next to the driver's seat.

The journey over the rough cobbles of central London was a penance in its own right, with the wagon bouncing from side to side on over-stressed leaf springs, nearly dislodging Jenny several times from her perch on the crude bench that ran along both sides of the compartment. Several of her fellow travellers weren't so lucky, and went sprawling, either into the laps of prisoners next to them, or those opposite. The occasional rattle of a stone bouncing off of the thick oak planking only added to the feeling of sheer terror.

Finally, after what seemed an age, the wagon lurched to a standstill, and the rear door was opened by two uniformed police officers, both showing every sign of a having been heavily involved in persuading villains that resisting arrest was not in their best interests. They were both holding a truncheon, a clear reminder that to disobey their instructions was a very simple way to get whacked around the head with twenty-eight inches of Lignum vitae, with a few ounces of lead set into the head of the shaft for good measure.

Carefully, avoiding any movement that might be perceived as a threat, Jenny clambered down from the wagon, before being passed to a court official, a large man who looked like he moonlighted as a prize-fighter, wearing an ill-fitting uniform that looked out of place worn by a man with scarred knuckles and a nose three inches wide, along with assorted tattoos. He wrapped one of his hands, almost a paw, around her shoulder, being barely able to fit more than three fingers onto it, before jerking her, without even trying to keep her on her feet, in the direction of the stairs leading into the magistrate's court.

Her hands, without her even thinking about it, rose from her waist, where they had been clasped, a comfortable position, even in handcuffs, to trying to reach the seized shoulder, in order to turn the hold into a decidedly less pleasant experience for the holder.

Unfortunately, the chain collecting her wrists to her ankles intervened, preventing the bailiff from receiving a broken shoulder, which she could quite easily have caused even with her hands secured together.

Once she had been dragged inside the building, she was led down a corridor, where a small room, fitted with a heavy, narrow bench, awaited her through a barred door.

She was thrown inside, unable to keep her feet, before the grill was slammed shut behind her, and a bolt went across, keeping her confined to the space barely bigger than her bed at 13 paternoster row.

She was left inside for about half an hour, before the rattle of heeled boots on a hard wooden floor approached the cells. Jenny recognised the pattern easily.

"Ma'am." She said, with surprising exuberance, as Vastra came into view, before being let into the cell.

"Jennifer." She replied, waiting for the guard to go back to his concealed flask of cheap gin. "You know better than to strike young men like that."

"I do, Ma'am." She replied, shame-faced. "I shouldn't have used my knuckles to strike him; I should have used the full width of the first joint instead."

To her great lack of surprise, the Silurian pressed herself against the human, once the guard was out of sight. Her skin felt almost clammy, but still dry and smooth.

"I've missed you, love." She said, gently nibbling her maid's ear-lobe. "I needed you by my side last night."

"With all respect, Ma'am, I'm your wife, not your hot water bottle. I missed you too, of course."

Vastra hissed slightly, as Jenny inveigled a cuffed hand into her wife's hand, and squeezed, gently.

"You daft old lizard, I tol' you to wrap up warm if I weren't there, not to run around on a mornin' like this getting cold."

After a few more moments, the clatter of footsteps, and presumably, the very familiar smell of gin, alerted Vastra to the return of the guard, who'd clearly decided that a shilling was only worth a few minutes of visiting time. She quickly disentangled herself from her maid, before exiting the cell without a backwards glance, and leaving Jenny in possession of a five inch sonic hatpin, quite capable of unlocking her restraints and quite possibly blowing out the door.

Instead, she bent over, and used it to fix her hair into a more presentable form than all-over-the-place-with straw-in-it.

Finally, though, after she'd been alone with her thoughts for a full hour, and, admittedly, amused herself with the Gameboy Madame Vastra had also slipped her, she finally heard the guard being instructed to "Fetch out Miss Flint." She slipped the device into her bodice, where it would be less likely to be found, before being led out of her cell, and towards the court.


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