The crude sound of moving coffins scrape across the floor woke me from my slumber. It was the best nights rest I have had in quite a while. Breakfast was being served. It was slop, but I was thankful for it. Longing to find Mr. Tubbleman, I rushed and helped straighten up before I began my destination. Unfortunately, the doom and unrealistic prospect of finding Mr. Tubbleman in time dampened my spirit.
“What’s your name?” a man asked.
I looked up. “Nicholas, is that you? What are you doing here?”
“Times are hard, Thomas. The real question is, what are you doing here?” Nicholas asked. His hazel eyes didn’t sparkle the way they use to. Circumstance had withered the youth of his 20s away into the sad eyes of a starving soldier with no bed, no home, no food, no love, and worst of all no hope. “I heard about Virginia. Did they find out who did it?”
“You heard?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, “I guess they let you go when they found the real killer.”
“Yeah, but I am looking for someone. Do you know where I can find Mr. Tubbleman?”
“Tom, are you in trouble?” Nicholas asked.
Nodding my head I said, “ I need to find a Mr. Tubbleman. Bobby…”
“Bobby… what did Bobby tell you?” asked the voice of a woman with sea-green eyes.
I turned towards her.
“I thought…” I said.
“Hi Thomas. A friend of mine said you need me to help you find Mr. Tubbleman. I can take you to him,” she said.
“Aren’t you…” I said.
“My name is Angelica,” she said.
“Yes, Angelica. I, well, I need,” I said.
“Yes, you need to find Mr. Tubbleman. Gather your things, and let me take you to him.” Her interruptions annoyed me, but I needed her help.
“Bobby, I can help you too,” Nicholas said. “What do you need?”
“It’s okay. I will take him where he needs to go,” Angelica said.
“How do you know Bobby?” Nicholas asked Angelica.
“I have helped him in the past,” Angelica answered.
I could tell Nicholas felt curious and uncomfortable. “Nicholas, is it?” she asked.
“Yes,” Nicholas replied.
“Well, after Bobby got out of the orphanage, he was burned pretty bad. I am a nurse, and I helped him. Now, I am going to help his old friend,” Angelica said. Her voice hinted at impatience, but she was gentle with Nicholas. I watched as she eased his worries. “You are a good friend. Not many people has someone like you looking out for their friends.”
Nicholas replied, “Thomas and Momma took good care of me. I was so fortunate to be there instead of the Foundling Hospital. I owe them everything.”
“Your loyalty stirs up the same emotions Bobby has when he speaks of Momma,” Angelica said. I couldn’t tell if she was playing him or if Bobby really loved my mum the way they say. “Momma and Tommy really cared for the children at Lamb Street Orphanage. Bobby said he wasn’t always the best or most appreciative, but he still feels shame for his situation. He doesn’t want Momma to know what happened.”
“Bobby was gone by the time I was at Lamb Street, but I can’t imagine Momma would be disapproving with any of us. Her compassion and desire for each of us to have a better life drove her mission to keep the orphanage running,” Nicholas said.
Angelica’s eyes were wet, and her sterile demeanor softened. “I never knew people really loved the way Bobby spoke of,” she said. She shook her head, and turned towards me, “We really do need to be off.”
“Oh, yes. We do. Time is of the essence,” I said.
“It was lovely meeting you, Nicholas,” she said as she lowered her head while turning towards me again. Once upon Strand, we made out way towards the Bank area.
“Angelica, why are you helping me?” I asked. “You don’t know me. You don’t know if I did what I am accused of.”
She sighed and said, “No, I don’t know you from Adam, but Bobby feels he owes you and your mother so much. He asked me to help you. Bobby believes in you. I can’t save him from the Yard, but I will do what I can to help you. Truly, you need all the help you can get, and being seen with me keeps you with discrete company.”
“What of my mother? Should I go see her?” I asked.
“Are you daft? That’s the first place they are going to look for you,” she said.
“I need to let her know not to worry, and figure out how to sign over money to James HIddle. Otherwise, the orphanage will go under,” I said.
“Okay, let’s get to Tubby’s place, and then, we will devise a plan. I will go see your mother. You cannot go and you cannot write her a letter. If the boobies find it on her, they will say she helped you escape and is harboring you somewhere. Do you understand? Don’t make me regret helping you,” she warned.
“All right,” I said knowing I was fortunate to get the help. It’s funny how you can live in a city and think you are a good chap, and then, one morning everything changes. You go from good to being accused of being evil. It doesn’t make any sense. Murderer. Prision. Escaped prisoner on the run.
We walked down the streets of London and made our way to a grand hotel. “I can’t go in there,” I told her.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because I am a wanted man. That’s why.” I responded.
“Do you think the people who stay here know about the son of an orphanage manager? Do you think you and your mum so grand as for these people to know what you look like?” Angelica said in a cold and demeaning way. I was shocked by her snide remark.
“I am sorry. I shouldn’t have been so rude,” she said.
I nodded. “Stay here. I will get a room, and you will go up,” she said.
“What? Are you mad? Bobby will kill me, and … well… I am … I just can’t…,” I said.
“Don’t be cheeky. I am going to Lamb Street, and devise a plan before you meet up with Tubby,” she said. “We can’t show up without a plan. If we do, we will get no help, nor ear.” She brought back the key, and I retreated to the room.
I wondered how she paid for a posh place like this and how she could sneak me in without any trouble at all. It didn’t make sense. My head was swimming. I reclined on the bed, and let the question swim. When I woke, Angelica’s eyes followed the lines of whatever book she was enjoying. I couldn’t help watch her.
She looked up, and said, “Finally awake, sleeping beauty?”
“Yes, what did my mother say?” I asked.
“To the point, and here I thought you were enjoying watching me read. Don’t forget, I am Bobby’s girl,” she said.
“I wasn’t. Well, I was, but not like that. I mean you’re beautiful and all, but I know you are Bobby’s girl. Anyway, what did my mum say?” I asked.
“We had a chat. And,” she said.
“When can I see her?” I asked.
“You can’t,” she said.
“What do you mean, I can’t? I have to sign over the money, so she can keep the orphanage open,” I said.
“What is it about this orphanage? You’re parents founded this orphanage, and after you dad died, your mom moved you from Manchester to London and started running it,” Angelica said.
“My mom has always cared about what happens to orphans. She loves people, but kids hold her heart,” I responded.
“Most wealthy people just give money or found an orphanage. They don’t actually work. They are more tired to parties,” Angelica said.
“Well, our family has always been committed to healing the pain of being orphaned and giving children valuable skills to have a successful position,” I said. “And it brings my mum such joy. That’s what I love most.”
“It’s odd, but okay,” she said.
“So why can’t I see my mum?” I asked again.
“They are watching your mom’s house. You can’t go over there or even be seen near there,” she said.
“So what’s the plan then?” I asked.
“Tomorrow, we are going to meet Mr. Tubbleman,” Angelica told me with an eyebrow raised.
“Tomorrow? Why tomorrow?”
“We have to wait. We will see them tomorrow,” Angelica said.