John sat there in his cage, kept awake and alert by the heavy rain and loud thunder outside his window. He had his back laid up against the cold bars. It ached from all the prods and whippings from the sticks of the guards, to see if they could bring that rage out from him as before, but to their surprise and sheer frustration, John didn't fight, nor yell back. He did not even utter a single curse nor threatened towards the audience or his captors. The guards at the end of the day after beating him some more took his silence as a sign that he was either stubborn or broken.
"If they only knew," thought John. He was expecting something to happen, as if waiting for a promised miracle. He was sure his encounter with Laura's grandmother was a hallucination from the lack of food and rest, but he held firm that hallucination or not, it was some kind of sign of hope. He was in need of food and sleep that he had been depriving himself of out of depression and fear. Fear, oh God how it held him.
He believed that Laura was alive, but what was happening to her? Was that pig Pierre, his father, his rat accomplice, and others beating her, starving her, cutting her, raping her? Were they trying to tear down her spirits by insulting her and her family, threatening her with her friends or his or hers lives. He felt his blood started to boil and his hands clenched into fists thinking of the horrible presumptions. He unclenched them as soon as he took notice. "Calm yourself, John," he thought to himself. "You have to keep hope, for yourself, for her."
The one question in his mind at that moment was when?
Away from everything.
Away from the sorrows and anxiety she had endured everyday in that cursed house.
All she could see was the darkness; shivering as the wind knifed through her dress and the thin shawl she managed to steal. She could see no lights, but she dared not stop; fear was still clutching at her heart after what happened in the room.
It felt so surreal, one moment Pierre was strangling her, she thought her last moment has come, then suddenly there was a great thunder. A crash of branches and hard glass came over them, cutting the tender flesh of her arms and hands as she protected her face, but one, small and sharp had made a nice, long slice over her left cheek.
First she just laid there shocked in disbelief over what had just happened. She could feel the small burnings over her arms and cheek and warm blood streaming out from them.
Then seizing the moment and with great strength, Laura had pulled the keys off the Pierre's side and unlocked the door. Freeing herself from the cell, she moved out and started to run. She heard from the opposite side of the mansion, the newly awake guards and servants running up to check the commotion. She took one of the smaller stairs, headed down with quick, quiet steps towards the main door. With a small glance at the turmoil from the other side of the mansion, which was getting louder and more chaotic, she fumbled with the locked door. Despite the pain, she finally managed to unlock it, and without any hesitation, she ran out into the dark storm.
She ran along the waterside, trying to follow the river. Relief and adrenaline pounded through her body and for a while, she just ran without stopping. Suddenly she tripped and went sprawling. Twisting her ankle, a sharp pain shot through her foot. Laura have to slump against an old tree close to the bank. The ankle was injured and she could barely walk with it, so having no choice, she had to sit under the tree to try get some protection from the storm.
It wasn't easy and just as the adrenaline was starting to drain from her body, feeling the cold rain inside her clothes and mix with her warm blood, Laura couldn't hold it in anymore.
The terrible events of these past hours were all too much, so leaning against the tree, she began to cry.
Both in despair and relief.
Her father was alive.
Alive and he was looking for her.
But did he know where she was? Had he also been tricked by Mr. Crottington and believed she was dead to? She had to immediately contact Bovary's, but what can she and they do when the contact with the police and the authority was broken? Did they side with Mayor Rochester for his blood money?
For a moment, she wanted the pain and anxiety in her heart disappeared and everything that happened to wash away with the storm. It felt as if it was her fault that he was in prison, tortured, and treated like an animal. If he hadn't met her, he probably would have gone straight to Victor Frankenstein and perhaps...perhaps find solution to his agony and loneliness. It was a small shot, but he would not been caged. It would have been better than this hell.
Suddenly she stopped crying. Was it her imagination or did she hear something? Opening her eyes, her vision was blurry, but she managed to see a faint light not so too far where she sat. Quickly she closed her eyes; the wind gently blew around her short, red hair then she opened them and saw the light again.
She wasn't dreaming.
And it was coming closer.
"Hello?" she called back, her voice trembling as the light turned to her direction and came closer. She was going to call again, but stopped when it occurred to her it could be one of Mayor Rochester's people.
The moving shadow behind the light made her clutch her arms around the knees tighter. Laura didn't move, her heart was racing. She told herself she couldn't be seen if she made a slightest movement so the shadow would only pass by, but the light was coming closer and closer.
So she curled in a ball and protected herself as best she could, hoping that the light would move her towards safety and not away from it.
Three days later...
The butcher stood behind the counter, wrapping a piece of meat while his brow was furrowed over the latest news. "Missing?"
"Yes. Found Pierre pierced with a stick right into his heart and the servants says it was Laura, "Said the old woman with a worried, but mostly existed face.
The butcher snorted. He had heard this tale before from the other customers who have visited his shop during the past days after the terrible "accident" in the mansion. He had heard this tale several times and wasn't really surprised, but everyone else was at a loss for words, including the two women standing beside the old one, both shocked hearing the news.
"Laura? Where? H-how?"
"In Laura's room where she stayed," the old woman continued. "Heard there was blood everywhere and Pierre's face was hardly recognizable because of the glass had cut through the very bone of his."
The Butcher felt the corners of his lips twitch, "Impossible."
"It's true!" the woman said, looking wide-eyed at him, "Mayor is furious! He's having all his men search for her. In the woods, in the houses, down at the river, they are looking everywhere."
He had heard the story three times and if the day hadn't been too long, they had their shop searched three times. Requested or rather threatened, if they have seen Laura or knew where she could have gone except to the Bovary's, but every time, both he and his son said they didn't know where she was, where she had gone too, and even let them, despite their displeasure, searched though the rooms behind the counter. It insulted him, but no one dared to cross paths with Mayor Rochester and his men. Not even the butcher himself, even though he was one of the toughest men in town.
"He won't stop until he has her head on a plate," the old woman continued, "Poor girl."
"But what will happen to that creature?" Adrian wondered.
The old woman gave him a small shrug, "Probably execute him."
Only vaguely aware of his son's small movements hearing this, Adrian`s hands` trembled slightly as he handed the sausages over to his father.
"Why?" The butcher asked, pretending he didn't see the nervous look on his son`s face or his trembling hands.
"Because IT is the Witch's servant and Mayor Rochester is going rampage. He's demanding that the judges should kill the beast and give him justice," the old woman said, a small smile creasing the corners of her lips. "Serve her and that beast right I think."
"Especially...you know-" A man with a long, white beard jerked a thumb at the paper on the window that showed John`s unrealistic portrait.
"I always thought Laura was a strange girl," a plump woman close to the man said, throwing the paper a sharp glance. "Just like her grandmother."
The butcher scoffed,"This is overdramatic. I have seen him and he doesn't look that hideous."
"He or IT is hideous to me," the plump woman snorted. "Ugly as IT doesn't deserve to walk on this earth or in heaven," She took her package and, with her nose held high, she walked out from the shop.
The woman's last word sent a shiver down on the butcher's spine, for he had seen what Mayor Rochester had done to his previous victims of his rage and it hadn't been a pleasant sight to see. The Butcher sighed, taking the coins from the table and then took care of the other customers` orders. After the last customer walked out from the shop, both father and son let out a long weary sigh of relief.
"You better know what you're doing boy," the butcher muttered, his whole face was tight with displeasure as he took a cloth and started clean the desk.
"This is getting worse and worse," Adrian said, as he nervously adjusted his dirty apron.
"Be careful," the butcher, his father said, and then pointed to two men who were dressed in police suits outside their shop. "If they know you're hiding a certain someone, you will feel the rope around your neck before you can speak "I'm innocent"."
Hearing these words Adrian suddenly dropped the knife he was holding. His cheeks turned pale as he stammered, "They wouldn't do that. We are merely-"
The butcher walked closer and stared down at Adrian. He was taller than his son. A black long beard covered his face, his arms more muscled, and his eyes more hard and steady. Together with the bloody apron and the butcher knife he was almost frightening, even to Adrian.
"You are, not we, and as soon as that girl is strong enough, you make sure that she'll be gone from this town immediately."
"I-I will father," Adrian stammered as he picked up the knife. "I promise," Then he turned to his smiling face again as a new customer entered the shop.
"You're such a fool," his father muttered as he walked back to the backroom. He was too old for this, too old for cutting meat and hearing old ladies gossips, too old to walk upright after hours of chopping, cutting, and slicing different meats, stuffing sausages, and sometimes get a cut on his finger, too old to hid a innocent, young woman from the most dangerous man in the land and act as if everything was fine.
Lying on a hard bed, with men`s clothes that almost was too big for her slim body, her arms was bandaged and her short hair was a curled mess that needed a strong comb to fix it. She was staring with furrowed eyebrows up at the ceiling, trying to figure out a plan. She had spent her days so far resting, sleeping, cleaning the room, lying on the bed, and zoning in and out of consciousness, Sometimes, out of boredom, she placed her ear at the door, listening to the sound of the customers downstairs, hearing tales about John and her.
And it was slowly killing her.
Laura has been staying in Adrian's small room for three days. As she came back to consciousness after Adrian had found her under the tree and carried back to his home, she wanted do immediately go to the prison to rescue John, bbut Adrian had stopped her before she would do anything stupid and forced her stay in his room until she was well again.
It was a good idea, considering her injuries and almost being shocked to death, and accidentally being the cause of Pierre's death, Laura needed a great deal of sleep and doing something drastic might be the end for her, and especially for John. The bed was smaller than she had slept in the prison room, the mattress was harder and the blanket thin, but it felt more like a blessing than sleeping in that cursed mansion.
Suddenly, Laura heard someone knocking at the door and her body automatically stiffed. More than once she had to flee up to the attic when the police or Mayor Rochester's men made their house search. The attic was small, but well hidden enough so she should be quite as a mouse, and hide until their were gone, but it was nerve-wracking hearing them talking about her, looking through the beds, closets and be just few meters from the hiding place.
"Hello, Hope I didn't disturb you?" Adrian said as he walked in, holding a bowl of soup and a piece of bread in his hands. Laura sighed, letting herself fall back on the bed, relieved it was only Adrian.
"Hope you like fish soup," he said and placed the bowl on the table.
"Thank you Adrian."
"You don't need to thank me. Just get well and we'll see how to fix this mess," he looked down over the multitude of white bandages covering Laura's hands and arms. "Any infections yet? If you have any fever I can go down and bring some-"
"You actually would help me? The witch with her monster from hell?"
"I never thought of you as a witch and I'm not the only one who thinks so."
"Oh, really!?" She stared venomously at him. "Then how many people have not been visiting the "show"? One, Two?
"Me, my father, the Bovary's and many, many others. You're not alone Laura."
Laura sighed, burying her face in her hands, "Forgive me for my outburst. I never thought anyone would help me. When I saw you, my first thought was that you were going to deliver me back to Mayor Rochester."
"I would never do that!" Adrian protested.
"When the people burned down my cottage and imprisoned John and showed him like a circus animal, I doubted there was any goodness at all in the world. If someone is just slightly different than you, you treat them...y-you treat them." Laura started to sob. "Like they weren't human at all."
Seeing her miserable, Adrian kneeled in front of her and took her hands in his. "I don't know what John is?" he said softly, "A man who accidently got injured by one of the damned machines they build in the damned factories these days, or a unfortunately victim of a birth defect or just a…a.."
"A monster?" She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve.
"No, no that. I didn't mean.."
"It's all right Adrian." Laura smiled sadly. "I know who he is, but it's a long, complicated story that would probably take forever to use the right, proper words for it."
"You don't need to tell me if you don't want to, but your-" Adrian hesitated before he continued, "- your friend has been shown like a strange animal to all people. Beaten and treated like shit, except for Esther and her husband, no one cares about it."
Hearing this, Laura's stomach twisted again and she felt tears trailing down her cheeks. How many times had she heard this, how many times had her soul cried in agony over this barbaric performance.
"You care, don't you?" Her voice came out in a whisper.
"I do, but I'm a coward Laura, nothing to be proud of," Adrian sighed.
While she could feel her shoulders drawing back and her muscles tightening, Laura stood up, her face turned suddenly hard and looked down at Adrian. "Show me," she demanded.
"Show me where he is."
"Like I said thousands times before, I can`t Laura." He moved up to gently pushed Laura out of the way and started to walk out. "It's still too dangerous for you to be outside."
Laura moved in front of him and forcefully pushed him against the wall, her hands holding his shirt tight. "I want to see him!" she spat out, finding strength in her anger.
"Laura!" Adrian was surprised by her strength, he tried to push her aside again, but she held him there, "I'm sorry, but no."
"There is no No, You'll help me or else."
"How?!" Adrian shouted, grabbing Laura by the wrists, "You don't think that he has tried to get himself free considering his strength? There are guards everywhere. They are patrolling the house the whole time with guns and pistols. They have him chained to the teeth and because of their harsh treatment, he can barely stand to defend himself, and if you think that just walking in there and threaten them with a loaded gun, then you'll be dead in a second."
"But if we could manage to sneak in a small knife to him and-"
"It's impossible. They would check you and even if you could dress up as a boy, they would recognize your hair and within a minute put you in a cell next to him."
"But what if you, me and Bovary's-"
"Like what? Gang up together and storm the cell. They are too many."
"But-but if, What if-?" She started to stammer, feeling her anger and her ideas floating away, by the wind. A growing realization was started forming in her mind as she removed her hands from his shirt and took several steps backward from him.
"There must be a way, it...it must or he will-"
Slowly, Adrian gently placed his hands on her shoulders to support her. "I got some money you can take, it not so much it would help you on the road to Marseille. If you dress up as a man and cover your hair with a hat, it might give you some protection-"
"Even she is not thinking straight and you are not either boy," the Butcher suddenly appeared with crossed arms and walked into the room and stared at her sternly. "My boy might be a coward, but he's right that there are guards in every corner of that bloody prison and after your little escape Mayor Rochester is like a bloodhound. Are you aware what he might do to get your attention?"
Laura knew the answer "John..."
"Exactly. That bastard might torture or kill him, but if I know him right, he is going to make a big show of off it."
"What do you mean?"
The butcher was silent for a moment, when he spoke, his harsh voice changed into a low, calm tone, "You have been isolated too long...He is going to put that creature on public execution."
Laura blinked, once. Twice. Three times at the man in front of her, wondering if she heard it all right or not.
"No. No...He can`t. He just can't!" she stuttered, feeling her blood turning cold.
"Doesn't matter. He would have to find a good cause to get rid of him after what happened to his son and the people hate that Creature."
"Are they so blind that they are themselves the monsters who wants to kill an innocent, good man?!" Laura shrieked. She felt her body start to shake, her arms clasping around herself like she was freezing.
This couldn't be real. It just couldn't. 'It wasn't her intention to create this horrible mess and kill Pierre. Even if it wasn't her fault at all, because she fled from the mansion, John was now in great danger and she was powerless to stop them.'
"It would have been better if I had stayed in that cursed mansion than letting the village and Rochester take poor John."
Patting gently Laura's shaking shoulders, Adrian gave his father a hard stare over his harsh bluntness, but the butcher was unmoved by his son's angry eyes. Still with crossed arms, he stared down at Laura's shivering form until he spoke again," There is a way if you're ready to risk it."
She was so lost her in depressed thoughts that she didn't hear him first. "What?"
"But I want to be sure on one thing. Is that man...human?"
"Of course he's human!" Laura stared angrily at him, "He is just tall and...different. He would never harm anyone and whatever you had heard from these old, brainless, gossiping hags downstairs are all lies."
"Then here is the plan."
When the butcher had said he had a plan to free John, Laura remembered for the first time in ages that there might be some good people left in this world. That even though they are minority, they would help, but she started to doubt again after hearing his plan, she was grateful that she was near the bed, because she wasn't prepared for the sudden rush of emotions that overflowed her body as she heard it.
Her face turned white, wondered if he was kidding or not, because it was too risky and mostly too dangerous to even be considered.
Adrian looked annoyed at first, wishing it was him who had formed some kind of plan, but hearing the details, he went pale as well.
Her fingertips touched briefly the place on her cheek where the glass had cut through. It still hurt, but it was nothing compaired to the turmoil she was feeling inside. After a minute, Laura composed herself and spoke, her voice shaking. "But John would think...Oh god, that moment when he thinks that he is going to...No, it`s not going to work. It's impossible, too risky."
"Risky yes, but it might work, I have heard from the best man and I'm trusting with my source."
"We have no choice haven't we?"
The butcher shook his head, "This is the only plan I am afraid, but I need to know some details about him if this is going to work. If you wish to have Bovary's in this mess, write a letter and give it to me. I know Esther, she's a tough woman and she's always demands proof."
Still pale and horrified, Laura nodded and with a piece of old paper, she wrote down and gave him the necessary details. Heaving heavily in her heart, she prayed that John will not think, during the last minutes before the plan sets in, that she had betrayed him.