Clothed in Flesh
When Constable George Sutton receives a summons from an old friend late at night, he only knows she is in distress. He's little prepared to find Elizabeth aged decades in a matter of days. He's even less prepared to learn his longtime friend and husband to Elizabeth has risen from the dead, released as the instrument of revenge by a victim of the Society for the Reformation of Manners. Hayden, a handsome outsider, arrives wanting to help, but can George trust a perfect stranger who seems to know all too well what is going on in the city?
To defeat the dead, George must come to terms with his role in their rising and accept responsibility for the city's survival. George and Hayden work together to stop the collapse of London, hoping their tumultuous relationship and dark pasts don't prove too much to overcome.
It's the eighteenth-century and the dead are walking.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Part I of this story is an extensively expanded and re-edited version of a story included in an anthology of the same name, available from Bold Strokes Books.
"Excuse me, sir?" The coachman replied as he snapped the reins of the horses. He turned and noticed the aggravated look on the constable's haggard face. "Constable Sutton, is it not?"
"It is," Mr Sutton said. "I asked why Mrs Tennyson called for me at such an unspeakable hour?" Constable Sutton hoped he had not been taken from the first quiet evening he had experienced in months for nothing more than a quick fuck. "What was her reasoning for this unexpected demand?"
"She would not explain herself, sir." The coachman pulled back on the reins of the horses. "Only to say she could not express her troubles to a perfect stranger then, in a fit of anger and what I can only describe as fear, she demanded I fetch you at once. She even went so far as to throw a vase at me when I hesitated." He brought the carriage to a stop then turned to face Mr Sutton before continuing. "If you do not mind my saying so, she did not seem at all herself."
"Forgive me for this rude and abrupt question." Mr Sutton leaned forward in his seat. "Who in the hell are you?"
"I am sorry, sir. In the urgency of this evening, I have neglected to introduce myself. My name is Hayden, Hayden Leonte."
"At least now I have a name, which gives me something to go on. However, your response does nothing to explain my initial question. I know all the coachmen the city affords us, how is it our paths have not crossed before now?"
"I have only recently arrived in London, sir," Mr Leonte replied, glancing toward the night sky as the moon broke through the coal-laced clouds.
"Do you care to elaborate on this, or are we in the midst of a game of guess?"
"My apology, sir. I do not mean to sound cryptic or play games as you suggest." Mr Leonte turned to face Mr Sutton.
They were distracted by a sudden commotion in the street. Peering out the window, they watched as a young woman ran past the carriage screaming incoherent words as if fright had stolen her mind.
"Whores," Mr Sutton said. "They are the bane of this society."
"I know nothing of the whores of this city, but she appeared to be in distress. Should we not go after her and see if we can assist in some way?" Mr Leonte cleared his throat. "It is after all your duty as a constable to see to such matters, is it not?"
"You are in no position to tell me what my duties to this city are, Mr Leonte. Most of the street people of this city are in some sort of distress. The sooner you understand life in London, the better off you shall be." Mr Sutton shook his head. "You were saying?"
"Yes." Mr Leonte turned his attention back toward the constable. "As I am new to this post, I never know how much personal information I should offer." He smiled and then glanced back down the street as the woman disappeared into the darkness. Her panicked cries trailed off behind her. "I have only recently arrived from Oxford."
"What has brought you to London?"
"The Society for the Reformation of Manners," he replied then quickly added, "I should correct myself, their actions brought me here. So many innocent people lost their lives in the hysteria of the society's attack on what they call sin, I thought I might be able to lend a hand somehow."
"I daresay those people were not innocent, Mr Leonte." The image of Mr Tennyson poised with the noose about his neck haunted Mr Sutton's thoughts.
He rubbed his fingers together as if he could still feel Elizabeth's hand curled in his as the crowds cheered for the execution of her husband. Her grip had tightened as her husband dropped. The sound of the rope snapping about Mr Tennyson's neck could be heard over the sudden death-like silence of Tyburn Square. The townspeople watched without a sound as the life seeped from his swinging body.
"You said you arrived in London a short time ago. If what you say is true, how can you attest Elizabeth--Mrs Tennyson--did not seem herself?"
"When I arrived a few months ago. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Mr Tennyson and his wife. She was--is a delightful woman."
"She has been through hell with the death of her husband, Mr Leonte. To witness the death of your loved one as they hang for unspeakable crimes will, without fail, have its effects on a person."
"As I am sure you know from witnessing these acts firsthand." He raised his eyebrows.
"What are you insinuating, Mr Leonte?"
"It is an observation, sir, and nothing more."