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Dead Man's Handle

Dead Mans’ Handle

The sun had yet to show its face in the gap between the buildings, but soon the rays would reveal the full extent of last nights’ detritus now adorning the weathered flagstones.

No one knew how long ago the name of the alley had been changed, yet in the 21st century, Dead Mans’ Handle seemed apt with so many bodies found within less than a mile square.

She sat on a green wheelie bin, her hair extending down. Lank in lustre and covered in dirt it almost covered her thin frame. Removing her faded red top to reveal a pair of droopy breasts enabled the tourists to take photographs of her heavily tattooed body. After so many months, dealing with all their questions was second nature, yet her frown was deep. She was scared at the thought of getting caught.

The old woman selling tickets at the end of the alley had reassured her. She’d soon be able to move on with her share of the money, and why complain when it was the easiest job she’d ever had. And all she had to do was act like a witch, talk like one, and obey.

Janie grinned through a wave of stained teeth and did as she was told, for as usual, Old Myrtle was right. She would put up with the miasma, the groping hands of some, the gentle touching of her feeble body from others and the gasps of alarm when she spoke out in a clear voice, as for then, all eyes were on her and Janie had the control.

A huge ape of a man pushed his way to the front of the queue and placed weather-beaten hands on her shoulders. She grimaced in his grip, tried to smile, failed, and sat still like any statue.

“Who killed Tom Dawson?”

“How would I know?” She shrieked.

“The old hag told me you had the sight?”

“I do. I do, but I can’t see everything.”

The crowds were growing pressing in from all sides.

“Try harder. Tell me what you do know.”

“He worked nearby, a banker. He had a wife …”

“Answer my question witch or I’ll break you in two.”

“He worked late, very late. After visiting a lady of the night he walked past this very spot and along the alley.” She pointed her slender arm.

“And?” The big man moved closer.

“I think the clown got him.”

The screams were louder than the gasps from the crowd. Men and women, tourists all, shouted questions. Even the big man was pushed aside in the rush to learn more about the devil in a clowns’ suit.

As he left the ape winked at the old crone.

“I need another clown suit,” he murmured.

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