Book Excerpt: Eeper Weeper
“I didn’t hear you come in, my dear,” Doctor Hadley said, looking up from his paperwork.
“You were quite engrossed in your work, father,” I said.
It was true. Doctor Jameson Foster Hadley was always obsessed with documenting the progress, or failures, of his latest experiments. He was driven by what he claimed was his duty to God and crown and all humankind. He would solve the mysteries of the human brain and fix all that he saw as evil and flawed in the many patients who filled the asylum outside these office walls.
“Are you wearing the shoes that I bought you?” he asked, eyes narrowing as he scrutinized the lower portion of my dress, as if he could force the fibers to part with his will and show him whether or not I had indeed offended him.
I went rigid, every muscle tensing as I prepared myself for what might follow. I was wearing the shoes in question, but I’d forgotten to screw the metal plates back onto the bottom of each shoe, a mistake that could be seen as dangerous rebellion, or worse. I forced breath into my lungs and bowed my head dutifully to the man I now called father, the man who was my salvation and my greatest enemy.
I chose my words carefully all too aware of what this monster was capable of.
“I am sorry, father,” I said, casting my eyes to the floor. “I reached for my old shoes out of habit. It won’t happen again.”
“No, I dare say it won’t,” he said, piercing me with his gaze.
I held my breath, waiting for him to call for the orderlies to take me to the basement where I’d be subjected to endless questions. There would be no comfort, no food, no sleep within the stone walls of my father’s laboratory. But fatigue and hunger were not the worst of my fears. I’d faced that much on the streets after my parents died.
It was what came after, when I was weak and tired and restrained, that was what turned my blood to ice in my veins.
I focused on the mundane sensation of pain where my corset dug into my ribs on one side. The bruise that blossomed there was just one more black mark upon my character. Doctor Jameson Foster Hadley had quite particular views on proper womanly behavior, and deep inhalations were not to be tolerated by the fairer, weaker sex.
Indeed, as with the metal plates on my shoes to warn of my presence, the poor fit of my corset was calculated with the utmost scientific precision.
I knew all of this to be true. For although I’d often questioned what was real and what was delusion since entering the asylum’s unscalable walls, the proof of my treatment plan was all around me. My father had dedicated fifty-one percent of his office—such a large amount of space when one considers the number of unfortunate souls under his care—to the charts, diagrams, and sketches of the devices and techniques currently in use upon my person.
But even more terrible were the detailed sketches for the procedures and gadgets that loomed in my future like a scalpel held aloft in the operating theater. Before my parents’ deaths, I’d believed that knowledge held the power to dispel fear and worry. The good doctor’s diagrams, always in full view, were evidence of my childish innocence. Knowing and anticipating the horrors to come was much worse than any level ignorance, no matter how low.
So I focused on the pain below my breast and tried to empty my mind. Whatever was to come would come. It was best not to think on it.
“My dear, I am disappointed, but you say that you put on the incorrect shoes out of habit,” he said, tapping his desk with the tip of an ink stained finger. “I would not wish to alter this behavior too greatly, not when habit and routine are the greatest methods by which we can restore the damaged mind.”
I risked a quick glance from his hands to his face, tears rising unbidden to join the hope that swelled inside my bruised chest. Had I truly escaped from this encounter unscathed? I measured my breathing by the ticking of the brass clock atop the mantelpiece before responding. A misstep now would destroy the limited goodwill my earlier comment had earned.
“I am sorry, father,” I said. “I will build a new habit with the shoes you’ve bought me.”
“And these new shoes, are they quite comfortable?” he asked.
My hand tightened into a fist at my side, but I kept my tone even as I replied, “The shoes only pinch if I walk quickly…which I know only from when I hastened to put out my light at the scheduled hour.”
He nodded, a satisfied smile on his lips as he made a notation in his ledger. I fixed the docile gaze of a dutiful daughter onto my face and waited for him to blot the page. Finally, he looked up from his desk and gestured for me to take the tray of discarded tea things, which had been the reason for this visit inside his domain.
But as I moved forward, he caught my wrist.
“If you promise to be good, I’ll let you join the patients in the garden,” he said, eyes alight. “You will be good, won’t you, Josephine?”
“Yes, father,” I said.
I would behave, but I daren’t hope that I would ever be good again. All that was right and true and innocent had died in the fire that killed my family. But I’d learned how to survive, first on the streets and now under the care and tutelage of my benefactor. I was his ward and I’d learned to do his bidding. I created a façade of grace, calm, and benevolence, but Doctor Hadley was a perceptive man. He’d made studying anomalous behavior his life’s work, which made him a difficult man to fool.
But I would pretend to be good, and hope that news of my “episodes” did not reach him. So far, I’d managed to bribe the staff with cakes and other sweets that I’d saved from my supper. I was too thin already, so I could scarcely afford to give them up, but without a means of bribery, I was as good as ruined.
I was the doctor’s success story. He’d taken me in and made a proper woman out of me, driving out ill habits and unsuitable behavior with various experimental therapies.
My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth as I cleared away the morning’s dishes from his desk. He turned back to his work, dismissing me from his presence. I was once again unremarkable, a fixture in the room. If I were lucky, oh so lucky, I would remain that way. To be in that man’s notice was a position so dire, I’d not wish it on the lowliest sinner, no not even the Devil himself.
I moved steadily to the door, practice and determination the only thing keeping the tea things from shaking noisily on the tray. I bit my lip and slid the door open wider, careful not to open it past the point at which it creaked.
I knew all the sounds of this room, all the whispers, moans, and cries of this entire rambling monstrosity of an estate. From the kitchens to the basement laboratories to the endless, winding halls of cell doors, this place was my home and my prison.
It didn’t matter that I was the doctor’s adopted daughter and not an inmate. My actions were just as scrutinized, my freedom just as limited. I was an ongoing experiment in a fancy hat and pretty dress.
If I was to survive, then I had to keep the doctor from learning the truth. I had to keep secret the thing the staff had already begun whispering about in the shadows. The great and prestigious man of science, Doctor Jameson Foster Hadley had somehow made a mistake. I wasn’t good and I wasn’t normal.
His experiment had failed.
[cover coming 10/12/16]
Eeper Weeper (Whitechapel Paranormal Society #0.5) by E.J. Stevens
The great and prestigious man of science, Doctor Jameson Foster Hadley had somehow made a mistake. I wasn’t good and I wasn’t normal. His experiment had failed.
The tedium and terrors of Josephine "Jo" Hadley's existence within the stone walls of London's Bethnal Asylum are interrupted by a strange visitor, Cora Drummond, a woman who demands to interview one of the asylum's most insane residents. The patient's rantings include tales of ghosts and demons, but it is the bizarre, near-riotous muttering of prophetic nursery rhymes that follow Jo throughout the asylum wards that is most illuminating to Miss Drummond.
Eeeper Weeper, chimney sweeper. Had a wife, but couldn't keep her...
Days later, Jo and her adoptive father receive an invitation to attend an exclusive tea at the prestigious Whitehall Club. But the request for Jo's attendance is more than it might seem. She has caught the attention of a secret branch of government working directly for the queen.
Will Jo Hadley's unusual talent for inciting prophetic nursery rhymes prove useful to the crown? She is given one chance to demonstrate her worth to the Special Paranormal Research Branch, but this is one mission that even the most highly trained operatives might not survive.
Eeper Weeper is a prequel short story in the Whitechapel Paranormal Society series by award-winning author E.J. Stevens. One for Sorrow (Whitechapel Paranormal Society #1) takes place six years after the prequel short story Eeper Weeper (Whitechapel Paranormal Society #0.5). The Whitechapel Paranormal Society series is a Victorian Gothic horror (dreadpunk) series set in London's East End.
Release Date: June 2017
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