Excerpts for Black Book of Secrets


Fragment from The Memoirs of Ludlow Fitch

When I opened my eyes I knew that nothing in my miserable life prior to that moment could possibly be as bad as what was about to happen. I was lying on the cold earthen floor of a basement room lit by a single candle, no more than an hour's burning left. Instruments of a medical nature hung from hooks in the beams. Dark stains on the floor suggested blood. But it was the chair against the opposite wall that fully confirmed my suspicions. Thick leather straps attached to the arms and legs were there for one purpose only: to hold down an unwilling patient. Ma and Pa were standing over me.

"E's awake," crowed Ma excitedly.

Pa dragged me to my feet. He had me in an iron grip, my arm wrenched up behind my back. Ma held me by the hair. I looked from one to the other. Their grinning faces were only inches away from mine. I knew I should not look to them to save me.

Another man, concealed until now in the shadows, stepped forward and took me by the chin. He forced open my mouth and ran a blackened, foul-tasting finger around my gums.

"How much?" asked Pa, drooling with anticipation.

"Not bad," said the man. "Thrupence apiece. Maybe twelve in all."

"It's a deal," said Pa. "Who needs teeth anyway?"

"Someone, I hope," replied the man dryly. "I sell ‘em for a living."

And they laughed, all three, Ma and Pa and Barton Gumbroot, the notorious tooth surgeon of Old Goat's Alley.

Once the money for my teeth was agreed with Barton, they moved quickly. Together they dragged me over to the surgeon's chair. I kicked and shouted and spat and bit; I wasn't going to make it easy for them. I knew how Barton Gumbroot made his living, preying on the poor, pulling their teeth, paying them pennies and selling them for ten times as much. I was racked with fear. I had no protection. I was going to feel it all. Every single nerve-stabbing twinge.

They came close to succeeding in their evil quest.



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