Written by Miss Smiley
The woman breathed raggedly, hurling a terrified look behind her as she ran down the alley. A shot of adrenaline hit her breastbone as she spotted her pursuer, no more than ten metres back, shrouded in the darkness, strolling along like they had all the time in the world.
Miss Herrington, however, didn’t. Too panicked even to scream, she bolted as fast as she could in her flailing skirts. The hobble skirt bashed painfully against her shins with each frantic step, almost tripping her. A thought flitted through her head –
What on Earth has fashion got against physical activity?
– too slippery and quick to follow. She threw her hands up to stop herself crashing into the brick wall. Wheeling around the corner, she scrambled against the cobblestones, wishing she had not been quite so vain that morning – without the hobble skirt and extra petticoats, she would have been much quicker on her feet.
She stopped short as she spotted the wall, mere inches from her face.
A dead-end. No escape.
“No…” she whimpered. She let out a little moan of despair and pushed against the wall with a palm, willing it to move, hoping for a miracle. “Please…”
Footsteps clicked on the cobblestones behind her. She wheeled around to face her attacker.
“Wh-what…what do you want?” It came out ragged, whimpering and terrified. Madeline Herrington cursed herself for not sounding more confident.
Her pursuer smiled from beneath a hat. “You know what I want.” A woman’s voice, refined and silky. On her hands, she wore white gloves. Madeline wondered how the woman would ever get her blood out of the fabric.
“Don’t you dare touch me!” she screamed as her attacker neared, those gloved hands outstretched to her.
“Why not?” The gloves curled around her arm, jerking her forward to the eyes of their owner. Her attacker smirked confidently. “It’s nothing personal. Curiosity killed the cat, Miss Herrington. We’re just putting that practice into play.”
“I’ll never publish it, I swear!” Madeline was weeping now, her make-up smeared with grime and tears. Her heart thumped frantically in agreement. “No one knows, I swear it!”
“Too bad. You still know.”
She looked into the eyes and recoiled. The reports hadn’t lied. The woman’s eyes were dead – lifeless, like a doll’s. “I swear I’ll take your secret to my grave.”
“Yes. Yes, you will.” The woman smiled from beneath the hat, a smile that never reached her lifeless eyes. Her gloved hand made its way up her arm to her neck, cold to the touch.
Madeline shuddered, too terrified to say a word.
The woman surveyed her for a moment with those blue eyes and then smiled again. “Goodbye, Miss Herrington. Nothing personal. Just orders.”
Madeline felt cold metal against her skin and swallowed. And then…
She hadn’t even had time to scream.
As many of our regular readers will know, Miss Smiley is a dab hand when it comes to creating suspension in short stories. This is only a mere snippet of more to come, but we hope it’s just as deadly as this piece. We’re also perplexed as to when tea will be served and if it’s laced with poison. Maybe someday we’ll have the pleasure of finding out. If you enjoyed reading Miss Smiley’s short horror, you may just find her other work just as charming in ‘The Bells of Campden‘ and ‘The Laurel‘.