Chapter Twenty One

Jack sauntered up to the table where Annie sat with the young man. They were now engaged in a drunken snog and they gasped when Jack tapped the end of his walking stick on the table to get their attention.

"Evenin' all," Jack said to them.

"Fuck off, this slag's with me," the man growled at him.

"I see that. But I wasn't looking for a shag, just a bit of information," Jack said.

"Are you a copper then?" the man said, eyeing him suspiciously.

"Would I tell you if I was?" Jack countered.

The man considered that for a moment.

"What d'ya want then?" he finally said.

"I want to ask dear Annie here about Polly Nichols," Jack said, looking at her.

"Fuck off, she doesn't want a punter," Annie spat at him. "And neither does I!"

"Wasn't asking that," Jack said. "I just want to speak to you and Polly…privately," he said, eyeing her companion. "No sex, just some conversation."

"For 'ow much?" Annie said. "I don't talks for free."

Jack reached into his pocket, found the pouch, discretely opened it inside the pocket and pulled out a little bit of money. He pulled out two shillings from the bit of money in his hand and held them up to Annie's face. Her eyes gleamed with delight as she gazed at the money hungrily and Jack quickly put the rest of the money back in the pouch since her companion and several others were eyeing the money now.

"Two shillings for a bit of conversation with a lovely lady," he said to Annie. "Nothing more than that. Is that okay with you?"

"Sorry, love, I want to talk awhile with this fine gentleman," Annie said to her companion as she stroked her cheek. "I'll find ya once he's through."

The man glowered at Jack but he slid out of his seat and walked off. Jack took his place and tried not to gag at the stench of alcohol hanging on Annie's breath. She opened her mouth and gave him a toothy grin and Jack noticed three of her teeth were missing.

"So…what do you wants to talk about?" Annie slurred as she put her arm around him.

"Polly Nichols, where is she?" Jack said.

"Dunno," Annie said, shrugging. "I saws her awhile ago up the road but we separated when I found a taker. 'Aven't seen her since, love. Why? You want a go at 'er?"

Jack wondered how to tell her they were in danger without revealing any future information. She already told him that she wasn't interested in a pimp so that avenue was closed to him. Then again…

"I was wondering if you and Polly might reconsider joining my…harem," he said to her.

"I told yas, I don't work with fuckin' punters."

"Yes, but…you saw the money that I had, right? If you come to work for me, both you and Polly, I can provide room and board and companionship," he added, nodding to his friends.

Annie looked at the other women with bleary, bloodshot eyes for a moment. Then she took her arm off Jack and rose from the table. Jack stood up and watched while she gripped the end of the table and steadied herself for a moment before walking over towards them. The four women were sipping their bitter and chatting but Rose shut them up and nodded at Annie when she came up to them.

"Is this bloke tellin' me that truth?" he said to them.

"About what? We didn't hear him," Rose said.

"'E says that 'e'll give me and Polly room and board in return for being a part of 'is…'arem."

The women looked at Jack who was standing behind Annie. He nodded confirmation of that.

"Yeah, he's telling the truth," Rose said.

"'E gives us room and board, a'right," Donna said with a thick Cockney accent. "Treats us like princesses, 'e does."

"Princesses?" Annie said, turning to Jack while the four women glanced at each other and tried not to laugh. "Really, lovey? You don't smack around your 'ores?"

"Nope," Jack said. "I treat my whores like princesses."

"And you'll do the same for Polly an' me?"

Jack nodded.

"Why?" Annie said, giving him a wary glance. "You are a copper, yeah?"

Jack shook his head.

"No, but I believe in treating women well," he said.

Annie cackled at that.

"You treat em well so you 'ore em out to people," she said. "Lord, I thought I 'eard everything workin' these streets. You don't sound like a punter, love."

"I'm from the West End originally. Covent Garden. But I was embroiled in a family scandal and disgraced. I came here to make a new fortune for myself. My Cockney accent is just an affectation really. Makes me sound more legit."

"That one there, she sounds a bit posh as well," Annie said, nodding at Rose.

"She is. She ran away after she was disgraced and I found her and cared for her. I call her Posh Spice now. This one," he said, pointing his walking stick at Sarah Jane, "is Sporty Spice. This one…" he said, pointing to River, "is Baby Spice and that one over there is Ginger Spice. You…"

He grimaced at her haggard features, gaps in her teeth and bitter laced breath.

"And you can definitely be Scary Spice," he muttered while his friends fought hard to keep from laughing. "My gang is called The Spice Girls and you can be one of them."

Annie frowned at him in confusion. She looked at the women who were either drinking their bitter or holding their hands up to their lips to hide their smiles. Annie glanced at them.

"The Spice Girls, eh?" Annie drawled while the women bit their lips. "And you promise to treat me like a bloomin' princess?"

"You and Polly, I'll treat you both like the royalty you are," Jack said. "Now do you know of any boarding houses near here?"

"What? You're a punter and you don't know where to put your 'ores?" Annie said in shock.

"I don't really work this section of Whitechapel, I work another section," Jack said. "I'm branching out and franchising. Whores R Us, you know."

"Oh God," River muttered, her head in her hands while the others shook with silent laughter.

"So…any idea where your friend is?" Jack said.

"I s'pose you could check the church over the road 'ere," Annie said, pointing towards the front door.

"Okay," Jack said. "And if we don't find her, you help us find a boarding house for the night and you'll have the address and you can give it to Polly."

"You really wants us to come with ya," Annie said.

"I do," Jack said. "Safety in numbers, you know."

Annie glanced at the four women before she turned her gaze back to him.

"Alright, I'll try ya out then," Annie said. "But no promises, mind."

"Fine with me, I'm okay with a trial period," Jack said.

Annie seemed a bit perplexed by trial period but she nodded and told Jack she wanted to tell her companion what was going on. Jack nodded and bowed as he swept his arm back towards the empty table.

"After you," he said to her.

Annie still looked unsure. She nodded hesitantly, muttered "Yeah…" and walked away from them. Jack watched her go before he felt someone tugging on his jacket. He looked at River.

"Excuse me, Mister Pimp, sir," River said. "But how is it I'm Baby Spice when this body is nearly fifty years old?"

The other women sniggered while River gave him a pointed look.

"Really? Fifty, you don't look a day over five," Jack said with mock surprise as he put his hand over his heart.

"I'm Posh Spice so I can't be Baby Spice as well," Rose said when River looked at her in exasperation.

"Personally, I love how you referred to our newest member as Scary Spice when you were trying to sweet-talk her into the gang," Sarah Jane said.

"She is scary. You see how haggard she looks and the missing teeth and that breath that could kill cows in China from here. Phew!"

"And you've lost your Cockney accent, love," Donna said sweetly.

"Eh, I would probably slip sooner or later," Jack said, waving his hand dismissively. "Besides, the accent was boring me. I'd rather be a fallen wealthy man who turned to pimpin' hos for a livin'."

"I hope to God, Fluffy here doesn't get our throats slit," River said to them.

"Now, now, have faith in your pimp, girls," Jack said.

He noticed Annie was walking back towards them.

"On your feet, Spice Girls, it's go time!" he said to them.

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