On the 20th. of March, the feeble cries of a small child were heard as midwives rushed with basins of water in and out of Nora Kitcher’s room. Soon after, a tall man whose face ran dry entered the room. Ripping the child from the arms of a frail and sickly albino woman, he handed a note to Roos Minster, The Churchwarden, leaving the room. The note read:
You’re to meet me before sundown near The Whispering City. Not far from the river, you’ll come across an abbey, wait for me there, and before my mind scatters to the wind, make sure no midwives leave the premises.GW
Folding the letter, Roos Minster placed it within the pocket of her jacket, locking the doors as she made her way toward The Whispering City. She seemed strangely plagued by the dark, which made sense as she spent most of her time indoors and barely traveled. By the time she arrived at The Whispering City, the last of the rays had fallen, and the Black-Crowned Night Heron had started his warble.
From a distance, the silver stones of the abbey were visible as Roos Minster made her way inside to find Nora Kitcher’s child wrapped in a blanket. The more she glanced at the child, the more she noticed its oddly shaped head and unusual features. Interrupted by the sound of breaking twigs, she turned to see the tall image of a man entering the room.
“The child.” Roos Minster pointed toward the oddly shaped child that laid weeping. “What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s plagued with a primitive sickness, her body will forever remain in limbo.”
“Happens to women that are disobedient to our Lord and the one true faith.”
“But Nora Kitcher is an honest, hardworking woman.”
“Looks can be deceiving, Ms. Minster, remember that.” Godfrey Walker dug his hand into his fine, woven pocket, handing Roos Minster another note. “As the churchwarden, I expect you to have your house in order upon my return.”
Batting her eyes, she glanced back and forth as if troubled by the conversation. “Yes, yes, of course.”
“Is there a problem?”
“The child… what will happen to her?”
“The child is weak, it will wither and die.”
Grasping her hands, Ms. Minster pursed her lips. “I see.”
“Ms. Minster, if you’re not up for the job, I could find another more suitable hand—”
“Yes, yes, I think that’d be best—”
“But, if that were the case.” Godfrey circled around Ms. Minster, placing his hand around her neck. “I fear the odds wouldn’t favor you. Are we understanding each other better, Ms. Minster?”
“Better indeed, Mr. Walker.”
“Good. Will you be opening the letter soon?” Godfrey circled around, raising his furrow brows. He glanced at the letter in Ms. Minster’s hands.
“The letter? Right, right, the letter.” Calming her nerves, Ms. Minster took a breath, unfolding the letter, and reading its contents.
You’re to return to the house and do away with all who tended to Nora Kitcher. How you carry out this task is none of my concern, but it must be dealt with before the sun rises.GW
“You can’t expect me to kill all those women.” Ms. Minster folded the letter, glancing toward Godfrey with fear. “I’ve known them for years and their bodies? Did you think about that? What am I supposed to do with their bodies?”
With no reaction to his face, Godfrey stared at Roos Minster, sliding his calloused hands into his gloves. “I’m sure you’ll think of something, Ms. Minster.”
“And their families?” Ms. Minster drew her brows, staring at the crack on the ground as the child’s cries faded. “Won’t they suspect?”
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something clever, but for now I must go, and remember before the sun reaches over the hills, Ms. Minster.”
Leaving The Whispering City behind, Ms. Minster thought of all the ways she could do away with the midwives, seven there were. Harriett Figgins, Amelia Strout, Leona Burt, Olivia Hendrix, Jenny Bergenson, Lilliana Grims, and Sadie Robbins with Leona Burt being the most meddlesome. Her behavior brought great concern to Ms. Minster, for she was eternally running her mouth. Word around town says it was Leona Burt’s bruited whispers on the night The Perkins came to town that got poor Mr. Phillens, the bread maker to lose his job.
Ms. Minster knew Godfrey was right, the midwives had to go and fast before Leona Burt began asking questions regarding the disappearance of Nora Kitcher’s infant child. So, she headed toward the town’s market, stopping by a table whose worn, dusted cloth read ‘Echoes of the Past.’ The table’s surface laid scattered with an array of tinctures all suited to serve a different purpose. Most of the writings were old and hard to read, but those she could, made her tremble. In fact, she trembled so much the merchant noticed.
“I believe this is what you’re looking for?” Wrinkled by the hands of time, his face had been as he held out his hand, pointing toward a small bottle whose contents shown dark and murky.
“What makes you say that?”
“The three scents always delights a lover’s nose, it’s my most popular blend and sell, and you just happen to be in luck, there’s one left.”
“Oh, no, no, I don’t think you understand.”
“You see, I… I need…” Ms. Minster glanced down at all the bottles the merchant sold as if trying to unriddle their aberrant language and for a moment thought about leaving the table, but then thought about Godfrey’s letter and the nettlesome Leona Burt who boiled her blood. Clenching her fist, she glanced toward the merchant. “I’m in need of something much more powerful, if you know what I mean.”
“Ah… you wish to keep him. In that case, I have just the potion for you, my dear.”
“No. No, no, no, no, no. I… I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say, or perhaps. Perhaps, it is I who is not being so clear.”
“If one… if one wanted to say…” Ms. Minster placed her finger before her cracked lips, striking them repeatedly. “Put an ailing animal to sleep. What would you recommend?”
The merchant raised his brow in suspicion. Throwing out his hand, he pointed toward a small bottle whose contents shown gray and flat. “Two drops of this would paralyze the mind, making it appear as if the victim fell to a slumber.”
“Two drops, you say?”
“Be careful though! More than two and a corpse you’ll have.”
“Perhaps a corpse is what I need,” she mumbled.
“Oh, never mind.” Ms. Minster smiled. “That’ll be all.”
Relief and horror marked her face as she left the merchant’s table and headed toward the house, serving seven drinks of the best wine she had. Making her way up the stairs, she greeted the midwives with a smile, serving them each with a drink, but Leona Burt grew suspicious of her actions, for wine was never offered to midwives, let alone a full bottle. Not delighting in the wine, Leona Burt placed her glass on the cupboard, and without excusing herself, left the room. When Ms. Minster looked over her shoulder, she noticed one cup was full to the brim. Counting the midwives, she realized there were six instead of seven, and Leona Burt was the seventh. Leaving the girls to their last delight, she went in search of the missing midwife, searching all the rooms in the house, but Leona Burt was nowhere to be found, causing a great deal of panic to Ms. Minster. Ms. Minster knew the night would pass and before long the sun would rise over The Bare Hills of Hebburn, she had to work fast!
The rooms to the house stretched out along the halls with the walls being rather thin, and from room three, the shuffling of feet were heard pounding at the tattered boards, keeping Nora Kitcher up most of the night. Had it not been for the trickles of rain against the window, the poor woman’s nerves would’ve never eased, but that came to an end when she heard a thump.
At first, she thought nothing of it until the same sound occurred three more times. Growing curious, the albino woman rose from her bed, putting on her slippers, as she moved her frail body across the room. Resting her ear against the door, she heard another thump followed by the rushing of feet, causing her curiosity to grow. Proceeding down the hall, she noticed the door to room seven had been left wide open. Looking in, she caught sight of six bodies wrapped in muslin with one of the bodies alive and breathing. Ripping the fabric, she noticed it was none other than Amelia Strout, gasping for air. Amelia’s lifeless eyes peered toward Nora as if trying to convey a message, but it was too late. Death had taken its toll.