They arrived in Whitechapel in a series of battered vardo wagons, with shuttered windows and canvas tops that had seen better days. It was a cloudy afternoon when they swept into London, setting up their show in front of a tailor shop that had boarded it’s windows and emptied out after the recent influx in crime. It was just the type of neighborhood that they preferred, full of the so-called poor and uneducated, people who could easily be preyed upon. Those were the sorts who flocked to these type of shows, which was exactly what they wanted. Crowds, of course, meant money, even if it was the last two shillings a person could scrape together. It meant, too, that they could eat for another day or two.

They hadn’t even had a chance to properly set up and people were already flocking, lingering about the wagons with interest. It was a tall, finely dressed man that exited first the wagon first, wearing a battered top hat and a black coat that buttoned at the waist. He carried a narrow, highly polished cane in one hand, and he was grinning at the crowd.

“Welcome, welcome,” he sang out, his accent thick and distinctly not of the English variety. No, he was from somewhere far away, though he did not offer that particular information to the gathering crowd. “My name is Lawrence Lovell, and I am here to cure what ails you! Please, meet my assistant, the lovely Adelia!”

A pale woman with dark ringlet curls stepped out from the back of the same wagon, wearing skirts that dragged the ground. They were sewn together from all different colors and types of material, dazzling to the eye but also highly unusual. The skirts gathered in at her tiny waist, surely pulled in tight by a corset, her bosom a little too out there and her shoulders completely bare. Everyone stared as she stepped to the second vardo and grabbed a cord, pulling open a heavy velvet curtain. Behind it was a display of all types of bottles and containers, tinctures of all sorts for everything you could imagine. She flashed the people a brilliant smile, picking up some of the bottles and walking closer so that they might see them better.

As Adelia worked the crowd, Lawrence gave his speech. He promised to cure everything from coughs to bleeding to ‘addled minds’. Though, he assured them, no mere tincture could help with that. No, if you wanted to be of sound mind, hold down a job, or make better money, well, then you need to be hypnotized.

“It is, truly,” Lawrence crowed, “the only way to shake the cobwebs from ones mind and be free!”

One by one they lined up to be put under his spell, and to buy bottles and bottles of promises from Adelia. The pair pocketed coins by the bag full, hiding them safely inside the wagon each time one filled. Over the course of several hours they milked dry the poor and the destitute of Whitechapel for what little they had, promising to return tomorrow for those they could not reach today.

Slowly the crowds thinned, and they packed up and secured the wagon of wares. Then they slipped inside, where they waited. Nobody stirred for hours, not until well after midnight, when Lawrence and Adelia once again appeared. They were dressed down now, in simple clothes and not in their finery as before. They went one by one to the other wagons in the caravan, unlocking them quickly. From inside emerged two, four, six others who were ragged and drained looking, their faces pale and gaunt, their eyes tinged pink.

Lawrence climbed atop his vardo and looked out over the damp streets. He saw them coming, staggering along the cobblestones in their nightclothes, walking tiredly and seemingly without a purpose that they understood. Still they came, however, and he laughed as he turned to the others.

“We’ll feast well tonight,” he assured them, his tongue flicking over the sharp fangs that had descended from his upper gums. “Tomorrow promises to be another dismal, overcast day here. Perfect for us to draw more in. A night or two is all we can afford, we don’t want to be found out, but there will be plenty for all of us this time. No more starvation!”

Climbing down from the wagon, Lawrence laughed as several of the people he had hypnotized earlier in the evening rounded the corner, hurrying towards them. It was a walking feast, and he couldn’t have been more pleased with himself.

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