The whole place smelled. He was used to the slums in his own town, but this place reeked of a whole different order.
Still, all slums were laid out more or less the same. And people always thought they could hide in them.
The man consulted his watch with a sigh. He hoped this wouldn't take too long - he hated being away from home.
But he had lost his target. It happened sometimes, but not that often. His orders were clear; Jenkens had defaulted on his payments, and his liver was forfeit. The last his neighbors had seen of him, he had been planning a trip to this god-forsaken place.
He didn't find his target, but he did find that this man appeared to have a habit of leaving behind unpaid bills. The owner of an upscale bed and breakfast had told him Jenkens had skipped out on his payment, even leaving most of his belongings behind.
It seemed that the man knew he was being hunted.
But, Nathan was experienced. For someone on the run from GeneCo, Jenkens had done a lousy job at covering his trail. Nathan had followed it like a blood hound.
This brought him back to his current location, standing on a street corner, avoiding a questionable looking pile of garbage and pondering where to go from here.
He asked a few of the more of the locals if they had seen Jenkens, and had narrowed it down to this block. They had been reluctant to talk to him until he invented some a story about Jenkens' seducing his sister. But it seemed that the natives were starved for entertainment, and a scandal involving a stranger was something that they all had to get involved in. He looked around at the businesses - and he used that term loosely - that lined the streets.
There was a book shop with grimy windows, a used clothing shop, a bakery, two pie shops right across the street from each other. He would have called all three bakeries, but the locals informed him that they were 'pie shops'.
"That place is famous," one woman told him, indicating one of the pie shops, "Best meat pies in the whole town."
Nathan nodded, feigning interest. He highly doubted that this place was a major tourist attraction. However, he did agree that this was probably a good place to go to vanish. Especially if one was hiding from a GeneCo Repo man. But, it wasn't good enough.
"You should stop and 'ave dinner there, sir," the woman persisted, "You'll be missin' out if you came all the way down 'ere an' didn't eat at Mrs. Lovett's pie shop."
"I'll think about it," he assured her, making his escape.
As the day turned to evening, the pie shop in question opened for business. He watched from across the street as the courtyard outside of the shop filled with customers.
He didn't like the look of the meat pies, but he went over and ordered a meal anyway, taking a seat at a table in the corner. From here, Nathan could watch the entire yard. Gossip flowed freely around him, but nothing about a stranger visiting, much less vanishing.
The building itself was somewhat run down, although it seemed the owners tried to keep it presentable. A staircase led to a second floor, and he asked his neighbor if the owners lived above the shop.
"Up there?" the man repeated between bites, "There's a barber shop upstairs. Good 'un too, accordin' to most."
"Have you ever been there?" Nathan asked.
"Nah," he said, "Ain't got the time ta be pampered like that."
"A barber shop is an odd thing to have above a pie shop," he said.
"You ain't from 'round 'ere, are ya?" the man asked, "'Round 'ere, folks make their livings wherever they can."
"I suppose you are right," Nathan agreed evenly.
As the night wore on, he observed three men ascend the stairs to the barber shop. Only two came down. Then the lights went dark as the barber shop closed.
He remained at his place until a woman he had to assume was 'Mrs. Lovett' announced that she would be closing up shop for the night, so everyone had to "clear out an' go 'ome"
The next day, Nathan ascended the staircase to the barber shop. He looked around the empty shop, carefully keeping his expression blank. At least the place looked reasonably clean, but otherwise, it looked like it belonged in this neighborhood.
He turned as the door opened and a swarthy man entered the room.
"Good afternoon sir," the new arrival greeted, "What can I do for you?"
"I heard that you are the best barber in town," Nathan replied evenly.
"So they say," the man said modestly, "The name is Todd, Sweeny Todd."
Nathan gave a nod, "I was not sure if you would be open for business this early in the day."
"I was visiting your neighbor downstairs last night," he replied, "And I saw that you were doing brisk business. I counted at least three customers."
The barber gave a shrug, "Business was average last night. I don't keep count."
"You don't keep count of your customers?" Nathan repeated, doubtfully.
"Everyone paid me," he said with a shrug, "So I had no reason to remember them."
Nathan just gave a nod, seemingly satisfied with that explanation.
"Can I interest you in a hair cut? A shave?" the barber asked, "If you'll forgive my sayin' so, you look like a man with the weight of the world on your shoulders."
A bit alarmed by how perceptive the barber was, Nathan just gave a shrug.
"I thought so," Todd said with a smile. He stepped over to his barber chair and whirled out a sheet, "A good shave, some pampering, will do you a world of good."
"Alright," Nathan agreed, taking a seat.
He watched through half-closed eyes as the barber got his tools.
"You're not from around here, are you?" Todd asked conversationally.
"No," Nathan replied, "I am here on business."
"Business?" Todd repeated, sharpening his razors on a leather belt, "What sort of business would bring you to Fleet Street?"
"My own," Nathan replied shortly.
Todd paused and then chuckled, "Fair enough."
As he sharpened his razors, Sweeny Todd frowned to himself. This man was a stranger, no one in town knew him. When a man was reluctant to talk about his business, it usually meant that his intentions were less than honorable. And why had he been watching the shop so closely last night? If he knew there were three customers, then he probably knew that only two came out.
"Just relax sir," Todd said, "And I'll give you the closest shave you've ever had in your life."
Under the sheet, Nathan shifted just slightly, loosening one of his knives from its sheath and letting it slide into his hand. He was motionless as the barber slathered shaving lotion over his face.
Sweeny Todd was a wizard with a razor, fast as lightning, but Nathan Wallace was faster. As soon as he felt the barber tense to strike, he balled his free hand into a fist and struck out hard, hitting the other man in a rather sensitive area. He sprang up, tossing the sheet aside and charged at Todd, pinning the man against the wall, a knife at his throat.
"Try it," the Repo-man growled, "Just try it. I dare you."
Todd was startled at the change that had come over the seemingly harmless man. There was a madness in his eyes that Todd recognized. He saw it every time he looked at himself in the mirror.
"Who are you?" Todd whispered.
"I am looking for a man," he continued to growl, "He was last seen around here. At the hotel he was staying at, they said he just abandoned his possessions and skipped out on the bill, but I find that hard to believe." He shoved Todd harder against the wall, "And I think that you might know where he is."
"You'll have to give me a little more than that to go on," Todd retorted.
Nathan released the barber and took out a holocard from his pocket. He flicked it on, showing Todd the latest picture he had of Jenkens.
"Ah, I remember him," Todd replied slowly, "Came in like he owned the place. Gave Mrs. Lovett a fright as well."
"So you got to him first," Nathan muttered, stashing the holocard, "Where do you keep the bodies?"
Todd's eyes narrowed, "An' why should I tell you that?"
"I'm not the police," Nathan replied, putting his knife away.
"But you could go to them and... hang on..." Todd blinked, "I got to him... first?"
"That's what I said."
The barber blinked again and then started laughing, "What did he do to you that you were out for his blood?"
"Nothing," Nathan replied, "I didn't know him. And I told you, I was here on business."
"You don't look like an assassin."
Nathan shrugged. "Now, where is the body?"
"Gone," Todd replied in the same guarded tone that Nathan used when someone asked him about his work.
"Gone," he repeated and then turned away, slamming his fist into the wall.
Sweeny Todd managed not to jump. He gathered himself and approached the man slowly, "I am sorry. But I cannot let you leave here."
"You cannot stop me either," Nathan replied, "But if you are worried about me ratting you out, you shouldn't."
"No?" Todd was doubtful.
The madness was still there in Nathan's eyes, veiled from most of the world. Madness, anger, hate and sorrow. Sweeny Todd knew those emotions all too well.
"I don't care what you do here," Nathan muttered, "It's not my job."
"Well then," Todd was at a loss for words.
"There is one other thing that you can do for me though."
There was always a catch. "What is that?" Todd asked guardedly.
"Check the organs of your victims next time. If any of them have any with a GeneCo label, let me know." He set a small card down on the table. "Then we won't have to go through this again."
Mrs. Lovett was used to unusual sounds coming from above her head. Sometimes the victims struggled more than others.
But she was surprised to see Nathan Wallace leaving, apparently unharmed. She was too stunned to even say anything as he brushed past her without a word, striding off down the street with a black look on his face.
Fearing the worst, she rushed upstairs.
"Mister Todd! Mister Todd!"
"Calm down Mrs. Lovett," he stepped out into the hall, "Don't worry."
"But I heard sounds, and I thought that you were - "
"It didn't go exactly as I'd planned," Todd admitted.
"Who was that man?" she asked.
"I can't say for certain," Todd said thoughtfully, "But, my dear Mrs. Lovett, I think we just had a visit from a legendary monster."
"A monster?" she repeated, "What're you talkin' about Mister Todd?"
"That man that just left."
"That harmless old man?" she blinked.
"He's hardly harmless," Todd laughed humorlessly, "He fought me off quite nicely. Could've had me too."
"He knows?" she gasped, "What're we gonna do?"
"Nothing," Sweeny Todd replied, "He won't turn me in."
"How d'you know that?" she demanded.
"Professional courtesy," Sweeny Todd replied, "I have a feeling that there is even more blood on his hands than there is on mine."