“DELPHINE LaLAURIE: MONSTER of ROYAL STREET” and 2 More True Tales And 3 Creepypastas #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: (Weekend Dark Archives episode with stories from January 10-11, 2019) *** Winnie had two trunks when she arrived at the train station – trunks that contained the severed body parts of her two best friends. She had murdered them, it seems, all in the name of love. (Winnie Ruth Judd: Trunk Murderess) *** Was British government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly murdered? (Many Dark Actors: Dr. David Kelly) *** Madame Delphine LaLaurie, made popular by Kathy Bates in American Horror Story: Coven, was a first class monster. A figure of high society, she was well known for her mistreatment of slaves. But no one knew just how sick she truly was. (The Monster of Royal Street) *** Plus, I have THREE Creepypasta stories to share!
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“The Monster of Royal Street: Delphine LaLaurie”: https://tinyurl.com/ssf9lm3
“Many Dark Actors: Dr. David Kelly”: https://tinyurl.com/uf4jv5m
“Winnie Ruth Judd: Trunk Murderess by Troy Taylor: http://ow.ly/kpFb30nhABS
“I’ve Always Hated Dolls” by Devin Hoover: https://tinyurl.com/rfe8zby
“The Snow Queen’s Children” by Weirdo family member Louise Latham
“I’m a Glutton” by R. A. Brewster: https://tinyurl.com/wonxcv4
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DELPHINE LaLAURIE: MONSTER OF ROYAL STREET
Delphine LaLaurie was born Marie Delphine Macarty on March 19, 1787 in New Orleans, Louisiana, as one of five children in Louisiana’s Spanish-occupied territory. Her father, Louis Barthelemy McCarthy was an Irish immigrant, and her mother, Marie-Jeanne was a French woman. Louis shortened the family’s surname to Macarty, and together they all emigrated to the United States in 1730. They lived in the White Creole Community, and engaged in many profitable ventures. One of Delphine’s uncles, esteban Rodriguez Miró was a governor, and her cousin, Augustin de Macarty became Mayor of New Orleans from 1815 to 1820. Remaining family members were wealthy merchants, army officials, and slavers.
Delphine was beautiful, and men were quite interested in her. When she hit the tender age of thirteen, it wasn’t hard for her family to find her a suitable groom. She was married in June 1800 to a high ranking Spanish official by the name of Don Ramon de Lopez y Angulo. A major part of New Orleans was under Spanish occupation, so when Don was appointed consul general of Spain, Delphine became one of the most powerful women in the state.
In 1804, Don Ramon received a letter with a royal command stating that the young Spanish officer was “to take his place at court as befitting his new position.” Don Ramon and a very pregnant Delphine departed the United States and paused in Havana, Cuba. While there, Don Ramon became very ill, and died, just days before his daughter was born. She was named Marie Delphine Borja Lopez y Angula de Candelaria, but became best known in later years as “Borquita,” meaning “Little Borja,” from the fact that she was named after her father’s grandmother.
Widowed, and with a newborn baby, Delphine returned to New Orleans where she lived comfortably in her mansion. In 1808, she married a second time to one of the richest men in the region, who was also a well settled merchant, banker, and lawyer. Jean Blanque bought them a house on Royal Street, which became known as Villa Blanque. He and Delphine had four children, Marie Louise Pauline, Louise Marie Laure, Marie Louise Jeanne, and Jeanne Pierre Paulin Blanque. Delphine remained a figure of high society, spending time with the other socialites.
Her marriage to Jean Blanque did not last long, albeit longer than her marriage to Don Ramon. In 1816, Jean Blanque died, after just eight years of marriage.
She remained a widow for the next nine years, and that was when she met Dr. Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie. He had come to New Orleans from Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France, and was ready to setup a practice. Although he was much younger than Delphine (twenty years), the couple were married on June 12, 1825.
As a busy doctor, Leonard was not at Delphine’s side often. In 1831, Delphine purchased a three-story mansion at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter, complete with attached slave quarters. She lived there with Leonard, and two of her daughters (as her other children had moved on and married), while maintaining her central position in New Orleans society.
The LaLaurie’s maintained several slaves in their attached quarters. While out in public, Delphine was often observed being generally polite to black people, and even concerned for her slaves’ health. She had even manmuted two of her slaves, Jean Louis in 1819 and Devince in 1832. However, other accounts of her treatment of slaves was not so kind. For example, British social theorist and Whig writer, Harriet Martineau, wrote in 1838 that she had witnessed Delphine’s slaves to be “singularly haggard and wretched.” She also wrote that public rumors about Delphine’s mistreatment of her slaves were so widespread, that a local lawyer had to visit her home to remind her of the laws for the upkeep of slaves. However, during his visit, he found no evidence of wrongdoing or mistreatment of slaves.
Beyond the treatment of her slaves, Delphine was having marital problems. Neighbors reported hearing loud arguments and noises coming from the home. In 1834, the couple officially called it quits, and Leonard moved out of the house. It is said, that after three tragic/failed marriages, Delphine went mad.
Rumors spread about Delphine’s slaves living in constant fear as she mistreated them a lot. One rumor claimed that she kept her 70-year-old cook chained to the stove, starving. Another claimed she kept secret slaves for her husband to practice Haitian voodoo medicine on.
Two reports of mistreatment are on record as being true. One slave, terrified of punishment from Delphine, threw himself out of a third-story window, preferring death over torture. The third story window was then cemented shut, and remains so to this day. The other report was regarding a twelve year old slave girl named Lia. Lia was brushing Delphine’s hair, and pulled just a little too hard. Delphine flew into a rage and whipped the girl. To escape further punishment, the girl climbed out and onto the roof, where she leapt to her death.
Delphine was witnessed burying Lia’s corpse, and police were forced to fine her $300, and made her sell nine of her slaves. However, mistreatment of slaves by the wealthy and socially connected was not a matter for the police at the time, so they didn’t flinch when she bought her nine slaves back.
Then, on the afternoon of April 10, 1834, the LaLaurie Mansion went up in flames. When police and marshals barged into the house to get the fire under control, they found a 70 year old slave woman chained to the stove, while Delphine frantically tried to save her valuables. The police set the woman loose, and she led them up to the attic, where it was believed that slaves would go and never return. There they found seven slaves, tied with spiked iron collars. As the authorities were releasing the slaves, they discovered that their bodies were badly mutilated with their limbs deformed, and in some cases, their intestines had been pulled out of their bodies and tied to them. They also discovered discarded corpses and mutilated body parts.
Other slaves were found chained in their quarters. Once the fire had been extinguished, the 70 year old woman confessed to setting the fire, because she was afraid of the punishment Delphine was going to give her. Those that had helped free the chained up slaves were indignant, and on April 15, a mob charged the LaLaurie mansion and began to wreck it. They were only dispersed when a company of United States Regulars (of the Regular Army) were called out by the helpless sheriff.
During the chaos, Delphine and Leonard took to their carriage and escaped the city with their Creole black coachman, Bastien driving. It was written in 1838 by Harriet Martineau that they fled to a waterfront, and boarded a schooner. They traveled to Mobile, Alabama, and then to Paris.
While the LaLaurie’s made their escape, a mob of nearly 4,000 townspeople ransacked their mansion, smashing windows and tearing down doors. The slaves were taken to a local police station where they detailed the atrocities carried out on them. They told takes of Delphine performing medical experiments on them, including removing their skin, breaking bones and setting them into peculiar positions, amputating limbs. They were forced to wear spiked collars, spoke of an exposed brain being stirred with a stick, and of a friend having their lips sewn shut after Delphine placed animal feces in their mouth.
The slaves were then presented for public viewing, which fueled the rage already burning within the townspeople. By the time it was over, the LaLaurie mansion was in ruins.
Neither Delphine, nor Leonard ever returned to New Orleans. She was respected and lived a good life in Paris, until the day s he died. Her death is somewhat of a mystery, however, with some claiming that she died during a boar hunting accident, and others claiming she secretly returned to New Orleans to live a secret life of anonymity. Looking through official documents, you will find that Paris has recorded her death as December 7, 1849.
Unsettling, however is the old, cracked copper plate found in the late 1930’s in the New Orleans’ Saint Louis Cemetery, bearing the name “LaLaurie, Madame Delphine McCarty.” The inscription, in French, claims that Madame LaLaurie died in Paris on December 7, 1842. To this day, the remains of Madame Delphine LaLaurie have never been found.
WINNIE RUTH JUDD: TRUNK MURDERESS
On October 18, 1931, Winnie Ruth Judd, an attractive 26-year-old secretary from Phoenix, Arizona, arrived by train in Los Angeles. She had some very strange baggage with her when she rolled into the station – trunks that contained the severed body parts of Winnie’s two best friends. She had murdered them, it seems, all in the name of love.
The bizarre tale began in Arizona. Winnie, along with her two friends — Agnes “Anne” LeRoi, 32, and Sarah Hedvig “Sammy” Samuelson, 24 – were all in love with the same man. His name was Jack Halloran and he was a good-looking playboy who never let the fact he was married stand in the way of a good time. The whole affair was a mess. Not only were Anne and Sammy occasional lovers, but both of them were also seeing Jack. Winnie met Jack when she was working as a nanny for his next-door neighbor. Like Jack, Winnie was married, but her doctor husband was often away on business, so the pair began secretly seeing each other. Their affair began on Christmas Eve 1930 and continued until that dark day in October 1931, when Winnie ended the lurid activities with murder.
A lot of the case remains shrouded in mystery, which is largely due to Winnie’s varying accounts and the baffling details of the murders. What is known is that Anne and Sammy were shot to death in Phoenix and that their bodies were discovered a few days later at the Los Angeles train station. They had been stuffed into steamer trunks. Sammy’s body had been cut into pieces of various sizes and placed in different cases. It was the blood that was oozing out of the seams that alerted station agents that something was seriously amiss.
Winnie immediately became the prime suspect, but police wondered how the petite woman had managed to kill, cut up, and pack up the bodies of two other women. Why would she do it? Did she have help? And why did she catch a train to LA and bring the grisly luggage with her?
The commonly accepted version of events starts on Friday, October 17. Winnie was at home, fuming over her friends’ affairs with Jack. She snapped that night, grabbed a knife and gun, and went over to Sammy and Anne’s bungalow. When she arrived, she left her shoes and the knife outside the back door. She mustered up the courage and broke in. She first went to Anne’s room and pulled the trigger from the doorway. When Sammy heard the shots, she rushed to the room. She jumped on Winnie and managed to take the gun from her. Winnie fled to the back door and retrieved the knife. She lunged at Sammy and stabbed her in the shoulder. The women struggled. Sammy shot Winnie in the left hand as Winnie fought her for the gun. She finally got it away from Sammy and shot her in the head.
When the struggle ended, Winnie questioned what to do with the bodies. Anne’s corpse fit into a large traveling trunk, but Sammy required a lot of work. Winnie had to cut her into pieces and she stuffed her into a series of traveling bags. She managed to load all of it into her car and returned home. Then, on Sunday, October 18, she – along with the case that contained Anne and the three cases of Sammy – boarded the Golden State Limited Train that was bound for Los Angeles.
When the train arrived in LA, the pungent stench and bloody trail left by Winnie’s luggage got the attention of the station agent. He confiscated the bags and demanded that they be opened. Winnie claimed that she had no keys for trunks, and then fled the station.
The agent called the police and detectives arrived to crack open the luggage and discover the gruesome contents. A search immediately began for Winnie Ruth Judd. On October 23, she finally surrendered at a funeral home. The news of the ghastly murders spread quickly and the story was splashed across the front pages of newspapers. The Phoenix bungalow became a morbid tourist attraction and Winnie’s case became a media sensation.
Winnie’s trial began on January 19, 1932. Winnie’s unofficial version of events was that the murders were committed in self-defense, after the other women had attacked her. Her lawyers, meanwhile, claimed she was insane. The prosecution maintained that it had all been premeditated – the work of a jealous woman. What Winnie actually thought during the trial remains unknown. She never took the stand in her own defense. On February 8, 1932, she was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging on February 17, 1933.
By this time, Winnie had managed to drum up a lot of sympathy and a lot of support. There were accusations of shoddy police work, belief that she was defending herself, and, of course, her lawyer’s continued assertions that she was mentally ill. Supporters – including Eleanor Roosevelt — petitioned the state of Arizona to reconsider the death penalty in her case.
And then the story took another turn. In January 1933, a grand jury indicted Jack Halloran as an accomplice to the murders. Winnie became the star witness in the preliminary hearing that followed the indictment. She was still claiming self-defense but added that Jack had helped her with the disposal of the bodies – including Sammy’s dismemberment. It had been Jack’s idea, she said, that she should board a train with the bodies and travel to LA, where another accomplice would get rid of them for good. Halloran never took the stand. His defense maintained that Winnie’s testimony was that of a “crazy person.” Apparently, the judge agreed. The case was dismissed against Halloran that month.
Meanwhile, Winnie was still set to hang. Then, just days before he execution, a panel declared her to be insane. She was spared the noose and sent to the Arizona State Insane Asylum.
But, with a story this bizarre – that’s not the end. Not long after Winnie arrived at the asylum, she escaped. And then she escaped again, and again – a total of seven times. Her last escape was in 1962 and she stayed on the loose for seven years, living in Northern California under an assumed name – Marian Lane. The police finally caught up with her in 1969. But in 1971, Arizona Governor Jack Williams granted her a pardon. She returned to a quiet life as Marian Lane and passed away in her sleep in 1998 at the age of 93.
And nope – still not the end. In 2014, a confession letter that was written by Winnie to her lawyer in 1933 was found in a security box in the Arizona state archives. The startling account – 19 pages in Winnie’s cursive handwriting – reveals every sorted detail of the crime. Is the letter the rambling of a mentally ill woman or a cold-blooded killer? You can decide for yourself if you’d like. I have a link to those pages of the letter in the show notes.
MANY DARK ACTORS – DR DAVID KELLY
In September 2002, British Prime Minster Tony Blair stood up in parliament and declared that Iraq was a serious threat to the UK’s national security and must be invaded.
Waving a dossier of intelligence, Blair said Iraq was capable of striking British forces with weapons of mass destruction within ‘45 minutes’.
The intelligence would later be shown to be false, but on the basis of the dossier the UK parliament approved the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
In May 2003, journalist Andrew Gilligan reported on BBC radio that he had learned from his sources that the Blair government had “sexed up” the dossier in order to exaggerate the threat Iraq posed.
This caused a storm of controversy and Blair’s government fiercely attacked the BBC over the report. Gilligan’s source was quickly revealed by the media as Ministry of Defence weapons expert, Dr. David Kelly.
Kelly was an expert in biological warfare and a former UN weapons inspector. He was sure the Blair government had exaggerated the intelligence about Iraq and told Gilligan in an off the record discussion.
On June 15th, Kelly was summoned to appear in front of a parliamentary committee were he was intensely questioned about his actions. 48 hours later he was dead.
Kelly, it seemed, had committed suicide. He had gone for a walk in woodland near his home, slit his wrists and overdosed on painkillers.
Kelly’s death plunged the Blair government into a major crisis and the next day they launched an official investigation, chaired by Lord Hutton — it’s remit to investigate “the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly”.
There was speculation that perhaps Kelly had been hounded to his death, even murdered, by the some element of the government or intelligence services.
Kelly’s exposure of the government’s lies over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had cost him his life. Did the strain of been barracked in public by politicians and revealed as the source of Gilligan’s story put an unbearable strain on him?
Or had he been assassinated by some sinister forces within the government, seeking to silence him for exposing the lies that led to an illegal invasion of Iraq?
Was Dr Kelly murdered?
On the morning of the 17th July, Kelly sent his friend, American author Judith Miller, an email. In it he complained ominously that there were “many dark actors playing games”.
In other emails he sent at the same time, Kelly does not sound like a man about to end it all. He says how much he is looking forward to getting back to work and mentions his plans to travel to Iraq the next week.
Kelly took a phone call mid-afternoon, then left the house at about 3:20pm. Just before midnight, after not returning, his family reported him missing.
Dozens of police, neighbours and volunteers soon formed search parties and set out to find Kelly. There is, however, reason to believe he was already under surveillance before he went missing.
The scientist had become the focus of a huge political and media storm — one with international repercussions. The day before he was even interrogated by MI5 in a safe house.
Kelly had already told friends he feared his body would be “found in the woods” and was reportedly working on a ‘tell all’ book about WMD. He was both a target and a potential security threat.
He must surely have been subject to some, as yet undisclosed, surveillance operation. The police seemed to think so — that night, whilst the search parties looked for Kelly, they stripped the wallpaper in his house, presumably looking for bugs.
It already seemed evident the police knew more than they have admitted — the official investigation into Kelly’s death, ‘Operation Mason’ was opened before he was even reported missing.
Meanwhile, the search continued. At 3am, a police helicopter fitted with heat-seeking cameras flew over the very spot Kelly would be found just 6 hours later and didn’t find him.
How could Kelly not be there? The pathologist estimated he died somewhere around this time, how could the helicopter not pick up the warmth of his body?
The heat-seeking cameras either failed to do their job or Kelly had died somewhere else and his body was moved.
A further mystery surrounded reports of another helicopter landing at the Kelly’s property then leaving soon after. FOI requests revealed only a heavily redacted set of names. Who was on board?
Kelly’s body was finally found around 9am in woodland clearing at Harrowdown Hill, a local beauty spot close to his home. His head and shoulders were slumped against a tree.
Many doctors, paramedics, politicians and journalists were troubled by the circumstances of Kelly’s death and odd details at the crime scene.
Louise Holmes, a search and rescue volunteer, discovered Kelly’s body and along with her colleague Paul Chapman gave clear testimony about the crime scene.
“He was at the base of the tree with almost his head and his shoulders just slumped back against the tree”, Holmes told the Hutton Enquiry.
This was consistent with her police statement — “I saw that this person was slumped against the base of the tree with his head and shoulders resting against the trunk.”
On their way to alert police Holmes and Chapmen met Detective Constable Graham Coe. At Hutton, Coe was asked who he was with when he met the pair. For reasons never adequately explained, he lied.
Coe told Hutton he was with one other man — Detective Constable Shields. In fact, the two were with an unidentified third man, a lie later admitted by Coe.
Coe now claims the third man was a police trainee who he didn’t want to name. Why would Coe risk been exposed as a liar at an official inquiry over something so innocuous?
Coe’s odd lie was particularly telling in light of what happened during the next hour — somebody had moved Dr Kelly’s body.
Coe claimed he stood and ‘guarded’ the body until the arrival of police alerted by Holmes and Chapman. But by the time the other officers arrived, Kelly’s body had changed position.
PC Sawyer arrived first, accompanied by two paramedics. One of the paramedics, Dave Bartlett, described the scene — “He was lying flat out some distance from the tree. He definitely wasn’t leaning against it”.
Kelly was now so far away from the tree that Bartlett was even able to get in behind Kelly as he checked for signs of life. Who had moved Kelly’s body and why?
The obvious implication is DCI Coe or the men he was with had altered the crime scene. Already caught out in one lie, Coe’s suspicious behaviour has never been explained.
The medical evidence surrounding Kelly’s death proved to be highly controversial. The official verdict was that he had died due to a self-inflicted injury to the ulnar artery and an overdose of his wife’s co-proxamol tablets.
Many medical professionals disagreed. In a series of letters to the national press, a number of concerned doctors disputed the official verdict. They felt the injuries to Kelly could not cause his death.
They pointed out people rarely die by wrist cutting. The arteries immediately begin to close up and constrict the blood loss. Dr Bill McQuillan, who had dealt with hundreds of wrist accidents said — “I have never seen one death of somebody from cutting an ulnar artery.”
The choice of the ulnar artery was particularly odd. The ulnar artery is deeper in the wrist and covered by nerves and tendons, which would require considerable force to cut. Why would Kelly choose that rather than the easy to access radial artery?
Nor could the painkillers have caused his death. The levels of the drug found in his stomach and bloodstream were much too low to have killed Kelly. 3 empty blister packs were found on Kelly’s body, but this was no proof of ingestion.
The paramedics agreed with the doctors. David Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt, the first medical professionals to tend to Kelly were so baffled as to the lack of blood at the scene they went to the press.
“I’ve seen more blood at a nosebleed than I saw there”, Bartlett said in an interview. The arterial spray should have covered Kelly and the whole area with blood but very little was found.
“There just wasn’t a lot of blood … When somebody cuts an artery, whether accidentally or intentionally, the blood pumps everywhere”, Hunt said.
Dr Bill McQuillan concurred. If Kelly has slit his ulnar artery “…his clothes, face and any surrounding structures would show evidence of that with the blood scattered as from a watering can”.
Some blood was found at the scene, but it takes around 3–4 pints of blood loss for an adult male to die — a huge amount that should have been apparent to all present.
According to police reports, various items were found at the scene — a small water bottle, a gardening knife, a painkiller blister pack, his glasses and his watch.
No fingerprints were found on any of the objects. Whilst it is common to find no identifiable fingerprints on such evidence, to find no prints at all is unusual. No mention of this was made at Hutton.
The water bottle found near Kelly’s body was still half full. It’s difficult to see how Kelly could have swallowed 29 co-proxamol tablets, as alleged, with such little water.
Worse still, Hutton failed to mention reports that Kelly suffered from ‘unexplained dysphagia’ a syndrome that makes it difficult for the subject to swallow pills.
Hutton failed to cover another medical issue. Kelly had fractured his left elbow earlier that year and according to friends was “unable to cut a steak” with his right hand. Why then, would Kelly choose to cut his wrists with his right hand?
Kelly, an expert in the ‘science of death’ had chosen an unlikely suicide method. Kelly would have been well aware that wrist slitting was unlikely to kill him; it is normally associated with young people and a ‘cry for help’.
Hutton also glossed over some disturbing details from the autopsy.
Various scuffs, abrasions and cuts were found, but they were blithely dismissed as been caused by Kelly ‘stumbling’. Could they have been evidence of a struggle with a third party?
Acetone was found in Kelly’s blood and urine, which may have indicated he died much later than thought — later than 1am. If so, the obvious question is why Kelly would disappear then wait some 8 hours or more to commit suicide?
These problems with the suicide scenario, along with the improbability of it proving fatal led to a campaign by a group of Doctors to have an official inquest opened into Kelly’s death.
The Hutton inquiry was set up the day after Kelly’s death and it immediately shut down and superseded the corners inquest.
Inquests are routinely opened in the case of violent, sudden or suspicious deaths. They are legal bodies that have the power of subpeona and evidence is given under oath.
In contrast, the Hutton inquiry had no legal authority, failed to call many key witnesses and no evidence was given under oath. Amazingly, even the head of the police investigation into Kelly’s death was not called to testify.
This caused disquiet and concern even amongst those who believed Kelly killed himself. Replacing an inquest with a political inquiry was unique in all British legal history.
Hutton’s subsequent report was widely regarded as a whitewash that was designed from the outset to declare Kelly’s death nothing more than a tragic suicide.
The suicide scenario was further reinforced in the media by several individuals claiming to have an insight into Kelly’s mental state.
The most prominent of these was Tom Mangold, a veteran journalist with links to the intelligence services. As soon as lunchtime on the day of Kelly’s death, Mangold began an exhaustive series of tv and newspaper interviews.
Always described as a ‘close’ or ‘long-time’ friend of Kelly’s, the journalist repeatedly told the media how certain he was Kelly had committed suicide.
As a personal friend, Mangold seemed to have an insight into Kelly’s trouble mind. The scientist was apparently stressed, unhappy and upset he had been publicly exposed.
Mangold, a reputable mainstream journalist, had perhaps more than anyone, helped to fix the idea that Kelly was in a suicidal state of mind.
However, it soon became clear that Mangold was, at the very least, exaggerating his relationship with Kelly.
At Hutton, it was revealed Mangold had actually known Kelly just 5 years and met him only a few times. Kelly was strictly a contact who he had talked to occasionally regarding stories he was working on.
Why then, did Mangold bombard the media with interviews claiming to be a close personal friend of Kelly? Why had he told us with such certainty Kelly was suicidal when he hardly knew him?
Many of Kelly’s own communications at this time, including one where he rebuffs supposed friend Mangold, actually show him to be optimistic and looking forward to getting back to work.
He was also a hardened UN weapons inspector, used to dealing with intense pressure and confrontation. The idea he was so troubled by the media attention that he killed himself seems unlikely.
Mangold’s tireless attempts to portray Kelly as suicidal appeared to be part of a larger media campaign to rubbish the idea that his death could have been murder.
Numerous ‘debunking’ articles and documentaries appeared which tried to shut down debate using misleading evidence and attributing false claims to the sceptics.
MP Norman Baker, who wrote a book alleging Kelly was murdered, provoked some positive news coverage but was largely singled out for ridicule.
In 2011, Attorney General Dominic Grieve refused the campaigning Doctor’s request for an inquest. Despite all the contrary evidence Grieve told parliament the evidence Kelly had committed suicide was “overwhelmingly strong”.
Several commentators have cast doubt on the motive for killing Kelly.
Most alternative accounts have Kelly murdered for his role in exposing the US and UK government’s lies over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
However, with the story already out, what could be gained from murdering him? His death only deepened a global controversy, attracting even more coverage and scrutiny to the false WMD claims.
This is a compelling argument. Sanctioning the murder of Kelly would have been an insane act that could have only made the situation for the perpetrators worse.
However, Bob Coen in his film Anthrax Wars proposes a more credible alternative motive.
Kelly was heavily involved in classified biowarfare research at a top-secret facility at Porton Down. Coen suggests Porton Down may have been involved with South Africa’s Project Coast, a project designed to create a ‘race weapon’.
Could worries that Kelly had been talking to journalists and may have been working on a ‘tell-all’ book about biowarfare have led to his murder?
If it became public that the US and UK had been involved with illegal and unethical research into bioweapons that would target only black people, the consequences would be dire.
I’M A GLUTTON
You know that feeling you get when you eat too much? That uncomfortable pressure that just makes your throat feel like a pipe ready to burst? I wish I could feel that. Stuffed, full. I’ve never said the words, “I can’t eat another bite.” I always could. Bite after bite after bite. Twelve plates of pasta and sausage at one Italian place, open and close a buffet on my days off, and still wrap up the night with three full ice cream cakes. It didn’t matter how much I ate. I’d stuff my face until my stomach ached but still it wanted more.
Now I know what you’re thinking: How do I even fit in the car? Hell, how do I even type with hams for hands? I’m skinny as a rail, a sickly-looking 120. A stiff breeze would kill me, snap me like a reed. It’s as if my belly was a furnace that burned everything up before it could be of any use.
When I was younger and on my parents’ insurance, I got tested for everything you could imagine. Three different types of tapeworms, parasites with names you can’t pronounce. Clean as a whistle. They checked me into a dozen, a baker’s dozen, health clinics, each one with an eating disorder specialist that was sure they knew the cause. None did and, in the end, my mom and dad gave up. Made me get a part-time job as soon as could though, to help with the grocery budget.
That part-time job became a full-time job that stretched twenty years. I work at a plant that produces those takeout containers for restaurants. You know the ones. Generic white Styrofoam or plastic with the cheap lids. I know it sounds weird, but sometimes while I was pressing them down through the shaper, I felt like them. Those empty bowls waiting to be filled, only to be empty again. I identify with those containers even more when I come home after work. There are so many that wait for me.
Empty of the Chinese takeout, of the pizza, drained of the fries and burgers, they stack up from floor to ceiling. Spill out from the table and pile in heaps on the floor. I’ve got to wade through a sea of wrappers just to make it to the couch. I ended up in a dump with them. Tossed away. My parents haven’t spoken to me in years. I can’t even tell you why, honestly.
My morning routine never changes. Get up and fry a dozen eggs in my fire hazard of a kitchen, stop at a biscuit place and pick up my usual order. I’ve got them thinking the six combo meals are for me and my coworkers. They don’t even make to the parking lot. Lunch, I wolf down two subs. Lunch is the worst, not long enough to go get something and come back. Though sometimes I deal with the bullshit from the floor manager and take my time. Then head home for a dinner that takes all night to finish. Sometimes I start at six and don’t stop until midnight. Most of my paycheck goes to my stomach.
That was my every day up until I met Audry.
She was the new office girl in charge of order fulfillment. Blond with reddish highlights. A dye job but a good one. In her forties it would turn out but a forties that would make most women jealous. She always smelled like strawberry hand sanitizer.
We just clicked. She’d only been there two days before we were texting after work. Jokes and cat memes at first but soon we took lunch together, then a few dinners. I always left those smiling and starving. Tears in my eyes from the pangs of hunger twisting up my guts.
Audry was like a ray of sunshine. I never smiled more than when she’d call me out of the blue to chat about her day. We didn’t have days off together very often so she’d check in on her breaks. I would sit there and listen as she vented about the ordering department screwing up yet another file. Munching on the odd roach that would scurry by. It was on one of our rare days off together that she called in sobbing.
She told me her mother had had a stroke and she had to leave right away. It was a six hour drive. I told her I would be right there, pick her up in my car. She grew silent. You ever watch recordings of bombs going off, like the nuclear test site footage? Remember how quiet it gets right before the bomb explodes? That’s what her silence was like. I waited, she took a breath, then the boom. She needed me to watch her baby.
I was stunned. We’d been dating, official, over three weeks now and this was the first she’d ever mentioned having a kid. She apologized and rambled. It had been a bad split from her ex. She wanted to tell me but couldn’t find the right time. I asked her how she’d managed to go on our dates. Sometimes they were spur of the moment runs to the pizza shop she liked. Turns out her babysitter lived in the apartment next door but she was gone on some school trip this week. Why not take the baby with her? Her parents didn’t know. They hadn’t wanted her to get married in the first place. I got the feeling there was a lot more there but I couldn’t stand to hear the pain in her voice anymore.
So I told her the truth. It was alright. I didn’t care if she had a kid. I’d be over at her place as soon as I could. She told me she loved me. At that moment I wouldn’t have cared if she had a dozen kids. Her place was small and on the top floor of a brownstone walkup. I was a little out of breath by the time I made it inside and my stomach did a little spasm. Audry was a whirlwind of emotion and frantic action.
“I’ll be back as soon as I know she’s okay.” She showed me the living room and pointed out her bedroom. “He’s in there taking a nap. He is a doll, really.” I asked her how old he was. “He’ll be a year old next month.” She looked into my eyes, “You okay? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you but…” She let it hang in the air between us.
“It’s okay. I love you. Go see your mom, I’ll watch little…what’s his name?” I realized I never asked.
“Tommy. He’ll wake up in an hour or two, just went down. Bottles are in the fridge.” She gave me a hug and a rushed kiss as she made her way out the door. “I forgot to go shopping but help yourself to whatever you want.” She locked the door behind her. As soon as the lock clicked I started tearing through the cabinets. That quiver in my stomach had grown to a full quake. Gurgles of stomach acid started to creep up my throat. I opened a box of elbow noodles and swallowed mouthfuls whole.
There wasn’t much at all. She had a few things of ramen and a bottle of pasta sauce besides the box of noodles. I rummaged through the fridge and found a stick of butter, three old looking micro carrots next to some questionable spring mix. That was it other than the six bottles of milk on the top shelf. It was going to be a long six hours.
I want to say that I held out for a while before drinking the sauce cold to chase down the slimy vegetables. It had only been an hour. I boiled the noodles into a soup with the butter and ate them by hour two. That was when Tommy woke up.
He was a cute little guy. Had his mother’s blue eyes. He was probably pretty confused to see me when I scooped him up out of his crib. We had something in common though, he was hungry too. I cooed and danced him up and down a bit while I got a bottle ready. He went to town on that thing. Drained half in record time. I figured I’d put on something bright and colorful for him while he ate. Ended up on some cartoon. Tommy seemed to like it, he wasn’t crying his head off like other babies. He was a doll, just like Audry said. We sat there, him next to me on a little pillow I found. He smiled when I tickled his feet. This wasn’t so bad. Before long I tuned out the mindless cartoon and ended up falling asleep.
I woke up to two things: Tommy crying his head off and my whole body aching. The fire in my stomach had spread through my whole body. My teeth ached and I felt thinner. I mean thinner. My hands were skeletal and I knew if I pulled up my shirt I could count my ribs. The apartment was full of shadows due to the setting sun. I’d been out for hours. I tried to pick the little guy up, to calm him down, but I felt a wave of dizziness like I’d been on a Tilt-A-Whirl.
I fumbled out my phone. Audry had texted me that she’d arrived and her mom was in the ICU. I sent her love and an update that me and Tommy were fine. My fingers trembled as I pressed against the screen.
I forced myself off the sofa. I opened the fridge and drained one of the bottles. Then another and another. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t even close. I felt my organs shift and a sharp stab shot through my chest. Stars exploded behind my eyes and one thought filled my mind. This was it, I was dying. I was actually starving to death. I don’t know where the energy came from but I went back through the kitchen until I came across the tin of formula.
I tore off the lid and buried my face in the cloud of powdered milk. I choked and sputtered, coughed out as much as I managed to get down my throat. Tommy kept crying. I crawled my way back to the couch and tried to calm him down, but he wasn’t having it. The closer I got the better he smelled though. Sweet, milk-fed, pink skin so soft. I could feel great gobs of saliva run down my lips, felt them mix with the powder into a sticky paste. I wrapped my boney hands around his tiny body. To pick him up. To calm him down, just…just to calm him down a little.
Audry came home around noon the next day. She looked haggard but opened the door with a smile on her face and a box of pizza in her hand. I met her in the entryway. Her mother had made it through the worst of it. They’d even managed to have a chat before she left. She asked how Tommy was and why there was white stuff all over my shirt. I laughed and explained that the kid could eat, had to make him some new formula. He’d gone down right after lunch.
“Speaking of lunch…” She held up the pizza and opened it up. Supreme, my favorite. “Hungry?” I felt my lips pull back in a smile.
“No,” I told her. “I’m finally full.”
I’VE ALWAYS HATED DOLLS
Everyone has their fears, whether they are rational or irrational. Mine has always been dolls. Not all dolls, mainly just the ones that are a bit too human. I think it’s mainly the eyes that get to me.
So I’m sure you can imagine I was ecstatic to find out I was the inheritor of my very own clown doll.
It was a gift from my late great Aunt. I’d met her maybe once or twice in my life, so why she left this of all things to me was beyond me.
This doll was something straight from my nightmares. I mean, a doll was bad enough, but then you throw in the clown element as well?
The doll’s glass-like face was painted white, with red accents and markings over the eyes, mouth, and cheeks. The eyes themselves however were nothing but a black void. It has thick white hair jetting out the sides, and a round hat that almost resembles a cherry on top.
Its outfit is essentially your typical clown attire. Like the face, it was a mixture of red and white. This doll is about the size of a toddler. In other words, way too big for me to feel comfortable anywhere near it.
I would have given it away, but out of respect for my grandmother, I kept it.
So, naturally, it’s new home would be my closet. I placed it in the back on top of an old dresser that held clothes which no longer fit me.
I thought that would be that, and my life would go on as it always had.
Unfortunately, that would not be the case.
I’m not exactly a tidy person, so my clothes rarely made it back to my closet. As a result, I didn’t have to see my clown friend for quite a while. It was a few weeks later before I finally went into my closet in the quest for a clean pair of jeans.
There he was.
Sitting on the floor in front of the dresser.
I assumed he must have fallen off the dresser somehow, because I clearly remembered setting him on top.
Those empty black eyes were too much for me, though. I grabbed my jeans quickly and left without bothering to put him back on top.
I spent the rest of the day thinking about how that doll could have fallen off the dresser.
So, as a curious person, I decided to check out the closet when I returned home.
The doll was there, of course, but it was back to its original position atop the dresser. I approached it and looked into those empty eyes.
As much as it creeped me out, it was just a doll, right?
I must have just imagined seeing it on the floor. I live alone, so there’s no way anyone else could be moving it. Regardless, I decided to stay clear of the closet as much as possible.
A couple nights later, I was awoken to the sound of what seemed to be laughter, and it appeared to be coming from the closet.
It was very faint, which is why I was a bit surprised it woke me. Generally, I’m a very heavy sleeper. For something like this to wake me was quite odd.
The last thing I wanted to do was go into that closet, so I decided to attempt to wait it out.
After about thirty seconds I heard a loud thump, and then the laughter stopped.
After turning on every light possible and arming myself with a kitchen knife, I decided it was time to check the closet.
I slowly opened the door and…
It was completely normal, absolutely nothing was out of place. Even the doll was sat upon his normal spot on top of the dresser.
I picked up the doll and felt around it to see if there was any sort of speech box, but there wasn’t.
With a loud sigh, I set the clown back down and left my closet. Perhaps I was finally losing it.
Over the next couple days, I was on high alert. I began to notice small things here and there had gone missing, or were moved, most notably small bits of food that I swear I hadn’t eaten.
I relentlessly searched every nook and cranny of my small house, looking for any possible signs of vermin or other intruders. Everywhere, that is, except the closet.
Alas, my searches turned up nothing, further confirming my idea that I was in fact losing it.
That was until a couple nights later, when the laughing returned. Only this time it wasn’t just faint laughter. This was a booming cackle. The laugh seemed to reverberate throughout my whole house.
I was petrified, I didn’t dare move an inch from my bed.
The laughing persisted, and I began to hear loud banging noises coming from my closet, until suddenly its door swung open.
A large. dark figure emerged and stormed out of my room. I heard it sprint through my house, opening my front door and leaving. As soon as this happened, the laughter stopped.
After reminding myself to breathe, I was finally able to move from my bed. I approached the closet.
What I found devastated me.
My old dresser was no longer against the wall. Instead, it was now in the middle of my closet, and where the dresser had been was a hole. A hole easily large enough for a human to fit behind, but small enough that you would never notice it if it was being covered up.
Beside the hole was the doll, seated perfectly upright, with one arm outstretched towards the hole.
I didn’t dare look in to the hole, afraid of what I might find. Instead I grabbed the doll and locked myself in my car as I called 911.
The police later confirmed my suspicions of what had happened. Someone had been living in my home.
Inside the hole was a pallet where the person had been sleeping, as well as a small amount of trash. Worst of all, the person had a small collection of pocket knives. They were probably not meant to be used as weapons, but it’s still not exactly comforting thinking about it.
Since that night my clown friend has not left my room. He now has his own special perch on the table next to my bed.
I’m still not a huge fan of dolls, but perhaps they aren’t all so bad.
THE SNOW QUEEN’S CHILDREN
The sound of the pony’s hooves was muffled by the snow. I sat in the trap, my bag on my knees, wondering how much further north we could actually go before we’d go over the top of the world and start going south again. There had been strange lights dancing in the skies; a portent, they said, the old woman in the last inn had shaken her head and said it bade no good for anybody. I didn’t expect to be away for too long once the baby was delivered; a couple of weeks to a month was the usual length of time my services were required. This was not a usual booking though, I had not even met the mother-to-be and now her time was near. The driver was deaf, rude or both, he would not answer my questions. He had collected me from the inn this morning and we had been driving all day. I was apprehensive, the unknown was before me.
Come dusk I was weary of travel, of the rolling fields of snow, of the stark angular trees, of the pervading invasive cold. In spite of my thick travelling clothes and the fur hat, muff and blankets provided, I felt sure I would arrive a frozen statue. Would we ever reach our destination? Then I felt our pace quicken; I looked up to see a dark shape on the horizon, large enough to be a castle. There were lights in the windows though they were faint and hardly looked welcoming. It was fully dark when the trap came to a halt, we had passed through a stone archway and into in a cobbled central courtyard.
A manservant had unloaded my trunk, another helped me down. I was shivering violently as I was led into the building and shown into a large kitchen where I was sat in front of a blazing fire and told to await further instruction. I had never felt so far away from my home as I did then, so far away from my little cottage that I had shared with my mother. She had taught me all she had known about the craft of midwifery, that she in turn had learned from her mother. I waited, thawing out, the snowflakes on my clothing melting into drops of water that shone in the firelight.
Presently, a servant came to find me and brought me up to my room. She also had little time for my questions.
“It is vital I see the patient as soon as possible,” I said as I removed my outer clothing. My trunk had been placed at the end of the bed and I was glad to see a small fire flicker in the hearth.
“Indeed, miss,” said the servant. “I will tell her majesty that you have arrived. Dinner will be sent up to you right away.”
Her majesty? I sat down on the bed. A visiting dignitary maybe? A royal daughter exiled for an unfortunate confinement?
Bemused, I rang for the servant. She hadn’t got far.
“I must insist you let me see my patient. She must be anxious. Is this her first baby?”
“I’m sorry, miss.” The servant dropped her gaze. “I… I… the old midwife took care of everything before.”
“Oh?” I said. “And how long was she in the employ of your mistress?”
“I’m not sure, miss, I’ve only been here a few years.”
“So there are children already?”
Silence. Then “No, miss.”
Oh. That made me even more anxious. “If the patient has been unfortunate enough to lose a baby then I need to see her, to assess her health and that of the child!”
“I’m sorry, miss.” The servant would not meet my gaze. “I must bid you goodnight.”
She closed the door gently, but I heard the grind of the key in the barrel of the lock.
There was nothing I could do but climb into the cold bed and wait.
Something awoke me at dawn; it had woken the crows too, they screeched and wheeled around the castle walls. An unearthly scream pierced the chaos. I pulled on my clothes. Well, I would get some answers soon enough. I had heard that scream before, the scream of a woman in labour and not that far from delivery. I banged on my bedroom door. I could hear footsteps in the corridor. There was scrabbling at the lock and the door was flung open.
“Come quickly miss! It’s time!”
I grabbed my bag, and ran after the servant. The next scream fell into a guttural howl, and resonated through the very stones of the castle. Up the spiral staircase I followed at her heels, nearly running into her when she stopped at the door, pausing to knock.
There, in the tower room on a huge canopied bed lay my patient. I gasped when I saw her, her skin parchment, her hair not silver or grey, but pure white, her lips blue. I went to her bedside, and took her hand to feel her pulse. She fixed me with ice-blue eyes, and dug silver nails into my hand.
“This one must live,” she said.
I was so shocked I could only do what I was there to do. I pulled up her white embroidered nightgown and felt her belly. The baby was the right way round, the head was well down. I listened for the heartbeat and stood back a minute as another contraction built. That scream, that cry, that howl… I let her breathe a second then had her bend her knees so I could feel how dilated she was. Nine fingers.
“You’re nearly ready to push,” I said. “The baby’s heartbeat is good and strong. Just a few more minutes…”
Those ice-blue eyes bore into mine. I glanced around the room. Two servants stood by the door, their heads bowed.
“Get me some warm water!” I said. “And a couple of towels and a blanket!” Something was missing from the room. “Get that fire going too!” I rubbed the patient’s hands to try and warm them up. It really shouldn’t be long now…
The next contraction gripped her. She moaned and cried as it peaked, then sighed as the pain subsided, shaking.
She clenched her jaw. “I need to push now,”
“All, right…” I began, but there was no time. The baby’s head was crowning, the mother’s body took over and forced it into the world. She screamed as if she were being torn apart; I held the head gently as her last convulsive push expelled the baby, suddenly it was all over and I bent to attend to the child.
He was still. I cut the cord and wrapped him up, checked his mouth for obstructions then turned him over, rubbing his back roughly to stimulate his breathing. What had happened? The heartbeat had been so strong… I listened. It was very faint, but it was there. Encouraged, I prepared for mouth-to mouth resuscitation.
“Come on, little one,” I said, glancing up at the mother who lay motionless, a faint sheen on her brow.
“Keep her warm,” I said to the servants, who were still standing by the door. “Come on! She’s going into shock.” I needed to watch for the expulsion of the placenta, but right now the baby was my priority. I placed my mouth over its mouth and nose, and breathed tiny feather breaths into its alabaster body. There was a tug at my sleeve.
“Leave it, miss, it’s not meant to be.”
“What? He has every chance! Sometimes when they’re born quick like that they need a bit of help.”
“No.” She was insistent.
Heavy footsteps rang across the floor, a tall man with a shock of white hair appeared by my side and snatched the child from my arms.
“No! Let me help him!” I tried to stop the man but I was held back by the servant. I could only watch as he strode out of the tower room,
The woman on the bed stirred. “Jack,” she murmured. “Jack… the baby…”
The servant girl let go of my arms and went to her mistress.
“I’m sorry ma’am,” she said. The woman opened her eyes and my gaze met hers for an instant. She lay motionless as the placenta was delivered, I cleaned her up as best I could, my mind and heart in turmoil.
Locked back in my room I sat by the window gazing into the colourless sky. Why hadn’t they let me save the child? What had happened to it? Then the awful realisation – the missing thing in the room had been the cradle. I shivered. The wind was picking up outside, it keened through the trees as thick clouds grew heavy above them. My door was unlocked and the servant appeared with coffee and bread.
“Hurry up, miss! We have to get you out before it starts!” She glanced out of the window.
“But… but I understood I was to…”
“Quick! The trap is waiting! If you don’t go now, they’ll never find their way back!”
I only had moments to dress properly and gather my things before I was hustled out and down to the courtyard. At least the driver had the decency to nod at me this time.
The sky looked low enough to smother the earth; even though it can’t have been much past noon it was a darkening dirty grey. The driver glanced up often, twitching the reins and muttering. I sat with my head bowed, unable to make sense of it all.
“She don’t remember ‘em come the spring,” said the driver. I assumed he was addressing me, only because no-one else was present.
“I beg your pardon?” I said.
He turned his head slightly. “She don’t remember them after the spring,” he said. “By that time she’s cookin’ another one, that’s ‘ow it works. Nature.”
What? I was cold and tired and didn’t understand. I just kept thinking about the poor blue baby who had no chance at life.
“It ‘appens every year,” he continued. The wind was picking up speed, it buffeted the cart.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Every year,” he said, raising his voice. “November she ‘as the baby. It dies. She grieves for the little blighter. Then, come March ‘e’s home an’ she’s in the fambly way again. Every year.”
“Oh. Poor woman.” I shook my head.
“Woman?” The driver looked round at me. “That ain’t no woman, missy. That’s the Snow Queen.”
I breathed in sharply. “But the baby..?”
“Ain’t meant to live. Her grievin’ brings the winter. Look”
He pointed at the sky with his whip. It looked fit to burst.
“So the man…”
“’Er ‘usband. Jack Frost. ‘E wanders the land, touchin’ your windows with frost flowers for his child. Then back ‘e comes and it starts all over again.”
“But how many children…”
He interrupted me with the look one might give a stupid child.
“’Ow many winters ‘ave there ever been?”
The first snowflake whirled down, then it was as if the clouds had been ripped open.
Come the following autumn my heart began to dread November. I wished my mother was there to help me, to talk me through this thing I had to do which went against the very fibre of my profession, and of my being. I missed her so. The dead are present by their absence, there is no compromise with the inevitable.
Sure enough I was sent for again and brought to the top of the world. The driver was silent, but he nodded and touched his cap, helping me up into the trap.
I dreaded what might happen when I got there. Might? I knew it was inevitable. Nature was too daunting an opponent to interfere with and I had to play my part whether a willing participant or not. I wished I could think of the baby as not human, to detach myself from its imminent fate. But I had brought too many children into the world and knew it to be the time of the greatest happiness or most terrible tragedy and I could not push my feelings to one side.
This time I did not question the staff. It was as it must have been with the previous midwife, a mutual and tacit understanding of the process. I did not unpack, I sat locked in my room and waited, wondering how I could change things and knowing that I couldn’t.
It was still dark when the screams woke me, my heart was heavy but I realised I could at least take care of the mother, to help her along with her ordeal.
When I arrived at her bedside however, she was not alert like last time. She seemed to drift in and out of consciousness. She opened her eyes and grabbed my arm again but she did not speak. Not out loud, but something passed between us and I cannot tell you what.
I began to examine her and immediately realised something was different. I felt her belly carefully and realised… that I should keep my mouth firmly shut. The servants stood by the door as they had done last time. The queen moaned, her eyes closed.
“Push when you’re ready,” I murmured. “Next contraction.” This poor woman, a mere vessel. I could see the iron band of muscle tighten around her belly. She moaned, grunted, strained, the blue veins stark against her death-white skin.
“That’s it,” I said. “Nearly there.” Another contraction took over, then another. The baby was born in moments, another blue boy. Blue, for a boy. I cut the cord and wrapped him up, trying not to look at his little face.
“Godspeed to you, little one,” I said quietly. I could hear his father’s footstep on the staircase and I stood, baby in arms, as he approached. Wordlessly I surrendered my bundle and went back to my patient. She was quiet now, eyes closed. I gently palpated her stomach.
“The placenta is taking its time,” I said to the servants. “Fetch me tincture of raspberry and make a poultice for your mistress.” They looked at me. “Or she may die!” I hissed. “Go!”
“That should give us time,” I said. The queen moaned again, there was an urgency to her tone. She half-opened her eyes.
“Listen, your majesty,” I got back to the task in hand. “As soon as you can – we don’t have much time.” I took her hand and she squeezed mine as if I were her last lifeline.
“Quietly now,” I said. She bit her lip as her muscles contracted, instantly drawing blood. Her body was racked, then limp again. “Come on,” I said. “Come on…”
With one last supreme effort she bore down, clenching her jaw, stifling her animal instinct to vocalise her agony. I helped to ease it out, a perfect tiny body, cut the cord, wrapped it up, watched the life flood in with those first vital breaths. Pink, for a girl.
Watching the door as I worked, I lay the little bundle next to her mother, resting her in the crook of her elbow. I delivered both placentas, concealing them in a piece of linen for disposal. Then, hearing distant voices, I held my hands out for the baby. The queen smiled weakly and kissed her.
“Greta,” she murmured, and lay back on the pillows, spent. Her tears froze on her cheeks.
I threw my shawl around my shoulders, concealing the baby therein. She was only small, well-swaddled she would feel warm and secure.
The servants returned.
“The ordeal is over,” I said. “Take good care of your mistress, I have seen to everything.”
I looked at the queen. Her hair spread out, whiter than the whitest bed linen. Her lips were blue, but there was the faintest trace of a smile on them. It might have been the light, but I was sure there was a delicate pink in her cheeks.
I kissed her forehead. “Goodbye,” I whispered. She did not move.
Back in my room I made sure all was ready for my departure. I hid little Greta under my thick travelling cloak close to my body to keep her warm. We bumped along in the trap, she wriggled a little but wasn’t big enough to be heard amongst the squawking of the crows and the wind in the trees. I put the tip of my little finger in her mouth to pacify her.
The driver looked round at me, frowning.
“It don’t look too bad to me this year,” He waved his whip at the sky.
“No, it doesn’t,” I said.
I never returned to the Snow Queen’s castle. I was never asked to return. I like to think the queen had a hand in that. I think of her every November, going through that terrible ordeal. But our winters are noticeably warmer now and I like to think her heart is, too.
Greta rushes in from the garden, all bare legs and blonde-white hair. “Mummy, mummy, it’s snowing!” It doesn’t snow often these days. She pulls at my arm with her cold hand. Her hands are always cold.
“Come and see!” she calls as she dances out again.
I watch her through the window, the snowflakes whirl around her, she laughs as she tries to catch them. The next time I look, beautiful frost flowers cover the window. One day I will tell her the story, when she is old enough. But for now I call to her through the window.
“Greta, put on your jumper. It’s freezing!”
She laughs, and raises her hands to the sky.