Today I welcome A.F. Stewart, author of Killers and Demons II: They Return.
*** BONUS - Read a Fireside Chat with Lizzie Borden at Stewart's blog. ***
About Killers and Demons II: They Return by A. F. Stewart
They lurk forever in the shadows, smile at you in the morning, and haunt your dreams at night. You can’t hide, you can’t run, and there’s no escape. You can only scream when they come for you.
Killers and Demons II: They Return is a collection of thirteen tales, blending short stories and flash fiction, tales where the blood lingers on your tongue or spurts quickly from the swift cut.
Fireside Chat with Millicent and Jane
By A.F. Stewart
(Millicent and Jane can be found in the short story, How Do You Take Your Tea? in the book Killers and Demons II: They Return.)
“Welcome everyone, to another Fireside Chat. I’m Richard Dale, your host. Today, we have two guests, the Regency Era serial killers and partners Millicent Grey and Jane Wynn. Richard smiles politely, with an ounce of hesitation in continuing. “Nice of you to join me, ladies.”
The two women nod courteously, and together reply, “We’re pleased to be here, Mr. Dale.” Millicent adds, “I’ve gone back to my maiden name though, no longer Mrs. Grey. Just Millicent Ellis. Widowhood you know. But you can call me Millie.” She glances at her companion, who gives a slight sigh, then utters, “Yes, Mr. Dale, you may address me as Jane.”
“Very well, Millie and Jane then. And since we’re on such terms, let me be direct with my first question. How did you get into the business of murder?”
A strange look crosses Millie’s face and she blurts out, “Desperation.” And then she falls silent, grasping her partner’s hand. Jane continues the explanation, “Millie’s first marriage was a horrid disaster. Her husband was decidedly peculiar, and despicable. She wanted rid of him, and with little option of divorce, she chose murder. I stepped in to ensure she got away with it. After that, well, things escalated.” Jane smiles. “We’re up to four husbands now.”
“I see. Do you ladies consider your actions, the murder of Millicent’s husbands, to be selfish or immoral?”
A small gasp escapes Millie, but Jane answers the question. “No. You have to make your way in the world. Even if it is not what society expects of you. Our actions were not selfish or immortal, simply practical.” Millie nods in agreement, still keeping silent.
“Given that attitude, do you ever have any qualms of conscience about your victims?”
“Not a whit!” Millie bounces the words into the air in the cheeriest of voices. “My husbands were odious and vile, except for Mr. Grey, who was only vacuous and tedious. The world is a far better place without such creatures.” A low chuckle stems from Jane, but she does not add to the conversation.
“A most interesting point of view. Given your era’s societal taboos regarding your intimate romantic relationship, do you feel this coloured your feelings toward men and contributed to your life of crime?”
Jane quirks a grin. “Not at all. Such taboos made it impossible to be public with our love, but hardly influenced any of our views on men or drove us to a life of crime. If any laws or prohibitions contributed to our work it was society’s restrictions on all women. The desire for freedom is what led me down this path, and I think Millie would agree.” Her partner nods. “Neither of us wished to be dependent on men, but we needed money to live. So we became creative in our efforts to earn a living rather than subsist on a menial wage.”
“Well, your solution to financial independence certainly was that. Were financial considerations the only motive, or did you enjoy the thrill of killing?”
Millie giggles. “Oh, I have to say, it was thrilling. Very dangerous, and exciting. Made one’s heart race, wondering if you could get away with the awful deed. But really, it was more an expediency than anything. I do miss the thrill, but best not press one’s luck. Thrills fade on the noose, now don’t they?” She gives Richard a rather beguiling smile, and flutters her eyes.
Richard Dale blushes. “They do indeed, Millie, they do indeed.”
Any further tête-à-tête is cut short by the arrival of Jenkins, the butler. “Pardon the interruption, but I’ve brought the tea. A lovely English Breakfast.”
Jane gives him a hard quizzical stare and blurts, “Tea?”, while Millicent casts him a slightly worried look.
“Yes, ma’am. But a simple, ordinary beverage. No special blends, I assure you. Nothing at all like yours.”
A slight look of relief crosses Millicent’s face, but Jane simply smiles. “Thank you. We’ll both have a cup.”
“Very good,” is his reply, and he pours three cups. “There’s milk, lemon, and sugar for the tea, as well as lemon poppy seed cake.”
Millicent gives a faint sequel. “I love lemon poppy seed cake.” She snatches two pieces and a cup of tea. Jenkins withdraws as Jane and Richard retrieve their tea with more decorum.
“Back to the interview, then?” Richard smiles softly and sips his tea, not waiting for an answer. “Why don’t we get a bit personal? What’s you favourite childhood memory?”
Delight lights Millie’s face. “Sewing with my mother, just the two of us in the parlour working on our lace edges or our embroidery.” She turned to her companion. “Do you have a good childhood memory, Jane?” The reply was terse. “No.”
“Interesting contrast of answers. So I ask you, do you consider you had a happy upbringing?”
Millie nods enthusiastically. “Oh, very much so. Our home was a wonderful place. My sisters and I had the best of everything.” Jane remains quiet.
Richard probes further. “Jane, what about you?”
She finally answers. “I didn’t have a childhood. My parents were drunkards. I brought up myself, and my siblings.”
“My apologies for stirring any bad memories.” Richard sighs ever so slightly. “Do you have any hobbies? Other than the occasional murder?”
“I do like to dabble in watercolours.” Millie flashes a coquettish smile. “And embroidery.” Jane chimes in, “Yes, she does paint some very lovely flowers. I myself putter in the herb garden.” She grins. “Comes in handy for the other hobby of occasional murder.”
“I’m certain it does.” Richard clears his throat and continues. “Have you found living what amounts to a double life a difficult thing?”
Jane answers first. “I haven’t, but I think it weighs on Millie. Doesn’t it dear?” Mille nods. “It does sometimes, but it is all worth if we can be together.” The pair joins hands and smile lovingly at each other.
Richard again clears his throat, breaking the intimate moment. “Well, that wraps up our interview. I want to thank you ladies for agreeing to join me. It has been most fascinating.”
About the Author: A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, and still calls it home. An indie author with several published novellas and story collections in the dark fantasy or horror genres, she also likes to take a few side trips into poetry and non-fiction. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories. Visit her blog at http://afstewartblog.blogspot.ca/.