Character Interview–Jolly from Automatic Woman
Today we will be speaking with Jacob “Jolly” Fellows, a Thief Catcher for the prestigious Bow Street Firm in 1888 steampunk London. Welcome Mr. Fellows.
Thanks for having me today.
How did you get hired by the Bow Street Firm? Can you tell us what you do for them?
I signed on with Bow Street after my military service was up. I marched two years in the Second Anglo-Afghan, was discharged honorably, and returned to London to complete an apprenticeship in my father’s boot shop. He’d died in during my absence, the shop was sold in absentia, some money went for burial fees, some was left for me. No infantry, no leather shop; and there I was, a man of leisure. I pissed most of my inheritance away, on what I’ll not mention in mixed company, before inquiring into an add posted in the London Times for “Strapping Veterans.” In retrospect, I should have taken that as a mashers’ add for sexy muscle boys, but by good fortune, it was the Firm looking for talent. Specifically, men who could break doors. I fit right in.
How do you decide if you can trust someone?
I don’t. No person can know the secret hearts of other men and women. I’m no philosopher, I’m no intellectual, I won’t pretend that there is some surefire way to peer into the mind and parse friend from foe. Nine sunny days mean nine slaps in the face. Good and bad always exist in tandem, and trust is a fool’s prize. My dad taught me that.
When you walk into a room, what do you expect people to notice about you? Are they correct in their assumptions?
Fair question. If you could see me, you wouldn’t ask. I top two meters and seventeen stone. My hands are gnarled and thick like Easter hammocks. I’ve got nose like a drunk potato and a face that tilts slightly left from center. I’m not one for the lady-folk, but I look like I can punch my way out of a brick sh*thouse. Which I can.
What do you feel is your greatest asset or talent? Your greatest weakness?
That thing I just said about the sh*thouse…yeah…that’s my talent. As for weakness, I am as weak as all men in that time is tick-tocking and my body records this passage with aches and scars. I will some day die, as we all will.
How do you feel about this clockwork ballerina you’ve been hired to find, or clockworks in general?
Clockworks are tinker toys for boffins. Bloody useless shiny trinkets. I’ll find the ballerina, because my work order at Bow Street tells me to. This is no case of personal interest, no favor to a friend. It’s a job, one in a string of similar jobs.
Why is Charles Darwin so upset with you of all people?
Charles Darwin’s rage extends to all of mankind and any directing towards me is incidental to what he’s undergoing. He’s upset with me because he knows me. I believe he has had his fill of human kind in general. He knows he’s right at the origin of man, and yet society churns out active disbelievers in legion. Every day his ideas are mocked, ridiculed, held into question by debaters who have no education in biology, zoology, or any of the natural sciences.
What’s the worse thing you’ve ever done and why?
I know you want me to say killing a man. But that’s not it. Those who I have laid low have fallen to me by way of fair war or combat. The worst thing was not saying goodbye to my father. I left him with harsh words spoken, things that cannot be unspoken or forgiven. His death makes those words permanent. There is no changing one man’s last words to another.
What is the one thing you want more than anything, even if you won’t admit it to yourself?
When I was fifteen I watched a gypsy fiddler playing to crowd of Whitechappel gawkers. Her skin and eyes radiated the same shade of olive. Her clothes were motley rags that whirled with her kicks and turns, a dervish wind of reds and blues and gold. She must have been my age, though it’s hard to tell with gypsy folk. They are beautiful until they are haggard with no in-between. The gypo-busker finished her song, swept her hands across the dirt, retrieving coppers and bits. I turned to look for my father and when I turned back, she was standing in front of me, practically toe to toe. My mouth cottoned up but good. Her eyes blinked once, then again. A hand ran down my cheek. I tried to swallow, but found it an impossible endeavor. I searched my dull mind for words, anything. What would the dandy lads at school have said? The gypsy nodded her head, smiled, gave another whirl and disappeared into the milling crowd of Whitechappel citizenry. I’ve never wanted anything more than to say a kind word to that beautiful gypsy.
What’s keeping you from getting it?
It’s a moment of time that exists only in my head. There is no return to the past, no second chances, no retracing steps to the past. What’s done is done and we live in our deeds as time fires us, like a shell from a mortar, into the unknown.
She lives now only in my mind.