If there was one thing Edward Hyde wasn’t good at, it was keeping track of time. Or place. Or sticking to unimportant plans. Alright, make that three things Hyde was bad at, but he never really cared. All he knew was that he could enjoy things Jekyll could not, and that there were so many things in New Babbage to do…
It was with this mindset (and a slight desire to find a nice, grungy pub with decent spirits) that Hyde approached a two story shop with painted glass windows topped with striped awnings. ‘I think I know this place,’ Jekyll’s voice chimed in from within Hyde’s mind, ‘Miss Macbain just moved her bookshop here.‘
Hyde cocked his head to the side, curiously eying the building. ‘Think Mrs. Macbain is in there now?’
‘I’m not too sure…’ came the mental reply.
Hyde peered into the windows and saw no one downstairs, yet he could hear a faint murmur from above. ‘They’re upstairs…’
Before the voice in his head had any time to react, Hyde had managed to climb up onto the awnings and was now looking in through the windows on the top floor.
‘Wha-What are you doing?!’ That voice protested, ‘You’re going to get us killed!’ Hyde laughed at himself as he hopped from one awning to the next, making them squeak pathetically. ‘Come on, Doc! Don’t ya wanna say hi to the ol’ girl? I’d very much like to meet this lady~!’ The next thing he felt was a chill up his spine, most likely coming from Jekyll’s internal horror. ‘Edward Hyde! If you do anything to hurt Miss Macbain, I-‘
Hyde’s train of thought was derailed by the sound of an irate woman’s voice coming from outside of his mind.
‘Oi! You! That’s not for standing on!’
Hyde looked up to see a female moreau (Specifically, some kind of bobtailed cat) on the other side of the window, frowning. Jekyll knew this was Miss Macbain, but was powerless to stop Hyde from leaning on the windowsill and asking, ‘Then why don’t ya open the window and let me stand in that room, eh?’
Macbain replied, ‘I am not in the habit of letting strange men in through my window. You’re more than welcome to enter through the door, however.’ She gestured twoards the front entrance of the store. ‘Just down there, can’t miss it.’
Hyde rolled his eyes and groaned, ‘Oh, the old fashioned way, huh…?’ He turned around and slid off the awning, landing on the pavement with little recovery, then entered through the front door like everyone else.
The interior did indeed look like a bookstore, with little teatables here and there. Hyde felt a tad out of place; he would be better off in one of the more dangerous parts of town. Yet here he was, standing at the bottom of a staircase, waiting until the storekeeper met him there.
‘Better?’ Hyde scoffed.
‘Much,’ Macbain nodded, ‘May I help you with something? Tea, perhaps? Or looking for a book?’
Hyde shoved his hands in his pockets, trying to think up a good reason to be here. ‘Eh… Something perhaps. Maybe a drink?’
Macbain eyed him up and down, as if she was trying to read his mind. Finally she asked, ‘Whiskey or rum?’
What a pleasant suprise. ‘How’d ya guess I’d ask for booze?’ Hyde said, flashing one of his creepy grins at her.
‘I used to run a pub,’ Macbain tapped her nose, ‘I know what people want to drink at sight.’
‘Whiskey’ll do.’ Hyde followed her to the front counter of the store with a new curiosity. What sort of woman was Macbain, really? He had so many questions to ask, but how…
Hyde leaned on the counter, peering over it to watch Macbain dig around for a bottle of whiskey. ‘What were ya doin’ up there, anyways?’ he wondered aloud.
‘Fixing a wall…’ She replied, before yet another woman’s voice promptly came calling from upstairs.
‘Star~! I think I fixed it this time!’
‘That’s MARVELOUS!’ Macbain shouted back as she set a bottle of her finest whiskey on the counter, ‘I knew you’d manage.’
Hyde glanced up at the ceiling, trying to locate the woman who was up there, but to no avail. ‘… What, did you find a crack in it?’
‘Of a kind,’ Macbain said as she measured and poured three fingers of whiskey into an empty glass, ‘A problem with the door, wouldn’t open.’ She slid the glass across the counter and next to her guest. ‘I’m still settling in, I’m sure you know how it is. I don’t believe we’ve met Mr….’
‘Hyde. Edward Hyde.’ He snatched the glass off the table and held it aloft, admiring how the liquid shined in the light.
‘A pleasure to meet you Mr. Hyde,’ She smiled, pleasantly enough, ‘I’m Ms. Macbain,’
‘… Charmed.’ Hyde put the glass to his lips and drank. The girl from upstairs came down to introduce herself as Miss Jarvin and get to work on tidying up the storefront. Hyde didn’t pay much attention to her, but he did manage to somehow finish his glass in nearly one gulp. Macbain struggled to supress the urge to raise her eyebrows in shock as Hyde slammed the emptied glass on the table and licked his lips like some kind of beast. ‘Aaaaaah…..’ He chuckled, seeking to change the subject to something more interesting, ‘So, you used to be some kinda barmaiden?’
‘I owned the Gangplank Pub in the Clockhaven district,’ Macbain frankly replied, ‘Inherited it from my fiancee after he… Erm, disappeared.’
Hyde’s eyes lit up with renewed interest. ‘What happened, then? Your fiancee came back?’
Macbain shook her head. ‘I had to sell it after I was in an airship accident.’
‘Oh… Sounds nasty, that.’
‘It was. Very nasty. But, here I stand.’
‘Oh, Good. I was about to ask if you had died.’
Macbain paused to think about Hyde’s sarcastic remark. ‘Well,’ She said, ‘I did, sort of. Startled the doctors anyway.’
This reply made Hyde raise an eyebrow in bemusement. ‘You did, hm?’ He playfully glanced at the empty glass on the table. ‘Might need a refill to hear the story of how you managed to cheat death!’
‘How should I know?’ Macbain laughed as she refilled the glass and passed it back to Hyde, ‘I was unconcious for most of it.’
‘Aw, pity.’ Hyde mused as he took a noticably smaller sip of his whiskey, intending to make some sort of drinking game out of the conversation. He didn’t expect his host to take said conversation in an entirely different direction.
‘And you, sir,’ She asked, ‘Where are you from originally?’
‘Ahhhhhh…’ Hyde trailed off, trying to think up a plausible tale to tell. He couldn’t afford to tell her about his secret concerning Jekyll, that was certian. At the same time, he figured talking about his horrid habits would get him kicked out of the bookstore, and the whiskey was good here. After some time, Hyde simply replied, ‘London.’
‘Oh?’ Macbain said, ‘My family had a house in London. Which part?’
‘…Soho.’ Hyde uneasily grumbled, ‘Ever heard of it?’
‘Aahh, on the the western end of Westminster, perhaps?’
Hyde took a sip of whiskey, as if the alcohol could make him remember the area clearly. ‘Ya mean the part of town with all the prostitutes and theatres and all?’
Macbain wrinkled her nose in thought. ‘I’m not sure. I remember something about a pump and a cholera outbreak somewhere near there back in the ’50s.’
‘Yup!’ Hyde nodded, ‘That’s the place! Used to have a flat there.’ He was telling a half-truth. He did own an apartment in Soho, but since he didn’t always exist as a person he didn’t always live there. Not that anyone needed to know.
‘Ah,’ Macbain pursed her lips in thought, ‘Must have been exciting.’
Hyde chuckled, ‘It was a crazy part of town, kind of like the Gut with more brothels.’ He punctuated his thought with another sip of whiskey.
Macbain nodded, ‘Ahh. I’m quite glad to be separated from the worst of the gut by the canals for just that reason.’
‘Funny,’ Hyde laughed, ‘I happen to like crazy.’ Oh, he knew he must explore more of the Gut next time…
‘Then you’ll quite like the establishments across the canal.’
‘The Bucket of Blood,’ Macbain reccomended, ‘Just, erm, mind your pockets.’
‘Really, do you think I look like the kind of bloke who’d be frightened by a couple of pickpockets?’ Hyde scoffed, putting the glass to his lips again…
‘Ah, no, but then, one never knows…’ Macbain casually shrugged, ‘I’m not one to judge by appearances, perhaps you’re an aspiring dandy.’
The thoughts of both Jekyll and Hyde froze in shock for similar, yet different reasons. Jekyll was suprised to find someone who could disregard his other self’s habits and implied deformity so easily. Hyde nearly spit out his drink because the last thing he thought he could be compared to was a dandy. Neither personality knew how to respond to such a rare sentence.
At last, Hyde swallowed what was in his mouth and blurted out, ‘… There’s a first.’
Macbain simply smiled, ‘Well, you may be. Although very new to the art if you are, truth be told.’
‘I ain’t some kind of dandy,’ Hyde growled like some frightened cat, ‘nor do I ever want to be, but I thought you might be scared of my like everyone else.’
Macbain was perfectly at ease. She leaned on her end of the counter so casually. ‘Would you prefer me to be frightened? Whyever for?’
Hyde couldn’t figure out why he acted so defensive. His playful sneer reacted badly with his pounding heart; a fight or flight readtion for no good reason.
‘Let’s just say I haven’t had the best reputation in Soho.’ He said.
‘Well,’ She responded, casually extending her feline claws and tapping them on the countertop, ‘It would seem your reputation has not preceeded you.’
At that point, Hyde decided it would be a good idea to leave before things got even more confusing. ‘Whelp!’ He finally said after finishing off his last sip of whiskey, ‘Ah, best be moving on now.’ He glanced around at the books and the windows. ‘Cute little place ya got here… I guess.’
‘I appreciate the compliment,’ Macbain cheerfully replied, looking as relaxed as ever, ‘Do come by any time.’
‘Oh, I’ll be back…’ Hyde turned around and headed for the door, giving Miss Macbain one final look before he walked out. ‘…Soon.’
‘Do you think most of the residents are that… Perculiar?’
Hyde shrugged, rooting through Jekyll’s chemicals for the base mixture of what was labeled “Formula HJ-7.” Jekyll was still moving into the two-story house he had rented, which was convinently close to both the Scientific Museum and Ahab’s Bane (The Red Cat happened to be just around the corner.) It was small, but there was just enough room for a private laboratory in the back, and the equipment was in the process of being unpacked and shelved. Hyde picked out the bottled blood-red liquid from Jekyll’s belongings and placed them on his worktable.
‘A dandy?’ Hyde mumbled as he looked around for that salt, ‘Can you imagine me as some kind of fop, Doc? I know I can’t!’
‘Me either,’ Jekyll replied in Hyde’s thoughts, ‘But that’s not what I’m concerned about. Oh- I already put the salt packets in the drawer, I think.’
Sure enough, there were prepared packets of that salt in one of the smaller drawers that sat on the worktable. Hyde took one out and placed it next to the bottled liquid. ‘Then what is it?’ He asked himself as he moved to grab a graduated glass from the chemistry set, ‘You just that eager to return to the land of the living?’
‘Er, yes and no… Edward, you have witnessed many of the abnormalities of this town, right?’
‘You mean the cat people and all? What about ’em?’
‘Back in London,’ Jekyll mused as Hyde measured out a reasonable amount of the red liquid, ‘There was never a stranger scientific feat than a man who could transform into another man with just a sip of a draught. Here in New Babbage, however, there are anomalies walking the streets and casually discussed by all classes.’
Hyde couldn’t help but smirk. ‘So yer saying we’ll fit right in?’
‘Perhaps, but we should still keep our condition a secret.’
Hyde listened to Jekyll’s thoughts as he added the salt, casually watching the mixture bubble and fizz, seeing the colours change from red, to purple, to green. ‘My point is, that there is must be more to this city than what I previously thought. Do you think we may have come unprepared?’
Hyde considered these circumstances as he lifted the bubbling formula off the table, gingerly admiring the familiar reaction that had just taken place. ‘Eh… Who knows? Maybe I could help you understand it. Remember, I have a habit of getting into places you normally wouldn’t dare to go.’
‘I’m not too sure about that…’ Jekyll’s tone felt rather uncertian, and a bit worried.
‘Relax…’ Hyde chimed in mock reassurance, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’
‘You really shouldn’t say that.’
‘Ah well. Cheers.’ Hyde drank down the formula and waited for Jekyll to reclaim his body…