File of the Inmate S-623
The grip around the shaft became tighter while the hammer glided quietly through the air, only to thunderously work the glowing iron on the anvil shortly afterwards. Each stroke illuminated the small dimly lit forge a little more and, together with the fire of the forging furnace, bathed it in a warm glowing light. The air was filled with the smell of coal, while the heat was trapped in the roof truss. All that could be heard was the crackling embers of the forge, which were interrupted at regular intervals by the bright sound of the metal. All these impressions belonged only to Caitlyn, it was all hers.
Every time the glowing sparks jumped onto her forearms, her cheeks turned red from the heat and the beads of sweat made their way from her neck to her décolleté, Caitlyn forgot that there was another world outside her father’s forge. While she worked, she left the dirty streets of London, the poverty of the East End and the humiliations she experienced as a single woman behind. Beyond this house, no one accepted a woman who swung a hammer in a forge instead of washing her husband’s old rags. In any case, no man had any interest in marrying a woman who was engaged in a job that was normally done by men.
But Caitlyn did not need a husband, she did not want a husband! “My own little world in the forge is all I need and love,” thought Caitlyn, hitting the iron harder. Also, she could not leave her old father alone with the locksmith’s shop and all the work. Since the scurvy had taken her mother, she was all he had left. Caitlyn realized that the hammer was getting heavier with every blow. It was already late and the few rays of sunshine that made it through the haze of London had swallowed the darkness some time ago.
Caitlyn put the hammer aside, extinguished the red-hot iron in the water bucket and wiped the sweat from her face with the cloth she had previously tied her hair back. She opened the small window of the workshop, unbuttoned the top button of her shirt and took two deep breaths.
“Where is the old gentleman,” Caitlyn asked herself, “All he wanted was to deliver two sets of door furniture.” It was only a few pennies for the fittings, but they were finally able to buy fresh bread and new coals.
Their thoughts were interrupted by two strong knocks at the front door. “Who is it?” shouted Caitlyn. A man’s voice answered her abruptly, “It’s about the locks on the mansion door.”
Usually it was her father who came to the gentlemen’s house to ask for a job. Of course, occasionally a customer or two would come to them, but then Caitlyn avoided being seen at work. “My father’s not here, he’s still delivering door fittings. Come back tomorrow,” Caitlyn asked the man on the other side of the door.
The voice of the man opposite became more friendly: “Sorry to disturb you at this late hour, Miss! However, my father Richard Hadley sent my cousin and I to discuss with her father the forthcoming furnishing of our mansion. It would be nice if we could wait for him here. Caitlyn became uncertain. They were dependent on any assignment and besides, she was not unfamiliar with the family name. If she was not mistaken, the family owned some of the factories near the docks. They lived in the eastern part of the City of London and often hired East End craftsmen. Hesitantly, she unlocked the door.
The young gentlemen who stepped over the threshold both wore a double-breasted frock coat, each with a white shirt underneath and a wooden walking stick in their hands. The first noble impression the two made, however, vanished on closer inspection. Their walk was rather clumsy, their boots worn off, and when they were in the forge Caitlyn heard the smell of stale beer. She remained friendly, though. “May I offer you a cup of tea?”
“With pleasure, my sweet,” replied the supposed cousin, and inspected Caitlyn from top to bottom. He looked at her heavy skirt, the woolen shirt soiled from work and the leather apron around her hips. “Do you have another brother, or who does the blacksmithing in this house?” he asked scornfully as Caitlyn served the tea. “My father and I are alone,” Caitlyn replied cautiously, “and since my father is too old for this hard work, I do it.
“You, a woman?” They both laughed out loud. “You’re probably not the blacksmith’s daughter at all, but his son in a dress!” bellowed the factory owner’s son. At the same moment his cousin Caitlyn got on his lap, tore open her wool shirt and slipped his hand into her undershirt. “But not a son,” he said as he brutally clasped Caitlyn’s chest.
The pain Caitlyn felt at first gave way to a horrible feeling of panic and disgust. With all his strength, Caitlyn rammed his elbow into his face, tore himself from his grip and plunged towards her tools. But even before she took her second step, she felt the Hadley son’s backhand shaking the left half of her face. Caitlyn’s head thundered onto the hard stone floor and the metallic taste of blood spread through her mouth. She could only dimly make out the two figures standing above her before the darkness took possession of her.
Caitlyn revived, but left her eyes closed. Her whole body was numb and the blood that gushed from her chapped lip had already dried. The oven had long since gone out, leaving her legs defenceless against the cold that had set in. She pressed her eyelids firmly together and listened to see if anyone else was in the workshop. There was a dead silence. No footsteps, no metallic sound of the hammer, not even the crackling of the embers could be heard. Their little world was extinguished. In this complete silence Caitlyn just lay motionless. It seemed like an eternity until she finally opened her eyes. Only a faint moonlight flashed through the leaning door and illuminated a small part of the workshop in front of her. The outside world, from which she had hidden for so long, had brutally invaded her isolated realm that evening. Caitlyn began to tremble, but did not know if it was the cold of the stone floor or the pain that penetrated her body.
She slowly straightened up and looked along the cold moonlight. A few meters away was her locksmith’s hammer, which cast a long shadow all the way to where she was. It was as if the warm red-golden glow that had illuminated this room just a few hours before had escaped through the leaned door. The door that shielded the disparaging looks of married women. The door that silenced the condescending comments of coal merchants. The door that held back the shameless and humiliating harassment of men on the streets of London. It had lost its power. Caitlyn continued to look around the workshop, but the only thing she could make out were shadows. Created by the dead, dull light that made its way from outside to inside. “Was it so foolish of me to try to escape this reality?” Caitlyn asked herself.
Tears ran down her face. Everything seemed strange and stained to her. Caitlyn was overcome with an insane rage and she began to smash everything around her. However, as she grabbed the hammer, she felt it go into her hand in its usual way, as if nothing had happened. “The problem is not my desire to be who I want to be,” thought Caitlyn, “the problem is those who dared to question exactly that.
She felt pure hatred spread throughout her body. It flowed through her veins like a warm stream. Her breathing quickened, the throbbing of pain gave way to a stronger heartbeat and Caitlyn realized: that revenge was the only way to keep her from falling prey to the reality of others. She pushed the door of the workshop wide open, stepped onto White Chapel Road and set out in search of her tormentors. Locked tight in her right hand: her engineer’s hammer.
Caitlyn knew exactly where to look. She knew too well the smell of the stale beer they served in the nearby alehouse where her father went from time to time. A small pub with cheap beer near Church Lane. Caitlyn knocked open the doors of the alehouse. Immediately the smell of beer and sweat got into her nose. The heart of the small room was a long wooden counter on the left side. Opposite the entrance was the back door, through which one came to the alleys behind the alehouse, where the underage boys in women’s clothes prostituted themselves. Fat wooden tables and chairs took up the rest of the tavern. As Caitlyn glided her gaze across the squares, she saw prostitutes on the laps of older men, drunks with their heads on the tabletop and in the middle of the room: the two creeps. They were sitting there with three other guys, pouring beer into their mouths, so that half of them ran down on the right and left, bawling to themselves. Caitlyn felt her hand closing tighter around the handle of the hammer with every step she took closer to the table. At the same time, the hatred seemed to spread like glaring sunlight down to the last fiber of her body. She only heard the rush of her blood when her cousin saw her and called out: “Well, sweetie, do you need a refill?”
That was as far as he could get, for Caitlyn’s hammer was already thundering with full force on his head at that moment and only the crack of his skull could be heard. Before the others could react, Caitlyn raised the hammer again and smashed the face of the Hadley son. The other men stumbled across the chairs in horror, so that each additional blow from Caitlyn stained the floor with even more blood. Each time the blood splashed against her forearms, the bones yielding to the force of her hammer and the men’s gaze fading, Caitlyn knew that hate was the only thing that knew the reality of these guys.