Men seldom do.
Miriam blended into a shadow as a hansom cab clattered by. It was filled with New Year’s revelers, members of the aristocratic 400 families. All were the worse for drink. Miriam could see a couple of corset girls in their number. These latter were remarkable by way of their trademark top hats and the gaily colored corsets worn on the outside of their clothes—sometimes without even a blouse underneath, which left the bosom shockingly exposed.
As a respectable widow, Miriam found these young women repugnant and fascinating at the same time. She, too wore a corset, but over a chemise and under a corset cover all made by her own hands out of cheap muslin. All decent women wore corsets but one’s undergarments, along with the bodies beneath them, were unmentionables, completely removed from polite discussion.Who are the corset girls? Most are just whores. However, some are courtesans, expensive and beautiful. A few are like geishas, available for entertaining and interesting dinner conversation and decoration at the glittering parties of aristocrats, but seldom for sex. Corset girls are much more than they seem. They are complex, they are organized and they are more dangerous than anyone imagines.
When Miriam meets Penny, Miriam's ideas about corset girls change dramatically.
Miriam saw a top hat lying on its side, discarded in the street. She snatched it up. It still exuded a trace of warmth from the wearer.
Then she heard another cry. This time it was more defiance than terror. It was followed by another piercing monster shriek.
Miriam slipped a throwing knife out of her sleeve and ran toward the sound, with the knife-blade ready between thumb and forefinger. Usually when the monsters squealed like that it was because she was in the act of killing them. This was confusing, intriguing and frightening all at once.
What she discovered was the very last thing she expected. Four little monsters confronted a girl with her back to a wall. One of creatures held its arm at an odd angle. It dripped with tarry black monster blood.
She was a corset girl, her face frozen in cold rage. She whirled and her boot landed in the gut of one of the little monsters who fell over backwards, its head hitting the pavement with a wet crack. It rolled over and pushed itself to its feet, shaking itself like a dog. All this was lit by a distant streetlight, adding macabre shadows to the scene. The girl stood with her cloak slung back over her shoulders leaving bare her arms and shoulders. Her corset was marred by a streak of black splatter.
The monster closest to the girl leaped for her. She growled and aimed a kick at its chin. She missed. The thing sunk its teeth into her shoulder. Her growl turned into a scream of agony.
Miriam threw the knife and it landed squarely between the creature’s shoulder blades. It fell to the girl’s feet leaving behind four bleeding punctures in her shoulder. She clapped her hand over the wound and bright red human blood seeped between her fingers. She turned white to the lips and crumpled to the ground.More and more the prim and proper Miriam is drawn into the dangerous world of the corset girls. They all fight the Knockerboys together, but Miriam discovers the corset girls are playing a bigger and more dangerous game.