I had felt so helpless, knowing a great evil had been done, and more might be contemplated, while this astounding woman had made sense of it all and fitted it into her quest. How had she known what transpired between myself and the drunken manager? She claimed she had not found me until yesterday. I could not give the matter any more thought, though, for Madame Phoebe spoke again.
“Doctor Twist, please give us your report next.”
“Hold on just a tick, Lady Phoebe.” Oliver Twist hunched his shoulders in a way that had already become familiar to me. “There. Got my imagework from Chancery up.” He nodded toward a blank wall, this one fitted with a large sheet of pure white fabric unlike the flocked brocades in the rest of the room. Everyone looked at him quizzically. He grumbled something inaudible and fiddled with the device again. I saw a ghostly image appear in his now opalescent hatband stone; the faint figure of a dirty, bent, elderly woman.
Then the whole assembled company gasped. I turned my head sharply back to the wall. A light shimmered and an image snapped into focus. It was no grainy, flickering celluloid film. It was as clear as if we all stood in the London Chancery’s squalid environs. A grimy, frizzle-haired old woman wearing a coarse, formerly red and gray-striped skirt, a black shawl and a grimy white shirtwaist, clutching a basket of washing turned abruptly and looked up toward the ceiling of the room. Long, finely-boned hands took possession of the basket and the woman favored the possessor of the hands with a smile.
“‘Allo, lovey. Lookey you, tricked out loik Saint George!” cackled the old woman as dawn broke over the black, huddled buildings behind her. She shuffled a little ways down the street. “Goin’ t’ save this loidy fair from a dragon?”
“Fair though you be, Lady Gertie, today my quest is to find someone else,” the voice of Oliver Twist replied. The conversation, clear and real as if the people were in the room, appeared to originate from the device in Twist’s hands just as Madame Phoebe’s voice had come from it last night. He twisted a knob to reduce the volume for a moment and spoke over his recorded patter of soothing words reassuring the woman.