Merlot continues to have lots of ominous dreams and visions about Lord Hervey, dying, Flora, despair and general awfulness. Especially since father Ambrose his one real friend has been brutally murdered - and despite Nightengale’s attempts at investigation, the Dean of Westminster is being super evil and not letting the police get involved. Instead they want to just evacuate the area because it’s not just got a big murderer but also the plague. The poor people are duly mocking of these instructions because if they had the means to actually leave this squalor, well, they’d leave it already. But they’re poor and we’ve already established the evil church Dean is pretty evil and is also all olde timey and rich (two features which mean he doesn’t give a damn about the poor anyway).
The Parish watch may not be good for anything except annoying Nightengale, being nastily racist (which both shows that he’s evil and also kind of exposes the anachronism of how no-one else seems to be?), getting in the way of the murderer but they manage to be even worse when one of them spills dramatic stories to Boz, our journalist friend who is also a young Charles Dickens, about the killer being a beast and how the body was ripped apart. Boz, surprisingly sensibly for a tabloid journalist, considers this fanciful and absurd and encourages much mocking.
Because even tabloid rags in the 19th century had better journalistic standards than the Daily Mail.
Nightengale is also disturbed that there’s clues to Marlot all over this case with Father Ambrose carrying some of Marlott’s old pictures of his wife and child and it’s generally worrying him. There is an assumption that the escaped inmate from Bethel is just obsessed with John - which doesn’t encourage Nightengale any. Especially since he’s convinced Marlott killed Flora, his betrothed, while insane due to syphilis (which is why Marlot was hanged) and still has a lot of anger and hatred for him.
Marlott scrapes a living in the poor part of town, meeting and exposing a man who seems to have contacts (and is apparently an ex priest so expect Complications). Despite exposing one of the cons he’s running he decides to recruit Marlott as an obviously educated man to do some work for a finders fee - the work involves carting dead bodies from the plague ridden hovels and dropping them into plague pits. We also learn that churchyards are being dug up, the bodies dumped into pits, so the church can then re-sell the land to interr more bodies. In case we missed the not subtle themes here: the poor are leading terribad awful lives and the church is led by super evil people. We have lines like “why has god abandoned us” to really sell it.
We’re also given a quick lesson on how bodies in sealed coffins can explode and nearly have an adorable urchin killed by exploding coffin. Marlott leaps to the rescue and gets several shards of coffin in him. Which isn’t lethal because zombie but he still needs patching up - back to Esther the dressmaker who helps sew him up. She also refuses payment because taking payment for healing is wrong in her eyes. She also offers him super cheap room and board - when he protests the charity she points out there’s a serial killer (well he’s killed 2 priests I think you’re off the menu Esther) roaming about and she’d quite like a man about the house, ‘kay thanks.
While wandering about his business Merlott runs into Nightengale and it’s super dramatic. Nightengale sees Marlott’s scars and finds it hard to believe that he’s not the real Marlott, especially since he clearly knows things. Merlott continues to plead innocence in Flora’s death and points out that becoming a zombie has cured him of syphilis so no more irrationality. He also warns Nightengale that Lord Hervey is out there and really killed Flora and the dead vicars and is going to kill Lady Hervey and is like totally the worst. But Nightengale tells him Lady Hervey is already dead - which is a downer for Merlott because he and she kind of had a thing - and he still wants to re-kill Merlott for Flora’s death. This doesn’t work because a) Merlott is a super strong zombie and b) he tells Nightengale that Flora’s hallucination is behind him
At this point I’m leaning towards Marlott maybe being able to see ghosts which is interesting but also means between visions, nightmares, ghosts and general dead brain weirdness this is going to get super super confusing.
Marlott also visits Boz for some intimidating zombieness but discovers that the powers that be in the evil church are lying about how Father Ambrose died - he had his heart removed. While the press is saying he was ripped apart. Marlott thinks this is because the heart is needed for resurrecting more zombie people like him because Lord Hervey is evil and behind everything so he and his new-found ex-priest friend go for a bit of rich people grave robbing (quite why said ex-priest is into this I’m not sure and aren’t going to ask) to prove that, yes, Ambrose only has his heart removed. Ok, nefarious. Personally I’d have put it down to sensationalist reporting but again, apparently not the Daily Mail. Ex priest guy is also a little leery by Merlott’s super strength
Now for some weirdness. So Esther is commissioned by Ada Byron (who will one day be Ada Lovelace and is studying advanced maths and is generally awesome) to come help Mr. Dipple (he of the ridiculously extravagant wealth) to fix one of his gowns - he has gowns apparently. He also has lots and lots of dolls and marionettes and things that fascinating him in a duly creepy fashion. This man could not be more of a serial killer if he was wearing human skin at this point.
His servants include two women who are friends/family/acquaintence/I don’t know/can’t remember. And he may have either a haunted room in the house or one of those patented “you can go anywhere in the castle but this room” rooms. I say again, serial killer.