Chapter 1: Just An Average Bloke
AUGUST 31, 1888
Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols walked through the foggy streets of London, clinging to her wool coat for warmth. At the age of forty, her once brown hair has turned white and her alcoholism has taken a toll on her once youthful glow. She would be a beautiful woman but her five missing front teeth dominate her face.
It was a quiet windless night and, as Polly walked, she felt a sense of peace. But this peacefulness was just a façade as there was a malignant figure lurking behind her. His cape swung from side to side as he walked, his top hat stood tall upon his head and his pale eyes looked ahead as he planned his next move.
Then, as they rounded the corner of Buck’s Row, a gruesome scene played out.
AUGUST 31, 1889
The tea stung my lips as I sipped the bitter liquid from the small cup. No light protruded through my window as the cold months had arrived in London meaning that the sun would be hidden for months to come.
The time read five in the morning and I had to be at the pub in thirty minutes, however, the wickedly cold weather outside made me hesitant. It was warm in my house as I had lit the wood stove, for I could hear the crackling of the fire from across the room. But I need money to survive in this world so I stood up and headed upstairs to dress myself.
Working in a pub means I have to wear a uniform which is a white buttoned down blouse, black trousers, and a black ascot tucked in behind a black vest. As I combed my messy brown hair in the mirror, I couldn’t get over how old I was beginning to look. At the age of twenty-nine I look like a man in his forties with my lines and bags under my gray eyes. I’m a rather tall man reaching a height over six feet, a dark complexion, and a muscular figure reflecting the years of labor on a farm.
Slipping on my long wool coat I headed out the door in a rush. As I walked down the pavement the harsh wind ripped at my face. It was still rather dark outside but every so often a person would pass me pulling at their coat.
Walking the streets of London’s east end, you come in contact with colorful gaggles of people. You pass prostitutes with their painted faces and bulging cleavage. And you even pass aristocrats dressed in fancy attire with lovely ladies on their arms.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be them.
“Them” being the high-class people of London with their perfectly crafted mustaches and top hats. I, John Wilkinson, have been somewhat of a peasant all my life. I grew up on small dirt farm in a one-room cabin deep in the wilderness. I’ve only had about two years of schooling but my mother made sure that I knew how to read and write before I went out into the world.
My father made sure that I knew how to live off the land and survive with nothing. He was a farmer from Ireland who lived his life like a gypsy; jumping from place to place, sometimes not having a roof over his head.
I had a great deal of respect for my father as he was a hard worker who took pride in his effort and family. He died when I was twelve, making me the man of the house who tended the crops, fed the animals, and kept my mother safe from harm. It was a lot of responsibility on a young man’s shoulders but I was strong regardless of my age.
Upon entering the pub I overheard a conversation between a little old woman and a whore that grabbed my attention.
“On Henrique’s Street last night, they found her,” the old woman said, “all bloodied up and bludgeoned to death.”
“By God,” the whore said, “Who would do such a thing?”
“A bloody madman, that’s who.” Then the two departed.
What on earth were they on about?
When I entered the warm walls of the pub, I was greeted with the smiling face of my co-worker Edward “Ed” Richardson. He’s a bachelor in his mid-thirties with blonde hair, a pallid complexion and dark green eyes. Hanging from his ear is a golden earring.
Ed is that friend that gets a lot of action with the ladies but doesn’t wish to have a family anytime soon. I on the other hand wouldn’t mind entertaining a family but finding a woman to do that with is a terrifying thought to me. But, at the age of twenty-nine, I reckon I have plenty of time.
“Hey, mate,” he said, “How’s ye mum?” I’ve always enjoyed listening to Ed talk as he possesses a thick Northern accent. He doesn’t drop his t’s sometimes and doesn’t hit every syllable in every word.
“She’s well, the doctor said she’s doing better.” My mum has been quite sick lately with some unknown disease that the doctors can’t identify. Whatever the illness is it’s in her lungs, for she coughs and hacks all day.
“How are you, then?” he asked me.
“A bit uneasy,” I said with a slight smile, “I heard a rather strange conversation on the way in”
“What was it about?” he asked curiously.
"They spoke of a murder, I think, that happened last night on Henrique’s Street.”
“Oh yeah!” he said as his face lit up in remembrance. “It was all over the papers this morning.”
“Some girl named Jennifer Milton was murdered.”
“Yeah,” he said, “It was quite brutal, the papers said that the killer took the girl’s heart and kidney.”
“She died from the loss of blood,” he said. “She was a pretty young thing. It’s a shame what happened to her.” Then he occupied himself with a customer.
I stared down at the bar in a haze as I recalled what he had said.
Who would want organs? Then an eerie thought fell over me as I looked around the pub at the burly bearded men and young ladies of a low status. This murder sounds a lot like old Jack the Ripper.
And I would know, for nobody knows Jack the Ripper like I do.
The day had passed by quickly, I saw many faces and I poured many drinks, but before I knew it night had fallen.
Midnight had arrived and I was wiping down the bar whilst Ed cleaned up the backroom. The pub was completely empty and quiet, a few candles were lit casting a dull yellow illumination.
Suddenly, I heard the ringing of the bell on the entrance door. I glanced up and saw a man wearing a top hat and a cape close enter, ice following his coat tail.
“Hello gent,” I said as I grabbed a glass from under the bar. Taking off his hat the man sat down on one the bar stools.
When I looked up at this man, I was at a loss for words.
I stood there frozen staring into the palest blue eyes I had ever seen. They were cold and hard, lacking something that I couldn't quite place.
This man that sat before me was rather monochromatic with his slicked back black hair, pale skin, and perfectly sculpted high cheekbones. Those pale blue eyes proved to be the only sign of color in this man's face.
His eyebrows were dark and wicked and his nose was long. He was almost too perfect, it was quite scary. There wasn’t a single blemish or discoloration on his porcelain skin and, for a moment, I thought he wasn’t real.
“What can I get you?” I was finally able to say.
“Just a gin, please.” He had a French accent and a rather deep voice. His voice was so crisp and clean that it drew my attention with its clear distinction.
“Certainly,” I poured him his gin then watched as he took a sip. I observed him as if he was some kind of artifact for a moment before I was able to start a conversation.
“I don’t recall ever seeing you around here, are you new to the area?” I asked him.
He looked at me with his enigmatic eyes. “I’m just passing through.”
“A drifter,” I acknowledged fondly. “Where are you off to?”
“I was actually thinking of going to the States."
“Really?” I asked as I became interested. “Why there?”
“I don’t know,” he said, after a moment of pondering. “I guess their freedom intrigues me.”
“I’m guessing you’re from France, based on that accent.”
“You are correct, Mr…?
“Wilkinson,” I said, “John Wilkinson.” I held out my hand and, after a moment’s hesitation, he took it.
“Well Jack, welcome to London's east end. Do you plan to stay here long?”
“I don’t know, maybe, I’ve gotten a flat not too far from here. I quite like it.”
“Have you been to London before?”
“Briefly, last year, I was here.” He smiled too himself as if he remembered something funny. “Have you lived here your whole life?”
“Pretty much,” I said. “I grew up on the countryside then moved to the city when I was about nineteen.”
“That sounds boring.”
I mused at his brutal honesty. “Not really. I quite like the repetition of my everyday life. It’s rather calming. I’m not sure if I could handle not knowing what will happen next, you know?”
He held me in his gaze for a moment with an intent expression, as if he was trying to solve a puzzle. Then he propped his elbows on the bar, rested his chin on his fist and smiled as he cocked an eyebrow. “You’re rather interesting, Mr. Wilkinson.”
I was a bit shocked to hear him say that, for I have never seen myself as an interesting man. I am an average pub worker who lives on the east end of London. What’s so interesting about that?
“Am I?” I asked with a chuckle.
“You seem surprised by this.”
“I’m not very interesting. I’m a pretty average bloke.”
He smiled. “I disagree with that.”
Suddenly, Ed came out of the backroom looking as tired as ever from this long day. “Oh,” he said with a yawn. “We have one more customer. Fancy being your acquaintance, young sir.”
Jack just smiled.
“This is Jack,” I said. “He’s a French drifter.”
“Oh, really?” Ed asked. “Why on earth would you want to come to this scummy side of London?”
Jack mused at this. “I prefer the darker sides of cities. Don’t get me wrong, the expensive wine and sophisticated architecture is impressive but there’s nothing wrong with a little dirt and broken windows.”
Ed laughed. “Well, I hope you visit the pub again. We’re open every day except for Sundays and Mondays.”
“I’ll certainly return for another gin.” Then he stood up, pulling his cape over him. “It was a pleasure meeting the two of you.” He opened the door, but before he left, he turned around with a sly smile.
“And John,” he began. “I certainly hope I’ll be seeing you once again.” Then, with a wink, he popped on his top hat and left the pub.
I stood there staring at where Jack once sat thinking of him and his words. His eyes were the palest of blues with an unsteady way about them. They were like a cold brick wall which concealed his humanity, I have never seen such eyes.
“Well, John,” Ed began, “If I didn’t know any better I’d say that man fancies you.”
I laughed. “Fancies me, you say?”
“He was a bit odd wasn’t he?”
“Of course he’s odd, he fancies the men.”
“No, that’s not what I mean.” I said. “His eyes were so…”
“Enchanting?” he cooed sarcastically.
“Oh, come off it, Ed!” I snapped.
Ed laughed wickedly. “Oh, I’m just trolling you, John. He was a rather odd fellow but you shouldn’t think too much on it. He was a drifter, I’m sure you’ll never see him again. Now, let’s get the hell out of here.”
Our breath turned to frost as we spoke to each other outside the pub. Ed secured the doors and then we went our separate ways.
As I walked in the darkness my mind began to drift to the conversation I overheard earlier. Such a tragic death that woman experienced. I’ve never heard of a killer taking organs from their victims, well except for Jack the Ripper.
I stopped in my tracks as a frightening thought ran through my mind.
What if this killer is the Ripper? No, that’s impossible…right?
Well, the Ripper did get away, there is a possibility that he decided to come back to London and continue his gruesome killings. It is the anniversary of his first murder which was committed last year. That can't be a coincidence.
Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols was his first victim.
A middle-aged woman, found on Buck’s Row by two boot polishers. Her throat was slit and there was a long mutilating gash down her abdomen. Polly was the first of his five victims, which were all prostitutes.
His next prey? Annie Chapman: a forty-seven year old mother of three. I recognized her name immediately in the papers as she visited the pub quite often.
On the night of her murder a woman called Elizabeth Young reported seeing Chapman with a strange man, she only caught the tail end of the conversation. The man asked, “Will you”, which Annie replied, “Yes,” and then they disappeared into the night.
Moments after on 27 Hanbury St. a young carpenter overhears a commotion from his backyard. There is a five foot tall fence separating him from the scene he hears. A woman yells, “No!” and then something hard falls against the fence.
The body was discovered hours later by a carmen and the sight was truly horrific.
Her abdominal cavity was spread open with her genitals on her shoulder. The Ripper had removed her womb and taken it with him as some kind of token.
Then, on the thirtieth of September, the Ripper struck again.
This time a double-event murder of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride, dubbed as the turning point of the Ripper murders.
The Ripper was on a roll that night, for he had taken the lives of two women within minutes. Police officers had gone to the crime scene of Elizabeth Stride when they were informed of another murder just a block down from where they stood. Inspector Fredrick George Abelian, the head detective on the case, conducted a thorough search of both areas which lasted hours.
They found nothing.
Elizabeth Stride was the first to die on that windy night in September. She was a Swedish immigrant with a long record of disturbing the peace. There was one witness, James Brown, who saw Stride on Fairclough St. which wasn’t far from the crime scene.
He said that Stride was talking to a man dressed in a long coat and a tall hat. The man said something that Brown couldn’t comprehend but he heard Stride reply, “No, not tonight, some other night.” Her body was found at midnight with her throat slit and, to Scotland Yard’s surprise, no other wounds.
Officers believe that the Ripper panicked as there were two men who were in the area when the crime was committed, he didn’t have time to do his dirty work. She was found next to a gentlemen’s club; a two-story wooden building, barn-like in its description.
Then, just moments after police found Stride, a woman from Wolverhampton named Catherine Eddowes was discovered in Mitre Square. She was just released from the jail and was heading home before her body was found with the throat cut, her face beaten beyond recognition, and her genitals mutilated. Her death was immediate and the damage was done postmortem.
The abdomen was opened as if he was performing an autopsy, and the coroner said that the perpetrator must have considerable knowledge of the position of the organs as he cut with confidence.
The last victim was none other than Irish woman Mary Jane Kelly: the youngest of the Ripper victims and the most mutilated.
Her roommate came home three hours after midnight to a gruesome sight. There Mary lied naked, legs apart, and intestines strung out on a bed. Her breast and sexual organs were removed and displayed around the body. The face was hacked beyond recognition of the features and her neck was cut to the bone.
One of the officers on the scene had to excuse himself to vomit as the sight was just too much for him to bear.
And then, just as ominously as he appeared, the Ripper disappeared out of the public eye.
He was never heard from again, until a few months ago in the States. In Chicago, two prostitutes were found with missing organs and cut throats. American officers suspected Jack the Ripper to be the culprit. Honestly, I wouldn’t doubt it.
I’m sure you’re wondering: how the hell do I know all of this? Well, I was the prime suspect in the case for a long time before I was able to prove my innocence.
Inspector Abelian practically forced me into the investigation, hauling me in after every murder, every clue, that related to dear old Jack the Ripper. He truly believed that I was the Ripper and, honestly, he had good reason. I knew all five of the victims and I was seen with them before their murders. I was also spotted near every crime scene, but that’s because I have terrible luck.
I always get myself in dangerous situations.
Abelian arrested me at the pub causing everybody to believe me to be the Ripper. Even now, people still suspect me and give me looks of fear. But I can assure you, I am not Jack the Ripper, but I wish I was, for I would love to solve this mystery. It burns in the back of my mind every single day and I yearn to know the truth behind this mysterious man.
After proving my innocence to Inspector Abelian we became good mates. He’s a rather humorous gentleman but he can be serious when he needs to. I remember after the murder of Annie Chapman, which was when I established my innocence, Abelian showed up at my doorstep asking for my help on the case. He says that I’m a very perceptive man who possesses an understanding in "sequence" killers which intrigues yet frightens me all at the same time.
I mean, it’s a remarkable ability to understand a killer but it’s also a curse. The inspector says that I have a way of getting into the Ripper’s mind like nobody else. I wonder, how an average northern farm boy like myself can understand the complex mind of a well-organized killer.
Ed, as a joke, says that I am a closeted murderer, which I just laugh and roll my eyes. I don’t think I could take another person’s life, especially a woman. I have a deep respect for women as they are quite powerful with their seductive eyes and soft touch.
For I would never cross a woman, they terrify me, which is probably why I can build up the courage to talk to one if I find them attractive. Ed on the other hand has a way about him that draws the women to him. I think it’s because he’s kind of bad and women like that. I have the mentality of a young schoolboy; I have to get my work done and it has to be absolutely perfect.
But a man, I could kill. If it was absolutely necessary, of course. I wouldn’t just go out and kill somebody for the hell of it which is what separates me from the real killers.
According to Inspector Abelian, Jack the Ripper and I are practically the same person as we are similar in his mind. By description, we possess the same figure and fashion sense. We smell the same as well.
In one of the crime scenes, the Ripper left his scarf which smelled of strong cologne, a cologne that I use. This was another reason why everybody suspected me.
To be honest, if I met Jack the Ripper face-to-face, I would be able to tell it was him. I’ve studied him enough to spot him in a crowd of commons. The way that he would walk would even out him in my mind. His word choice and hand gestures I could recognize.
I think I’m being too cocky with my deductible abilities.
Though, I like to think I would be able to recognize dear old Jack. I would love to sit down and talk to the bloke. I feel as though it would be a rather exceptional conversation.
Of course, I doubt I’ll ever come in contact with Jack the Ripper in my lifetime ever again.