Chapter 2: The Drifter
The snow was cold against my face and hands causing a shiver down my spine.
I was barely conscious and my head was bleeding, it was sensitive to the touch. Slowly, I sat up to look forward but my mind was hazy causing my vision to spin. When my vision focused a man stood before me casting a long shadow.
He looked like a dark phantom standing there with his long cape. My heart thudded against my chest as I looked up at this demonic figure. He kneeled down before me, lifting my chin up so we were inches from each other.
On his head he wore a top hat but his nose and mouth were concealed by a black handkerchief. The only physical qualities that could be seen of his were his eyes which were surrounded by this perfect pale skin. Then, he removed his handkerchief revealing his identity.
It was me behind that mask but my eyes were a pale blue instead of a dark gray. Suddenly, his face flashed with fear and he let out a scream but the scream belonged to a woman.
I fell out of my bed and onto the hard floor as I awoke from my nightmare. Quickly, I shot up and looked around frantically.
My bedroom was empty and it was still dark outside, the time reading past the witching hour. Even though the woman’s scream was voiced in my dream, it felt so real and I expected it to be seen.
But I heard nothing, just the occasional noise of carriages or people outside walking the streets.
Then, as I climbed back into bed, a blood curdling scream wailed from outside.
I sprung out of my bed then practically flew down the stairs and out onto the early streets of London.
But when I got outside there was nothing…literally nothing.
The streets were empty and fog turned everything into a haze except for one candlelight coming from a house across the way.
This was the Ripper’s Hour.
I trembled a little in fear as I looked around in this eerie silence. It’s very rare for Whitechapel to be this silent, for it a noisy violent area.
Last year, the term “Ripper’s Hour” came about after the first two murders were committed, adopted by a popular British newspaper.
Every murder was committed between the hours of one and two and during this time the streets were quiet, for there was nobody to be seen on those five fateful nights as they feared for their own safety.
Thus, the commoners of London named this time the Ripper’s Hour. And now, nobody goes out during this time of night unless it’s absolutely necessary, for they fear the Ripper and his wicked games.
I stood there in the fog taking in the unnerving silence, looking around intently. In my mind, I pictured Jack the Ripper standing ominously in the fog before me, with his infamous shadow.
Suddenly, my imagination was interrupted as I was knocked over onto the hard pavement by a man running. He had also fallen to the ground next to me.
“Oh, pardon me, monsieur.” he sincerely apologized.
“It’s fine,” I said as I sat up. “This bloody fog is so dense that you can barely see your own-” but I had stopped speaking because I had come face-to-face with the man who had knocked me down.
“Jack?” I said. It was the French drifter from the pub.
He looked at me with furrowed brows, depicting confusion. “Have we met before?”
“Last night, I was the pub worker.”
Then his eyes lit up. “Ah yes! John Wilkinson, how could I forget?”
When the two of us stood I realized how much shorter he was than I, for he stood the exact height of my shoulders. He noticed my tallness as well when he looked up at me with wide eyes.
“Bloody hell, John,” he said as he looked up at me, “You’re a rather tall man, aren’t you?”
I chuckled. “Yes…I’m a giant.”
“I think my top hat makes us equivalent in height,” he said with a smile as he stood up on his toes and then back to his feet.
“What are you doing out in this time of night?” I asked in disbelief. “It’s the Ripper’s Hour.”
He cocked his head to the side baffled. “The Ripper’s Hour?”
“Would you like to come in for some tea?”
With that charming smile, he said, "That sounds superb."
When we entered my home Jack looked around at his surroundings in interest. “Tell me, John,” he began as he sat down on the sofa. “Where does a pub worker get a nice two-story house like this?”
I chuckled at this as I began to boil water for the tea. “Well, you’re making it sound much more grand than it is.”
“It’s quiet lovely,” he said. “It’s a rather old home, I presume, built in the early 1830s?”
I looked at him in surprise. “Nicely done, you’re correct. It was my grandfather’s. When he died from old age he passed it along to me.”
“That’s nice of him.”
“I was the only one of his grandchildren that visited him, mostly because the others had much more successful careers to focus on than I.”
“You come from a distinguished family?”
“Not really,” I said as I sat down in the rocking chair next to the sofa, “The people from my generation seem to have succeeded more than the last…and then there’s me.”
Jack laughed a little. “By the looks of it, I think you’re doing just fine. I think you’re ideal of success is a well-paying career and an extensive family. Success should only matter to oneself, it’s not materialistic it’s a mental feeling.”
I just stared at him as he projected his intellectual ideas onto me.“You’re really interesting, Jack.”
Jack just laughed. “I’ve never been told that before. Now, I’ve been called politically incorrect slurs and other rude words but interesting is a new one.”
“I could see it when you were in the pub: your difference from other people.”
His face suddenly shifted, that charming smile diminishing. “My difference?”
“I don’t mean anything bad by that, of course. I mean, I could see that you had more depth to you than others might presume.”
“You seem to be very perceptive, Mr. Wilkinson.”
“Please, call me John. Mr. Wilkinson is what the prostitutes at the pub call me.”
“I’ve been described as perceptive before,” I said remembering the Ripper and my strange dream.
“Are you alright, John? You look like you’ve just had a flashback.”
“No, it’s nothing.” I looked at him, planning to shift the subject. “If you don’t mind me asking, what were you doing out tonight?”
He seemed to have stopped breathing for a moment as he adverted his eyes from me and looked down at the floor. “I was taking a stroll,” he said as he returned his eyes to mine.
“Be careful,” I said. “You might catch death out there.” That sentence affected me more than it did Jack as I was aware of both meanings to that phrase.
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “It is rather cold here in London and it’s just going to get colder as we progress further into the year.”
I nodded in agreement. “I quite like the cold weather though.”
“It’s relaxing, isn’t it?”
Suddenly, the kettle screamed and I hurried over to pour us some tea. “Were you raised in a cold climate?”
“Kind of,” he said. “I was raised in Paris so the summers were quite hot but it did snow in the winters.”
“Paris? That’s lovely.”
“It is an enchanting city,” he sighed, “I miss it sometimes.”
“Why did you leave?” I asked as I poured the hot tea into the small porcelain teacups.
He was quiet for a moment. “Incriminating circumstances that we won’t discuss at the moment…I left when I was thirteen and I traveled to Romania which is a beautiful place full of intricate architecture, I was there for quite a few years. Then I continued my travels to Bulgaria where I spent another few years and then I stowed away on a ship to Spain where I spent about a year and then I traveled here to England for a few months. After that it was off to the United States where I spent a year and then I was missing London so I decided to come back.”
“That is a lot of traveling,” I said as I handed him his tea then sat down in the chair next to the sofa.
He observed me as I sipped my tea, curious as ever. “How old are you?”
“I’m seven years your junior.”
“Blood hell, you’re young.”
He smiled brightly.
“I suspected you to be a bit older. You come across as a much older gentleman.”
“I’ve been through a lot.”
“So have I,” I said, “And I look old as hell.”
“You need to stop stressing, John. Why do you think I’m so devilishly handsome?”
I just laughed and shook my head. “I’ll take your advice.”
“Good move,” he said with a smile. “So, are you parents still living?”
“Well,” I began, “My father died when I was twelve, my mother still lives. She actually resides in London not too far from here. But, she has come down with an illness that the doctors can’t identify.”
“Are you and your mother close?”
“Yes…she’s my everything.” I said with a laugh.
“Mamma's boy, are you?” he teased.
“I am,” I said. “And I have no shame. My mother is a good woman and I’m lucky to have her for guidance.”
“Parents are important.”
“What about you? Are you close with your mother?”
“I was, yes, her and I shared many character traits.”
That sentence seemed rather stilted but I decided not to push on the subject. “I suspect she’s not living anymore?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“I’m terribly sorry,” I said sadly. “I don’t know what I’d do without my mother.”
“It’s fine. It was a long time ago. Besides, I’ve always been a lone wolf.”
“What about your father?”
He stopped in mid-sip of his tea. “I…never knew him.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Yes,” he said as he sat his tea down on the table before him. “It was one of those situations,” he said with a laugh, “Fatherless children are becoming rather common as time progresses.”
“Men can’t handle responsibility.”
“I’ll agree with that. We are rather impulsive and stupid sometimes.”
“I’ve always favored women over men.”
“Well, I would assume.” he said smiling.
I laughed, “Not like that…just, in a friendly way. I’ve always found it easier to be friends with a woman rather than a romantic partner.”
"You’re not good with the ladies eh, John?”
“Not exactly,” I said laughing. “I’m pretty shit when it comes to romancing women.”
“Strange creatures they are, aren’t they?”
I nodded in agreement.
“This is why I don’t mess with them.”
I smiled. “You don’t mess with women?”
“No, it’s not really my area; not really something I wish to get involved in.”
“So, what areas do you indulge in, then?”
“Science.” He stated plainly.
“Yes, science, John.”
I chuckled, leaning back and taking a gander at this clever man. “Ok…care to elaborate?”
“Anatomy, biology, medicine, things of that nature I find rather stimulating.”
“I see,” I said. “Do you wish to be a doctor?”
“I don’t know, maybe. I prefer dead bodies over live ones, and I understand how sadistic that sounds but I don’t care.”
I smiled at his morbid sense of humor, leaning back as I listened intently.
“I’m intelligent and well-educated in the medical field so I’m sure I could work in that area quite successfully,” he said.
I nodded as I sat there listening to him talk about himself.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’m kind of a narcissist. I don’t know if you could tell.”
I smiled. “It’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with a little narcissism, you gotta boost your ego in this world in order to survive.”
“But a little too much narcissism can be annoying.”
“The Posh aristocrats of England would know a lot about that area.”
“Well John, tell us how you really feel.”
The two of us laughed. “I’m just being honest.” I said.
“No, I agree with you. I’ve met those people with their little dogs and silver spoons, but I prefer the dirtier rough people of the world. They have more depth to them. They’re real, you know?”
“Yeah,” I said with a nod. “That’s why I like working at the pub so much. You meet people from all walks of life. It’s an entertaining job even though all I’m doing is standing behind a bar for hours pouring drinks for strangers.”
“Strangers are fascinating.”
I pointed at him. “Exactly.”
“Nous sommes deux d’une sorte.”
“Pardon?” I asked with a chuckle.
“I say, ‘we are two of a kind’.”
He laughed. “Is that all you can say in français?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“We’re going to have to work on that. Women love Frenchmen.”
“Yes,” he said. “I don’t know why. I think it’s because we’re supposed to be amazing lovers or something.”
“Paris is the city of love.”
“That’s true,” he said. “It’s a great city to fall in love in I’m sure.”
“Have you ever been in love?”
“L’amour n’existe pas.”
“You don’t believe in love?”
“You know what that means, good job,” he applaud. “No, I don’t believe in it. It’s rather far-fetched, falling in deep love with another person and being true to that person fully. I feel like people made up love to make themselves feel better, to believe in something. Like God, for example.”
“You don’t believe in God?”
He shook his head. “No, people invented gods to forgive them for their sins so their so-called morals won't eat them alive. Just like love, it’s just something for people to feel good about rather than facing the truth.”
“What’s life worth living if you don’t believe in anything?”
“I don’t need the assistance of an invisible being to get through my day, John.”
“Well,” I said. “That’s rather blunt.”
“Sorry,” he said. “Don’t mean to project my harsh views onto you.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I never take anything personally. I enjoy speaking with you."
He sat back and scratched his chin. “We’re very different, you and I, but at the same time we’re rather similar. I like that.”
“Yes,” he said. “All my travels, I don’t recall encountering a man like you.”
“If I may speak candid,” I began, “I don’t quite see what you see in me.”
“That’s because, as perceptive as you are, you can’t seem to see yourself as others see you. For years you’ve been a ‘lower’ class citizen and for some reason you can’t seem to understand that regardless of your status you’re a rather intriguing gentleman.”
“Intriguing?” I asked with a laugh. “I-I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“Just thank me.”
“Thank you, Jack.”
“You’re very welcome, John.”
We both laughed.
“Now,” Jack began, “Why were you walking the streets of London at the, um…Ripper’s Hour?”
“I heard a scream.”
“A scream?” he asked in surprise. “Like a woman’s scream?”
“Yeah…like somebody was in danger.”
“That’s disturbing,” he said. “I wonder what it was.”
“I actually considered Jack the Ripper.”
He cocked an eyebrow at me. “The Ripper, eh?”
“Yeah, have you heard of him?”
“I have actually,” he said. “When his murders went down I was living here in London.”
“Yes. Frightening times, I must say. The whole bloody city thought the world was ending.”
“Yeah…” I stared down at the table as I remembered the Ripper. I felt a little sickened.
“You seem to be more affected by the man than most. Did you know one of the victims?”
“I knew all five of the victims but not in a way that I mourned their deaths.”
“Then why are you so…emotional about it?”
I wasn't entirely sure if I should relate my past to this complete stranger. But we had basically shared our life stories with one another so, what the hell? “I was the prime suspect for a majority of the case.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Really?” he leaned in closer in interest. “Why?”
“I was spotted at almost all of the crime scenes, and not to mention that I knew all of them. Also, the inspector said that I ‘act like a killer’, whatever that means.”
He just stared at me in wonderment.
“I’m not the killer though, don’t worry.” I said with a laugh.
“Oh, I know you’re not.”
“You’re…not a killer,” he said. “You just don’t have that…scent of a killer.”
“Actually I do,” I said with a laugh. “Another reason they believed it was me is that the Ripper and I wear the same cologne.”
He smiled. “Really? That’s funny.”
“I know, the man’s got good taste.”
We chuckled pleasantly.
“I don’t know, the case of the Ripper was very intriguing.” I said. “I wish I knew who he was.”
“Why?” he asked in genuine curiosity.
“I would like to sit down and talk to him.” I said. “After I proved my innocence to the inspector he wanted me to continue helping him on the case. He said that I had an understanding for Jack the Ripper, that I could get inside his mind and understand his feelings and why he does what he does, which is extraordinary but it’s also really weird. You know?”
He kind of just stared at me, looking me up and down, scratching his chin. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “What do you think the two of you would talk about if you did meet?”
I thought long and hard about this, I didn’t even know the answer. “That’s a good question,” I acknowledged, “You know, I don’t think we’d talk, I think we’d just stare at one another.”
Then I looked up at him and the two of us held a gaze between us for a long moment. The loud clang of the grandfather clock echoed throughout the house breaking the silence.
And I realized that I was late for work.
“Oh bloody hell!” I said as quickly stood up. “I got so distracted talking to you that I’ve made myself late for work.”
“I’m sorry I’m so interesting, John,” he said as he stood, “It’s something I cannot control, you see. It's a curse!”
“Oh, you’re modest as well!” I said laughing.
He smiled. “It was a pleasure talking to you.” He opened the front door.
“And you as well, Jack. I hope you stop by the pub today to grab a gin or something.”
He stood there with his hand grasped around the doorknob looking at me with a smile. “I’ll pop in after work.” Then, after tipping his hat, he disappeared into the foggy cloud of London.
I shut my front door then leaned my back against it as I thought about the conversation Jack and I just had. He has a very negative view on the world and he doesn’t believe in anything.
My father always told me that you got to believe in something in order to survive in this world or you’ll go insane. Honestly, I haven’t stepped foot in a chapel since I was seventeen but I still believe in a higher power.
Before I opened the door and ran after Jack to continue our entertaining conversation, I ran upstairs to get ready for work.
“MADMAN STRIKES AGAIN!” read the headlines in The Star Newspaper.
I was bent over the bar with the paper in hand examining it closely. Last night, around midnight, a woman called Stacy Owens was found near the end of my block. She was a twenty-three year old peasant who frequented the pub.
Her throat was slit, cutting her jugular when rendered her silent: the Ripper's infamous trademark. This time, the killer took just the kidney.
After reading this article I began to have flashbacks from the Ripper case. I remember that one of the victims was missing a kidney and, about a few days after her murder, half of the kidney was mailed to Scotland Yard with a letter saying that the Ripper had eaten the other half.
Now, I’m really starting to consider the possibility of the Ripper returning to London. Why wouldn’t he? Last time he was here he got away with murder rather swiftly.
Prostitutes are easy prey; they walk the streets alone at night, they look for strangers, they’re not that important to society.
The Ripper was smart to pick them as his prey.
But what is he doing with the organs? I know that the note that came with the kidney of Annie Chapman stated that he had eaten it but, honestly, I don’t believe that. As crazy as Jack the Ripper is, I don’t think he would succumb to cannibalism. He’s too sophisticated for that, I mean yes he is rather messy in his killings but I don’t believe he’s messy enough to partake in the act of eating a human being.
To me, the Ripper seems like a high-class gentleman with good taste and that taste would certainly not be an east end prostitute and her alcoholic kidney.
But what do I know? Maybe I’ve got this whole profile wrong. The Ripper could be some cow-herding bloke from the north for all I know.
But he isn’t some cow-herding bloke, he’s Jack the Ripper.
The killer with the notorious cape and top hat. The killer who wears expensive cologne and has enough knowledge in the medical field to perform an autopsy. He can cut a woman’s throat to the bone with one slash to keep the whore from screaming.
There’s no way he just went in and did it, he had a plan and he trained himself to kill for a long time reading medical journals, talking to butchers about what knives to use on the toughest meat, stalking women and studying them like books.
Whoever Jack the Ripper is, he’s cunning little bastard and his mind could be one the greatest in the 19th century. Imagine the great intellect he could give to others.
Why did he have to become a murderer? He could’ve easily been a doctor or a teacher, any academically inclined career, he would’ve succeeded. I wonder if he’s married, or has a child? I bet he could charm any woman and get them to fall in love with him. Hell, I’m practically in love with him and I haven’t even met the man, oh but how I’d love to.
“Hey, mate!” I felt Ed slap my back causing me to jump a little in fear. “You look like you’re contemplating murder, are you alright?”
“Yeah,” I said as I shook away my thoughts of the Ripper. “Just a little tired, I was up late last night.”
“Is that why you were late this morning?”
“Yes, sorry about that, by the way.”
“What were you doing anyways?” he asked. “Did you finally bring a bird home?"
“No,” I said. Should I tell him about my strange encounter with Jack? Yes, I should, why was the encounter strange, anyways? The two of us were just talking. “I was talking to Jack.”
“Yeah, you know the French drifter that was in here yesterday night?”
“Oh,” he said as he face lit up, and then he lifted his eyebrows and got that sarcastic look on his face. “Really? Did you two become lovers, then?”
“No, we did not.”
He laughed. “Did you invite him over?”
“No, I heard a scream outside so I went to investigate and I ran into Jack.”
“Ran into Jack?”
“Yes, he was running and he knocked me down.”
“He was running?” his face, washed with confusion. “Why the hell was he running?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “People go for runs sometimes.”
“Not at the bloody witching hour.”
“What are you saying?”
“John,” he said firmly. “Don’t you think it a bit out of the ordinary that he was running in the middle of the night shortly after you heard a scream?”
I thought about this for a moment. “Well,” I began, “When you put it like that…”
“Blimey, John!” he said quite loudly, catching the attention of our customers, so Ed dropped to a whistling whisper. “Are you blind, mate? What if he’s the killer of these two people? What if that scream belonged to the woman that was murdered last night?”
I just stared at him because I was so shocked by his unbelievable accusations. “What?” I finally managed to say. “No…that's madness."
“No!” I detested. “Jack is not a killer.”
“Well, he certainly has the same name as the killer.”
For a brief moment, I actually thought he knew the name of the current killer that was responsible for the past two deaths before I realized he was talking about the Ripper.
“Jack the Ripper?” I asked. “Ok, do you think that the Ripper would be dumb enough to put his own name in his trade name that he himself made up?”
“Oh, because you know so much about the Ripper, don’t you?”
“What? What does that even mean?”
He sighed. “Nothing, just get back to work!” Then he stormed off into the backroom.
What the hell is wrong with him? I can’t believe he suspects Jack to be the murderer. I sat down at the bar as I slowly put all the pieces together realizing that maybe Ed is right.
Why would Jack be walking the streets at midnight on one of the coldest nights of the year?
The blood curdling scream that I heard before seeing Jack was truly terrifying. It wasn’t a hallucination and it certainly wasn’t a dream, it was real and it was loud.
Could it have been Stacy Owens, the second woman to fall victim to this new killer?
If Jack is the Ripper, and so is this new killer, then why would he put his own name in his trade name? Maybe he’s just so cocky and believes he can get away with everything, thus he’s not afraid to reveal his first name to the public.
But as I continuously replay the Ripper’s qualities in my head, I can’t see Jack in his category. I will admit that Jack is an odd figure but I don’t think he’s a killer, he seems to be a gentle man that wouldn’t hurt a fly. But how would I know any of this? For, he conceals his emotions behind those cold eyes of his.
I feel like that there’s something dark in his past that he wishes to hide, whether that be murder or not, there’s something behind those mysterious blue eyes.
The day had dragged on quite slowly as the subject of the Ripper wouldn’t leave my mind. All day, little things would remind me of him causing a series of ideas and possibilities to flow through my mind.
Ed’s voice kept playing over and over in my ears… “Oh, because you know so much about the Ripper, don’t you?”
What the hell did he mean by that? But before my mind could continue down the road of paranoia, the smiling face of Inspector Fredrick George Abelian entered the pub.
“John!” he said. “It’s been too long.” Inspector Abelian is a short stout man with a full head of silver hair and a white handlebar mustache to match. His eyes are green and his face has aged and darkened over the past twenty years of police work. He stands before me now wearing a pair of dark trousers, a long brown jacket, and a white blouse tucked in with a few buttons undone at the top revealing curly silver chest hairs. On his finger is a gold wedding ring that has been there for three decades even though his wife died ten years ago.
“Inspector,” I began. “It’s a pleasure. What are you doing on this side of London?”
“I came to see you, of course,” he said as he sat down at the bar, “And to grab a pint.”
I chuckled. “Certainly."
“You’re looking well, John, how’s your mother?”
I sighed, recalling my mother's undesirable situation “She’s ill at the moment but she’s beginning to look a bit better.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“She’s a strong woman,” I said as I handed him his pint. “She’ll make it through.”
“I shall keep her in my prayers.”
“Anyways,” I proceeded to change the subject, “As marvelous as I am, I know that you’re not here just to see me.”
“I knew I couldn’t fool your perceptive mind.” Then he pulled out a yellow file from the breast pocket of his coat. “This is why I’m here.” Placing it on the bar, he opened it revealing graphic black-and-white pictures of women sliced open.
“Jesus,” I cursed. “What the hell is this?”
“These are the bodies of Jennifer Milton and Stacy Owens.”
“The recent murders,” I said as I looked down at the gut-wrenching crime scene photos.
“This bloke’s a madman, John, I mean, truly sick in the head.” His face looked disturbed which indicated to me that this killer was no ordinary madman. “The papers didn’t mention what happened before death to Miss Owens because they felt it was too graphic for the public to hear…he raped the girl with a foreign object.”
My eyes widened and I was a bit taken back. “What object?” I dared to ask.
Then he pulled out a picture from behind the others that shown a bedpost covered in blood and tissue. “A bedpost,” he stated firmly. “We didn’t find her at where the murder took place. He must’ve dumped her off after he was finished with her. The bedpost was about half-way into her body, going up into her stomach. It was like she was a pig on a spit, John. Her kidney was missing.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I read about that.” I felt as though I could vomit after he described what the killer did.
“Why would he want the kidney?”
I looked down at the pictures for a long time. “I don’t know.”
He regarded the clock on the wall. “Listen, John,” he said as he stood, “I need to get back to work. Now, if you’re not busy, could you meet me at the morgue on Saturday night?”
“I would like for you to be there during the autopsy of Stacy Owens.”
“I’ll be there,” before he could walk off I asked, “So, does this mean I’m on the case?”
He smiled. “Yes, welcome back, inspector.” Then, after ruffling my hair, he left.
I stood there bent over the bar for a moment recollecting all that had just happened. To be honest, I’ve missed the excitement of a murder case; the hunt is on.
“You know,” I heard a voice say from the side of me. I turned and saw Jack leaning against the bar. “I’m surprised you haven’t noticed me sitting across the bar this whole time.”
“How long have you been here?” I asked in amazement.
“About an hour.”
I was happy that he wasn’t here this morning to witness the argument between Ed and I when Ed accused Jack of being a the damned Ripper, which to me is still a far-fetched concept.
“What were you doing?”
“Watching you,” he said, “In your natural habitat.”
I chuckled. “Do you still think I’m interesting?”
He nodded. “Yes, I do, actually. I like watching you communicate with people. You look at people with such interest you would think you were observing art in a museum. It’s as if you wish to understand everybody. Why?”
“It’s fun,” I said, “Looking at a person and deciphering who they are and what they do just from their appearance.”
“Have you always done that?”
“Since I can remember,” I said, smiling as my early childhood began resurfacing, “I can recall, in the supermarkets, my mother would catch me staring at people and scold me for my rudeness. But it wasn’t rudeness, it was a game to me. Seeing how certain people reacted to the same things can really say a lot about their personality. I don’t know, I’m weird, I guess.”
“You wish to understand people for your own personal wonder. That’s not weird, that’s what makes geniuses. You have a mind of a psychologist, John, or a calculated killer, but either way you’re a genius.”
“A genius?” I asked in laughter, “I don’t know about that.”
“A man doesn’t have to possess great knowledge over academic subjects to be considered a genius. A genius is a person who understands human reaction and has the ability to outsmart others. When you can understand a person more than they understand themselves, that is impressive.”
“You think I can understand people more than they understand themselves?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. But I do know you’re capable. Hell, you might have me figured out by now.”
“Not really,” I said. “You’re strange.”
“I’m strange, am I?” he asked with a laugh.
I smiled. “Alright, I use that word for the lack of a better one. You’re like an impenetrable brick wall; a puzzle. But I plan to break those walls, Jack, one of these days.”
His face darkened. “Maybe someday, I’ll tell you all my secrets…if I’m still around.”
“Why wouldn’t you be?”
“I’m a drifter, John. I don’t stay in one place for too long.”
“Maybe you can stay in this place a little bit longer than usual.”
He smiled. “If I find a reason to stay," gazing at me, "A reason like you, maybe.”
“I’m just a man, Jack, why would I be your reason?”
He sat there for a long moment just staring and looking at the details in my face. “I don’t know,” he finally said.
“John,” Ed, interjecting himself into our conversation.
I turned, “Yes?”
“I need to go,” he said. “So, when you’re done here, could you lock the place up for me?”
“Good,” then, after a quick glance at Jack, he left the pub pulling on his coat.
Jack looked at me with an arched brow. “I sense some tension.”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” I said as I stacked a few glasses up under the bar. “Shall we go?”
“Yes,” he said as he stood up, “You can walk me home.”
“Where’s your home?” I asked as I pulled on my coat.
“It’s a flat not too far from here, just down the block a way.”
“Alright,” I said. “I wouldn’t want you to get kidnapped.”
He snorted. “I think I can take care of myself.”
“Oh, because you’re pretty face is so intimidating,” I said sarcastically as we left the pub.
He just stood there laughing as I locked up the pub’s doors.
“Bloody hell, it’s cold out here,” he shivered inside his coat as we walked through the crowded streets. “Is it always like this in London?”
“No,” I said, “It can get rather hot during the summers but most of the time it’s gray and gloomy.”
“I remember you said you grew up on a farm. How did you grow crops in this weather?”
“With great difficulty,” I said laughing. “But my father had a few tricks up his sleeve.”
“Was it like a big plantation?”
I laughed. “Hell no!” I said. “I wouldn’t even call it a plantation. It was just a small piece of land with a one room cabin, a rickety old fence which contained a pig, a sheep and a horse. The crops themselves covered two acres and then we had an apple tree. And it was located in the middle of nowhere. I only had a total of two years of schooling because the schoolhouse was about thirty kilometers from my home, and after my father died an education wasn’t the highest priority anymore.”
“Wow,” he said. “That’s not what I expected from you. I just assumed that it was a big plantation with a white picket fence.”
I shook my head. “No, it was a dirt farm with a rusty wooden fence…but it was home.” I looked down at him, “What was your home?”
He sighed, “I grew up in a two story townhouse in Paris in a neighborhood with a cobblestone road.”
“We are from two different worlds, you and I.”
He smiled. “Yes…but we seem to fit.”
“I imagine you’ve had plenty of schooling,” I said.
“You’d be correct,” he nodded. “My parents sent me to school my whole life, until I was thirteen, because that’s when I left to Romania. There, I went to a medical school and when I traveled to Bulgaria I went to an arts school.”
“Oh, you’re an artist then?”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he said smiling. “I just like to draw and stuff.”
“Stuff is such a technical term.”
The two of us laughed. Then suddenly he stopped at a tall building. “This is my flat,” he opened the front entrance, “Shall we go?”
When I entered the building, the first thing I saw were many flights of stairs above me.
He looked at me. “Don’t worry, it’s not that far up.” Then we began ascending this seemingly endless staircase.
“You do tend to get used to it,” he said. “And you can imagine how fit my legs are now.”
"Perfect for running from the police!" I cooed.
Then after climbing two flights we stopped at a red door with the golden number 226 in the middle. The hallway was empty and quiet which caused me to feel the need to whisper. “Is it always this silent?”
Jack nodded as he jiggled his key into the hole. “Yes, sir, it is.” As soon as we entered his flat he lit the wood stove in the far corner of the room. The walls were painted red and the floor was wooden.
To my left, in the corner, there were two dark sofas and a small table sitting in the middle with a few books atop. Next to the sofas there was a shelf lined with medical journals, artistry books, and British literature. In front of the book shelf sat a small circular table with two chairs surrounding it and two unlit candles sitting on top. To the right of the table there was a small kitchen and a white door next to that which I assumed led to the bedroom.
“This is really nice,” I said. “I’m kind of surprised. It’s hard to find a nice flat on this side of London.”
“Your head is nearly touching the ceiling,” he observed.
I looked up and my face was an inch from the white ceiling. “I told you I’m a giant.”
“Would you like some wine?” he asked as he entered the small kitchen.
“Wine?” I asked, "That's a bit Posh, eh?"
“What can I say? I’m closeted aristocrat, John.”
I laughed as I took off my coat and laid it over the arm of the sofa. I sat down and removed my ascot then unbuttoned a few buttons on my blouse.
“Here you are,” he said as he handed me a glass of red wine then sat down next to me on the sofa.
“Thank you,” I said. “I noticed your impressive collection of books over there.”
“Ah, yes,” Jack said as he glanced at the bookshelf. “I think spend more time with fictional people than actual human beings.”
“I don’t blame you.”
“So,” he began as he sat his glass down on the table in front of us, “Why is Ed upset with you?”
I sighed. “We got into an argument this morning about you.”
“Me?” he asked with a smile. “What did I do?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Ed is just suspicious of you.”
Then his whole demeanor changed. The sarcastic smirk disappeared and he got serious. “Suspicious of me? Why?”
“I told him about last night. Whenever I ran into you after hearing a scream. He thought that was a bit odd and then, you know, the murder in the paper this morning…”
“He thinks me a killer,” he stated.
I looked at him with a smile. “Yes, it’s ridiculous, I know.”
“What about you?”
Confused I asked, “What about me?”
“Do you think I’m a killer?”
For a moment I stared at him as I really considered Ed’s words but then I slowly shook my head. “No…I don’t think so.”
After a brief moment of silence he smiled. “Well, good,” he said. “I can assure you I’m not out every night slitting the throats of whores.”
“I certainly hope not.”
“What about you, John? Are you a killer?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean you don’t think so? Wouldn’t you know?”
I laughed a little. “Don’t worry, I’m not murdering anyone.” I looked at him for a moment as he stared at the red liquid in his wine glass. “So,” I said, changing the subject, “I collect from the contents of your bookshelf that you favor the medical field.”
“Yes,” he said, perking up. “I wouldn’t mind becoming a doctor or something of that nature. What about you, John? I doubt you wish to be a pub worker your whole life.”
“I don’t know. A pub worker is all I’ve ever been aside from a farmer. I wouldn’t mind going back to my roots.”
“Farming, eh? That’s definitely something I’ve never participated in.”
He shook his head.
Sitting there observing him I considered our differences. Just in the way we sit is very different.
There I was, resting against the back of the sofa, my arm threw over the back with my legs spread apart. He sat nearly on the edge of the furniture with his legs crossed like a woman and his back straightened. I felt the need to be closer to him so I quickly sat up and moved scooted closer then rested my chin on my fist as I gazed at him. He slowly turned to face me with a surprised expression on his face.
“Can I help you, sir?” he asked.
“Tell me about yourself Mr….um…”
“Bellerose. Jack Maçon Bellerose.”
“That sounds like beautiful music.”
“You’re very welcome.”
“So, what’s your full name, then?”
"It’s not as extravagant as yours.”
With a sigh, “John Cassidy Wilkinson.”
“Cassidy?” he asked, failing to hold back laughter.
“Yes,” I laughed, “I think it means ‘one with curly hair’ or something like that.”
“You certainly live up to that name,” he said as he ran his fingers through my hair.
“It’s the Irish in me.” We laughed and I regarded his apartment. “This is a really nice flat, considering the area.”
He nodded in agreement as he looked around. “It is quite nice,” then he looked at me, “I like the colors, it’s quite romantic. Don’t you think?”
I just nodded slowly, in a sudden daze.
His eyebrows pulled together. “Are you alright, John?”
I finally managed to look away from him. “I’m exhausted,” I laughed as I buried my face in my hands. “I had a very long day.”
“You need a day off. I propose tomorrow!"
I looked at him through my fingers. “Tomorrow?”
“Follow me to work. I think you’ll find very interesting.”
I uncovered my face. “Really? What do you do?”
“I think I’ll leave that to your imagination,” that sly smile stretched across his lips.
“Alright,” I stared at him unknowingly, “I’ll take the day off tomorrow and follow you to work, then.”
He clapped his hands together. “Yes! It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“Ok,” then I slowly stood up. “I should probably leave.”
“Yes, it is getting late. I’ll come and get you in the morning when I leave for work.”
“Will it be early?”
“No. It’ll be daylight when I come to fetch you.”
“Good,” I said as I pulled on my jacket. “I’ll inform Ed. I’m almost positive he won’t mind. I’ve never taken a day off in my life.”
“Damn,” he laughed, “You need a break.” He opened the door for me and I went out onto the stairwell.
“I shall see you tomorrow, then?” I held out my hand and this time he took it without hesitation.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay there with him and continue our stimulating discussion. But I knew I had to go home so I sadly let go of his hand and went on my way, out of his world and back into my own.
Slowly I walked down the dark foggy streets of London’s east end once again but this time, it felt different. I didn’t feel like I was walking at all. In my mind, I was flying.
My surroundings ceased to exist. These bare buildings and icy streets were unbeknownst to me as my thoughts were entirely elsewhere, the world around me fading into the fog.
I couldn’t translate my feelings into words. Jack is extraordinary to me. I’ve only just met the bloke and I feel like I’ve known him for a thousand years. I feel as though I’ve met him before as his eyes and voice are so familiar but I cannot place them.
When have I ever met a man like him? And if I did I’m sure I would remember it. Unless, I repressed the memory.
“The morgue?” I said in disbelief as I stared up at London’s main hospital.
“Yes,” Jack said giddily.
Morning had arrived and I had taken the day off so I could spend it with Jack just as we planned the night before.
He warned me about his job being “unconventional” but this isn’t what I expected at all.
“Interesting job choice,” I said. “Not what I expected.” I looked down at him from the corner of my eye.
“Get used to my unexpectedness, John!” he said as he walked up the steps of the entrance. “I’m full of unanticipated enigmas.” He opened the door for me and, with a chuckle, I entered the hospital.
It was much smaller on the inside then you would expect looking in but, with the walls being washed with white, it was difficult to notice.
There was a red-headed fellow on the other side of the room who seemed to recognize Jack, greeting him with a smile.
“Jack!” he said as he approached us. “Good morning too you, lad.” He was Irish. Very Irish.
“How are you Phineas?” Jack asked, pleasant as ever.
“Oh, I’m just great.” Phineas’ eyes went to mine. “And who’s this lovely chap?”
“This is John Wilkinson,” Jack placed his hand on my shoulder. “John, this is Dr. Phineas Charles. He's one of the head doctors here in the hospital. He got his medical license and schooling in Ireland but moved his family here to set up his own practice.”
I shook the Irishman’s hand firmly. “Charmed.”
“How long have you and Mr. Bellerose been acquainted?”
“A few days,” I said as I looked down at my newly found French friend. “So, not that long then.”
“If I didn’t know any better I’d say the two of you have known each other for years,” he looked at Jack.
“No, we just met actually.”
“Well, isn’t that lovely?”
“Well,” Jack began, “I must be off to the morgue.”
“Yes, yes, of course! I need to be in surgery in about an hour so I must go prep.” Phineas turned to me, “It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Wilkinson.”
“And you as well.” Then, with a big grin on his face, Dr. Charles had left.
Jack looked up to me. “Follow me.” I obeyed and followed my friend to a dark staircase that led down. I stopped at the top while Jack continued down. At the bottom of the stairs there were two doors which I assumed led to the morgue but, in my eyes, they seemed to lead to my inevitable death.
Jack opened the door and turned to look at me. “Are you coming, John?”
I hurried down the stairs then followed him through the daunting doors. As I entered the morgue I was confronted by the color white and the faint aroma of decomposition.
In the far right wall there was a collection of metal drawers which I presumed contained dead bodies.
There were also long metal tables sedentary in the middle of the room followed by a small table with wheels that had scalpels among other objects displayed on top. On the left there were tall white shelves with jars and books.
I observed one of the jars which contained some pink fleshy thing.
“Do I want to know what’s in there?” I asked Jack as he slipped on his white lab coat.
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“Sorry about the smell,” he said as he put on his leather gloves. “You tend to get used to it after a while.”
“Oh, it’s fine,” I said, “It doesn’t bother me too much.”
He pulled out a jar which contained a brain then placed in on the desk in front of him. “Ah, yes, I forgot," regarding towards me, "You're quite familiar with the scent of death, no?"
I looked at him for a moment before realizing he was referring to the Ripper case. “Yes,” I said as I recalled the murders in my mind. I shivered as the gory images resurfaced.
“Is it hard to think about sometimes?” Jack asked, noticing my physical response.
“What? The fact that he got away? Yes, it bothers me.”
A stunned gaze. “I was speaking of the crime scenes. Is it hard for you to think about all that gore?”
“Oh! Well…if I say no does that make me crazy?”
“To most I’m sure it would.”
“But it doesn’t to you?”
“No. But I think that’s due to the fact that I work with dead bodies all the time. Blood and guts have never really bothered me much.” He took a brain out of a jar and held it in his hand. “Clearly,” then gently placed it before him on a platter.
“Are you gonna eat it?” I asked with a smile as I sat down in front of him.
“Ever had brain?” he asked. “It’s quite delicious.”
“I assume you’re speaking of animal brains?”
“Of course!” he chuckled.
“Yeah, I’ve had brains and kidneys and all kinds of organs. My father said if you kill an animal you have to eat the entire thing. You shouldn’t waste it’s meat.”
“Did you ever eat a heart?” he cut a piece off the brain then placed it under a microscope.
I nodded. “Yes. I had a snake’s heart once. It was covered in blood and still beating.”
He stared at me when a sly smirk. “That’s a bit barbaric but also kind of awesome.”
“Living out in the middle of nowhere can make you do some crazy things.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?” he left his microscope and turned to me.
“Um, I guess so.” I said awkwardly, taken aback by his sudden firm tone.
“How did your father die?”
This question caught me off guard, thus I froze unable to speak. Many years had passed since the last time I recalled my father’s death aloud. It wasn’t something I was pleased to speak of as it’s still somewhat of a mystery to me.
“I don’t know,” I finally said. I couldn’t imagine how unusual that must sound to him but, when I saw his face, I was surprised. He didn’t look stunned or confused, he seemed curious and considerate.
“It would seem that my memory has faded,” I said as I stared at him in misconception.
He leaned down and held his face as he propped his elbows on the desk, gazing at me in interest. “What do you remember?”
“Blood,” I wasn’t looking at Jack anymore, my gaze had rested on the table before me. “A lot of blood…on the snow, the porch, my hands…my clothes. Through hazy eyes, I can see my mother holding my father’s lifeless body as she wails at the sky and at me. She’s yelling something but her words are unclear and for some reason I felt guilty as if it was my fault that he was dead. My mother has never spoke of the incident or my father ever since. It’s like he’s never existed and my memories are just dreams.
“I can remember everything before that very well. I was twelve when he died so I was able to spend a lot of years with him. But my mother acts as if he was never alive in the first place. It’s strange.” I looked at Jack once more and his facial expression had remained the same.
Suddenly he turned around and sighed as he placed his hands behind his back then put his head down as if he was praying. Then he spoke, “My father died when I was around that age.”
“What?” I asked in surprise. “I thought you said you never knew him.”
“I wish I didn’t. My life would’ve been a lot easier had he never existed.”
I sat there silently as I stared at Jack’s back. I was unsure how to respond.
“If you don’t mind me asking…how did he die?”
That’s when Jack went silent. He stood there motionless for so long that I thought he had turned to stone.
“I killed him.”
My heart sank down to my stomach as Jack spoke those words. Dead silence had fallen over the morgue and the two of us were still and cold as the bodies in the walls.
Jack spun around quickly, startling me which caused me to jump and move backward.
“He was abusive for many years before crossing the line. He killed my mother,” he took a breath, “And I couldn’t control my rage anymore so I killed him and fled France to Romania.” He turned away from me again to conceal his emotions.
I sat there, contemplating what to say next. First, I almost got up and walked over to Jack but I decided to remain seated.
“I’m really sorry, Jack.” I said. “I know I could never place myself in your shoes but I know what it feels like to lose someone you love and I know that it leaves a scar that can never heal especially when it’s that traumatic.”
He turned around, revealing that stone face but his eyes seemed to have softened. “Thank you.” He cleared his throat as he attempted to calm himself.
“You know I’m not gonna judge you, Jack.”
That caused him to meet my gaze. “What do you mean?”
“There’s nothing wrong with being human.”
Those eyes hardened back in place and he said, “There’s plenty wrong with being human.”
There was an unsightly jagged scar under his belly button and it was the unusual color gray. I brushed my finger over the lifted up skin.
“Bloody hell, Jack,” I said, “That looks bad.”
I was sat on his bed while he stood before me lifting up his shirt revealing his toned stomach.
“He stabbed me after I swung at him,” he explained as he sat down next to me. “I was able to get the knife and stab him in the chest then I ran out of the house and down the street to the opera house. I had spent most of my childhood there so the owners knew me very well. They took me in and bandaged me up. I was there for a few weeks before they decided it would be best for me to flee France. The papers accused me of both murders. So I left and never looked back.”
He let out a sigh, “So there you go…now you know the truth. Do you think me a monster?”
“No,” I said without uncertainty. “Never in a million years would I think that.”
He was astonished to hear this. “Really?”
I nodded. “Frankly, I would’ve done the same. He murdered your mother, Jack, right in front of you. I can’t imagine the amount of anger and anguish that ravaged you. I can understand why you did what you did.”
He smiled a little. “Well, I’m happy you think so. You’re the only person I’ve told.”
He nodded. “I always feared that people would think me mad or something.”
I shook my head. “No. You were just afraid. There was no other alternative.”
“I have to say I’m surprised you took this well. You seem like such a righteous man who always does the right thing.”
I laughed at this. “Righteous? Not entirely. I’ve done many unmoral things that I’m not proud of but I don’t sit and dwell on them. I used to before I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere living in the past.”
“That’s a good way to live.”
“I agree,” I said, “And you should take my advice and do the same or else you’re going to start looking like me: old and tired.”
“I don’t know about that. You’re rather handsome, John.”
I unconsciously blushed. “Oh, thank you…I guess," awkward as ever.
“Have you never been told that before?”
“No I have…by my mother.”
Jack fell back into the bed laughing and I did the same as I lied down next to him. “I guess I’m alright looking.”
“Age looks good on you. Not many people have that luxury.”
I sighed. “I had a good time today.”
He grinned. “As did I.”
I turned my head to look at him causing him to do the same. “I’m glad you convinced me to take the day off. I really needed it. I think tomorrow, before work, I’m going to go my mum’s house. I haven’t visited her in a long time.”
“I’m sure she’ll be glad to see her son.”
I smiled. “Yes.” I looked at him. “What about you, Jack? What are you going to do tomorrow?”
“I have to do the autopsy of the latest murder victim Stacy Owens.”
“Oh yeah!” I said in remembrance. “I’m supposed to be there after I get off work.”
“Yes, Inspector Abelian asked me to be present.”
“Wow, look at you, detective,” he playfully poked my ribs.
I grinned. “Yeah. I quite enjoy working with Abelian.”
“He’s a nice man.”
“You know him?”
“Of course, I did the autopsy of Jennifer Milton.”
“Really?” I asked. “I didn’t know that.”
He nodded. “Yep. This killer is grotesque. Jack the Ripper couldn’t fathom something like this.”
My heart leapt at the mention of the Ripper. I think Jack noticed my discomfort because he apologized.
“Sorry,” he said, “I know you don’t like to think about him.”
“It’s not that I don’t like to think about him it’s just that the thought of him causes me to dwell on the fact that he escaped.”
“Maybe someday you’ll come across him again.”
“What if this new killer is him?”
Jack turned to his side propping his head up on his elbow as he looked down at me on my back. “Do you really think that?”
“I don’t know. This new guy is just as horrible as the Ripper, maybe even worse.”
“You think so?” Jack’s attitude at that moment was confusing to me. It was as if was playing a game that amused him.
“Maybe,” I said uneasily, “I’m not sure.”
“I don’t believe it’s the Ripper.”
“He’s messier than the Ripper and he’s also not as precise as him. It’s obvious that he’s not studied medicine. He’s an amateur.”
“Well, look at you,” I said with a smile, “Detective Jack.”
“No…I’m just stating the obvious.”
“Your bed is really small,” I said changing the subject.
“Yes, because I’m a normal sized human being. I’m not a giant like you, Mr. Lincoln.”
I mused at his foreign reference. “My bed is huge.”
“I’m sure it is.”
“I actually had to get it custom made.”
“Are you serious?” he asked wide-eyed.
“Yes,” I said giggling, “The bed that was originally there belonged to my grandfather and he was about your size so I had to go to a furniture shop and pay money for a larger bed. The guy had to make it himself.”
“How tall are you anyways?”
“Six feet, seven inches.”
“Goodness!” he said in shock. “That is unreal. The tallest person I’ve ever met was five feet, eleven inches.”
“It’s the Irish in me.”
“If you’re so Irish then why do you dark features?”
“My mum’s mother, so my grandmother, was Native American.”
“Wow, you’re just a little bit of everything, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “Yes. What’s your ancestry?”
“A lot of French and some Romanian.”
“Is that why you traveled to Romania?”
“Primarily. It’s a beautiful place full of a unique tourist attractions. I want to go back there one day,” he looked at me, “That is if you’ll go with you.”
I smiled. “I’ve never planned to leave London but…I’ll consider it.”
“You’d enjoy Romania. It’s unlike any place ever, well besides America. The free land is rather exclusive.”
“I’ve always wanted to go to the United States.”
“Well, we can go there as well.”
“You just got the whole adventure planned out, eh?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“Where else would you take me?”
He sighed as he thought. “Paris.”
I raised my brows. “Really? You would go back there?”
“Yes I would. The things that happened there might have been hideous but that doesn’t make the city any less beautiful. You would adore Paris. They have lovely pubs and cafes that would really strike your fancy.”
Through the French doors I could see that it was nighttime meaning that I needed to be home.
I sighed as I sat up. “I should be off. I have work in the morning. Ed would be livid if I was late again.”
He sat up next to me. “I shall see you tomorrow night then? At the morgue?”
I looked at him with a smile. “Yes,” I stood up and pulled on my coat. “I’ll drop by the morgue straight after work so don’t start without me.”
“I’ll try not to.”
I bowed a little. “Mr. Bellerose.”
With slight bow of courtesy he said, “Mr. Wilkinson.”
Then I was off once again into the Ripper’s Hour.