Dressed to Deceive
I grabbed hold of her neck; my grip firm and vice like against her soft, cool skin. I felt her heartbeat quicken through her neck as I pulled her back towards me. I’d hoped to bring her up against my chest so that I could hiss into her unfaithful ears, but my actions were too sudden and gin contaminated my blood. She slipped straight past me and landed with a dead thud against the alley wall, her eyes wide with terror, her face contorted with panic.
It didn’t take long before she felt the pain. She instinctively reached down to her waist, cradling the area where the discomfort was strongest whilst her fiery eyes stared daggers in to my own. The air whistled into her mouth through gritted teeth that tried desperately to hide the agony away from me. Even as I advanced on her once more, pressing her hard against the brickwork, that face never once showed anything other than contempt and disgust.
She took a deep breath as my hands closed in around her neck. I had put up with Liz and her filthy ways for far too long. I never again wanted to wonder how many she had had before coming home to me; I never again wanted to forgive her for the unfaithfulness. I shouldn’t have stayed to watch as she had her way with her most recent client. It was all so revolting; they hadn’t even the decency to do it out of the sight of prying eyes. As I watched him have his fill, I had felt myself completely overtaken by feelings of pure anger and loathing.
My fingers stretched over her delicate skin, caressing the striped handkerchief that was wrapped around her neck. Slowly they inched tighter and tighter until finally Liz’s eyes practically popped out of her face with fear. Her scent, which had once been a source of comfort and love for me, was now a source of repugnance. It was true that she had walked out on me this time, but if she had any ideas of coming back I was soon going to end them.
Her face squirmed as she sucked the atmosphere for whatever air she could find. Slowly, her legs began to give way and she slid down the alleyway wall until she was half way towards the ground. I breathed deeply, the smell of piss and damp pervading through my nostrils. It felt strangely satisfying to know that, in that moment, Liz was afraid that she should die here in this urine soaked tunnel. I wasn’t going to kill her, of course – just teach her a lesson.
The crumbling sound of a stone echoed down the tunnel from the street outside. I briefly released my grip and stared at the man, some sort of theatrical looking Jew, who loitered at the far side of the street, watching me through sideways glances. For a moment, I stopped in my tracks, my hands hovering just above Liz as she gasped desperately for air.
‘Get lost, Lipski,’ I bellowed, my voice echoing down the tunnel.
The Jew quickened his step, passing out of my sight and continuing up Berner Street to where I knew Harry was keeping watch. At least I was hoping he was…
This whole thing had been his idea, and one of his better ones at that…
‘Follow her,’ he had suggested, drunkenly swigging from his glass whilst steadying himself against the bar. ‘Watch her with her clients. You will never look at her the same way again.’
‘I don’t know if I can…’
He grabbed me by the wrist at that point. ‘Listen, Kidney,’ he slurred. ‘The whore left you. She deserves everything that is coming to her and more. You need to do everything you can to put her out of your mind, and if that means watching her with another man…’ He took another swig and chuckled to himself. ‘Who knows? Maybe you’ll want to finish her…’
I shook my head. ‘I can’t go down for murder…’
Harry smiled, as his grey eyes looked me up and down. Then, like a man who was chuckling at the naivety of a small child, he patted me on the back of the wrist and tapped the side of his nose with one, elongated finger.
‘Why would you go down when there’s a ripper about?’
I had lost myself in my thoughts and Liz had taken full advantage. With a powerful kick to my knees, she brought me crashing to the floor. In the agony that followed, I somehow managed to reach out and grasp a hold of her black coat as she tried to retreat out on to Berner Street.
‘Get off me,’ she cried, tears streaming down her eyes as she tugged at her coat.
I held a firm grip; rising back on to my feet just in time to block the next blow she sent my way. She flung her arm back, ready to strike again but my large hands were too quick and she felt more pain from the attack than I did. Finally, with one more tug, the coat came free from my grasp and Liz was able to turn to flee out into the street. She hadn’t even got a few feet before my fingers snatched the handkerchief around her neck. With all the strength I could muster, I dragged her back towards me and bundled her to the ground.
‘You will never come home,’ I hissed, climbing on top of her to pin her down. My knees pressed down on her arms to keep her still as my great hands found their way back to her bruised neck. ‘You are nothing to me, whore. Nothing but a worthless...’
I stopped. Something was wrong.
Beneath me, Liz didn’t kick out in terror as she had done before. Her arms pinned beneath my knees did not struggle to break free. The pulse in her neck that had been so violent before was now unrecognisable. I couldn’t even feel her breath as I lay on top of her, her eyes open and motionless, staring at the alleyway wall. I lowered my face down towards her, my nose breathing in her lavender scent, the only thing about her that still seemed to be alive.
There was no response. Not even a murmur.
Slowly the stench of urine and horse faeces began to overcome us as we lay on the alley floor. Bit by bit, breath by breath, the lavender succumbed to the foul odour until it vanished leaving me with no doubt in my mind of what had happened.
I quickly flung myself off her and collapsed against the alley wall, hoping that it might be my imagination and that Liz may get up and run away. All the anger that had been so prevalent inside me had now all but gone, replaced by something so unexpected that it caused tears to stream from my own eyes. I crept forward once again, placing my hand against her still-warm face. Gently I stroked her cheek, willing her to wake up, wishing that the heat from her skin was a sign that the worst had not happened.
I hadn’t intended to kill her. I don’t think I even wanted to in my angriest moment. And yet here she was, lifeless on the cold, alley floor.
When Harry returned to me a few minutes later, I was still propped up against the alley wall, staring at her dead body. My hands cradled my head as I stared into her glazed eyes, my mind a whirl with sorrow and regret.
‘What the hell happened?’ he asked, bending over Liz enthusiastically. ‘You didn’t actually do her, did you?’
‘It was an accident,’ I sobbed. ‘I never meant…’
I covered my eyes and pressed my fingers hard against my face, trying to blot out the sight of her dead corpse. Part of me hoped that if I wished hard enough I could turn back the time, but I knew it was pointless. If Liz was to be condemned for being a whore then what I had done was far worse.
A scraping of metal made me jolt back in to the real world. Harry was now sat behind Liz, propping her head up and drawing a long knife up against her neck. Slowly he pressed the edge of the knife up against her skin.
‘Where did you get that?’
‘I told you I’d thought about this…’
‘Thought about what?’
Harry looked up at me, his eyes bright with wonder. ‘She’s already dead, Michael,’ he replied, quickly drawing the knife across her neck so that the blood flowed out onto her black jacket. ‘There’s no need in you going down for it.’
‘Are you mad?’
I leapt to my feet and pulled him away from her. But the damage had already been done. As I crouched down beside her, the blood was already dripping from her neck on to the ground, slowly pooling towards a nearby gutter. Her face slowly became whiter and whiter as the blood drained from her body.
‘Listen, mate,’ explained Harry, still brandishing the knife. ‘She’s long gone. But if we can blame this on Leather Apron, then you’re in the clear. No one will ever know.’
‘You cannot be serious…’
‘All we have to do is gut her…’
‘If you think for a moment…’
I never finished that thought. Harry’s hand jerked up in a gesture of silence as he listened to the night around him. The clip-clopping of a horse was coming down Berner Street towards our position in the alleyway. With lightening fast resolve, Harry moved towards me, scooped me up and shoved me further down the alleyway until we were completely immersed in the shadows.
We had only just come to a halt when a horse and cart rounded the corner to the alleyway and stopped just inside the entrance.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ A voice sounded as the horse’s owner tried to move him into the alley. ‘Get a move on.’
It didn’t take him long before he proceeded down the alleyway to investigate what had spooked his horse. As he lit a match on the alley wall, I saw Liz’s body illuminated by its flame.
‘Oh my God,’ the man whispered as he turned away and rushed up the street towards a nearby house.
Harry grabbed hold of my hand. ‘Quickly.’
With a tug he dragged me up the alleyway and out into the street. With a last look at Liz’s body, I ran as fast as I could up the street with Harry, just ducking out of sight as the man returned with a candle to further investigate the body in the alley.
Within minutes the air was filled with police whistles. Harry and I made our way back to Devonshire Street as nonchalantly as possible, trying our best to not attract the attention of the policemen rushing towards the crime scene. When we parted company outside of my house, Harry pulled me forward and embraced me as though we were brothers.
‘Not a word,’ he whispered in my ear before clapping me on the shoulder and disappearing into the night.
I went to bed that night with a troubled mind, so much in fact that I barely slept at all. When I finally got up the next morning and went outside, the whole street was buzzing with news of Liz’s death. But that wasn’t the least of it. Apparently that had not been the only attack made by the Whitechapel murderer that day. Like a ghost in the night, the murderer had managed two murders in less than an hour on opposite sides of the district.
Whilst everyone about me gossiped about the speed of this deadly killer, I could think of little else but Liz’s cold, dead eyes and how long it would be before the police realised that I was to blame.
It was a few days later that it dawned on me that the police didn’t think of me as a suspect. I had even travelled to the local police station, with the intention of giving myself up for Liz’s murder, only to discover that the police now had a name for the brutal killer. It was not long before the papers were full of the name and the description of Liz’s death had taken a back seat to the rather more gruesome murder of the young woman in Mitre Square that same night. Not a single person even hinted that I might be the man that had so confidently signed himself off as ‘Jack the Ripper’.
Despite this, it was still a good week later before I felt confident enough to see Harry. We had not seen or spoken to each other since that night and, whilst I was sure that he could never speak of it without revealing his horrific involvement in the crime, I wanted to be sure that he was still as sure as he had been before.
I arrived at his house one night, shortly after sunset and rapped loudly on the door. To my surprise, the door swung slowly open under the pressure of my knuckle. I peered into the darkness as the door came to a stop revealing a long corridor that led to a staircase up to Harry’s room.
‘Harry?’ I called out.
There was no answer. I waited patiently at the bottom of the stairs, expecting to hear a rumble of movement and to see Harry appear at the top. When neither of these things happened, I called out again into the darkness, again receiving no reply. I stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind me. Why I decided to enter will be a question I will never know. I was so excited at the prospect of reliving the ordeal in Berner Street that I quickly headed towards the stairs and climbed up them until I reached Harry’s closed door. I rapped on it a couple of times before turning the handle and pulling it open.
My breath caught in my throat and, as much as I would have like to call out in terror, my vocal chords seized leaving me mute and frozen to the spot. When I eventually regained control of my muscles, I stepped forward towards the figure hanging on a noose from the ceiling. I carefully headed around the corpse until my eyes fell on the face of the man who hung there. As my eyes met Harry’s, I cupped my hands over my mouth to stifle the scream as the bedroom door swung shut with a loud crack.
The figure lurking in the shadows stepped forward away from the closed door, his eyes fixed on me with such dispassion that I could never describe. I backed away towards the wall, hoping to find something to fight him off, but the man, dressed in a black cloak, just kept advancing towards me. In his hand, something metal reflected the light outside in the street. A few steps closer revealed it to be a long, thin knife that the figure brandished as he came within a couple of metres of me.
I screwed up my eyes in terror. This was going to be the end. My sins had caught up with me and I was now going to pay the ultimate price. I held my breath and screwed up my face waiting for the inevitable slashing of the metal through my flesh.
But the attack never came. Instead I heard the figure come to a halt in front of me and, when I opened my eyes, I was surprised to find him staring back at me with such a lack of emotion that he seemed like he was about to conduct a business meeting.
‘I have a great deal to thank you for, Mr Kidney,’ the gentleman announced, swooping his cloak around his feet. ‘You’re actions have made me something of a legend.’
He gestured to Harry, his eyes sparkling with glee. I looked up at the hanging body and swallowed hard.
‘Please,’ I pleaded, falling to my knees in front of him, my hands clasped together in prayer for a God who had surely abandoned me by now. ‘Please, don’t kill me…’
‘Kill you?’ the gentleman repeated. ‘Good Lord, no.’ He took a few steps back and placed the long knife inside his cloak so it was out of sight from my terrified eyes. ‘In fact, I rather imagine that I should be thanking you. Thanks to your efforts, my name is now something of a legend. Jack the Ripper – the ghost. If they were afraid of me before, then it is nothing compared to the terror they suffer now.’
I eyed the hanging corpse of Harry once again. ‘Then why did you…?’
The gentleman waved a dismissive hand at me. ‘Whilst what you did was convenient for me, it was not without its risks. On this occasion, you seem to have gotten away with it, but I can’t have you gallivanting around murdering people in my name for too long. Sooner or later, someone will realise that it can’t be the same person, and that may very well expose me.
‘Now you are just a common murderer. But Harry here…’ he looked up at the body once again. ‘Well, he was the brains of the outfit from what I saw. I don’t believe I can trust him not to do the same again. The question is whether I will have that problem with you…?’
I shook my head violently. The gentleman smiled.
‘Good,’ he replied. He reached in to his pocket and produced a piece of paper and some writing equipment. ‘There is, of course, a small payment I require in exchange for you life. You can write I assume?’
I nodded slowly, my eyes drifting to the paper. ‘I struggle with spelling.’
The gentleman smiled. ‘Excellent. It is no big task, I simply need you to write a letter for me…’
‘Why?’ I asked, perhaps a little more defiantly than I should have done.
The gentleman merely smiled at me. ‘Call it insurance,’ he said, coldly. ‘My ability to throw suspicion on to you should you attempt to do the same to me.’
I breathed hard. Whilst the gentleman looked reasonable enough, Harry’s body, which was swinging in the periphery of my vision, reminded me that this man had killed at least four people. One of them was my friend.
‘How can I trust you?’
‘You can’t,’ the gentleman sneered. ‘But you don’t really have a choice.’
He was right, of course. If the choice was between a police cell and being butchered by the knife, I knew in an instant which one I would prefer. Slowly I lowered myself to the ground and pulled the paper towards me. I set up the inkpot and gently dipped the pen inside.
‘Who is this to?’ I inquired, preparing to write.
The letter I wrote for him was not what I had expected. The gentleman dictated to me as he slowly skulked around the perimeter of the room, insisting that every part of the note be exactly as he had said it. I did not question his motives, nor did I stop writing until he had finished speaking. As each word dripped from the pen in my hand, I felt like a man writing the devil’s own words, such was the horror that was poured on to that paper…
I send you half a Kidne I took from one woman and prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer.
signed Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk.
‘Please push it away from you,’ the gentleman asked softly.
I did as I was asked and pushed the paper across the floor. The gentlemen waited behind me and I began to wonder if he intended me to get up and leave at that point. A small chill ran down my back as though a window had been opened directly behind me, but I did not move for fear of the knife concealed in the gentleman’s cloak.
‘What now?’ I asked eventually.
The gentleman breathed heavily for a moment before moving a little closer behind me.
‘Now, Mr. Kidney,’ he began, his voice cold and calculated, ‘I will send you to Mr. Lusk…’
His gloved hands were around my neck in seconds. Before I had a chance to struggle, the air was forced out of my lungs by a heavy blow to my stomach and the darkness soon crept across my vision. It was not as painful as I imagined it to be; the panic of being starved of oxygen allowed me to pass into death in comparative ease…
In the distance I could hear Liz calling to me through the murky atmosphere. I had paid the penalty for my crime.
Now she was ready to come back home.