“Come on, Helena!” Elijah, currently seventeen years old, called out to his friend.
Helena, sixteen years old, was having a harder time keeping up with the boy. He had the advantage of being able to wear trousers while Helena was stuck in long skirts that were sometimes too hot in the summer months. “Slow down, Elijah! Not all of us are born with legs as long as a giraffe’s!”
He slowed down and waited for Helena to catch up, he watched the frustrated expression on her face as she hiked up her skirts and picked her way across the field. He smiled as a piece of her curled black hair escaped its chignon. Her cheeks were flushed and rosy in color and not for the first time he had the thought of how beautiful she looked. He wasn’t sure when the feelings had started to grow, but he had noticed that he had started thinking about Helena in a more romantic light.
Holding out his hand Helena gently slipped her fingers through his and they walked the rest of the way to their destination. Elijah had been very secretive about where they were going. Helena had begged him for the past hour as they made their way through the woods behind their homes to the field they were in now.
He paused again, Helena watching him carefully wondering what he had up his sleeve this time. “Close your eyes,” he instructed.
Helena wasn’t buying it, “Elijah Jekyll, I swear if you have any type of tricks planned I will make sure your mother hears about this.”
Elijah threw back his head and laughed, “No tricks, Helena, I swear. Just trust me.” She did as instructed, albeit a bit warily, and Elijah began to gently lead her the rest of the way to his secret spot.
He had discovered the little field of flowers by accident one day and thought that Helena would love it. His mother and hers had spent many years raising flower gardens together and Helena, when she had grown old enough had joined them. Elijah watched from the window as the women giggled over gossip and other things together.
The two of them came to a stop and the sweet scent of the different flowers began to overwhelm Helena’s senses. She could name a few that were stronger scented than the others like lilac, lavender, sweet pea, and gardenia. “Elijah, where are we?” She still had her eyes closed as he had not instructed her to open them yet.
He was standing closer now, his breath fanning across her cheek as he whispered, “Open your eyes, Hel.”
She slowly did as instructed and saw the brightly colored field of flowers before her. She let out a soft gasp and looked up at Elijah who was grinning from ear to ear. He had been hoping this would be her reaction. “How on earth did you find this?” She tore her eyes away from Elijah to look back at the flowers and pinpointed where each of the ones she could smell were.
“I came exploring of course,” he said as if it should have been obvious. “I knew you would like it because of how much time you spend with our mothers in our own gardens.” He placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her gaze to his, “Was it a nice surprise?”
She smiled that soft smile that made his heart gallop in his chest, “Yes, Elijah, it was a perfect surprise.”
The United States Botanic Garden was the last place that Helena had expected Ryder to take her. When he had pulled his car in the parking garage and told her they needed to walk the rest of the way she wondered if he were going to take her for a tour of the White House seeing as it wasn’t too far from the gardens. Though she was pleasantly surprised when he had led her through the entryway of the gardens.
“I come here when I need to think,” he leaned over to explain. There were families and tour groups milling around taking pictures and oohing over the sights. It was easy to spot the tourists and the people who just came to be with nature on a break from their daily lives. “Sometimes it’s not as crowded as it is today, but we are heading into the tourist season.”
Helena hummed in response as she took in the glass building they were approaching. Her mind wandered to the day Elijah had surprised her with the wildflower garden he had discovered. That had become their spot when they were teenagers and later adults. She often wondered what had happened to it once the Victorian days were over and a more modern era had set in. She had to remind herself that even though Ryder wore Elijah’s face they were not the same.
No matter how many mannerisms they shared.
“Why did you bring me here?” She questioned as he held a door open for her.
“Our last few meetings have been… tense to say the least. I figured I’d offer an olive branch if you will,” he said truthfully.
Helena paused to observe some plants that had managed to catch her eyes. She needed to nip this in the bud as soon as she could. Spending time with Ryder was not in the plan and she didn’t want to drag him into anything that would get him injured or killed. She knew that being an agent in the FBI did not guarantee his safety, but there was still that nagging voice in the back of her mind that was telling her Jacqueline was out there.
“I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t upset or angry over the fact that you suspected me there for a moment,” she admitted as she looked away from the plants she had been admiring. “But I understand why. You have to look at all the options and study all the angles. What I want to know now is why are you having me tailed?”
Ryder studied her for a moment, the way she watched him, how she seemed to look at him as if he were a lost love. He wanted to know what was going on in her mind and why she seemed to be hiding something from him. But he also knew that she wasn’t going to open up and tell him, not without reason at least. “Let’s say this killer is the same one who murdered your parents and it’s not just some Jack the Ripper copycat you could potentially be a target.”
Helena shoved her hands into her pockets so he couldn’t see how they began to shake, he noticed the movement and tugged her hands out, slipping his into hers. They were rough and calloused compared to hers and she felt her heart skip at beath when she felt his warmth. “Ryder, I--” She began, but he shook his head and she clamped her mouth shut.
“Helena, I’m not going to let anything happen to you, I swear it.” He moved closer so that she could smell the cheap coffee they served at the bureau along with the spiciness of whatever cologne he used that made her nose tingle slightly. “We’re gonna get this person.”
She tilted her head forward so that it was resting on his chest, “Thank you, but I don’t know if that will be enough.” She pulled her hands from his and backed away. “I should go, thank you for bringing me here.”
“Helena,” he called as she began walking away. “Wait!” He hurried to follow after her, “At least let me drive you home.”
She shook her head and kept her eyes ahead so she wouldn’t have to look at him, “I’m perfectly all right catching a cab home. I’m a big girl and it’s daytime, I doubt if this killer has some personal vendetta against me that they would attack in broad daylight, Mr. Lynch.”
The use of his last name made him pause and watched as she quickly disappeared into the crowds.
Helena didn’t breathe until she was in a cab and away from Ryder. She barely registered the cab driver asking her where to before she slipped back into her thoughts. Before long she was back at her home and locking the door behind her. She needed to keep Ryder at arm’s length and not let him in any more than she already had.
She went to move deeper into her home when she stepped on a piece of paper. Furrowing her brow she bent to pick it up. When she unfolded it her blood ran cold and she fell to her knees.
Miss me, Helena darling?
It was written in red ink just like the ‘Dear Boss’ letter had been. The writing even looked like Jacqueline’s.
Scrambling to her feet Helena hurled herself into the nearest bathroom and released the contents of her stomach into the bowl. When she was done she sat on the cool tile floor with her back to the wall. Her suspicions had been right. Of course, they had been, why else would she be back if Jacqueline weren’t as well.
It had been too much of coincidence that her parents had been murdered in much the same way as the Ripper victims, like Jacqueline’s victims.
Reaching into her pocket she pulled her phone out and dialed a familiar number, “Hey, I need your help with something. Can you come over?”