A. J. McLeod
Daniella Beckett and the Beast of Whitechapel
Authored by A. J. McLeod
© Allan McLeod Online
This is a promotional Sample of the Prologue and Chapter 1 of Daniella Beckett and the Beast of Whitechapel. Full versions can be purchased by following the links below:
(26th December 1887)
Fairy Fay left the lodgings that she kept in Mitre Square at about half past four with her young man, a powerfully built yet handsome and friendly looking gentleman named Theodore. She was really called Fay Farrah, but she looked so dainty with her young features, pale skin and blonde hair that the people around her had given her the nickname Fairy Fay. If only they knew the truth, she frequently mused to herself.
Fay and Theodore had been living together in the house, which was a closed down pub. They had painted the sign above the window black so people would realise that the establishment was no longer open and they wouldn’t have drunks trying to get in for a sip or six of gin. They had been living together for almost eighteen months now, and almost a year ago Fay had decided that she would ask him, and if he was agreeable make him more like her.
She had a peculiarity which made her different from other people, and at times her condition could make her very dangerous. Fay was a werewolf; and since Theodore had been excited by this and not afraid, he was now a werewolf too. She was glad that she had finally found someone who was not sickened, repulsed by or terrified of her; not that she had shared her secret with many humans, but each time she had thought that she could share this information about herself, the reaction had not been the one she had hoped for. But finally she had met Theodore, when she had almost given up on finding someone who would accept her; even when he became excited at the sight of her eyes turning dandelion yellow and her fangs elongating, she had almost expected him to reject her and experienced a little surprise that he didn’t dive for the poker in the fireplace of the bachelor’s lodgings he was occupying at the time.
At the nights of the full moon each month they would go out and hunt together, usually taking only the vermin of the countryside that surrounded London; but in the month before last there had been an incident. Theodore’s transformation had begun before they had cleared the boundaries of the city, and a man had been nearly killed by him. He wasn’t dead but a few days later they had read in the newspaper that he had died, poisoned according to the press account.
Tonight, however, they once again needed to hunt. They walked through the streets until they came to the omnibus station and took the omnibus to the edge of the city, where they began to walk into the countryside. It was a familiar walk by now, travelling under the black cloaks that they wore. The moon was full, as always when they took this journey together.
As they approached the city limits they could feel the change begin under their skins. Their muscles moved, changing shape as though they were supposed to be clinging to the frame of a wolf or a hound. Their usually short fangs were elongated into the canines of a wolf and as their senses of hearing and sight became more attuned to what was around them, they realised that they were not alone. This happened sometimes, coming across people, and was usually not an issue; here however there were a group of them and they were loud.
This was not good, they knew. If they were attacked by a group of drunks then the anger rushing through them might force the change, and they would turn and tear the humans apart. As they walked around a corner, they could hear that the strangers were was still heading in their direction. They wondered if there was another path that they could take, but realised that if they stopped or took a longer route they would not be able to get beyond the city and away from the humans before the transformation took them.
They carried on and hoped that if this group tried to start any trouble they would be able to get away without having to get into a fight. This was a relatively respectable part of London anyway so the chances of these people being any real risk to them were slim, but then again, people usually didn’t feel the need to travel around in large groups in this area to begin with. When they turned the next corner they found themselves face to face with a small mob. They looked like some of the gangs which were found in the East End; they had tried to cover their faces so that they would not be recognised, and the couple could smell fear upon them.
They were carrying knives and sharp tools, like peasants in a novel banding together to drive away some monster from their community. When they were yards away they stopped and a dark-clad man who appeared to be their leader stepped forward. He was carrying something, and there was white about his collar.
He’s a priest, Fay realised. They know what we are. The understanding hit her that they were probably not going to get out of this without having to transform into wolf shape and fight as beasts.
‘Theodore, they know we’re wolves,’ Fay muttered under her breath, too quietly for a human to hear.
With his heightened senses, though, Theodore heard her as clearly as if they were sat at home talking.
‘I guessed as much,’ he replied, just as quietly but his Scottish accent still clear.
The priest stepped out in front of his crowd of followers. Fay and Theodore could clearly see the exorcist’s toolkit about him: a stake and a wooden cross were tucked into his belt and he held under his arm what they assumed to be a bible, and a silver crucifix dangled from his neck.
‘Servants of the Prince of Darkness, be gone from this place at once!’ he shouted as he pulled the bible from under his arm and thrust it out in front of him, the cross on its front cover clearly visible in the light from the streetlight above him.
‘Who the devil do you think we are, lad?’ Theodore shouted to him, hoping that seeing they were not driven back by a cross on a bible, they would think they were human after all and decide against lynching them. It was a futile hope, as the features of their faces had been changed by the transformation to wolf and their fangs were twice their usual length.
‘Forsaken rabid dogs!’ the priest shouted with his face contorted by rage. ‘Under the light of the full moon two months since you killed this man’s brother Christopher Jefferson,’ he yelled to Theodore, pointing at a black dressed man holding a length of rough timber with three nails hammered through it, whose expression mingled sorrow and anger.
‘I saw his death reported in the newspaper, and it said he was poisoned,’ Theodore said, finding it hard to speak as his cheeks were tight and his elongated fangs were complicating his speech.
‘When you took a bite from him you marked him as one of your own so we had to euthanize him, but his life was over the instant you tasted his blood, you filthy rabid animal!’ the priest shouted back.
‘Look, gentlemen…’ Fay began, stepping forward, but was interrupted by a shout from the man the priest had identified as Christopher’s brother.
‘Get them!’ he shouted, waving his piece of wood in the air as he charged forward. The other men in the group charged with him, and Fay and Theodore realised that they had to defend themselves. They fought, but after a few moments the change fully took hold of them and they completed the shift into wolf. In their fighting state the conscious human thought in them was pushed to the back of their minds and pure survival instincts took over. They stood their ground before the lynch mob swinging hands armed with razor-sharp claws, punching and shoving the men back.
They were biting and scratching at their attackers; the last little shred of human in them knew that once blood was drawn from someone, they too would become wolf and would have to be killed so they didn’t turn on those around them. But not just killed, destroyed; their bodies would have to be savaged so badly they couldn’t regenerate and reanimate. So they had no choice but to let the wolves in them have free rein and claw their way through the humans until Theodore, seeing a gap in the barricade that they had tried to form, grabbed Fay’s arm under the shoulder and pulled her though.
She fell to the ground limp as he tried to pull her; the stake that the priest had carried had been thrust into her side. In a frenzy of rage Theodore turned and clawed at the priest’s throat, killing him as blood gushed from his jugular vein. The mob was still striking at him; the ones with knives had been easily fought back but the men with longer objects did not have to get so close. There were so many of them that even with the superhuman strength of a werewolf they were beating him down, and even when Fay fell the mob did not stop attacking her. A man with a knife who had been driven back before was stabbing at her on the ground, while another beat at her limp body with a stick.
When the last of the men attacking him had been killed Theodore turned his attention to the men attacking his mate, letting out a roar as he charged them. Hearing his challenge the man with the stick swung it hard at him, catching him in the head. Theodore fell back, dazed. Ordinarily this would have barely hurt him but in his weakened state he reeled back for a moment before stepping forward again and swiping at the man’s throat. When his neck was opened and his life flowing from him Theodore punched him hard in the face, knocking him to the ground.
Theodore felt the knife of the last man standing pierce his side as his attention was taken up with the other man, and he fell forward to one knee. He stood up and slashed at the face of his attacker, catching him only slightly. Theodore knew that he couldn’t risk running; this man might have been infected by the wound to his face, and he would not have another wolf to help him through the initial rage and need for blood. He had to die so that he wouldn’t kill others.
As he lunged forward Theodore tripped on the body of another dead man and his attacker used his distraction to swipe at him again, plunging the blade into his chest. Theodore felt an intense agony, he didn’t know whether the knife had pierced his heart or not but the pain was excruciating. He felt himself abruptly transform almost all the way back to his human form. Instinctively he saved himself by taking the blood he had lost from the man who had stabbed him.
He clamped his mouth around the man’s shoulder where it mets the neck and gulped down the blood which flowed freely from the bite. Even with this sustenance he felt faint as he stepped back and, reeling, fell to the ground.
After a moment the world stopped spinning and his vision cleared. He stood up slowly, and realised that the man was still groaning. He had to be killed… but it felt different now. The man was defenceless and no longer a threat to him, and now Theodore was in his human form, the animal instincts of the wolf within him had quieted.
He was saved from having to kill the man by the shrill sound of a police man’s whistle. Someone had obviously seen or heard what was going on and called for the police, and now they were coming running. Theodore fled in the direction he had been heading with Fay, in case he began to change again. He ran as fast as he could into the countryside surrounding the vast metropolis, leaving his dead mate surrounded by the bodies of the men who would have killed them both, and a dying man whom Theodore desperately hoped was injured so badly that his body would not be able to reanimate, so he would not return as a werewolf to kill and infect others.
* * *
(One week later)
Theodore’s worst fears had been confirmed, and he was feeling a strange combination of disgust and pity towards the corpse that lay before him near the docks by the river. The wound was already healing where the man had been bitten, and in a few minutes the corpse in front of him would be the most dangerous creature for a hundred miles. The bearded, redheaded man lying dead at Theodore’s feet must stay dead, and in a few moments, after he had done what he must, Theodore would have to pursue the creature that had done this to him. The prospect of this vital mission terrified him and filled him with dread. When a werewolf dies by violence they resurrect as a vampire, and so he knew that his dead mate Fay was probably behind this. He rationalised his new hunt to himself as a kindness he had to do for her, but deep down he knew that this was not only to do with saving Fay but the only way he could stop her from killing anyone else.
Theodore looked down, and saw the blood trail from the poor man’s injuries in the dim light; it would have been all but invisible to a human, but he could see under moonlight what most humans could see in the moments before daybreak. Theodore looked down the way the blood trail pointed and prepared himself mentally for what he was about to do. He took the sharp wooden stake which he had carved and placed it over the heart of the dead man. Theodore could hear nobody coming so when he felt the tip of the stake touch the breastbone of the dead man, who was just starting to stir, he pushed down with a forepaw where his hand had been moments ago, exerting a force which a human would have had to take a hammer to the stake to achieve. The dead man whimpered; his mouth fell open and his partially protruding fangs receded back into his skull.
Theodore took his paw from the end of the stake, now that it was fully though the dead man’s heart, and clamped it over the corpse’s mouth so that it would not be able to scream. His other hand still firmly gripped the shaft of the stake. When the body stopped twitching and was once again acting as lifeless as it truly was, it began to fall apart. As though burning without heat and without flame, it blackened and ash-like fragments of skin blew off it in the wind until the remains were skeletal. What little flesh and skin was left clung to the bones, like a body which had been improperly cremated and then re-dressed in clothes removed before the burning of it and left un-scorched.
Theodore stood watching until the disintegration stopped; he knew that this was what he would have to do to his mate when he caught up with her, and he needed to know what he would witness when he did. He had heard nobody approach, so he knew that he could observe without being caught in the act of killing one who was already dead. He looked along the path where the blood trail went and, steeling himself for the gruesome task ahead, he left this body where it lay to be found by whoever crossed its path. The blood was this man’s, he knew, dripping from the lips of the thing which now lived inside the woman he had loved.
The blood from her lips would be limited, he knew, enough to point in the general direction of her travel before the red trail of death would come to a stop. After that he would have to deduce her direction for himself; knowing that the faster he caught up to her the more of his beloved was still inside of her, but the longer it took him to find her the more likely she would need to feed again and another innocent man or woman would die and need to be laid to rest. These were both outcomes Theodore hated, and he knew not which he hated more; having to kill something knowing that a piece of the woman he loved was within it, or not being able to catch it before another life was ended.
As he feared, the blood trail, while clear at first, only gave him the vaguest inkling of where he needed to go. He followed the splatter and bloody boot prints to a corner, turned right, and tracked the ever more sparse trail of red drops towards the one part of London where he had never had any desire to venture: the Square Mile. The people from within the Square Mile always managed to give the distinct impression of moving the common folk of London as if they were pieces on a chessboard, people who felt no kinship with the masses beyond in the great metropolis of Greater London, yet held their futures in the palms of their hands.
The few remaining blood drops which were on the pavement now looked as though they had fallen from a person who was merely cut; they were evenly spaced every ten yards or so as Theodore ran, following them. It looked as though the blood of the man Fay had killed had all trickled from her and now she was fleeing, bleeding lightly, and Theodore was pursuing, knowing that her wound would no doubt have healed by now and that what limited trail he had was about to come to an end.
As expected, it did just that. The trail came to an abrupt halt mere feet from the gate into the Square Mile, Theodore realised when he had seen no blood drop for more than fifty feet. He had no idea where to turn now; he was just inside the Square Mile, and he stopped running. He sniffed the air, hoping to be able to pick up a scent from her in this totally unfamiliar part of…
No, he corrected himself; the City of London was not a part of London, so he had just entered an unfamiliar albeit small city surrounded by the city he had called home from as soon as he was big enough to journey there. He sniffed again, yet the only blood he could smell was the blood on his sleeves and trousers from staking the poor unfortunate corpse not ten minutes past.
Theodore knew that even such a small city would take an age to search alone, so he stood rooted to the ground, sniffing at the air until he became acclimatised to the smell of the blood he was covered in. Detecting the faint scent of Fay he followed it, deeper into the Square Mile until he came to a large house which looked like it had been turned into lodgings. The door was slightly open, as though an expert house breaker had picked the lock and closed the door as best he could behind him, although Theodore knew what had done this and she was nothing as mundane as a petty thief. Pushing the door open slowly and as quietly as he could, he looked upstairs.
As there was no alarm raised from the residents it was clear that she had managed to open the door without sound, so as not to wake the people who lived here only for them to summon the constabulary. The door to the downstairs hallway was closed and shut tight, and the scent of Fay was coming from up the stairs just to the left of the door. Closing the door as best as he could behind himself so attention would not be drawn, he placed his right hand on the thick, dark mahogany wood of the staircase banister and stepped softly up the staircase in search of his quarry, his footsteps silenced by the dark green carpet. He reached the top of the first flight of stairs and saw the door to this level’s rooms unopened and undamaged, and smelled out the scent he was following to the staircase heading up to the attic of this old yet handsome building.
He pushed open the door to the attic and stepped inside. The large attic room looked unoccupied; the floorboards were exposed, and looking around it seemed that someone or something had made a very small effort to clear the cobwebs from the room. Ordinarily the landlord would live here in a building like this, but if he lived elsewhere then the tenants would likely think that the newcomer was just another tenant seeking lodging and not grow suspicious of her. Her scent was strong now, as it was when he walked into a room at their home that she was in.
The attic was more or less a rectangle, and Theodore didn’t realise why he could not see her when he stepped into the room and glanced around. He turned around to face the door he had entered by and realised that there was a cupboard right next to it which would make a good hiding space, especially if it went back as far as the staircase he had just walked up. He stepped up to the white painted door and turned the knob. As he did so the door burst open outwards with such force that Theodore was knocked onto his back in the middle of the room.
Theodore flipped himself onto his front and looked up, and what he saw disgusted him. Fay was standing next to the attic door, her lips glistening red with blood and her once friendly smile twisted into one of cruel malice. Theodore jumped up to face her, knowing that an attack was surely about to come. Her face was pale and clammy and her once warm and lovely grey eyes were as red as the blood staining her face and trickling from her chin.
Theodore looked directly at her; they locked eyes across the room. He bared his fangs at her and in unison they lunged at each other, meeting in the middle of the dusty attic. They fought, landing blows on each other until Theodore was caught in his ribs by a glancing blow from Fay’s black-booted foot when she was already down and he had moved in. He was knocked to the floor in his turn and Fay dived upon him.
Instinctively he grabbed her throat with his hand, holding her mouth away from the carotid artery in his neck, and taking this opportunity he squeezed hard. She wriggled and squirmed violently, ignoring the fact that he was choking her in her efforts to reach his neck and drink his blood. Theodore squeezed as hard as he could, and blood seeped from the wounds made by the claws at the ends of his thumbs as they were driven into her jugular. Theodore tilted his head back to make sure that the blood couldn’t trickle into his mouth, and held his grip.
As the thing on top of him lost consciousness he pushed it off him and looked around for something to help him finish it off. He was weakened from his injuries and didn’t think he could do to Fay what he had done to the bearded man down by the docks. He saw a loose brick in the fireplace and pulled it free from the wall. Fay was already stirring.
He took the stake from his belt and placed its tip over her heart. Holding the brick in his other hand, he swung it down as hard as he could and the stake sank into her chest. His face was turned away from her and his eyes were squeezed shut so he would not have to see her die for a second time. He raised the brick again, and this time when he struck the stake it went in, all the way into her. He heard a gasp and a gurgling sound which lasted only a moment coming from her mouth as she died.
As she died he couldn’t bring himself to look at her. He knew he would regret not knowing if a flicker of her human self had shown in her eyes as she died, but he kept his face averted until he had pulled the stake from her and risen to his feet. He looked down at her body, decaying like the poor man whom he had killed earlier that evening. As a tear trickled down his face he turned and walked from the attic and down the stairs.
As someone from the first floor flat came out to challenge him about the noise he had heard he made an excuse that he was epileptic and had had a seizure, and apologised to the dark haired man for disturbing him. The wounds he had sustained were healing well and aroused no suspicion so he carried on downstairs, brushing the dust of the unused attic from him as he went. The decay of Fay’s body would attract people to investigate the attic within a few days, which would surely result in a police investigation, so Theodore knew that he would need to dispose of the clothes he was wearing, shave his beard and change his hair to avoid being identified as the killer of the man by the dock and his beloved Fay. His mind was spinning as he walked, and before he knew it he had walked home without even realising it. He stepped inside and closed the door and broke down weeping, slumped against the door, feeling more alone than he had ever felt in his life.
* * *
(9th November 1888)
Mary Jane Kelly was tired of the tedium of sex. It wasn’t that she didn’t like sex; she did, she just didn’t like needing to sell it night after night in order to survive. She had been working down a back alley off Commercial Street, and now she was exhausted physically and mentally, and more than a little bit sore. She was hungry and thirsty, and right now she could tolerate what she was allowing to be done to her by keeping her eyes clamped shut as the man with the rancid breath fucked her in the dark and dimly lit alley.
She imagined the meal that this fuck would buy her and the warm ale that she would wash it down with as she rubbed her hands up and down the man’s back, feigning desire with a grunt every time his insignificantly proportioned prick thrust into her. His head was practically resting on her shoulder while he fucked her and his hands were firmly holding Mary’s backside. He grunted loudly as he finished inside her, before hurriedly pulling his trousers up. After he had pulled his braces back up over his shoulders and tucked his shirt into his trousers he fumbled in his pocket and shoved a few coins into her hands before staggering away drunkenly into the night.
In order to feed herself and still have money to pay the rent tomorrow morning she knew that she would need to find another man to have his way with her. She walked uncomfortably back towards the brightly lit Commercial Street and began looking for another customer. She did this, night after night, hour after hour to pay her way in life.
As the third customer of the night pulled his trousers up before sticking his hand in his pocket for some change Mary let go of her skirt, which fell to cover her legs. She took the money and counted up how much she had made that night. She was weeks behind on her rent, but this should placate her landlord’s rent collector for the week, and buy her some food; enough to last her a few days at least. So now she set off back to her room in the doss-house she was living in, walking the familiar streets where everybody knew her; unless they were in the company of other people, in which case they treated her as a pariah, those same men who paid for her services one night shunning her the next. The hypocrisy of her clients disgusted Mary, the way they were all polite and kind until they had what they wanted and then suddenly reverted to the righteous whore-haters one had to be seen to be to be respected. Did it never occur to them that a whore could only be a whore if there was a customer willing to buy her, and that even the diseases that whores were accused of spreading had to have been given to them by somebody in the first place?
Mary Kelly sped up as she walked home. As she walked she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was following her, but when she looked around she could see nobody. She knew it was probably all in her imagination, her exhausted mind playing tricks on her; she was very tired and she was always on edge these days, knowing that the killer whom the press had dubbed ‘Jack the Ripper’ prowled these streets and that he favoured prostitutes like herself, or at the very least any woman who looked like a prostitute, to select as victims for ‘ripping’. Nevertheless she walked faster hoping that increasing her pace, together with the comforting knowledge that she would be home soon, would ease her anxiety.
Whitechapel wasn’t the safest or homeliest place to be anyway; a minimum of one murder a day made for an edgy and frightened populace. It made Mary shudder just to think of those other women, especially as the police had proved themselves utterly powerless to locate the killer so a judge could order him to the gallows. Mary wasn’t one for wanting people to suffer for whatever misdeeds they had done, no matter how angry she became at them. She knew that after the life she had had, such thoughts of revenge would eat her alive – cast out by her family, and since her husband had died both her potential suitors had been abusive and cruel, and the less said about the rough drunks that made up a large proportion of her ‘customers’ the better. No… criminals needed to be taken away so that they couldn’t hurt people, and after that Mary had little interest in what happened to them, although she didn’t wish hurt and retribution upon them just for the sake of it.
Mary had finished working just before one o’clock in the morning and had set off back to the room in the boarding house she was staying at after buying herself a meal and a bottle of porter. She had sixpence left in her purse after purchasing the food and she knew the rent collector, Tom Bowyer, would be around for his 4d early in the morning between seven and eight o’clock if she wanted to keep the room in the doss-house for another night.
Mary arrived home and let herself into her room. She took off her shawl, folded it and put it on the end of her bed, and ate her meal, before undressing herself and putting on her nightwear, and settling down to drink her bottle of ale while reading her book.
The beer washed down the fish and potatoes. It went down fast because of how dry her meal had been: she had been given fresher food when she had spent a night in a police cell, when a copper had stumbled across her selling herself while she was being fucked up against a wall. The beer went to her head, and Mary didn’t plan on staying up long. She was exhausted, and as soon as she finished her bottle of beer she put the book down, after putting a piece of paper torn from a letter in it to mark the place.
She blew out the candles on the rotten wooden table that passed for a bureau in here and settled down to sleep, with her clothes folded neatly on her chair, at just before two o’clock in the morning.
Just as Mary was dozing off to sleep she was woken up abruptly. She heard a noise at the door and looked over. The door she had locked was wide open and a man stood in the doorway; except he didn’t look like any man Mary had seen before. His silhouette was outlined in the glare of the gaslights outside her room.
The man if you could call him that, was built stronger and wider than a horse and was almost as tall, well over six feet. His face had odd features, as though the muscles there thought they should be clinging to a skull of a different shape. When he smiled he looked like pure evil and his teeth formed fangs in his upper jaw.
Before Mary could scream for help the man-beast-thing had leapt across the room and landed squarely on top of her. The beast’s right hand covered her mouth and she felt the searing pain of her throat being penetrated by sharp canine teeth. She felt the beast’s left hand reach into her nightshirt and his claws tear into her breast.
Mary tried to scream as she felt the beast rip her open but the hand over her face was powerful and it was clamping her mouth so tightly shut that she could feel its claws cut into her face. As she lost consciousness, she felt the beast cut into her again. She felt only a mild throbbing pain this time and her vision was fading, she tried to struggle but she was so hazy she had no awareness of whether she was moving… her mouth uttered one final pathetic whimper as she blacked out and her insides spilled out of her torn body onto the bed.
* * *
(10th November 1888)
Daniella sat in a carriage with her fiancé Thomas, heading to a remote estate outside London. Daniella was a short woman, with a strong physique which made her no less feminine and long red hair. She sat reading a newspaper’s report on the latest killing of the homicidal lunatic whom the press in London had labelled with the imaginative nickname ‘Jack the Ripper’. Indeed, he had chosen the name for himself when he sent a letter confessing to the particularly gruesome murder of a prostitute in the East End of London, a place called Whitechapel which had the worst crime rate in all of London and the worst cases of poverty seen in the English nation, to the Metropolitan police operating in the East End - along with part of a kidney which he had cut out of the poor dead woman.
Daniella read about the latest killing with grim and morbid fascination, having followed the case with some interest since she had read the graphic descriptions of the earlier killings in the news. She took such a fascination in the case that it sometimes disturbed her family; especially when there was some development that she had read about, she could talk of little else. It was odd that although this murderer repulsed her in every way she was also so fascinated by him; she knew that when this maniac was caught she would feel a little disappointment mingled in with the sense of relief at this man no longer being able to walk the streets terrorising innocent women in the dead of night.
When she had finished reading the account of the killing of a woman called Mary Jane Kelly she gave the newspaper back to Thomas, who smirked at knowing that she had asked to borrow it for the single solitary article beginning on the front cover and finishing on page four. For a moment she thought that this woman’s death had been reported on a few months ago, before correcting herself. This story was about Mary Jane Kelly; she was thinking of Catherine Eddowes who sometimes used the pseudonyms ‘Mary Ann Kelly’ and ‘Jane Kelly’, which certainly confused things. She noticed a few differences in the description of the killing here from the others which had occurred earlier; this was more savage and the killer had a totally different disposition. There was no surgical skill here as with the earlier killings, merely an emulation of it which looked like savagery.
It wasn’t just the gruesomeness of the case which fascinated her, it was the advanced forensics that the police force had adopted to try and detect Jack the Ripper. It was totally revolutionising the way in which the police searched for murderers, by examining even the smallest detail of the crime scene to see if it held some vital clue as to the identity of the killer.
It seemed ironic in Daniella’s mind that if these techniques were used in the future to catch murderers, then with the number of killers caught sooner than they otherwise would have been, Jack the Ripper might just end up saving more lives than he took; although that surely wasn’t his intention. Daniella looked at the photographs from the crime scene which the police had allowed the newspapers to publish, and she wondered how long it would be before the police realised that by the looks of the cuts on poor Mary Kelly’s throat her killer had been left handed, whereas all the other victims that were being dubbed ‘rippings’ were killed by a right-handed assailant. Maybe they already have done, she considered. Maybe the police are just avoiding admitting that there are several killers in the East End to avoid a panic and the Vigilance Committee hanging everybody who even looked suspicious from a street lamp.
To the dismay of the police, groups of armed men calling themselves the Vigilance Committee had formed a gang of vigilantes and patrolled the East End alongside the police after nightfall. The police didn’t want this; however they realised that unfortunately, the people were so frightened and angry that they would not be able to keep order in the backlash that would ensue if they ordered the vigilance men back to their homes.
When Daniella and Thomas were dropped off at Castle Townham about twenty miles outside of London, Thomas walked around the carriage to take Daniella’s hand and helped her down from her seat. He instructed the driver to return for them the following night and wished him a good evening, before the driver turned the carriage away and headed back the way they had come so that the horses could rest in the stables of Thomas’s family’s home.
The couple had come for a weekend away from London before they married and had chosen this little-known castle which had recently opened its doors as a prestigious hotel; as they understood it, when his Lordship’s son had moved to America he had found the residence too large for just himself so he had made an apartment for himself to reside in and opened the rest of the castle and the grounds to the public so that they would not seem so empty. The sight of such large grounds so deserted and devoid of life must have made his Lordship quite melancholy, Daniella mused to herself.
Daniella and Thomas walked around the castle into the courtyard and through a side entrance, as they had been directed when they had received their wire confirming their reservation of two rooms on the same floor. Thomas announced them to the gentleman on the desk, who walked around to greet them and held out his hand to offer to take Daniella’s luggage, which Daniella politely declined.
Daniella much preferred to do things herself; she believed her ability to function as a person would wane if she allowed the men around her to do things for her. Had it not been a special occasion she would not even have waited for her fiancé to walk around the carriage to open the door for her. She had resolved that whenever she could decline the assistance of those around her in favour of doing things for herself without causing offence or being rude, she would do so; so, as the gentleman who had offered to take her luggage had not appeared put out or offended, she carried her small case herself as she walked up the winding stairs, following their elderly guide up to the third floor where their rooms were.
Thomas and Daniella reached their respective rooms and were shown inside. Daniella made herself at home in her room and unpacked her bag into the chest of drawers. She had been advised that lunch would be served at one o’clock, so according to her pocket watch she still had about an hour as it was just past midday. She changed from her blue dress into a peach satin one which was much more appropriate for a formal lunch and put on her white elbow-length gloves, sprayed a little perfume onto herself to freshen up, then took out a book she had been reading and opened it at her bookmark.
At just before one o’clock Thomas knocked on her bedroom door to escort her to lunch. They went downstairs to the entrance hall, where they were directed through a set of dark oak double doors into a banquet hall which had been redecorated to function as a grand dining hall for guests. A log fire was burning in a large fire place against the side wall and tapestries representing his Lordship’s family history were hung along the walls. Due to the size of the room a fire and gas lighting were still necessary because the windows, although they allowed the light in, were still quite small.
Daniella and Thomas were shown to a table for two on the far side of the room, decorated with a white table cloth and a single red rose. A waiter in formal attire came over and placed a menu down in front of each of them. At their last romantic meal both Daniella and Thomas had suffered rather badly because of the fish course, so they had both ordered the roast beef this time. When it came it was served medium rare, with baked potatoes. Daniella talked about the school where she was working as a teacher and Thomas listened to her, grateful for a chance to hear about a career more lively than his own. Thomas was an accountant and although he enjoyed his job he understood that it made for tedious conversation.
After their meal Daniella and Thomas went for a stroll in the grounds of the castle, where they walked through the woods and finally settled on a bench out in the open in the gardens. The topics of conversation moved from their wedding plans, to how fine the weather was, to anecdotes about the children in Daniella’s charge at school and finally to the Jack the Ripper investigation. Thomas liked the relatively uninhibited manner of speaking Daniella had; however out in the open he was a little concerned that people of a more squeamish or sedate nature might be somewhat disturbed.
When the Ripper was active in London Daniella’s sympathy for the victims and their families was matched only by her fascination with the sinister affair, but that was Daniella; the more something disgusted her the more fascinated by it she would become, and she would have to know every little detail about it. She had read the newspaper reports and all of the information which had been made public, and she was deeply enthralled in wanting to know absolutely everything about this deeply disturbing character. Thomas listened with grim fascination whenever his fiancée broached the subject or had heard something new about the case which she absolutely had to share. Was this what her schoolchildren were like when they were first taken on a trip to the seaside? he had mused to himself on more than one occasion.
Before it was time to head back inside for afternoon tea, they went for another stroll in the woods. Thomas appreciated the shade, for he had grown somewhat flustered listening to the gruesome detail into which his fiancée had once again gone in discussing her morbid fascination.
The shade and the slight breeze allowed him to cool off a little before they went inside, so when they did he felt perfectly comfortable. The day was beginning to cloud over somewhat so after the pot of tea they shared by the window in a small conservatory, they decided to do something indoors as the air was becoming a little chill. They asked for directions to the library, and were directed up two flights of stairs and into the tower on the west side of the castle, where they found a small library with a chess set on the table in the middle of the room. They decided they would like a game, so Thomas set up the board whilst Daniella looked at the bookshelf.
Curious, Daniella looked at the titles on the shelf marked as romance and noted a shared taste in literature between herself and his Lordship’s deceased wife. She picked out a few titles that she might like to read later, after supper. No doubt Thomas would like to have a game of snooker with one of the other gentlemen in the lounge, and Daniella could come back up here and pick up one of the books; the one of short stories, perhaps, so that she could join her fiancé for a drink in the bar later after an hour or so’s reading.
After two games of chess, of which Daniella and Thomas won one each, they returned to their respective rooms to freshen up and went downstairs for supper. They were served sandwiches and fruit and some wine from the castles cellars. The sunset gave the clouds near the setting sun a golden outline and the scenery an amber hue. The air was becoming colder and a maid had lit candles, which added to the light and gave the dining room a romantic feel.
The evening passed uneventfully and exactly as Daniella had expected. She read for an hour in the library on the top floor of the castle, and went downstairs to join her fiancé just as the game of snooker he was wrapped up in was coming to an end. They shared a bottle of cider from the estate’s orchard and talked some more before going upstairs to their respective rooms.
* * *
Thomas was in his room, getting changed for bed. No sooner was his dressing gown on and he had picked up a book he had brought with him, than there was a knock at the door. Thomas put his book down on the dresser and went to answer it. His fiancée Daniella stood in the doorway, her dressing gown open slightly at the front, her long red hair loose and covering her shoulders.
Thomas stood and looked at her for a moment, shocked by her brashness yet hypnotised by her beauty.
‘Well? Aren’t you going to invite me in?’ she asked mischievously with a smile on her face.
‘I… of course, come in,’ Thomas replied, quickly standing aside and opening the door wide; both to get her inside as quickly as he could in case anybody were to walk by, and because seeing her so casually attired he keenly wanted to be alone with her. Thomas desperately hoped that this was how she would be when they were married.
Daniella walked over to the dressing table where Thomas had just been sitting.
‘You’re still reading this?’ she enquired. She put the book aside and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning back. Her robe was tied loosely and fell slightly open as she lay back, showing a pale, impressive and alluring cleavage. Thomas looked a little embarrassed, and his face reddened.
‘Come here,’ Daniella said softly.
Thomas closed the door and turned the key in the lock. He walked over to Daniella and sat down beside her, facing forward, clearly a little shy. Daniella leaned past him, and kissed him on the cheek. Thomas looked at her and gingerly leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. Daniella put her hand round Thomas’s head and pulled him towards her and they kissed, deeply, passionately.
This was the first time either of them had been so passionate with another person Daniella was surprised at herself for her natural confidence, but Thomas blundered at it. This did not trouble Daniella in the slightest. She placed a hand on Thomas’s chest and pushed him gently down to the bed. They continued to kiss passionately, Daniella now on top of Thomas. She opened her dressing gown, took it off and threw it onto the floor, then untied Thomas’s dressing gown in turn and opened it. Thomas looked up at her beautiful naked body in awe as she straddled him.
Daniella leaned down again and kissed him. Their intimacies became more and more passionate; and more and more vigorous. The encounter did not go quite so far as they had both imagined they would go when they were married, but it was heated none the less. When it was over, they cuddled and embraced in Thomas’s bed before falling asleep.
The next morning Daniella woke before Thomas, put her gown back on and slipped back to her own room. She had enjoyed sharing a bed with her fiancé; however she also liked being able to have a bed to herself. She knew that they would have to rise for breakfast soon so she lay in bed for a while, then got up again, dressed, and knocked on Thomas’s door so that they could go for breakfast together.
* * *