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Ronald Anick
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ripper.jpg
Art by John and Flo Stanton 2010

A Ripper in Time

 

Ronald Anick

 

 

“Mary Jane . . .” the killer whispered, in a thick, guttural voice, his breath visible in the cool, night air. “Finally . . . my Mary Jane.”

 

He was standing on a desolate sidewalk near a dark alley entrance, hidden from view under the shadow of a tattered window awning. His eyes, shiny and bloodshot, peered out from under the thin brim of his deerstalker cap as he studied the long, dank alleyway. 

 

Nestled between two massive brick buildings, the alley was quiet and dark, save for one brightly-lit window on the ground floor, which cast a single square of light across the alley’s width, partially illuminating an old and battered wooden door on the opposite wall. 

 

It was this window the killer watched—only thirty feet from where he stood with his hands deep in his pockets and his collar turned up against his cheeks. It was cool, not really cold, but he was glad for his thick woolen overcoat. It was, after all, the second week of November and the snow would not be far away.

 

Far in the distance, a lone bell tolled, its rolling echo lost in the dilapidated warren of tenement houses and decrepit boarding lodges that surrounded him.

 

Bong (bong . . .bong . . .)

 

Bong (bong . . . bong . . .) 

 

He never blinked as his predatory mind registered that it was now 2:00 a.m. It was time, he thought, yet he didn’t move—preferring to wait, watching the window for any sign of movement within. 

 

A sudden noise on the street startled him and he pressed further into the shadows but it was, he saw, only a metal carriage clattering by, its wheels jarring noisily over the many potholes in the street.  He had been standing in this spot for no less than ten minutes, but that had been the only carriage to pass so far. With luck, he wouldn’t see any more. 

 

Again he eased out of the shadows and checked his silver pocket watch, confirming that it was, indeed, 2:00 a.m. Not many people out—at least, not at this time of night.  Of course, this was the East End. With its crime and corruption—its prostitution and wicked vice—not many would brave these dangerous and desolate streets at night. Because of him, most stayed inside where the gas lights kept the darkness away—kept the fear away.

 

Footsteps to his rear made him turn. Coming down the sidewalk were two women walking arm-in-arm. The killer’s dark eyes narrowed as he studied them, studied their provocative clothing. Prostitutes, he decided as he eyed their exposed ankles and ample cleavage, out hunting for enough to cover a night’s lodging, or perhaps enough to buy a hot meal at one of the city’s many decadent public kitchens.

 

As the women passed, they stopped talking and stared at him standing against the brick wall. “What are you looking at?” one quipped and the other laughed. He didn’t answer, but only lowered his eyes as they continued out of sight, laughing.

 

The killer wondered if he shouldn’t follow the women, perhaps leave another “double event” for the local magistrate to agonize over.  Something that would once again send the entire East End into a frenzied panic.

No, he decided, turning his attention once more to the window in the alley.  This was the last one and it had to be her. It had to be tonight.  He would never have another chance.

 

He shuffled deeper into the alley, pausing only briefly to pick up the paper-wrapped package at his feet. Once inside, he would have plenty of time to carry out his grisly work, but for that he would need the tools which were in the package.  He always needed his tools. His favorite was the serrated knife with the long, heavy blade . . .

 

A shiver of excitement coursed through his body, making him shudder and smile at the same time as he recalled some of his earlier work with the tools now tucked safely between his feet.

 

The first had been over two months ago—the last day of August, to be exact.  It was in a local pub that he’d first spotted her, then followed her afterward throughout the winding, cobbled streets. He had watched her go from lodging house to lodging house—no doubt trying to secure a place for the night, but unable to do so without money.  He had watched and waited. 

 

Finally, he had gotten into a position to “encounter” her, not far from a little-used stable entrance near the local hospital.  She had told him her name was Ashley, but that had been a lie. All prostitutes lie, he knew.  Her real name had been Mary Ann, but she used the name Polly on the streets.  She’d grown angry and rude as he repeatedly called her “Polly,” insisting her name was Ashley and that he had the wrong person. When it looked like she was going to scream, he quickly slashed her tender throat and left her there on the sidewalk. Her body had been found less than an hour later.

 

The killer’s thoughts were interrupted as a shadow passed in front of the shaded window. The shade itself rippled as he saw delicate fingers suddenly appear along its bottom edge. It was jerked once, then raised six inches, revealing the glowing warmth of the single room within.  From his position he could see the dark-haired woman inside and he felt his heart quicken at the sight of her.

 

“Mary Jane . . . Kelly,” he whispered. “It’s you, yes.”

 

The woman ducked her head and gave a quick glance up and down the alley, but the killer knew she couldn’t see him in the shadows. The gas lamps were only on the street corners and the moon was hidden by the tall walls of the buildings. Very little light could penetrate this long, dark cavern.

 

He watched, hidden, as the woman stood in the center of the room and slowly removed the topcoat of her dress, revealing her white corset underneath, causing the killer’s lips to tighten. It was one of those newer-fangled corsets, the type that showed a lot of skin and cleavage.  Not the type a proper lady would wear, but then, he mused, this little soiled dove wasn’t exactly a lady, now, was she?

 

He was reminded of the late Catharine Eddowes, another prostitute, who went by the nickname “Kate.” This had been his second on the night of the “double event,” something that still pleased him to think about. Like Polly, this one had tried to lie to him—tried to tell him he had the wrong person. 

 

He still remembered her last words as he had her cornered in that miserable little square, her hands up, her voice pleading, “No! You have the wrong person! My name is Amber. Amber! I don’t know anyone named Kate. Please, no! Nooooo!”

 

Her last word had turned into a scream, but he’d cut it off (literally) with his heavy-bladed knife.  

 

As he’d gone to work on the woman’s warm body, he found (to his disgust) that she wasn’t even wearing a corset underneath her thin top-shirt.  The large globes of her creamy breasts had instantly fallen free when he’d pushed her shirt up to expose her smooth abdomen. Smooth when he’d started—a mutilated wreck by the time he’d slipped out of that poorly lit, isolated square, with a few choice pieces of the woman tucked safely away in the parcel under his arm.

 

Now, as he watched Mary Jane expose more of herself by unhooking the back of her corset, he was again struck by how immodest and bawdy some of these prostitutes could be. He was sickened, yet excited by her depraved display.

 

His excitement grew as she turned her back to the window and dropped the corset on the floor. Her back was smooth, he saw, the color of honey. He desperately wanted to see more, but she then stepped out of view, oblivious to the man watching her from the alley. 

 

Disappointed, but not discouraged, the killer raised himself up on his toes, but still couldn’t see her. No matter, he thought. It was time, anyway. He’d have plenty of time to admire her as soon as he was inside.

 

He quickly walked further into the alley, sidestepping a few puddles, and found a single door just past the woman’s window. Thick and heavy, it would prove difficult to get through unless—

 

Click!—the knob turned under his hand and the door opened a few inches. The killer smiled at his good fortune as he gripped the parcel under his arm and slipped into the building, closing the door behind him.

 

Inside, it was dark and musty, the only source of light coming from the corner to his right. The man paused to listen, but the hallway was silent and still. With soundless stealth, he sneaked down the hall and around the corner. The source of light, he saw, was coming from under a door—the door that, by his reckoning, led to the room he had watched from the alley.

 

He dropped to his knees and pressed his cheek to the dusty floor as he peered into the room. He could see the window with its shade, but couldn’t see her—Mary Jane.

 

Gripping the parcel tighter, he stood and tried the knob.  Like the door in the alley, there was a soft click as the door opened.  Licking his lips, the killer entered the apartment, deftly closing the door behind him. 

 

He couldn’t see Mary Jane, but he saw an open doorway leading to another room. From this room he could hear a gentle feminine voice singing softly. The singing grew louder as she suddenly came into view.

 

The song died on her lips as she came to an abrupt halt at the sight of the disheveled man standing in her room.

 

“Oh!” she gasped, clutching the front of the thin robe she had put on over her long skirt. The killer tensed, ready to pounce should she scream but, to his surprise, she smiled at him. “Oh, it’s you,” she said.

 

The man nodded. “Yes, it’s me, Mary Jane.”

 

“I wasn’t expecting anybody tonight.” She dropped her hand and the man watched as the robe slipped seductively down one shoulder.  “But, since it’s you, I’ll make an exception.” She held out her hand.  “Can I take your coat?”

 

The killer didn’t move.

 

“Oh, c’mon,” she said.  “You take yours off—” she opened the robe several inches, showing that she wasn’t wearing a top underneath, “—and I’ll take mine off. What d’you say?”

 

Once again, the man was sickened by the lewd shamelessness that some women could lower themselves to. Without a word, he placed his parcel on a nearby table and ripped the brown-paper wrapping, revealing a black leather case. With a quick, practiced hand he opened the top and reached inside.

 

“What are you—”

 

The killer pulled a heavy-bladed knife from the case—his favorite, the one with the serrated edge. With a firm grip on its handle, he turned to Mary Jane, who was standing frozen on the other side of the room.  Her face had paled noticeably and her mouth was a perfect “O” as she stared at him, at the knife in his hand.

 

“You’re the last one,” he said to the frightened woman who had backed up against a rickety table. “Mary Jane Kelly. The final victim.”

 

He stepped toward her.  

 

Whimpering, Mary Jane leaned back against the table, her hands behind her back. The robe had slipped off her shoulders to her waist, revealing her breasts. The man’s eyes dropped to her chest and he licked his lips again as he held up the knife. 

 

“Very nice,” he said, his eyes roving over her body. “Such a shame I have to cut them off. One will go under your head, of course, and the other, if I’m not mistaken, will go by your right foot.”

 

“Y-you’re going to kill me?” she asked, her voice a whisper.

 

“Of course I am,” he said. “You’re Mary Jane Kelly, the final victim.  After tonight, my work will be done.” He raised the knife higher, its blade flashing in the light. “Too bad you’ll be dead.” He tightened his body, tensed his arm to begin the deadly swing that would sever her throat to the bone—

 

Only to stop suddenly, as she pulled a dull-black semi-automatic pistol from behind her back and pointed it at his face. 

 

“Now!” she yelled.

 

From all around him, officers in black nylon with the letters “NYPD” blazoned across their backs, came out of nowhere. 

 

They grabbed the man and threw him to the floor.

 

“Don’t move, maggot!”

 

“On your face!”

 

“Don’t even think about it!”

 

“—Bastard!”

 

No less than five police officers held him down while they cuffed his hands and legs. Several other officers stood by, guns drawn, pointed at him, ready to fire should he manage to escape.

 

Once the man’s hands were secured and the knife placed safely out of reach, one of the officers stood up and looked at “Mary Jane” who was still poised in a perfect combat stance, her Glock pointed right at the killer’s head.

 

“Good work, Officer Melin,” he said to her.  “You played it perfectly.”

 

“I’m just glad we finally got the son-of-a-bitch,” she said. As she straightened up, she realized her robe was now hanging around her waist. She pulled the robe free and threw it on the floor, mindless of her exposed breasts as she went into the other room to get her shirt. 

 

To their professional credit, the men didn’t even look at her as they jerked the killer to his feet.

 

The other officer (whose name was Johnson) stepped up to the killer.  “You’re gonna fry for this, you piece of crap.”

 

“You’ll never prove it, Johnny!” the killer spat. “Eh, you coppers got nothin’ on me.”

 

Johnson leaned closer.  “Ever hear of fingerprints, dumbass?”

 

The man’s eyes widened.  “No!”  He tried to twist away from the officers, but was held firm. “No!  That’s not right. They didn’t have fingerprinting then. It wasn’t used in the nineteenth century. Y-you can’t do this, you can’t . . .”

 

The man continued to beg and plead, but to no avail.

 

“Get him outta here!” barked Johnson as Officer Melin came into the room, snapping the locks on her Kevlar vest. 

 

Still protesting, the killer was dragged from the room.

 

“Well,” Johnson said.  “What do you think?”

 

“The guy’s nuts,” Melin said.  “Thinks it’s the nineteenth century, for God’s sake.”

 

Johnson nodded. “ ‘Jack the Ripper,’ of all things. Well, it takes all kinds, I guess. I’m just glad we figured out his MO before it was too late.”

 

Melin holstered her Glock and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. She lit one and blew a jet of smoke at the ceiling as she leaned against table.

 

“Yeah,” she said, and picked a piece of tobacco from her tongue.  “But next time, you get to be the victim.”

 

Johnson laughed. “I don’t think anyone wants to see me strip.”

 

“Screw you,” she said, punching his shoulder. “You know how many times I got propositioned out there, setting this whole thing up?  I’m just amazed it worked!”

 

“Yeah.  C’mon, let’s get outta here,” he said.

 

“Be right there,” she said as he disappeared into the hallway. She finished her cigarette, grinding it out on the table as she took a final look around the small room.

 

Such a shame I have to cut them off. One will go under your head, of course, and the other, if I’m not mistaken, will go by your right foot.

 

With a cold shudder she threw the butt on the floor and walked out of the room.

 

 

Ronald Anick has previously been published in Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Magazine, Freedom Fiction Journal, and Rope and Wire. His short story, "The Final Days of John Stryker," will soon be available from Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Ronald lives in Minnesota and works full-time as an emergency room nurse.

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