Amber Gifts, 3
Kevin B. Henry
Champagne Books: http://goo.gl/gdrkU2
A simple research project goes horribly wrong when murder and time travel is involved.
Part of me was like some detached, immature schoolboy. I was the hero, bound for adventure and looking for the infamous villain with hope of making all things right and returning to the hearth fires of my home, victorious. I was Robert Downey Jr. playing Sherlock Holmes. I was John Wayne playing almost any role. Hell, I was David Tennant playing The Doctor.
The problem was, I wasn’t playing, and if I wasn’t real damn careful I was going to end up playing John Wayne in The Cowboys or even worse, William Shatner in Generations. God, please make my death scene more interesting and meaningful than that. These thoughts poured through my brain as I walked across the street.
By the time I reached the opposite side I exuded cool, matter of fact demeanor and displayed no heroics. Simple confidence was my copilot. Caution was my mantra. I had an almost-wife and a beautiful baby girl to return to.
I took a winding path that led me to Commercial Road. The darkness was all engulfing. More than half the lampposts were not functioning. It cast every turn, every alleyway, every alcove in total blackness. I walked cautiously but without any appearance of trepidation. I did not want to appear an easy target.
Women of questionable morality approached and quickly departed. I was polite, but firm in my refusals. There was certainly no questioning their hygiene or their state of inebriation. A very high percentage of the female residents of Whitechapel turned to prostitution. Most began as a way to make a living, but as they turned more and more to alcohol to erase their memories, the act became more about the next drink and less about the money. Most could be had for the cost of a shot of gin, about fifty cents.
The first victim, Polly, went out one last time the evening of her death because she thought she looked exceptionally well. She had a new bonnet. She had no teeth, but the hat made all the difference, I’m sure.
I found the cut off that led south from Commercial Road and made the turn. Less than a block down this street was the Socialist Club and adjoining the club was a small open courtyard. As I walked toward the club entrance, I heard a sound I can only call a muffled gurgle. I sprinted the rest of the way to the courtyard opening. There, lying on the ground was Elizabeth Stride. Kneeling beside her was the one and only, Jack the Ripper. He was nothing I had ever expected.
The man stood as I came to a halt at the courtyard opening. He was much shorter than I would have expected. I had envisioned a mixture of Vincent Price, Frank Langella, in his early films and just a hint of Malcolm McDowell, again from his younger days. This Ripper was none of those.
As I mentioned, he was not tall, perhaps five foot six, no more than five foot seven. He was portly. That is the only word I can use to describe him. While his clothes fit well, they could not conceal his amble midsection, nor his arms and hands, which I can only describe as doughy.
His face surprised me the most. I had expected to see an angry, scared, possibly deformed individual. Jack’s face was almost angelic. It was round, and I would swear it appeared to have baby fat in the cheeks.
His eyes were sharp, clear and a grey color. He was perfectly clean-shaven, his light-colored hair trimmed short and well groomed, perhaps with lard, since styling mousse would not arrive for many years. I would have expected to see him in a cathedral pulpit or perhaps in a bank, not hunched over the fresh corpse of an unlucky prostitute.