Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II
I possess an unbridled love for the city of London. On more than one occasion I have referred to it as my city when in fact it can truly belong to no one. Or so I believed. The influx of migrants into already cramped living spaces. The people living atop one another. Whitechapel had become overrun with bums and vagrants.
And yet I continued to remind myself that life is cyclical. All would rectify itself when the time is correct. Lidia does not share my patience.
“It is damnable to think of the things they do in those disgusting brothels!” I watched her slam the kettle onto the table top, rattling the dishes. “What money they have they should be spending on food not drink and cheap whores.”
“Most have fallen on hard times. They deserve some form of happiness no matter how damnable it may be.”
“They’re Jews and whores. Don’t be so accepting Jack.”
I pulled my coat from the hook and put my hands on her shoulders. She was a spitfire. It was what drew me to her. I kissed her on the forehead and hoped it would not be what pushed me away.
While the over crowded pubs provided difficulty in obtaining a drink, there was a great deal more entertainment than before. Trade-offs I suppose. No sooner had James and I sat down at a corner table did the entire thing crash to the floor as a drunken behemoth of a man punch someone in the throat, driving him back and into our table, splintering the wood and barely missing our drinks.
“Well I say! Damn good show tonight.” James said and slapped his leg. The man from the floor grumbled, pushed splintered wood from his chest, and charged at his assailant. I looked to the bar tender (a man I had known since boy hood) and he simply shrugged and downed a shot.
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
“What’s the matter sport? Don’t seem like yourself.”
“Well,” I waited as a mug smashed to the floor and three men tackled the giant to the ground. Alcohol does wonders to a person’s sense of strength and mortality. If only we could harness the abilities without the added inebriation.
“Don’t tell me Lidia.” Often times more is said by a lack of speaking, then by rambling. “For God’s sake Jack. The woman is sucking everything from you.”
“She wants a cleaner London. A cleaner Whitechapel. She’s not happy with,” I waved my arms forward.
“Well damn it then don’t go out in it! Don’t let her direct you though. You enjoy this. It’s not like either of you are boding ill. You are a doctor after all.”
Still, I remained quiet.
“Did you tell her of the other night?”
My mind flashed to skin. To whispered words, wetness, and lips pinched delicately between teeth. All the while my hand turned my pocketknife over and over.
It had been a gift from my father. “A good man knows how to leave his mark.” He had said to me. It was rare moments like this when I thought of what kind of mark I would leave.
My mind came back to the bar. “I did not. Though I would not doubt if she could smell her on me.”
“Did you? Both in the same night?” James laughed and swung his mug through the air. “Well done old man. Barkeep, another round I say! Keep the party going.” People nearby us cheered. But I did not. For their words were replaced by Lidia’s Jews and whores. Don’t be so accepting Jack. Jews and whores. Whores.
My hands slid up her bodice, a woman I did not know. My fingers on the strings. Her skin. Her flesh. Her womanhood bought and paid for by a simple coin. Once again, the consumption of ale had not led me home, but to a dimly lit building that smelled of sweat and shame. I tried to focus on the warmth that sat upon my lap. But I could not.
“What’s wrong?” She whispered in my ear. The moistness of her lips graced my skin and only infuriated me more as I struggled to remain focused. She was here, in this moment, and I was not. I was half present and she was fully aware.
“Nothing,” I shut my eyes, squeezed her chest, but the soft feel of her breasts did nothing. She let out the faintest of laughs at my inadequacy. I shoved her from me and to the floor, on my feet in an instant.
“What is wrong with you?” She screamed. “There is a proper way to treat a lady.”
“If you find one, I will treat her in such a way.”
She scoffed, “It takes a man to find a woman.”
I was out the door, coat in hand.
I saw her again, from the alley across from the brothel. The whore that claimed herself to be a woman. Vagrants slept in the shadows behind me, snoring loudly with bottles still in hand. She walked with a friend to the corner of the street before parting ways. I moved with a newfound sobriety.
My heart pounded against my chest as I eyed a coming alley. There was commotion on the opposite side of the street. Drunks. Everywhere there were drunks. Jews and whores Jack. They’re all whores Jack.
My hand was shaking as I clasped it over her mouth. She swung blindly and caught me in the eye but I gritted my teeth and dragged her into the alley. I fumbled the knife, dropped it against the stones, the blade open and exposed.
She drove an elbow into my ribs and pain shot around my chest. I kicked the knife towards me with the toe of my boot and yanked her to the ground so I could grab it. Sweat dripped from my hand as I reached down. I felt like I was burning alive as I fought her. I swung the knife into her stomach. She screamed under the clasp of my palm and jerked her body. The blade ripped her skin apart.
My hand was shaking as I yanked it out. She was sobbing and thrashing. I took a deep breath and slid the knife across her throat. Her arms continued to swing. I didn’t know what to do so I dragged the blade across her neck a second time. And then it all ceased.
I didn’t move fast enough and the blood seeped into the sleeve of my coat. I dropped her body, her head thudding against the stone and rolling to stare up at me with empty eyes.
Lidia was asleep when I arrived. But when the door slammed shut and I collapsed against it, she shot out of bed.
“Jack? Jack! For the sake of the Lord what is wrong with you? What is this? Are you hurt? You’re bleeding Jack, get up.”
I shooed her away and remained against the door. It took seconds before the dam that was my mouth broke open and a confession flooded forth with the force of a tempest. She stared, mouth open and eyes wide. My mind saw flashes of what they would do to me in jail. Of the noose. I didn’t hear her until she was leaning over me, her hands on her knees, and her eyes filled with steadfast determination.
“Jack? Were you seen?”
“No. At least I don’t believe so.”
“Good. Wash yourself and get some sleep. Tomorrow we discuss when you are to go again.”
I looked at her, stunned. My stomach in my throat. “Excuse me?”
“We’re going to clean this city of its wretched filth. Sleep in here tonight.”
“While I may be pleased with what you did I am not blind to the fact that you did it after attempting to bed a whore. I don’t want to share a bed with you tonight. And hear me now, if you put your hands on another one of them unless it is to take a life, I will end yours.”
Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II