short story by tecs
Be careful what you wish for.
A short story of Jack the Ripper and the people who hunt him.
Dr James Hewson had worked at London University for twelve years. Lecturing in modern history, he had chosen the place in part for its location, being near Whitechapel, the scene of the Jack the Ripper murders. The Ripper had fascinated him since he was a boy. He didn't know why, couldn't explain why. The mystery? The social setting? The fog? The gaslights? Who knows? He didn't, and occasionally he found it slightly embarrassing. One girlfriend had even left his apartment discreetly after browsing his bookshelf and finding one too many volumes for her liking on the subject of a long dead serial killer. Yet still, most weeks he was found walking the streets of Whitchapel, breathing in the atmosphere from those locations, Durward Street, once Buck's Row, Hanbury Street and the most atmospheric, Mitre Square. He spent hours poring over old newspapers or chatting online with fellow Ripperologists. Perhaps it was the perfectionist in him that just couldn't accept the untidiness of the mystery. Whatever it was, he had to admit that he was obsessed. And he would give anything, anything to know the identity of Jack the Ripper. Which was his downfall.
Dr John Harrison was his closest friend. A lecturer in Physics he was known to be a genius, one of those academics who could have achieved anything but for whatever reason chose to spend his life as a permanent student. He also had a passing interest in the Ripper case. Not anywhere near the level of dedication or knowledge of Hewson, but he could hold his own in a late night conversation with most Ripper authorities.
One hot night in August Hewson was working late. The windows were wide open but it was still inexplicably hot as he piled through a small mountain of theses. A knock on his door broke the monotony.
“Working late?” said Harrison as he swung around the door frame.
“Got to get this done.” Hewson replied “Nobody else will do it.”
“Should have picked a subject like mine.” was Harrison's riposte, “No-one has a clue what I'm talking about so I can give out whatever marks I want!”
Hewson smiled “That's not true.” he posited.
“Isn't it?” Harrison laughed.
Hewson leaned back and stretched, his arms high above his head. “What can I do for you?”
“Well...” Harrison sat down, stuck his leg out and slowly closed the door with his foot. “Well..”
“Stop saying “Well.”!”
Harrison laughed. “Erm...well.”
Hewson playfully threw a magazine at him which hit the wall as Harrison lurched sideways.
“Okay.” said Harrison holding up his hands in mock surrender, “What I've got to tell you is, well it's just so unbelievable that I really don't know how to explain it. You will not believe me. You simply will not believe me.”
Hewson was understandably intrigued “Go on.” He said.
“What I have discovered, no, made, is....unbelievable.”
Although Hewson was intrigued he was also tired and hot and not in the mood for long drawn out explanations. “John,” he sighed, “I'm tired, I've got a headache and I'm sweating like a pig! Please just tell me.”
Harrison smiled, but it was a strange smile, not threatening but knowing. He was now deadly serious. “Okay I'll just say it, I can't think of what else to do.” He stood up and paced the room in a circle. Then he stopped. “I've invented a time machine!”
The words hung in the air. Hewson sat still and stared straight up at Harrison.
“That's great.” he said “Let's go for a spin some time.” He spun back round and picked up a new thesis to mark. Harrison smiled and walked over to Hewson's desk. He slipped the thesis out of Hewson's hand and threw it down on the desk.
“Jim,” he said perching himself on the edge of the desk “I'm deadly serious. As God is my judge.”
“You don't believe in God.”
“Well as Einstein is my judge. Seriously Jim, I know this is too much to take in but it is true. It is true. It's in the basement.”
Hewson screwed up his forehead and stared at Harrison totally perplexed. He shook his head and turned back to his pile.
“Look Jim, I really do know how much this is to take in so let me just say, it's true, it's real and may God strike Liam down if I'm lying.” Harrison knew what this comment would mean to Hewson so he folded his arms and waited for the response.
Hewson stopped what he was doing and spun around. Liam was Harrison's son. Fourteen years old now and from a previous relationship he very rarely saw him as he now lived with his mother and her husband in Australia. But he meant everything to him, his whole world. And Hewson knew that whatever else Harrison might say or do he would never, ever say that about Liam unless he at least believed it to be true. Amongst the many paradoxes of his friend was that this straight as a die atheist scientist was incredibly superstitious.
“Jim, are you feeling okay?” He enquired genuinely. Harrison smiled.
“Look, meet me tomorrow night at the bottom of the stairwell and we can go straight there.”
Hewson slowly rose to his feet. “Are you serious?” he asked. Suddenly he was interested. It couldn't be true, could it? What if it was. No, don't be silly it's not possible. It just isn't possible. But say it was! They could go there and catch Jack the Ripper in the act! Something he had literally dreamed of many times. If he had one wish, just one he would eschew any financial gain or a night with any female beauty. No, there was only one dream for Hewson. To know the identity of Jack the ripper. And if his usually stoic, serious friend was telling the truth, he could. Shame he must be going mad!
Hewson gave it less thought than he thought he would. How could he take it seriously? It is impossible, he knew enough about physics to know that time travel was impossible. But hold on, didn't he read somewhere once that actually time travel was not ruled out anywhere in physics technically? Hadn't Harrison once told him that?
The next night he waited at the stairwell. Dead on time as always Harrison arrived carrying a large holdall.
“What's in there?”
“Clothes mainly. Victorian clothes.” Harrison retorted without a hint of humour or sarcasm. Hewson was even more confused than ever. Just what the hell was going on here?
“Yes. You did bring everything that I told you didn't you?” Harrison had given Hewson a list of useful items to bring. Toothbrush etc. But he had decided to leave them behind. A thought had occurred to him. Was this some sort of practical joke? Get him to stand in some sort of contraption, then as Harrison throws the switch his colleagues all jump out yelling “Surprise!” In order not to be caught out he had omitted to play along and bring anything with him.
“Er, no, I'm sorry I didn't.”He replied.
Harrison laughed. “I'm not surprised. Good job I come well prepared eh?” With that he opened the holdall to show Hewson that he had at least two of everything. While the bag was open, Hewson glanced at the collection of clothes. Tweed, sober Victorian attire. If this was a trick of some sort it was a well prepared one. Harrison opened the basement door and walked in. Hewson followed, blanching at the musty odour that swooped out as if attempting to escape from a tomb after a thousand years. And there it was. About six feet tall and ten feet wide it was not anything like you would expect a time machine to look like. No wires, no whirring orbs, no flashing, bleeping lights, it was what looked like a series of metal bars in rows with a box of some sort in the middle.
“Well, this is it.” said Harrison as he patted one of the bars. Hewson walked over to the machine and just stared.
“This is a time machine?” he enquired with raised eyebrows.
“Yep,” replied Harrison as he fiddled with something. “A magnetic resonance chronohalter. That's how it works.”
“Chronohalter, you know, stops time. It was the best word I could think of, sorry.” Harrison said apologetically before continuing. “Magnetic resonance. You see, it's actually incredibly simple. I found a link between time and the earth's magnetic field. So if you can alter the nature of the magnetic field, you can distort time.”
Hewson was walking around the machine whilst he listened. Finally it came to the crunch.
“John. Please I'm asking you as a friend, is this real?”
Harrison smiled. “It is Jim. It really is. And if you're up for it we can go back right now to Whitechapel 1888 and catch the Ripper in the act.”
Hewson was too overwhelmed. It was too big a decision to make there and then so he asked for time to think. But two days later he was back, having agreed to go for it.
They met at the agreed time at the stairwell that led to the basement. Harrison led Hewson into the room where they double checked their equipment and proceeded into the machine. Hewson was still expecting it to be an elaborate prank of some sort and it was only his friend's busy attention to detail that made him think that it could possibly be real. Why would he be going through all of this effort just to play a trick on him? After carrying out all final checks Harrison turned to Hewson.
“Are you ready?” he enquired.
“Yes.” was the simple, earnest reply.
“No, really. Are you ready? Really, really ready for it?”
Hewson paused. What the hell, if it was a prank so what? There's no crime in being tricked. But if it was true, even the tiniest possibility that it was true made it worth going for.
“I'm ready as I think I can be.” was all he could say. Harrison nodded.
“Okay. Let's do it.” And with that he pushed a small, insignificant button. At first it looked like nothing was happening. There was no blinding flash of light, no noise, no sparks or lightning. Not at all like in the movies. But then a small humming sound built up, accompanied by a strange vibration. It was like a huge lorry was revving its engine in the next street, that's all. Hewson stood stock still not wanting to say or do anything. And then he heard Harrison counting.
“Four, three, two, one shutdown!” And with that he pushed the same insignificant button once more.
They both stood in silence. Hewson looked around. Nothing seemed any different.
“Is that it?” he enquired. A wide, beaming smile slowly spread over Harrison's face and he began to nod slowly.
“Yes. This is it. We're here.”
Harrison unlocked the door to the machine and walked out leaving Hewson stood still and looking around.
“Wait here.” Said Harrison. “Don't do anything, don't move, in fact just stay in there for now.” He walked over to a door that looked like it hadn't been opened for a hundred years and unlocked it using a large key that he took from his inside pocket. He turned once more to Hewson.
“Wait here.” And with that, he was gone. So this was it, Hewson thought, he would return with the rest of their colleagues, who were waiting outside and shout “surprise! But then he heard it.
“Read all abaht it! Get the Star, read all abaht it! 'Orrible murdah, get the latest in the Star!”
Hewson froze. If this was some sort of trick it was very well rehearsed and brilliantly carried out. But again, why? He hadn't time to consider why before Harrison came crashing back through the door.
“Damn!” He spat, “Damn! We're too late.” He had a newspaper in his hands and was looking down at the endless print devoid of any photographs. He threw the paper on the floor and looked at Hewson who had by now walked over to where he was standing.
“What do you mean 'We're late!'?” Hewson enquired.
“Well, not completely late, but it's September the 5th. We've missed Polly.” Hewson had already picked up the paper and seen the date. It was a genuine copy of the Star from September 5th 1888, in perfect, mint condition. It was at that moment that it hit him. He suddenly realised that this was not a joke or a prank of any kind. For some reason he now found himself believing that he truly was in 1888!
“Well,” said Harrison, “No problem really. We've still got four more goes to get him!”
“How come we're late?”
“Just a slight miscalculation on the amount of magnetic energy needed.” was the reply. “I went through it a hundred times but the changes in the earth's magnetic field at various times alter the calculations.”
Hewson nodded as if he understood. “So, what now?” He said, although he knew the answer.
“Well, if you're ready,” said Harrison, “We need to go and find some lodgings. Are you?”
“Ready?” Replied Hewson, “I think so! I've got to see for myself.”
“Okay.” Harrison said cautiously. “Okay, deep breath yes.”
Hewson nodded and did an over the top, exaggerated breath in.
He exhaled dramatically causing Harrison to laugh.
“Ha, Okay let's do it.” And with that, Harrison pulled open the door.
The first thing Hewson saw was the hansom cab. Pulled by a large brown horse, it cracked along the cobbles making a terrible, yet almost pure, beautiful sound. Then he saw the people. Men in what looked like morning dress, with top hats! Women in tight corsets carrying parasols. And urchins with no shoes and dirty faces. There was no doubt now. He couldn't be anywhere but London. And it couldn't be any time but the Victorian age.
Hewson had spent so long looking around that he hadn't noticed that Harrison had been in to a local establishment and returned.
“Right,” he said. “We can stay here. Shilling a night with breakfast.”
Hewson was awestruck. “It's incredible!” he said. “Just incredible!”
“Yes, it is something isn't it?” Harrison said, whilst also gazing at the scenes around them. “Like the most extreme holiday you will ever have.”
“It's just...Incredible!” Was all that Hewson could say.
Harrison stopped and put his hand on Hewson's shoulder. “It is amazing isn't it. It took me a good few hours before I even began to settle into it.”
“You've been here before?”
Harrison laughed. “Ha! Of course. I had to test the machine didn't I? You don't think I'd let you come with me if I didn't know for sure it would work do you?”
Hewson nodded. That made sense.
“I mean, you might have thought it was just some sort of prank! If we'd have been standing there with nothing happening eh?”
Hewson laughed. “Well,” he began, “Now that you say it...” But before he could say anything else Harrison had grabbed him by the arm, pulled him out of the way of an approaching cab and was gently leading him into the pub opposite.
Once inside they settled in to the room as best they could. There were obviously no modern gadgets or devices but the chairs were comfortable and they both availed themselves of them, sitting opposite each other.
“So.” Harrison began. “What's the plan?”
As the traffic rumbled down Whitechapel High street and the paperboys yelled their various headlines, Hewson suddenly felt very lost.
“Sorry, What?” he answered.
“What's the plan?”
“Oh. Right , well....Er, well Annie gets murdered, Annie Chapman, in two days time. So we need to be in Hanbury street at 5.30 AM.”
Harrison nodded his agreement, but then had a question.
“Jim. What do you want to achieve here?” He asked.
“What do you mean? Catch the Ripper obviously!” Hewson replied in a slightly sarcastic tone.
“Okay,” Harrison replied. “But you can't do that in Hanbury Street.”
Hewson was perplexed. “What? Why not?” he enquired.
Harrison waved his hands, signalling that Hewson should wait and listen. He stood up, standing right over Hewson. “Don't get me wrong, he obviously visits Hanbury Street. But, if you catch him there.....”
Hewson impatiently waited for the explanation. Harrison crouched down on his haunches so that his face was level with Hewson's. “If you catch him there, then there will be no Ripper. Just the obscure double killer of two prostitutes.”
Hewson leaned back in his chair as Harrison continued. “No Dear Boss letter, no double event. No Jack the Ripper...”
Hewson had a look on his face betraying his impatience but at the same time understanding too.
“Of course.” He said, “Of course, so what do we do?”
“Harrison had already thought it through. “I'm afraid we have to leave the ladies to their fate. We can't interfere Jim, it's already happened!”
Hewson just stared ahead. He had not thought through the implications of allowing the women to be murdered when he could stop them. He knew that he had to allow it all to take place, but the idea of it disturbed him.
“I hadn't really thought that through.” He said. “In a way it's like...”
“Well, almost like being an accomplice. You know, we could stop the murders from happening but we're not going to. Does that make us just as guilty?”
Harrison was already shaking his head before he had got to the end of his sentence.
“No Jim. You can't look at it like that. You just can't.” He stated matter of factly. “You have to just think of this whole thing as make believe. It has already happened as far as we are concerned. It's been decided. It's happened. It's not for us to change anything.”
Hewson nodded. “And besides,” Harrison continued, “If these women aren't killed, some other poor victims will get it. And who knows how much worse that could be?”
Hewson agreed. “Okay. But we are going to go to Hanbury Street aren't we?”
“Of course,” Harrison replied. “There are timings, witnesses all sorts of things that I want to see for myself.”
“Right,” said Hewson. “We need to take a look for ourselves and find a spot where we can observe without being seen.”
“Agreed.” said Harrison. And with that, they set off to see Hanbury Street for themselves.
After casually strolling up and down Hanbury Street as inconspicuously as they could, they found a spot. Over the road from Brill's shop and about twenty yards further up the Road there was a small alcove. Not big enough for two but one person could comfortably ensconce themselves and observe all of the goings on up and down the road.
They agreed that Hewson would wait in the alcove while Harrison would hide around the back of number 29 in an adjacent yard. Hewson had always had a theory that the Ripper escaped from Hanbury Street by vaulting over the fences at the back, so Harrison's job was to sit tight and either confirm or deny if he did.
On the night in question they prepared themselves and waited. There was no point going out before midnight as nothing was going to happen for several hours. Harrison dozed in a chair while Hewson pored over the map of Whitechapel that he had bought from a local shop earlier that day. He was too excited to sleep anyway. He watched the minutes tick by painfully slowly. The hours seemed to last a lifetime but, inevitably, eventually the hour came. At 4 A.M. Hewson gently shook Harrison awake.
“It's time.” he said.
Harrison yawned and stretched out his arms and legs. He looked at his watch. “Right. We need to get going.” He said.
“Yes,” replied Hewson, “Come on.” and after donning their coats and hats, with that they walked out into the cold September air.
They were soon in Hanbury Street. They decided to check first if anything had happened in the backyard of No 29, just in case the timings were that far out. But upon inspection the yard was empty.
“Right, I'd better get into position.” said Hewson.
Harrison proffered a gloved hand. “Good luck.” He said.
“Good luck.” Hewson replied, shaking his hand firmly. As he left the yard he took a last look and noticed the leather apron drying on the tap. He was smiling as he walked over the road.
He settled down into the alcove and covered himself with a sheet that they had found the day before. He had carefully cut a small hole into it so that he could see clearly when he pulled it up to his face.
It was quiet, very quiet. Although there was a bustle of noise in the distance, like fog there was nothing right in front of him. Round the back, Harrison waited too. Blowing into his hands he braced himself against the cold. And waited. And waited. Hewson felt like he was ready to burst. The anticipation was too much. He glanced at his watch. It was 5.35 A.M. And nothing had happened. Something must be wrong. He just couldn't wait helpless any longer. Throwing the sheet away, he got up and walked over to number 29. He listened at the door but could hear nothing. Then, he heard her.
“Hello Deary.” She chirped. Hewson spun round. He recognised her immediately. It was Annie. Annie Chapman.
“What's up with you?” She added. “Cat got your tongue?”
“No. No.” He spluttered. “Er, I er, Just. Er, well.”
“Come on.” She said as she stroked his hand. “Let's go in here.” She nodded towards the door to the backyard. “I'm supposed to be meetin' someone in here soon, but I've got ten minutes to fit you in first luvvie.”
Hewson could feel his heart in his throat. He could hardly speak.
“No, I..” Just as he spluttered out the words he heard footsteps coming down the street. He knew without looking who it was, Long. Either by some deep seated feeling of preservation or because he knew the story so well, he turned discreetly so that his back was fully facing Long. As she walked past he turned slowly so that she could not see his face.
“If you're just gonna mess me about I'll leave!” Said Annie.
“Will you?” He replied automatically. As soon as he said the words his heart both sank and exploded at the same time. He realised immediately the significance of those two little words which would forever be quoted and re-quoted. And now he knew that they were not spoken by the Ripper after all!
“Look, I'm sorry.” He said “I need to go.” And with that, he plunged his hands into his pockets and walked swiftly away up Hanbury Street.
“Suit yourself darlin'” Annie shouted after him.
He didn't know why he was walking away or what he was going to do but it had all got too much for him. He walked to the end of the street and stopped at the corner. Looking back he could see no sign of Annie, no sign of anyone. He waited on the corner, watching number 29. Nobody went in or came out. Then, after what must have been about five minutes, he thought he heard something. A cry? A shout of some sort? Then the door to number 29 burst open and a man ran out looking all around and shouting as he ran. Hewson didn't wait and immediately turned to walk away. He must have missed everything he thought. He put his head down and paced ever quicker away from Hanbury Street. On the journey home his mind was ablaze as he questioned himself, had he missed the Ripper going in? Surely there was no time but then again he was known to be amazingly fast in getting in and out of tight spots. Within minutes he arrived back at the lodgings. As he entered he suddenly had the presence of mind to wipe his brow and put on an air of calm, after all, how would it look if somebody saw him hurriedly pacing in, sweat dripping from his brow, hands plunged deep in his pockets only a few minutes after a woman had been murdered nearby? He looked around and thankfully could see nobody so leaped quickly up the stairs to the safety of their room. Back at their room Hewson slumped into a chair and poured himself a large drink. He didn't usually drink but if ever there was a circumstance that warranted it, this was it. Thank heavens Harrison enjoyed a tipple and had bought a bottle of whisky earlier that day. Harrison! It was only then that he thought of his friend. He had been so preoccupied with his own situation that he had totally forgotten about him. A succession of terrible thoughts went through his head as he went over and over what could be happening to him. But thankfully, after not too long, the door opened and Harrison walked in.
“Oh, thank God.” said Hewson. “I was really starting to worry!”
“Yes, thanks for leaving me there!” said Harrison as he threw his hat down.
Hewson spluttered, “Oh God, I'm sorry, I didn't, well I...”
Harrison interrupted, laughing and holding up a hand. “It's okay, I'm winding you up. I'm fine. And I'll have one of those thanks!” he said, pointing at the scotch. Hewson quickly poured him a large measure which he gratefully accepted. “So what happened?” He asked.
Hewson went through the story, explaining his meeting with Annie Chapman and why he left so quickly.
Harrison whistled. “Phew! That must have been something!”
“And as I spoke to her,” Hewson continued, “Mrs Long walked right past us!”
“Jesus!” Harrison responded. “I suppose she must have thought your 21st century accent was foreign?” Hewson paused and then nodded as it became clear.
“So you can't be 100% sure he didn't go in the front then?” asked Harrison.
“He can't have done,” replied Hewson, “there was just no time, I'd have seen him. He must have already been in number 29 if you're sure he didn't go in the back way.
“Definitely not,” said Harrison. “He didn't come out the front you say. I know what I saw, he did not leave at the back. So, he must have been in the house!”
They nodded and agreed that at least they had learned something. Unless they had overlooked something, Jack the Ripper must have been one of the residents of number 29 Hanbury Street. Just a shame there were so many of them!
After calling it a day they went to sleep and slept surprisingly well considering the adrenaline and excitement. Harrison went out early to get the papers which they read over breakfast. The whole building was buzzing with the news of the latest murder and the landlady spent an age discussing it with the two men as she pored over their newspapers at the breakfast table. Her theory was that it must be one of the new immigrants to the area. It was obvious she said. They both looked at each other and smiled as she walked off to regale another table with her xenophobic ideas. Nothing changes, they thought.
After breakfast they retired to their room and planned what to do next. It was a three week wait and they spent the time reading the newspapers, visiting pubs and theatres and generally trying to stay out of the way. The weeks dragged, the novelty now having seriously worn off. Finally the 29th September arrived. They had had to remind themselves several times of the timings. 30th September was stuck in their minds as the date of the double event but of course it happened in the very early hours, so they had to be ready and fully prepared for the 29th. They had visited the murder sites and reconnaissansed them fully in advance. They had timed the walk from Berner Street to Mitre Square and taken in Goulston Street too and had agreed on one important point, to concentrate on Mitre Square.
“So we're agreed then?” Harrison said. “We only go to Mitre Square?”
“It's just too dangerous.” replied Hewson. “If we're seen going from one to the other, or even worse somehow seen at both sites...”
“And besides,” Hewson continued, “We can't be 100% certain that Stride is a Ripper victim anyway. We could sit there and catch her killer red handed only to read next day that Cathy was killed anyway.”
“And we couldn't then turn up in Miller's Court catching Mary's killer red handed too!” Harrison pointed out astutely.
They went over the plan several times. Three exits to Mitre Square, two people. They had to take an educated guess which two to guard.
“We can't sit in the square however dark it is.” Hewson pointed out.”So we have to take a stab, excuse the pun, at which exits we look at.”
They agreed that Church Passage and St James passage were the best choices.
“He was seen at Church Passage with Cathy before so it stands to reason he would use that as an exit too.”
“And for the second choice, if we factor in the likelihood that he heard P.C. Watkins approaching from Mitre Street, then he surely wouldn't have left by that exit?”
“O.K. So that leaves St James Passage. One of us goes there and if we're right, one of us will come face to face with him either there or at Church passage which the other one will guard.”
They both sat for what seemed like an age as they considered this prospect. Harrison broke the silence. “I brought these, for that eventuality.”
He had walked over to his case, rummaged around and removed two small plastic bags. He unwrapped one and showed the content to Hewson.
“A gun!” Hewson exclaimed.
“A revolver to be precise.” Harrison replied.
“So, one of us is going to shoot Jack the Ripper!”
“Well look,” Harrison said as he adopted a serious tone. “I don't know about you, but I don't fancy facing the most famous killer of all time totally unarmed.”
“Yes but he's a weirdo, probably. A sad pathetic....bully!”
“Maybe.” Harrison replied. “But I'm not going unarmed and I don't think you should either. At Hanbury Street we were just observing, but there's every chance that this time one of us is going to be face to face in a narrow, dark alleyway with Jack the Ripper.” He held the gun out to Hewson who gingerly accepted it.
“Jesus!” he said. “This is getting serious!”
On the 29th they left the room at 11.30 P.M. and headed to one of the pubs on the route to Mitre Square. They drank, chatted and observed, all the time looking at their watches. At 12.55 A.M. they finished their drinks and walked out into the street. They stood under a lamp looking at each other.
“Well?” said Hewson
“Well, let's go.” And with that they strolled around to Mitre Square taking a route that they hoped would avoid bumping into Cathy who would be approaching from Bishopsgate. Just as at Hanbury Street they shook hands and took up their respective positions. As the time ticked closer Hewson could feel his heart beating faster and faster. This was too much, but he promised himself that he wouldn't get involved this time. Whatever happened he would stay in place until the Ripper left literally red handed. Harrison looked at his watch. 1.30A.M. It was getting close. As Hewson watched on, a couple walked slowly past his position. They stopped just at the entrance to Church Passage and began to talk. Hewson cursed but then immediately realised who they were. As he was thinking this he became aware of footsteps to his right. He looked over and saw three men. One was walking slightly away from the other two, one of whom was putting his coat on while walking. He sat in awe, dumbstruck as he watched Lawende and company walk past the couple. He thought that he could faintly hear one of them commenting on the unsavoury characters but it was probably in his own head, as he knew the narrative so well. He was so engrossed with watching which way they went that he forgot all about the couple. But when he spun around to look for them, they were still there. This was not what he expected. Surely they should be in the square by now? Round at St James Passage Harrison was also still waiting. He blew into his hands, cursing that he had forgotten his gloves and glancing again at his watch. Hewson was noting the time too. It was now 1.35 A.M. The body gets discovered in 9 minutes, something had to happen soon. He began to rock backwards and forwards slightly, the adrenaline was starting to take over and he was finding it difficult to stay focussed. And then, the couple slowly walked away, together. Hewson looked on, open mouthed. He had to use all of his restraint to stop himself from calling out to them. He wanted to shout, “Stop! You're not supposed to do that, you should go into Mitre Square!” What was happening? He slowly began to realise that the couple must have been a red herring. Which means that...Which means that Cathy is somewhere else. And if the couple were not Cathy and the Ripper, then they didn't enter the Square from Church Passage, so the ripper probably didn't leave by it either. This was too much. He got up and carefully began to move towards the square. He edged slowly, gingerly down the passageway until he could vaguely make out the outline of something in the distance. He didn't need to look any further, it was obvious what it was, Cathy. Again, the Ripper had completely beaten them. They had all of the information, all of the pre warning but he still found a way to sneak in and out and kill Cathy right under their noses. It was unbelievable.
Just then he heard a sound. A door creaked and he heard a voice. “Okay George, see you next time.” It was Watkins! Stepping out of Kearley and Tonges just as Rumbelow, himself an ex City P.C. had suspected. Hewson was momentarily still as he watched Watkins pause at the door and engage in some small talk with a person out of view. He didn't stop to watch any more. He turned and hastily walked back up Church Passage. Then, as he neared the road a figure swung round the corner and started towards him. Hewson felt his heart jump and for the first time real fear hit him. Watkins was behind him and this person, whoever he was, was now blocking his way out of the narrow passageway. Perhaps his balance was compromised from having both hands plunged into his pockets on this cold night, or maybe it was just the adrenaline. Either way he stumbled, only slightly, causing the other man to speak first. “I say, be careful old man!” he said helpfully.
Hewson looked him straight in the eye. All he could do was nod silently. The other man looked back with a quizzical look on his face.
“Cold tonight sir.” Said the stranger.
“Yes, very cold.” Replied Hewson as the stranger moved aside to let him through. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight sir.” Said the man.
Again Hewson had already worked out who the man was and could almost say the words before they had been said. He took one last look at Sergeant White disappearing into the square over his shoulder before increasing his pace and starting to run. In the distance he was sure that he heard the ensuing conversation between him and Watkins but he was now thinking more about getting away. He definitely heard the whistle, but by then he was far enough away that he could calm down a little. But what now? The Ripper was nearby, must be surely? They had missed him again but then a thought struck him, Goulston Street. Of course, the Ripper would definitely be there at some point soon. Unknown to him, Harrison was also heading to Goulston Street and it was he that got there first. A few seconds later, Hewson came upon the scene, Harrison was crouching down in a doorway examining something.
“Is that the piece of apron?” Asked Hewson. Harrison jumped.
“Jesus!” He exclaimed. “You scared the **** out of me. I thought I was caught red handed holding the apron!” Hewson was now crouching down alongside him. Harrison continued “How would that have looked? Me, here with the piece of apron.”
Hewson nodded. “Well, just be thankful it was me!” he said causing Harrison to laugh quietly under his breath.
“So, he's already been here then?” Said Hewson.
“Yes,” replied Harrison. “When I heard the whistles going in the Square I just legged it here. Again, we missed him by seconds. It's almost comical!”
Hewson wasn't laughing but he knew exactly what Harrison meant. “How long have you been here?” he asked.
“Seconds.” replied Harrison, “literally seconds. Just before you got here.”
Hewson stood up and looked around. “We need to get out of here.” he suggested.
Harrison shook his head. “No, I'm sick of this. Where is the bastard!” It was a silly question born out of frustration Hewson thought.
“Look,” Hewson said “We've missed him again, that's all there is to it. Now let's get out of here.”
Harrison threw the piece of apron down. “Shit!” he exclaimed.
“My sentiments exactly!” Hewson concurred.
Before they left the scene they viewed the graffiti. There was not a lot they could glean from it. It was smaller than they expected but only because it is usually depicted in such an over the top, garish way in films and documentaries. It was actually just as described in the Police reports, about an inch high, round schoolboy hand. They couldn't see if it was smudged or not in the dim light, but by then it didn't really matter so they paced quickly away back towards their lodgings.
The release of tension was immense. Harrison closed the door behind them and then, quite deliberately, yelled at the top of his voice. “Aaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!!!” he exclaimed.
“What the hell are you doing!” shouted Hewson back. “Are you trying to draw attention to us?”
“I'm just sick of it! Sick of it!” He threw his hat on to the chair and began to take his coat off.
“How the hell can we, with all of the advantages we have, miss him again!”
“He's a slippery bastard.” Replied Hewson, “We knew that all along.”
“Yes, but come on.” Said Harrison, “I mean, this is ridiculous. We're stuck here now for another six weeks. six weeks!”
Hewson nodded in resigned agreement.
“I don't think I can take it Jim, not another six weeks.”
“Hewson stood up and walked across to his friend. Throwing an arm around him he said that he sympathised as he too was not looking forward to six more weeks in the Victorian East End.
“But, next time there's only one way in and one way out. We can't miss him. There was always a chance, however small, that he could give us the slip at Mitre Square.” Then he put his hands on Harrison's shoulders and looked him in the eye. “But it will be worth it when we've caught him and then get back to our time with it like we've only been away for seconds.
Harrison rolled his eyes and smiled. “Six weeks!” He said again.
The six weeks dragged. The novelty was now non existent and they had great difficulty finding ways to occupy themselves. The pile of newspapers grew higher and higher and as the weather got colder the lack of luxuries began to bite as much as the cold, biting wind and they took recourse more and more in the roaring log fire. But, eventually, the date came around. On the morning of the 8th November they rose early. “Morning.” said Harrison, handing Hewson a steaming cup of tea.
“Thank you.” he replied, reaching out his hand for the welcome refreshment.
Harrison sat down on Hewson's bed. “So. This is it.”
“It is.” replied Hewson slurping gladly on the hot drink. “It is, nothing can go wrong now!” he joked.
“Don't say that!” laughed Harrison, “After all we've been through.”
“I know, I'm not counting any chickens, don't worry.” he replied.
“I know,” added Harrison. “But...”
“I know, we've got our best chance tonight.” said Hewson. And they had. There was only one way in or out of Miller's Court. Surely nothing could go wrong?
They spent the morning going over the plan. Over and over and then over again. They would not be outwitted again. They decided that they would need to be there from 11.30 P.M. onwards in order to see Blotchy, who they viewed as a credible suspect, then all events onwards. They spent the day as usual in the coffee shops and cafés, eating, drinking and reading. Both checked their watches every few minutes. Harrison lit another cigarette.
“How many of them have you smoked today?” asked Hewson.
“Too many!” was the reply. “I just can't relax.”
“I know.” agreed Hewson.
“I used to smoke a pack a week!” said Harrison “And now,” He looked at the table. The ashtray was overflowing and there were empty packs everywhere,
“I just hope I can go back to one pack a week again when we get back.” he stated resignedly.
“Especially as you won't get them for 1d per pack back home!” Hewson added.
Harrison laughed, and lit another.
Finally, it was evening. After their evening meal they returned to their room. It was 9P.M. They went over the plan again. Hewson would stay in Dorset Street checking on all comings and goings, Harrison would secrete himself in the Court in a dark corner. They had tested the lighting and unless one ventured right into the Court, he would not be seen huddled in the dark corner. Between them they would see everything.
The final hours dragged slower than ever but as always, the hour came. They left the room, both taking a last look for some reason, as if they would never be back. They both caught sight of the other taking this last look and exchanged glances. Harrison shook his head and laughed as they walked down the stairs.
At around 11.20 P.M. they were at Dorset Street. It was quite deserted. They had been surprised at how quiet and unassuming Dorset Street actually was and wondered if it deserved it's reputation as the worst street in London. They stood for several minutes observing the few comings and goings, but both knew that they had to get in position. For some reason they were avoiding making the move. Fear? Apprehension? Whatever it was they were both nervous, very nervous.
“We need to make a move.” said Hewson.
“I know.” Agreed Harrison as they continued to stand there on the street corner. “I know.”
They delayed and shuffled their feet until eventually Hewson made the move.
“Right! Come on, are we doing this or not?” He said forcefully.
Harrison looked at the floor, avoiding eye contact.
“John!” Hewson growled quietly as he put a a hand on his friend's shoulder.
Harrison looked up startled. He looked at Hewson directly and nodded slowly. Hewson was inwardly worried. Was Harrison up to it? He seemed to be wavering.
“Are you okay?” He asked. Harrison nodded again.
“Yes, I'm...I'm fine.” He stuttered. “It's just all hit me, the whole thing.”
Hewson was concerned. “John,” he asked, “Are you really okay? We can call it off if you want.”
“What!” Harrison barked. “And let our ten weeks in this shithole be for nothing!” Hewson smiled. “No way!” said Harrison confidently. “Let's get it done.” He grabbed his friend's hand and shook it vigourously. “Let's get it done.”
“Let's get it done.” echoed Hewson. They walked off to their positions. Before proceeding under the archway, Harrison paused and turned to Hewson. He held up his hand and gave a thumbs up which Hewson returned before slumping in a doorway appearing to anyone concerned to be a hopeless drunk whilst all the while keeping his eyes fixed firmly on Millers Court. Harrison also took up his place deep in the darkest corner of the court.
People came and went, drunks staggered along but as the time passed by the street began to slow to nothing. Hewson looked up and down Dorset Street. It was deathly quiet. Then, a woman. Walking alone he mouthed to himself. “Cox!” Immediately, he realised that if Cox was here, Kelly could not be far. He controlled himself enough to stop his base reaction of jumping up and managed to stay in character. His eyes panned slowly in the other direction and sure enough, there was a young woman walking along with an older man, who was carrying a huge jug of beer. He was transfixed. He could not take his eyes off her face. That face, so beautiful and untouched. He could not stop himself from seeing that awful, disgusting image of her destroyed face in his mind's eye. She was not quite plump but buxom certainly and had long, blond hair and a confident, sprightly manner about her. They were giggling in that way that resigned drunks do. Cox greeted the couple as they walked into the court and Kelly smiled and said something that Hewson couldn't hear.
In the corner of the court, Harrison held his breath as the three entered and went to their respective rooms. They didn't see him and he breathed a huge sigh of relief. They had reasoned that if Blotchy left in under around an hour, he could not be the ripper as the mutilations done to Mary would take that time at the very least. If, however, he was any longer, then Harrison would take a look through the broken window to see for himself. Back over the road, a crisis was raging in Hewson's mind. After seeing Mary in the flesh, he couldn't imagine allowing her to be murdered. He had to do something he thought. But what? He ground his teeth as his brain raced from one argument to another as he imagined what might be going on in the small, dank room. But then, totally unexpectedly, after only around five minutes, Blotchy staggered out of number thirteen and staggered up Dorset Street, away into history.
Harrison had watched him leave from his vantage point and was also slightly puzzled. He too had thought that Blotchy would have been there longer. But at least it clarified things, the next man must surely be the ripper? The tension was absolutely unbearable and Hewson felt the sweat running down his back. He began to rock slightly. Then, in the distance, he thought he heard something. A hissing of some sort? It sounded familiar. He heard it again. What was it? Then, he saw something in the dark court. A movement of some kind. His eyes strained to see what it was. It took a few seconds but eventually he saw that it was Harrison, signalling him wildly. He got up slowly, looking around as he did so. He walked slowly over the road as his eyes focussed more. Harrison was beckoning wildly. “Jim! Jim!” he hissed repeatedly, “Quick! Come and see. You won't believe it!”
Hewson ran under the arch. “What is it?” he hissed under his breath.
Harrison only repeated himself. “You won't believe it!” he said again.
Hewson was confused and slightly annoyed. What was it? What could it possibly be? Blotchy couldn't be the ripper. Or....Or could he? No! It wasn't possible. Hewson's mind was racing, a thousand ideas blasting through his head like a relentless procession of freight trains. Harrison had already put his hand through the broken window pane and pulled back the latch. He pushed the door open, walked through and beckoned Hewson into the room. Hewson darted in, his heart racing. There on the bed was Mary, comatose in a drunken sleep and completely untouched. Hewson was even more baffled.
“But she's fine?” he said. “Why did you......” And then he felt it. A small scratch, a small prick in the back of his leg.
“Ow!” he exclaimed as he spun round. Then he saw it. A medical syringe, dripping, empty, in the hands of his best friend.
“What have you d..........” was all that he could muster before his legs gave way and he fell to the floor. He just had time to see Harrison locking the door and walking towards the bed before he could no longer keep his eyes open. Before he passed out, he thought that he caught a glimpse of something glinting in Harrison's hand.
Hewson awoke slowly. His head was banging, a side effect of whatever it was that Harrison had injected him with and he felt nauseous. He retched a couple of times and then vomited. As he cleared his mouth, he noticed the pools of vomit all over the floor. He had obviously been sick throughout the night. The floor, covered in straw and stinking of urine, vomit and god knows what else gave him the biggest clue but as his eyes slowly got back into focus he saw the bars on the window and the heavy iron door. He then knew where he was, in a cell, a Police cell in Whitechapel. In a moment he suddenly, instantly “sobered” up. He stumbled to his feet, falling and scrabbling around like a newborn foal but eventually he managed to stand up. He took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. The whole situation was now totally beyond his comprehension, he was not only trapped in a place far away from home in the most incomprehensible way, but now he was physically trapped too. He was about to yell out but for some reason stopped himself. Instead he stumbled to the door and tried to look through the small cracks and gaps. It was difficult but he could make out a group of men. He didn't recognise any at first, but then he saw a man who looked very familiar. White hair and beard, pronounced features and a somewhat lofty manner: Anderson! It was Robert Anderson. He was sat on the edge of a desk leaning back and listening to somebody who he couldn't see. But he could hear him, a soft, lilting, Dorset accent delivered in a slow, steady way that inspired confidence. It couldn't be anybody else: Abberline! For a split second he was overwhelmed with excitement as he realised that he may in a moment see Abberline's face, one of the goals of ripperologists for decades. But instantly his realisation of the situation he was in overtook him and he slumped back into a deep despair. Anderson nodded and then stood up from the desk. Abberline walked across into his view. He was clearly middle aged, portly but with a certain, undefinable confidence, the confidence of a man who may not have reached the pinnacle of his career, but was very confident in his own abilities and knew just how good he was at his chosen profession. And then he saw Harrison. Standing back against the wall, he was listening to the conversations and adding his own contributions. Just what the hell was going on? As soon as he had asked himself that question though, Hewson knew exactly what was happening. But he wanted to hear it from his friend. He needed to speak to someone, to explain himself. He was about to bang on the door but before he had chance Harrison had looked over and must have seen Hewson through the cracks. He held his hands up as if to say “just give me a moment” to the Policemen and began to walk over to the cell. Hewson decided to hear what Harrison had to say before he spoke to the Policemen. The key clanked in the lock and the heavy door opened. Hewson heard Abberline say “Just a couple of minutes.” as Harrison walked in, eyes fixed on the floor.
“John!” Hewson exclaimed loudly, “What the hell is..” Harrison cut him short, putting his finger to his mouth and making a “shushing” sound.
“Jim,” he replied “I am so, so sorry.” He was looking squarely at his feet, making no eye contact at all. “I really didn't want it to end like this.”
“Like what?” Hewson hissed through gritted teeth.
Harrison didn't answer directly. Instead he began an explanation. “Jim, you need to be practical now. Those men out there want to hang you.” he said coldly. “But I've made a deal with them for your life.”
If Hewson was previously not one hundred percent certain of what had happened, he now was. The cold, shocking truth of his situation now hit him and he stumbled backwards. Now sitting on the bench he looked up at Harrison and stuttered a reply. “W, what, what, do you mean?” Harrison's demeanour changed in an instant. From caring friend he slipped in a moment into what must be his real character. “Oh come on Jim for God's sake.” he spat. “They found you in the room next to Mary Kelly. And all of those other witnesses too!”
Hewson thought back over the weeks. Of course! Long, White and now presumably Harrison too?
“I can't tell you the effort that went in to getting the timings spot on so that you would be seen at the various scenes.” Harrison ventured.
“What have you told them?” Hewson asked desperately.
“Does it matter?” replied Harrison. “All that matters now is that you...” Hewson cut him off.
“Yes! It matters to me.” He spat back as he jumped up to face Harrison face to face. “Tell me what you've told them.” Harrison sighed and nodded slowly. He then told Hewson the whole story. How he had thought up Jack the Ripper and placed him in the most atmospheric time he could think of, gas lamps, top hats and all. How he had invented the time machine specifically to go back to 1888. How he had set things up so that Hewson would be seen by various witnesses in the area of the crimes at the right times and finally, how he had gone to the Police after murdering Kelly and told them that he had had grave doubts about his friend for weeks and the night before had followed him to Millers Court where he observed his friend going into number thirteen. He'd then gone straight to the Police station to finally report him. Apparently Abberline and some other officers had gone straight to Miller's Court where they found Hewson collapsed on the floor and had assumed that he had somehow become overwhelmed by the whole situation, his terrible glut, and passed out. Harrison then posed as a high ranking member of society acting on behalf of his friend who was also, he told them, very well connected and paid them a small fortune to let justice not be done.
Hewson sat stunned. He thought that he had seen enough surreal situations over the last few weeks already but this was on a totally different level. He literally couldn't speak. Eventually he managed to eke out a response. Strangely, his first question was to ask how Bowyer fitted in to it all.
“Well,” began Harrison, “that's actually part of the deal. Mary is still there at Miller's Court, ready to be found in the morning.”
“Why?” asked a bemused Hewson,
“Well, by morning everybody will assume the Ripper has long left the scene, the time of death will be harder to establish...it fits better.” He then went on to explain the deal that he had made.
“As I said, they want to hang you Jim. But I've..well I've come to an arrangement with them.” He stood back against the wall and smiled “I've paid them off. In return for your life I've made it worth their while.”
“Who?” asked Hewson.
“Abberline, Anderson and I suppose Swanson and Warren may have to know but that's up to them. Oh and the two officers who accompanied Abberline to the scene but I suppose they can be made to forget the whole thing. If they want any kind of career!”
Hewson found himself nodding and rebuked himself under his breath. Part of him couldn't help admiring the genius of the whole plan.
“So,” continued Harrison, “if you play along and act mad, you will spend the rest of your life in an asylum. Otherwise it's the rope.”
“You bastard!” shouted Hewson as he launched himself at Harrison. Harrison turned away and put an arm out to protect himself. “Don't be a fool Jim!” he said “It's all wrapped up.”
“Bollocks it is!” Hewson spat back as he pushed Harrison against the wall and grabbed at his throat. “I'll kill you!” he shouted. Just then the cell door swung open.
“What's going on?” shouted Abberline as he ran towards them both. Anderson followed close behind and pushed inbetween them as Abberline pulled Hewson off his now former friend. Harrison stood back and brushed himself down while Hewson simply stared at him with rage in his eyes.
“My my,” said Anderson, “attacking men now? You really are a psychopath aren't you?”
Hewson could feel the rage and anger physically. His neck throbbed and he could almost feel his blood pressure bursting through his body.
“I need to tell you something.” he suddenly spurted out. Harrison's eyes widened as he looked directly at Hewson.
“I........I........” Hewson stuttered. Harrison made a fist and placed it next to his own neck, jerking it upwards to indicate a noose but in a fluid movement turned it into a rubbing of his hair when Abberline turned to look at him. Seeing this, Hewson had a moment of clarity and realised the hopelessness of his situation. “I......can't remember anything.” he lied before sitting down exhausted.
“See?” Harrison interjected. “this is what happens. He really doesn't know what he's doing.”
Abberline looked closely at Hewson stroking his whiskers as he thought.
“Hmmm...” Abberline hummed. “He looks quite competent to me.”
Harrison worriedly looked back at Hewson who was very quickly considering if he could possibly explain the situation to the down to earth and sharp as a tack Abberline.
“Let's take him to trial then!” boomed Anderson. “We've got more than enough evidence.”
Harrison jumped in, “No!” he exclaimed, “He really doesn't know what he does although he looks perfectly lucid at all other times.”
Anderson and Abberline both nodded as they stared at Hewson.
“Yes,” said Abberline, “I've heard of these characters.”
“Fascinating.” agreed Anderson as he turned his head back and forth as he studied the pathetic subject in front of him.
“And as you say,” interjected Harrison as he turned and looked directly at Hewson “You have more than enough evidence to hang my friend, but we do have an arrangement gentlemen.” Harrison raised his eyebrows as he said the last part and looked squarely at the two Police officers. They looked at each other and passed a subtle note of recognition between themselves.
“Yes.” Anderson said quietly, aware of what he was agreeing to. “Okay. Come on Fred.” Abberline was not entirely happy but could see when he was fighting a lost cause, so despite all of his reservations bubbling to the surface, he admitted defeat and followed Anderson out of the door. He paused at the door and asked if Harrison was coming too. He asked for a final moment with his “friend.”
“So.” he began “here we are. I am sorry Jim.”
Hewson was completely spent and didn't have the energy to argue any more. As Harrison was leaving, there were still questions rattling through his mind and although it was completely pointless, he had to know the answers.
“Tell me,” he asked “Why did you miss out Polly? I'm assuming you killed her too?” Harrison had a thoughtful look on his face, as if he respected Hewson for working it out.
“Well,” he replied slowly, “I thought that if we missed out three times you might possibly, just possibly smell a rat.” Hewson was nodding but then shook his head as he realised that Harrison must have been backwards and forwards to Whitechapel as often as he liked. All the talk of how the machine was only able to transport you once and then needed weeks to reset was bullshit! They could have gone back home any time they wanted.
“Why did you keep us here for ten weeks when we could have gone home?” he asked despairingly. Harrison smiled. “You've worked it out then.” he said admiringly. “I had to make it all look completely real. I couldn't let anything get in the way of that, it was a one chance situation, I had to get it right so just had to endure this shithole!”
Hewson only had enough left for one last question.
“Just when did you decide to do this?” he asked “I mean, were you ever really my friend?”
Harrison didn't answer. He didn't want to heap any more pain onto him. He simply smiled and walked towards the door.
Hewson now broke down. “This is so unfair!” he sobbed pathetically. “You did all this! You're the killer!” he cursed as he pointed at Harrison. Harrison paused at the door and turned around slowly. Unable to contain himself and keep his true genius to himself he spoke one last thing.
“Jim,” he began, “Don't you see? All those times we discussed the murders, all those late nights when you told me that the biggest obstacle to finding the killer was to separate the mythical Jack from the real Jack.” Hewson nodded slowly “Well, you never realised how close to the truth you were. Yes, I am the Whitechapel murderer but you Jim, you for the rest of time will be Jack the Ripper.”
Harrison couldn't help but smile as he left the cell leaving Hewson completely broken and crying on his bed as the heavy door clanged shut. He thanked the Police officers, arranged for them to say a witness had seen a strange, suspicious looking man enter the Court with Mary at around 2.00 A.M. (“Call him....Hutchinson.” he had suggested), left the station and headed to the house he had just bought for a ridiculously small sum, to hide a metal box containing certain items in a wall panel.
London on a warm summer's morning in 2016 just before midday. At a fashionable hotel in the West End a press conference was about to begin. Media from all over the world were jostling for position, cameramen were setting up their equipment, lighting men moved lights and took measurements and staff busied themselves filling water jugs and attending to the assembled needs. On the top table sat a number of eminent criminologists, historians and Ripperologists. The biggest names in Ripperology chatted between themselves, discussing the amazing events of the last few weeks. Differences were put aside, prior arguments were completely forgotten and former enemies were now united by the fact that the ripper had finally, once and for all, unequivocally been identified. At five minutes to twelve Mr John Harrison, a lecturer from the local University walked in to the room with his various assistants to a ripple of applause and mild cheering. He smiled broadly, shook hands with a few people and took his seat. In his hand he held a number of sheets of paper with the speech he was about to give neatly typed on them. The story of how he had purchased a house the previous year, of how he was doing some building work and in the process of knocking down a wall found a metal box. Of how when he opened the box he found three unspeakable items along with a signed journal confessing to the crimes, which, he claimed, the writer had never expected to be made public and several other things that supported the confession. Notes mentioning things that only the real killer would know, locks of hair which were taken from each victim and press cuttings documenting the “Autumn of terror.” Also how D.N.A. profiling had proven conclusively that the unspeakable items were Annie Chapman's uterus and Catherine Eddowes's uterus and kidney. How census records showed who lived in the house in 1888 and how that person was the same as the name on the confession.
The truth of course was even more outlandish than that. How he had used a time machine to go back and commit the murders himself, how he had secreted the box himself in the house that he had bought in 1888 for £150. How he had set up his friend as the killer and given the Police a false name for him which of course was the same as the one on the confession that he had forged. The level of detail he had gone into was astonishing and was the reason why everybody agreed that the mystery was solved once and for all.
At midday the news cameras began filming, the microphones began recording and as the room shuffled to a hushed quiet, a most eminent Ripperologist stood up and introduced the speaker. A large and sustained round of applause burst out, quelled only when the speaker waved his hands to ask for quiet.
“Well, thank you for such a welcome.” he began. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he continued, “Jack the Ripper has been found!”
Across town in a much smaller, much less salubrious hotel a much smaller press conference began. To a half empty room with only two photographers and no television cameras present, a Police superintendent thanked the small crowd for attending and passed immediately to the speakers. An elderly couple smiled and thanked him and in faltering, hushed tones the husband began to speak.
“Thank you all for attending today.” he began. “Ten weeks ago, our son, James Hewson went missing.........”
And back in 1888, a young man shuffled in his uncomfortable asylum bed and turned to face the wall. The tears fell from his eyes and down his cheeks as he began to cry.
If I have seen further it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants.