24 March 2010

catherine eddowes

30th September 1888

In flickering amber gaslight she leaned back against the outer wall of Bishopsgate Police Station, feeling the London bricks cold and hard. She was still drunk and tired in her bones despite a long evening in the cells. Fingering her petticoat pocket she remembered the ‘Old Bill’ had at least returned her money. But two small coins wouldn’t stand a drink at the “Three Bells.”

Cheap lodging-house beds had bent Kate’s back and summers spent doubled over in hop fields had creased her face, yet still she turned heads in Whitechapel. Tanned street traders saw a slender frame and soft hazel eyes, and thought of their fat, unwashed wives. They noticed her auburn hair, washed daily in hand soap and spilling from under her faded pink bonnet. In a city of ugliness she stood out.

Black boots clicked on clean cobbles behind her. The cool night breeze revived her senses. Death lurked in these alleys, death by steel. The long shadows of Mitre Square ahead offered an opportunity to hide and draw breath. Five minutes from now her eyes would stare blankly at the night sky. Her soft entrails, warm and pink would glisten on the dirt, giving off tiny tendrils of steam.

Kate hitched her skirt and ran into the dark of the square. She crouched and watched her pursuer. He would hear her stifled panting for sure. She gulped back a sob and pressed her slim frame into the angle of two walls. His heels clicked louder as he headed straight for her hiding place. She threw back her head and screamed in silent terror as the flashing blade sliced through her throat. Virtually decapitated by the single ferocious swing, she sucked and blew through the gaping wound until blood loss brought blessed unconsciousness.

Working swiftly he hoisted her tattered skirts and plunged his blade deep. Intestines slipped out in grey coils, he swept them to one side and slashed open her entire abdomen. Briefly he looked away over his shoulder, retching at the hot stink. He hacked spleen, pancreas and stomach from the poor woman and tossed them behind him. A black pool spread around her in a fearful halo.

Frantically he drove his fists into the cavity and withdrew a plum coloured kidney. He thrust the organ into his pocket and rose to his feet, gasping lungfuls of cold London smog. Laughter echoed from the street beyond and he knew his time was short. Stepping over the lifeless remains he stooped to recover a long pin from her hair. He rammed it through the back of his own left hand and growled in agony. Grimacing in the dark he reminded himself the penalty for delivering pain was to receive it.

By the quiet he judged the hour to be around 1 am. Suspicious eyes glinted from every window so, walking just below a trot he put distance between himself and his savagery. Doubling back towards the East he reached the darkest lanes of all then ran hard and fast. His heart thumped loudly as he dropped to his knees in the blackness. Nausea welled in his throat and he vomited hot bile into the gutter. With the floodgates opened, he spewed the contents of his guts in short, lurching grunts until his muscles were on fire with pain.

He blew long rattling strands from his dry lips and tasted the bitterness of gin. At midday he had poured half a pint down his neck and more into the Eddowes woman. Next time he would do unspeakable things to her, whoever she may be...

14 March 2010

time marches on

We turned our clocks forward one hour this weekend. More daylight in the evenings will be nice but it's a reminder that another year is well under way. They say as you get older time seems to pass more quickly and I wouldn't argue with that. The Vernal Equinox is less than a week away, marking the shrinking of our nights and the stretching of our days.

I am matching the pace with projects and hobbies. In the past three months I have ticked off all the niggling "to-do" items in this small space and fiddled with stamp and coin collections. You expect to concentrate on indoor pursuits at this time of year but this winter has so far been the mildest in Atlantic Canada for forty-eight years. There have been days of frigid low temperatures and a couple of decent snowstorms but on balance the outdoors has been quite inviting. I have been able to maintain my running and am already wondering how soon I can wheel out my bike.

Our expanded family has brought broken nights, so interesting new routines have developed. Michelle feeds Kathleen during the night and I get up with Maisie around 6am. Most mornings lately I pack Maisie into the car after breakfast and spend a couple of hours around town visiting such exciting places as the supermarket and the library, the Mall and Walmart!

Despite the lukewarm sun, patches of snow are clinging on and the trees remain a bundle of grey sticks. But time will change that. In a few weeks time buds will appear and soon after the trees will be swaying canopies of lush green and daffodils will make their belated appearance.

For a while longer though, I want to enjoy the crisp cold air, the dazzling blue sky and the deceptive low sun. Today I will be pulling on my new running shoes and heading for a round-trip run to Victoria Park.

10 March 2010

after midnight the evening before

The road glistened with horse manure. Liz began picking a path across with the care of one who values their boots highly. Her guardian angel himself had complimented her on them. He had left after treating her to black grapes but she had arranged to meet him again tomorrow. His calm demeanour made him irresistible.

Packer the greengrocer had mentioned he thought Liz and the tall man were a couple. They could so easily be, they seemed matched in many ways. She had wasted the best years of her life with a man whom she hated and feared. Could this be the chance she deserved, the chance to burst from the drudgery of cleaning and sewing for people barely better then herself?

Kidney watched from a dark entrance in the shadows of Dutfield’s Yard. His Liz with a tall man. The veins in his neck stood out like ropes as his temper rose. The whore’s last chance was gone. As she walked softly past, he sprang from his lair and wrenched her to the ground, one crusty hand clamped over her mouth like a lid. Singing swelled from the Jewish Socialist Club and he gripped her throat with both hands, closing her windpipe. She struggled for hardly a minute then fell limp. He pulled the knife from his belt and in one savage slice, virtually severed her head from her shoulders.

Almost instantly a door opened behind him. He threw himself out of the passage and onto Berner Street, careering away from the dead woman who had cooked his meals. He sprinted north in the gloom. When he reached Commercial Road he stopped, gasping. A cart rumbled by. Kidney turned and saw the driver swing directly into Dutfield's Yard. Now he ran like the wind.