19 April 2010

an irish rose

He awoke to pale, mid-afternoon light filtering through a grimy window. Still clothed in a dirty coat and coarse trousers he sat up on the bare mattress. The rotten window frame was soft as cork and the glass rattled as he inched it open. A cold breeze pushed in and stirred the evil stench. Shouts and rumbling cartwheels rose from Dorset Street.

Standing, he stretched his stiff muscles then turned his bloodshot eyes to the table with its plate and the remnants of a stale loaf. He sat on a hard chair and scraped it closer to the table. He tore off a wad of bread with unwashed hands and as he chewed, his fingers trembled. From the street below came the strains of a sweet sung melody. Instinctively he smiled but the smile turned sour as he thought of his singing, whoring mother. Her brown teeth had showed when she sang. The siren voice trailed off having no doubt attracted its prey. He didn’t trouble to get up and look.

His bolthole was quiet. He lay on the musty bed and dozed again...

... it had grown dark. Somewhere distant a woman screamed and a dog began deep incessant barks. He drifted up through layers of sleep. From upstairs came a muffled cough and heavy boots on worn boards. Instinctively his hand dropped to the floor and he felt beneath the bed. He withdrew a long knife. Propping himself up on one elbow, he pulled a stub of candle and a match from his pocket. He positioned the knife deftly and trimmed the wick quickly and neatly. The match hissed and flared as he scraped it against the bedstead and lit the candle.

He snuffed the match with leather-hard fingers and began to whittle it, drawing the blade away from him in slow, gentle strokes he watched the white strips as they curled and fell. Satisfied with his work he used the pick he had fashioned to remove bread from between his teeth. Then with the same implement he absently prised traces of brown from under his nails.

His ears pricked alert as the familiar Irish voice set up its syrupy sweet singing again. The soft tones lilted in the still air of late evening. Slowly he swung his legs off the bed and stood up, placed the toothpick on the empty plate and slipped the knife in his pocket...


Little M said...

I don't know about the scenes or victims of Jack the Ripper but are these vignettes of each murder?

C.J.Duffy said...

Snapshots I would say.

I like the clipped, matter of fact tone. It gives the piece a 'black and white/sepia' feel. Sort of gritty. the one thing I think is unnecessary is this line ‘Traces of human blood...’
I think most of us would have put two and two together

Perfect Virgo said...

M - yes you're right, these vignettes are based on the actual murders. Plenty is known about the victims and their locations but nothing about the killer himself. So I have developed ideas about his character, appearance and motives to fill in the missing pieces of the picture.

CJ - I couldn't resist the blood reference. Way too "Dan Brown-ish I know!" I'm hoping my portrayal of this mysterious killer is not too trite. I see him as brutal, unwashed, sick and angry.

The man's actions are so awful that at times I think a detached style is chillingly effective.