September 7, 1888
London, England
Elizabeth’s husband walked through the kitchen door of their modest home along St. Andrew’s Square. Or rather he stumbled through the door, drunk as a skunk and smelling like one too. His blond hair was mussed and a good amount of blood stained the front of his shirt. This had been going on for weeks. He’d leave in the early evening, be out all night, then drag himself home. Sometimes there was blood on his clothes and other times he was filthy. She was sure she didn’t want to know the details, not that she would get any.
"Now what’d you go and do, Edward?" Elizabeth asked. She helped get his fat arse sat in a chair just far enough away from the table so that if he threw up it wouldn’t be all over the buns she was makin’.
"Jusht a row wish the boys." He tipped to the side trying to throw a punch nearly falling over, but righted himself at the last second. His gunmetal blue eyes were bloodshot and half closed as he stared into space. Probably relivin’ his escapades of the night.
"You shouldn’t be out so late with a murderer on the loose," Elizabeth chided. Mary Ann Nichols had been found Friday past murdered and mutilated. There were rumors floating about that she was seen with a blond gent shortly before her death. Elizabeth looked at the blood on Edward’s shirt. There were lots of men with blond hair.
"Ya worried ’bout me, Sweet?" His face lit in a goofy grin. Who would ever imagine that the git was a Baron. If it wasn’t for his father, they’d be as poor as church mice. Edward’s mother had seen to it that their home was well furnished. Mind you all of the furnishings were her cast offs, but they were nice.
"Someone’s got to." She wiped her hands on her apron. "Now let’s get you out of those clothes and into bed. I’ll be leaving soon to do my work in Whitechapel."
"You be careful there. There’s a murderer running loose in Whitechapel."
"Don’t worry about me love, I’ll have Jeffrey with me." She took him by the hands and pulled him from the chair. "Come on. Let’s get you into bed." Up in their room Elizabeth got most of his clothes off before a new found energy overtook him and she was bent over the dresser performing her wifely duty. It took all of her energy to finish getting him undressed once he had passed out on the bed.
Elizabeth pocketed the familiar tarnished chain necklace along with the scraps of paper and coins she found in his pockets before dumping the clothes with the rest of the wash. She returned to the kitchen to finish the buns she had started.
The buns along with sweets and clothes were packed up before her mother-in-law’s driver, Jeffrey arrived. It would be late if she didn’t get moving. The ride to Whitechapel was long and boring so she took her sewing with. She had tried to read on the long trips, but felt ill when she did.
The stench of unwashed bodies and sewage signaled that she had entered Whitechapel. No matter how much time she spent there she couldn’t get used to the smell. Elizabeth dabbed on a bit of perfume to mask the smell, but it could only do so much.
The carriage stopped outside of the orphanage. She like stopping there first. The children were always so grateful for the little things. Several of the children she had fancied adopting, but her husband refused her that small request. He still held out hope that she would give him a child, even though she was approaching the time when her body could no longer bear a child. Soon she would be too old to be a fit mother to a baby or even a small child.
"Mum." The young girl who opened the door curtsied and let Elizabeth in. The sound of children laughing filled her ears. She uncovered the basket she carried with her. There must have be 30 children gathered in the classroom, all in clean gray shirts and pants or skirts. Some had shoes, while others didn’t. She mentally added new shoes to her list of things to bring when she came again.
"We have a visitor, class." All heads swiveled in Elizabeth’s direction. It warmed her heart when their faces lit up. Like bullets of a gun, the students shot out of their desk and swarmed around her. She passed around buns to each of them. Miss Brooks tried unsuccessfully to get the children to settle down and back into their seats.
"Children, do listen to Miss Brooks or else I will be asked not to return and you know I do so love bringing you presents." The children hurried back to their seats with nary a peep. "You are such good children." Elizabeth praised. "Now I must go find Mrs. McIntyre so that I can give her the new shirts that I had made for you."
Elizabeth found Maggy McIntyre in her office hunched over ledgers, a pencil stuck into the strands of her gray hair. She knocked on the wooden frame of the open doorway.
"Elizabeth." Maggy looked up from her desk. She was never one for polite greetings. "I didn’t expect you to be out here after what happened."
"A whole mess of murders couldn’t keep me away," Elizabeth said. "I brought you the shirts I promised."
"You are an angel. We are having to make do on less and less these days. And it’s hard to find homes for these kids when they look ragged. You can only wash their clothes so many times before they fall in tatters.
"I would take a few of them off your hands if I could convince Edward to let me," Elizabeth said. "Soon I hope."
"They would make good workers too. Scullery maid or stable boy." Maggy shuffled papers around her desk. "Thomas. Thomas is a strong lad. And precious little Annie. You couldn’t go wrong with her helpin’ ’round the house."
"I will consider it, Maggy," Elizabeth said. She couldn’t bring herself to tell the older woman that Edward would never allow that.
"Of course." The woman folded her hands on to her lap and looked downward for a few moments.
"I should be going." Elizabeth said after several long moments of uncomfortable silence. "There is never enough time in the day to get everything done." She said her goodbyes and was soon making her way to the tenement buildings deeper in the heart of Whitechapel.
"Lizzie!" A skinny blond girl who looked far older than her fifteen years ran up to the cab. Elizabeth signaled for Jeffrey to stop, then climbed out. She handed her one of the buns from the basket. The girl downed it in three bites, her appreciation shone in her big brown eyes.
"My Little Mary, how have you been?" Elizabeth asked. Mary had been one of the orphans that she had wanted to adopt. It broke her heart that she couldn’t do more for the girl. She had paid a local merchant to hire the girl on. She might not be able to get her out of Whitechapel, but she could make her life less miserable.
"I’m good, mum. Set up right nice. Got a room to myself thanks to you." Mary beamed a wide smile of broken and black teeth.
"I’m glad. Now, we need to fatten you up a bit." Elizabeth handed her another bun.
"The mistress of the house has been feedin’ me well and I help her with the laundry. We’re both gettin’ something from the deal."
Elizabeth just smiled. "I heard there has been some trouble around here."
"There was. Polly went and got herself murdered. Heard she were cut up like a pig. Her guts were cut out and her head near clean cut off." Mary said. "As I heard it, she was carrying a babe. The murderer cut it out o’ her."
"How dreadful." Elizabeth wrinkled her nose at the image. Polly was one of the many women whose husband had left them broke and destitute. The workhouses never paid enough and most of them turned to earning money on their backs. The same women her husband bought for sex, she brought food and clothes for.
"Best be careful Mum," Mary said. She bit into the uneaten bun.
"I should be the one telling you that," Elizabeth said.
"I’ll be alright. There are worse things in Whitechapel than a murderer." Mary absently rubbed her arm.
Elizabeth didn’t doubt that Mary was right. Whitechapel bred all sorts of criminals. Anyone as good as Mary would surely go straight to heaven when she dies, for she had lived her whole life in Hell.
"Stay safe, Little Mary." Elizabeth gave her a hug and walked the short way to the tenement building. There were a dozen souls that made enough to have a place to lay their head at night. She didn’t have nearly enough buns for everyone so she handed it out to those with children. She plastered on a smile and looked into the many faces with John’s blue eyes. Their dirty faces lit up at the sight of fresh bread.
"Thank you, mum." A tiny girl with dark hair and John’s eyes approached Elizabeth. She couldn’t have been older than five or six. She held up a wilted flower to Elizabeth.
"Grace. She doesn’t want that dead flower." The girl’s mother called from a few feet away, motioning for the girl to go to her. "Sorry, mum."
Elizabeth bent down and took the flower from the girl. "This is beautiful. Thank you." The little girl’s gunmetal blue eyes lit up when she smiled. Tears stung Elizabeth’s eyes. She politely excused herself and left.
She made her way through Buck’s Row and up Commerce Street. She made several more stops at tenement houses paying a night’s rent for a few unfortunate girls before moving on. She stopped on nearly every street to hand out items she had collected. Slightly worn shoes for an elder gentlemen whose feet were calloused and sore from months without shoes. She handed out dresses and hats to those in need.
The light was growing thin when Jeffrey urged her to leave. Whitechapel was no place for a lady at night, she was reminded.
Edward was seated at the kitchen table when Elizabeth arrived home. He pulled on his boots. "Will you be staying in this evening?" She asked him, even though she knew the answer. She asked anyway.
"The boys are givin’ Polly a sendoff tonight. Couldn’t miss that," he said.
"You knew Mrs. Nichols?" Elizabeth set the baskets on the table.
"Everyone knew Polly," he said. "She was a friendly sort."
"I heard she carried a babe." Elizabeth avoided eye contact. "The murderer cut it right out of her, womb and all." The mix of sadness and anger that flashed across Edward’s face gave her a sick satisfaction.
"Is that right?" His voice was tainted with anger.
"That’s what I heard," she said. "I visited the orphanage today. They have three more babies in this week."
"I ain’t going to bring no bastards into this house and call ’em mine. Get that fool idea out of your head." Edward’s eyes flashed anger at her. "Maybe if you were more lovin’ to me, you’d have had a child by now." He stood and walked out the door. "I’ll be back later."
Elizabeth watched as the rented cab pulled away. She walked upstairs in the quiet house. The suite was empty. She removed the back wall of the wardrobe to reveal a hiding spot in the wall. She quickly changed into the boy’s clothes that were hidden there and caught a cab not far from home. She couldn’t go out dressed like a woman, it wouldn’t have been safe.
Several hours later, the cab stopped at the corner of Whitechapel road and Thomas Street. Elizabeth paid the driver, then walked to Buck’s Row. Her husband stood outside with a handful of other men in a lively conversation. She stayed in the shadows, her hat pulled low, watching him. Two women, sidled up to the men pressing their bodies against them. Elizabeth recognized the dark-haired woman who her husband grabbed. Annie Chapman, or Black Anne as everyone called her, draped herself over Edward. He wrapped his arms around the woman’s waist and kissed her.
Elizabeth supposed she should feel jealousy or a touch of anger, but she didn’t. Her husband had been frequenting prostitutes since he was barely old enough to know what to do with his cock. Oh, he stopped for a bit when they were first married, not that she particularly cared. They weren’t married for love after all. His father had land and a title and her father had money.
The men scattered, two of them with the blond and her husband with Black Anne. Elizabeth stayed in the shadows, her husband and his whore walking within feet of her. Anne giggled at whatever Edward muttered to her in slurred words. Elizabeth watched as he led Black Anne into the dark filthy alley. He pushed the woman against the side of the brick building and lifted her skirts. He grunted like the disgusting pig that he was for several long minutes. After one last grunt, he leaned against the woman mumbling.
"I’s goings to be a father!" He yelled before doing a stumbled dance, his cock still hanging out of his pants. "Again." He stumbled as he leaned in to kiss her. "This’ll make twelve er thirteen of the little bastards."
"You’ll be helpin to support us, won’t ya?" Anne said. She adjusted her skirts to cover herself.
"O’ course, love," he said. He stood against the building and took a piss. "I wouldn’t leave ya ta fend for you’self"
"Ya promise?" Black Annie said.
"I promise." He handed her a few coins, which she put into her handbag. "Run along now. I gotta get home. Wife’ll have me balls if I forget our anniversary."
Elizabeth’s husband exited the alley, crossing in front of her again. He walked back toward the pub and Black Annie went the other direction. She waited until Black Annie had a lead before she followed. Just off Dorset Street, Black Annie turned into a backyard.
"Annie," Elizabeth called out. The windows of the house were dark and no one seemed about.
"Bugger off. I’m done for the night," Black Annie said. She walked toward the back door of the house.
"Oh, I’m not here for your services," Elizabeth said. "It’s me." She pulled back her hood to show her face.
Black Annie stopped and turned. She squinted in the darkness. "Lizzie? What are you doing out at this time of night? It’s not safe." She approached.
"Have to keep an eye on the husband or he’d get himself killed." She forced a laughed.
"He went off home. You’d best be doing that too," Annie said. "That murderer is still on the loose."
"I just wanted to return this. I think it’s yours." Elizabeth took the necklace from her pocket and handed it to Annie.
"I thought I lost this." Annie stumbled as she tried to put it on. After several tries she patted it in place. "Where’d ya find it?"
"It was lying about," Elizabeth said. She caressed the handle of the knife slipped into the waistband of her pants.
"Thought maybe somebody stole it. That happens here ya know."
"Well you have it back now," Elizabeth said. "I ought to be going home. G’night."
"G’night." Annie turned away from her. Elizabeth took the knife from its sheath and pulled it across Annie’s neck in two clean cuts. Blood poured from the wounds and Annie’s silent cries died as she collapsed to the ground.
"That should be my child, not some dirty whore’s. My husband is done having bastard children. I will kill every last one of them if I have cut them out of you disgusting vile scum." Elizabeth cut, taking her frustration out on Black Annie’s lifeless body. When she was done, she held the still warm womb in her hand. She put the organ into a bag and slipped out of the backyard unseen. She hailed a cab a few blocks away on Commercial Street and headed home.
Elizabeth rested her head against the back wall of the cab and closed her eyes. The rocking motion of the cab soothed her. She cradled the bloody bag in her lap. It would be buried in the graveyard with its siblings. There were four of the bastards there already. Three she had poisoned during her ministrations over the past few weeks. The fourth had been cut from Polly the Friday past. Soon all of Edward’s bastards would be dead and he could know that empty feeling of being barren. Elizabeth smiled in contentment.
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