Return of the Ripper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Charlie Toombes wants to prove that she's more than a rich girl and solve some crimes of her own. A short story version of my flash fiction work "When Normal Becomes Odd." Please be warned, this is graphic and goes over various details of true Jack the Ripper cases.

The Return of the Ripper

 

Charlie Toombes glanced from her studies at the grandfather clock at the end of a bookcase in her father’s library. Nearly half past 9. Tick. Tock. Tick. Ten more minutes. Ten more minutes then I’m free. Charlie hated being schooled from home, though it was August 31st and she was ahead of other schools in London. Those schools just got out for break for a few days and didn’t start back until September 4th. Why couldn’t she just be sent to boarding school like all the other girls? Charlie glanced at Madame Sylvia, an old crone of a woman who was so stuck in the old ways of teaching young women that it wasn’t necessary for her to even try discussing sciences and histories of other countries. Charlie always had books in her father’s library for that, anyway. Wap! Charlie jumped, the measuring stick hitting the desk, startling her.

“Somewhere you need to be, Charlotte?” Sylvia asked, a Scottish English accent heavy in her old, raspy voice. The old, gray haired Scottish woman was a homeschool teacher and tutor, but acted like she was a Victorian governess. It was 2019, not 1840.

“It’s Charlie…” It was the seventeenth time this month she had to correct Sylvia. Maybe I should just give up already? “And no, I’ve just read this chapter for about the tenth time.” She had been reading Jane Austen’s Emma, and while she loved the ball scene, she was getting weary of the same old lines in every book.

“Then perhaps you should look for another chapter.”

“I don’t?”

“I don’t care what you don’t want to do, Charlotte. I’m paid to teach you so that’s what I do.”

“Then can’t we take a break? Go for a walk? Do anything but sit in this place?”

Sylvia gave a wearied look. “...fine, I suppose that’s enough for today.”

Charlie smiled, standing, fixing her clothes as she looked at a full-length mirror in the study: a white button-up blouse with black dress pants, and a red and black blazer embellished with the blue crest of a silver knight. Charlie’s blonde hair was curled a bit at the ends, but pulled into a low ponytail to attempt to get the below-waist length strands fully out of her face, her blue eyes wide with excitement. 

“But,” Sylvia said, Charlie halting in her tracks to listen, “I expect you to actually finish your studies this time.”

“Yes, Madame Sylvia.” Charlie waited until Sylvia left the room, before darting out the library, shoving her feet into her black ballet flats, before darting to the bus stop. Her father had texted that something had happened in Westminster, and that Scotland Yard might get involved. This morning’s text still on her cell:

Don’t leave the house tonight. Madman on the loose. - DAD

What? What happened? - Charlie

Woman murdered. We’re getting the body. I have to talk with Her Majesty on details to protect everyone. Just DON’T leave the house. - DAD

I’ll try not to… - Charlie

Charlotte, I’m serious. At least stay away from Durward Street right now. - DAD

Okay, dad. Be safe. Love you! - Charlie

Charlie hated lying to her dad, but it’s imperative that she find out what happened this time. As she walked to the bus stop, she heard the taps from her shoes on the cement floor, like the ticks of the oncoming train a few blocks away as she paid for her ticket and climbed onto the bus. Sugary and bready scents from the nearby pastry shop normally would have deterred her from leaving her neighborhood, the fresh baked cakes and croissants always were alluring. Not this time, sugary sweets. Not this time.

One pound and fifty pence and three minutes later because of traffic, Charlie was walking up to a group of constables surrounding the body that had been roped off with caution tape on Durward Street. Knew it!

“Such a shame, she was only 43…” a young detective said.

Charlie looked around, ducked under the tape when no one was watching, and walked over, and a shiver ran down her spine. Laying on the ground in a mass of congealed blood was a woman with two slits on her throat, a raised burgundy skirt that had been hastily pulled back down on one side, and had severe abdominal injuries. “Like Mary Ann Nichols…” she whispered, catching the attention of one of the younger detectives.

“You’re suggesting this is a copycat of Jack the Ripper?” he asked. He was a tall fellow, probably about a head taller than Charlie who was 5’2”, with fiery red hair and peridot eyes. He was fairly young, too.

“I’m just commenting on the similarities.” A quick glance at the identification tag on his lanyard. “Detective Constable Gautier.”

An older inspector glanced over, one Charlie knew as Jeralt Jekyll, looked at the blue and silver crest on Charlie’s blazer before even looking at her, and groaned. “Sylvain, step away from Miss Toombes. She shouldn’t even be here anyway.”

“I—”

“Out of the crime scene, little girl.” Jekyll said.

“...fine. But I promise you, you won’t find the killer easily.” Charlie walked away, both annoyed and satisfied. They’ll let her help next time. She’s sure of that.

As she left the scene of the crime, she stopped herself as her father stood, cross-armed, brown eyes stern. “Charlotte.” He said. She gulped. She knew she was in trouble now.


“You deliberately disobeyed me!” her father said, ears red like the tomatoes on his dinner plate.

“I’m seventeen, dad. I don’t need you to keep trying to protect me.” Charlie said.

“You’re my daughter. I’m supposed to protect you. What if that killer was still around?!”

“He wasn’t.”

“What if he was?!”

“I would have been fine. There was a whole squad around me.”

“She has a point, mon cher,” Charlie’s mother said, glancing at her husband.

“...Nevertheless, she disobeyed,” her father said, “and must be punished.”

Charlie sighed. Here we go again… “No leaving for a week. I know.” Like that’s going to happen. Charlie stood, moving her hair aside before grabbing her half-eaten dinner plate.

Ma cherie, you need to eat,” her mother said, fidgeting her embroidery hoop the way she does when she’s worried. “You’ll never gain weight with how little you eat.”

“I’m not hungry, maman.” Charlie replied, taking her dinner plate to the kitchen. She scraped the food into the trash, the harsh scraping of metal on china making her wince, but as the anger grew, she ignored it. She placed her plate and silverware into the sink, before going to her room.

Charlie sat at her vanity, taking in the wear of today. Her hair was disheveled, messy blonde curls around her thin frame and face. She had been wearing some light makeup, but her mascara and eyeliner had run from sweat - I need to get that waterproof stuff. Behind her, her iron canopy bed with a violet net canopy was made up, all perfect and prim, lilac and pink with various stuffed animals on it from holidays and birthdays. It’s like Dad doesn’t seem to understand I’m not a little girl anymore.

Charlie hastily took out a Neutragena wipe and took off her day. Pale peach foundation and light pink blush with harsh black mascara and eyeliner caked the wipe, despite her having put it on so lightly. Why Durward Street? Why that method? Who is this copycat?

After Charlie changed out of the blazer she had worn, along with the white pressed cotton button-up shirt and black dress pants, into her favorite lilac satin nightgown, the one with pink roses embroidered along the hem, she sat in her bed, pulling up anything she could on her laptop about various details on the Ripper. Even though I memorized this all, better check. She looked up the first victim; at least, the first of the canonical five: Mary Nichols. Murdered August 31st. That’s today! Nichols was murdered on Buck’s Row.

“But… that doesn’t exist anymore…” Charlie whispered, confused. She went to Google, typing in ‘Buck’s Row’ to find that Durward Street was the modern-day location. “Whoa… where was she killed exactly?” She looked at the casefile on the website, comparing locations from 1888 to 2019. “In front of the Crossrail station where the school stands… That’s exactly where this woman was murdered!”

Charlie couldn’t just sit there and let this happen again. She wasn’t going to let some guy - or girl - kill five innocent people in such brutal ways again. She had to do something to end it before it could continue.

Charlie got out of her bed, changed in some dark washed jeans and a black shirt, and went to the hall window, the one with a fire escape. After quickly looking to make sure a maid wasn’t around, she opened it and crawled out, heading out into the night. She had to talk to someone. The police? Detective Constable Gautier would believe her… right?

The station was only a three minute’s run from her house. Charlie knocked hastily on the door. A constable opened, looked down at her, and sighed. “What is it now, Miss Toombes?” he asked.

“Give me the contact information for Detective Constable Sylvain Gautier,” Charlie said. “Now, Constable Blake.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Constable Blake said. “May I ask, why the sudden demand?”

“Because I know what is going on with the murder,” Charlie said, loud enough everyone else inside the station could hear her. “You have to believe me, this is a copy-cat of Jack the Ripper!”

“Yeah, right,” another constable said from inside the station, “and I’m the descendant of Sweeney Todd.”

“If that’s the case,” a familiar voice said, as Sylvain stepped into view. “I’m sure Miss Toombes here is a descendant of Sherlock Holmes.”

“Detective Constable Gautier?!” Charlie exclaimed, looking at him.

“I’ll take it from here, Blake,” Sylvain said. Constable Blake stepped aside, allowing Sylvain to step through. “How about we head somewhere else to talk?”

Charlie nodded. A five-minutes walk in silence, with the occasional dog bark or car horn breaking it, and the duo reached the park. They sat in the cool night air and discussed everything. Charlie explained how she came to her conclusion, and how it was just a suggestion earlier, but after thorough checking of her sources, she was sure it was a copycat after all. Sylvain listened and, while he had a few doubts, agreed that it was a bit odd to be a coincidence.

“We should work together on this, then,” Sylvain said, after a few minutes of silence.

“What?” Charlie asked, eyes wide. “Why?

Sylvain sighed. “This case is giving us a hard time,” he said, “No one can figure out who committed it, nor the previous ones.”

“And you want to work with me? I’m only seventeen, I’m not a detective! I’m a student!”

“Don’t worry about your age. I’m nineteen. Of course I want to work with you. After all, what’s Watson without Sherlock?”

Charlie was surprised. A blink. Two. Then she laughed. “Well then… let’s get started.”

And so, the long months started. The two detectives began their investigation in hope of stopping the killer before things got worse. But… worse they did get. August passed with only that one murder, as suspected. For a while, people thought everything was alright. Then September 8th came. Another woman was killed: Annabelle Chaplin.

“Annie Chapman on 29 Hanbury Street, on September 8th, 1888,” Charlie said, reading from the website, on her cellphone. “She was found with her head on the doorstep.” She looked up at the scene in front of her, on Hanbury Street and Brick Lane. “Just like this.”

The duo stood in front of the door of a brewery, a woman, Annabelle ‘Anne’ Chaplin, laying in the doorway. Her skirt had been tugged up, showing red and white striped socks she had worn to work that previous day. A handkerchief was around Anne’s throat, blood soaked through. Her hands were bent oddly, like she had been reaching for her throat when she had asphyxiated, and, along with her face, were covered in blood.

“I see,” Sylvain said, looking at Charlie. “Anything else of note?”

“The method is the same. Probably was reaching for her neck to undo the handkerchief but to no avail. Her face is swollen the same way. If I had to guess, her tongue is pierced by her own teeth.”

“Ouch. Okay. Gruesome death. I get it.”

“Be serious! I know you’re still new to the job, but honestly… This is important to me. I have to do this.”

“Why? Why is this so important?”

Charlie was silent for a few minutes. After a moment, she let out a shaky breath. “Because if I don’t, I can’t prove to anyone, not even myself, that I am more than a name.”

Sylvain bent down to Charlie’s level. “Hey. Calm down. We can do this. Together. You know more about this than anyone on the squad.”

Charlie nodded. “Right. We can. Now, hurry up. There’s more murders this month, and we can’t allow this to last much longer.”

“Right, ‘boss,’” Sylvain laughed.

Charlie smiled. Is this what it’s like to have friends? Sure, he’s older than me, but… I like having him around.

That’s when the 30th came. Charlie’s dad called her uncle to help with the autopsy of the first woman they found at 1 AM: Elizabeth ‘Liza’ Sutcliff since he was out in their country home for a meeting.

“Uncle, please, let me look at her,” Charlie asked, looking at him.

Her uncle, a jaded man of only 36 who worked with her father with their ‘side job,’ as her father called it, was already exhausted from lack of sleep from entertaining his friends the previous night. He let out a sigh, looking at his beloved niece. “You really won’t let up until I let you in. I know that look. Fine. Here’s the key.” He handed Charlie the weighted iron key. While it probably was only a few ounces, to her it felt like 20 pounds. She wouldn’t let them down. Not this time.

Charlie nodded, proud that her uncle was confident in her, and called Sylvain to the morgue.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Sylvain asked, as Charlie let him into the morgue.

“It’s the only way we can figure out what is really going on here,” Charlie said, leading him down the narrow passageway to the back, where the latest victim was.

The rain pounding on the window was only getting worse as the moon rose higher in the sky. It was stuffy, the smell of alcohol and formaldehyde wafting around the shelves of the embalming room. The table, while years ago was warm wood, was now replaced with a cool metal one. Though years had passed and the funeral home had been passed down through the family, this room still had the original wood and glass cabinets against the walls. The body of a woman who had been found in Henriques Street was laying on the table. Henriques Street, originally Berners Street: the location of the fourth victim of Jack the Ripper. This woman, much like the previous, had her throat slashed and was slumped against the wall of a building when she had been found.

“Shame… Liza wasn’t always that bad.” Sylvain said, looking over the body.

“You knew her?”

“I knew she worked in a hotel.”

“She must have had a night job. Otherwise he wouldn’t have targeted her.”

“Perhaps, but she was still pleasant.”

“Let’s just look over for anything that could tell us who this culprit is.”

The duo searched. Dusted for prints, none were found. Looked for any distinct markings, none that could easily be located. Absolutely nothing that could connect to one person in particular: other than the clear fact that this Ripper emulator has the same methods as the Leather Apron himself. He targets women of the night, kills them the same way. Which, lead Charlie to believe--

The heavy wood door creaked open, the Chief Constable standing there, frantically looking at Sylvain. “A second body has been discovered.”

“Bring her in,” Charlie said. “Quickly.”

The Chief Constable waved her off and went to Sylvain. “We need to do something about this,” he said. “We need to stop this killer, not play games with little girls.”

“I’m not playing games,” Sylvain said. “This is doing something. So far we’ve learned that there’s a copycat. They’re going after women. They’re in the same area as the Ripper cases 131 years ago. Charlie has figured out most of this by herself, and if you think I’m going to stop this case now, you’re wrong.”

Charlie smiled. It was the first time she had in awhile. It felt odd on her face, but she didn’t dislike the feeling.

“Now,” Sylvain said, “do as Charlie said, and bring the woman here.”

“Yes, sir,” the Chief Constable said, stiffly. He left to get the woman to the morgue.

Soon, the second woman was laying on the second spare table. While this table wasn’t bolted to the floor, it still was a sturdy aluminium folding table used for if there were multiple bodies at one time. The woman was badly scarred, her face practically cut to unrecognition, and was missing her uterus and left kidney.

“Where was she found?” Charlie asked.

“Near Mitre Square,” Sylvain answered, having been given the report from the constables that were present at the time of the body discovery. “In the City of London.”

“What time?”

“1:45 AM.”

“That fits perfectly. The Ripper was more savage with his technical fourth victim: Catherine Eddowes. These markings match perfectly.”

“This one had been arrested before her murder. Katie Edgeworth. She was causing a public disturbance from being drunk and loudly imitating a siren.”

“That also matches. Odd how that may just be a coincidence, but…” Charlie trailed off. Sure, the facts match, but this could easily just be a coincidence. A second murderer. Something that doesn’t match with the case.

“But?” Sylvain pressed after a few moments of Charlie being silent enough you could hear a pin drop.

“I’m not sure,” Charlie said eventually. “It could just be a coincidence. We’ll know for sure in October.”

“What’s in October?” Sylvain asked.

“Remember that letter you got five days ago after the interview we had with the newspaper? The one you said read exactly like the Dear Boss letter?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Be prepared for the From Hell letter.”


Charlie received it instead of the police. It came on October 16th, written by hand, scrawled on what felt like parchment paper: stiff, thick paper that was yellowed slightly and stained with small marks of red liquid. Charlie couldn’t tell what that liquid was. It was too light to be blood and yet, couldn’t be a drink of some sort.

From hell

Mis Charle

It may be best if you stay out of the way it would not be nise for you to be involved if you dont listen you may be in a lot of troubl or worse if you continue to chas me you may be the next woman with a knif slicing your throt

Signed Catch me when you Can

Mis Charle

“That...is almost exactly the way the From Hell letter was written,” Charlie said, examining her own letter. “Same scrawl. Same misspellings…” It was scary, seeing the writing aimed towards her. This wasn’t a game anymore, like she had treated that Japanese crime detective game, Danganronpa. This was a threat. This was real. This was– Ding! She looked at her phone to see a text message from Sylvain. She opened the text message to see the letter he received.

From hell

Mr Gautier

Sor

I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer

signed Catch me when you Can

Mishter Gautier

That letter came to the police station that Sylvain worked at, along with half a kidney. It was scrawled, not quite legible. It was scrawled in black ink by hand, written on stained paper. Just like Charlie’s. She quickly texted back.

That’s exactly like the one I recieved. Yours is almost verbatim what’s in record of what the From Hell letter had written on it while mine was directed to me. The only difference is your name instead of Lusk’s. - Charlie

I know. We’re sending the kidney piece to be tested. What’s next? - Sylvain

The youngest one murdered. Mary Kelly. Not until November 9th. We need a plan. - Charlie

Agreed. Let’s reconvene and discuss in the next week. We need a trap. - Sylvain.

Charlie agreed. They needed to come up with a trap of some sort. Something, anything, just to get this Ripper to end his murderous rampage.

So, within the next few weeks, they discussed various plans and situations to catch the killer. They knew the location would be an apartment, near White’s Row and Crispin Street. They knew the scene would be gruesome, but they knew what they had to do.

“Surround the apartment,” the chief constable ordered, “make sure all windows have at least three constables around them, we’ll go through the front door and see that the devil won’t get out that way.”

“Yes, sir!” the other constables said, saluting.

“Alright… we have our plan… let’s just hope we aren’t too late.” Sylvain said, looking at Charlie. She had been approving of the plans, but after the chief constable gave the order to everyone else, she had been silent. “...hey, you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she said, looking at him. “Just ready for this to end.”

“Me too, Charlie,” Sylvain said. “Me too.”


It was early, around 3:45 AM on November 9th that the constables took their positions outside Apartment Number 13 on Crispin Street. Everyone had done their part in looking for the correct location, and while it no longer was the exact place, this was the closest they could get. Charlie had told them that they needed to be prepared, that the screams of ‘murder’ had come at 4, and they needed to not mistake it being simple drinking or domestic violence. So, they waited out of sight, silent as the night.

Except it wasn’t silent for long. “Murder!” came a woman’s scream. The constables took their position, and Sylvain and the chief constable ran to the door to break it down. Charlie leapt up to help.

One shove.

Two shoves.

Three shoves on the door later it broke open. The three of them walked through the house, knowing the Ripper had heard them break down the door, but as they walked to the room, a distinct iron smell was in the air.

“Blood,” Charlie said, recognizing it, stopping in her tracks.

“Stay here,” Sylvain said. “You said this one was the worst. The one that you always had the hardest time looking at.”

“I can do this,” Charlie said, going to follow. Can I do this…? Am I really prepared to see this image again? Step. Creak. Step. Creak.

The Chief Constable gagged as he looked ahead of him, looking away from the scene in front of him.

Sylvain covered his mouth, trying to keep down something that was trying to come up.

Charlie covered her eyes. She was scared. Scared to see it. Scared that the man was still in the room. Scared that she would get hurt. Scared to die. But, something told her she had to. She uncovered her closed eyes and waited. One. She took a breath. Two. She let it out. Three. Her eyes snapped open.

The woman was on the bed, barely recognizable as human. The wall was splattered with blood. There was a mushy pile of flesh on the bedside table, as bloody as the rest of the room and bed. The cadaver was skinned, beyond recognition.

There was a bang followed by the crash of glass breaking. The sound of feedback and an echoed, raspy voice saying “We got him, sir!” came through the Chief Constable’s walkie talkie. Charlie couldn’t believe her ears for a minute. They actually did it.


Things returned to normal. Well, mostly to normal. Charlie proved to her father that she solved something more than a math problem, and she could be trusted more often than not. He had gotten a new tutor for her, one that was more interested in various subjects rather than just the basics. He even let her have more people over to try to make more friends than just the police force.

Sylvain had shown the entire force how they solved the case, right down to the fact that it all started with an inkling from Charlie Toombes herself. She got the credit for the entire case, and showed that sometimes that one little inkling isn’t always just a thought. Sylvain helped Charlie get into the University of London, knowing that she’d end up being a fantastic detective after their work together.

“The man responsible for the murders was none other than a Jack the Ripper enthusiast himself,” Sylvain said, explaining during a televised interview, “but took things a little too far. A man by the name of Charles Druitt. His wife was the one who got murdered last. He won’t be out of jail for a very long time.”

“I’m sure we’re all glad about that,” the newscaster, Lilly Evans, said. “The White Chapel murders are officially closed in this century. But, what of Charlie? Are you sure this was the last you’ve seen of her?”

Sylvain smiled. “I told her that there was more to us than just partners in solving crimes. We were a team, and I’ve never met anyone more brilliant than she is. While I don’t know if my true feelings reached her, I know that she’s happy being around me. Those months together were long and frustrating at times, but we also shared some laughs and… If I can…” He looked at the camera instead of Lilly. “Charlie… Can we go out to dinner sometime? Not as two detectives, but on a date?”

Charlie blinked. She was surprised. Looking up from the paper she was writing, she realized why Sylvain was so insistent that she watched the interview tonight.

“Just text me your answer,” Sylvain said. “I know you still have my number in your phone.”

Charlie smiled as she picked up her phone, texting him a quick answer before going back to her paper.

Ding! “Well,” Lilly said, after a pause. “What did she say?”

Sylvain dug in his pocket, pulled out his phone and read the reply. “‘Yes, but you know I have an essay to write tonight,’” he said. He started to put his phone back in his pocket before pausing. “She said yes…” His voice was quieter, the mic barely picking it up. “She said yes!” He said a bit louder.

Charlie laughed. “Of course I did, idiot,” she said aloud, knowing he couldn’t hear her. “I like you too.”


Submitted: February 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 SeaChell13. All rights reserved.

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