Devane had been a mediocre police officer, but several
small cases that had baffled other investigators had been solved by his
unorthodox and admittedly questionable methods. Like Fred Abberline, Michael
Devane knew the district intimately, and he spent long periods of time actually
living in Whitechapel. The locals trusted him. The prostitutes had laughingly
befriended him in the first years of his adult life, and subsequently, the early
days of his career with the police force. He had contacts that even Abberline
didn’t have access to, and the then Inspector in charge of the ground forces,
wanted Michael on his team. Strings had been pulled, and his transfer had been
made in the space of days. If he’d known then what the events of the coming
months would bring to his life, Devane might have chosen a more peaceful method
for destruction of his mind, his emotional balance, and his life in general.
Mist curled around his feet; the thick, cottony clouds of fog
that were uniquely London clinging to his pants with cloying wetness. His
footsteps, lost in the swirl of sickly white on the cobble-stoned ground,
sounded vaguely muffled. He pulled the collar of his overcoat a little higher
and glanced around. There were still people brave enough to walk the streets,
but fear lingered behind the boldness of the gazes that met his stare, then slid
away too quickly. He shuddered as he spotted The Ten Bells tavern, and the chill
of the night sank deeper into his being. Almost four years since the Ripper
murders, but it might have been yesterday to many. It felt like
yesterday to him. Every time there was a particularly messy murder, it was
attributed to the infamous Ripper; and there had been several that did, indeed,
look like the madman’s work. After all, the police had never caught the
notorious Jack the Ripper. Had they? A great number of people blamed Chief
Inspector Fred Abberline. Others were not so specific and targeted anybody who
was even remotely associated with the nightmarish case. Few people knew the
truth. It would always be that way, too, he knew, truth being subjective, and
loyalties as eternally ambiguous as the evidence. Conspiracy theories had
abounded at the time of the killings, and many more had been formulated and put
forth since those grisly days in the latter half of 1888.
Devane’s sergeant, David Goodwin, chided him often for his
penchant for inviting death, whether it was walking the Whitechapel streets, or
caught in the limbo dream-world created by his continued use of opium.
‘Chasing the dragon’, as Goodwin, (and a few others), noted with his
worry-tainted contempt of the practice. Devane knew the bursts of anger were
born in concern, and he frequently ignored what another police inspector would
have disciplined in his “junior”. That irony never ceased to bring a flicker of
wry amusement to the younger man’s handsome features, and it did so now; Devane
felt the telltale twitch of movement at his mouth--just beyond his conscious
A hand touched his arm, tugged less than gently, and he turned
to look into the lascivious smile of a local whore. He saw a multitude of things
in her pale eyes as they looked at each other, among them was the ever-present
fear. Her gaze dropped for an instant as she took stock of him, a potential
customer. His expression remained passive, and when her head rose to meet his
stare a second time, she was apologetic.
“Beggin’ your pardon, sir,” she mumbled, and ran off before he
could utter a word.
Inspector Devane was not typical of her customary clientele, in
any way. He was young, exceptionally handsome, and dressed like a gentleman. His
eyes were dark, intelligent, and if anyone peered too closely, the shadows of
perpetual pain and deeply-rooted loss would become visible. Few people were
permitted that privilege, of course.
Devane continued his interrupted walk, and eventually the worn
sign of Mitre Street caught his attention. Again, the icy breath of past death
caressed his insides. Just beyond the Street was Mitre Square and the ghost of
Catharine Eddowes, Jack The Ripper’s fourth victim. He turned away, unwilling to
go further in that direction. Abberline had been quick to see the value of his
gift of near-clairvoyant insight, and had quickly given him the rare opportunity
to be among his men on the streets. It had been a mixed blessing, indeed. He’d
gained invaluable experience working with Abberline’s team, but the horrors he’d
seen had never quite faded safely into vague oblivion.
The Ripper had been haunting him anew recently. Devane’s
dream-vision had once again been filled with gore and terror. Not entirely
unique in his experience, but the horror of the attacks, and the violence in the
residue that remained with him throughout the day, was vividly reminiscent of
the Ripper murders that had occurred over a period of several months. He knew
that it was not the work of Jack The Ripper, yet something was drawing
him back into that macabre nightmare world that had cost him a piece of his
soul, as well as his faltering marriage, and then threatened his very sanity in
ways about which he tried to avoid thinking.
His footsteps quickened slightly, and it took only a single
heartbeat for him to recognize the reason for it; behind him, the sound of a
carriage approaching, moving fast and with purpose. Pulling his thoughts inward,
cloaking himself in cultivated control, Devane turned to face the nearing
vehicle. Repressing his annoyance, he went to join Goodwin when the sergeant’s
broad face appeared in the window and he beckoned.
“Good-evening, sir,” Goodwin said quietly, once Devane was
seated next to him and he’d told the driver to continue onward to their
“What is it this time, Sergeant?” Devane enquired, gazing
outward, seeing nothing.
Goodwin winced at the resignation in the younger man’s strong,
quiet voice. He didn’t really know what to say to Devane a great deal of the
time now. Goodwin had worked with Devane for a number of years, and they’d
become friends. But, things had changed after the Ripper case. Not in overt
ways, but the more subtle undercurrents had shifted into a murky grey area where
he was no longer always certain of Devane’s dark genius. Fred Abberline had
hinted it might happen, but Goodwin hadn’t believed it; he’d known Devane for
such a long time, and his faith had been unshakable, until that terrible case.
And, this new one was going to put more pressure on a personality that was
fraught with edginess on the best of days.
Goodwin started visibly and tried to look away from the
intensity of Devane’s expectant gaze. It was impossible. It always had been.
“There’s been a murder,” he imparted cautiously. Devane released
him by turning to look out the window again, drinking in the night and its
“What of it?”
“It was messy, Inspector. They’re already whispering about The
Ripper being back at work. Though that makes little enough sense in this case,
since the victim is a man, not a Whitechapel bang-tail.”
Devane closed his eyes and leaned back in the safe confines of
the jostling carriage. He was suddenly drifting into lethargy, tired beyond
weariness. His head fell back and a hiss of breath escaped from between clenched
teeth. Before he could hold back the images, blood spattered his mind’s eye and
held him in the semi-consciousness of familiar dream-scapes. A scream, deafening
yet soundless, split the silence inside his head. He turned, and a graceful,
eerily beautiful arc of liquid fire sprayed upward, glistening drops of crimson
life held suspended against the stark glow of gaslights. A sliver of silver
glimmered, vanished, then returned again, covered in scarlet gloss. Then the
screaming amplified and enveloped him for timeless seconds, until it slowly
pulsed to a soft, steady heartbeat. Through the haze of red, a face tried to
take form, and failed. Devane inwardly twisted away, eager to escape the marred
beauty that pleaded with his tortured soul...
Goodwin’s concerned shout penetrated the fog, and banished the
siren and her song. Devane nodded, opened his eyes, and peered out to look at
the pale grandeur of a Kensington townhouse. Two uniformed constables flanked
the massive double doors that were the entrance to the place, and Devane knew
Goodwin would have two others positioned at the rear of the house as well. As he
descended the steps and felt solid ground under his feet again, his equilibrium
reasserted itself. Goodwin waited until he led the way, and they approached the
house in resolute silence.
Before they had reached the landing at the top of the stairs,
the huge doors swung open and an immaculately dressed, somber butler awaited
them. They presented an incongruous pair, and the butler’s flickering gaze did a
quick inventory of the two policeman. Goodwin was a big man, half a head taller
than his companion, and twice his bulk. He was older, with a friendly, broad
face that was deceptive about its owner’s perceptiveness. Sharp eyes belied the
illusion of a cheerful bear of a man, and his stance was faintly protective as
he stood next to the smaller man. Goodwin’s clothes were less stylishly cut and
less expensive, as well. But, there was no denying his imposing presence.
“This is Inspector Devane, Mr. Carstaires,” Goodwin said,
apparently having already met the typically haughty servant.
The Inspector was a slender man, dressed in a deep midnight blue
suit and pristine white shirt with black tie, the knot very slightly askew. He
was pale, features fine and angular, very striking in quiet demeanor and
possessed of a forceful personality that wasn’t evident until you met his
startlingly dark eyes. He wasn’t six feet tall, yet this was the stronger and
more dangerous of the two men, the butler realized instantly. Whatever Devane
lacked in physical strength was more than compensated for by his quick, agile
“Lady Bradshaw is waiting for you in the Library. The family
physician has been sent for,” he added in explanation. “I will inform you upon
“I’ll need to see the body and the crime site first,” Devane
inserted quietly. “Then the family.”
Carstaires digested the request, nodded slowly, then changed the
direction they’d been going in and stopped at the foot of the long, curving
staircase that dominated the huge foyer of the house.
“I believe Sergeant Goodwin can show you which room,” the butler
said with a faintly questioning look at Goodwin. The sergeant smiled and nodded,
and the expression turned to a soft chuckle as he indicated the stairs.
“Shall we, sir?”