London, 1888. Fear hangs over the City as the Whitechapel murderer slaughters prostitutes in indiscriminate killings. Their bodies are horribly and ritualistically mutilated.
A secret war is raging across time. The Jack O’Lantern, cursed to live forever by the Vampire Baobhan Sith, has arrived in London to seek out the Vampire Queen and end his cursed immortality. B ut how can he begin to find them in this murky, rat infested City?
Jack weaves a fantasy of immortals and vampires against the background of the Whitechapel killings, creating a story of dark murder and revenge around one of England’s most notorious crimes.
Easter Monday 1888
Emma Smith…..was once asked why she had broken so completely with her old life and friends. “They would not understand now any more than they understood then,” she replied wistfully. “I must live somehow.”
from I Caught Crippen, (1938) by Walter Dew (CID Officer in Whitechapel in 1888)
Moving like a shadowy wraith, the elderly woman in black ragged clothing made her way unsteadily along Whitechapel road. Behind her the clock on the old church tower of St Mary’s struck one-thirty. She was clearly the worse for drink, and huddled her threadbare, grimy coat about her, muttering imprecations to herself and furtively glancing here and there into the darkness of the many alleys that criss-crossed this part of the east end of London.
When she saw three men making their way along the pavement towards her, she reflexively made the Baobhan cantrip that used to protect her in another life, and crossed the road towards the obscurity of the shadows, huddling herself against the brick walls of houses in a desperate attempt to make herself invisible.
“Careful Emma,” she admonished herself, her breath bitter with the acrid taste of drink. The painful memory of Annie Millwood’s death in the South Grove Workhouse, where she had last seen her, still haunted her in the quiet hours, when she lay awake in the darkness of the lodging house, listening to the sounds of the others sleeping, and the noise of carriages running their steel braced wheels across the rough cobbles.
Had he found them after all these years? If he had found them, he would know about her, she ruminated darkly.
She looked about her carefully. Assaults were common in the early hours of the east end, and prostitutes led a meagre, nocturnal half-life between the streets and the vermin infested doss houses and common lodgings.
The group of men had also crossed the road, and were approaching her in an unsteady hobble; they too were obviously drunk, and between them they supported the slumped figure of a youth about nineteen or twenty years old. When they were nearly on top of her they paused, and one of them asked in a deep bass voice, “’ello darlin,” he slurred, “yer looking for some business. ‘E hasn’t lost ‘is cherry yet,” and he started laughing, a desperate bray that seemed to boil like hot bile in his throat. The other man, forced to support the comatose youth on his own, leaned the boy against the cast iron lamp post and said breathlessly, “Leave it out Charlie, we’ve both got work in the morning.”
They took hold of the youth and moved off down the street, where they were gradually swallowed up by the shadows.
The old woman moved off shivering and turned blithely into Osborn Street. The pavement was ill lit, with only a couple of gas lamps interspersed along the whole street, and deep wells of darkness seemed to loom like crevices between them. Gingerly avoiding a body slumped in the doorway of one of the houses, she made her way down the cracked pavement, and was almost out of the shadows when a hand caught her by the shoulder and spun her around.
Fear gripped her like an urge to run, and instinctively she yelled; her heart beat rapidly, and when her eyes came back into focus she found herself staring into a face whose features were vague, as though they were a drawing smudged with age.
“Well well, Faerii Fay,” said a voice as light as music. The old woman flinched backwards, though the hand gripped as tightly as a talon. A pale, almost milky white face moved closer to hers as if it could barely make her out, and for a moment she though she heard a light snuffling sound.
“I haven’t used that name for a long time,” she replied uncertainly.
The face smiled, and even in the obscurity of the shadows she could make out two rows of perfectly ordered teeth that appeared between smooth grey lips like rows of upturned pins.
“No,” the voice piped up again, “heard you’d faked your death last boxing night. Nice trick, it’s taken me months to find you. Where’s Faerii Fand?”
“I haven’t seen them for years….not since they abandoned me. I have had to fend for myself, you can’t imagine what that has meant for me.”
The hand seemed to relax, and she managed to move a step or two away, seeking some invisibility once more in the darkness.
“They are on the move again,” the voice fluted.
The old woman screamed and turned to flee, running as fast as she could back along Osborn Street towards the relative safety of the traffic on Whitechapel Road. In an instant her assailant was on her; a long sinewy arm wrapping itself around her neck and lifting her off her feet. For a moment she hung in the air, then as the grip loosened she fell heavily onto the pavement, and in the darkness he pounced like an assassin and straddled her chest.
“What do you want,” she cried tearfully, her breath sobbing, her eyes bulging from her face in abject terror.
A hand appeared, holding a blunt instrument which was waved over her face. His high pitched voice seemed to be building towards hysteria, and his other hand closed like a vice across her throat.
“Where are they,” he screamed into her face, “tell me where the Queen is, and I might let you live.”
“I don’t know,” she sobbed, “I don’t know………don’t know.”
“Are you the one with child?” he demanded. She turned her face away from breath that stank of decay; it reminded her of the odour of crypts she had inhabited in the past.
She felt a sickening pain between her legs, and at the same time the talon like nails dug deeper into her throat, cutting off her scream. For several minutes she endured, then when it seemed she would pass out, the pain subsided a little and the hand relaxed. A pool of blood began to gather beside her on the pavement, soaking into her grimy clothing.
A small phial was broken beneath her nose, and the sharp reek of some heady substance filled her nostrils as she fought for breath. Gradually she began to lose consciousness, as the lure of the powerful narcotic pulled her down into blackness. A shrill, whistle like voice was saying to her over and over again, ‘ there were three of them…. I can’t remember much….they took all of my money….one of them was only young…they raped me.’
In the last fleeting seconds before she passed out she heard herself asking, “Who are you?”
There was a giggle, then the voice said wispily, “don’t you remember me? just call me Jack.”