The Hand That Holds The Knife part two (Whitechapel story)

3 January 2011

Here’s the second and final part of the story I posted yesterday. It’s based on the ITV series Whitechapel. Basically this is just an excuse to post pictures of Rupert Penry-Jones to my blog.

The Hand That Holds The Knife, part two, by me.

‘I’ve drafted in extra men for tonight,’ Chandler said to Kent as they strolled along Commercial Street the next afternoon. ‘I’ve also posted a couple opposite Frances Coles’ flat. I hope she’s right, but you never know, she might have missed something.’

‘Or our man is being extra cunning this time,’ Kent supplied, thinking about Coles and how fragile she had seemed. ‘Do you think she’ll ever get over it, sir?’

Chandler looked at him in surprise then shook his head. ‘How can you get over something like that?’

The two men crossed the road outside the Ten Bells and walked past Spitalfields Market, once so rough and ready and now home to gourmet chocolate shops, expensive kitchen knick knacks and cutting edge fashion. Music pounded through the air, following them as they took a left by the market, edging past a barrier and then wandering down a miserable, dark service road, edged on one side by storage units and on the other by an ugly concrete multi storey car park.

Chandler shivered as he paused at a nondescript spot about half way down the road. ‘It was here,’ he said in a low voice that Kent had to strain to hear. ‘Mary Jane Kelly’s room was here.’ He pointed to a dip in the pavement on the right hand side. ‘It was all destroyed after the war. There is nothing left of the street that she lived on or the room that she died in.’

Kent looked down at the pavement. ‘So that’s all that’s left?’ He thought of the photograph of Mary Jane that they’d shown Frances Coles and shuddered. ‘This is where it happened?’ He looked up and down the road. At the top end you could see the traffic going past on Commercial Street, while at the other there was an imposing red brick Victorian building.

‘That’s Providence Row. It used to be a night shelter,’ Chandler said, pre-empting his next question. ‘It was run by nuns. Apparently Mary Jane Kelly stayed there when she first came to London. It’s a hall of residence for students now.’

 

++++

 

Night came all too quickly. The extra policemen wandered through the crowds, their eyes darting down the alleyways, constantly on the look out for something unusual, a struggle, the sound of a scream.

‘It won’t happen until the early hours of the morning,’ Chandler told his team as he quickly debriefed them before they all went out onto the streets. ‘We have men posted opposite the entrance to Frances Coles’ flat although there’s no reason to think that she is the intended victim this time.’

‘If there is a victim,’ Miles interposed gruffly. ‘Personally, I’m just hoping that the letter turns out to be another stupid hoax.’

Chandler turned to him and nodded. ‘We all hope that it’s a hoax. Of course we do, but we need to be vigilant all the same.’ He went to his desk and picked up a pile of photocopied lilac papers. ‘Fact files about Mary Jane Kelly, the last victim of the Ripper. There isn’t much to go on as no one is even really sure that that was her real name, however I’ve pulled together everything available.’ He handed one to each man. ‘Read this before you leave and refer to it often. If the killer is a Jack the Ripper fanatic then there’s every chance that this is all he has to go on as well so it may be that the clue to his next victim’s identity is in these pages.’

The men sighed and rolled their eyes in a well rehearsed chorus of forced annoyance. As usual, Miles was the most vocal of all and made a great show of chucking his notes into the bin while the others applauded.

‘Did you really have to do that,’ Chandler whispered to him. ‘Don’t you think that’s a bit childish when there might be a life at stake.’

Miles paused for a moment and looked at the other man. He opened his mouth as though about to say something but then clearly thought better of it as he turned away without a word, pulled his sheaf of notes from the bin and stalked off.

Chandler watched him go then turned to Kent, who was standing at his elbow. ‘Some things never change,’ he remarked with a sigh.

‘He’ll come round,’ Kent replied with a laugh. ‘He always does in the end.’

They smiled at each other. ‘Come on then, let’s go,’ Chandler said after a moment. ‘I’m dreading this to be honest.’ He ran his fingers nervously through his fair hair. ‘I really hope this turns out to be a hoax. I don’t care if I look ridiculous.’ He looked at Kent and shrugged. ‘I’d rather look stupid than have to see…’

Kent nodded and put his hand on Chandler’s arm. ‘I know,’ he said softly. ‘It won’t happen, Joe. We’ll get him, you’ll see. We’ve got a good team here.’

Chandler smiled again. ‘I know.’

 

 

It was almost midnight. Chandler, Miles and Kent were tired, dejected but grimly determined to see this night to its conclusion, whatever that would involve. Miles hoped that it would end with him in his own bed and Chandler with egg on his face for taking the ramblings of some random nutter seriously. Kent, however, quite fancied a bit of excitement and was on tenterhooks, waiting for something, anything, to happen.

Chandler kept his thoughts to himself and stood a little apart, arms folded across his chest as he scanned the street, on the look out for the slightest sign of trouble. He knew that Miles was hoping to see him proved wrong – they were friends and loyal to each other as colleagues, but all the same, he was well aware that he got on Miles’ nerves at times and that he’d like nothing better than to see him brought down a peg or two.

‘What time is it?’ Kent asked, breaking into his thoughts about that night a year earlier when he’d had the Ripper in his grasp but had let him go so that he could help Miles, probably saving his life in the process. The two men rarely mentioned what happened any more but still it hung between them, drawing them close and at the same time holding them apart.

Miles checked his watch. ‘Quarter past midnight,’ he said gruffly. ‘We need to get a move on.’

Chandler brought out his neatly folded notes. ‘There’s got to be something in here,’ he said. ‘We must have missed a clue.’

‘I don’t think so,’ Miles said with a shrug, pushing himself away from the wall that he was leaning against. ‘I’m off to get a curry. Anyone fancy anything?’

‘We’re on duty,’ Chandler reminded him. ‘You don’t need to pretend that you don’t care around me any more,’ he said in an undertone. ‘I know you think this is stupid but we have to take it seriously.’ He unfolded his notes. ‘Right, let’s start at the beginning.’

Kent was way ahead of him. ‘It says here that Mary Jane used to drink at the Ten Bells, you know, that pub we went to the other day.’ He looked from Chandler to Miles. ‘Well, it’s a start isn’t it?’

Chandler was frowning, something nagged at his memory, something crucial. ‘The girl,’ he said. ‘In the pub. She had red hair, do you remember?’ He looked at Miles. ‘Okay, it’s a long shot but it’s better than doing nothing.’

They hurried down the street to the Ten Bells, which was still open and packed full of punters – an awkward mix of market traders, drunk suits from the nearby City offices, cool haired young things and a few bewildered tourists, who’d lingered after the end of a Jack the Ripper walking tour. Chandler shoved through them all, Kent close behind him, until he finally reached the bar.

‘What can I do for you, mate?’ the bar man was young, wiry and very good looking.

Chandler looked up and down the small bar but couldn’t see the bar maid from the day before. ‘There was a girl working here yesterday afternoon,’ he shouted over the music. ‘She was pretty and had long red hair in dreadlocks. Do you know who I mean?’

The barman nodded and grinned. ‘Yeah, mate, you mean Eliza.’

‘Is she working tonight?’ Chandler asked, suddenly feeling impatient. Why was this youth grinning at him? Couldn’t he tell how urgent this was? ‘Do you know where she is?’

The boy looked uncertain now. ‘Er, I don’t know if…’ His eyes shifted from side to side as he debated what to say next.

Immediately, Miles’ arm was shooting over Chandler’s shoulder and he’d slapped his warrant badge on the bar. ‘CID,’ he said. ‘Now where is she?’

 

++++

 

The three of them hurried down the service road at the side of Spitalfields Market, where Mary Jane Kelly had once lived. The darkness was oppressive here without any streetlights to dissipate the gloom and Chandler looked over his shoulder nervously, half expecting to see a cloaked figure surrounded by swirling fog, the one that had haunted his nightmares for over a year now.

‘Her name is Eliza Chapman,’ Kent was speaking into his radio. ‘She’s a student but works part time at the Ten Bells. She lives on Artillery Lane. We’re on our way there now.’

Chandler pointed ahead at the Providence Row building, once a night shelter but now a hall of residence. ‘I bet she lived there first,’ he said with a nod. ‘When she first came to London.’

‘Just like Mary Jane,’ Kent murmured before he too looked anxiously back over his shoulder, peering uncertainly through the darkness.

It didn’t take them long to reach Artillery Lane, a narrow alley that hadn’t changed much since Victorian times and still had original gas lamps lighting the way. It was easy to imagine the Ripper coming this way – both the original and his modern counterpart.

‘Right, she lives in a flat in this house,’ Chandler stopped in front of a red varnished door and peered at the list of names next to a short row of buzzers. ‘Chapman, Chapman,’ he murmured. ‘Christ, she’s not here.’

‘Ring all of them,’ Miles barked. ‘It’s not like they’re going to complain is it?’ Seeing Chandler hesitate, he stepped forward and mashed all of the buzzers down with his fist. ‘That’s how you do it,’ he muttered with a wry smile.

It didn’t take long before there was a fuzzing sound and a disembodied voice drifted out. ‘Hello? Who’s there?’

Chandler leaned forward, polite as ever. ‘Hello, sorry to bother you. We’re looking for Eliza Chapman? It’s important. Don’t…’ they hung up, ‘hang up. Don’t hang up. Damn.’

Miles rolled his eyes then pressed the buzzer again, holding his finger down until the knuckle went white. ‘What do you want?’ the voice was annoyed now. ‘Look, stop messing around or I’ll…’

‘Call the police will you? Well then, it’s your lucky day isn’t it?’ Miles grinned at Chandler. ‘Now, well ask you again: know anything about Eliza Chapman? Pretty girl with red hair?’

There was a pause and then a sigh. ‘Number four,’ the voice said. ‘I’ll just buzz you in shall I?’

They pushed through the door then ran up the threadbare carpeted stairs to the third floor, where Eliza Chapman’s flat was. Her door was shut, as they had expected but there was something about the sight of that closed door, about the silence that made Chandler’s heart leap into his mouth. ‘We’re too late,’ he said.

‘Don’t say that,’ Kent interjected. ‘Let’s just get this door open.’ He heaved at it with his shoulder but it didn’t so much as budge. ‘I think we’re all going to have to work together,’ he said ruefully, rubbing his arm.

The three men pushed against the door until finally it fell open. Chandler was first into the flat and found himself in darkness, groping around blindly in a tiny hallway. He ran his hands down the walls in search of a light switch. ‘I can’t see,’ he muttered over his shoulder to the others. Finally, he found a door handle in the wall opposite and turned it, taking a deep breath as he did so as he had no idea what he would find on the other side. ‘Just let her be alive,’ he silently prayed. ‘Please God.’

The sitting room was gloom, with only a tall paper lamp in the shape of a caterpillar pupae left on. Eliza Chapman had affected a pink bulb so the room was suffused with a soft rosy glow that made Chandler think of strip clubs, bordellos and Hell itself. Possibly that was the effect Eliza was going for though. She’d seemed the sort from what little he could remember about her.

‘Eliza Chapman?’ The flat was silent. ‘Are you here, Eliza? It’s the police! No need to be alarmed!’ He stumbled around, almost tripping over a pair of battered discarded army boots and a low coffee table covered in books and magazines. ‘Eliza?’ The air smelled of bubble gum and joss sticks, a sickly sweet, heady scent that was rapidly beginning to make his head ache.

There was a muffled sound from behind a door on the left. ‘Eliza?’ Without hesitation this time, he pushed the door open and then recoiled. ‘You?’

 

++++

 

Chandler and Buchan stared at each other for what seemed like a long time but was in actuality only a few seconds. ‘You?’ Chandler repeated stupidly, his brain failing to comprehend what he was seeing.

‘Yes, me.’ Buchan had been kneeling over the girl, who was lying on the bed with her head turned slightly to the side, her face away from Chandler so that he couldn’t see it, but now he straightened up, his eyes sliding away, a weird smile on his round face. ‘It was always me.’

Chandler took a step forward to get to Eliza then stopped when he noticed the long shiny blade in Buchan’s hand. ‘I don’t understand.’ He looked past Buchan at the girl, her crimson hair hanging almost to the floor. ‘Is she still alive?’ he asked. ‘For God’s sake, Edward, tell me that you haven’t done anything to her!’

Buchan shrugged. ‘What do you think?’ He looked at Chandler then, his small eyes slightly too bright. ‘It hardly matters any more does it? You’ve interrupted my grand plan.’

Chandler ran his fingers through his hair. He could hear Miles and Kent crashing around in the sitting room and knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep them out of the bedroom for much longer. ‘Look,’ he started but then ground to a halt as he didn’t know what to say. ‘Edward, why did you do it?’ Miles had clearly tripped over the boots because there was a torrent of swearing from the other room. Any second now he was going to walk in.

Buchan looked away. ‘I wanted to know what it was like,’ he said. ‘I wanted to know what it would be like to be the one holding the knife.’ He wiped his forehead with his hand then sank down on the edge of the bed, the knife held limply at his side.

‘Oh my God.’ Miles was at door. ‘I might have bloody known.’ He pushed past Chandler and went to the bed, ignoring Buchan and his knife. He pressed his fingers to her neck, his expression more concerned and troubled than Chandler had ever before seen it. ‘Call for an ambulance!’ he shouted over his shoulder at Kent before looking at Chandler. ‘She’s alive. He’s tried to strangle her and she’s passed out for now, but no serious harm done.’

‘Oh thank God.’ Chandler relaxed.

‘I couldn’t do it,’ Buchan muttered. ‘I wanted to know what must have gone through his mind, I wanted to be the one to have the great revelation about who the Ripper must have been but when it came to it, I was just a miserable coward after all.’

Miles turned on him. ‘You think the Ripper was some sort of courageous hero do you? A man who attacked helpless women?’ He looked like he was going to hit Buchan and Chandler immediately sprang forward to prevent him. ‘Don’t bother, Joe. I’m not about to waste my time on a pathetic maggot like him.’ He lifted Eliza up as she came to, coughing and sobbing. ‘Luckily for us you couldn’t even strangle her properly,’ he remarked with a sneer.

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