Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4)(8)

“Thank you, sir.” I managed to step into the quarters, but there wasn’t much space to spare. Thomas moved behind me, and I paused long enough to run a cursory glance around the room. It was sparsely decorated—one bed, one nightstand, one tattered, blood-soaked quilt. In fact, as I edged farther inside, I saw the bedding wasn’t the only thing splattered in blood.

Uncle stood over the tiny bed frame, pointing to the victim. My pulse slowed.

For the briefest moment, I felt as if I’d been transported back to the scene of Miss Mary Jane Kelly’s murder. It was the last Ripper crime and the most brutal.

I didn’t have to move closer to see this woman had been practically eviscerated.

She was unclothed from the neck down and had been stabbed repeatedly about her person.

I felt, more than witnessed, Thomas moving around behind me and shifted to glance at him. The rogue was almost dancing in place, his eyes alight in the most abhorrent manner.

“There is a body,” I whispered harshly. It was incredible that he could carry on as if it were a regular afternoon stroll by the river.

Thomas drew back, his hand clutching his chest. He looked from me to the body, his eyes going wide. “Is that what that is? Here I was convinced it was a Winter Ball. Shame I wore my best suit.”

“How clever.”

“You do say you like a man with a rather large—”

“Stop.” I held my hand up. “I beg of you. My uncle is right there.”

“Brain.” He finished anyway, grinning at my reddening face. “You truly astound me with the direction your filthy mind travels in, Wadsworth. We’re at a crime scene; have a care.”

I gritted my teeth. “Why are you so flippant?”

“If you must know now, it’s—”

“There you two are.” Uncle had the look of a man on the verge of a rampage.

I could never quite tell if death was a balm or an irritant to him. “Clear the room!” Policemen inside paused, staring at Uncle as if he’d possibly lost his

good senses. He turned to a man in a suit and raised his brows. “Inspector Byrnes? I need a few moments alone with my apprentices to examine the scene.

Please have your men wait in the hall. We’ve already had half of Manhattan trouncing through here. If anything else is disturbed, we won’t be of much use to you.”

The inspector looked up from the victim, taking in my uncle and then me and Thomas. If he, an American inspector, was annoyed that an Englishman was tossing him out of his own crime scene, it didn’t show. “All right, boys. Let’s give Dr. Wadsworth some time. Go ask the neighbors if they’ve seen or heard anything. The housekeeper said she saw a man—get me a description.” He glanced at my uncle. “How long’s she been here?”

Uncle twisted the ends of his mustache, his green eyes scanning the body in that clinical way he’d taught both me and Thomas. “No more than half a day.

Maybe less.”

Inspector Byrnes nodded as if he’d suspected the same. “Witnesses say she rented a room between the hours of ten thirty and eleven last night.”

Uncle observed the victim again and seemed to stare through her into that calm place necessary to locate clues. People in London thought him heartless.

They didn’t understand he needed to harden his heart in order to save them the pain of never knowing what happened to their loved ones.

“We’ll know more once we perform a postmortem,” he said, motioning for his medical satchel, “but an initial glance—based on the current state of rigor mortis—indicates she might’ve perished between the hours of five and six.

Though that may well change once we’ve gathered more scientific fact.”

Inspector Byrnes paused in the doorway, his expression unreadable. “You inspected the Ripper murders.” It was a statement of fact, not a question. Uncle hesitated for only a moment before nodding. “If this is the work of that sick bastard…” The inspector shook his head. “We can’t let this news get out. I won’t have any panic or riots in this city. I said it before; I’ll say it again—this ain’t London. We’re not going to muck this up like Scotland Yard. We will have a suspect—or Jack the damn Ripper himself—in the jug in thirty-six hours or less.

This is New York City. We don’t mess around with depraved killers here.”

“Of course, Inspector Byrnes.”

Uncle shifted his gaze to mine. He’d never asked me directly about the events of last November, but he knew as well as I did that Jack the Ripper could not be responsible for this murder. We were privy to something neither Inspector Byrnes nor anyone else knew.

Jack the Ripper, scourge of both London and the world, was dead.





21 JANUARY 1889

“Describe the scene, Audrey Rose.” Uncle shoved a journal into Thomas’s hands. “Record everything and include a sketch. Inspectors have photographed the body, but I want every detail, every speck, on paper.” He jabbed the paper, punctuating each point a bit more emphatically than the last. “We will not have another mass hysteria on our hands. Is that understood?”

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