The fiend waited in the fog. The lights of the public house on the corner glowed a dim yellow and the murk muffled the sounds of the last straggling drinkers. The heels of a woman’s shoes clicked and clattered on the cobblestones. The wearer was negotiating prices with her client: a tanner in the hand and a bob in the mouth. The client was silent; the fiend supposed he was a gentleman who did not wish to be heard discussing such ungentlemanly things in the squalid Whitechapel streets.
The fiend held his breath until the pair had passed to conduct their transaction in some other alley. Perhaps it would be over quickly and the whore would come back this way on her tod, hoping to pick up one last punter as the pub closed its doors.
Out of the gloom came another figure, preceded by the odour of cheap lavender water. The fiend pressed his back against the wall, unheeding the damp. His heart was pounding like galloping hooves against his ribs. He held his breath and his fingers tightened their grip on the cutthroat razor beneath his cloak.
The woman wore a tattered red shawl and her hair was piled high on her head above a pale and painted face. She tripped and tottered from a little too much gin – good: she’d be dead before she knew what was happening.
The fiend waited for ten seconds – ten long seconds – as the woman drew closer. Finer details were visible to him now: the beauty spot on her cheek, the paste earrings, the blue five o’clock shadow –
What the hell?
“Put your hands up, dearie!” scoffed a voice behind him he recognised as the first whore’s. He wheeled around to see her and her gentleman client pointing pistols at his heart. The whore in the red shawl drew a truncheon. She peeled off her blonde wig and scratched at her undeniably male haircut.
“Gor, that don’t half itch.”
“Never mind that, Constable Piggott,” said the gentleman. “Cuff the bastard and let’s get him down Bow Street nick.”
The fiend let out a roar and, shedding his cloak, slashed at the air with his razor. “Fools!” he snarled and his eyes flashed red beneath the brim of his top hat. “Your prisons cannot hold me.”
“They won’t have to,” said the gentleman. “You’ll be having your neck stretched before you can blink, old son.”
The fiend threw back his head and laughed. He dissolved into the fog – the laughter was the last to go – leaving the undercover police empty-handed and frustrated.
Foggy Jack was free to strike again.