It was when the papers spoke of a second victim that Lawrence Caldwell decided to get on the case. It had been only about a week since the last attack by the Whitechapel Murderer, and the district papers couldn't stop talking about it. Amongst the graphic details of how Miss Chapman was brutally murdered were more assumptions of who the mysterious killer could be. Perhaps an Irish immigrant? Jew? "Pervert"? All were simply more targets of minorities to feed the imagination of gossip around Whitechapel. At least, that's how Lawrence saw it.
Adjusting the brim of his hat, Lawrence tucked the paper under his arm before heading down Wentworth Street. From the alleyways and corners, he could hear hushed whispers of the locals; women of their safety and men of the discovery of the killer so he too could be put to death. Lawrence rounded a corner into the street seller's section of townthe area inhabited mostly by Irish immigrants. His eyes skimmed up and down the vendors, hastily catching glimpses of mothers trying to calm their children while fathers pushed sales on the English. Most waved the vendors off and continued on their way, muttering comments of how filthy the families were. Yet, Lawrence didn't stop until he reached a small stand towards the end of the line. Only then did he smile and hold out two farthings.
"I'll take the usual." Lawrence watched as the man behind the stand glanced up.
He could have been the typical Irish stereotypemussed auburn hair hidden beneath his newsboy cap and hundreds of freckles dotting his pale cheeks. He appeared to be in his early thirties, much like Lawrence himself. Wiping a few beads of sweat out from under his cap, he smiled back.
"I've been waiting for you all afternoon, Lawrence." The man tossed the fresh fruit to him before adding the farthings to his pouch. "I was beginning to worry you wouldn't show. You're one of the only Englishmen to come through here and actually purchase something."
"You're my friend, Oscar." Lawrence took a bite out of the fruit. "Though others may find it odd, you're forgetting that I have Irish blood in me, as well. My mother's side."
Oscar snorted. "At least you have the English blood to make up for it with your father."
Lawrence said nothing at that, simply smirking before changing the topic. "Have you heard the latest news of the Whitechapel Murderer?"
"That they're suspecting he's an Irishman? Yes, I believe I did hear talk of that earlier today." Oscar shifted in the seat at his stand. "Why?"
Lawrence unfolded the paper from under his arm, holding it out to Oscar. When the immigrant stared blankly at the front page, Lawrence annotated it to him.
"There was another victim last night. Miss Annie Chapman. They say there was a witness this time, at least to having seen her speaking with a gentlemen."
"Don't they have suspects yet? You would think the police would be on top of that." Oscar said once his eyes lifted from the artwork provided in the paper.
"They have suspicion, yes. All they've mentioned is thought of it being perhaps an immigrant of some sort, as
you had mentioned. That or a "pervert"." The word slipped off Lawrence's tongue in reluctance as even Oscar snorted. "Honestly, I think otherwise."
"What do you suggest we do, Lawrence? We're not the law. We're ordinary men."
"As very well could the murderer be." Lawrence looked Oscar over again before smiling. "Why don't you come by my place tonight for a drink? We'll discuss my thoughts there."
After a moment of hesitation, Oscar finally nodded in agreement. Lawrence took another bite from the fruit as he bid farewell, flicking his trench coat before heading on his way through the already darkening alley.
"It has to be someone with at least some education." Lawrence poured another glass of gin for Oscar. "The wounds the victims suffered from both before and after death were too intricate to be just anyone."
"A surgeon perhaps?" Oscar took a swig of the alcohol once getting situated on the posh couch in the center of the room.
While Lawrence wasn't of the highest class in the city, his home clearly showed evidence of wealth from generations before. A candlelit chandelier hung from the ceiling over a wooden floor carpeted in fine imported rugs from India. Even the walls were papered in gaudy patterns, cluttering the mind if stared at for too long.
"They certainly needed knowledge of anatomy." Lawrence took a seat beside Oscar. "The murderer didn't just cut his victims open for the thrill of it, either. Some of the interior organs were also removed and missing reports have said. Only someone with a history in medical procedures could have located them all
and without damage to them, either."
Oscar's hand slid over to Lawrence's knee, resting upon it gently. "Obviously they would need to be wealthy then, hm? Or at least well off." He gave a little squeeze.
"Well, that removes all questioning of the immigrants, then. For the most part anyway." Lawrence could notice Oscar's eyes lower at that for a brief moment, until he managed a smirk.
"It still leaves the "perverts" on trial, however."
Lawrence moved closer to Oscar, a gleam in his eye. Parting his lips with a soft chuckle, he, too, forced a smile. "Now what would a "pervert" want with women?"
Oscar scoffed in return, feeling Lawrence remove his glass of gin from his hands and set it on the table beside them. Leaning in, Lawrence closed his eyes and allowed his lips to catch Oscar's, the candles of the chandelier dimming for the night.
It wasn't long after the death of Miss Chapman that a new article struck the front page. The once called Whitechapel Murderer now had a new name, supposedly proclaimed by himself due to a letter that arrived to the police: "Jack the Ripper". The people of Whitechapel were now talking more than ever before. The killer had released a letter to the police, giving not only details of what his next victim would experience, but a new name that quickly spread across London.
"I can't possibly see why he would send such a thing." Lawrence sipped his tea as he read the front page, glancing up at Oscar momentarily. "Much of it sounds forced. It hardly reads like a killer wrote it."
"Well, you did say that he very well could be an ordinary man." Oscar watched his friend in interest. "It also seems he was quite taken aback by the press commenting on skills of a doctor. Perhaps, if it were him, he fears the authorities are getting closer?"
"That or whoever wrote it wants to keep the minorities as the main target. It's all rather confusing. If it were the killer, why would he send a note to the police? And if it's not the killer, why would anyone send such a letter claiming they were?" Lawrence stared at the paper in perplexity.
"I have a feeling that either way, this is going to spark something. Like you said, if it is the killer, we know he's planning to strike again
just the details of his next victim. But if not
" Oscar bit his lip.
"This very well could lead to another murder."
The street lamps flickered as Lawrence and Oscar made their way home. Shadows lingered on the cold cobblestone streets, the only sounds coming from gin-shops and opium dens along the alleys. Both men's shoes clicked along the street beneath them, echoing off of the buildings that too were sheltered in the darkness. As they continued along, Lawrence could feel Oscar's fingertips begin to curl around his own, causing him to pull away sharply.
"We can't, Oscar," was all Lawrence said before pushing his hands into the pockets of his trench coat. "You know the law. If anything were to be public"
"Oh, come now, Lawrence! No one's around! Take a look for yourself!"
Lawrence feigned a glimpse over his shoulder through the darkness as he heaved a sigh. "Either way, it's best we don't risk it. All it takes is one person to see before we"
"Before we get marked as the "perverts" who have been committing the murders?" Oscar snorted.
"Before we end up on trial or in prison for such behavior."
Oscar fell silent. Without another word from either of them, both men continued down the street. Only when they crossed over onto Mitre Square was their silence broken, when hollers from a policeman caught their attention ahead. Hurrying down the square, Lawrence and Oscar stopped short at the sight, the officer, too, looking distraught.
The body of a woman lay before themmutilated. Like the other victims in the previous cases, her throat had been slit open, blood pouring out over the cobblestones. But that wasn't what took both Lawrence and Oscar back upon laying eyes on the sight. It was her abdomen, completely cut open, intestines stretched up over her shoulder, which caused them to grimace and turn away. They hardly had a glimpse at the rest of her.
"Did either of you see what happened? Anything suspicious? Anything at all?" The officer finally began questioning Lawrence and Oscar once other authorities arrived to look at the body.
"Nothing at all, sir." Lawrence spoke softly with a tremble in his breath. "We didn't even hear a scream."
As the officers surrounded the body and allowed their doctor to observe the aftermath, Lawrence and Oscar turned away again. Had only they been passing through less than a half hour prior, perhaps in fact, they would have run into the murderer themselves.
"Catherine Eddowes wasn't the only one murdered, Oscar. It appears an Elizabeth Stride was also attacked last night, presumably by the same killer." Lawrence's hands were shaky as he held the paper now, leaning against a wall for support.
"What?" Even Oscar's voice carried a trace of disgruntlement. "He's never struck twice in one night."
"I wouldn't be surprised if it were due to the letter that was sent. Like you said, if it wasn't a sign from the killer himself, it was sure to spark something." Lawrence folded the paper before tossing it in the nearby trashcan. This issue, he wanted to be relieved of. "Yet, what I find especially peculiar is the fact that on Miss Eddowes, her ear was sliced and a chunk was taken off the lobe."
"A lot was taken off of her, Lawrence. Surely you can remember." Oscar trembled at the thought.
but if you remember correctly, in the letter that was written to the police, this, "Jack the Ripper", made sure to note that his next victim would have a piece of their ear removed."
Oscar peered over to Lawrence steadily as more hushed whispers rose around them from passersby who had just received their copy of the paper. Glancing out across the street filled with its bustling horse-drawn carriages, Lawrence parted his lips.
"Either it truly was the killer who sent the note as a forewarning
or someone playing what they thought would be a joke may have just gotten an innocent woman killed."
Though the weeks passed, neither Lawrence nor Oscar could wipe the thoughts of Miss Eddowes's body from their minds. They still saw the blood, covering the once gray cobblestone; still saw her intestines, coiled around her arm like bloody snakes squeezing the life from their prey; and they still saw her limbs, twisted and mangled against the ground. At night, they would lay awake in each other's arms, staring at the shadows on the wall. Every now and again, they could swear they shaped into the image of the ripper, looming over their bedside with his dagger ready to claim their throats as well. It was at that point, they swore they were going mad.
"Gin's not going to help drown out the thoughts, Lawrence." Oscar spoke softly as he was handed a glass from the bartender. "If anything, it's going to just add to the lack of sanity we've had these past nights."
"Please, Oscar," Lawrence coaxed, taking his glass and downing what he could of the alcohol, "it will help ease our thoughts, even if for a brief while. Enough to let us sleep tonight."
The voices of other drunken men rose up from inside the gin-shop as Oscar leaned close to Lawrence's ear, whispering. "All it will take is us stumbling around drunk blabbering what we saw the other night to get us locked up, Lawrence. We'd make the perfect image for what they're looking for in the ripper."
Oscar motioned to their reflection across the bar. He sat in his typical immigrant attire, Irish features prominent in the lighting. As for Lawrence, with his trench coat and hat, he looked much like the drawings of what the murderer was described asespecially if he were to be silhouetted by shadows.
"We need to be careful, Lawrence."
Staring at his drink, Lawrence shrugged Oscar off, taking his next glass and gulping it down to drown out his memories.
Down the dark cobbled streets, Oscar led Lawrence. While the streetlamps flared as they did every night, the men became aware of the uncanny that came with their glow. It had practically been a month since they had wandered out after dark, and the memories of the murder of Catherine Eddowes still remained prominent in their minds.
Unlike most of the nights the two spent together in public, Oscar held onto Lawrence, supporting him along the cobblestones his foot slipped upon every once in a while. His breath reeked of alcohol, the source of his staggered movements. As they rounded a corner, Oscar sighed, tugging at Lawrence's coat a bit harder now.
"You'd better hope no one spots us out here, Lawrence." He urged his friend on down the street, knowing that the sooner they arrived home, the better it was for the both of them. "With the ripper cases, policemen are everywhere. All we'd need is a slip from you, and"
"Oh, do be quiet, Oscar." Even Lawrence's speech was somewhat slurred. "We'll be fine. If either of us should be worrying about being caught by the police for anything, it would be you before me."
Oscar stopped. "Why's that?"
"You worry they're out looking for good ol' Jack and that they'll turn us in for suspects. It's the immigrants they've been after, Oscar! They'd take one look at you and"
"Well what about you?" Oscar glared at Lawrence. "You've got the outfit people have grown to fear thanks to the brilliant artists who have been trying to terrorize the city! Plus, you're drunk, Lawrence! They'd say you've gone mad from intoxication!"
"Think logically here, Oscar." Lawrence's voice had dropped and his eyes bitterly stared at the Irishman. "If they had to turn in either you or me for imprisonment and execution, it would be filth like you that would go first
not a higher class Englishman like me."
Oscar pressed his lips together tightly, not bothering to come back with a response. He knew that Lawrence was right, even if he was speaking through a drunken mind with no knowledge of how hurtful his words had been. They both remained in complete silence, just staring at each other, until a scream from down the street caught their attention. It was a woman.
Yet, Lawrence and Oscar simply stood there and listened, the scream burrowing deep into the backs of their minds as it longed to be forgotten along with the body of Miss Eddowes. And thus, they turned and walked away.