Ripper is a Gangster!
This is a ripe one, I think to myself as he crosses the floor. Sixteen if he’s a day and he’s got that topper out of a coal chute. He’s wearing it like it makes him look like a lord. Whatever it takes for the fare, I think, trying not to roll my eyes. I swear I can see him gurning, pulling on the menacing-doctor face while he struts. He’s really concentrating. I’m surprised he don’t poke his tongue out the side of his gob. He probably practiced that face in the mirror before coming out tonight. Make the sale, Marjorie, I tell myself.
“Ooooer, you’re a foine figger of a man,” says I. I put on the Cockney-crone voice real brassy like. These young ones don’t like it if they think you’re from Windlesham. “A roight gen’leman, oo are.”
He eats it up. Easy money, I think, the minute he opens his mouth. “Ah yes, my dear,” he says. He’s trying to put some bass in it. I swear to Jesus I’ll laugh if his voice cracks. “I must say I am not well acquitted with these low sorts of establishments.” Acquitted. Don’t say nothing, don’t say nothing…
“Ooo ah, you all dressed up in that foinery! I shant wonder. ‘Ow does a gel like me rate an or-dience with yez Lordship? Tee hee.” I’m laying it on a bit thick, I think. If the lad had ever talked to a real woman in his life besides his mum and his sister, I’d be in real trouble. “I’d shorely love to provide yez Lordship with some comp-ny on this loverly avenin’.”
“Oh, would you?” he says. He’s spotty and them is his dad’s church shoes he’s wearing. He better not scuff them or he’s in for a right thrashing when his little game is up. “I think you shall provide me with some delicatable entertainment indeed.”
When we leave the Frog and Caverns, I think for about half a mo that I’ve underestimated him, as he’s got a real carriage waiting for him. Then I notice the livery on it: it’s a rental. Poor bastard, he probably saved up all summer for this. I almost feel bad about it. Almost.
At the very least, I decide to give him a real show of it. “Cor,” I say, all swoony. “Look’er ‘ere! Yez railley knows ‘ow to travel in stoyle, dain’t yez, yar Lordship?” I give him a wee goose and pretend to be drunker than you can get off the watery gin they serve at the Caverns. He got a glass of wine when we were chatting, but when I went off to powder I seen him pour it out.
“Yes, indeed, my lady,” he says, still affecting the to-the-manor-born talk. I try not to notice that he gives the driver a look when he lifts me into the cab, or that the driver is a weedy blond who keeps snickering and looking at his mobile. One of his sixth-form chums no doubt. “You will find that I travel in style.”
The carriage has the name of the livery company right above the door. He probably doesn’t even notice. Once we’re on the way he offers me a choccy. It’s grapes you’re supposed to give, you berk, I don’t say. I’m never lucky enough to get laudanum with this lot — too expensive and they can barely pronounce it — but he’s probably put a laxative or similar on it for a larf. I pretend to eat it, then palm it when he’s straightening his cravat.
After playing it to the hilt on the carriage ride — I even tell him I’m “Oirish”, and call myself a “dirty hoor”, even though I put on the Cockney act earlier, and he doesn’t even notice — I regret it once we get to the rendezvous. He tries to pass it off as “a little place he keeps for, ha ha, medical business when I’m in the city”, but I swear on me mother’s it’s a Big School sport equipment shed. There’s mops on the walls, honest to god. This time I actually do laugh out loud, but I remember I’m supposed to be drugged, so maybe he won’t mind it. Sure enough, he goes into his bit just as I turn around.
“And now, my dear,” he intones like a vicar at vespers, “the time has come for you to know the truth. I am not the wealthy aristocrat you thought me at all, you vile harlot.” He pronounces it ‘harlow’, like he thinks it’s a French word.
“For you see, I…” and here he throws off the crepe overcoat he got at a costumers, “am the man known to your kind…”, he starts fumbling about in his pocket for the shiver and damn me if he hasn’t forgot where he put it, and I’m trying to get my scream ready but it’s hard to concentrate while he’s patting about like he’s lost his house keys, “as Jack the Ripper!”
I give him the scream. It’s a good one. It’s more than he deserves.
After, he makes a scene. The young ones always do. I drop the naive act right after the scream; I can tell from daddy’s shoes and the rented carriage and the blade (it’s a bread knife, for goodness’ sake) that he ain’t gonna pay for extra, so extra I don’t give him. Sure enough, like most of the ones his age, he’s shocked to find out I’m in on the gag. When I ask him for a tenner tip, he acts like I was the one what pretended to knife him.
“I’m just…well, I mean, I thought it would be a bit of crack,” he stammers. “I didn’t know anyone else did it.”
“Darling,” I tell him, “this is how I make my living. Me and a dozen other girls in Whitechapel.”
“But…for how long? How long has this been going on?”
“Since 1888. Since they never caught him. And it’ll keep on until they do, I expect. Mind you, I don’t judge. Whatever you want to play at to get your fun. I’m in no position, you understand.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I just…I thought I was the first.”
“They all do, love. They all do.”