Victorian England… specifically London 1888
Night fell. These days in London were not good ones.
Fumes from the gas filled the streets, the greenish fog, or “Pea Soupers” as the locals called it, threatened to bring the East End to its knees again. It was a commonplace for the population these days. The conditions of this city continued to deteriorate consistently every day. Sewage ran uncontrolled through the streets that were gorged with humanity’s mass. Life was hard.
Jane Sommersby knew this too well. As she strode into the nearest pub with the few coins in her pocket from the previous night’s work, Jane found her way to the bar. She made her way here every night. Such was the life of an alcoholic whore in London.
Her life was not always this way. She had been engaged to a proper gentleman who promised to remove Jane from this horrid city. The life that he promised was filled with love and family and happiness. His untimely death in the stagecoach accident rocked her world, leaving her alone and penniless and striving for survival among the wretched parasites of the city.
“Back again, are ya, dearie?” ‘Polly’ said, moving over to Jane. “Move over, Luv, I’m `ere t’join ya.” The fellow whore bellied up to the bar, dropping more coin on the counter. “My treat, girl.”
Jane’s slight smile was a welcome sight, a sanctuary from the horrors surrounding them. Those smiles were few and far between. The devastating circle of life just continued to roll without any concern with whom it rolled upon. Jane Sommersby knew that, and she appreciated the moment of kindness from her friend. Everyone called Mary Anne Nichols by the nickname ‘Polly,’ though Jane was not sure why. It was just a fact of life.
“Are ye `eadin’ out again tonight?” ‘Polly’ asked.
“Yes,” Jane said softly, drinking the rum that had been placed before her.
“Then you should ‘ave another,” Polly said, signaling to the barkeep. “Lord knows we be needin’ t’brace.”
Polly was a known alcoholic and probably not the best person for Jane to be hanging around with, but Jane was in no position to judge. The Bible … Luke 6:37 said: Judgenot,and ye shallnot be judged : condemnnot,and ye shallnot be condemned : forgive , and ye shall be forgiven. Jane wondered what God’s plan was for her, and would her sins of survival be held against her. She hoped God would understand.
Jane realized that ‘Polly’ was arguing with a man she recognized as Polly’s lodging house keeper. The man was not happy with ‘Polly’ seeking to buy rounds of drinks when her rent was due. Polly dismissed the man as only he could.
“I’ll soon get my doss money. See what a jolly bonnet I ‘ave,” she said, as the man stomped away. Polly’s laughs were the soundtrack to his departure. “One more, Luv, and then out into the night.”
Jane admired Polly’s spunk and her seemingly joy of life, no matter how awful it may have been. Polly’s story of tragedy rivaled that of Jane’s, but she did not let it get her down. She was a good friend. She was a good person.
Polly left the pub into the dark, London night for the final time… Jane would never see her again.
The scuttlebutt had reached the ears of Jane late that very night, as she was finishing with her evening’s assignment. The words chilled her to the bone: Someone has murdered a whore. The chill was not because of any fear Jane had for her own safety. Something told her. She knew.
Jane found her way to the Essex Wharf and the Brown and Eagle Wool Warehouse and Schneider’s Cap Factory, where the body was found. Police shooed her several times away from the scene, but she had hoped to catch one glimpse of the victim… just to relieve the terrible premonition she had brewing within her breast.
Unfortunately, her fears were not relieved. They were confirmed. It was Polly.
Jane could contain herself no longer, and she could not handle the sight of the blood upon the ground. Jane staggered away from the scene, salty emissions watering the path, her matted brown hair flying behind her.
What kind of villain would do something like that to Polly? thought the distraught woman. She had no enemies in the world. Everyone loved her.
Jane rushed to her home, and she threw herself on the broken down mattress, the springs barely bouncing back. Her sobs were lost in the morning’s rising sun.
Reaching into her bed table drawer, Jane pulled out the slightly yellowed envelop. Removing the contents, Jane carefully unfolded the letter.
My dearest Jane,
She re-read the words once more. She had read them hundreds of times since he died. They never made her feel better, but that did not stop her. Those words of love and loyalty did not help now either. But she read them anyway.
A little over a week later, a second victim was found. It was another prostitute. Anne Chapman. Jane had not met her, but she had seen her around a couple of times. Chapman had been butchered. Two separate cuts across her throat. Her intestines had been removed from her abdomen and laid across her shoulder… among other hate-filled atrocities.
The rumors had been flying. Blame was being tossed to the Jews, to the insane, to Americans, to doctors, to demons themselves. Jane was not interested in the rumors. She was only concerned with living. Her priority was surviving in a London world infested by a predator weaving his way through the labyrinthine alleys and paths of the East End. A predator with a newly minted name …
Slouching into the chair, James Maybrick shuddered; the mild shakes had become common for the Liverpool-born cotton merchant, his hands trembling as they reached into his coat pocket for his red tin box. The medication he found within had long since stopped being effective, but that did not prevent him from swallowing them down with a gulp. Even the not-so subtle signs of arsenic poisoning that he had been exhibiting did not sway Maybrick. He was hooked.
Pulling his cloak and his top hat from his weakened body, an eerie calm had been overtaking him since he had dispatched the last whore. Her blood splattered the outfit he had been wearing, and necessitated his changing at his flat in Whitechapel. He could not be seen with the blood of a dirty whore staining his body. Not when the whore mother was nearby. That adulterous b%@#% would take the knowledge and destroy him, for sure. And that would not be acceptable until his crusade had been completed.
Removing the journal from its hiding place, Maybrick opened to the next page. In his arsenic-induced madness, he felt no concern over placing his thoughts and deeds into an incriminating document here in his own home at Battlecrease House. The cursed witch would never be as brazen as to step foot inside his study. He imagined asserting his will over the woman and her whore master. This was all her fault. The reign of terror that was Jack the Ripper was not necessary. It was Florence’s fault
Beginning to scribble in the old scrapbook he was masquerading as a journal, Maybrick’s hand shook. He hoped that the medicine would take effect soon. He was almost out. He must find more. He could not carry out his mission without them. Maybrick took another couple of his arsenic pills. These must start to work soon.
“Sir Jim,” a voice from the dark of the study rang through Maybrick. The name… Sir Jim… that he sometimes referred himself by felt foreign when spoken by another, but Maybrick did not turn to acknowledge the visitor. He knew who it was. He expected him.
After several minutes, “Go away,” Maybrick finally sputtered, the words barely escaping his lips.
“No, it is not time for me to leave yet, Sir Jim. Or shall I call you Sir Jack? I have to say, I have truly enjoyed the over-the-top coverage from the papers of your escapades. They have turned you into more than just a killer. They surely will make you infamous. I can hardly wait to read the next installment. And those letters to the police… genius! Pure genius!”
“I didn’t write most of them,” Maybrick said.
“Irrelevant. As far as the public knows, you wrote them all!”
Maybrick continued to write in the scrapbook. The memories of the Anne Chapman slaying were still fresh in his head. The warmth of the blood spurting from her throat as the cold steel of his knife sliced through the flesh. The look of fear in her eyes as she realized the days of her torturous existence would soon be ending. Oh, how he wished he had the strength to end the existence of the real villain of this piece. How easy it would be to move down the hallway to her room and put an end to the Ripper’s reign of terror once at for all. Without her, there would be no motive. There would be no need. Jack the Ripper could fade into the night like a creature from a childhood nightmare. But what then would he say to Bobo? Or to his sweet Gladys Evelyn? Surely these children needed their mother. Could he deprive them?
“You are still so lost in thought, James,” the mystery man said. “I truly did choose the proper man for this. We will change London forever. Jack the Ripper will be remembered… long after the names of the whores disappear from the world’s consciousness. Who would miss these dirty creatures?”
The hatred spewed from the man in the darkness as Maybrick slowed his hand. His own anger was subsiding, the arsenic finally making its presence in his body known.
“I see your pills are becoming in short supply,” he said. “I can help with that.”
A white hand reached out, coldly placing another tin filled with arsenic on the desk before Maybrick. The serial killer’s grateful glance toward his accomplice was all the payment he would make. Maybrick had money. He had stature. He had business associates. But none of them understood like this man did. He was as much of a soul mate as any friend could be.
“Remember, Sir Jim,” he said once again, “before you slip off into the escape of dreams, your next target has been chosen for you. It is time. The first two victims were in preparation for the true target. Next time that Jack the Ripper makes an appearance on the streets of Whitechapel, your victim will not be one of convenience. She has a name. You remember… don’t you?”
“Yes,” Maybrick said, his eyes drooping, his head slowly sagging. “Jane Sommersby.”
As Jack the Ripper softly slouched in his chair, the day’s events consumed by his unconscious, the man moved from the darkness, scooped the makeshift journal from the desk into his white hands, and returned it to its hiding place. Someone finding this confession would not do. Not for now.
With his green hair hidden beneath his hat, he did his best to contain the laughter that fought desperately to get out as he stared at the single playing card he grasped in his hand… the Joker. His grin spread, the yellowish tinted teeth invading his pale façade.
“Nighty-night, Sir Jim,” the Joker said.
Fear projected the boy from the underground, feet pounding against the ground with a frenzied beat. He could not believe what he had seen, and he had to spread the word.
That, though, could be a problem for Nigel. The ten-year old street waif was renowned throughout London’s East End for his wild imagination and his tendency to stretch the truth, if not outright rip it to shreds. But Nigel knew that he had to make them believe him this time…
Flying onto the street, Nigel saw a group of men working and a constable patrolling the street. He rushed to them.
“Demon!” he exclaimed, breathlessly panting from his sprint. The group looked at the boy.
“Nigel… stop yer bleedin’ wankin’, boy,” said one of the men, used to the boy’s over-exaggerated tales. The hyperbole that the boy was known for was a waste of time.
“No… I mean it this time, guvernor I saw a demon,” Nigel screamed. The fear was real and added to the weight of his words. And then, Nigel said the right words. “It was the Ripper!”
Those five words brought the men to a standstill. This could not be dismissed as one of Nigel’s stories. They could not take the chance. Within seconds, the mob followed the boy, grabbing whatever they could for weaponry as they descended into the cold ground. The assembled both hoped that this was just another story from the boy, and wished that it was not.
The darkness was broken by the slight beams of light from above, but it was still difficult to see. The mob trailed behind Nigel, until the boy came to a sudden stop, thrusting his hand… pointing toward a corner of the tunnel.
“There it is,” Nigel said.
The yellow eyes glowed, standing out in the darkness. The blue elf-like face blended into the blackness as the man crouched with the wall at his back. The assembled mob could not breathe…they could not even gasp. They did have enough air. The creature before them was the stuff of their nightmares.
“My… god… Nigel’s right. It is a demon,” the constable said.
“Bitte…please… I mean no harm,” the demon said, his blue tail flicked like a flag in the wind. The sadness in his eyes revealed misery from a lifetime of tragedy and sorrow. None of the mob could see the pain in the eyes of this being. They weren’t looking for the humanity inside the beast.
Kurt Wagner was not English. He was German. He was not a demon. He was a God-fearing Christian. He was shy and soft-spoken. That did not prevent the short sighted Germans of his home in the village of Hamburg from chasing him with torches and clubs and a blood thirst unrivaled. Kurt escaped with luck. He met a group of gypsies… who took him in… took control of him. Dominated him.
They were not just gypsies… it was a traveling freak show. And they now had their main attraction. He was billed as the demon elf… the Nightcrawler. They toured across the continent of Europe, the Nightcrawler the major draw. Kurt was hidden in a dank, small cage, with people paying their coins for a brief glimpse. It was a disrespectful life. A life that was worse than he expected. It almost made him long for the crowd with their torches. A quick demise was preferable to the day long quietus.
Kurt spent evenings praying to God, praying that He would show a way out of this Hell, out of this new prison that his life had become. If he could be like the others… look like the other… if only he was not a creature… a freak… then he could be free.
His chance came in London. The freak show had been invaded by a religious sect, looking to deliver the country from the freak show’s evil. It was just a matter of time before this invasion turned ugly… and violent, as these men always seemed to do. Kurt found himself freed, and he disappeared into the London fog.
Things had not improved drastically. Hungry, lonely, scared… Kurt retreated into the underground of the East End. The isolation was needed… not wanted. Stealing a Bible from a nearby priest, Kurt read passages as the days passed, searching for a purpose… a reason.
That reason was not found in the angry eyes of the London crowd glaring at the cornered “demon.”
“Please,” Kurt said again to the angry Londoners, “I just vant to be left alone.”
The darkness masked the brick that had been propelled from the crowd. The strike to the temple staggered the Nightcrawler. Blood ran from his forehead, down his face as a second blow, a rock this time, struck him in the head again. His vision blurred, his head spun, his stomach turned as Kurt desperately tried to gain his bearings. Vhy do they always respond to my peaceful requests… my begs for clemency… vith violence? he thought. There was no answer to the questions plaguing him.
“Demon, you shall not kill another woman,” one of the men yelled. Kurt was confused. Had he understood that correctly? Do they believe that he had killed someone?
The mob moved forward, with anything but cooperation on their mind.
The cloud of smoke and the odor of brimstone replaced the elf. Kurt Wagner was gone. The crowd gasped in shock. The demon was no longer in their sights.
He moved through the light in darkness. He was used to that sensation. He had done it his entire life. He found himself now practicing his craft in London having arrived after the death of his father back in the states. This was a new start.
“Well, ‘ello there, barrister,” said the butcher, outside his shop. “ An’ `ow be ye today?”
“I’m good, sir,” he said. “Just heading to the office.”
“Do you need ‘elp, sir?”
“No, of course not,” the barrister said. “I know right where I’m heading.”
The look of admiration on the butcher’s face was obvious to everyone…everyone that is except the barrister. He moved on toward his office like it was second nature. And anyone seeing him would never know that he was blind.
Matt Murdock turned the corner toward his office, reaching the door. Reaching into his pocket for his keys, Murdock heard something. His attention was drawn to the sound. He had really good ears. Moving into the alleyway beside the office, Murdock realized that there was someone on the ground. The man was injured, a slight moan filling the air… almost too slight to be heard. But it was not too slight for Matt Murdock.
It was about a half hour later when the injured man awoke, a bandage placed across his scarred head blotting the blood. The yellow eyes searched the unfamiliar surroundings, trying to understand what had happened.
“What? What happened?”
“Ah, you are awake. Good. There is some tea on the table in front of you,” said Murdock, moving into view. “Be calm, you are safe.”
“Who are you?” the man asked.
“My name is Matt Murdock. I found you outside on the ground. You had been hurt, so I brought you inside,” Murdock said.
“Danke, Herr Murdock,” he said. “My name is Kurt Wagner. Your kindness is much appreciated.”
“Just relax, you are safe here, Kurt,” Murdock said. “What do you remember?”
Kurt’s recollection was fuzzy. He did remember something about a brick and a rock, but he had no idea how he arrived in the alley outside of Murdock’s law office. The memories of the confrontation with the mob creeped back into his head… a memory that he was not ready to shade with this stranger, no matter how kind he had been.
“I’m afraid, mein freund, that I don’t remember much,” he said. “I do not know what happened.”
“There are many superstitious people here in London. I assume someone believed that you were a demon and decided to do something about it,” said Murdock.
“Was?” Kurt said, shocked. Upon awakening, he had realized that Matt Murdock could not see, so Kurt Wagner thought that he could avoid the preconceived notions. For once in his life, Kurt Wagner had felt like he would not be judged. That illusion was shattered.
“I’m blind, Kurt… I’m not stupid. I had to carry you inside. You’ve got a tail. You have three fingers. I may be blind, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see,” Matt said.
Kurt dropped his head, shame covered him. He had not considered any of that. His head ached from the blows that he had taken, and now his conscience bothered him as well. He hoped that he had not insulted the handicapped man who had helped him.
“I apologize, Herr Murdock,” Kurt said. “I meant no offense.”
“None taken, but please… call me Matt,” said Murdock.
“You are not afraid of me?” Kurt said.
“Should I be?” Murdock said.
“How do you know that I am not… how you put it… a demon?”
“I found you clutching your Bible. I didn’t know too many demons that read the scriptures. And I try not to make judgments on people by their appearances, because they are almost always inaccurate. I make judgments on their actions.”
Murdock moved toward the bookcase.
“I mean, if someone looked at me, they would see a blind man… someone helpless. I’ve dealt with people for my entire life that, no matter how good of intentions that they may have had, treated me as if I was helpless because of my blindness. And these people had no idea that I was more capable than they could ever dream of being.”
Murdock executes a perfect backflip, spiraling in the air, and landing, crouched, atop the bookcase.
The streets at night were dangerous… downright deadly lately, but Jane Sommersby could not stay inside. She needed to keep working. She needed the money for liquor and food and rent. She knew the order of that was muddled, but the addiction held her tight.
So, despite what had happened to her friend Polly and to Anne Chapman, Jane found herself out on the street making a living. It had been several weeks since the Anne Chapman murder, making the street a little less tense. Jane did not jump every time someone approached her.
What were the odds that she would be the next victim? He was like the boogeyman… just a warning.
The man in the top hat and the long black cloak moved toward her. She could tell by a glance that this man was of good stock. He was not the Jew butcher or the demon that the papers speculated was the Ripper, and Jane needed the work. She smiled at the Dandy Dan as he moved toward her.
It did not take many words for Jane to accompany him. She knew this man was too high brow to be a slasher. This was just business now. Jane was unprepared when he grabbed her by the arm, in the alleyway just off Dutfield’s Yard past Berner Street.
“Jane Sommersby, we need not go any farther,” he said, a cold, murderous stare highlighting his face.
“How did you know my name?” she said in a whisper. It was a preferred tactic to use a fake name in her line of business. Whores couldn’t be too careful.
The shining blade of the knife flashed before her face, slashing a slice across her pallid shoulder. Pain flooded her mind. She grasped at the cut, trying to keep the blood from spurting out. A blow from the brunt of the knife sent the whore back into the sewage in the street. Blackness was all she knew. Her last thought was that she would finally be reunited with her love.
Jack the Ripper towered over the fallen whore, knife held tightly in his grasp, his pulse racing and adrenaline exploding in his chest. In his warped mind, he pictured the whore whose fault it was for the Ripper’s reign of terror. Florence Maybrick… every time he dispatched one of these dirty creatures, he saw her face. And his anger was released. He moved toward Jane’s unconscious body for the tête-à-tête… to take out his frustrations.
The flash of smoke and fire above the woman’s body surprised the killer. The blue demon with the long tail stood over the fallen whore, a quick backhand knocking the Ripper away. With the surprise assault, Kurt Wagner held the injured woman in his arms, and they both disappeared.
The Ripper regained his footing, refusing to brush the dirt from his clothes, his eyes darting around the alley. There was no sign of the whore or her rescuer. The anger swelled within him, unable to release his pent up chagrin because of the hindrance of the hero. His wail broke the silence of the night.
“Are you alright, sir?” said Elizabeth Stride, an unfortunate lady of the night entering the alley. The single slice across her neck sent her crumbling to the ground. Wrong place, wrong time. But the timing was wrong for him. He could not finish the rest of his… needs…without being caught. But… he would not be done. Not tonight.
Kurt tenderly laid the woman down on the bed in the room above Murdock’s law firm. Matt had given Kurt this room to stay and hide out from the crowd until he decided what to do. Kurt did not have much. He had the Bible and a few items that were in the room already. His recent discovery of his strange ability… this ability to disappear and reappear in a different place… was disconcerting. Out in the night, Kurt Wagner was seeing the limits of this ability.
Seeing the attack, Kurt decided that he could not stand by and watch the woman be slaughtered. The Nightcrawler intervened.
Jane’s eyes slowly opened, her last memory was an expectation of not opening them again. The blue face was the last thing she expected.
“Am I in Hell?” she asked, calm, as if it was what she expected.
“Nein, fraulein, you are alive and well,” Kurt said.
The fear began to well up inside Jane, now not sure where she was or what had happened. She found herself too scared to scream. This night had gone from strange to surreal.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“You are safe, at the office of mein freund,” Kurt said. “My name is Kurt Wagner. You were in some distress, I am afraid. I was able to get you away from the fiend. I returned to the scene, but unfortunately, it appeared that I was not able to prevent another tragedy,” he said.
“Someone else? He killed someone else?”
“Ja, I am afraid that is so,” Kurt said. “It is a dangerous time.”
“He knew my name,” said Jane. “My real name…”
“You are safe here…” Kurt pauses. He realized that he did not know her name.
“Jane,” she said.
“You are safe here, Jane. I will not let anyone harm you. Lay your head back… close your eyes… secure in the knowledge that no one will threaten you tonight,” said Kurt.
Jane placed her head back on the pillow. Something in his voice made her believe that she truly was safe. His kind, smiling face a stark opposite to the evil she had seen earlier. Yet, this Kurt Wagner looked like a monster and the other man looked like a gentleman. The irony was not lost on Jane as she faded into the arms of the sandman knowing that the demon would protect her.
As the night transformed into day, James Maybrick returned to his home, a fateful night of ripping across Whitechapel dissolving into his memory. Two victims for the first time since this mission had begun. However, neither of the whores were the intended target. She had escaped. And she had seen him.
The white-faced clown waited for him to return. He had anticipated the news all night, until he had heard the police report: Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes… neither name the one he had wanted.
The Joker waited, prepared to confront Maybrick on his failure as soon as he returned. Seeing Maybrick back at his writing desk, Joker moved into position.
“So…eventful night?” he said, a twinge of anger upon the words. “Two in one night. Quite the record.”
“Yes,” Maybrick said. There was no pride. There was so remorse. It was just a dead shell before him. A shell that was beginning to waste its usefulness.
“You were supposed to have taken care of Jane Sommersby,” Joker said.
“I tried,” he said. “I even sliced her with the knife. But she was saved.”
“Saved? What do you mean?”
“A blue demon appeared from nowhere, just as I prepared to put the finishing touches on her. Then they were both gone… in a flash. You need not worry about her anymore because the devil himself claimed her soul.”
Joker looked at his puppet. The man believed that… or was it the arsenic speaking? Either way, Jane Sommersby still lived and something had to be done.
“She saw you,” Joker started, “so you will not be able to approach her again without her revealing you. And we now have some white knight out there who believes it is his job to save the whores of London. A white knight who looks like a demon,” Joker said. “This is a definite problem.”
Maybrick continued to be focused on his writing. He was no longer listening to the Joker’s speak.
“So I guess I need to move on to Plan B. Something a little more wide spread. I shall catch both Jane Sommersby and her blue demon in my web. Ha Ha Ha ha Ha.”
Jane’s eyes gently opened as the light from the window found its way to the bed where she lay. She had slept soundly for the first time in… well, as long as she could remember… certainly since she started this life. A pot of tea, a croissant and a rose sat on a tray beside the bed, awaiting her. She hungrily started on the pastry, trying to remain ladylike, but her hunger was all-consuming. It had been a while since she had eaten. She had gotten used to not eating much.
“Good morning,” the stranger said, startling her.
“Who are you?”
“Be calm. I am Matt Murdock. My friend Kurt brought you here last night. I hear you had a deadly confrontation with the Ripper,” Murdock said.
“Are you blind?” she asked, noticing the manner in which Matt moved around.
“Yes, ma’am, I am. But don’t think that holds me back. In fact, don’t even think about it. I rarely do,” Matt said.
“Where is Kurt?”
“I sent him to get some sleep. He had spent all night standing guard over you and he was ready to collapse when I arrived this morning. He finally agreed when I said that I would wait with you. He got you some breakfast, and he finally dozed off downstairs in the office.”
Jane felt a warm feeling of thankfulness. It had been a long time since someone had worried about her safety. Kurt Wagner was a kind soul. But she could not spend all day here. She had business to attend to. She started to stand up. The new dress laid upon the bottom of the bed. She just noticed it.
“He brought that for you as well. It is a might sight better than the one you are wearing,” said Matt. Jane did not wonder how the blind man could tell about her dress because she was engulfed with the beauty of the fashion before her.
“I cannot accept,” she said, sadly.
“Why not? There are no strings attached, unlike your usual manner of work,” Matt said, drawing her attention. “I know your profession… the Ripper only attacks prostitutes… and I do not believe that he made an error this time.”
Jane turned away from Murdock.
“I should be going,” she said.
“I’m afraid that cannot happen,” Murdock said.
“You saw Jack the Ripper. You know what this elusive predator’s face looks like. You are too valuable to return to the streets and make yourself a target. You need to stay here.”
“I cannot stay here… I have a job to do. It may be repugnant to you, but I have to be able to eat… to live. I cannot do that hiding here.”
“I was thinking about that, Ms. Sommersby. I have need of a legal secretary… the paperwork, the filing… none of that are strengths of mine, for obvious reasons. My partner Foggy stayed in the States, and I am afraid that I am lost amongst the piles without him. If I offer you a job and a place to stay, would you take me up on it? Then you could accept the dress as a part of the job… and you could earn it. What do you say?”
“You would hire me?” she said. “I’m just a whore.”
“Kurt seems to think that you are more than just a whore. And I tend to agree. What do you say?”
What could she say? She was being offered a chance to escape the streets, the dangers, the degrading lifestyle. She could not turn it down. And with the Ripper out there knowing that she was a loose end… she would also be safe. At least, as safe as one could be in the East End of London.
“Thank you, Mr. Murdock,” she said. “I accept.”
“Wonderful, but call me Matt, please.”
Days moved along, with Jane working an honest living at The Nelson-Murdock law firm, protected by Murdock and Kurt. She struggled with the call of the bottle, but she had decided that, as long as she was holding down the legitimate job, she would not heed the temptation of the liquor. She was proud of herself and her decisions, despite being one of the more difficult thing she tried to do.
Kurt was there at every step. He was so sweet to her, and he helped her through the cravings and the demons within her.
Murdock had started heading out at night on the streets of the East End, hunting for the hunter. He had received the description of the Ripper from Jane, specifically those things that others might not think to ask. Smells… feelings… anything that she could remember. Physical description did not help Matt Murdock much.
But Matt found a freedom in the East End. He started on the streets, but he decided that he could cover more ground… be more effective… above it. So the blind man traveled rooftop to rooftop, a bandana wrapped around the upper part of his face to hide his identity.
Kurt had seen Murdock preparing to leave one night. The German elf shook his head at his friend’s seemingly reckless behavior.
“You’re quite the daredevil, aren’t you?” Kurt said.
The name fit. Matt Murdock began referring to himself as the Daredevil when he was out patrolling the night skies. He saved several people from muggings, prevented robberies, and stopped a rape, but he had not come across the Ripper.
Word of the Daredevil began sweeping across the East End. A reputation he had earned as the defender of the downtrodden, protector of the East End continued to spread. Cartoons were drawn in the local papers of a red devil swooping from the sky upon unsuspecting criminals. All the while, Matt Murdock found the publicity funny.
Meanwhile, Kurt and Jane continued to spend time together. Kurt refused to leave her alone, for the fear that as soon as he did, Jack the Ripper would find her and finish what he started. Kurt suspected that his rescue of her had triggered the “double event” as the papers called the dual slayings of 30 September.
Jane, though basically a prisoner, felt more free than she had in many years. Kurt made sure that she never wanted for anything. She had food, conversation, security.
One night, Kurt appeared before Jane, his face a mask of deep thought.
“What is it, Kurt?” she asked, almost afraid to ask.
“May I ask you a question?” he asked, continuing the serious tone. She was worried.
“Of course,” she said. “You can ask me anything.”
“How did you become a…”
He did not want to finish the question, but it was an inquiry that she had expected to come sooner or later. She completed the line.
“A whore?” she said.
“No, I mean…”
“It’s alright, Kurt. That is what I am… I was,” she said, thinking back upon the terrible circumstances that led her to the lifestyle. “A few years back, I was engaged to a wonderful man. Joseph Kuhr was a true gentleman who treated me with such class and dignity. I was always a poor girl, my family struggling, so I did not have much to offer. But all Joseph asked for was my heart. And I gave it to him gladly.”
“What happened?” Kurt said.
“My family died… Mum and Dad… leaving me nothing. I became completely dependent on Joseph. And then he… died,” she said, stumbling through the words. She had loved this man so deeply. Kurt could tell that she did not want to go into further detail. “After that, I had no family, no means to support myself… it was a matter of survival. I did not want to become a whore, but I did not have many options. People do what they have to do to survive. So did I.”
Kurt dropped from his perch, sitting on the bed beside her. He placed his arm around her fair shoulders. She rested her head against his chest. It fit perfectly as if it was there always. The tears she shed were for the loss of the man, and for finally having someone that she could share those feelings of loss with. Someone who would understand and not judge her. She found it hard to believe, but Jack the Ripper’s near murder of her had turned her life around. She was almost grateful to him.
With the open files scattered across his desk at Scotland Yard, James Montgomery Falsworth searched desperately for some clue hidden in the details. Something the local law enforcement agencies had missed; something that would allow him to finally bring the ruthless regime of terror to an end. He wanted to end the days of Jack the Ripper.
Scotland Yard had hamstrung Falsworth more than he had hoped when he joined the organization. Their rules and their boundaries kept him from being a successful law enforcement agent. The rules had been so challenging that Falsworth had started doing things his own way. He had begun taking the law into his hands.
He had become Union Jack.
A true patriot to the British monarchy, Falsworth wrapped himself in the British flag, literally. And thus, Union Jack was born. Anything that James Montgomery Falsworth could not handle… or was not allowed to handle, Union Jack could. It was a perfect scenario.
But Jack the Ripper had arrived, and Union Jack was as lost as Falsworth was. So he studied the files, the letters, the handwriting, the crime scene evidence as closely as he could. There had to be something that was missed.
Abberline had been the lead investigator on this case, and he had explored most of the typical areas of investigation. Frederick was an acquaintance, but not a friend. And he didn’t want to work with him either. He certainly couldn’t be trusted with the secret of Union Jack.
But Falsworth was sure that he needed help from somewhere. The reports of the blue demon in Whitechapel that some people were claiming was responsible for the Jack the Ripper murders were unsettling as were the reports of the “Daredevil,” an avenging angel…a vigilante… treating the East End of London as his own personal game of “cops and robbers.” Falsworth worried about what this might mean to a location that England had, apparently, turned its back on. Would this Daredevil be a light amongst the darkness or one more disappointment?
Wishing an answer would jump out at him, Falsworth glanced toward the newspaper on his desk. The story on the page brightened his day. An idea formed in his mind. That could be the answer he was searching for all along. Tucking everything about the Ripper case into the file and grabbing the newspaper, Falsworth bolted from the office. He had a stop to make.
Bottom of Form
The evening was quiet. Matt was out, and Kurt was downstairs in the office. Jane appreciated the moment of silence for the rare occasion. She had been very busy working in the law offices, and she was proud at earning the honest wage. Lighting a candle, Jane leaned back on the bed.
Reaching on the table, she found herself holding Kurt’s Bible. Thumbing through it, she found a note tucked inside. It read:
To my lovely little elf, always believe that God has a plan for you. Nina.
“That is from a friend,” Kurt said, surprising Jane. She placed the note back into the Bible and set it down.
“I’m sorry, Kurt. I did not mean to intrude,” she said. “I was just feeling blessed and I was looking to read some of the scriptures. I did not know your note was there.”
“Nina… she was a wonderful woman. She secretly took care of me for a year when I was six,” Kurt said, thinking back. “I have never met a more loving woman. She treated me like few others did… like I wasn’t some monster… but a young child.”
“I kept that note with me wherever I would go,” he said. “If things got too bad, I would read it and know that someone had believed in me. If I had a Bible, I made sure it was tucked inside. “Nina taught me how to read the scriptures… she helped me learn English… she showed me that the world had decent people in it as well.”
“I wondered about your ability to read scripture,” Jane said. “You seem to know them so well… better even than I do. Obviously, Nina taught you well.”
“I try to live my life in the word of God, and I try to be as good of a person as Nina was,” Kurt said. “I am afraid that I fall short more than not.”
“What happened to her?” Jane asked.
“The village found out about me… and that she had been teaching me Christianity… and…”
Kurt stopped. The memory was too painful. He did not want to continue. Jane had seen the darkness of society… the wickedness that humans could show… especially when they were afraid or did not understand something. She did not need Kurt to continue. She placed her hand softly on his shoulder.
“Thank you,” she said in a whisper. She was grateful that he felt safe in sharing this with her. They had a bond, and it was growing every day.
James Montgomery Falsworth stood outside the door of the room where he had been led by the building’s landlady, Mrs. Hudson. His quest would end inside this room as his request for help would be made. It would not be easy, though. This man was stubborn.
When the door creaked open, Falsworth walked in tentatively, the smell of incense wafting freely. Falsworth noticed the leather case on the table containing a syringe… a special syringe used for injecting the seven percent solution. It had been used recently. It was used when his mind needed to be active because cases were failing to challenge him. That was happening more lately. The room was a scattered mess with newspapers, inventions, experiments and documents everywhere. How could a man who was so brilliant be such a slob?
“Holmes?” Falsworth said, seeing the lump in the corner, a slight wisp of smoke rising from beneath the blanket that completely covered him.
This was the life of Sherlock Holmes. Always an eccentric, Holmes had been even more so since his longtime friend and confidant, Dr. John Watson had married and moved from their apartment on Baker Street. Falsworth had expected to find Holmes like this, but the actual site was still shocking.
“Falsworth!” Holmes exclaimed, shoving the blanket aside and standing up. “Good to see you, sir. It has been quite the while.”
Holmes had replaced the broken and lonely man with another one with energy and vigor in a manner of seconds. Falsworth wondered which of these Holmeses the true face was. Sherlock Holmes was renowned for his disguises. Which one was the disguise?
“Ah, yes it has, Holmes,” said Falsworth, “since that murder over on the St. Katharine Docks.”
“Yes, yes, tricky case, that one,” he said. “It wasn’t long after that case, I suppose, that you took on the identity of Union Jack.”
Falsworth’s mouth dropped open. He shouldn’t have been surprised that the greatest detective alive had sussed out his secret. With Holmes’s incredible powers of deduction, he should have expected it, but he hadn’t. He thought he had done a better job of concealing it.
“Holmes, how on earth did you bloody well know?” Falsworth said, a denial was nothing more than a waste of time and breath.
“The conclusion is elementary, dear sir,” said Holmes, “as clear as a bell. Upon your chin, there is a slight bruise, a bruise that is near healed. A bruise like that comes from a solid blow, as the indication of a fist could be seen. Add to this, the limp that you are attempting to conceal with your left leg. The last published reports of the conflict involving Union Jack reported these very injuries.”
Falsworth had thought he had hidden the limp better than that. No one else had noticed it in the week since the last Union Jack appearance. Of course, this wasn’t just anyone. This was Sherlock Holmes.
“And as well as that, your hair is more depressed along the sides as I have ever seen before. Certainly, this comes from the wearing of a full face mask to hide your identity,” said Holmes. “Of course, I knew the minute that I had heard about this Union Jack that it was you. Why does someone adopt a persona to battle crime? It would only be because they wished to keep their true face hidden while still making a difference in the world…someone who has a reason to wish his identity a secret. Our last conversation ended with your complaints about the Yard and its rules. You fit the exact profile of this vigilante,” Holmes said.
“I see,” Falsworth said, never failing to be impressed with Sherlock Holmes’s amazing deductive prowess.
“And there are only so many possible people with the skill set in London to be Union Jack, really. It is a wonder that everyone hasn’t figured it out yet.”
“I get it, Holmes. I get it,” said Falsworth. “But that is not why I am here. I am in need of your assistance.”
“I am not accepting cases at this time,” he said, turning away from Falsworth.
“I saw the jewel heist that you thwarted in the paper,” Falsworth said, placing the Times article on the table before him. It was the same article that gave Falsworth the idea to seek out Holmes in the first place.
“That was nothing. I never left this room,” he said.
“But Holmes,” Falsworth said, waving the Scotland Yard file before him, “this is the Ripper.”
“Jack the Ripper?” perked up Holmes.
“Yes, the case that has been baffling the police for weeks now,” Falsworth said.
“Of course it has. The London police are incompetent, especially those in the East End,” Holmes said.
“They aren’t near the detective that you are, Holmes,” said Falsworth, stroking his ego. He knew that Holmes responded to flattery, even more so than a fawning high society lady. “And there is more…”
“Yes?” Holmes said, clearly becoming more interested by each word.
“The people of the East End… there have been rumors… witnesses… claiming that there is a blue skinned demon, and they are guessing this demon is the culprit of the Ripper murders.”
“Hogwash,” said Holmes.
“It’s true, they believe it. In fact, there are even statements made by a local constable. It is not just the dregs and the whores,” he said. “And there are reports of this… Daredevil surfacing as well.”
“Why are you wasting our time, Falsworth? We must be off to the East End. This case will not wait for us. Surely, the game is afoot!” Holmes said, grabbing his needed materials and heading for the apartment door. Falsworth smiled. He had his help.
Matt Murdock, in his recent guise as Daredevil, streaked across the rooftops of the East End of London. His search for the elusive Jack the Ripper was underway, but he was not completely focused on the murderer. The Daredevil was looking to protect all of the overcrowded, poor and despised populace of the London area. If no one else would protect them, Daredevil would.
The laughter stopped Daredevil in his tracks. He had not heard such an insanely crazed laugh before, let alone on the rooftops of London. Something unexpected was about to occur.
“You must be the Daredevil,” the laughing voice said, as a half-naked man, with yellow skin and green hair stood before the Daredevil. The large red mane of fur draping from his shoulders blew in the wind of the night. “I was hoping to run into you.”
Beneath the mask of the Daredevil, Matt Murdock’s enhanced senses were always working. And they were telling him that this was someone that he knew.
Jack Ryder was a newspaper man that Murdock knew back in the States. Ryder was outspoken and loved to cause trouble with his stories…so much so that he had been “reassigned” by several newspapers. Murdock did not know that Ryder was in London. Matt wondered if she had come with him.
“I am the Creeper,” he said, brazenly, boldly, “and I have arrived in London to help the down trodden and the weak. The madness of this city… I am familiar with it. And only one as mad as I can approach it, deal with it, and solve it.”
Standing as if he were ready to pounce, the Creeper laughed again, terrible sounds rarely heard outside the walls of the sanitariums. Matt knew immediately that this man was not the same man he once knew. Something had happened to Jack Ryder.
“How long have you been here?” asked Daredevil.
“Time is irrelevant. I am here now. That is all that matters. And the tragic story of this town will change. Good day,” he said, springing from the rooftop and disappearing into the maze of the city. Daredevil listened to the departing fiend, wondering what this bizarre newcomer had in mind. Daredevil followed the path taken by the Creeper, in search for an answer to that question.
With Daredevil’s departure, Sherlock Holmes and Falsworth came from their hiding places.
“You see, Falsworth, I told you that staking out the rooftops was the way to begin.
This … Creeper is not the blue demon you spoke of?” Holmes said, phrasing it in the form of a question, though Falsworth knew he wasn’t asking.
“There seems to be some bloody odd characters finding their way to the East End,” said Falsworth.
“Did you notice the way the Daredevil looked at the yellow beast?” questioned Holmes. “That should give us a clue to his identity, as unbelievable as it is.”
“The Creeper said he wanted to help people. His words were that of a hero,” said Falsworth.
“Did you believe him?” Holmes asked.
“No, there was something he was not saying,” he said. “He definitely had an ulterior motive.”
“Good show, Falsworth,” said Holmes. Falsworth started to feel that he had suddenly been cast as a replacement for Dr. Watson in this story. He was not a sidekick. He was the Union Jack. “Undoubtedly, Daredevil heard the same tone in the voice, which would account for his following the Creeper.”
“Do you believe that the Creeper has dastardly plans?” said Falsworth, preparing to change into his Union Jack outfit.
“No, not dastardly, but definitely self-serving. And he did not sound particularly sane. That could be part of his performance, though,” said Holmes, “part of the package the Creeper is selling.”
“What now?” asked Falsworth.
“I believe I know where we should go next,” said Holmes, lighting his pipe.
The morning was busy at the London division of the Nelson-Murdock’s East End law firm.
It was going to get busier.
Jane updated the most recent case Matt Murdock had accepted. He didn’t like to refuse anyone in need, and most everyone in the East End of London was in need. Matt was always trying to help. She knew that first hand. He and Kurt had transformed her life from that of an alcoholic whore destined to be murdered by Jack the Ripper into that of a respectable legal secretary. She owed them more than she could ever repay.
Not that the days were easy. She was still, basically, hiding out in the law firm, afraid head out on her own, the specter of Jack the Ripper looming mightily over her life. She was one of the few surviving women to have seen the true face of the killer, and thus, she was in danger. Yet, with Kurt with her, she did not feel in danger. In fact, she had not been this happy… well, for a long time.
When the flowing, silvery white haired beauty strolled through the office doors, placing her long, luscious legs step by step on the wooden floor, even Jane stopped to take notice. Matt Murdock could not see the vision entering his offices, but he knew exactly who it was.
“Felicia,” he said with a smile.
“Matthew, you are as amazing as ever,” she said. “Come here, lover.”
Felicia Hardy kissed Murdock on the cheek, tenderly bringing back the memories of days past. Days when the feel of this curvaceous creature would be the final thing Matt Murdock felt in the night and the first thing in the morning.
That was until he came along.
“Surprised to see me, Matthew?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said.
He lied. He wasn’t. He had thought the possibility existed since he came across the Creeper last night while on his Daredevil patrol of the East End. Any surprise was ended by that chance encounter.
“Felicia,” said Jack Ryder, following behind her. “Well, Matt Murdock… how have you been?”
Ryder thrust his hand out, forgetting that Murdock could not see the offering.
Embarrassed, Ryder nearly redrew the hand, but he was more surprised than anyone in the office when Murdock firmly grasped his hand in return.
“I am well, Jack,” said Matt, “I hope you are treating Felicia well.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Felicia said, with a near purr.
Jane could sense the tension in the air coming from Matt. It was the tension that only came from a former lover… someone who still had unresolved feelings.
“What brings you to London?” Matt asked.
“Jack has been working in England for several weeks now. His paper sent him here to find details on the Ripper case,” said Felicia.
“And this area has suddenly exploded in strange characters…rumors of a blue demon, someone calling himself Daredevil, and now another bizarre being named the Creeper,” said Ryder. “The East End is where everything is happening. These are exciting times indeed.”
Matt wondered if that was the reason Ryder was here. A story… one that he could milk for months. The exploits of this Creeper would be easy to chronicle since, as Matt Murdock had discovered, Jack Ryder was the Creeper.
“What are the nights like around here?” asked Felicia.
“Dangerous,” Matt said.
“Just how I like it,” said Felicia.
The office door swung open and two men confidently strolled in. Murdock turned to the sound. He could hear the gasp from Felicia. In his years with Felicia Hardy, Matt could never remember her being taken aback.
“Good morning,” one of the men said.
“You… you’re Sherlock Holmes,” Felicia stammered.
“Yes, I am,” Holmes said.
“It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Holmes,” said Ryder, pushing his way past Matt Murdock, and extending his hand toward the detective. “I would love to do an interview with you some time for my paper.”
Holmes nodded at Ryder, and moved on into the office. Falsworth followed closely behind.
“Is this Dr. Watson, I presume?” Ryder said.
“No,” Falsworth said. “I am not Dr. Watson.”
“This is Investigator James Montgomery Falsworth of Scotland Yard,” Holmes said, quickly introducing him, “but we do not have a lot of time to waste. I believe there are some people that we need to talk to in this office.”
Holmes moved over toward Jane.
“Hello, ma’am,” Holmes said. “I believe you have some information for us.”
“What?” Jane said.
“You were attacked by Jack the Ripper on Sunday 30th of September 1888, correct?” he said.
“Uh,” Jane said.
“What’s going on here?” Murdock said.
“And then you were rescued by a blue demon,” Holmes said.
“Jane, you do not have to say anything,” said Murdock.
“Why do you not want Ms. Sommersby to help us, Mr. Murdock?” asked Holmes. “Is there something you want to hide?”
“No,” Murdock said. “What would we have to hide?”
“Perhaps we should take this questioning to the Yard instead,” Holmes said.
The burst of smoke and the smell of brimstone filled the room, as Kurt appeared between Holmes and Jane.
“She will not be going anywhere,” Kurt said.
Holmes slyly smiled. He knew he would draw out the demon by targeting the woman. He had deduced it.
“Let’s stay calm now,” said Falsworth.
“We are calm, James. I just wanted all of the players to be here,” Holmes said. “And…” Holmes looked at Kurt with uncertainty. “You are?”
“My name is Kurt Wagner.”
“And Mr. Wagner is part of this case. I saw him watching the doorway of the office when we entered, and I don’t want there to be any secrets among us. Isn’t that right, Union Jack?”
Falsworth looked at Holmes with an indignant expression. With a shake of his head, he removed his coat, revealing his Union Jack costume.
“And we also have the Daredevil,” said Holmes, pointing to Murdock, and then turning back to Ryder, “and the Creeper.”
“The Creeper?” Ryder said, legitimately appearing confused. “The Creeper is not here. Matt is Daredevil?”
“So the games are over,” said Felicia, taking an activator from her purse. “Let’s put the cards on the table.”
“Who are you, Miss?” Falsworth asked.
“I am the Black Cat,” she said, with a seductive smile on her face.
“Interesting,” said Holmes.
Felicia pressed the activator, and Ryder began convulsing. In a flash, the newsman was gone, and in his place was the yellow skinned Creeper. Seeing Felicia, the Creeper skirted over to her.
“Well… hell-o there beautiful. Where have you been all my life,” he said, giggling insanely.
“He doesn’t realize that he is the Creeper,” said Felicia. “It’s a complicate story, but Jack Ryder…”
“Jack Ryder… what a feeble minded freak. I can’t stand that guy,” Creeper said.
“There you go,” she said.
“So with everyone here now,” said Holmes, “we can decide what we need to do to capture Jack the Ripper once and for all.”
Bottom of Form
She stood in the doorway of the law firm… the door having just flung open. The Japanese-born woman stared past the assembled heroes as if there was nothing behind her eyes. Her tattooed face was unresponsive, but there was an air of knowledge shown by the mysterious woman.
“Hello?” asked Matt Murdock, though blind, he knew the arrival of another person. And he could sense the shift in the tides.
Sherlock Homes and the man Holmes revealed as Union Jack had just made a grand entrance, outing the secrets of those in attendance: Matt Murdock was Daredevil, Jack Ryder was Creeper, Felicia Hardy was Black Cat, and Kurt Wagner had hidden here…reveal after reveal.
And then she showed up… without herald… without proclamation… she was just here. She did not answer Murdock’s greeting. However, there was one in attendance who recognized the enigmatic woman.
“Izanami?” Jane said.
The woman turned to Jane Sommersby, and she moved to her friend.
“Izanami, what happened to you? What is that on your face?” Jane asked.
“It is the Nightmask,” she said, finally speaking. “I have news of the utmost importance to tell you.”
Izanami Randall was one of the few whores in London’s East End that Jane considered more than an acquaintance. She was kind and sweet and really out of place in the lifestyle. But this was a different Izanami. She was colder. She was withdrawn. She was now special.
“I awoke from a dream this morning as you see me now. From where the Nightmask came or how it came to me is a mystery …not for now. What I saw is a much more pressing problem.”
The words came forth from Izanami, casting dread to all within earshot.
“A man beneath a hat and a cloak, leading Mary Jane Kelly inside a room… a brutal… sickening butchering … as savage a slaughter as has ever been seen…”
“The Ripper has struck again?” Holmes said, placing more stock in what the foreteller was saying than the others expected. His interest brought a new level of creditably to what the woman was professing.
“Yet, this was not the most disturbing section of the dream… the images of the slaughter was… interspersed with another… place. One that was connected…A white faced man… clown-like, preparing something far worse,” Izanami said.
“What could be worse than the Ripper?” asked Kurt.
“Something more… widespread… than the murder of an individual woman,”
“Excuse me,” said Falsworth, “but are you insinuating that this clown and the Ripper are working together?”
“That’s elementary,” said Holmes, “what better way to distract the police than with another Ripper murder?”
“And that distraction will be used for the main plot. The clown wants the East End… the entire population of the East End… to die,” she said.
“How is that even possible?” asked Felicia.
“He has a gas… a gas that fells all those in its path… and he is preparing to unleash this gas upon the East End,” she said.
“Where is he? Where is this clown?” asked Murdock.
They did not need anything else. A group that had tentatively formed to confront the impending danger of Jack the Ripper had found a threat more deadly…more insane … than any of them could have imagined.
“Could you stay here with Jane?” Kurt asked, turning to Izanami. A silent nod of her head confirmed that she would.
“Be careful Kurt,” Jane said, placing a hand on his chest.
“Ja, I will,” he said.
The group departed the law firm, securing masks into place as this combined crew moved into the world for the first time as a unit. The lives of thousands rested in their hands from this mysterious clown. Reasons were not discussed. Motives were not important. That was for the post crime. This was a preventative attempt to keep the crime from happening. A proactive approach. Jane watched from the window as the group departed. The woman now known as Nightmask placed her outstretched arm on Jane’s shoulder.
“This is not where you need to be, Jane Sommersby. Destiny does not want you held up, hidden away,” said Izanami. “This entire situation has been about you from the beginning, and you must be there at the end. Come with me.”
Approaching the Tower just off the Thames, the group of heroes could see what the “clown,” as Nightmask had put it, was planning on doing. The massive balloon could be seen for miles across the East End, slowly expanding into the mid-morning air. The group pushed themselves toward the Tower. Questions about how this could have happened would be saved for later… because, assuming Nightmask was correct, this “clown” had evil intentions, and time was their enemy.
Moving through the Tower, the stench of death surrounded them as the bodies were littered from wall to wall. The warped smiles that stretched across the victims’ faces chilled them all. What kind of monster were they dealing with? This massacre made the Ripper case that initially brought this crew together look like a day at the park. Innocents scattered everywhere… their only crime… being in the way.
Arriving at the Tower, the group came busting through the entrance. Daredevil, Nightcrawler, Black Cat, Creeper, Union Jack and Sherlock Holmes moved into position.
The white faced, green haired man stood just outside of the balloon’s basket, as several henchmen scurried about the roof. The Joker noticed the arrival of the heroes.
“Well, well, welcome to the freak show,” he said, a cold laugh following. “It certainly appears that the freaks are well represented.”
“This is the end of the line, clown,” said Daredevil.
“Please… call me Joker,” he said, “and that statement is truer than you know. This disgusting berg will soon be no more… the end of the festering boil on the ass of London.”
“You can’t do that,” said Union Jack, positioning himself for a rush. “Why would you cause such unneeded suffering?”
“Suffering? Don’t be a fool, Union Jack. London won’t even mourn. The East End has become an embarrassment to the Empire with its dregs and whores… a place about where parents warn their children. These people were pushed here by the respectable people because this is where they belong… and now they will get what they deserve,” Joker said.
“There appears to be something more to this than you are saying,” Holmes said. “You are hiding pain… more of a personal scar…what did the East End do to you?”
“Save your parlor tricks for those who may be impressed by them, Holmes,” Joker said. “I am only speeding up what is destined to happen anyway. These people are slowly dying in their filth and their decay. Their amoral lives are lived without any concern for anyone else… their lives consumed by decadence and perversion. I am truly doing them a favor ending their misery. Men, take care of them.”
The henchmen rushed at the heroes, engaging them with fists and kicks. Joker turned back to see how much longer he had to delay until the balloon was ready for flight. The canisters of poison awaited the trip already loaded inside the basket.
“My…God.” Jane’s voice cut through the air, drawing the attention of the Joker. Nightmask stayed back out of the way of what she felt had to happen. It was fate.
“Joseph?” she said, not believing what she saw before her. Her love… her fiancé… the man whose death sent her spiraling into the void of the East End and a life of
whoring and alcoholism… Joseph Kuhr stood before her, alive… if not well.
“Ah… Jane… how are you, my dear?” Joker said.
“You…you’re alive… but what… what has happened to you?” Jane stuttered. The man she remembered did not look like the abomination before her.
“I was just reborn. I was made better,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how. All that matters is that I fought to stay alive… despite the way I looked… Each day I fought the desire to end the suffering inside my heart. I struggled… and battled to find my way back to you. And what did I find when I returned? A whore… turning tricks in the gutter,” Joker said, moving closer to the shocked woman. “I endured pain… became a freak…a monster… only to return to your arms… and you were in the arms of… countless men!”
The anger in his voice continued to amplify as he pulled a dagger from his coat.
“This has all been about you, Jane. You couldn’t have the decency to die when the Ripper came for you… no… you had to be rescued… just to continue to taunt me with your adulterous existence. So now this will all be on your head…all of these deaths will be because you are nothing more than a faithless b**ch!”
Joker raised the dagger and plunged it downward at Jane. But his blow did not find its mark in her chest. The sound made was “BAMF” and the blue demon appeared between Joker and Jane. The blade dug deep into the upper chest of Nightcrawler.
“Kurt… no!” Jane screamed, seeing Nightcrawler taking the assault intended for her.
Kurt slumped on the roof, as she cradled him in her arms. The Joker noticed the expression on her face and he knew.
“You’re in love… with this creature?” he said, almost hurt. Joker pulled two bottles of gas from his pocket. “Let’s get this underway… shall we?”
With that, he tossed each bottle in opposite direction off the Tower. The heroes knew the crowd had assembled below watching what was happening; those bottles were targeted for those innocents.
Union Jack, latching his grappling hook in place, threw himself off the tower, diving for one of the bottles, and The Creeper, sans hook, followed suit on the other side. Joker smiled at the heroism of them.
“Two down, I guess,” he said, running over to the balloon. In a moment, the balloon began floating into the sky.
“Matt!” exclaimed the Black Cat, kicking the henchman away from Daredevil, freeing him up for the final chance to stop the lunatic. Daredevil sprinted full speed, launching himself into the air, catching one hand on the basket. Dangling from the balloon as it rapidly ascended into the East End sky, Daredevil struggled to maintain his grip. Black Cat and Sherlock Holmes had finished the henchmen just in time to watch the balloon float away out of their range.
“Good luck, Matt,” Black Cat whispered, rushing over to see what fate had befallen her love. Holmes attempted to see what aid he could provide for the wounded Kurt.
The Creeper had gone into a dive and caught the falling bottle, spun himself around, and pushed off the side of the Tower. This athletic maneuver sent him over the Thames. Cradling the bottle to his chest, Creeper crashed into the water awkwardly as the resulting water splash was propelled into the air. Black Cat watched the surface of the Thames desperately searching for any sign that the Creeper had survived. The gulp of air filled his lungs as he reached the surface of the water, allowing Cat to release the air she had kept inside. He had made it… as Creeper held the undamaged bottle in the air.
Union Jack had had an easier time. Hooking his grappling hook to the top of the Tower as he had gone over had allowed him to catch the bottle and brace for the tautness of the line. He was climbing up the side of the Tower as the balloon floated away. He could see Daredevil struggling to stay in contact.
Joker looked over the side at the dangling hero. His laugh echoed across the East End.
“You are truly a fool,” he said. “Why would you risk your life for these cretins?”
“Because no one else will,” he said.
“Then you shall die with them,” Joker said, reaching down trying to knock Daredevil from the basket. Daredevil swayed away from the Joker’s punches, switching hands as he avoided the blows. The clown reached back into his bag of tricks, pulling out a Billy club. He swung the club at Daredevil. “Ha ha ha ha ha!”
“What a good idea,” Daredevil said, reaching up with his free hand and grabbing the Billy club in mid-swing. The grab threw Joker off balance, and the clown tumbled from the basket. Joker held tight to the Billy club, hanging from it as Daredevil, who hung from the basket with one hand, held the club with the other. The force on Daredevil’s shoulder was a terrible strain… a tearing sound was plain. Daredevil screamed in pain as the Joker was suspended below him. “Hold on!” Daredevil yelled. Joker laughed again as the Billy club slipped through the clown’s fingers.
The Joker plunged from the skies… laughing all the way. He crashed through the wooden docks below and into the water, scattering the witnesses who had been watching the mid-air struggle. The laughter had stopped.
Daredevil pulled himself into the balloon, looking down over the city he had sworn to protect whether it appreciated it or not. This was now his home.
Outside 221B Baker Street, the group of heroes had assembled after they incinerated the dangerous toxin the Joker had planned on using to murder the entire population of the East End. The Joker’s body was not recovered, but police believed that he had washed away into the Thames and did not expect to ever find it.
Kurt had a knife wound, and Daredevil had had his shoulder torn from its socket, but both men survived with the knowledge that they had done something important. That they had brought down a dangerous megalomaniac and saved thousands.
Homes had looked into the past of “Joseph Kuhr” finding that he was not the gentleman that Jane had believed him to be. There was no record of a “Joseph Kuhr” showing that it was nothing more than an alias. However with his death, what he had planned prior to his disappearance… or what exactly caused his transformation… would remain forever an unsolved mystery. And as for unsolved mysteries….
The fifth murder of Jack the Ripper was the most horrific anyone had seen, just as Nightmask had said. The murder was committed with such ferocity that the police were unsure what to do. Holmes, however, believed that we had seen the last of the Ripper. He had speculated that such a release of rage could very well exorcise the demons within the man. There was certainly no way to escalate any further. And with his partner in crime feeding the fishes in the Thames, Jack the Ripper would fade into the collective memories of Londoners.
“However, if the Ripper ever brandishes his blade again,” said Holmes, “the East End Irregulars will be there to put an end to his madness.”
SIX MONTHS LATER
The doctor exited the room approaching Florence Maybrick. His somber face told the woman what she needed to know. What she already knew. She was about to become a widow.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Maybrick,” the doctor said. “If you have anything left to say to him, you may want to do that soon.”
Holding the brown covered scrapbook, Florence said, “We have already said everything that we needed to say to each other.”
The confession was complete, and Florence Maybrick would protect that secret for the rest of her life. She would not allow her children to know that their beloved father was an infamous monster. Nothing would ever cause that secret to cross her lips.
James Maybrick lay in his bed, dying of arsenic poisoning, his conscience plagued by the evil deeds he committed. The insanity that caused the birth of the Ripper was quelled by the anger released during the murder of Mary Jane Kelly. The removal of her heart was the final horrendous act. Plus, his co-conspirator was gone… or was he?
The white faced man moved close to the bed, his marionette reclined with the strings removed. Kindly placing the pale hand on the dying man’s shoulder, the Joker smiled, admiring his final handiwork. It was not easy for someone to be poisoned by arsenic after having used it for as many years as Maybrick had. It took a lot of the substance to finally get the job done.
“Fear not, Sir Jack… my friend… your death, however tragic, will serve a noble end. I have already set the wheels in motion. She will be blamed for your death… so from beyond the grave, you shall have the final vengeance against your own personal whore. Indeed, you shall have the last laugh. Good bye, Jack the Ripper. Godspeed.”
The Joker’s laugh faded into the darkness of the room as James Maybrick took his final breath.
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