Saucy Jacky - The Whitechapel Murders As Told By Jack The Ripper
One - How To Begin?
The first time I stabbed her, I think it surprised me as much as it surprised the whore.
Surprised, perhaps, isn’t strong enough. I’ll use startled instead. We were, both of us, startled when out of the blue I grabbed her throat from the front, with both hands, and pressed with my thumbs and squeezed with my fingers. The whore gasped. That was all she had time for. All she had air for.
I gasped too. The experience was as new for me as it was for her. Though, I admit, I was probably getting more pleasure from it than she. I’d halted the release of her stinking beery breath, at least, and that was certainly a plus.
Her eyes grew wide, I could see that even in the dark. I released her with my right hand. Oh, fear not, I still clutched her fat throat with my left. I…
Quite an amusing debate would arise in near future as to whether I was left or right-handed, or possibly ambidextrous. But, there I go, off on a tangent. It’s a bad habit of mine. Allow me to end the argument before it begins. I’m right-handed… as I was about to demonstrate on the gasping whore.
I reached in and drew from my coat the long blade, the shiny surgical knife I’d, let’s say borrowed, from hospital. I turned it in my hand as I lifted it above both our heads then, blade down, brought it down hard into her left breast.
She tried to scream.
But, of course, she couldn’t. I still had her throat. But her wide open mouth, and her even wider open eyes, showed she wanted to scream. Mouth and eyes together gave me all the joy an audible scream might without the accompanying risks. As quickly as the entire affair had come upon me, as little thought as I’d put into the details of the deed, I did consider the noise. The small medical knowledge I’d picked up along my way told me the voice box was a wind instrument, like any other. Without the passage of air, there could be no music.
I say ‘little thought’. Allow me to explain… if I can.
I’d conceived the notion of murder on a whim, a quick solution to a nagging problem. From then on,
I didn’t concern myself with the murder; I worried about the problem. I grew angry, then furious, at the problem. (At those at the heart of the problem.) I never plotted murder. On the contrary, for the longest time, I fought the urges to… Eventually the urges won.
But I hadn’t organized any plan. I was nervous when I nicked the knife. I was hesitant but, at the same time, thrilled when the drunk whore presented me with the opportunity. I caught myself off guard when I grabbed her and began to throttle her. And I was startled when I stabbed her.
But, if I’d given little thought to murder, I’d given none at all to the moment when the whore would go unconscious. It took me by complete surprise when she suddenly became dead weight.
That first stab had done the trick. She might have been dead, I didn’t know and didn’t really care. But she was certainly unconscious and I had all of her weight, only by the throat, by one hand. That was no good. There was no way to work, not like that, and I had a job to do.
I had no choice but to let her fall to the stone landing. Then, as I was puffing hard from the labour, and from my own fear and, I confess, from a stirring of excitement as well, I paused to catch my breath. To look around and make sure the two of us remained alone.
I heard a dog barking distantly, and a horse-drawn cart a long way off, but we were alone.
I pushed the long blade back into my coat. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure about the long one. Like I said, I’d only nicked it from hospital; had used it for the first time. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it and didn’t feel like going on with it. Instead I pulled the other blade, the penknife, I’d bought in a junk shop in the Whitechapel High and had had in my possession for a good while. It was shorter, with a sturdier blade; the tool I’d always imagined taking on the job, when the job was merely the spark of an idea. Now I was there, and about it, the shorter blade felt better in my hand, as if it belonged. More at home.
With a tight grip on the more comfortable tool, I kneeled beside the woman who, by her indecency, had chosen through her own free will to take up boozing and whoring and thereby forced me to stab her to death – and I got on with the job.
But I’m getting ahead of myself in the telling. I see that now. Another bad habit. I go off on tangents and I get ahead of myself. Let me back up a bit.
Allow me to introduce myself. I can’t announce my true name, of course, that would give the game away before it’s started. For the present, I’ll refer to myself as Mr __.
ha ha. That’s appropriate. In the beginning I really was nothing after all, a blank space, a place holder, until I found myself and my reason. Later, I became something indeed; something to be reckoned with. In the course of the telling of this tale, I’ll let the cat out of the bag, I’ll name myself. Because the world ought to meet its legends. But for now, I’m Mr __.
It may surprise that I’m not a feeble-minded cockney dropping the ‘aitches from the ‘eads, or the gee’s from the bleedin’ tails, o’ my sentences like a costermonger losing apples into the gutter through a hole in the bottom of his barrow. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m an educated man. No, I have not been to university. I am not a gentleman. But I can read. I devour books and retain that which I’ve read. That’s one of my secrets.
I can describe myself, and will, for all the good that might do. I’m in my thirties or thereabouts, five and a half feet tall give or take an inch or two. I’ve a fair complexion with darkish brown hair and a well-groomed brown moustache on a charming full face. I have extremely dark brown eyes, all but black. I have broad shoulders, strong hands and, when necessary, the ability to run like the wind. But, again, none of that matters.
As this tale unwinds, I will be described – by so-called witnesses – as short and tall, as old and young, as dark and as ginger, as thin and as stout. I will be clean shaven. Or have a reddish moustache. I will have a black moustache that curls at the ends. Or a full beard. I’ll appear to be a labourer. I’ll seem to be a clerk. I will pass as shabby genteel. I’ll clearly show myself to be a slumming toff. I will wear an opera cloak (although I do not own one). I will tap the wet pavement with a walking stick (though I’ve never used one). And of course, (though I walk empty-handed) I will be seen to skulk the dark streets carrying an ominous black bag.
Allow me to offer this warning in advance of the eyewitness reports of my appearances: It’ll all be a load of tosh. I can look like anyone I choose. That’s another of my secrets.
Here’s a third: When it suits me, I walk unseen. No, this isn’t a bogey story. It won’t be owing to a trick of the light. I walk the teeming, poorly lit streets of Queen Victoria’s London like any other man. I am there to be seen, but nobody bothers. In the slums of the East End no one dares to ask who it is that stands beside them. Or looks to see who walks behind them.
I occupy space like any other man, but I am unseen. For I am not any other man. I am a societal necessity. I am a legend in the making.
Two – Poor Emma Smith
The moment with which I started this tale, the moment when I initially stabbed the first dirty whore, that was early in the morning of 7 August, 1888. I’ll return to that, and tell it proper, soon. But first… As I think of it, and if I want to tell the full story true, it really began four months earlier in the spring of that year. Yes, of course!
And, yes, I could go back further still. If you do crime, or commit murder, or what have you, it all probably started earlier. I could blame my drunk mother, or my filthy auntie, or the upbringing the pair of them afforded me, or the monarchy, or my finances, or what have you. But chuck that. I don’t give a damn about that and won’t waste time telling it. I am what I am, however it was that I came to be. But the story I’m telling here, the story of my summer and autumn of glory, actually began in April of 1888, the morning following Easter Sunday.
I hadn’t been feeling right for some while. It’s difficult to explain exactly what I mean by that. I wasn’t potty, don’t think that. I wasn’t hearing voices or anything of the sort. But I was plagued by my strong sense of responsibility. A fellow ought not come into this world and thereafter simply take. He needs to give as well. My eyes could see, my mind could consider that which I saw, my conscience spoke to me of duties owed my fellow human beings, my city, and my world. I didn’t care about them, don’t get me wrong. I’m not some compassionate bleeding heart. I’m not talking about feelings at all. I’m talking about duty and responsibility. Things were not right and, owing to that, there were steps needed taking. It was my duty to make the world a better place.
The first of those steps was to find work which allowed me to do right, to help mankind. I was already well-down that road. For several years I’d been volunteering my time at London Hospital, a charity concern towering over Whitechapel Road in the East End. Know this, the posh, the well-off, the titled upper classes did not go to hospitals; when ill or injured, they summoned their private doctors, who went to them. Hospitals were for the working classes. And the lowest classes. The poorest of the poor came to hospital for treatment when in the midst of an emergency or when the work house casualty wards couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with them.
Some might look upon volunteer work as lowly, but I never saw it that way. In fact, I was proud of my position for the opportunities it provided. I needed no medical knowledge at all to accomplish my tasks; moving patients, tending to their physical needs, bringing them food, taking away their waste, answering the commands of doctor and nurse alike. And, as I imagined might happen, when the tasks got nastier, and the willing volunteers thinned out, the work became real employment for those loyal few of us. The doctors were paid, most of the nurses were paid and, from that time on, as an official orderly, I was paid.
Carrying bed pans was no longer one of my routine activities. Instead, I was preparing the surgical theatres, shunting patients to and from their operations, cremating diseased and amputated organs and limbs, and shunting corpses to and from the pathology annex, eh, the mortuary. I was not only more important than the meager volunteers on the floors above. I was necessary. Without me, there would have been no order. The filth would have, quite literally, overrun the place.
They counted on me to eliminate the filth.
There were benefits far beyond the contents of my weekly pay packet. Each assignment provided an avenue to knowledge; offering a man with a keen eye, and a keener mind, the opportunity to learn and to gain much. The sights I saw at hospital, the diverse education I received, and the pay put me above those around me and freed me, financially and spiritually, for other pursuits.
The seed of my purpose had been planted.
I was in my exalted position that morning, attending to patients in the foul ward, beds dedicated to the women the government called the Unfortunates. Those who, not appreciating their alternatives, took to a life of prostitution. Unfortunates; I found that generous and forgiving. The police called them bang-tails. I thought that frivolous, a fun reference to a filthy work. They were whores, why decorate it? Entire streets in the slums of London were inhabited by whores, guzzling cheap alcohol between bouts of spreading disease. Every working night I passed among the dirty bitches. The worst cases were shipped off to separate ‘Lock Hospitals’ to be caged like animals. But the law wouldn’t allow their eternal confinement. When their acute phases passed, the whores were discharged back to the streets to infect new customers. There was no cure for syphilis; no end to the suffering for their unsuspecting prey but insanity and death.
Forgive me… I go off on tangents.
I was hauling waste from the foul ward early that Monday morning, 3 April, when a middle-aged woman of the street was helped into hospital by friends of hers. I was summoned to the Emergency Room to give them a hand with her. She was called Emma Smith. She’d been attacked that morning, assaulted and robbed in the dark, she claimed, by a gang of three men. They’d grabbed her, beat her, and stole whatever items of value she carried. Then, if what she claimed was true, in what amounted to a grand finale, the trio had knocked her to the ground, pulled her legs apart, and savagely inserted some blunt object – a stick or like instrument – up inside of her.
She survived the attack, ‘by some miracle’ her friends claimed, and made it back to her lodgings. There she informed them of all the juicy sordid details. Soon thereafter, they hurried her to hospital. As I said, I was summoned to assist upon her arrival. I did not recognize it as such at the time but, with the registration of Emma Smith, destiny had altered my life.
The seed of my purpose took root.
Being the acute care orderly on duty, I personally had a hand in undressing her. Her laboured breath stank of beer, made the air heavy and turned my stomach. I would have abandoned the room and left my work undone had it not been for her groans. The girl was in incredible pain. I cannot explain why, but I found her cries to be a balm to my irritated spirit. Her pain soothed me. The sickness in my stomach left. I found my mood lightening as I washed her filthy bits. I was positively cheery as I wheeled her into the surgery theatre and readied her for the knife.
The nurses and Dr Haslip, the house surgeon, took over. No longer needed, I slipped quietly out of theatre. And, even more quietly, I slipped in and stood to the side in the otherwise empty surgical students’ gallery above… to see what I could see.
What I saw was the nurses peeling back the sheets to expose her injured nether region. They bent her knees and spread her pale white legs. As I suspected, washing her had been a waste. The filth could not be washed clean. The whole of her… lower area was thick and red with fresh blood.
They covered her mouth and nose with cotton and dripped laudanum onto it. The girl selfishly disappeared into a dreamy oblivion, depriving me of the pleasure of her cries.
I saw the doctor climb between her splayed legs and go to work. While she cooed and lolled her head, he inserted clean white bandages, touched and tamped away, then removed blood-covered rags. He examined and probed the depths of her injuries, he stitched and packed as best he was able; all to the tune of her drifting moans. It was altogether thrilling. And revolting beyond description. And saddening – without being sad. And engaging. And enraging.