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Soulbound ‡ waif

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 11

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!

-- From Dracula by Bram Stoker

Jack saw the woman's neck bared before him. He heard her blood pulsing through her neck. Rushing. Throbbing. A wall of crimson water lifted before him, crashing over him, and sweeping him away, leaving him on a distant shore, gasping for breath. Somewhere too far for him to reach, he heard the soft notes of Zavy's piccolo, beckoning him to return, pleading with him to find his way home. But the song no longer had power to penetrate his soul. It was dead to him. Or he was dead to it. What difference did it make?

Jack sat up, his body drenched in sweat, and looked around the dark room in a panic. Zavy was sleeping quietly next to him on their pallet. Just on the other side of Zavy, Reggie was snoring softly.

Jack searched the room, then frowned when he realized he didn't know what he was looking for. He fell back down next to Zavy and took a deep breath. What was he going to do? The nightmares were getting worse.

"Now where's he got off to?" Reggie asked.

Zavy shook his head in frustration. "I don't know. And I'm worried, Reg."

"Does it seem he's acting strange to you?"

Zavy nodded. "He's not eating. And his sleep is restless. And he keeps disappearing like this."

"What are we going to do, Zavy. Jack's our brother."

"I don't know, Reg. But it's getting late and we'd best be headed back. Mum's expecting us for supper."

At 5 p.m. on Friday, the seventh day of September, John Davis opened the back door of his bungalow at number 29 Hanbury Street and hobbled out into the back garden with his little dog Lucy. The sun was almost down, and it was expected to be a bit chilly, so he was hoping Lucy would get about her business so they could both return to the warm fire inside. His old bones didn't take as well to a chill as they had years ago.

For once, Lucy seemed to agree, trotting out into the garden and heading for the back gate, where she began sniffing around. John watched as the dog ran back and forth, still sniffing. "Come on then, Lucy, my girl. Get done with it."

But Lucy snuffled her way to the back gate and began digging at the bottom, trying to get out.

John shuffled forward and bent over to pick up the dog. "What are you on about, girl? We're not heading out for a walk tonight."

At the bottom of his gate, the soil was dark and wet. John bent down and looked closer. Lucy struggled in his arms to get down, yipping her frustration.

John unlatched the gate and swung it open. Lying on the steps leading down into the alley was his neighbor, Annie Chapman, her body horrifically mutilated. Her eyes stared at John, pleading. Her mouth gaped in a rictus of death, silently screaming.

John stumbled backwards, dropping Lucy to the ground as he vomited on the grass.

Lucy trotted over and sniffed the body of the woman, then backed away, snarling and growling, the hair on Lucy's back standing on end.

"Where were you yesterday, Jacko?"

Jack turned to Reggie and shrugged. "Walking about."

"But Mum wanted us home by five. You were late for supper."

"Sorry. I needed some time to think."

"You seem to be doing that quite a bit lately. Disappearing for hours on end. And all you're doing is thinking?"

Jack turned to Reggie and snapped, "Keep your nose out of my affairs, Reggie. I don't answer to you or anyone else!"

"Well maybe you should!" Reggie shouted, puffing out his chest.

"BUGGER OFF, REGGIE!" Jack screamed, his eyes glowing red.

Zavy stepped between the two and put his hands up. "Hold on now, fellows. That's no call for all that."

Jack took a few deep breaths, then clamped his mouth shut and stomped off, leaving Zavy and Reggie behind.

Turning to Reggie, Zavy said, "Maybe we'd best not push him so hard right now. Until we figure out what's bothering him."

Reggie sighed. "I'm just worried about him, Zavy."

"I am too, Reg. I'll try to talk to him later. Find out what's wrong. Come one, let's catch up to him, but don't say anything for now. Right?"

Reggie nodded, and the two of them broke into a trot, catching up to Jack and slowing down to walk next to him.

As they rounded the next corner, they found five Wentworth lads sitting on the steps in front of a house. Five more Worthies were across the street, standing near a lamppost, watching.

Flanders stood up, grimacing in pain, and hobbled forward to stand in front of Zavy, Reggie, and Jack. He squinted at Jack, then nodded his head. "Ya. You's the one who did it."

Jack stared back, unafraid.

"It was you who beat up me and Jake and Ira," Flanders continued. "And it was the lot of you who broke Archie's neck."

Zavy moved in front of Jack. "We never started anything with you lads."

Flanders snarled, "Wrong! You started it all when you came on our street, taking our jobs away."

Reggie took a step forward. "It's not your street, Flanders. We told you once before, and if more of ya' wanna get hurt, just start some more trouble with us."

Flanders took a step back, motioning for the Hanbury boys to pass with a mocking sweep of his arm. "You're right lads. It's not my street. You can come and go all you please."

Zavy studied Flanders carefully. What was he up to?

Then Zavy saw the constables just down the street, watching them all. He motioned for Reggie and Jack to follow him and walked past Flanders.

Flanders laughed. "We don't need the work, at any rate. We got all we need, here on Wentworth Street. It's the poor bastards from Hanbury who need a few pence for shoveling horse shit."

"Leave it be, lads," Zavy whispered, silently hoping his brothers would ignore Flanders and keep walking.

Flanders turned to his mates and said, "They need it more than us, lads. They don't eat so well, what with their daddies drinking all day and their mums whoring all night!" The other Worthies began laughing hard.

Jack clinched his teeth. His eyes flashed red and he turned around suddenly, but Zavy wrapped his arms around the smaller lad and held him in a tight hug from behind. "No, Jack," Zavy hissed into Jack's ear. "Let it go, me love. Let it go." Jack struggled to get away, but Zavy was too strong for him.

Flanders smirked. "Now they's buggering each other right here in front of us, just like their whore mums." His mates roared with laughter.

"Let me go, Zavy," Jack pleaded. "Please let me go."

Reggie moved in front of Jack and took Jack's face into his hands. Leaning in, Reggie whispered, "Listen to Zavy, Jacko. Don't do this anymore. We beat them down the last time they messed with us, and we'll do it again every time. They know they've been beat, and now all they have left are words. Just words."

Jack began weeping. "I'm not a bastard."

"No, you're not," Reggie agreed. "You're our brother, and we love you."

Jack's eyes dimmed and he finally seemed to relax in Zavy's arms.

Zavy squeezed Jack one more time and said, "Reggie's right, Jack. You're our brother. You have a new family now. Ignore those stupid oafs."

Jack wiped his nose with his sleeve. "I'm not a bastard, Zavy."

Zavy put his arm around Jack's neck and urged the boy to start walking again.

Reggie turned to glare at Flanders, holding his hand up with his middle finger extended.

Flanders laughed even harder as the Hanbury lads continued down the street, walking past the constables who were pacing slowly along, watching everything.

Minerva looked up from the book she was reading. "Please have a seat, Abram. I trust you have news for me?"

Abram sat down, pulling out his small notebook. "The pieces of the puzzle are beginning to form a picture."

"I don't need flowery prose, Abram. You're not writing another novel for me. Just tell me what you know."

With a curt nod of his head, Abram checked his notes and said, "It appears Abigail was visited by young men living on Wentworth and Hanbury. As you know, those lads often fight each other, and Abigail may have stirred the hornet's nest by inviting them all into her garden together."

Minerva frowned.

Abram cleared his throat. "I apologize. Flowery prose is my hobby, after all."

Minerva lifted an eyebrow. "Then write another story. This time about werewolves. But on your own time."

Nodding his head in acknowledgement, Abram continued, "None of the Wentworth youth have showed signs of being bitten, but one or more of the Hanbury lads may now be infected with Sanguine Vampyrus, presumably contracted from Abigail before she was killed. Apparently one of them was spotted over the body of …" Abram checked his notes. "… of a Polly Nichols, a woman of questionable morals, who had her throat ripped open on the night of August thirty-first. Standing over her, witnesses say, was a boy with blood on his face and eyes glowing red."

Minerva stood up slowly and leaned forward. "His name?"

Abram shook his head. "Unknown."

Minerva walked around the desk and began studying the books on a shelf. "Go on."

"The constables made mention of how this sounded like something out of my book."

Minerva slammed her hand against the bookshelf, crunching the wood. She made a deliberate effort to calm down, then turned to face Abram again. "You assured me that your novel would throw the humans off our scent."

Abram nodded slowly. "That was the intent, m'lady. By giving vampires the ability to change into a bat and fly off into the night, it was my hope that it would establish a mythology that would protect any of us who are inadvertently discovered translocating from place to place."

"I regret the day I agreed to allow you to write about us. Even using a nom de plume, it could lead back to us."

"M'lady, I assure you no one will ever suspect that Bram Stoker is actually Abram Schreiber. I covered my own tracks quite thoroughly."

"But apparently you didn't cover the Covenant's tracks so well," Minerva snapped. "What possessed you to write about vampires drinking blood?"

Abram grimaced. "Not all of us do. Some have dropped the practice entirely in favor of dining on strong emotions instead."

Minerva sat on the desk next to Abram. "Apparently someone forgot to mention that to our young, rogue vampire."

Recognizing the sarcasm in her voice as a most dangerous sign, Abram continued, "I believe I'm getting closer to discovering who he is. I will inform you as soon as I do."

Minerva nodded. "Please do. And until then, do a better job of … how did you phrase it? … throwing the humans off the scent."

The constable struggled to keep his lunch down. It was a disgusting and disturbing scene: the youth, in the prime of life, with his throat ripped open and his blood poured out upon the cobblestones in the alley. He also showed signs of having been beaten badly before being killed. Another Wentworth lad, pounded within an inch of his life, and then nudged over the edge into hell.

Abram Schreiber stood just behind the constable, peering through his dark eyeshades at the body, jotting notes in his small book. "Another brawl that got a bit out of hand, constable?" he asked, his eyes glowing softly.

The constable lifted a hand to his head and pressed his temple. "I'm afraid not, Mr. Schreiber. It's murder now. Just like Polly Nichols. And Annie Chapman. We'll find the one responsible. I can promise you that."

Abram's eyes glowed a little brighter, and he stared more intently at the inspector. "Murder, yes, but nothing like the women. It appears to be lads fighting, and nothing more."

The constable shook his head, as if to clear it. "Perhaps so. Just a street brawl. Warned 'em to stop, I did."

"Yes, and they didn't listen. This is the result," Abram added, his eyes losing their red glow.

The constable nodded. "Aye. I'll have to go inform the Flanders." He waved two junior officers forward. "Take the body to hospital. Have a death certificate sworn out."

"Is this the work of the Ripper?" one asked.

The constable glared at the other policeman. "I thought I told ya' to stop calling it that."

The young policeman ducked his head. "It's just what everyone else is saying. People are saying we've a madman in the streets. A killer. They're calling him the Ripper. I'm only repeating what I heard."

"Don't," the constable ordered. "Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. And do what I told ya'. I have to head over to Wentworth and ask Jacob Flanders to come identify the body of his boy. Then I have to inform Inspector Spratling. Maybe now they'll do something about these lads always a'fighting down here."

One week later, on Saturday, the 29th of September, 1888, Elisabeth Gustafsdotter spent all afternoon cleaning two rooms at a lodging house on Fashion Street. The deputy manager paid her sixpence for her work, which she gratefully accepted. By 6:30 that evening, Elizabeth was enjoying a drink in the Queen's Head pub at the junction of Fashion Street and Commercial Street, laughing with friends and looking forward to a night on the town.

Just after midnight, Israel Schwartz passed by the pub, ignoring the laughter inside. He was late getting home and couldn't stop for a drink. He hurried on his way, turning onto Berner Street. In the gate of Dutfield's Yard, he saw a woman yelling at a boy. At least, he thought it was boy, but then the woman slapped the boy across the face and he responded by shoving her backwards. That was when Israel decided it must be a man, a short man, but a powerful man, for the woman had flown through the air with that one shove. And a fast man, for he dashed forward to fall upon the woman where she lay.

Israel pulled his coat tighter about his chest. He didn't have time for a drink at the pub, nor time to interfere with a man and his woman having an argument late at night.

Israel heard a voice shout, "Jack! Stop!" Israel rushed on, not wanting any part of whatever was going on in that yard.

Zavy rushed forward, pulling Jack off the body of Elizabeth Gustafsdotter. Jack's face was bloody, his fangs extended. His eyes glowed bright red, and he snarled at Zavy, licking the blood from his lips.

Zavy shook Jack gently. "Jacko, my love. Look at me! What are you doing?"

Jack yanked himself free and tried to jump onto the woman again. When Zavy prevented him, Jack turned on Zavy, throwing him across the yard.

Zavy rolled into a wall, then leapt up and disappeared, reappearing next to Jack. Zavy's eyes were glowing bright red too. He grabbed Jack's arms and pinned them to his side.

Jack struggled and snarled, "Let me go!"


Jack stared at Zavy, blinking slowly. Then the glow faded from his eyes and tears began to drip down his cheeks. With quivering lips, he whispered, "What's wrong with me, Zavy? Why can't I stop?"

Zavy pulled Jack into a hug, both of them now weeping. Rocking the smaller lad from side to side, Zavy whispered, "I don't know, me love, but your brother Zavy is here now, and I'll find a way to help you stop. I will. I promise."

Zavy lifted Jack off the ground, swinging him up into his arms. Jack clung desperately to Zavy's neck, like the hurt little boy he was. Zavy kissed him tenderly on the cheek, and they both disappeared, leaving the woman's body to be discovered by the constables the next day.

The constables would also hear Israel Schwartz describe the fight he saw and someone yelling for Jack to stop.

By noon on Sunday, every policeman in the district was on the lookout for a short but powerful man, a bloodthirsty killer they had nicknamed Jack the Ripper.

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