Authors: Stefan Petrucha
For Shelby—because he’s always had that look
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Published simultaneously in Canada. Printed in the United States of America.
Edited by Michael Green.
Design by Semadar Megged. Text set in 12-point Bembo.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ripper / Stefan Petrucha.
Summary: Adopted by famous Pinkerton Agency Detective Hawking in 1895 New York, fourteen-year-old Carver Young hopes to find his birth father, but when he becomes involved in the pursuit of notorious killer Jack the Ripper, Carver discovers that finding the truth can be worse than ignorance.
[1. Mystery and detective stories. 2. Jack, the Ripper—Fiction. 3. Orphans—Fiction. 4. Fathers and sons—Fiction. 5. Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency—Fiction. 6. New York (N.Y.)—History—1865–1898—Fiction.] I. Title.
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
MAY 23, 1895
THE LENOX LIBRARY
show you a secret.”
Elizabeth B. Rowley liked the man’s confidence. She usually mingled with balding walrus types or younger men, who were as awkward as the monkeys in the Central Park Zoo. This one was different…
She liked the way he’d removed her from the boring herd. While silk-stockinged men and fine ladies with grand hats and gowns swarmed about the high-ceilinged main hall, here they were among overflowing bookshelves, containing who knows what secrets.
“Won’t we be missed?” she asked. “I wouldn’t want to be rude.”
He smiled. “By all means, don’t let me lead you astray. I’m sure the party is far more interesting.”
Beyond the stacks, Astors, Guggenheims, Rocke fellers and other prominent families talked of this and
that. Business culture. The weather in May. The new police commissioner, Roosevelt, and if he would make any difference in a police force so corrupt, one could hardly distinguish it from the street gangs.
“Where is your secret? Close by, I should hope, Mr.… ?”
“Just downstairs. It’s a bit dark, I’m afraid.”
“Then I shall count on you to guide me.” She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm, impressed with how thick his muscles felt. He was tall, too.
He led her farther from the tedious crowd, deeper into the stacks, until they reached an old door that wobbled sadly on its hinges. Beyond it lay a steep staircase. Though lit by an electric bulb, it emptied into darkness.
He walked down first. Her hand was still in the crook of his arm until they neared the bottom. There, he moved ahead, vanishing. She managed the last two steps alone and stuck her head into a wide space thick with the smell of books.
“They couldn’t afford to electrify the entire building,” his bodiless voice said.
“Pity,” she answered. She found his silhouette, watched as he twisted the valve of a rickety old gas lamp mounted in the wall. As a gentle hiss of gas emerged, he fished in his pockets.
“Not for me,” he said, withdrawing a safety match. “I’ve always loathed Mr. Edison’s bulbs. Too harsh.” He scraped the match against the plaster wall, causing a spark, curls of smoke and finally a small, hot flower. When he touched it to the lamp, a yellow flame appeared, bobbing at the nozzle. “This is so much gentler.”
Rows of tomb-like shelves appeared in the light. They seemed to extend forever. As the light quivered, the shadows pulsed. “Makes the dark livelier, too. Like a heartbeat.”
Before she could think of a clever response, he led her down the central aisle. He stopped a quarter of the way down and ran his finger along the mottled spines. Worried she’d been silent for too long, she struggled for something interesting to say.
“Are you in publishing? An author?”
“Me? No, no. I’ve written a few… letters, but that’s all.”
He withdrew a thick book.
She edged closer, feeling the warmth of his coat. “Is this your secret? Aren’t you going to introduce me?”
“How silly of me. Elizabeth Rowley, meet
The Crimes of Jack the Ripper,
She swallowed a nervous laugh. “Oh my! Talk about lurid dime novels! Isn’t that the Whitechapel killer who butchered those poor women in London seven years ago?”
“Poor in more ways than one,” he said, flipping through the pages. “They lived in the worst circumstances, barely scrounging enough to eat. He never touched a wealthy woman.”
“Of course not. He wouldn’t dare.”
He turned to her. “They didn’t catch him, so it’s hard to tell
he might dare, don’t you think?”
“What is it about such a horrible murderer that interests you?”
“It’s just this
book,” he said. “It’s terribly done, full of factual errors and grammar that would make a schoolboy blush. That’s why there aren’t many copies. It does, however, have the distinction of also being the
book about Saucy Jack with… this.”
He handed it to her, open to a photographic plate. Even in the light of the distant flame she could make out the words written in a crude hand.
“I’d read about this, but never saw the actual note,” she said.
He took the book back. “Not many here have. This is the only copy someone in New York could easily get ahold of without contacting Scotland Yard in London.”
With a sharp snap, he tore the page out and slipped it into his pocket. “Now… there are none.”
Her eyes went wide. The destruction was daring, but he must have his reasons. As he slipped the book back into place, her mind searched for an explanation.
“Are you in
“Depends on what laws you’re referring to. I follow my own.”
A glint turned her head down to his side. His hand now held a long, sharp knife, its silver mixing with the gaslight’s yellow. By the time Elizabeth B. Rowley looked back up, his right hand was at her throat. Any sound she might’ve made, any objection she might have raised, was stifled by his grip.
He lifted steadily until first the heels, then the balls of her feet no longer touched the floor.
“And please, let’s not get all tangled up in formalities,” he said. “Call me Jack.”
by unsettling sounds, Carver Young struggled to keep his hands still. He had to focus.
to. He could do this. He wasn’t some infant, afraid of the dark. If anything, he
the dark. But the cracks in the attic let the wind run wild. Old papers fluttered like hesitant birds. Musty clothes rustled as if touched by spirits. And then the cleaver, wedged in the ceiling right above him, wobbled.
It was too much. He stumbled back, making the floorboards creak.
No! If someone downstairs hears me…
Cursing himself, he crept back under the blade. It’s not going to fall. It’s been there for years. No reason it should fall now. Taking a breath, he studied the lock again. The keyhole was thin, the pins that held the cylinder tough to reach. Of course
would be the only lock in Ellis Orphanage that ever gave him trouble.