Only A Violet

Her mood was cheery, despite being with child, without husband, and thirty-five shillings in rent arrears for the squalid room at Miller's Court. She wished on a lucky star and hoped to pick up a goodly portion of the money owed that very evening.

"Only a violet I plucked from my Mother's grave," she warbled with a soft Gaelic brogue, tying the ribbons of her bonnet. The sprig of purple flowers pinned to the brim was fetching and brought out the blue of her eyes. She didn't know it, but Mary Jane Kelly would never live to give birth to the child expected in May of 1889. She was only hours away from turning the last trick of her life.

More than any of his earlier victims, it had been the murder of the pretty Irish colleen which had captured the imagination and evoked the most sympathy. Maybe because she had been little more than a girl, or because she was the only one not in her forties, or maybe because she had been pregnant. Who can say? All the slayings were equally barbaric and horrendous...slashed throats, disembowelments, mutilations...but the butchery of Mary had always been considered the most brutal and poignant.

Over a century later, the public's morbid fascination had not lessened, and the attractive young woman among the crowd gathered at Madame Tussaud's newly-opened exhibit of Victorian Whitechapel was as intrigued as everyone else.

She compared the original police photograph, a copy of which appeared in the museum's guidebook, to the death scene tableau and its grisly wax effigy centerpiece. It was bit too realistic for comfort.

"We close in ten minutes, ladies and gents" announced a friendly-faced attendant with an amiable Cockney accent as he ushered everyone toward the exit. The young woman separated herself from the group and slipped unseen behind a heavy velvet curtain.

One by one, the special effects dissipated. The tape of pre-recorded sounds reminiscent of a bustling, late 1800s metropolitan city was ejected, the smoke machine shut down, and the lighting dimmed. All was quiet, still and dark. She waited.

Before long, she heard the distant clop of hoofs and the rattle of wheels as hansome cabs rolled over the uneven cobblestones toward Mile End Road. There were angry shouts as men, three sheets to the wind on ale and scrumpy, looked for any excuse to start fighting now that the public houses had turned them out. Silently, she emerged from behind the curtain into the swirling fog of Dorset Street.

She was immediately accosted and propositioned, mostly by rough laborers and foul-mouthed dock workers. She knew the type. They promised a florin and then refused to even cough up a farthing when they'd had their way. She had no time for the likes of them, even if there hadn't been other fish to fry. One or two though were real toffs, with a guinea or two to spare for a lady of the evening who still had all her own teeth and a firm body. Reluctantly, she turned them down.

She heard his approach before she actually saw him, his bootheels grating on the pavement. He loomed ghost-like in the shadows cast by the yellowing smog, but she wasn't afraid. She noted the silk tophat, dark frockcoat...and the black doctor's bag.

"Would a fine gent like yourself be lookin' fer some company this evenin'?" she called. He paused mid-stride and peered into the dense mist. Leaning against the post of a sputtering gas lamp, she raised her skirts to whet his appetite.

"Only a violet I plucked from my Mother's grave," she sang sofly, watching him walk purposefully closer. Her strawberry blonde curls gleamed beneath the bonnet and the little sprig of purple flowers fastened to its brim brought out the deep blue of her eyes.

"Let's be havin' ye, Jack," she whispered, reaching for the pearl-handled Beretta tucked safely into the top of her coarse, woollen stockings. "Mary Kelly be ready for ye this time!"

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