This is the thirty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 1150 words.
Life in Hampstead slowly became unbearable for Verity after Edward’s death. Immediately after the funeral, Jack took charge of the business interests as the sole heir, and arranged for the sale of all the farms and land in Essex. He used the fortune from those sales to reinvest heavily in railways, and although this proved to be a wise decision given the huge expansion of this fast-growing transport system, Verity was concerned that the Dakin family no longer owned any land, and every penny they had was tied up in speculative investments.
Jemima no longer stayed in her room, assuming the running of the house without so much as a word to her mother-in-law, and fully supported by Jack, who dismissed his mother’s worries and concerns angrily. He seemed to have no affection in his heart for either woman, wanting to be left alone to work at the hospital, and to continue his experiments in the laboratory he had built in the cellar. The staff were dismissed with scant notice, and Jack sold the coach and four horses, buying a smaller carriage pulled by one trotting horse. He also engaged a new coachman, a thuggish individual named Stubbins, who wore a foul-smelling oilskin coat in all weathers, and constantly picked at his fingernails with a pocket knife.
With no servants, Verity was forced to eat the tasteless food served up by Jemima, as they stared across the dining room table at each other in silence. When the younger woman did speak, her voice was harsh, and her vocabulary coarse. Jemima lacked culture and breeding, that was plain to see. The house also became filthy, leaving Verity to try her best to do some of the cleaning. But it was hard for a refined woman who had only ever known life with servants, and Jemima never helped with anything. After two years of this, and Jack ignoring her pleas to engage more servants, Verity made a decision.
Calling them both into her room one night, she showed them the trunk containing the journals and family letters and papers. Stressing the importance of keeping the detailed family history going, she asked Jemima to continue to record events in the latest journal. Then she told them that she would be leaving the following Satrday, to live with her widowed aunt in Northamptonshire. A coach would be sent for her and her belongings, as she did not want Stubbins to take her. If she had hoped this news might shake the pair into apology and a promise of changing their habits, she was sadly wrong.
When she left that day, Jack was occupied in the cellar, and Jemima did not appear from her room. Verity was sad to leave the house that had such good memories, but breathed a sigh of relief as the coach headed north across the heath. Three years later, on the death of her aunt, she married her second cousin, Algernon Farr. She didn’t bother to inform Jack.
Jack had never once mentioned how he had met Jemima. If questioned, he would say they had met by chance in the city, and struck up an acquaintance. He also never mentioned that they could not have children because his wife’s reproductive organs had been ruined by mistreatment and disease. And he definitely never revealed that he had met her in a filthy brothel above a pie shop in Spitalfields market, where he had gone to finally satisfy his lust, and had then changed his mind. Jemima had told him her story. Sold into prostitution at the age of just ten by a drunken mother, she had been sold and sold again by a succession of whores who had kept her a virtual prisoner in dank rooms to satisfy the darkest desires of wealthy men.
She had never forgotten the names of any of those women, but had been overwhelmed by the kindness of the man who had declined to have sex with her, placed her in a nice hotel in Bloomsbury away from the seedy streets of Whitechapel, then married her to secure her future. She didn’t love him, as she could never feel affection for a man, but she was devoted to him for his good deed. And she knew he didn’t love her. She was an experiment for him, to see if he could take a ragged whore, and make her into a respectable lady. Now with the departure of his mother, Jack arranged for tutors to attend Jemima, to teach her to read and write. He finally employed servants to clean the house, and see to the meals, and he made enough money available to his wife to dress well, and have all she needed.
By the time John Dakin had become a respected senior surgeon, and his neat and speedy surgery techniques the talk of the profession, he was ready to get revenge for Jemima.
With the names in a small notebook in his coat, and a simple medical bag between his knees, Jack told Stubbins to drive him to Whitechapel. As they entered the dark cramped streets of that east London district, he checked the names again. Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes. They should be easy enough to find.
All of London was aghast at the series of murders that shocked the capital. Lurid descriptions filled the nespapers, and women were afraid to go out unaccompanied at night that September. When her husband returned home at dawn on those same nights, and went straight to the cellar, Jemima’s suspicions were raised. Then when she saw the names of the victims, she knew for sure that it was her Jack who was indeed the notorious ‘ripper’. But she wasn’t about to betray him. If anything, she admired him. For all of those years, he had never forgotten her story. Now he was dispensing his own form of justice for her past abuse.
Then October brought a new victim. A younger woman named Mary Kelly. Jemima had never met her, and she was too young to have been involved so long ago. When Jack sat at breakfast with his eyes in a strange demonic stare, she realised that it had been him. He had developed a taste for killing whores, and would continue. Jemima knew that would lead to his inevitable capture, shame on the Dakin name, and perhaps the loss of their fortune. As he slept that night, she crept into his room. Taking his razor from next to his shaving bowl on the washstand, she quickly drew it across his throat, making a deep cut. He jumped up with a strangled cry, but was dead before he could get across the room to where she stood.
Placing the razor in his right hand, she washed her hands carefully, and changed her nightdress. Then she summoned Stubbins and told him to go and fetch the police.
Her husband had committed suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed.