TITLE:WHITECHAPEL - Serpent In The Garden. S/X The first story in the Whitechapel series. (Loosely based on BBC America's Ripper Street) This story is pre-slash the overall series is SLASH.
Copyright Disclaimer We do not own any characters, products or services depicted in this story. Original characters/characterization/ and this version are ours. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel The Series characters are OOC and we cite section 107 of the US copyright clause on 'fair use' to be found HERE No profit made.
Pairing: S/X (W/A)
Rating:NC17 For violence and violent depictions/situations and sexual situations.
Authors: Naughty_Fae & Salustra
Status: COMPLETE in 7 longer chapters. Posted daily until complete.
AN Set in 1889-90s London. Historically researched, some dates/facts have been knowingly changed to facilitate the story.
Comments: Concrit welcomed.
NOT TO BE ARCHIVED PLEASE.
Next to him stood his most trusted Sergeant. Sergeant Pryce. William Pratt trusted him completely. They'd gone to school together but Pryce had gone off to war and come back this lean and wiry wolf, capable of both cleverness and violence. He could see him quietly tensed as well, ready to spring, a cryptic half-smile on his face.
Back in the heart of Whitechapel, a beefy man with magnificent muttonchops led a string of respectable people through the maze of streets.
"Welcome to Whitechapel, gentlefolk. Be sure to keep a hand on your purse and an eye on the street, as both cutpurses and muck are thick hereabouts. If you will but follow me, I shall take you on a tour, as promised, of the haunts where The Ripper did his awful deeds. This way," he said, beckoning them to follow him into a narrow dark alleyway.
His words never stopped as he walked, expounding on the Ripper and Whitechapel itself as they moved. Amused streetwalkers and other locals watched as the troop moved along. As they came over a slight incline, there was in the path, suddenly revealed in all its horror by the lamp of the guide, a dead body of a woman lying on the ground. There was no blood but her pallor, stillness, and the deep cut on her neck showed her to be most certainly dead.
"Murder!" he shouted, turning back to his customers, and began herding them as fast as he could back the way they came.
At eighteen constable Wells was one of the youngest bobbies that made up the 548 strong H division. It fell to them the unenviable task of policing the rookeries and fetid rabbit warren of seething tenements, gin shops, public houses, brothels, gambling and opium dens and worse that made up Whitechapel.
He was on a mission as he ran headlong through the narrow streets still barely lit with gas lamps, tripping over cobbles and dodging hansom cabs in search of his Inspector. His helmet wobbled precariously on his head as he ran in the direction of The Brown Bear public house. The silver chain of his whistle stretched across his dark uniformed chest and glinted as he ran, his boots pounding on the cobbles.
He rounded the corner and saw a group of his comrades in a huddle hidden in the shadows waiting to enter the bawdy house. He ran up to them, his fresh face eager with excitement and tried to push toward his Inspector.
"'Ere now, young Wells," hissed a heavily bearded constable grasping his arms. "What do you think you're about m' lad? Like to spoil the Inspector's raid?"
"They've sent me from Leman Street with an urgent message for Inspector Pratt." he gasped out breathlessly."I have to talk to him."
"Leman Street eh?" The constable released his grip."Best be about your business then."
Anxiously Wells pushed his way through his comrades."Inspector, Inspector Pratt Sir."
Pratt caught the disturbance from the rear and gave the tiniest of glances backward. Must be important, he thought, as the young and earnest Constable Wells pushed through the crowd. If the Inspector were inclined to play favorites, Andrew Wells would likely be one. He was almost a bit of a mascot for the Division. He was a swift learner and very clever and almost embarrassingly eager to please.
"Yes, Wells?" He said, tone with just enough gruffness to show he was not prepared to tolerate an interruption for mere nonsense.
"Inspector Sir," Wells gasped out, searching the Inspector's face with an intense gaze. "They've found a tart dead in Finkle Street, Sir. " He paused to give his words time to register. He dropped his voice. "She's been cut Sir. You'd best come at once."
Inspector Pratt nodded, and gave a glance to Pryce. Pryce gave a little nod. He'd heard. Pratt looked at the men, then turned to Sergeant Livegood. "Sergeant, you take charge here. Pryce, with me. Wells, you're to head back to Leman Street and tell them on my instructions to send twenty hard men at once to close off that part of Finkle Street."
Wells nodded eagerly, so much so his helmet slipped and he pushed it back and firmly onto his head. "Yes Sir, he acknowledged and made his way back to the edge of the group and began to run as fast as he could the way he'd come.
Pratt and Pryce made their way back towards Finkle Street. By the time they'd arrived, the men the Inspector requested were there and he left Pryce in command of them with orders to keep the streets blocked; and to reinforce the poor few devils who had been trying to hold back the frightened mob since the body had been discovered.
Pratt made his way up the narrow alleyway, and saw the poor girl lying there, and a man with a tripod and camera busily photographing her. Ah, the vultures of the press had begun to descend already. "Who do you work for?" He barked.
Albert Smallwood looked up as the Inspector spoke to him and answered in a somewhat disgruntled tone.
"The Star, Sir. Not doing no harm, " he pulled one thin shoulder into a shrug and flicked his hair from his eyes, " just taking a few photographs for the paper. Mr. McDonald's orders."
"Well you're on my payroll as well now. I want pictures of her, of the street each way, and the area around her body."
Pratt tried not to let his dislike of McDonald color his tone of voice. Lindsey McDonald was one of the lowest examples of a generally low trade, the tabloid reporter. He splashed lurid tales of murder and scandal across his pages with little regard for the truth. And he was a constant thorn in Pratt's side.
"I shall expect them before morning."
By this time Pryce had made it to his side, and Pratt ignored the greasy little man in favor of speaking to his sergeant. "No blood here, Pryce," he said. "She was slain elsewhere and brought here. And no blood on her clothes. Help me try to look for how she was brought in."
Pryce shook his head. "Sir, we've not but a few moments til the lads won't be able to hold them back. We need to clear the scene."
Pratt scowled. "Well then, Sergeant, we'll need to move her body. This fellow here is taking photographs, your name, sir?"
"Mr.Smallwood shall get us the photographs. So at least we'll have that..."
"Sir!" Pryce interjected. "The wall!" On the wall was written, quite obviously in blood, 'down on whores'. "Just like the Ripper."
Pratt noted with a nod and his scowl deepened. "Might simply being someone trying to counterfeit the Ripper, Sergeant. There is too much here that is wrong. Here, let's get her out of here."
He scooped up her limp body and headed down the alleyway, away from where the crowds had gathered. Then he handed the body carefully over to Pryce. "Take her back to Leman Street, put her in a cell away from others and keep watch. I go to fetch a surgeon."
Pryce took the body and nodded, but he raised an eyebrow and sighed softly. "The American, Sir? But he's not even one of ours."
"He's the best available and I shall have him," Pratt said. "Now off with you." The inspector turned and walked back in the direction of the crowds, hoping to head off the reporters for a few minutes at any rate. He sighed as he saw McDonald at the very front of the crowd.
"Evening Inspector," McDonald touched his hat and stepped forward, "well this is a rum do and no mistake. Looks like Jack's made his return, have you ought to comment on it? Is it him inspector?" Behind him the crowd pressed forward. "Is it Jack?" He pressed.
Pratt raised a contemptuous eyebrow at McDonald. McDonald was reputed to be a bit of a lad, but when he was reporting he was simply a persistent annoyance. Pratt failed to see his appeal to the ladies.
"Perhaps, as a conscientious member of the press, you should wait until there's been an investigation. At any rate I shan't comment until we know more." He tried to push on past McDonald and through the crowd. He needed to find Harris and quickly.
McDonald watched his receding back. "Let's hope you have more luck than last time eh, Inspector!" He yelled and smirked after him as he scribbled feverishly in his notebook. Pratt thought he was better than he was but he was just another plod. Writing on the wall in the tart's blood had been a brilliant brainwave and it was obvious to a blind man that Jack was at work again, even if Pratt wanted to deny it. This time he was in the thick of things and he aimed to stay there.
The small room at the rear of Darla's bawdy house was hot and tension filled. It was illuminated by gas mantles on the wall and a lamp set in the middle of the green baize card table. The air hung thick with the fog of cigar smoke, whisky and sweat. Five men sat around the table in their shirt sleeves studying their cards, the pot lay in the middle of the table. Alexander Harris suck out like a sore thumb. From the red bandana he wore around his neck, leather edged jacket and cowboy boots to the soft slouch hat pushed back on his dark head he was obviously American. He chewed on the end of a match and rocked his wooden chair back on two legs. His dark eyes flicked up from his cards to the faces of the four men watching him intently and back to his cards. A flush. 2, 3, 7, 9, jack of diamonds, not a bad hand, but not brilliant. Question was, was it good enough?
"Fer God's sake Harris!" A large man addressed him in exasperated tones."How much longer?"
Alex spit his match to the floor. "Now Ted, you know I gotta think things through a mite......"
Alex rocked onto all four legs of his chair. The front door of Darla's bawdy house opened with a bang. "Harris!" William called out. The gentlemen in the parlor all glanced up apprehensively, but when William didn't so much as look their direction they all relaxed.
A very smartly dressed blonde woman appeared at the top of the stairs. She settled her hands on her hips and her eyes flashed with anger. "Inspector Pratt, you cannot simply barge in here anytime you please!"
Pratt looked up at the woman. "Mrs. Long, your house continues to operate by my good will. So yes, I shall barge in as I please. Now where is your errant nephew?"
Darla Long sighed. "He's in the back playing at cards, as usual. Do try to have him back before sunrise. He gets very cross without a proper breakfast and a good day's sleep."
Pratt touched the brim of his hat and for the first time that evening he had a small grin and slight twinkle in his eye. He found Mrs.Long quite amusing at times. "I'll do my best, ma'am." He made his way to the backroom and clapped his hand on Harris' shoulder. The man was always at cards or drinking or both, it wasn't a healthy life. "Harris!" He said, too loudly for the small space. "I have need of you."
Alex cringed, he'd heard that before and why were the English always shouting? He looked up with a scowl. "I ain't deaf Inspector. Can't you see I'm busy?" He gestured to the table. "Can't it wait until tomorrow, or the day after would be better." Wasn't likely Pratt would bust him for playing cards - cheating maybe...........
"Now, Harris. A young girl's been killed and I've need of your skills as a surgeon." William felt almost like he was scolding a child and dragging them off to lessons.
Alex looked at his cards, it was a good hand. "You've got police surgeons for that." He knew it was useless even as he heard the words come out of his mouth.
The Inspector's hand tightened on his shoulder and his eyes narrowed, the blond pain in the ass meant it.
"Okay, okay." He folded his cards and set them face down on the table. He adjusted his hat on his head. "Sorry to love and leave you gents," he pushed to his feet and scooped up his money, "my duty as a good citizen calls."
They didn't look unhappy. He trailed Pratt out of the room muttering under his breath. "That was a good hand you limey bastard."
Pratt spun around with a scowl. "What?"
"I have to get my bag," Alex gestured with a weak smile.
Pratt just nodded at that. He knew that Alex himself was fond of drink but he made it a habit not to get drunk while playing cards. So William was certain the good doctor was up to the task. He had to give another small smile as he trailed behind him to his 'surgery' to retrieve the bag. It was of course an irony the best surgeon in Whitechapel lodged in his aunt's bawdy house and made his living gambling and taking care of small ailments in a makeshift surgery that had been set up in a room downstairs at the bawdy house. Such oddities made Whitechapel interesting, Pratt thought. Surely the duties of the city police would be boring by comparison.
As they walked towards the police station, William spoke to Alex in hushed but urgent tones. "I'm trying to prevent mob madness and riot in the streets, Harris. You remember how it was with the Ripper. The press and the people are so ready to assume it's Him come again but I don't think it is. And I need a competent surgeon to do the examination who will look at facts and not start with a conclusion and try to prove it."
Alex shot him a glance, time was he too had been a suspect, though more in Chief Inspector Fred Abberline's than William Pratt's mind. "Fred Abberline gets wind of it you'll have a hard job convincing him it's not Jack." He raised an eyebrow. "Man's obsessed. I'll do your autopsy and tell you the truth of it. And just for the record, I was at Darla's all last night playing cards and have half a dozen men and a house full of tarts can bear witness to it."
Pratt gave a slight smile. "Of that I have no doubt, Harris. Your passion for cards is legendary, and I saw the pile of notes you raked off the table as I pulled you away. I am sorry to deprive you of the triumph of a good hand. What was it, out of curiosity?" Harris had proved these last few months to be one of the few men Pratt felt comfortable with. Something about the American was reassuring to him, and Pratt had come to consider him a friend.
Alex gave a small sound of distress deep in his throat. "A flush. 2, 3, 7, 9, jack of diamonds, a good hand, probably a winning one." He cast William a patient look. "You look tired, sleeping okay?"
"Too much to do," replied William. "I've taken to spending the occasional night on the cot in my office. It seems almost every time I go home someone comes to drag me from bed for duty." His lips quirked slightly into a wry smile. "I think you're familiar with that sensation."
Xander chuckled and nodded. Theirs was a tense, sometimes abrasive friendship that had started a year earlier when Abberline dragged him in as a Ripper suspect for no other reason than he was a doctor, American and lodged with tarts. Pratt had been on his side and they'd formed an alliance of sorts. With his past it was easier to have Pratt on his side than against him, but William Pratt wasn't the kind of man you got to know overnight. There again, neither was he.
They reached the police station, and as they entered the Desk Sergeant, Doyle, called Inspector Pratt over. "It has come to my attention that we have an unregistered female on the premises," he said with an impish twinkle in his eye.
Alex stopped just inside the doorway and scanned the notice board for anything as might appertain to him or Darla, but found nothing. If anything untoward was coming their way, he wanted to know of it.
Pratt chuckled softly. "I shall see that she's properly handled, Sergeant, thank you."
"Just reminding you of our lawful duties, Inspector. We shouldn't wish others to think this a place of ill-repute."
"Definitely not, Sergeant." William turned back to Alex and led him through to the cells in the back, seldom used, small and cool with stone walls. The dead woman lay on the floor in one of the cells, Sergeant Pryce keeping watch over her.
"Didn't see anyone as followed me, Inspector," Pryce said. "I think all the reporters was after you."
Pratt nodded. "Excellent." He turned to Alex. "Well, doctor, let us know what you need. The sooner we know the truth here the better. It will only be a matter of time before someone gets word up the grapevine and I would beat Abberline to the punch on this." Pratt owed Doyle thanks for his well-concealed warning that some of Abberline's boys knew about the body.
Alex moved around looking at the body. He took off his hat and set it on the small table with his battered leather bag. "I'll need more light," he commented grimly as he rolled up his sleeves. He was a curious man, a man of science and a chemist as well as a surgeon. Autopsy was a somber business and not one he enjoyed, though the one Pratt most often called upon him to perform. He bent and looked at the body, the first thing striking him was the lack of blood on her clothing. He moved to the table and opened his battered, brown leather bag. "Remove her clothes Sergeant Pryce, if you please."