By J Scaddon
Copyright J Scaddon 2015
Spitalfields, London, February 1879
The flame danced around on the candle wick and made the shadows swing to and fro across the dank, mouldy walls of this little room. The room was no more than twelve foot in either direction, and was only lit by the golden glow of that single candle. A dirty sheet was pulled over the only window, and not a trace of moonlight ebbed through. The floors were made from bowed wood and a single bed was pushed up against the far wall. In the bed lay a young boy, no more than five years old. He was asleep. Next to him lay a young girl, only a few years older. She had pulled the woollen blanket up to her chin, and she watched and listened as her mother and father talked to each other in hushed voices. Mother sat on the lone wooden chair in the room, whilst Father pulled on his waist coat and his cap. They were all tattily dressed, as was common. Poverty was rife, and the single room they lived in was their home. For now. There was nothing else present in the room other than a small wooden table, which had a half-eaten, stale loaf of bread sat within a square of cotton. Next to the bread, curiously, was a number of small books, tied together with and an old stretch of string.
“I must leave now my dear. I have to be at the dust yard soon or I will be docked before I have even earned.” The man reached up to his thin ragged coat which dangled lank from a hook on the wall.
“What are you doing at this late hour?” said the mother.
“I’m sorry, I forgot in my excitement to tell you. I was walking down at the docks this morning. No-one had work for me. But I walked past the dust yard on the way back and heard a man being told to leave. He had been stealing items recovered from collections. He was beaten fiercely by his governor. I went straight to him. I helped him up, and then went and offered my services in his place.”
“Well at least the master will now have an honest man in you.”
“I will be gone most of the night,” said the father. “But I may make a few pennies from it which will secure our rent for a while. And if I work hard, it may be a permanent wage.”
The woman’s eyes brightened as the man smiled at his wife, proudly. This was the best news for a long time. Life was very hard, and anything that promised some security would be something to welcome.
The man kissed his wife, and then knelt beside the bed and kissed his two children on their foreheads.
“Father,” whispered the young girl. “Will you be out all night?”
“I will be home long before sunrise. I will be here when you wake up. But you must get some rest now. You all have to be up for work early as well. Remember we have only paid until six o’clock. We have to leave by then.”
“Oh dear,” said the mother. “When will you sleep?”
The father stood up and straightened his cap. He placed his hands on his hips and sighed.
“If this becomes a permanent job then we can rent a room for the whole day. Until then, I will have to find somewhere to sleep later. But that is not for you to worry about.”
The man went over to the door and opened it to leave. He stopped and turned to his family and smiled at them. He then continued out through the door and into the cold, crisp winter night.
The street was quiet and empty, although the sound of the slum was still ever present in the air. People could be heard merrily singing, whilst others screamed and cursed. Some areas of the Spitalfields slum would never sleep. Many would spend all their free time at the taverns and brothels, if only to keep warm and away from the meaningless existence that reality brought. Alcohol was a demon that ruined lives, but that was often far better than life in the slums, sober. There was always a danger out on the streets at night. The only safe place was behind a locked door. At least, for the night worker, a clear head would give him the advantage, should a situation occur.
The man walked down the empty cobbled streets and the sound of drunken depravity gently faded out as he marched further and further away from it. The buildings either side of him were made of filthy red bricks, and each one resembled the next, for miles in front of him. The odd window would be lit by candlelight, but most were in darkness. The sky was clear, and the moonlight flickered off the wet cobbles before him. The cold bit deep into his skin, as his coat was no match for the harsh winter. He could not afford anything more substantial. And if he could, then he would give it to his wife or daughter to wear. He knew that hard work would soon see him warm again.
He turned up an alleyway to cut over to the next street. The alley had no gas lights and the tall buildings shaded the pathway from the moon. He walked cautiously into the shadows, and braced himself for what may lurk within them. The sound of his boots echoed against the sides of the buildings that surrounded him. They were now the only noise that he could make out. His pace quickened slightly as the end of the alley, and a gas lamp, caught his eye. The darkness was now all consuming and felt like it was encircling his body. His pace quickened again. As he came to the end of the alley, he felt a tug on his arm. He swung round with his fist raised.
“Alright, alright!” said a shocked looking lady who jumped back out of reach. The lady was dressed in a dark shawl, and looked tired and old. Her eyes were glazed, and her eyelids drooping.
“I just wanted to ask if you are looking for business tonight sir,” said the woman.
The man didn’t respond. He just turned and walked away.
“What are you? A Mary?” Shouted the lady. “Fuck you!”
The man ignored her and continued on his journey. Behind him she cursed, but then finally disappeared off back down the alleyway. The man was now walking down another empty street. This street was long and straight and the man could see several hundred yards in either direction. He often checked over his shoulder, but again, the only noise was the clacking of his shoes on the hard cobbles. But, could another set of footsteps be heard? The man stopped. The footsteps stopped. He looked around, but the street was still empty. He went on, but could still hear more than just his footsteps. He was sure that there was someone else. There was a slight offset in the echoes. He stopped again. The footsteps stopped. He turned round to look down the street, and tried to focus in the dim light. His eyes searched for any sign of movement. As he concentrated hard into the darkness he felt a small dull pain to the side of his neck. Everything went black.
When his sight came back, he was no longer out on the dark street. It was bright and it was warm. He was looking straight up to a ceiling. A gas light burned brightly to one side, and the glare started to make him see colours. His eyes were itchy. He tried to blink and move his gaze, but he could do neither. He was paralysed completely. Not even his eyes would move. Nothing moved. He began to fear that he had been hurt, and he hoped that he was just dreaming. His eyes remained trained on the ceiling and the gas light for what seemed like hours.
Footsteps then finally clunked across what sounded like a wooden floor. They were passing alongside the man, but he couldn’t turn to see who was making them. They stopped. He could hear breathing. The footsteps started up again and they made their way ever closer to the man. They stopped again, this time very close to the man’s side. A figured leaned over the man, but he couldn’t make out the face. The figure was silhouetted by the gas light which was directly behind him. The figure then disappeared.
“It has been long enough, so I will assume that you can hear me,” said a strange voice. The voice had a slight accent. Possibly eastern European. “Do not try to move, as you will not be able to anyway. Save yourself the distress at this time. There will be plenty of opportunity to be terrified later. For now, let me do you the courtesy of explaining what is happening to you. And why. I have injected you with a serum of my own imagination and hard dedicated research. It has left you in no fit state. In actual fact it has rendered you physically dead. Well not totally. I do not know if you are awake yet, although I am hoping you are. Your mind is working fine. You can hear, you can think. You can see, you can feel pain, unfortunately for you, and you can wish to God to save you all you like. But your body, on the other hand, does not work at all. Your heart rate is slow, and your breathing is shallow. To the outside world you appear dead. Do not worry though. The serum will wear off in time. And you will return to your normal pointless little self again. Happy, poor, wretched.”
The footsteps started to move around the room again. Then they stopped, followed by an unknown squeaking noise.
“However, if something were to happen to you before the serum wears off, then you are in a bit of trouble, are you not? Please do not try to answer, it is of no use you putting in the effort. I see that you are a desperately poor sod. You live in shit and you dress in shit. But you like your books. I have seen your books. You have no food for your children, but you have money for books. Are they more important than maintaining the life of your offspring? Do they hold more in your heart than seeing your loved ones have a better life? You selfish fool. But this is not about that. I do not care if your family live or die. If you wish to starve them then fine. Let it be. But what I enjoy is making horror. We have something in common there I see. You like to read horror books. Edgar Allan Poe. Is that not right? He is your favourite? Well, I like a man who enjoys horror as much as I do. That is why you are here. For me to do you a little favour. I am making you the star of your own horror story. You will not only be the main character, but you will also have the best seat in the house to watch it performed live before you.”
The man could feel panic taking over him. But it was only in his mind. His heart did not start to race as it couldn’t. Adrenaline did not help him to break this stasis. He was trapped in his own mind, listening to his fate.
“You are no longer in Spitalfields. You are no longer in London. You are here in my home. I welcome you. You are not known here. You were just merely a poor dead peasant found slumped in my spectacular garden. I have saved your body from the anatomist who would pay a pretty penny for an unknown person like yourself. No one around here would claim your body. But I have. Am I not a very gracious host? In order to protect you from the dissection table, I have kindly agreed to pay for your burial, tomorrow. If the serum wears off in time, you can make a miraculous recovery and return from the dead. If not, then, well. But let us not worry too much about that.”
The figure got up from the chair and strode across the room to the lifeless man. There was a knocking noise, which was very loud and extremely close to the man’s ear.
“I wish you could see what a nice coffin you are laid in. It is not too fancy, but far above what you would ever normally be allowed to have. I have confidence that you will not escape from the grave in time. To do so requires determination and a high quality of character. I just do not think you have it in you. You are far too selfish. So I am a gambling man. I will tell you my name. If you make it out, you can tell on me. But, I am confident that you do not have it in you.”
The silhouette appeared again above the man’s face. It hovered above him for a few seconds.
“Dr Demontig. At your service.”
Demontig reached out a hand towards the man’s face. He gently pulled the man’s eyelids shut.
“Goodnight,” he whispered.
The night was long and very cold. The man could feel the cold, and it hurt. He could not shiver and he could not curl himself up. He just felt pain running up and down his body. His head ached and his mind raced nonstop. The room he was in was still. Dr Demontig had left and now the man was all alone in his mental oubliette. The wind outside rushed by the windows and howled long through the night. The man couldn’t sleep. He just thought about his life and his loved ones. He vowed to himself that he would be courageous and strong. He would see that this Dr Demontig would receive the proper payment for his cruel treatment.
Halfway through the night, the door to the room whined as it slowly opened. Soft footsteps shuffled around the room in various directions. The man’s eyelids were once again opened, and a lit candle was waved in front of his eyes. All he could see were blue and red flashes as the candle light had shocked his vision.
He heard Dr Demontig clear his throat before he started to speak.
“I am far too excited to sleep. I am so looking forward to your funeral tomorrow. I have been standing at my wardrobe for hours now, trying to decide what to wear. I thought I might speak some more to you to try and calm my exuberance a little. It all sounds a little mad does it not? A real life horror performance. Well, actually I hate horror. I hate that people think it is fun to scare poor decent people. It is not fun. You think horror is fun do you not? Well it is not fun. You will see. For those that pedal this rot, and for those, like you who invest and encourage it, then all I have to offer, is to show you what real horror is about. Poe tells a story. Demontig is the story. I would not normally choose a man as unimportant as you, but I saw you reading your ghost story and laughing today. I was already in a bad mood, and so it angered me enough to seek some vengeance. I do feel a little petty. But when urges take over, who am I to stand in their way? In the morning we will have a real adventure. You may become the hero. I look forward to seeing you try. Once again, good night. I will leave you able to see. When you are in my house I aim to be a good host at the very least. Again, good night.”
With that, the lights were blown out, and the shuffled footsteps drifted out through the door. Silence once again flooded the room.
The night continued on in its seemingly infinite way. The cold cut through unabated, and insects crawled over the poor man’s body and face. There was nothing that he could do about it, except to focus his mind elsewhere. He took no heed of Demontig’s warnings, and instead he worked tirelessly, trying to get his body to move. To twitch in anyway may be his only saviour. At one point he felt that he was making progress. He couldn’t be sure, but he believed that he was able to twitch his face at will. He was aware that he also needed to gain some rest. When the opportunity came, he would need all his strength in order to move at the right time. He thought of songs from his childhood in order to keep his spirits high and also to help the night pass. Eventually the morning started to break, and the room began to lighten. He could now see above him more clearly. Layers upon layers of dirty cobwebs hung from the ceiling like ashen chandeliers. The room was still and quiet, but on occasions, the light from the window would be blocked out and a shadow would across the man’s line of view. He remained waiting for a further hour or so, until, in the far reaches of the building, he began to hear the muffled sounds of a conversation. The voices were getting closer. The door to the room finally whined open once more. This time a number of people were heard walking in. They came close to the man. Then the face of an old gentleman leant over and peered into the coffin. This old gentleman had silvery grey hair, and was dressed like a priest. He leant in close to Demontig’s victim.
“Ah so this is him then Mr Demontig?”
“It is Dr Demontig,” replied a familiar and irritated voice.
“Ah yes. I am sorry. So Mr Demon……ahhhh………Dr Demontig, are these the clothes you found him in, or are they some of your cast offs?”
Demontig sniffed. “They most certainly are not my old clothes. I have bought this poor wretch some new clothing, so that he can at least be buried with some dignity. Really, the things he had on when I found the poor soul were only fit for the furnace.”
“Oh doctor, you are a fine fellow when it comes to looking after the poor. I mean, this is the third……”
“…….Yes, forth poor unfortunate you have taken charge of. The lower orders do seem to do well if they drop down dead in your vicinity. Yes I am sure that the good deeds that you do will serve you well when the sad day occurs and you are taken to meet the Good Lord and be judged.”
Demontig gave out a small childish chuckle. “I do think I will need all the help I can get, should I get chance to meet the….. Good…… Lord.”
“Oh yes……well let me have a look at this poor fool then.”
The priest leant in close to the man in the coffin and started to move his hand towards the deceased. Just before he came into contact, a gloved hand darted in and grabbed the vicar by the wrist. It moved quickly, but the man could see that this small dainty hand had on a silk glove, and a purple velvet cuff. But in less than a second it was gone.
“Please your reverence,” said Demontig.
“It’s pronounced Reverend,” said the priest.
“Sorry?” said Demontig.
“What’s that now? Uhmmm nothing Mr…….Uhmmm……I mean doctor.”
There was an uncomfortable pause, before an obviously annoyed Demontig broke the silence.
“I am aware that this man now looks like a normal human being, in his new, fine suit, and he has also been cleaned. But please remember that this is still a wretch from the slums and he is not clean enough for your reverence to be handling him. I am just thinking for your welfare. Whilst Dog, my servant, was cleaning him, we noted fleas.”
“Lice too eh?” said the priest. “Well I guess my mother did always say to look with your eyes and not with your hands.”
“She sounds a wise woman, your reverence. Now, may I interest you in a Sherry before the service?”
“Well I make it a rule not to drink before ten o clock in the morning, Sir.”
“Oh come now. Just a small one will help the soul on this sad occasion.”
“That is true doctor…… You say it’s a sad occasion, but of course, this fellow is getting a better send off than most. You are surely saving him from dissection. What a strange occurrence, just turning up in your garden like that.”
“Yes quite. Now please make your way to the drawing room, and I shall be with you in an instant.”
The priest suddenly gasped. “Look at him twitching. Did you see him twitch?”
The man in the coffin had been working as hard as he could to try and make his face move.
“Yes I did,” said Demontig. “Is it not awful? Unfortunately Dog has been twitching like that for most of his life. He was dropped on his head as a baby, and has been ‘not right’ ever since. It does so infuriate me to have him flicking around behind me all day long, but what can I do? He is a family heirloom. My mother loved his deformities so, and made me promise to treat him as well as any master would. So I have learnt over time to turn, what you English call, a blind eye.”
Once the priest had left the room, Demontig turned his attention back to his victim.
“Well then. We have our priest for the service, and after a quick drink we will be on our way. You have obviously been very determined overnight. I saw your nose twitching then. It is a pity for you that the good reverence did not see…. How sad….. Now I must say goodbye. Dog, the lid!”
The lid of the coffin was lifted onto the top and nail after nail was driven in deep so that the man inside was now enclosed from view. He felt the coffin rise and lean and be lowered, before being wheeled around taking various turns and stopping often. The coffin was pitch black inside, and every little bump was painful as the wood was rough and the fit tight. The coffin was again bundled about and lowered onto the rear of a carriage. The horse’s hooves clip clopped down the cobbled streets and the coffin bumped around with every pothole and rise. After a short journey, the funeral party arrived at the cemetery. The coffin was once again lifted and shuffled around until it landed with a hard bump onto the ground. Inside the coffin, the man could hear the muffled voice of the priest beginning to read prayers and verses from the bible. His words were distorted by the wind that hissed through the cracks in the coffin joints. The man started to feel the coffin being lowered into the pit. He had been trying desperately to move all through the journey. His mind was in a state of panic, but his body remained at rest. Until, his fingers began to tingle. He felt sensation in the tips. He concentrated hard and managed to make his hands move. Only slightly, but they were moving. His mouth then started to tingle as well. His breathes deepened and he started to feel his heart racing. His body was coming back to life. He tried to scream, but all that came out was a quiet slur. He worked his hands more, trying to free them enough to bang on the lid. His progress was slow, and before long, the priest went quiet. Time was running out. The man’s body started to go into shock and panic. His whole being was desperately trying to force himself into action. Then a cascade of noise gently pelted the lid of the coffin. This noise grew and grew until it became heavy thuds, thundering down. The grave was being filled in. His hands and arms started to jolt up and down, dragging his knuckles against the rough sides of his tomb. The wooden splinters impaled themselves into him and tore the flesh from his hands. Blood trickled down to his wrists and his mouth began to froth. His chest pounded back and forth, trying to build up the power to scream. In an explosion of energy he let out a blood curdling shriek and drew his bloodied fists up with force onto the lid, banging it with all his might. But the sounds, and desperate pleas for mercy, were soaked up by the now four foot of mud and clay which lay over him. The one person who could have saved him was walking back off to the church to prepare for his next sermon. The only person left, watching his men filling in the grave, was a small wiry character, who leant against a thin black cane. He was dressed in a purple tailed coat and top hat, and stood with a contented smile on his face.
Upminster, Essex, August 1883
Jack George sat on an old damaged cart at the side of the dusty road. In his hand he held a lush red apple, which he looked at longingly. He had not eaten an apple in many months. Jack was very small and malnourished for a thirteen year old boy. He took a big bite out of his apple and lay back onto the flat of the cart, swinging his legs off the end. He was a well-meaning and honest lad that sadly came from a poor and brutal background. He and his sister were scrounges that just sucked the blood of his poor parents. Or at least, that is what his father always told him. Lying next to him on the back of the old cart was a small package of apples wrapped in a dirty old cloth. He was saving these for his sister. He was the oldest and took it upon himself to find food for them both. His parents didn’t feed them, and so the two children depended upon each other to survive. His sister, although only nine, was a dab hand at mending their clothes, and would also tend to the injuries that her intrepid brother got, searching for nourishment and a means to pay their way.
Jack climbed down off the cart and started to walk the short distance into town. As he followed the path, the boarding house that he shared with his family started to come into view. His pace slowed and his wit sharpened. The boarding house, although set in a rural town, had no amount of greenery around it. Not a plant grew on it, or even nearby. The tall red brick building looked as cold and unwelcoming as it was to live in. The Georges were not the only residents in this squalor. The building was full of wasters and prostitutes that plied their trade and traded violence on a daily basis. At all times of the day, villainous and deplorable men and women would come and go. Bloodshed and violence could happen at any time, and life within those walls was nothing short of miserable. Jack’s mother and father were amongst the worst, and the tarnish of their bad reputation unfairly cast itself on the poor George children.
Jack slowed right down and he tread carefully, scanning the area for trouble as he got closer to his home. If anyone saw him with the apples he would certainly loose them, and may even be hurt in the process. Hopefully his parents would be out. Sadly, he felt that if they never returned, then life would be much improved. In the top window, a small girl, with a narrow and solemn face peeked out. When she saw her brother she waved her hands to him to tell him it was safe to come up. Bracing himself, he darted in through the front door. The hallways inside were damp and dark, and appeared even darker by the various shades of green and brown grime that slid down the walls. The floorboards banged as he raced over them. He knew the route well, and barely broke pace as he scaled the stairs trying to reach his family’s room before anyone could come out into the hall and cut him off. Within seconds, he was up to the top floor and in through the door and into the George family lodgings. Their home was a small grubby room, which, like the children who lived there, was neither clean nor properly cared for. His sister sat on a stained and soiled mattress, which was their only luxury item. Jack ran over and sat on the mattress with his sister and swept away mouldy scraps from the floor in order to lay his cloth package down. His sister took one of the apples and took a slow, quiet bite.
“Hi Kate,” said Jack. “Where are they?”
Kate continued to eat from her apple and just lifted a hand and pointed a finger over to a large bundle of rags piled in the corner of the room. “She came in a while ago. She couldn’t speak or walk properly. She just dropped down and has been there since. I don’t know if she is alive or not.”
Jack crossed the room and peered over the bundle of rags to see his mother’s face. She appeared to still be breathing. That was all Jack needed to know. Although their parents cared nothing for their children and showed them no love, Jack and Kate were still young and took a more innocent view towards their parents. They didn’t know how parents should treat their offspring. They guessed that it should probably be better than it was. But they also knew that these were their only parents and that they should show them love and respect, even if it wasn’t ever reciprocated. Jack was frightened about their future in this environment. He had overheard talk of the local whore’s interest in making money from his sister, and he knew that his own life was in the hands of the violent scoundrels that surrounded him. He dreaded his father most of all. His mother was a drunk and mean, but his father was brutal and unsparing. He only saw his children as easy targets to steal from or to use for his own sordid pleasures.
Kate wrapped up the small bundle of apples and tucked them under the filthy mattress.
“Jack?” she said. “They aren’t stolen are they?”
“No,” said Jack. “I helped a farmer carry grain from the road to his farm. The wheel fell off his old cart and he was stuck. He gave them to me for helping him. You know I wouldn’t steal.”
Suddenly the door to the room swung open hitting a small wooden chair. The chair skidded across the room and the door rebounded and swung closed again. In an instant, Kate jumped to her feet and climbed into a wardrobe, pulling the door shut behind her. The door to the room was then kicked open with such forced that one of the hinges pinged off and fell onto the floor. The person who had kicked the door went the other way and landed squarely on his back on the landing. It was their father. He quickly turned himself over and pulled himself back to his feet using the door frame. Jack stood deadly still. He had already been seen, and had no chance to hide. His father stumbled into the room and started to drag his belt out of the loops of his trousers. His head bent down and his eyes glaring up at the timid young Jack. His father’s expression was always mean, and his tone menacing. He doubled the belt in his hands and jammed it back and forth so it made a snapping sound.
“I have been told that you are hiding food,” he snarled.
Jack started to back away from the approaching threat. His hands trembled and his eyes darted, looking for an escape path. But he was getting trapped in.
“Someone has seen you lazing around like a lazy little fuck, eating apples. Is that true boy?”
Jack said nothing. He knew it was unwise to respond. His only recourse was to accept a beating, or take his chance to flee should one develop.
“And where is your little whore sister? Out giving samples for free I’ll bet. I’ll kill her when I see her, the little whore.”
As his father got closer, he caught his foot on a rag lying on the floor. He started to lose his balance a little and flailed his arms to recover himself. Jack saw his opportunity and lunged for his father. He forced him over, but his father managed to grab his sleeve in the process. The two tumbled down and landed on the unconscious pile of mother, asleep in the corner. The father’s arm quickly wrapped itself around Jack’s neck, and he started to pull tight around his son’s throat. Jack started to see stars and colours flashing before him. The strong stench of alcohol filled his nostrils. His vision blurred and he clawed away to try and release the grip. He gasped, but no air was coming into him. His father’s arm tightened even more, sucking what little strength the boy had. Jack’s arms dropped to his side and his legs ground at the floor. He was starting to drift into unconsciousness.
His mother had been woken with a shock, and was completely unaware of what was happening to her as she was being crushed and struck from behind. As she fought for freedom, she reached into her frock and pulled out her bone handled knife, which she kept for business purposes. She reached over her shoulder and started furiously hacking away with the blade. She drew the knife over her husband’s face, slicing his lip in two and opening his cheek, down to the bone. He reeled in pain, and his grip on Jack was finally relinquished. Jack gasped and sat there dazed for a few moments until urgency overtook him. He scrambled up and quickly made for the wardrobe, pulling Kate out and dragging her from the room and down the stairs to the relative safety of the street. Their mother and father continued to roll around the room in a bloody feral mess of fury.
The two children spilled out of the front door and stopped to look up to their window. They could still hear screams and cursing. They were, at least, not being followed. Jack bent over, struggling still to catch his breath.
“No!” he said. “The apples! They’ll go rotten before we get the chance to return.”
Kate had run out of the house, the edge of her frock in her hand. She smiled at Jack and lowered her hem to show the remaining apples, cradled in her skirt. Jack grabbed hold of his sister around her shoulders and gave her a loving kiss on the temple. They would have to leave for a while. Their father would not remember this incident in a few days. He reacted solely in the moment and would inevitably calm down, only to erupt again about something else.
“You need to go and stay with Mary,” said Jack. He paused for a moment, still trying to breathe. “She said you could stay when there was trouble, and this is as good a time as any.”
“What about you?”
“I will find somewhere to hide. I will go and look for somewhere safe and then come back for you soon. You will be safe at Mary’s. Father will never go round there looking for you. Take the apples to pay her for her kindness.”
Jack kissed his sister once more, turned her around and gently pushed her off down the road. Kate was really the only person that Jack cared for. They both needed each other to survive, and so they had a strong bond and an unspoken knowledge of each other. They needed a future, and he would have to decide what that future should be. He watched her walk off down the track and as always hoped that he would see her again. As the oldest, he would have to come up with a plan. But for now, he needed to find a place of safety for himself.
Chelsea, London, August 1883
A long, thin black cane was raised up, and the small brass end tapped on the door three times. Within a few moments the door was carefully opened and a rather plump lady, dressed in a grey frock with a white apron, stood in the doorway.
“Hello Sir,” she said, bowing her head slightly.
“Good evening,” said the caller. “I am here to see Mr Lang.”
“Very good Sir. Who shall I say is calling?”
“Dr Demontig. He is expecting me.”
The lady stepped back into the hall and allowed Dr Demontig to enter. Demontig was a short and feeble man. His face was drawn in and his cheek bones high. He had long, straight, black hair that reached the length of his jaw line, all the way around. His eyes were the brightest of blues, and were a distraction to anyone who would gaze upon them. He was dressed in a fashion of another time, with his dark green velvet tailed coat and stockings. He wore buckled shoes, white gloves and a matching green top hat.
“Can I take your coat and hat, Sir?”
“No,” replied Demontig sharply.
“Very good Sir, I will just check that Mr Lang is ready to see you.”
As the lady disappeared, Demontig’s attention was drawn to the fine art that hung from the walls. He was a lover of anything ‘fine’ and so he took pleasure in admiring them in great detail. A minute or two later, he was ushered into the drawing room. Demontig moved very gracefully. He walked with a soft rhythm that very much complemented the way that he dressed. The room was very ornate and extravagant. No spare space other than the floor was visible through all the decorations and collectables that covered them. Mr Lang was sat in a large chair, trying to poke tobacco into the end of his pipe, when Demontig glided in. He looked up at this interesting little man and placed his pipe down at his side, now somewhat distracted by the sight before him.
“Mr Demontig,” said Lang in a burly American accent. “Please take a seat.”
“Doctor,” said Demontig. “My name is Dr Demontig.”
“I am sorry doctor. Please accept my apologies. It is my poor memory you see. Too many opiates I guess. Do you sniff?”
“No Mr Lang, I do not. I consider my body and mind to be a temple which should only be fortified with fortified wine. Expensive Sherry to be accurate.”
“Yes of course. I have a very fine Sherry here that you may like. Please take a seat.”
Mr Lang went to the drinks cabinet and poured out two small Sherries.
“Here you are. Now, I have been looking forward to meeting you Dr Demontig. Our contact has told me absolutely nothing about you, which only adds to my curiosity.”
“Thank you,” said Demontig as he carefully took the Sherry and had a tiny sip. As Mr Lang headed back to his seat, Demontig’s face turned sour as the Sherry was neither fine, nor expensive.
“So what is it that you are interested in doctor?”
“Well, I have been well advised that you are in the business of providing séances and spiritual readings.”
“Yes that is correct. Are you interested in promoting a night?”
“That is accurate. I am hoping to cash in on this business and host a few evenings of the spiritual.”
“Well nothing gets people spending than a good old scare. People are lapping this stuff up. We give them dead relatives. We give them medical advice from angels. Ectoplasm. Lots of ectoplasm. Of course that is just egg whites and such, so you need to watch out for the mess. But you can get the lights to go on and off and all that sort of thing, you know a few draughts to make the candles flicker. People just empty their pockets for it. They can’t get enough.”
“Well quite. It all sounds fascinating. So they use illusion and mis-direction?”
“I think so. I don’t intrude on their techniques. I just organise the evening and take my cut. If that is the sort of thing you are interested in then we can sort something out. Of course there will be an agent’s fee you understand. I charge twenty percent on top. But that still leaves you plenty of profit margin. Do you have a suitable place for the shows?”
“Yes, I have a very nice mansion that will fit the bill. I wish you to come and view my house and we can also see my large collection of illusionist’s props. I am a collector.”
“Okay, I’m sure I can visit tomorrow if that would suit?”
“Why not tonight?”
“Well it is a little late.”
Demontig sprung up from his seat and slowly began to pace around the room. His attention was drawn to the various curiosities that lined the walls and adorned every flat surface. Demontig began to mumble to himself as he looked around. “I like this style, but all these beautiful items, and yet he uses swine’s urine for Sherry. Ackkk…………Hmmmmm……..not a book in sight either.”
He ran his fingers across several ornaments and then turned to look at Lang, rubbing the dust off his perfectly white gloves. “No, tonight would suit me. I have my driver outside and he will also bring you home again. I can offer you some fine Sherry. One hundred pounds a bottle.”
“My God,” said Mr Lang. “That does sound like a fine drink.”
“Come tonight and I am sure that you will leave with a bottle for yourself. I am busy from now onwards and so would like to complete this deal tonight if possible.”
Mr Lang sat down in his chair again. “Well it would be rude to turn you down Dr Demontig. What a very kind gesture. One hundred pounds a bottle. Wow”
At that point the maid came back into the room. “Do you still need me Sir?” she asked.
“No, no, no,” said Lang waving her off with his hand. “You go to bed. You can clean up in the morning.”
The two men sat quietly whilst Mr Lang had another attempt at stocking his pipe. He was a careless man, and half of his tobacco landed on his leg. Demontig sat staring at his disappointing glass of Sherry, his green top hat perched delicately on his lap. The silence was broken when a large bang was heard from the floor above. Both men looked skywards.
“Sounds like a pottergeist, eh doctor?” said Lang.
“It is pronounced Poltergeist,” said Demontig, irritated by Lang’s ignorance. “It is German for noisy ghost. I do not believe you have any ghosts in here, but I am sure there is something very wicked present.” Demontig gave a wry smile. Lang was confused by the statement.
“Do you not believe in ghosts?” asked Lang.
“Of course I do not. Ghost and ghouls are very much like religion. They are designed by those in power to control those who are subordinate. Promise them things so they behave, and if that does not work, then threaten them with things until they fall into line. I tell you that your great dead aunty is telling you to pay Demontig for more readings, and so you do it. I tell someone to pay their taxes or God will be unhappy, they do it. The mystical is a great way to impose power over those who believe. I do not believe and so you cannot overpower me. Anyway, I do not have to believe. Only those that are going to pay their money need to believe. Is that not so?”
“I’ll drink to that,” chimed Lang.
“I would rather not,” replied Demontig, who looked sourly at his still full glass of cheap acrid Sherry.
The two men donned their hats and made their way out to the waiting carriage. They climbed aboard and, without any signal, the horses were snapped into action and the carriage shot off down the driveway and out onto the cobbles of the main street.
The moonlight glared off Demontig’s face making him appear ghostly. He looked away from Mr Lang, disinterested in anymore conversation.
“Is this your manservant?” Lang said, nodding in the direction of the driver.
“Yes, this is Dog.” Demontig continued to look away, aloof.
“Burley big bastard eh doctor?” Lang said, rapping Demontig on the shoulder, jovially.
“So Doc. What line of work are you doctoring in, may I ask?”
Demontig remained unmoved by the question.
“Medicine?” asked Lang
“No!” huffed Demontig.
Demontig didn’t answer.
Demontig suddenly lost his temper and swung round to look at his companion. “Really Mr Lang, it is of no consequence what I am involved in.”
Lang smiled knowingly. “I’ll take that as a yes. Very interesting subject. Do you make any opiate remedies?”
Demontig huffed again, and turned his body so he was completely facing away. But then, he turned back to Lang with a sly smile now crossing his lips.
“You are very astute Mr Lang. I am a chemist. A rather remarkable one at that.”
“What have you discovered Doc?”
“Please do not call me Doc. It cheapens me. I have discovered a powerful serum that helps me to render anyone at my mercy. It makes the victim physically dead, but mentally alive.”
“Wow, scary stuff.”
Demontig reached into his jacket and pulled out a large brass syringe. He held it out in front of Mr Lang’s face and Lang gazed at it in amazement. Demontig then looked up, perplexed.
“What’s wrong?” asked Lang.
“Can you see that in the distance?” asked Demontig, nervously.
Lang leant forward in his seat and stared out into the darkness. “No, what is it?”
With the syringe in his hand, poised, Demontig looked at Lang’s exposed neck before him.
“It is Mis-direction.”
Upminster, Essex, August 1883
Jack George had been searching for somewhere safe to hide for the night. He had ventured into a farm yard and had tried to seek sanctuary in a barn stacked with hay. He had been spotted entering the building, and had been quickly ushered out by an angry farm hand. He had been struck about the face for his trouble, and so carried on searching. He was cold, hungry and tired. At the edge of the town lay an old house. It was very large and the gardens sprawled for miles in all directions. Rose bushes and flowers grew in almost every possible space, and orchards ran in straight lines throughout the grounds. Apart from a couple of windows that glowed under gaslight, most of the property was in complete darkness. There must by a dozen or more places to hide, Jack thought to himself. Keeping a keen eye, he climbed over the main gate and cautiously walked up the driveway. As he got closer to the house, he moved around the back of some bushes in order to stay unseen. He followed the line of bushes around the side of the house and slipped into the shadows cast by the nearly full moon. He trod carefully along the edge of the building, keeping low of the windows, although they were all unlit. He was looking for the staircase to the cellar, or the servant’s entrance. It was usually a small set of steps that could provide him shelter from the wind, and from eyes view. Servants were often more forgiving than their masters, when they found a rough looking boy like Jack crouched in the cold. He would at least feel safer. He saw a small staircase, yet a faint glow lit the edges, like a beacon in the dark. Jack edged closer and peeked over the small wall encircling it. At the side of the steps was a small window. The yellow light was coming from it. Jack leaned in closer to see who was there. As he looked in, he could see a large man, completely naked, lying on a long wooden table. He was dead. Other than the body and the table, the room was completely empty. A closed door on the other side of the room was its only other feature. Jack was transfixed by the body on the table. He had seen the dead before, but why was this one left on a table in this way?
Then, the door swung open and a small thin man, dressed in a green outfit with stockings, strode into the room. He carried a black cane. His hair hanged limp like a curtain around his face. He made his way to the table and leant over the corpse. With his white gloved hands he carefully stroked the large moustache belonging to the man on the table. He peered into the eyes of the dead man for a little while before standing up straight and spinning on his heel. He went over to the wall and casually leant against it, his hands crossed behind his back.
Jack listened in carefully as the strange little man began to talk.
“Mr Lang. You have been here long enough. I believe you should be able to hear me now. As I mentioned earlier, I have the power to leave my victim apparently dead with a single injection of my serum. You of course know that you are very much alive. But you do not have the power to move. You are now no longer in London, and anyone who sees you would think you deceased. I have brought you here in order to help you be part of something very special. You love to scare people and leave them terrified. It is all in the name of fun and profit, is it not? Well I do not hold your view. I am sorry, but I misled you earlier into thinking I wanted to book séances and such. This was a little fib on my part. It was a little trap, as sadly, your greed comes before anything else. I was once a very nervous and timid young boy. An innocent young man with greatness laid before me. I know my queer oddities may seem quaint, but they have crippled my life and left me a social pariah. I became this way due to bullies like yourself. I was weak and feeble, but honest, and I did not inflict myself on anyone. But as a young boy, the other children thought that it would be very funny one night to make a spectacle of me. Please imagine if you will the fear and terror that this young Demontig felt when they locked me in a morgue for the night. No light, no escape, no room amongst the piles of dead bodies lying cold and stiff against my face, chest, arms and legs. I could not move. The stench still remains part of my nightmares. The cold, clammy touch is always on my skin. Every night since, tormented faces stare blindly at me in the dark. Can you see that little boy? Well now, he is a ruthless human being, with an equally sickening mind. It is me, Demontig.”
Demontig stopped. He paused thoughtfully. His demeanour had become nervy. He walked over to the open door and whispered through it. A large, ogre like man came over to the doorway from outside and leant in close to Demontig. The doctor whispered directly into his ear. The ogre looked Demontig straight in the eyes and gave him a stern nod, before disappearing back into the house. Demontig silently returned to his leaning position, his hands re-crossed behind his back.
“You, Mr Lang are a pedlar of fear. No doubt you would have enjoyed my torment. Perhaps you would have laughed like everyone else. But you will laugh at Demontig no more. You will no longer enjoy the riches that you earn from removing the security in ones dreams, or using the sacred name of the dead to line your filthy pockets. You will have your chance to survive. I am a gambling man. If you are of sound mind and character, then you will be able to regain your senses quicker than if you are a weak and foolish man. If you do, you will live, and your lesson will be learnt. If you are feeble, then you will be doomed and you will not be missed from this world. Let me tell you what I will do…….”
Jack was listening hard to Demontig. The words were muffled coming through the window pane. But he could make out what was being said, and was transfixed. Was this man mad, talking to this dead body? Or was it all true, and how could it be possible? He leant in closer, trying to get his ear as close as he could, without being seen. He turned his head to one side and pressed his ear against the window. There was now no sound coming from the room. He looked back in through the window, and there before him stood Dr Demontig, staring straight back at him. His blue eyes piercing and hypnotic. His expression blank and unwavering. Jack gasped and jolted back from the window in surprise. As he did, a large, rough and unseen hand grabbed him tightly by the neck. A dull pain hit him behind the ear. Jack caught sight of a brass syringe, before everything went dark and quiet.
When Jack regained consciousness, he was face to face with Demontig, who was already in full flow. His arms were waving around and his mouth was moving, but there was no sound. Slowly but surely the sound grew in volume, until Jack could hear everything being said. Jack’s whole body did not feel connected. He couldn’t move anything. He was trapped, frozen in time, yet his mind raced. His eyes felt sore, and he couldn’t even feel himself breath. At first, this did not concern him. He was trying too hard to focus on what this man was saying. He didn’t panic. He just listened.
“………So of course that is why you cannot just go free. I am sorry. Demontig is a gambling man, but not a fool. Not that anyone would believe a young street boy like you over the great Dr Demontig. But let us not tempt fate. Well, I am unsure what you heard, but please let me share with you Mr Lang’s fate. You did not get to hear the best part yet. Mr Lang was placed into a small cave that I have in my fabulous gardens. He was abandoned and smeared in honey. He was unbound….. I am not a monster!…. He was naked, as I do not believe in damaging teeny tiny animal’s digestive systems. I am sad to say that Mr Lang was a real disappointment of a man. He did not move a muscle all the way through his death. Nothing. He was chewed to death by dozens of rats and he could not even bring himself to let out a whimper. Most disappointing. But then, the pleasure of the hunt is the second priority of my work. Removing Mr Lang and his like-minded fools is the first.”
Reality started to enter Jack’s mind. The predicament he was in started to dawn on him. Was he to be the next victim? He couldn’t feel anything. His body didn’t react as it should have.
Demontig walked over to Jack and leaned in close to his face. Jack could smell his aftershave, and feel his breath on his cheek.
“My man servant, Dog, said we should just slit your throat and bury you in the grounds. What a disaster that would be to my lawn, I told him. And anyway, I am not a murderer of young boys. I am a crusader for the victims of this world. But, something must be done with you. I do love a gamble and the tingle of taking a chance drives me wild with pleasure. What to do? What to do?”
Demontig stared, for what felt like ages, into the poor boy’s eyes. He thought long and hard what to do with him. He couldn’t just kill the boy. That went against his code of honour. It went against what he knew to be right, but everything had gone too far. If the boy got away, he could tell and Demontig could lose everything, but that in itself was a thrill. Taking chances was something that Demontig revelled in. Demontig straightened up and walked away from Jack, his arms behind his back and his chin up in the air. He walked around the room, one foot carefully placed in front of the other.
“I will give you a chance at life. I have wanted to try something for a long while. A method of execution that I dared not before. I will give you the chance as I do feel sorry for you. You do not deserve all this. You were merely in the wrong place and spying on the wrong maniac.” Demontig burst into his childish chuckle. He fought to keep his face straight after he had amused himself so. He composed himself. “Let’s roll the dice my poor boy.”
Demontig gracefully glided out of sight and his swishing footsteps faded off into the distance. Jack was left all alone. His mind still remarkably calm. He didn’t know what was really happening. Two words had burnt themselves into his thoughts. Execution and chance. The rest of Demontig’s speech was lost in the haze of his mind. Then everything was cast aside. His thoughts fell solely to his sister, Kate. Was she safe? He thought, dreamlike, for a while. Before long, he felt unconcerned about his situation. He fell asleep.
Jack was awoken when his body was lifted up. Only when he was being moved did he realise that he had been propped in a chair all along. His body was still paralysed and straight away confusion hit him. What was happening? Where was he? His mind had reacted badly to the situation and shock had rendered him delirious. EXECUTION. CHANCE. He was going to be killed if he didn’t get himself moving. His thoughts zoomed in to a sharp focus and the seriousness of his fate struck him like a cold iron to the face. His mind began to race. His stomach started to turn and he began to feel nauseous. Adrenaline felt like it was starting to trickle around his body. He was being held by both arms, and then felt himself being picked up high into the air. He was then slung over a person’s shoulder and he folded over so that his head was by the seat of heavily stained pair of brown trousers. His arms dangled down to the ground. In the room he could hear that there was Demontig, the man who was holding him on his shoulder, and another man. They were all talking together.
“Now,” said Demontig. “I want you to take this boy to the anatomist. You may keep the money for him. Just get him there quickly and in one piece.”
“Why do you not want any money for him?” asked a husky voice. “Is there an issue that you’re trying to distance yourself from, mister?”
“Yeah,” said a high pitched male voice. “Not one of your lusts is he? Why would you just give him to us?”
“Fine,” said Demontig. “You may go, and I will find someone else.”
“Okay, okay. We will have him. But if there is something going on here, and we get into trouble, then we will make sure that you are the one swinging. Understand?”
The air went quiet before Demontig responded in an angry and sharp tone. “Just make sure you get him there quickly and safely, or you would wish to be found at the end of a rope as opposed to what I would have in store for you.”
“Don’t threaten me Mary!” said the husky voice. Jack could feel the vibrations of his voice through his body. It was the husky sounding one that was carrying him.
“You will get a pretty penny for a fresh corpse like this. Children are always in demand and so you will get a good price. If you want your pockets filled then do as I say. If you want to argue and speculate then you can leave and I will find someone else. That is all I have to say. Take it or leave it.”
The two other men grumbled and huffed and then finally walked off, with Jack, out of the room and into a dark corridor. Jack could see nothing other than the man’s posterior striking him repeatedly in the face. His eyes still locked, like every inch of his whole body. They left the house and the cool chill of the outside air was refreshing on Jack’s face. It was still night time, or at least early morning. It was still rather dark and Jack could hardly see anything. They stopped, only a short distance from the house. They were still in the gardens of Demontig’s estate.
“What is it?” said the husky voice.
“I have to ask Demontig what we say when they ask where we got him,” replied the high pitched voice. “Wait here with him whilst I go back.”
Jack felt himself lowered back to the floor. He was laid on his back and could now see the man who had been carrying him. The man was muscular and unshaven. His clothes were just rags that hung from him. His hair tangled and greasy. He stood over Jack, staring down at the young boy. A wicked smile crawled across his face, and his hand ran down to the top of his trousers. He looked up after his companion, who was halfway across the lawn on the way back to the house. He looked down at Jack. He began to undo his trousers, and dropped them down to his ankles. Jack looked up at the man, unable to react. He knew what was about to happen. The man lowered himself down to the ground and Jack could feel his belt being tugged at. He felt his trousers being drawn down the sides of his thighs. His voice was screaming in his head. He was still not moving, but his sense of flight was electric. His whole being was desperate to do something. His body was rolled over in the grass, his face pressed into the dew soaked blades. His airway was blocked, and his breathing severely retarded. He was being suffocated. His body trapped in a fatal position, about to be molested. He felt the man pressing against him, when a sharp sound made them both jump.
“What the fuck are you doing?” bellowed the man with the high pitched voice. “Are you mad?”
Jack’s body had jolted. He had been shocked by the shouting, and his body had reacted. The jolt had managed to get him into a position where air was now just flowing into his mouth.
“What do you think?” said the husky sounding man. “He isn’t going to care what I do to him. He’s dead!”
“So, if we take this body to an anatomist, a medical doctor, who is going to examine the body, and the body has just been raped, you don’t think that it would be an issue? Are you stupid, or do you want to swing?”
Jack was re-dressed and lifted back onto the man’s shoulder. Their journey continued and Jack’s mind turned to escape. If he could move enough he could be saved. And he had just moved.
Jack was loaded onto a wooden cart. He landed with a considerable bump, which resulted in harsh words being exchanged between the two men. One wanted the corpse to arrive in good shape, the other didn’t care. A blanket was pulled over the boy’s face and body, and the carriage bounced off down the road. The vibrations from the rough ground rippled through Jack’s skull causing him severe pain and discomfort. He was jarred at every pothole, which cracked his head hard against the solid boards under him. The unsmoothed wood cut across his back. The pain became so bad that Jack felt sick and finally fell into unconsciousness once more. Jack woke as he was dragged off the cart and raised again onto one of the men’s shoulders.
The party were soon walking down the dark cobbled streets and remained quiet all the way. They got to a door, which stood almost hidden within the wall of a large imposing stone building. Jack had been mistaken. It was actually night time. The natural light had dimmed more since leaving the gardens. Jack must have slept for the whole day. One of the men knocked on the door. They waited. He knocked again, louder this time. Finally the door opened and the three entered a brightly lit room. They talked to another man. He questioned the two men as to how they came across the dead boy. They answered in a convoluted way. Avoiding any responsibility for the boy, they just wanted their money and they would go. The man paid them. The two repulsive scoundrels, that had brought him there, then left. Jack was relieved. But where was he now? He was placed face up on a steel bench. The man in the room with him moved him around on several occasions, so Jack concluded that he must be on a trolley. He could hear the wheels squeak whenever the table was moved. The man stood over him. He was an older man, rugged in looks, and rather plump. He slowly removed the corpse’s clothes, leaving him naked on the trolley. At first the cold steel stung his skin. He felt his back gently pulling away from the icy surface. He was moving again, but ever so slightly. Not enough to get anybody’s attention. A door opened and another person’s voice called through.
“Ah, what have we here then?” asked a smooth, educated voice.
“It’s a boy Sir,” replied the man. “Twelve to fifteen I think. Quite unusual. I will prepare him for you, Sir.”
“Thank you Ives,” replied the smooth voice. “The students will be coming in soon. Very good indeed.”
The door creaked closed.
Ives went off, out of the room, and returned with a bucket of water and a sponge. He carefully washed the body, and towelled it dry afterwards. The cold water was invigorating on Jack’s skin. He could feel the water run down his sides and across his face. He started to feel alive. This was a pleasant sensation, the first in quite a while. Ives stopped. He was stunned. He leant in towards to Jack and looked closely at his arms. The hairs on the dead boy were standing up on end as a cool draught crept over his naked flesh. Goosebumps appeared along his arms and chest. Ives was baffled. This surely couldn’t be right.
“Sir!” shouted Ives. “Sir, can I distract you please?”
The door opened.
“Yes Ives, what is it?”
Ives was about to speak, but before he could, voices erupted from the other room.
“Sorry Ives, I do not have time to chat, I must see to the students. Please bring the body out as soon as you can. Thanks awfully.”
The door creaked shut again.
Ives stared back down at the boy’s arms. He shook his head and stood back up. “What do I know? I’m no doctor.”
With that a thin white sheet was drawn up over Jack’s face.
The sound from the other room began to grow. The hubbub of noise was a mishmash of whispering, jeering and laughter. No individual conversations were distinguishable, just noise. Jack was wheeled into the room, his face still covered. The gabble of voices surrounded him, and their words were loud and frightening. They came from all directions. Finally, the cacophony was quelled in an instant when a great pinging noise penetrated throughout the room. The pinging noise was coming from the trolley which Jack lay motionless on. It was being struck hard with an unknown object, and the vibrations tingled through the boy’s limbs.
“Quiet everybody please.” It was the man with the smooth, educated voice. “Everybody please take your seats so that we may begin.”
The room filled with the sound of shuffling and whispers, before falling deadly silent once more.
“Gentlemen. Please welcome our esteemed guest for this evening, the most celebrated, Dr Hain Mills.”
There was a brief round of applause, before a powerful, demanding voice cut through the sound.
“Let me welcome you all to Highgate College of Medicine. I know most of you have travelled far and are new to this lovely theatre. It is my first time here also, and I must say that I am very impressed by the facilities. I wish you all a pleasant evening and hope that this night of dissection will be of interest to you all. This is a one off evening with myself, Dr Hain Mills, and I am very proud to have been invited here to perform for you all. It is occasions like this that will befit our future medical pioneers with all the experience that your predecessors, such as I, can offer. Not that I am planning to retire anytime soon of course. But I am eager in playing my part in the progress of medicine by passing my knowledge on to you. You could say, that you are about to stand on the shoulder of a giant.”
The audience applauded again.
“Now then,” Dr Hain Mills continued. “We have several cadavers to eviscerate tonight. Some of them are a little ropey if I must say. But it is your duty to perform equally as well on a fresh body as you would a rotten mass of puss. Not that we have any rotting masses of puss, thankfully. But we do have a variety of unfortunates to help us in our demonstration. You will of course all need to take notes. Firstly, I am happy to announce that we will start on a lovely fresh cadaver that has just come in to our possession. It is also of interest as it is a young specimen. We will not often get to take apart a young specimen, as donation of such bodies are rare. So please all pay attention as this is a real opportunity.”
The white sheet was whisked away from Jack’s body. His sight was instantly blighted as a powerful light was directed down onto his face. His eye balls dried under the heat and his forehead felt like it was burning. Jack paid no notice to this though. His mind would not concentrate on what was happening to him. He was still unable to pay attention. This was the moment that he needed to make himself move, but he couldn’t even track what was being said around him, never mind force a movement to prove his life. He was about to be dissected, but he didn’t understand that.
“Now, I will begin by making a long incision, starting down the sternum of the subject. I will follow this by the standard semi lateral cuts along the base of the neck, in order to make the maximum exposure of the rib cage and the abdomen. Once we are open, we can start removing the major organs, etcetera.”
Dr Hain Mills picked up a large scalpel and placed the razor sharp leading edge on to Jack’s chest. Jack’s thoughts were still tumbling around. He was unable to remember the previous words spoken and was oblivious to the imminent danger that rested gently on his breastbone.
“Now for the long incision.”
Dr Hain Mills pushed down hard with the scalpel and drew it along Jack’s chest and through his abdomen, slicing the flesh wide open. As he reached the pubic bone, Dr Hain Mills retracted in horror. His eyes widened as he watched blood trickle from the cut he had just made.
He mumbled to himself, bewildered. “How can blood flow against gravity without a beating heart?”
He looked over at those standing around the room. They all looked back at him, unsure as to what was going on.
“A stethoscope!” yelled Dr Hain Mills at one of the assistants. “Give me a stethoscope, damn you!”
The assistant scrambled around in a large leather bag by his feet and drew out a stethoscope. He hurriedly shuffled over to the doctor and passed it to him. Dr Hain Mills quickly placed the stethoscope to Jack’s neck and listened carefully. His eyes stared and sweat began to soak his brow. His hands trembled as he made out the faintest rhythm.
“This boy is still alive,” he muttered. “This boy is still alive,” he shouted. “Someone help me now. Someone help for the sake of the Lord’s mercy.”
As the other doctors and assistants present surrounded Jack and began to work furiously on him, a small thin person sat on the edge of his seat at the top of the auditorium. The shadowy figure leant on his cane and stood up. He watched the melee for a few seconds more before placing his top hat atop his head and slowly and gracefully exiting the room.
Dr Demontig returned to his mansion. He sat patiently, awaiting the knock at the door. His life, to be brought to an end for the crimes he had committed. But that knock never came. Jack had suffered greatly, and his psyche was sent into turmoil. At the hands of Dr Hain Mills, Jack did recover, physically. But his memory of what had happened to him was lost, seemingly forever. His last recollections were of watching his sister walking off down the road and the sound of his mother and father fighting each other at the boarding house. He was never returned home. He and his dear sister, Kate, were cared for by Dr Hain Mills until a family was found for the two siblings. They were adopted by a kind man and woman, named Mr and Mrs O’Malley. The O’Malley family moved to the New World, and settled in a pleasant town on the outskirts of New York City. There, Jack and Kate were brought up happy, educated and loved. Their previous life disintegrated behind them, and a new, infinitely better future was laid out in front of them.
Before long, Dr Demontig realised that although he had gambled and lost, no one was coming to collect payment due.
Manhattan, New York City, July 1900
A tall, smartly dressed police officer strode down a squalid street on the Lower East Side. His long, curling moustache complemented his kind features, and as he went past, he tipped his hat to the ladies that stopped and watched him pass by. He was well respected, as he showed others decency and humanity in the way that he acted, and upheld what he thought to be right. Officer Jack O’Malley was a man held with high regard. His tour of duty would find him in one of the toughest environments in the modern world. The slums of New York were amongst the worst imaginable. People were crammed in, and services and sanitisation were poor. The slums of London held a mere candle to the misery of the New World. Like Officer O’Malley, all were immigrants. Unlike Officer O’Malley, most did not have his opportunities in life. He well knew this. And it was that knowledge of where he came from that helped him understand the people he was charged with protecting and serving.
After his day was over, he would leave the great city and return to the suburbs, where he and his sister were raised. As he did most afternoons, he stopped off at one of the area’s finest dressmakers. It was more than any other dress shop. It was K. O’Malley’s boutique. A dress shop for the wealthiest women of New York and New Jersey.
Officer O’Malley entered his sister’s boutique and was instantly welcomed by a young shop assistant who swooned over him. The shop assistant was quickly ordered into her place by a stern female voice from the back room. As the assistant darted off to busy herself, a glamorous, and prim lady stepped out into the front of house. She glared at Jack, before raising a smile.
“Please Jack,” she said. “Leave my girls to get on with their work. They don’t need you as a distraction.”
Jack stood there beaming at his sister. “What can I do? The ladies love a man in a uniform.”
“Take it off then,” she replied.
Jack raised his eyebrows. How would Kate react if he did take his uniform off in her well to do shop? She would not be smiling, that was for sure. Jack wandered over and sat himself down at one of the parlour tables. It was a daily routine for him to stop and get a drink of tea on his way home. A hot tea in the winter, and an iced tea in the summer. He was a creature of habit, and the tea would be ready for him at precisely four o’clock each day. The presence of a police officer was also welcomed in the area at such a time, as the daily cash up would, at least, be overseen. Of course, Officer O’Malley’s tea would take priority. Jack placed his feet up onto one of the counters, and without a mention, they were quickly swept back down to the floor by Kate. She kept a tidy business and Jack was expected to remain a tidy feature within it when he was there. One of the shop assistants brought through his iced tea, and a newspaper was also placed square on the counter next to him. He sat back and read his paper and sipped at his glass of tea.
He peeked over the top of his paper at Kate, who was putting the finishing touches to one of her gowns.
“How is Sidney?” he asked.
“And the girls?”
“I will come and visit the house soon. I haven’t seen my two lovely nieces for a while. Are you going to invite me for supper sometime?”
“You are always welcome over,” said Kate, scowling at her older brother. “Are you going to bring a lady this time?”
Jack returned to his newspaper. His sister had been pestering him to settle down and start a family for a long time. She had done so, and expected him to do so as well. Jack was career driven, but his main concern was that he always feared he would become his father. When he looked in the mirror, he saw his father looking back at him. He didn’t want his children to hate him the way that he hated his parents.
Kate remember something. She trotted off into the back room and came out with a handful of papers. She brought them over and dropped them off onto the counter next to Jack. He picked them up and rifled through them. There were a couple of letters and two newspapers. The letters were from their aunty Mary, back in England, who had looked after them when times got hard. The newspapers were local papers from Upminster.
“Mary sent them to me.” said Kate. “Keeping us up to date with our old home town. It’s a nice idea, although I know we would never dream of going back. I certainly do not miss that place.”
Jack read the letters. He didn’t miss Upminster either, and would most certainly not want to return. But Mary had been very kind to them when they were young. She was a gentle woman who was blessed with a natural motherly touch. She was the only one that had given them any insight into how parents should care for their offspring. That is until they met the O’Malleys. Jack missed Mary, and her two sons. There were a few people back in England that they missed, and so it was nice to read what they were all up to. After perusing the letters, Jack flipped open one of the Upminster papers. The headline read ‘MAYOR FOUND DEAD IN MANSION GARDENS’. Jack had no interest in the story. Murder was far too common on the Lower East Side. He would happily distance himself from such talk, as he would no doubt be lumbered with something equally unpleasant the following day when he got to work. He thumbed through the pages until he got to a half page story that was illustrated with a large picture of a funny looking old man. He caught Jack’s eye, and for some reason seemed familiar. Perhaps he was. Jack had lived in Upminster for over thirteen years. He knew a lot of people there. In fact he had probably forgotten more people then he could remember. He read the article. It was about a man who had opened a new orphanage in Upminster. The article said that he already owned a retirement home and a sanatorium. The orphanage would be the greatest advancement to the treatment of idleness and correction of the poor youth in the area. Well that was what the journalist writing the article thought.
Jack finished his tea. He tidied his reading materials away and kissed his sister goodbye. He would return tomorrow at the same time. He left the boutique and strode off down the tree lined sidewalk on his way home. His mind wandered back to England and the family and friends he had left behind. He was happy that he had left, but these thoughts were never far away.
The next few days were routine. Jack worked, then visited his sister, then returned to his empty apartment, alone. His life was set out in front of him.
It was a hazy morning in the slums of the Lower East Side when Officer O’Malley stopped outside a closed door in the corner of a small alleyway. Steam poured out into the alley through large vents hanging from the high apartment blocks. The alleyway was empty, and anyone who did enter left quickly when they saw the officer listening at the door, with his billy club in his hand. Officer O’Malley had been called to deal with a corrupt ‘back street doctor’, whose patients were often ending up as his victims. He had been advised that surgery was open for business, and he now had the deadly doctor cornered. He waited for the right opportunity to strike. Poised, he gripped the door handle and raised his club above his head. He swung the door open and hollered for all present to stand still and put their hands upon their heads. In the dark room a woman sat on a chair. Her head was bowed and she stayed motionless, unflinching from Jack’s surprise attack. Standing over the woman was the ‘doctor’, who stood deadly still, with a syringe in his hand. The needle was held millimetres from the exposed neck of the woman. The ‘back street doctor’ slowly turned towards Jack, before lifting his hands up. Officer O’Malley froze. His eyes focussed solely on that brass syringe now held above the ‘doctor’s’ head. He didn’t know what to do. He just stood staring. After a few seconds, the ‘doctor’ and his patient sensed their opportunity and scurried out past Jack, who just stood in the doorway, deep in thought. Something had awakened in him. A memory? He didn’t know what the memory was. But the sight of the syringe had flashed in his mind and had couldn’t quite figure out why. He slowly walked back to his station, lost in thought. He tried to make connections in his head. Two things crossed his mind. Execution and chance. What did that mean? As he neared the station door, he stopped. He could see those eyes. The picture of that man with the orphanage. His eyes were what were familiar. Those eyes. He knew them. The hairs on his neck stood up, and a tingle ran down his spine. He broke out in a cold sweat and a metallic taste soured in his mouth. He needed to see that paper again. Without hesitation, Officer O’Malley turned on a dime and made his way out of the city and raced over to his sister’s boutique.
When he reached the front door to the shop, he burst in and made his way straight through to the back room. He ignored the ladies at the counter and searched around for Kate. He found her in her office, sat reading and taking a mid-morning rest.
“Do you still have that paper from Upminster?” he said.
“What are you doing here at this time? Have you lost your job or something?”
“The paper!” snapped Jack.
Kate opened a drawer in her desk and searched through the papers inside of it. She found the right one and tossed it on the desk in front of her brother. Jack picked up the paper and quickly flicked through the pages until he came to the article about the orphanage. There, in the picture was the man. His eyes glaring straight into Jack’s soul. A flash back hit him. He saw the same face, only younger, looking at him through a window. The eyes unflinching, just as they were in the picture. Jack scanned the article.
“Dr Demontig,” he murmured to himself. “Dr Demontig.”
East Meadow, New York, September 1900
Jack was dressed in a smart new suit as he approached his sister’s house. She had achieved much more than he, and she lived a wealthy life. Although, he had no qualms, as she had earned her fortune. He lived in a much humbler way, and often felt ridiculous dressing up so much just to attend supper. He had longed to see his two nieces, and carried a box of chocolates for each under his arm. The door was answered by his brother-in-law, Sidney. A shy man, who did not follow the male chauvinistic views of his demographic. He was a nice man, who Jack approved of, even if he struggled to ever hold any meaningful conversation with him. Sidney smiled warmly at Jack and stepped aside to allow him to enter. He was a fine cook, and enjoyed treating everyone with his culinary inventions and experimentation.
“Hi Jack. May I take your coat?”
Jack slipped off his coat, whilst juggling around the beautifully wrapped chocolate boxes in his hands.
“Have you ever tried curry, Jack?” asked Sidney.
“I really don’t drink I’m afraid. You know that!”
Sidney beamed at Jack with a childlike sense of excitement about him.
“No, curry. It is food. The British Army love the stuff. It’s Indian. You know, the British Raj? It is spicy, but very exotic.”
“I’m not so sure about that, Sidney, old chap.”
“Oh. Well I’ve cooked it now. But I could go out and buy something for you.”
“Not at all. Let’s try something new eh?” said Jack, patting Sidney on the shoulder.
He was an odd fellow, but Jack did like his honesty and integrity. Although as far as Kate was concerned, Sidney could behave no other way. She wouldn’t allow it. The two girls hugged their uncle and quickly swiped away their gifts from his arms. He loved to see them, and they were possibly the closest he would ever get to having children of his own. They both had their father’s good intentions and decency. And they also both had their mother’s determination and spirit. Best of all, they neither resembled, nor understood the mean and cruel generations of George’s that had proceeded them. They were truly the lucky ones in life. After a few games in the garden, Jack and his two nieces were called in for their supper. They sat around a large table, lit with candles, and the finest silver and china to eat off. Kate always dined like this. It was far too fussy for Jack, but he knew that such splendour and ornateness had always been a dream of Kates, and now she could live it every day. Jack’s commonness was accepted, although he was still expected to make a little effort.
The curry was too exotic for Jack. He didn’t quite understand why physical pain should be part of dinner. But the array of side dishes certainly met his taste. Poppadums, Samosas and naan bread were the best. He had never seen anything of the sort before. After his meal, he sat back and showed his two nieces his magic trick routine, which involved making coins disappear and then reappear. He had learnt this from his fellow officers who used it to help interact with youngsters, who became intimidated by large burly men in uniform.
Jack had something that he wanted to discuss with Kate. He waited patiently, and didn’t allow it to bother him, as he wouldn’t want to talk in front of the two girls. He would approach the matter after they had been sent to bed. He would stay for a tea and then they could talk openly.
Before long, the two girls said their goodnights, and left for bed. Sidney, Kate and Jack retired to the porch. They sat for a while, discussing trivial matters when Jack decided it was time.
“Kate,” he said. “I’m going back to England for a bit. But I need your help.”
Kate spat her whiskey over the rail. “Why are you going back to England? Are you mad?”
“The night that I ended up in the medical school,” he said earnestly. “I remember what happened to me. I had completely forgotten. My memories were wiped clean. But the newspaper you got. He was in it.”
“Who was in it?”
“What is a Demontig?” asked Sidney, baffled.
“Quiet Sidney,” barked Kate.
“Dr Demontig entrapped me after injecting me with something. A liquid that he had in a syringe. He was talking to this dead man on a table, telling him how he made him appear dead. But he wasn’t dead. I know, because he did the same to me. My thoughts were alive, but my body seemed dead. Although I could hear and feel everything that happened to me. That man was left to be eaten by rats. Whilst still alive. And Demontig is still killing people. The mayor, found dead in the mansion gardens.”
“So, the gardens belong to Demontig. Coincidence?”
“Well tell the police in Upminster. Why do you have to go back there?”
“I have told the police there. That was the first thing that I did. I wrote to the most senior officer I could get a name of. He wrote back to me yesterday. He doesn’t believe me. Dr Demontig has given a lot to charity over there. He is seen as a generous man who could only ever help people. They just won’t entertain the fact that he could be a cold blooded killer.”
“You are a long way from him now. You are safe here. Just leave it alone.”
“I can’t. I need to stop him. And I need to look him straight in the eyes. Now that I remember what happened, I can no longer forget. I cannot ignore this, or I will never be able to move on with my life.”
“So what do you want me to do?” asked Kate, realising that he was serious.
“Write a letter to Demontig.”
“Dr Demontig is a chemist. In the article, and in my letter from the police, I have found out that he makes most of his wealth from a fabric dye, which he has created. You own a dress shop, and so it is reasonable for you to write to him, pretending to be interested in using him as a supplier for your dyes. You can offer him a window into the upmarket world of fabric dyeing here in America. And best of all, you can send your brother to visit him, in order to discuss the deal.”
“You want to go and stay with him? After all he has done, and with how dangerous you say that he is? That is not wise Jack.”
“It is not wise at all. But it is the perfect plan. When I am there, I will have access into his home. I can get close to him. If the offer is very high then I am sure that he will not harm me. You can enclose in your letter that I will be in charge of securing the deal, and that you will only work with him, if I return, happy with what I have seen. He won’t hurt me with so much money weighing on it.”
“What if he realises who you are? He would have a lot more to lose by letting you live.”
“How will he ever know? I was just a boy, whom he met briefly, seventeen years ago.”
“You remember him.”
Jack lifted his shirt to display the long straight scar that stretched along his whole upper body. “I didn’t do this to him though.”
Suddenly, a glass smashed onto the deck. Kate and Jack looked round to see Sidney, his hand now empty, and his mouth open, staring at the scar. Sidney had never been privy to Kate and Jack’s past before.
“Will you help me?” continued Jack.
“Yes,” said Kate. “But you must promise to come back to me.”
Jack took hold of his sister’s hand. The plan was now on.
Kate and Jack tried to write the letter to Dr Demontig, but were never quite happy with how it came out. It wasn’t until Sidney produced a letter, that he had written, that they were satisfied. It was perfect. He was emotionally distant enough to draft a letter that had a suitably honest feel to it. He was very pleased that he could play a part in the downfall of a murderer. Although, he unfortunately had to refuse to join Jack on his trip back to England. Jack had only been joking with Sidney when he had asked for his company. He got a twisted sense of enjoyment from watching him squirm. Sidney quickly claimed that he would happily watch his brother-in-law’s back, just so long as he could manage to overcome his crippling fear of sea travel. Sadly, Jack would have to go alone, as there was no other way than by ship.
The letter was sent, and three weeks later a reply was received.
Dr Demontig was interested. Jack would go to England and stay at his mansion in order to organise a deal.
Jack purchased his ticket, and then Sidney wrote another letter to Demontig, telling him of the arrival date. Jack would sail to Liverpool and then travel to London by rail. He would be met at Paddington Station by Dr Demontig. He would then be in the realm of his nemesis. He still did not know what he was going to do when he got there. That was something that he would have to figure out. At least he was staying at the mansion, which would give him more freedom to snoop around. But for now, Jack must wait.
Paddington Station, London, November 1900
Jack stepped down from the train and onto the platform. Steam billowed up around him as people rushed past, up and down the side of the trains. The air was bitter after the warmth of the first class carriage. As a porter busied himself with Jack’s bags, he stood and looked down the platform at all the people hurrying about. Jack was tall, and could see clear over most of those around him. At the front of the engine, a large jet of steam plumed out and up to the sky. A small thin figure became visible as the steam rose up. The figure was dressed in a top hat, with a tailed coat and stockings. He leant casually against a cane, his hat cocked slightly to one side. Jack instantly knew that it was him, and almost made the mistake of showing his recognition. But he stopped himself, and instead walked up the platform and past the strange little man. Demontig’s eyes traced Jack up and down. Jack had advised that he would be easily recognisable as he would have a red rose in his breast pocket. It was Sidney’s idea. As he continued into the terminal, he could hear the clip clop sound of Demontig walking behind him. He turned to look back, but Demontig was gone. He turned back again to carry on into the terminal, and as he did, a black cane slammed down onto the rail in front of him, blocking his path.
“Mr O’Malley I presume?” came a croaky voice in a gentle eastern European accent.
Jack looked over, and came face to face with those devilish blue eyes. Demontig’s eyes sparkled, causing Jack’s stomach to dance, and his brow to sweat. It was him!
Jack had to hold himself together. He so desperately wanted to react and grab this little wretch by the throat and throttle him. It would give a moment of satisfaction, but would also serve only to get Jack to the end of a rope. He had promised to come home safe, and so execution for murder was not on the list of things to do. He had to hold his tongue, hold his fists and follow the plan. If only he had a plan!
“Please follow me to my carriage Mr O’Malley.”
Demontig strutted off, leaving Jack to follow behind him. The porter ran after them dragging two large suitcases. They arrived out in the street, where a grand looking carriage sat waiting for them. The black carriage was perfectly polished to a mirror like shine, and the silver trimmings glistened in the sunshine. Jack once again came face to face with a recognisable character. An ogre like man opened the side door and flipped down the little fold away steps. He took hold of Demontig’s left hand, and guided him into his seat. Then he attended to Jack’s bags. Jack peered into the back of the carriage, where Demontig sat, crossed legged, seemingly uninterested in his guest. Irritated, he finally turned to Jack and raised his eyebrows. Jack took this as a hint for him to climb in. He climbed up into the carriage and the door was slammed shut behind him.
“Don’t slam my door!” screamed Demontig in a shrill voice. His eyes raised to ceiling.
The passage to Upminster was a long and rather awkward trip. Demontig said very little. Although Jack couldn’t think of anything worse than engaging in chit chat with this monster, he knew that he had to make this trip, and his false motives seem genuine. He asked several questions, which were all responded to in very simple and non-committal answers. Dr Demontig was not a social creature, and his unease at close company was obvious. After several hours, they came to the edge of Upminster. Dr Demontig’s home was on the other side of the town, and so they progressed down the main street, and past the old boarding house, where Jack used to live. He looked out at the building as they passed. It was now adorned with climbing vines and hanging baskets. The window frames were painted bright white, and the red bricks looked fresh and almost new. Two children looked down from the old George family room window. They were laughing and pointing at the coach as it trundled past. Then, as they rounded the corner, Jack’s eye caught a glance from an old man, who sat slumped against a wall. The man had a long scar across his face and sat with an empty gin bottle in his hand. His eyelids barely open. As the old man glanced at Jack, his eyes opened wide, and the two men stared straight at each other. Their gazed fixed for the whole time they could see each other. It was Jack’s father. Had he recognised him? Perhaps he had. They both shared many facial features, and Jack only wore a moustache in order to make him look different to how he had remembered his father had looked.
Jack didn’t care about making conversation anymore. He just sat, lost in thought. He was glad that he and Kate had managed to get the life that they had now. He would never want to change a thing. But he still felt a little empty that his heritage was lost forever.
A short time later, the carriage turned up into Dr Demontig’s estate. The large stone house stood proudly above the colourful gardens that surrounded it. It was late autumn, and the golden shades stood impressively in all directions. The coach pulled up with Demontig’s side closest to the house’s main entrance. The door opened and Demontig climbed out first. As he left, he stopped on the fold out steps and looked back at Jack.
“My servant, Dog, will attend to your every need. The cleaners will clean after you. The cook will prepare your food, which you shall eat alone. And I will meet you to talk tonight. For now, I am very busy, and have already wasted precious time travelling to and fro this morning. Please feel free to roam the grounds, but please stick to your quarters within the house. You may use the lounge and library at your own will. Good day Mr O’Malley.”
With that, Dr Demontig disappeared off into his mansion.
Jack followed into the house, and was met with walls lined with hundreds of paintings and thousands of objects that covered shelves and tables everywhere. It was like the possessions of ten country manor houses being crammed into just one. It was all well organised with the paintings linked together like a big jigsaw puzzle. Jack span himself around in awe as he looked at the many treasures that were on display. Dog walked in past Jack, and glared at him, which Jack took as a hint for him to follow. They climbed the grand staircase in front of them, as it wound its way round to the edges of the great hallway. A pristine red carpet lined the steps, and the banister was made from highly carved black mahogany. They walked down a dark passage, which was only lit by a window at the far end. Dog stopped at the first door and opened it for Jack to enter. Inside, stood a rather lavish bedroom, once again filled with paintings and ornaments. In the centre of the room stood a large black four poster bed. This was the grandest room Jack had ever been into and was even fitted with a small water closet. If it hadn’t have belonged to Dr Demontig, Jack would have been concerned about touching and potentially damaging anything. A pot of hot tea was on the desk, and several newspapers were laid out for him to read. One of the walls in the room was filled with leather bound books. Jack scanned them and could see many famous titles from various wonderful writers. Dog dropped the cases onto the floor, and without a word, exited out through the door, closing it behind him.
Jack spent most of the rest of the day reading in his room. At tea time, there was knock at the door, and a maid entered. She carried a large silver tray, which had a fine meal of venison with winter vegetables. A bottle of wine was also placed before Jack, but he left it unopened. Along with his meal, Jack noted a small envelope which had also been delivered on the tray. It was addressed to him. He opened the envelope and pulled out a small note from within. The note read:
Mr O’Malley. I will not be meeting with you tonight. I am unwell, and so will retire to bed early. You will therefore have to stay an extra day so that we may discuss business tomorrow. Please make yourself comfortable and accept my deepest apologies. Dr Demontig.
Jack was somewhat relieved to not be meeting Demontig again that day. He would have longer in the house to look about. Hopefully, if Demontig had gone to bed, he would be able to do a little snooping now. He finished his meal and then went to have a look around the house. He quietly opened the bedroom door and peered out into the corridor. He saw a large hunched figure sat on a chair in the dark. It was Dog. He was either waiting attentively to help with Jack’s every need, or he was sent to keep watch on him. Either way, Jack wasn’t going to get much spying done. Jack returned to his room, and resigned himself to the thought that the day was as good as over. Hopefully the morning would bring more opportunities for answers. Jack continued to read until it became late. He readied himself for bed and then retired for the evening.
The following morning, Jack was awoken by another knock at the door. The maid had brought his breakfast, once again on a large silver tray. She recovered the finished meal from the night before and left without saying a word. On the tray, next to his breakfast, was another little envelope with a note inside. It read:
Mr O’Malley. I will be gone for the morning, as I have a pressing matter to deal with. Please await my return, when we will share a business lunch. Please make yourself comfortable and accept my deepest apologies. Dr Demontig.
Jack sprung from his bed, and dashed to the window. His room overlooked the main approach to the house, and as he looked out, he could see Dr Demontig’s black carriage trundling out of view and onto the main road. This was his chance. Dog would be driving the coach, and so Jack was left all alone. Or at least, unwatched. He hurriedly pulled his clothes on and made his way out into the corridor. There were still some servants within the house, but all seemed quiet at that moment in time. Jack continued along the corridor and across the top of the great staircase and down a brightly lit passage way.
“Stop!” cried Dr Demontig.
The carriage ground to a halt.
“I have left my purse in my study. We will have to go back. Turn us around Dog. Quickly.”
Jack opened a number of doors. Each entered into bedrooms much like his own. They were highly decorated and grand, but were obviously unused. He continued along the wing and found nothing. He returned back to the grand staircase, and noticed a carved oak door almost completely concealed by a drape. He pulled the drape to one side and opened the door. In front of him lay another corridor. This one was much narrower, but was regaled in splendour that left the rest of the house looking practically dull. The walls were lined with gold leaf castings and the carpet was purple velvet. Small but intricate chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and each doorway was gold and silver in colour. Jack started to make his way along. He was venturing deep into Dr Demontig’s private quarters.
Outside, Demontig’s carriage pulled up to the front entrance and Dog made his way round to open the door for his master. Demontig ducked as he stepped out onto the fold out steps. He stepped down onto the gravel and looked up at Jack’s window, as he repositioned his top hat upon his head. The curtains to his guest’s room were still drawn.
Jack opened one of the doors and found himself in what appeared to be Demontig’s study. There was a large desk stood in the middle of the room. The room’s decorations continued in the same vain as the rest of Demontig’s quarters. Gold and silver lined with grotesquely lavish possessions crammed in. On the desk stood a beautifully carved wooden chest. It was only relatively small in size, but stood out due it being seemingly rather crude for Demontig’s taste. Jack opened it. A broad smile cunningly drew itself across Jack’s face. As he leant in close, his arm nudged against a small bowl containing little golden balls. The bowl wobbled. Jack grabbed for it, but the bowl tipped to the ground, sending the balls all over the floor. Jack dropped to his knees and quickly began scooping them up into his hands.
Demontig climbed the great staircase. He walked with a quick pace, as he was already late for his engagement. He stopped at the top of the stairs and peered down the corridor where his guest was presumably still in bed. He listened carefully for any sound, but he heard nothing. He pulled the drape aside and entered into his private quarters.
Jack frantically tried to gather all of the balls. They had been strewn across the whole of the study floor, and were proving tricky to pick up with his fingers. Jack stopped. He thought to himself, what is the rush? Demontig would be gone for some time yet. He had plenty of time to tidy things up.
Dr Demontig walked down the corridor and stopped outside of his study door. Demontig placed his ear to the door and listened in. He had thought he had heard a noise. He gently turned the door handle, and braced himself. Quietly, he pushed the door open. His study was empty. He walked over to his desk and opened one of the drawers. He picked out his purse and turned to leave. As he did, he stopped. His eyes attracted to the floor. He bent down and picked up one of the small golden balls. “Dog,” he hissed, and then dropped the ball into the bowl and left.
Dr Demontig finally returned from his trip. He was late back, and so Jack had his lunch in his room. Again a note was added to his tray, and this time, it promised a meeting at two o’clock sharp. Jack had spent a great deal of time alone in the house, and had read many books. He was rather bored and deemed that this might have been the dullest stay with a multiple murderer that anyone had ever had. At their meeting, Jack would make good with talk about business and then see to it that he left for home as soon as he could. He had found something on his search in Demontig’s study that would surely support his story and prove Demontig’s guilt.
The time for their meeting fast approached, and so Jack readied himself. He had been lucky to not have to spend much time with Demontig since his arrival. His hatred towards the little man was predictably high. Having to sit nicely in conversation with his ‘would be killer’ was going to be a real test of his resolve.
The clock struck two, and Jack left his room. At the top of the stairs stood the ever present Dog. He raised his eyebrows, indicating that he would lead the way. The two men went down the stairs and into the main hallway. They marched to the back of the house, where Dog opened a door and allowed Jack to pass him. Jack walked into a rather bare, but comfortable reading room. It was rather bland compared to the rest of the house, and was much more to Jack’s approval. Two large chairs took centre stage within the room, their backs to the door.
“Mr O’Malley,” came Demontig’s voice from one of the chairs. “Please join me.”
A small gloved hand appeared from the left of the two chairs, and a finger pointed to the chair on the right.
Jack took his place in the chair, whilst Dog stood sentry at the door behind them.
“Dr Demontig,” said Jack warmly. “It is a real pleasure to finally get some time to talk to you.”
“Yes, you must forgive me. I am a very busy man you see. My time is taken by far too many. I have a troubled time refusing people you see.”
Dr Demontig gracefully raised from his seat and glided over to a drinks cabinet.
“Sherry, Mr O’Malley?” he asked.
“No thank you Sir.”
Demontig smiled at Jack, and then poured himself a drink. “I will have to drink your Sherry then. What will you have to drink?”
“Just some water please.”
Demontig handed Jack his drink and then settled back into his chair. Unlike the day before, Demontig was now seemingly interested in his guest. Something had changed in him.
“Please Mr O’Malley, tell me about your business proposal. I have read the letters sent by your sister, the great dress maker, but I wish to hear all from you.”
“Well, Dr Demontig, there isn’t much else to say really. My sister is a fine dress maker, one of the best in America. Her gowns sell for hundreds of dollars and are worn by the great and good of high society. She always looks for the finest materials in order to produce the best gowns, naturally.”
“Of course,” replied Demontig with a shrewd smile on his face.
“I believe that the dyes that you produce are the finest, and so that is why I have come to speak to you. If we can arrange a mutually agreeable deal, then perhaps we could go a long way together. Your dyes would be used in the greatest gowns ever made, and a whole new market in the New World would be open to you. For us, we just want the best. And if you are the best, then your products will be our reward in themselves.”
Jack was nervous. He knew nothing about business. Especially dressmaking. It was only whilst looking into Dr Demontig that he realised that clothes were dyed. It had not been a thought that had crossed his mind before.
Demontig stared at Jack. His smile persisting, and his gaze almost sympathetic.
“Mr O’Malley. Where did you hear about my wonderful dyes?”
Jack had to think quickly. He was woefully underprepared for any cross examinations.
“Well, I am not sure myself. I am merely following up on what my sister has told me. I believe she may have heard of you through previous customers, or clients. In fact, I am sure that is how she has come to hear about you.”
“Yes,” said Demontig. “That is what she said in her letter too. And you see that is what spooked my interest in you Mr O’Malley. You see, I must admit, that I am far from being just a kindly giver and carer. This mansion and fortune were not built from kindness and legitimacy alone. To get this much in life, you either have to be lucky, or do what you can to get it. I am not lucky. I do what I can to get what I want. Sadly, that is frowned upon, and so the only way to get away with it is to provide an honourable cover story to seem that you are a genuine sort of person. If you are not following me, then what I mean is that the dyes that I sell, are merely fabricated in order to cover my criminal exploits. I do not sell dyes. I do not have previous customers who have bought dyes from me. Which makes me question why you are here.”
Jack was shocked by the revelation. It blew his cover out of the water and left him in a very awkward position.
“Like I said Dr Demontig, I am only working on what I have been told by my sister. If her research is wrong, then I will bid you a good day and beg your forgiveness for wasting your time.”
Dr Demontig studied his half-filled glass of Sherry, before tipping the rest down his throat.
“Why have you come here?”
“Like I said Dr Demontig………..”
“Stop with your lies!” shouted Demontig, his face wincing in anger. “I am a criminal yes. But I am also a centre of this community and I will not have such disrespect shown to me. I welcome you into my house and I give you food and shelter free of charge and you come and lie to my face. For shame on you!”
Dog, who was standing at the door, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a brass syringe.
Jack’s anger grew. How dare Demontig belittle him after all that Demontig had done. He was a cold hearted killer, who killed in the worst way, causing the worst possible distress to his victims. And here he stood, giving this honest and hardworking man a dressing down. How dare he face one of his victims like this and try to take the high ground. Jack could hold his tongue no longer.
“We have met before.”
“What?” said Demontig.
“We have met before, seventeen years ago.”
Demontig started to look the man up and down, searching his mind for some familiarity. He remained in his chair, but took a distinctly defensive position.
Dog, took a step closer to the two men.
“You took me and you tried to kill me. But I got away. Do you remember?”
Demontig’s face hung solemnly as he looked over at Jack.
Dog took another step closer, treading silently.
“Do you remember this?” Jack proceeded to unbutton his shirt to reveal his scar.
Demontig didn’t look at the scar. Instead he continued to stare deeply into Jack’s eyes. He remained motionless in his chair. Then, he stood up, composed himself, and walked back over to his drinks cabinet.
“Please allow me my Sherry before we go on,” said Demontig whilst he poured himself another drink. “I remember you well,” he continued. “The day that I came home from the medical school, I came and sat in this very room. I toasted a drink to your good fortune, and my miserable luck. In fairness, you did not deserve to die that day, and part of me was glad to see you survive. In all of my attempted killings, you are the only one to have survived. I hoped that your character would have seen you safe, but instead it was my poor judgement. Of course you would bleed when cut open. Your heart was still beating. But then I waited for the police to arrive. I waited for two months, sure in the knowledge that I was at the end……. I was hurt badly by the torment given to me as young child. I was hated amongst my peers and tortured terribly in the name of fun. I sought to destroy anyone who liked the life of scaring others. See how they like to be scared by the upmost of fear. A taste of their own medicine? Alas, the one who got away, and who stands before me now was the only one who shouldn’t have been a target. Why did you not tell? Why did you not bring the police to my door?”
“My memory was gone. I believe the fear that I was subjected to must have affected my recollections. I was left with a blank void in my consciousness. It was only recently that the memories came back to me.”
“So why are you hear?”
“Why do you think?”
“To kill me perhaps? Or to take me to gaol? But you must remember that no-one would believe you. What proof do you have? If you kill me you are a murderer and if you go to the police they will laugh in your face. It is only recently that I paid for a grand funeral for our dear Mayor. It is true that I killed him. Or to be more exact, he suffocated in a casket, six feet underground, probably whilst clawing away at his wooden tomb screaming for dear life. But the world sees that I am the good guy in all of it. The generous one.”
Jack was the one watching intently now. It was true that he did not know what he planned to do now that the cat was out of the bag. He had hoped to leave and take what he had found with him to the police, but he would have to get out of the house in one piece first.
“Yesterday, I went to do some business in town. Real business, not made up business like yours. I went to the local church and arranged a funeral.”
“How can you just bury people in this way? Does no one get suspicious with all the dead bodies you are finding around the place?”
“My dear boy,” said Demontig patiently. “This whole place has people dropping down dead around our feet. They beat each other to death. Drink themselves to death. Die of hunger. Die of illness. Die of just being poor and miserable. They are there anyway. I just pick them up and bury them. Or so it seems. If you are willing to pay for the funerals of all the sad and misfortunate wretches that litter our streets then you too would be an unsuspected pillar of the community. People die in my sanatorium. People die in my orphanage. People die in my care homes. How would you find one golden ball in a bowl full of golden balls, unless it dropped out onto the floor?”
Jack stared at Demontig. He could understand how easy it was for him to get away with so many murders. He was in the business of burying people. It was one of his roles in society. No-one would give him endless rolls of red tape, as they would be too scared that he would leave them to foot the bill instead. It was a happy middle ground. He organised dealing with the dead, and everyone around him reacted to his every whim so that he would keep on doing it.
Dog stood, motionless and unseen, behind Jack’s chair. He looked down at him, the syringe in his hand.
“Yesterday, I went to the church to arrange a funeral. The funeral is tomorrow. And you are the star of the show.”
Jack felt a dull pain jab into the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and slumped over, face down, onto the floor.
Dr Demontig stood defiantly with his hands on his hips. “Good job Dog. Now take him to the basement where I will see to him later. No need to undress or change him. He can go straight into the box and be nailed in before the night is over. Oh, and Dog, you can send everyone else home until tomorrow afternoon. I do not want any of the maids questioning why they are serving him dinner one day and then he is dead and being buried the next. It is too questionable. Send them all home.”
Dog hauled Jack up onto his shoulder and carried him out of the room. Dr Demontig poured himself yet another Sherry.
A short while later, Dr Demontig and Dog entered into the basement and lit a couple of candles around the room. Jack lay motionless on the table. He had been piled in a heap. Faced down with his arms dangling off the side. Dr Demontig was feeling hungry, and was somewhat annoyed with himself for sending the staff home before they had made him a meal. Once everything was set in the basement he ordered Dog to go into town. There was no chance of Demontig waiting all night and all morning before he could eat. Dog would go to the local tavern and collect a meal for his master. Having been given his orders, Dog gave a subordinate nod to the doctor and left the room. Dr Demontig then turned his attention back to Jack.
“I am sorry that you have to go through all of this once again,” he said, with not a shred of sympathy. “But of course, if there was a slight chance that I could have let you go as a child, there is no way that I can do that now. You have been very sneaky and so will feel the full wrath of Dr Demontig. My favourite execution method is to bury my victims alive. I do not need to run through what is happening to you again. I am sure you remember. But of course you were not buried alive last time. There will be no time for you to recover. I am not taking that risk again. So you will be nailed into your coffin and placed in the ground before the effects of my serum start to ware off. I must admit that it was nice to see you again my dear boy. And in all honesty, I think that you owe me a debt of gratitude. I followed your story after your awakening on the anatomist’s table. I saw that your life went from slovenly to sublime. I know that if I had not tried to kill you then you would probably be dead already from your nasty drunk of a father. And look at this way, you are about to die, but your sister is happy and successful. You have sacrificed your life for her. If I had not tried to kill you then she would not be who she is today.”
Dr Demontig turned away from Jack and walked over to the window. He stared out through the glass, watching the trees sway in the wind.
“You know that this is where we first met. I heard you outside the window, and told Dog to come out and get you. We first came face to face through this window all those years ago. Who would have thought that we would be back here together now?”
Demontig walked over to a bench that stood against the far wall. On the bench lay various tools, including the nails for Jack’s coffin. Demontig leant on the bench and studied the objects. His hand slid over the handle of a hammer. He picked it up to feel the weight of it.
“Of course, I have had bad luck with you before. It would be a disaster for you to suddenly come to life at the wrong time. Perhaps I should be less reckless.”
Demontig stepped over to the table, with his hand clenched around the hammer.
“It would be easier just to smash your skull in.”
He placed the hammer against the back of Jack’s skull, lining it up. He slowly raised the hammer high into the air and held it ready. Demontig bared his teeth and tensed himself.
“No! This is a very messy way.”
Demontig lowered the hammer slowly.
“There will be blood spray everywhere. All over my beautiful outfit.”
He returned to the bench and selected a long screwdriver. This would be a much neater way of ensuring the death of his prey, thought the doctor. Demontig strode over to the table and pushed his victim’s body so that he rolled onto his back, exposing his chest. Demontig lined the screwdriver up on Jack’s chest and then raised it high into the air. His eyes looked up at the screwdriver held firmly in his hand. He built himself up, getting angrier and angrier. In a big release of energy, Demontig howled as he drove the screwdriver downwards with all his force. His arm piled down into an opened palm. The palm grabbed hold tight, whilst another hand flew up and attached itself firmly around Demontig’s throat. Jack was awake, and although he was lying down, his strength and size was far too much for Demontig to handle.
Jack got himself up off the table, his hand still round Demontig’s neck. The screwdriver dropped to the floor. Jack squeezed hard, as Demontig gasped and fought like a hooked fish. His limbs flailed around and mucus bubbled from his mouth and nose.
Jack leaned his face in close to the struggling doctor. His face was creased with fury.
“I found your syringes doctor,” he said. “And I emptied out whatever fucking shit was in them. I put water in them instead. It hurt like hell, but sadly for you, I’m still fully awake.”
Jack fumbled around in his pocket with his spare hand and pulled out a brass syringe.
“It looks like I will have to use the evidence I stole. It’s the first thing I have ever stolen. This one does contain the serum. Your luck with me really is bad.”
Jack plunged the needle deep into Dr Demontig’s neck. He pushed the plunger halfway down and slowly lowered Demontig to the floor. He was careful not to waste all of the serum, as he would have to lie in wait for Dog to return and deal with him as well.
Jack’s coffin was leant against the back wall, by the bench, with the lid and nails all lined up in preparation. Jack lifted the coffin onto the table and deposited the unconscious Demontig into it. He nailed the lid on and went off to wait for Dog.
Dog was easy to deal with. As he walked in through the front door, Jack crept up behind him and slipped the end of the needle into his neck. He dropped like a stone. He tied him up and then dragged his body up the stairs and into one of the bedrooms.
The following morning came, and Jack was ready. For the first time ever, he had managed to construct a decent plan. The vicar or undertakers would be coming to collect a dead person in a coffin. Luckily for Jack, this was a regular occurrence at Demontig’s house and so, presumably, it would be dealt with smoothly by those collecting the body. The only thing that was going to be tricky was the lack of Dr Demontig’s presence, and how Jack would talk it away. The vicar turned up in his own carriage with a hearse, drawn by two black horses, following behind. Two undertakers rode on the hearse, dressed in mourning suits. Jack stood and watched the party come up to the front of the house. He went out and greeted the vicar, shaking him firmly by the hand, and acting with as much confidence as possible.
“Good morning Reverend. How are you?”
“Have we met?” said the vicar.
“No. I’m sorry. My name is John, and I am Dr Demontig’s new secretary.” He lied.
“Oh…..Where is the kindly doctor?”
“Well, that is something I need to discuss with you. Dr Demontig has sadly had to leave for Europe. His mother has been taken deathly ill and he must be by her side. We are all deeply concerned of course.”
“Oh that is terrible,” said the vicar. “I didn’t know that he had a mother.”
“Well he does. For now.”
“Oh dear Lord, watch over your good child, Dr Demontig.” The vicar crossed himself.
“He has left everything ready for you. The coffin is down in the basement, and I am under strict instructions to direct you to it. Dr Demontig has assured me that you know the routine and can handle the burial without him. Is that satisfactory with you?”
The vicar seemed a little flushed.
“Well John…..sorry I didn’t catch your last name?”
“It is George, Sir. At your service.”
“George eh? We have a family named George in the town. Any relation?”
“No Sir. I am from America. What a coincidence though.”
“Yes it is. I don’t encourage you to meet them though. A rough bunch of scoundrels if you ask me. No, that would be fine. I would prefer Dr Demontig to have been here of course, but if he must go, then he must go. I have enough support to take it from here…..Will you be attending the funeral?”
“Why thank you, yes I will. I am sure, as the doctor’s secretary, I will be needed to deal with these sad occasions again in the future, and so I would like to see the process. I hear that he takes it upon himself to look after those that have fallen within the parish.”
“Yes, he is a good man Mr George. A very decent and charitable man!”
The coffin, with Demontig inside, was taken away and buried in the local graveyard. A double burial occurred that day and Jack watched both his coffin, and the other unknown deceased, lowered into their graves next to each other. He played his part convincingly and stayed to make sure the coffin was secure, six feet underground. When he was sure that his task had been completed, he walked away and made his way home. Before the day was out, he would be at sea on the Atlantic, and Dr Demontig would wake up in a nightmare of his own devising. Trapped, and left to rot. Hopefully the irony would not be lost on him during his last moments alive.
As the night drew in and darkness fell on the two fresh graves, a couple of figures wandered through the thick fog. They entered the graveyard and studied the ground carefully.
“Over here,” whispered one of the men.
“What you got boy?” said the other.
“Look. Two new burials today. We’ll have them both”
“Listen to me boy. The body snatcher who gets greedy is usually the body snatcher who ends up with the longest neck. I’m not hanging around here all night to get caught.”
“So what do we do?”
“Pick one. Then dig it up!”
Dr Demontig is a strange little man. He is a dandy in Victorian Britain and is a generous and thoughtful man in society's eyes. However, behind closed doors, he has a dark secret. A passion. An urge to kill. He has created his own unique way of murder and relishes in it's wonder and cruelty. One day, he comes across a young boy called Jack George. Jack is now in the unenviable position of either becoming another victim, or the catalyst for the good doctor's downfall.