Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(6)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(6)
Author: L.J. Smith

something about his countenance made me want to open up to him a little bit more than I had.

"Of course, I'm not prying about your personal affairs," George said as he hastily rearranged the newspaper on his lap.

"No, you're not prying at al , sir. I thank you for your interest. The truth is, I have felt unsettled recently," I said final y, choosing my words careful y.

"Unsettled?" George asked in concern. "Is the job not to your liking? I know that it's a bit below your former station in America, but do know that I'm watching you, and I think that you real y do have promise. Grow into yourself, get a few years under your belt, and I could see you going far.

Perhaps you could even buy a piece of property yourself," George mused.

I shook my head quickly. "It's not the job," I said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity, and am pleased to be on the farm. It's . . . I've been having nightmares about my past. I sometimes wonder . . . whether or not I can ever truly leave that part of my life behind. I sometimes think of my father's disappointment," I explained nervously. It was the most I'd ever opened up to any human except Cal ie. And yet I felt relieved saying the sentences, even though they didn't nearly explore the chasm-like depths of my problems.

"Growing pains." Mr. Abbott nodded sagely. "I remember having them, too, when my father was urging me to fol ow in his footsteps, eager to have someone carry on the name, his legacy. He was the one who told me that I'd marry Gertrude and that I'd run the farm. I did it, and I don't regret it. But what I do regret is that I never had a choice. Fact is, it's the life I would have chosen. But I think al men need to feel they're masters of their decisions." At this, Mr. Abbott smiled wistful y. "That's why I admire you, Stefan. Standing up for your principles and setting out on your own. This is a remarkable age. We're no longer a society based on who we are, but rather what we do. And everything I've seen you do has been exemplary," he said, taking a large bite of his scone, causing crumbs to scatter al over his shirt.

"Thank you," I said, feeling better than I had in a long time. Even if he didn't know everything about me, maybe there was truth in what George was saying - that what I chose to do was far more important than who I was or who I had been. As long as I continued to live like a productive member of society, then my Power would continue to ebb, until it was a nearly inaudible thrum in the background of my being. Meanwhile, I'd have so many other things to concern myself with: livestock, property, industry, money. A smal smile played on my lips.

The train lurched forward, and tea splashed al over the front of George's jacket.

"Oh blast!" he murmured. "Would you mind holding this?" he asked, passing me his pages of the newspaper as he pul ed his handkerchief out of his pocket to dab at the stain.

The bold font and exclamation points printed on the page immediately caught my eye.

Murder! screamed the headline. Underneath the text was a line drawing of a woman, her bodice ripped, blood seeping from her throat, her eyes half-open. Even though it was just a drawing, the image was gruesome. I leaned in for a closer look, as if compel ed.

"Isn't that terrible?" George asked, his gaze fal ing on the paper. "Makes me glad to live far away from London." I nodded, barely listening. I took the paper, the grimy newsprint smearing on my hands as I hastily scanned the article.

Woman of the night meets creature of darkness. The body of Mary Ann Nichols was found on the cobblestones of the Whitechapel area of London. Her throat was torn out and her innards removed. Could be connected to other deaths in the area.

More details, from those who knew the victim. Page 23.

Not even caring about the curious way George was eyeing me, I turned to the page, the newspaper shaking in my hands. Yes, the murder was gruesome, but it was achingly familiar. I stared back at the line drawing on the front page of Mary Ann. Her blank face was tilted toward the sky, unimaginable horror evident in her unblinking eyes. That wasn't the work of a jilted lover or a desperate thief.

It was the work of a vampire.

Not only that, it was the work of a brutal, bloodthirsty vampire. In al my years, I hadn't seen or heard of any murder so gruesome - except for twenty years ago, when Lucius had massacred the Sutherland family. Damon had been there, too.

A shiver of fear ran up my spine. Wherever there were people, there were vampires. But most kept to themselves, and most, if they drank human blood, did so as quietly as possible: in shantytowns, from drunks on the street, simply compel ing their friends and neighbors so they could regularly feed without anyone sensing a thing. But then, there were the Originals. Rumored to be descended directly from hel , the Originals had never had a soul, and thus had no memories of what it was like to live, to hope, to cry, to be human. What they did have was a relentless thirst for blood and a desire for destruction.

And if Klaus were here now . . . I shuddered to think of it, but just as quickly brushed the idea off. It was my overactive imagination at work. I was always assuming the worst, always assuming my secret was seconds away from being revealed. Always assuming I was doomed. No. More likely, this had been the work of a blood-drunk Damon who needed to be taught a lesson he should have learned a long time ago.

After al , Damon wasn't only bloodthirsty; he was fame hungry. He loved the society pages. Would it be that far of a leap for him to want to suddenly appear in the crime pages, too?

"Don't let that story scare you off from London," George said, laughing a bit too loudly. "This al took place in the slums. We won't be anywhere near there."

"It won't," I said firmly, my jaw set. I set the paper next to me. "In fact, I think I wil take your offer and take the entire week off."

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