Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(7)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(7)
Author: L.J. Smith

"As you wish," George said, leaning back into his chair, the murder story already off his mind. I glanced back down at the picture. The line il ustration was gory and gruesome, the il ustrator having clearly gone out of his way to vividly draw the innards fal ing out of the girl's body. Her face had been cut, too, but I kept glancing at her neck, wondering if two smal , shodding nail - size holes were hidden underneath the gore.

The train whistled and I could see the vast expanse of London out the window. We were entering the city. I wanted the train to turn around and take me back to Abbott Manor. I wanted to run away, back to San Francisco or Australia, or somewhere where innocent people didn't get their throats ripped out by demons. Around us, porters bustled to get trunks and suitcases from the overhead bins. Across from me, George placed his hat on his head, glancing down to the paper.

"Can you imagine, that poor girl . . ." George trailed off.

The trouble was, I could imagine it al too wel .

I could imagine Damon, flirting, al owing his hand to graze the woman's bodice. I pictured Damon, leaning in for a kiss as Mary Ann closed her eyes, ready for the brush of his lips. And then, I imagined the attack, a scream, her desperately clawing toward safety. And final y, I saw Damon, blood-drunk and sated, grinning in the moonlight.


"Yes?" I said gruffly, already on edge.

George eyed me curiously. The porter was holding open the door to our cabin.

"I'm ready," I said, steadying myself on the armrests as I stood up.

"You're shaking!" George said, laughing loudly. "But I promise you, London's in no way as frightening as the Ivinghoe woods. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you end up loving it. Bright lights, plenty of parties . . . why, if I were a younger man without responsibilities, I wouldn't be able to tear myself away from the place."

"Right," I said. His words had given me an idea. Until I'd found out who - or what - was loose in the city, London was where I was going to stay.

No matter what came, be it murderer, demon, or Damon, I was ready.

Chapter Three

Afew hours later, my feet ached while my head kept spinning. My sense of duty kept me with George as we spent the morning shuttling between appointments and tailor fittings. I was now wearing linen pants and a white shirt from Savile Row, and had several more bags on my arms.

Despite his generosity, I was desperate to escape George. Al I could think about while trying on various clothes was the girl's blood-soaked, ripped bodice.

"Can I give you a lift to your relatives? You never did say where they lived," George said as he stepped off the street corner to nod his head at a passing carriage.

"No, that's quite al right," I said, cutting him off as the coach pul ed up to the curb. The past few hours with George had been torturous, plagued with thoughts that would make his hair turn white and stand on end. I blamed Damon for poisoning what was supposed to have been nothing more than a day of pleasant persions.

I glanced away so I wouldn't have to see George's bewildered expression. A few blocks away, I could just make out St. Paul's Cathedral. It was a structure I remembered sketching when I was a child and dreamt of being an architect. I'd always imagined it as being white and gleaming, but in reality it was constructed of a dingy gray limestone. The entire city felt dirty, a thin layer of grime coated my body, and the sun was covered by gray clouds.

Just then, the sky opened up and fat drops of rain landed on the pavement, as if reminding me this was my narrow chance to fol ow my instincts and flee from George.

"Sir?" the coach driver on the curb urged impatiently.

"I'l find my own way there," I said, sensing George's hesitation at leaving me. The coachman moved to escort George to the sleek black carriage.

"Enjoy yourself," George said, clambering up the steps of the coach. The coachman whipped his horse, and the carriage took off down the rain-soaked cobblestone streets.

I glanced around me. In the few minutes that George and I had been talking, the streets had become almost deserted. I shivered in my fine shirt.

The weather perfectly matched my mood.

I raised my hand and hailed a coach of my own.

"Whitechapel," I said confidently, surprised as the words left my lips. I'd thought of going to the Journeyman to find Damon. And I would do that, eventual y. But for now, I wanted to see for myself where the murder had taken place.

"Of course," the coachman said. And instantly, I was trotted into the maze of claustrophobic London streets.

After much back and forth with the coachman, he dropped me on the corner where the Tower Bridge was being constructed. Glancing around, I could see the Tower of London. It was smal er than I'd thought it would be, and the flags on its turrets didn't wave so much as droop in the constant trickle of rain. But I wasn't here to sightsee. I turned away from the river and onto Clothier Street, one of the many twisting, dirty, dank al eys that webbed through the city.

I quickly realized this part of town was vastly different than what I'd seen with George. Rotting vegetables cluttered the rain-slicked cobblestones. Thin, slanted buildings were shoddily thrown up almost on top of each other. The scent of iron was everywhere, although I couldn't tel whether the concentration of blood was from murder or simply from the mass of people forced to live in such close quarters. Pigeons hopped along the al eyways, but otherwise the area was deserted. I felt a shiver of fear creep up my spine as I hurried around the park and toward a tavern.

I walked inside and into nearly complete darkness. Only a few candles burned on the rickety tables. A smal group of men were sitting along the bar. Meanwhile, several women were drinking in the corner. Their brightly colored dresses and festive hats were at odds with the gloomy surroundings, and gave them the look of caged birds at the zoo. No one seemed to be talking. I nervously adjusted the lapis lazuli ring on my finger, looking at the rainbow of refracted light the stone created on the gritty oak floor.

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