Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)(2)

A foul odor hit me full in the face, and without meaning to, I staggered back, nearly placing a hand over my mouth. It was the opening Uncle had been waiting for. He moved forward, but before he could push me aside, I shoved my hands deep into the abdomen, feeling around in squishy membranes until I found what we were looking for.

I steeled myself for the task of removing the liver, then accepted the blade from my uncle once more. After a few slices and tugs, the organ came loose.

I plopped it onto a waiting specimen tray with a slick thud, resisting the urge to wipe my hands on my apron. Having Uncle’s servants wash a little blood was one thing, the gooey blood and mucus now coating my fingers was quite another.

We couldn’t afford losing another lot of maids, and Uncle could ill afford having any more rumors flitting about. Some people already thought him mad enough.

“What is your medical deduction on how this man expired, Niece?”

The liver was in ghastly shape. Several scars ran along its length and width, giving the appearance of dried-out rivers and tributaries. My first guess was this man had been no stranger to his drink.

“It appears he died of cirrhosis.” I pointed at the scarring. “His liver has been shutting down for quite some time, I believe.” I walked around to his head and pulled one of his eyelids back. “Slight yellowing around the whites of his eyes is also present, furthering my suspicion he’s been dying quite slowly for several years.”

I walked back to the liver and carefully removed a cross section to study under the microscope later, then rinsed it and set it in a jar for preservation. I’d need to label it and add it to the wall of other pickled organs. It was important to keep meticulous records of every postmortem.

Uncle nodded. “Very good. Very good indeed. And what of—”

The door to the laboratory crashed against the wall, revealing a silhouetted male. It was impossible to see exactly what he looked like or how old he was, with a hat tugged so low over his brow and his overcoat practically touching the ground, but he was very tall. I dared not move, hoping Uncle would brandish a weapon, but he seemed unimpressed with the dark character before us.

Ignoring my presence completely, the male focused only on my uncle. “It’s ready, Professor.”

His voice was smooth, and hinted at youth. I arched a brow, intrigued by what a student and my uncle were up to.

“So soon?” Uncle checked the clock on the wall, looking at the body on the table and then at me. I had no idea who the rude boy was or what was ready, but had a feeling it couldn’t be anything good at this late hour. Uncle rubbed his chin. After what felt like an eternity, he addressed me with a calculating stare. “Are you capable of closing the cadaver up on your own?”

I stood taller and thrust my chin up. “Of course.”

It was truly absurd that Uncle would think me incapable of such an easy thing, especially after I’d been fishing around inside the dead man’s viscera well enough on my own. Out of all my tasks this would be the easiest.

“Aunt Amelia says my needlework is quite impressive,” I added. Except she didn’t have skin stitching in mind while praising my embroidery, I’m sure. “Anyway, I practiced suturing on a boar’s carcass over the summer and had no trouble forcing the needles in and out of its derma. This won’t be any different.”

The dark figure chuckled, a damnably pleasant sound. I kept my expression calm, though I was quietly seething underneath. There wasn’t anything funny about that statement. Whether stitching skin or linen, the craft was what counted, not the medium.

“Very well.” Uncle slipped a black overcoat on and removed something I couldn’t quite see from a box near his desk. “You may close the body up. Be sure to lock the basement on your way out.”

The young man disappeared up the stairs without a backward glance, and I was happy to see him go. Uncle paused at the door, his scarred fingers tapping a nervous beat against the frame.

“My carriage will take you home when you’re through,” he said. “Leave the other specimens for tomorrow afternoon.”

“Uncle, wait!” I ran around the examination table. “What of school tomorrow? You said you’d let me know tonight.”

His attention flicked to the gutted cadaver on the table, then back to my expectant face. I could see his mind strategizing and coming up with a thousand reasons why I should not attend his forensic medicines class.

Propriety being the least of his worries.

Father would tear him limb from limb if he discovered my apprenticeship.

Uncle Jonathan sighed. “You’re to come dressed as a boy. And if you so much as utter one word, it will be your first and last time in my classroom. Understand?”

I nodded vigorously. “I promise. I’ll be as silent as the dead.”

“Ah,” Uncle said, putting a hat on and tugging it low, “the dead speak to those who listen. Be quieter than even them.”





31 AUGUST 1888

There wasn’t as much blood as one would expect from such a violent throat slashing, according to my uncle. I barely kept up with his account of the gruesome scene he’d attended early this morning, and my notes were looking rather scattered, much like my thoughts.

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