Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4)

Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4)

Kerri Maniscalco

Dear reader,

Beyond life, beyond death;

my love for thee is eternal.

For ever and for ever farewell, Brutus!

If we do meet again, we’ll smile indeed;

If not, ’tis true this parting was well made.



Good night, good night!

Parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall say good night till it

be morrow.



Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.



New York City, circa 1889





21 JANUARY 1889

A blast of frigid air greeted me as I unlatched the carriage door and stumbled onto the street, my attention stuck on the raised axe. Watery sunlight dribbled off its edge like fresh blood, tricking me into recalling recent events. Some might call them nightmares. A feeling akin to hunger awakened deep within, but I quickly swallowed it down.

“Miss Wadsworth?” The footman reached for my arm, his focus darting around the throng of dirt-speckled people elbowing their way down West Street.

I blinked, nearly having forgotten where I was and who I was with. Almost three weeks in New York and it still didn’t seem real. The footman wet his cracked lips, his voice strained. “Your uncle requested you both be taken directly to the


“It will be our secret, Rhodes.”

Without offering another word, I gripped my cane and moved forward, staring into dull black eyes as the blade finally came down, severing the spinal cord at the neck with a wood-splintering thwack. The executioner—a sandy-haired man of around twenty years—worked the axe free and wiped its edge on the front of his bloodstained apron.

For a brief moment, with his shirtsleeves rolled back and sweat dotting his brow, he reminded me of Uncle Jonathan after he’d carved open a corpse. The man set his weapon aside and yanked the goat’s body backward, neatly

separating the head from its shoulders.

I drew closer, curious that the animal’s head didn’t tumble off the butcher’s block as I’d imagined—it simply rolled to the side of the oversize board, gaze fixed permanently toward the winter sky. If I believed in an ever after, I might hope it was in a better place. One far from here.

My attention drifted to the goat’s carcass. It had been killed and skinned elsewhere, its exposed flesh a map of white and red, crisscrossing where fat and connective tissue met with tender meat. I fought the growing urge to quietly recite the names of each muscle and tendon.

I hadn’t inspected a cadaver in a month.

“How appetizing.” My cousin Liza finally caught up and looped her arm through mine, tugging me out of the way as a man tossed a stuffed burlap sack across the sidewalk to a younger apprentice. Now that I was paying closer attention, I noticed a fine layer of sawdust around the butcher’s feet. It was a good method to easily soak up blood for sweeping, one I was well acquainted with thanks to time spent in Uncle’s laboratory and at the forensic academy I’d briefly attended in Romania. Uncle wasn’t the only Wadsworth who enjoyed cutting open the dead.

The butcher stopped hacking the goat apart long enough to leer at us. He crassly slid his gaze over our bodies and offered a low, appreciative whistle. “I can snap corsets open faster than bones.” He held his knife up, his attention fixed on my chest. “Interested in a demonstration, fancy lady? Say the word and I’ll show you what else I can do to such a fine figure.”

Liza stiffened beside me. People often called women of supposedly questionable morals “fancy ladies.” If he thought I’d blush and run off, he was sorely mistaken.

“Unfortunately, sir, I find I’m not terribly impressed.” I casually slipped a scalpel from my wristlet clutch, enjoying the familiar feel of it. “You see, I also eviscerate bodies. But I don’t bother with animals. I butcher humans. Would you care for a demonstration?”

He must have seen something in my face that worried him. He stepped back, his calloused hands raised. “I don’t want no trouble, now. I was just havin’ some fun.”

“As was I.” I gave him a sweet smile that made him blanch as I turned the blade this way and that. “Shame you don’t feel like playing any longer. Though I’m not surprised. Men such as yourself boast in a grandiose fashion to make up for their… short comings.”

Liza’s jaw practically hit the ground as she angled us away. She sighed as our carriage finally rumbled off without us. “Explain to me, dearest cousin, why we left that warm, lavish hansom in favor of wandering through”—she motioned at the rows of butchers’ blocks with her parasol, each stall featuring different animal parts being wrapped in brown paper packages—“all this. The smell is positively horrendous. And the company is even more foul. Never, in all my life, have I been spoken to in such a wicked manner.”

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