The medical examiner's report revealed that Miss Chapman's uterus had been surgically removed by the fiend. Beyond that, nothing else related to the case happened. There were no new murders, which made me edgy, but Holmes took it in stride.
Christmas came, but it was little cheerier than Lent. Holmes had flashes of Christmas spirit, but they were few and far between. He did have a present for me, however: a new hat that I'd admired before. I'd bought him more of that filthy tobacco. He also had a present from Dr. Watson. The doctor must have brought it when I had been out Christmas shopping, I reasoned. I was a little disappointed at missing him.
On Boxing Day Lestrade was once again at the door with the news of a double murder by the unknown killer. They hadn't been killed together, but the work was undoubtedly done by the same person. The first woman had been killed in the same manner as Miss Nichols, but the second woman was different in that one of her ears was missing. There was also a witness of sorts.
A man coming around the corner heard someone splashing in the nearby fountain and then running away. He found the body when he investigated.
There was a crust of ice over the fountain, but there was a hole punched in it, and the water visible in the darkness was cloudy with blood. A few drops rested on the ice. I turned away from the fountain and noticed something odd.
"He started on the other ear, look" I pointed at the lady's head. "He heard the witness coming, washed up, and fled?"
"It looks that way," Holmes replied, examining some footprints on the ground.
"Walked a little softer and you might of caught him in the act," Lestrade told the witness, Mr. Sweeney, who did not seem pleased by this thought.
I scanned the footprints, too. They probably belonged to the killer, and though there wasn't much shape to them, there were some traces of mud. Holmes got some of it on his finger and examined its texture.
"The waterfront," he said quietly.
"How's that?" Lestrade asked.
"The murderer has been at the waterfront at some point this evening," I said.
"So have a lot of people."
"Yes," Holmes agreed. "But there are certain signs that imply that our man spends a great deal of time there, in fact that he earns his living there. Notice the cut; overall a neat job. Fishermen and sailors are good with knives, and the entrails of fish are removed in a similar way. Also one who is so often in contact with the insides of a fish would have some grasp of anatomy, and after cutting up fish day in and day out, the knife would get to be a bit dull. A sharper knife would leave a cleaner mark."
Lestrade didn't look happy with this school of thought, either because it trumped a hypothesis of his own, or because there were probably more sailors and fishermen than there were policeman. I took my notebook out of my pocket.
"Do you know the victim's name," I asked. "Just for the record?"
"Her name is Catherine Eddowes," a younger officer answered.
I added her to my list, just below Elizabeth Stride, the other casualty of the night. Later back at Baker Street I was finishing up my notes on Miss Eddowes when I noticed a pattern: 30 November, 7 December, and 26 December. They were the last week of the month, the first week of the month, and the last week, though just barely. I showed this to Holmes, who reminded me that it was actually now the 27th of the month. Correction made, I was toying with the notion of going to bed when he said something that woke me right up.
"I'm reconsidering your plan."
"What idea? Oh! The one where I dress up and…."
"Yes. It is a very dangerous thing which you propose to do…."
"That much is obvious, but I'm willing to take the risk. I'll even go armed."
"In that area of London you must always go armed." He seemed vaguely surprised that I did not know this, or necessarily follow this then he had another thought. "Do you have the clothes and things you'll need for your charade?"
I smiled roguishly. "Yes. I have face paint, too. Everything one would need to masquerade as a whore."
He looked faintly concerned by this revelation for a second, but he let it pass. And I went to bed.
The next morning saw Inspector Lestrade at our doorstep again.
"Not another murder?" I asked.
"No, not exactly," Lestrade replied, clearly not wanting to let me in on the information. "Is Mr. Holmes here?"
"Yes, but you'll have to wait a moment. What is it?"
I gave up and poked the fire, just to be doing something. Holmes appeared, half-dressed but perfectly shaved.
"My dear Inspector Lestrade," he said. "What letters have kept you on duty for so long?"
"Just take a look at 'em. Don't seem like the second one could be a forgery with information like that."
Holmes scanned the letter, and I read it over his shoulder. I won't bother with the full details of the letters, but they were distinctly insane: boasting about the crimes, laughing at the speculations that the killer was a doctor, and promising to "bob the lady's ears." They were signed "Jack the Ripper" and "Saucy Jacky."
"That's appetizing," I muttered, taking the Saucy Jacky letter, as Holmes was still occupied with the first. "Now I guess we know why Miss Eddowes was missing an ear and a half."
Lestrade gave me the look, as if to say that now was not the time for such things, but I ignored him. Holmes suddenly snatched the letter from me and dashed to his desk, examining them under greater scrutiny. His study of them revealed that they had indeed been written by the same person.
"So what are we dealing with," I asked, settling in on the sofa. "An egomaniac with a twisted sense of humor, who has had some schooling but not a great deal?"
Holmes smiled. "Yes, quite."
"Eh?" Lestrade said.
"Notice the size of the I's in the letter," Holmes said. "The author obviously thinks very highly of himself. The repetition of the phrase 'ha ha' at the mention of the gory details suggests a twisted sense of humor, as does the use of red ink. No doubt he meant to emulate blood, but my tests have told me that ink is all it is."
"Spelling is good for the most part," I added, "but the grammar is bad. And there is no use of capitalization except for the use of 'I' or his macabre name."
"Oh." Lestrade took the letters back from Holmes. "Be needing these as evidence, you know. Not that it'll do much good now. The Globe got these back at the start of the month and followed the instructions to keep 'em quiet until the promised atrocity could be committed."
"They probably have a copy that'll be in the evening edition," I mused.
The Inspector had also had that thought and was not pleased by it. He left still in that frame of mind. Holmes, however, was thoughtful, still staring at the negative chemical test of a piece of the paper. And I was right. Both the "Jack the Ripper" letters were in the evening papers. I felt a little sorry for the boy who sold them.
A few nights later, the first week of January to be exact, I was in my room, dressing up for the role of live bait for the serial killer. I messily pinned my hair up, carelessly darkened my eyelids with kohl, and painted my mouth a brilliant crimson. My own mother wouldn't know me in this disguise, or at least she'd pretend she didn't know me. Holmes was visibly startled when I came into the main room.
"Do I look convincing?" I asked.
"It's frightening," he said.
"Good. How will I know you if something happens?"
"You'll know me. Are you armed?"
"Heavily. I'll go out the back door. Distract Mrs. Hudson, please?"
He laughed and promised to do so. I went downstairs and slipped out the back door into the night. It was colder than hell outside, and as dark as a spider's mouth. I have a strong conviction of the existence of ghosts, and on that night I found their existence painfully obvious. I paced around Whitechapel for a while, perhaps moving around more than I should have, but I was afraid I'd freeze to death if I stood still. Business was slow. Maybe the johns on the streets knew I wasn't for real, or maybe they were loath to leave their favorites.
A clock chimed somewhere; it was not yet midnight. Time was moving by at a crawl. I blew on my hands. A drunk looked me over but kept going. I leaned against the side of a building, scuffing my feet against the ground. The clock chimed again, this time signaling one o'clock.
"Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one," I said to myself, and someone put their hand on my arm. I almost screamed, but it was only Holmes. Relieved, I loudly asked. "Looking for some excitement tonight?"
He gave an affirmative answer for the benefit of anyone who might be listening, and we beat a hasty, albeit casual retreat. We turned a corner and nearly collided with a man carrying a doctor's bag. Both he and Holmes stopped dead in their tracks.
"Holmes?" The stranger asked, sounding somewhat horrified.
I bit back an absurd bubble of laughter. This had to be Dr. Watson. The poor man! He was out at fulfilling his duties as a physician, and he bumps into his best friend, who has a prostitute on his arm. For once Holmes seemed at a loss for words.
I resumed my role. "Both of you? That'll cost ya."