A novel by
1st September 1991
Louise shivered as she crossed the road again and wandered aimlessly into the next street; there was a sharp edge to the air and already autumn had begun. It was becoming more and more obvious to everyone that as each year passed, the ozone layer grew more threadbare and frayed around the edges. Ripping steadily apart, allowing through not only the ultra-violet rays, but the harmful edge of the cold air as well, so that soon nobody would be allowed to venture outside without protective clothing and a mask to shield them from the dangerous weather. Louise buried her hands quickly into the pockets of her donkey jacket, not wishing to expose them a minute longer. However, discovering that the book she was holding would not fit in her pocket, she decided to solve the problem by pausing at the end of the street, where there was a low wall running right the way across. It appeared to signify a dead-end, anyway.
Laying The Real Jack the Ripper on the wall beside her, Louise perched carefully on the edge of the wall, choosing the most solid-looking area she could find. The wall was in the process of crumbling away, like the boarded-up warehouse behind it. Louise turned to look at the empty building, wondering how old it was. Possibly it had been standing there, watching silently, the night Polly Nichols had been murdered. The name of the street had changed, that was all.
Turning back, Louise took out a cigarette and lit it. She cupped her hands around the glowing tip; the heat did not affect her, although the skin of her fingers almost touched it. This cold was uncanny, the way it had descended so suddenly; and the sun - where had that gone? A veil of straggling white cloud now covered the sky, grown stealthily over to conceal the eye, an opaque milky substance causing instant blindness. Louise closed her eyes. The street was silent; she felt she could be anywhere, anytime. The years stretched out, long ribbons of celluloid, unmarked and unidentified… tangled and trespassing upon one another. She thought of all the feet that would have trodden these same streets in Whitechapel so many times before… she would never know their lives, nor they hers. Strangers separated by a few flimsy threads of time.
Louise leapt to her feet, knocking her book onto the ground. She stared at the figure who seemed to appear from nowhere. Taking a step back, she tried to sort out her thoughts into some coherent order. The man, who was very tall and slim, was wearing a long, black coat that reached almost to his ankles. He stepped towards her, taking his hands out of his pockets. He held one of them outstretched towards her; she stared at it, it was very pale and smooth. Between his fingers he held a cigarette very lightly, as if he were afraid it would explode.
"I only want a light. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you."
Sinking back down onto the wall, Louise fished the lighter out of her pocket and gave it to the man. She noticed, as he took it, that he wore only one ring, an antique one with a red stone in a silver setting. For some reason she could not bear to look up and confront his intense stare, which she knew was fixed on her.
"Thanks," he said, lighting his cigarette. As he straightened up and turned away from her, Louise noticed that the glare of the flame below, accentuated the dark shadows crawling over his face; the sockets of his eyes seemed to tunnel right through to the back of his head. Black strands of hair straggled like lengths of shadow across his forehead. Every bone stood out, sharp and bleak, a blade to slice the darkened hollows. She shivered; glancing down at her book which was lying on the cobbles by his feet.
"There's the reason I'm so jumpy," she said, nodding at it.
He bent down to pick it up, glancing at the cover as he did so. He smiled slightly and nodded, as if this were what he had expected.
"And the way you crept up - I didn't hear you coming at all." Louise felt as though she was defending herself against potential accusations, which she knew, secretly, would never take shape. "You must be wearing rubber-soled shoes or something."
He laughed very softly; it was almost as if he were trying to stifle the sound.
"Not I, I'm afraid. I really don't have anything in common with the Ripper at all."
"I didn't know he wore rubber-soled shoes."
"Well, it's just a theory someone put forward, I can't remember who… perhaps it's in that book, later on."
Louise had to strain to catch what he was saying; his voice was very soft and he spoke quickly, as though in a hurry to expel the words from his mind, before it was too late.
"You must have started it though, if you're here looking for Bucks Row," he continued.
Louise studied him carefully. She wasn't at all sure that she liked having her motives stripped instantly bare; it made her want to be as secretive as possible, to deliberately mislead the all-seeing stranger. And yet, at the same time, she felt a strange intimacy with him, a trust that he did not deserve after such a short space of time.
"What makes you think I'm looking for Bucks Row?"
He didn't seem in the least concerned by her suspicion, but merely shrugged.
"It seems obvious to me. Why else would you be wandering around here reading a book about 'Jack'?"
"There could be other reasons, I could live here."
"Ah, but you don't, do you?" He smiled slowly. "You live in Spitalfields, near Brick Lane market. Isn't that right?"
Louise stared; she looked around quickly, feeling suddenly vulnerable. "How… have you been following me?"
He laughed very softly, dropping his cigarette on the cobbles and grinding it beneath the heel of his black leather boot.
"Now, why would I want to follow you?"
"How do you know then?"
He shrugged again. "Lucky guess." He paused, looking around him carefully, as if he could see beyond the visible world.
She felt infuriated by him and simultaneously fascinated.
"You feel like that with some people, don't you think? On the same wavelength… there's some sort of connection there. You know what I mean, don't you?"
"I'm… not sure I do, really." She replied.
"Yes you do. You know exactly what I mean, I can see you do."
"You can see everything, can't you?" She said angrily.
He gazed at her, reaching inside his coat. "Most things, it's my profession you see. I'm a Medium." He handed her a piece of black card with the words 'Guy Saint - Medium' written on it in elegant, flowing silver letters; underneath was an address on Shoreditch High Street. "It's nothing uncanny really. I just… certain people… I feel I know them already."
"I'm sure everyone feels that at one time or another," Louise put in, not wanting him to feel that he deserved special treatment.
"Oh, I'm sure they do." He paused, looking at her intently. "You yourself feel that now, don't you? With me?"
"Well…" She looked behind her briefly, at the boarded-up warehouse. "I suppose we have a mutual friend in common."
He smiled vaguely. "Do you mean 'Jack'? I wouldn't call him a friend… more a fascination."
"Well there's something we have in common."
He tutted impatiently, he seemed to be struggling to find the words to convey his meaning accurately. "No, it's something more than that. Some… I don't know some sort of capability you have, some link. Don't tell me you can't feel it. Though perhaps you don't realise it yet, you don't recognise what you can do. You'll remember this conversation one day and it'll all become clear to you, it'll all fit into place."
Louise looked down at her hands; they were clenched together so tightly in her lap that she could hear the bones creaking and complaining at the unfamiliar pressure. She felt exposed, a piece of paper turned inside out, folded along the dotted line. It was an unnerving experience, tinged with a fraying edge of danger, the distant click of a safety catch in a darkened room.
"There's much more to this than you - or I, for that matter - can understand yet. But…" His voice trailed off as though he had lost the drift of what he was saying.
Louise waited for him to retrieve the thread, but he didn't. She cleared her throat carefully before speaking.
"I'm afraid I really don't know what you're on about at all," she said, shrugging. "It all sounds a bit mystical to me."
"Oh no, it's not mystical at all." Guy Saint almost spat out the words, curling the edges with the contempt it deserved. "Its a very real… change this, as real as you or I."
"Change? What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid that's all I know at the moment. This is as much a mystery to me as it is to you. But look here…"
"Louise," she interrupted.
"Louise. Will you do something for me? Will you promise to come and see me… in future, if you ever need to speak to someone?" He looked at her directly, drawing a promise from her, she felt trapped, unable to look away. "You've got my card. I just feel you may need someone to speak to soon… someone who'll understand, or at least be sympathetic."
The lightless vacuum of his eyes drained her of power, sucking out her soul and absorbing the sense of her, draining her to the marrow so that she felt limp and weak.
Guy Saint stepped towards her and took both the black card and her book from her hands. She didn't resist. "Look, I'll put this here, I'm afraid you'll lose it," he said, placing the card between the pages of the book and giving it back to her. "And I'd like to see you again, Louise, I feel very curious to find out… exactly what it is that we've been talking about." He laughed very quietly, "Perhaps then you'll be able to enlighten me."
She could only nod vaguely, then shrug, as if by the formation of the words she would commit herself to making an appointment she did not intend to keep. Something would hold her to her promise; probably her own curiosity, for she was fascinated by Guy Saint.
"Well, it's been a most interesting conversation," he said taking another cigarette from his pocket. He stood there, twirling it lightly between his fingers, as though he was wondering what to do with it. "I have to get back to work now. I hope to see you again soon, I feel sure that I will. May I just…?"
Louise lit his cigarette for him. All her movements, she felt were slow and detached, as though she were existing underwater. She noticed as Guy Saint bent near to her that he had a neat scar running from just below his ear down beneath the collar of his coat. It was so carefully marked that it looked as though it had been painted on with make-up; the skin around it was as smooth as that of his hands, not puckered or blemished at all. Louise realised suddenly, that she was staring as she caught his eye, and looked at him quizzically. But he didn't answer the unspoken question, straightening up slowly and gazing around him as though trying to retrieve his baffled bearings.
"Anyway, keep in mind what I said." He began to hurry away towards the boarded-up building, which presumably would lead out onto Bakers' Row.
She watched him go feeling relieved and yet wishing he had been able to stay longer. He walked fast, with his head down and his hands in his pockets, taking long-legged strides without effort so that he seemed to glide over the ground without actually touching the surface. She could feel his presence lingering next to her, long after he had gone. It was as if he had become separated from his shadow, by accident or by magic and had left it behind like an old raincoat, a slice of himself he had no further use for. She looked at the book in her hands, staring hard at the cover, trying to make it register in her mind as the same book she had picked up from her bedside table that morning. Everything felt strange and disjointed; something inside of her had slipped into a new gear, without her permission or even knowledge. She flicked through the pages of the book, pausing to re-examine the black card Guy Saint had left. She stared at the silver letters until she could see right through them, and distinguish faint outlines of what had gone just below the surface, peeling away secret layers to uncover clues, faint Hiroshima-like shadows, traces of the past. She closed the book slowly. Guy Saint - Medium would not disappear so easily, like the Ripper, he would leave traces in the atmosphere for years to come.Now go to Chapter Three.