Constable Harry Thomson kissed his wife Eliza passionately as Big Ben chimed midnight. New Year’s Eve 1888 had just become New Year’s Day 1889. London was awash with fear as the one known as Leather Apron was still on the loose. There was high public demand that the mysterious killer be caught and all the Bobbies dressed in blue dreamed of being the one to truncheon the phantom of Whitechapel and show him the noose at dawn. New Year’s Eve was too big a deal to keep folks away though. Regardless of the fear shared by all London’s hotspots were crammed with partiers.
“Fear not my love,” the Constable reassured his beloved as she broke from their embrace and looked about her uncertainly. “We’ll catch that Jack the Ripper! This year will be the year the monster dances from the gallows.”
“Don’t you be telling me Harry you have any foolish notions of catching him yer self now,” warned Harry’s wife. Eliza gave him a stony look and raised her finger threateningly.
“Now love,” stated Harry in an attempt to reassure. “You know I’ve still got me limp from the last raid in the docklands.”
“Guess you can’t go walking the beat with yer leg bandaged so,” agreed Eliza Thomson. She immediately showed her relief and gave her husband a happy smile.
“Right you are love,” said Harry, smiling before he kissed his wife again.
“Call me a cab, Constable,” announced Eliza. “I think it time you took me home.”
As the minutes ticked by into that fresh new year the crowds gathered within Hyde Park all began to disperse. Many milled past Buckingham Palace, residence of the British Monarchy for only just on fifty years. A great number of Hansom cabs lined the cobbled city streets, ready to ferry Londoners homeward. Harry assisted his wife aboard the closest of the cabs before he utilized the ferrule of his cane to thump on the cab ceiling. Immediately the hatch in the cab roof was opened by the driver.
“Home by Jove, Chappell Street and an extra shilling if you go the quick way,” Harry ordered.
“Right you are Governor,” the cabbie replied, clicking the pair of black mares into life.
Working his shift at Scotland Yard a week later Harry’s superior stopped by his desk.
“How goes it Harry?” asked the Sergeant, casual.
“Not bad Sergeant Peacock, sir,” replied Harry, completing the latest page of a report and tearing it free from the typewriter with a flourish. “One page left to go before I’m home to the missus.”
“Constable you will need to inform Eliza that you will be a little later home tomorrow night,” Sergeant Peacock continued.
“A bit early in the week for after work drinks, sir,” suggested Harry, respectfully.
“Agreed Constable!” nodded the Sergeant in reply. “Orders from the top… All hands needed walking the beat until we have found this Leather Apron… Can’t be helped Harry… Queen Vicky wants him caught… Orders are orders…”
“But my leg Sergeant… Doc says it still needs to be rested,” Harry tried to explain.
The Sergeant just shrugged.
“We all have our problems Harry.”
Harry’s wife took the news hard but in the end she agreed. He had joined the force just before marrying Lizzy and she knew just how passionate he was about cleaning up East London and making the greatest city in the whole wide world safe for his girl.
“Oh Harry darling, please be safe… Don’t do nothing stupid ya hear..?” begged Harry’s wife.
“Eliza my darling, fear not,” Harry replied, doing his best to reassure. “I’ll be back in bed beside you by morning.”
“I’ll be holding you to that promise Constable Harry Thomson.”
The Constable nodded, agreeing with his wife.
“I mean it!” threatened Eliza before giving her husband a deep kiss. “You come back to me tomorrow or I’ll come and find you.”
“Fear not love,” replied Harry, kissing Eliza back. “I promise I’ll be back before you can miss me.”
As the door to their flat clicked closed Eliza felt the tears well up, threatening to spill forth.
“Good luck me darling,” she murmured. “Come back to me.”
Whitechapel District was even worse than Harry remembered it. On every shadowy street corner there seemed to be a painted lady, from every tavern he hobbled past there seemed to spill out a crowd of rowdy ruffians. Each jezebel called out to him, “Fancy some company tonight officer? We’ve a special rate for the boys in blue.”
“Ho ho! Can we tempt you with a pint, sergeant?” called the lads, extra brave from the amber ale.
“Not tonight, thanks,” called Harry back in reply to each and every offer.
Harry thought he had made it through as Big Ben rang out to mark two in the morning. Only another hour to the end of the shift the Constable hobbled past the factory where the famous bell had been forged just before it had suffered its crack. As he slowly made his way by, one gas light to the next there was a ruckus that caught the copper’s attention. Caught in the no-man’s-land, the darkness between the pools of light Harry paused to listen. Keen ears ever seeking clues, Harry was drawn toward the possible sound. The faint creak of a door, the sound of running, Harry gripped his baton and brought his whistle to his lips.
“Constable Harry Thomson is in pursuit!” Harry cried as he willed his injured leg to propel him faster and further. Beyond Whitechapel Bell Foundry was an abandoned abattoir. Without thought the officer entered, peering into the darkness. As he brought his whistle to his lips again Harry felt the prick of a blade at his jugular.
“Put it away, Constable Harry Thomson,” said the voice in the dark.
Constable Thomson took a deep breath but held it as the think blade at his neck broke skin.
“I hate that sound.”
Harry tried to throw an elbow back like he’d learned in the taverns but the shadow was quicker. The blade retracted swiftly and a kick to his injured leg brought Harry to a blood splattered floor.
“An officer is down! An officer is down!” cried Harry, desperate.
A number of fellow officers swarmed the abattoir with lanterns ablaze. Aside from a trickle of blood oozing from his neck, Harry had no evidence that the shadow had been there.
By the time the sun began to rise on the next day Harry was home as promised. Satisfied he had fulfilled his resolution and used up his life’s worth of luck Harry vowed to quite the force. Queen or no, Harry was going to be a baker and leave Leather Apron to history.