They had come in handy during his killing spree.
The woman who stood before him, a red-headed treat in her thirties, searched his eyes for danger. Like so many others, she nearly fell into them. She forced her gaze away and beckoned to a group of teenagers, who approached with slow steps.
“Here’s our most recent addition to the Crime Hall,” Red-Headed Treat said. “This is Jack the Ripper.”
Teens of both genders ogled the man. He returned their stares with a slight smile on his lips. Their eyes drifted to the gleaming blade, hanging on the wall of Jack’s room. Ten inches of perfectly polished steel, its worn leather handle showed the measured use of a master. Its thin blade tapered into a sadistic downward curve at the point.
“This is Jack’s fourth victim,” Red-Headed Treat said. She moved her hand in front of her body as if turning a knob.
The tag on her breast pocket read “Lucia.” Jack opened his mouth to speak her name.
As if by magic, a living scene blinked into being around Jack, surrounding him in all directions. He cast a quick look at the teens, expecting to see frightened eyes and gasps. Instead they merely nodded along, as if city streets popping into life before their eyes were commonplace.
It was a street that Jack knew very well.
He inhaled sharply, expecting to catch the familiar smells, but he only tasted the sharp medicinal smell of his enclosure. He swiped at a nearby wooden door, but his hand passed through it as if it were air.
The street flickered in broken darkness under a feeble flame from a single gas lantern on the corner. The cobbles swam in mud from a recent downpour. A young woman shivered under the lamp, bone thin and pale as a wraith. The woman stood barefoot. She wore the ragged remains of an evening gown, torn as if it had been dragged behind a horse carriage, and so soiled its original color could not be guessed.
“This is the region of Whitechapel, in London,” Lucia said. “You’re seeing this slum as it was about two hundred years ago, when it suffered hardship that the world had rarely seen. This poor waif standing before you is a prostitute. She is so spent that no one will take her offer.”
The prostitute shook from a coughing fit. Looking to her left, she saw the shadow of an approaching stranger. The frail creature struck a pose, primping her bodice to show cleavage. The man drew near, his overcoat collar turned against the damp. She called to him, but the man did not slow his pace as he passed. She watched him go, gave the man up for lost, and hugged herself.
“It appears she only had two choices. Will she die of disease, or will she starve? Her health is fading.”
The prostitute coughed again.
“Her once-beautiful face has been eroded by grim worries. She stands shivering and alone in her darkest hour.”
Lucia paused for effect.
The prostitute’s face brightened. A man came into view. His slender silhouette cut through the darkness with an affected nobility, the gait of a man brimming with deep-rooted confidence.
The actual Jack watched this image of his London self and poked at it. His hand passed through it. He shook his head slowly, amazed.
“She recognizes him. Yes, it’s her friend Jack! She prays every day that her handsome friend will take her away, far from Whitechapel, away from the freezing rain, from the rats, and from the death that stalks her. Jack is here! Is this man the savior she has been hoping for?”
The teenagers watched with mouths open, scarcely breathing.
The projection of Jack smiled at the woman. He moved to her side. His left arm curled around her with an easy familiarity. He pressed his lips to her ear, whispered something, and her face broke into a smile. Her eyes twinkled with budding tears. She snuggled against him and permitted herself to be steered away, toward a thin, black alley.
“She’s completely enchanted.” Lucia’s voice dropped to a low tone. “Her prayers have been answered.”
Jack’s left arm draped across her shoulders. His right extracted the familiar curved blade from his overcoat, flashing like fire as it caught the pale lamplight. Jack led the woman into the alley, slowly immersing them both in complete darkness.
The students all held their breaths for one heartbeat, and then another.
Amidst the black, so quick they nearly missed it, the blade flashed again as it swept downward in an arc.
Inside the enclosure the scene faded. Jack stared unblinking, astounded.
“That’s the first time Jack has seen himself in action,” said Lucia, her voice quiet.
To read more of “The Most Dangerous Lies,”
pick up a copy of Quantum Zoo.
pick up a copy of Quantum Zoo.