Chapter 10: A horrible murder – ‘Poor Little Annie’
Abigail was looking out of her front window and noted that the woman in green had passed by two more times. Who was she exactly? She knew she was a regular customer. She had seen her in the booths many times. However, her girls in the lower pecking order didn’t like her. She was too harsh and only took pleasure, she never gave it. She often wore a full face mask, even when using a girl. Next time she came she would take a peek at her through one of her secret spy holes. It wasn’t very often a customer was told to respect the girls more, but she was coming close to telling her, especially if she had any more complaints from one of her ‘little teddy bears’.
The day had gone so fast. It was nearly dark and the girls must be starving. She had been toasting tea cakes and had plates and butter on the table. Two pots of tea awaited and beside them were three types of jam.
A gentle knock came on the door, and Abigail shouted to the girls to come in.
With flushed faces they came in and stood to attention. “Don’t be silly, don’t stand on ceremony here. Plop yourselves down in one of the easy chairs. There are enough to pick from. Hungry?”
“Oh yes, we are!” answered Samantha for the both of them.
“Then let’s have tea. I hope the girls offered you something?”
They looked at each other and smiled before they replied. “Yes we have been very well looked after thank you Mummy Bear.”
“I bet you have too!” laughed Abigail.
What took place next was a delightful hour of warm food and tea, around a glowing fire with good conversation. Eventually the worn out girls fell asleep sitting in their chairs. Abigail covered them each with a blanket, and went for a walk around her passageways.
It was a quarter to midnight when a commotion woke the girls with a start. There were screams and raised voices, both inside and outside the building. One name kept coming to their ears. ‘Annie’.
They went out for a look and found that horror was on the streets that night. Police whistles could be heard, people were running about, and some girls who worked the streets were huddled in a group under a gas lamp.
Pale faces and panic were afoot, rumours were rife, but one thing was certain. A young woman known to all in the pub across the street had met an untimely and horrific death at the hands of Jack the Ripper that night, although at that time, he had not become known by that name, he was the Whitechapel Fiend, or just the Whitechapel murderer…
Annie Chapman, had been brutally slain.
The streets appeared to shrink away as Mummy Bear took control and ushered all her girls inside. Abigail was like a ‘mother hen’ gathering up all her girls as quickly as she could and making sure that every single one was accounted for. The girls were ordered to their rooms. Doors and windows were bolted, hot milky drinks laced with brandy were taken to every girl by the Tease Maids, and they too took a draft of the soothing mixture.
A rare thing happened that night, The Inveigle closed. Abigail hung a simple sign on the main doors:
CLOSED: OUT OF RESPECT FOR POOR LITTLE ANNIE
Everyone who read it understood the sentiment and agreed with it. A dense smog settled on Whitechapel, and brought a strange hush to the streets.
It was an uneasy muffled silence
The gas lamps could be heard burning, and horse hooves sounded as if they were wrapped in felt. It was a strange night, a long night. The Whitechapel Murderer had struck again, and he had a partner in crime now…fear. It spread like a forest fire through every working girl’s heart. It would soon have an adversary…anger. This spread just as quickly through the lovers of the girls. Their customers needed them kept safe.
What an eventful welcome the Inveigle had given the girls. They went upstairs to bed as instructed, and the hot drinks were handed to them by Kate. Something else struck them hard that night as they sunk into their baths. They were somewhere completely different, somewhere unique. They were at… ‘The Inveigle’. They were in another world.
Meanwhile Jacqueline was at her dressing table, in her London home, thinking about the girls she wanted back, and the Inveigle, as she was waiting for her Doctor husband to return.
She put one of her masks on, she heard hooves on gravel, her husband had arrived home.she looked out of the window, and saw him alight his carriage.
He looked ashen and had blood on his shirt. The poor dear must have had a terrible case.
He walked upstairs with his doctor’s bag, took a decanter and glass from the dressing table and with shaking hands poured himself a brandy as he sat on the edge of the bed. He looked in the dressing table mirror and smiled at his wife, “Well, you look lovely my dear, will you dine naked with me, just in your mask tonight.”
She smiled and said yes, and let him rest, he stayed there for nearly an hour as he slowly calmed his mind. She asked nothing, she had seen him blood stained before, after difficult cases.
The gong rang out. Washed and changed, refreshed, he came down and sat at the supper table with his wife.
“Found anyone suitable for us to take home darling?” she asked.
“I thought I had, but she proved to be disappointing, so I got rid of her.”
“Well don’t worry, because I have.” Jacqueline announced, proudly and coldly. She turned to him in her mask.
The doctor stopped eating, wiped his mouth with a napkin and put his chin in his hands as he looked at her interestedly.
“Not one, not two, not three even, but four little treasures all waiting for collection.”
“Four?” said the doctor in surprise.
“Four of our runaways. Well, three runaways and an accomplice to be more precise. Maybe even a man if I am not mistaken. A young frightened man to play with would be different wouldn’t it?” She cackled almost like a witch.
“At ‘The Inveigle’. Somehow they have all ended up there. Victoria, Fae, Charlotte and Samantha, they are all in residence with that awful woman.”
“Well, well. Fancy that.” He slunk back into his carver chair and smiled.
“Let’s start with Victoria shall we? She needs to be punished for helping them.”
The doctor pushed his chair back and walked to the fire. “You haven’t been seen have you?”
“No, I’m sure of it, no.”
“Then go a few extra times and use the cheap girls. Try to find out if any have ill-feeling towards any of the recent arrivals. We will need information from the inside. Every house has a potential traitor. I’m sure you’ll enjoy tweaking one out of the woodwork my dear.”
“Yes, I shall.” Jacqueline’s face grew as dark as the space under the stage at ‘The Inveigle’, where at that very moment sat Lucy the girl in charge of the lamp lights.
She was thinking about the night’s events. She had been tempted at one time to work the streets, but was right now very glad indeed to be under the stage and under the protection of Mummy Bear, despite several on-stage spankings she had been given. Then like all the other girls she went to bed.
She was still asleep the next morning as ‘The Inveigle’ slowly came to life once more.
Abigail was always one of the first to arise and she went across to the ‘Three Bells’ for breakfast and ordered kippers.
Albert, a wholesome young lad of around twelve was often used by her for errands. She called him over. He took a welcome break from sweeping the floors, and came to her side. “Ey up, Missus Abigail.”
“Hello Albert. Fancy earning a florin or two?”
His eyes almost popped out of his head. “Bloody hell, a florin or two. Who have I got to kill?”
She laughed. “I want you to hang around outside. Eventually a woman in green will turn up across the road, as she has done for the last three days. She has posh boots, and tan soft leather, matching gloves, a fur stole, and a parasol, no hat.’
“Follow her, I want to know where she lives. Here is a florin now, and another if you find out. Don’t let me down, this is a big un.”
“Blimey, Yes Missus! I’d better get back to me sweepin’ up, me gaffer is lookin’ at me.”
“Okay love, don’t get in trouble on my account.” She looked over to George the landlord and shouted sorry to him.
He smiled at Albert’s return, placed her kippers before her with a piping hot pot of tea. “No problem Miss Abigail, on the house as always.’
“Thank you George, you are so kind.”
The two girls had slept like logs, despite the fear of the night before, and awoke feeling hungry. They yanked the bell pull and in just minutes the two girls dressed in navy blue and white maids outfits appeared. Two hot baths and full English breakfasts were ordered. They had so much to talk about, and they did, non-stop.
They talked about the murder and who this horrible person might be who committed them. They talked with sadness about the poor victim. They discussed their journey to the Inveigle and the building itself, so many twists and turns in both! Then the people, oh how they had fallen in love with their new friends, especially Mummy Bear. It was just like having a real mum. Then they talked of the pub and its occupants. What was that word they used? Bohemian! Oh how they loved Bohemian Society. Then they discussed their room, and how it might look one day. This soon became a favourite thing to talk about.
Afterwards they then discussed the day ahead, and what might happen. They were soon to find out as Abigail had asked them to come and see her after they were dressed and breakfast.
Click here for chapter eleven…