Darkness Is The Coldest Colour (complete)
A murderer is at large. Named Jack the Ripper, he strikes terror into the heart of Victorian London and it's Victor Stride's job to bring him to justice. With the help of two old friends, Victor sets out to capture the killer, but will he become a target of the Ripper's cruel game, killed before the investigation is completed, or will his findings reveal enough to tilt his world off its axis forever?
My Unofficial Assistant
By the time I reach our meeting place, the sun has risen above the horizon and the clouds have moved on, exposing the flesh of the sky. The gale is stronger, numbing my ears with its icy breath.
My rapid footsteps echo down the otherwise silent street, corresponding with my racing heart, which beats like a birdâ€™s wings against the cage of my ribs. It started when I first saw her at the scene of the crime and it hasn't hesitated since.
I catch sight of myself in a murky puddle, which is clouded by circles of swirling dirt. I cannot help but feel guilt as I see my own face. I am a detective, am I not? It is my job to protect the people of London and I cannot help but feel that I, Victor Stride, am failing.
Like he promised, Oliver Penbar is stood in the doorway of a closed inn. His dark hair blends with the shadows, as black of ravenâ€™s wings. The moment I see my unofficial assistant I am filled with hope, for Oliver Penbar would still be Londonâ€™s best detective had he not inherited enough money from his uncle to live the good life without a day of work.
It was hardly a shock to me when he declared his resignation- he always hated the police force. It pains me to say that after all the past years of my draining work he is probably still superior to me but I resolve to put my pride behind me as I greet him with a wave of my gloved hand.
He does not wave back. His own hands remain firmly at his side and a sinister frown is drawn onto his sallow, bony face. Shadows darken his skin and the dim sunlight illuminates lines on his face which I haven't noticed before.
â€œPenbar,â€ I call out, preparing myself for the necessary formalities.
â€œWhere did the murder take place?â€ His straightforward question takes me by surprise. My mouth opens a little then, thinking better of it, closes again. For a few seconds, the air is only filled with silence.
â€œI could take you to the scene if you like.â€ My offer catches in my throat as I stammer my way through the sentence, cringing at the nervous rise and fall of my voice. I sound desperate, but on a case like this I suppose I am.
With nothing more than a solemn nod he follows me to the crime scene. I cannot decide whether my assistant is being unusually cold to me, as if I am nothing compared to him, or if heâ€™s always been like this. Combing through my memories for something that supports the latter I still haven't come to a conclusion by the time we arrive at the womanâ€™s corpse.
Fearlessly, Penbar approaches her lifeless body. His eyes skim over her face, focused instead on the wounds. He dips a single, gloved finger in a flood of inky crimson and examines in on his pointed finger before wiping it off with a handkerchief. I know heâ€™s always been like this- thinking of the victims as a hoard of clues rather than a person, a person with a family and a job and a house, who knew what it was like to be alive. Dismissing the latter has never been something I've been able to do, but when I awaken in the middle of the night with the lifeless faces of the corpses searing into my mind like a red hot poker I find myself wishing that I was Penbar - emotionless and detached.
Instinctively, my eyes flicker up and down the shadowed alley and a prickling chill pulls its frostbitten fingers down my spine.
â€œShe was killed in the night.â€ His grave voice echoes against the uneven cobbles. â€œLook at the frost- itâ€™s melting. It was only cold enough to cover her in the night, when itâ€™s coldest. My best guess is just before midnight.â€
I gaze mournfully at the sardine-scale sky. â€œSo the murderer is long goneâ€¦â€ I conclude with a sigh.
Penbar shakes his head, rising from the ground. His eyes darken as he turns to face me.
â€œNo,â€ he says. â€œI think heâ€™s still here.â€
I watch as his storm-coloured eyes slowly escalate to the rooftops and I look up too.
Standing in above us is a figure swathed in a black cloak, the hood of which hangs below his forehead, obscuring his face. Like a gargoyle, he is crouched over the edge of the tiled rooftops of the houses; he scrambles silently out of view.
A shudder works its way down my back. I have just seen the murder; Mr Ripper himself.