“Gasp! Pant!” The wanderer collapsed onto the gravelly track His life force was all but spent. Why was he out in a rough part of London without his friends or relatives?
Why was he poor and close to starvation… to death?
Jack noticed a mean-looking stick lying in the rain gutter. He dragged his raw mass over to the lump of wood and cunningly used it as a crutch. His stomach rumbled with eager dietary need. Yes, he had not eaten since as far back as his mind could reach and had only drunk natural water from way above. If not replenished, then he would Die!
‘But. I’ can’t just die. I’m too formidable” Jack grunted and hobbled to the nearest butcher’s …. ?> He had just twenty shillings to spare and he knew he needed far more if he was to get far in his solitary life.
Meat… Protein. He needed that above all other things quite desperately. He limped through the door and met the lean face of Spike Mincey, the finest butcher in all of East London. Mincey realised that the self-contradictory figure in front of him was ‘honest’ Jack. This was his best customer as well as the toughest person that Mincey knew.
Something was amiss however. Jack, who usually proudly stood full height, was now a midget. Or was he a giant, whose legs were bent painfully in a most ghastly fashion? His face was salt-white and his eyes dry as seasoned walnuts. Jack was very ill, and needed aid quickly.
‘Eh Jack’ muttered the concerned Spike. ” take that salt and I’ll get yer some freshly roast pork, on the chop!”./ So Mincey disappeared into the steaming kitchens.
Soon, into the butchery hopped a spritely teenager who carried a waft of distinct malevolence with him. Jack, being ill didn’t notice that the dark nature of the youngster was potentially a problem for him. He therefore was likely to be caught out by a bad turn of events – something that usually he was not so vulnerable to.
“Hey mister, ” barked the boy. ” You look as if you need some cash desperately”.
“Leave me lad!” Jack moaned from his seat.
Mincey returned in a very unhappy state.
“some darned fellow has nicked my meat!” He turned and stared intently at the young man “I don’t know you. What’s yer name kid?”
The boy adjusted his shirt collar, and stated this: “Filbury. Hatch Filbury. I certainly know who you are.. Mr Mincey. You’re the toppest buctcher in the whole of England.” This was a most sincere compliment on the surface, but in reality it was a crafty lie.
Spike pretended to be modest. “Why, you’re too flattering! Never had a more obliging customer…-Sorry Jack – I mean you will buy something. I do have some fresh goods, even if most of my main stock has been cleaned out. ”
“I am just hungry” bellowed Jack whose starvation was at a critical stage.JHatch slyly gave him a bread roll, which Jack devoured greedily”
” Now, Mr Jack” Hatch began, “about the extra money..”
Suddenly from the kitchens, burst in another youth, he was somewhat older than Hatch and appeared meaner. One hand held a slice of meat, the other hand was grasping – a pistol!
Mincey was quick to react ” You nasaty little thieft! You’ll get nicked if you don’t give me my goods back!”
The villain quickly leapt at Mincey and held him down to the counter firmly. ” Now, tell me where the money is that you keep or I’ll blow your brains back to God”… snarled the older pickpocket.
“please don’t shoot!” quivered a terrified butcher. Jack leapt up, nearly as scared as his friend. He screamed:
“Leave him. He’ll do what you ask and show you everything. Don’t hurt him. He’s a good man!”
Yet the thief looked more than ready to pull the trigger of the pistol. Even Satan could not have looked more evil at that very moment.
“Please don’t..” but before Jack could finish… there was a harsh bang. In that very split-second Mincey was dead. The bullet had penetrated his brain. Jack screamed, knowing his best friend was now gone forever.
The once limp felon stood full height and stormed “You filthy imbecile. You cold-blooded murderer.”
Jack, with super-human strength lifted the villain by the scruff of his neck, before there was any chance for him to reload the pistol. Jack was now in a firm position to demand answers.
“Why’d you…” he sniffed. “Why’d you kill him?!”And in reply there was a blank silence. No retort. Nothing. Just nothing.
“You’re vile scum, just evil to the core. What did you gain from shooting him, when he was about to hand over the money anyway?”
Success. Jack could hear the wretch’s whimpering voice.
“He was vile. He chopped up dead animals. And I only wanted money.. But he couldn’t just do what he was told..”
“do.. do. As if you are someone to bow down to??” Jack was a mixture of bemused and irate. “No, I tell you what happens from here. Now you will die!.”
Jack did mean what he said. Despite being physically weaker than normal, his adrenaline was more than enough to crush the youth’s neck with one large hand. Yet just as he did so, he was hit on the head by something heavy.
Hatch looked as Jack fell unconscious to the butcher’s floor. He smiled as he looked over the meat cleaver in his hand.
“Just the broad side of that cleaver for you, Jack!”
Of course the large man on the floor didn’t hear this sentence. He had fallen into a long and deep sleep.
The police inspectors gave the corpses one last look and then gave the signal for the unconscious felon to be taken to the nearest jail..
“Name??” . Jack was startled. He suddenly had awoken, and he was in a much smaller room with barely enough light to register who and what were in front of him.
“I asked you your name!”.. a thin man with a brushy beard was glaring in Jack’s direction across a table. “I won’t ask you a third time, criminal!”
“I’m Jack. Just Jack. Honest!”
The inspector was vaguely amused by the reply. “More like Black Jack,. It must have been someone really twisted to just kill a man with a mighty pistol and then strangle an innocent boy with his own hairy fist!”
“But No! I didn’t kill Mincey. It was the boy.. yeah that’s who you want.. if he was still with us. You would be as angry as me if you were there. That little vermin shot harmless old Mincey on the spot!”
The inspector’s expression changed enough for Jack to feel he was being listened to, if not taken seriously.
“No mercy from that boy. No mercy whatsoever! So I gave the boy the same medicine. No mercy, and well and true he deserved what he got!
Jack felt that the righteousness he was conveying had got him some more respect.
“Yeah. That louse is now burning in hell now. Right as we speak, he is getting his comeuppance.”
The inspector would be a fine poker player. He was not going to be swayed by a renegade, and he relished the response he uttered:”So you’re quite happily admitting to one murder. That’s fine. One or fifty the punishment is the same. A hanging. And some entertainment for the poor starving commonfolk.”
The condemnation made Jack realise that he was in some very deep water. ” No!, It was manslaughter. My best friend was destroyed right in front of my own eyes. So my rough instinct took over. A pity perhaps. But I can’t help being me!”
The inspector nodded, but was clearly not going to be swayed by this bluster; “The fact of the matter is, Masters Filbury and Slinker had their rights in full. They are proper citizens of our proud capital. But not you Jack. You have no rights in the slightest. You are no friends, no family, nothing at all. I am going to tell you your sentence right here and right now! A clean hanging tomorrow, just as the sermon in the cathedral draws to a close. ”
Jack’s face once again turned salt-white.
The inspector opened the door and beckoned another policeman into the small room.
“Pc Dabber, take this hell-spawn away!”
As Jack was taken from the room, he called out desperately. ” Don’t I even get a fair trial… like a proper one?”
The reply was “You’ve had your trial already. Doom is your only certainty in the time that you have left!”
When he was walked down to his cell, Jack spotted an iron bar. From what he had heard, Mr KEtch’s rope was deadly and excruciating. Unless something got in its way … Perhaps that bar. He still hd a chance to live and seek out that liar known as Hatch Filbury…
Or — To Be Continued