Soft Steps (short story)

Battersea bridge

Ripper #4

Master Jeply ripped his loaded quill across the page with a final, furious flourish. It was the end of a very long day during which absolutely nothing had gone well.

The labourers had unloaded the wrong cargo, his assistant had been late opening the warehouse and just when he thought nothing worse could happen, there was the prior day’s account.

He believed without any shred of doubt that one or all of the accounts men were at the bottle. There was no other way they could have produced such a document, filled with more errors than truths. It almost seemed to him that the brittle pages reeked of gin.

“Well blast it all!” Master Jeply cursed.

He was a devout man, a Christian man, but even the strictest believer could be driven to curse like a devil.

Things would not improve on his way home, Master Jeply thought as he packed away his work in a battered leather satchel. He would have to walk some distance down the wharf to make the journey. That meant passing women of debauched profession and men of poor repute.

If England were still a godly nation, such people would all be hanged, he mused. The thought tickled his mind and a cynical smile curled the corner of his tight lips. There was another gentleman who shared his beliefs.

He had seen the agent of darkness sneaking along the wharf some nights before, a glittering blade in his shadowed hand. The assassin had crept upon an unsuspecting agent of the devil and cut her down beneath the swinging streetlamp.

“What a sight that was.” Master Jeply muttered as he stepped out of his office onto the cobbles of the riverfront.

“You saw nothing.” A voice breathed from the shadows.

Master Jeply wanted to agree. He wanted to take the stranger in a brother’s embrace and tell him of their common convictions. He wanted to swear that he would carry the truth locked in his breast until his dying day.

There were many things he wanted to say and do, but he had no opportunity to act on his desires. His throat was open, letting his words seep out into the air as nothing more than ragged breaths. The lifeblood which had sustained him since birth now blossomed down the front of his starched white shirt.

PART 5

For the first short story in this series click here.

You can find my book on Kindle here.

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