A Rip In Time, 1
by Anne Fraser, Sara Larson, Elizabeth Brillhart, Julia Linthicum, Lisa McDavid
© Copyright 1993 A. Fraser, et al. All rights reserved.
This is a serial story originally published on Vampyres List and co-written by four authors. It has been edited together here into a single story.
The clamour of voices raised in heated conversation came to a sudden stop as Baron Gideon Redoak pushed his chair away from the table and stood up. Although only 5'6" tall, the dark-haired, pale-skinned baron had a commanding presence that could not be ignored. "Ladies and gentlemen," he addressed the others at the conference table. He had a faint, aristocratic English accent. "This discussion is going nowhere. Either implement the changes I require, or I will pull my investments from this firm." The voices rose again, this time in a chorus of protest. Gideon raised his hand for silence, and got it. "I am firm on this point. I will give you 48 hours to come to a decision." He left the table and walked towards the door. A young man with shaggy hair was snoozing in a chair near the exit. The baron snapped his fingers, and the young man woke with a start. "Come, Mitch," Gideon commanded. "We are leaving." Gideon was walking so fast that Mitch, considerably taller, had to run to catch up. "You took me there to learn," he complained. "What exactly was I supposed to learn from that?" He also had an English accent, but of less aristocracy than the baron's. "Not to suffer fools gladly," Gideon snorted as they exited onto the busy London sidewalk, busy even at this hour of the night. "Why didn't you just use your powers on them?" the young man inquired. "Because, Mitch, that is not how one plays the game." "Do you want me to bring the car around, boss?" "No. Take the car and go home. And please do not call me "boss". I intend to go hunting, so I would prefer that you return to the house and wait there." "But..." "Surprise me, Mitch. Do as I tell you." "Yes, sir." Grumbling, the young man stalked off into the night. With an indulgent shake of his head, Gideon stepped into a shadowy alley. But where a well-dressed executive had entered, only a bat emerged. The baron was going hunting... ***************************************************************************** Jessica stood on the front steps of the luxury hotel she had just checked into. She felt fairly secure that none of her unusual habits would draw undue attention; the British considered all Americans to be mad, and would just assume she was another crazy Yank. The idea of hunting the London streets excited her powerfully. She had made herself look as nondescript as possible, wearing a black T-shirt, black jeans, and her leather jacket, and tying her hair back in a braid. The only thing that would make her stand out was her unnaturally pale skin, and she planned to do something about that right away. As she started down the crowded street, she mused to herself that she really should have picked up a map of London at the hotel. She knew she was definitely heading east; her vampiric senses told her. As she moved through the crowds, she caught sight of a young man watching her from a doorway. He had a dangerous air about him, in spite of his bookish looks. He left the doorway and followed her. She adopted a confused mien, wanting him to be sure that she was a tourist. She glanced up at the street sign and shrugged. "Are you lost, love?" he asked. She turned to face him. He was smallish, about 5'5", with medium brown hair and blue eyes behind round wire rim glasses. He smiled widely, and she smiled back, widening her eyes and fluttering her lashes. "I think I am," she replied. "I'm from out of town, and I forgot to pick up a map. I sure could use a guide." "My name is Michael Rowlands. Are you looking for some place in particular?" She could almost hear his thoughts. He was growing excited at how easy it was going to be. "I was hoping to find someplace out of the way, not a tourist trap. I'm in town for quite a while, so I wanted to start with something unusual." "I know just the place." She took his arm, keeping her head down to hide her expression. They walked for a while, him asking leading questions like was she traveling alone, did she want to cash a traveler's check. He was delighted to discover her carrying cash. He led her into what appeared to be a less savory part of town, past a pub called "The Ten Bells", and into the alley beyond. "How about it, love?" he whispered, pushing her roughly back against the brick wall. "Sure!" she replied, sinking her teeth into his neck. Her only regret was that she couldn't see the look on his face. When she was finished, she tore open his throat and tossed him over a fence into a yard. Let them figure that out. As she stood there to get her bearings, she felt the blood flush warm her skin. She decided to go into the pub for a quick drink. From an empty doorway, a figure emerged and stood, looking around. Eyes followed Jessica as she crossed the street and entered the pub, and the figure began to follow her. The pub was crowded and noisy for the wee morning hours. Jessica took a stool, and ordered a Watney's. She didn't notice the man who came in and sat at a table far in the back. As she sipped her drink, she felt a delicate brushing against her ankles. Looking down, she saw a gray tabby cat who was trying to get her attention. "Hello, Kitty," she said, bending down to pet the soft fur. "Where did you come from?" "Prrrrttt!" came the response. The cat reached into Jessica's purse in curiosity, and pulled out a gold chain. "No, no, kitty, that was a gift from Amavia, who I may never see again," said Jessica, reaching down. The cat evidently thought this was some kind of game, and raced toward the back of the pub, dragging the chain behind it. "Shit!" murmured Jessica, glancing around to make sure nobody was watching before she gave chase. The bartender was at the other end of the bar, and the barmaid at a table in the back, so she followed. Someone was watching, however. The figure rose from the back table and followed her into the rear of the pub, through a small doorway, and down some stairs that appeared to lead to the cellar. she stood at the bottom of the stairs, peering around for the cat who had her necklace. He moved noiselessly down, and placed a hand on her shoulder. Jessica jumped guiltily, and turned to find a small, dapper man behind her. To her surprise, he said nothing, but bared his fangs as if preparing to bite. She jumped back and grinned, exposing her own fangs. "Whoa, there, I don't think you'd find me very filling," she said, laughing. His mouth closed abruptly, and a chagrined look crossed his face. "My dear young lady, I DO apologize. I had you pictured as a delightful late supper, not a kindred spirit." "No offense taken," Jessica replied. "I was hoping to meet some other vampires here in London. I hadn't really expected to meet one in the cellar of a pub, though. Do you live here?" "Heavens, no! I have a small house here in the city. May I ask what you are doing down here?" "I'm chasing this cat. It took off with a necklace that was given to me by a very dear friend. I have to get it back." She looked around the dank cellar in exasperation. "Perhaps I could be of some assistance? After we find the cat and your missing jewelry, would you join me at supper since you won't be joining me as supper?" "I'd be delighted. By the way, my name's Jessica Ward, from America, as if you couldn't tell." Jessica smiled. "Baron Gideon Redoak at your service. Originally of London, now a resident of the state of Maine." He performed a small courtly bow. "Actually, I was born here as well, but went to America as a baby. let's find that kitty, then we'll eat. I've dined, but I could join you in a small snack." "Very well. Here kitty, kitty, kitty." For the second time that night, Jessica found herself taking the arm of a stranger. ***************************************************************************** Gideon was frustrated. The hunting was poor, for the streets were too crowded, despite the hour. Finding himself in the East End, (ah, how many years had it been?), at pub called the Ten Bells, he decided that one sort of drink might do as well as another, and went inside. As he sat near the back, sipping at a rather inferior glass of wine, he noticed the slim, attractive girl who entered. She was alone, which made her prospective prey. When she suddenly dashed down into the cellar of the pub, he followed her, quite failing to notice that she was kindred. He was embarrassed when she identified herself as a vampyre ... it wasn't a mistake he made often, and gallantly offered to help her retrieve her necklace. "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty." The baron, not being a cat person, contented himself with merely looking for the animal rather than calling it. A flash of gold caught his eye, and he reached out to seize the necklace, but received a warning hiss and a swipe of unsheathed claws. "Perhaps possession is nine-tenths of the law?" he remarked to his comely companion, snatching back his hand while he still had some of it left. "You scared her," Jessica accused him, reaching out soothingly to the growling cat. "Nice kitty," she said to the growling feline, "Give me the necklace." The cat backed away, fur standing on end. The necklace dropped unheeded from its teeth as it hissed and spat at the ghostly apparition that floated towards the two vampyres. "Cecily," Jessica warned, "If that's you, you're not being funny. Look, I've met another vampyre. This is Baron ... uh, you're not Cecily." "No," replied the female specter. "I'm not..." "Excuse me, Miss Ward," said the baron, taking a step back from this young vampire who appeared to be talking to thin air. "But who are you talking to?" "Please call me Jessica," she responded. "And I'm not exactly sure who I'm talking to. It's this ghost, but I don't recognize her. Is she not visible to you?" "No...she's not. Do you mean to tell me that you can see a ghost that I cannot?" "Yes, I can see them, even when they're 'invisible'. I don't know why, I just can. I thought all vampires could, but I've been told this isn't true." Jessica turned her attention back to the apparition. "Who are you? Do you want something specific, or are you just lonely?" The ghost looked distressed. "The third on the roll," she finally said. "Huh?" said Jessica. "The third on the roll. Go up; look. The third on the roll." The specter waved her hands toward the stairs in a frantic manner. "This is just my luck," said Jessica, turning to the Baron. "I get a ghost with a geis. She must be under some compulsion not to speak her name." "But what does she say? I can't hear her," replied Gideon. Oh! She said, 'The third on the roll. Go up; look.' Does that make any sense to you?" "Maybe she means for us to go upstairs and look for a roll. Perhaps in the local church records?" Gideon suggested. "That sounds reasonable. Look," she said to the ghost. "We'll be back in a while, after we go 'look', okay?" Jessica and Gideon returned to the main room of the pub. As Jessica approached the bar to ask the bartender where the nearest church was located, Gideon noticed a small blackboard hanging on the wall. It appeared to be varnished over to preserve the writing there. As he came closer, he saw it was a list of six women's names. "Jessica," he called. "Over here perhaps? I think I've found something." She walked over and peered up at the board. "Annie Chapman...Alice...Liz Stride! That's number three on the roll. She must be Liz Stride. Gideon, does that name mean anything to you?" "Not as such, no, but...bartender?" Gideon turned inquiringly toward the bar. "Yes, sir?" the bartender responded. "What is the significance of the names on this board?" "Why, sir, they're the victims of Whitechapel's most famous son, Jack the Ripper!" "Jack the Ripper?" the Baron repeated. "They never did find him, did they? I remember it caused quite a furor at the time." Seeing the look the bartender gave him, he hastily amended, "I mean, of course, that I remember *reading* about it." "I think we need to talk," Jessica said. "Let's get drinks and sit down." "An excellent idea. What will you have?" The transaction completed, they took their glasses to a back table near the cellar door. Jessica didn't object when he paid for her drink, or held her chair out for her. She suspected that he was not chauvinistic, but had been raised in a time when that was what gentlemen did for ladies. For his part, Gideon was enjoying the company of this youngster. She was not in any way forward, but a polite and modest young lady. The cellar of a pub was an unlikely place to find a friend, but he seemed to have accomplished just that. He considered inviting her to his home in order to introduce her to Mitch. The Baron nearly laughed out loud when he pictured the look on Mitch's face, should this introduction take place... "So your ghost would seem to be Liz Stride," Gideon said to Jessica as they both eyed the cellar steps. "She was murdered but not mutilated, if I recall correctly. The theory was that the Ripper was disturbed at his work." "Were you here in London then?" Jessica asked, a little awed at hearing a first-hand account of what was history to her. He shook his head. "No, I had already moved to Maine by then, but the American newspapers carried avid accounts of the murders." He toyed with his glass of wine, then said, "Now that we know the identity of the ghost, how can we aid her? Does she require our assistance?" "There's only one way to find out. We should go back down and ask her." "Say, rather, that you will ask her whilst I accompany you. I find it difficult to hold sustained conversation with a being I can neither see nor hear." "Deal," said Jessica, and once more they descended to the cellar of the Ten Bells ... As they moved toward the cellar stairs, Jessica noticed they had caught the attention of the bartender. "Gideon, I think we're being watched," she whispered. "Not to worry," he replied, and glanced toward the barkeep. Every eye in the pub immediately turned in the other direction, and they proceeded down the stairs unnoticed. "How did you do that?" Jessica asked over her shoulder. "I will explain it to you later," said Gideon with a smile. "It's really quite simple." As they returned to the cellar, Jessica looked around for their ghostly friend. She caught a glimpse of something moving in one of the little side rooms, so she started moving that way, calling softly. She jumped back as the specter appeared right in front of her. "Liz," she said sharply. "Don't scare me that way. We want to help, so don't try those cheap haunting tricks with me. Now, what exactly is it that you want from us?" "Help me," intoned the spirit. "Help you what?" asked Jessica in exasperation. "Help you rest? Help you find release? I'm not the most patient of vampires, you know. Are you under some sort of enchantment that causes you to be so obscure?" Gideon looked uncomfortable. To know that even an invisible ghost was being harassed in this way offended his chivalrous nature. He smiled in what he assumed to be the ghost's general direction. "Ma'am, perhaps I could smooth the way a bit. We wish to help you. Can you tell us how? We'll do our best." The ghost looked distressed. She seemed to be struggling to tell them something. Finally, she moved nearer to Jessica, and lifted a checked silk scarf she wore around her neck. A gaping gash went from ear to ear, and almost all the way through her throat. Satisfied that they saw, she dropped the scarf and bowed her head. "You were murdered by Jack the Ripper, weren't you?" asked Jessica. The ghost nodded. "Do you want us to help you rest from your trauma? I know a violent death like that can leave a spirit confused." Liz shook her ghostly head. "What then?" "Come back." The ghost pointed to one of the store rooms. "You want us to come back to that little room?" asked Jessica. "Yes. Come back." "She wants us to go into that little room, Gideon. Maybe her body's in there. Lack of proper burial can really mess up a spirit's afterlife." Jessica followed the shade, who was disappearing through a small doorway. Gideon followed Jessica. They stood together in a small, dark room with whitewashed walls. Wooden casks stood against one side of the room. As she looked around, Jessica realized the ghost of Liz Stride had vanished. "Wow. I'll bet this room hasn't changed since Liz was alive!" said Jessica. "You are undoubtedly right," replied Gideon. "However, I don't see anywhere a body could be hidden." "Neither do I. Do you feel that funny sense of pressure in your head? Like something squeezing down on your sinuses?" "Now that you mention it, I do feel something strange. The room seems very close," he said, looking around. "Well, Enigmatic Elizabeth seems to have disappeared. Shall we get out of here and go finish our evening?" Jessica walked through the main cellar, and started up the stairs. When she had reached the top, she gave such a violent start that Gideon was forced to grab her arm and the stair rail to keep from pitching back into the cellar. "My dear...." he sputtered. "You nearly overbalanced us both. Are you quite alright?" "Gideon, I think we need that trick you used earlier where you made them all look the other way," said Jessica. "I don't think we want these folks to see us, at least not me." "Whatever could you mean?" Gideon asked, pushing by her to reach the top of the stair. The clientele of the pub had changed somewhat; in fact the whole place seemed to have undergone a major revision. Gas jets had replaced electric bulbs, and the pub's patrons were dressed in a style he remembered. Long, voluminous skirts on the women, and high collars on the men. "I believe you are right, Jessica. We're definitely not in Kansas, and I don't even think we're in 1993 anymore." **************************************************************************** Tremayne finished his research early and decided to take a nice brisk walk. The fresh air might lighten up an otherwise dreary afternoon. Besides, the exercise would do him good. He needed a break from poring over maps of the early years of London and accounts of the living conditions. He almost managed to get himself lost. Despite people's claims otherwise, London did change, not always for the better. He still regularly expected to see streets which had been burned down in the Great Fire nearly two hundred years ago. This explained how an elegant Welshman appearing in his late thirties found himself in the seedy East End. Whitechapel street, in particular, was not a place he wanted to get lost in. He read the newspapers about the dead prostitute found near Bucks Row and shivered at the grisly manner of her death. His magical talents may have granted him near immortality, but he could be killed just like everyone else and didn't want to take any unnecessary chances. Tremayne sighed. He was feeling his age again. Although why it was hitting now after two centuries, he had no idea. What a time for a mid-life crisis, he muttered to himself, brushing a stray lock of his blond hair out of his eyes and pulled his coat closer to his body. He stopped inside the Ten Bells Pub for a quick drink, ordering a nice Scotch to settle his nerves. For awhile, he allowed himself to forget his historical research or his surroundings. Suddenly there was a tingle at the back of his head, as if someone were trying to hypnotize him. Slowly he turned towards the back of the pub and saw the two newcomers. They were definitely not from London. Not this London, anyway. He had never seen a lad wearing denim trousers in these parts. Then he did a double-take. That was no lad! No wonder they wanted to protect their identity. Very few Victorian ladies were brave enough to wear men's clothes outside in public. He wondered what else they wanted to protect. Hesitantly he gave them a closer look, with a different pair of eyes. His grey eyes narrowed at what they discovered. He had hoped he would never run into their kind again, not after his tangle with the lady Rosemonde. But they were here. So why were two vampires hiding in the back of a Whitechapel pub? The male vampire was as dark as Tremayne was blond. Like the occultist, his aristocratic features marked him as one of the nobility. He was shorter than Tremayne by a few inches, but his posture and manner made up for that. He was also familiar. Gideon! Whitechapel was the last place he expected to see his old friend.