We have seen many fics about our dear inspector's later years, but what about his youth? What horror did his first visions bring? What drove him to Scotland Yard? How did he become the darkened man of "special talents"?
So, the usual: this is a backstory fic about Inspector Fredrick Abberline. One-shot.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any bits of From Hell. Trust me; you'd know if I did.
All reviews are welcome, flames included. Just let me know someone's reading this. I have an idea for a sequel, but if no one's interested I'm not going to write it (in short: sequel for reviews)! Thanks!
Concentrate on the little details. Make the mind really work, and it will push the senses back into the unconscious part of the brain. Pain numbs itself and emotions are given room to fade, a little.
He had by now memorized that particular area of the floor perfectly. He could tell you exactly how far the rug's edge was from the wall. He could draw the pattern of the rug without once looking down at the paper. He could tell you how many floorboards there were in that space. Exactly how many. To several points after the decimal, if you counted bits of other boards that lay across the boundaries of that area.
He was down to counting carpet threads. He forced his eyes to stay open. One hand carefully brushed the tiny spikes of dyed fabric, one at a time.
Two hundred and seventy four . . .
He cradled the other hand in his lap. The pain in his arm was already receding.
Two hundred and eighty six . . .
The pain in his heart was still at its peak. He fought to concentrate.
Two hundred and ninety nine . . .
He paused, carefully marking thread three hundred in his memory. If he lost count after this, he could go back to that thread, and start at three hundred, instead of two hundred, or one hundred before it. Or zero.
He'd gained something. Victory gave him strength. His heart did not hurt so much.
He was glad he'd made it to three hundred, because he heard the door behind him opening. Light spilled into the semi-darkness. In his corner, he stayed perfectly still, his eyes still focused on the crucial thread.
He had to remember it, for next time.
A voice behind him, cold, yet not angry as it had been the last time he'd heard it.
"Do you feel better now?"
Better? Yes, he felt better. He'd sped up his mind's recovery, even through his body still screamed in silent protest as he used both arms to stand. To use one would admit that he was hurt. He wouldn't hand over even that smallest sense of victory.
He felt much better, having a victory that the man behind him did not. So he could answer truthfully.
The silence lasted for a few eternal seconds. He waited: redemption, or dissatisfaction. His prayers were, this time, answered.
"Good. Now run along or you'll be late for school."
He turned, head bowed submissively, and walked slowly past his father into the bright light of the day. He waited until he was out of sight before he picked up speed.
It would not do to be late for school. He didn't want to count threads twice in the same day.
He hated the visions.
He would wince, or cry out, softly, and shut his eyes tightly if he were not already asleep. The images haunted him day and night, dancing before him like the demons his father told him about. They would never leave him alone.
At night, he inhaled fumes that dropped him into unconsciousness. It was much better than dreaming.
His father wouldn't believe in the visions. His father would say that he was making them up, or that he'd run off and come back and then pretended the things he saw were "visions". That was lying, either way. Disobedience.
His father hated disobedience.
His father believed that a lot of things were disobedience. It wasn't only talking back, or forgetting manners, or breaking rules (heaven forbid he break a rule: he hadn't done so yet). Wanting to be a soldier, or a sailor, or an "artist" were all disobedience, too. Wanting to be anything lower than his station was disregard for the efforts of his father to give him a chance at a better station in life. As a doctor or a lawyer, apparently.
He'd long ago stopped questioning his father. He lived in that shadow, that pain, that fear and hatred, because one important fact about life shone like a golden promise above the darkness of his life.
You can do it, he told himself. You're smarter that him. Smarter than any of them. He made youy smarter. You can outwit them all.
But is was always too soon, too small, too dangerous, too young, too weak, too slow, too nervous to do what he knew had to be done. He needed the right opportunity, and none had ever presented itself.
It was perfect. Never before had his father left so early in the morning. It was the best chance he'd ever get.
He was risking a hell of a lot. He was skipping school, and right after he'd already been punished for having a "vision" during the dinner party.
Of course, he wouldn't knock a glass of wine over a lady's dress on purpose. But his father didn't believe that. At least now he wouldn't get a vision while trying to bring his plan off. They came, at the most, once a week.
He waited, wetting his dry lips, his stomach rumbling for something since lunch the previous day. If he had to have visions, why couldn't they come after dessert? He forced his stomach to be quiet as he slipped back into the house through the kitchen door.
The old servant, both butler and driver of the tiny one-passenger coach his father was so proud of, was still driving back from taking his father to the bank. No one would see him slip on his winter gloves and carefully lift the large knife, being ever so careful not to scratch anything on his way to the master bedroom. The only bedroom, really. Technically, he slept in a very small room that was once an office.
The door was unlocked. His father had never expected his son to break that most important rule: never go in the bedroom. Ever.
He slipped inside, and paused. Most was expected: basic functions of both a bedroom and private office. He was surprised by the small table, covered in mementoes placed purposefully around a small photograph. He didn't realize his father still acknowledged that he had ever had a wife.
However, he soon found what he had been seeking. A rather heavy metal stamp, bearing the seal of the bank, used for work at home: he placed the knife carefully on the bedspread and lifted up the seal. He weighted it in his hands. Nice and heavy. It would do.
He also spotted the pitcher and basin, still full of water from the morning's shaving. Even better.
He'd been planning this for months – years, perhaps – and yet, he still hesitated. It was the most dangerous thing he had ever done, even coming into this room with the knife. A part of him wanted to just hide in the closet and stab the old man when he got home.
But that would be foolish. And he was no fool.
Taking a deep breath, he lifted the seal and brought it sharply against his cheek.
Pain flooded his face, and he gasped for air. But soon pain gave way to adrenaline. He'd done it. He'd taken the first step, and it was easy. How hard could the rest be?
Surging with the rush of energy, he quickly set about himself. Bruises soon covered his body, and he was panting heavily, but his face was twisted with newfound delight. There was no permanent harm done, anyway.
He dropped the seal deliberately in the middle of the desk, as if it had been carelessly thrown, and turned back to the bed. Adrenaline left him quickly as he realized what he had to do next. This might cause permanent damage, but he had to take that chance.
He lifted the knife once again from the bedspread. He'd decided long ago that the best spot was his left arm. Even if he was crippled for life, he could still write and run. More likely, he would be able to use his arm after a little while. If his plan worked.
His plan would work. Concentrating his entire mind on that fact, he brought the knife down on his arm.
The pain was excruciating. He had to bite back a scream, and he almost dropped the knife. Just in time, he let it splash into the basin of water. He let out a sigh of relief. He had to stick to the plan.
Clutching his arm, he pretended to stagger backwards and out of the bedroom. Still faking a stumbling run, he made his way to his "bedroom" and sat down in the corner, allowing the blood to soak the threads he had so meticulously counted. He apologized to them, as he tore some of his thin bed sheets to wrap his arm in. If he had been locked in the room for at least an hour, he would have had time to wrap his arm up.
He closed the door to the tiny room, and slammed his right shoulder against it. The locks in the house were old and weak; three good hits and the door flew open. The momentum itself carried him to the door.
He paused, only for a moment, and looked around the small dwelling he had called home. He would never see it again.
He hid the wide grin on his face with a practiced look of desperate terror, and bust through the door.
The police hardly needed to investigate. The boy was severely wounded, starved, and sick (the last of which came from quotes gathered from the old women who had immediately taken it upon themselves to care for him). The knife was found in the man's room, and the seal on his desk matched the odd markings on the boy's cheek – an imprint of the embossed scrollwork. The trail of blood led from the man's room to the boy's, pooled there for a bit, and then raced out the door. The boy's door had been forced open from the inside.
Mr. Henry Abberline was arrested on his way home from work.
The inspector stared at the small boy carefully. The boy stared back, his face expressionless. Light brown hair framed a pale face with eyes much to dark for the overall bleached appearance. The sling which held his left arm was padded with thick bandages. The doctor said that he expected full recovery.
The boy blinked, as if in confusion. Both of them knew who he was. "Yes, sir."
"I'm Inspector Hawkins. I'm in charge of the case against your father."
The boy didn't respond. It wasn't a question, Hawkins realized. He'll give me answers only.
He tried again. "Are you willing to testify against your father?"
"Yes, sir." Short, simple, direct. Honest. Almost innocently honest.
"You'll be testifying along with your butler, Mr. Greene." Not a question, Hawkins reminded himself. "All you'll need to do is tell the truth about what happened, alright?"
"Yes, sir." Did he detect a hint of . . . joy? Damn, he needed another route. The perfect question came to mind.
"Do you know what will happen, if your father is convicted?"
There was a pause. "Not exactly, sir."
"Let me clear things up for you, then," Hawkins quickly continued, leaning in towards the boy. "Your father'll go to the clink. Five years minimum – if the judge is a real softy it could be as much as fifteen. You'll get put with your next of kin. Do you know who that is?"
The boy shook his head slowly. "No, sir."
"Do you know anyone who could be related to you?"
"You have no family at all?"
The boy shrugged. "If I have, I've never met them, sir."
Hawkins sighed. "We'll sort that out later. Anyway, even after your father gets out, he'll have no rights over you. He'll no longer be your dad."
There was a slight hint of a smile on the boy's face, and it pushed the inspector over the edge. He kneeled down to face the boy, so small even for his age. His hands gripped the slender shoulders, and his eyes met the fiery dark orbs, burning with secrets he could only guess at.
And guess he did. "Do you know what I found in your room, boy?"
"No, sir." The boy was a little scared, and tried to shrug the man's hands off, but failed. Hawkins pulled the boy closer, so he could whisper and not be overheard.
"A little pair of boy's gloves, hidden between those sheets you tore up. They were all stained with blood, cause you were bleeding and trying to wrap up the wound, right?"
There was only a nod, no vocal confirmation. But it was enough.
"I think it's a bit odd for a boy to keep his gloves in his bed sheets. I also think that the stains on those gloves were a lot darker than the ones on the sheets." He paused, to let the words sink in. "I think that those gloves were being worn when you got yourself injured, boy. And I think that if you were wearing gloves while you got yourself injured, there are only a couple of reasons why that might be."
The fear in the boy's eyes was more of an answer than any of the stuttering protests and hysterical breakdowns Hawkins had seen in other people. That silent, fearful answer confirmed the inspector's guesses, and reinforced his mental decision.
He took one hand off the boy's shoulders and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small bundle, tightly wrapped in white fabric. He held it out to the boy.
"I never want to see these again, you understand?"
As he let go of the boy and the bundle was snatched out of his hand, he allowed himself a small smirk. The boy was obviously very confused, but at the same time, was not about to let this chance pass him by.
He pocketed the bundle, another smart move – he wouldn't be so stupid as to just chuck it in the fire next to them. He'd take it far away, first.
Chance taken advantage of, he looked up at the tall inspector. "Thank you," he said quietly. There was emotion in that statement that had not been in any of his previous responses. Hawkins smiled, interpreting the unanswered question.
"You're not going to do it again, and you're too smart to get knocked off so early, boy. You should be a policeman. You've got a great mind for it."
The silence between them spoke volumes. Thanks. You're welcome. You don't know how much this means to me.
Patting the boy on the shoulder in an informal farewell, he quickly left the room, before he broke down and tried to hug the poor kid.
A policeman . . .
Yes. Yes, he liked that idea. He wanted to become that person, who knew exactly what had gone on, even when the crime had been perfectly committed. The person who picked up all the clues, even the ones you couldn't always see.
Like his visions . . . he could start with those. All the screaming faces he saw could be put to rest. He still wouldn't be able to sleep, but the fumes of the burning laudanum would help. They always had.
And, when his father was set free, he'd be surrounded by policemen.
It was perfect.
Down to the very last tiny thread of detail.
Possible TBC . . . please review!