Thank you again, to all my readers for taking the time to review. There are some chapter notes at the bottom of this one that you might find interesting! :D LOVE YOU ALL - ellymelly
"Give him a minute," Helen murmured, her hand still securely between Nikola's.
"I daren't." Gregory moved over to them. "It is nearly twenty-four hours," he said, "if we wait..."
The last time had been nearly as bad as the first. It appeared the longer they held off Nikola's natural instincts, the worse their manifestation became. Four days had now passed since his last transformation and now the moon was high and the night approaching, they could not risk it. The injection had to be administered regularly and without fail.
"Helen..." Nikola untangled his hands – her cue to leave.
"This isn't right," she said, as she moved past her father, her hand resting on the brass door handle. The two gentlemen didn't look at her and remained silent until she left.
Gregory withdrew the glass container holding the remainder of the rose-oil. There was less than half remaining. The train shook as Gregory took Helen's place in front of Nikola who was already shrugging out of his heavy coat and rolling up the sleeve of his shirt.
"How long?" Nikola asked calmly, extending his bare arm out. How long until the bottle was empty?
With a needle in one hand, Gregory expertly undid the seal of the bottle and the pungent fragrance filled the air.
"A month," he replied, "if we're careful."
Nikola nodded. A month of humanity left. A month before he became a monster. A month before he would end it all.
"Does she know?" Nikola flinched as the needle went through his skin. He couldn't help but think of that night, long ago, when this had all begun.
"No," Gregory answered.
Neither of them would tell her.
The old man sat by the cage – staring for hours at the emptiness behind the bars. His years had advanced horridly in the short week – disfiguring his face with deep creases and sagging layers of skin that hung under his eyes. White hair – too long for his face, hung limply by his ears while his wrinkled hand resting on the smooth top of his walking cane – continued to shake.
"Coward..." jeered the empty cage. "Kill me, if you're goin' t' kill me."
There – a flicker – an imperfection in the air.
Samuel Griffin didn't respond to the taunt. It had been the same for days now. Pacing – endless pacing and sneering like some kind of animal. Mostly, that was all Professor Samuel Griffin saw – when he could, an animal.
"It is not in my interests to kill you," Professor Griffin eventually replied, as the outline of his son rippled in and out of view. The underground vaults at Empire Cotton were mostly bare rooms burrowed out of the earth and lined with concrete. Water stains down their bleak interiors broke up the otherwise grey expanse while oil lamps around the room made the air heavy with smoke. Occasionally the wailing of some other creature could be heard.
"Then what?" Nigel shot back, seated at the opposite side of the small enclosure with his knees pulled up to his chin, rocking with the cold.
"What you have done to yourself is..." Professor Griffin's words faltered, weighed down by an insidious hatred, "is monstrous."
Nigel's skin rippled wildly until his figure reappeared. His eyes were bright red at their centres – a frightening contrast to his pale skin which was stretched thinly over his bones like tissue paper.
Professor Griffin breathed sharply. His son – no – this creature was a travesty of nature.
"Do you know what the Cabal are?" Professor Griffin composed himself. "Ten thousand years ago humans were enslaved by an abnormal race known as Sanguine Vampiris. We were the cattle of civilisation – preyed upon, slaughtered and used to build their sparkling empires but now," Griffin's voice lowered, "we shall have our revenge. We shall hunt them down – every last one of them..." His tone suggested that this now included Nigel. "This is a war," he continued, "there is bloodshed, there is sacrifice – do not mistake me for a weak man because my body has failed me."
"Father..." Nigel moved to the bars of the cage, curling his fingers around them, desperation taking hold. "Please."
"You stopped being my son when you became one of them," Professor Samuel Griffin spat back. "My whole life – do you have any idea what-" but there was no point explaining the history of their family – the suffering that they had endured. It was over now. The Griffin lineage had ended – when Samuel died – and he knew that it would be soon – they would enter the pages of history and live no more.
A slamming door startled them both as several men entered, one of them grunting, "We're ready, sir," to Professor Griffin. Griffin merely nodded, and the men descended on the cage, unlocking its door and grabbing roughly at Nigel.
"Where are you takin' me? Answer me!" Nigel screeched as cold hands wrapped around his naked body and something was injected into him, at once making his limbs numb and heavy. He didn't remain conscious long enough to hear their answer.
The roof of the train carriage arched over Helen, ornately decorated with brass and wood fixtures. A deep red carpet underfoot matched the colour of the walls which were broken periodically by windows, oil lamps and silk curtains with oriental scenes hand sewn into them. She would have appreciated the luxury of her surrounds more had she not been able to hear the retching coming from Nikola's compartment. The wild rose oil made him ill, horribly so. She cursed herself, raising the eyebrows of the few passengers scattered around her.
Helen ignored the young gentleman opposite her, pretending to read his paper while trying to catch her eye every so often. Her father had spoken to him several times during the week. He was a wealthy individual, well schooled and was presently interested in funding scientific enterprise. Her father was courting his finance but Helen didn't trust him at all. The man couldn't be more than twenty and was far too at ease with the world for her liking.
Half an hour passed in silence until her father stepped out into the lounge area and nodded in her direction meaning that Nikola was finally asleep. Instead of joining her, Gregory Magnus wandered over to the young gentleman and took a seat beside him.
"Mr Fort," Gregory said politely.
The man lowered his newspaper, dragging his attention away from the article entitled, 'MANSION HOUSE – A FOOLISH FREAK' and the exert that had been of particular interest;
'Clerks must have their jokes apparently, and there is reason to suspect that the Whitechapel murders may have prompted them to the making of some grim ones lately. The Lord Mayor, however, has widely laid it down that if stupid practical jokes are inevitable so should be their punishment. It had pleased a warehouse clerk, who came before him yesterday, to extinguish a lamp and so darken the access to houses in Upper Thames street at a time when all East end people are specially sensitive as to the necessity for abundant light.'
"Charles – please," the man corrected Gregory. Though the man was clearly American in origin, his accent and physical features were Dutch.
"Is it the sense of adventure that finds you on this train or something else?" Gregory enquired lightly, making conversation.
Charles Fort folded his newspaper away.
"A woman," he declared finally, his eyes drifting but never settling in Helen's direction. Charles was endowed with a thick moustache and a firm build covered by an expensive suit that made him appear suave but adventurous. It was fair to say that Charles was handsome in the classical sense and charismatic to the point that a room would turn to his smallest gesture.
"From America, it is a long way to come," observed Gregory. "She must be beautiful."
"Very," Charles quickly cut in – his dark brown eyes warm and friendly for someone his age. "Though it is her wit that I cherish," he added. "She is a scientist, like myself."
Gregory seemed to find this admirable and the two continued chatting for several hours. Helen meanwhile, excused herself and vanished into the adjoining compartments, inevitably finding herself lingering beside Nikola's bed, watching him sleep.
He was turned awkwardly on his side like he had fallen there. His face was pale and his breath shallow and sharp.
"I'm sorry," Helen said quietly, moving wayward strands of hair from his sleeping face.
Not wishing to leave, she retook her place in the seat by the window with the collection of Nikola's papers. She flicked through them even though she had already read every word. How Nikola's sister had acquired originals of William Dampier's notes was a mystery. They were coveted and hard to come by. The great explorer had died nearly two-hundred years ago yet still his research and discovery of the natural world was mostly untouched. At times like these – with scores of people venturing out into the world to discover its secrets, there was a sea of information building up and not enough eyes to understand it.
Though James Watson had scoured the newspaper every day for news from the London about the killings, he had heard nothing for weeks. It seemed that the world was eerily quiet – as if waiting for something. Even Sherlock Holmes had dropped out of contact, not bothering to wire him for many days now.
Eventually, James discarded the paper on John's drinks table with an exhausted, "Nothing..." following it closely. The afternoon had settled into the beginning of night and a crisp breeze worked its way in through the partly open curtains.
"James," said John sternly, picking lint off his trench coat, "do not wish them dead."
"You are right – as usual," James replied. "Though the longer the quiet the worse I fear the storm will be."
With the others missing, James and John had taken to each other's company, attempting to unravel the terrible mysteries around them. John in particular had been affected by Helen's sudden absence.
"Maybe it is over," John offered, buttoning his coat, preparing to leave the house on business, "and The Ripper has lost his taste for the sport?"
"No..." James folded his hands in his lap. "Insanity like that – ravenous hunger for violence? It ends when his blood joins the floor. Whoever he is, he will return – and soon, I think."
John paced across the room, collecting various items before waiting at the door with a serious expression.
"I hope you are wrong," he said solemnly, and headed out.
James was left with the approaching night and the wall of newspaper cut outs pinned to the back of John's hotel coach like a drawing board. He stared at it for hours on end, trying to find some kind of method amongst the brutal acts. So far, the only anomaly that he could make out was that the murders had stopped abruptly when Nigel Griffin had disappeared from the world.
It would be so easy to believe the worst and often he wanted to but there was something lurking at the back of Watson's mind that didn't add up – an irritating question that would not rest. Why? Why would Nigel kill?
James needed help. He would write to Sherlock Holmes and confess everything.
The British Museum of Natural History lounged out over London like some great ruin from a forgotten world. Its wings, held up by rows of white ionic columns and capped by elaborate freezes, stood out from the night with an eerie glow. Gas lights flickered along its exterior walls, flaring in the night air while the sheer size of the building dwarfed the streets and parks surrounding it.
It was formidable, in every sense of the world. This was a place that warned all who entered it that 'hic iacet vostra historia' whether you accepted it or not. There were things within its walls that had been scavenged from the furthest reaches of man's exploration, excavated from time and dirt to be studied and wondered at.
The evening was well underway when the coffin-shaped crate was carted through the entrance foyer of the British Museum by two men. They trampled over the marble floors, passing by the brand new display of Pantheon Marbles that were still being unpacked. A few special collection handlers waved the pair of men on, directing them through to the private offices at the far end of the building where they found a door labelled, 'Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan'.
They set the crate down and knocked.
"He's not here," said a voice, as the door opened to reveal a young, oily faced man. He was a student, left to look after the department during the long hours that researches spent either in the vaults or sensibly asleep.
"What do you mean, 'he's not here'?" replied the larger of the two Cabal men.
"Our specialist has chosen to spend some time abroad. I was instructed to tell you that your appointment has been delayed until next month. There is nothing I can do I am afraid."
"What are we supposed to do with this?" the man pointed at the crate containing Nigel Griffin.
The man leant over the wooden box for a cursory inspection of its labels. "What is it?" he asked but received no answer. "We have an excellent storehouse," he offered.
The men did not look convinced.
"This is not acceptable," said the second Cabal man, stepping toward the greasy boy in an intimidating manner. "Cargo like this is fragile – difficult and expensive to move."
"I am sorry," is all the young man could say. "The Cabal are exemplary patrons and we extend to you are deepest, most sincere gratitude but the situation cannot be helped. Mr Fort is out of contact and will return by the end of the month."
Nikola awoke to a pair of bright blue eyes.
"How long?" he asked, moving to sit up.
Helen pushed him back down firmly, preventing him from moving too soon.
"Four hours," she replied.
"And I didn't..." his voice trailed off, leaving his questioning eyes to finish.
She shook her head. "No Nikola, you did not hurt anyone. I promise."
His eyes closed briefly in relief. Helen was sitting on the bed beside him. He could feel the slight depression of the mattress and the soft fur of her dress against his hand. The sickly-sweet smell of the oil had been replaced by her and he could feel his strength returning.
Something dripped onto the bare skin of his hand. It was warm and instantly shattered over his skin. Nikola opened his eyes to find Helen quietly crying. There was a sheen to her eyes which was shedding tears whenever she blinked.
"No..." said Nikola quietly, lifting his hand up to her cheek, sitting up as he did so. "You must not," he insisted, wiping his thumb over her cheek as his hand cupped her face.
"Nikola..." another pair of tears fell and rolled over his hand.
He pulled her slowly toward him until their foreheads lightly touched and he could feel every shudder running through her.
"It will be all right..." he whispered.
"If I could take it back, I would," she said quietly.
"I would not let you," Nikola turned his head slightly, and she slipped onto his shoulder. She turned into his neck, trying to bury herself there. "Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, we are no more."
Eventually Helen nodded against him.
"Helen, you did not fail," he continued firmly, lifting her up and pushing her back so that he could look on her tear stained face. A pain, worse than anything his vampirical transformation could cause, ripped through him when he saw the unnecessary sorrow in her features. Nikola did not need her pity – he needed her. "Your virtue is your desire for knowledge. It must never be separated from you."
Forgive the Latin - my friends and i have been trying to translate: "Here lies your history" with varying degrees of success. Please, if you are any good at Latin, feel free to correct it. That said, I would like to thank hypercaz and birdgirl for the translation!
William Dampier and Charles Fort are real people - they both have fascinating wiki pages which explain their naturalist histories. Their stories in this context I am completely making up.
Milka Tesla - is also a real person.
The newspaper excerpt is taken from the casebook[dot]org website - an excellent guide to all things Jack the Ripper.
"Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, we are no more." - is a REAL QUOTE that I totally stole from Nikola Tesla.