"His Auntie, Apprehensive."
Adjective: Anxious or fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
"My darling~!" I cooed, placing two delicate air kisses upon his porcelain cheeks. Whether he meant to or not, upon grasping my tiny hands within his own the lengthy black nails of the Undertaker sliced at my skin, leaving thin lacerations across my knuckles.
"Rennie…" He smiled earnestly at me. Others upon first glance might have deemed the look to be full of warmth, but I knew better. Yes, it was a grin of utter anticipation.
"Oh, alright…" I sighed, giving into what I interpreted to be Undertaker's best puppy dog pout. You always had to interpret and use your best educated guess with that one, as it was difficult to decipher the meaning of his actions when you could never find the truth of it in his sheltered eyes. "Why is a dog like a tree?"
At the implication of a joke, arguably one of his favorite things in the world, Undertaker began to rock back and forth upon his heels in evident exhilaration. "Oh, yes! Heehee~ I haven't the foggiest, my dear! Do tell!" He insisted after a moment of thoughtful, contemplative hums.
I waited coyly for the expectancy to effervesce within the room – not just in Undertaker's disposition – as, after all, I was not the only guest within the house of the town's mortician at this particular moment. In fact, Ciel, Sebastian, Lau, Angelina, and her butler were all sitting in stunned silence at the sociable display of the Undertaker and I.
"Oh, Florence, get on with it, will you?" Angelina called, being the first to lose her patience. Inwardly, I couldn't help but to snub her for such a reveal. She may have been one of the most sought after ladies in London, but I hardly found her to be a real, proper lady at all. Ladies were supposed to have the patience of God, after all.
After shooting the sister of my late sister-in-law a quick, rather teed off expression, I turned my attention back to my dear, silver-haired companion. "They both lose their bark after they're dead!"
Surely the comical tale in question had not been that humorous to behold, but Undertaker broke into a fit of giggles nevertheless. I'd like to believe that this was because of the subtle mention of fatality within the yarn, more so than anything else. "THAT'S A GOOD ONE!" The Undertaker wailed between bated breaths and right fits of uncontrollable laughter.
As the Undertaker continued to cachinnate away, I became increasingly anxious for my reward. "Undertaker, I've paid you in full, so now—" I began obstinately as I narrowed my eyes at him.
Sobering up almost immediately, the Undertaker nodded. "Oh, yes, don't think that I've forgotten~" And without further ado, the side-splitting male scooped me up into a balmy embrace.
Above all else, it was moments like this that I cherished the most. There may not have been any sort of romantic aura between the two of us, but Undertaker was still my closest friend. Unlike Ciel, he listened to my stupid afflictions without fail and always managed to comfort me after hearing them. In exchange, I was never one to pass up the request of delivering a good laugh, and additionally, I was probably exceedingly hilarious to deal with when under the influence of alcohol.
I was surprise to find that the first noise of displeasure to be executed within the room came not from the tiny throat of Ciel, but instead originated out of Lau. "So dealing with the bodies of a dead is merely a cover job, is it? Well, how much would you like in exchange for the information—" He inquired, getting down to business in the midst of my juvenile romp.
The Undertaker stepped away from me, positively leering at the misunderstanding fellow. "I HAVE NO USE FOR THE QUEEN'S COINS!" Undertaker dismissed in a booming tone, scurrying up to Lau's side. Lau looked taken aback at the announcement.
Desiring to enlighten him, I took a careful step towards him. "Lau—" I began tentatively. At the mention of the foreign man's name, Undertaker blinked. It was quite possible that he recognized the name from my drunken rambles of an earlier date. The Undertaker looked at Lau intently, as if to size him up accordingly, before turning to Ciel.
"Come on, my lord, give it to me!" He pleaded like a right beggar. When Ciel stared blankly at him in response, the Undertaker's jovial grin widened. "Give me prime laughter!"
At this statement, Angelina blinked in confusion. "If that's what you're after, did not Florence's gag do the trick?"
The Undertaker looked at her ephemerally, and then his gaze locked upon my cheerful face. "Florence pays me for affection, you see—" He began. I blushed scarlet at his wording.
"That's not how it is!" I squeaked, desperately trying to reassure the now incredibly suspicious Chinese nobleman. "We're friends!" I added resolutely. Even at my insistence, Lau remained eerily stone-faced.
The Undertaker snickered at my disconcerted state. "She enjoys a nice hug, now and then, and I am happy to oblige her for a decent laugh."
"Provide me with that, and I'll tell you anything~" The Undertaker informed, holding himself as he wriggled about the room in pure bliss. I did not miss the particular glance that he shot Lau's way, before continuing on with his pleasurable prattle.
"Freak," Angelina's butler murmured quietly.
"Leave it to me!" Lau called, obviously up for accepting the challenge. "Behold the man that Shanghai called the sleeping tiger of New Year's parties!" He exclaimed dramatically.
Raising his index finger high into the air, Lau smiled at Undertaker with closed eyes. "Every Calendar's days are numbered!"
The sudden sound of cricket chirps to be heard within the room probably served only to emphasize the terrible nature of Lau's pun. Undertaker was not amused, it seemed.
Next, Angelina would be the one to step up to bat. "If I must…" She began, standing confidently before my dear friend. "Madam Red, the belle of fashionable society, will tell you her special story!" I absolutely could not wait for the abomination of a tale to escape her lips. Angelina's idea of funny, as it turned out, generally involved petty gossip or indecent sexual stories.
"So, his [CENSORED] was completely flaccid and [CENSORED], but when I [CENSORED], the [CENSORED] tip stared bobbing like [CENSORED]—" Angelina began on her, as I predicted, overly inappropriate spiel. Just as certain words were unprintable, they were also, I'm quite certain, too mature for Ciel to hear. So, like the good Auntie that I was, I clapped my hands firmly over his innocent ears.
"Ah, Ah, Ah! Too grown up for my little Ci-Ci~" I taunted warmly. Whether I noticed it or not, Undertaker chuckled at my ridiculous behavior.
"Well, my young lord, it seems you're the only one left…" He called as the aforementioned Earl swatted my hands away. What Undertaker meant to say, of course, was that it was now Sebastian's turn to amuse him.
I could not help but sneer at the pathetic scream as I rapped my knuckles languidly against Ciel's bedroom door. "OI! WOMAN UP IN THERE, WOULD YOU?!" I called, quite calloused.
Honestly, his inability to take the pain was embarrassing to me. As a woman, I was forced into a suffocating corset every single day of my life. So, the fact that a man could not take it, even for a moment, was expectantly depressing. After my exclamation, I half-expected Ciel to retort with something thoughtless - rather along the lines of, "Yes, well, you try wearing one of these things!" Until it came it his attention that I was already fitted in one that was, I daresay, much tighter than his. Instead, though, Ciel's only response was another guttural cry.
"Tch," I scoffed at his apparent weakness. At this rate, it will be my greatest pleasure to see him suffer on the ballroom floor. After all, that's why he was suiting up in women's attire in the first place.
You see, after Sebastian had thoroughly delighted the Undertaker's funny bone, he had revealed to us a great deal of information about Jack The Ripper. Namely, that he had a fondness for removing the wombs of his victims in a neat, borderline surgical manner. This could only mean that the ripper fellow must have some sort of medical experience. So, Sebastian made a list of suspects, acquired alibis, and narrowed it down to the pedophile noble, the Viscount Druitt. If you hadn't of figured it out by now, I can assure you that is the only reason why Ciel was being forced to don a dress and attend the ball as a supposed lady love.
It was just unfortunate for him that I was a Phantomhive and Angelina was already a notable lady of the court, otherwise either of us might have been forced to act in our nephew's stead. It was supposed to be a rather elegant endeavor, this ball, and I was now thoroughly disappointed to find that I would be forced to decline the invitation that had been sent to me. It wasn't as if I really had a hope of attending beforehand, since Ciel seemed to have an iron-grip on my social life, but at the very least as an agent of the Queen I was under the impression that I'd be able to attend and scope the place out for her – get to the bottom of this Viscount business, if you will.
Now my only plans for the night were to be babysat by the Undertaker who graciously agreed after receiving the compensation of another side-splitting joke, straight from the lips of Sebastian.
It wasn't really a big deal, though, as two can play the game of persuasion – especially when it comes to the easily swayed town mortician.
"You know, I originally wanted you to be born a girl! I was quite on the verge of convincing Rachel to name you Cecilia before you erupted from her blessed loins~" I remarked, giggling in amusement at the effeminate state of my proud nephew. Since Angelina was much too big and busty to accommodate Ciel with a disguise, it became my job to outfit him for the ball. It was rather depressing to find that, even despite the breast difference, we were the same size in garments. So, Ciel was borrowing a particularly pretty, pastel pink dress from my extensive wardrobe tonight – and might I say, it looked much better on him than it ever had on me.
Ciel fumed at my repartee as he tilted his prissy hat further over his face if only to hide his crimson cheeks from my view. "S-Shut up!" He hissed vehemently.
Thankfully for him, before I could delve into another bout of mockery, the carriage rolled to a sudden stop in front of the Undertaker's residence. "We have arrived, my young lord~" Sebastian pointed out and I must admit that he still looked rather dashing, festooned in the masquerade of Lady Cecilia's tutor.
"Good." Ciel smirked, turning to me. "Do get out, Florence, and if I find that you have at all strayed from your predestined location – well, Sebastian will be forced to act as reconnaissance."
The warning tone laced within his authoritative voice had me absolutely shaking in my boots. "Have a lovely time on your date with the devil, my young niece~" I trilled, smirking at the embarrassment it brought to Ciel who was, to my amusement, seated much too close for comfort to his butler. If he were not thoroughly infatuated with Lizzie, sometimes I would be forced to wonder about the origin of their relationship.
When the carriage thundered into sudden locomotion, I smirked and skipped gleefully into the Undertaker's dreary dwelling. "I'm back – again!" I announced upon entering his home. It was quite unusual for me to frequent his establishment so much in one week, let alone in one day, but it's safe to say that neither of us minded. Secretly, I think the Undertaker enjoyed a bit of living company now and again, and I just enjoyed getting out of my house.
"Gone to the ball then, have they?" Undertaker inquired, brushing the hair of a dead girl. I wrinkled my nose up at the fond display as, after all, she was quite the unliving corpse.
"Yes, I'm afraid so…" I nodded, a bit crestfallen at my inability to go. After all, there were bound to be tons of eligible bachelors present there – including Lau.
"Lot of good that'll do them!" The Undertaker cackled quietly to himself as he sat the brush down. I quirked a brow at his vague statement, sincerely trying my hardest to look at him rather than his client. There were deep bruises around her neck and her face – lips in particular – had taken on an unpleasant blue tint. Thus, I suspected that she was a victim of strangulation and not at all one of Jack's ladies.
"Her name's Jillian Pennyworth – the mistress of a certain Duke." Undertaker commented, noticing my sudden curiosity at once. I gasped at this newfound information.
"No! You don't mean – Calvin Alderdice was cheating on his wife?!" I floundered like a fish at the realization. This was quite the juicy piece of gossip – the knowledge of such things was one of the reasons I was so fond of Undertaker.
"Yes, surprising, isn't it? He's always been pegged as such a trustworthy lad! This 'ere girly, though, I'm sure you can guess who ended her life, eh?" He smirked.
Of course I could guess. As beautiful as this girl was, even in death, I had no doubt in my mind that Evelyn Alderdice had been the one to squeeze every last drop of air out of her lungs. "Evelyn always was a jealous old harpy," I commented wryly.
Undertaker nodded pleasantly at my comment. "Yes, and now the murderess wretch is down a handmaid!" Undertaker chortled cutely.
I positively beamed at his antics. Certainly Angelina was always a fun one to discuss gossip with, but Undertaker was always the reason I was able to discuss it. He seemed to know everything of the odds and ends of London. Speaking of which…
"What do you mean going to the ball won't do them any good?" I questioned him, quite unprepared for the shocking answer I was sure to receive.
"I mean, it won't do to go looking for Jack when he's right under your nose!" He explained and as always, this piece of information was followed by a lively laugh.
"What are you saying…?" I questioned unsurely. It couldn't be that he was saying that he was Jack The Ripper, could he? If that was the case… Slowly, I began to back away from my suspicious friend.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist. I only mean that, instead of searching for a Jack, they should have been open to the possibility of a Jill~"
My brow furrowed in confusion at this. "I don't have time for your silly Mother Goose stories, Undertaker!" I exclaimed, feigning a yawn in supposed boredom.
"Alright then," He called, gesturing to the dead girl below him. "Take Jillian, for instance, she's a prime example of the capability of women to kill, is she not?"
I blanched. "Are you saying that the serial killer is Jill The Ripper? A woman?" I accused in utter disbelief.
Undertaker nodded fervently at my assessment. "Why shouldn't she be a jealous, infertile woman? As it were, a man would not have been quite so fixated on the uterus, I'd say."
It took a moment or two for my eyes to widen, taking in all the information. Undertaker definitely had a point there. If he were right, though, then that would mean that he probably had a suspect in mind that was far from the Viscount Druitt – but who? Who could be a Jill The Ripper that was "right under my nose" ?
"You must have your thoughts on her identity, then, Undertaker," I began, my voice becoming unsteady in my alarm. "Who is it?" I inquired finally although a part of me feared the result of my questions.
"All I'm saying is," Undertaker began, his grin leveling out into a flat line. "I wouldn't allow myself to come across that Madam Red of yours in a dark alley!" And then he promptly burst into laughter once more.
Madam Red? Angelina Durless? Undertaker thought her to be the homicidal maniac whose alias was, as of recently, the name on everyone's lips? I snorted. Well, that would certainly do well for her mountainous ego – but, also, it would make incredible sense.
Angelina had lost her baby and her husband not long before Ciel had lost his parents, and Angelina had always been wantonly jealous of her sister when it came to Vincent. As popular as Angelina seemed to be, she was always the one incapable of getting what she wanted. So, why shouldn't her covetous nature drive her to such a terrible sin?
My eyes narrowed into slits at the truth of it all. Ciel meant to foil the ripper for the sake of the queen, but he didn't even know that the killer had been there – blaringly obvious and by his side the whole of the day. Whether it was due to a deep-seeded compassion for my cruel Ciel, or my unbending obligation to my Queen – I knew that I had to do something about this.
"Undertaker, I trust you know what we have to do now." I stated emphatically.
A bloodthirsty grin usurped the childish smile that had once bejeweled his face. "I do, of course! But I hope you know how much I detest parties! A room full of people that would look so much better dead…" He replied wistfully. I set aside my need to shiver at his rather creepy statement and instead focused at the task at hand.
Even if she was such a dear for setting me up with Lau – that hedonistic harlot needed to be stopped cold in her cute crimson tracks.