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The strongest magic ever distilled, and the deadliest butcher England has ever known... Buffy is on the trail of a killer demon, and reluctantly needs Spike's help. But Spike, as usual, has an agenda of his own. The demon carries vial of pure magical power, and Spike can think of several people -- or demons for that matter -- who would pay the earth to have it in their possession. Doc, for instance. Or Rack. Or the nameless evil known only as The First. Spike has met The First before. In the good old days in Victorian London when he, Drusilla, Angelus and Darla ran through the night in pursuit of unholy fun, another terror also stalked the streets. And when the so-called 'Jack the Ripper' struck too close for comfort, the vampires found themselves on the same side as the Slayer of that time. Working to bring down Jack, and running afoul of The First, Spike and the Slayer formed an uneasy alliance: a bond which has tracked him down the years to twenty-first century Sunnydale, now blanketed in an eerie, mysterious fog...
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Nancy Holder has published more than 200 short stories and seventy-eight books, including the New York Times bestselling Wicked series. She lives in San Diego with her daughter, Belle, and far too many animals. Visit her at Nancy Holder.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was a bitter, wet night, and decent folk were escaping indoors, savoring the well-earned delights of hearth and family. Elegantly dressed husbands checked pocket watches as they returned home from their enterprises; wives and ladies' maids sailed in from their endless rounds of visiting and shopping. Aproned nannies supped with their charges, the well-scrubbed, apple-cheeked offspring of the upper classes. Knuckles were rapped, faces were cleaned, and then the heirs and heiresses of the Empire were presented to their parents, who accepted the little ones' dainty kisses. Then off to bed, in nightcaps and nightdresses, snug and smug and very, very safe.
But in Whitechapel, it was another matter.
In Whitechapel, there was no escape.
It was indecent to be poor, and Whitechapel was the poorest part of London. There was no safety here, no lovely homes filled with fancy food and snobby servants; only a vast relief that one had survived another day.
Night was on, fullforce, and it was busy. It was a drunk in an alley gesturing an equally drunk and bitter day laborer forward, taunting, "Come on, then, come on." It was a brute with patched clothes forcing a young girl into a darkened doorway.
It was a monster in a cape with long, sharp knives.
The indecent poor of Whitechapel faced a long, cold night where Death was everyone else on the prowl in the streets, and there was no escape from him -- or her -- except freezing stiff first and cheating the bastard of the hunt. In Whitechapel there were simply the poor, the victims of the world. Here there were very few wives and husbands -- there being little reason to marry -- and if anyone in the neighborhood knew someone so grand as an actual nanny, it was a rich relation who had somehow made it out of Whitechapel and got a new accent on, learned how to curtsy and also how to lie about her past.
It was indecent to be poor, and somehow one's own fault, and in one's blood and, therefore, impossible to be rid of. There was naught to be done for poverty save provide the filthy lot with workhouses and poorhouses and debtors' prisons. They could not be improved. Hadn't Christ reassured his fellows, "The poor are with you always"?
Wretched problem, the indecent poor. Maybe the Butcher of Whitechapel had the right idea, scare them into better behavior, make them go indoors and off the streets of a night, or face a hideous demise...but those were words best mumbled out of the side of one's mouth after the ladies had been excused and the gentlemen were enjoying their brandies and cards.
What the Butcher -- the Ripper -- did to the poor was indecent, but after all...the lower classes did need thinning. There were how many prostitutes in London this night, perhaps twenty-five thousand?
At least those unfortunates were all contained elsewhere, away from the feather beds and mobcaps and nurseries that came from the blessings of good breeding and education.
Contained in hellholes such as Whitechapel, frenzied with Death.
On this December night, Whitechapel teemed with activity as half-starved men and women struggled to eke out enough pennies to survive another night. Gaunt-faced men bartered with ill-tempered pub men for the leavings of another's supper; boys begged for scraps, for pennies, for rags to wrap around their frozen feet. In doorways and alleyways, babes froze in their mothers' arms.
There was gin everywhere, and the desperate populace reeked of it; it stank in the sweat on the brows of hopeless men half-mad with consumption and hunger. It spilled on tabletops as men scuffled over cards and imagined insults. It gave the unfortunate women of Whitechapel Dutch courage as they strutted down the cobbled streets, beckoning like sirens to the lads, to the men, promising the same thing gin did.
Gin and sex; tears and flopsweat ran in rivulets down the filthy streets, and everything got lost in heavy fogs thick as blankets. Fog was the eiderdown of the lowest classes, the mob; fog was the curtain that shielded their degradation from aristocrats and royals, who also blamed the denizens of Whitechapel for their terrible lot in life. Fog was the wool pulled over the eyes of all Londoners as politicians blamed not the poor, but the Jews, for all the suffering and premature death.
And the poor blamed God.
Somewhere in the bitter night of eight December, 1888, fog was the cloak of a madman who lurked on every street corner, glided silently down every alleyway, knives and torture instruments at the ready. His name drifted like a wisp of nightmare, a twisted handkerchief soaked in blood.
Jack the Ripper.
He had gutted two women, and because they had been whores, the sister bangtails were sure the police would never find him -- because the police would never look. They would take their fine, swaggering walks down the streets, accosting the beggar boys and winking at the landladies; then they'd make a few noises about "leads" and "information" and retire to their fine offices to smoke and ruminate...and another poor girl would be found in the morning, flies buzzing inside her petticoats, blood congealed beneath her like a mattress thrown in the middle of the street.
Lyin' down on the job: It was a coarse old joke in their line of work when you found a mate of yours had been murdered. It made her death less terrifying to sneer at her, say she got what she deserved, stupid whore. Piece of trash. Only stupid whores got killed. Smart ones got out somehow, got married, got a business going.
Just last night was long enough, and the nightmare that was this awful life would be over.
But not by dying.
No one gave prostitutes respect, not even other prostitutes. Any girl to give up her virtue was a Judas to her sex, no matter how hungry she got or how many starving brothers and sisters waited for the money she made. No one was tougher on a brand-new streetwalker than the older ones...because here was another fallen angel, another soiled dove, and it was more disgusting than any proper lady could stand. So them last bits of propriety hated the pretty new ones...and then once she got slagged-looking, lost some teeth, reeked of gin -- in short, had lost her womanly virtues -- then she was a bit of all right, one of the sisters of the streets.
It was the fault of the fog, all the butchering; if there hadn't been any fog last night, there wouldn't have been another murder. The streetwalker's name had been Mary Kelly. What a fool that chit had been, to wander about in the fog, hanging on to gentlemen and promising to do things their fine wives could not even imagine.
What a right fool.
"I 'eard she wasn't all there. In the 'ead," Barbara said.
She leaned forward and tapped her skull, paper-thin lids fluttering from all the gin she'd had to drink that night. She still had all her teeth, which were white and fine. Her eyes had gone dead, though; it was the look that said that the streets had already claimed her, though she insisted she had just got to London three weeks before from the north country, and had launched herself in the profession only because her aunt, who was going to teach her how to embroider linen, had died of the influenza.
Elizabeth had known Barbara was lying from the first moment they met.
Elizabeth worked alongside Barbara these nights; explaining that she was too afraid to go on her own. Barbara was grateful for the company. The gentlemen didn't mind; they had no shame when it came to their needs, and the prospect of enjoying the pleasure of more than one doxy -- or at least of having her look on -- thrilled and excited them.
Still, trade was a little slow tonight, and there were fewer men of the higher classes strolling amongst the general heathenry. Jack had scared them off. Several of the other girls had announced that they were giving up for the evening, and planned to congregate at the Three Bells for as long as they could nurse a single glass of gin.
"We ought to go in, too," Barbara muttered, stamping her feet to warm them. The sad peacock feather in her bright red hair drooped in the wet weather. She had on a low-cut dress of dark pink and a shawl of puce; the ensemble did nothing for her ivory complexion, yet who was Elizabeth to say anything? She was wearing all black, like a widow.
"Can't go in yet," Elizabeth muttered back at her. "Jimmy would have my head on a platter if I came back with nothing but two coppers." She sighed heavily. "You're right not to have a man to answer to, Barbara. All they cause is trouble."
Barbara's smile was sour and mean. It made her look tired and old, and in their trade, that was not good.
"Men. Bleedin' barbarians. Look what they've driven fine girls like us to do. It would be better if we could make our own way in the world without them. All of us." She sniffed. "You're a fool, Elizabeth, to let your Jimmy boss you like 'e does."
"He takes care of me," Elizabeth said quietly. "He's good to me, in his way."
"What, he puts the bruises where the paying customers won't see them?" Barbara huffed and readjusted her shawl around her shoulders.
"No. It's not like that," Elizabeth replied. "You should come and meet him, Barbara. He'd take care of you, I guarantee it."
Barbara raised her chin and sniffed. "I'll never 'ave a man, my fine girl. Save my shillings for myself and someday, take a ship to America and leave this 'ellish place forever." She looked around in disgust...and there was much that was disgusting to see.
"America," Elizabeth said wistfully. It was a favorite topic between them, going to America. Elizabeth knew Barbara would never go there, but talking about it passed the time. And both our days are numbered....
"I'll go to New York and I'll be a lady, and keep slaves like the Americans." Evidently she did not realize that the Americans weren't allowed to have slaves anymore. "I wants some'n, I'll snap my fingers."
Barbara demonstrated, then shrugged as if she was ashamed of wanting anything more than a doss and a slug of gin, and tucked her hands inside her armpits. "I'm catching my death, Lizzie-lass. Let's go in."
"One more hour," Elizabeth protested, glancing about, surveying the pickings. A few men sauntered along the opposite side of the street, but they appeared to be as poor as she and Barbara were. One had his elbows sticking out of his jacket. The other was covered with grime. Her stomach turned at the thought of his touching her.
She added, "Could be the rich men are still at the theater, that's why they're not about."
"They're not about because they don't want their bellies slit open." Barbara glanced up and down the street. "Cor, with this fog, we couldn't see Jack come up on us if he was ten feet away. It's too dangerous out here." She turned shining eyes to Elizabeth. "Let's go in, lamb. It's not a good night."
Elizabeth shrugged her halfhearted resistance. Then, a rat skittered down the street and she jerked, startled, though God knew she saw more rats in a day in Whitechapel than there were diamonds in Queen Victoria's jewels. Shadows danced in the darkness, making phantoms and nascent nightmares, and she thought about what had happened to the prostitute Mary Kelly last night. The girl had been very young and beautiful -- new to the trade -- and she'd been gutted like a fish.
It could happen to any girl in Whitechapel, in the dark, in the fog.
"Please, pet. I'm shaking with cold. See?" Barbara held out her hand. "Your Jimmy will understand if you go in. Better a whore who didn't make her lot tonight than a whore who'll never earn another penny."
"Oh, all right, then," Elizabeth said, sighing.
Elizabeth turned to the right toward the main street, where the Three Bells and its noise and warmth and gin waited like a half-drunk granny.
"Not that way," Barbara admonished, shaking her head. "There's a shorter way down this alley."
She smiled and gestured for Elizabeth to join her as she entered a low, narrow street with an overhanging second story like a Roman arch. The windows were all dark.
"One of my customers showed it to me the other night. We can be at the Three Bells inside of ten minutes and avoid them big carriages and all the horse dung."
"If you're sure, Barbara," Elizabeth said.
"I'd stake my life on it," Barbara replied.
"Makes no difference to me." Elizabeth looked around, taking note of how deserted the street was. The only sound was the echo of their shoes on the cobblestones. She glanced up at the darkened windows and frowned.
"But you know, Barbara, if the Ripper comes down this way, there'll be no one to hear us. No bobbies."
"They wouldn't come for us no matter if he attacked us inside St. Paul's," Barbara scoffed. "We're whores. And he'll not come here," she added, sounding unconvinced. "The pickins are too slim."
"He only needs one to do his devilry," Elizabeth answered uneasily.
The other bangtail drew Elizabeth into the narrow alley. A cat squalled and darted away, landing in a crate of rotten cabbage that stank to high heaven. Faint music sounded, an accordion, and Elizabeth thought of her father, who had been blinded in the war and had played a hurdy-gurdy on a street corner until he died seven years ago, when she had been all of nine.
Barbara shivered as she looked right and left. "He'll not come in the next ten minutes, anyway. And by then we'll be safe and sound inside the Three Bells."
Elizabeth demurred as Barbara took another step into the alley. "It doesn't feel right. It's not safe. It's too dark."
"Come on. Don't be such a baby." Barbara gritted her teeth. She grabbed Elizabeth's arm and gave it a tug. "You haven't any brass, Lizzie. That's been your trouble in life. Why you 'aven't made anything of yourself."
"And you have?" Elizabeth tossed back. "You're a bleeding duchess, yeah? With all your fine talk of America and your servants?"
"Oh, now you've done it. You've gone and vexed me," Barbara said in a low, dangerous voice.
Half-turning, she took a step away from Elizabeth. Her face was averted; Elizabeth cocked her head, watching the other woman, waiting to see what she was about.
She hadn't long to wait.
Barbara hissed, "You've vexed me indeed," and showed Elizabeth a terrifying face, a nightmare image of monstrous evil. "Say you're sorry before I kill you."
"I..." Elizabeth stumbled backward, catching her balance against the grimy wall behind her. She wiped her hand on her skirt.
"Say it!" Barbara threatened, advancing on her.
Elizabeth's eyes widened. "I'm so sorry."
The monster smiled. "Apology accepted, me girl. And now..."
"But not sorry enough," Elizabeth continued, moving her hand into the hidden pocket and drawing out a finely carved wooden stake.
The vampire's eyes went wide. "Cor, it's you, ain't it! Oh, my stars, my stars, I thought you was a story!"
"Yes, I'm the Slayer," Elizabeth affirmed, ga...
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Book Description Simon & Schuster, 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0743468198
Book Description Pocket Books, 2003. Paperback. Condition: New. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0743468198n