Story: A heartless woman is dead

A partially original solution to the old chestnut.

* * *

The second most startling thing I learned of my great-grandmother when researching family history was that she was a victim of Jack the Ripper.

The most startling thing was that, in a way, she was that awful killer as well.

This takes some explaining; I hope you excuse the rambling nature of this missive, as this has been something of a shocking and upsetting revelation to me.

To my best knowledge my family had always lived in Scotland. The first hint to contrary came when I got hold of a certain old chest of papers and army memorabilia that had belonged to my grandfather, Adam Lynne, and came across a portrait photograph of his father, a proper ex-military gentleman of the 1890s, and his wife Mary, a red-headed woman of considerable beauty, with my grandfather a sulking tot of Churchillian appearance sitting between them.

This in itself was but a pleasant surprise, a little touch of the dusty wings of history — the actual shock came when I accidentally dropped the chest, which was entirely too heavy for its size, and discovered a letter hidden under a false bottom, bearing my great-grandmother’s signature.

That signature read “Mary Jane Kelly Lynne”; a name that divorced from the last part should be well-known to all that have heard of the murderer referenced to above. The initially most curious part of the letter was that it was dated to the winter of 1895, over seven years after the November night of 1888 when Mary Jane Kelly, a red-headed London prostitute of considerable beauty and personal charm, had been hacked to awful hash by that killer, her face obliterated, much of her body skinned, and her heart cut out.

The letter was a confession.

If I am to believe it, it told the sad story of a girl born to poverty and unavoidable circumstances, employed in a manner she loathed and found deeply contrary to her personal religious beliefs, and in deep debt to a heartless loanshark.

It also, much contrary to popular wisdom, told that when the “Jack the Ripper killings” began, it became quickly known among those working in the same field as Mary Kelly that there was no killer.

Or rather there were killers — but no single man behind all the havoc.

Just as the police received hundreds of letters from “Jack the Rippers”, most the work of the disturbed and the playful, even the murders themselves were similar acts; she darkly intimated that she had sold herself to a man that had boasted to be the killer of the second supposed victim, and laughed that the police would catch the man behind the first and hang him for both.

It was apparently also commonly known among the prostitutes of the East End that Elizabeth Stride, third of the “canonical” five murders, was killed by a jealous former husband — her throat cut in the sure knowledge that the murder would be blamed on this invented bogey.

The police, said the letter, could not conceive of such imitation, despite the various letters cascading to them from a hundred different poison pens; they simply could not think that upright or slightly bent Englishmen could fall to imitating such savagery, not for sport, not for settling some personal wrong, not for any reason.

The people of East End knew better, but stayed quiet: when all the killings were lumped into one scandal, there was better hope that one of the murderers would hang. Had the truth been exposed, Whitechapel would have once more sunk to its sad state of unchecked crime and unpunished violence. Still, this “balloon effect”, the shadow of this invented bogey, no doubt eventually stopped the killings: the police was so frenzied the risk overtook the gain, as no-one wanted to be hung for the Ripper.

Now, the letter was something she had written as a confession, as speaking out a secret she could trust to no priest, and headed with words asking it to be burned without reading if ever discovered. The reason for that was contained in the last few sentences — for the woman that was Mary Lynne, wife of Adam, had come to the Highlands fleeing from London, in possession of a small amount of money, and deeply troubled by the source of it.

Apparently, imprisoned by crushing poverty, behind on her rent payments, abused by her customers, ever afraid of losing her physical pull and thus her wages, unless her mind gave way first — well, Mary Jane Kelly was in debt to a very nasty underworld loan-giver called Scary Sally. She was of the same build, hair and age as Kelly… though instantly recognizable by her stony face and the deep scar marring it.

To quote the police surgeon’s autopsy of “Mary Kelly”, The face was gashed in all directions, the nose, cheeks, eyebrows, and ears being partly removed. The lips were blanched and cut by several incisions running obliquely down to the chin. There were also numerous cuts extending irregularly across all the features.

The body was mostly identified by being found in Kelly’s bed and in the remains of her clothes. Even her very heart had been torn out.

Dear God, I have a murderess in my line.

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