Day 1, Autumn 1851
He rested his back against the stone building and used both hands to adjust his newly acquired white powdered wig. He created a mental note to not purchase one from Hawtrey Wigs and Fine Makeup ever again. The coarse hair caused him to itch and wouldn't remain in place no matter how frequently he sought to fasten the fake hair down.
Rubbing his temples, a sense of irritation flowed over his body like liquid fire. It prompted him to reach into his coat pocket and pull out the tiny silver pill box he kept hidden there. Popping it open, he stared euphorically at the tiny white pills nestled inside, smiling with anticipation. He recognized they were undeniably his mood for today.
One pill presented him as an almost a tolerable human being. Which meant he could carry a conversation without becoming belligerent or hostile. Two made him rather good-natured to the degree of almost appearing charming. Three, well he would be a falling down drunk with three, and he didn't terribly often venture that deep into the opioid mix.
At least, not yet.
Today, he determined, was going to be a two-pill day. Popping the tiny pills into his mouth, he swallowed them down without a drink to assist him.
Clearing his throat, he coughed a little and fidgeted with his lace shirt where it met his wrist. The white silk seemed to be limp today, and he took another mental note to reprimand Meetza for not applying enough starch on it. He desired his attire to appear crisp and rich - like that of a genuine nobleman, at which he strived to be.
Or better phrased-it's what his father strived for him to be.
Sniffing, he closed his eyes for a moment. He could feel his head start to swim, and he fancied the euphoria. He took pleasure in the fact of being able to function properly when he was undoubtedly as high as a kite.
Nodding to passersby, no one seemed to recognize or care that his eyes looked like smooth ice on a lake. All they saw was a rich titled lord in his purple velvet waistcoat with gold brocade adorning his collar and wrist cuffs. He smirked at their naïveté and their premise of him.
It was quite laughable indeed.
His eyes scanned the streets, searching and waiting for the perfect subject to appear. Man, woman or child, it mattered not to him. Leaning on the stone building, he feigned to be scrutinizing his fingernails, while hooded eyes regarded his potential prey.
It had been a little over eight weeks since he had to dally in a hunt again. His last subject had endured longer than expected. She was the young, uneducated daughter of a man who labored at applying iron bars to all the lower windows of his sprawling home.
The young girl was fourteen years old and incredibly well developed for a girl her age. He knew her age solely because her father so graciously pointed it out to him. Otherwise, he might never have drawn notice of her. But after he did, he wasn't absolutely certain why he hadn't.
What a foolish father.
In his defense though, how would her father know that he was setting his daughter up for a long drawn out and harrowing death?
"Rachel Lynn," he murmured to himself, then he smirked under his breath. She had been a daring and beautiful young girl, who seemed un-intimidated by his stature and wealth. His groin started to ache at the thought of her and the first time he took her while her father was just down the hall. She had been quite enamored by him and was more than willing to do anything he proposed. That was until he talked her into secretly meeting him. She swore on her father's life that no one else but the two of them knew where she was. And that was all he required to proceed. He chloroformed her, then locked her in one of the chambers upstairs. From that day for the next eight weeks, he used her as a play toy, shackled to a king size bed.
One day he even went the extra step of asking her father why she hadn't been accompanying him anymore. Her father hung his head stating she had run away, and he hadn't seen her in weeks.
Gordon had raised his hand to his mouth feigning a gasp, but in truthfulness, he was snickering at the father's obtuseness.
What he remembered the most though, was how her death had been the messiest of all his subjects by far. After all those weeks of torment, she still put up an extraordinary struggle at the end. It took weeks for his household staff to get the blood out of the floorboards.
The remembrance of the putrid smell almost caused him to gag into the back of his hand, causing his eyes to water. He knew he needed to focus his train of thought on the task at hand and stop conjuring up old images in his mind. He closed his eyes, then took a few deep breaths and dabbed at his wig.
When he opened his eyes, his mind was clear and ready to start initiating the hunt once more.
A few boring minutes ticked by and a youthful boy of about ten caught his wandering eye. The lad was somewhat pudgy with brown freckles and golden curls. He tugged on his father's tunic as he peeped in shop windows, his face flushed with excitement and eyes bright with innocence.
He caressed his chin and his mind drifted to the visual fantasy of the boy bending over before him, his hands clutching the young tender flesh of his hips.
His hand shot to his lips as he sought to repress a desire-filled groan. A thought occurred to his mind - it had been months, if not over a year, since he had dallied in the innocence of an adolescent. If the lad wandered too far from his father, he decided he would pursue and make a move on him.
Then his heart was given a jolt and began to race with a new sudden excitement. A comely yellow-haired lady turned the corner with two of her female companions. They were all deep in conversation until the lady friends stopped and turned into a shop they happened upon. To his thrill, his potential target stayed behind on the street and commenced to wander his way. She appeared to be above the class of his usual subjects, but that didn't indeed matter to him.
He just needed to dispose of them differently, and he had more than enough property on his family’s estate in Northwich; she would never be seen again.
With hooded eyes, he noted she was most unquestionably a noblewoman, a little older than he would prefer, but nonetheless shapely.
Surveying the individuals around her, the woman seemed to be utterly heedless of her surroundings, which was perfect for him if he sought to lure her away. The closer she drew to him, the more of a morsel she appeared to be. The late autumn warmth appeared to perform in his favor. Her exposed bosom strained against the scooped neckline of her yellow dress, and his mouth watered at the thought of pressing his lips there. He had to drag his eyes away from her to compose himself and extinguish the desire that was now tightening in his britches.
He turned his back and closed his eyes, counting to ten. When he opened them again, his full objective was to turn back around and lure the yellow-haired lady to his carriage. But there was an abrupt reversal of plans. A young waif of a girl bumped into him.
"My pardon, sir," she declared, gripping his arm for stability.
It was a fleeting encounter, indeed. But, sufficient to make his mind forget about the yellow-haired lady. "No harm done," he responded, with a wicked glint in his eyes. The young girl turned, giving him a weak smile, and he cocked his head.
It was a brief recognition, a minor flash upon the brains hidden memories. The dark-haired girl crossed the street and was walking in the opposite direction. Lifting his hand, he tapped at his chin wondering why the poorly dressed waif seemed so familiar to him. Then a gasp flowed from his upturned lips and his eyes grew wide with almost giddy elation. He thought for a second, his opioid-induced mind was playing tricks on him. But his luck was with him today; the very shop he stood in front of still held her photo in the window. The photo was torn on the edges and faded, but he remembered seeing the photos scattered all over the city from at least a year ago. He bent down to get a better look at the photo and mumbled the name written at the bottom.
He became almost light-headed with jubilation at the plethora of subjects to choose from on this day. He looked down the street at the yellow-haired lady. "It is your lucky day, my dear," he whispered, walking away from her. He didn't give the boy a second thought. Then he turned his focus on the young waif across the street from him. She appeared to have been on hard times, because she wore men's breeches and an old tattered shirt, but her eyes and hair were the same.
Licking his lips, his sole focus now laid upon her. He rubbed his arm where her hand had touched him and a thrill flowed through his body, causing him to shiver. Pushing away from the building, he stepped out onto the street and was almost trampled by a horse as it passed by. He hardly noticed.
Dodging men and women, he weaved through the people walking on the street, like a snake stalking its prey. For a minute, he thought he lost sight of her, causing his heart to pound in a panicked frenzy. But then he noticed she stopped and was talking to a well-dressed gentleman asking for directions. He hung back, straining to hear their conversation and smiled to himself when he heard her inquire on where to find transportation to Cheshire. The man pointed farther up the street, verbalizing the location and what to look for.
He observed her turn in the direction the man pointed, and he followed close behind. He recognized that opportunity sometimes only revealed its face once. It turned out that she was quite agile on her feet and almost out of reach when thankfully she had to pause to let street carriages drive by.
He strolled up and settled himself beside her, waiting for the perfect moment to communicate to her. When she craned her neck attempting to see up the road past the carriage traffic, he cleared his throat loudly. "May I be some service to you, madame?" he offered with a generous smile.
She turned to glance at him appearing surprised he had spoken to her. "No... no, thank you."
His eyebrows lifted, astonished she rebuffed him so half-heartedly. But he was not to be discouraged. "Did I overhear you asking my colleague a ways back that you are in need of transportation to Cheshire?"
She ignored him and proceeded to peer straight ahead.
He was fascinated by her indifference. "I said..."
"I heard you!" she blurted, glancing up at him abruptly. "And I said, no thank you." She turned hastily and commenced to walk away.
His eyebrows jumped, and a shocked smirk erupted from his parted lips. Not desiring to chase her down a busy street, his mind raced trying to figure a means to stop her. "Is your name Aniela?" he called to her.
She stopped in her tracks and turned to look at him with wide eyes. "Do you know me?"
He decided to play her game and turned, ignoring her.
Aniela rushed to his side and placed a hand on his arm. "Did you not hear me?" she urged. "Do you know who I am?"
He looked down at her hand resting on his arm, and his heart raced at how simple she was making this for him. Drawing in a deep breath, he needed to tone down the adrenaline coursing through his body. But he sought to compose himself mentally and most definitely physically. Closing his eyes, he raised his hand to press against his white powdered wig, making certain no strands were out of place. A chiseled smile remained plastered on his face. "Of course, I know you, Aniela," he said, with a tedious matter-of-fact tone. "Your picture is posted in every shop, tavern and public area in Manchester." He took her hand in his, then turned and pointed to his carriage just half a block up the street. "I was just getting ready to depart. If you are interested, I will be most delighted to transport you home to Cheshire." His pin-sized pupils traveled over her elated face, allowing his drug euphoria to soar to new heights. It had been a while since he enjoyed the hunt so very much.
"You... you don't mind?"
He chuckled, waving his hand. "Of course, I don't mind. Sir William Matthews is a dear colleague of mine. We play cards together quite often. He will be so elated I discovered you." He knew mentioning her father by name had all but clinched the deal for him, and she more than willingly followed him to his waiting carriage.
"You... you know my father?" she sputtered with amazement as she shuffled behind him.
He glanced over his shoulder at her with hooded eyes. "Oh yes, in fact, I had lunch with him just about a week ago," he lied, wielding his most innocent tone.
At the carriage, he opened the door then turned to her holding out his hand. "After you, my dear," he said, beaming.
Aniela looked at his hand, biting her lower lip, then she turned and looked down the street.
He picked up on her reluctance. "If you so desire," he said smoothly, "the city will supply you with transportation." He turned and pointed down the street. "It is just down there about four blocks and will cost you about a shilling." He watched her squirm for a moment, anticipating she didn't carry any coin.
"No," she said, a little unsettled. "I... I will go with you. As long as you are taking me directly to my father."
"Of course," he acknowledged, then held his hand out to her again and assisted her to step up into his dark-blue velvet lair. Once she was seated, he joined her, by sitting on the opposite seat facing her. Knocking on the roof twice, the carriage lurched forward, and they were on their way.
Aniela fidgeted in her seat as her eyes traveled over him.
As soon as the carriage door shut, he smirked at her nervousness. "Relax, my dear," he said as his hand reached into one of his pockets and plucked out a cotton kerchief. "I will have you home in no time at all."
She watched him open a small hidden door in the side of the carriage and remove a dark blue vial. "I didn't catch your name," she said, attempting to suppress the uncertainty in her voice.
"Oh, pardon my rudeness." He smirked as he raised the vial to his mouth to pop the cork with his teeth. With the vial open, he discharged a paltry amount onto the kerchief, then hoisted his eyes to look at her. "Don't worry, my dear, this isn't going to hurt one bit." Then he lunged for her, placing the kerchief over her face. He held it there until her struggling ceased, and she finally went limp in his arms.