Short Story A: “A prelude to Penny Dreadful” 1st Draft.

Jack crouched low in the alleyway.  He could hear the whistles of the policemen growing closer and experienced a thoroughly unusual emotion; he was afraid.  His preternaturally sharp hearing told him that the constables had him effectively surrounded.  Another wave of panic surged through his body.  He looked desperately around for an exit route.  The thick London fog reduced visibility to a matter of feet.  The last thing he wanted was to run into was a group of angry constables.  Suddenly, he sensed movement at either end of the alley.  How are they following me? Wondered Jack.  Hiding clearly wasn’t going to be effective he decided, time to run again.  He stood up from his squatting position and regarded the high tenement walls on either side of the alley.  Abruptly a dark figure materialised out of the swirling fog.  One of the constables!  In one hand he held his truncheon, the other he raised to his mouth and then gave a sharp whistle.

‘Found him!’ bellowed the officer and he advanced towards Jack, his truncheon raised for a blow.  As he advanced, Jack smiled and took a deep breath.  He exhaled and vented a great cloud of bluish white flame.  The flames engulfed the constable, who fell to ground, convulsing but strangely, not burned.  Jack grimaced as he heard running footsteps and more blasts from the constables’ whistles.  He crouched and then sprang at one of the tenement walls.  His feet landed briefly on the wall, about ten feet up, and then he bounced onto the opposite wall this time easily clearing the twenty foot mark.  He bounced again and landed atop the roof of the first tenement.  He immediately dropped to his belly and peered over the edge of the roof.  After a moment’s concentration, he adjusted his vision into the infra-red spectrum and could see the heat traces of the constables and their lanterns in the alley below.

Jack breathed a small sigh of relief.  He had once more eluded the constables, though they had come very close this time.  He almost relaxed, and then his sharp ears caught a slight sound behind him.  Jack spun round, the metal claws on his fingers extended.  About five feet away was a well dressed man, in frock coat and top hat.  He had a dark tanned complexion and aquiline features.  Jack smiled, exposing sharp, pointed teeth.

‘You’ve made a terrible mistake,’ remarked Jack, ‘now I’m going to have to kill you.’

‘I think not,’ responded the stranger, ‘even if you were capable of such a feat, it would not be in your interest to do so.’

Jack launched himself at the other man, and about a foot from him found himself frozen in mid air, his muscles locked.  Jack looked down at the roof surface which his feet were now no longer touching.  The tanned man regarded Jack with obvious contempt.

‘Normally I would slowly dismember anyone who tried such an action,’ said the man matter of factly, ‘however you and I can be of use to each other.  Specifically, without my help, you will be caught and hung in a matter of days.  You have taken too many foolish risks, and have drawn the attention of a dangerous hunter.  This man is as deadly as the constables are ineffective, and you cannot hope to defeat him.’

‘You underestimate me.’ growled Jack.

‘No, you overestimate yourself.  Listen carefully; even as we speak the hunter is leading some constables to our location.  There are constables on the roofs of the surrounding buildings.  You have no chance to escape; they will kill you when they find you.’

‘How do you know all this?’

‘Because, I am like you.  Only more so.  I have more power in my finger than you have in your entire body.’  As if to illustrate the point, the stranger moved his finger slightly, causing Jack to flip and spin uncontrollably in his elevated position.  ‘Have I made my point?’

‘It would seem I have little choice.’

‘I’m glad you’ve grasped the realities of the situation.  Now, let’s formalize our arrangement.’  The tanned man stepped forward, a scalpel in one hand, a test tube in the other.  In a deft move he sliced Jack’s wrist and captured some of the spurting blood in the test tube.  The man then ran his finger over the wound, which closed up as if it had a zip.  The man carefully placed the test tube in his pocket.

‘Who are you?’

‘I am known as Apep, you, however, may call me ‘master’.  Ah, I see we have some company….’

A tall, broad shouldered man emerged from the shadows.  He had a shock of blonde hair and penetrating blue eyes.  A heavy service revolver was gripped in his left fist.  He spoke over his shoulder, towards the shadows.

‘Stand firm, men.  I’ll deal with these devils.’

Apep turned to face the newcomer.  With a sneer, he gestured with his hand, the blonde man was picked up and pitched off the side of the roof, his body describing a graceful arc.  After a momentary pause, the constables rushed forward.  With a harsh laugh, Apep made a horizontal cutting motion.  Two of the constable flopped to the ground, their bodies severed at the waist.  Apep clenched his other fist and the roof collapsed beneath the remaining constable, sending them crashing into the building below.

‘Now,’ he said, considering the suspended Jack ‘we need you to disappear for a while..’  Apep swiftly extended his arms, grabbed Jack by the chin and back of the head and gave a sharp, powerful twist.  There was a loud crack and Jack’s head lolled on his shoulders.  The body slowly lowered to the roof surface and lay limply there.  With no apparent effort, Apep stooped and flung the body of Jack over his shoulder.  He glanced about and then extended his forefinger and slowly drew it downwards.  In front of him, the air seemed to shudder and then tear.  From the ragged gash in the air, a silvery twilight shone out.  Apep gave a quick glance about and grinned savagely.

‘This is just too easy.’  With that, Apep stepped through the rip, which sealed up behind him, leaving only silence on the tenement roof.

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