The Devil's Workshop
An Excerpt From
The Devil's Workshop
PROLOGUE


LONDON
LATE APRIL 1890

The canvas hood covered his nose and eyes and ears, but there was
a slit near the bottom of it for his mouth. He could hear muffled
sounds, low voices when his captors entered his cell, direct questions
when they were spoken close to his ear. When they asked him things,
he could feel their hot breath through the canvas, on his cheek and on
his scalp, and it raised goose bumps along his arms and the back of his
neck, an almost sexual thrill. He could see floating halos of light
whenever they brought a lantern into the room, a pale orange haze.
They had cut off his long black beard where it curled out from under
the edge of the hood. He had been proud of that beard, and the loss of
it hurt him almost as much as the abuse his captors heaped on him. He
could breathe through his nose, but inhaling caused the canvas to snug
up against his face unless he kept his breath shallow. When he breathed
through his mouth, through the hole in the canvas, his tongue dried
out, and when he tried to swallow he felt an unpleasant clicking sensation
at the back of his throat. They never gave him enough water.
Food came once a day, barely enough to keep him alive. He couldn’t
smell it, could barely taste it. They fed him, poking chunks of bread
through the slit in the hood and into his mouth. It was dry and hard,
but he choked it down. They spooned broth through the slit and past
his lips, spilling it onto the rough fabric and dripping it down his
naked chest. The heat from it made his skin itch. He still tried to
scratch himself, and tried to reach for those men when they came, but
his wrists were chained to the wall behind him and his ankles were
shackled. The irons bit into him, but the wounds had scabbed over
and had bonded with the shackles so that they seemed to be a part of
him now. It was this last detail that had convinced him they were
never going to let him go. If they tried to remove those shackles, they’d
have to rip them out of his skin. He accepted that they meant to keep
him here, wherever this was, for the rest of his life. But he didn’t want
to die. Even here, in the dark and the silence, he still wanted to live.
So he ate their bread and drank their broth and he sipped at the ladleful
of water they gave him twice a day, and he tried not to think
about his absent beard.

He didn’t know how long he’d been there. A month? A year? More?
The men came every day in shifts, sometimes one at a time, sometimes
three or four at once. Always men; never a woman. He had long ago
decided that he must be in a small room made of stone, no more than
ten feet across and ten feet deep. The ceiling was low, not even six feet,
but the shackles prevented him from standing anyway, and so it presented
no great hardship for him. Some of the men who came had to
stoop as they moved around him. He had learned to recognize the
voices of all the men by now. He listened to the way they moved, to the
pace of their shoes on the stone. He would know any of them if he met
them in the street, even on the darkest of nights. Two of the men were
familiar to him from his life before, when he had been a free man. He
was sure of it. Something in their voices, something in the way they
walked. They had pursued him and he had led them on a merry chase,
but in the end he had been careless and they had captured him before
he could finish his grand design, his nasty business.

And now they kept him in a box.

Sometimes, in the stillness, he found peace. He couldn’t tell if his
eyes were open or closed. The darkness was absolute. He sat without
moving, partially suspended by the chains that held him fast. He was
a spider, made helpless in its own web, unable to seek prey.

He was part of an old story, a story that spanned many centuries
and many cultures. He was Loki chained in the Netherworld, Prometheus
on the rock. He was a god and these men were mortals. They
could hurt him, but they had not killed him yet. Perhaps they could not
kill him. He was more than a man. He was an idea and was, therefore,
immortal.

He heard them coming long before they reached his cell. Their hard-
soled shoes struck the cobblestones and packed earth, and their footsteps
rang out ahead of them. They stopped nearby, out there somewhere in
front of him, and there was the faint splintery scrape of metal on
metal before a door swung open on rusty hinges and they entered.
There were two of them today.

He moved his tongue, tore it free from his teeth. It rasped against
the roof of his mouth. He tried to muster some moisture, but there was
none. He tried to laugh at the men, but the only sound he could make
was a low dry rumble somewhere behind his sternum.

He heard the clunk of the ladle against the inside of a wooden
bucket and then felt a welcome splash of water on his chin as the ladle
was pressed against the hood and emptied in the general vicinity of his
mouth. He gobbled at the air, at the meager stream of water, sucking
in as much liquid as he could, but felt most of it dribble away. The
canvas hood absorbed some of the water, and it spread upward through
the fabric against his face. It was wonderfully cool.

The ladle was taken away and there was a long moment of silence.
He knew what was coming and he tensed. His senses were hyper-
vigilant, but he willed his muscles to relax. There was nothing he
could do to prevent the coming trauma.

Far in the distance, beyond the confines of the cell, there came the
hard, fast rapping of boots on stones. It came nearer and slowed, and
he heard a man panting as he entered the cell.

“Exitus probatur.” The man’s voice was low and halting as he
gasped for breath.

“Ergo acta probantur,” said another voice, another man.

This was a greeting he had not heard before, and he presumed it
must be something formal, a way in which his tormentors identified
themselves to one another, or a part of some ritual. This man must
have been late, missed some scheduled rendezvous with the others.
They rarely spoke when they were near him. How many of them were
there? Where did they meet before they paid him their daily visits?

Now he heard the snap of a clasp, the creak of leather on leather.
The one with the bag was here. He was the worst of them. Was he the
one who had been late? Had he brought the bag or did he always leave
it here in the cell?

“Use the iron?”

“No,” one of the men said. “I told you. He didn’t use it, we don’t
use it.”

There was a grunt, a faint guttural protest from the other men,
but no further argument.

Two metal instruments touched each other, a soft clink as the man
took them from the bag. Silence again. Then a hand on the back of his
head. The man with the bag grabbed his hair through the hood and
yanked his chin up, exposing his throat. He felt metal against the
stubble of his old beard and he closed his eyes. Then a blade dug in,
deep, but not so deep that he would bleed to death there in the small
stone cell. It was a careful cut, and he felt a brief flash of admiration
for the skill involved before pain turned the insides of his eyelids red.
A moment to let him recover, then the blade sunk in on the other side
of his throat. Two cuts. He felt the tickle of blood running down his
neck and pooling in the hollow of his collarbone.

They had cycled back to Chapman.

He had learned to recognize the rhythmic pattern of their violence.
Every few days, he was being made to experience the pain of one of his
victims, at least the victims these men were aware of. They only knew
about five of the women, and so they rotated their torture, giving him
the wounds of each of those five victims, one after another, then back
to the beginning. Again and again. They would hurt him and then go
away and, when he had begun to heal, they would return and hurt
him again. He took strength from the cycle. Ritual was life.

He knew what came next, but gasped anyway when he felt the
scalpel enter his abdomen and slash sideways. He waited for his guts
to spill out on the floor, but they didn’t. They never did. The men
knew what they were doing. They had cut just deep enough to hurt, to
bleed, but not deep enough to kill. They were reenacting the injuries to
Annie Chapman’s body, but not going so far as he had. How could
they? They didn’t understand the drama. They were only mimics.

Blood ran down his thighs, and he heard it splash on the floor.
What terrors would sprout from that blood, he wondered, if it took
root in the earth?

His pulse pounded in his ears, and when it began to settle he could
hear the men packing their evil bag and leaving. They swung the door
shut again and he heard them lock it. They walked away down the
tunnel, leaving him in silence once more.

Only when he was sure they were gone did he finally allow himself
to scream. It was a waste of strength and energy, he knew, heard by
no one except the rats and worms that surrounded him in the dark.
But he screamed anyway. It wasn’t a scream born of pain or helplessness
or fear. It was pure anger.

Under the streets of London, Jack the Ripper screamed bloody
murder.



1


Two men stood waiting beside three horses in the dark
at the side of the railroad tracks. One of the men, the
shorter one, moved nervously from foot to foot and blew
into his cupped fists, despite the relative warmth of the spring
night. The other man stood still and watched southward down
the length of the rails.

They had arrived early and had to wait nearly a half hour
before they first felt the track vibrate and began to hear a train
in the distance, slowly moving closer. And then it was there,
only a few yards away from them, huffing along, away from the
city’s center. With a shriek of metal, it braked in front of them
and a stout man clambered down to greet them.

“Exitus probatur,” he said. The end is justified.

“Ergo acta probantur,” said one of the waiting men. Therefore
the means are justified.

The train’s enormous engine purred and grumbled behind
them. An owl hooted and one of the horses snorted. The stout
driver coughed and spoke to the other two in a low whisper.

“I’m having another thought about all this,” he said. “It’s too
dangerous.”

“Is it empty?”

“What?”

“Is the train empty? Are you the only one on it?”

“Yes, of course. Just me and Willie.”

“Willie?”

“The fireman. He’s in there feeding coal on the fire.”

“We only brought one horse. We didn’t know there would be
two of you.”

“It’s fine. We’ll ride together. But I’m trying to tell you we’ve
been talking about it, Willie and me have, and we’ve changed
our minds.”

“Bit late for that,” the short man said. “You’ve taken our
money.”

“You can have it back.”

“You should do as you’re told.”

“I just don’t feel right about it. Willie neither.”

At last the taller man spoke. “The warders have been warned
already and they’ve been paid to stay well away from the south
wall. Nobody will be hurt except perhaps a prisoner or two.” He
used the tip of his cane to point at the driver. “Is it the well-
being of convicted murderers that concerns you? The fate of men
who are already waiting for execution?”

“Well, no,” the stout man said. “I suppose not, but—”

“Such a man as that is no longer truly a man. His fate has
been decided, no? This is what we say.”

“Well, yes, but—”

“Then we’re in agreement. You have ten minutes to convince
Willie. Wait until we’ve got it sorted at the back of the train, and
then get this thing moving again.”

Without giving the driver a chance to respond, the tall man
led his companion along the rails to the last carriage, the guard’s
van. He leaned down to peer at the coupling that held it in place.
He looked up at the shorter man and smiled, his teeth glinting
in the light of the moon. Then he knelt in the dirt and got to
work. The other man ran up the line and began to work on another
coupling there.

The train was fastened together with loose couplings, three
heavy links of chain that allowed the individual carriages to get
farther apart and then closer together as they moved, reacting
to the speed of the train. The guard’s van was weighted to keep
the back end of the train taut, preventing the last few carriages
from breaking their couplings and flying off the track at every
sharp curve.

The tall man unfastened the last coupling, freeing the empty
guard’s van. The other man sawed halfway through a link in the
coupling between two of the four rearmost cars. The birds and
insects in the surrounding trees went silent at the sound of the
saw as it voosh-vooshed its way through twisted iron. Weakening
the link was probably unnecessary, but the men had agreed to
take no chances. Their mission this night was the culmination
of months of planning.

When the link was sufficiently damaged, the man stepped
away and tossed the saw far into the trees. He rejoined his companion,
and they walked together to the front of the train. The
driver shook his head, but didn’t renew his argument. He
climbed up into the engine and released the brake and the train
began to roll forward. It picked up a little speed, wheels rolling
smoothly over the rails. A moment later, the driver hopped down
again. He stumbled forward but caught himself before he fell.
He was followed by a thinner man who landed awkwardly, fell
forward and rolled into the grass, but stood and nodded to the
others to let them know he was unharmed.

The four men stood beside the rails and watched as the driverless
train chugged away from them, gaining speed as it disappeared
into the darkness. A soft plume of black smoke drifted up
across the moon and then dissolved.

The stout driver quietly accepted the reins of a mottled
bay. He and his fireman, Willie, heaved themselves up, turned
the horse around, and followed the two other men toward the
city.

The locomotive rocked and bounced along the tracks,
swaying from side to side and picking up speed as the last load
of coal in its firebox burned away. The track approached the
southwest corner of HM Prison Bridewell’s outer wall, then
curved sharply to the east, but there was no driver to slow the
engine and ease it around the bend. The train had accelerated to
forty miles an hour by the time the prison hove into view and
the engine slammed through the curve, dragging ten carriages
behind it. The loose couplings between them contracted and
then quickly stretched taut as the carriages moved forward and
back to accommodate the sudden turn. Seven carriages from the
front, the middle link in the chain snapped where it had been
weakened. The back of the train tilted, then slammed down
onto the rails. A forward wheel jumped the track and, unmoored
and empty, the final three carriages left the rails and powered
down the embankment toward the prison walls as the front half
of the train continued through the curve and away.

Twenty minutes later, a few cautious prisoners left their
ruined cells and began to explore. Among them, Griffin waved
Napper back and squatted next to the warder’s motionless body.
He watched him for a long moment, looking for any sign of life.
But there was none. The warder’s head was split open and a
large stone from the wall of the prison’s south wing lay nearby,
soiled with blood and matted hair. Griffin shook his head and
clicked his tongue in disappointment. Napper misunderstood,
taking the sound as an opening for conversation.

“Serves him right, says I,” Napper said.

“Didn’t ask what you say,” Griffin said. “He wasn’t supposed
to be over here at all. The warders were warned.”

“I’d’ve kilt ’im myself.”

“Well, the wall saved you the trouble.”

Prisoners were not allowed to speak. The walls of their cells
were soundproofed, and when they were given exercise time,
they were required to march silently abreast. Isolation was a part
of the rehabilitation process. Griffin approved, despite feeling
that rehabilitation was an impossible goal for most of the inmates
of HM Prison Bridewell.

Griffin pulled the warder’s jacket off. He removed his own
bloodstained shirt and draped it over the warder’s body, then put
on the warder’s blue jacket. Its sleeves were an inch too short for
Griffin’s arms and one shoulder was dotted with blood, but it
was less conspicuous than his prison uniform, with its pattern of
black darts on white canvas. He shrugged his shoulders up and
stooped a bit and decided it looked passable in the dim light of
the prison corridor. He snugged the warder’s small cap down
over his unkempt hair and kept his face to the wall as he walked,
leaving the warder’s body in the corner. Napper shut the door of
his cell and followed a few yards behind Griffin, keeping to the
shadows as best he could.

If it were possible to see Bridewell from above, it would look
like the right half of a broken wheel, with four spokes radiating
outward from a central hub. The rim of the half wheel was an
outer wall that bordered a courtyard surrounding the prison.
Each spoke was, in fact, a two-story double corridor, with cells
spaced at equal intervals down the length of it. Each of the four
spokes was meant to house a different class of criminal, all of
them men. There was no exit at the end of any of these spoke-
corridors, and a fire four years earlier had killed eleven prisoners,
all of them driven by flames down the inescapable length of
that wheel spoke. There had been no public outrage at the news
of their deaths. The eleven prisoners had been convicted of murder
or rape, and the prison had simply swept out the corridor,
buried the remains, and quickly filled the vacant cells. Since the
fire and the refurbishment of that spoke of the “wheel,” less
attention had been paid to where any particular prisoner was
housed, and now murderers were kept with thieves and dippers
were kept with male prostitutes. To leave the prison from one of
the spokes, one was required to pass down the length of the corridor
and through a heavy oaken door, banded with steel and
locked from the other side. At that point, on any ordinary day,
one gained access to the hub of the wheel and there were several
doors to the prison yard from there, provided one was authorized
to be moving around outside a cell.

At the moment, however, there were no warders in sight, except
the dead man on the floor, and the prison was experiencing
a brief bubble of calm that had settled in after the runaway train
sheared off the southwest corner of the outer wall, plowed
through six cells on the lower level of the south wing, and deposited
itself, wheels still spinning, within the prison’s hub, only
two feet away from the next wing full of inmates. Rubble and
the twisted mass of the train blocked the ruined walls of the
cells. A massive cloud of dirt and smoke still swirled about, but
had slowly begun to settle.

Griffin and Napper moved down the corridor to the far end,
their feet sliding and crunching through grit. Griffin removed a
chain from around his neck. Three keys dangled from the end of
it, and he quickly selected the largest of them. He stuck it in the
lock, turned it, and pulled the door open, scraping it against
fallen rocks. Inside was a mangled corpse in dart-studded white
cloth, only his lower extremities visible atop a fast-spreading
pool of blood. Griffin left the cell and went back to the corridor,
moved a few feet down, and tried the next door. He was
conscious of the time he was taking and he concentrated on
remaining calm. The train’s carriages had sheared through the
westernmost wall, beginning at the southern tip, killing everyone
in those cells and collapsing the floor above as they went.
The prisoners had been freed in their last seconds of life.

The prisoners on the other side of the corridor had fared better.
Most of the cells on the ground floor were at least partially
demolished, but much of the floor above was intact. Griffin
could hear men beginning to move around up there, but there
was nothing he could do about them. It would take too long to
free them. He knew that there was very little time before authorities
would arrive to restore order. Griffin eventually found
three survivors on the ground floor, three who were on his list,
and freed them. He motioned to each of them in turn, and they
followed behind him along with Napper. When he had found
everyone he could in that wing, Griffin doubled back to the
door at the opposite end of the corridor. A man above him on
the east side of the corridor began to shout, challenging Griffin
to free him too. Others took up the chorus, but their voices were
muted by the brown cloud of dust, and Griffin didn’t even look
at them. He had as many men as he could realistically take with
him. All the men he wanted.

He took a deep breath and pushed against the door. It swung
open a crack on its iron hinges, and Griffin saw Napper hug the
wall. He smiled. At this point, the greatest danger to Napper
and the others was not the warders.

The door cracked open and Napper scampered forward,
pushed behind Griffin, suddenly brave and anxious to get out
of the stifling corridor. Griffin shooed him back and sidled
through the narrow opening.

The dimly lit hub was quiet. Without warders and prisoners
moving through the space, the main room ahead of him seemed
cavernous and long-since deserted. Griffin pulled the door open
wider and, when the four other men were through, he shut the
door and bolted it. The voices of screaming men in the ruined
wing abruptly vanished, closed off by the enormous soundproof
door.

Through a pile of loose stones at the base of the south wall of
the hub, Griffin could see a wedge-shaped section of a locomotive
carriage. If it had traveled through one more wall, it might
have hit Griffin’s cell in the next wing and killed him. He took
a deep breath and looked around him at the other men.

One of them was tall and bald. He had a nervous air about
him and would not meet Griffin’s eyes. The bald man turned and
moved away, and Griffin hissed at him to stay with the group.
Any one of them who split off from the others was likely to be
caught and returned to a cell. The bald man glared at him, or
rather at his shoes, but rejoined the ranks, and Griffin motioned
for them all to follow. Griffin could hear Napper and the others
close behind him as they moved across the big room, navigating
around evenly spaced wooden tables and chairs, scarred and
blunted by years of use, and through another door at the far end.

He led them through a succession of smaller rooms and down
a long corridor that circled the inside of the hub’s outer wall.
Above them, a gallery jutted out over the floor where a warder
would usually be posted. Griffin wondered again about the dead
warder they had encountered. Why had he not been warned?

They passed through another door, and Griffin shut it behind
them. They were in a small room with an enclosure in the
corner where Griffin remembered changing from his street
clothes to the prison uniform. This was where new men were
brought into the prison. They were now close to the world outside.
Griffin had only been in the prison for two days, yet he was
surprised by how much he already missed the outside world. He
thought of horses and carriages and buildings with windows.
He thought of flowers and trees, he thought of women. He
looked at the others with him, and he knew that they were
thinking of the same thing. They were all murderers, all sentenced
to death for their crimes. There was a single door and a
gate between the four of them and freedom. He wondered what
they had planned for the days and nights ahead and concentrated
on memorizing their faces so that he could identify them
if they were separated later. He knew Napper, and the bald man’s
name was Cinderhouse. Of the others, one was tall and gaunt,
his limbs and neck stretched long, his face lean and expression
less. He resembled a walking tree. His name, Griffin knew, was
Hoffmann. He nodded at Griffin. The other man stayed in the
gaunt man’s shadow and scuttled along the wall as if hiding
from everyone else in the room. Griffin had seen this smaller
prisoner in the exercise yard. Some of the other inmates referred
to him as “the Harvest Man,” but Griffin had no idea what his
real name might be.

He used the big key to unlock the door ahead of them, and
Napper instantly bounded ahead, pushing the others aside in his
hurry to get out. Griffin found himself forced against the door-
jamb. He scowled at Napper’s back, but held his tongue.

And then they were all outside in the fresh night air. Griffin
looked up at a low scud of clouds drifting slowly through the
deep dark blue. Beyond the clouds, he could see a scattering of
stars and the hazy glow of a full moon. A drop of rain hit his
cheek and he let it roll along his skin, savoring the coolness of it.
He looked back at the prison, but the damage was out of his line
of sight, around the curve of the hub. From here, there was no
sign that the wall had come tumbling down.

Napper scampered ahead, staring up at those same stars,
that same moon, those same clouds. Griffin’s eyes narrowed and
his breath quickened. His hands balled into fists, and he heard
a low growl that he only gradually realized was coming from
himself.

He felt eyes on him. He turned his gaze from the sky to the
killers around him and realized that the tall gaunt man and the
bald man were staring at him. Where had the Harvest Man
gone? And why didn’t he have a proper name? The gaunt man
held a finger to his lips. The bald man shook his head slowly
from side to side. Griffin nodded, annoyed, and motioned them
forward across the dirt yard.

They moved over the grounds and to the gate in the high
fence as the clouds opened up above them and it began to drizzle.
The gate was abandoned, no warder in sight. Napper grabbed
the bars of the gate in both hands. He pushed and it swung
open, and they all followed him through to freedom.

Griffin stepped through the open gate into a wide brick plaza
and squinted into the unseasonal fog. There was nobody outside
the prison waiting for him, nobody in sight in any direction he
looked, except the three remaining murderers. The night was
silent and empty.

He watched the others disappear separately into the low-lying
mist, none of them looking back or at one another. They were
simply gone, marked here and there by pale afterimages against
the dark sky. He felt a brief moment of panic, but squared his
shoulders and made a quick decision. He fished inside the waistband
of his trousers, found the hidden pocket sewn in the back,
and pulled out a small chunk of blue chalk. He knelt and drew
the number four on the damp bricks outside the prison gate,
then an arrow that pointed away from the prison. He stood and
filled his lungs with fresh air, decided to follow in the direction
Napper had gone across the empty field to his right, and made
himself disappear, too.

Detective Inspector Walter Day left Regent’s Park Road
and picked his way down the steps that led to the towpath
bordering the canal. The moon was bright and
full and its light gleamed on the water, but did nothing to illuminate
the ivy-covered rock wall beside him. The soles of his
slippers slapped against the stones underfoot.

Day’s wife, Claire, was under the mistaken impression that
she hadn’t been sleeping lately. In fact, she slept fitfully in short
bursts that she later couldn’t remember. She tossed and turned
and snored and flung her limbs at him, trying to arrange herself
comfortably around the mass of her belly. Day often snuck out of
bed and went to the parlor, poured himself a brandy, and read
until he fell asleep in his big leather chair. Tonight, the moon
had beckoned. He had put on his trousers and slipped quietly
out of the house, pulling his jacket on over his nightshirt.

His eyes felt bruised and gummy, improperly fitted into
their sockets. He blinked, trying to clear them and bring the
path into focus, but a soft fog hovered low above the canal. The
night seemed filmy and immaterial. He trudged along, sniffing
the wet air, passing slowly beneath bridges and low-hanging
branches, heavy with dripping leaves, and watched as a long
narrow houseboat passed him, unmoored and rudderless, drifting
away in the opposite direction, until it disappeared around
a bend.

He floated along beside the water and thought about his wife,
thrashing about in their bed, generating heat. He felt powerless
to help Claire or even to make her more comfortable. She was
carrying all the weight of the pregnancy by herself. His helplessness
made him anxious, made him want to run. At least as far as
the towpath. A brief escape. Alone in the wee hours with the
dark scent of canal water in his nose, he felt maybe a bit more
free, a little less vulnerable.

He stopped and squinted up at the wall beside him, reached
out and brushed his fingers against the cool black stones. Here
beside the canal at two o’clock in the morning, with nothing to
distract him from the inevitable, he saw that he had no control
over his future, no control over Claire’s life or the life of their
coming child.

He looked away from the wall at the towpath ahead. A few
yards ahead, he could see the bars of a gate gleaming faintly in
the moonlight. There were no horses out this late to pull the
boats through the water, so someone had closed the gates. He
would have to turn back.

He stared at the tops of his slippers, watched them twist
slowly around under him, and watched them begin the march
along the path in the direction he had come, back up the steps,
back to the road.

He paid no attention to the footpaths on either side of him
and instead wandered up the middle of Regent’s Park Road,
thinking about the baby. That new Day on its way.

He stopped walking and took the slipper off his left foot,
fished out a rock, and threw it as far as he could. He watched it
disappear in the early-morning mist. He leaned against the
trunk of a tree beside the path, steadying himself while he put
his slipper back on, and looked up at the moon caught in the
branches above. The tree had been there before Day was born
and would no doubt be there long after he died. Black vines
crept up the sides of it and tiny sprouts nudged through the bark,
out into the night air. He wondered whether they would grow to
be stout branches and nourish the tree. Or perhaps they were
only offshoots of the vine, burrowing under and through the
tree’s bark, eventually choking it to death.

He balled up his fist and punched the tree trunk. Immediately,
he regretted having done it. His knuckles hurt, and when
he held his hand up and moved it in the moonlight he saw
blood. He turned and rested his back against the unharmed tree
and sank down along it to the ground, sat there. He bit his lip
and plucked a blade of grass from the dirt between his legs,
reached up and stabbed the moon with its tapered end.

Nine months had given him too long to think about things.
His work had helped with that. He had buried himself in an
overflowing caseload and ignored his nagging doubts about fatherhood.
What did he know about being a father? His own father,
Lord knows, had not set a wonderful example. Arthur Day
had given Walter no clues as to how one went about the process
of becoming a father. Everything—the entire life he saw ahead
of him—was a complete mystery. If only things could remain
unchanged. A happy life, a fulfilling job, a wonderful wife, and
a tidy home.

But of course, it was too late for that.

He tore the blade of grass lengthwise. It separated easily
along the grain, but it was useless now and dead. He dropped it
back to the ground and felt sorry that he had killed it.

He may have slept then. He didn’t know. His mouth tasted
terrible. The moon, at least, appeared to be in the same place in
the sky, so if he had slept, it hadn’t been long. He pushed himself
back up and patted the trunk of the tree and walked away
from it, back up the lane.

He turned in at his gate by instinct and so did not immediately
notice the young boy standing on his porch. When he did
look up, he expected to see the familiar blue door at the top of
the steps, but Claire was standing in the open doorway with a
lantern held high. She pushed past the boy and came down the
steps and set her hand lightly on his arm.

“Where were you?” she said. Her eyes were wide and searching,
as if there might be a clue in the blunt planes of his face.

Day opened his mouth to answer and closed it again. He suddenly
felt as though he had betrayed her. He had left her alone
and had indulged in self-pity at a time when she needed him to
be strong and, more than anything, to be there with her. He had
acted as a child would act, and he shook his head at her now,
unable to speak. He felt his face flushing with shame and was
thankful that the lantern light was too weak for Claire to see
him clearly.

“Inspector,” the boy said. “Sir?”

Day looked up at him. “What is it, boy?”

“He’s sent for you. Sir Edward has.”

“At this time of night?”

“Sent for ever’body, sir. I mean ever’body there is. I had a
time findin’ you, too. They tol’ me you was in Kentish Town,
not out here. Posh!”

Day sighed. He didn’t like to advertise the fact that he lived
well beyond his means in Primrose Hill. The house was a gift
from Claire’s parents. “Tell me what’s happened.”

“They’re out, sir. They’re all out, the bad ’uns are. The whole
prison’s disappeared in a puff of smoke, and the bad ’uns are in
the streets.”

Day gripped Claire’s arms and ushered her back up the porch
steps and into the house, glancing about the whole while at the
empty and now ominous lane that ran down along the wide-
open park.

“Do you mean to say,” Day said, “that someone has escaped
from a prison?”

“More than one.” The boy was excited, his small pale face lit
up from inside. “A daring escape from Bridewell. A legion, a
host, at least twelve or a hundred bloody murderers are on the
loose.”

“Twelve or a hundred? You’ve left yourself a wide margin.”

The boy nodded. “It’s all hands tonight. Sir Edward wants
ever’body.”

“Get in here, boy.”

Day waited while the boy scampered past him into the house.
He took one more look up and down the street, closed the blue
door, and bolted it. On his way to the stairs, he pointed at a chair
in the receiving room.

“Sit there,” he said. “I won’t be a moment. Got to put on some
shoes.”

“I can find my own way back to the Yard, sir.”

“Not if what you say is true. You just wait for me and I’ll
make sure you arrive back there safely.”

Without waiting for an answer, Day hurried up the stairs
with his wife. As he ran, he let the slippers fall from his feet and
clatter down the stairs behind him.
The Devil's Workshop

The Devil's Workshop