Read Right! What you know! for what this story alludes to…or not.
Emma stood in the doorway of the kitchen, wringing her hands in silence. Frederick had been in such a state that she had not witnessed in years, ever since that note was found slipped under their front door. She was the one who found it, and as she held the sealed envelope addressed to Inspector Abberline it took all of her resolve to just tear it to bits and toss it into the kitchen fires. Emma was dreadfully sorry she had not done so.
Her husband stood by the bay window, right hand raised, holding himself upright and away from the glass planes. His left hand was behind him, and in it he clutched the letter he would not let her read. His mood was betrayed by his stance: taut, tense, and far, far away in thought. Emma had seen Frederick like this all too often, in London, in the days of the Ripper. Try as she would, he wound up sharing nothing with her, placating her with gentle brush offs that “…nothing was wrong, nothing to worry about…what’s that delicious smell, dear?”
The papers told her all that her husband as Inspector did not relate. It was all a gruesome, horrible business, and Emma had thought they were both done with it after leaving Scotland Yard, London, and the Pinkertons behind.
“Frederick, dinner is getting cold. Please, dear,” she entreated, only to be met with silence.
She approached him, sitting on the window seat, trying to take his left hand in hers. Shifting slightly but not looking at her, Frederick tucked the letter into his jacket pocket and placed his hand in hers. Even with the fireplace roaring his hand was cold to her touch. She placed it on her cheek to it and rubbed it to warm him, as best she could.
Evening was upon them and Frederick finally settled down. His sleep, when it came, was marred by tics and pulling the sheets out and winding them about him. Emma was awake through all this. “This was how he was like during the worst of it,” she thought, “and I can’t let him go through this again.”
She crept out of bed, found his jacket, and took the letter out of the pocket. Walking into the front room, the embers in the fireplace were playing off the last of their heat. They were also still hot enough to reduce the letter to cinders. She knew he would be upset, and a week would be full of awful silent recriminations, but she also knew it would pass.
Emma stopped at the bay window. By moonlight and reflected fog she saw a figure, shadowed, standing up the slope, by the copse of trees that separated their land from the neighbors. She saw nothing but the shadow, but she knew it was a he, and she knew he was staring at the house, at her. A cane was in his left hand, and a gentleman’s top hat sat upon the figure.
Emma held her breath to the point of hard labor. Sweat drenched her where she stood, and stand fast she did for she was unable to move. They remained that still, together, until the tip hat was doffed in her direction followed by a slight bow.
Hat back in place, the cane slashed from left to right. Noticing only those movements, Emma did not see the figure fade into the night.
Frederick found her lying on the floor by the window in the morning. She was so chilled that he called for the doctor; he remained at her side, ministrating to her needs for the rest of that day. No mention was made of the missing letter, nor did he press for what disturbed her so.
That evening, at the Black Dog Inn, a stranger bought the locals a round. They cheered, swarmed around the bartender, and forgot all about him as they drank to his health. A working girl was appraising him as she drank her pint of bitters, her eyes smiling in his direction.
“Cheers,” he said to her, and then he tilted back his Black and Tan and drank heartily.