Aaron Kosminski or not, Jack the Ripper causes problems for our hero in this excerpt from "Blood of the Centipede" by Chuck Miller.$2.99 ON AMAZON KINDLE:
CHAPTER ONE: HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD
(From the Secret Journals of the Black Centipede)
On an oppressively hot night in the late spring of 1933, I found myself in an unenviable position on a studio backlot deep in the dark and foetid heart of Hollywood, California.
The lot was vast, a huge patch of surreal fungus choking the land with its empty, make-believe mock-ups of ancient Rome, the American West, a distant planet, the battlefields of Europe. A full moon shone down on this cold, schizoid grandeur, illuminating five human shapes in a tense tableau that was not part of any script.
I, the Black Centipede, legendary crime fighter and scourge of evil, was one of those shapes, and I was at a disadvantage. I had four broken ribs, two missing fingers, a possible concussion, and a pair of empty automatic pistols.
Another of the shapes was Amelia Earhart, the only thing I had close at hand that even resembled an ally, and she lay sprawled in the dust behind me, either unconscious or dead.
I fervently wished I had a few more assets on my side, seeing as how I was confronting three of the most lethal homicidal maniacs the world has ever known. And that is not hyperbole.
One of them was a madman called the White Centipede. He and I apparently had quite a history, of which I was completely unaware. The second was a charming creature known as the Black Centipede Eater, about whom more anon.
The third maniac, you've probably heard of.
His real name is as unimportant as it is unknown. His "nickname" is everything. He first made his mark in 1888 when he murdered five women in the Whitechapel section of London. He was never apprehended, never went to trial for those murders.
He called himself Jack the Ripper, and he was the closest thing to a demon in human shape that I have ever encountered.
Which made him the least of my worries at that moment, or so I thought. Demons and monsters are very straightforward creatures. You usually know where you are with them. They are unimaginative, and completely out of their depth with someone like me.I didn't take the Ripper as seriously as I should have that night. I regarded the other two as the real threats. I planned to concentrate all that remained of my personal resources on them just as soon as I disposed of this relic standing before me, clutching his knife and leering, dressed in a suit that had gone out of style half a century ago. I had fought him before, quite recently, and I thought I had his measure. He looked depleted. I figured our earlier encounters had taken a lot out of him.
"Don't you ever get tired of being a period piece?" I inquired. My tone was light and flippant, the implication being that he was damn near beneath my notice, but I would be gracious enough to take a bit of my valuable time to stomp on him like a cockroach.
The Ripper smiled and tossed his knife up in the air. It flipped a couple of times before he caught it by the handle. It was a gesture of contempt, his way of demonstrating the casual ease with which he could do the thing he was about to do.
His maneuver had created a split-second opening, and I tried to take advantage of it. I swung the fine, precision firearm-- now nothing more than a crude, blunt instrument-- in an arc that would catch him right between the eyes.
I didn't quite make it.
Instead, I received an object lesson in the folly of judging by appearances. The Ripper's knife was sharper than it looked, his arm stronger. Moving much faster than I did, he sank his double-edged, ten-inch blade into my gut all the way to the hilt, then yanked it upward with both hands until my breastbone stopped it. I was quite certain that the tip of the knife had come out through my back, right next to the spinal cord.
I looked down at the stuff spilling out of me, looked back up, started to say something, forgot what it was, and fell flat on my back. The knife, lodged in my torso, slipped from the Ripper's bloody fingers as I fell.
I had learned a lesson, but it looked as though I'd never have an opportunity to benefit from it, which struck me as pointless and wasteful.
Just before my mind winked out, I saw the Ripper standing over me, jerking his blade out of my torso. In doing this, he dislodged a couple of things from my abdominal cavity that I would have preferred to hang on to. He didn't say a word to me.
Then I went beyond thought and feeling and identity, into a very dark and quiet place...
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