Victoria’s Secret

-- Written by Anne


The suggestion for this story came up waaaaaaaay back in 1986, during an interview with Angela Lansbury on “Entertainment Tonight.”  According to the plans mentioned, the writers were thinking of doing an episode in which Jessica dreamed she was Queen Victoria, chasing after Jack the Ripper.  That story never made it into the series – but I never quite forgot the idea, and started jotting down notes for it several years later.  The story soon got quite happily out of hand.



Seth tipped over his king.

            “All right, all right, I concede,” he said huffily.  “That’s three matches that I’ve lost in as many weeks!”

            Jessica smiled sweetly over the chessboard at her friend.  “Sorry,” she said.

            “Sorry?  You aren’t sorry,” Seth retorted.  “If you were really sorry, you wouldn’t be smiling at me like that!”  He looked at his watch, then stood up from the dining room table.  “Well, I suppose I ought to be going,” he said.  “But I’m warning you, Jessica, next time will be different.”

            Jessica put a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn.  “That’s what you said last week,” she said.  “And the week before that.”

            “Ahhrgh.  Well, this time I mean it.”

            As he walked through the living room, he noticed a book lying face down on the end table next to Jessica’s favorite chair.  He picked it up and looked at the dust jacket.  “What’s this?” he asked.

            “Oh,” said Jessica, coming over to him.  “That’s a book about Jack the Ripper.  I took it out of the library the other day.”

            “Hm.  Are you planning on putting him in a book, or some such thing?” Seth asked.

            “Oh, no, no,” Jessica laughed.  “I read it out of my own curiosity, nothing more.  You know they never discovered the identity of Jack the Ripper?”

            “Ay-yuh, I remember reading that somewhere,” Seth said, flipping through the pages.  “Well,” he said, setting it back down on the table with an air of finality, “good night, and I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.”

            Jessica saw him to the front door.  “Good night, Seth,” she said, and she shut the door quietly behind him.

            It was nearly eleven as Jessica went back to the dining room to clear away the chessboard and its pieces, time for her to go to bed.  But before she went upstairs, she wandered over to the bookshelves in the living room and looked for something to read.  She had finished the Jack the Ripper book and would return it to the library tomorrow; but in the meantime she need to start on something new.  Jessica was one of those people who wasn’t comfortable unless she had some fiction close at hand to read.

            Her fingertips grazed over the spines of a number of books, some classics, some works friends had written and given to her, some fitting no particular category.  But what he finally pulled off the shelf was a favorite of hers, The Complete and Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle.  She took this up to her bedroom, curled up into bed, and began to read.


            The thump of the book sliding off the bed and hitting the floor woke her with a start.  She had no idea when she had dozed off, or how long she had been asleep, but when she turned to look at the clock on her bedside table, its glowing face wasn’t there.  And then, as her eyes became adjusted to the darkness, she realized that this was definitely not her own bedroom at home.  This room was larger, far larger, and much more ornate, with all the furnishings looking as if they had been made in the Victorian era.

            She got out of bed and crossed the floor to the window, hoping to find out where she was.  Outside she could see beautifully kept gardens, lit here and there with gas lanterns, while beyond the walls stretched a great city that she instantly recognized as London.

            Panic seized her heart momentarily as she realized where she was, for she had no idea how on earth she could have gotten here to London, and into what could only be Buckingham Palace!  She turned away from the window, and her eyes fell on a candlestick with matches beside it.  She struck one and lit it, then used it to explore the room she now found herself in.  It was very richly furnished and maintained, a room fit for royalty.  Not even the best hotels she had stayed in came close to this.

            Turning back to the bed, she noticed the book which had fallen to the floor, and  picked it up.  It was a very new looking book, the pages not even cut nor the spine cracked.  She gingerly opened it to the publisher’s page, and read the date: 1895, one hundred years in the past.

            Jessica let the book go as though it had burned her, and took a hasty step back as it dropped to the floor again.  She was still shaking when she heard an insistent knocking at the door to the room.

            “Come in,” she said, trying to steady her voice.

            A woman opened the door slightly and poked her head inside.  She was dressed in the style of an English maidservant from the late nineteenth century.

            “Is everything all right, your Majesty?” she asked anxiously.  “I heard two thumps, so I came up to see what was the matter.  Why are you out of bed?”

            Jessica was stunned by the nature of the maid’s address.  Majesty?  She took this in, added it to the nature of the furnishings of the room and the publication date of the book, and, being quick on the uptake, was able to put two and two together.

            “It – it’s nothing,” she said shakily.  “I just couldn’t sleep, and when I went to open the window, I knocked the book over in the dark.  It’s nothing.”

            “Very well, your Majesty,” the woman said.  “I’ll be around in the morning to prepare you for your audience with Lords Melbourne and Palmerston.  Good night, Highness.”

            When the maid had gone, Jessica sat down weakly on the bed, and buried her face in her hands.

            “They think I’m Queen Victoria,” she whispered to the darkness.


            The morning brought no relief from this terrible realization.  The meeting with the two lords, of whom Jessica knew very little except what she remembered from history class, was a breakfast meeting, but for all the formality involved in it, it might just as well have taken place in the throne room.  The maids had brought Jessica an exceedingly fancy dress with a huge skirt, black but sewn with jewels and laces and other frilly things.  They had seemed surprised when Jessica insisted on getting herself into it without their help.  She hated the style, and the high collar was every bit as uncomfortable as it looked, but at least the dress fit.

            Lord Melbourne was a tall, aged man with a hawkish nose and thinning grey hair.  There was a twinkle in his eye, though, and a genuine warmth in his smile when he saw Jessica enter the royal dining room.  Lord Palmerston, on the other hand, was short, fat, and sour looking; he did not smile at all.  Both rose to greet her.

            When they had sat down, Jessica looked around, hoping to see something that would probably prove very useful to her in the days ahead.  Melbourne noticed.

            “What are you looking for, your Majesty?” he asked.

            “A newspaper,” she answered simply, and she beckoned over a page that stood nearby.

            Lord Palmerston looked scandalized.  “A newspaper?” he thundered.  “Since when has the Queen of England stooped to reading the rags of the common people?”

            “Since she decided she needed to know what was going on,” Jessica answered him, looking him straight in the eye.

            Lord Melbourne laughed.  “Well said, your Majesty,” he said.  “If it is a newspaper you want, then you shall not be denied it.  James,” he said, speaking to the page boy that stood at Jessica’s side, “run and fetch a copy of this morning’s Strand for the Queen.”

            “Yes, your Lordship,” he said, and walked briskly out of the room.  Jessica could hear him break into a run just as soon as he was clear of the tall doors of the dining room.

            A short time later he returned with a fresh newspaper, which Jessica took with her thanks and spread on the table before her.  Her hope was that by glancing over this, she wouldn’t appear so hopelessly clueless when the time came to actually discuss official business.

            “Your Highness,” Palmerston began, “we must discuss with you the India problem.”

            But Jessica had seen something else that had caught her eye instead.  She raised the paper, read the article more closely.  “Ripper Strikes Yet Again,” the headline screamed.

            “Have you seen this?” she asked, holding up the newspaper so the two nobles could see it.

            Lord Palmerston sniffed disdainfully.  “Who hasn’t heard, madam?” he said.  “Dreadful scandal.  Of course, one might say that Jack the Ripper is actually doing London society a favor, killing off the undesirables as he is.”

            Jessica was shocked.  “Lord Palmerston!” she exclaimed.  “That is the most callous thing I have heard anyone say in a long time.  That these women are prostitutes is irrelevant.  They are subjects of the crown, and entitled to protection under it!”

            Melbourne nodded and gave Jessica an approving smile.  She glanced over at him, and caught his eye just for a moment before turning back to the irritating Lord Palmerston.

            “Well, your Highness, resources have been diverted …”

            “How many resources?” Jessica demanded.

            “Well … some departments of Scotland Yard have been assigned to this case, and we expect that …”

            “I said,” said Jessica coldly, “how many?”

            “Ah … three departments, Highness.”

            “That’s it?  Three?”

            “We deemed that three would be sufficient, yes, your Majesty.”

            “To catch a serial killer?  He’s murdered eight women already!”

            Lord Palmerston was turning a fine shade of purplish red, whether from anger or from embarrassment or both, and it was at this point that Lord Melbourne stepped in.

            “We will have the Yard put this case at the top of their priority list right away, madam,” he said.  “There will be no further delay.”

            Jessica seemed to calm down from her previously agitated state.  “Yes, I think that would be appropriate,” she said.  “Please do that.”  And she tucked the paper under her arm and rose from the table to leave.

            Lord Melbourne caught up with her outside in the corridor.

            “That was extremely well done, Victoria,” he said.  “It has been too long since you have openly confronted Lord Palmerston on his policies.”

Jessica inferred from his use of Victoria’s proper name that the queen was good friends with this nobleman, and decided that, based on this and her own observations of him, she could trust him.

            “What is his problem?” she said with very un-royal frustration.  “I mean, people are out there dying, and what are we doing about it?  Barely anything, until today!”

            “Lord Palmerston has never been your strongest supporter,” Melbourne said sadly.  “He has been your antagonist ever since you overruled his decisions concerning Afghanistan.  And he is very slow to forget.”

            “Apparently,” Jessica said, and walked on in silence, concentrating on trying not to step on the hem of her ridiculous dress.

            “Is there anything I can do for you, Victoria?” Melbourne asked.

            “Nothing I can think of – wait.  Yes, yes there is something you can do for me.”  She stopped and turned to face the elder lord.  “Would it be possible for me to see the records of Scotland Yard’s investigation into this case up to this point?”

            Melbourne looked confused.  “For you, madam, nothing is impossible within the borders of the British Empire.  But may I ask why you wish to see them?”

            “Well, let’s just say that I am personally interested about what the Yard has been doing,” she said, realizing that it was, in fact, a very strange request for a queen.  “Call it a performance review.”

            “I would be willing to go over the records myself, and spare you the effort …”

            “No, that’s all right.  I really would rather have a look at them myself, if you don’t mind.”

            “Not at all,” he said, and at that Jessica took off down the hall ahead of him.  Melbourne watched her go, shaking his head fondly, then turned to see to the task at hand.

            It was not long before the page brought a stack of police reports from Scotland Yard to the queen’s office, where Jessica sat feeling very out of place behind a huge mahogany desk.  She thanked the page warmly, then turned to the files, where the details of each murder were recorded. The cases were all strikingly similar, at least in terms of victim profile and method.  But there was very little that jumped out at her that could be construed as a “fingerprint” of the killer, nothing that might give her a clue as to who Jack the Ripper might actually be.


            That evening Jessica sneaked out of Buckingham Palace to take a walk and clear her head.  It had been no easy task diverting the attentions of the countless advisors and servants that seemed to surround her every waking moment, but she had managed it, drawing upon her years of experience of being sneaky at need.  It wasn’t enough to wander the castle grounds; beautiful as they were she needed to get out, away from all this royal nonsense, back into the real London that she knew.

            She walked the streets alone, recognized by no one thanks to the battered cloak she had found in a linen closet.  Not the best disguise, but she was beginning to think that it was good enough until she heard someone say, “May I ‘ave a smidgen of yer time, your ‘ighness?”

            Jessica turned and saw a young woman jump the low hedge beside the street and perch on a bench beneath it.  She had raven-black hair, violet eyes, and a merry face that couldn’t have been more than twenty, but she was dressed in a fashion that could only be assigned to the prostitutes of the late nineteenth century.

            “Who are you?” Jessica asked.

            “My name’s Rose,” the woman said in her thick Cockney accent.  “I’ve come ‘ere to seek yer ‘elp.  Pardon me forwardness, ‘ighness, but I’ve come a long ways to see you, all the way up from the East End, indeed.”

            “What is it that you want from me?”

            “You ‘ave got to ‘elp us, Victoria,” Rose said.  “I know we ain’t much in the way of the Empire’s best citizens, but we’re at a bloody loss to ‘elp ourselves.  You might ‘ve ‘eard of Jack the Ripper.”

            A sudden chill ran though Jessica at the mention of this name.  “I have,” she said.

            “Well the Ripper’s been slashing us down at every opportunity, and tis got us all in such a state.  ‘E killed another one o’ me chums last night.  Nice girl, she deserved better than what she got out o’ life.  But I ‘ear the talk, Lady, and what they say is that Queen Victoria’s got the keenest eye of all for the little details.  So we were ‘oping you might keep yer ear to ground, so to speak, and see what ye might learn – seeing as ‘ow you’re able to get out o’ yonder palace and all, by the looks o’ things.”

            Jessica wasn’t sure what to say, but when she looked in Rose’s violet eyes she recognized an honest look of appeal.

            “Well, I – I’ll do what I can,” she said at last.

            Relief flooded across the young woman’s face.  “I knew you’d not let down any o’ your own subjects,” she said.  “God save the Queen!”  And she sprang back over the hedge and disappeared into the night.


            The first thing next morning, Jessica announced to her advisors that she intended to pay a royal visit to the London coroner who had been handling the Jack the Ripper murders.  There was nothing important looking on the calendar she had been presented with, so she felt free to do as she chose.

            Lord Palmerston, as she suspected he would, laughed the idea off as a mere fancy.

            “Your Highness,” he said, “surely you jest.  The city morgue is no place for the Queen of England to be seen.  If you are so set on having an audience with the coroner, then we can summon him here to Buckingham Palace, and you may speak with him in a far more fitting environment.”

            Jessica shook her head.  “Not good enough,” she said.

            “Your purpose, then, is not merely to speak with Dr. Chesterton, the coroner?”  Lord Melbourne asked.

            “That’s right,” said Jessica.  “I intend to have a quick look at the bodies.”

            Palmerston was aghast.  “I do not believe my own ears!” he sputtered.  “Am I to understand that your Majesty wishes to gaze upon the bodies of murdered prostitutes in the city morgue?  How ghastly!  Whatever has come over you?”

            “There might be some clue at the morgue that I wasn’t able to find in the records,” Jessica explained.  “I won’t be able to say for certain unless I have a look at them myself, and talk directly with the coroner.”

            “A valid point, Majesty,” Melbourne said thoughtfully.

            “Well, I jolly well forbid it!” Palmerston said huffily.  “It is bad enough that the Queen of England is taking an interest in the workings of police business, but to actually leap into this sordid investigation yourself, madam, is unthinkable!  Most unseemly behavior.”

            Jessica could feel her will waxing strong, and decided that now was the time to use the royal powers that had been inexplicably forced upon her, if ever.  She stood from her chair, planted her hands on the desk, and leaned toward Lord Palmerston, eyes flashing.

            “You are not in a position to forbid anything,” she said in a dangerous voice.  “Member of the House of Lords you may be, but you are still sworn to me, and my wishes you shall not question.  Unless, that is, you want me to strip you of your family’s hereditary title and lands.  I can do that, you know.”

            (No I can’t, she thought to herself, but he doesn’t need to know that.)

            Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw Melbourne trying his best to hide a smile behind his hand.  Before her fury Palmerston paled and backed down.

            “Of course, you are absolutely right, Highness,” he said apologetically.  “Forgive me, I have overstepped my authority.  Please excuse me.”  He pulled a watch out of his left waistcoat pocket, checked the time hurriedly, and fairly bolted out of the room.

            Satisfied with her performance, Jessica settled back into her chair, and watched Palmerston retreat with disapproval.  “We are not amused,” she said.

            It was all Melbourne could do to keep from laughing out loud.  “I’ll have your carriage sent for right away, Victoria,” he said, and left the room, chuckling to himself.


            Dr. Chesterton dropped his files as soon as Jessica walked through the door; apparently no one had warned the good doctor of her coming.

            “Good Lord!” he exclaimed in shock.  “Queen Victoria!”

            Jessica was startled by this, and bent down to help Dr. Chesterton collect his files, despite the little disapproving noises  being made by Lord Palmerston, who had insisted on accompanying her to the coroner’s office.  The doctor was still trembling from surprise and confusion when she stood up and placed the pile she had picked up back into his hands.

“Many thanks, your Majesty,” he stammered.

“Think nothing of it,” she said.  “I’m sorry I startled you.”

“Ah … er … to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Chesterton asked, when he had collected himself.

“The Queen is engaged in a review of the procedures of the city’s coroner’s office in criminal investigations,” Palmerston said loftily.  “She has insisted on inspecting the premises personally.  So if you would be so good as to …”

Jessica silenced him with a mere look.  Then she turned back to the doctor and smiled.  “Actually,” she said, “I would simply like to have a look at the victims of the Jack the Ripper murders.  Would you show them to me?”

“They are not a pleasant sight, your Highness,” Chesterton said.

“Well, I don’t need to see … everything,” Jessica replied.

Chesterton nodded.  “Very well,” he said, and showed them into the morgue.

The morgues of the late nineteenth century were not what they would be in a hundred years’ time, but Jessica was hardened by experience, and the environment did not distress her too badly.  Chesterton revealed the face of first one victim, then another, giving her time enough to look at each of them closely.  They were prostitutes, all of them, but one thing that Jessica did notice was that for prostitutes, each of them wore a surprising amount of rich jewelry – one had a golden necklace, another a diamond bracelet, and a third, earrings set with pearls.  None of the pieces were faked.  It was not the sort of thing she had expected to see prostitutes wearing on the street.  That was the dominant image that she carried away with her when she left the coroner’s offices.


Jessica knew that somehow she had to get back in touch with Rose, to find out if the jewelry clue was for real, or if it was her own misinterpretation of actual historical conditions.  There were many limitations to having been born several decades in the future; not knowing anything more about how people lived in the past than what could be gleaned from history books was one of them.

Again she dressed herself as a commoner, and sneaked out of the palace grounds through the kitchen exit.  By horse-drawn cab and on foot she made her way down to the East End.

She lurked around in the shadows of the narrow streets, letting darkness and fog add to her disguise.  She remembered ruefully that once she thought there was nothing worse in her (alternate) line of work than being recognized, while on a case, as a mystery writer.  Now, though, she had discovered that there something much worse than that – being recognized, while on a case, as the Queen of England.  It was a bitter irony.

A short scream pierced the thick, shadowy air, and looking down an alley she saw a figure fall to the cobbles, and another hurry away.  She rushed forward to help, but put a hand to her mouth when she saw what had happened.  She was too late; a quick look toward the end of the alley told her that Jack the Ripper was gone, disappeared back into the mists of London’s underworld.

There was shouting and a clatter of boots from the entrance to the alley.  Jessica looked up from the body of the unfortunate woman, and saw two men approach, dressed in long overcoats and bowler hats.  She recognized one of them, a tall, thin figure with sharp features and piercing eyes, and caught her breath.

“I don’t believe it,” she said.

“We’re too late, Holmes!” the second man exclaimed when they stood across the body from her.

“Perhaps, Watson, perhaps,” Sherlock Holmes said, “but we may yet gain from what has been left behind.”  He seemed to notice Jessica for the first time, and held her in his gaze for a long moment.

“Forgive me, madam,” he said, “but may I ask who you might be?”

Jessica was about to answer with the truth when at that moment the constables came running around the corner, Inspector Lestrade in the lead.  At the sight of her the inspector pulled up short, and bowed.

“Your Majesty,” he said.  “What are you doing here?  This is not a safe place for you to be walking without a heavy escort!”

“My dear Lestrade,” Holmes said, coming forward, “do you mean to say that we are in the presence of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria herself?”

“Are you blind, man?  Who else could it be?” Lestrade retorted.  Then, turning to Jessica:  “Highness, I must ask again what brings you out to the scene of a crime as horrible as this.”

“Oh, well, a personal interest, one into which you ought not enquire too closely,” Jessica said enigmatically.  “However, it might be worthwhile to find out who the victim was, and where she stayed, and who her last, um, customer was.”

“Those first bits we can do easily enough,” Lestrade said, “but I don’t think we’ll have much luck on the last.  It’s impossible to find these men, in most cases.”

“True, but not in this case,” she said.  “See, she has a fine watch on a gold chain.  It’s quite new, not a scratch on it – it was probably a gift from the man who killed her.  Now, I suspect that the name of the watchmaker is engraved somewhere upon it; from there it shouldn’t be too difficult to track down who bought it.”  She thought about the other fine pieces of jewelry on the other victims in the London morgue.

Lestrade stood with his mouth hanging open, and as she finished, looked at Holmes imploringly.

Holmes smiled, and with a casual wave of his hand said, “She is quite accurate in all her observations, Lestrade.  There is nothing there that I would countermand.  I would follow up on her suggestions with all due haste, before the trail grows cold.”

The inspector bobbed his head and started barking orders at his underlings.  Holmes looked at Jessica with approval.

“Well,” he said, “I must confess that I did not know that our sovereign queen had such a keen eye for observation and deduction.”

Jessica shrugged – not a particularly queenly gesture, she realized, but it was all she could come up with at the moment.


At Lestrade’s insistence Jessica was driven back to Buckingham Palace in a special Scotland Yard coach, surrounded by an extensive police escort that made a quiet return from her adventure impossible.  It was quite embarrassing, walking through a gauntlet of servants and advisors all wondering where she had been, why she had gone, and if she was all right.  Jessica tried to hold her head high with as much dignity as she could salvage, the sort of thing she felt that Victoria would have done in her place.  But then, she thought wryly, the real Queen Victoria would probably not have put herself in such a situation to begin with.

Of course she heard about it the next morning, and she had to send away the blustering Lord Palmerston along with a score of other outraged or concerned nobles in order to have a little peace.  But when that same afternoon Lord Melbourne requested the privilege of sharing tea with her, she did not deny him.

The servants were dismissed from the elaborate palace sitting room, leaving her alone with the noble.  For a long time neither of them said anything, sipping their tea in a deafening silence.  At last Melbourne broke the quiet, setting down his porcelain tea cup.

“Well, Victoria,” he said, “news of your exploits have traveled all over the palace and the Parliament buildings by now.”

“Has it?” Jessica said offhandedly, taking another sip of tea.

“It is considered highly irregular behavior for the Queen of the British Empire to be wandering around London’s East End by herself.  However,” he said, stopping Jessica’s protest before it could start, “they do not know you as I do.”

“And what do you think of what I did?” she asked. “Knowing me as you do.”

“I find it highly compatible with your well-known sense of morality.  It does not surprise me that once appealed to by your subjects, you would take direct action on their behalf.  Though I must admit that usually that direct action entails signing a new bill into law, or a royal edict, or something along those lines.  Sneaking out of Buckingham Palace to walk the streets alone at night; that, I confess, did take me more by surprise.”

“It was the only way,” Jessica said lamely, by way of explanation.

“No doubt, no doubt,” said Melbourne, taking a scone from a plate of biscuits.  “But I do feel obligated to remind you, Victoria, that this is a particularly dangerous investigation that you are pursuing.  As you said yourself, Jack the Ripper is a serial killer that not even Scotland Yard has been able to apprehend.  And he can kill a queen just as easily as he can kill a prostitute.  I needn’t remind you what a catastrophic effect your untimely death would have on this country, and the empire.”

“Of course,” Jessica murmured, and returned to the intense study of her tea cup.


Despite the implied warning in Lord Melbourne’s words, Jessica knew that she ad to dare the East End again so that she could find Rose.  A strict eye was being kept on the kitchen exit now; she had to be resourceful and slip out the laundry door.  Soon enough she found herself again in the fog-choked alleyways of the lower city, looking for her contact.

“Your ‘ighness!” came a voice that she recognized.  Jessica turned and saw Rose gaping at her in amazement, having just rounded the corner and seen her.

“Shh!” Jessica hissed, and Rose clapped a hand to her mouth.

“Ooops,” she said through her fingers.

“I’ve been looking for you,” Jessica said.

Rose nodded.  “I figured ye’d be, m’Lady.  I ‘eard about what ‘appened t’other night, I did.  We knew ye’d be back.  I’ve been lookin’ out, ye might say.”

“I wanted to ask you about some of the – um – customers who come down here,” said Jessica. “Are many of them rich?”

“Some of ‘em, aye,” said Rose.  “Why d’ye ask?”

“Because so far all the victims I’ve seen or read about have each been wearing a piece of expensive jewelry.  Do the gentlemen often give gifts?”

Rose shook her head.  “Not often, no,” she said.  “Bloody rare, I’d say.  I mean, most of ‘em can’t, they be too poor themselves.  Can barely pay their way, if ye take my meaning, Lady.  And the ones ‘oo can, aye, well, some do, most don’t.  If one did, ‘e’d ‘ave to be loaded for sure, to throw baubles at a prostitute.”

“I suppose so,” said Jessica thoughtfully.

The sound of an ash can being knocked over made them both jump.

“What in bloody ‘ell was that?” Rose asked in panic.

“I don’t know,” said Jessica, “but I don’t like it.”

“Quick, m’Lady, down this alley ‘ere,” said Rose.  “We’ll be less exposed.”

Jessica nodded, and followed her companion down the narrow way between two windowless brick buildings.

“I think we’re safe,” Rose said as they looked back the way they had come.

“Don’t move,” a voice, no less sinister for being muffled, said.  It sent a cold tremor through Jessica, the dread she felt every time she found herself in an impossibly tight spot.  Turning, she and Rose faced a man of average height wrapped in an overcoat with a thick scarf swathed around his face.  In one hand he held a long knife that gleamed in the muted light of the gas lamps.

“Dear Lord above!” Rose whispered.

The man advanced upon them, backing them up against the dingy brick wall of the alley.  Cold eyes held them there, staring first at one, then the other.

“I hear you’ve been asking a lot of questions,” he said to Jessica, “and snooping around the East End where you don’t belong.  The East End belongs to me. You have no power here.”

“’Oo are you?” Rose squeaked, her Cockney accent getting even thicker, if that was possible.

The cold eyes that pinned them motionless by their gaze alone almost crinkled up into a taunting smile.  “There are some,” he said, “who call me Jack.”

Rose gave a little shriek and tried to shrink further back into the wall.  Jessica positioned herself more or less in front of her.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said.  “Now let us go.”

“Ah, ah, ah, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the man said, bringing the knife closer to her face.  “You’ve caused quite a bit of trouble for me, and I have no compunctions against getting rid of a problem in my usual preferred manner.”

With a swift movement he grabbed Jessica by the right arm and pulled her away from the wall with such force that she fell to her knees at his feet.  Rose shrieked and lunged at him, but he pushed her hard back against the wall, which she hit and slid down to the ground.  Jessica looked up; for an instant her eyes locked with the cold, merciless eyes of Jack the Ripper.  The knife was raised …

… but there was an intervention.

A shout came from the end of the alley, and pounding feet approached, their sound amplified by the dense mist.  Hiding the knife in a fold of his overcoat, the killer turned and ran off in the opposite direction.

One of the men ran past them in pursuit, but the other one stopped and asked her if she was all right.

“Yes, I think so,” Jessica said shakily.  She looked up into the face of Sherlock Holmes.

“You have had a close call, Majesty,” he said as he helped her to her feet.  “I admire your tenacity and resourcefulness, but it is largely luck that saved you.”

“Yes, I know,” she said.  “Rose …”

“She will be taken care of and protected,” Holmes assured her.

At that moment Dr. Watson reappeared, puffing and out of breath.

“He has escaped us yet again, Holmes,” he said.  “He simply vanished as soon as he left the alleyway.”

“Damn the man!  It is his superior knowledge of these streets that defeats us.”

“You’ll never catch him by trying to catch up with him,” Jessica said wearily, leaning up against the wall for support.  “Only by figuring out who he is during the day will allow you to catch the killer of the night.”

“Quite right,” Holmes said thoughtfully. “He is but one person, and day or night he is the same man.”

After seeing Rose safe under Lestrade’s protection, Holmes and Watson escorted her back to Buckingham Palace in a cab that they hired.  As they went Jessica told them what she had discussed with Rose, and explained her reasoning behind the presumed wealthy status of Jack the Ripper. Holmes listened carefully, his fingers steepled as he sat deep in thought, while Watson asked her various questions about what she had seen and what had happened during her own encounter with the man.  Jessica shivered as she related what had happened, haunted by the memory of those cold, cruel eyes.

            They dropped her off behind the grounds, and this time she was able to arrive safely back inside without any fanfare or notice.  She spoke of her adventure to no one.


            The next morning Jessica turned back to the files she had sent for from Scotland Yard. There was something in them that bothered her, but she couldn’t pinpoint what it was.  Having no better options at the present, she emptied her mind of everything else and gazed at the reports, looking for a pattern to jump out at her.

            “… registered a blow to the right side of the head …”

            “… had been grabbed forcefully by the right wrist, resulting in a discoloured, heavy bruise …”

            “… a blemish from a bruise on the right cheek …”

            She touched the bruise on her own right arm where the serial killer had grabbed her so roughly the night before.

            And then an image formed in her mind, that of a Jack the Ripper who was wealthy, and left-handed.  And then her mind settled on the image of a pocket watch, a watch in the left pocket of a waistcoat …

            Her eyes widened at the realization; it seemed so perfectly obvious now.  How could she have missed the answer for so long?

            She rang the bell, and sent the servant who answered it out bearing a message to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.


            It was not too many hours later when Holmes and Watson arrived at Buckingham Palace, and were shown into the royal office.  Jessica wondered if she looked as ill-at-ease as she felt as they approached to a respectful distance.

            Jessica dismissed the advisors. “Please, leave us for a moment,” she said.  They gave her strange looks, but one by one they left the room, leaving her alone with the two men.

            “With all due respect, your Majesty,” Holmes said, “you are not who you claim to be.”

            “Holmes!” said Watson in shock.

            “It is true, my friend,” Holmes said sadly.  He took a step closer to Jessica.  “Whoever you are, you are not Victoria, Queen of England.  It is obvious to anyone who cares to see.  Your accent gives you away, madam. It is plain that you have spent the majority of your life not in England, but in New England.  There is also the matter that you are unfamiliar with the etiquette of the British court, which speaks against your being of royal blood.  And while the gracious queen may have walked among her subjects from time to time, she would never take the unthinkable risk of pursuing the darker elements of society down London alleyways alone.”

            Jessica was impressed.  “You are the first person who has been able to confirm to me that I am not Queen Victoria,” she said, laughing.  “I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that is!”

            Watson was astounded by the revelation.  “How can that be?” he asked.

            “How it can be is less relevant than the fact that it is,” said Holmes. “In your own time, madam, I suspect that you are a well respected detective in your own right.  Your methods are very sound, and you walk with the confidence of one who has much experience.  I am honored to have made your acquaintance.”

            “And I yours,” she replied.  “While I do have a reputation as a detective, I doubt I will ever come to match your fame.”

            Holmes took Jessica’s hand and kissed it.  “Madam, to what purpose did you summon us here?” he asked.

            “I know the identity of Jack the Ripper,” Jessica told them …


            … and she sat bolt upright in her own bed, in her own time, bright morning sunlight spilling across her quilt.

            Jessica looked out the window – yes, she was definitely in Maine.  The rising sun was sparkling on the Sea, and the flowers in her garden were unfolding to the strengthening day.  The whole occurrence had been a dream, yet it had all seemed so real.

            So real. In her dream, she really had been Queen Victoria.

            Settling back in bed, Jessica concentrated, trying to recall everything that had happened.  The memory of the dream was sharp and clear – all except the last part.  Try as she might, she simply could not remember who she had determined Jack the Ripper really was.  A wave of disappointment washed over her at this realization - that the most important detail of all had been lost forever.


The End