“I seen me a mermaid once and a sea creature the likes of which would have sunk the ship if it smashed us.” That was always his beginning line when he was about to tell a story and tonight he had happened upon a whole half bottle of rum. I listened to the old man’s slurring speech and settled on the pile of old sails far enough away that I didn’t have to smell his breathy rum.
“Now there was a brush I had what set me down ’ere one night as I live and breathe. I frequented the beauties of Whitechapel, to quell the urgings of those long days at sea. My Catherine was a beauty, though she was a tiger when she got herself pie-eyed with a wee drop of the creature. We lodged when I come to port though she had a husband by common law at Cooney’s so we had to venture away from there.
“One night, once our due was done an we had a bit of a grind, we chewed the rag and got into a scrap. I left her for the night, having to be on the ship at sunrise. I took myself for a stroll to find some rum, cool my tide and warm my heart after such a cold end. As I strolled up Berner Street I heard the sounds of another scrap and struggle. ‘Twas followed by what I think to meself was the life being choked from someone. I tell ye the sound it chilled me bones. I followed the sound and come upon a man stooped in the dark, an when he seen or hear me he run of. I move to see what the man was getting to and there I come up on Long Liz bleeding her life right out of her she was.
“Now I seen my share of death at a time, and the bobbies are knobs. An they be of no consequence when it comes to finding their man, so I was not going to stand around a knob meself, especially after I run him off. I found me rum and got back to the ship as the sun was crackin. And it was not till I returned afore I learned my Catherine was done in by the rogue the officials took to calling the Ripper. He done her in that very night after I run him off. She was probably going to find a drink herself or run back to her husband. Once I learned what happened I had not the heart to return to the sea as I might had been responsible for the loss of my sweetie.”
Photo Credit: Jim Cole