Home > The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(6)

The Ripper (The Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #4)(6)
Author: L.J. Smith

And it had only gotten worse. When Lucius, the minion of Klaus, had found and captured Damon and me, he'd entombed us in a mausoleum as if we were buried alive, heedless of our cries. Klaus and his ilk were Originals, creatures straight from hell who didn't even have the smallest memory of human kindness, and, as such, there was no end to their evil. And now one of them was after me.

But for a moment, I felt something else inside me. It was a flickering sensation, so subtle and foreign I barely noticed it. Until I realized what it was. It was hope.

This time, I wasn't unprepared. I was older, wiser, stronger. I could stop them.

I would make sure of that.

"Violet!" I said sharply, my hand stil firm against her mouth. She stared at me with wild, unseeing eyes.

"I'm Stefan. From the bar. You can trust me. You have to trust me," I said urgently. The edge of the park was only a hundred yards away. It would only take a few seconds to get out using vampire speed. I felt unsafe here. I didn't feel much safer in London's claustrophobic streets, but at least there, with pedestrians nearby, the kil er would be less likely to strike. "We need to leave." She took a deep breath, but continued to struggle against my grip. "Violet, listen to me," I said, summoning my Power. I heard a snap of a twig in the forest and I jumped. We had no time. Klaus could be anywhere. "Violet, trust me. You wil be quiet, and you wil listen to me. Is that understood?"

I felt my thoughts reach her mind, and I sensed the moment when her brain seemed to yield. I nodded to try to speed the process.

Then I saw a flicker in her eyes. I wasn't sure if my compulsion had worked or if it was exhaustion, but I had to believe it. I took my hand off her mouth and she blinked dazedly at me.

"You'l be safe with me. We have to leave the park. I'l carry you," I explained as I picked Violet up and draped her over my shoulders. I sped out of the woods and darted into the streets. Faster and faster, I ran on the uneven cobblestones, always fol owing the Thames River, its glassy surface reflecting the moon and the stars. I ran through al eys and back streets until we reached a part of the city with plenty of gas lamps and pedestrians.

Even at this late hour, they were walking the streets as though it were broad daylight. I al owed myself to stop, ducking under an awning. Despite the heat that stil clung to the late-summer night, the women had furs draped over their bare shoulders while the men were wearing top hats and three-piece suits. Dozens of marquees lit up either side of every street.

I al owed Violet to slip off my shoulders and the two of us stood, facing each other, as throngs of pedestrians passed on either side of us.

Immediately, Violet began to panic again, and I could tel she wanted to scream, with only my compulsion holding her back.

"Shhh!" I tried to calm her. "Shhh!" I said again, rubbing her shoulders. A few passersby turned to stare.

"Listen to me," I whispered, hoping that she'd take a hint from my lowered voice. "You're safe. I'm your friend." She continued to sniffle. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and her hair was tangled in thick vines around her freckled face. "You're safe," I said, not breaking eye contact. She nodded slowly.

"You have to trust me. Can you do that, Violet? Remember, I'm a good man. You said so yourself." I fished in my pocket and pul ed out a white handkerchief, just purchased from the tailor. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

I handed it to her and Violet whimpered noisily. The few passersby who'd stopped to watch us on the street continued walking, obviously satisfied that nothing untoward was happening between us.

I let go of her, not wanting to compel her for a second longer than necessary. She seemed so innocent that I felt guilty for doing it, even though I knew it was for her own good.

"St-St-Stefan . . ." she said, gasping for breath. "The blood . . . and the words . . . was it the murderer?" Her voice broke into another wail. She was bordering on hysteria again.

"Shhh," I said, trying to make my voice sound like the soothing whoosh of waves I'd heard on the boat to Britain. "Shhh," I repeated.

Violet sucked in her breath. "What if he has my sister? She's been missing since yesterday, and I haven't heard from her. And I thought . . ."

"He doesn't," I said firmly, wishing I knew that were true.

"I can't go back to the tavern," Violet said in a smal voice.

"There's no need," I said, gently holding her wrist and pul ing her toward the side of the street. In the dim light of a gas lamp she looked pale and drawn, and I felt a surge of sympathy toward her. Right now, I was al she had. "We'l find you a place to sleep," I decided, turning my mind back to the matters at hand.

"But I've got no money," she said worriedly, her hands searching the pockets of her pinafore.

"Don't worry. You're with me," I said, glancing around at the lights that cut through the fog, searching for a hotel or tavern where we could take our bearings. A sign down the street caught my eye: CUMBERLAND HOTEL.

"Let's go there," I suggested as I led Violet across the street. Together, we marched up the red carpet - covered marble steps and through the gilt-gold doors, held open by a butler in a three-piece suit. With Lexi, I'd spent some time at some of the finest hotels in America, but I quickly realized that this establishment was on an entirely different level. Fresh-cut flowers were placed in large crystal bowls on every polished, gleaming surface, and the chandeliers were heavy gold. The man behind the desk glanced suspiciously at Violet and me.

"May I help you, sir?" he asked, his voice barely containing his disgust at her disheveled appearance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman in a silver chiffon gown with a train glide up the stairs, fol owed by two servants. At the corner bar, two men in tuxedos were draining crystal tumblers of whiskey. I felt my shoulders relax. For now, we were safe.

"Sir?" the man behind the desk prompted.

"Yes." I cleared my throat. I needed to pul myself together to successful y compel him. It was one thing to compel someone who was half-starved and hysterical, and entirely another to compel a man in charge of his wits.

"Yes, you may help me," I said, confidently stepping up to the marble-topped counter while a terrified Violet trailed behind me. The lighting in the old-fashioned lobby was dim, with dozens of candelabra giving the room in an orange glow that cast large, hulking shadows on the wal s. Every time one of the shadows moved, I glanced over my shoulder.

"What may I do for you?" the man behind the desk prompted pointedly.

I squared my shoulders and looked into his beady, gray eyes. I concentrated on the pupils, al owing my gaze to center in until the blackness was al I could see. "We need a room."

"I'm sorry. We don't have any rooms available for tonight," the man said.

"I know it's short notice, but there must be a room reserved for when royalty come to visit. My wife and I need that room," I said.

"But Stefan!" Violet squeaked behind me. Without breaking eye contact, I gently placed my foot on top of hers in warning. I'd learned the trick of asking for a room reserved for VIP guests from Lexi. It always worked.

"The best room," I added for emphasis.

"The best room," he said slowly, shuffling some papers. "Of course. The Queen Victoria Suite. She's stayed there, you know," he said.

"Good. Wel then I imagine we shal love it just as much as she did," I said, affecting a bit of a British accent.

"I do hope so, Mr. . . . um . . ."

"Pine," I said, using the first name that popped into my head. Hurry up, I thought under my breath. I knew I was quickly losing Power. After al , it had been almost a day since I'd eaten properly. "I shal need the room for at least a week," I added, hoping that I'd be far away before the week was out.

The man behind the desk nodded, and I smiled. I could stil compel. I stil had my Power. And I had twenty years of wisdom under my belt. I hadn't been ready to fight Klaus back then, but now it would be different.

"The porter shal show you your room," the man said. "And do you and your wife have any bags?" I shook my head. Instantaneously, a tal , morose-looking butler walked around the desk and held out his arm to Violet.

"And sir?" I said, lowering my voice so no one, not even Violet, would hear. "Just put it on my account."

"Of course, sir," the desk clerk said, sliding a heavy iron key across the counter. "Enjoy your stay." I smiled tersely and fol owed the porter and Violet up the sweeping staircase, winding past floors until we stopped in front of a white door. It was the only door on the entire level.

"Al ow me," the porter said, taking the key from my hand and putting it in the lock. He grandly swung the door open, then, placing a silver candleholder on a cherry-wood desk, quickly set to work lighting the various lamps in the room.

"Oh!" Violet trembled, clapping her hands to her mouth.

"Thank you." I nodded to the porter, pul ing a shil ing from my threadbare pocket. He took it in his palm and eyed me curiously. I hadn't compel ed him, and I knew the fact we were practical y wearing rags, and were without luggage, piqued his curiosity.

The door creaked shut and I locked it behind him.

"Stefan?" Violet asked tentatively, staring around the room in wonder. She walked in a circle, touching the heavy velvet curtains, the oak desk, and the floral-papered wal s, as if scarcely believing any of it was real.

"We're okay now. It's late, we should both get some rest," I said, gesturing toward the enormous bed in the center of the main room. "I'l just be in the next room. We can talk in the morning."

"Goodnight, Stefan. And thank you." She gave me a smal , tired smile and stepped toward the bed. I closed the door with a click and settled onto a couch in the adjacent room, which was set up like a sitting room. And sit I did. My mind reeled, and I couldn't even begin to pick apart the questions I needed to focus on. What was I going to do with Violet? What could I do about Klaus? Or Lucius? Part of me simply wanted to pick up and head back to Ivinghoe, where the only thing I had to concern myself with was a cow that had kicked over the pasture fence. But another part of me knew I was bound to London. I was a part of this now. Until I solved the mystery of the murder, more people would get kil ed.

Terrifying thoughts kept turning in my head as night turned into day. Below me, the wel -lit streets looked orderly and tidy: modern civilization at its finest. Even the rain-slicked surface looked somehow stately. But I knew it was al an il usion. Vampires struck anywhere, and just because this one had chosen the bad part of town didn't mean he wouldn't come here next.

Final y, the sun rose, burning off some of the thick clouds. The door creaked open, providing a much-needed interruption from my endlessly cycling thoughts.

"Hel o?" I cal ed hesitantly. I stil felt on edge, and any noise caused a tingling in my gums, a subtle reminder that I was ready to fight at any moment.

"Stefan?" Violet said shyly, stepping into the room. Her red hair was pul ed up in a bun on top of her head and her pinafore looked brighter than it had last night, making me guess she'd rinsed it in the opulent washroom. Her eyes were sparkling and her hair, I realized now in the light, was flecked with gold.

"Violet," I said, rising unsteadily to my feet. I ignored the hunger pangs in my stomach.

"Did you sleep?" Violet asked, settling onto the couch and pul ing her legs underneath her. I crossed the room and perched on the wooden desk chair opposite her.

I shook my head. "I had a lot on my mind," I said, clenching and unclenching my jaw. Every part of my body ached, although whether it was from the terror of last night or from our flight through London, I couldn't tel .

"I did, too," Violet confessed, sighing sadly as she cradled her head in her hands. "My sister . . . I'm so worried about her," she said final y.

"What happened to her?" I asked. Just hours ago, I was hoping Damon wasn't responsible for these deaths and disappearances. Now, I was hoping against hope he was. Damon had been known to compel women for his own amusement. If he'd done it to Cora, wel , that would mean she was stil alive. But if Klaus or Lucius had found her . . . I shivered.

"That's the very thing. I just don't know. She went to work at the Ten Bel s two nights ago, and then she didn't come home. Then the murder happened . . . and everyone said . . ." Violet's lips twisted into a grimace, but she forged ahead. "They said that maybe she didn't come home because she went home with someone else. That she went home with a man, like some of the girls at the tavern do," Violet said, a crimson flush crossing her face. "But Cora isn't like that. And I'm not like that. I tried tel ing Alfred and an officer who came in that Cora wouldn't have just gone off with someone, that she was missing. But they didn't do anything," she said sadly, knitting her fingers together as she stared at the ground.

"Why not?" I asked. I felt angry that no one was taking Violet's concerns seriously. After al , she was just an innocent young girl, worried about her sister.

Violet shook her head. "The police said they can't do anything until they find a body. They said she's a grown woman and she can go where she pleases. I'm just so worried." Violet sighed.

"But if Cora were kil ed . . ." I began, trying to reassure her with the conclusion I'd come to last night, "surely her body would have been found."

"Don't say that!" Violet said sharply. "I'm sorry," she added instantly. "I just hate hearing it. But yes, you're right. If she was kil ed, they would have found . . . something," she said, shuddering. I nodded, silently agreeing. "But I haven't heard anything. No one has. And that's just the thing. She wouldn't have left without tel ing me. It isn't like her."

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