“Yo, Nick, make a face for the camera, man!”
Nick purposely relaxed his face into a perfectly deadpan expression as AJ appeared in front him, cell phone raised, and snapped a picture.
“That is one sexy seventies pornstache, dude.” AJ snickered as he looked at the picture on his phone. “I gotta tweet this shit!”
“I wanna see!” said Nick, thrusting his hand toward the phone, but AJ held it out of reach.
“You can see it on Twitter in a few.”
Nick slid his own phone out of his pocket, pulled up his Twitter app, and refreshed until tweets from @skulleeroz started appearing on his timeline. First there was a tweet that said “ha!” with an Instagram photo of Brian and their bodyguard, Q, each sporting a fake mustache from a pack of them the Boys had bought for their own amusement. Brian wore a bushy mustache that matched his hair; Q’s was a black handlebar mustache. Then came a picture of Howie, also with a handlebar mustache. Finally Nick, with a mustache that resembled one of Kevin’s eyebrows pasted crookedly across his upper lip. AJ had tweeted the caption, Nick I he did porn.
“Your fuckin’ autocorrect messed up your tweet,” said Nick, reading it back to him.
AJ shrugged. “So? Hey, gimme that; I got an idea!” Before Nick could protest, he reached out and ripped the mustache right off his face.
“Ow!” cried Nick, rubbing his upper lip, which felt red and raw. He glared as he watched AJ apply it to his own face, but couldn’t help but giggle when he saw the result. “Oh my God, you look like Kevin!” he snorted, as AJ, trying not to laugh, snapped a picture of himself with the mustache fixed to the center of his forehead. “KEV, you gotta come see this!”
Brian, Howie, and Q were all cracking up, but Kevin must have been taking a shit or something, because he never showed up to see what was so funny. Unibrow, yo, AJ tweeted along with the picture. Once it appeared on Nick’s timeline, he figured Kevin would see it soon enough and stole his mustache back from AJ.
“Dude!” shouted AJ, massaging his brow. “I think you took some of my real eyebrows with that!”
Nick shrugged. “Hey, you needed a little manscaping, bro!” he called over his shoulder, as he walked away. “Besides, it looks better on me!”
He went into his bedroom, where he reapplied the mustache in front of the mirror over his dresser. He spotted his favorite gray fedora sitting on the dresser top and put that on, too. It didn’t really fit over his large head, so he wore it perched jauntily on top. He thought it made him look suave, like a distinguished London gentleman, and he entertained himself for the next few minutes by making gentlemanly faces at himself in the mirror.
The recently-reunited Backstreet Boys had been in London for six days, writing and recording their next album. They were living together in a house with no family around, just the five of them, their security team, and a small camera crew that was filming footage for a documentary they planned to release in tandem with the new album. It felt like a frat house, and Nick had been having so much fun just goofing off with the guys, it didn’t even feel like work. But they had been working hard, spending every day that week in the studio. Even on a Saturday, they’d put in a few hours of work. They would take Sunday off.
With his days filled with music and his nights filled with fun, Nick hadn’t had much time to think about killing fans, not to mention opportunities to act on his homicidal urges. He’d hardly had any time to himself the whole week. But it was Saturday night, and he was going to have a party.
The other guys were doing their own thing that night, so no one gave him much grief when he slung a dark jacket over his shoulder, slipped a large kitchen knife into the waistband of his jeans, and announced, “I’m going out for the night. Be back later.”
“You ain’t bringin’ a bodyguard?” asked Q, one eyebrow raised.
“Nah. Don’t need one. Got my disguise,” said Nick, pointing above his chin. He smoothed his mustache, tilted his hat to the side, and darted out the door. There were still a few fans skulking outside, the same few who had been stalking them at the studio all week, but Nick gave them the slip in the underground, riding random trains until he was sure he’d shaken all of his followers. Then he hopped on the line that would take him to his planned destination.
It was there in the subway where he’d gotten the idea, while riding with the Boys the other day. They had seen a flier advertising a Jack the Ripper Walk, which started at the same time every night outside the Tower Hill tube station. “That looks cool,” AJ had said, pointing it out. “We should do that sometime!”
“Yes…” said Nick, the wheels in his head already turning as he stared at the silhouette of a knife-wielding man in a top hat and trench coat on the flier. “We should.”
But that evening, he exited the Tower Hill station alone.
He looked around and saw a large group congregating around a nearby lamp post. Most of them were young adults around his age, but there were a few older couples and some teenagers in the crowd. Nick sidled up to a woman who was standing alone, a few feet apart from the others. “You here for the Jack the Ripper walk?” he asked casually.
She jumped, startled, and spun around.
“Sorry,” said Nick, chuckling. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“It’s fine,” said the woman, releasing a shaky breath. “Yes, I’m here for-” She stopped mid-sentence, her eyes suddenly widening, and Nick knew that, despite his disguise, she had recognized him.
“The walk? Awesome. Me too.” He smirked and extended his hand. “I’m Nick, by the way.”
“Steph,” she whispered breathlessly, slipping her hand into his.
He started to shake it, then changed his mind and lifted it to his lips, lightly kissing her knuckles. “Sorry,” he said, still smirking over the top of her hand. “Something about this hat and mustache makes me feel like an old-fashioned English gentleman… I say! Pip pip, cheerio!”
She giggled at his epically bad English accent, a blush rising high in her cheeks. “Your mustache tickles!” she exclaimed, her own accent authentic.
“Sorry,” he apologized again and released her hand. “I needed a disguise. Didn’t fool you, though, did it?”
“Sorry, but no,” she said, still giggling as she shook her head. “If only it matched your hair color, it might look a tad more authentic.”
“Yeah, you’re right. My bad.” He winked. “So… Steph. You all by yourself tonight?”
“Sadly, yes,” she sighed. “My friend had a bit too much to drink at dinner and was feeling ill, so she stayed behind in our hotel room. She insisted I go ahead and do the walk alone, since it’s our last night on holiday. We’re taking the train home to Wales tomorrow.”
“That’s a bummer,” said Nick. “I’m goin’ solo tonight, too. Maybe we could stick together, so neither of us have to be alone? I hear this walk’s pretty scary.” He grinned.
Steph beamed back, her eyes bright in the dusky twilight. “I’d love to!”
“Awesome.” Nick offered her his hand again, and she took it. “I’m sure it’ll be a walk to remember,” he said, as they moved forward to join the others.
A man in costume led the tour, taking them through dark alleyways as he talked about the Ripper and the five infamous murders he’d committed in the fall of 1888, known as “The Autumn of Terror” in London. Nick felt Steph squeeze his hand, her fingernails digging into his flesh, as the tour guide described the gorier details of each murder. Nick learned that Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes by slashing their throats with two cuts before ripping open their abdomens, occasionally removing internal organs. The murders occurred at night, often over the weekend.
Perfect, thought Nick, gazing up at the strip of sky visible between the two buildings that flanked the alley in which they had stopped to listen to another story. Dark clouds nearly covered the crescent moon, and as night descended upon them, the temperature dropped as well. He inhaled deeply, breathing in lungfuls of the crisp air, and hugged his jacket tighter around himself to ward off the chill. Next to him, Steph shivered, and he stepped closer to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders to warm her, as the fingers of his free hand brushed the hilt of the knife hidden beneath his jacket.
“It’s gettin’ cold, huh?” he murmured. “This sure don’t feel like July!”
She laughed. “I suppose I should be used to the weather, but yes, it’s quite chilly! I wish I’d worn a jumper!”
“Whaddya say we grab a cup of coffee when the tour’s over?” suggested Nick.
“I say that sounds lovely!” Steph agreed.
While the others filed into the underground station where the tour let off, Nick led Steph in a different direction. The streets were still crowded, and it wasn’t yet dark enough for him to snuff out her life under the cover of darkness, so Nick took her to a café down the street, where they ordered coffee and sat down at a tiny table in the corner to warm up. Steph took out her cell phone and played with it as they waited for their drink orders. Nick stroked the smooth handle of the knife, out of sight.
When Steph stood up and said, “Pardon me; I’m just going to use the loo,” leaving her phone on the table as she left for the ladies room, Nick picked it up and turned it over to see what she’d been looking at. When he saw the page of reviews praising Steph for a story in which she’d mangled Howie’s leg in plane crash and plagued Nick with dreams of digging bot flies out of Jordan Knight’s brain, he knew his fan radar had proved him right again. He was developing quite a knack for finding fans who wrote the kind of fan fiction stories he hated. He had paid for their coffee, but Steph would pay for her “creativity,” he thought, wiping his fingerprints off her phone with the hem of his shirt.
She returned from the restroom just as their drinks were served, and they made small talk as they sipped from the steaming cups. Steph kept stirring her latte, a mountain of whipped cream melting into the milky brown liquid like a glacier into the slowly simmering sea. Nick guzzled coffee that was as black as his heart, eager to be done and gone. It was torturous listening to her chatter on and on about her family and friends and job as a customer service rep. He didn’t want to view her as a person. In his eyes, she was just another one of them, the twisted writers who tortured him with their words in a more physical way. Soon, it would be her turn to experience the kind of pain she and her kind had inflicted upon him.
“Let’s get out of here,” he suggested, when he could stand it no longer.
Steph looked up, her eyes shining. “Okay,” she whispered.
They walked out into the night, fully dark now and not nearly as crowded as before. As he led her away from the well-lit sidewalks and into one of the shadowy alleys from the tour, Nick distracted Steph with talk of the new album and the work he’d been doing in the studio all week with the Boys. She hung on to his every word with rapt interest, oblivious to where he was taking her. In the middle of the alley, he stopped mid-sentence and said, “This is gonna gross you out, but I gotta take a piss. That coffee went right through me. Mind turning around?”
“Oh! Er, of course not!” Steph obediently spun away, averting her eyes, as Nick turned toward the brick wall of the building beside them. Without unzipping his fly, he whipped out his long, mighty dagger. He wielded the knife over his head as he snuck up behind her. In his oversized jacket and ill-fitting fedora, he cast a shadow that bore an eerie similarity to the silhouette of Jack the Ripper on the flier. This put a sinister smile of satisfaction on Nick’s face as he stalked his next victim.
She let out one short scream when his arm shot around her, but he silenced it by stabbing her in the throat. She stumbled backwards into his arms, already gasping for air, her fingers scrabbling frantically at the puncture wound from which blood flowed freely. “Shh,” he whispered, as he lowered her to the pavement. “Don’t speak. Your words have done too much harm already.” Then he widened the wound with a second slash across her neck. As the blood poured from her severed jugular, he watched her eyes roll back into her head, which hit the ground with a sickening smack as she lost consciousness.
He had sliced her trachea, cutting off her air supply, but her heart was still beating when he plunged the knife into her torso and twisted it like a corkscrew, shredding the tissue as he bore a hole into her belly. Blood spurted out of it like a geyser, spattering his face, but as her pulse weakened, the shower of blood slowed to a trickle. He watched her heart falter and finally stop through the window he carved into her chest. Beads of sweat formed around his fake mustache and dripped into the open cavity as he dug around inside, panting with the effort it took to wedge the knife underneath her ribcage and hack out her heart. When, at last, he found it in his hand, he held it up over his head like a trophy, a symbol of his triumph. Blood fell like rain upon him, but Nick didn’t care. “I bet you never counted on Nick Carter stealing your heart,” he whispered to his fan’s lifeless corpse. “Literally.”
He tucked the organ into his coat pocket and stood, brushing off his knees. It had started to rain for real, and her diluted blood pooled around his feet. Jack the Ripper had spent hours mutilating his victims, making them almost unrecognizable as he ravaged their faces and removed various body parts. Nick the Ripper knew he didn’t have that much time before he was discovered. “Nick be nimble, Nick be quick,” he sing-songed to himself as he jumped over the murdered chick and stole away into the shadows.
He removed his jacket and let the rain wash the blood from his face and shoes as he walked the empty streets. By the time he made it back to the band house, he was so drenched that no one noticed the dark stains on his jeans or the blood soaking through the bulge in his coat pocket.
In the morning, he went for a jog while Brian and Howie attended church, and afterwards, the five of them took a train across town to the home of a friend, who’d invited them over for a Sunday afternoon roast. It was in the subway station that AJ asked them to stop so he could snap a picture. But instead of turning the phone’s camera on himself, he aimed it at a concrete pillar, where there was a creepy painting of a familiar figure in a top hat and a long coat.
Jack the ripper, AJ tweeted, while Nick gazed into the coal black eyes of the mustachioed murderer. The eyes stared back unblinkingly. Nick smiled and gave them a knowing wink.
He’d taken twenty victims total now, four times as many as there were credited to the notorious Jack. But Nick the Ripper could not be satisfied, not when there were so many hearts left to steal. Literally.
Twenty down… so many more to go, he mused, stroking the spot where his mustache had been.