BySandra Harris, writer at


It was getting on for midnight when Vera Stoker, Bessie’s mother, took up her customary position against the wall near the Penny Whistle Pub and waited for her first client of the night, whomever he might be, to reveal himself. Months had passed and it had not grown any easier to sell her body to whomsoever had the money to pay for it.

Since the nightmarish incident in which she’d been almost strangled by a customer in the pitch-black Vinegar Lane last autumn, the autumn of 1888, she’d been terrified to set foot on the streets of Whitechapel at night. Like so many of the other street-walkers, however, she’d had little or no choice. Needs must when the devil drives, wasn’t that what they said?

She was a deserted wife with seven children all younger than Bessie to feed and clothe. Her work as a seamstress was paying less and less now that her eyesight was failing. She had to do what she could to pay the rent on their two-room dwelling in a rundown house containing a number of other such dwellings.

If it wasn’t for Bessie’s wages as a kitchen maid and the scraps of food which she was able to secrete out of the well-stocked kitchens at Richmond House and bring in her bag to Stocking Lane, they would all most likely have starved by now.

Bessie was a good, sensible daughter, not the sort to go getting herself into trouble and shaming her family. Vera didn’t know what she’d do without Bessie, she really didn’t. The girl was her lifeline. When Vera went fully blind, as the doctor had told her she would do eventually, Bessie would have to look after her seven younger brothers and sisters. Yes, and her blind mother too. It hardly bore thinking about. For now, all that Vera could do was to keep going. What else could she do?

“You working, love?” a gruff voice asked her suddenly, breaking in on her thoughts of approaching blindness, poverty, misery and despair. Vera nodded, then went with the man in the direction he indicated. As she did every time she went off into the inky darkness of a Whitechapel night, she wondered if she was taking her life into her own hands and going off with Jack The Ripper.

There’d been no further murders since the horrific disembowelling of poor Mary Kelly in Miller’s Court last autumn. Talk of The Ripper had died down and the street-walkers of Whitechapel had nervously resumed their nightly commerce. Mostly because they had to, Vera knew, and not because they wanted to. She often wondered if the man who’d put his two hands round her neck last autumn had been The Ripper, but deep down in her heart of hearts she felt that The Ripper would not have allowed her to go free.

“Not here,” she said with a shudder as the man began to turn down the entrance to Vinegar Lane. Not for any money would she return to the place where she’d felt such deathly fear. For a moment the man, who was in his late forties with a dark beard, looked annoyed, then he shrugged and took another turn, this time down Marshes Alley.

“This do Your Majesty?” the man asked sarcastically when they were ensconsed in the darkest part of the crooked little laneway, under an archway that gave onto the equally poorly-lit Milton Square.

“It’s… It’s fine,” Vera said, hating his nasty tone but knowing that there was nothing she could do about it. He was the customer. He was paying her and therefore he was entitled to be impolite if he so wished.

“Show us your tits, then,” he said, pushing her up against the wall. He looked disappointed when Vera opened first her jacket and then her blouse to bare her breasts. They were small and saggy. Vera was thirty-eight years old. She’d given birth to eight children, the youngest only twenty months old, and had suckled all eight of them with these breasts. She couldn’t help it if they weren’t the breasts of a younger, healthier woman. She tried to put the humiliation of being found wanting out of her head and concentrate on the job in hand.

“Where d’you want me, then?” she said, forcing a lightness she didn’t feel into her voice.

“Turn around and face the wall,” the man said. Vera did what she was told but she was holding her breath. This was always the moment when she wondered if she was about to have her throat cut from behind or a knife jammed between her ribs. As always, it was almost a relief when she felt him fumbling beneath her skirts and lowering her drawers so that he could push his swollen male member up into her sex from behind. He grabbed hold of the breasts he’d disparaged and gripped them tightly as he pushed in and out of her, grunting and groaning the whole time.

When he was finished and Vera’s parts were sore and slick from his fluid, he adjusted his clothing, dug a couple of coins out of his coat pocket and passed them to Vera without a word. Then he walked off, leaving Vera to make her way out of the dimly-lit Marshes Alley alone. A few more street-lights had been put up around Whitechapel since The Ripper’s murderous rampage, but it was still not nearly enough, not by a long way.

Vera did not breathe easily until she was back outside the Penny Whistle Pub which was well-lit and still full of raucous punters who were evidently feeling musically inclined at this particular moment in time. It was after midnight, it was cold and starting to rain and she was dead tired, but the landlord was due to call tomorrow and she still didn’t have the rent for him. She would need another two, maybe even three more punters before the night was out if she were to have his money for him.

“You working, love?” said a male voice beside her. Reluctantly, Vera nodded and walked off in the direction he indicated.


This story is a work of fiction and comes (almost!) entirely from the imagination of Sandra Harris. Any resemblance to any persons living or un-dead is purely coincidental.

This story is copyrighted material and any reproduction without prior permission is illegal. Sandra Harris reserves the right to be identified as the author of this story.

Sandra Harris. ©


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.

Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.

She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:

sandrasandraharri[email protected]



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