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Peter was on to his second pint when he stood up to look out again. Two people came out of the hotel, a woman and his gentleman friend. They both stood for a while talking, then they kissed and went off in opposite directions. The woman started walking towards Peter. He watched as she walked past and looked her up and down. She carried on down to Whitechapel Road and turned left; Peter followed. She entered the tube station and purchased a ticket; he quickly followed. She boarded the Northbound District line, Peter followed. The train pulled into Mile End where she alighted and made her way to the Central line. She got on the next train heading west, and Peter followed. She only went the one stop, which was Bethnal Green. Peter followed her out of the station, and watched her turn into Bethnal Green Gardens. The path through the gardens was quiet so he decided to take this opportunity to confront this woman. He quickened his pace. ‘Excuse me.’ She turned her head but carried on walking. ‘Excuse me,’ repeated Peter.
She turned again and stopped. ‘Yes?’ she protested.
Peter couldn’t help noticing the scar on her left cheek. ‘I know you don’t know me but can I ask you a question?’
He could see she felt a bit uneasy. ‘It’s ok,’ he reassured her.
‘Well ask away,’ she replied.
Peter hesitated for a moment then came right out with his question: ‘Who was that man that you left the Brick Lane Hotel with?’
A look of shock formed on her face as she took several steps backwards. ‘Who are you? Why do you want to know? You’ve been following me, haven’t you? Why have you been following me?’
Peter continued in a reassuring voice, ‘There is no need to be alarmed, I only want to know his name.’
‘Look, just leave me alone. It’s got nothing to do with you who that man is, now go away before I start to scream.’ Her voice was trembling and quite loud now and it alerted a passer-by walking their dog. Peter thought it best to let it go as the dog owner had now stopped and was looking on.
‘Never mind,’ he replied and he turned to leave. He walked for about fifty yards then turned around and went back, his steps increasing as he caught up with her. He placed his arm on her shoulder, but she turned her head and pulled away.
‘Leave me alone,’ she shouted.
By now, Peter had grabbed both her arms and she struggled to free herself. ‘Who is that man? Is he the Ripper? Why is he coming back and forth from the past to the present?’ He found it hard to believe he was saying such things to a stranger.
‘What the hell are you on about?’ shouted Mary. ‘Are you fucking mad, or something?’
Peter released his grip, he knew how ridiculous he must have sounded.
Mary started to hurry away. ‘Now leave me alone or I’ll have the police onto you.’
Peter stood still, rubbing his forehead. How stupid was all that, he thought to himself. He made his way back to the exit to the park and set off home.