MAY 26, 3:55 A.M.
Laramie Street: Ms. Laura Morescu, age twenty-four, a masseuse. She was fond of stuffed animals and had been given one by an exceptionally satisfied customer. She was anxious to get home and find a place for it in her collection.
Her strides were long and her steps sharp on the sidewalk. Her years in the city taught her that a determined walk and a look of confidence deterred most would-be attackers--even when one walked alone, at night, carrying a huge black and white panda.
She crossed Goethe Street and appeared not to notice the man approaching the corner from the west, a man whose apparel stood out even in a metropolis like Chicago.
The man stepped onto the Laramie Street sidewalk and matched Laura's long strides. Maybe the echoing clop of his steps made Laura turn, or maybe it was, once again, the scrape of steel on steel.
Ms. Morescu's new teddy bear gave the police mute testimony as to what happened next. Laura turned to face her attacker. She held the bear before her like a shield, and the caped killer plunged his rapier-weapon into its plump belly. The woman screamed and toppled backwards onto the sidewalk. Again the razor-sharp blade plunged down. Laura somehow managed to deflect it twice more with the bear.
The killer's lustmord lifted for a moment. He seized the panda, its white stuffing poking out of its fuzzy stomach, and yanked it from Laura's grasp. He held it to his face as if it were a living being that had affronted him, then he hurled it away.
The black and white bear bounced on the concrete and came to rest against the wall of an office supply shop. Its shiny button eyes watched blindly as the steel blade cut through stuffing redder and wetter than cotton.
* * *
I was listening simultaneously to the intermittent voices on my Panasonic police band and the tunes from a local jazz station. Suddenly a dispatcher's voice crackled, "Code Five . . . All cars respond."
I turned down a New Orleans Rhythm Kings number.
". . . Homicide suspect on building at intersection of Laramie and Pulaski. Details all matching description. Code Five, Code Five . . ."
I made a U-turn at the next light, crossing four or five lanes. At least the traffic lightened a little at four o'clock in the morning.
The police, to their credit, arrived so quickly the killer could not simply trot away. He entered a brownstone, smashing open a double locked door as though it were made of Styrofoam. As I rolled across town, wondering if the "details" included a black cape and slouch hat, he clambered up four flights of stairs, followed by several boys in blue.
As I reached Pulaski, a blue and white CPD car angled in front of me in that practiced cut-off maneuver. Its right front tire hit the curb hard enough to make the vehicle bounce.
That wouldn't stop ol' Johnny-on-the-spot. As the cop climbed out, I hopped the curb at the corner where the sidewalk spread out into a concrete apron. I edged my trusty Mustang between the Pontiac patrol car and a liquor store.
The cop ran up as I rolled back into the gutter. He slapped his palms against the door before I stopped.
"Hey! Whaddaya think ya doin'? Ya can't drive over the sidewalk!" he yelled.
"--seal off all southbound thoroughfares," crackled his radio.
I heard the first pops of gunfire. I switched off the Yellow Submarine's engine while it still in gear. I yanked up my press pass and shoved it in the patrolman's face.
"Press!" I yelled.
More shots rang out. A line of passersby, who'd been doing God knew what at 4:00 A.M., stared up at the row of buildings.
I pushed by the cop, who threw his arms up in frustration and followed.
"Get more light on that rooftop!" someone yelled.
Police searchlights played over the buildings as I pushed by rubberneckers. I passed the Legionnaires Club as I checked my Kodak and strobe.
"--Need a rifle with a scope--"
The shots above rang out with greater and greater frequency. I looked up at the rooftops and caught a flash of movement. A figure in black whipped in and out of a yellow spotlight. An officer followed close behind. I trotted along the sidewalk, paralleling them. Cops I dodged, gawkers I bumped.
"Unit Three--Unit Three--cover the back alley," a lieutenant ordered over a megaphone.
More cars spotlighted the roof four stories over our heads. Yes, the suspect wore a black suit, a back hat, and, impractical as it must have been, an opera cape.
I doubted I'd get anything, but I snapped off a few on the run. This had to be the fruitcake from Werner's Boom-Boom Room.
Patrolmen joined me on the chase. Some ran ahead and pulled their pistols. They held their fire as an officer popped up in front of the caped man. The Ripper ran right into him and knocked him flat.
Now the cops blasted away. I glared at a wet-behind-the-ears rookie at my elbow who deafened me with his .38. I was lucky not to get powder burns.
The man in black trotted on. Everyone downstairs missed. Another pause as a second cop, visibly overweight, jumped in front of "Jack". The Ripper slapped his hands on the cop's shoulders and tossed him aside as if passing a basketball. I glimpsed something shiny in the suspect's right hand--the tip of a cane or walking stick.
The units on the street showcased both the caped man and a cop chasing him. The officer leveled his revolver and fired twice.
In the heat of the chase, amid all the lights and noise, I felt a chill. The cop was five feet behind the guy. Even running, I didn't think he could miss.
Yet another cop popped into view on the roof. He ran to intercept the Ripper. He, too, fired at the caped man, who skidded to a stop.
The cop behind "Jack" fired. The cop ahead jumped right in the caped man's path and fired as well.
The man in black stood at the edge of the roof, glancing from officer to officer. The two cops, standing on opposite sides of the Ripper, fired straight at him--an insane act, but what we saw was insane. The bullets didn't hurt this guy. They didn't even seem to touch him.
The Ripper leapt into space. Everyone on the street stepped back. The suspect's cape fluttered over his head like a black and red flag for an astonishingly long time.
Then he landed. On his feet, light as a cat.
Everyone shouted. If the police around me were surprised, they shelved it long enough to close in around the Ripper. I got my first good look at him: He was, indeed, a man in black, from his Shadow-esque hat to his button-up shoes, except for his gray gloves and the red lining of his cape. A black beard and mustache partially hid his pale face. He held a cane with a horned devil's-head handle.
Three or four cops fired at point blank range. The Ripper glanced around bird-quick, raised his walking stick like a club, and charged.
I snapped pictures of a human can of worms, a hill of beat cops with the black-clad Ripper at the center. The hill collapsed in a landslide of blue serge; the Ripper shoved cops away as if they were toddlers in Pampers.
"Grab his legs!" "Get the mace!" "Hold the bastard!" officers yelled unhelpfully at each other.
I almost dropped the camera from sheer shock. The civilians around me gaped because they'd never seen anything like it. I gaped because I had.
The Ripper simply punched out one cop, then a second. A third brought his truncheon down on the crown of his slouch hat; the billyclub bounced like rubber off steel.
It's like seeing Skorzeny again, I thought.
A pair of cops seized the Ripper's arms. He flipped them away. They somersaulted like Olympic acrobats but landed more like bags of cement.
I swore as I snapped more pictures. Every time I got a clear shot of "Jack", he had his back turned.
The cops piled themselves against the Ripper like floodwaters. He seized the nearest and hauled him up in the air like a throw pillow. I swear Jack had to grab handfuls of the guy's uniform or he would have kept going. The Ripper pitched him forward, and the cop smashed the windshield of a car right next to me.
There must have been fourteen or fifteen officers in the mob around the Ripper. The number dwindled as more fell aside, battered and unconscious.
I peered through the viewfinder of my Kodak. The Ripper lifted another guy and threw him. I jerked down as a policeman came flying south for the winter. I let the asphalt catch him.
The Ripper slammed a cop in riot gear into the side of an inconveniently-parked Brink's van. Someone grabbed him around the knee like a horny bulldog; a kick sent that guy rolling side over side.
A cop stumbled back against me. We both went down. I rose again, numbed in thought but snapping pictures by instinct.
The caped man smacked two CPD skulls together like coconuts. There were two cops left on their feet, both between me and him. Jack decided he was late for a very important date. He trotted forward, shoving one officer down, then the other.
He charged at top speed, right at me.
I ducked. With a clap of hard leather on concrete, the Ripper sprang high over me, cape rippling like a kite.
I turned and watched him gallop frantically into the night--unnecessarily, as half the police force of Chicago lay unconscious at my feet.
I wandered around like an orphan in a napalmed village. I looked over the sprawled bodies; I touched the guy embedded in the windshield. He was breathing, at least.
I scratched my head and inhaled deeply. Once the Ripper's footsteps faded away, an unnatural quiet enveloped Chicago. I felt like the Last Man on Earth.
MAY 26, 4:06 A.M.
They had the Ripper trapped, treed, and cornered, yet he got away, and later, no one could agree on what they saw. When the ambulances arrived, the paramedics naturally asked me what happened. When I told them, they gave me funny looks.
I extricated myself from the chaos and drove back to the INS building, cold cockroaches skittering across my back. What had I just seen?
The impossible. The incredible. A man absorbing .45 and .38 slugs as a sponge soaks up raindrops. Leaping forty feet to the ground and landing like Nijinsky. Flicking muscular policemen off like flies.
Given a few days to cool off, I'd probably dismiss the things I'd seen item by item. I'd rationalize them into nonexistence. The cops and eyewitnesses were probably already revising their own memories.
Yet I'd seen this before. I had only to remember seventy-year-old Janos Skorzeny outrunning a police car, and one-hundred-forty-four year-old Richard Malcolm pitching cops like bon-bons.
Fear and unease whirled through my brain, yet a smile spread across my face.
A new town, a new life. [Pulitzer.] This time Kolchak's telling the world about the forces of darkness. [Nobel Prize in literature.]
You'd think I'd learn.
MAY 26, 8:15 A.M.
The INS darkroom had a small red plaque on the front door that read MEN. The stink of the cherry-flavored deodorizer, the toilet stalls, and the developing chemicals mixed in a bastard stench that reminded me of a fire at a sewage treatment plant I'd covered once.
Ike the mail boy doubled as our photo lab guy. I put him to work the minute he arrived, hovering at his shoulder like a mother hen as he slipped my negatives in one pan and out the other. Finally he held them up to the overhead bulb.
"Yeah? Yeah?" I demanded as I shadowed the big-schnozzed beanpole.
I felt dampness against my stomach. I'd dipped my tie in a developing pan while hanging over Ike. I scowled, wringing out the solution as best I could. I didn't let that dampen my enthusiasm, though:
"Lemme see, lemme see!"
I snatched the negatives from his hand and bumped him aside, but that didn't shake his snide grin. I held the strip of film up to the harsh light and saw--"
"Mud! This--this is sheer mud!" I slid the negatives through my fingers, studying murky shapes and black suns of lights. "What did I do wrong?"
The mail boy happily explained:
"That pocket strobe light you use won't reach over twenty feet, so all you got were a bunch of headlights."
He pointed to one I snapped when the police pushed Jack towards me with their sheer numbers.
"Some nice shots of the back of his head."
"Yeah," I snorted, handing him the negatives. "Send me up the prints when they're dry, will you?"
I headed for the door of the Men's Room.
"You want these?" Ike called after me.
I spread my arms. "Would I ask?"
The teen shrugged. "Anything you say."
* * *
I phoned a dispatcher and a couple of cops I knew. They'd been told by my old pal Captain Robert Warren that the suspect had eluded capture "by running through several dark alleys." I called an intern at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and was told that, yes, several cops had been carried in, injured when the Ripper ran them down with his getaway vehicle (!) Were we talking about the same incident?
I dropped my keister into my chair and rolled a sheet of paper into the old Underwood. Then I ran smack into a ten-foot-by-ten-foot slab of writer's block.
I could type down what I knew of Laura Morescu's murder, but the rest--
Now, here in Chicago, it began again.
"Once is happenstance," says Auric Goldfinger in Ian Fleming's novel. "Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."
The telephone squatted on one corner of my desk like a big black frog. If I had enemies, I also had a few allies.
MAY 26, 10:15 A.M.
I put in a long-distance call to the University of Washington and asked for Dr. Kirsten Helms. After a single buzz a thousand miles away, a receiver rose from its cradle and a voice commanded, "Speak!"
I smiled, envisioning the stern, narrow, Margaret Hamilton face that went with the voice, despite the fact that my college-era encounters with Dr. Helms rarely gave me anything to smile about.
Did I hear a slight gasp? Perhaps it was only wishful thinking.
"Mr. Kolchak. When the Pioneer Square murders dropped off the front page into the Memory Hole, and you became an Orwellian unperson, I assumed that I would never again have to listen to your sarcastic prattle and semi-literate speech patterns."
"A lot of people hoped for that," I admitted. "But I'm too damned ornery to die, and too dumb to shut up."
"Hmmm . . . I can't argue with half your statement, anyway. Well, then, Mr. Kolchak, in what God-forsaken hellhole did you finally end up?"
"Chicago," I answered.
I gave her a quick rundown on the events of the past year. As I paused for breath, the good doctor spoke again.
"I take it, Kolchak, that you're looking for information on Jack the Ripper."
"How did you know?"
"You're as dense as ever, Kolchak. The murders in Chicago and Milwaukee have been mentioned on every network. Even if you are suffering another Skorzeny-esque news blackout, it has been at least rumored that the killer calls himself Jack the Ripper."
"Astute deduction, Helms," I said. "So what can you tell me?"
I heard a distant bell and the dull rumble of students' feet. I thought of the bison herds that once roamed from here to Texas. Dr. Helms raised her voice a little.
"For one thing, Carl, I did read your account of the Skorzeny affair--or rather, the account that writer friend of yours put together. 'Der Troll,' am I?"
I swallowed, though hundreds of miles separated my knuckles from any yardstick she might swing at me.
"Uh--I meant that in an affectionate way."
"If that's your idea of affection, Carl it's no wonder you never married . . . At any rate, you realize the appendix of your book, the short piece devoted to the Ripper, is inaccurate."
"Inaccurate?" I shifted and set an elbow on my cigarette-burned desk. "In what sense?"
"In the sense of being wrong, Mr. Kolchak. For one thing, the woman Emma Smith, whom you count as a victim, lived long enough to say that she had been attacked by a gang of youths. She received a single stab wound and died of peritonitis. There was never a letter that read 'This is the fourth,' et cetera. It was rumored--only rumored--that these words were written on a wall after the murder of Annie Chapman. The first woman killed on the thirtieth of September was Elizabeth Stride, not Strade . . ."
I suffered quietly through this tirade, thinking of all the red marks on all the papers I'd handed in to Der Troll in her Humanities classes. Eventually she swung back to the present.
"Now, Mr. Kolchak. You could have done research on the historical Ripper in any library, but you chose instead to call me, halfway across the country. Am I to understand that you believe your killer to be the original Jack?"
I tapped a pencil on my desktop. There were so many circular stains from glasses and coffee cups, it was hard to tell the real color of the wood.
"I'm not sure what I believe, Dr. Helms. He sure looked the part. Slouch hat, opera cape, old-timy evening suit, walking stick. I think he even wore spats. And that wasn't the worst of it."
I described the events of early morning, May 26: The killer shrugging off bullets like a warm spring rain, hurling cops like softballs, jumping four floors from the roof of an apartment building and leaping like a kangaroo completely over me.
"Ha! Springheeled Jack, the Terror of London!" exclaimed Dr. Helms as I finished.
"Springfield who?" I asked.
"Springheeled Jack was the classic bogey of nineteenth century England, Kolchak," Der Troll explained. "A cape-wearing figure who supposedly jumped over walls and houses like a human grasshopper. He was first reported in 1837 in the London area. Some soldiers on duty near, I think, Aldershot, swore they blasted him with their rifles with no effect. He was wont to jump out of dark alleys at young women, but there was no indication he shared the bloodthirsty peculiarities of London's other Jack. I've an article on the fellow somewhere . . ."
"Well, Dr. Helms, before you go digging through your vaults of knowledge, I must warn you--I'm not completely sure my description is accurate. The pictures I took turned out to be murky as hell, and everyone else has a different version of the chase."
I mentioned Captain Warren's story, and the intern's. Silence. I reviewed what I'd just said, on the off chance I'd let out something insulting.
"Dear. It sounds like they have already won," she said at last.
"They? Who's they?" I asked.
"The police, politicians, and other officials who are colloquially known as the authorities, Kolchak. You are unsure of what you saw with your own eyes. Why? Because what you saw was unlikely? Impossible to your cynical mind-set? No, you're unsure because other people's testimonies are at odds with your own. That's not the Carl Kolchak I knew and grudgingly admired in Las Vegas. Have they worn you down at last, Kolchak?"
I was getting hot under the grimy collar.
"Hell no! Wear me down? I'm a Rock of Gibraltar, Doc. The world's BS washes up against me, but I'm still solid."
"Then did you or did you not see this fellow leap tall buildings with a single bound?"
"I did," I snapped. "He tossed one schnook right through the windshield of a squad car! He got hit by twenty or thirty slugs and just shrugged them off! He--"
I caught hold of my mouth like a kid grabbing a runaway balloon. I finished with a little more control.
"He convinced me he was not just the ordinary Joe you can go out and arrest. He convinced me--Dr. Helms, could there have been a connection between Jack the Ripper and the occult?"
"Hmmm . . . It would be difficult to dredge up everything on the subject here and now, particularly over the phone. I'll have to give you a reading list. Bear in mind that it is a spur-of-the-moment affair. You must spread your roots of inquiry out from this seed."
"I understand," I said, setting pencil to paper. "Shoot."
I heard a brief rustle and the clop of books on wood. A flap of paper.
"Well. There was a rather intriguing article on the subject by Leonard Gribble in the rather disreputable publication True Detective. March issue of this year, in fact. And away back during the murders themselves, there were articles on the possible connection to black magic in the Pall Mall Gazette . . . wait a moment. Let me check my old Murder and the Occult; I know I wrote the reference there. Yes. The issue for December 1, 1888. There have been suggestions that the Ripper was connected with Masonic rites. You might snoop around in used and antiquarian bookstores; it amazes me what one can find in such places. Look especially for a little book called Getting Light . . ."
I scribbled like mad. I'd known from Las Vegas that Dr. Helms studied case histories of murder as thoroughly as she studied the Classics, but her "spur-of-the-moment" list astounded me.
"I'd suggest looking through the Confessions of Aleister Crowley--what they published of the multi-volume set, not the abridgment that came out in '69. Look up Daniel Farson--f-a-r-s-o-n--and Tom Cullen--c-u-l-l-e-n--and Colin Wilson for general information. And surely the Chicago Public Library has microfilm versions of the contemporary newspapers and periodicals. That should do for a start."
"Start," I muttered. "I didn't read this much during college."
Ouch. I scribbled down the last few names before I forgot them.
"Janos Skorzeny, Dr. Malcolm, and now the Ripper, whatever his real name might be," continued my former instructor. "The three of them passing through history unchanging, while we live and die like mayflies around them. How many others have learned the secrets of Eternity, Carl? When you walk down a crowded street, how would you know if the person next to you was twenty-five or two hundred and twenty-five?"
"I don't have the faintest idea," I admitted.
"Perhaps the Immortals know of each other. There would be a winnowing effect as the decades passed, after all. Have you ever heard the theory that if you stood on one street corner long enough, everyone you'd ever met would eventually pass by?"
"Either that, or you'd be picked up for soliciting," I quipped.
Dr. Helms' retort was fortunately inaudible.
"Well--eventually the Immortals would become aware of one other--glimpses years apart, perhaps, with the final realization that they were all ancient redwoods among the saplings. They would form a network, I think, an organization to help themselves and others like them, as in the Lazarus Long stories by Robert Heinlein."
I let a moment pass before commenting.
"Dr. Helms--If there is a secret club of immortals out there, why does it keep picking on me?"
The good doctor let out a bark of laughter.
"Maybe you're a Dhampyr," she announced.
"I'm a damn what?"
"Dhampyr," she continued. "Or the descendant of one. Your grandfather immigrated from Romania, no? In Romania and Hungary, a Dhampyr was believed to be the offspring of a human mother and a vampiric father. A Dhampyr was called upon to be a combination exorcist, shaman, and vampire slayer. Their diluted nosferat blood somehow gave them power to confront the supernatural, perhaps as weakened disease organisms incite resistance to their full-strength brethren in modern inoculations."
Helms sighed, and when she continued, her voice was softer--almost friendly.
"You're like a leukocyte, Kolchak. A white blood cell on the lookout for invading organisms. You're attracted to the supernatural. Or it's attracted to you. I do not envy your lot in life. You know the Chinese saying, 'May you live in interesting times?' I fear those times are here."
"Thanks a lot, Dr. Helms. You've really made my day."
I hung up at last.
MAY 26, 1:15 P.M.
"Carl, I think you've missed the tone of 'Dear Emily.'"
Tony ambled my way, eyes on the Emily replies I had churned out last night. I tapped the old Underwood fast as a jackhammer, spurred on by Dr. Helms.
"These answers are a little terse--almost cynical," continued Vincenzo. "Take this one, for instance: 'Dear Exhausted: You have an X-rated boyfriend. Tell him to clean up his act and get booked in another house.'"
He plopped himself on the edge of my desk, next to my typing stand.
"Come on. That's just not Emily."
I've read that the electric signals in the spinal cords of dinosaurs took a few seconds to shoot from their tiny brains to their cumbersome bodies. The same may be true of our favorite Sicilian editor; he stared at my growing copy for a long moment before he finally burst out with, "What do you think you're doing, Carl?"
Nothing slow about his hand, however: whack and my story left the typewriter. I barely had time to open my mouth, much lest protest.
"Late last night the brutal murder of Miss Laura Morescu, age twenty-four--"
He crumpled the sheet and poked his finger in my face.
"This isn't your assignment, it's someone else's. You are Miss Emily. Miss Emily, remember?"
I waved my arms like a--well, like a Sicilian editor.
"Who did you give it to?" I demanded.
"I gave it to Updyke," said Tony, rising again.
"You didn't. You couldn't!"
Vincenzo tossed the crumpled page on my desk.
"Yes I did, and it's his assignment," he continued. I grabbed up my precious copy and carefully uncrumpled it. "You could learn a lot from Ron Updyke. He was financial editor for five years."
"Financial advisor!" I said sarcastically. "Mortgages, interest rates, soy bean futures--What does that have to do with the news?"
Up came our index fingers, then both of us fell silent. Speak of the Devil--Ron Updyke tottered quietly into the newsroom. He smiled weakly at us, then he drifted over to his desk and sank into his seat like a ghost returning to its grave.
Tony and I exchanged glances. The guy looked like he'd just seen the end of the world. We left my desk and stepped over to Updyke's.
Ron looked at us with sad puppy eyes.
"It was horrible. Horrible," he said.
Tony and I leaned against the wooden railing next to Updyke's desk. Vincenzo broached the subject of the Ripper as if Ron were an ordinary human being.
"Have you got any background on the murdered girl, Ron?"
Updyke slowly pulled out an expensive leather-bound notebook and consulted its 24-pound satin sheen pages.
"She's dead," he said redundantly. "Throat cut." He looked up at us in shock. "Her head was nearly severed from her body!"
"Did you get that from the coroner's report?" I asked.
"No. I got it from a reporter from the Herald," Ron continued glumly. "He actually saw the body."
"He saw the body," repeated Tony. "So . . . What did you do, Ron?"
Updyke shut his notebook.
"I went to where she was--" He gulped down something. "Murdered. It was--"
"Horrible?" I suggested.
"Exactly." Ron looked up at Vincenzo hopefully. "May I go home?"
Vincenzo sighed, the sigh of dashed hopes a man might give when his son quits the high school football team.
"Go home, Ron."
Updyke left. Tony shook his head in sorry astonishment. He finally looked back at me.
"Horrible," I said.
MAY 26, 2:35 P.M.
A day late and a dollar short. Excuse the cliche, but it could be my epitaph.
I trotted down the sidewalk toward the Chicago Police Department Headquarters, wincing in the bright sunshine. I had to admit, Chicago had been good to me; I was halfway in shape, and I rarely hit the bottle any more.
I flashed my press pass at the stone-faced officers flanking the door and pushed my way into the crowded auditorium.
"And that's about all we have in the way of positive information on the homicide at this time," said Captain Robert M. Warren, speaking from behind the shield of a maplewood podium.
Typical. The crowd of reporters and TV journalists mumbled as if ready to leave. I clicked on my cassette recorder.
"In the meantime, a description of the suspect is being circulated, and we expect to have more information in forty-eight hours."
"Question, question!" I called.
"Good day, gentlemen," said Warren, a gravel-voiced, fifty-eight-year-old career cop with a face like weathered sandstone.
"Question, question!" I called louder--but with a smile.
The good captain scowled and acknowledged me with an annoyed, "Take your hat off."
I obeyed, but I sprang right into the fray.
"Can you explain how the suspect jumped from the top of a four-story building and survived?"
Warren straightened, his feathers slowly ruffling.
"There are a number of possible explanations. His fall might have been broken by something . . . He might have dropped from a lower floor fire escape . . ."
"Might have, but didn't," I said. I glanced around at the sea of skeptical faces. "I know. I was there. I saw."
I pointed my Sony at Warren.
"I also saw him make scrap metal out of one of your patrol cars."
The captain leaned halfway over his podium. The seal of the City of Chicago hung on the wall behind him like a six-foot halo.
"Don't you worry about our patrol cars," he said, low and angry. "As I think Mr. Vincenzo explained to you, you're not the Police Commissioner."
The roomful of journalists had a good laugh. Score one for the cops.
"I've given you all I have on the subject," concluded Warren. "Thank you, gentlemen."
This time everyone did rise. Warren hopped down off the stage and edged along the wall. I placed myself strategically in his path, but suddenly a head of red-blond curls eclipsed my view. I hadn't even noticed, but I'd been standing next to plump Jane Plumm, star reporter for a disreputable rag called The Messenger.
"I'm no gentleman!" she announced in Warren's face. "What about the letter? When can I publish it?"
"When it comes out of analysis, you'll be the first to know," promised Warren.
He pushed past. Jane became a one-woman bottleneck, cops and reporters flooding up against her as the captain headed for the door. I tapped her on the shoulder.
She turned her chubby-cheeked face toward me.
"The letter from the Ripper," she explained simply.
Something felt off-kilter. I chased after Warren.
"If it's from the Ripper, how come you've got it?"
Warren straightened again with a sigh of resignation.
"Because it's evidence, Mr. Kolchak, evidence."
"Well, if it's from the Ripper, it's also news, Mr. Warren, news."
"Captain Warren. Take your hat off."
"Just what makes it so special, Captain?" I demanded. "Every newspaper in town's been getting Ripper letters from these kooks."
The ring of journalists echoed agreement. Warren ignored them and focused on me. Jane wisely edged aside.
"This may shock you, Mr. Kolchak, but we withheld from the press certain things the Ripper did to Miss Laura Morescu's body."
He glared around to take in the rest of the reporters.
"Now, the letter that Miss Plumm received describes in detail what those things were." Back to me. "Do you grasp the implications?"
I could only nod. It was standard procedure in high-profile homicides to withhold details in order to weed out false confessions. I didn't like it, but I saw the necessity. Warren turned again to the room at large.
"Now, Miss Plumm's newspaper has agreed to withhold the letter in the interest of responsible journalism. May I ask the same consideration of you all."
Exit Warren, stage left. The river of reporters and cameramen flowed after him. I caught Jane Plumm by the elbow and steered her aside.
"What do you think you're doing, Kolchak?"
"I just wanted to invite you out to lunch. Manny's. My treat," I replied with another smile.
How easily we give in to temptation. Jane nodded, and we budded away from our fellow members of the Fourth Estate.
* * *
I don't make friends easily. I don't want to say I'm paranoid--God knows I have reason to be--but when people get too close, I tend to shove them back.
I don't shove the opposite sex quite so hard. Jane Plumm, of the tabloid Messenger, was one of the first people I met after I settled in Chicago. We happened to go out to the same clubs and movies at the same time, once or twice--I wouldn't call it dating (and neither would Jane, after she got to know me), but we remained chummy.
I herded Jane down the block to Manny's.
Jane Plumm was fat. She talked a lot about water retention and big bones, but I had to think that the six or eight meals a day with snacks in between to keep up her strength had a lot to do with it. You know, it might have been my suggestion we go Dutch on our evenings out that ended our not-quite-dating . . . Well, any cooling in our personal relationship was irrelevant to our work; Jane was a reporter, after all. We had mutual respect--mutual trust.
She yanked her arm out of my grasp at Manny's door.
"I don't trust you, Kolchak. You'd double-cross your own fairy godmother for a story."
"Ah, Jane," I said smarmily. "How can you say a thing like that? You know me better than that . . ."
Suspicious or not, she led me to her favorite spot in the corner. A woman seated there tossed two bits on the table and left. Jane scooted into the booth before old Antoine, the white-haired waiter, could even sweep a damp cloth over the varnished wood.
"Now tell me what was in the letter," I suggested as Antoine set down two waters and a plate of celery and radishes.
"What have you got to trade?" asked Jane.
Trade. Yeah. From the INS, dead-letter office of the Midwest. I raised my hands, forming a canvas of air, then I painted a landscape of words.
"How about a sack of 'Dear Emily' letters, sodden with the tears of humanity, four novels in it at the very least."
Antoine pulled out his order pad. Jane only had eyes for him.
"I'll have a tongue sandwich--triple decker--a side of fries, a macaroni salad, a root beer float--two scoops--"
I cradled my forehead in my hand. Jane added, with a trace of apology in her voice, "And a piece of pecan pie."
The waiter leaned expectantly toward me. "Chili," I mumbled.
"My editor wants me to do a series of features on the murders, but I can't come up with an angle," said the plump reporter. "You know the sort of junk we print. Lurid, sensational."
She picked up a shaft of translucent celery. "Got any ideas?"
"Sure, lots of them."
She snapped the celery stick in half.
"Well?" she asked.
"Well?" I asked back.
Jane pouted. "Okay. Besides what Warren said, the letter also had a P.S. A rhyme. 'And now a pretty girl will die, so Jack can have his kidney pie.'"
I wrinkled my brow as Jane bit off a hunk of cellulose.
"I don't get it."
"The murderer cut out her kidneys," mumbled my colleague as she chewed.
Do you grasp the implications? Jane swallowed.
"Just like the original Ripper!" she continued excitedly. "There have been a lot of these mutilation murders all over the world. It's a contagious psychosis."
"Ah, Jane," I scoffed.
"That's my theory, and I've checked it out with a few psychiatrists. There's a definite pattern to the killings. They seem to come in bunches."
I tried to recall the details of the Ripper case I had dredged up during the Skorzeny affair, but I had read about everything from The Odyssey to the Tate-La Bianca slayings. I seemed to recall--
"Mostly," agreed Jane, masticating more celery. "Some Sunday pros. There was an Italian who specialized in flower girls. Dismembered five of them."
Susan Atkins, AKA Sadie May Glutz, drank Sharon Tate's blood. "It's warm and sticky and nice," she told her cellmate Virginia Graham in November of 1969. German killer Fritz Haarmann murdered nearly fifty young men, some by biting their throats, and sold their flesh in a butcher shop. Several sick jokes about Wisconsin psycho Ed Gein, which I recalled from my youth, rose from the well of memory.
"Okay, I've got a great headline for you," I announced. Again I made a frame of my hands. "Cannibalism!"
The level of conversation in the restaurant fell. If Manny's customers were disturbed by my exclamation, Jane was ecstatic. She even stopped chewing.
"Cannibalism! I love it! Thanks, Kolchak."
I nodded. The ol' Kolchak charm won again.
Antoine rattled up with a serving cart. He about had to, with Jane's order. She started in on her Dagwood-high sandwich.
I backtracked a little as the waiter clacked down plate after plate.
"Contagious psychosis? You're saying some urge to murder can be passed on like the flu?"
Jane paused to wash down a chunk of tongue--the sandwich, not her own.
"You've heard of copycat killers, haven't you?"
"This is just one more step," said Jane, slapping her fingers against my sleeve. "Not just imitating a killer once, but trying to become him, studying him and taking just as many victims. There was this guy in Germany--Peter Kurten--he told the Polizei or whatever they have that he was inspired to murder by a book about Jack the Ripper. And this French guy--Vacher--he was a hobo or something--he heard about the Ripper murders and started cutting apart farm animals. Later he worked his way up to dairy maids."
She bit off another chunk of her sandwich. Rather rare juice dribbled out. I swallowed chili. A piece of gristle slid down my throat. Yeesh. You'd think I'd get used to such talk, even at the dinner table. I guess I just don't have Vincenzo's iron constitution.
"You ever hear of the Ypsilanti murders?" asked Jane.
I broke a cracker into my steaming bowl.
"If I recall correctly, seven college students were beaten and stabbed to death over a period of two or three years."
"'Sixty-seven to 'sixty-nine," agreed Jane. "There was this guy--he'd come from Boston to Ypsi. Back in Boston the cops were sure he was the Boston Strangler. They watched him and followed him for weeks, but then Albert DeSalvo confessed to the killings and most of the cops forgot this guy. That book, The Boston Strangler, tells about it. But then the suspected guy moved to Ypsilanti, and the Co-Ed Murders started. The Michigan police thought the killer was this same guy. They watched him for weeks, he acted suspicious as hell--then they caught the real killer. The suspicious guy was innocent again."
I gulped down a nice, greasy, artery-hardening spoonful of beef and beans.
Jane scooped up pale macaroni.
"So that's when I started thinking up this theory. I think he wasn't a murderer himself, but a carrier."
"A carrier? Chew with your mouth shut, will ya? You're making me sick."
Jane frowned but obeyed.
"I think he was a carrier of the contagious psychosis. Like Typhoid Mary."
"Right. Well, anything's possible."
I recalled how nutty the idea of a killer who actually bit women on the throat to drink their blood sounded only a few short years ago. Nowadays, people would hardly blink at the concept. I changed the subject.
"Jane, why do you stay with a sleazy rag like the Messenger? It's worse than the National Enquirer."
Jane giggled. Antoine paused by our table and refilled our waters.
"You want to know a secret, Kolchak? The Enquirer owns the Messenger. It owns several of those things you see by the check-out stands."
"You're a good journalist. Can't you get on at a real newspaper?"
Jane nibbled a French fry. "Oh--like you?"
I bristled. "I've worked for half the major dailies in the U.S.A.," I pointed out.
"For how long?" she continued.
I shrugged. "Long enough. Blood's a rover, you know."
"Is that your story now?"
I doled up another spoonful of chili.
"Come on," I insisted. "I could put in a good word for you at the INS."
Jane guffawed and nearly choked.
"Oh, great. Carl Kolchak as a reference on my resume."
She touched my arm again.
"Why don't you come to the Messenger? They pay well."
I snorted. "How well?"
She told me. I whistled.
"I know a guy, he was paid thirty grand for one picture of Jackie O," she said solemnly. "And that was in 'sixty-eight."
The Demon of Temptation whispered in my ear: "Take the money. Why not be as sleazy as people think you are?"
What people? I thought.
"Look, Jane," I said, "believe it or not, I do have scruples. Sure, I pester cops--and lawyers--and politicians--but I'm after that Holy Grail called the Truth. If you want to sit in your little office and paste together photos of Elvis and Bigfoot, be my guest."
Jane's bulging cheeks ripened. She waggled a fork at me. I intercepted a soft elbow of macaroni with my napkin.
"Hey! I work hard on my stories, Kolchak. Just you wait--my Ripper story will blow yours out of the water!"
Thus was the gauntlet thrown. Later I would wonder if she would have worked less enthusiastically had I not insulted her and her precious Messenger. And if so . . .
MAY 26, 5:45 P.M.
Half a detective's life is spent waiting . . . and half a reporter's is spent digging through dusty clippings, deeds, records, and files.
A strange thrill, part excitement and part worry, tickled my spine here in the Chicago Public Library. People left paper trails between these solemn walls that some metaphoric bloodhound could follow, if he or she wanted it bad enough. For all his hiding beneath the streets and lurking in the shadows, Dr. Richard Malcolm could not escape the near-sighted eyes of Mr. Titus Berry. Nor could all the mouthwash in Romania erase Janos Skorzeny's blood-stained figure from history.
I pulled out Dr. Helms' reading list and groaned. Well, anything beat answering Dear Emily letters. I started with the basics.
I opened the card catalog and flipped through 3x5 cards until I found "JACK THE RIPPER -- WHITECHAPEL MURDERS, 1888."
. . . in one of the grimoires of the Middle Ages, an account was given of a process by which a sorcerer could attain "the supreme black magical power" by following out a course of action identical with that of Jack the Ripper.
--Aleister Crowley, "Jack the Ripper," reprinted in Melvin Harris' The True Face of Jack the Ripper (1994)
[Kolchak became a minor expert on the Ripper murders in his background research for the Skorzeny case. He delved deeper into the subject during and after the Milwaukee-Chicago murders. What follows is a condensed version of Kolchak's research, a stack of papers hefty enough to be a book in itself.--JR]
* * *
The compost pile that nurtured the person known as "Jack the Ripper" was the East End of London. England's capital was, in the late nineteenth century, the largest city on the planet. While the average person, hearing the words "Victorian Era," might imagine evenings at the theater, the Albert Hall, and top-hatted "toffs" escorting genteel ladies along gaslit streets, the reality fell short of the ideal. This was particularly true in the eastern sections of the metropolis: boroughs bearing the ominous names of Spitalfields, Houndsditch, and Whitechapel.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, prosperous silk weavers called Whitechapel home. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, an early example of urban decay set in, and dry rot spread beneath the shining veneer of the British Empire. In 1903 Jack London, of Call of the Wild fame, decided to spend some time in the East End just to see what it was like:
. . . At a market, tottery old men and women were searching in the garbage thrown in the mud for rotten potatoes, beans, and vegetables, while little children clustered like flies around a festering mass of fruit, thrusting their arms to the shoulders into the liquid corruption, and drawing forth morsels, but partially decayed, which they devoured on the spot.
While wandering through these slum lands, Jack London joined up with one of the locals, who led him through a miserable grassy square called Spitalfields Garden, where the homeless came to sleep. "It was a welter of rags and filth, of all manner of loathsome skin diseases, open sores, bruises, grossness, indecency, leering monstrosities and bestial faces," he wrote.
Pioneer criminologist Peter Mayhew, years before the Ripper's time, estimated that eighty thousand prostitutes operated in London, and that "as large as this total may appear, it is not improbable that it is below the reality rather than above it."
The ideal Londoner of Victoria's day would have swooned at the mere concept of prostitution. By choosing victims from this underclass of society, the Ripper threw a spotlight on the lowest stratum of the poor, wretched, and "sinful", a class of people that nineteenth century Britons did not want to know existed. Several writers, from crime reporter Tom Cullen to Harlan Ellison (in his science fiction anthology Dangerous Visions), have suggested that the Ripper intended this all along. Colin Wilson, author of the Existentialist epistle The Outsider, writes: "The reaction [to the murders] was more than shock; people were stunned and winded, as if by a blow. And a deep, instinctive disquiet stirred inside them."
Crime, even murder, was common enough in Whitechapel, Spitalfields, and Houndsditch, but it was quite mercenary: robbery, theft, assaults from drunken laborers, bar fights, prostitution. These crimes were understandable on a purely subsistence level among the "People of the Abyss." Then, however, came a different kind of murder. Perhaps Wilson's "instinctive disquiet" was a vague feeling that a new era dawned: a new monster walked the streets, the alien creature with a human face we now call the serial killer.
* * *
Several "incidents" occurred before the Ripper murders officially began; they may bear some significance. A prostitute nicknamed "Fairy Fay" was supposedly stabbed to death near Mitre Square on December 26, 1887. No one seems to know any more details, and the woman may have been spawned of rumor, misquotes, and yellow journalism [yes, it does happen].
On April 3, 1888, another prostitute, Emma Elizabeth Smith, staggered into a Spitalfields lodging house, claiming that she had been attacked by four men. A blunt instrument--not a knife, as many reports claimed--had been forced into her vagina. She died of peritonitis in the London Hospital soon thereafter.
On August 7 the body of Martha Tabram, AKA Turner, was found on a landing in the George Yard buildings. She had been stabbed thirty-nine times with a bayonet and a shorter blade. The London Times commented [August 10], "It was one of the most dreadful murders anyone could imagine. The man must have been a perfect savage to inflict such a number of wounds on a defenseless woman in such a way."
AUGUST 31, 1888, 2:30 A.M.
Mary Ann "Polly" Nichols had had difficulty since the previous morning scraping together four pence for her "doss", a flea-ridden mattress in a flophouse. In the early hours of Friday, August 31, she met a woman named Ellen Holland on Whitechapel High Street and told her that she had made her doss money three times, but she spent it on gin and "a jolly bonnet."
At 3:40 A.M., laborers Charles Cross and Robert Paul found her body in Buck's Row, outside a slaughterhouse. Police Constable John Neil was the first of several officers on the scene. His bull's-eye lantern revealed two wounds in the throat, the second of which "completely severed all the tissues down to the vertebrae," according to the Times. Only after the body was taken to the Old Montague Street Workhouse Infirmary were the wounds in the abdomen found: a deep one running vertically, and several running across. "There were also three or four similar cuts running downwards, on the right side."
Demonic luck accompanied the killer right from the start. Cross remarked on Buck's Row being unnaturally deserted and quiet at a time when many people were on their way to work. The murder had taken place across the street from several inhabited rooms, some with windows open and with the people inside already awake. Constable Neil could walk his beat in twelve minutes, but this time around he took half-an-hour, and during this interval the Ripper escorted Nichols up Buck's Row, killed her, mutilated her, and escaped without being seen.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1888
Annie Chapman, born Eliza Anne Smith (an odd coincidence of name, compared to Emma Elizabeth Smith, but stranger was to come) also had trouble getting a bed. She had been feeling ill in general for a week, and she had been involved in one or more rough and tumble fights with Eliza Cooper, a "probable prostitute," over a piece of soap. Annie also suffered from diseases of the lungs and brain that would have killed her in a few months anyway, according to an autopsy performed by Dr. George Baxter Philips.
Chapman, a.k.a. "Dark Annie" and "Annie Sievy," was a small, stout woman, only five feet tall, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a wide nose. At 11:30 P.M. that night Tim Donovan, the deputy at Crossingham's Lodging House, let Annie into the kitchen temporarily. She left shortly after midnight to get a drink and returned around 1:30 A.M. She had no doss money, so Donovan turned her out.
SEPTEMBER 8, 1888, 5:45 A.M.
John Davis, an aging porter, had been restless since three o'clock. He emerged into the back yard of 29 Hanbury Street--he and his family lived on the third floor--and discovered Annie Chapman's body stretched out by the back fence. Two savage slashes had nearly decapitated her. Also, according to the British Medical Association's journal, The Lancet, (September 29, 1888):
The intestines, severed from their mesenteric attachments, had been lifted out of the body, and placed on the shoulder of the corpse; whilst from the pelvis the uterus and its appendages with the upper portion of the vagina and the posterior two-thirds of the bladder, had been entirely removed.
On September 27, a letter arrived at the Central News Agency, addressed to "The Boss, Central News Office, London City." Written in red ink, it read:
25 Sept: 1888
I keep on hearing the police
have caught me but they wont fix
me just yet. I have laughed when
they look so clever and talk about
being on the right track. That joke
about Leather Apron gave me real
fits. I am down on whores and
I shant quit ripping them till I
do get buckled. Grand work the last
job was. I gave the lady no time to
squeal. How can they catch me now.
I love my work and want to start
again. You will soon hear of me
with my funny little games. I
saved some of the proper red stuff in
a ginger beer bottle over the last job
to write with but it went thick
like glue and I cant use it. Red
ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha.
The next job I do I shall clip
the lady's ears off and send to the
[continued on other side of page.]
police officers just for jolly wouldn't
you. Keep this letter back till I
do a bit more work then give
it out straight. My knife's so nice
and sharp I want to get to work
right away if I get a chance.
Jack the Ripper
Dont mind me giving the trade name
[and written at right angles to the above:]
wasnt good enough
to post this before
I got all the red
ink off my hands
No luck yet. They
say I'm a doctor
now ha ha
The editor delayed sending it to Scotland Yard for two days because, he said, he thought it was a joke. Despite the penchant of serial killers such as Zodiac and Son of Sam to write letters, most modern researchers dismiss the Ripper letters as hoaxes. There is no denying Jack would have gotten writer's cramp producing the hundreds of notes and postcards received by the police, the newspapers, and assorted private citizens. However, the News Agency's letter gave the killer the name by which he would always be known, and, one night after the Yard accepted it from the editor, specifically:
SEPTEMBER 30, 1888, 1:00 A.M.
Louis Diemschutz, a peddler of cheap jewelry and shirt studs, had given up trying to push his wares on the patrons of the Crystal Palace. The night was chill, and it began to rain, so he turned his pony cart back east.
His pony clopped along the streets toward the International Workmen's Educational Club, a meeting place for Jews who had fled persecution on the Continent. Tonight's debate was "The Necessity for Socialism Among Jews," but, by the time Diemschutz arrived, much in the way of drink had been imbibed by the International Workmen, and now their inebriated singing echoed across poorly lit Berner Street.
Diemschutz guided his cart into the courtyard next to the club building. Just within the gate his pony suddenly reared, and the costermonger checked for any obstacles with the butt of his horsewhip.
He found the body of a woman, her throat cut from ear to ear.
SEPTEMBER 30, 1888, 1:45 A.M.
Police Constable Edward Watkins arrived at Mitre Square, part of his nightly beat in the financial district known officially as the City of London. It took only fifteen minutes to make his rounds, and at 1:30 A.M. the square had been quiet and empty. Now, however, his bull's-eye lantern revealed a pool of blood in the southwest corner.
Seconds later Watkins found the body of a woman, shockingly mutilated. He ran to the Kearley and Tonge Warehouse, which faced the square, and sent the night watchman for help.
The first victim of the "double event" was Elizabeth "Long Liz" Stride, born Elisabeth Gustafsdotter in Torslanda, Sweden, in 1843. A single knife slash had severed her left carotid artery. It is commonly held that the arrival of Diemschutz and his pony cart interrupted the killer, though Diemschutz saw no one around. At any event, the murderer struck again only forty-five minutes later.
The second victim, Catharine [sic] Eddowes, had been sobering up in the Bishopsgate Police Station only an hour before she was found dead. She was deemed fit to leave at 1:00 A.M., at which time she gave her name as "Mary Anne Kelly." This pseudonym undoubtedly came from the fact that she had been living with a casual laborer named John Kelly, but the similarity between this name and that of future victim Mary Jane Kelly is another of those weird coincidences that abound in the Ripper case.
"I shall get a damned fine hiding when I get home," Catharine commented as she stepped into the night.
"And serve you right," retorted P.C. George Hutt.
Catharine wandered off towards Houndsditch, "Good night, old cock," her last known words. She soon walked into the loving embrace of Jack the Ripper.
Jack took his time with Kate Eddowes. Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown required several pages in his post-mortem notes merely describing her wounds:
The intestines were drawn out to a large extent and placed over the right shoulder . . . A piece of about two feet was quite detached from the body and placed between the body and the left arm, apparently by design. The lobe and auricle of the right ear was cut obliquely through.
"The face was very much mutilated," continues the doctor. Her lower eyelids were nicked, a slash ran from the bridge of her nose down her right cheek ["This cut went into the bone"], and the tip of her nose was "quite detached." One cut split the upper lip; another paralleled the lower. A triangular flap had been carved in each cheek. Her throat had been slashed over twice, "severed to the bone, the knife marking inter-vertebral cartilages."
The Ripper carried off Eddowes' left kidney, her uterus, and part of her bladder. "I believe the perpetrator of the act must have had considerable knowledge of the positions of the organs in the abdominal cavity and the way of removing them," writes Brown. The killer cut off half the woman's blood-soaked apron and took that, as well.
SEPTEMBER 30, 1888, 2:55 A.M.
P.C. Alfred Long of H Division stepped into a narrow alley off Goulston Street, Whitechapel, the entryway to the Wentworth Model Dwellings. He found a bloodstained rag--which later proved to be the missing portion of Catharine Eddowes' apron--and a message written on the black brick wall in chalk:
The Juwes are
The men That
Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren ordered the message wiped away at 5:30 A.M., lest it stir the embers of anti-Semitism that smoldered throughout the East End. The meaning of the curious message has engendered much controversy over the years, culminating in 1976 in Stephen Knight's Masonic theory for the Ripper murders, as outlined in his Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution.
P.C. Long and another officer named Halse--who was actually trotting away from the Mitre Square murder site searching for the Ripper--both passed the Goulston Street doorway at about 2:20 A.M. Both stated that the apron and message were not there at that time. Long returned on his beat thirty-five minutes later to discover them. This means that the Ripper dawdled somewhere in the area for up to seventy-one minutes before leaving his clues. What's more, he "escaped" from Mitre Square back into Whitechapel, which was already alive with policemen due to the Berner Street crime.
On Sunday morning, the following message, scribbled on a postcard, was sent to the Central News Agency:
I wasnt codding
dear old Boss when
I gave you the tip.
youll hear about
saucy Jackys work
event this time
number one squealed
a bit couldnt
off. had not time
to get ears for
police thanks for
keeping last letter
back till I got
to work again.
Jack the Ripper
October passed without a murderous visitation, but the month was not uneventful. On September 10, sixteen tradesmen who were going broke due to a lack of night-time business formed the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and offered a reward for the Ripper's capture.
During the early days of October, George Lusk, a building contractor elected chairman of the Committee, noticed a "sinister looking black bearded man" watching his house. On the 16th, he received a small box in the mail containing half a human kidney. A letter enclosed with the box read:
I send you half the
Kidne I took from one women
prasarved it for you tother piece I
fried and ate it was very nise I
may send you the bloody knif that
took it out if you only wate a whil
signed Catch me when
While the writer at first glance appears to be barely literate, he or she misspells certain words rather oddly: "knif" and "whil" are not spellings a person transcribing phonetically would arrive at. For what it's worth, "Sor" and "Mishter" were words commonly used on the Victorian stage to approximate an Irish accent.
Mr. Lusk later received a postcard reading "Say Boss, you seem rare frightened. Guess I like to give you fits, but can't stop long enough to let you box of toys play copper games with me, but hope to see you when I don't hurry too much. Goodbye, Boss." George Lusk might have had the dubious honor of being the only male stalked by Jack the Ripper.
NOVEMBER 8, 1888, 11:45 P.M.
Mary Ann Cox, a widow forced by circumstances to take up prostitution, headed toward Miller's Court, a narrow, dingy square in Whitechapel, where she rented a hovel of a room. As she passed the Britannia pub, she saw Irish-born Mary Jane Kelly emerging with a man. The man had a billycock hat and a carroty mustache, and he carried in one hand "a pail of beer." The widow followed the couple--she had little choice, as Mary Kelly also dwelt in M'Carthy's Rents in Miller's Court--and when the pair entered No. 13, Kelly began singing an Irish ballad: "Only a violet I plucked for my mother's grave when a boy."
Kelly was still singing when Mrs. Cox went out again at midnight, and when she returned at 1:30 A.M. Mrs. Cox emerged again just after 3:00 A.M. Kelly's room finally stood dark and silent in the rain.
Backtracking a bit: One George Hutchinson, unemployed for several weeks, met Mary Kelly on Thrawl Street at about 2:00 A.M. Before he could ask her for money, she told him she was broke. Kelly continued down the street, and another man tapped her on the shoulder and said something that made her laugh. The man wore a long dark coat with astrakhan collar and cuffs, a felt hat with an indented crown (the kind that eventually evolved into Stetsons and Panamas), spats, button boots, and he carried a huge gold watch and chain. Hutchinson was surprised to see someone so well dressed out at that hour. For some reason, perhaps jealousy, he followed the couple back to No. 13 and watched the room for forty-five minutes before giving up.
Mrs. Elizabeth Prater, who occupied No. 20, directly above Mary, was awakened sometime between 3:30 and 4:00 A.M. by the nervous antics of her cat Diddles. She heard a woman cry out "Oh! Murder!", but, as such cries were common in Whitechapel, she simply went back to sleep. [Hey--Diddles did his best.]
NOVEMBER 9, 1888, 10:45 A.M.
John M'Carthy, proprietor of M'Carthy's Rents, sent his assistant, Thomas "Indian Harry" Bowyer, to collect the rent from Mary Kelly, who was six weeks (some sources say three months) in arrears. Bowyer knocked on the door of No. 13 to no avail. He moved to a broken side window, pushed back a coat used as a curtain, and recoiled. He fetched his employer, who also peered in:
She had been completely disembowelled, and her entrails had been taken out and placed on the table . . . The woman's nose had been cut off, and her face gashed and mutilated so that she was quite beyond recognition. Both her breasts too had been cut clean away and placed by the side of her liver and other entrails on the table. I had heard a great deal about the Whitechapel murders, but I declare to God I had never expected to see such a sight as this. [The Times, November 10, 1888]
The Ripper had outdone himself. According to Dr. Thomas Bond, Surgeon for A Division, Metropolitan Police:
The whole of the surface of the abdomen & thighs was removed & the abdominal Cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds & the face hacked beyond recognition of the features . . . The viscera were found in various parts viz: the uterus & Kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the Rt foot, the Liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side & the spleen by the left side of the body. The flaps removed from the abdomen and thighs were on a table.
Mary's left thigh had been denuded to the bone, and the killer had removed and taken her heart.
[Dr. Bond's post-mortem notes were re-discovered in 1987 after being lost for nearly a century. They allowed researchers to correct mistakes that have been repeated in nearly every book on the Whitechapel crimes. For instance, as Mr. M'Carthy reported above, it was always believed that the killer set Mary Kelly's breasts on the table beside her bed. Also, Kelly was not three months pregnant, as has been universally believed since newspaper stories reported this in 1888. Her uterus was not carried off by the Ripper, but her heart was.--JR]
The Kelly murder seemed to mark the end of Jack the Ripper's reign of terror. Out of the numerous letters received by the police, the press, and assorted "privileged" individuals, the following, received on 21 November at Thames Police Court, might be significant:
Dear Boss, It is no use for you to look for me in London because I'm not there. Don't trouble yourself about me until I return, which will not be very long. I like the work too well to leave it alone. Oh, it was a jolly job the last one. I had plenty of time to do it properly in. Ha, Ha, Ha! The next lot I mean to do with Vengeance, cut of their head and arms. You think it is a man with a black moustache. Ha, ha, ha! When I have done another one you can try and catch me again. So goodbye dear Boss, till I return.
* * *
Goodbye, dear Boss, till I return. I thought of the letter received by Miss Emily in May: "I've been gone, but now I'm back." It looked like he wrote true.
One detail about the Ripper case amused me no end. Captain Robert Warren, staunch and bull-headed defender of justice, had been a thorn in my side since I arrived in his fair city. He hunted our Ripper without success, and another Warren had no better luck a century earlier. "Queen Victoria could hardly have been less fortunate in her choice of Metropolitan Police Commissioner than Sir Charles Warren," writes Tom Cullen. A military man, Sir Charles treated the lower classes as he had rebellious natives in Africa. In November of 1887, he sent 4,000 constables and the Grenadier Guards to break up a Socialist meeting in Trafalgar Square. The result: two demonstrators dead and two hundred hospitalized. After that, the once-admired London bobbies did not dare walk their beats alone.
I'm sure Captain Warren would have sent a few Grenadiers after me, if he had them.
* * *
I had enough background on the original Ripper crimes, but now I wanted some connection with the supernatural. I let Dr. Helms' notes guide me.
I found several items by the self-styled Great Beast, Aleister Crowley. His thick autobiography mentioned the Ripper only in passing, but in the audio/visual area of the library I found a microfilm version of an article he wrote, still in manuscript form. It seemed to be the very thing. At least, Crowley claimed to have studied the astrological aspects of the murders:
In every case, either Saturn or Mercury were precisely to the Eastern horizon at the moment of the murder . . . Mercury is, of course, the God of Magic, and his averse distorted image the Ape of Thoth, responsible for such evil trickery as is the heart of black magic, while Saturn is not only the cold heartlessness of age, but the magical equivalent of Satan.
Saturn was also the Roman equivalent of Cronos, the Greek Titan of Time. Saturn's symbol, the sickle of the harvest, eventually became Father Time's scythe. Perhaps Saturn had stopped time for Jack the Ripper. I thought about the Chicago killer's outdated clothing, cape, and spats. Did dressing in century-old fashions help him hold this image of timelessness?
I flipped through a crumbly little volume I'd discovered, Getting Light. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for, but Helms had mentioned it. Eventually I came upon the legend of Hiram Abiff, Grand Master Mason and the architect who designed Solomon's Temple. The Master Mason was murdered by a trio of ruffians, who, when found out, were ordered executed in a horrible--but disturbingly familiar--fashion:
It is my order that you be taken without the gates of the Temple, and there have your throat cut across, and your breast torn open and your vitals taken from thence and thrown over your left shoulder and carried to the valley of Jehoshaphat, there to become a prey to the wild beasts of the field and the vultures of the air.
I frowned. Masonic lore, too? I knew that the so-called Black Books of magicians were not a single, Necronomicon-esque volume, but a hodgepodge of spells and rites, developed independently by their owners. The grimoires in the occult section of the library, or rather the reproductions thereof, called upon angels and devils and Greek and Egyptian gods indiscriminately. Magicians created new rites from old, trying, I supposed, to develop the "perfect" spell.
Did the Ripper create such a ritual?
The article in True Detective, "Was Jack the Ripper a Black Magician?", suggested that Aleister Crowley actually knew the Ripper's identity. A cross-check to Crowley's writings showed me that his suspect's name was "Donston", and that he was well known among the last century's Theosophists.
Oddly enough, I found an article by a Dr. Roslyn D'Onston in Lucifer, the Theosophical journal. I shuddered as I read the following passage:
. . . the necromancer must outrage and degrade human nature in every way conceivable. The very least of the crimes necessary for him (or her) to commit to attain the power sought is actual murder, by which the human victim essential to the sacrifice is provided . . . Yet, though the price is awful, horrible, unutterable, the power is real.
Power. Immortality. Dr. Helms' secret club. I thought of Janos Skorzeny plunging his fangs into a warm, pink throat as if taking a bite from a fresh-plucked peach. Dr. Richard Malcolm, removing the spinal fluid from dead women's necks for his Elixir of Life. And now Jack the Ripper.
. . . outrage and degrade human nature in every way conceivable.
I studied the famous photograph of Mary Jane Kelly spread out in her bed like a sloppy pile of drip beef on toast.
Immortality? At what cost?
Don't fool yourself, Kolchak. There are people who'd do it in a minute.
Carl Kolchak, Tony Vincenzo, and related characters are copyright © by the Estate of Jeff Rice. The articles and fiction on these web pages are not for profit and are not meant to infringe on the copyrights of Jeff Rice, Darren McGavin, Rudolph Borchert, Mark Dawidziak, ABC Productions, Dan Curtis Productions, Francy Productions, or Universal Studios.