MAY 27, 10:35 A.M.
There followed a short respite from the slashing knife. Captain Warren threw out platitudes about leads and developments, but I doubted he’d track down “Saucy Jack,” and, from what I’d seen early on the 26th, I doubted he’d hold him if he did find him.
Ike never seemed to like his mailboy job before, but now he positively beamed when he carried in bushel baskets of Dear Emily letters. They covered my desk in a pink and white snowbank.
“You’ve got some lulu’s today,” said Ike.
I studied him suspiciously. “You open these?”
Ike shrugged, a movement lost in his two-sizes-too-big long sleeved shirt.
“Some of them aren’t sealed very good.”
“Maybe you should take on the coveted mantle of Miss Emily.”
Ike held up his plastic Post Office tub like a shield.
“Sorry. I’m already copy boy, mailboy, photo lab boy, and gofer boy.”
“Boy, oh boy,” I muttered.
Ike-boy left. Tony eyed me from his glass-lined cage. I smiled and waved a Dear Emily envelope.
I saw no way out at the moment. I plowed into the letters. Cheating husbands, cheating wives. A teenaged girl whose teacher groped her. I set that aside. Someone ought to look into that. Married son’s gotten divorced, moved back in, and won’t budge. Mother-in-law’s come for a visit and taken root. Abigail Van Buren, I do not envy thee.
I found one letter that arrested my attention:
I am ten years old and I live with my aunt. We live outside Aurora near a gully. I think there are dinosaurs under our house. They grunt like alligators I heard on TV. Aunt Evelyn can’t hear them because she’s hard of hearing and they are way under the ground, so you can only hear them in the basement. Once I saw one in the gully. They only come out at night. It looked like Godzilla, only shorter. Do you know of some way to get rid of them, like Raid, or should I call the army?
A few years ago, I would have smiled at the boy’s imagination. Now, though, I wondered.
I stuffed the boy’s note in my jacket pocket even as a little voice asked, What are you doing, Kolchak?
I dug a little farther and found a letter addressed to “Dear Emilly.” Despite this inauspicious beginning, I read it:
I’m very old and I live by myself. My daughter wants to put me in one of those awful old folks’ homes. If I told her what has been happening lately, that would be the last straw. She could get a doctor to put me away. I have to tell someone, though.
My husband Benjamin died twenty years ago. The other night, as I rode home on the bus from our floating bridge game, I saw him on a corner, standing under a street light. He wore the old gray shirt and the stained beige bathrobe he had on the night he died. Then the bus pulled away, and he disappeared in the darkness.
I might have put this down to being tired, but the next night as I looked out the window of my apartment (I’m on the third floor), I swear I saw him standing at the mouth of an alley across the street wearing clothes I gave to the Salvation Army after the funeral. This time he beckoned to me, and I might have gone down to him--but I was scared. He was there again tonight. He smiled and waved as if nothing was wrong, as if he hasn’t been dead and buried for two decades.
Emilly, I am not making this up. What should I do? I want to go to Ben, but I’m frightened as well. What should I do?
“Senile,” I muttered.
I set this letter aside anyway. Don’t do this to yourself, Carl, commanded the little voice, but Dr. Kirsten Helms interrupted him: May you live in interesting times.
MAY 27, 11:40 A.M.
I visited the library again. I knew enough about the original Ripper murders; now I wanted to see if anything happened beyond 1888. I checked out a few more books, including Leonard Matter’s Mystery of Jack the Ripper and Guy Hollis’ Ripper Murderers Throughout the Ages.
The London Times mentioned Ripper-style murders in Toronto and Chile soon after the Whitechapel crimes. In April 1891, following the murder of a prostitute named Carrie Brown, or “Old Shakespeare” from her habit of quoting the Bard, the people of New York feared that Jack had come among them.
The murders known as “Demon in the Belfry” case (San Francisco, 1895) were blamed on a young man named Theodore Durrant. At least one of the two killings reminded me of the Ripper’s MO. Later a letter was received by the police which read: “Got the wrong bird. My handiwork. Harry the Hacker.” Well, that was close. Maybe Jack used a variety of nicknames. “Only a few short years” later, according to Joseph Henry Jackson’s San Francisco Murders, the “frightfully mutilated nude body” of a woman named Nora Fuller was found in the same city. The case was never solved.
“They seem to come in bunches,” said Jane Plumm. The records bore this out. Atlanta, Georgia, 1911 and 1912. New York City, 1908 and 1915. Vladivostok, 1931. Shanghai, China, 1932. Ripper Murderers . . . claimed the Cleveland Torso Murders of the 1930s as the work of Jack, and I myself thought the grotesque death of the “Black Dahlia,” along with several “copycat” slayings thereafter in the Los Angeles area, were in turn disturbingly similar to Torso Murders. Poland, 1964--here the killer was nicknamed the Red Spider, because he wrote his letters in red ink, with a very spidery hand.
Some information I uncovered made me sweat. Police Constable Ernest Thompson claimed to have almost caught the Ripper after the murder of a woman named Francis Coles in 1891. In 1900, he was stabbed to death while trying to arrest a local thug in a London coffee shop.
Guy Hollis, author of Ripper Murderers Throughout the Ages, was slashed to death right here in Chicago in 1943, by a deranged psychiatrist who went to the nuthatch claiming to be--Jack the Ripper! Guy’s father Edmond had been stabbed to death by an “unknown assailant” in a barroom brawl. That happened in 1926. Edmond believed that the Ripper had murdered his wife some time in the late nineteenth century, and he had been searching for the killer ever since. Those who knew son Guy claimed that the younger Hollis had taken up his father’s crusade. It looked almost like a curse befell those too interested in old Jack.
MAY 29, 11:00 P.M.
The Loop. Chicago’s answer to Times Square. Miles of neon, crowds, excitement, and the usual big city tourist traps--and tonight, a very unusual tourist.
Possibly it was the gaudy red shield of the Sultan’s Palace Massage Parlor, pulsing in the darkness like a huge crimson heart, that attracted his eye. The entrance to Harol Amil’s little business lay within a narrow doorway at the top of a narrow flight of steps, easily overlooked otherwise. Whatever the reason, the black-garbed stranger clopped up the concrete steps and entered.
Wilhelmina Kosnowski, better known as Willa, met the stranger at the main desk, a blocky piece of office furniture afloat in a sea of velvet cushions, leather wallpaper, and silky drapes. Willa stood five feet seven, a pretty brunette with a cynical lilt to her voice that she had imported from Jersey City. She was a little plump for the spangled, skirted bikinis worn by Sultan’s Palace employees, but any suggestions to this effect from Harol resulted in angry, doglike growls, so the status quo remained unchanged.
Willa’s speech to customers normally ran, in part: “You can have the hot oil rub, with or without the vibrator and sauna. There’s also the regular massage with talcum.”
The evening-suited, opera-caped customer indicated a choice from the list on the wall by pointing with his grotesque, demon-headed cane. Wilhelmina directed him down the hall: “If you’ll wait in the room on the right, I’ll be right with you.”
Willa poked her head into the “undressing room,” where the employees traded their slacks and blouses for their gold-spangled costumes. Cheryl Gordon Jackson, a young black woman who hoped to be a fashion model, had just slipped on her harem garb.
“Cheryl, watch the desk--I’ve got a customer,” called Willa from the door. As her coworker shut her locker, the former Jerseyite confided, “He’s weird. He’s weird.”
Cheryl stepped out to the front desk. She glimpsed Willa entering the room down the hall and wondered what this guy looked like. Many visitors to the Sultan’s Palace could be described as “weird”, but never had the feisty Jerseyite made such a comment.
The would-be model shrugged and sat on a velvet sofa with much-worn nap. She scooped up an old Vogue, checking the poses of the more successful models within. She heard an odd moan over the pop music blaring from the ceiling speakers. She listened for a second and returned to the glamour mag.
Willa screamed. Cheryl jumped up and grabbed a tire iron hidden behind the front desk. Some customers wanted more than a rubdown, and the employees had weapons, mace, and other surprises secreted throughout the Palace.
Cheryl reached room #3, sometimes called the Green Room after the color of the walls, and peered in. Willa lay in a tangle of sheets, propped up on a broken table as if reclining in a chaise lounge. Next to her crouched a man in a black evening suit and cape, with a pointy beard, “like a stage hypnotist,” as Cheryl put it later. “He had this long, thin blade raised, and he looked at me as if he couldn’t believe I’d interrupt him,” she told my pal “Ace” Langdon of the Sun-Times. “Willa’s eyes were open and staring, and blood spewed out from under her chin in a red fan. I screamed and ran. I told myself it was too late to help Willa, but I wish to God I’d done something.”
The killer ignored Cheryl Jackson and worked on Ms. Kosnowski as if he had all the time in the world, splitting her open like a Christmas goose and arranging the steaming organs in a strange pattern on the floor. He rose, found a tube of cherry lipstick on a nearby vanity, and looked over a full-length mirror bolted to one wall. He studied his own coal-black eyes, his own narrow face, and his gore-spattered finery, then he wrote on the glass.
MAY 30, 1:24 A.M.
You know how some guys get drunk, bawl like a baby, and tell you the endless tale of their miserable existence? Ron Updyke drops into that mode after a couple of ginger ales. He’ll even talk to me if there’s no one else available. That’s how I learned the details of his late-night misadventure.
Dr. Robert Schuller himself once told Updyke to put power in his stride and confidence in his voice; he loped past the rubberneckers and squad cars and presented himself to a pair of cops guarding the entrance to the Sultan’s Palace.
“Press!” he called out. The first cop stared at him as if he’d grown a second head. Updyke flashed his press pass.
“Ron Updyke. Independent News Service,” he elaborated. The cops waved him in. Updyke gave his little rat smile as he passed under the red neon sign, as if he had defeated a dragon to enter some treasure cave.
He looked with bewilderment over the red, brass-studded leather that covered the walls. He followed the entry hall and ran into another cop. He held up the shield of his pass and called out “Press!” again.
Updyke turned right toward the front desk. He worked his way through a knot of cops and plainclothesmen. A tall, imposing man in a blue business suit rose before him; our hero assumed him to be a homicide detective and yelled “Press!” again. The man frowned but stepped aside.
Updyke passed between a cop and a Sultan’s Palace customer, the latter of whom bore a slight resemblance to one Carl Kolchak, “right down to the pork-pie hat. No seersucker though--he only had on a towel, Lord help us.” (Ahem!)
“How tall was he?” asked one officer. “What did he look like?” asked another.
A line of detectives stood between Updyke and the sobbing Cheryl Jackson. The former financial editor glanced over the masseuse’s gold bangles and purple eye gloss and decided he could not get to her at the moment. A plainclothesman asked “Can you describe what the man was wearing?” as Ron sidled by.
Updyke worked his way to the murder site, calling “Press!” again. He entered the Green Room, not realizing what the medical examiner and crime lab men were kneeling beside in the middle of the floor. “Well, there were so many of them,” he whined to me. “I didn’t even see--you know--at first.”
Updyke spotted the message drawn in lipstick on the mirror. He whipped out his leather-bound notebook and scribbled down the bit of doggerel: “Jack is resting/ Being reborn/ To finish up on Wednesday morn.” He started away, eyes still on the glass, and he tripped on something. He fell between two detectives but caught the back of a convenient chair.
“Excuse me,” he called automatically.
One of the detectives was holding up the edge of a wet, once-white sheet. Updyke looked down upon the thing beneath, the butchered tableau that was once Willa Kosnowski.
“Oh,” he moaned. “Oh.”
Ron lurched up. So did his stomach. He glanced around frantically.
“Where’s the men’s room?”
While Ron said good-bye to the lamb-chops he’d had for dinner, yours truly trotted down the sidewalk toward the very same Sultan’s Palace with twice as much power in my stride and oceans of confidence in my voice.
That and four bits . . .
I hopped up the steps and flashed my pass. “Press.”
The officer stared at me and blinked.
“Carl Kolchak, remember? INS.”
I’d seen the guard-cop before. One of Captain Warren’s private clique, thick and solid as a grave marker. I started by only to have a callused hand clamp down on my shoulder.
“You’ve got a man in there already.”
He had to mean Updyke. I was surprised; it was way past Ron’s bedtime.
“Oh, no, that’s a mistake,” I explained. “See, he handles want ads.”
“Move along, move along,” ordered the cop.
“Now, Captain Warren and I have an understanding . . .”
The cop pointed down the street. I grumbled and hopped back to the sidewalk. I fought my way past the ghoulish crowd and leaned against a lamppost, fuming over the idea that Tony fed Updyke this story with a silver spoon. Dear Emily, indeed.
Beyond the intersection ahead, a man and woman hovered around a smoking Chevy Impala. A cabby pulled up behind them, honked a couple of times, and rolled around when he saw the Chevy wasn’t going anywhere. The man and woman gesticulated at each other. I didn’t know why, as it wasn’t worth half a column inch, but I trotted across the street. A smart-ass kid way too young to own the Corvette he was driving rolled up to me and blared his horn.
“Awright, awright, all right!” I called. Life in the big city.
I reached the couple. They were both just this side of fifty, their hair graying about the edges. The man stood taller than I, his square-jawed face softened by Clark Kent glasses. The woman was shorter by a head than her presumed husband. Her hair was still mostly blond. She wore a green jacket over a yellow blouse and skirt.
I looked over their dark green Chevy hardtop. The “smoke” was actually steam from the radiator. The car looked to have wrapped its front grill around a phone pole--only there were no poles nearby.
“What happened?” I asked.
The woman looked at the man.
“Tell him,” she said. The man shrugged.
“A man runs out in the street. I hit him.”
“In a cape yet,” interjected the woman.
I glanced around for a bleeding body.
“Where is he?”
“He walked away,” said the tall man.
The man looked at his presumed wife.
“I told you nobody would believe it.”
I spotted a tatter of something caught like a moth in the crumpled grill. I plucked out a torn square of black cloth, ripped, perhaps, from a nineteenth-century opera cape.
“You’re right. Nobody would believe it,” I muttered.
I let the scrap of cloth drift away on the breeze.
JUNE 1, 2:45 P.M.
I heard the pitter-patter of little envelopes and spun in my chair. Ike smiled as he poured a dump-truck-load of mail on my desk. How did Emily keep up with this crap?The mailboy sauntered off with a nod. I yanked open drawers and swept the soul-searing pleas for help out of my sight. I had to crush them down like a pneumatic press to shut the drawers again, and the old pine desktop creaked threateningly afterwards.
The INS was deserted for the moment. I opened my right-hand top drawer, filled with books rather than mail. I pulled the library volumes out and slapped them on my blotter one by one. Something in Hollis’ book had caught my eye.
The elevator doors opened beyond the glass walls of the Independent News Service. Tony Vincenzo stepped out, his interest absorbed in a newspaper he carried. I whipped the books back in the drawer--all but Ripper Murderers, which perversely refused to fit. I glanced around frantically and finally sandwiched it between sheets of “Emily” copy. I then spun to my Underwood and typed some Emily-esque pap I remembered from Norman Vincent Peale.
Vincenzo found me hard at work--not that he notices such things.
“Carl, your friend Jane,” he began.
“Mmmm?” I mmmed.
“Jane Plumm. That’s a feature lead?”
Tony tossed a copy of The Messenger on my desk. I picked it up and read.
“The Ripper Murders: A Psychopathic Cannibal?”
Jane not only had her byline, she had inch-high headlines on the front page, and a picture of her plump, cherubic face accompanied the article. What was I doing wrong?
“Say, that’s very good,” I commented truthfully. “You know, she was looking for a good angle. It’s too bad Uptight--or Updyke--couldn’t come up with a better story.”
Vincenzo let out a belch of reluctant agreement.
“She offered to meet the Ripper. Guarantee his safety on his terms,” Tony continued.
“No kiddin’?” I asked. “Well, if I were him, I’d meet her any place but a restaurant.”
Vincenzo’s gaze slid over my desktop. If his nose for news were half as good as his eye for getting me in hot water--
“Say, Carl, whatcha reading there?”
His beefy hand reached straight for Ripper Murderers.
“Oh, that--it’s nothing--it’s just--”
“No, really, whatcha reading?”
He pulled the thick brown volume out of its half-assed hiding place and looked at the spine.
“Ripper Murderers throughout the Ages,” he read. He opened it to a page I’d marked: “‘While most ripper murderers were insanely courageous at their executions, New York Ripper Eugene Lang went into a frenzy and escaped.’”
Tony snapped the book shut.
“Carl, how many times do I have to tell you? This is not your story. Why do you insist on behaving like a four-year-old?”
I nodded to placate the editorial beast.
“I know it’s not my story, Tony.”
“Then what are you doing with this rot?”
I shrugged and looked at a distant corner like a four-year-old.
Tony’s face began its chameleon-shift toward crimson.
“Updyke doesn’t need any help! He’s not helpless!”
I continued on this tack, frantically trying to come up with a better lie.
“Well, I’m doing research for him.”
“Let him do his own research!”
“He can’t. He’s a bibliophiliac!”
“He’s a bibliophiliac. He’s persona non grata down at the library.”
Vincenzo’s anger-squint became a confusion-squint.
“He takes books out--he’s got half the books in the library out, and they’re all overdue,” I babbled. “As a matter of fact, they have a warrant out for his arrest.”
Now our Managing Editor took on a worried air.
“That doesn’t sound like Ron.”
“I know,” I agreed. “I was terribly disturbed when I heard about it. I don’t know. It must be a deep-seated psychosis--a compulsion of sorts . . .”
“Biblio--philiac?” asked Tony.
“Bibliophiliac,” I concluded.
Vincenzo shifted Ripper Murderers from one arm to the other.
“Well. Whatever Updyke is suffering from, what about the Miss Emily letters?”
“Oh, those are all taken care of.”
“Oh, are they?”
Skepticism grew in Tony’s voice. I had to head it off.
“Yeah, sure. That’s the only reason I have time to help Ron.”
I straightened and took a good, deep breath, like Lincoln about to give the Gettysburg address.
“You see, Tony, I’m trying to establish an atmosphere of friendly relationships here in the office--a rapport. Lord knows, life is hard enough without all that bickering and petty quibbling.”
Tony’s wrinkled brow smoothed out.
“Well! I know mine certainly is! I’m impressed, Carl. Anything you can do to further that end--”
I nodded. Vincenzo looked at Ripper Murderers again as if he’d forgotten he was holding it. I grabbed my hat, coat, and camera.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
I waved my hat in the air.
“Furthering that end. I’m going down to the periodicals room at the main library to look up a few articles for Ron.”
Tony’s B.S. detector sputtered back to life. Exit stage right.
“See ya later!”
I marched out with a big smile on my face. Tony, still suspicious, lingered at my desk. I can just see him opening Ripper Murderers again, finding the Dear Emily envelope I’d used as a bookmark. From there he must have started on my desk drawers. The right-hand top held only more books on Ripper-style crimes. The middle one held a few dozen Emily letters.
Doubtless that started him on the boil, but if he opened the left-hand top--the crushed down Emily notes must have exploded up like water from a depth charge.
Did I really hear a loud cry of “KOLCHAK!” echoing through the night as I crossed the plaza before the Chicago Public Library? It might just have been the wind.
I did search through the periodicals, but not for Updyke. If the Ripper were all I thought him to be, I hoped for a clue--he had to have some Achilles’ heel.
Nowadays any eight-year-old could tell you what the classic vampire feared--the sun, the crosses, the wooden stakes. For an unknown quantity like “Saucy Jack,” however, I could only review history.
Perhaps you’ve heard old tales of “unhangable” men. There are several cases on record of condemned criminals set free by a mob of onlookers when the ropes used to hang them snapped or unraveled, sort of the opposite of a lynching. A man named Vladimir Luiskovo, accused of Ripper-style murders in pre-Soviet Vladivastok, was freed due to such a timely “miracle”.
Another Ripper, Otto Ziegler, was successfully hanged in Germany in 1920. The executioner actually grabbed his legs and pulled when he didn’t expire quickly enough. His body disappeared from the morgue, however, taken by an “accomplice”.
I suspected this German Ripper had no accomplice--maybe he left the morgue under his own power when no one was looking!
A Greek killer was put in front of a twelve-man firing squad in Athens on August 14, 1904. Three attempts to execute him failed, and he was sent to an asylum, from which he later escaped. The explanation? “An accomplice” put blanks in all the rifles--or the soldiers had been drinking./p>
Only one “ripper” decided to make a break for it. Eugene Lang, arrested in New York City in connection with five grisly murders, probably grinned through his trial--but, upon receiving the death sentence in September 1908, he beat several officers to a pulp and jumped out a window. Witnesses claimed that he later jumped to his “death” off the Brooklyn Bridge. I thought of the old ploy of leaving your empty car and a suicide note on a bridge. That trick rarely worked, but if you were immortal, what better way to end a search for you than by committing “suicide” in front of witnesses?
The other Rippers, however, had allowed themselves to be [apparently] executed. What was it about this death sentence that frightened Lang? 1908--the beginning of the twentieth century--the rise of technology--motion pictures, airplanes, automobiles, electric lights . . .
Jack the Ripper--Joseph Vacher--Otto Ziegler--Vladimir Luiskovo--the Torso Killer--the Red Spider. A spectrum of maniacs, or just one under different names?
JUNE 1, 6:38 P.M.
“You think you get screwball letters in the ‘Dear Emily’s?” asked Jane Plumm. “I am personally interviewing guys who claim to be the Ripper. I’m up to number nineteen.”
Jane sucked on her chocolate shake. I just stared. We sat at a small table in Manny’s surrounded by the evening crowd. This was not part of a news-exchange deal; we just ended up here.
I set aside my empty plate and poked a finger at her.
“You are being very foolish, Jane. You are being dumb, Plumm!”
“It’s worth it,” said my friendly rival. “I get a feature byline, and I get to meet some interesting guys. Weird--but interesting.”
I winced. She had moxie, but even I rarely acted this stupid.
“That rag of yours--how can they let you take chances like this? You’re liable to get yourself killed!”
Jane gave me a sparkly-eyed smile.
“You sweetheart! You’re worried about me!”
“Yeah, I’m worried about you!”
Jane hauled up her purse and dug through it. She pulled out a handful of something that clattered onto the table.
“What are you going to do, kill him with jellybeans?”
Jane frowned. A couple of middle-aged men, still wearing their lettered high-school sweaters for Chrissake, bumped their way by behind me. When I turned to our table again, I found myself staring down the barrel of a .357 Magnum. Plumm held it carelessly in one hand as she set her purse down.
“This. It’ll stop a love-crazed moose in its tracks, so it should be enough to stop Jack.”
I pushed the big black barrel aside. “Put that away, will ya?”
I continued as she obeyed: “No chance. I told you what happened Sunday night.”
Jane rolled her eyes and nodded. She knew a little of my spotty career.
“Carl, you’re trying to make him another Skorzeny.”
“I don’t have to try. All of these guys operate the same way--as if they were the same man.”
Jane studied the lapels of my seersucker.
“That would make him older than your suit. And that is saying a lot.”
“No, I’m serious!”
“That’d make him a hundred and thirty years old!”
“Wrong. It’s a simple contagious psychosis. Have I told you about my theory?”
I worked my hand into a 9x12 envelope and pulled out the murky pictures I’d snapped on the 26th.
“Yeah, Jane, yeah, you’ve told me all about your theory. Now you listen to mine. They caught a Ripper in Germany--one of many--and they tried to hang him. They had a little trouble with the rope.”
I leaned forward with a photo of Jack I’d taken at point-blank range--from behind. A nice shot, as Ike said, of the back of his head.
“However--here. Let me show you some pictures I took of our Ripper. See? Right there.”
I pointed. “Right there! On his neck!”
Jane took the photo. “What?”
“Can’t you see it? It’s a rope burn!”
She drew in her lower lip, considering.
“Could be a rope burn,” she conceded. “Could also be a carbuncle.”
I sighed. “Jane, just listen a minute.”
“I’m listening, Kolchak,” she said, taking a bite from a green apple.
I outlined my researches into the Ripper murders, including his possible connections with black magic.
“Five is a very important number in occult rituals,” I concluded. “Okay, each of these Rippers has killed five women. Even you yourself said your Italian flower-girl Ripper killed five.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” agreed Jane.
“Well, our Chicago Ripper has two victims left, and if his pattern follows he ought to get both of them in one night.”
“Not before I get my story,” said Jane. “I’m interviewing three potential Rippers tonight.”
She lowered her eyelids demurely.
“And besides, he’s not going to kill anybody, he promised.”
“Oh, he promised. That’s great. That’s just great!”
I slapped my hand on the table. Old Antoine glanced our way. Jane nodded.
“No, its true. He sent me another poem. Same thing that was written on the massage parlor mirror: ‘Jack is resting/ Being reborn/ To finish up on Wednesday morn.’”
“Jane,” I pleaded, “Don’t get involved in this. He said the same sorts of things in London. He promised he would strike in the Minories--a London suburb--on October 1, then he struck the night before, in Whitechapel, the same place he always hit.”
“Yeah, Kolchak,” said Jane with a nod, “but that was the real Jack the Ripper.”
JUNE 1, 8:45 P.M.
I don’t know what possessed me to visit the Sultan’s Palace. Call it a hunch. Modern research has proven that serial killers often re-visit crime scenes to relive their twisted thrills. Why should the granddaddy of them all be any different?
The women at the Palace were troopers, you had to give them that. All traces of blood and mayhem were gone when I stepped in out of the windy night. Pop music pulsed from the speakers, veils waved in the breeze of an overhead vent, and one blond and one brunette harem girl greeted me at the front desk.
“How may we help you?” asked the brunette.
Believe it or not, the old newshawk, friend of the bartender and hooker, broke out in a sweat. Had it been that long since I’d seen this much female flesh? Maybe I was nervous about what might happen.
The blond masseuse blinked, patiently waiting. I stared rudely at her belly button. No I Dream of Jeannie censorship here.
Could you do a damned thing, Kolchak, if a cold, bright blade seared across her smooth flesh?
I studied the chart of massage possibilities. I bumped the blond in the tit with my elbow.
“’Scuse me,” I mumbled, fanning myself with my hat.
My gaze focused on Number Seven--"Hot oil, vibrator and towel."
“Number Seven!” I said at last.
“Seven?” asked the blond.
“Yeah, it’s my lucky number!”
A slim arm indicated a hallway. “This way, please.”
I doffed my hat and undid my tie. The harem girl gathered up towels, rubbing alcohol and skin cream. I set my camera and recorder on the white-sheeted table.
I untied my shoes, wondering how to word my proposal.
“Are you a tennis player?” asked the masseuse.
“What?” I asked as I slapped my shoes on the table. “No, why?”
The woman smiled, setting down a bottle of herbal rub.
“Because your shoes are so funny.”
They were a little off compared to the black leathers of my fellow journalists--but some people think seersuckers are out of style.
“I run a lot.”
I unbuttoned my shirt and plucked it out of my pants. I hated to imagine myself lying there like a slab of meat if ol’ Jack came to call.
“Listen--what is your name?” I asked.
“Susan,” answered the blond woman.
“Susan! Well, listen, Susan. I didn’t really come here for a massage.”
Susan slid aside a small electric iron and looked up with just a hint of suspicion.
I gave the famous Kolchak smile.
“No. I think something is going to happen here tonight. It could happen right in this room.”
Susan half-lowered her eyelids, revealing a plum-colored gloss.
“And you want to be here with your camera and recorder.”
“That’s right!” I glanced around for a screen or a closet. “If there was someplace I could wait--hide-I wouldn’t disturb anyone--”
“Where you could watch,” suggested the masseuse.
“That’s right!” I said enthusiastically.
It dawned on me what exactly I’d been saying. I chuckled uncomfortably.
“Now, now, don’t get the wrong idea, please! My name is Carl Kolchak.”
I offered my hand. The blond woman took it and smiled cattishly.
“I’m Officer Susan Cortazzo and you’re under arrest. Phil!”
“Shame on you, Kolchak.”
I stood there stunned as a slim detective with a head of thick, sandy-brown hair stepped in from the hall.
“Lewd proposal,” explained the fake masseuse. “He wanted to watch me with someone.”
I recognized Lieutenant Phil Roman, a sometimes-source from Homicide, as Cortazzo slapped cuffs on my wrists.
“Phil--Phil! This is all a mistake! You know me.”
“I always thought you were straight, Kolchak,” remarked Phil in a slightly mournful tone.
“But I am straight. I am straight!”
Cortazzo slapped my hat on my head, back to front. She draped my jacket over my shoulders like a faded cape. I grabbed up my camera and recorder.
The under-dressed Officer Cortazzo held up my sneakers.
“These are his too, Phil. Warren’s gonna love this.”
She shoved the sneakers into my arms. Lt. Roman pushed me toward the door. I lost my cool, babbling like a married business exec caught soliciting.
“Now, Phil – Phil, listen to me. This is all a mistake. Would I be caught dead in a place like this if I weren’t here under assignment?”
Phil passed me off to a uniformed cop and returned to whatever hole he’d been hiding in. The cop dragged me out the back door of Sultan’s Palace into a dark, grungy alley, me still flapping my lips.
“Listen, listen, Officer, this is all a mistake.”
The cop grunted like Mighty Joe Young, pulling me with all the aplomb of a tow-truck. The sharp pain of a bottle cap against the sole of my foot reminded me that I stumbled along in my socks.
“Will you let me put my shoes on?”
I made as if to sit on a crate. The cop hauled up like he’d hooked a tarpon. My pants never touched the rough wood.
“Will you please let me put my shoes on? There’s glass all over the joint here!” I yelled.
We arrived at a blue-white Chicago squad car. I still pleaded my case as the passenger-cop opened the back door.
“Wait a minute! Where’s Phil? Where’s Phil? Phil knows I’m innocent! Listen, I don’t like to watch girls!”
My muscular escort paused before shoving me in.
“You don’t like to watch girls?” he asked in a serious tone.
I froze, sizing him up as he sized me.
“No, and I’m not that way, either!”
The cop clapped a hand on my shoulder and compressed me into the back seat. I barely held onto my shoes, camera, and recorder, my wrists shackled as they were.
As we pulled away, I turned my attention to the two policemen up front.
“Listen, listen fellas, this is all a mistake . . .”
JUNE 1, 8:56 P.M.
Warren’s plan was to get me out of the way, and it seemed to be working.
The activity stirred up by my misadventure in the Sultan’s Palace settled just in time. The hunter did not know he was to play the hunted as he clopped down the sidewalk beneath the yellow, pink, and orange neon. He still wore his evening suit and cape, a century out of date, but whether out of arrogance or necessity no one could say.
He stared again at the half-hidden sign glowing with the words SULTAN’S PALACE. Nothing remained of the frightened onlookers and ineffectual officers of the other night. He stepped boldly up.
There would be a Double Event at last, slightly out of sequence but doubled in another fashion by performing one sacrifice on the very site of another.
I couldn’t stay mad at Officer Cortazzo, the way she shook even weeks later as I interviewed her at the Billy Goat Tavern opposite the Chicago Tribune. She was touching up her harem makeup when she heard the slow, ominous scrape of metal on metal. Like Michelle Shiffman in Milwaukee, she saw Jack in the mirror first.
“I couldn’t believe anyone could dress like that and get away with it," Cortazzo told me. "A black evening suit, just this side of a tux, and a f___ing cape, just like that masseuse said--like a stage magician.
“Phil and the uniforms were already jumping from their cubbyholes, but to me it felt like they were on the moon--especially when the SOB lurched around the table with that f___ing sword.
“I had my .38 right on the dresser. I hauled it up and fired point-blank. His white shirt and black string tie sort of splashed, Kolchak. I know I hit him, but I didn’t even knock him back.”
Cortazzo finished the Guinness I bought her and ordered something stronger.
“I screamed like a little girl, Kolchak. I don’t do that. I hate movies where the women just grab their hair and scream when the monster’s coming. But the monster was here, and I shrieked.
“Thank God Phil came. He practically climbed onto ‘Jack’s’ shoulders as the bastard grabbed me. Jack knew he wasn’t going to have any privacy with me; he tossed me over the massage table like an empty pop bottle. I crashed upside down against a lamp stand. Phil didn’t have any better luck. As I crumpled down in a pile of bangles, this Ripper guy lobbed Phil after me like a softball. Phil's hard leather shoes clipped my head as he landed. Then the f___er--I mean, suspect--bolted out the back door.”
Officer Cortazzo showed me a purple oblong under her blond bangs. I whistled in appreciation.
“He ran right into an alleyful of uniforms and cars. Someone gave the green light; I heard the riot guns and revolvers even half loopy as I was. They tell me he leaped clear over a blue-and-white and sprinted off toward Division Street like he was the f___ing Flash as well as f___ing Hercules.
“I heard the sirens as everybody roared off after Jack. At least Phil stayed to help me up. We always argued about officers in the same precinct having relationships, but after that . . . Well the wedding’s in August.”
“Oh--congratulations,” I said, taken a bit off guard.
Susan Cortazzo gulped her Irish whiskey like a trout snapping down a fly. She gave me a look that did not quite match her happy news.
“He’s dead, isn’t he, Kolchak? You’re sure the f___er’s dead?”
“If a guy like Jack can die . . . then I’m pretty sure he’s dead.”
Cortazzo’s smile was like a leopard bunching its chops.
“In that case, you’re invited.”
JUNE 1, 9:05 P.M.
We’d barely started off when the police band crackled: “Attention all units: Suspect has left the massage parlor area and is proceeding north along Division Street. Request assistance."
I smiled and leaned back as the squad made a U-turn toward Division. I’d lucked out, and five minutes later I was back in the action, watching Chicago’s elite TAC squad trying to pin down one man without any success.
Like King Kong, the Ripper seemed to prefer the heights. Several units closed in on him near the unfinished Champion Towers. The Ripper ducked into the construction area and ran right up to the forty-story sculpture of naked girders. A night watchman drinking coffee from a Thermos toppled over in his chair as "jumping Jack" sprang straight up to the second floor. From there the caped man climbed like a human fly.
The CPD has more gumption than sense. A dozen cops arrived and charged up the stairs despite the semi-darkness. Jack stopped climbing and ventured out onto a barely-begun area of the fourth floor, hopping from beam to beam like a mountain goat.
Dozens of squad cars were already on scene when my private “taxi” rolled up. It looked like that police car pileup at the climax of The Blues Brothers. My driver and his partner spilled out.
I followed, carrying my camera as best I could with the cuffs. I had no time to fight my shoes on; I minced my way across ‘dozer-torn earth.
I had a better flash this time, but Jack scrambled through shadows fifty feet up. I snapped pictures of the mob of uniformed cops massing at the base of the skeletal building. The thunder of small arms fire roared continuously.
The big blue TAC unit van rolled up at the western edge of the construction area. The special squad piled out, looking like invading aliens in their body armor and white helmets.
They spread in my general direction. I minced away, and when the blast of the rifles began, I drew my head in like a turtle. They must have had some idea of the Ripper’s power; they didn’t have this many men at the ’68 riots. They fired off enough rounds for World War III.
Harsh lights backlit the caped suspect, who ran to the left, then the right, each time turning away from encroaching cops. I thought of the old-fashioned rifle galleries, with the tin cutouts that reversed direction when you shot them.
The Ripper clambered down a concrete support to the second floor. Cops collected below him like piranha.
Jack had been cornered, and now, like a wounded animal, he attacked. He leapt right into the ocean of blue serge and bulletproof vests. He vanished from view, and the TAC officers and street cops moiled like picnic ants.
A geyser erupted at the center of this sea of testosterone and blue steel. A TAC officer flew up, his stormtrooper boots clearing the heads of the first few rows of cops. He landed on three or four round helmets, knocking down a handful of Chicago’s finest.
I snapped picture after picture of the carnage. Even Janos Skorzeny hadn’t faced a whole army like this. A second figure, an ordinary uniformed cop, somersaulted out of the ocean of battling men and vanished behind them. A third officer shot up like a Polaris missile and fell away.
At Ground Zero cops vanished as if into a hole. The Ripper slapped them down one by one, like Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah.
Another cop flew my way. I was used to that by now, so I just hopped aside.
Typical: Shift your attention for a second and something happens. Apparently “springheeled” Jack jumped over his opponents and made for the construction shacks and trailers to the east. Cops on the second and third floors blasted away at him. They held their fire as twenty or so officers gave chase. I hobbled after.
The Ripper stopped at a pile of steel girders. I snapped a great shot of him catching up a girder like a set of dumbbells. He raised it to his chest and hurled it at the pursuing officers. The heavy beam knocked down the phalanx of cops like bowling pins.
I shook my head as the men on Champion Towers fired again at the fleeing Ripper. They never learned. However:
Vandalism had hit the Lower Peninsula Construction Company hard during the recent recession. They finally had to surround their cranes and trailers with an extra line of protection.
“Look out!” cried a sergeant. “Get away from the hot fence!”
The cops stopped. The Ripper didn’t. He sprang up onto the chain-link, and a fireworks display erupted around him. Flashes as bright as magnesium flares lit a sign starkly: DANGER -- ELECTRIFIED. The Ripper sank down, pulled himself up again, and finally settled like a leaky balloon.
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.