Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper
I LOOKED at the stage Englishman. He looked at me.
"Sir Guy Hollis?" I asked.
"Indeed. Have I the pleasure of addressing John Carmody, the psychiatrist?"
I nodded. My eyes swept over the figure of my distinguished visitor. Tall, lean, sandy-haired—with the traditional tufted mustache. And the tweeds. I suspected a monocle concealed in a vest pocket, and wondered if he'd left his umbrella in the outer office.
But more than that, I wondered what the devil had impelled Sir Guy Hollis of the British Embassy to seek out a total stranger here in Chicago.
Sir Guy didn't help matters any as he sat down. He cleared his throat, glanced around nervously, tapped his pipe against the side of the desk. Then he opened his mouth.
"What do you think of London?" He said.
"I'd like to discuss London with you, Mr. Carmody."
I meet all kinds. So I merely smiled, sat back, and gave him his head.
"Have you ever noticed anything strange about that city?" he asked.
"Well, the fog is famous."
"Yes, the fog. That's important. It usually provides the perfect setting."
"Setting for what?"
Sir Guy Hollis gave me an enigmatic grin.
"Murder," he murmured.
"Yes. Hasn't it struck you that London, of all cities, has a peculiar affinity for those who contemplate homicide?"
They don't talk that way, except in books. Still, it was an interesting thought. London as an ideal spot for a murder!
"As you mentioned," said Sir Guy, "there is a natural reason for this. The fog is an ideal background. And then too the British have a peculiar attitude in such matters. You might call it their sporting instinct. They regard murder as a sort of a game."
I sat up straight. Here was a theory. "Yes, I needn't bore you with homicide statistics. The record is there. Aesthetically, temperamentally, the Englishman is interested in crimes of violence.
"A man commits murder. Then the excitement begins. The game starts. Will the criminal outwit the police? You can read between the lines in their newspaper stories. Everybody is waiting to see who will score.
"British law regards a prisoner as guilty until proven innocent. That's their advantage. But first they must catch their prisoner. And London bobbies are not allowed to carry firearms. That's a point for the fugitive. You see? All part of the rules of the game."
I wondered what Sir Guy was driving at. Either a point or a strait-jacket. But I kept my mouth shut and let him continue.
"The logical result of this British attitude toward murder is—Sherlock Holmes," he said.
"Have you ever noticed how popular the theme of murder is in British fiction and drama?"
I smiled. I was back on familiar ground.
"Angel Street," I suggested.
"Ladies in Retirement," he countered. "Night Must Fall."
"Payment Deferred," I added. "Laburnum Grove. Kind Lady. Love from a Stranger. Portrait of a Man with Red Hair. Black Limelight."
He nodded. "Think of the motion pictures of Alfred Hitchcock and Emlyn Williams. The actors Wilfred Lawson and Leslie Banks."
"Charles Laughton," I continued for him. "Edmund Gwenn. Basil Rathbone. Raymond Massey. Sir Cedric Hardwicke."
"You're quite an expert on this sort of thing yourself," he told me.
"Not at all," I smiled. "I'm a psychiatrist."
Then I leaned forward. I didn't change my tone of voice. "All I want to know," I said sweetly, "is why the hell you come up to my office and discuss murder melodramas with me."
It stung him. He sat back and blinked a little.
"That isn't my intention," he murmured. "No. Not at all. I was just advancing a theory—"
"Stalling," I said. "Stalling. Come on, Sir Guy—spit it out."
Talking like a gangster is all a part of the applied psychiatric technique. At least, it worked for me.
It worked this time. Sir Guy stopped bleating. His eyes narrowed. When he leaned forward again he meant business.
"Mr. Carmody," he said, "have you ever heard of—Jack the Ripper?"
"The murderer?" I asked.
"Exactly. The greatest monster of them all. Worse than Springheel Jack or Crippen. Jack the Ripper. Red Jack."
"I've heard of him," I said.
"Do you know his history?"
I got tough again. "Listen, Sir Guy," I muttered. "I don't think we'll get any place swapping old wives' tales about famous crimes of history."
Another bulls-eye. He took a deep breath.
"This is no old wives' tale. It's a matter of life or death."
He was so wrapped up in his obsession he even talked that way. Well—I was willing to listen. We psychiatrists get paid for listening.
"Go ahead," I told him. "Let's have the story."
Sir Guy lit a cigarette and began to talk.
"London; 1888," he began. "Late summer and early fall. That was the time. Out of nowhere came the shadowy figure of Jack the Ripper—a stalking shadow with a knife, prowling through London's East End. Haunting the squalid dives of Whitechapel, Spitalfields. Where he came from no one knew. But he brought death. Death in a knife.
"Six times that knife descended to slash the throats and bodies of London's women. Drabs and alley sluts. August 7th was the date of the first butchery. They found her body lying there with 39 stab wounds. A ghastly murder. On August 31st, another victim. The press became interested. The
slum inhabitants were more deeply interested still.
"Who was this unknown killer who prowled in their midst and struck at will in the deserted alley-ways of nighttown? And what was more important — when would he strike again?
"September 8th was the date. Scotland Yard assigned special deputies. Rumors ran rampant. The atrocious nature of the slayings was the subject for shocking speculation.
"The killer used a knife—expertly. He cut throats and removed—certain portions—of the bodies after death. He chose victims and settings with a fiendish deliberation. No one saw him or heard him. But watchmen making their gray rounds in the dawn would stumble across the hacked and horrid thing that was the Ripper's handiwork.
"Who was he? What was he? A mad surgeon? A butcher? An insane scientist? A pathological degenerate escaped from an asylum? A deranged nobleman? A member of the London police?
"Then the poem appeared in the newspapers. The anonymous poem, designed to put a stop to speculations—but which only aroused public interest to a further frenzy. A mocking little stanza:
I'm not a butcher, I'm not a kid
Nor yet a foreign skipper,
But I'm your own true loving friend,
Yours truly—Jack the Ripper.
"And on September 30th, two more throats were slashed open."
I interrupted Sir Guy for a moment. "Very interesting," I commented. I'm afraid a faint hint of sarcasm crept into my voice.
HE WINCED, but didn't falter in his narrative.
"There was silence, then, in London for a time. Silence, and a nameless fear. When would Red Jack strike again? They waited through October. Every figment of fog concealed his phantom presence. Concealed it well—for nothing was learned of the Ripper's identity, or his purpose. The drabs of London shivered in the raw wind of early November. Shivered, and were thankful for the coming of each morning’s sun.
"November 9th. They found her in her room. She lay there very quietly, limbs neatly arranged. And beside her, with equal neatness, were laid her head and heart. The Ripper had outdone himself in execution.
"Then, panic. But needless panic. For though press, police, and populace alike waited in sick dread. Jack the Ripper did not strike again.
"Months passed. A year. The immediate interest died, but not the memory. They said Jack had skipped to America. That he had committed suicide. They said—and they wrote. They've written ever since. Theories, hypotheses, arguments, treatises. But to this day no one knows who Jack the Ripper was. Or why he killed. Or why he stopped killing."
Sir Guy was silent. Obviously he expected some comment from me.
"You tell the story well," I remarked. "Though with a slight emotional bias."
"I've got all the documents," said Sir Guy Hollis. "I've made a collection of existing data and studied it."
I STOOD up. "Well," I yawned, in mock fatigue, “I've enjoyed your little bedtime story a great deal, Sir Guy. It was kind of you to abandon your duties at the British Embassy to drop in on a poor psychiatrist and regale him with your anecdotes."
Goading him always did the trick.
"I suppose you want to know why I'm interested?" he snapped.
"Yes. That's exactly what I'd like to know. Why are you interested?”
"Because," said Sir Guy Hollis, "I am on the trail of Jack the Ripper now. I think he's here—in Chicago!"
I sat down again. This time I did the blinking act.
"Say that again," I stuttered.
"Jack the Ripper is alive, in Chicago, and I'm out to find him."
"Wait a minute," I said. "Wait—a—minute!"
He wasn't smiling. It wasn't a joke.
"See here," I said. "What was the date of these murders?"
"August to November, 1888."
"1888? But if Jack the Ripper was an able-bodied man in 1888, he'd surely be dead today! Why look, man—if he were merely born in that year, he'd be 55 years old today!"
"Would he?" smiled Sir Guy Hollis.
"Or should I say, 'Would she?' Because Jack the Ripper may have been a woman. Or any number of things."
"Sir Guy," I said. “You came to the right person when you looked me up. You definitely need the services of a psychiatrist."
"Perhaps. Tell me, Mr. Carmody, do you think I'm crazy?" I looked at him and shrugged. But I had to give him a truthful answer.
"Then you might listen to the reasons I believe Jack the Ripper is alive today.”
"I've studied these cases for thirty years. Been over the actual ground. Talked to officials. Talked to friends and acquaintances of the poor drabs who were killed. Visited with men and women in the neighborhood. Collected an entire library of material touching on Jack the Ripper. Studied all the wild theories or crazy notions.
"I learned a little. Not much, but a little. I won't bore you with my conclusions. But there was another branch of inquiry that yielded more fruitful returns. I have studied unsolved crimes. Murders.
"I could show you clippings from the papers of half the world's great cities. San Francisco. Shanghai. Calcutta. Omsk. Paris. Berlin. Pretoria. Cairo. Milan. Adelaide.
"The trail is there, the pattern. Unsolved crimes. Slashed throats of women. With the peculiar disfigurations and removals. Yes, I've followed a trail of blood. From New York westward across the continent. Then to the Pacific. From there to Africa. During the World War of 1914-18 it was Europe. After that, South America. And since 1930, the United States again. Eighty-seven such murders and to the trained criminologist, all bear the stigma of the Ripper's handiwork.
"Recently there were the so-called Cleveland torso slayings. Remember? A shocking series. And finally, two recent deaths in Chicago. Within the past six months. One out on South Dearborn. The other somewhere up on Halsted. Same type of crime, same technique. I tell you, there are unmistakable indications in all these affairs—indications of the work of Jack the Ripper!"
"A very tight theory," I said. "I'll not question your evidence at all, or the deductions you draw. You're the criminologist, and I'll take your word for it. Just one thing remains to be explained. A minor point, perhaps, but worth mentioning."
"And what is that?" asked Sir Guy.
"Just how could a man of, let us say, 85 years commit these crimes? For if Jack the Ripper was around 30 in 1888 and lived, he'd be 85 today."
SIR GUY HOLLIS was silent. I had him there. But—
"Suppose he didn't get any older?" whispered Sir Guy.
"Suppose Jack the Ripper didn't grow old? Suppose he is still a young man today?"
"All right," I said. "I'll suppose for a moment. Then I'll stop supposing and call for my nurse to restrain you."
"I'm serious," said Sir Guy.
"They all are," I told him. "That's the pity of it all, isn't it? They know they hear voices and see demons. But we lock them up just the same."
It was cruel, but it got results. He rose and faced me.
"It's a crazy theory, I grant you," he said. "All the theories about the Ripper are crazy. The idea that he was a doctor. Or a maniac. Or a woman. The reasons advanced for such beliefs are flimsy enough. There's nothing to go by. So why should my notion be any worse?"
"Because people grow older," I reasoned with him. "Doctors, maniacs, and women alike."
"Necromancers. Wizards. Practicers of Black Magic?"
"What's the point?"
"I studied," said Sir Guy. "I studied everything. After a while I began to study the dates of the murders. The pattern those dates formed. The rhythm. The solar, lunar, stellar rhythm. The sidereal aspect. The astrological significance."
He was crazy. But I still listened.
"Suppose Jack the Ripper didn't murder for murder's sake alone? Suppose he wanted to make—a sacrifice?"
"What kind of a sacrifice?"
Sir Guy shrugged. "It is said that if you offer blood to the dark gods that they grant boons. Yes, if a blood offering is made at the proper time—when the moon and the stars are right—and with the proper ceremonies—they grant boons. Boons of youth. Eternal youth."
"But that's nonsense!"
"No. That's—Jack the Ripper."
I stood up. "A most interesting theory," I told him. "But Sir Guy—there's just one thing I'm interested in. Why do you come here and tell it to me? I'm not an authority on witchcraft. I'm not a police official or criminologist. I'm a practicing psychiatrist. What's the connection?"
Sir Guy smiled.
"You are interested, then?"
"Well, yes. There must be some, point."
"There is. But I wished to be assured of your interest first. Now I can tell you my plan."
"And just what.is that plan?"
Sir Guy gave me a long look. Then he spoke.
"John Carmody," he said, "you and I are going to capture Jack the Ripper.”
THAT'S the way it happened. I've given the gist of that first interview in all its intricate and somewhat boring detail, because I think it's important. It helps to throw some light on Sir Guy's character and attitude. And in view of what happened after that—
But I'm coming to those matters.
Sir Guy's thought was simple. It wasn't even a thought. Just a hunch.
"You know the people here,” he told me. “I’ve inquired. That’s why I came to you as the ideal man for my purpose. You number amongst your acquaintances many writers, painters, poets. The so-called intelligentsia. The Bohemians. The lunatic fringe from the near north side.
"For certain reasons—never mind what they are—my clues lead me to infer that Jack the Ripper is a member of that element. He chooses to pose as an eccentric. I've a feeling that with you to take me around and introduce me to your set, I might hit upon the right person."
"It's all right with me," I said. "But just how are you going to look for him? As you say, he might be anybody, anywhere. And you have no idea what he looks like. He might be young or old.
Jack the Ripper—a Jack of all trades? Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer—how will you know?"
"'We shall see." Sir Guy sighed heavily. "But I must find him. At once."
"Why the hurry?"
Sir Guy sighed again. "Because in two days he will kill again."
"Are you sure?"
"Sure as the stars. I've plotted his chart, you see. All 87 of the murders correspond to certain astrological rhythm patterns. If, as I suspect, he makes a blood sacrifice to renew his youth, he must murder within two days. Notice .the pattern of his first crimes in London. August 7th. Then August 31. September 8th. September 30th. November 9th. Intervals of 24 days, 9 days, 22 days—he killed two this time—and then 40 days. Of course there were crimes in between. There had to be. But they weren't discovered and pinned on him.
"At any rate, I've worked out a pattern for him, based on all my data. And I say that within the next two days he kills. So I must seek him out, somehow, before then."
"And I'm still asking you what you want me to do."
"Take me out," said Sir Guy. "Introduce me to your friends. Take me to parties."
"But where do I begin? As, far as I know, my artistic friends, despite their eccentricities, are all normal people."
"So is the Ripper. Perfectly normal. Except on certain nights." Again that faraway look in Sir Guy's eyes. "Then he becomes an ageless pathological monster, crouching to kill, on evenings when the stars blaze down in the blazing patterns of death."
"All right," I said. "All right. I'll take you to parties, Sir Guy. I want to go myself, anyway. I need the drinks they'll serve there, after listening to your kind of talk."
We made our plans. And that evening I took him over to Lester Baston's studio.
AS we ascended to the penthouse roof in the elevator I took the opportunity to warn Sir Guy.
"Baston's a real screwball," I cautioned him. "So are his guests. Be prepared for anything and everything."
"I am." Sir Guy Hollis was perfectly serious. He put his hand in his trousers pocket and pulled out a gun.
"What the—" I began.
"If I see him I'll be ready," Sir Guy said. He didn't smile, either.
"But you can't go running around at a party with a loaded revolver in your pocket, man!"
"Don't worry, I won't behave foolishly."
I wondered. Sir Guy Hollis was not, to my way of thinking, a normal man.
We stepped out of the elevator, went toward Baston's apartment door.
"By the way," I murmured, "just how do you wish to be introduced? Shall I tell them who you are and what you are looking for?"
"I don't care. Perhaps it would be best to be frank."
"But don't you think that the Ripper—if by some miracle he or she is present will immediately get the wind up and take cover?"
"I think the shock of the announcement that I am hunting the Ripper would provoke some kind of a betraying gesture on his part," said Sir Guy.
"You'd make a pretty good psychiatrist yourself," I conceded. "It's a fine theory. But I warn you, you're going to be in for a lot of ribbing. This is a wild bunch."
Sir Guy smiled.
"I'm ready," he announced.. "I have a little plan of my own. Don't be shocked by anything I do," he warned me.
I nodded and knocked on the door.
Baston opened it and poured out into the hall. His eyes were as red as the
maraschino cherries in his Manhattan. He teetered back and forth, regarding us very gravely. He squinted at my square-cut homburg hat and Sir Guy's mustache.
"Aha," he intoned. "The Walrus and the Carpenter."
I introduced Sir Guy.
"Welcome," said Baston, gesturing us inside with over-elaborate courtesy. He stumbled after us into the garish parlor.
I stared at the crowd that moved restlessly through the fog of cigarette smoke.
It was the shank of the evening for this mob. Every hand held a drink. Every face held a slightly hectic flush. Over in one corner the piano was going full blast, but the imperious strains of the March from The Love for Three Oranges couldn't drown out the profanity from the crap game in the other corner.
Prokofieff had no chance against African polo, and one set of ivories rattled louder than the other.
Sir Guy got a monocle-full right away. He saw LaVerne Gonnister, the poetess, hit Hymie Kralik in the eye. He saw Hymie sit down on the floor and cry until Dick Pool accidentally stepped on his stomach as he walked through to the dining room for a drink.
He heard Nadia Vilinoff the commercial artist tell Johnny Odcutt that she thought his tattooing was in dreadful taste, and he saw Barclay Melton crawl under the dining room table with Johnny Odcutt's wife.
His zoological observations might have continued indefinitely if Lester Baston hadn't stepped to the center of the room and called for silence by dropping a vase on the floor.
"We have distinguished visitors in our midst," bawled Lester, waving his empty glass in our direction. "None other than the Walrus and the Carpenter. The Walrus is Sir Guy Hollis, a something-or-other from the British Embassy.. The Carpenter, as you all know, is our own John Carmody, the prominent dispenser of libido-liniment."
He turned and grabbed Sir Guy by the arm, dragging him to the middle of the carpet. For a moment I thought Hollis might object, but a quick wink reassured me. He was prepared for this.
"It is our custom, Sir Guy," said Baston, loudly, "to subject our new friends to a little cross-examination. Just a little formality at these very formal gatherings, you understand. Are you prepared to answer questions?"
Sir Guy nodded and grinned.
"Very well," Baston muttered. "Friends—I give you this bundle from Britain. Your witness."
Then the ribbing started. I meant to listen, but at that moment Lydia Dare saw me and dragged me off into the vestibule for one of those Darling-I-waited-for-your-call-all-day routines.
By the time I got rid of her and went back, the impromptu quiz session was in full swing. From the attitude of the crowd, I gathered that Sir Guy was doing all right for himself.
Then Baston himself interjected a question that upset the apple-cart.
"And what, may I ask, brings you to our midst tonight? What is your mission, oh Walrus?"
"I'm looking for Jack the Ripper."
Perhaps it struck them all the way it did me. I glanced at my neighbors and began to wonder.
LaVerne Gonnister. Hymie Kralik. Harmless. Dick Pool. Nadia Vilinoff. Johnny Odcutt and his wife. Barclay Melton. Lydia Dare. All harmless.
But what a forced smile on Dick Pool's face! And that sly, self-conscious smirk that Barclay Melton wore!
Oh, it was absurd, I grant you. But for the first time I saw these people in a new light. I wondered about their lives—their secret lives beyond the scenes of parties.
How many of them were playing a part, concealing something?
Who here could worship Hecate and grant that horrid goddess the dark boon of blood?
Even Lester Baston might be masquerading.
The mood was upon us all, for a moment.
I saw questions flicker in the circle of eyes around the room.
Sir Guy stood there, and I could swear he was fully conscious of the situation he'd created, and enjoyed it.
I wondered idly just what was really wrong with him. Why he had this odd fixation concerning Jack the Ripper. Maybe he was hiding secrets, too. . . .
Baston, as usual, broke the mood. He burlesqued it.
"The Walrus isn't kidding, friends," he said. He slapped Sir Guy on the back and put his arm around him as he orated. "Our English cousin is really on the trail of the fabulous Jack the Ripper. You all remember Jack the Ripper, I presume? Quite a cutup in the old days, as I recall. Really had some ripping good times when he went out on a tear. The Walrus has some idea that the Ripper is still alive, probably prowling around Chicago with a Boy Scout knife. In fact"—Baston paused impressively and shot it out in a rasping stage-whisper—"in fact, he has reason to believe that Jack the Ripper might even be right here in our midst tonight."
There was the expected reaction of giggles and grins. Baston eyed Lydia Dare reprovingly. "You girls needn't laugh," he smirked. "Jack the Ripper might be a woman, too, you know. Sort of a Jill the Ripper."
"You mean you actually suspect one of us?" shrieked Laverne Gonnister, simpering up to Sir Guy. "But that Jack the Ripper person disappeared ages ago, didn't he? In 1888?"
"Aha!" interrupted Baston. "How do you know so much about it, young lady? Sounds suspicious! Watch her, Sir Guy—she may not be as young as she appears. These lady poets have dark pasts."
The tension was gone, the mood was shattered, and the whole thing was beginning to degenerate into a trivial party joke. The man who had played the March was eyeing the piano with a Scherzo gleam in his eye that augured ill for Prokofieff. Lydia Dare was glancing at the kitchen, waiting to make a break for another drink.
Then Baston caught it.
"Guess what?" he yelled. "The Walrus has a gun!"
His embracing arm had slipped and encountered the hard outline of the gun in Sir Guy's pocket. He snatched it out before Hollis had the opportunity to protest.
I stared hard at Sir Guy, wondering if this thing had carried far enough. But he flicked a wink my way and I remembered he had told me not to be alarmed. So I waited as Baston broached a drunken inspiration.
"Let's play fair with our friend the Walrus,'' he cried. He came all the way from England to our party on this mission. If none of you is willing to confess, I suggest we give him a chance to find out—the hard way."
"What's up?" asked Johnny Odcutt.
"I'll turn out the lights for one minute. Sir Guy can stand here with his gun. If anyone in this room is the Ripper he can either run for it or take the opportunity to—well, eradicate his pursuer. Fair enough?"
It was even sillier than it sounds, but it caught the popular fancy. Sir Guy's protests went unheard in the ensuing babble. And before I could stride over and put in my two cents' worth, Lester Baston had reached the light switch.
"Don't anybody move," he announced, with fake solemnity. "For one minute we will remain in darkness—perhaps at the mercy of a killer. At the end of that time, I'll turn up the lights again and look
for bodies. Choose your partners, ladies and gentlemen." The lights went out.
I heard footsteps in the darkness. Mutterings.
A hand brushed my face.
The watch on my wrist ticked violently. But even louder, rising above it, I heard another thumping. The beating of my heart.
Absurd. Standing in the dark with a group of tipsy fools. And yet there was real terror lurking here, rustling through the velvet blackness. Jack the Ripper prowled in darkness like this. And Jack the Ripper had a knife.
Jack the Ripper had a madman's brain and a madman's purpose.
But Jack the Ripper was dead, dead and dust these many years—by every human law.
Only there are no human laws when you feel yourself in the darkness, when the darkness hides and protects and the outer mask slips off your face and you feel something welling up within you, a brooding shapeless purpose that is brother to the blackness—
Sir Guy Hollis shrieked. There was a grisly thud. Baston had the lights on. Everybody screamed.
Sir Guy Hollis lay sprawled on the floor in the center of the room. The gun was still clutched in his hand.
I glanced at the faces, marveling at the variety of expressions human beings can assume when confronting horror.
All the faces were present in the circle. Nobody had fled. And yet Sir Guy Hollis lay there . . .
La Verne Gonnister was wailing and hiding her face.
Sir Guy rolled over and jumped to his feet. He was smiling.
"Just an experiment, eh? If Jack the Ripper were among those present, and thought I had been murdered, he would have betrayed himself in some way when the lights went on and he saw me lying there.
"I am convinced of your individual and collective innocence. Just a gentle spoof, my friends."
Hollis stared at the goggling Baston and the rest of them crowding in behind him.
"Shall we leave, John?" he called to me, "It's getting late, I think."
Turning, he headed for the closet. I followed him. Nobody said a word.
It was a pretty dull party after that.
I met Sir Guy the following evening as we agreed, on the corner of 29th and South Halsted.
After what had happened the night before, I was prepared for almost anything. But Sir Guy seemed matter-of-fact enough as he stood huddled against a grimy doorway and waited for me to appear.
"Boo!" I said, jumping out suddenly. He smiled. Only the betraying gesture of his left hand indicated that he'd instinctively reached for his gun when I startled him.
"All ready for our wild goose chase?" I asked.
"Yes." He nodded. "I'm glad that you agreed to meet me without asking questions," he told me. "It shows you trust my judgment." He took my arm and edged me along the street slowly.
"It's foggy tonight, John," said Sir Guy Hollis. "Like London."
"Cold, too, for November."
I nodded again and half-shivered my agreement.
"Curious," mused Sir Guy, "London fog and November. The place and the time of the Ripper murders."
I grinned through darkness. "Let me remind you. Sir Guy, that this isn't London, but Chicago. And it isn't November,1888. It's over fifty years later."
Sir Guy returned my grin, but without mirth. "I'm not so sure, at that," he murmured. "Look about you. These tangled alleys and twisted streets. They're like the East End. Mitre Square. And surely they are as ancient as fifty years, at least."
"You're in the colored neighborhood-off South Clark Street," I said, shortly. "And why you dragged me down here I still don't know."
"It's a hunch," Sir Guy admitted. "Just a hunch on my part, John. I want to wander around down here. There's the same geographical conformation in these streets as in those courts where the Ripper roamed and slew. That's where we'll find him, John. Not in the bright lights of the Bohemian neighborhood, but down here in the darkness. The darkness where he waits and crouches."
"Is that why you brought a gun?" I asked. I was unable to keep a trace of sarcastic nervousness from my voice. All of this talk, this incessant obsession with Jack the Ripper, got on my nerves more than I cared to admit.
"We may need the gun," said Sir Guy, gravely. "After all, tonight is the appointed night."
I sighed. We wandered on through the foggy, deserted streets. Here and there a dim light burned above a gin-mill doorway. Otherwise, all was darkness and shadow. Deep, gaping alley-ways loomed as we proceeded down a slanting side-street.
We crawled through that fog, alone and silent, like two tiny maggots floundering within a shroud.
When that thought hit me, I winced. The atmosphere was beginning to get me, too. If I didn't watch my step I'd go as loony as Sir Guy.
"Can't you see there's not a soul around these streets?" I said, tugging at his coat impatiently.
"He's bound to come," said Sir Guy. "He'll be drawn here. This is what I've been looking for. A genius loci. An evil spot that attracts evil. Always, when he slays, it's in the slums.
"You see, that must be one of his weaknesses. He has a fascination for squalor. Besides, the women he needs for sacrifice are more easily found in the dives and stewpots of a great city."
I smiled. "Well, let's go into one of the dives or stewpots," I suggested. "I'm cold. Need a drink. This damned fog gets into your bones. You Britishers can stand it, but I like warmth and dry heat."
We emerged from our side-street and stood upon the threshold of an alley.
Through the white clouds of mist ahead, I discerned a dim blue light, a naked bulb dangling from a beer sign above an alley tavern.
"Let's take a chance," I said. "I'm beginning to shiver."
"Lead the way," said' Sir Guy. I led him down the alley passage. We halted before the door of the dive.
"What are you waiting for?" he asked.
"Just looking in," I told him. "This is a tough neighborhood, Sir Guy. Never know what you're liable to run into. And I'd prefer we didn't get into the wrong company. Some of these Negro places resent white customers."
"Good idea, John."
I finished my inspection through the doorway glass." Looks deserted," I murmured. "Let's try it."
We entered a dingy bar. A feeble light flickered above the counter and railing, but failed to penetrate the further gloom of the back booths.
A gigantic Negro lolled across the bar—a black giant with prognathous jaw and ape-like torso. He scarcely stirred as we came in, but his eyes flickered open quite suddenly and I knew he noted our presence and was judging us.
"Evening," I said.
He took his time before replying. Still sizing us up. Then, he grinned.
"Evening, gents. What's your pleasure?"
"Gin," I said. "Two gins. It's a cold night."
"That's right, gents."
He poured. I paid, and took the glasses over to one of the booths. We wasted no time in emptying them. The fiery liquor warmed.
I went over to the bar and got the bottle. Sir Guy and I poured ourselves another drink. The big Negro went back into his doze, with one wary eye half-open against any sudden activity.
The clock over the bar ticked on. The wind was rising outside, tearing the shroud of fog to ragged shreds. Sir Guy and I sat in the warm booth and drank our gin.
He began to talk, and the shadows crept up about us to listen.
He rambled a great deal. He went over everything he'd said in the office when I met him, just as though I hadn't heard it before. The poor devils with obsessions are like that.
I listened very patiently. After a while I got up and took the bottle of gin off the bar. The Negro nodded, took the money I offered him, and went back to dozing. I poured Sit Guy another drink. And another.
But the liquor only made him more talkative. How he did run on! About ritual killings and prolonging life unnaturally— the whole fantastic tale came out again. And of course, he maintained his unyielding conviction that the Ripper was abroad tonight.
I suppose I was guilty of goading him.
"Very well," I said, unable to keep the impatience from my voice. "Let us say that your theory is correct—even though we must overlook every natural law and swallow a lot of superstition to give it any credence.
"But let us say, for the sake of argument, that you are right. Jack the Ripper was a man who discovered how to prolong his own life through making human sacrifices. He did travel around the world as you believe. He is in Chicago now and he is planning to kill. In other words, let us suppose that everything you claim is gospel truth. So what?"
"What do you mean, ‘so what?’ said Sir Guy, pouring himself another glass of gin.
"I mean—so what?" I answered. "If all this is true, it still doesn't prove that by sitting down in a dingy gin-mill on the South Side, Jack the Ripper is going to walk in here and let you kill him, or turn him over to the police. And come to think of it, I don't even know now just what you intend to do with him if you ever did find him."
Sir Guy gulped his gin. "I'd capture the bloody swine," he said. “Capture him and turn him over to the government, together with all the papers and documentary evidence I've collected against him over a period of many years. I've spent a fortune investigating this affair, I tell you, a fortune! His capture will mean the solution of hundreds of unsolved crimes, of that I am convinced.
"I tell you, a mad beast is loose on this world! An ageless, eternal beast, sacrificing to Hecate and the dark gods!"
In vino Veritas. Or was all this babbling the result of too much gin? It didn't matter. Sir Guy Hollis had another. I sat there and wondered what to do with him. The man was rapidly working up to a climax of hysterical drunkenness.
"One other point," I said, more for the sake of conversation than in any hopes of obtaining information. "You still don't explain how it is that you hope to just blunder into the Ripper."
"He'll be around," said Sir Guy. "I'm psychic. I know."
Sir Guy wasn't psychic. He was maudlin.
The whole business was beginning to infuriate me. We'd been sitting here an hour, and during all this time I'd been forced to play nursemaid and audience to a babbling idiot. After all, he wasn't a regular patient of mine.
"That's enough," I said, putting out my hand as Sir Guy reached for the half-emptied bottle again. "You've had plenty. Now I've got a suggestion to make. Let's call a cab and get out of here. It's getting late and it doesn't look as though your elusive friend is going to put in his appearance. Tomorrow, if I were you, I'd plan to turn all those papers and documents over to the F.B.I. If you're so convinced of the truth of your wild theory, they are competent to make a very thorough investigation, and find your man."
"No." Sir Guy was drunkenly obstinate. "No cab."
"But let's get out of here anyway," I said, glancing at my watch. "It's past midnight."
He sighed, shrugged, and rose unsteadily. As he started for the door, he tugged the gun free from his pocket.
"Here, give me that!" I whispered. "You can't walk around the street brandishing that thing."
I took the gun and slipped it inside my coat. Then I got hold of his right arm and steered him out of the door. The Negro didn't look up as we departed.
We stood shivering in the alleyway. The fog had increased. I couldn't see either end of the alley from where we stood. It was cold. Damp. Dark. Fog or no fog, a little wind was whispering secrets to the shadows at our backs.
The fresh air hit Sir Guy just as I expected it would. Fog and gin fumes don't mingle very well. He lurched as I guided him slowly through the mist.
Sir Guy, despite his incapacity, still stared apprehensively at the alley, as though he expected to see a figure approaching.
Disgust got the better of me.
"Childish foolishness," I snorted. "Jack the Ripper, indeed! I call this carrying a hobby too far."
"Hobby?" He faced me. Through the fog I could see his distorted face. "You call this a hobby?"
"Well, what is it?" I grumbled. "Just why else are you so interested in tracking down this mythical killer?"
My arm held him. But his stare held me.
In London," he whispered. "In 1888. . . one of those nameless drabs the Ripper slew . . . was my mother."
"Later I was recognized by my father, and legitimatized. We swore to give our lives to find the Ripper. My father was the first to search. He died in Hollywood in 1926—on the trail of the Ripper. They said he was stabbed by an unknown assailant in a brawl. But I know who that assailant was.
"So I've taken up his work, do you see, John? I've carried on. And I will carry on until I do find him and kill him with my own hands.
"He took my mother's life and the lives of hundreds to keep his own hellish being alive. Like a vampire, he battens on blood. Like a ghoul, he is nourished by death. Like a fiend, he stalks the world to kill. He is cunning, devilishly cunning. But I'll never rest until I find him, never!"
I believed him then. He wouldn't give up. He wasn't just a drunken babbler any more. He was as fanatical, as determined, as relentless as the Ripper himself.
Tomorrow he'd be sober. He'd continue the search. Perhaps he'd turn those papers over to the F.B.I. Sooner or later, with such persistence—and with his motive—he'd be successful. I'd always known he had a motive.
"Let's go," I said, steering him down the alley.
"Wait a minute," said Sir Guy. "Give me back my gun." He lurched a little. "I'd feel better with the gun on me."
He pressed me into the dark shadows of a little recess.
I tried to shrug him off, but he was insistent.
"Let me carry the gun,' now, John," he mumbled.
"All right," I said.
I reached into my coat, brought my hand out.
"But that's not a gun," he protested. "That's a knife."
I bore down on him swiftly.
"John!" he screamed.
"Never mind the 'John'," I whispered, raising the knife. "Just call me . . . Jack."