“True. The East End of London was crawling with butchers and slaughterhouses,” Jude said.
“But, the truth doesn’t matter as much as what the killer perceives to have been the truth, so, please, it’s important that we all review everything that went on back then.”
Sayer shook his head, looking at Jude. “Does everybody really believe this? That a modern-day Ripper has come to New York? Or, should I be working off the newspaper accounts—and assume that the Ripper did come here in the eighteen hundreds, and that his ghost has risen to attack the women of our city?”
“Sayer, no one in this room believes that a ghost killed Virginia Rockford, I assure you. But,” Jude said, once again pausing to look at Whitney, “one of the most logical theories we have at the moment is that someone either wants to emulate the Ripper, or perhaps believes that the voice of the Ripper’s ghost speaks to him and tells him what to do.”
Hannah groaned softly and started when they all looked at her. She grimaced. “Sorry. I just think of all the defense strategies criminals have— The violence on TV made me do it. The abuse I suffered from my alcoholic mother made me do it. The dog spoke to me in Satan’s voice. And now, Jack the Ripper made me do it!”
Every detective in the room seemed to nod, but only Jude spoke. “We all know the system is imperfect, Hannah, but we have to catch the guy, and leave it to our prosecutors to get him locked away forever. Him—or them. But, in most cases, and I believe we’ll discover this to be true here, if there is an accomplice, one of the killers is still driving the action and the killing.”
“I have booklets for everyone,” Hannah said. “History of the Ripper in London, the murder of Carrie Brown, info on the House of Spiritualism and, everything we have—basically the autopsy results—on our Jane Does.” She glanced at Jude, too. He nodded to her and she handed out the booklets. Sayer looked at Jude. “You want us to read all day, or keep up with the interviews.”
“Hey. You all passed the exam to get where you are,” Jude said evenly. “And you know street work, and how to go with gut-level thinking to solve this. I have complete faith in you. And Jackson Crow, who will be at our next meeting, has a reputation as one of the finest minds in criminal behavior.”
“You say solve this, Detective Crosby,” one of Sayer’s men, Alex Lacey, said. It always seemed to Jude that his surname was misapplied since he was a brick wall of a man. “What if we are putting puzzle pieces together that don’t really connect?”
“You mean the murders of the Jane Does and Miss Rockford?” Jude asked. “We could be wrong on that. We’re talking theory here now, too. But, we all know that as soon as the body of Virginia Rockford was discovered, the cry of Ripper went up in the street. And I know I’ve hit a dead end with every possible lead on the Jane Does. Maybe we are looking for several killers.”
“And maybe there won’t be any more murders,” Sayer said.
Jude later thought that Ellis Sayer couldn’t have spoken on cue more completely if they had scripted the meeting. As he was still speaking, there was a tap on the door. Lieutenant Nelson, Deputy Chief Green’s assistant, beckoned him gravely to the door.
Green listened to her, and then turned back to the group. “I’m afraid, Sayer, that the question of more victims has just been answered. Melody Tatum, a local escort, has just been discovered in an alley in the Bowery.”
The NYPD was given a bad rap sometimes—all cops were given a bad rap sometimes, just for being cops—but he was proud when he reached the scene to see the first officers on-site had quickly taken control of the crime scene, and there wasn’t just tape protecting the area—a narrow alley in back of a number of buildings—there were barricades. There was again a human wall of officers as well, protecting the mutilated body of Melody Tatum from the curious stares of onlookers—and the press.
He heard the shouts of the press as he arrived and ducked beneath the tape and made his way through the officers, nodding a grim appreciation to several of the men as he did so. For the moment, he ignored the press. Whitney and Sayer followed closely in his wake while other members of his task force interviewed the first officers at the site and began to work a door-to-door canvass in the area. They were once again in a section of the city where the dark alleys could be quiet, while just blocks away, nightlife teemed. But they were in the midst of some residential buildings, and the police would knock on every door.
He hunkered down by the body, hands gloved.
Melody Tatum had been in her mid to late thirties; she might have been “plastically” attractive. Her face was bruised and swelling, but he could see scars in the puffed skin that indicated she’d already had cosmetic surgery.
Her eyes were open. Blue eyes that seemed horrified, and still surprised.
She hadn’t been missing teeth, nor had she been old or ugly, like the Ripper’s usual used-up ha’penny whores in London. And yet there was something similar about her, he thought. Illusion was gone from those dead eyes. Once upon a time, she’d had dreams. Life had taught her that not everyone made the big time. In her case, the word escort had certainly been a euphemism. There was a look about her of someone who had gotten hard around the edges. She’d learned the truth about the fairy tale, and she’d dealt with it, but not without losing a little piece of her soul.
There was no mistaking the fact that the woman was dead. Her insides had been removed and arranged around the body. The garish fur of her coat rose against her throat. Jude inspected the coat, and saw where the fur had hardened at the throat. Using his pen, he gingerly flattened the fur, and when he did so, he saw the slash that had nearly severed the head from the body.
He stepped back, allowing the police photographer to do his work. In the background, never getting in the way, Whitney took her own photos as well. He felt cold himself. He was accustomed to crime, brutal crime. But the disembowelment of this woman was something that could twist the most cast-iron stomach. He looked at Whitney; he could see in her face that the crime appalled her, but he could see the same thing in the grim expressions of everyone around him. He heard one old seasoned cop yelling at another not to disturb the crime scene, and to move on quickly. The retching sounds made by the younger officer proved that he was moving away as quickly as he could.
Whitney was obviously affected, but she quietly did whatever she felt she must, always a step behind so as not to disturb the work of the local police. She was professional; he wasn’t sure if she was taking still shots or videos, but she intended to chronicle the crime scene. She seemed so small there; fragile and delicate, and he was surprised by the desire to drag her away from a scene so horrible. Perhaps he would have felt that way about any young woman. He steeled himself; she was an agent. And, at that moment, if the agents could prove a ghost was guilty and stop the horror, he’d be happy to see it happen.
Fullbright came through and hunkered down opposite him. “My, my. Our Ripper is a busy boy,” he said.
Jude frowned at him, but Fullbright didn’t notice. He was shaking his head. “Have the photographers finished?” he asked Jude. “Has she been touched or moved in any way?”
“No. Officers Lewis and Jentz found the body at eight forty-five; her purse, with her identification, credit and business cards, was found about twenty feet away. If anyone else came across her, they didn’t report the discovery. Jentz said they saw the heap from the sidewalk when they were heading to the café down the street to start their shift with some espresso. When they started toward her, they thought that she’d passed out, or been mugged or injured. Lewis went to feel for a pulse, saw the organs displayed around her and then called it immediately and set up the barricades. We’re in an alley. We can keep this site closed up all day and into the night,” Jude said. “And thank God,” he added gruffly, “they stopped the media and the internet and Facebook crowd from snapping any photos.”
Fullbright acknowledged his satisfaction with an inclination of his head. He eased the coat she had been wearing from her lower body.
Jude steeled himself; he almost had to turn away.
Whitney went a pale shade of gray and another officer turned away, making the same horrible retching noises as the previous young officer.
“Get it out of here!” Fullbright warned with a growl.
“Can you give me a time of death?” Jude asked.
Fullbright waved away a swarm of flies that were now buzzing around the victim.
“Give me a chance, Detective. Give me a chance.”
Jude stood unmoving. He felt the air and it felt chill, but not cold. In fact, it was warm. Thankfully, there had been no rain the night before.
“I’m going to estimate 4:00 a.m., or between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m.,” Fullbright said, taking the body’s temperature and moving an arm to find the state of rigor. He looked around. “I believe that at that time of night, he would have been all alone in the alley, but I don’t think the young woman ever had a chance to scream. It’s hard to see, I realize, with the face in the shape that it is, but you’ll note that beyond the bruised lips and the blood—there, her tongue is protruding. I need to get her to the morgue, but I believe that she was strangled. She blacked out before he killed her…she might have gone without so much as a whimper.” He cleared his throat. “From a cursory examination, I can tell you that the intestines are on the shoulder. I believe that several of her organs are—gone.”
“Yes, but, of course, I won’t know more until the autopsy.”
“Which will be soon?”
“I’ll have her ready at the morgue in three hours, Jude,” Fullbright assured him.
Jude felt Whitney looking at him.
And he knew what she was thinking.
Annie Chapman, the second of the Ripper’s canonical victims. She was found in just such a display, her tongue protruding, her body disemboweled—several organs missing entirely.