The Storytellers Ch. 18byParis Waterman©
Bill Opens Up
We returned to Pennsylvania the next day. No mention was made of Beatrice or Lizbeth, except for Dennis' comment that I would have enjoyed her pussy. I shrugged him off and changed the subject to baseball.
The Series was down to the seventh and final game. We found a tavern and settled in as the third inning started. The Dodgers had gone ahead 2 -- 0 in the second, knocking out the Yankees ace, Spec Shea in the process. From there on out it was all Yankees. They chipped away for five runs in four different innings, and Joe Page thwarted the Dodgers with five innings of one-hit relief work; the Yanks clinched the Series with a 5-2 victory.
That night after several strong scotches, Bill/Dennis stunned me by saying, "I see your investigation is moving in the right direction now."
"I don't follow you, Bill," I said curiously.
"Oh, come off it, Roy. Arthur must have told you about me. You're not all that interested in writing a novel about an old time ballplayer."
Sensing something unusual was up with him, I merely nodded and waited him out.
When he remained mute, I decided to push the envelope, and taking a deep breath, exhaled and said, "Have you ever heard of the man known as Jack the Ripper?"
"Of course I have. Who hasn't?"
"What do you really know about him?"
"Why don't you tell me, Roy?"
I looked into his eyes. He seemed sincere and intent on what I was about to tell him, so I did. "Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London from August through November of 1888. In the section known as Whitechapel, one of the poorest and most decadent parts of the city... not unlike Kingsbury Run in Cleveland. You do know Kingsbury run, don't you, Bill?"
"Course I do!" He replied. I played and managed the Cleveland club for years. You know that!"
"Yes, I do, Bill. Anyway, the Ripper was responsible for the death and mutilation of several female prostitutes. The victims had their throats slashed and their bodies mutilated in ways that revealed substantial physiological knowledge, perhaps medical training."
"A doctor, you say...."
"Perhaps, but I didn't say he was a physician. He could just as easily have been a butcher. He seemed particularly interested in destroying female reproductive systems. Actually, he ripped them to shreds, hence the name."
"Go on," he said, and nothing more.
I saw that I had his complete attention, gave myself a vote of confidence and continued. "The murders ended as suddenly as they had begun; one school of thought is that "Jack" was a Russian sailor, who left London, never to return. Over the years the killings have been ascribed to such varied persons as a doctor, a woman, a man in woman's clothing, a well-known painter, or a member of the nobility, or even the royal family. The crimes have given rise to many novels, plays, and other dramatic works."
Bill reached inside his jacket pocket and produced a Cuban cigar. He took his time with it, sniffing the fragrant odor, biting off one end and spitting it deftly into the ashtray at his side and then lighting it and blowing the smoke toward my face.
"What I suspect..." I began, never once taking my eyes off his, is that you have taken the gift given you by Arthur and used it to kill people over a very long period of time.
Bill closed his eyes as if lost in thought, and then opened them and stared back at me. "And you're implying that I'm this... Jack the Ripper as well as the one's killing people in Cleveland these last few years?"
I let my eyes drift heavenward, and answered slowly. "Yes, I am saying that. And I'll say a lot more if you'll continue to listen to me and not cut me off saying I'm crazy."
"I'm listening," he said. "You've got my undivided attention."
"Good, then please bear in mind that anything I say about Jack the Ripper, or anyone else for that matter is meaningless; unprovable in a court of law. Because of Arthur's gift, you cannot be punished for what you've done. I can and hopefully will write about what you've done and all you need do is change with someone new; someone I don't know exists and you're home free to kill again and again.
"I can tell your story... but only as a work of fiction. Who would believe it was actually possible to do what I believe you've done? I still haven't put it all together, Bill. But I will. It will take time, but I will put the pieces together. Probably not all of them, for I suspect that aside from the serial killings, you've killed singularly and there is no way, short of a confession that anyone could possibly connect you to any of them. In fact, I doubt anyone will ever stop you. It's you who must stop yourself."
Bill smiled at me then. I will tell you, the reader that it was a friendly smile, with not an ounce of malice or threat in it. He glanced at my drink, saw that it was nearly empty and took a moment to refill both our glasses with scotch. Then he began to talk about what had happened back in August, 1888.
"I wuz on the Etruria," he said, slipping back into Bill's familiar accent. "We spent six weeks in great Britain, mostly in London. Well, there wuz a side trip to Paris, but we wuz mostly in and around London."
"I happened to meet a gentleman named Tumblety on the ship, who professed being a medical doctor, but who struck me as something of a misogynist and definitely a quack. I entered his body and confirmed I was right on both counts. But there was something else about him that I found so compelling that I kept going back to him as we steamed across the Atlantic.
"He had earned a small fortune posing as an Indian Herb doctor throughout the United States and Canada. His hatred of women surfaced almost every time we came in contact with a female on board and I had to use most of my ability in manipulating him away from my wife to avert any embarrassing situations.
"I don't profess to posses any special medical skills, however, I have inhabited a few highly skilled physicians and as a consequence, do have certain knowledge that the average man does not. It was this knowledge that convinced me he was a charlatan insofar as the medical profession was concerned.
"My main interest in the man was the fact that he had been arrested for complicity in the assassination of President Lincoln, but released without being charged. Once inside his mind I found that he had been involved more than from a distant periphery as thought. He had knowledge of Booth's intention more than a week before the act, but no one was going to prove it, and he remained a free man."
Having never heard of Dr. Tumblety, I interrupted him, thinking to get him back on track. "Where is this going, Bill?"
He glared at me with so much fire in his eyes that I was silenced for the next few minutes.
"As I recall," he said, resuming his narrative. "It wuz the last day of August; we had left the ship in Liverpool and I found myself pacing up and down the lobby of our London hotel waiting for Tumblety to arrive while trying to quell a strangely exciting urge. Minutes earlier, my wife, Florence had complained of a headache, and I had left her after giving her a couple aspirin knowing they would help her sleep, freeing me to become one with Tumblety for several hours.
"The craving intensified as soon as I took possession of his body, leaving Yaller Bill sitting in the hotel's spacious lobby reading the times. Ever since I'd taken over his body I'd felt these sensations. It wuz unlike anything that had occurred with the other times I'd moved into someone. I wondered briefly if it were some reaction between his mind and mine, but gave up the struggle and ventured into the foggy streets looking for god knows what. I say that because I honestly didn't know what I wuz looking for.
"I moved stealthily down the quiet streets, shielded by the darkness and fog. I examined my feelings as they emerged; found them to be violent, and evil. I wanted to smash, slash and savage the first woman I happened upon. Several minutes later I encountered a bedraggled, smelly whore, who made the fatal mistake of accosting me, offering her foul body for a meager fee. She hoisted her skirts and revealed her putrid cunt for my viewing.
The sight so disgusted me that I wuz filled with a rage I had never felt before. Later I determined it must have been Doctor Tumblety's misogyny, spilling over and blending perfectly with a rage that had lain dormant within me all those years.
"I never even bothered to seek an alleyway, or other refuge from plain view, but hacked at her throat with such force that I nearly beheaded her. Then with the whore having fallen to the ground, I drove the knife into her, making a deep gash that ran along her stomach, ripping and tearing at her so that she was for all intensive purposes, disemboweled.
"Amazingly, there was only a small amount of blood on my hands, which I wiped on her skirt, and after glancing around and seeing no one, I quickly left the area and returned to my hotel where I returned to my own body, discarded the Times and went to my room and joined my sleeping wife in bed.
"The following day I read in the papers that her name wuz Mary Ann Nicholls, a forty-three-year-old prostitute, who had been ejected from her lodging house just two hours earlier, because she didn't have the money to pay her rent. "I'll soon get my doss money," she had confidently predicted, "See what a jolly bonnet I've got." "As for myself, I had these euphoric feelings after reading the lurid stories in the press. It seemed that they were attributing two earlier killings to me as well, that of one Emma Smith, on April 3rd, and of Martha Tabram, or Turner, as she wuz also known, three days later. But of course neither Tumblety or me wuz in London at the time of the murders ascribed to me.
"They had even come up with a possible suspect in the form of a man whom the local prostitutes had nicknamed, "Leather Apron," and whom, they were claiming, had been making violent threats toward them, including that he was going to "rip them up." Unfortunately they didn't know his name, couldn't provide an address, and the only description they could give was that he habitually wore a leather apron, and that he sometimes wore a deerstalker cap.
"Just such a man was seen at 5.30 am on the 8th of September, talking to a prostitute named Annie Chapman, whose mutilated body wuz found on Hanbury Street around 6 am. Of course I had gone out and purchased a deerstalker cap before the urges became overpowering and sent me back into the streets hunting, but not deer. This time, as a precaution, I wore a leather apron to keep the blood off my clothing and to add to the confusion of those investigating the murders.
"Actually, I didn't see Anne, but passed right by her, only to hear her calling after me. 'Would ye be wantin' a good time, mate?' she said. I turned and waited for her to come up to me. She wasn't as rancid as the first slut, but she had my blood a boil with rage all the same, and I hacked away at her throat, and then ripped her intestines out, taking them back to Tumblety's room, along with several rings she wuz wearing, while leaving the apron neatly folded on the ground next to her.
"The following day, after reading the papers, I/Tumblety placed the rings and intestines in a cloth sack and threw them into the Thames.
"Since the leather apron was a standard garment worn by a wide range of Jewish workers from butchers to tailors, leaving it next to the body caused the neighborhood to erupt into anti-Semitism. Innocent Jews were attacked by angry mobs claiming that no Englishman was capable of committing such murders. The media frenzy would come to an end on the 10th of September, when one John Pizer was arrested as the "Leather Apron, killer." Pizer, however had cast iron alibi's for the nights of both murders, and was quickly eliminated from the enquiry.
"A dreadful quiet descended onto the East End of London, and by the end of September people began to wonder if the murders had come to an end. But what had happened wuz that I had taken my wife to Paris, leaving Tumblety to his own, less violent devices. In France, I did move from one person to the next, but none of them brought about the lust for blood in me.
"Now that I knew how to end the murders the question I wrestled with wuz, did I want to?
"The answer came on the last day of September when, as an experiment, I merged with Tumblety and immediately felt the rage roiling within. I went out again with murder in mind and nothing else. This attitude almost got me caught in the act, for after cutting a whore's throat, (Liz Stride) a cart pulled by a pony happened by, and I had to flee before taking the knife to her belly. But I didn't return to my quarters, having an overpowering need to disembowel another victim.
"Around 1:30 that morning, I met this rather cheerful whore, named Catharine Eddowes, who told me she just been released from the Bishopsgate Police Station, and asked, 'Would yer be interested in shagging my arse, or twat? It don't make no difference to me.' As we talked, several men walked past us, thereby delaying her departure from this world for a few more minutes, while also providing them with a look at me which they would soon impart to the police.
"Perhaps I rushed things, I don't know, but still I managed to rip her throat apart, almost taking her head off, and sated myself by laying her abdomen open and putting out her intestines, then draping 'em over her shoulder to give the press something to howl over the following day.
"But I must confess that for some unknown reason, I kept her uterus and kidney for a late night snack in Tumblety's room."
"They started called me Jack the Ripper when someone, not Tumblety or myself, sent a letter to the newspapers using that name for their signature.
"And about two weeks later, another practical joker sent a small cardboard box to the president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee with a letter "From Hell" along with half a human kidney. Alas it wuz not from me, but it wuz an excellent idea. I say this because we had already eaten the kidney taken from the whore. It did however; give me the idea to send messages taunting the authorities in later instances. In fact, I still relish doing it from time to time.
"Both Tumblety and me returned to the States in mid-October, going our separate ways. We never ran into one another again. So for the record, I do not take any credit for what is considered the last of the Ripper's victims, a woman named Kelly, who was savagely butchered the second week of November by what is now called a copy-cat killer."
Bill poured himself another scotch, ignoring my half empty glass. He gulped at it then pointed a finger at me and said, "Don't think for a minute that I had anything to do with the World's Fair killings back in '93; that wuz Mudgett and only Mudgett."
"Okay," I said, but what about the Cleveland torso murders just a few years ago?"
"Pushy son-of-a-bitch, ain't you?"
"You opened the door, Bill."
"Yeah, it wuz me, but I'll get to that later. I wanna talk about my time with the Cleveland Baseball team and Ty Cobb among other things." I protested, trying to get him to continue with his confession. But Bill was adamant about resuming his discourse on his baseball days as Napoleon Lajoie.
Bill flat-out refused, saying, "I gotta wrap this part up 'fore moving on to the bloodletting." Finally I conceded, and readied myself to take notes on his days managing the Cleveland baseball team of that time.
"Now, Roy, you must know that my ball club, although decent enough, never put it together long enough to win the pennant, at least while I wuz there. They finally won it in 1920, but I wuz long gone by then. Anyways, were you aware that we had a chance to get Ty Cobb back in '07?"
I had to admit that I had not known about this. With Cobb, the Nap's would probably have run away with the pennant the following year; and perhaps several years thereafter. But it didn't happen.
"I'm telling this for the first time now. The behind the scenes events that led to the proposed trade and what happened to let it fall through."
I had to admit that Bill had me enthralled with baseball again. I realize it's difficult to imagine since he'd just admitted to being both the infamous Jack the Ripper and the Cleveland Torso Killer. But with his mention of not trading for Ty Cobb in 1907 he had me hooked on the national pastime again. Yet I had to wonder what kind of person could speak of murders most foul in one breath then make an almost imperceptible transition from that to baseball without missing a beat.
"Well, the deal wuz gonna be a straight forward swap of Elmer Flick for Cobb.
Elmer Flick wuz a fine ball player; he's in the Hall of Fame, so you know I'm not horse-shitting you. And he wuz well liked by the fans in Cleveland, but him and me didn't get along on account of what happened when we wuz both with the Phillies in 1900.
"See, a player ain't supposed to fuck with another player's bats. That's an unwritten rule in the game. Well he fucked with mine and pissed me off. I threw a haymaker at him and of course I missed him. But I didn't miss the wall behind him and broke several bones in my right hand. Besides that, he liked to holdout every year, so as to miss part of spring training. And now I wuz the manager of the Cleveland team and him trying to sit out spring training didn't sit too well with me. But he had led the league in hitting in '05; and in triples three straight years, '05, '06, and '07; and he wuz a damn good base stealer to boot.
"Okay, that's one side of the picture. Now, the Tigers had Cobb, but remember, he wuz only a kid breaking into the big leagues. We knew he could hit, but his demeanor left something to be desired. He kept getting into fights with fans and teammates. His teammates hated him, and they wuz quick to admit it. Hell, everybody knew it. His manager, Hughie Jennings, felt he was hurting the team more than helping it, and so that March, Jennings called us and offered Cobb for Flick, straight up.
Now I'm telling the God's own truth here -- in July of '06 I missed three games because I'd twisted an ankle. We wuz scheduled to play Detroit at their ballpark. For the sheer hell of it I switched off from Lajoie and into Cobb.
"I had switched players before for a variety of reasons; to learn something about another team's strategy against us; to get an idea of how a pitcher would be pitching against me the next day, stuff like that.
"Well sir, Cobb wuz different. I mean he wuz surprisingly different than anyone I'd ever mingled with before. You will recall my description of how Tumblety suddenly developed an overpowering lust for the blood of any woman he met after I merged with him. Well, with Mr. Tyrus Cobb something else happened. He knew right off that I'd entered him. No one else had. Fuck a duck! No one else ever did!
"Get the fuck away," he says, only he didn't speak, he thought it. It wuz just like the time I wuz with the alien on the island, and he scared the shit out of me 'cause he kept saying it over and over again; and the fact that I could hear his thoughts had me convinced that he might kill himself to be rid of me. I can tell you this -- he wuz surely considering it."
"You're a fuckin' goner!" he screams and starts turning in a circle.
"Hobble your lip," I say to him, hoping he'll stop for a second and actually try talking to me. I mean, I did that occasionally with people, but Cobb wuz fuckin' crazy. He wuz hotter than a whorehouse on nickel night; the man should have been in a mental institution, but because of his baseball talent he wuz becoming baseball's dreamboat.
I told him to pull in his horns that I'd skedaddle as fast as I could. That calmed him down a mite, and he did ease off the suicidal thoughts. Anyway, I obliged him as soon as I could by jumping off to Hughie Jennings, who I knew was a sensible man. I got back to Lajoie soon afterward.