Sacred Evil

Page 13


“That’s great. You two have eliminated a suspect. Now we just have to eliminate about another eight million people or so,” Jude said.
“You’ll get it narrowed down,” Andrew said with confidence.
Jude lowered his head, hiding a smile. His father always had confidence. He’d never given up on one of his own cases, though it was true that far too many went unsolved, despite the best work of dedicated people and excellent forensics labs.
The press conference ended with a public service announcement: Sherry Blanco begged the women of New York City to be careful, and to be safe. When two anchors came back on, talking about the celebrity of those involved, Andrew shut the television off.
“Dad, I need anything you have on the construction site down by Blair House. The director—Angus Avery—just told us that it had been a kind of church for devil worshippers at some time before the recently razed structure was there,” Jude said.
“Ah,” Andrew said thoughtfully. “Well, then. Come into my den,” he said.
His father loved history; always had. In fact, sometimes, when he’d been a child, his father’s love of history had driven both him and his mother mad. They’d had to tent one time with the rebels at Monmouth, canoe down rough water in the wake of Teddy Roosevelt and follow the path of George Washington. Most of the time, however, his father’s love of adventure had been wonderful.
And it could prove very helpful now.
The apartment was designed in an ell, and they followed Andrew through the kitchen and dining room to the room that had once been the extra, or guest, bedroom and was now his father’s library.
He noted that his dad didn’t show Whitney his old room, now kind of a back parlor and not much different than it had been. Apparently, Andrew had silently decided that whatever Jude wanted to tell Whitney about his father’s place and his own was Jude’s call.
There was a large accountant’s desk in the center of the room, a number of overstuffed chairs and the walls were lined floor to ceiling with books. One wall contained fiction, his father’s favorites, from Poe and H. G. Wells down to more contemporary authors like Robert McCammon and F. Paul Wilson. He had a fine collection of works by Dickens, Defoe and others as well; this wall also contained his fictionalized history.
The back wall was totally dedicated to fiction and nonfiction on the city and state of New York, while the last wall offered books on American and world history.
“Wow,” Whitney murmured.
“Books—my weakness,” Andrew told her, looking through his titles. “Here! The House of Spiritualism. It’s a first edition, written by a fellow named Magnor Honeywell in 1910. He was on the police force in Lower Manhattan from 1880 to 1905. He had firsthand experience of everything going on in the city, and he was there during the final days of the Five Points dismantling. This book can at least give you an insight into what was going on back then.”
“This is fabulous!” Whitney said. “It’s a first edition, though—”
“And it’s nothing, if it can help,” Andrew assured her. “Besides, I’ll bet you take care of your books.”
Whitney immediately started thumbing through it and let out a pleased cry, scanning information here and there. “It’s the best description I’ve seen on Carrie Brown,” she said. She looked at Jude. “She was—”
“I know who she was,” Jude said. “She was a prostitute found dead in room 31 of the East River Hotel, mutilated—in the manner that Jack the Ripper’s victims had been mutilated. Since she was found on April 24, 1891, it was easy for the reporters camped out on Mulberry Street to determine that the Ripper had left London after his horrendous mutilation of Mary Kelly at the end of 1888, and come to America. Oh, by the way, check my exact figures on this, but I believe she was something like the forty-fifth person to die violently that year—even with the Five Points region having been cleaned up. A man named Ameer Ben Ali—aka Frenchy—was arrested and convicted of the murder, and later exonerated. Chief Inspector Thomas Byrnes made an ass of himself, since he’d claimed that if the Ripper ever came to America, he’d catch him in twenty-four hours. Byrnes practiced a form of psychological torture on criminals that really created the term the third degree. He was supposedly larger than life, but totally corrupt, amassing a fortune of over a quarter-million dollars when he was only making a salary of about two thousand. He was forced to resign in 1895 when a new president of the New York City Police Commission came in—Theodore Roosevelt. Whether Carrie Brown’s murder was or wasn’t the work of the Jack the Ripper, he was never caught.”
Whitney stared at him, smiling slowly.
“Don’t be too impressed. He went to a police symposium in Britain, kind of like a look at how to improve things for detectives on both sides of the briny,” Andrew said, but Jude saw that his father was grinning. He smiled in return. His father was a good man; at seventy, he was spry and dignified, almost as tall as Jude and straight as an arrow. “Keep flipping those pages, and you’ll find info on the House of Spiritualism itself,” he told Whitney. “I’m going to set out dinner.”
“I can help,” Whitney said.
“I’m sure you can. It’s just pasta. You read,” Andrew told her. He left them both, heading to the kitchen.
“He’s an impressive man,” Whitney told Jude.
She started reading, sinking into one of the chairs. Jude excused himself, walked back out to the living room and pulled out his phone to put through another call to Ellis Sayer.
“Anything?” he asked.
“Do you know how many people were on that set during the day?” Sayer asked him over the wires.
Jude liked Ellis Sayer. He was the most thorough man Jude had ever met; he was glad to have him on the task force because he was so anal that he checked out every little tiny detail—and that sometimes mattered.
“Yeah. A ton. I’ve got the lists.”
“Hundreds. We’ve sifted through the caterers, and eliminated them from being on set past six o’clock. Most of the actors were gone by seven, the designers, camera crew, lighting…they were all out by eight-thirty. Here’s the thing, of course—they could have come back. You met with the director—Angus Avery?”
“Yeah. The ghost of the Ripper killed her, according to him. He’s convinced that evil lurks on that construction site—Jack the Ripper did come to America, and was buried there, and has now been dug up with the demolition of the building. And the ghost is pissed.”
“Yep, that’s what he told me, too. But I knew you’d want to speak with him yourself. I’ve spoken with the principal actors, and limos picked them both up early. But I’m sure you want to speak with them, too. They’ll be at the station tomorrow.”
Jude rubbed his forehead. “Yes, that’s going to be important,” he said.
Sayer was silent for a minute. “Jude, we’re not going to get this guy tonight, that’s for sure. I’m not going to call Fullbright again…he’ll never answer my calls again if I do. All he’ll tell me is that she was butchered like a Ripper victim. I think Fullbright is actually excited about the possibility. Scary. But I guess he spends his days with bodies. That’s what’s so scary to me—people are excited by this murder. You’d think the movies would be enough for them,” Ellis added with disgust.
“Do you know, by the way, if Captain Tyler went to a shelter?” Jude asked.
“The old vet who saw a man in a dark cloak and stovepipe hat, carrying a medical bag?” Sayer asked dryly.
“Hey, it’s the only description we’ve gotten of anyone in the vicinity,” Jude said.
“Except for Captain Tyler himself, who admits to being there,” Sayer reminded him. “But, yes, the old guy is fine. He agreed that he might need a breathing treatment, so he’s at a place that’s kind of a halfway house for vets—it offers some medical assistance, and rooms with more of a homelike atmosphere. Hannah did some research on the place, and she seemed to like it best. She said he could be happy there—not living in the midst of the urine and antiseptic smell of a shelter.”
“Glad to hear it,” Jude said.
“He’s really our only suspect.”
“No. If you didn’t see him, you didn’t see how his hands trembled. No way he could have held a knife and carried out the murder,” Jude told him.
“I haven’t seen him. The deputy chief filled me in on him. So, he’s not a viable suspect. Okay, so I’m looking for Jack the Ripper?” Sayer asked.
“More or less. Keep your men questioning cast and crew,” Jude told him.
“That’ll be a full-time job for the team.”
“We’ve got patrol cars doubled up down there, right?” Jude asked.
“Please! Come on, you asked for me because I’m good,” Sayer told him.
“Thanks, Ellis. Keep me posted.”
“Will do.”
When Jude hung up, he heard his father call, “Chow’s on. And, hey, you want to be good at your jobs—you got to fuel the human engine.”
Whitney joined him from the library as he headed for the dining room. Andrew had set out the pasta and a salad and bottles of red wine and soda. “Didn’t know if you wanted to indulge in a glass of wine this evening,” he said gruffly.
“I’d indulge in a lot more,” Jude said, but he reached over to pour them each a glass of cabernet. “Thanks, Dad. This is a nice break. We do have to eat.”
“Mangia, mangia!” Andrew said. “I had an Italian grandmother,” he told Whitney.
Whitney thanked him for the meal, but couldn’t hold back her excitement over her reading. “Did you know, when the city started the demolition of the tenements in the Five Points region, a lot of plain old thugs became interested in the House of Spiritualism? The movement—or modern spiritualism—began to rise in 1848 with the Fox sisters claiming to communicate with the dead, and from then on, it grew. There were all kinds of charlatan mediums taking people for large sums, and that’s what went on mostly at the House of Spiritualism at first. But then it took a twist. By the later 1880s and into the 1890s, those who were less than scrupulous were joined by those who had downright devilish desires. It was still a time when orphaned and immigrant children were barely valued. Only occasionally did the papers mention that a child had disappeared, or a young woman. While the police suspected that a number of murderers and sadists were taking refuge at the society, they couldn’t prove anything. A raid in 1890 produced nothing at all. But, there was a rumor that Carrie Brown’s killer was a member of the so-called church, a mysterious newcomer who had arrived from Britain. It’s suspected that he died there, but everything about the man was rumor. There were no records of his arrival or even his existence, but the police heard that he was so sadistic that he scared the people there, and that they killed and buried him secretly somewhere on the property. They found Carrie Brown, but there were still nearby alleys and overcrowded tenements, and it’s believed he killed more victims, but in the overcrowding, constant crime and corruption of the time, they were probably immigrants and their bodies were decayed when discovered, and treated like refuse. Oh, you will like this. He went by the name of Jack. Jonathan Black.”