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18

Why didnt you tell me about this?

There was nothing to tell.

Youre saying another woman bein butchered is nothing?

It happened some time ago. I had no reason to believe there was any connection. Still dont.

You shouldve said something.

You shouldve known.

Merylo bit down on his lower lip, which prevented him from saying what he was thinking. Pearce had always been an arrogant so-and-so, but now he was interfering with Merylos ability to do his job, and that was unacceptable. The coroner was supposed to help the team, not hinder it.

That womans torso mustve been brought to you. How could you forget something like that?

I didnt. I simply didnt see a connection. And excuse me, but werent you on the homicide squad? Why didnt you remember?

Because it wasnt reported as a homicide. It was a mistake, meeting Pearce here, in his own inner sanctum. It gave him an edge. A home-team advantage. Shouldve thought of an excuse to make the good doctor come to him. They had the idea that it was an accidental death. Boating accident.

It might have been. The body was too decomposed by the time I got it to draw any definitive conclusions.

Whether it was or wasnt, that shrimp from the News is going to tell people it was. Hes going to say this Torso Killer has been running around Cleveland for more than a year and we havent done anything to stop him.

I dont see that this is my problem, much less my fault.

Lieutenant Zalewski took a tiny step forward, clearing his throat. Pretty pathetic when your greenhorn assistant has to play peacemaker. I read your report on the first case, Doctor. The Lady in the Lake. Despite the state of decomposition, you wrote that there was something unusual about the texture of the skin.

I recall that, Pearce said, fingering his glasses.

In fact, you wrote that it was possible the body had been exposed to some sort of preservative.

And your point is?

His point is obvious, Merylo barked. Its the same thing you said about the Kingsbury Run corpses. It makes a strong case for a connection between the murders.

Pearce took a cigarette out of his pocket case and lit it. Perhaps. He inhaled deeply, then waved it about in the air. Merylo wondered if he used cigarettes as a shield, something to create a barrier between them. There are other possible explanations. A corpse floating in Lake Erie could be exposed to many corrosive chemicals.

No one at the News is going to report that. Theyll go with the obvious. Reporters always do. Nothing can stop them.

Of course something can stop them. Catch the killer. That will stop them cold.

Do you think Im not trying? Merylo could feel his frustration mounting. Soon he wouldnt be able to suppress the anger. He needed to get himself out of here. He probably wasnt doing any good, and he risked alienating someone who, like it or not, he needed on his side. It took two days, but my men found the rest of the last corpse on Orange Avenue, just a few blocks south of where we found the baskets. Everything except the head. Have you examined it?

Pearce shrugged. They recovered the upper half of a female torso, minus the right arm, which we already had, and the head. Both lower legs. Mixed with extraneous substances that have been positively identified as charcoal, chicken feathers, and hay.

So our killer is a farmer?

I would not jump to any conclusions. None of those substances are difficult to find in the city.

Is there anything useful you can tell me?

Pearce glanced at his report. The torso was bisected at the second lumbar vertebra. A vertical incision runs the full length of the bottom half. The thighs were significantly obese and severed at the hip. The right arm was severed at the shoulder joint. It evidences signs of rigor mortis. Also-he drew in his breath-her complete reproductive system was removed. The whole thing. And half the appendix. And as before, the killer left smooth edges, neat incisions. He is good with a knife.

Like-some kind of professional? A doctor?

There are any number of people accustomed to dissection or cutting flesh. I personally find the suggestion that the crime might have been committed by someone trained and educated in the medical arts abhorrent and unlikely in the extreme.

Then who was it?

I couldnt possibly say.

Look, Doc, Merylo said, were desperate here. Weve been combing the countryside for miles around Kingsbury Run, and Andrassys home neighborhood, and now the Charity Hospital area.

With no leads?

We get leads. But none of them go anywhere. Trouble is, the papers and radio are getting people so worked up, theyre just not rational anymore. Theyre scared, and scared people do stupid stuff. Every time they hear a footstep or a barking dog or see a picnic basket, they go into a panic. They suspect every stranger, every neighbor with a pair of binoculars, everyone with a funny accent. The leads dont lead anywhere because theyre based on irrational fear, not information.

Your killer has twice left corpses in very public places. Eventually youre bound to find someone who caught him in the act.

Youd think, wouldnt you? But so far not. So far no one saw him do anything.

Or at least, Zalewski added quietly, no one who saw him do anything lived to talk about it.

Another disturbing possibility, and one that Merylo had to admit had crossed his mind.

Weve been trying everything we know. Weve questioned Andrassys relatives, everyone who knew him. We got nothing. Interviewed all the women associated with him-and there were many. Learned nothing.

Except, Zalewski said, interrupting again, whatever it was that man had, I wish I could get some.

Yeah, the ladies loved him, but someone else didnt. Some folks say Andrassy carried an ice pick with him for protection-but that didnt save him from the man who cut off his head. My men canvassed the neighborhood at the summit of Jackass Hill, showing the Andrassy mug shot around. No one knew anything.

What about his work history? Pearce inquired. Have you investigated that?

Of course I have. What do you take me for, an amateur? Problem is, he rarely had anything you could call a real job. Your typical con man. Grifter. Had a job at City Hospital that he worked off and on over eight years. Probably came back whenever he needed some cash, left as soon as he didnt.

Pearce tapped the tip of his cigarette against the ashtray, his eyebrows knitted. Where did he work in the hospital?

The loony bin. Why?

Pearce laid down his cigarette. Youre sure about that?

Yeah, Im sure. Whats your point?

I dont have a point, Pearce said, turning his eyes away and staring at a fixed point on the wall. But it would not surprise me to learn that this killer had spent time in a psychiatric ward.

You suspect some freak who cant even think straight could pull off these crimes and get away with it? Im not even sure the mobs top man could commit these crimes and get away with it!

Pearce sighed heavily, then retook his cigarette and inhaled deeply. Detective Merylo. Have you ever heard of a man known as Jack the Ripper?

Merylo searched his mind. Think so. Some kind of murderer, right? In England?

What do you know about him?

I-dont really remember.

Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of London in the 1880s, Pearce explained, in Whitechapel, one of the poorest and most decadent parts of the city-not unlike Kingsbury Run. Took at least five victims. Taunted the police with cryptic messages. Used a knife. But he wasnt content to simply kill his victims. He destroyed them. With such anatomical accuracy that some people suspected he might be a doctor. Or a butcher. He seemed particularly interested in destroying female reproductive systems. Ripped them to shreds. Hence the name.

Was he ever caught?

Never.

Merylo squinted. And youre saying this Jack the Ripper might be the one whos killing people in Cleveland?

Pearces eyes drifted heavenward. No, that is not what Im saying. Detective, have you considered the possibility of consulting an alienist?

Merylo blinked twice. A what?

A doctor of the mind.

Hows he supposed to catch a killer?

By understanding how he thinks.

Hows that going to help?

If the killer is not behaving rationally, traditional methods of crime solving will be of no avail. You must develop new approaches.

Sounds like a load of hogwash to me.

If you understand how the killer thinks, you might be able to anticipate his next move.

I dont want a next move! I want to catch him before he strikes again.

Pearce blew a dense cloud of smoke into the air. Have either of you gentlemen heard of a Viennese doctor called Sigmund Freud?

No, Merylo said gruffly. We havent.

Um, actually Zalewski shuffled his feet. I have.

Merylo stared at him as if he were some kind of bug.

What do you know about him?

Zalewskis face flushed. A few years ago, I was having these really bad dreams. Nightmares, you know? Id dream I woke up in the morning and parts of my body were missing. Or Id be coming to work, except with no clothes on.

Thats just weird, Merylo grumbled.

Not really, Pearce said. Those are universal fears. Havent you ever had dreams like that?

Merylos face hardened. No. Never.

Anyway, Zalewski continued, my ma was worried about me. So she got me this book by that guy you were talking about, that Freud. The Interpretation of Dreams. Turns out this guy thinks your dreams are like symbols, and by examining your dreams you can learn about yourself.

What did you learn about yourself from the book? Pearce asked.

Zalewski stared at the floor. Tell you the truth-I thought it was kinda tough goin.

Pearce smiled slightly, possibly for the first time Merylo had ever seen. Youre not the first to think so. Doctor Freud is perhaps a greater doctor than a writer. And there have been questions about the accuracy of his English translator. Pearce paused, taking another drag on his cigarette. If youre interested, I could put you in touch with an alienist of my acquaintance. He lives in New York but for a case of this significance, Im sure-

Thanks very much, Doctor, Merylo said abruptly, but I dont think we need any newfangled college-boy nonsense. Well solve this case the old-fashioned way. By beating the streets and doing good solid detective work.

As you wish. But if you change your mind-

Thanks, Doc, but I wont. Andrassy may have been a punk, but he was still a criminal and he hung with criminals. If we sniff around long enough, well find out who wanted him dead bad enough to-

All at once, the door to the coroners office flew open. Detective Merylo!

Merylo recognized the kid as one of the boys from Bertillon, but he couldnt remember his name. Yeah?

Weve identified the new corpse.

Merylos eyes ballooned. Yeah?

Took awhile-the fingers were in such poor condition. But we managed it. Turns out we have her prints on file.

A smile spread from one end of Merylos face to the other. Because she has a criminal record?

Exactly.

Swell. Merylo gave Zalewski a little shove toward the door. Weve identified two victims now. All we have to do now is figure out what-or who-they have in common.

He waved at Dr. Pearce as he passed through the door. Thanks for nothing, Doctor. Turns out we dont need you after all.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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