In the train compartment there was a grey-haired and bald old catholic priest going by with a walking stick. His head and legs were aching. The devastation made by The German airforce, seen from a window, was a suitable picture of his mind, after hearing thousands of people as close to a nervous-breakdown as he had been for a long time.
A soldier passed the old bald clumsy priest with his girlfriend approaching slightly behind. Father Murphy thought her to be reminiscent of something. He wished he could remember what…
It was a small catholic church in a middle-class area in London. The church was relatively new, only about twenty years old. Made of red brick and with only one tower. In fact, it could have been a protestant church from the outside. The walls were covered with cold November frost. When cold weather met warm air from the interior of the church, there were strange figures on the window panes outside.
When one stepped inside the church, there was a long corridor ending upon the altar and crucifix. The altar was inside a small simple vault and there was a white cloth with a golden cross. The wall on which the crucifix had been attached, was painted brown, like rust or dried blood. The candles on both sides were on their holds, unlit. From the white ceiling - which now looked like snowy rubble because of humidity - there were hanging two big lamps, they looked like beacon lights.
On the left side there was a statue of The Virgin Mary on a wooden pedestal, coloured in white and blue. She was holding her left hand in the right. Like crushing the bones of the weaker hand. Behind the statue there was a wooden board, which had a triangle-end. A statue of Jesus was on the right-side of the vault, standing before the same green triangle-board. His hands were wide opened, telling “Come to me!”. The Saint of the catholic temple was Saint Isidore, like Jesus this statue was mostly yellow and green. Unlike the bright colours of the other polished statues, The Saint Isidore was looking like a grave-digger. It had been covered with grey dust and was holding a shovel in his hands. They were holding the shovel blade down. The eyes of all the statues had failed to express anything but a doll-like staring.
Along the long corridor there were small wooden benches. They weren’t painted, but the benches had been varnished a rather short time ago. Despite the scratches being polished, they could still be seen under the surface. Just like the ghouls and the ghosts of the past, never-mind how long time ago one has met them. Between these benches there was a clumsy figure cleaning up. His head was downwards, like a student reading books in the evening. Or a young man hit hard by some distant miserable event.
Father Murphy was a five-foot eight inch tall man. He had dark brown hair and green eyes. He had a thin appearance and awkward manner. He was a newcomer to this parish and he hadn’t been in London for a long time. His colleague, Father Sullivan, had already added some coal to the fire of the heating system, shaking burning red coal with a poker in his left hand. But he couldn’t warm up his idealism anymore, or his weak body. After adding one piece of coal this chubby middle-height man with a moustache opened the door and greeted Father Murphy with his jolly Dublin accent. That made a contradiction with his rough and loud voice: “Bye, bye, Boy. There are some birds freezing out there. Hahaha… And remember to get wine to administer Communion...” Then Father Sullivan stepped outside to go about his own deeds. This hard-boiled behaving priest was friendly outside for the newcomer. But you could very clearly see suspicion in his eyes about this young man’s abilities as a priest. “You will have to be strong with your first confession-maker” he had told him. Father Murphy was going to be twenty-three next New Year’s Day. This young priest was looking down, sweeping the church floor.
Suddenly there was a faint tapping on the window. First Father Murphy assumed that it was a branch hitting the window pane. Gradually he started to think it was more like a finger. Father Murphy did not pay attention anyway, preferring to think the sound to be a branch. He had once a long time ago heard a knocking on a window, but wanted to forget it.
Then the sound increased gradually. Now it sounded like tapping with the four fingers. The rhythm got faster and more restless. Father Murphy raised his head to the direction of the window. Wondering the cause and standing still, as if having a reminiscent of an ugly past. He was a bit too shaky to do anything yet.
Little by little the sound changed. It became as if a fist would be hitting the window so hard, that it might break. Now Father Murphy started to move quickly towards the window. He angrily threw the broom aside. Thinking it was some prankster trying to break the pane. Like he had done some years ago. After a walk he looked outside the window. But there was just some frozen branches that all stood still. Father Murphy went back to his task, feeling uneasy.
Gradually he calmed down and continued his sweeping. An evening like this makes you nervous, he told himself. The pile of rubbish was almost in tact for the shovel. Just the other end of the corridor and he would be ready to…Father Murphy raised his head.
Now he heard knocking on the door, and in the same way. A faint tone that got louder and louder. Again it was like tapping with one finger. The nervous feeling came back to Father Murphy’s head. He stood still, waiting the next move. He was thinking he was going to find this prankster. Father Murphy forced himself to disband a thought about a ghost.
Then the sound was as if someone hitting with a whole hand. The door was going back and forward with the blow. This was happening every other second. Father Murphy got an uneasy thought about the sound to his head. The thought made him stand helpless in the corridor. The noise didn’t stop for any moment.
The sound was now furious and there were no breaks there anymore. It sounded like the one making the blows was using the arms of his. Or.. hers. The same thought of one furious event a long time ago. Aggression won uneasy feeling, so Father Murphy started walking angrily towards the doors. He wanted definitely to show the prankster, that he would not be scared.
Father Murphy opened the left front door of the church. He only noticed the cold November freeze, but still he could have sworn to have heard knocking on the door. He turned away and dragged the door closed behind him. Then he got frightened: right before him there stood a woman with a very pale face and dark clothing.
Father Murphy looked closer at this strange woman. She was extremely pale, though her natural skin was probably fair. She was wearing a maroon hat and a fur-coat of the same colour. Her boots looked strangely worn-out. Her fur-coat was so cold, that you could feel it even from a distance.
-I’m sorry, Madame. She whinced her teeth with an uncomfortable grin. -But I was just brooming the church floor since very few people pay a visit at this hour. You should not have come in like that. I almost thought you were a ghost. His voice was shaky.
-I might become one. Or then one person might die because of me. There was a long moment of silence. The woman’s quiet voice was like a spring about to blow. -Hahaha… the first priest who has ever got interested in these things… and young enough to be my big brother. Father Murphy had been thinking the woman would go forward and he took his hasty steps back. He blushed for his accidental bumping to her body.
He was still watching this girl. She was obviously a bit taller than you might think at first sight. She was stout and her bust was gorgeous. Though her face was wide, it was very beautifully shaped. Her jaw was very strong. Under high eyebrows there were sea-blue eyes. They looked rather tilting. On her really pretty lips was a faint smile. She appeared to be enjoying being watched and somehow she reminded Father Murphy of the images of fairies and pixies from his childhood fairytales.
-I want to make a confession. Now she spoke with a pleasant family-girl voice. The accent was a strange combination of western-Irish and Welsh… and some undertone not very clear. Her faint smile expressed hopefulness.
-Please, I am just passing by… This might be the last chance to do this.
Father Murphy still stood there staring for a long time. With a fast movement he grabbed a watch from his pocket. He thought that at this hour there had to be a need for a confession.
-Since you are obviously just visiting London, it is probably better for you just to sit down on the bench. I think at this hour there won’t be any more people here, so this whole hall can be a sanctuary… You know, usually Father Sullivan…
-Please, Father, can we just start… Though the message was clear, it was said with a peaceful manner. She took off her hat and opened her coat. Father Murphy was awed by the contradiction. Under the glamorous fur-coat and expensive hat there was a grey tidy, but worn-out lindsey-frock with a red shawl over it. While taking off the hat she shook her head and there was thick hair which reached her waist. It was red, but there were some tones of blonde as well.
-I have stolen my hat and overcoat, Father. I mean, to be safe. Even the West End girls don’t walk alone anymore.
Father Murphy said a prayer with an embarrassed mind. He had a feeling that this young woman knew the procedures better than him. He felt relieved when she said:
-Bless Me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been… it’s been… years since my last confession. And these are my sins… She stared as if thinking what to say. Finally she said:
-I have committed adultery…
The girl started to laugh. The laughter sounded unnatural. Like laughing and crying at the same time. Father Murphy did not know what to do. Finally she became quiet. Drying with a finger a tear from her left eye.
-Sorry, Father. Life has been pretty tough in our neighbourhood. I am a harlot. She watched with astonishment. Then she said: -Did you think, that all prostitutes are toothless drunks who look like witches? Her calm voice raised only a little.
There was a deep moment of silence. After waiting for a moment Father Murphy tried to move on:
-So, you said you are just passing through. Where does your family come from?
-My family has moved a lot, Father. But other people know my siblings, not me that well. I was the quiet big-siss, reading and writing on my own. Our Da did his best to educate us, though we weren’t the wealthiest of families in the neighbourhood.
-You didn’t have friends, My Child? Being alone…
-My best friends have been my siblings and relatives. Though even among them I was known as “Still-Marie”. I read them and sang when-ever asked in family visits. Reading limericks to uncles and aunties somehow made me free for a while…
-Your family is Irish, I think.. and…
-We lived only for some years in Ireland, but that was a good time for me. While my brothers and Winnie… Winifred, my sister, have always been interested in other people, I have always been happier on my own. Well… really just among my relatives. When Winnie with her twin-brother, Jimmy, was born in Wales…
-So you ended up in Wales? Being an emigrant…
-Da tried to make it in Boston. John junior, my eldest brother, was born there. I was born in Banagher while they were visiting Ireland. Dinny and Danny were born near Boston. Da tried in Boston harbour, while thinking about farming in the mid-west of America. She was looking a little downwards, while saying: -That never did happen. Especially when he got into trouble with some Boston… birds, Father. Please, look toward me and not to my breasts. A priest is not supposed to be so shy. Father Murhphy blushed and coughed confused. Then he continued:
-But there is no American accent in your speech, My Child?
-There was an Irish community in Boston… and in Illinois as well, Father. That’s why our Da dreamt about going there. We had so much American vocabulary after returning to Ireland in the mid-70’s that people were picking on us. Joe was born there and Nate a bit later... My brothers were lovely babies, but brothers when they grew up.
-A large family, I think. And you had fights?
-Of course we had fights, but most of the time we were picking on each other. Like siblings always do, Father. When we arrived to Carnarvon, things weren’t all that well for us. Da went to work in an Iron Foundry.
-Did you make friends there? Maybe a boyfriend…
-My friends were books, though I ‘d read everything possible. You know, I was the tall thin Irish-girl. The best times were whenever cousin Siobhan came to see us. Their family had moved to Cardiff. She got married some years ago and has some kids. She used to be my best friend. She was looking miserable behind that family-girl smile. Then she said: -I went to work in Carnarvon for my family. They took even small girls there to clean sometimes… The remote corners of the castle. They easily believed me to be a bit older. Occasionally I could read their books, when I was cleaning in the library.
-Were any of these cleaning women your friend, My Child? I mean, you should have had friends. At least to keep your mind clear!
-Davina. She paid attention to me and finished my shyness a bit.. I did talk to other girls as well, but it was rather formal and distant. She made me her friend. She taught me my Welsh as well… and later I came real close to her and also her brother, Johnny. He was almost the same age as me. She was again miserable behind that faint smile.
-You know, Father, that was the time when I met certain changes and became very irritating to my brothers. I was becoming a woman, I mean… It was really painful. It is, Father and nobody ever told how very… Then Winnie came along, my lovely little-sister. Finally someone like me after so many brothers. She got irritated by the expression of Father Murphy.
-Since you are more interested in my friends than my confession, s’il vous plait, Father. First she moved the shawl to her shoulders. Then she opened the front of her dress and played with her right fingers within her cleavage. Father Murphy found those beautiful breasts very interesting. She rose her head.
She looked at him straight in the eyes. Father Murphy did not notice when the hand got to his hair. Her sea blue eyes were filled with a strange kind of feeling. With gentle movements she stroked his hair.
-It is this easy to impress men, Father. You think this is your private island, but there will be troublesome people for you, Father. How can you stand in it the future? You should be out there getting girls before they become like this, and not be here escaping your past. You feel uncomfortable, Father? Think how uncomfortable you would feel if you try to harass me. I would just watch like this and then this hand would smack your temple. Some curious creeps can tell you. Father Murphy lost his feeling after the last sentence. She turned her eyes down while saying: -Sorry, Father. Living in misery makes people this way. Only some months ago there were some murders within our area. You must have read about them in the papers. Now they notice the misery we are living in.
-Well… The only things I have noticed have been in the newspapers of Father Sullivan. Descriptions about some slashed unfortunate women… Father Murphy’s voice turned very quiet during the last sentence. After a while he continued:
-How did you become an unfortunate… My Child?
-I’ll say that the way it is: a whore… pretty usual way. The boss was thinking there were too many of us, so I had to leave. Her head turned down during the end of the sentence. Father Murphy was confused. He knew “the boss” to be an American word. It didn’t seem to suit to this girl’s speech that seemed to have no American expression or accent at all.
-Have you had any American… customers… lately?
-No. If some murderer would be an American, they would have already caught him. Especially when the murders have been done by a single person in a restricted area. The newspapers have been calling him “The Monster Of The East End”. You must remember something more, it has been quite a story this autumn… and he is still walking on our streets. The woman gave a “do you follow up your time”-expression.
-I have been following something in a general sense. I have been in London only for some time. You are probably worrying about… your… safety?
-Of course, Father. Everyone who makes a living with one’s…inside… is worried these days. Besides, there are already enough orphans in our area…. The woman had a bothered expression in her face. The word “orphan” caught a fragment in Father Murphy’s mind while he was still wondering about “the boss”.
-Did you know any of these… victims? Father Murphy asked, toning the last word very quietly.
-I have known one of them by name and one by sight. They were both killed the same night. The one I had known by name, had an alias. You have to beware when your name is like an alias of a recently killed woman. All of the killed women have had their names and fake names in the press. She started to button up her dress and moving the shawl to the front.
-You are… Mary Ann? That was the name Father Murphy had now remembered from the newspapers. He could also recall himself to have read some longer articles about the murders in the East End some months ago. But he didn’t get a whole picture.
-No… Mary Jane. I am not dead yet. Her eyes looked strange. She continued: -And… Marie. The day when I was just a girl in an ordinary family. These days I’m also known as Fair Emma. And Ginger. And… Black Mary.
-Black Mary? She raised her hair in a delicate manner. Under her golden-reddish hair there was a dark tone.
-When-ever I bun this, they will notice it. Its my mother’s heritage. There was a sense of pride in her voice.
-What else about your parents… My Child? I mean, children need love and care.
-They loved us, but they were strict. I had no trouble, being this silent and well-behaving child. In fact, I was the boss’s little girl. Mary laughed a full-hearted laughter. Then she got serious: -Til I met Davina’s brother. He was my Heathcliffe. That was the male character in a novel called “Wuthering Heights”, Father. Sorry, I told you in case you don’t know.
“The boss” struck again Father Murphy’s ears. Now he got the thing into his mind: there was mentioned “boss” in the murderer’s letters.
-Have you been writing letters… lately? There was a letter mentioning boss in the press. I mean, there was a… killing… Father Murphy got a sorry glance.
-Are you saying that I am… The Monster Of The East End? Mary was filled with astonishment and fear, but she continued:
-Also known as The Dorset Street Killer. There was a flight of glances between Father Murphy and Mary Jane. Her carelessness was clearly pretentious.
-You seem to know something about his moves that the public don’t… Besides, you have some guilt on this matter. I can see guilty feelings when I… Father Murphy stopped talking as if avoiding to go too far. After a very long moment Mary started talking:
-You’ve got to believe me, Father. I know him… But I’m not him. Besides, detectives have tried to catch him, dressed as a woman. Do you think he would attack a she-man on Dorset Street these days? Mary laughed painfully after the last words. Father Murphy answered with a loud voice:
-But some of them say that the letter was written by a person from America. The “boss” is American English, at least by the press.
-They have interrogated a London newspaperman about that letter, Father. Mary kept her calm tone, but Father Murphy continued:
-But you said you and your family lived in America. Besides, you said the American word. Tell me, My Child, what do you really know? It is better to avoid secrets… Father Murphy was afraid of his question.
-He said he loves me so he would rip my heart out and eat it… Mary got frightened, while saying: -I really had not thought that that “Boss” would have come from my speaking. She watched his eyes with a begging expression. With an appealing voice she said: -Please, Father. I have never mentioned that name in my letters. But he used R.I.P. in his drawings in Paris. I did write one letter to the Metropolitan Police. Unsigned. As a warning about him. But Scotland Yard will laugh at people like me making any conclusions. Especially about a respectable bachelor, who is on top of his medical career these days. Since he traced me, the only thing to do was writing as revealing a letter as possible… and to make my own arrangements. Ginger beer bottles, that was his mistake… writing about them. He thinks, he will get me. But it will be Julia, not me…
-A signed letter would have made your arguments credible, My Child. Mary looked back with a worried expression before she said:
-To write something with a full name would ruin one’s family forever, and Fair Emma or Ginger is not a credible signature. Besides, I am going to disappear after this from London, Father.
-But people will know what you look like. They can also trace the letter-writers these days, My Child.
-Though I’m pretty, the artists will never make me exactly look like me. No-one in London has seen my handwriting either and I’ve planned everything. I will be drunk for these few hours, but not as drunk as they think me to be. Besides, there is thirty shillings of the rent to be paid. So McCarthy rentals will try to catch me one of these days. I’m longing for Ireland, but I can never go there again. This thing happened to me once and now it is happening again. So with the money I will be getting from my… business, the best way to behave is to get as far away from London as possible. I had to be a pick-pocket to get money for my new start, Father. It was important to be successful as well as to lay low… and there maybe one Janet Kane, who will be reading newspapers on her own. Leaving her possible boyfriend or husband something better to do. I’ll definitely not miss London after all these years here, hiding from my past.
-How did you arrive to London? To hide your past…
-I was hiding in a cargo ship from Cardiff to London. It was frightening. There had been bad experiences being in a ship when we returned overseas to Ireland. I was only five years, but I remember the stomach aches. After Wales my whole life has been very aching…
-After Wales you came on your Plutonian shore…
-Quoth The Raven… Nevermore. She smiled her faint smile. She continued: -I read that when one bird was picking on me hard in Cardiff. How have you come to know Poe? A needle dropping could have been heard at that time.
-We all have had our troubles, My Child. In love and hate… He turned his eyes down, getting irritated about the studying looks of those blue eyes.
-Yes, Father. I had arrived totally on my own to London. I had no money, and nothing else to start with. And I was just… She turned her eyes down while continuing: -I was just lost. I walked the whole January day in London seeking some place to stay. In the evening I finally found a night-stay. Providence Row Convent on Chrisp Street. I think you may know some of the nuns there… Being penniless there was only the same thing to do as before. I charred and scrubbed the floors. With my experience from the Carnarvon castle the convent floors were no trouble at all. Except there were no books there to be read in secret. I already knew The Bible…She smiled with a faint grin. Then she continued: -Mother Superior knew a cleaning shop on Cleveland Street, West End. I have kept my apron from that cleaning shop as a memento, and I’ve kept it as clean as possible. It has been a kind of memory from my more respectable days. It‘s been a very good precaution as well. Being visible is a good means to avoid stalkers in the dead end I’m living in now. But there was one job after cleaning business. One man said to me: “What are you doing here?” “Just cleaning.” “Why?” “To make a living…” “A pretty girl like you deserves a better living. Come to me”. Father Murphy watched her stunned. This was not a confession-maker. Mary was like a stage-actress. She caught his eyes and turned her head down. Mary said: -I once dreamt about becoming an actress, Father. In Carnarvon, Wales. Long before my fall into this thing. From that instant that kind man hired me to his little tobacconist. It was on the same street as the cleaning shop. Believe it or not, Father, I was still very shy. So in the beginning I was staring at the floor blushing and the customers made fun out of it. But then the other side just ran through me. Then after a few months… She was as if not wanting to say.
-A French lady from Knightsbridge told me to join her enterprise just a few quarters away. She said it in a very under-stated way… but I guessed what kind of things she meant. The tobacconist owner warned me about her: “Do not follow that French woman, Little Lily, or you will get into trouble. Besides, if you fall, you will never get back”.
-But you got into her company. Why? To know someone with the same fate? Mary was very quiet for a very long time. Then she finally replied:
-For the adventure, I guess, Father… and now it has turned into a nightmare. Right from the beginning it was very odd… and scary. You know, there were boys doing that with other boys. You don’t believe me, Father? Well, I have seen it with my own eyes, and some of them are in those kinds of positions in society… well, you’d never believe. At first I was just a waitress for them. The French Lady took care of me. Though I noticed that in difficult situations she could speak very fluent English. I don’t know about that anymore, but it could be some American accent. She arranged me fancy dresses, a horse carriage and trips to Paris. But I really had no idea, what kind of a woman she was… Her eyes became empty.
-She was…? A what kind of woman?
-A “woman-lover” and she was after me. Furiously. But I had learnt to deal with fights at home. You don’t believe it again, Father? Well, she loved women and loves them still. Even Eva Brackwell, the newcomer in high-society then, visited her, before her marriage. Finally I could not take it anymore. So I gave in to her, but she was not pleased with me. After that I accompanied some gentlemen to Paris. Julia, the other waitress, started to be with her. Though she is like us, she could handle that madame very well.
-So then you had to start to do that?
-I have done it in many ways, Father. For those West Enders at the time. Mary sighed deeply. She was about to burst into tears, when she said: -First of all, we did it totally naked with Julia when the elite gentlemen were watching. Though there really are women to do men’s job, I do not fancy that. Then the gentlemen were watching me doing that with a finger. I was only wearing my top-hat. After that a gentleman was watching when I did it with a cigar. Wearing his top-hat. She had got a lump in her throat. Finally she continued: -And… and… and… I… was forced to lay… with one gentleman’s beast. If I hadn’t he would had beaten me. Even a girl like me would have had to be very tough to oppose that gentleman. She was totally numb for a very long time. Finally she said with a ghostly tone:
-I slashed that awful animal one night in West End. They never caught me. But I swear, I’ve never killed before or after that, Father. Never. But I’ve always moved away when any dog barks on the pavement. Ever since… There was again a long moment of silence. -Weird. Those boy’s-boys are never that sick in their fun. All a girl has to do with them, is to be a waitress wearing just a long skirt. But these puritan-protestant clean-cut elite gentlemen. Then the kindest of them outside does something like this. In the daylight they preach us sermons for immoral behaviour.
-When did you notice, that this… killer… had traced you in The East End? Father Murphy was feeling kind of weary.
-Last summer Julia appeared in our streets for the very first time. I didn’t remember her from the start. She is more grown up now. Hhhh… In fact she’s the age people generally think I am. First she stepped in as one of the many homeless to Miller’s Court 13. I just could not let those people get frozen in that kind of weather. Joe, my boyfriend then, didn’t mind at first. When Julia came closer, he became irritated. She behaved to me as if Madame Knightsbridge was me. That is why I was gradually beginning to remember who she was. Much later I could find out as well, for what she came there. You know, then the talk on the street about the first murders was beginning. Besides, my other misfortunate friends had left some of their clothing as a kind of payment to Miller’s Court, but she took some of my stuff instead. I have been selling them to get some rent-money from the Market. I have been begging with a little boy sometimes too… as a mother and a son.
-Isn’t it… cheating, My Child? Father Murphy had a very condemning glance. Mary started with a compassionate tone:
-In a remote site in the East End there was a starving boy. We have been begging at times, not all the time… and many really believe that we are mother and son. There is a slight resemblance in our faces. Father, pretending has saved his life and some madames have given me “you poor little thing”-money because of it. Johnno’s father has been laid off for years and his mother had been a devout catholic. Hmmh… but it does not pay its dues in those quarters. The quarter-mile of evil. This is the reality, pri… est. Johnno’s father is an apprentice. He will be that for the rest of his life. She showed a guilty feeling in her eyes. With a sorry voice she continued: -He used to work in the docks. But he was laid off. He just cannot think like the others. If you are telling him how to fix a staircase, he asks about repairing the staircase thirty seconds later. No matter, how much you try to explain, he’ll get angry and thinks that everyone is tricking him. I saw that happening every time I visited there. He had a red-haired young man there with him. He lost his nerve all the time. That guy said he’ll never have him as a butcher and Daddyo does not drink anything, not even beer. Somehow Johnno has become rather reasonable. I felt sorry for him. Parents like that. But at least he knows his mother. Mary turned her head down.
-So you have not seen your relatives for a long time, Your Child?… Oh, sorry, I meant to say… My child?
Mary closed her eyes for a while before saying:
-Joe and me moved to Miller’s Court and there was a market in Billingsgate. I was walking there looking for a customer. Though I had a cold. How come Vinnie knew me? It had been years since we had last seen each other… in fact, it was when we were playing hide and seek in the Banagher church ruins. Or that is: Vinnie, Siobhan and me. Though we were not supposed to. Within days after that we moved to Canarvon, Wales. The Limerick cousins families moved to Wales and England as well.
-Vinnie? This is…
-Virginia Kelly… She is already married. My eldest female cousin. She was bored with us, because Siobhan and me, we were about ten-year old kids then. Siobhan some years older. Vinnie was already becoming a woman and followed us only as a kind of duty. So one lone girl was stunned Vinnie knew her. She is touring from market to market. Selling vegetables, pri… est. The tone was very angry. After getting calm she said: -She just pulled everything out of me. I have never been so honest. Before or after. She continued with a sorry glance: -I was surprised how much she cared for me. I thought she only stood Siobhan and me. She told me: “Save yourself, Marie, while you still can.” I hope God will bless her, Father. God may forgive Siobhan, but never me. As kids we were inseparable, whenever we met. But when I… moved to Cardiff, I was begging that she even let me live with her. She was nagging all the time over ruining our whole family. So, when... the son… was given elsewhere,… I had to sneak into a freight boat. After a storm my vision has been blurred… a barrel broke most of the things in my small bundle. The family left me nothing and she just said “So long, slut!” What was that madame to say so?! She got laid with every sailor when-ever her dear husband was at sea. I felt like I was in an infirmary and a whore-house. Hmmh… as if I had known then about those kind of places. Mary looked as if being lost: -But I wonder, why Vinnie gave my address to Granny. She swore she would not tell anyone. Hmmh… Granny thought Miller’s Court to be some kind of a castle and she said that thirteen is an unlucky number. It certainly has been… I met Joe on Good Friday almost two years ago. There were ups and downs while living together here and there. But now, when he believed more Julia than me, it’s definitely over.
-But that has not been your only address in London, I think. Or not your only boyfriend either. When you were hiding your difficult past…
-Well, Father.. When I was living in the West End, I had no boyfriends… After I lost Johnny… Living in the West End like servants and employees was all right though. Then, for a short while, living with Madame Knightsbridge was lady-like. After we broke up I joined another unfortunate. When I fled from Madame Knightsbridge Mrs. Buki told me: “Dat goodlookin gal will do well on Brezeeserr’s Hiil-a.” . She was an Italian from the East End. Begging money for food. I knew what she was talking about, but at first she was wrong. I lived very decently for a while in a rented room off Breezer’s Hill. The people were very friendly, but the landlady’s mother was about to find out too much about me. So I got drunk and abusive and they said I was unwelcome. After that I lived for a year and a half in the “Bad House” of Breezer’s Hill. And I did that… but so did the others. Except that there was one gal sober all the time. She had pride in her eyes. –Hahaha… A funny thing, Father, was that Joe was dating the landlady of Breezer’s Hill about at that time.
-Why did you finally leave… Madame Knightsbridge, My Child? The protecting angel…
-Madame Knightsbridge sent me with the killer to Paris. He was a real gentleman, behaving very well and being funny. He was not that chubby then. I noticed at once that he had a lot of books with him. She turned her eyes down. -I indeed used to read a lot before becoming like this. A strange thing was, that unlike another gentleman - “gentleman” was said with a very resentful manner - he did not seem to be interested in doing that. Though he was interested in women as men generally are. He was very interested in Mont-Martre and Pigalle… and urged me to make friends with the local unfortunates. He said he was attending a seminar at the Sorbonne. In fact, this sounds gruesome, Father, but it was fun. I learnt French as easily as I did Welsh. Though I was like this already then, my clothing was glamorous and not stolen. Many thought me to be an upper-class lady. She sighed deeply and told with a sad voice: -But then one had to face the facts. He had his instruments with him and that was all-right. Since he had his seminar. But when I visited the college - I had a silk dress and not these kind of rags - they knew nothing about the thing. They did know about him, but he was supposed to attend only some lectures. So, despite the fact that he was better educated, I did know that he was up to something. Though it was painful, I read the newspapers during our visit. Mary’s eyes were turning ever more drowsy. With a guilty feeling she said: -And where-ever I had gone, there was a stabbing. Not mutilations like today, but the same kind of pattern anyway. I usually give my friends and clients their own privacy. But now I had to find out about this. So little by little in two weeks I found out that he was reading a novel called “Crime and Punishment”. As an answer to Father Murphy’s downward turning eyebrows she continued: -It is a novel by a Russian called Feodor Dostoyevsky. I could not read the whole book. But to read the underlined parts was enough for me. He had an archive with some articles about eugenics as well. That is a study on racial improvement. Obviously you can think of which step we belong. The top of everything were the awful drawings about his dead mother. Mary looked frightened while saying: -She had red hair, a wide face and strong jaw. There was a tinted photo of her among his things. For a short while Father Murphy got a vision of a certain resemblance. Mary looked very terrified while saying: -What a h… a… What are you looking at, Father? Should I really smack you? Mary had a threatening glance. Gradually she calmed down to continue: -So I returned two weeks before Madame Knightsbridge’s contract with me ran out. When I returned home I accidentally met a Mrs. Buki. She looked miserable, so I invited her to my West End home and decided to get drunk for the first time in my life. Then we went to Madame Knightsbridge’s home and broke everything and I claimed and took with me a box containing expensive dresses. Since madame did not get the coppers after us, we sold the dresses little by little. I let Mrs. Buki sell most of the them. I think Madame Knightsbridge burnt my photos - even some private ones. So, the only photos of me are family photos from Boston and Carnarvon. Well, maybe one as a baby in Banagher, but in Welsh and American photos Mary Jane, called Marie, does not look like this. In fact, in the Carnarvon photo I’m looking downwards at Winifred, my sister. She was just a baby then, like her twin-brother. Already then my eyes… Mary had a very deep moment of sorrow in her eyes. Then she continued: -Madame Knightsbridge said she never wanted to see me again. Mary said it with sorry eyes: -I noticed that while drunk I’m a very abusive person. So I gradually ended up in the notorious East End. If he would trace me, there were things to be done. So as I already told you the spotlessly clean white apron has been my trademark. As well as this long hair, easily noticed while down my waist. Nothing has been ever told to my friends. It has been better that way, in case they would face him. Maria, Catherine and the next-door-Julia are very good people though. I have been totally alone in the East End just for the last few days. And now there has been Julia…
-If you really know about this thing going on, why don’t you visit Scotland Yard? Mary gave a resentful grin.
-Do you still think they would believe a bitch from the East End, Father? Besides, Father, there are many Maries with my surname in Limerick, and in Wales as well.
-You should mind your head! What are you running away from? Father Murphy’s voice got tired.
-If I’m alive next summer, it wont be necessary anymore. Mary showed a compassionate glimpse in her eyes.
-I’m sorry, Father. But even after they discarded me I don’t want to hurt them. Especially little Winnie. The kid sister I had been longing for all my life. She was the sibling of mine.
Mary was as about to say something. Finally she after some swallowing started to talk:
-Besides, there is an inspector in the Yard. I really don’t want to meet him. Father, that gentleman travelled with me to Paris even before the man we talked about earlier. She sighed deeply before she said: -That free gentleman, the inspector, was trying to whip me in a Paris hotel. I wonder if he ever whipped his own daughter. Like he tried to do with me… She moved her eyes away during the last sentence. -But that gentleman forgot to tie my legs. I bloody kicked him to the arms. Then I shook and shook my hands till they were untied. You know, I had been lucky enough to kick him down there. I even heard when that ******* prick’s bone crushed… Mary didn’t care about Father Murphy’s stunned eyes while continuing: -When I was free I smacked his face and kicked his ribs till they were broken. He did not say anything before what he was going to do… and after returning to London Madame Knightsbridge had guts to mock me for defending myself. Mary’s voice was painfully crying. -I bloody hit back to boys. I have been ever since I was a kid. Those upper-class gentlemen have never grown up. At least most ordinary men just want that. After finishing her speech it was as if Mary was had a hick-up in her throat.
Father Murphy was confused. He had always been pretty trustful to the ideal view about the good intentions of the high society. He did not know how to start to talk to her again. Finally he regained his effort:
-Did he even get to the hospital? Getting hit like…
Mary’s eyes were burning.
-You think I am making this up to mock upper class people. Now, watch, you… you! Mary stood up and turned her back on the priest. The fur-coat was already there on the bench. She dropped her shawl over it. Button by button she opened her dress from the front. Then she dragged it off her shoulders. And dropped the dress slowly to the floor. There was a moment of silence.
-For heavens sake, My Child, this is the Lord’s room…
-Watch my back, Father. Are these scars a fiction? The voice was loud in Mary’s scale. She continued her speech with a painful tone: -No-one has asked about them in the East End. But many have guesses…
Mary dragged with slow motion her hair off her back to the front of her body. Father Murphy was watching the pretty lines of the back. As well as the legs… and especially the buttocks. Never mind she had long legged pants on them. Father Murphy really understood men’s interest in her body.
-I am sorry, Father. But there won’t be anything for men - not till next spring. No more. She turned her head and watched the desperately controlled face of Father Murphy.
-I really only wanted to show you my scars on the back. She said it with an ordinary voice. -But since you seem to be interested, I will do like this. Father Murphy was speechless. Mary turned around. Then she had moved her hands behind her head.
-I haven’t seen such an innocent man for years… She said with a smile which seemed to be very sincere. With slow motions she lowered her hands and took her reddish hair off her breasts. Then with a very calm motion she raised and dropped the hair to her back. Father Murphy could not get his eyes off that bust. He had not seen such a gorgeous one ever. Or such a stout woman. Mary watched with her eyes as if to get everything of the moment. She turned her back again and dragged her hair over the bust.
With a dim light in the church Father Murphy could really see the scars on the back. They were wide and a few were round. Seeing them in dimness made sure there had been some years when they were done. Suddenly Father Murphy felt the scars on his own back. He started to feel bothered by his earlier thoughts about this girl. When Mary turned her head again to the priest, Father Murphy had turned his eyes down. Hoping she hadn’t caught the pain in them.
Mary bowed to the floor slowly with her sea-blue eyes still watching intensely at Father Murphy. With elegant moves she took the dress on her shoulders, sliding the hair away at the same time. She started to button up the front. She said wondering:
-There is a thin line between love and hate, Father. I am watching like this, when I am loving men, and when I am smacking them. And yet there will always be just one true love…
Suddenly her body started shaking very strongly. Mary’s nose made a sniffle as if it was blown instantly. Her nose blowing sounds increased and Father Murphy could see big tears running down her cheeks. Now he noticed her belly being a bit like that. With a very broken voice she started to say:
-They should have accepted him… Just like the others accepted me for Johnny… Even after what we had done… She raised her left hand to dry a tear from the cheek. -But they never did… Johnny was welsh… and a protestant and that’s it… And when I knew it… Her nose was still haling in a weepy sound. -They just threw me out… That sound was still to be heard… -Even that wasn’t enough that Johnny would have converted. He died of Naval colliery a few days after I arrived in London. Weepy in-hailing started to calm down and she started to take the shawl from the bench. Father Murphy was about to say “a catholic should marry a catholic”. But his voice stuck to his throat.
-Have you ever lost someone… important to you, Father? She asked with a very shaky voice.
-They took my mother… some place… Father Murphy hoped that the silent sentence would not have reached Mary’s ears.
-You mean an institution?… A madhouse?… Your mother there?
Mary pulled her shawl around her shoulders and stared to the floor. Her voice was still a bit poor.
-Strange, you know, Father. If I had been that nice young family girl five years ago, I would have strutted my nose at you, and to your whole family as well. But to see many things in the East End makes a person very fatalistic. You know, the gentlemen bring with them syphilis to many of the same fate of mine… but even more girls lose their nerves by starting drinking and not having a steady boyfriend. We really seldom do it for fun, Father. When women are kicked out of families, they simply do not have very much chance to survive these days. Father Murphy was watching deeply into her eyes. She was as saying an answer: -Yes, I have been discarded for what happened… But for how many times one unfortunate has warned the East End girls not to do the same. Even if it means the pimps blacklisting Mary Jane. Two of those gentlemen have had the same treatment as the free gentleman from the Yard. Her furious smile made Father Murphy feel uneasy. But that expression faded as soon as it had started.
Mary was watching him straight to his eyes for a long while after getting seated. He was looking at his feet. It would have been a lot easier to make this thing behind the screen.
-You don’t feel sorry for this… “girl” friend, My Child? If she has her scars as well… Father Murphy did not feel very comfortable after Mary had been digging the thing about him. He still wanted to make her change her mind.
-A friend!!! She will replace me and she will make them get him. Her face looked both stern and frightened.
-But I think she is not… as pretty as you are. Father Murphy turned his head down to hide his sincere face. He really felt guilty about his previous thoughts about this girl.
-After him they‘ll very likely not be able to make a difference between Julia or me. She is somewhat taller than me. But probably he will make it impossible to make those measurements. Father Murphy dragged down his eyebrows. Mary looked slightly bored saying: -The other unfortunates have told about bertillonage. They measure body parts and make identification by connecting the figures. With their cruel eyes studying you… and those gentlemen grabbing you here and there. Julia and me fit to the margins of error though.
-But they can rebuild her apprearance… My Child.
-Julia will loose all her face. Last time Li’l-Katie’s face could be made again. But now he probably will make sure there will be not a recognisable one. That woman is more kid than me.
-Why do you think Julia must be… in… your place? Father Murphy felt irritated about Mary’s clear antipathy for the woman.
-She is his accomplice. When I was… having… a so called good time looking for a paying gentleman… I’m definitely sure it was Long Liz, one of them… Though I got to know her for sure from the papers. But she was definitely talking to Julia… Father.
-How did this… monster… get her trust? By being a loving boyfriend?
-Like you have been told, he is a very good manipulator. Father,… with this unfortunate lifestyle you will become one like that as well. Listening to all kinds of people. He has Julia as a messenger in the East End. She moves and makes friends easily. She has talked me into, for example, giving her my camise, frock and boots. Julia moves inside our circles and he attacks outside. The same pattern as years ago in Paris. She has been living in a rental room near the train station. Johnno told his friend. Father Murphy could clearly see from the eyes the identity of the friend. She said: -I can honestly say she is not quite as pretty as me. But our eyes and hair look the same. I’m sure she has had enough time to check those sites for the killer.
-Are you sure about this… Julia, My Child?
-I have seen her in the killer’s company and I know that he can impress women. By coincidence a girl just happened to notice the Crime and Punishment within his things and she could flee. Within two days he will commit his thing. But to get the East End free I have to betray Julia.
-Is this Julia a catholic? Mary raised her eyebrows as if to say “of course this question”.
-Yes she is. She an Irish catholic as well. No, Father. Her surname is too common to remember. Her eyes had a painful-apologetic expression. -You can appeal, but I just cannot remember. Like Murphy. Like O’Connor. Or like Kelly.
-How can you say there will be a murder with such exact timing?
-All the murders happen when the fishing ships come from the Thames.
-Did any other see… her? Sometime you only think you see the person you knew…
-Li’l-Katie had a clue about him! Besides, she did see Julia in his company as well.
-Why hasn’t there been a murder for a long time…. My Child?
-The reason why there has not been murders for a long time is only:… The fox loves its tail. She clearly shook her hair with a provocative manner with her hands.
-The fox seems to be pale. Very pale… Father Murphy had a doubtful expression on his face. In his mind he remembered Father Sullivan telling about pranksters around these murders. Sick letters, false knives etc. But this girl really may know something. He had to admit the message of her manners had gone through again, and at the same time he felt sorry for her fate.
-Maria has said this fair skin looks like a lily. She showed some sense of pride in her face. -Besides, even those gentlemen in the Yard have noticed, that the fishing ships arrived down the Thames when those murders were committed. So he finally found out about me, and just like you noticed when I arrived here, my laughter is hysterical. Believe me, Father, this is not a fantasy. This is really a young woman knowing her stalker. A very young woman.
Father Murphy was sitting there confused. That girl sitting face to face with him was staring as if to wait for the next move. Finally Father Murphy decided to start from some other subject.
-You said you needed someone to survive, My Child? Did you get someone? After Paris…
-I met mister Morganstone, Father, and Morst would really liked to have married me. She turned her head down, while saying: -But, you see, Father, I was very shaken after Madame Knightsbridge. There were not those kind of women anywhere. At least in Carnarvon or Limerick. Morst would like to have known, what was wrong. She raised her head up with a miserable look on her face. After a while she said: -That took a very long time to deal with. Maybe it still has to be dealt with. Morst was living near Stepney gasworks… and I did not have to go to the streets like in Breezer’s Hill. Had my head been clear at that moment… You see, one becomes so shocked that you cannot even tell that kind of the thing to yourself and not even to your closest one. That building trade man. He was so nice, but I lost him because of my past error. But he knew about my wild things, Father. Sometimes you hope you would not cover your face with a kind smile all the time. She had her faint smile, but the blue eyes were miserable. She said: -You can get laid for money, if you have to. Though it does not make you proud at all. You would rather have a reliable boyfriend. Especially, when that gentleman from Paris is tracing you. It had been on my mind sometimes. Her eyes replaced the word with “often”. Father Murphy tried to calm her down by saying:
-So you have had these.. steady boyfriends as well? Without abandoning them at once…
-Definitely, Father. Her eyes jumped out of their sockets. -After Morst I met this mason plasterer when I was living near Bethnal Green. To my neighbours in Miller’s Court he was a costermonger. He gave me some money and we talked. I loved him a lot and with less burden from the past than with Morst. But still too much to get married. He came to see me a few times to the Miller’s Court. But we did not get laid any more, Father. Though there has been some men under the crucifix lately. Hahaha… her laughter was toned painfully. She said with an apologetic expression: -I have kept my crucifix with me all the time. The only other personal thing in my rat-hole is a copy of a painting, “Fisherman’s widow”… and a caring boyfriend for sometime. Thank God most of my boyfriends have been very caring. Except Henry Love. That bastard slapped my face, knocked me down and tried to kick me on Duke Street. He was a private from the Scottish Guards. He even got imprisoned. Henry and I met a few times and he was convincing to be nice. But he drank and was as bad a drunk as I. So that thing ended as soon as it started. She stared at the floor for a while. With a regretting voice she continued: -They think in the East End Henry to be my big brother. I really liked Joe Fleming coming to Miller’s Court. He said he loves me still. He also gave me some money. Mmh… and Julia next-door thought he was just another customer and so did Joe as well. It always seems to become something like this.
-Well, My Child. You cannot live a life without anyone suffering because of you. Father Murphy’s mind caught a glimpse of a girl visiting a whack somewhere in London sometime ago.
-Has anyone ever died because of you, Father? Mary’s gaze captured him.
Father Murphy couldn’t stand those deep blue eyes studying him. But the glance was so capturing that he could not take his eyes off either. The moment lasted only for a few minutes. But it felt like hours. Father Murphy tried to keep still, but he felt like Mary had drilled herself deep into his soul. Even to those kind of thoughts, to which she should not have. She was still seeking with her eyes an answer to the question. Then within seconds the eyes were sliding downwards. Mary started speaking softly:
-I am a really naughty bitch. Though everyone seems to think I am some kind of an angel. “You are too nice to live in this place” they tell me. But then I caused this to these other unfortunates.
-How can you be sure that all this has happened because of you, My Child? Or is it your guilty feeling behind this? Father Murphy was wrinkling his eyebrows. Mary was staring at the floor with tired eyes. Then she raised her head with a depressive outlook and said with a stern voice:
-All this hell in the East End started when Joe lost his job in August. He was fired because of a theft… Mary’s eyes told about a guilty feeling: -He had no savings. So I had to go back to the sell-out. Joe was still living with me. But you could see what he was thinking. Then came the first murder… When Joe read me about Polly, I just knew it was it. He was different from his Paris days, but somehow the method seemed to have been the same. Especially that leather apron and the scripts about the Jews are just like his doings. I have heard that the text was written in a very civilised manner. You still think, that upper-class gentlemen and madames are more moral people than the others, Father? Mmh… and Annie would have died of tuberculosis within days. Even with her own knife… Liz was from Scandinavia or somewhere… To come to die in this place. Outsiders just like one… Some think she was not one of them. But the complaint letter of “interruption” was definitely his and then… I had spoken sometimes to L’il-Katie. She got killed probably because he was tracing me… In the dark of the East End you can make mistakes even about height. Especially if you are in the mood for that kind of… Mary was watching at Father Murphy’s wondering face.
-Li’l-Katie really used a fake name called Mary Ann. Not far away from my name, isn’t it, Father? Unfortunately she also used my family-name and she would have died soon as well… Father, I wonder if you could stand there sober for a long time! Even I cannot have stood there all the time without a drink. A probable lifetime in the East End for kids is about five years. Father, we are living worse than canned sardines.
-You talked about kids, My Child?
-Yes. Fair Emma is known to be a child-loving-nanny in the East End. Even prostitutes are mothers, pri… pri… est… Mary clearly didn’t like Father Murphy’s look on his face. -I could not even think to have a child there. Being drunk and hysteric…
-Have you gone to a… a…
-A whack?! And you are supposed to be a priest of a Mother Church. Mmh… She was clearly angry. -I was about to. But I noticed I’m still a catholic. I bloody drank like an old sailor till last week. I was even fined for being drunk and disorderly about two months ago. She turned her head down and dried her tears. -Sorry, Father. I guess you did not mean I should have gone. I was really drinking heavily for my scale. But then I thought I really must look for a new chance. Or what Vinnie said. I have not told to anyone in the East End. Even not for Joe… Unfortunately he indeed got angry about me letting in the unfortunates of the streets to our room. Well, there is hardly room even for two persons. But this freezing cold winter is too hard for anyone outside, believe me, Father. No, I will never get together again with Joe, Father. After he told me those things about Julia and I. Even though it was Julia who got him to believe that… and I really let Maria into the room only for the cold nights. Believe me, Father!
-So he is after you, because you left this… Joe? Obsessed…
-He must have felt some kind of togetherness with Joe, Father. Hee-he… When Joe gets excited, he repeats the last words of the conversation. The killer does the same thing. Besides, he is an orphan in a way as well. His mother died when he was just a few years old. But unlike Joe, he has had servants… and a distant father. Joe was raised by his siblings. I think he is trying to set up Joe… Please, Father. Listen to my reasons to think so. He has learnt to cut throats first. Now he tries to severe the heads and Joe has cut the fish all his life. So… very first they severe their heads, and like I told you, the murders took place when the fishing boats arrived from the Thames. My God, how bad he will slash the face this time. Julia will suffer for me… Her eyes told “but she deserves it”:
-But she has caused some pain too.
-But how can you say it is this person, My Child? Many men get obsessed… The angry response in Mary’s eyes told “again you think ‘those upper-class’”.
-I have spoken to him this evening, Father. He thinks I don’t remember him. That gentleman has become a bit chubbier. But he is definitely the same person. Telling his funny jokes. He can make women laugh anytime, but while quiet he is dangerous. He really feels his talking disorder is a shame. So, he got on my trace, though in West End my hair was shorter. Because of him I even cut my front-hair to my forehead and there are some women in the East End with this name as well. Her grin told about a cunning feeling… and fright.
-But are you absolutely sure it was him, My Child?
-They have made descriptions about him in the papers. A 33-35 -year old man in the company of Liz. Five feet seven. Wide face, moustache. Chubby. Neat white long collar. Black coat and trousers. Looks like an upper-middle-class person. Wears a black hat. A funny character.
-How can he move in the East End if he is described so well? I mean, to impress women…
-There are lots of chubby wide-faced men in the afternoon… and you can never even guess about the night-time. In addition to that, almost everyone is wearing a moustache. As well as having their better-off clothing. When the day comes they start spitting on us. Then their madames come to tell the prettiest one… She told with a sarcastic middle-aged woman’s voice: -“What on earth are you doing here?”… What are we doing there? Some have been prostitutes all their lives. But then there are those abandoned by their husbands with no job or money. Some are escapees from their fist-fight husbands…
-And some have got on the wrong way by having a bastard. Mary’s face kept its natural smile. But in her drowsy eyes there lied a non-described misery. As well as a feeling of being offended. With a very hollow voice she said:
-There is a murderer there and he thinks like those madames. He is a moral person and he knows his place. Her angry glance told “and you”. With her soft and calm voice she continued:
-If their daughters get mad like one a long time ago, those madames send them off to the streets. But never their boyfriends and for the girls there will be more madames saying “Oh you naughty sinners”. They do not nag that much on poor boyfriends and husbands. Especially if they are drunk. Her voice had slightly toned up.
-Is he drunk on his… doings, My Child?
-No. He really likes silence. He likes to concentrate on his scalpel and then you can’t drink. But he does give a drink to the girls. After that dead women don’t complain. The wretched people are the best toys… After his deeds he is a genius in being invisible at the right time. But he can be tricked… and I’m going to try that. The East End needs sweeping, but not butchers to do that. Father Murphy made still another try:
-How about this… Johnno? You seem to be his mother-figure anyway! At least that kid needs support and encouragement!
-Father! He will already be taken care of by his people. Daddyo is sweeping garbage at the moment and Johnno wont have to explain one madame’s talks to the others. No more…
Father Murphy was feeling low. He knew he could not get Mary to change her mind. Looking at his shoes he was asking:
-How are you going to get… him in…. My Child?
-Father… Gentlemen like to get in first. Officially the key to the rat-hole belongs to Joe. But I have been keeping it and kept forgetting it. But this time I have to remember. For the sake of both of us. He got a glimpse at her belly.
-I might still forget the key. But if he is going to get out, he’ll have to take those rags off the window pane and remove a pilot coat. Mmh.. That is supposed to be a curtain. She was watching with a stoic face. But the eyes were restless.
-It’s going to be a slaughter. He’s afraid of dark and he is claustr… claust…
Father Murphy was wrinkling his eyebrows:
-Claustrophobic… she… he… is afraid to be locked in. My Child… Isn’t he doing these… deeds… in the dark?
-He thinks he’s getting free this way. Julia likely thinks he will save her. But none like us will be safe. She rose her hand to straighten her hair. Father Murphy noticed a healing scar on the wrist. Mary started to shake her head slowly.
-The drunks get hurt while breaking window panes. Father Murphy noticed she was smiling about the scar. As if she was thinking “He could get hurt too”.
-They might get him as well.
-Which “they” this time?
Mary Kelly took a kind of “Who do you think you are?”-look at her face.
-Father… they are the most well-to-do in the society. They have a hall with stars on windows and they are wearing badges on their coat-collars.
-Is it a trade union? Mary started to laugh and was about to fall off the bench. But soon she was moving up. After seeing his hurt expression she became serious.
-Sorry, Father… But it just was so funny. It really is a secret society of the very-well-to-do people. Very secretive… and he has obviously let them believe I have told something about one of them. I know something unsuitable about the Duke of Clarence… He is “a- kind-of”! Father Murphy found something that he couldn’t guess from her face.
-You should tell me, My Child. You are speaking to God through me.
-But the Devil has his messengers, believe me. If I tell you everything, they will hear… and they will come to ask you some questions. With their harp and scythe badge on their coat-collar. He makes those murders in a form of five star ends…
-That is… a pentagram… MyChild! Father Murphy could not hide his clever smile. Mary gave an embarrassed glance. With a crying voice she started:
-All right, a pentagram, Father. I haven’t said I know everything in the world. But the last end is pointing to a certain rat-hole in the East End. Father Murphy was trying to remember the number of these murders. Finally he remembered:
-But they are talking about six murders.
-Mmmh… Emma was just stabbed, and Martha was murdered by a sailor. Do not look at me like that, please, Father. A street-girl knows these things better than gentlemen in one Yard.
-And you are still treating Julia like you are Judas… My Child?
-Yes, Father. I have caused death in the East End. Now I have to choose one murder or two murders and this is the way to have him caught. Also by the Police.
-But you might lose both lives if he guesses…
-Sooner or later I have to go, haven’t I? The serious look on her face made Father Murphy feel bothered.
-Well, My Child… How did you know about this… society?
-Even a pretty cleaning woman is just a cleaning woman. They were wearing their badges also in some places… Also him. Those Christians with an evil star… When I have visited certain businesses, this lying, fearing and fighting will be over. I hope they will believe she is me. Believe me, Father, this round-and-about talking has not pleased me. But that has been the East-Enders. It is better for everyone, even for Winnie, to think I’m dead. I want to start from a clear slate.
Father Murphy thought he couldn’t do anything more for her. He got off his chair and coughed on his hand. Still confused he gave the benediction:
As a penance Father Murphy told Mary to say a prayer in her grave. For Julia and for herself. She replied:
-Yes. I will do that as soon as possible. Are you asking me to say Our Father with you now? As a contrition?
-Yes… and they prayed that prayer together.
Mary kneeled to the floor and Father Murphy placed his hand on her head. He mingled nervousness with his words during the absolution. At first Mary seemed to act uncomfortable before Father Murphy. But in time she seemed to calm down and in the end Mary didn’t make a strange notion with her face. In fact, the face under the reddish-golden hair seemed to become quite calm. Like never before. As if to say: “Let tomorrow come, whatever it maybe”.
Mary got up. She was smiling that faint little-girl smile again. She slowly moved her left hand to the pocket of the coat. After moments of clinging metal sounds she raised a watch with a silver chain. When she was blinking her eyes constantly, Father Murphy finally realised her talks. The vision blurring for some years, reading painfully Granny’s letter etc. With still blinking eyes Mary said:
-All right. There is plenty of time. I’ll visit some pawn shops today. She raised her head and was staring at Father Murphy.
Mary moved behind his back. The line of the body touched him a little. He had to admit he was still slightly shaking. But he felt uneasy as well, after hearing about her various ordeals. Mary had moved to his front with a broom in her hand.
-Well, Father. Nobody will connect Mary Kelly with a widowed cleaning woman Janet Kane. Where-ever she may be… and you have a church to clean up.
By instinct Father Murphy took the handed broom. Mary was smiling again that smile of hers. She gave a long glance with her drowsy eyes. After a long stare she finally said:
-Sorry, Father David Christian Murphy! and she turned to the back of the priest. Father Murphy turned to ask her, but she was gone. Just as surprisingly as she had appeared inside the church. He wondered where she had got his full name.
The murder took place almost two days after the confession. The body was really mutilated so badly, that not any part of it had been in it’s place and the face had been cut to pieces. The door had to be broken to get inside the room. The rent-collector had been looking for the money. Like Mary thought with Father Murphy. No-one found the key anywhere.
For the next few weeks newspapers and magazines were telling gruesome details of the murder. Right from the start nobody even thought that the victim could have been anybody else except the lodger of “the rat-hole” as Mary had called it. Especially when they confirmed the boots to be hers and when Joseph Barnett had identified the hair and the eyes of the body to be Mary’s. The papers mentioned about her trip to Paris with a man. But there was no mention of Madame Knightsbridge in this context. She was only mentioned shortly in one article without a name. Everyone told Mary to be well educated and a child of a well-off family. Joe Barnett told to have read the newspapers for her though. She was told to have been singing a song called “A Violet from Mother’s Grave” a few hours before the murder.
For the first time in his life Father Murphy had bought a crime paper and he noticed the thing Mary Kelly had thought; you knew it was her on the cover. But the graphic hadn’t caught all of her character. The paper told the timing of the murder was about 45 minutes before the discovery of the body. Which had taken place at 10.45 a.m. Or rather those pieces which had been a body. They couldn’t reconstruct her face, like they had done with the one Mary had called “L’il-Katie”. The police-dogs were only attacking on innocent bystanders.
A tailor said he had seen Mary in the Horn of Plenty. With an orange-seller Dan… and with them there had been some woman. He told Mary to have been dark, five foot and three inches and that he had known her for five years. The tailor also told to have seen Mary in the same pub also the next morning. Caroline Maxwell told to have seen her before him at 8.30 a.m. in a fairly bad condition. Maria Harvey said the clothes burned in the fireplace were hers. The fire had melted a kettle and there had been some ginger beer bottles in the cupboard.
Marie Jeanette Kelly’s funeral was taking place on November the 19thand it became a great gathering of people. Especially in the East End. Her grave was placed in Leytonstone. In the tombstone there was a Celtic cross. Marie Jeanette Kelly, aged 25, had an epigram: ”The Prima Donna of Spitalfields”. She was also thought to be the last-known victim in the murder series. Date of death was Friday 9th of November 1888. Some people had said to have been calling “God, please forgive her.” Father Murphy definitely hoped so. For the sake of both of them. There were no Kellies in the funeral. Henry from the Scottish Guards was absent too. According to the East Enders she called this brother “Johnto”. McCarthy had said she got a letter from her mother from Ireland. Joseph Barnett told her not to be in contact with her family.
Mary’s last boyfriend, Joseph Barnett, also told the newspapers that he left her because of her whore-friends night-stays… and that he was specially irritated by the staying of Julia. He also told there to be a son somewhere. There had been in various newspapers comments of Julia Van Turney. But the other Julia was never in the inquest. Maria Harvey, Caroline Maxwell and Catherine Pickett agreed with Mr. Barnett about Mary’s sober habits and kind nature. They believed her to be from Limerick… and that Mary’s cousin made her familiar with prostitution in Wales. They also told that she had been in a welsh infirmary for almost a year. There were sometimes mentioned her sister living respectably and moving from market to market. Some thought she had relatives on London variety stage.
Little by little the newspapers started to publish more accurate information about the timing of the murder. The two coroners details placed the murder to happen between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., nearly two hours earlier than thought before. In the course of time Scotland Yard dropped off the statements they figured unsuitable to the timeline of the murder. In the death certificate there had been written a.k.a. Davies. And there were stories about a marriage with a collier John Davies.… or Davis. The deceased wasn’t pregnant.
Caroline Maxwell was still absolutely sure she had seen Mary Kelly, her neighbour, near the horse stables. She still told that she was throwing up and complained about intoxicant hallucinations. Mrs. Maxwell told she had said to her: “I pity you”. Father Murphy had an uneasy thought about the penance he had given to Mary. There was also a statement of an unfortunate upstairs to Mary’s apartment. She had told to hear “Murder! Oh murder!” But because of drunkenness Mrs Prater did not care and it seemed to be a rather common cry in the district. Another girl, Sarah Lewis, had stated the cry to come at the door. She didn’t care either.
He was reading again the newspaper. A tailor had sworn again he had seen Mary Kelly in a pub called The Horn of Plenty. But this time the Scotland Yard disregarded these statements. Obviously Mary Kelly had managed in her plans… and there seemed to be absolutely no-one – besides Father Murphy – to tell anything exact about her life… and he felt even he didn’t know all. Maybe Virginia Kelly did. To sober up his mind Father Murphy started to light the candles. He hoped not meet anything like this again.
The doors of the church were wide opened to clear up the stuffiness. Father Murphy was cleaning up the floors. He was still thinking if he had done the right thing. He still asked himself again if the woman really told him everything… and if she really was what she told herself to be. He silently stared at the garbage piling onto the shovel. Then he just had to raise up his head.
Right at the doorstep there appeared a tall thin man. He had a narrow and pale face under his big black top-hat. Thin cheeks were covered by brown sideburns. He had a black long jacket. About on the breast of his jacket there was a cut over the coat itself. The jacket ended upon the black boots. His face was motionless. Green eyes were as if ready to puncture steel. Father Murphy was speechless. He waited the stranger to say something. The stranger waited for a long while.
-Are you… Father Murphy? The low and calm voice had a threatening undertone. Father Murphy didn’t say anything back.
The stranger started walking slowly and calmly towards him. Very slowly, as if calculating. His face was still like steel. His hands were on his waist. On the collar of his jacket was an harp with a scythe on it. Then he stopped a few yards before Father Murphy. He took a long cigar from his pocket.
-A. Millwall…. Scotland Yard… Inspector.
Inspector Millwall was watching the young priest straight to his eyes. He was watching ‘til Father Murphy quite clearly got nervous. Somehow Father Murphy was glad that he had his long-stick broom with him. Inspector Millwall was still staring with total calmness. As if to expect the other one to burst. When Father Murphy was about to start talking, Millwall started first:
-Word’s around, that that bitch made a confession here…
-You see, inspector, I’m a catholic priest and I mustn’t tell anybody… His answer was given hastedly and he was breathing uneasy. He was immediately interrupted.
-And you better remember that, yes?…
Inspector Millwall scratched fire from the wall to his cigar. He was looking at Father Murphy with his absolutely still face. His narrow green eyes were loaded with definition. Father Murphy tried to find any expression, but was irritated in the end. There was a sparkling gruesome grin in Millwall’s mouth.
-Not even to your colleagues…
Millwall took the cigar out of his mouth with a calm stretch. He wrinkled his eyes at Father Murphy.
-Is it clear… Boy?
With a very calm movement he took the cigar from his mouth and looked at the priest stoic. Then he calmly set the cigar back. With arms on his waist he turned his back. Like a man who clearly knew what he said. He started walking slowly towards the door. Now Father Murphy could see him leaning on his walking-stick, limping badly with his right leg…
The stout young woman tried to avoid the old clumsy priest. She almost did it. But her breasts didn’t. Father Murphy was looking up. He did not recognise anything familiar with the high forehead. Neither with the dark brown hair. Or the nut-brown eyes. But that beautifully long nose made him remember something. Despite the girl was wearing her glasses. So did the elegant wide face and strong jaw. The girl gave a little faint little smile with the left side of her face.
-The priest is interested in these things? She asked with a calm soft voice. Then she turned her head to the boyfriend saying:
-We could get married right now, since I have a legal consent from my parents and there is a priest here! The private said with a bright smile:
-C’mon, Janet! He told it with a Boston-like American English.
-All right, Jack! She replied and walked forward to the compartment.
This story is copyrightedÓ by Jukka Ruskeeahde, Huittinen Finland.
"When I know all about everything, I am old. And it's a very, very long way to go!"