Monday, October 7, 2013

Excerpt: Blood, Smoke and Ashes by Bradley Convissar @bconvisdmd


“So that is the infamous Jane the Ripper,” Jack Shaw said to Detective Laura Goodspeed.  “Scourge of men looking for a casual night of paid sex.  Hardly looks the type, don’t you think?”  The FBI agent sipped coffee from a Styrofoam cup as he watched the medics heave the gurney holding the unconscious girl into the back of a waiting ambulance.  If she felt any of the violent jostling as she was moved, she offered no sign.

Laura nodded.  “She can’t be more than five-foot-four, a hundred and twenty pounds.  Hardly seems possible that she killed four men almost twice her weight.  But she did.  There’s no question about it.  We’ve already matched her fingerprints to those found at the other crime scenes.  We don’t have an ID yet, but it’s her.”

It was two-thirty in the morning, the night clear and muggy, a full moon hovering low above the entrance to the alley where a circus was slowly assembling.  Two ambulances, four marked police cars, two unmarked cars, and Shaw’s Expedition already clogged the street.  Two news vans were just coming into view and a small congregation of people had begun to gather around the black and yellow police tape, the spectators whispering in hushed tones and pointing.  If this had happened even three hours ago, the circus would have been in high gear already.  But in the middle of the night, it took the news outlets more time to mobilize, giving the authorities more time to deal with the situation unmolested.  

“I guess when you’re dealing with drunk men with their pants around their ankles, even a small girl can take down Goliath,” Shaw said, turning back to his Miami connection.  “How was she caught?”

Laura shrugged.  “Some guy wanting to be a hero.  His name is James Wilson.  Big guy, a little over six feet.  And heavy.  Told me he’s basically wandered the streets every night since the first murder two weeks ago, pretending to be drunk.  Wanted to be the one to finally catch her.  When he knocked her out, he called 9-1-1.  They called me, I called you.”

Shaw stood a respectable six-foot-two, thin and wiry in build.  Like always, he wore a suit that fit his body so well, followed his movements so perfectly, it may as well have been a second skin. That evening it was a charcoal gray affair with white pinstripes, a white shirt and a fuchsia tie that adorned him.  Combined with his perfectly coifed salt-and-pepper hair, piercing blue eyes that commanded respect, and a rugged, tan face with just enough wrinkles to say that he had been around the block a time or two, he practically oozed authority. 

Laura Goodspeed, lead detective from the Miami Police Department, was Jack Shaw’s antithesis in most respects when it came to appearance.  She was five-foot-eight and slender, the top of her head just coming up to Shaw’s chin.  The navy pantsuit she wore was wrinkled in numerous places, as if she had recently slept in it.  Her blonde hair was pulled back in a sloppy pony tail and her face was simply haggard from the many late nights she had recently pulled.  All the make-up in her house couldn’t cover the bags that hung under her eyes like bruises.  Though forty-three, she looked closer to fifty than forty these days.  This case had put her through the proverbial wringer and she was ecstatic that it was finally over.  She would take a week off, maybe go to a spa, and try to recover some of her lost youth. She envied Shaw, envied the way he made looking good—no, not good, perfect—appear so effortless, even after the stress of working for the FBI for so many years.  She imagined he jumped out of bed every morning looking flawless.  It wasn’t fair.

But life wasn’t fair, and she was old enough to not only know that, but accept it.  So instead of punching the man who had treated her with nothing but the utmost respect and professionalism since he had arrived in town two weeks ago, she simply sighed slightly and turned her attention back to the topic at hand.

“Surprised no one else thought to do what he did over the past fifty years,” Laura said.  “Dangerous and stupid but effective.”

“Who’s to say no one has tried?  He may have been the first one to actually encounter her.  Or the only one to survive the encounter. It’s more serendipity than anything that he actually did.  He was in the right place at the right time, and he was lucky enough to not get himself killed.  He couldn’t have planned this.  There are too many alleys and too many whores in this city, and there was no way for him to know where she would be.”

Neither Shaw nor Laura said anything for a moment, just watched as the forensics people and the uniformed officers swarmed around the scene, a deep dark alley between a bar frequented by locals and a bicycle shop.  They watched as the paramedics closed the back doors of the ambulance that the newest Jane the Ripper copycat had been loaded into, then turned their attention to the second ambulance where James Wilson, hero of the night, was still being treated by another set of paramedics.  Though he had subdued the girl, he had suffered his share of injuries during the struggle, including several superficial and glancing stab wounds.  He would be taken to the hospital as well, but since his injuries weren’t life threatening, Laura had spoken to him here before his memories began to become hazy.  Now that she was finished with him, the medics would transport him to St. Vincent’s for treatment.

“Do you want to talk to him?” Laura asked.

Shaw shook his head.  “I’ll get to him tomorrow when the adrenaline is gone and he’s patched up.  I’ll take a look at your notes, too.”  He paused, then asked, “Did he have any neck wounds?”

“He says she went for his throat but he was able to keep her away.  He says she was strong.  Stronger than a girl her size should be.  And fast.  But he managed to strike that lucky blow before she could gut him.”  Another pause, then Laura asked, “Do you think this is the original Jane the Ripper?”

“The first?  Molly Blackburn?  She was caught and executed in fifty-five.”

“Not her.  I mean the first after her.  The first copycat?”

“The one who killed the priest in Carson City?  That was fifty-six, only a year later.  Even if the girl was twenty back then, she would be seventy now.  And that girl was not seventy.  Even if she looked good for her age, she couldn’t have been more than fifty.  And that’s pushing it.  She definitely looked like she was in her late twenties or early thirties.”

“I know, I know.  Stupid question.  Just felt that I should ask.  After all, you’re the expert.”

“There’s no such thing as an expert when it comes to the Jane the Ripper murders,” Shaw said.  “You can’t have an expert when none of the murderers have been caught.”  He sipped his coffee and sighed.

“So you think we’re dealing with a copycat of a copycat?”

He nodded.  “Or a copycat of a copycat of a copycat.  We have no idea.  Jane the Ripper has shown up five times since Molly Blackburn’s execution.  Each time in a different city: Carson City, LA, St. Louis, Detroit and now here.  The first three were never caught and their identities were never discovered.  The fourth was identified but we never found her. She disappeared when she was finished. We don’t have prints from the previous murder sprees.  So we may never know how many copycats there were.  The only thing I can say with any certitude is that this is the only time we actually managed to stop her before she hit the magic mark of eleven bodies.  She only got to four.”

“So we did good.”

“I think if you asked Mr. Wilson’s opinion, he’d say that he did good, not us.  And you know what?  He may be right.  Either way, Detective Goodspeed, after hunting Jane the Ripper for over thirty years, it will be nice to finally interview one of them.”

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Genre – Thriller / Horror

Rating – PG13 bordering on R

(Horror with some violence / Some sex, not overly graphic)

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