Saturday, 2 August 1890

New York City 


     Her cotton shirtwaist stuck to her skin as a bead of sweat trickled down her face. The evening heat was from hell, the hour was dark, and the streets were foreboding. The blond lady dabbed a handkerchief on her forehead. "There will be blood tonight, and it will be on your hands," she mumbled.

     The blond lady hurried along the sidewalk, her eyes locked straight ahead as her long skirt swept over the sidewalk with each quickened pace. She did not have much farther to go before reaching her destination. The street was quiet, with only a few souls moving along Bleecker Street at this late hour. 

     The blond lady seethed with contempt at the late-night sots who stumbled past her and the sight of rowdy sailors searching the street for a cheap brothel.
     The lustful eyes of a tottering drunk gazed with an open mouth as the blond lady hurried past him. Her hair, styled in short braids and twists, danced playfully off her rouged cheeks, and her blue eyes gleamed seductively behind a veil of thick bangs. A faint smile curved her thin lips, painted in a heavy layer of red balm, and her eyes never faltered as she moved swiftly forward, passing the drunk.

     Dangling from her right wrist was a gold bangle that gleamed beneath the streetlights. There was no doubt to anyone looking that she was a harlot.

The blond lady kept up her pace, paying no mind to the teetering drunk, thinking only of what she must do to satisfy her craving. She had only one passion in mind, and it would soon be over. 
     The blond lady was not an ordinary whore or some so-called dolly-mop that hustled men part-time for extra money. She was not like the others flashing their breasts or displaying the soft flesh of an inner thigh to attract a customer. She grinned to herself as she hurried toward her destination. "I'll give them what they truly deserve," she murmured.

     The hour was near midnight, and a full moon loomed over the city, washing it in ghostly shades of gray, its lunar face arousing the plight of madness in weak minds and rattling the cages of those trapped in a state of lunacy. The shadowed alleyways and dark streets seemingly served as harbingers of what the night's first act of insanity might bring. 

     As she approached the corner of Bleecker Street and the Bowery, a Hansom cab rolled past, going in the opposite direction. She glanced at the man staring out the coach window and presumed he was some fancy, upper-class gent looking for a little late-night fun. There was nothing unusual about uptown gentlemen searching the Lower East Side for something strange or devious. She had seen enough of them frequenting the various dives that cater to the perverted and unsavory behavior of men's erotic pleasures. She despised men from aristocratic families who were addicted to the opium joints littering the streets of Chinatown. The blond lady shunned such debaucheries and considered the social elite hypocrites and fools, deserving whatever problems or end that drugs brought them. 
The blond lady grimaced at the stench emanating from a passing night soil wagon trundling down Bleecker Street before turning right at the Bowery, heading south toward the East River, where the driver would dump the contents of its barrels containing raw human waste. Each night, the rickety wagon made its routine stops, going up and down city streets while workers, called soil men, cleaned out one privy after another. 
     Aside from the smell of human waste, there were the tenement buildings and small retail shops that provided trash and garbage to the homeless cats and mongrel dogs that scavenged the neighborhood for food. Yet, they were not the only animals looking for sustenance; there were also the human species stalking the dark streets hunting for something more sinister and much more deadly.

      Jacob Pratt stumbled out of Mulligan's saloon near East Houston Street and the Bowery. The merchant seaman swayed drunkenly on the sidewalk, staring cockeyed at the night soil wagon, turning off Bleecker Street and heading in his direction. As the wagon traveled past him, Jacob took a deep breath and spat out a glob of chewing tobacco. "Smells like shit to me," he grumbled.

       The Bowery was a favorite hangout for Jacob. It was the center for every vice in the city, second only to the Tenderloin district, another notorious shithole smack in the heart of Manhattan. There were well over seven thousand beer taverns, saloons, and bars in New York City, most located in the Bowery or the Tenderloin. And tonight, Jacob Pratt was well on his way to visiting his share of the cheap watering holes.
      There were only two things on the seaman's mind, finding the next barroom and getting laid. It was his time to roar after being stuck on a merchant ship for nearly a month, so Jacob did. He opened his mouth and shook the night air with a loud, disorderly howl heard a block away. "YAHOO! Give me liberty or give me death, you bunch of dollymops, the old rusty gut is heading your way." Jacob grunted and spat again, wiping spittle from his mouth and chin. "Fuckin right," he declared and headed up the street.

     The old salt tugged his bell-bottom pants and wobbled up the sidewalk, his skinny sea legs still trying to adjust to land. Anyone standing close enough could see the word HOLD tattooed on the fingers of his right hand just below the upper knuckles. On his other hand was FAST, inked across the same area. The words were a sure sign that old Jacob had been a merchant seaman for some time and not some vagrant out to pick your pocket.

     Jacob headed toward Bleecker Street on his way to a tavern called the White Whale, another sleazy groggery where the liquor was cheap and the women even cheaper. The smelly beer joint served as a favorite haunt for thirsty seamen fresh off the ships docked at the East River. Since anchoring at the lower Manhattan slips, Jacob had not seen some of his shipmates and looked forward to sharing a few laughs with his friends.

     After he turned left on Bleecker Street, making his way up the block, Jacob saw a woman leaning against a lamppost not far ahead of him. A broad smile spread across his face as he stared bleary-eyed at her curvaceous body bathed in the soft yellow glow of gaslight. Now there's something; he thought while approaching the woman. As Jacob drew closer, his eyes caught the woman waving and beckoning him closer. In Jacob's mind, she was a familiar sight found in every port, another fancy whore looking for a sailor with a pocket full of money.
     Jacob could see she was a good looker and perked up. "Well, hell, honey, how's ya doing," he slurred, his head wavering from too much drink. 
     "I've been waiting just for you, sailor boy. That is if you have four bits in your pocket?" She smiled and winked seductively.

     "I've got more than just four bits in my breeches, lady. I got this." Jacob grabbed his crotch. "How's about some fun, you say?" 
     It was late, and Jacob did not want to miss the last drinking hours, but damned—he was as horny as a two-pecker rabbit, and come hell or high waters, he would get laid. 
     "Well, I've got something to show you too, handsome, but I can't do it here under the light. Maybe we can go in that alley over there, where it's a little darker and more private. What d'you say, sailor boy?" The prostitute took Jacob's hand and led him to a nearby alleyway that ran deep between two tenement buildings.
     "I'm all yours, baby. Lead the way. Old Jake is right behind ya." Jacob looked around and then raised an index finger to his lips and whispered, "Shhh," as though someone might be listening and followed the prostitute into the alleyway.
     The woman led Jacob far enough into the alley where little light could reach them and then turned and smiled at the tipsy seaman. "Let's see your money, big boy?"
     Jacob dug into his pocket and pulled out a few coins, handing her two quarters. "Let's see what ya got, sweets? Old Jacob's getting hard," he moaned, grabbing her shirtwaist.
     "Oh honey, I've got something you'll like, but you need to get down on your knees so I can give you a closer look." The whore grinned as she lifted her skirt halfway up her legs, exposing a glimpse of her white thighs.
     "Oh yeah, that's what old Jacob likes." The seaman lowered his trousers and dropped to his knees, sliding his hands up the smooth flesh of her legs.
     The prostitute smiled broadly, raising her skirt up over her waist, exposing her nudity. She wore no knickers to cover her lower body and stood silently, allowing the drunken sailor to take in her naked form. 
     At first, Jacob didn't say anything. He just stared. But after an awkward moment, he bellowed, "What the fuck!" 
     In front of him was a man's erect penis. 
     Jacob attempted to get up but did not see the flash of a straight razor coming at him. The prostitute quickly swiped the blade across Jacob's throat, opening a wide slit on Jacob's carotid artery. The stunned sailor fell back to his knees, gripping the wound and gasping for air as blood oozed down his chest. Jacob's eyes opened wide, stricken in horror as he folded over onto the ground, blood draining from his neck.
     The killer stooped down on her knees, placing the straight razor on the ground next to her, and straightened her gold bangle as she stared at Jacob's body writhing in the dark. After waiting for the victim's last breath to expire, she then reached into the dead man's pockets and took the rest of his money. The killer then pulled Jacob's drawers down over his buttocks, picked up the blade, and carved a large X on the victim's left cheek.
     Satisfied with her work, she wiped the steel blade on Jacob's shirt and then stood, folding the razor back into its handle before inserting the instrument into a hidden pocket sewed in the seam of her skirt. She brushed the dirt from her dress, gave a slight tug to her shirt, and calmly left the alley, looking in both directions before heading down Bleecker Street and crossing the Bowery.
The blond lady moved swiftly without looking back and disappeared into the night, swallowed by the dark shadows of the impoverished slums and the grisly atmosphere of Manhattan's Lower East Side.