Friday, October 5, 2012

Ripperologists Take Note

In Blood of the Centipede, our hero spends a bit of time pondering the mystery of the true identity of Jack the Ripper.  At one point, he has one of his cryptically prophetic dreams. Readers familiar with the Ripper case, and the endless parade of suspects that have been put forward in books, magazines, and other media over the last 124 years, might enjoy trying to identify the individuals who show up in the dream. Can you name them all? 

From Blood of the Centipede, Chapter 17

 ...That night, I had one of my dreams:

I was in a courtroom, seated behind the judge's bench. The room was otherwise empty, save for twelve figures seated in the jury box.

The man closest to me, in the left-hand front row seat, stood. He was a dignified older gentleman, nicely dressed, a bit overweight, with gray hair and side whiskers.” Do not let them gull you, William, sir," he said solemnly. "It is not I."

As the first man resumed his seat, a second man stood. He was dark, with a sallow complexion, a small mustache and thyroid eyee. He was obviously an aristocrat, possibly even a royal. "The killer is not just an eddy in the current of time," he said. "He means to divert the stream for his own ends."

The third man rose. He was wringing wet, and his jacket pockets appeared to be filled with stones. "The Druids are not the men that can be blamed for anything. I am innocent, and any attempt to frame me is simply not cricket."

The fourth was a Bohemian type, and I had the feeling that he was some sort of an artist. "It sickens me, sir," he said, "that I may be accused of these crimes. The accusations are pure corn, dredged up from a bottomless well. Clear my name that I may grow no sicker."

The fifth man looked rather familiar. I couldn't place him, but he seemed to be at home in a courtroom. His suit was not merely modern, it seemed to be slightly futuristic. "We Masons are well out of it too, My Lord."

Number six was a crude-looking individual, a tradesman of some sort, by the look of him. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and he wore a long, brownish leather apron. "I was elsewhere on the nights in question. I do not now, nor have I ever enjoyed kidneys, ginny or otherwise."

The seventh, a portly man, respectable in appearance, though exhibiting unmistakable signs of dissipation, said, "May I be bricked up in a wall if I had anything to do with the atrocities. There was only ever the one Florrie, and she was sufficient."

Number eight, a prim-looking individual who identified himself as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, stood and said, quite simply, "I have no idea why I am here. That I could warrant inclusion in this company is one impossible thing that I shall not believe before breakfast, or after."

The ninth man, a rough-hewn chap dressed like a Nineteenth Century coachman, said, "I beg the court to recognize the fact that I do not exist and never have. The accusation nettles me intolerably. Guv'nor."

The tenth was a tall and imposing individual clad in what appeared to be a clerical robe of some sort. His hair and beard were wild and matted and his eyes gleamed. "I am not insane, nor have I taken holy orders," he said in a thick accent I could not identify. "And while I did not 'dror mi nife along of er bloomin throte,' I do bear watching."

The final "juror" to rise and speak was a woman. She was so familiar to me that I failed to recognize her. "If it please the court," she said, "I know this man of whom you speak. He is almost impossible to pin down, I'm afraid. He is a shadow. However, he has a fatal flaw. He imagines his daughter to be a Cordelia who will offer him succor. Instead, the shadow of the gallows will  fall upon him."

The twelfth figure seated in the jury box did not rise, nor did he speak. He sat in glacial silence, his elbows on the chair arms, fingers steepled under his chin. He did not turn his head to look at me, and I was glad.

I knew that if he did, I would surely die. 


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