It is early morning in London’s West-end Soho district. In past years, a fashionable area of rich families and aristocrats—but over time, the parasitic moral and economic decaying that historically happens to all metropolitan cities has resulted in an influx of scalawags and miscreants. But sadly, the area is now infested with bawdy music halls, opium dens, and squalid rooming and eating houses under the proprietorship of foreign nationals.
This night in December, 1896, the weather is being contrary. Instead of the dense, pervasive fog that often wraps the city in its tentacles, menacing dark clouds and frightening rolls of thunder have brought a torrential downpour. Out of the nearly impenetrable dark, as though echoing the thunder, we hear the resonant voice of Big Ben chime four times. The darkness of the night is further blackened by a fierce wind that has extinguished most of the gas lamps. That fact, coupled with the blinding sheets of rain, is making objects even less discernable than does the customary fog..
Nevertheless, through the rain, we see a shadowy figure moving unsteadily along one of the narrow, litter-filled, cobblestone streets. As the scene is brilliantly illuminated by a lightning flash, we realize it is a man—or, at least, it resembles a man—a large, no, more correctly, a bulky man, in a raincoat.
The lightning and clap of thunder cause him to cower against the rough stone wall of a building, and, as his gaze is fixed momentarily in our direction, we see his face, a face totally covered by hair—short, brown hair. But what causes us to gasp, are his eyes—red-rimmed eyes with coal black pupils. We shudder as we remember our trip to a morgue. He quickly pulls the raincoat over his head and continues his journey, splashing through ankle-deep water in his irregular, sometimes shuffling, gait.
Half a block ahead, another dark figure appears to be hurrying as best it can against the wind and pummeling rain. It stops beneath one of the few illuminated gas lamps.
We see it is a woman—a woman who appears older than her years, returning home after a long, futile night of parading her time-worn wares. She looks about, clutches her skimpy, sodden shawl around her slender, stooped shoulders, and disappears into an alley.
Meanwhile, the bulky man in the raincoat has quickened his awkward pace. At the alley, he stops, turns and seems to be sniffing the saturated air. A low growl issues from his lips, and he follows the woman into the blackness.
We hear hurrried footsteps, a scuffle, then, a terrifying, macabre scream.
Moments later, the figure of the man appears briefly in the glow from the gas lamp. Now, his eyes have been complemented by another red—a moist liquid is dripping from the mass of brown hair around his mouth. While his hairy right hand clutches his collar up around his face, we see the glint of a golden chain dangling from his left. He slyly peers around him, and is immediately swallowed by the darkness of the night, as he continues his stumbling journey.
It is a November afternoon, a month earlier, in the same West-end Soho district. The upper floor of the sole structure that has least succumbed to this infestation of squalor is the home and office of one of London’s leading physicians. A long-time resident, he, as the others who have since moved to the more respectable areas of Marlybone and Mayfair, detests the corruption that has blighted Soho. Still he, a stubborn man of purpose, remains.
Seemingly aloof to the decay around him, he often toils into the night in his laboratory. The cries and loud noises emanating from within, heard in the darkest pre-dawn hours, have created rumors and fear among the God-fearing populace.
But, on this unusual sunlit day, we find him in the kitchen. He is interviewing an applicant for the position of housemaid. The applicant, a thin, prematurely bent woman, is clothed in a tattered, faded dress. We first notice her eyes, they are remarkable—the large, kindly eyes of a compassionate, loving person. Secondly, we notice she is twisting a handkerchief in her fingers.
The man’s voice breaks the silence, “Don’t be nervous, Madam, this isn’t an inquisition. As a physician, I have certain needs and requirements.”
The woman’s posture slacks, and she stops twisting the handkerchief. “I understands, sir. You being a gentleman, and a doctor, and all.”
“Yes. And I tend to need assistance at odd hours. For instance, would you be averse to coming to my call at two or three in the morning?”
“No, guv’nor, whatever’s part of my job.”
“But it says here you have a little daughter.”
“That’s true, sir. Little Angel. Two years old, she is. But my Ed’ard’s ’ome… ’e can watch ’er. And there’s our neighbor, Mrs. Gafferty, if ’e can’t.”
“Good. Now that’s cleared up, let’s get to the fundamentals.”
Some twenty minutes, and as many questions, later, the doctor nods and says, “Very well, Madam, your papers certainly seem to be in order.”
“Yes, sir, guv’nor, keep things nice and tidy, I does.”
“And your references…seem to be from well respected local families.”
“Best of the best, if ya don’t mind me sayin’ so, your ’ighness.”
“Yes. And, you being a married lady…and one of less than pleasant appearance, shall we say…er, uh, no offense meant.”
“None taken, sir.”
“What I mean is…I don’t think you’ll be eloping with one of my patients, as did the attractive young wench before you.”
“Lordy me! ’eavens no, guv’nor. Me and my Ed’ard are ’appy as clams, we is.”
“Fine. Then, you’ll be starting tomorrow?”
“As you say, your ’ighness. And Lord bless the likes of ya, givin’ a poor unfortunate soul such as m’self a position with such a fine gentleman.”
As she walks toward the door, the doctor asks, “Oh, what shall we call you?”
The woman turns, and says, “Sir?”
“Yes, we’re rather informal here. What is your given name?”
“Oh, m’ name’s Formalda.”
Outside, Formalda hurried along the narrow streets. Three blocks later, she stopped in front of an unpainted, wooden door on the lower floor of a brownstone flat. She took a large key from her handbag and inserted it into the lock. She entered and closed the door.
The room is dimly-lit and sparse, and the odor of sweat, mixed with the unmistakable, stringent smell of urine permeates the air. The only objects in our view are a large chair, an unpainted bureau, a small, three-legged stool, and, against the far wall, a bed covered in a faded, lavender-colored blanket. The lone window is covered by two, un-matching, pillow cases. Atop the bureau sat an alarm-clock, a broken wooden frame displaying a photo of a baby, and a single candle in the remnants of a once-expensive candelabra, it’s silver-plating chipped and scaling. Above these, on the wall, hangs a soiled plaque. We can barely make out the carefully embroidered, once-colorful, words: Hovel Sweet Hovel.
From the only other room, a man entered. In a gravelly voice he said, “You’re ’ome, Fo. An’ it’s glad to see ya, I am.”
“No luck again today, eh, Ed’ard?”
“None such, dearie. You’d think I was a animal, the way they treats me.”
“Well, one day it’ll ’appen. You’ll find just the right job.”
The man was not especially tall, still his bulk nearly filled the door. Not cleanly shaven, his face, neck, and hands were covered in a fine, dark-brown hair. But it is his eyes that command our gaze—the normally white eye-balls were a deep red.
Formalda asked, “Where’s our Angel?”
“Left ’er with Mrs. Gafferty while I was out. I’ll pop ’round an’ get ’er.”
“Don’t forget to thank the dear thing for watchin’ ’er.”
“I’ll do,” Edward said, as he closed the door.
When Edward returned, he was cuddling a little child in his arms, a beautiful girl with dark eyes like her mother’s, and a head of curly, dark-brown hair. He placed her in a high-chair acquired during one of their late-night scavenges—one he’d wired-together.
Formalda, busy preparing their meager supper of fish heads and dumplings, said, “Now, go wash up. Supper’s almost ready.”
Edward nodded, and, in his lumbering gait, went into the lavatory. Above his splashing sounds, Formalda yelled, “You’da been proud of me today, Ed’ard. Got me a job with a doctor.”
Edward re-entered. Rubbing his moist hair with a soiled remnant of a towel, he shouted, “Cor Blimey!”
With the towel still draped over his head, he took Formalda’s hands and they did a shuffling dance. He suddenly stopped and asked, “Not the weird’n who lives in that old fancied-up building, I ’opes.”
“The very one. And ’e’s not weird like people think. Real gentleman, I calls ’im.”
“I dunno,” said Edward. “’eard some queer things been goin’ on…late hours, and all.”
“That’s ’cause ’e’s a doctor. ’sper’ments…you know.”
Edward took her in his long arms, hugged her, and said, “Well, I wish it was me gettin’ a job. But I’m proud of ya, Fo. Real proud. Maybe life’ll be better now…’ave wood for the ’eater….” He put his hands on their daughter’s shoulders, “an’ keep Angel warm.”
As they sat at the table, Edward asked, “And what’s this grand doctor’s name?”
“Jekyll, it is. Doctor ’enry Jekyll.”
For a week and more, Formalda and Edward’s new daily schedule went as planned. Early each morning, Formalda walked to her job at Dr. Jekyll’s, while Edward stayed home and cared for Angel. Then, at day’s end, Edward, with Angel in his arms, strolled to the doctor’s office and walked his wife home.
On Wednesday of the second week, a peculiarly warm, sunny day for November, Edward took Angel for a stroll. The stroll grew into a lengthy walk, and he realized it was about time for his wife to end her daily chores. He rang the bell at the service door. A surprised Formalda opened it and saw their smiling faces.
She was not as delighted as he had hoped. “’ere,” she said, “you’re too early. I’m not sure this is a good idea. Don’t know how the master’ll take to you comin’ ’ere like this durin’ workin’ hours.”
Edward, taken back by her response, said, “Oh, sorry Fo. ’adn’t thought ’bout that. Just thought you’d be ’bout done and we’d give ya a s’prise. Maybe stop at the pub for a plate of bangers an’ mash on the way ‘ome. But ’ere, let’s ’ave a little ’ug, an’ we’ll wait outside.”
He placed Angel on the edge of the counter and enfolded Formalda in his arms.
The kitchen door opened, and Dr. Jekyll entered.
He gruffly said, “Well, what have we here? An afternoon tryst? A forbidden rendezvous? Really, Madam, I did expect better from…”
Edward, surprised, turned toward the sound of Jekyll’s voice. The doctor could now see Angel on the counter.
“Oh, now I’m the embarrassed one,” said Jekyll. “I’m gazing upon your husband and child. Am I right?”
Formalda, having retreated before the doctor’s onslaught, stepped forward and said, “Right you are, your sirship. Ed’ard’s just stopped by with our little Angel. ’e meant no ’arm sir. Just wanted to walk me ’ome like ’e does…it being dark out this time of year and all. I told him ’e hadn’t a oughta, an’ ’e was just leavin’…an’ I’m not behind in my work, sir…I’ll stay an hour or two longer to make up for it, sir, if you so desires.”
While Formalda cried out her passionate pleas, Jekyll stood with arms crossed, and seemed deep in thought, his eyes fixed on Angel.
As Formalda concluded, the doctor’s gaze rested on Edward.
Jekyll, as one awakening from a nap, opened his arms, and, while still staring at Edward, said, “You’ll do no such thing. It’s a fine family you have. There’s many who’d envy you.”
As Edward took Angel in his arms to leave, he said, “The way things ’as got in the neighbor’ood an’ all, it’s no place for a lady to be walkin’ after dark. An’ nobodys doin’ nothin’ ’bout it. That’s what boils me…just standin’ by and lettin’ the bleedin’ ’oodlums take over.”
Jekyll’s posture stiffened as he said, “You’re so right, sir, the desecration of the neighborhood is one of my prime concerns. Just the other day…but I mustn’t go into all that now.”
He opened the door, and with a sweeping movement of his arm, said, “Take your lady and go. And a fair night to you all.”
As the three departed, Edward turned and said, “I’m proud to ’ave met yer, doctor, and ’ope we’ll be meetin’ again.”
Jekyll, his gaze on Edward, watched as the trio disappeared into the dusk. He closed the door and softly said, “I’m sure we shall, Mr. Hyde. I’m sure we shall.”
Three days later, while Edward watched Angel at home, a knock on the door interrupted their play. A messenger on a bicycle said, “Got a letter for Ed’ard ’yde. You be ’im?”
Edward, being late in this month’s rent payment, and concerned it was another notice from their landlord, warily said, “I may be ’im… an’ I may not…’pendin’ on what office you’re from.”
The boy pushed his cap back on his head, crushed his glowing cigarette stub under his boot, and said, “I couldn’t care one or t’other, guv’nor. I was paid to deliver this ’ere note from Dr. ’enry Jekyll, and I ain’t got all day. Now, are you this ’ere Ed’ard ’yde or not?”
Edward reached out his hand for the envelope and answered, “That’d be me. Gimme it.”
The boy hesitated. Then, realizing he wasn’t going to get a penny for his service, handed the envelope to Edward.
Edward hastily closed the door. He ripped the envelope open and unfolded the embossed stationery he took from within. He read,
Dear Mr. Hyde, it is comforting and reassuring to find someone who, as I, feels so strongly the need to restore Soho to its previous heights of grandeur. I would be grateful if we could meet at my home this evening at eleven p.m. Discretion is advised.
When Edward escorted Formalda home that evening, he was full of questions. “Whatcha s’pose ‘e wants, Fo? What’s it all about, d’ya think?”
“Lordy be!” answered his wife. “I can’t guess what the dear man ’as on ’is mind. But, knowin’ ’im like I do, I bet it’s somethin’ you’ll be proud to be doin’. Now, relax and play with Angel, while I fix supper.”
At 10:40 p.m., Edward departed for his clandestine meeting with the good doctor.
Formalda, awakened by the banging of the door, the loud, gruff, swearing of her husband, and the crying of Angel, opened her eyes to darkness. She groped her way to the bureau and lit the candle. The clock hands read 3:15. She took the baby in her arms and soothed her. Edward paced like a caged beast and used expletives she hadn’t heard him use before.
With Angel calmed and back in her crib, a frightened Formalda approached Edward with trepidation.
“Lordy be, Ed’ard. Whatever’s the matter? What’s got you so worked up?”
She tried to put her arms about him, but he backed away and yelled, “Man’s a fiend! A fiend!”
“Who’s a fiend, Ed’ard…who?”
“Jekyll, that’s who. Your dear doctor Jekyll. Mad as a coot, ’e is.”
Formalda took him by the arm, “Now here, Ed’ard, sit down and tell me what’s causin’ all the cursing.”
“It’s ’im…Jekyll…wants me to do ’einous things. Terrible things. Aaugh! Makes me shudder to think of it.”
“What kind of things you talkin’ about? What kinda things?”
“Murder! Murder most bloody…most foul. Tell ya, Fo, man’s a sick, barmy beast. I gets to ’is place and ’e starts talkin’ ’bout ’ow we both agree somethin’s gotta be done to clear the vermin…’is word, ‘vermin’…outta Soho. Get it back like it was.”
“I agreed. Like I told ’im before. But then ’e tells me ’is plan. Aaugh! Barmy fiend! Barmy!”
“Ed’ard, what’s so barmy?”
“Wants to kill ’em all, ’e does. ‘Kill the vermin’ ’e says. But it’s not ’imself who’s gonna be doin’ ’is dirty work. No, not intendin’ to bloody ’is lily-white ’ands…’e’s not. Wants me to do ’em in. All of ’em. The thieves, the ’ores, the beggars…even the little street urchins.”
“The urchins too? Lordy me! Whadja say? Whadja tell ’im, Ed’ard?”
“Told ’im no way I was gonna do them nasty deeds. Told ’im ’e was crazy. Told ’im, sure I wanted to clean up where we lived…but not by killin’.”
“Wha’d’ he say then?”
“Called me a coward. Said I didn’t ’ave the guts to back up me own beliefs. Told me to keep me mouth shut, if I knew what was good for me family. Practically threw me outta the ’ouse.”
Edward stood and took his wife in his arms. “I don’t want you goin’ back to that place again, Fo. Not ever again. Promise me, Fo.”
“I promise, dear, I promise. Never again. We’ll get by.”
Two days later, Edward and Formalda had conflicting job interviews. Little Angel was left with Mrs. Gafferty.
Formalda, dejected at being rejected at her interview, walked slowly homeward. She was rehearsing what she was going to tell Edward in a way that would be less disappointing. She hoped his interview would go well, so her failure wouldn’t be as important. She heard yelling ahead of her and looked up.
Edward was running toward her, screaming and waving his arms. As he drew closer, she could see he was in tears. He was yelling, “Murder! Murder, Fo. Murder!”
Before he reached her, she heard, “Mrs. Gafferty’s dead… an’ I can’t find Angel!”
The Hyde’s spoke to the police, who were aghast at the sight of the bloody spectacle to which they’d been summoned. At first, Edward and Formalda’s pleas to search the dead woman’s home were denied, but the bobby on duty finally recanted his orders, and they frantically searched every nook and cranny of Mrs. Gafferty’s house. They scoured their neighborhood, entreating their neighbors for any information they might have about Angel’s disappearance—all to no avail. They had found no sign of Angel, and no clues to her whereabouts. They returned home after three a.m. and eventually fell into a fitful sleep.
Edward was awakened by two knocks. He stumbled and fell in the darkness, regained his feet and opened the door. As his pupils adjusted to the first light of dawn, he noticed a folded piece of paper on the threshold. He quickly took the note in hand and opened it. A lock of hair fell to the ground. Edward picked up the curly cutting. He knew it came from his precious daughter’s head.
His eyes focused on the piece of paper in his trembling hands. Five hastily inscribed words tore into his eyes:
Now we’ll talk.
Edward woke Formalda and showed her the note and lock of hair. Her immediate panic and tears were somewhat abated when Edward said, “Hold, Fo. It could be worse. At least we know she’s alive.”
His wife, still clutching to him, said, “’ow do we know that?”
“Jekyll’d ’ave no hold over me if she were dead. No, ’e’s got ’er.”
He rose, hastily dressed, hugged Formalda and opened the door.
“But you’re not to be goin’. It’s not ten,” cried Formalda.
Edward hadn’t completely donned his coat when, with his hand on the door knob, he said, “I’ll be damned if I’m waitin’. We ain’t playin’ by ’is rules yet.”
Edward stormed out the door into the frost-laden air of dawn. Only then did he notice they’d had their first snowfall of the season, and in the smooth surface of freshly fallen flakes, a single set of foot imprints. He followed them directly to Jekyll’s.”
“Yes, ’e’s got ’er,” a distraught Edward said when he took his wife in his arms less than an hour later.
“You’re sure? No mistake? Didja see her?” asked Formalda.
“No. None such luck. But ’e showed me one of ’er shoes. ’e’s got ’er, and ’e’s got us…well, me, anyway.”
Formalda stepped back out of his embrace. “Whatcha mean, ‘you, anyway’?”
“’e’s ’oldin’ Angel until I do ’is biddin…like I told ya before. Gonna ’ave me do ’em all in. ‘Til all the contamination’s dead an’ gone.’ That’s how he put it…‘Dead an’ gone.’”
“But, Edward, you can’t…”
“Can’t what? Maybe I couldna last week…but as God be me witness, I sure am gonna do what I gotta do to get our darlin’ back. What else can I do? What else can we do, Fo?”
That night, at two a.m., came two knocks at the door. When Edward opened the envelope, something fell out. He caught it in his hand and sucked in his breath—a small barrette adorned with colorful butterflies. He remembered the evening when they found the little piece of cheap costume jewelry that Angel treasured. He drew from the envelope a folded piece of paper with a name and address scrawled upon it.
He hurriedly dressed, tore himself from Formalda’s restraining grasp and strode out into the cold, dark, foreboding night.
Edward had little trouble finding the address on the note—a decaying wooden structure in one of the lower class neighborhoods. He gained entrance through a rear window and quickly completed his revolting mission.
In less than an hour, Edward returned home. As he took a golden ring from his pocket and put into a bureau drawer, he looked into Formalda’s inquisitive eyes and said, “Choked ’im quick-like. Poor bastard didn’t suffer much. Ought to keep Jekyll ’appy for awhile. Maybe now ’e’ll be ready to give Angel back.”
The banner of the following day’s issue of The Times visually shouted: “HORRIBLE MURDER IN SOHO!”
Artist’s sketches and page after page of gruesome adjectives, described the disordered scene of the crime. The victim, a male, had been strangled with such force his neck was broken. Many items of jewelry and other valuables, recently reported stolen or missing, were recovered on the premises. The police stated the victim was a known criminal whom they’d previously not been able to convict.
That night, two knocks at the door again disturbed their slumber.
Edward ripped open the envelope. As he removed a folded paper, another small envelope fell to the floor. Puzzled, Edward and Formalda exchanged stares.
“What?” they asked in unison.
Formalda stooped, picked up the envelope, and opened it. At first, it appeared to be empty, but she noticed small pieces of something in the bottom. She poured them into her hand.
“Our baby’s fingernail clippings!” Formalda cried, as she clasped them to her bosom.
“Bloody ’ell!” yelled Edward. “What’s the bastard mean? Is ’e giving ’er back one piece at a time?”
He quickly opened the paper, and together they read, in the same handwriting as the previous note:
“More gore! I want more blood and gore!
Or it’ll be more than just her nails
you’ll be looking at.
I can no longer live with the desecration of my neighborhood.
“What’s ’e mean? asked a sobbing Formalda.
“It’s like I said. ’e wants me to make it look like some mad monster’s doin’ these folk in . Not ’appy me just breakin’ their necks. Wants me to cut ’em up or rip ’em up…anything to get bigger ’eadlines. Wants the whole bleedin’ world to know what’s ’appenin’ in Soho.”
We move ahead to our previous blustery, rainy evening in early December.
Formalda opened the door to Edward’s knock. “You’re finally ’ome! ’ad me worried ta death. Lordy be! Look at ya, Ed’ard…all smattered with blood. Runnin’ amok again, eh?”
Edward cursed under his breath, an unfamiliar curse which sounded more like a growl. Then, not unlike a wet animal, he shook himself, sending a cascade of water onto the uncarpeted, much-trodden, stained, wooden floor.
He reached into his pocket and took out the glistening chain. As he put it into the bureau drawer, we see it has a locket attached.
Formalda asked, “What’s with the jewelry, Ed’ard? Why you takin’ that?”
“Jekyll told me too…wants proof…or souvenirs…or somethin’. Told ya e’s a weird un.”
“Lordy be. Sure is.”
That done, Edward wiggled out of his raincoat. He then broke his silence, “Yeah, Fo…I’m ’ome…not that it’s a blessin’ to ya.”
“No, it’s never a blessin’. You out there. Me not knowin’ what terrible avoc you’re causin’. And look at the blood all over your face. ’ere, let me take this wet rag to it. You know ’ow ’ard it is to get off when it’s dried. What poor souls didja do in tonight?”
“Only one poor soul, as you calls ’em. Some trollop who’d braved this god-awful weather… tryin’ to make ends meet. Did ’er in quick, though…I did. Put ’er outta ’er misery, ya’ might say. ’it ’er with a pipe before I bit ’er neck. Blood spurtin’ all over which way. That oughta keep ’im ’appy!”
Formalda, applying a soiled, wet towel to Edward’s facial hair in an attempt to remove the moist, but sticky, substance, said, “That’s me man, kind as they come. One bite and a rip an’ ’e’s done done it.”
“Yeah, got it down to a science. No more of the wailin’, writhin’, an’ flailin’ like before.”
Formalda sighed. She sat on the stool at Edward’s feet, and said, “It’s good to know the miserable creature didn’t suffer much, but it’d be so much better if it didn’t ’ave to ’appen at all.”
“Now, now, Fo…we’ve been over this a thousand times. When the master calls, I’ve gotta…do ’is biddin’. You know that. ’e’s got me by the bollocks… and there’s nothin’ to do but ’is biddin’.”
Formalda put her arms around her husband’s shoulders. She noticed the damp hair beneath his eyes and said, “I know, Ed’ard, it’s like you say. But there’s gotta be some way we can put an end to it. Some way we can get Angel back.”
“Well, there ain’t…least none I can see yet,” came the tearful reply.
Formalda stood and softly said, “I know. I know. But we just gotta think of some way.”
The two stared at each other for a moment, as though hoping to find an answer to their dilemma in their mate’s eyes.
Formalda broke the silence, “Well, you best be gettin’ outta them wet things anyway.”
Edward labored to shed the rain-soaked flannel shirt and woolen pants. Once done, he tossed them, and the raincoat, into a pile of other unwashed, blood-stained clothes in the corner.
His hairy body bereft of the sodden garments, Edward plopped into the chair—a tattered, over-stuffed relic they’d rescued on one of their late-night scavenges. Snug and warm, he looked sheepishly at his wife and said, “I could sure use me a pint of bitters. We ’ave any ?”
“Not a drop. But ya’d best get some rest…no tellin’ when our lord-and-masher’s gonna spirit ya away again.”
“No, don’t think we’ll ’ear from the bloody blighter for awhile… shouldn’t think. Not after ’e reads tomorrow’s papers.”
The following evening, they again sat in their room. Formalda held the daily edition of the The Times in her lap. The front-page banner screamed— “ANOTHER BLOODY MURDER IN SOHO.” Two full pages, lavishly adorned with artist’s sketches of the blood-spattered scene, were devoted to a description of the crime, the fifth in two months.
“Look, Ed’ard, the whole bloody town’s goin’ crazy. Listen to this: it says the editor’s blamin’ the Mayor for not puttin’ more pressure on the Police Chief.”
Edward said, “Mayor puttin’ pressure on the Police Chief…that’s sumpin’ the likes of which this world’s never gonna see. That poff couldn’t put pressure on a …”
Formalda continued, “An’ the police chief’s blamin’ the editor of the paper. Says he’s publishing too many facts about the clues.”
Edward leaned forward, his eyes narrowed to slits, “What clues?” he growled, “Didn’t leave no clues.”
“He mentions some personal jewelry and such that’s missin’, and says they found some clumps of oily, dark-brown ’air. The Scotland Yard blokes at their labor’tory say the ’air’s from an unknown species of ape or gorilla.”
Edward chortled. He rose and mimicked a monkey’s movements— bending over, swinging his arms, and making guttural sounds. “So, it’s a monkey I am, am I? Hummmph! That’ s all right with this bloke… keep ’em busy at the zoo for awhile I ’magine.”
The name-calling and blame-passing did serve to heighten the search for the murderer—and certainly increased the daily circulation of The Times— but the true identity of the villain was as obscure as it had been two months previous.
As Edward had predicted, for five days there were no late-night raps on their door, no demands that required Edward to commit other inhuman deeds.
That evening, as they sat at the table devouring their dinner—a partially eaten leg of mutton they’d salvaged—Edward said, “Jekyll must be satisfied now. We’ve done ’is biddin’. Gonna see ’im tomorrow. ’igh time ’e gives us our darlin’ back.”
The next evening, Edward returned from his visit with Dr. Jekyll. He unhappily told Formalda, “The bastard’s demandin’ one more crime. But this time tis different…other’s ’ave all been ’oodlums an’ scum.”
“What’s this one?” Formalda asked.
“’e’s a doctor…name’s Maston. Been doin’ abortions an’ ’elpin’ the ’ores. Jekyll wants me to grab Maston’s daughter and bring her to him. Says ’e’s gonna force Maston to ’elp ’im with ’is bloody ’speriments. Kill off the ’ores instead of savin’ ’em…an’ bring the bodies to Jekyll.”
Formalda slumped to her knees and said, “Lordy be!, what’s ’e want the bodies for?”
“I didn’t tell you before…all to ’orrible.”
“Tell me what?”
“All I saw at Jekyll’s the first time I went. Bloody ghastly, Fo. Bloody ghastly.”
Formalda stood upright. She clasped her husband by the shoulders, and demanded,“Ed’ard. I’ve a right to know—’e’s got my baby!”
Edward stammered. “Body parts…bloody body parts…’eads, legs, arms…in bins all over ’is bloody lab. Near got sick, I did. Didn’t want you to know.”
Edward hugged his wife close and said, “Oh, Fo, we gotta think of some way to get Angel out of ’is clutches—now more ’n ever.”
“Yes, but what’re we gonna do for now?”
“I guess I’m gonna ’ave to get Maston’s little girl.”
“When you gonna do that?”
“Jekyll said tis gotta be tomorrow night…Christmas Eve. Then, ’e says, ’e’ll swap Angel for Maston’s child.”
“You gonna do it, Ed’ard?”
“I bloody well am. What’s one more terrible deed…if it means we get Angel back? At least, this time I’m not killin’ anybody.”
The following evening, Edward left around eight o’clock. He walked through the milling, holiday shoppers, and, as instructed, waited for the family in the bushes outside their home. After a wait of nearly two hours, the snow had, with the advent of a freezing wind, become sleet, his prey had not arrived. Edward had worn two sweaters under his coat, but even this precaution was insufficient in the bitter cold. He had about decided to abort the evening’s venture, when, shortly after ten, the doctor, his wife, and their little girl, descended from a cab and hurried toward their house.
Formalda was surprised when Edward opened the door—partly because she saw no blood on his clothes, but mostly because he seemed more calm than on any previous return.
As she helped her shivering husband remove his icy outer garments, she asked, “Did ya do the deed, Ed’ard?”
Edward folded his long arms about her and said, “No. Couldn’t do it. Been out shoppin’…they was…all loaded down with presents. Little darlin’ girl…bigger, but not much different than our Angel…laughin’ an’ skippin’ in the snow…so ’appy. An’ ’er mum an’ dad, laughin’ along with ’er. Nope, couldn’t do it. No way.”
“But Ed’ard, what are we gonna do about our little one? She ’as a right to be singin’ an’ ’appy too.”
Edward walked to the bureau and opened the top drawer. He removed the jewelry he’d been collecting and put it into his pocket.
He said, “Yeah, Fo, she does. That’s all I could think ’bout all the freezin’ way ’ome. That’s when it came to me. I guess it took all them killin’s ’fore I could think that way.”
“And?” asked Formalda.
As he went out the door, he turned and said, “I’ve decided there’s gonna be one more death in Soho for the papers to shriek their ’eadlines about.”
Two evenings later, as the newsboys outside were yelling, “Read all about it, another death in Soho!”
Edward and Formalda Hyde sat in their two-room hovel. She held the day’s copy of The Times in her hands. He held their beloved daughter, Angel, asleep on his lap.
Formalda read from columns of adjective-laden copy on the front page and two subsequent pages, excerpts of which follow:
NOTED DOCTOR SUICIDE!
GRIZZLY MURDERS END!”
The once well-regarded and respected, Dr. Henry Jekyll was found shortly after dawn this morning by his housemaid, his body hanging from a rope, which he had securely fastened around his neck. A chair, upon which he presumably had stood, and then kicked aside, laid akilter on the floor…Subsequent police searches disclosed a number of bins containing many surgically-altered human body parts, giving credence to the speculation by some citizens of inhuman, late-night experiments in the doctor’s laboratory. Also recovered, were monogrammed clothing and personally engraved jewelry items, said by police to have belonged to victims of the recent horrendous crimes…As of publication, no information was imme-diately forthcoming as to why the doctor, a respected member and social leader in this community, might have committed the heinous and bloody murders that have been judiciously reported in this tabloid in the past weeks… Speculation abounds that the reclusive doctor may have been a warlock or devil-worshiper, though the police have thus far discovered no conclusive evidence to substantiate, or give credence, to this horrific suspicion…However, the concern by some citizens that the doctor’s death might be another in the recent wave of killings were put to rest—the police having found a torn scrap of paper in the deceased’s pocket bearing the scribbled words,
I can no longer live with the desecration of my neighborhood.