The Blond Lady
New York City
Saturday, August 2, 1890
Edward was an ugly man who thrived on hate and had no sense of compassion or remorse. His sexual debauchery was merely a means to an end that produced a nightmare of mayhem and murder.
People saw Edward as a grotesque figure that lurked in dark corners waiting to attack his victims and were shocked by his twisted personality. There were those who expressed a degree of empathy for the madman’s demented mind, believing that a degree of darkness exists in all of us. However, most were just frightened.
People gathered on the sidewalk after the last chilling scene of Edward’s psychotic behavior. Their eyes filled with disgust and excitement after watching the final act of Edward’s madness.
Many of the ladies loathed the violence while others were reluctant to accept the reality of Dr. Henry Jekyll’s behavior, believing that humans were incapable of such actions.
It was a stage performance that many would be talking about for weeks, and yet, no one left the theatre without considering the consequences of Edward Hyde’s insanity. And most of all, everyone was enthralled with Richard Mansfield’s theatrical performance of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It was a hot, humid night as Hansom cabs lined the curbside near the corner of 24th Street and Broadway taking on passengers waiting patiently in front of the Madison Square Theatre.
Some patrons had no farther to go than the adjacent Fifth Avenue Hotel where they remained as guests. The luxurious six-story hotel was the first of its kind to offer steam-powered elevators and a fireplace in every bedroom.
The corner of 24th Street and Broadway was at the center of entertainment and fine dining for the elite and wealthy of New York City. Broadway shined like a glittering jewel in the night with electric arc lamps illuminating the thoroughfare all the way down to Union Square.
However, unlike the electric lights along Broadway, many of the streets of Lower Manhattan were still lit by gaslight. And the people who pass beneath the glow of the tall, black lampposts, cast a different shadow than those of the rich and famous who socialize at theatres and fancy restaurants in uptown Manhattan.
It was nearly midnight, and traffic was slow with few people mingling or walking alone on Bleecker Street. An occasional wagon could be seen traveling along the empty street, its axle squeaking lightly as the wheels rolled over horse manure, leaving narrow tracks in the excreta as it made its way to its destination. Most often, it was a wagon used by soil men for transporting human waste to the waterfront for dumping. Every night the soil men could be seen cleaning out privies from one tenement alley to the next.
Many of those walking the street at this hour were drunks, stumbling up and down the sidewalks looking for a prostitute or a cheap brothel. There were other men, who looked for more deviant types of recreation, the kind that caters to same-sex pleasures that can be found in the basement of sleazy dives and backrooms of saloons and clubs.
There was a crescent moon above, casting little light on the street as the blond lady picked up her pace, passing the loud noise emanating from open saloon doors. She ignored the smell of stale beer and ale wafting through the air and mixing with all the other odors along Bleecker Street. She looked neither left nor right, but held her head high and kept moving forward.
It was nearing midnight as she passed under the corner street lamp at Mott and Bleecker streets. The gaslight seemed to flicker as she hurried past the corner toward the Bowery, only two blocks away.
The hot, humid air carried the stench of horse manure mixed with the smell of back-alley outhouses from one block to the next while homeless cats and dogs scurried aimlessly along the dirty street hunting for food.
As the blond lady hurried past the noisy saloons, she could hear the rowdy, loudmouth drunks, and the sleazy sluts swilling the night away on cheap ale and rotgut liquor, their voices bursting through the open doorways of every barroom she passed. Yet, nothing distracted her intent as she moved forward past the bustling flophouses and dance halls operating late into the night. The blond lady walked as though on a mission to reach someplace important.
She was tall, yet graceful with a shapely figure that attracted male eyes. She wore a dark, full linen skirt, trimmed in velveteen and a short-sleeve muslin blouse, the color of dusty rose, with an embroidered collar buttoned at the top. Her hair was done in a low coiffure with braids and twists covering the sides of her face, and falling to the collar. Long bangs nearly covered her eyes, and her cheeks were enhanced with rouge and her lips with a red dye made with alkanet. On her right wrist, she wore a shiny gold bangle, and there was no mistaking; she was a harlot.
A prostitute walking the streets was a common sight in lower Manhattan and the Bowery. They gathered on every corner, in front of busy saloons peddling their bodies for sex and enough money to survive from one night to next. Many of them were part-time hustlers called dollymops. They mingled with the regular whores working every john that crossed their path, luring them into seduction with the promise of heavenly delights and sinful bliss. All for the small price of a quarter dollar.
The blond harlot pushed past the late stumbling drunks and lascivious seamen who maneuvered past her as she strode doggedly toward her destination. She knew what she wanted and where she intended to find it. That was her only thought.
Two blocks away, Jacob Pratt staggered out of Mulligan's saloon, a two-bit dive on the corner of the Bowery and East Houston streets. He took a swift breath of air and spat out a glob of chewing tobacco. Pratt was thinking of only two things, the next drinking hole up the street and knocking with a hedge whore. After being stuck on a merchant ship for near a month, it was his time to roar, and so he did. Jacob let loose with a loud, disorderly shout that could be heard a block away. "YAHOO! Give me liberty or give me death you bunch of dollymops, the old rusty gut is headed your way." Jacob grunted, and spat again, wiping the spittle from his mouth and chin. “Fuckin right,” he mumbled and headed up the street.
Anyone standing close enough could see the word HOLD, tattooed on his fingers just below the upper knuckles, and on his other hand, the word FAST was 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. The old salt gave a tug on his duck trousers and wobbled up the sidewalk, his skinny sea legs still trying to adjust to land.
Jacob teetered on his way to Bleecker Street, heading for a tavern called the White Whale, another sleazy groggery where the booze was cheap and the women cheaper. The smelly beer joint served as a favorite haunt for thirsty seamen fresh off the ships docked at the East River. The crusty old salt was hoping to meet up with drinking buddies, he hadn’t seen since last anchored at the lower Manhattan slips.
The Bowery was a favorite hangout for out-of-towners and merchant seamen. It ran from lower Manhattan at Chatham Square up to East 4th Street and was also the center for every vice in the city, second only to the Tenderloin; another notorious district at the heart of Manhattan. There were well over seven thousand beer taverns, saloons, and bars in New York City, and most of them were located in the Bowery and the Tenderloin district. Jacob was well on his way to visiting his share of the cheap watering holes.
The seaman turned left on Bleecker Street and headed toward Elizabeth Street on the next block when he caught sight of a blond-haired prostitute leaning against a lamppost just up the street ahead of him. Jacob smiled as he stared bleary-eyed at her curvaceous body bathed in the soft yellow glow of gaslight.
As he came closer, the harlot waved, and Jacob caught a glimpse of the light reflecting off her shiny gold bracelet as she beckoned him to come closer, like an old friend waiting in the night.
As Jacob came closer, he could see she was a good looker. "Well, hell honey, how's ya doing," he slurred, raising his head with his chin tucked to his chest trying to appear sober.
"I've been waiting just for you sailor boy. That is if ya got two bits in your pocket," she laughed alluringly and winked seductively.
"I've got more than just two bits in my breeches lady, I got this." Jacob grabbed his crotch. "How's about some fun, you say?"
It was slightly past midnight, and Jacob didn’t want to miss the last drinking hours, but he was as horny as a two-pecker rabbit, and come hell or high waters, he was gonna 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 this alley where it's a little darker and more private. Whaddaya say, sailor boy?" The whore took Jacob’s hand and led him to an alleyway that ran deep between two tenement buildings.
"I’m all yours, baby, lead the way, um right behind ya," Jacob said, looking around and then raising an index finger to his lips, and whispering, "shhh."
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 and handed her a quarter. “Let’s see what ya got, sweets. Old Jacob’s getting hard,” he moaned, grabbing at her shirtwaist.
“Oh honey, I’ve got something you’ll really like, but you need to get down on your knees so I can give you a closer look.” She grinned as she lifted her skirt halfway up her legs, exposing a glimpse of her smooth thighs.
“Oh yeah, that’s what old Jacob likes.” The seaman lowered his trousers and dropped to his knees, sliding his hands up the side 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, letting the drunken sailor 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.”
Standing in front of him was a man’s erect penis.
Jacob attempted to get up, but he didn’t see the flash of a straight razor coming at him. The prostitute swiped the blade across his throat with lightning speed and force. Its sharp edge opened a wide slit of spurting blood that flowed down Jacob’s chest as he fell back to his knees, gripping the wound as he tried to gasp for air. His eyes were stricken wide with shock as he folded over onto the ground, blood draining from his neck.
The killer stooped down and placed the straight razor on the ground next to her. She stared at Jacob’s body, waiting for the victim’s last breath to expire before reaching into his pockets and taking the rest of his money. She then pulled Jacob’s drawers down over his buttocks, picked up the blade and began carving a large X on the victim’s left cheek. Satisfied with her work, she wiped the steel blade on Jacob's shirt, folded the razor back into its handle, and stuffed the instrument into a hidden pocket sewed in the seam of her skirt. She got to her feet, straightened herself and calmly left the alley, looking in both directions before heading down Bleecker Street toward the Bowery.
The blond lady moved swiftly, without looking back, and disappeared into the night, hidden in the dark shadows of the poor, dirty slums, and swallowed by the grisly atmosphere of lower Manhattan nightlife.