Saturday, 7 April 2018

2. The Journal of Detective J. G. Bennett - Part 1

Storyteller Note: This chapter will be written from the perspective of detective Bennett, a Pinkerton Agent from the United States of America. Bennett used to be a player character, but due to personal circumstances Bennett's player had to leave this chronicle after only a couple of game sessions. As the storyteller I decided to wrap up Bennett's story arc early and wrote him out of the game. In this post you get to read the first half of his story.

5:40 PM, September 4th 1888, The Atlantic Ocean, S.S. Reagent

My name is Jonathan G. Bennett, 30 years old, private detective, Pinkerton agent. I am tracking down a known cannibal and serial killer: Vano Philips, a British gypsy who migrated to The United States of America somewhere between 1878 and 1879. He and his family were gypsy nomads, never settling down for long, always moving, always leaving a trail of missing people. Wherever the trail went, I followed. In 1883 — after 4 long years — I finally caught up to them. The local authorities helped me and my colleagues take care of them. They didn't go down without a fight.  It was a nasty business, a scene I've been trying to forget ever since; but even the best liquor won't rid me of those nightmares. The entire family was in on it. All of them lost their sanity, all of them tried to fight, all of them died. All but one.

Vano Philips.

For a while I lost track of him. But then in the month of May in 1885 I finally caught his trail. The bastard went to Austin, Texas; and was now systematically murdering young women in the most grotesque ways, often harvesting their organs and leaving their remains on display for the world to see. They called him the Servant Girl Annihilator. Most of his victims were either servant girls, prostitutes, or both. For a year I was on his trail, certain that the Servant Girl Annihilator was him. But once again the bastard slipped through my fingers. The killings stopped after the murderer's last victim on the 24th of December, 1885. The trail went cold again. 

I didn't hear anything from Vano Philips for 3 years. But then I received reports that he went back to The United Kingdom. On August 7th 1888, the killings started again. This time in London. I packed my bags as quickly as I could and took the first ship to London. I'm currently on that ship, due to arrive in London in 3 days.

9:15 PM, September 7th 1888, Spread Eagle Hotel, City of London

After my boat docked at the London docks I went straight for Scotland Yard. The weather: cold, overcast, rain; the air filled with smog and pollution. How do these Londoners stand it? I've only been here for a day and I already want to go back home, to America, to my daughter. 

I spoke to Inspector Frederick Abberline at Scotland Yard. He's a respectable gentleman in charge of the Whitechapel murder case. Seems to know the Whitechapel district well. After exchanging a few words about our work and accomplishments I decided to cut to the chase. I asked if Vano Philips was on the official list of suspects for the Whitechapel murders. He was. 
Abberline told me he was arrested a couple of weeks ago. He was found on the streets of Whitechapel during the night, drunk and covered in blood. Unable to trace the blood back to any of the victims, the Metropolitan Police released him after holding him for a week. Shortly after his release, the murder of Polly Nichols happened. No trace of him since.
Abberline asked me to visit him again tomorrow. He wanted me to meet four other individuals who also had an interest in solving the Whitechapel murder case.

10:50 AM, September 8th 1888, Scotland Yard, London

When I woke up this morning I learned that the Whitechapel murderer struck again. A woman by the name of Annie Chapman was his victim this time. Apparently she was the most grotesque victim of the murderer yet. The description given to me reminded me of the Servant Girl Annihilator. No surprise there. By now I was utterly convinced that Vano Philips was behind it all, but I should not let my eagerness for catching Philips blind me to the facts. I have to keep an open mind.

I went back to Scotland Yard and met up with four other individuals. An Irish Police Constable named Khristoph McKormic, an English coroner named Dr. Calvin Watson, a German woman named Veronika Strauss and an English woman named Sarah Alexandra Norwich. 

Dr. Watson was a reserved gentleman. Social interactions clearly weren't his forte. He was of average height, white-gray hair, balding. Like most British gentlemen, he had a well groomed beard with a curly moustache. His eyes were icy blue, they had character. 
I learned that Dr. Watson did the autopsies on the Whitechapel victims. He showed me the autopsy reports. They were... disturbing. The M.O. of this murderer seemed a little different from the Servant Girl Annihilator, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be the same person. Still, it's something to keep in mind.

I also learned that Mr. McKormic used to serve in the British Army 1st Cavalry Regiment. McKormic was a large man, tall, broad shoulders, still sporting a military haircut. He had brown eyes, dark brown hair, sporting a bushy moustache and a goatee.
After McKormic left the army he joined the Metropolitan Police in London. Apparently he serves a branch named the 'Special Irish Branch'. I'm not sure if that means his branch is entirely made up of Irish people, or if his branch is specialized in dealing with Irish people. Both ideas seemed a bit weird to me.

Veronika Strauss was — how do I put this kindly — she was a rather unorthodox and unique individual. Rather boyish, her clothes seemed like that of a man, her posture too. I bet she would have been an attractive woman if she dressed and behaved like a proper lady. But in her current state? I'd be surprised if any man would ever propose to her. She had dark-blonde hair put up in a bun. Her eyes were blue, or perhaps grey, I don't really remember. Despite her masculine appearance, she had a rather petite, soft, feminine face. She had an athletic body; slender, but well formed. Apparently she owned a shop in Guildford, manufacturing and selling firearms. Odd choice of career for a woman.
I learned that her father, Ulrich Strauss, was an official suspect. However, both Abberline and Veronika seemed convinced of Ulrich's innocence and Veronika was determined to prove that.

Out of all four individuals, Sarah Alexandra Norwich stood out the most. She had remarkable striking looks. She was pretty, she looked innocent, inexperienced, naive. She had dark-brown hair of medium length, light hazel eyes, a pale complexion, young, soft, smooth. Her dress was modest, something you'd expect from a working class woman. Although she clearly had seen better days, she still looked nice. 
She did not seem to be willing to tell us much about herself other than the fact that she lives in Whitechapel and knew some of the murderer's victims. Her secrecy immediately made me suspicious of her. What could she be hiding? Why would Abberline trust someone like her?

Aside from Mr. McKormic, none of these individuals was a police constable, investigator or detective of any kind. Inspector Abberline must be pretty desperate if he's looking for help from these people.

I'm currently looking into a lead I have. Luca Bower, a notorious gypsy. Probably a criminal, but he seems to pull some strings in Whitechapel. Perhaps he knows more about Vano Philips or the Whitechapel murders. We are planning to pay him a visit later today.

11:25 PM, September 8th 1888, Spread Eagle Hotel, City of London

Our visit did not go over well. We were poorly prepared. We didn't do a proper background check on Mr. Bower and we moved too fast, too aggressive. Rookie mistake. I got burned for it. I really need to hone my temperance, else I'm going to lead us all to an early demise.

During the afternoon, McKormic, Strauss, Watson and I headed to Mr. Bower's house. Before we knocked on his door I already had the feeling we were being watched. One of Bower's lackeys opened the door and McKormic had to convince the guy to let us in. After a while Mr. Bower himself showed up. He decided to let us in and offered us some whisky. Immediately I felt something was off. Watson felt it too. He told me he smelled the scent of rotting flesh. McKormic was interrogating Mr. Bower, but the interrogation didn't seem to be going anywhere. 

Mr. Bower was a scrawny looking individual. Middle-aged, balding, long black hair slicked back, fierce eyes, large moustache, no beard. He had a forward protruding chin and an under bite. His chin and right cheek were covered in scars.

I decided to bring up the smell of rotting flesh. Immediately Mr. Bower changed his tone and started to cooperate. He gave us the information we were looking for; the location of Vano Philips. Suspicious. I told McKormic that I wanted to do a complete search of the house. Luca Bower protested. To quote him: "Goddamnit I gave you the information you were looking for! Now fuck off!". Again, suspicious. McKormic decided to indulge my request and insisted that we had to search his house. Luca Bower verbally protested, but he didn't stop McKormic when he stood up and started the search.

We decided to split up in two groups. Watson and Strauss searched the ground floor, McKormic and I went upstairs. We didn't find anything suspicious at first, other than the fact that the house was old, dirty and all the windows were boarded off with wooden planks. Then we opened the trapdoor to the attic. What we found there was... disturbing. As we entered the attic, I felt a cold gust of air pass me by. Shivers went down my spine and the hairs on my neck stood upright when I saw a large open coffin. Luca Bower claimed the coffin was for his grandmother, but I didn't believe him.

When we went back downstairs, the only place left to search was the basement. I was under the assumption that we would stay in pairs, but apparently that wasn't communicated clearly. Everyone except for me went down into the basement. I decided to stay behind to make sure Luca Bower wouldn't just lock us all up in his basement. This is where everything went to hell.

Luca Bower... he did things that should not be possible. One moment he was making fun of me while sitting at his kitchen table, the next moment he had me pushed against the wall, lifting me up with one arm, holding me in a choke hold with remarkable strength. I tried to grab my revolver, but to no avail. My revolver was already sliding across the wooden floor before I even realized he knocked it out of my hand. He was so - damn - fast. How could a man like him be so fast?
When the others came back upstairs, Mr. Bower punched me in my gut and threw me across the room. Three of his henchmen were pointing guns at us. Mr. Bower seemed furious. He shouted at us, told us to get the fuck out of his house. We did.

Turns out, Luca Bower was using his basement as a torture chamber. Well, I'm not sure if 'torture chamber' is the right word, but it's the only word I can find to express what the others found down there. Apparently his entire basement was covered in blood. A single chair stood at the center, bolted down to the floor. Behind it, a table with all kinds of knives and torture tools. In front of it, a row of meat hooks with human limbs attached to them. In a way I'm glad I didn't have to witness that. I've seen some terrible things in my line of work, but it never gets easy. I can only imagine how terrible it must have been for the others.

We immediately informed Scotland Yard of our investigation. They didn't seem pleased. 

Did I fuck up?

Stay tuned for 'part 2' of Detective J. G. Bennett's journal!