Some folks call me the Mad Butcher, but they would be wrong. I am a professional. That’s what my degree certificate says: Doctor of Dental Surgery, awarded to Wexsley Montana, Cleveland, August 1932, exactly three years ago. Now, I’m a bankrupt surviving on a small stipend since Wells Fargo foreclosed my practice.
I room with my mother - and her entourage of cats - in a three-storey colonial house, with a leaking roof, close to the hobos’ shanty town in Kingsbury Run. At night, I can see their campfires and smell the dying embers of driftwood crackling in the wind. This site’s a refuge for homeless men, seeking temporary solace caused by the blight of the Great Depression as it’s called by President Hoover; a never ceasing legion of lost souls, the dregs of humanity.
My reconstructed surgery is in the basement. My anaesthetic is a chloroform pad. My clients are drifters, drug addicts and drunks.
Old man Jackson from Chicago was my first live experiment...
‘...Where does it hurt?’ He didn’t answer. I was looking into his open mouth: a cavern of rotting molars; halitosis breath. I prodded gently with my pick at an upper tooth. Like him, it was past redemption. I closed his jaw and concentrated on his body. I unbuttoned his trousers and removed a testicle. Put it in a bowl.
When he came to, his voice was slurring. ‘What’s happening?’
His eyes focused on my smile, he started to relax, and then frowned when he noticed his trousers stained with blood. His body tensed and he tried to move his arms. Sweat glistened like pearls on his forehead as he strained at the ropes that bound him to the dentist’s chair, a solid piece of furniture that I had liberated from the bailiffs. His voice was hoarse.
‘Shit, I can’t move ... what the fuck you doing?’
He could also see blood pumping from the cut on his neck into a metal bucket. As it pooled, sourly sweet; copper and metal smells filled my nostrils with a hint of rust and salt intertwined. Then another putrid smell as his bowels defecated.
The clock on the wall struck nine. A locomotive’s whistle in the distance heralded more vagrants arriving. More experiments.
‘I’m killing you,’ I replied, showing him the scalpel. ‘Carotid artery.’
His eyes widened, pupils bulged. He started to screech; it was more a squeal, but noisy. My excitement mounted and I picked up my butcher’s knife. He was still yelping while I severed his head.
There was a gurgle and the noise stopped. I felt wetness between my legs. Shame; it was over too quickly. But I still had his testicle and a bucket of blood to examine.
Now I know how it feels. It feels good. I have spent the following three weeks fantasising about it. Jackson’s enlarged pupils staring at me as I sliced through his neck. They’re still staring at me when I lift his head out of the burlap bag to conduct another experiment. There’s no emotion in them now; no fear, just blankness. And his body’s beginning to stink...
…Edward was buying dope in the Roaring Third - a sordid landscape of brothels, pool halls, and crowded tenements - when I met him on Friday night in a bar. ‘For a friend,’ he said, laughing.
We talked awhile, had a few drinks. Later, he had a glint in his eye when I offered him some bootleg whiskey. ‘It’s stashed in a safe place,’ I said.
He was a tall guy like me, similar age, with a debonair look. A ladies man, I’m sure. And he wasn’t fazed about staggering half-drunk past Kingsbury run, sloughing through garbage, skirting camps and down the steps to my basement.
Into my surgery; into my chloroform pad.
I roped him to the chair, and then I carried out another blood-letting experiment. You see, I have a craving for knowledge. More than that, I am a scientific genius devoted to my vocation. Why do teeth decay? The answer lay in the human body. All I had to do was find it.
Then I shall be famous: world-wide recognition for my achievements.
The Nobel Prize will be mine.
After it was over, I was spent and disappointed that my experiment had not yielded clues. Now, the basement felt untidy; the burlap sacks were invading my space. Disposal of both bodies was late Sunday night, deep in the heart of Kingsbury Run, well away from the camps and scavenger dogs. The weather had held up also; usually the wintry fall would drift in from Lake Erie, up the Cuyahoga River, and blanket the city in a damp odor.
I buried both heads separately, Old man Jackson’s eyes were mocking me, and I didn’t want Edward’s to do the same. I tried to burn Jackson with oil but he didn’t ignite. A dog barked in the distance, I sensed movement approaching. It was time to move out back to my rooming house.
On Monday September 23rd, two young brothers, playing softball and chattering loudly beneath the clear blue sky, raced through the grassy wasteland and piles of discarded garbage to the foot of a steep embankment in the ravine. Behind the hulk of an old rusted car, the elder boy saw something sticking out from the undergrowth and went to investigate. Uncovering the brush, his face turned white. He jumped back in terror; shrieked to the other boy.
‘Stay back ... it’s making me sick. I found a smelly man ... he hasn’t got a head.’
He backed off, grabbed his young brother, and the frightened boys rushed back up the slope calling for help. The Erie Railroad police were first on the scene. They viewed the body.
‘No blood, it’s clean. Why dump it here? It doesn’t make sense.’
‘Let’s take a look around.’
When they discovered a second body and a severed head they called the Sixth Precinct police. Detectives Emil Musil and Orly May were the first to respond.
‘What you found?’ Emil asked the Erie Railroad cop.
‘Two decapitated bodies and one head ... so far. Oilor some chemical must have been poured over one ... his skin looks like scorched leather.’
That was plenty. Soon, a large contingent of police and detectives arrived, and began combing the area. It was gruesome work in the late afternoon with the light fading into dusk.
There was a shout some at the edge of the site ‘Over here. I’ve found a head.’
And another, close to a body. ‘Goddamn ... here are their dicks.’
Coroner Arthur J. Pearce later addressed his elite audience ‘Both men were bound hand and foot by ropes against which they had struggled violently; there were burn marks on the wrists. Most chillingly, both were decapitated,’ he paused, waited for that to sink in, ‘while alive,’ - there were gasps from the hard-nosed attendees -‘with a sharp instrument, possibly a butcher’s knife.’