Brutal, bloody, senseless. Few words to describe the kind of horrors we have been living in Paris the past few days.
It all started with a corpse, floating on the Seine. They had tried to fill his guts with stones but the cut opened and the dead man floated back up.
As a member of the police, I'm responsable for the people of this town. It's not an easy task: these streets are filled with every single element of society: whores and thieves, society ladies and dandies, politicians and bakers. Every one walks these streets.
This first year of the new century has been disastrous for the force. I sometimes think 1900 is going to be the year that tears us apart, when this country will finally fall to the hands of brigands and opium smokers.
The city is less dangerous than in the past, that may be true, but what about this murders? Five men have been found floating on the Seine, in different parts of the city, always with a mark carved behind their necks: a spiral.
No one knew what that meant but, as policemen, we knew dead men would continue to come up. They all had some stones inside and we dismissed the idea the killer wanted them to sink. It was something else.
I visited Doctor Marteau, an old men that had studied in London and knew all about the procedures and tests to be done to a corpse, in order to find more about the death. Well, he did his job just fine. He found out every single one of these men had been sodomized with an object. The doctor was sure of it.
On the job, I had been to every part of town and knew about every aberration that lived in the city. Men sodomizing each other? No news to me. So there was more to it than just raping men and killing them. Someone was throwing them to the water, making them visible for us to get them. And that person, or persons, were branding these men like cattle.
After days of stalling, I went to have a glass of wine, a few glasses actually, to an old place I loved in the artists district, not far from the Moulin Rouge and the Sacré Coeur. All the girls knew me well and also knew I would be good to them if they didn't get into trouble. They greeted me on the street and I slightly bowed: they were women all the same.
I finally got to my joint and drank and drank and enjoyed myself for the first time in months. I liked talking to Michel, the bartender. A bald men that had seen enough of Paris and now only worked and lived in the same neighborhood, never traveling anywhere nor wandering around. But, as I did, he knew people.
He told me he had heard about the dead men and even about the state of the bodies, something we hadn't released to the press. I was rather surprised. He said a guy from the morgue came in the place a few times a week to brag about the horrible things he saw, drank a few ones and then left with a different chick every time.
I left the place, a bit dizzy but sure enough I could get home all right. It wasn't very far and I hated trains or cars. Nothing like the good air of Paris in the spring. Even late at night, it comforts you.
I walked down a steep road and among various buildings. I stopped to pee on a garden or something and moved on. Wine out of the system, I felt less drunk and very hungry. I had walked a lot and suddenly found myself near Madeleine. I knew a place around there so I could have something to eat.
But I never got to that. A man was screaming his lungs out, mad to the core or scared. I approached the screams, as I tried to dissipate any dizziness of my mind. Apparently, I was on duty.
The man was on the ground, leaning on a building. His eyes looked troubled, big and red. His leg was cut deep and bled profusely on the ground. The sight was enough to make me sick. And having had nothing to eat, it was worse.
I calmed down the man, telling him to stop shouting and to talk to me. I took out my ID and presented myself as a policemen. He ceased with the screaming but still trembled uncontrollably, as if he had seen a monster.
I looked all over my coat and finally pulled out my whistle. I carried it for emergencies and this was one for sure. I used it many times and minutes later two fellow officers helped me get the sick man to an ambulance.
The next day, I tried to visit him but couldn't. He had been put on strong medication, in order to cure his leg and to help him deal with the pain. It wasn't the appropriate time to question him.
I came back after two days. I wasn't feeling very good: another body had been found on the night I found my screaming lunatic. I visited him because I needed to know he was fine, at the moment, I never imagined he would be a pivotal part of everything.
A nurse pulled a chair close for me and I sat beside his bed. To be honest, this young man was handsome, which led me to believe he came of a good family. His clothes were expensive, for what the talkative nurse told me, and he had money on himself so he wasn't mugged.
He turned to me and greeted me kindly, as if I was a old friend. He told me he remembered me from that night and thanked me for my help. I told him that, as a policemen, that was my duty. I proceeded to ask what had happened and then his kind smile disappeared. And he began telling me.
He had escaped his parents house. He was the son of a duchess and a politician that lived in Lyon. He had come with a friend to Paris and started enjoying the night of the city. He went to parties with artists and whores and enjoyed both flesh and drinking. He smoked opium and had sexual relations with everyone he met.
Then, he said, he met a woman when coming out of one of many parties. She was beautiful and willingly went with her to her home. But there was nothing there, no furniture, no clothes, nothing. Only empty space. She said she liked to bring boys there and then proceed to tie him to a post. Then pulled out a knife and cut herself and him, on the leg.
She started talking about the pleasure of carving human flesh, of feeling the guilt of men when she did so and how weak they all were and women had to deal with their stupid attitudes and ideas. She laughed at moments and said it was precious to see them cry in front of her, as he was doing.
Then, according to the young men, she got near but he managed to kick her and release himself. As he was, he fled the building, almost getting caught by the woman. She didn't follow him but he ran fast and far and finally caved to his leg.
I stood there, hearing his words. While he was talking about being forced to drink and smoke by her, I was thinking I was closer to my murderer than ever before. A lady of the night, nonetheless.