Dr H.H. Holmes
The Expo had arrived like a monsoon, or a swarm. My, were there a lot of people, and of such divergent nature as I had never known of this young Nation. It was a grand occasion, a magnificent, exuberant orgiastic show-off of the Nation’s scientific and cultural talent. Maybe Chicago was not the dumps I had branded it. Maybee, it really was making that final transition from a jumped-up cattle station gotten way too big for its boots, into a proper city fit to give New York a shock, a run for its money. I mean they made a whole Goddamn lake in the plaza afront the Administrative Building.
So, the rooms were getting booked pretty sharpish, and the prices were good. I’d thrown three people out, likely onto the streets – I didn’t care, since they were behind.
I had this young French-Canadian woman Emeline Cigrande working the desk mostly but would come down from my seemingly interminable labors from time to time to see what was going on, to check the cash register was ship-shape, make it be known by my presence that I was diligent about that matter, and in general. While down there about half past one afternoon of June 5th, checking the till in the back-room office, a man walked into the foyer dressed in clothes fairly typical for a lower-end professional Joe’s bests, and he stood at the desk waiting for some attention, presumably looking for a room, likely because of the Expo. I would have assumed Emeline would have been there to deal with him, but evidently not – she did drink a lot of cordial, and maybe something else. So, I went out. At first, I didn’t notice – no, not the way he was dressed – but then, I saw it was Caleb, and I had to pinch myself. He knew it was me off pat, you could see it in his eyes. I was dumbstruck, partly that he was still alive, mostly that he had transformed so much, from that dirty young wretch, who’d behaved in ways I was too young to understand at the time. He looked more respectable than most of my guests on balance, and some of the business renters.
“Caleb”, I replied.
“I came to see you”
“I can see that” I said, then, “So tell me how you found me, what it’s all about?” I was sort of uncomfortable, thinking he’d come to ask for money or free accommodation, despite his attire.
“Herman…Didn’t your brother tell you he’d found me, saved me, from that awful, awful life I’d led back then?” He looked almost contrite and teary.
My brother? He must mean Arthur I thought, who I’d only contacted a few times since my moving here. And Arthur was now a Minister in training – he’d told me.
I was looking for ways to get out of this situation thinking of some S-P excuses; but I wasn’t capable, was probably visibly squirming.
“You see Herman, when he found me, I was so dejected I might just have well have been dead…You remember those dogs we’d set off, and how much fun we’d had…Well, I did that a little more, since you’d taught me, but not as well, and those were such good times – weren’t they? Well…”
This was simply too much. I had to interject. “Look…I don’t do that sort of thing anymore…Sorry, but I really am busy now…You simply must leave”.
“Herman…I’m not like that anymore. I’m here on behalf of the Church. I’ve got a stall at the Expo, to spread the word. Your brother sent me – here’s a testimonial from him and his Presiding Elder.” He handed me that and I gave it a skimread and pocketed it. I noticed two others hanging out by the entrance with quite a bit of luggage, large canvass sacks. They were no more than 20. They were watching the scene, and I took them as his assistants. “Won’t you let me take a room? I can pay. Your brother sends his love, and that of the family, and I bring the love unto you of Christ with me”.
That last clause was a pile of horse manure! Oh…It was too much to consider right then and there. I was very confused, was on laudanum I admit. On the one hand, I had to think about the clientele; he did look and sound quite respectable; on the other, he was Caleb. I told him to come back in the morning after I’d sorted some rooms out. I was also thinking about killing him. Yes, Caleb could stay if he wished, but any decision about that would be tomorrow’s business, because I’d have to think of a way to do it, and what about the other two? Maybe I could give the Hive a good feed.
How to kill people in their rooms? I had given that some thought. If you wanted the least bother, the best way would be to gas them, but if with coal gas, then one spark and the place goes up. That wouldn’t be too shrewd. No, it would have to be chloroform. The question was how to deliver it, in this case to Caleb and possibly the other two. Then once knocked out, I’d take him/them down to the basement, and if anyone noticed, I just say they were drunks who’d broken in and taken a room. I was thinking that maybe I would just take Caleb in, but then thought the other two would draw attention when he went missing, so decided it was all or nothing, the three of them in one room, and that room would be 18. I had some work to do, creating a doorway into there, and I’d set up two cots. If It all went well, the Hive would feed well on the butchered and dissected flesh and thank me for it. I’d burn everything else, the bones, the ash to go into the ground there. If anyone asked their whereabouts, I’d say they came knocking but I was full, the Church – my brother included – would just assume Caleb and his two friends had fled, Caleb back to his old sordid ways, some money gone – what did they expect. My S-P was returning.
Caleb came stumbling in the following morning, alone this time. He was greatly disheveled, eyes bloodshot, a small cut to his forehead (sans hat), some mess on his jacket, which was different and mismatched and didn’t fit him well at all. He had that dumb, exuberant look common to hopeless drunks. Approaching me in the foyer, he soon stank of booze. It was just a fraudulent facsimile of the dirty old Caleb in disguise before, now he’d reverted to true form, but in yesterday’s ruined flummery, mostly so. Why my brother had given him the time of day I couldn’t fathom, except, Arthur wasn’t that smart – too conscientious. Caleb was unsteady of foot, shaking like he was mildly electrified, had a tell-tale bulge in his right-side waist pocket, and yes, there was the stopper protruding. He slurred something awful, like that creaky-effusive talk of loyal hounds reunited with their absent masters, but helped with sign language, I got that he wanted to rent a room, and that it would be three people in there (those two fine-looking boys). Well, the deal was done in my mind anyhow before. Then he took that bottle out popped the stopper with the art of a sneak-thief and flagrantly swigged a good deal. He looked like he was about to collapse, then looked like a droughted thing drenched and revived pronto. I watched patiently as he tried to compose himself. He managed to get it out better this time: ‘I caarn’t pay fur murr’n n night. Church’ll cover any rr-other-ns’ and handed me another document, crumpled, which was a sort of Letter of Guarantee on “Missionary” “Caleb Winchelsea”’s behalf, impressively signed by someone who was a Circuit Minister out of Towson United Methodist Church, Maryland, impressively stamped also with a Methodist Church logo, and endorsed by one Defoe Bank, with their fine stamp. I took it as a bona fide bond – would sell it on. But I didn’t care about the next day, or the next, because I was going to get it all in flesh, for the Hive.