[*By W.K Chant *]
Dedicated to William Heirens, who the following is based upon. He will always be remembered by many as The Lipstick Killer, but in truth, the case against him just doesn’t add up.
He died in a prison cell in March 2012 aged 83 having spent 65 years imprisoned.
That was his time.
Again I dream, dream and always dream.
Dream not of the present.
But of those rainsoaked pavements.
That raw disheartening smell lit only by lamplight bouncing from broken bottles to fill tired eyes.
Sirens echo aside cut throughs, vacant alleyways where I walk.
Calling to themselves, to themselves alone.
It’s been this way for as long as I care.
Night after night lit by unbound rows of off-yellow light.
That time, time I could fit-blend into the great nothing.
As the prostitute-wino-drunk, powered by greed-money-junk.
Shuffling beyond the border.
Living to die, dying to live, and man how they lived not for anything.
Anything beyond the need to satisfy their simple souls with simple answers which when given, do away with the need to ask questions.
I exist very much inside.
Not within six-by-thirteen concrete blocks stretching back as far as they echo.
But surrounded by a structure, memory projected before me flickering.
As they had down at The North Kenmore Picture House.
Was I looking for meaning?
What a seventeen-year-old could hope to glean, un-judged beside silhouettes after match flick.
Rum-ridden Father, his wife, my mother, sinking sullen by the sink.
You know the score.
The last match burnt off leaving a forefinger of blackened skin in place of reason.
No more days spent curled under Fort Wayne, discarded cardboard from the sawmill across the river to keep sane.
The bridge a bitter memory.
Without a place to lay, a shilling to my name, I took what was needed.
Out and in, in and out of borstal.
Returned what was lifted once adrenaline left.
Barred sunrises, remorseful, borrowed not theft.
Noting a window, top floor of a high-rise.
Cracked pane void, double took as I scaled guttering.
Echos, nothing more, prying the frame aside.
Jimmying wood from wall using a modified garden trowel, borstal education.
Most like that way for some while.
Just a pile of rags below the ledge.
Assorted laundry that would of snapped if I so desired.
No doubt hardened by the bi-seasonal damp followed by heat rising from the flats below.
As spring becomes summer became autumn-winter, I awoke to shouting.
On probation for similar, I broke.
Bullets flew, pang-spark as I ascended a fire escape.
Splash-slap of work boots on pavement.
I rounded an ally failing to clock the officer knelt behind a stoop.
Bright, florescent, uncomfortable, confused.
As though I’ve been staring up a month, no safety.
Such a scene of a routine bust.
Everything done to put the screw on me.
He would come-ask-shout for me to confess.
I told the truth of the thing in full.
He said nothing, silence as he turned and left.
The beatings become frequent, more so then patches of consciousness.
No phone calls, trial.
Some scrap of paper folded three ways, a dotted line beside his blurred scribble.
I couldn’t focus nor hold the pen.
Sodium Pentothal, truth serum, beatings, no meaning, just beating.
I should of signed and been done but the scrap was always out of focus.
What had I done?
Where had he taken me?
To a place where I would happily sign off my soul to return to Fort Wayne’s cardboard covers.
I still considered myself a child that day.
My youth, the want to escape weighed heavy from home, from people.
Mother once told of how she caught me.
About to jump from the roof, arms bound to a pair of papermache angel wings.
Even to this day I think on what that might of meant.
Now the weight came from the heels of size eleven steel-toe-capped blacks.
I-Never-Knew-His-Name came, gave me time to recuperate after more of the same.
Under the unforgiving flicker-still florescent bulbs, I read my own confession.
Two women, young, radiant, futures laid before them so unlike mine own.
Nails clipped, painted black, heads wrapped with their torn off nightgowns.
Tape, that strong stuff used to plug pipe holes, hiding wounds.
Clean of blood.
A message left in ruby red lipstick.
‘For heavens sake catch me before I kill more, I cannot control myself.’
The case fell cold, that harsh winter came.
Paper sales rose as temperatures plummet, incapable officers, detectives pushed for leads, leads if it bleeds, if it sells run it.
The first week of spring.
No laughter, no new teddies arranged in a circle like a circus ring on carpet.
Her bed stripped bare.
Her window ajar.
Suzanne Degnan forever six.
Ransom note, anonymous calls, a dolls head washed up in a storm drain.
Pretty baby-blue bows in its hair.
It was that of the child, severed with the skill of a surgeon.
The hunt began for the Lipstick Killer.
False leads, speculated evidence, witnesses.
Every step of the way police officers, detectives pushed.
Commissioners hounded to find this man, the murderer, baby snatching lipstick killer.
The devil himself.
Who they found was me.
Guilty of nothing more then being at the wrong, or right, depending on which side of the glass you sit on.
Place in history.
They had their story, their man.
That piece of paper thrust under a broken nose.
The one published in The Express days before they broke me.
Not the offer to live inside.
Nor the offer to stop the pain.
I would of died in the chair gladly, I wasn’t afraid of that.
I-Never-Knew-His-Name came, others in tow this time.
Men in white-plain.
Not just expressionless, faceless.
Walking blurs with looks like knees.
This room brighter then the last, blinding.
Foetal I lay, unrestrained.
I knew what was coming, waited for that numbing needle, the one that never came.
They administered a spinal tap, no anaesthetic, trial, Fort Wayne-flickering-cardboard-convenient-rain soaked Lipstick killer.
Seventy years I’ve spent.
Sat in six by thirteen concrete blocks and again I dream dream and forever walk the rainsoaked pavement.
That was my time.
‘After a flash of gamma the screen regained its levels. Bunting swayed from the optics. Centre screen, frozen, as if hung from a meat hook, stood a shape. Out of focus and baron of features, the figure’s face floated bandaged and shadowed below a sack cloak hood, its one exposed eye glowed out in the infra-green. The frame rate stuttered.’
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