Authors: European P. Douglas
Thomas Olocher’s body was found the following morning on Lesser Elbow Lane in a condition that had even the soldiers who found it (men who had seen the most brutal war had to offer in both India and the West Indies) gagging. The white sheet he had been wrapped in had been taken from him and lay torn muddy and bloody a few feet from the body. They had to shoo some pigs away who had been feasting on the corpse, and it was this that made the men nauseous. Olocher’s cheeks were gone, and the wound at his throat, where he had slashed to kill himself, had been gnawed at and opened further. The clothes he wore were rags on him, as the feral pigs teeth had torn through to get to the flesh underneath.
The filth from the roads and sewers and that which had been on the pigs bodies was all mashed up with torn skin, blood and pig saliva. His intestines had been pulled from his body, and this is what the last pig was working on when they got there. A small dog sat to the side with a wet red snout awaiting his turn having been forced out by the much larger and more aggressive animals. What was not red or mud coloured of Olocher’s skin was blue white and looked as though it would be hard to the touch. It was not possible to tell if those who took the body had done any injury to it any more.
At the infirmary, Alderman James looked over the wreckage of the body. The surgeon had left him alone, leaving gruffly and saying that they should have left the body in the lane for the animals to finish off. James had been at the trial of this man and in fact, had been involved in bringing the case to the Magistrate. To look at what was left of him now, he could hardly recognise it as the same being. None of Olocher’s own victims had ever looked as bad as this when he had finished with them.
He left orders for the body to be disposed of in a proper, albeit quiet, way, and he went back to his home on Henrietta Street. The carriage rattled over the uneven road surface, and James tried to focus on some papers he had in relation to other crimes reported to him. Thomas Olocher may have been the most notorious of Dublin criminals this season, but he was by no means the only one, he was not even the only murderer on the prowl. This was the case he was looking at now, three murders on the north side of Dublin all around Haymarket. This seemed an open and shut case, and the guilty party was known to him and would be easy to find if he tried to run. The new worry was the public reaction now; before people were tried and sentenced, and that was an end to it but now with all the leaflets that were distributed about each crime and the rumours and stories that spread like wildfire (it had to be said mostly from the higher classes) through the taverns and markets, the public had plenty to say about the justice system and were not afraid to express it. This man, the other murder he thought of now, would have to be tried quickly and hanged just as quickly and with proper arrangements made for where he was to go before and a decent search of his person made this time. Riots were the last thing the Alderman wanted in this ever growing city.
When he got home, dinner was about to be served, and his guests had arrived before him. He made his apologies and joined them after a quick change of clothes.
Throughout the meal, he found that he couldn't stop seeing the body of Thomas Olocher; it was as though it were imprinted in his mind. He’d seen countless dead in his many years and in states of extreme violence at that, but none of them had ever had the effect of what he had seen today.
The meat on his table was dripping with grease and gravy, and he couldn’t help but see the remnants of Olocher’s limbs and innards as he looked at the food. Potatoes mashed up looked like the mulch that hid behind the open skull face he’d looked into.
The events of the past twenty four hours were, of course, well known by now, and they were the talk of the table. It never ceased to amaze James how interested people were in gory details and criminal goings on when if ever faced with the reality they would either faint or throw up. He answered their questions with disinterest as though it was all in a day’s work, and the case was no different to those he generally worked on. He changed the subject to other crimes frequently only to see it ramble back to the same point it had started.
As he saw his guests out that night he noticed their eyes alight with the first hand gossip and the merriness of drink and for whatever reason he pictured the dog who had been bullied away from the body by the pigs. It had waited patiently around the whole time he was at the body, long after the pigs were gone as though he was going to get another go at it and was just waiting for his opportunity. A hungry dog that was willing to wait, how often did you come across that?
It was a pitiful night to be on sentry duty. A clear black sky showered stars over the housetops of Dublin, and a small crescent moon threw what little illumination it had in its thin band over the sleeping city. The lack of cloud cover was the reason that the temperature was so low and there was a chilling wind that whipped through the streets and alleyways that led to the larger space at Cornmarket and then pressed hard against the walls of ‘The Black Dog’ and as a consequence against Martin Gleeson who was on sentry at the foot of the south tower that night.
The night had been uneventful so far, just a few men from the whiskey cabins and taverns to send on their way and a couple of street walkers teasing him and offering their services. It was late enough now that Gleeson was not expecting to see anyone until the early morning traders going to set up stalls. This was the worst part of guarding the prison at night; there was nothing to do or see for hours to come yet.
This was a new sentry position that was only used since the mob violence the day Olocher was taken away. The army wanted security standards improved at the prison in case they ever had to place someone there again. Brick protested about finding money to pay for another two guards every night but the rumour was that he was to pay for them himself, or the army would make sure his life was a worse hell than it already was.
At about four o’clock in the morning, Gleeson was at his most weary and was leaning with his back to the prison walls. Twice his head dropping into sleep had startled him but he felt too tired to stand up straight. That was until he heard a noise coming from one of the thin alleys up the road a little from the prison. He stood erect and looked in the direction of the alley. He couldn’t be fully sure that he had heard something; that it had not been the beginning of a dream, but he listened closely and then he heard it again.
Then he heard it again, and was sure he heard it this time, a low rolling noise that he couldn’t place and yet there was something familiar about it. He listened more intently and stepped out from the wall to see down the street better. Now there was a new noise and this was one he did know, it was the noise of a pig shuffling through the alleys looking for something to eat; he couldn’t stop his mind from picturing those pigs eating the body of Olocher a few days ago and what those soldiers must have seen from the description (fifth hand) that he had received. He felt a shiver of fear run through him at the thought, and then he heard the other noise again, but it was closer now, and he recognised it as a growling noise.
The hairs stood up all over his body, and he snapped fully awake. His sensible mind knew that it was probably a dog trying to warn the pig he heard off from whatever little food it had found but the images he had just conjured up of Olocher and the pigs brought fresh images of all kinds of beasts coming at him from the darkness. The noise again, echoing off the cobbled street and stone walls, no mistaking it for anything other than an animalistic growl now, and again it seemed to be closer. Gleeson gripped his short halberd more firmly and glanced around to see if there was anyone around but there was not.
Cold sweat gathered on his back causing him to shudder at the shock of it and he stood facing where the noises came from; his feet rigid to the spot where he stood and his ears cocked for any sound. A tremendous bark and injured howl of a dog peeled off as a midsized black canine flew from the darkness past him and into the streets beyond and then once again he heard the pig he knew he had and what he heard was the noise of a pig snuffling and eating something. His sensible mind was right all along.
He released his tense grip on the halberd, and he could feel the sweat now under his armpits from holding so tight. He stepped back to the wall and leaned against it, and he smiled at his silliness, his letting his imagination get the better of him and...
“RAAAAARH!” something big and black came at him from that same darkness he had peered into. The massive bulk knocked him to the ground and then all he could see was furious eyes over a long black snout before massive white teeth starting slashing into him; the monsters jaws seeming to be able to work independently of one another, their size and ferocity startling him and hurting him in equal measure. Gleeson screamed and tried to fight back but he was badly hurt and there was nothing he could seem to do, all of his strength seemed to be taken up by his knees as he tried to force his attacker away from him. He felt a scorching pain across his cheek and then in the opposite direction he felt another across his neck as the teeth slashed at him ‘He’s trying to bite my head off!’ was the last thought he had before losing consciousness and as he drifted away he heard someone shouting somewhere from high up but what they said he didn’t know.
Had he stayed conscious he would have been aware of the other guards rallying to his point. One from inside the towers had seen that there was something going on but what he was at a loss to say. He had called down and upon hearing the cries of pain from Gleeson he had sounded the alert.
The women in the 'Nunnery' had heard the attack from their low street level windows though they had been too frightened to go to it and look out. Kate listened to the sounds of shredding clothes and flesh, and she heard the vicious snarling of whatever it was that attacked the guard.
When they pulled his tattered and torn body inside the gates of the prison and slammed them shut behind, the women could see the bloody mess that was Gleeson. Kate let out a howl of fear and revulsion just as Brick appeared once more in the movement of agitated dressing.
“Keep low in there, or you’ll go hungry again tarts!” he shouted in with a quick, angry glance. Kate was silent then as she watched him rush up to the other guards and break through to see what was going on.
“What the hell happened?” he asked of the guards standing there tending the victim.
“Something attacked him at the south tower sentry point.”
“What do you mean something? Who attacked him?” Brick shouted
“I was up in the north tower and I heard something outside. When I looked down there was something big and black over him and it was doing savage damage to him,” one of the guards, who had come down the winding stairs said, his face white with what he had seen.
“A man in all black you say? What weapon was he using to do this?” The guard, who had seen the attack, looked at some of the others as though for support.
“It didn’t look like a man sir,” he said, “and I didn’t see any weapon.” Brick looked at him suspiciously,
“Have you been drinking?” he whispered harshly at him and pulled him forward to smell his breath,
“No sir!” the guard exclaimed in a wounded tone.
“Where’s the doctor,” Brick called out now letting go of the guard.
“On the way sir,” another of the guards answered.
As Kate looked out now, she could see that they were all at a loss as to what to do with the injured man while they waited. She could no longer see him but there was a pool of blood forming on the floor and she could hear guttural sounds as though he were trying to breath, and there was blood sloshing about in his lungs or his throat. He was moaning on and off as well in a delirious way, and she could hear his feet scrape on the floor as he writhed about. She felt terribly sorry for him and wondered if he would not be dead before the doctor even got here.
“Can you not do something to make him a bit more comfortable?” she asked through the bars, “try to stop him bleeding maybe?” The guards looked at her, and it was clear in each of their eyes that they would do something if they didn’t think they would only make him feel worse.
“I told you to shut up in there!” Brick shouted at them. Kate backed away from the cell door and back into the folds of the women who were just behind here.
“Better not say anything more,” Betty whispered to her “the doctor will be here soon, and he’ll do what he can.”
Soon they heard the clipping of a horse outside, and they heard a man dismount and the gates rattle to a heavy knock. The wooden gates pulled open, and the noise was terrific now in opposition to the silence that had fallen over the prison for the last ten minutes. The doctor rushed in, and he saw the man straight away and knelt by his side examining him. He pulled a handkerchief from his coat and pressed it against the neck of the maimed man.
“Why did nobody stem the bleeding?” he asked, looking admonishingly at the people who stood around him. No one answered, and the doctor looked back to the patient.
“What happened to him?” the doctor asked.
“He was attacked outside on sentry duty.”
“Attacked by what?” the doctor asked examining the wounds on the man’s chest causing him to cry out in pain. Brick looked at the guards and then replied
“We don’t know, we heard him cry out and we found him like this.”
“Some of these wounds look like they were done by an animal, a large dog or something, but then there bruises here have points like those you would see from a hoofed animal wound,” the doctor said pointing out things as he spoke.
Kate trembled at the idea that an animal had done this to the man, and she looked at the bars on the windows and wondered if it might be possible for it to get in through them to her. This basement dungeon took a terrible toll on the mind she felt. She had been here only six days, but it had felt like an eternity and every night there were new fears of what could come and get her in this dark and stinking pit. She scolded herself in daylight hours for her wild thoughts at night. She would seek out the corners and crannies that were in complete darkness once the sun went down and she would see that there were nothing in those spaces, that in a lot of cases there could be nothing in them but then again at night those same dark spots would fill her with terror and she would feel that something was watching her from there and waiting for her to let her guard down.
She was reasonable with herself, and she could only curse the fact that her first time in a prison was the time that Olocher had been sentenced, and she was there on the night that he killed himself. She remembered the pigs squealing at the gates that night and when she heard the doctor say that there were bruises in the shapes of hoofed feet she wondered for a moment if the guard had been attacked by a pig, but the thought seemed ridiculous to her; the idea of one of those lazy slothful animals attacking a man seemed wild to her, and the fact that there were the teeth marks of a different animal type also swayed her back to her senses.
“Take this man to the infirmary and make sure to keep this pressed to his neck,” the doctor said rising and exchanging places with one of the guards.
“Will he live?” Brick asked the doctor after taking his arm and leading him a little away from the victim’s ears. The doctor looked at him and then back at Brick,
“It will be touch and go,” he said, “I won’t be surprised to see him dead in the morning, but I’ve seen men survive worse.”