Authors: European P. Douglas
Mullins stood at the door of the blacksmith waiting. He had just finished a job for a customer, and he was awaiting a delivery of some odds and ends that some gentleman was looking to have spruced up and straightened out. As he waited, he took in the cool air away from the furnace heat inside. His eyes fell on a young potato seller, and he knew that he had seen her before. There was something about her that was different now that drew his eye and as he looked he saw that she was limping badly and then he could just make out the scars that adorned her face now. She was the young girl who had been attacked and had survived it. He felt sorry for her as he remembered once buying two potatoes from her and how nice she had seemed to him then. She was only a child, how could anyone do anything like that too her?
As he watched her sell, he noticed another woman come up behind her. This was an older girl, and there was something altogether more womanly about the way she held herself as she waited for the seller to complete her transaction. She was brown haired and had beautiful eyes, and he knew he had seen her before too and he remembered now where. She was a street walker, and he was used to seeing her under the cover of darkness as he might pass her in the street or see her through the window of a tavern as he looked outside.
Seeing her in daylight seemed to change her in way that changed everything about her. Instead of seeing her as a profession he saw her as a woman, the same as any other he might see in the course of trading hours. She glanced at him quickly before starting to talk to the girl. They were laughing about something, and they seemed to be friends.
A boy arrived with the things from the gentleman, a lot of old rubbish at first glance. As Mullins brought it in he allowed himself one more glance at the woman before setting about his work. He found his glance replied, and there was a look in her eyes as though she were saying something to him, but he had no experience of the looks of women and he would never be able to fathom it, she left to go about her business and he set to work now with an odd sense of melancholy sitting over him.
Some more work came in, and by the time he finished that evening, it was long dark outside. His shoulders ached, and he was sweating from the work and the heat all day. He could smell the stale odour form his own body, and it mixed with the damp leather of his apron and was very strong.
The air outside was welcome at first but even as he locked up the shop he began to feel the chill rip through his skin and get into his very bones. He would have to get home or into a crowded tavern as soon as possible if he wanted to avoid catching a chill. Either way he could go in the same direction, and he started walking deciding to choose on his way what to do. There were still many people about the streets coming and going, and some of the other traders were still opened. He looked into milliners, tobacconists and cloth shops as he made his way home. As he passed the Chocolate House, the only one he knew of, the smell was so intoxicating he was tempted to go in and have one, but nice smell or no he knew that it was massively expensive and not something he could afford to waste any money on.
When he was almost at Bridge Street, he came face to face with the woman from earlier. He stepped out of her way and smiled with an awkward face that he felt sure would be seen by her as a strange grimace. She smiled at him and stopped instead of passing.
“Hello,”, she said
“Good evening,” he said in return. She looked him over and stood there still with a brazen face on her. He didn’t know what to say to her. Was she touting him? He hadn’t used a prostitute before and wouldn’t have a clue as to how to go about it.
“Are you married?” she asked
“No,” he said “Who’d have a mug like this,” he managed attempting a joke.
“There’s much more to a good man than his face,” she smirked. He shuffled from foot to foot, and he was aware of how he smelled again that moment.
“You look cold, you better get home and warm yourself,” she said and now he felt relief that this ordeal was almost over and yet he longed for it to go on, for them to talk some.
“Working in the heat all day can make the cold seem worse than it really is when you first come out of the smithery,” he smiled (grimaced?)
“Get yourself in front of a fire. Goodbye for now,” she said cheerily and went off as he said goodbye himself. He watched her as she walked away.
That night he found he couldn’t stop thinking about her. He lit a fire and changed his clothes and made some hot soup all in an effort to heat himself but all the while he was thinking about getting back out that night and the possibility of running into her again. He didn’t even know her name and he had no idea how he would ever approach her. He saw her eyes in his mind, and then he saw them drop as into sadness, and he felt that was all she would be if she were to ever be with him-sad. What did he have to offer? A small home and a generally steady income; that was a lot more than a lot of people could say. His face was a mess of bumps, and his cheek was badly scarred but he was honest and hardworking, did those things count for anything with women?
He couldn’t help but think of them as a family in this small home with a child or two; the image popped in there as though it had always been in his mind to settle down with this woman. Had he always wanted a family? His own parents hadn’t been much to base life on. Could he marry someone who did what she did for a living? Would he ever get past that? Would she ever get past that?
And then he knew that the fact that it was an issue at all, which he hadn’t realised up to this very moment, meant that he would never get past it. How could he be with a woman when almost any man they might meet in street might have shared a bed with her? He couldn’t and it was bound to happen, someone he knew right now could have already been with her-could be with her right now! He was getting angry now and it he felt his rage towards her for tempting him at all; if that was what she was doing? But then maybe she was just looking for a new customer, and he fit the bill nicely with his job and nice quiet place to have her in. That must have been it. She just wanted to use him for what he had. Had she not heard that his neighbours thought he was the Dolocher?
The family drifted from memory like paper tossed into the fire, and it floated momentarily before blackening and falling apart to be sucked up into the chimney.
The next person to be attacked in Dublin was not so fortunate as Mary Sommers had been. She was a young prostitute and was found on Kennedy Road with her neck savaged and wads of flesh missing from her cheeks and arms. She had massive bruising and was cut and scratched all over; her clothes torn to pieces.
She was found by a butcher and his son who were going to open their shop early for the busy docking day ahead in Temple Bar. Her name was Jill, and she was well known in the local area as well meaning and kind. It was a horrible thing for those two to come across that freezing morning.
The rumour mill went into convulsions, doing cartwheels and somersaults to link this girl to Olocher. Olocher had been a customer of hers many times some said; others said she was one of the women he had beaten before and he had come back to finish the job. Still more said that she had been a secret witness at the trial and had also been responsible for Thomas Olocher going to jail just the same as Mary Sommers.
Though none of these things were true, they all gained traction in different quarters. The one thing that was true was she had been killed in a savage manner, with teeth marks and hoof marks on her body that fit with the other attacks by The Dolocher.
Kate knew her and had worked some nights alongside her. They were not close at all, but they were friendly. Kate was terribly upset when she heard what had happened, especially the lurid version of her physical state when found, but she quickly came to realise that she was so upset at the thought that it could just have easily been her. Street walkers had by definition to walk the streets and often times they were alone. The weekend nights she worked in the brothel, and she felt safe there but the rest of the week she relied on casual trade for survival. She had to walk the streets if she wanted to eat.
She could try her luck during the day, but it was hard to get any customers during the day. Hers was a profession that required the cover of darkness and the evenings of men spent in taverns. There were some, of course, who use her during the day here and there, but it was harder to find a place to work and the chances of being caught in the act multiplied a hundredfold.
Kate left her home at about eleven and went to the market for food. She bought a few carrots and parsnips but thought better of buying anything more. She had very little money, but she always liked to have something to her name.
As she was buying her vegetables, she spoke to the seller. This is where she heard about the latest attack. At this point, she didn’t know who the victim was but she wondered if she might know them.
“A girl, who lives with me, was attacked by The Dolocher just last week,” the seller said.
“Really! Mary Sommers?” Kate said.
“Yes, a friend of her aunt who Thomas Olocher killed lives with us and she brought her in.”
“How is she?”
“Better but she is very scared now of everything, especially after dark.”
“You can understand that.”
“She’ll have some scars to show for it but she’ll be alright in the long run.”
“There’ll be a lot afraid to leave their doors in the evenings now.”
“I know I won’t be going anywhere myself.”
“Does Mary Sommers remember anything more about her attacker?”
“No, I don’t think so. It happened to her so fast she said, and she gets upset when she talks about it. She just says it was wild whatever it was and like nothing she had ever seen before.” Kate shuddered at the thought of this creature pouncing on her.
As she looked over the food arrayed all around her and felt the lightness of her purse, she thought to ask the seller,
“Do you know anyone decent looking to share a room?”
“Always,” Kate smiled.
“I’ll keep my ear out for you.”
Kate was turning to leave when the seller called her back, she handed her a few mouldy looking carrots and said,
“Here, they don’t look like much but there will be some decent orange in there once you cut away the outside.”
“Thank you,” Kate said taking them
“Don’t worry about it, no one was going to buy those ones today,” and she laughed a loud cackle that seemed to disappear into the market noises all around them.
As she looked to follow this sound with her eyes, Kate noticed the new ships queued along the Liffey. It was going to be busy for her trade for the next few nights, at least that was something to be thankful for. She decided she would go to the brothel, and she if she could work for a day or two in the hope of staying off the streets.
She walked straight to the brothel in Hell and went to the lady of the house, Melanie (a French madam who had been much sought after by the gentlemen of the upper classes when she first arrived almost twenty years ago-this was how she had bought the large house in the first place) and asked to work there that night telling her about the amount of ships in the Liffey waiting to unload.
“You are a good girl for me and popular with some of my finest clients, but I am full until the weekend dearie,” Melanie said with a warm smile on her face. Kate was dismayed, and it must have shown on her face. “Call in if you want and if any of the girls are unwell or not here I will put you first on the list for replacement?”
“Thank you Mel,” Kate said, and she smiled at the lady; the girls were always getting sick or not able to work because a client had beaten them up, or some other disaster had happened. She was sure to get some work here over the next few days, and that would lessen her need to be on the streets.
“For future reference Katie,” Melanie said as she was leaving “I have the logs from the docks at all times. I am always well aware as to how many ships are coming and going.”
That night she called in, but there was nothing for her. She was surprised that everyone had shown up, and she left and wondered what to do. She didn’t want to prowl the alleyways and streets of the Liberties tonight nor did she fancy a walk anywhere near Francis Street or up at New Market. She went down to Temple Bar to see what she could get.
On cold nights like these, the profession she had really got on top of her and depressed her. When she was in a bed at the brothel sleeping with men for money it didn’t seem all that bad, but when all she was doing was trudging around in the rain and sucking sailors for the price of her next bowl of soup she could cry at her existence.
The docks were busy, and she was taken on board a couple of ships for a few minutes at a time but she wasn't earning much. It seemed even worse to her now that she had seen first-hand the opulence that people like Mr Edwards lived in. She remembered the bed and the bathroom and the carpet beneath her feet. At times, she fantasised about a gentleman taking her in. She was not so naive that she ever thought any would ever marry her, but she dreamt of just living in the same house as one of them and doing what they wanted of her when required.
When the dock quietened down somewhat, she began to be afraid of the creaking of the ropes that moored the ships and the billowing in the loosely wrapped sails when a nasty wind whipped up. Each time the sound would frighten her; it was actually a very loud sound when there wasn’t much for it to compete with. Her nerves were getting the better of her, and her customer base was shrinking, and so she went home in the hope that tomorrow would be a better day.
She went to the market the following day again, not to buy anything this time but just to pass the time. She had been home early and had gone to bed much earlier than before and so she was bored by mid-morning which was when she usually slept until.
As she browsed the stalls at the market, she heard the vegetable seller from the day before call her over.
“Are you still interested in having someone share your room?”
“The very girl, I told you about yesterday, is looking to move out of our place. She says there are too many of us now.”
“Mary Sommers!” Kate said in surprise
“Well, not exactly, Sarah is who I was talking about. She was a friend of Mary’s aunt who was killed.”
“But to be honest I’d say she will want to take Mary with her.”
Kate thought about this for a moment. She had heard such terrible things about ‘The Dolocher’, and she didn’t want to invite that beast to her doorstep, but she was desperate now. Thin soups were all she was eating lately, and she was making less and less at work with all the country girls who were flocking to the city. She reasoned with herself that this monster was attacking people at night in dark streets and not going into houses. If he wanted Mary Sommers, he could have her, Kate just wouldn’t go anywhere outside the house with her. There was no need for roommates to be friends. All Kate really wanted was the money she would get from these two new housemates.
“Well, I need all the money I can get,” Kate said, and thus a few days later Sarah and Mary moved in to her small room on the second floor of a building on Skippers Lane.