I. BOURGEOUIS BURGLARY
His recurrent childhood nightmare was of getting caught burgling a house. He recalled the alien smells, the feeling of suffocating in the noisome dark, a certainty he’d lost any security forever.
Then he’d be awake, safely stretched in bed.
Now he was planning to make this reality. He was clearly mad. The place he’d chosen was a detached house, way up Cumnor Hill. It was to be a ritual desecration, a revenge attack on the class and character of its owners.
Talk with such types had become circular; nothing could breach their liberal certainties. Words no longer held any meaning for these people. It’s pointless to contradict this with more explanation. An empirical representation of his opposing thought was needed – for himself, and for them. Hadn’t the husband demanded it?
‘You’re a right-wing wanker. Worse than a Nazi.’
He was mad but not responsible for making himself so. His class was the target. To wear a Balaclava was essential, not to avoid recognition but from 70s memories of drying them on school radiators and images of terrorists.
You’ll need to know the details, what I took.
A penknife: small; portable; collectable.
I’ve kept some from my childhood,
lost the flick-knives from trips to France.
I waited at least an hour on the sloping lawn,
hidden from the house, the incline so steep.
The expected security lights didn’t activate.
Of course there was an alarm – I welcomed it.
Have you been inside a house when one goes off?
Sickening disorientation and five-minutes’ panic.
Time for me to smash up some pictures,
piss in a wicker basket and their boots,
tear off a coat-rack then grab the knife.
I was filmed jumping over a hedge.
He sat and dug under his finger nails with the shining blade:
The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.
Presumably the soil he removed was ‘forensic evidence’? In a true-crime documentary, trace-element analysis would pinpoint the Cumnor ridge and its famous clay.
His urine would obviously yield DNA.
But he doubted this bourgeois burglary would divert the police from queuing in Greggs or surfing internet porn.
He was safe.
II. SONNET ON STEALING A CAR
At fifty-nine I’ve stolen my first car.
In films it’s done with the utmost of ease –
glancing round, ruler down the driver’s door,
a rapid twisting of wires and away.
Reality? Smashing my way in then
electrocuted getting connection.
Alarm blaring, me waving and mouthing:
‘Don’t worry, it’s my car – temperamental!‘
Meanwhile, that burgled berk from Cumnor Hill
is bustling back, swinging his Waitrose bag.
Eventually it starts and I soak him,
aquaplaning through water, a puddle
for him and his wife. I flick salt-shaker
gestures and he feebly attempts to chase.
Like A Study in Scarlet, red ‘Rache’ carved
inside their lives. He saw them smiling and
decided how to; who to trust. But the
rash sharing of an obsession was why
many got caught. If he acted alone,
only his thoughts had importance. He could
live inside those and switch to some dagger –
if he dared to – then slash without warning.
You think this mad but the pain seen in her
should not be forgiven. To know they had
enjoyed it ’caused his monstrous behaviour.’
True-crime documentaries said that and
‘Nobody thought he would ever do this.’
Each step was easily traced, if you tried.
IV. UNMASKING OF A SERIAL KILLER
In the old Truman brewery, Brick Lane,
the world’s leading Ripper experts sipping
champagne while ruminating on some wretch;
Isaac Dipski – the mad kosher butcher –
lifted crusts from gutters, believed he was
conversing with Abraham using farts.
Five witness reports of him running past
Chapman’s death scene on the way to Nando’s.
The killer is named, to thundering applause:
‘Charles Allen Lechmere, found there in Buck’s Row,
we’ve tracked his mobile phone. Early for work –
claimed he thought it was on old tarpaulin –
standing by Polly Nichols, freshly slain.
And there’s six minutes lost he can’t explain…’
V: AMONGST THE HALF MAD
I’m not complaining –
it’s where I’m meant to be.
An Internet discussion board:
Casebook: Jack the Ripper; I’m barred!
Was it him – Francis Thompson – my quest.
London, up from autumnal tree-tunnels
to border areas of Holborn, the City, those
streets I walked once, bored, lonely. no one.
Up past Newgate, St Mary-le-Bow down to
Watling Street with its views of St Paul’s.
St Stephen Walbrook, my days have
wandered then become a joke, his
‘have crackled and gone up in smoke’.
Praise God no tourists, just sentinel
towers from Wren dwarfed by capital.
It’s beautiful to live on visuals,
memories – bits of a building, a
childhood scout-hut, some adventure
playground. Schools are here, one
on Mitre Square where I’m going.
A lone muttering, others the same.
London can be taken by trackless
steps. Odd to arrive in Bevis Marks,
into Dukes Place & down the passage –
St Botolph Church, burial place of rebels.
So was I banned for posting my research:
‘I may have hitherto hidden my dismay,
at the seeming shambles that is “Ripperology” –
Simple experiments and observations.
It’s sorted! Took me twenty minutes on site.
Discovery of a new (highly unsavoury) ‘clew’ –
bagged and sent to forensics. All done after
a leisurely stroll from Drury Lane, through
old Holborn/City (some Wren churches) to
Mitre Square, where I solved the case!
I don’t want to be critical;
but what the hell have you all
been doing for these 135 years?’
VI: THIS BITER GETS BITTEN
It’s at this point the decent reader wants
to see this writer receive what he’s doled
out. So here’s a rambling account of how I
escaped down alleys, through slippery
courts. Not in London or Oxford but in
a place too Gothic to be safe since when
I was there it wasn’t for tourists but exile.
This was before the fall of the Berlin Wall,
in Prague, 1989. The country in freefall –
you know the old Eastern block cities
had bad crime under Communism?
In fact, it was more dangerous since
the causes couldn’t be admitted as
social, in a perfect society. I went
for a walk along the river and away
from anything picturesque towards
distant tower-blocks. Such numbers
of them in a line, like that scene from
the Bourne film where he visits the Russian
girl – St Petersburg I think – whose parents
he’s killed. Anyway, on I walked into the
Czechoslovakian night, lights were up so
high I remember, then I was hit from behind
and expertly fleeced – a smell of vodka or
schnapps. The man took very little, since I
grabbed his leg and pushed him over easily.
But the fear! I ran without wondering why it
was raining with no drops on the river; blood
of course from a broken head. I got back to
the Hotel Bristol, reception called a medic
who nodded without interest and said only a
fool walks in any of those places, especially as
the whole of our state is failing. My money was
gone but only worthless Czech stuff I’d bought
at five times the official rate. It’s not much but
I can say I’ve suffered from True Crime just
as we all have, though I’d forgotten it and any
experiences. Like how a friend from university
was murdered by a whack across the head.
That was in London, near Battersea Park.