Related song: Wrecking Ball
Krantz sat in his usual chair at the coffeehouse. He was drafting an article for the next week’s issue of Arbayter Fraynt, the worker’s newspaper. His mind was still consumed with the fate of the prostitute who was killed outside of his office. These unfortunate women who sold their bodies to men all across the East End did not have a home to call their own; they had no place to hide from murderer’s knives, but instead were forced to walk the streets at night to pay for their food and lodging. Even if they were able to apprehend the murderer, the unfortunates would still be subject to the same cruel system that had created all of their problems.
The root of the issue, as he saw it, was the great corruption and baseness of the ruling class, which itself was guilty of every murder, robbery and desecration in the poor neighborhoods of London. It was the ruling class that brought about the suffering of the working class. These unfortunate women, though lowly and base, were in reality no different than he and his fellow workers. It is true that the prostitutes did not grasp the the true dignity of labor, but like his comrades, the unfortunate women of the East End were dying quietly from hunger, loneliness and disease while their overlords remained silent.
The front range of the buildings along Wentworth Street, on either side of Goulston Street, have the remains of glass brick light wells immediately in front of the shop doorways. The shops are original.
That gang of bloodsuckers have grabbed up everything on earth, thought Krantz, all the while complaining about the depravity and corruption of the poor!
Krantz’s reverie was broken by the appearance of a small shadow blocking the sunlight from his table.
“Philip! How are you, my friend?”
“Mr. Moring,” replied Krantz jovially as he raised his head to his interlocutor.
“I see you’re busy engineering the fall of the empire,” said Mr. Moring while grabbing a chair. “Mind if I sit?”
“No, please do. I’m just reflecting on recent events over my coffee,” replied Krantz. “So much going on right now.”
“Are you referring to the murders or the anarchists… or both?” asked Mr. Moring.
“Both, I suspect,” said Krantz, “Though my thoughts on these subjects aren’t completely clear to me.”
“Meaning you’re sympathetic to one or the other?” offered Mr. Moring.
“I wouldn’t use that word but, yes, there is a kind of dark poetry to throwing a bomb or maybe even a dead body into the capitalist machinery to see what might break.”
“So you think Leather Apron is one of your own then, or perhaps, sympathetic to your cause? You wouldn’t be the only one who believes this from what I’ve been hearing.”
This wasn’t just idle talk coming from Mr. Moring. He had connections in London society and with the Metropolitan Police, though he lived like a Paris Bohemian and shared most of their vices. Still, he was sympathetic to the causes of the socialists and the anarchists. It was for this reason that Krantz considered him more of a friend than a foe.
It seemed funny to Krantz that he got along so well with Mr. Moring when Mr. Moring represented so many of the social ills that Krantz was fighting to eradicate. Moring was a known opium addict and drunk, was friendly with prostitutes, and had ties to criminal elements in the East End, which happened to include a large portion of the Metropolitan Police force. Yet, Krantz and Moring saw many things eye-to-eye as well, sometimes even more so than Krantz did with his dearest comrades. This was an inconvenient fact that Krantz kept very much to himself.
Mr. Moring had good information. This information was useful to Krantz and it benefited the movement to know what they should be looking out for. Many of the club members could not speak English and they were laborers who mostly kept to their own, communicating in Yiddish and the languages of their native countries. Krantz was lucky to have an education; he could read and write in multiple languages and could speak fluent English. In fact, he hadn’t learned Yiddish until he starting writing articles for the socialists. Over time, his high profile and connections had made him the eyes and ears of the Jewish Socialist community.
“The police have found more than they’ve said,” Mr. Moring offered in a hushed voice.
“Do the Jews or the socialists have more to fear from this?” asked Krantz, who was more than curious to hear the news.
“There was an inscription left on a Jewish tenement wall,” replied Mr. Moring.
“Where? At which location?” rebutted Krantz.
“Neither,” replied Mr. Moring, “It was found on Goulston Street inside the Wentworth Dwellings.”
Mr. Moring was clearly relishing the fact that he could draw the story out.
“How could it be relevant if it wasn’t found near one the bodies? What did it say?” asked Krantz.
“The Jews will not be blamed for nothing… or something to that effect,” said Mr. Moring.
“What does that mean?” asked Krantz.
“I thought you’d know. You’re the Jewish scholar,” replied Mr. Moring.
“Well, you’re the poet,” rebutted Krantz, “It sounds like two negatives to me, so the Jews will be blamed for something. The murders, I’m guessing… and everything else, of course.”
“There was more.”
“What more?” asked Krantz excitedly.
“A piece of apron that belonged to the Mitre Square victim was found beneath the inscription,” replied Mr. Moring.
“The apron she was wearing at the time of the murder?” asked Krantz in disbelief.
“The very!” replied Mr. Moring triumphantly. “And it was bloodied,” he offered as his final point.
This was indeed bad news and Krantz knew it. Why this information hadn’t been reported in the local newspapers was a mystery to him. Had the police been holding this information from the public for the sake of the Jews? He sincerely doubted it.
The Metropolitan Police and, indeed, every non-Jewish resident of the East End, seemed keen to blame the Jews for the recent string of killings, especially after John Pizer had been fingered for the Hanbury Street murder. Pizer was still regarded with suspicion even after the charges against him were dropped. Apparently, if you’re a Jew living in the East End, having a police constable as your alibi isn’t enough to clear your name in the public’s eye.
Once it came out, the Goulston Street evidence would inevitably be tied to the double murders. Both bodies had been found near Jewish establishments and now a third piece of evidence that further tied both murders to the Jews would be devastating to the Jewish community.
It was clear to Krantz that the murderer was attempting to frame the Jews for his wrongdoings. To think otherwise would break his faith in his own people. How could a Jew do this to his own kind? Krantz didn’t believe he knew of any Jew capable of that kind of betrayal. A Jew-hating Jew. That would be an abomination. But was it unheard of? He searched his mind to think of anyone who might fit that description.
“Trying to figure out which of you is guilty?” asked Mr. Moring with a glint in his eye and a small, upturned smile on his face.
“Don’t be so glib, Dowson,” hissed Krantz, accidentally letting slip Mr. Moring’s actual surname.
“Not here, Philip. You know better than that…. But I’ll leave you to your thoughts. I can see I’ve given you much to think about.”
“Yes,” said Krantz distractedly, “My apologies, of course. Until next time and all the rest.”
Mr. Moring moved across the coffeehouse to another table. Krantz watched as he sat down with some local tradesmen to hold court with them, without a doubt discussing the recent events in the neighborhood.
“What else does he know?” thought Krantz, feeling certain that Mr. Moring had not shared everything.
Suddenly feeling he should leave, Krantz stood up and gathered his belongings. He felt a quick tug on his coat sleeve.
“Excuse me,” said the man somewhat nervously, “You are the editor for the paper printed out of the Bernal Street Club, correct?”
“The International Worker’s Education Club,” corrected Krantz, “Yes, how may I help you?” He did not recognize the man.
“So you were there, then?” said the man, obviously referring to the murder.
“I was working late in the print shop that night but I didn’t see anything,” replied Krantz. He had been asked this question dozens of times since the murder.
“Is it true that she was found with a sprig of grapes in her hand?” said the man, apparently more curious about the details of the crime than was seemly. After all, the woman’s body had yet to be interred.
“That’s what I’ve heard reported. I cannot say that whether it is true or not. I did not observe the body closely,” said Krantz flatly.
“Had she eaten any?” pressed the man.
“My good man, I don’t know! You’d have to ask the doctor who was on the scene. I believe his name was Blackwell. His office is on Commercial Road,” replied Krantz, who was quite earnest to leave both the coffeehouse and this disturbing man.
Instead, changing his mind, Krantz suddenly demanded, “Who are you and why do you ask these questions?”
Taken aback, the man stammered, “Just a curious…. I’m… I work for Whinfield Hora in the Minories.”
“Do you know Levisohn?” asked Krantz out of the blue. He was dimly aware of the wholesale chemist who employed the man.
The man had a queer look on his face, but soon composed himself and said that he did not know a Levisohn.
Krantz took his leave of the man with a “good day, sir” and wondered to himself why he had thought of Wolff Levisohn at that very moment.