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Pearl Bryan: chapter one continued

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Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

Plans were made to search the reservoir on Monday - the earliest this could be arranged - and Plummer had no choice but to call it a day. The reporters at the scene rushed back to their offices, confident they now had enough to construct a suitably lurid account of the crime for the next morning's papers. It was those accounts which Barclay & Co pasted together in its quickie exploitation booklet.
"The murderer overtook his victim," Barclay says. "He choked her into silence and dragged her toward the bushy bank. She struggled desperately, and he tore a handful of cloth from her dress. He threw her to the ground and slid over the bank with her. He must have drawn his knife after the struggle began, otherwise he would have used it sooner. He slashed at her throat. She clutched at the knife [...] and three times the blade laid her palm or fingers open to the bone. Her struggle was useless, and in a moment her life blood was pouring from a gaping wound in her throat."
Sunday morning's CE takes up the story from there. "He cut clean across the back of her neck, connecting the ends of the jagged wound on her throat, and then hacked away with his knife until the head was severed from the body," it says. "He wrapped the head in the dead woman's cloak, thrust his knife into the ground once or twice to cleanse it of blood, climbed the fence at the edge of the yard and then started away, carrying the head."

'Her struggle was useless, and soon her life blood was pouring from the cut in her throat.'

The paper relates the killer's climb up the hill, describes the empty cistern with its bloody handprint, and then concludes: "He did not leave his ghastly burden here, but went on towards the reservoir. At the edge of the bank, overlooking the reservoir, all trace of him is lost. He may have thrown the head into the reservoir and the cloak with it, weighted with stones to sink it."
That was certainly what Plummer believed as Saturday drew to a close, and the version above is a fair summary of what the papers had been able to glean so far. What the their reporters didn't know was that, while they'd been following Plummer and his bloodhounds round the reservoir, Crim and McDermott were pursuing a foot trail of their own.

One of the people who came out to gawp at the murder scene on Saturday afternoon was LD Poock, the owner of a Newport shoe shop. Watching police gather up the girl's body and take it away, he noticed how unusually narrow her shoes were. Poock could see they were a relatively rare size, and came forward to tell Crim and McDermott this might help identify their owner. "Every shoe has a number stamped on it by the manufacturer for his records," he explained. "In this manner, we may be able to determine to what dealer the shoe was sold and to whom the dealer sold the shoe."
The detectives had already noted down an inscription reading "22-11-62458" from inside the shoes, but not realised just how helpful this number might prove. Now that he understood its significance, Crim collected the shoes from the mantelpiece at White's and took them to Cincinnati's Krippendorf shoe factory. The manager checked his books, found the number listed, and identified the manufacturer as a company called Drew Selby in Portsmouth, Ohio. The shoes were made of black cloth and leather with a button decoration, and "22-11" was Drew Selby's mark for size 3B.
"It was then past noon on Saturday, but I was able to get in touch with Will Selby at his home," Crim writes. "He graciously went to the factory where, after consulting records, he reported that shoes of that kind and size had been sold by his firm to Lewis & Hayes of Greencastle, Indiana, where DePauw University is located." The store had bought a dozen pairs of shoes in that style, three of which matched the dead girl's foot size.
It was Saturday night by the time the detectives knew which store had sold the shoes, and they would have liked nothing more than to set off for Greencastle immediately. Cincinnati didn't pay its policemen enough to front up the cost of the 130-mile journey themselves, though, and they knew they wouldn't be able to draw any city cash until Monday, so the trip would have to wait.
That was unfortunate, because the issue of identifying the body was becoming urgent. With no name to attach to the dead girl in their care, the police couldn't afford to dismiss anyone who claimed they could help. In the space of a single day, 24 people came forward to report missing girlfriends, sisters or wives, who they believed may now be lying dead in White's. If their description tallied at all with what police knew of the body, they were allowed to examine it in person. Many turned out to be time-wasters, who simply wanted an excuse to see such a notorious corpse for themselves, but others demanded more investigation.
One Cincinnati woman named Hart swore the body was that of her daughter, Ella Markland, who she'd last seen on Christmas Eve. Amid many sobs, Mrs Hart told police that she recognised the body from what Barclay calls "the peculiar shape of the legs from the knee down, and by the general contour of the breasts, waist and limbs." But Ella was later found alive and well, working as a domestic servant on Cincinnati's Ninth Street.
On Sunday, February 2, a Mrs McDonald contacted the detectives from Chicago, saying her daughter Alva had been missing for nearly a week. "I dreamed that I saw my daughter's body lying in a pool, and became convinced that she had been murdered," she told them. Alva had last been seen in the Chicago neighbourhood of West Pullman, and her mother had no idea how she might have ended up getting killed in Kentucky. With no more reliable theory to go on, however, Crim and McDermott couldn't afford to rule Alva out.
Meanwhile, they were already chasing a lead from Cincinnati's Atlantic Garden tavern, where a regular patron called Mollie had not been seen for the past four or five days. The CE hinted heavily that Mollie had been one of the prostitutes who used Atlantic Garden to meet her soldier clients, saying the other girls there were already gossiping about her being the killer's victim. Police added both Alva and Mollie's name to their list of possibles, and circulated their descriptions to the increasingly rabid press, but nothing came of either theory.