At the Bottom of One of These Abysses
By Jeff Baker
I am writing these lines in the hope that my mind would be freed. My conscience is clear, despite what the reader, my confessor, may consider a devilish act.
I had met Ambrose through the auspices of what I will call “The Quiet Club,” one of a number of “gentlemen’s clubs” in Baltimore where gentlemen could meet gentlemen. And while formal attire was required for entry into the club’s outer environs, once in the deep recesses of the club members and guests would shed their attire and fraternize with drinks and sandwiches. Discreet deals would be made. And men in pairs would retire either to other rooms in the club or to alternative quarters. Among the crowd of near-naked men, Ambrose stood out. His only adornment was a pet crow which he described as his “avatar” and remained perched on his bare shoulder throughout our conversation, feathers glistening in the gaslight, eying me warily.
The crow remained perched on Ambrose’s shoulder when we, now clothed, walked through the dark streets to the basement rooms I rented for such encounters.
It was easy to slaughter somebody who was expecting an embrace. As always the thick stone walls blocked the sound and the stone floors held the prospect of washing the blood down the floor drains. The crow was another matter; it hurled itself at me like an avenging fury. But it was not a fury and soon it fell. Disposing of the bodies, after use of my surgical implements was made easy by the nearby harbor. Disposal of my clothes and the latest deed was complete.
It was not long after that I decided to take my leave of Baltimore and try my luck in mighty Philadelphia. I was there unexpected for several weeks when I noticed a single crow perched on a ledge outside my rooming-house. I thought nothing of it at first, but then I realized the crow was in the same spot whenever I entered or left my rooms staring at me with a watchful eye—the same eye from the stone basement room!
I left Philadelphia by the stage and headed for New York City, where I found my mysterious watcher had followed me! And it was the same bird; Ambrose’s bird that I had left for dead in Baltimore! Of this I was sure! I heard its steely cry day and night!
I had some acquaintances in New York and I made public my plans to head for Boston. Instead, I made my way to Richmond. There I believed I had lost my accuser, the monstrous black-feathered avatar of Ambrose. But to no avail! I soon noticed it on the streets, in the trees, in the sky above me. Always with the accusing stare and the noisesome cry of its loathsome breed!
I could take no more! I went to the local police, who did not believe my tale of blood and murders and avatars. Even when I took them outside and showed them the dark avenger in a tree outside their very police station. Something in my manner, in my insistence must have struck a chord, for doctors were soon summoned and, following a barrage of questions, I found lodging in the city’s official version of Bedlam.
I still do not know whether they believe my confession. I do not know whether they have even checked my route of blood from Baltimore, Providence, Boston, New Orleans and other cities where I plied my trade. I merely remain here. Undisturbed. No visitors from outside. No windows in this room.
But in my dreams, even in my waking hours I still see the accusing eye and hear the tuneless cry of the avenger of Ambrose; that hideous bird!