The Stars Are Right: The Irish Rose: Murder, Vivisection, Conspiracy
Murder, Vivisection, Conspiracy
I knew Daniel Macklin. Not well, perhaps — newspaper men have many acquaintances but few friends — but he's been a fixture on my tours of Speakeasy Row since I first started writing for the Evening Times last year. Much like the Irish Rose, the saloon he ran, Macklin was no better than he needed to be—but no worse, either. The row covers in a few short miles the full gamut from gutter to palace, from the untouched grain alcohol of the winos to the genteel—and legal—pre-war whiskeys of Detroit's whited sepulchers. The Rose and Macklin occupied a middle ground both geographically and morally; Danny ran an honest enough bar, but he was a scofflaw, a drunk and a beater of women.
Daniel Macklin was murdered in the early afternoon of August 5th, his body emptied of blood and hung from a hook set into the ceiling of the illegal bar he owned and operated under the willfully blind eyes of the city of Detroit. Macklin was murdered, and his death might have been simply another casualty in the futile war waged between an understaffed and corrupt government and the tinpot tyrants and entrepreneurs of the rum trade — certainly that is, and remains, the preferred explanation of the Detroit Police, who are quick to lay the blame for any violent crime that happens along Speakeasy Row at the feet of nebulous "outside elements" while allowing homegrown heroes like Abe and Raymond Bernstein, Abe Axel and Eddie Fletcher to walk free. But Macklin was not the first to die in such a spectacularly grotesque fashion, and his killers were as little interested in the petty vagaries of the liquor trade as Chief Hart is in Spinoza.
The raid on the Siamese Twins' white slavery operation uncovered a dark project operating in the Midwest. The children rescued during that raid claim to have been shifted from country to country, from England to Egypt to Canada, before settling at last in Macomb County; at each step they were experimented on, vivisected, infected and reinfected in a ghoulish parody of medicine. Axel and Fletcher were operating independently of their bosses — the Twins have run into trouble with the Bernsteins before for getting above their station — but they were no more than convenient tools, no more than hired, bloody hands. Abe Axel did not empty Daniel Macklin like a spent cask; Eddie Fletcher did not hang Thomas Bitterman on a hook like a Christmas ham, though either would have faced the task cheerfully enough—but neither Twin has the brains to conduct the grim experiments inflicted on Olivia and Jason and Ricky, nor the demonic imagination to produce the charnelhouse discovered beneath an abandoned Kansas City farmhouse.
Thomas Bitterman had little to do with bootlegging. When he drank — and Bitterman, like many of Detroit's most upstanding citizens, did drink — he did so legally and temperately in the civil rooms of his Kansas City club, from a stock of alcohol laid aside prior to Prohibition. He played cards with the chief of police and the mayor, and when he had to foreclose on a farm, he did so with a respectable show of sorrow. Thomas Bitterman was a collections agent for the Kansas City Fund and Trust, and spent the bulk of his working life foreclosing on area farmers unable to afford the mortgages on their land. It's a bitter job, requiring a certain callousness of spirit—it wasn't poor Kansan farmers who allowed rampant speculation to stampede the world's markets into ruin, not Midwestern workers who drove the world into a costly and ruinous war, but it is they who pay the price. Thomas Bitterman bought his aristocratic townhouse with money wrung from the ruination of his clients' dreams, and no amount of respectability could completely disguise that. On his last morning alive, Thomas Bitterman was driven off a farm his employer "owned" by an outraged Warren Peters and his shotgun—a futile gesture, for if death had not intervened, Thomas Bitterman would have returned with an unsympathetic army of police to drag Peters off the land he'd worked summer and winter for over twelve years.
Thomas Bitterman was killed on February 18th of this year, and his body — like Daniel Macklin's — was emptied of blood and left hanging from the ceiling of his respectable home. It would not be too much to assume his death the revenge of some displaced sodbuster, but his death, like Macklin's, was ruled the work of bootleggers that Bitterman disturbed while making his rounds, bootleggers now conveniently fled beyond the energetic pursuit of the police. What the Kansas City Police failed to uncover in months of investigation, the Detroit Evening Times found in less than a day through the most elementary of detective work. Thanks to cooperation from the Harvest Trust, the Times obtained the list of farms last visited by Thomas Bitterman. Most of these farms remain occupied; the Harvest Trust bought out the KC Fund & Trust following Bitterman's murder, and has chosen to keep farmers on their land and producing. William Alden's farm, however, sat empty and dark—but not unoccupied.
Police found twelve bodies in a walk-in cooler dug into the cellar below Alden's farm. Twelve men had been hung and prepared like sides of beef, like Macklin, like Bitterman. Deeper within the compound, a row of cages stood empty and silent, smeared with blood and filth—people had been kept there in bestial squalor for days, weeks—months. Strange machinery and the glittering panoply of alchemy lined every room. The researchers appeared to have been Russian, judging by the notebooks and blackboards scattered throughout the compound. Letters found at the scene indicate a correspondence between Kansas and Alberta; police are still working to translate everything, but the farm appears to have been anticipating the delivery of several children -- children the documents chillingly refer to as "incubators." One thing is clear: visitors from the resurgent Tsarist Empire were conducting grim biological experiments in the heart of America for reasons unknown. This was the secret that Thomas Bitterman died to keep.
Katie Flynn came to America in 1931 as part of the "family" surrounding Maturin de Bonnevault, a European of unknown origin suffering from the disease that would later be identified by Dr. Gregory Parkhurst. Although not suffering at the time from Parkhurst's condition, Flynn would be infected by the time she arrived in Detroit in May of this year. Infected, but not infectious; like malaria, the disease can remain in the body for years without flaring up into an active case. Daniel Macklin was a friend of the family, and she fell in with him as a refuge against the world. Flynn brought with her a copy of Dr. Parkhurst's notes on the disease and its potential treatment—treatment that, in worse hands than his, could be used to kill, not heal. It was in hopes of creating this more destructive form of the disease that a small army of Russians labored beneath the Kansas soil, it was for these ends that Olivia, Jason and Ricky were tortured with the cruellest experimentation, and it was to secure Dr. Parkhurst's notes that Daniel Macklin was murdered. With his notes, the "doctors" hoped to advance their own research, accomplishing by murder and theft what they lacked the genius to create independently.
It was chance that Daniel Macklin died instead of Katie Flynn. The night he was murdered, Daniel Macklin beat Katie Flynn into unconsciousness while Irish Rose regulars watched in numb apathy; for dessert he threw her down a flight of stairs and left her bleeding at the bottom while a passing doctor applied first aid. While Danny Macklin was dying, Katie Flynn lay in a pile of broken bones while an unlicensed doctor worked to save her life. Macklin never knew about Parkhurst's notes, or where his errant "wife" had gone, and for his ignorance he died.
Following the interview with Katie Flynn that appeared in the Evening Times, we were approached by a gentleman claiming to be the Boyar Rulianoff, adoptive father of the current Tsarina. He promised us riches, fame, all the kingdoms of the world if we could deliver Parkhurst's notes to him. He claimed to represent the Tsarina's wishes, and that her scientists had only the good of the world at heart. We demurred--at this point we knew nothing of Gregory Parkhurst, his notes, or the rare condition he called the necrophage. Remember me, urged the Boyar, but disappeared following the success of the Macomb County raid. What connection, if any, did he have with Macomb County? With the Tsarina? With his fellow countrymen doing dark work in a Kansas burrow? Questions abound, and no seems well equipped to supply answers -- not Chief Hart, not the Boyar, not even the stalwart Evening Times -- but answers must come, and soon.
Published September 4, 1932