Extracts from The Diaries of 'Professor' Cornelius Crane

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March 19th, 1969

The game is afoot!!!

I don’t think I’m gonna get much sleep tonight either.

Shit, what a rush I’m experiencing. Not even the coke I once snorted had me feeling this high.

Joaq’s house is only two blocks from my school. And what luck – there he was on his way out to walk his dogs (A couple of French Poodles of course) on long leases.

Excuse the pun, but I decided to push the envelope.

“Wow!” I exclaimed as he approached. “These are really cute-looking dogs. What are their names?”

“Oh, the one with the pink bow is Gigi,” he answered in an effeminate tone with a slight Froggy accent. “And that’s Gaston.”

“Gigi and Gaston, like in the movie?”

“Why yes! My but you are a clever little boy.”

“Thanks. Do they bite? Can I pat them?”

“Oh, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. Go ahead. They just love attention; especially from kids.” I knelt down and gave each dog a good rub and pat. He asked, “And what’s yours?”

“Sorry?”

“Your name? I don’t recall seeing you around here before.”

“Jack.”

“Jack! Why that’s almost the same as mine. “I’m Joaq, Joaq Du Maille.”

“Well, it’s actually Jacob, but all my friends call me Jack.”

“Then Jack it is.”

“Just don’t make fun of me like they do. You know, ‘Jack and Jill’… ‘Jack Spratt could eat no fat’… ‘Jack be nimble.’ Do you have any idea how many fairy tales and rhymes have a Jack?”

“Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“See!”

“Jack the giant killer.”

“That’s me! The little guy who brings down the big nasty bully that’s been terrorizing the neighborhood.”

He laughed before asking, “So, do you watch a lot of movies?”

“I guess.”

“I just love the musicals. Gigi…Show Boat…Fred and Ginger. Oh, I just adore Ginger Rogers.” He closed his eyes and smiled. “She always wears the most beautiful frocks.” Then he stared down at me. “Do you like the musicals?”

“I guess. Why do you ask?”

He waved a hand across the air. “Oh, just curious. You knew about Gigi. But I guess you prefer your shoot-‘em-up-westerns? All kids your age prefer that stuff. Cowboys and Indians.” Then he patted his mouth like a Red Indian on the war path. “Woo woo woo woo woo!”

I smiled cynically. “Actually, I prefer mystery thrillers.”

“Mystery thrillers?”

“Yeah, the cloak and dagger stuff. I just love Alfred Hitchcock. You know, stuff like Murder, Blackmail, The Man who knew too much, Young and Innocent, The Lady Vanishes, Suspicion, Psycho, and my two favorites Rope and Frenzy.”

“Frenzy? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of that one. What’s it about?”

I suddenly remembered that Frenzy had not yet been made. I think it only came out in the early seventies. Still, I explained the basic plot. “It’s about a killer who rapes and then uses his tie to strangle his victims to death.”

Without blinking, he immediately responded with, “Oh, my! Your folks let you watch that sort of stuff?”

This guy was good. No wonder they never caught him. I wondered what it would take on my part to get a decent reaction; some sort of response that would reveal the monster behind those large friendly smiling eyes.

“Uh, actually no. I got to sneak a peek when they watch the late night shows. They have caught me out a couple of times though.” I made my voice as low as possible. “‘You can’t watch this stuff. It’s gonna give you nightmares.’ Bah, I know the difference between reality and fantasy. I even watched Dracula and Frankenstein.”

“My you certainly are a brave young one. Braver than me. I had terrible dreams for weeks after seeing Psycho. God, that was a frightful movie. After that, I said, ‘Never again, Joaq Du Maille. Never again will you watch one of those god-awful scary movies.’”

“So, where you taking them?”

“Gigi and Gaston?”

“Uh-huh.”

“The park. The school comes out around this time and they just love all the attention from the kids playing on the swings and the roundabout. Would you like to come along?”

“I’d love to but…”

“Come on!” he interrupted placing his head at a strange angle. “We won’t be too long, and I’ll make us a nice pitcher of lemonade afters. I stay just over there.”

His eyes sparkled with anticipation as I pretended to deliberate the offer.

“I’d love to, but I’m actually busy running an errand for my pa; and he’ll take the skin off my backside if I dally. Maybe another time? Okay?”

“Oh, fine, then. I’m mostly at home. I do a lot of painting in my studio. You must come in and have a look at my stuff. So, anytime you’re in the neighborhood feel free to knock on my door.”

“I won’t be bothering you?”

“Don’t be silly, we’re friends now, remember? I might even decide to do a study of you.”

“Yeah, I bet you’d love to do a nude study of me, you sick homicidal pedophile fuck!”

Okay, so I never said that last line, but I was certainly thinking it. And it just felt pretty good to write it.

Anyhow, we parted ways. When I reached the front of his large house I glanced back quickly to see where he was. He was still moving and facing in the opposite direction, so I hastily slipped the envelope out of my pocket and into his mailbox, making sure that a piece protruded so that he would immediately see it on his return.

After that I went down to a corner store and bought a bottle of soda. Then I went back to wait for his return while slowly sipping the cool drink through a straw [Oh, by the way, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the fact that the straws back here are made from rolled paper with a thin wax coating (No individually wrapped plastic straws yet – most unhygienic). The wax coating never really helps. After a couple of sips the end always gets soggy and seals. Then you gotta chew off a piece before you can drink again – very frustrating].

“Hi Mister Du Maille,” I said as he removed the envelope from the mailbox slot.

“Jack!” he exclaimed turning towards me. “Oh, please, just call me Joaq. All the other kids do. Finished your errand already?”

“Yep, so does that offer of yours still stand?”

“The lemonade?”

“Yep, I’m pretty thirsty after my long walk,” I lied. “I could sure use some refreshment before heading on home.”

“Marvelous,” he said gazing down at the words on the envelope. A frown creased his brow.

I had written all in caps:

JOAQ DU MAILLE

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY!!!

EXTREMELY URGENT!!!

“Here,” I said reaching forward. “Let me help you with the dogs.”

“Why, thank you, Jack,” he said handing me the leases and removing the letter from the envelope. He unfolded it and I watched as his eyes darted back and forth across the typed page. “Oh, God,” he said in a hushed tone. “Oh, dear God, help me.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked putting on my most concerned visage.

He crushed the letter against his chest and stared up and down the street. Then he looked down at me. “You didn’t, by any chance, happen to see who put this in my mailbox?”

“Actually, yeah. I saw a man here when I passed earlier.”

“You did? Do you remember what he looked like?”

“Nah, I just saw the back of him. Then he moved off real fast.”

“Where?”

“Down the road,” I pointed. “That way.”

“What was he wearing? Was he big or small? Do you remember the color of his hair?”

“Why? What’s wrong? What’s in the letter? Is he threatening you? If he’s threatening you, we should tell my father.”

“Your father?”

“Yeah, he’s a detective at the 7th Precinct. He’ll sort this out for you chop chop.”

“No! That’s not necessary!” he exclaimed loudly. And although he quickly managed to calm himself and regain his composure, he had somehow completely lost the lyrical effeminate tone, repeating, “No, that’s not necessary.” He forced a smile and laughed. “It’s nothing. Really! Don’t be worrying yourself.”

“We’re friends now, Joaq. You said it yourself. And friends always help each other. More importantly, friends don’t lie to each other. So, if you’ve got a…”

“I said it’s alright, Jack. Really! So don’t be bothering your father with nothing.”

“Okay, so let’s have that lemonade then.”

“Oh, uh…rats!”

“What?”

“I just remembered that I used the last of the lemons this morning. Look, I’m really sorry, Jack. We’ll do this another time.” He took the dogs from me.

“Well, could I come in and have a look at your paintings.”

“Another time,” he said fumbling the key into the lock. “I don’t feel too good right now.”

To be honest, he didn’t look too good either. His face had turned a sickly pallor. I gave the knife a final twist. “Promise?”

“I promise!” he said opening the door. “Uh, another time. Real soon! I promise, Jack!” The door closed.

I almost burst out laughing right there and then, but managed to hold it in till I was half a block away. Then I laughed till the tears streamed down my face. When I finally regained my composure I spoke to myself.

“Damn, but you’re good. And damn, but you’re bad. Bad…bad…bad…Jack the giant killer. I finally managed to make the worm squirm. What a rush!”

I took a few calculated risks this afternoon. Luckily they all paid off. I have no idea what I would have said or done if Joaq still had the nerve to invite me into his house after reading the letter. Anyhow, things are going exactly to plan.

As mentioned earlier – ‘The game is…most definitely… afoot.’

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