Angie had lived on her own now for about fourteen years. Ever since her husband, Walter, had died life had seemed to deal her one unkindness after another. It was a little more than three years ago now, that Angie had left her apartment and was forced to live on the streets. In the Big Apple, she and others like her, were termed “bag ladies” after the fashion in which they carried all their worldly possessions in a multitude of shopping bags. ‘Gypsies without wagons’ could be one interpretation of their life style but, in reality, they neither had style, nor wagons. Their soul means of survival depended on what they could beg for and what pitiful amounts of food could be found in the garbage pails and gutters, discarded by the tourists and commuters, and uncollected by the squirrels and rats. In the wintertime, they burrowed like field mice into the deeper corners of the subway system to keep warm. Theirs was a life of constant moving by the prodding nightstick of the beat cop, and the rushing crowds of the commuters. They feared all, and trusted none. They were constantly pursued by the stares of the passerby and by those who could not find handier victims to rob.
Angie’s usual haunts were the Canal and Prince Street areas. They proved to be a bit more deserted, and gave her a little more solitude than the uptown stops around thirty‑fourth or fourteenth streets, where occasionally she would ask for handouts of spare change.
Today she had fared a little better than usual because of the bad weather, and she was able to buy a hot dog with some sauerkraut. To her, it seemed like Thanksgiving. She liked the rough weather because it drove more people underground, and with winter approaching, it would mean more people would pass her haunts and hopefully, she thought, drop a little extra change her way. With night coming on, she moved herself bag,andbaggage, to the Canal Street station for the night’s stay.
Canal Street is in the Chinatown district of the Big City. Its sweat shops and Chinese food stores are its mainstay, and its calling card. Like other depressed areas of the city, it is lonely by day and even lonelier by night. Yet, for Angie, it offered solitude, and gave her lifestyle the backdrop that befitted her.
Now, far after she had completed her cherished supper, she lay bundled under the many discarded rags of her wardrobe. Tired after an unusual day of constant prodding, she lay deep in sleep.
She didn’t feel him at first. She sensed him originally as an uneasy presence. After a while she peered out from under her hooded clothing and saw his feet. On first awakening she couldn’t tell if he was really there or not because he was so still. Even stranger, the shoes seemed awfully large and she thought he actually stood closer than he really was.
The uneasy feeling changed to worry as she realized that he had stood there for a great while just watching her and, she felt… waiting.
Then her worried thoughts turned to terror, then horror, as she glanced up at his enormous size and the pure hatred that she read in his face and eyes. The realization of that look totally distracted Angie’s attention from the meat cleaver he held in his hands. She didn’t notice it at all until it came whistling straight for her face. Angie didn’t even have time to scream as the cleaver came down, and down again.
When he was finished with his handiwork, the huge man stared down at what only he could have known as Angie Warren. A “bag lady,” deceased. He watched as her corpse shuddered once or twice after the first few blows and knew now that the pain was an unreality for her. Parts of her skull and brain tissue were scattered like confetti after a big parade. The scarlet stain was mostly absorbed by the mass of rags that had been Angie Warren’s living quarters these many years, and only a little spread to the surrounding wall where it first sprayed under the impact of the blows. Yes, Angie Warren was very dead indeed.
He felt the approaching rumble now, like a swiftly advancing thunderstorm. The giant moved with amazing speed for a being of his size. His fascination for the bag lady’s death delayed his retreat, however, and he was momentarily blinded by the train’s lights as he rounded the corner for the stairs.
At first, Charlie Horton couldn’t believe the size of the man who glared back at him in his headlights. The glint of steel in his hand worried him as well. But the danger was thwarted by the train, and Charlie could count his blessings as the big man made hasty footwork for the stairs. As the motorman’s eyes passed the disappearing figure, they trained on the still bundle at the end of the platform. Fear grew in him as the red spattering on the walls began to clarify what the prostrate, unidentifiable form, must be. Charlie radioed the conductor, Ed Dubin, who verified Charlie’s fears after he departed the train to check. What stuck in Charlie’s mind the most had been the great size, and the look of pure hatred, of the man who stared back into his headlights as he arrived at the station. A vision like that would never leave him.
Mac and Jenkins arrived at the scene about an hour-and-a- half after it happened. Canal Street was out of his turf, but because the description of the “large man” was similar to his own suspect, he was sent there.
On the way down, Jenkins filled the Lieutenant in on the report the detectives were given by the motorman, the only eye witness to what had seemed to most, as an apparition. Mac knew that two sightings no longer clarified it as an apparition, but placed it more in the form of reality. A little exaggerated maybe, but a reality nonetheless.
When Mac and Detective Jenkins arrived on the platform, the remains of Angie Warren had already disappeared to the City Morgue. All the better for me and my stomach, Mac thought.
A detective, Sergeant Stevenson, was waiting for them. He showed them the spot where the bag lady was killed and gave them the account of the trainman.
“What was he using?” Mac asked.
“Probably an axe or meat cleaver,” Stevenson answered. “We should have the autopsy report in about two hours.”
“Humph,” was Mac’s only reply. Apparently, the murderer was indiscriminate in the weapons he used, he thought.
“What’s this thing about a giant?” the sergeant asked. “It has the boys downtown a little shook up.”
“We had a similar homicide report three hours ago,” Mac replied. “Apparently, this guy gets around.”
“Another bag lady?” the sergeant asked.
“No,” said the lieutenant. “Apparently, since then, he has had a change of heart. He surprised three guys who attacked a nurse. Nothing much left of one of them, and he mashed the others like so many flies.”
“Got all four, did he?” the sergeant asked.
“No.” replied Jenkins. “Actually he saved the nurse.”
“You’re kidding?” replied Stevenson.
“Nope,” Mac said. ”He even covered her up to protect her dignity.”
“Sounds like we got us a strange one,” concluded the sergeant.
“Yeah, I guess you can say he runs hot and cold,” replied Mac, thoughtfully. “Hot and cold,” he repeated to himself.