Harry Whitecliffe and Wally von Hammerstein want to marry as soon as possible, so their engagement must be made official without delay.  This first step toward more complete felicity is planned for the 4 October 1924.

However, shortly before this wonderful day, Harry does not appear at his office…  Doubtless, there is no reason to be worried, but the ceremony is now so close…

The poor fiancee is very upset.  Her parents do their best to console her.  In vain.  Everything has to be cancelled:  the fiance cannot be found.

Wally searches for him, herself, throughout Dresden.  His friends and business contacts are interrogated.  A liaison, that the young Englishman had had at the very beginning of his stay in the town, is checked.  It is revealed that it had been broken off in friendly fashion, when he met Wally.

Has he had an accident?  If so, what sort of accident?  He is so healthy, so strong, so sportive.  Could it be a crime?  Harry always carries large sums of money on him…  Wally’s family discretely alerts the police, which launches a diligent enquiry.  The idea of suicide is not even considered.  It is the most unlikely of all possibilities.

Wally, who is sure of the sincerity and depth of her love for Harry, becomes desperate, then begins to pine away.  She is talking about entering a convent, when a letter arrives for her.

It was found in a condemned man’s cell, in the Berlin prison.  The prisoner committed suicide by opening his veins with his belt buckle.

The envelope bears the inscription:

“I beg the Reich Prosecutor to have this letter delivered to the addressee without opening it”

and it is signed:  Lovach Blume.

Lovach Blume!

The most appalling of assassins.  One of the most abominable sadists in the whole of criminal history.  Worse that “M” or Jack the Ripper.  Thirty-one murders to his credit, in a very short space of time:  just one year.  And as for the conditions of the murders…

Exactly who is this Lovach Blume?  Before the Berlin Criminal Court, he says that his father is German, his mother Danish, and that he was raised in Australia by an uncle who exercised the profession of butcher in Sydney.  Is that what pushed him over the edge, and turned him into one of those monsters who abound in Germany, unhinged by the war?  He admits that

“Every ten days, I have to kill.  I am pushed by an irresistible force, and, until I have killed, I suffer atrociously.  But when I cut open my victims, I feel an indescribable pleasure…”

The court wants to know more about his past.  He doesn’t want to talk about it.  He says:

“What does it matter?  I’m a dead man.  Why should a dead man’s past matter?”…

And whom did he kill, and how?  Female prostitutes and young men who have strayed, picked up in the red light district of Berlin, who follow him to hotels used as brothels.  There, things take place according to an invariable rite and method:  His victims are barely undressed before the light goes off.  Then, it is not two bodies which meet in the darkness, but an animal to be slaughtered and the chopping block.  He uses a sort of Malaysian kriss, with an ivory handle, which makes such terrible wounds, that even the forensic pathologists find the sight of these cadavers unbearable.

Not once did the man miss his mark.  Tipped onto the bed, muffled with blankets, held for the whole time until death by the monster, who sullies him or her with frenzy, no victim ever manages to struggle free or call for help.

For six long months, Berlin’s red light district lives in fear.  The police is on the alert, but how do you control a city that has become an immense lupanar?

Several suspects are the objects of careful verifications.  Finally, the arm of the Law descends onto a sailor who lives as a transvestite, and on whom suspicions are accumulating.  He is just about to be charged, when an irrefutable alibi is found.

Lovach Blume is arrested on 25 September 1924.  By accident.  A policeman mistakenly thinks that he has recognized him as an important drug trafficker.  His colleagues are more than sceptical, but he insists, and manages to convince them to knock on the door of the hotel room, where Lovach Blume has just entered with a female prostitute.  These hesitations of the police allow the sadist to accomplish his thirty-first murder.

When the door is forced open, he is standing near the window, haggard and naked, while his victim lies dying.  He does not resist.  He admits all of his crimes, twenty-seven of them, anyway.  He’s sure about those.  For the other four, he hesitates.  He doesn’t really remember whether or not he went to this or that hotel.

During his trial, he barely defends himself.  But always in perfect German.  He tells his guards:

“I am not afraid of death, particularly in the way that the condemned are executed in Germany…  I would not have liked to have been hanged, as it is done in England, for example.”

In Dresden, the charming Wally has opened the letter from the man condemned to death, Lovach Blume.  It is a long letter, the writing and the style are elegant.  But, at the first lines, Wally faints…

It is a letter from her fiance, the delicious Whitecliffe, the most cultured poet, the most celebrated playwright in England and Germany.  In it, she learns that Lovach Blume and the talented Harry, adored by women, the poor, and all of his friends, are one and the same person.

Or rather, neither one nor the other.  For neither his birth in Australia, nor the name of Blume, nor even that of Whitecliffe are real.  Harry is the descendant of an honourable and highly respected English family, but that is all that we know about him…

To be continued.

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