The Obsession of Doctor Pendergrass
by John David Buchanan
Pub Date 15 Apr 2019
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Doctor Pendergrass settled into London and his surgeon’s job at Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital. He loved the city, but he detested the criminal element that had taken up residence there. In response to the problem, Pendergrass secretly got involved. At night, in the dark alleys and lanes, he could do what constables at Scotland Yard could not. His dark excursions were ripe with hypocrisy, not to mention the risk of going to prison, or the gallows if he were caught.
Pendergrass had always believed his nighttime outings should be a private endeavor. Nevertheless, in an extraordinary turn of events, which included him almost being killed, Sarah Shelley, a nursing intern at the hospital, became his collaborator. He tried everything to counter her arguements to be involved. In the end, she prevailed and soon helped Pendergrass dispose of one of London's most notorious criminals, Jack the Ripper.
The next year, early in 1889, an old menace returned to frighten London’s inhabitants. Old timers said it was a ghost from the past that had come back to terrorize them again. There were as many theories about who, or what, he might be as there were people to discuss them. Doctor Pendergrass thought the theories were all rubbish.
First, he didn’t believe in ghosts. Secondly, he didn’t believe any one man could sustain a subterfuge for eighty years and not be caught. Thirdly, the feats of athleticism described by eyewitnesses were astonishing – jumping fantastic distances and belching fire – and were beyond the explanation of any reasonable theory he was aware of; except his own. Pendergrass was sure he had unraveled the riddle of Spring-heeled Jack.
In addition to assaulting women on the streets of London, Sarah thought attacks near Shadwell New Basin might also be the work of Spring-heeled Jack. Promising they would look into the matter, Doctor Pendergrass had no idea their plans would put them in the middle of a murder for hire.
Pouring over old newspaper clippings for some clue that might help them identify and catch Spring-heeled Jack, Pendergrass began to worry that Jack’s current incarnation might be more troublesome then previous ones. In the end, the clue they needed didn’t come from a newspaper clipping; it came from an old victim and it verified Pendergrass’ concern; this Spring-heeled Jack was going to be worse; much, much worse than his predecessors.
Pendergrass was livid. Scotland Yard was no closer to controlling the rise of crime than they were a year before. Now, the scoundrel known as Spring-heeled Jack was frightning Londoner's to the limits of their sanity. Crime was out of control and Spring-heeled Jack not only made it worse, he made it personal.