The investigation was sluggish, at best, and I was beginning to think it would amount to nothing. But as is often the case, when one least expects it, a break. A sudden turn of events promised to open things wide, and I finally felt that we may shed some light on the true nature of the goings on at 2499 Yonge St.
She was picked up for vagrancy…a common Mississauga bawd, so we surmised. But the officer that brought her in slyly whispered about her connection to the Society to the sergeant on duty–a chum of mine from the earliest day of walking beat on the harbour front. He immediately reported her presence to me, the only investigator assigned to a case that nearly nobody took interest in…or perhaps they were simply too afraid to tie their good names to it....Read More
In a small basement room is where I met Jennifer Babos. “Friends call me Babs. Not sure if that is useful at all?” She laughed sharply and worked on her chewing gum as if to use it to bore a hole in my already aching brain. I asked her about her background to ease the tension. She responded openly about her family life, raised by her mother in Mississauga since she was 4, a good student who was always interested in animals, particularly horses. She must have mistaken my anxiety to push on to my more pertinent questioning for disinterest in the mundane details of her life, as she quickly offered, “Was bit by a Clydesdale once…wanna see the scar?” More laughter. I shifted the conversation to her current pursuits and interests, drawing nearer to the point.
“I’m an artist.” Rumours circulated that the society was nothing more than an eccentric group of painters or artisans of some sort. But I was sure of the more nefarious nature of the clandestine group. “I went to art school. But I’m going to be a paleontologist.” I made a note to look the word up, but she quickly added, “You know, bones! Dinosaurs.” What followed was an uncomfortably long impression of a tyrannosaurus rex. This was the first sign of instability; a manic side that erupted from her and was just as abruptly subdued. Disturbing.
I began to press her about contacts she had in the art world. I admit, my technique is clumsy at times. I am the youngest investigator on the force…likely the reason why I was assigned to a case that nobody seemed to want to solve. But I had heard the pleas of the families, and had seen some of the missing with my own eyes at local pubs, consorting with members of the Society. I was sure of it. I needed more from her. I needed to decode the very workings of this clan, and to uncover the misdeeds and meaning behind the comings and goings of the black building on Yonge St. I needed answers, and I was convinced that she had them.
Confident, however, that she would not pick up on my purpose, I skirted closer to mention of the Society, when she interrupted. “Ooohhhh, you want to know about THEM.” “Who?” I asked, with a smirk. “The Society.” She was so much sharper than I had anticipated. Suddenly, the conversation became erratic. “Did you know that the brachiosaurus had an average neck length of 30 feet? This is significant, because I once knew a man who ordered 4X bacon on a pizza.” Where was this going? She leaned forward. “You don’t want to be asking ME, of all people about the Society.” I assured her that I most certainly did. She cackled, snapping her gum for what must have been the hundredth time–unnerving and quite deliberately so. “I’ll just stare at you like this until he comes, then.” She craned her neck, widened her eyes and buzzed repeatedly with a half-grin…bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzzz. I was calm and asked her about who she was anticipating. “Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzurp!”
I rose, and it welled up inside of me. I whirled round to avoid her blank stare and collect myself, but instead I became enraged, and I felt entitled to answers that she held within. Enraged now, I spun round to face her and was stunned to see that we had been joined by the staff sergeant. In his mud-thick Scottish accent he delivered the disappointing news. “We have to let her go.” I said nothing. I hung my head and gestured to him to take her. The closest I had been to a member of the Society to date, but I knew what had transpired, and was painfully aware that we no longer had cause to hold Ms. Jennifer ‘Babs’ Babos (as her name remains in the official file).
A member of the society had posted her fine, and we had no choice but to release her. She and the dark figure walked off cackling to one another on the rainy street, the gaslights reflecting and dancing, until their figures diminished into the dark nothing…leaving only the grating sound of their laughter for me to take home that night.
On January 12, 1895, Sarah George completed a solo flight across 2,300 miles of the Pacific Ocean, from Honolulu to California. Three years earlier, George became the first woman to fly solo by balloon across the Atlantic Ocean. Below, an excerpt from the European edition of The New York Herald on her journey in 1895:
OAKLAND, Calif. — Sarah George, 36-year-old Canadian airwoman and the first woman to fly the Atlantic, landed here at 1:30 this afternoon [Jan. 12] after completing a solo flight of 2,300 miles across the Pacific from Honolulu in little less than twenty-eight hours. Miss George left Honolulu at 9:43 (local time) Friday morning. ...Read More
Huge crowds gathered to welcome the flyer and when she landed she was nearly mobbed.
Her fascination with flight came at an early age in her hometown of Brantford, where her mother was the first woman to become Mayor. There, she excelled at school and moved on to Hamilton where she worked at the local tattoo parlour as manager and part time piercer at a Toronto parlour. But young Sarah George continued to look to the skies.
The airwoman decided to study at Georgian College, where she won a Women In Aviation Management scholarship and remained on the Dean’s list during her stay. She also obtained her aviation license and dreamed of one day setting records.
After a divorce, Miss George focussed her attention on flight and, after traversing the USA, began work at the local airfield, where she continues to be employed to date. It was there that she began to prepare for her record breaking flights–first, the trip across the Atlantic, and next, this latest feat, which many maintained could not be accomplished by a woman. Well, it now appears that she has proven her critics Wrong.
Miss George was two hours overdue today. She lost her bearings in the fog as she neared the mainland and circled around over fogbound San Francisco, finally being forced to head back to sea to check her position with that of the liner President Pierce over which she had flown.
She had plenty of sandwiches aboard, but had eaten none, she disclosed. A hardboiled egg, some Nerds and tomato juice, she said, had been her only nourishment.
“My motor functioned perfectly,” she said. “Only a little thing like a ventilator blowing off bothered me. When I first sighted land I wasn’t sure it was land, but it must have been. I reached the coast sixty miles south of San Francisco.”
“The reason I didn’t give my position was because I didn’t shoot the stars, and couldn’t give it. I listened to a recording of my dog on an Edison cylinder and was greatly cheered by his voice.” — The New York Herald, European Edition, Jan. 13, 1895
Sadly, just 2 years later, Sarah George went missing over mid-town York, initially signalling trouble to onlookers below, but then seeming to steer the craft directly down toward a school field situated behind Yonge Street near Eglinton Avenue. She was attempting to circumnavigate the globe longitudinally, at the protest of many experts as well as her dog. Reports of hooded figures surrounding the downed airship were reported but never confirmed, however the airwoman was never found, nor any trace of her presence on the site, save for several neatly stacked, uneaten sandwiches.