Death Orgy of the Leopard Women

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“Debra has always been a passionate woman, he said. “But now she is insane.”

Death Orgy of The Leopard Women
(As Told to Calvin Burke)

They were going to cut out my living heart as a sacrifice.

(originally published in Wildcat Adventures, April, 1960)

I was bound by my oath to save my patient if I could but she bared her teeth and snarled as I lay helpless…

I crept forward to the edge of the clearing where I heard the weird chanting of the leopard women. A fire flickered in front of a dolmen–a large stone slab used by them as an altar for sacrificial purposes–and just as I parted the brush something struck me with savage force from behind.

I was knocked face-down on the rotting vegetation of the jungle floor. Pain exploded on my head, bright lights flickered and whirled in front of my eyes, and nausea filled my belly. For an instant I was paralyzed by the blow, blinded, and helpless to move.

Two of the leopard women had evidently been acting as guards on the outskirts of the clearing, for they had cleverly crept up behind me and captured me.

Snarling and hissing like the giant cats they claimed a blood-relationship with, they fell on me, digging their claws and teeth into my body and dragging me into the firelight of the clearing.

Instantly, upon seeing me, the rest of the leopard women sent up a weird high-pitched wailing, which I knew from my investigations was their way of showing thanks to their leopard gods for sending them a sacrificial victim–me! They were cannibalistic and after their strange ritual where they cut out my heart while I was still alive they would eat my flesh raw.

I twisted, trying to get out of their grasp, but the two leopard women who had raked my flesh with their claws until I bled, had fastened stout leather thongs on both my wrists. One pulled me one way, the other in the opposite direction, almost wrenching my arms from their sockets. They flung me down on the stone slab, and another leopard woman sprang forward with a quick
graceful movement and lashed my feet together.

I struggled, refusing to give up, to just lie there and take it, and one of my captors struck me in the face with her paw, exactly as a leopard would. It almost knocked me unconscious–I lay there in a daze as they danced about in the clearing, sometimes leaping clear over my prostrate body in their excitement. The drum kept beating as their bare feet pounded the earth, and their voices rose high and quavering like the mating call of the giant cats.

I was half out of my mind with fear and dread, and then as suddenly as the dancing and singing had begun it stopped. There was for only one second a deadly ghastly silence–and then a snarling scream as something leaped from a tree and bounded into the clearing.

I twisted mv head to see what kind of creature it could be–dazed as I was and in the flickering light 1 thought at first it was another leopard woman. I blinked my eyes, trying to rub my face on my shoulder to get the blood out of my eyes, and looked again. It was a huge leopard, a female 1 could tell from her markings.

The savage leopard women had fallen to their knees and they had their hands raised in a prayerful attitude toward the leopard. She crouched, looking directly at me, snarling, and baring her great white fangs. Her eyes were a pale cruel yellow in the firelight and I watched her tail twitch back and forth, faster and faster, as she prepared to spring.

I almost screamed–they were going to let that giant she-cat kill me! Then, together with the leopard, they would all fall upon me and eat me. No, no, no! my mind screamed. I had come too far and accomplished too little for this to happen now. I had only been a doctor who had been trying a desperate measure to save the sanity, if not the very life, of a very sick woman. Then the huge leopard bunched its muscles together to spring, and I knew that I had failed, hopelessly. I could not help but think about my poor patient. Poor Debra. What would happen to her now?

It was during my final months of work at the clinic in Zurich, before I established my own practice, that I became interested in lycanthropy, or the phenomenon of the were-wolf. Unlike most people, these poor demented beings not only consider themselves wolves, and blood-relations to wolves, but sometimes the form of the abberation is that of a were-leopard or hyena.

And I became interested in this strange subject because of the case of Debra Konstantinides, the wife of a Greek financier and banker who was then living in Zurich and conducting his business from there. Debra was not Greek herself, but a non-Negro Hamite from Abyssinia. Her origin actually was obscure since she had been found wandering in the jungle at the age of about five with no knowledge of any language and unable to speak, able only to growl. She could never remember anything about her life before that time.

Debra’s case came to my attention when I was making my rounds in the violent ward at the clinic where I had been assigned that week. She was in bed and under restraint and various sedations and tranquilizers had been given with no apparent effect. She was a magnificently handsome woman, tall and lean with very acquiline features, a light brown skin, and eyes that you’d swear were yellow.

I stopped beside her bed and she snarled at me like an animal, which is not very unusual. Nor was it unusual that she snapped at my hand, trying to bite me, when I placed it on her forehead. Her hands were like claws, rigid, the fingers curved, but I thought that was simply due to her inner tensions.

I tried to speak soothingly to her. “You are here because you need help, my dear. We only want to help you and we will try to be as kind and as gentle as we can. We are your friends, you must look upon us as your friends. Can you remember the event or events that brought you here? It will help us to help you.”

But she only snarled and spat at me much like a trapped animal. The nurse in charge of the ward who was making the rounds with me only shook her head and said “Hopeless.”

“No,” I said slowly. “Nothing’s hopeless.” When I returned to my small office I sent for her case history and read it. There was not much to go on. Her husband, Konstantinides, had had her committed after a violent physical attack on his person only the night before. He had awakened about midnight and got out of bed to get a drink of water. There had been a full moon and so he had not bothered to turn on a light. As he returned to his bed he was suddenly attacked from behind—his assailant bit and scratched him. He finally managed to subdue what he thought was a burglar and turned on a light. To his horror the person was his own wife and in his own words he had told the admitting phsyician: “She was like an animal. The light in her eyes was quite mad and insane. I was afraid of her.”

I ordered that the medication be increased and then I contacted the husband and arranged to see him the next afternoon. He wanted me to come to his office, of course, but I insisted that he come to the clinic as I had very little time.

Konstantinides was a powerfully built man, and he looked more like a professional boxer than a banker, although he was dressed conservatively. He sat in a chair before my desk, twisting his hat somewhat nervously in his hands.

“I realize you must be quite upset,” I told him. “It is an unpleasant thing to go through, especially with your wife, a person you love. But you must look upon it as a sickness and be frank about it. In that way we will be able to help her.”

He nodded several times, rapidly.

“Has anything of this sort ever happened before?” I asked him.

“No, never. I swear it.”

“Do you know why she would want to attack you?”

“I have no idea, truly.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Obviously she was in a hysterical condition and she was not looking at you as you really are, her husband. She saw in you somebody else. Did she say anything during the attack? Any word you can recall?”

“No. She kept snarling. Only that.”

“Is there anything unusual about her that you have noticed lately and can tell me? Anything at all.”

He looked at the floor. “Only this one thing. But Debra has always been a most passionate woman, sir, you must realize that.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“During the love making recently she has begun to well, to bite and to scratch.”

“I see,” I said. “Anything else?”

“Well, on that night there was a full moon.”

I smiled. “Mr. Konstantinides, that’s only superstition. The moon has nothing to do with mental derangement. We can rule that out.”

He shrugged.

I asked him if he would like to see his wife, but he declined. He said the painful memory was still too fresh in his mind. When 1 entered the ward that afternoon I saw that the medication was having the right effect. Debra was in a deep sleep and quite relaxed. I ordered her to be kept in that state for the rest of the week, and at the end of that time she could probably be released from restraint.

When she finally awakened she was completely bewildered as to where she was or why she was there. I had her brought to my office. I gave her a cigarette and we talked casually. She remembered nothing of the incident, and I did not press her.

“How . . . how long must I stay here, locked up?”

“Not long, I believe. But when I do release you you will have to return from time to time for treatment.”

“Am I very ill?”

“I don’t know that yet,” I said carefully. “But you must remember there is much we can do.”

After two weeks I could see that we were making no progress–she still remembered nothing–and since she had recovered from her manic state I ordered her released. I thought that if she was in the home environment, with her husband and children–they had two–that she might recall something that would help us.

She was happy to go home because she loved her children and every day for the two weeks following her release she visited my office. Still, we got nowhere. She could remember nothing.

Then the next time there was a full moon it happened again. I was in my room in the wing of the clinic where we had our living quarters when the nurse in charge of the violent ward telephone me.

“It’s the Konstantinides woman again, doctor. We had to put her under restraint.”

I dressed hurriedly and went to the violent ward. It was almost impossible to believe she was the same creature–again her face was distorted with a definite animalistic snarl, her hands twisted into a claw-like shape, but this time she was making a high pitched noise, a wailing that ended up in a low bubbling moan in her throat.

The next day Konstantinides was beside himself with fear and anxiety. He wanted her committed indefinitely and was ready to sign the necessary papers.

I pressed him for details of the attack, and it was exactly the same as before. The moon had been full and she fell on him from behind, biting and scratching.

“Except,” he said, taking something from his coat pocket and putting it on my desk. “She used this.”

It was a very curious item, a glove made from a leopard’s paw with the claws still intact. A formidable weapon indeed. I marveled that Konstantinides was still alive. She could have ripped his throat with it.

“I think this will help us,” I said. “I believe it is the clue we have been looking for.” Then I persuaded him not to go ahead with the divorce until we had more time for treatment.

I went immediately to see Doctor Goldman, an anthropologist at the university. I showed him the glove made from, the leopard’s paw. He was delighted with it.

“A very handsome specimen,” he said.

“What is it?”

“Don’t you know?” he said, surprised. “It is part of the ritualistic costume of the leopard women of Abysinnia. They are a cannibalistic cult who believe themselves to be related by blood to the leopard. Each woman believes actually that she is a leopard and that there is a leopard somewhere in the forest who is herself. If she dies the leopard dies, and vice versa. They murder with these weapons, these claws, and then generally eat part of their victim, almost always the face.”

There was my answer: Debra was suffering from the hysterical delusion that she was a were-creature. I knew of course there was no such thing, but my knowing that would not cure her.

When I had Debra brought into my office she was under partial sedation, relaxed and calm. I had the leopard’s paw lying on my desk where she could see it. I said nothing. She sat there with her pale yellow eyes wide and staring, and then she began to talk, panting at times and twisting her hands because her story was a painful one to her.

She had wandered out of the jungle, orphaned and alone, at the age of five. After spending a minimum of time in an institution established by the Red Cross she had been adopted by a wealthy Portuguese couple who lived in Addis’ Ababa and had. no children of their own. For their amusement they kept a pet leopard, walking it on a leash.

“She was my sister,” Debra said in a low heavy voice. “I had come out of the jungle from nowhere, and when I grew up playing with the leopard I knew she was my sister.

When Debra had reached eighteen her foster parents sent her to school in Switzerland and she gradually forgot about her cannibalistic, way of life. Her marriage, and her children, had meant everything to her and she had completely blocked-out the past.

When she recalled all those memories Debra broke down and wept. “What I have done is horrible, horrible,” she said.

“No,” I said. “One day you will be cured and you will leave us.”I didn’t for a minute believe she had talked to the leopard of her childhood or had hunted with it. Those were only dreams, fantasies. But she would have to understand that for herself.

I worked with Debra for a year and during that time we became very fond of one another, fond in the way two good friends are.

My vacation was coming up and since I had told her about it she was very anxious about my leaving her; she was afraid for me to go. That gave me an idea and I discussed it with Konstantinides. “Let me take her back to Abysinnia, back to her former home. I’m sure we’ll find things there that will remind her of the old reality, not this dream world she has built for herself.”

“If it will help her. Anything to help her.”

At first Debra was afraid to return, but she was more afraid to be separated from me, so she agreed. We sailed through the Gulf of Aden and disembarked at Jibuti, traveling overland from there to Addis Ababa.

The next morning when I knocked on her door to wake her for breakfast there was no answer–I’ flung open the door, but she had vanished during the night! I cursed myself for being a blind fool. She had gone to lose_ herself in the jungle, perhaps forever. She ran the risk of being hunted down like an animal. And she was my patient. I could not fail her.

I hired a driver and we made the long hot trip south to Urd. The villagers were not happy to see me and they refused to discuss the leopard women or say if Debra had passed through the village ahead of me. But the moon was full that night and after the villagers fell asleep I heard the sound of a distant drum and stole into the forest alone to find it. That was when they’d captured me.

The leopard launched itself itself through the air and I did the only thing I could in a last desperate attempt to save myself–I kicked upward with both my feet at the same time (they were lashed together), kicking the leopard hard in the belly. It slashed at me with its hind claws, tearing the flesh of my legs, but its momentum, plus the kick I had given it sent it flying over me, straight at the leopard woman who was holding my right arm helpless.

The leopard woman screamed at the huge she-cat slammed into her, grabbing her shoulder in its jaws with a bone-cracking crunch, and digging into her belly with its hind claws. They rolled together on the ground, snarling and fighting each other–and the leopard woman was forced to let go of the thong on my right wrist.

I whirled around, sitting up, and all in one motion cracked the leopard woman holding my left arm and wrist on the jaw as hard as I could. It had been a good many years since I had been forced to strike anyone, but the situation I was in gave me great strength. I felt her teeth splinter against my fist, heard her jawbone snap. She opened the bleeding cavern of her mouth to give one shrill shriek and then dropped unconscious to the ground.

The leopard was mauling her victim at the foot of the altar and the rest of the leopard women had fled into the jungle. I knew that the she-cat would finish off her first victim and then start on me. I did not have time to attempt to unbind my feet. I dropped off the stone slab on the back of that leopard and slapped one of the leather thongs around its neck and throat, like a gar-rot and twisted.

I dug my knees into the leopard’s spine and hauled back on the leather thong, trying to snap its back. For one terrible second we were frozen together, each of straining against the other–then the cat’s spine snapped and with a high-pitched almost feminine cry it fell convulsively to the jungle floor and died.

I staggered back to the village and my driver who had missed me and had been looking for me said, “Sir, we found missing lady.”

“What?” I said. “Where is she?”

It was Debra, all right. They had found her just outside the village. But she was dead. Her face and arms were scratched, as if she had been clawed by something. But that had not been what killed her. Her throat was bruised as if someone had tried to strangle her, and her back had been broken, too, the bone snapped in half.

 

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