Casebook of Inspector Stone
11 March 1916 – Heddon Street. — It is a cul-de-sac off of Regent Street first make infamous by Frida Strindberg, divorcee of the Swedish playwright, August Strindberg and a devotee of the avant-garde. Or at least the artists thereof—for it is said the initial reasoning for the insolvency of the Cave of the Golden Calf owned less to a lack of a brisk, nightly clientele than of her financial devotion to any number of struggling artists, who may have laid claim, either with some accuracy or with sly dubiousness, to an inclination toward the experimental arts. Of course, a prediction toward handsomeness and vigour may have as well turned the eye. In either case, her haunt for the wealthy, the aristocratic, and the bohemian opened in 1912 had closed in 1914. And now it was reopened as the Cavern of the Golden Calf, by a Swiss, an Anton Baader, of whom little is known, other than he has been the financial backer of various decadent entrainments and cabarets in Zurich – and an American. A woman. Christabel Winthrop. A musical hall entertainer and proprietor of such establishments – in New York – before she left for London under some suspicion in the circumstances of a death of a young bank auditor. Embezzlement being lain upon the name of the dead with possible murder and thief upon the door of the enigmatic Miss Winthrop. Once these shores had sent our criminals to the Americans and now it would seem they find their way back.
For a time I sat huddled in my coat for the night was considerably cold as I watched the headlamps of the motor cars and taxis make their way upon the snowy simmer of Regent Street, or the curve of the cul-de-sac as rather fashionable ladies and gentlemen had their make their way into the night spot. As yet, I had not seen the arrival of Robertson-Kirk.
I checked my pocket watch once more: 7:30. I had been sitting thus, watching and awaiting, since 7:00. I was eager to be sure. Would she be late? Fail to make her appearance? As I closed my watch the seemingly loud click audible in the automobile’s cold interior, I suspected the emanate arrival of Police Constable Alderton – who is nothing if not punctual.
A motor cab made it’s way up the narrow turn, its headlamps awash upon the darken warehouses which housed the cul-de-sac. It stopped I watched as PC Alderton opened the cab door and stepped out. I supressed a smile as I observed her momentary attempt at the concealment of a slight embarrassment as she was dressed in a rather becoming evening gown. I could not help pondering whether it was hers, kept away in secret, in a closet for such an occasion, or, if she had to borrow it from her roommate.
The brisk wind without the motor car was far greater than the chill within as I pulled by coat about me and moved around the bonnet in order cross the street and make my way with care along the slippery purchase of the cul-de-sac. PC Alderton, in the chill as just turning about from her survey of the entrance to see my arrival. I did not smile as I observed her uneasiness with the risqué modern cut of her gown, as she blushed acutely, trying to find the least angle of exposure to face me.
“I see you have dressed for the occasion." I told her as I approached – not to further her chagrin, but by way of compliment , “You look most fetching.”
“I . . . I . . . “ Her response was one which indicated to me that the dress was indeed from the closet of her roommate, and, her further discomfiture led me to surmise she might upon the whole be wishing that wishing the cobbles beneath her feet would open to swallow her whole, “Thank you. . . I think.”
“Whereas you,” She lifted a brow as well as that slight lift of her chin to which I had become accustomed to discerning indicating annoyance, ‘Seemed not to have changed at all.”
I offered a vague smile, “I rarely seek an evening out.”
“Really?” She asked with an expression of some surprise.
I took notice that a couple exiting a motor cab seemed to have taken an interest in our conspicuous conversation in the winter’s air, I offered my arm to Alderton, “Shall we, enter. I am sure it is far more comfortable than here in the chill of the night.”
She very gently rested her gloved hand atop my wrist, nodding, aware of the couple in passing, “Yes – let us finally see this most infamous Robertson-Kirk.”
“I am not at all sure as to how much you are aware of Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk.” I offered as he entered the den of iniquity, which immediately proclaimed by the artifice of a bas-relief of a most impressively endowed declaration to a call to pagan worship: A golden calf. ‘I would suggest a certain wariness.”
PC Alderton ever vigilant strode beside me as she looked about the backdrop of modernist art, and most impressively glanced at the ponderous reproduction of the Bull’s virility, as she swallowed and steeled her eyes for what may yet to be revealed. “Understood.”
I allowed the press of the couple, who had entered as we, to move with their impatience around us before I spoke discreetly: "As official records go, Scotland Yard did not have a female among the ranks until of late.”
As her eyes moved beyond the Golden Calf and she tightened her grip upon her purse, the weight of which I surmised held within a revolver. “And yet, as you say, there was one in a Special Intelligence Division within Special Branch.”
I nodded as we pasted some restored chiaroscuro paintings which I am sure were well regarded but only suggested to me some vague sense of evil. The whole of the upper entrance was given way to an decadent atmosphere of sensuality, sexuality and unrestrained perverseness. “Which should give one pause to speculate as to why this would be so – “ I looked at some painting in sickly perfervid colours which seemed to have escaped from the brush of an lunatic. “Why, such a liberalist policy, would be so well concealed. For if one were of a mind to search, one would find no official record of her status within the Metropolitan Police. A meticulous purge. Every mention expunged.”
She nodded as she moved along the narrow corridor to the landing leading to a wide spiral of steps leading to the loud, smoky club below – where the sound of American Jazz music grew louder.
“She and Inspector Spencer,” I said continued in a confidential tone, “Are more than fortunate they were not brought to the Old Bailey. And so – we must take into consideration anything she may impart this night will no doubt have strong motivations – of which, will be known only to her.”
“Most definitely,” PC Alderton said as she began to descend the stairs past the seductively carved pillars of immodestly draped women. “She is expecting us?” She asked over her shoulder.
“We are here by her invitation.”
We descended the stairs into a din of music. An American negro band was playing and couples were lively upon the dance floor. A maze of tables were set out before us, and the establishment was engaged in a lucrative business. It was a Saturday night. Amid the haze of tobacco smoke was the mix of a cacophony of conversations – each trying to be heard over the laughter and the music of the band.
“I don’t know what Irene sees or hears in this place.” PC Alderton, beside me said having to raise her voice to be heard.
“It is most popular I hear among the social elite. Owing to the original owner having lost considerable financial investments, the club has been closed for a while. It is only recently that it has received the wherewithal to having it’s doors reopened.” I explained taking note of a table near at hand engaged in animated conversation, hands gesticulating, cigarettes in hand or within holders being waved about with emphasis, and much laugher. “Under new management. A Swiss and an American.”
PC Alderton surveying the extravagance of the club’s opulent interior amidst the visible display of the wealthy and the privileged come for the thrill of their corruption and shook her head, “I would hazard a night’s entertainment would be the whole of a week’s salary. What with this War’s economy, one would wonder, how long until these present owners find themselves just as easily bankrupt.”
I turned at the pop of a Campaign cock, “One would think it should not be long."
“My you certainly don’t have a very optimistic view of our future.” Came a female voice from behind us and we turned to see a strikingly attractive, blonde woman in an well-fitted black evening gown, holding a black cigarette holder. Her smiled bespoke a easy languor. Her eyes told a told a different story altogether. They were spirited, keenly perceptive, quick to judgement and unwaveringly set in determination once it was made. “If I am not mistaken, your are Scotland Yard. CID I would think. Chief Inspector.”
My expression was ever measured, “Inspector.”
“Ah,” She took an inhalation from the black lacquered holder, “One case away – I would hazard.”
The easy familiarity was an all too tempting ruse. I knew well her history and the New York Police’s suspicions. She was dangerous. “I am Inspector Stone and this Police Constable Alderton.”
She looked at Vera and the risqué cut of her gown, “Police Constable.” She nodded in acknowledgement, “ I am Christabel Winthrop. Anton and I are the said unfortunate new owners destined it seems for insolvency.”
PC Alderton gave her condescending smiled, “A pleasure.”
She now gave me an expression of mock distress, "Of course, if it isn’t the economy to do us in. I sincerely hope there is nothing criminal going on.”
“That would depend on one’s taste in music . . . “ PC Alderton told her.
She laughed, “You are not a Jazz aficionado.”
“Give it time my dear. . . give it time. It is a required taste." She said and held her cigarette holder with some elegance. “Although, some say it’s more like an infection.”
“Indeed,” PC Alderton said with some irritation.
The whole of her conversation with PC Alderton, Miss Winthrop kept a wary eye upon me. “Although it is a busy night, I am more than certain I can find you a very nice table, Inspector. Would you care for something a little closer to the dance floor? It would allow the lovely Police Constable an opportunity to better appreciate the music.”
“We are not here, Miss Winthrop for amusement, “ I explained, “We are to meet someone. Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk." I said, glancing about the tables.
She steps forward, "Lady Molly? Well, if she is here tonight, she would be at her usual table.” She paused, as did the music, and I could hear the rustle of her evening gown, “I can escort you, if you like.”
I found myself jutting my jaw slightly, what I have been told appears truculent, whether it is meant so or not, and I cut a thoughtful glance to Alderton. Here in this den of iniquity, guided by a woman, whom I have no little doubt to be guilty of a miscellany of crimes, to a woman, I knew to be even far more guilty of crimes to which I could only but imagine – all which had been absolved by those who supposedly saw a greater good. Crimes not only forgiven of the past – but those of the present as well. And for a long moment I stood in some indecision. To proceed further – to continue with what I felt with in my very soul to be a sham. Or, to say a good goddamned to them all – and do my duty no matter where it may lead – or whatever the consequences.
I looked at PC Alderton, who returned quizzically returned my gaze. “Inspector?”
Christabel Winthrop brought the cigarette holder to her lips – she looked at me for a moment and then lifted a brow as if she were aware of the import of the moment, “Inspector,” her professional smile having disappeared, “I once knew a policeman in New York. He had that same look in his eyes. The look of having not yet made a decision. You see – there was a tenement, a three-floor-walk-up, within which, a young woman’s life would be snuffed out as easily as one would blow upon the flame of a candle . . . for no other reason than she happened to be working at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The band ended it’s song and began another – I looked at her as she stood there in the maze of tables, smoke escaping in wisps from her lips as she spoke, “A whore. Fourteen and a whore since she was twelve. He knew she would never be fifteen – because it was better for all concerned.”
She smiled, and turned, “I’ll escort you to Lady Molly.”
We followed her now as she lead us further back into the Cavern past fashionable ladies and gentlemen sipping their cocktails and smoking Turkish cigarettes. I took notice of tables set nearer the dance floor for the uniformed soldiers on leave. As we skirted through the passage between the tables of the evening’s revellers a few glanced up as we approached as if taking a moment to see if we were anyone of they knew, or were of some importance. The ladies were for the most part fabulously beautiful, thin, white-faced and kohl-eyed – Beardsley illustrations taken as their model. Some of the men wore tight suits and had their nails varnished – sitting oddly close to those near the dance floor with French mud beneath theirs and the hint of death about them.
The basement club, beneath a cloth merchant’s warehouse, was large – smoky, feverish, frenetic. The strident music jerking and loud- this Jazz seemed to speak of speed.
There are two dance floors and each are active.
PC Alderton was ever vigilantly, her observant eye studying the crowd – I caught her frown at observing a young woman at a table turning over a tarot card.
As he were proceeding through the crowded venue, a short man in expensive evening wear approached us as he removed a cigarette from his lips “Good evening. I do, so hope you are enjoying the entertainment.” But before either of us could remark, his attention turned to Christabel Winthrop, “Christabel, I am so sorry to impose, but when you have a moment, Mr Pleydell-Smith would care to have a word with you.”
“’Yes, of course Anton." She smiled and took an inhalation from her cigarette holder. “This is Inspector Stone and Police Constable Alderton.” She introduced us.
His smile grew expansive and he offered a hand, which I took. His grip was surprisingly strong, “It is a pleasure to meet you Inspector.” He then took the fingers of PC Alderton’s hand and lightly kissed them, “As well as the lovely Police Constable. Is this your first time into the Cavern?”
“Yes.” PC Alderton informed him.
“Oh, “ The expansive smile returning, “Please, I do hope it will not be your last.”
From her look it was obvious she was not sure if that was an invitation or a threat. Anton Badder, whom this must surely be, returned his gaze to Miss Winthrop. “Mr Pleydell-Smith.”
“Yes, Anton.” She told him and the turned and strolled away. We moved further into the club, past one of three bars, before we turned to the right toward a far wall. There a table sat in recessed in a niche, and I saw the familiar tall, red-haired woman sipping a drink.
As had I suspected from the beginning as to who held his leash, beside her sat Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer.
Pausing before the table, her weight shifting to her left hip, Christabel Winthrop waved a hand toward the table, “As I said, if she were here—she would be at her usual table.”
“Edward, it is so lovely that you could join us.” Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk said, her voice soft and melodic. The glass in her hand she seemed to hold rather precariously. I narrowed my eyes as I stood before her – and she looked over to PC Alderton. "And this – this must be Police Constable Vera Alderton.”
“I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage.” PC Alderton replied evenly.
“I am the infamous Robertson-Kirk.” She smiled sardonically, “Which, some, like Edward here, who refer to me as. There are some who call me Lady Molly – but that number has dwindled significantly of late. For the most part, I am simply called, the bitch.”
“Ma’am.” Alderton replied.
Robertson-Kirk seemed absently to weigh the glass in her hand as she looked at Vera Alderton. “For the most part – do you find they call you Alderton. PC Alderton. Vera – or do they in most cases try not to call upon you at all?”
“PC Alderton – for the most part.” She said gaining some understanding why most had a distinctive regard for her – they either inclined toward her or they detest her – for there would be no in-between.
“Do, have a seat. The club does become get rather jovial about this time of the evening and so, standing there, you will be quite jostled."
Inspector Spenser leaned forward to tap ashes from his cigarette into the ashtray before him, “Edward.”
Although my attention remained on Robertson-Kirk, I acknowledged him, “James,” as I took off my hat and pulled back a chair for PC Alderton. She thanked me and took a seat, her observant gaze ever fixated upon the red-haired woman before her.
“Is this your first time in the Cavern?" She asked of Alderton with a her smile now all apparent politeness.
“Not quite,” Alderton replied, which I found interesting, “Yours?
“I find I come far more often than a should, actually.” She replied as I sat down beside Alderton.
Robertson-Kirk lifted a bottle of Champaign from the iced bucket where it was being chilled and poured the effervescence into two glasses she had waiting. “Please, Edward, do dispense with the usual excuse of being on duty.”
PC Alderton’s expression was one of complete passivity, a perfect mask of disinterest that she seems to have honed well.
“Edward is always on duty.” Inspector Spenser remarks as he pulled the ashtray closer to him as he sat back in his chair and marvelled at Alderton’s rather risqué attire.
“I would express my gratitude, Lady Molly for the invitation. I dare say I would have foregone this establishment altogether.” I told her and ignored the Champaign she put before me.
“And yet here you are.” She said as she sipped her Champaign, “All of two minutes, and yet you have not even begun.”
“You are I am certain aware of the recent findings on the Victorian Embankment – a diced up corpse." I replied, now having begun.
“I assume you are referring to a Pamela Dean?” She responded
Beside me PC Alderton instinctively removed a small notebook from her clutch as she sat back to allow me to take the lead, owing no doubt to my familiarity with Robertson-Kirk, who casually glanced at the notebook and the umber pencil.
“You would presume correctly madam." I continued, “And so, you had some awareness of this diced up girl’s identity?”
She smiled as she continued to let her drink in the frail crystal flue dangling from her fingers – as if she were contemplating letting it slip and fall. “Awareness? Come now Edward – I do have the Times delivered every morning.”
“But perhaps, on some mornings, in your haste, you find upon occasion to stop and seek out a copy. Did you do so upon the morning of your visit to the Embankment?” I asked evenly, watching as Spenser stubbed out his cigarette into the ashtray. “Where you were to take a moment in your rather busy schedule to drop off a purse.”
She looked at me with those cat green eyes, which now revealed s sharpness, “A purse.”
“Please, Lady Molly, do me the honour in not indulging in any of your contrivances so as to circumvent answering a straightforward question.” I said trying to maintain an even tempered questioning, while refraining from allowing the irritation if felt to enter into my voice.
“No I did not stop and procure the Times,” She replied, “As I said, it is delivered.”
“The morning of your visit to the embankment,” I pressed, “We are well aware of your presence and the why of it. For surely you are well aware we know of your contact there with Constable Baxter.”
Her eyes glanced at the Champagne in her glass, “Most unfortunate, Baxter." And then she looked up suddenly from the glass, "Yes, Edward, I did by chance stop at the embankment on the morning in question.” She put her glass down, “Had you not the purse—what identification would you have made.”
“Be that as it may, how did you come by the purse?” PC Alderton asked.
She turned her cool gaze upon Alderton, “I am sure Edward by now has given you all the particulars of my past, especially in regards to my dismissal from the Special Branch. But, I do still have contacts established with certain citizenry who work and live amid the cramped alleyways and darken rookeries of the city. It was given to me.”
Alderton pressed the point, “By?”
“A gentleman of whom I think you have made acquaintance. Neil Byrne.” She replied as she lifted a knowing brow as well as her glass to once again hold it precariously by the merest of grips upon the rim, “Of course, it is all rather unfortunate in that he was murdered before you were able to intervene as I understand it.”
PC Alderton sat silently looking at Robertson-Kirk. This was in my estimation a calculation upon Robertson-Kirk’s part – to determine PC Alderton’s reserve.
“He was quite the aficionado,” Inspector Spencer interjected, “Even in his inebriated state he well thought he was giving evidence in regards to the return of our Saucy Jack.”
“Is he also the one who as well told you were the body would wash up that morning?” Alderton inquired rather pointedly of him, “Or was that just a coincidence?”
Spenser sat forward, “He came to me with a fanciful tale of Jack being back. Spoke of him having been down to the river, baptizing now in blood and not water. Going on about the resurrection and the life and some such nonsense. He then passed along the purse to prove his point. I took it Lady Molly and the rest . . .” He allowed this thought to trail off with a wave of his hand.
PC Alderton stopped writing and arched a brow—“Passed it along?”
“He was long an informant of mine, a bit rum soaked, but useful at times.” Inspector Spenser continued and poured himself another glass of Champaign and weighed the bottle to observe it was near empty.
Alderton looked at him with a piqued interest, “So Miss Kirk says he brought it to her, but you claim it was brought to you first. Is that correct?”
Robertson-Kirk turned her gaze back upon PC Alderton, "It is of prime importance to remember Mr Howard Vincent’s Police Code. In particular, Rule 18. ‘It must finally be remembered, in dealing with cases of murder, that any oversight, however trivial, any communication of information, any precipitancy, or any irregularity . . . ‘ And so, Police Constable Alderton, as your notes should there so indicate, what I said, was it was given to me, by Mr Byrne. I did not say by way of Inspector Spencer.”
“And Inspector Spenser of the City of London Police, finds it necessary to take such evidence and seek out a civilian and hand it over?” Alderton said with some indignation, “Yes – by all means let us consult Vincent’s Police Code. ‘In cases of murder, everything must be done with the utmost celerity, every channel pursued . . . to the exclusion of any individual theory, although every possible step must be taken to bring the murderer to justice, and to prevent his destroying the evidence.’ And so, to this end, the preserving of evidence, it appears the victim’s purse is thus lifted from the scene of the crime by a rum soaked vagabond and when given to an Inspector of the City Police, said Inspector, he does not think to mark it evidence – nor, see to it that it is placed into the custody of those officers in command of the scene, or, to take it to the Thames Station house – but rather, he seeks out . . . you.”
“It was of some concern that Mr Byrne’s idée fixe would only add complexity to the matter, bringing to light his madness – which, we saw, immediately in the broadsheets from Fleet Street – regarding our Jack,’ Inspector Spenser replied. “And so, I thought it best the purse should be returned to where Byrne had first procured it – to be found by those constables assigned to pick and clear the lumber yard and embankment for evidence.”
“Our Jack?” Alderton inquired.
Inspector Spenser nodded "Our Jack. To the populace of this city, it is ever to our uniforms they will defer the blame. For we did not catch him . . . and for that . . . he is forever ours.”
“Ahh yes,” Alderton glanced at them coyly, “The one that got away. That is certainly a theory. Although, I would have to say . . . to make him the first assumption, would of course be a very convenient façade for someone, especially, if they were . . . shall we say running something a bit off the books as they may which to put it – easy to lay off the blame for any crime to hand so to speak.”
“Precisely.” Robertson-Kirk replied and looked at Spencer, “You are correct she is perceptive.”
“Perhaps this might be the apposite moment, Lady Molly, to explain how it is you who no longer bare the trappings or duties associated with the Yard are yet in league with an Inspector of dubious methods, which are, to say the least, but a slander to Mr Vincent’s work. And reinstatement to investigative work for the City Police can be nothing more than some patched-up affair, orchestrate by none other than yourself.” I put it to her straightforwardly – expecting at best an artful machination away from the truth and at her worst a straight up lie.
“That is it?” She said swaying the glass in her hand. “Really?’ She leaned slightly forward, “I think not. For you both have the look.”
“The look?” Pc Alderton inquired
“Let us not be distracted by the carnival, Police Constable Alderton.” Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk soft, melodic voice had now taken on a edge and her green eyes had gone quite cold, "Is there some collaboration still between myself and Inspector Spencer? What nature does it take? This is the sum total of your inquiry? This is the mystery which is the sole cause of the entreaties for tonight’s interview? If this is so, then I am truly saddened. A diced up girl. A gin soaked informant whose neck is snapped by nothing more than mist and snow. A City Police Constable whose death by self-infliction is a sham. A fabrication and a mockery. And yet, the sum total of your investigation finds itself perplexed upon the dilemma as to whatever state of association there is between Inspector Spencer and myself?”
“Thee is more.” PC Alderton said heatedly.
“Then – Vera. You have a mind. Speak it. Say what it is you long to say. What is it you wish to accuse me of? I can quite assure you, there is already a long list, so, what would you care to add?"
“It is much too early to make accusations,” Alderton pointedly informed her, “I am merely collecting evidence . . . and so, at best, at this pint, I could only make assumptions.”
Then suddenly, she turned those cat green eyes upon me, “And what of you Edward? You have never been shy when it comes to your animosity in my regard. I am well aware of what low opinion you hold of me. So, if you can’t drink up man, then speak up. What is it? Do you suspect me of having diced up a woman and placed her scattered remains along river bank?”
“The thought has cross the mind.” I admitted.
Her eyes grew hard, "How you disappoint, Edward. By now, I would have thought you would have been much further along. And yet, you sniff along the trail they wish to follow.”
“You have some insight—then, pray madam, by all means share this low opinion of our investigative skills.”
A wry smile curled those winsome lips, “But then Edward – there would be the question of my collaboration with the Yard, whereupon there would surely arise questions anew with regard to my association with you – and then, alas, yet a new dilemma will have arisen, where upon the whole of the investigation would grind to a halt upon the disposition of just whose leash does Robertson-Kirk hold.”
“And here you sit and mock in your niche, in this den of iniquity,” I told her with some growing vexation, “A spider with her well kept secrets trapped like flies within her web.”
“And yet, you sit down beside me.” She smiled suddenly.
“Madam, I would sit beside the devil to get to the truth.” I told her.
“Whose truth, Edward?” She asked, the glass of Champagne still dangling like some perverse mimicry of justice’s scales. “You are so like a schoolboy who allows others to dictate his lessons. Truth comes from refusing to accepting someone else’s truth. For example, a simple diced up woman tossed into the Thames and upon the Embankment – is that all you can see? Who is she? Really? Pamela Dean – is but one truth.
“Of that there has been no confirmation.”
She glanced at Alderton with a smile, “So, you have spoken with Dr Wrayburn.”
“The truth of whether or not she is Dean is your truth. For you left the purse to so identify her as such.” I told her.
“Yes. But, what if she were not, then who is she? And if it is Dean, then who is Dean?”
“As you say—there are various truths. One would have it that she is but a clerk for the Navy.” Alderton said as she once again began taking notes. “Another she is that she is a spy to have infiltrated The Admiralty.”
“Yes. And where is the Navy?” Robertson-Kirk asked, tilting her glass to the left, then the right with each question, “Where are The Admiralty’s inquiry agents? The head clerk of Navy Intelligence is found diced up and tossed about the city and the investigation is left to you? There is evidence alluding to treason – treason during a time of War, and yet, the investigation is left to you? There is a missing Lieutenant, a Bradley McFarlane – said to be a spy of some considerable tradecraft as well as an alleged butcher, and yet, the investigation is left to you? Murder and butchery and espionage and treason and yet, where are the hounds of the intelligence community? Why are they being kept well sedated in their kennels?"
Inspector Spenser, sitting silent as she spoke, now removed a crumbled pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket and shook one forward, which he pulled free by placing it between his lips. He placed the pack on the table and removed a match from a match box with which to light it, it’s flame flaring before his face as he inhaled the smoke – before he whipped the flame out with a flick of his wrist. His dark eyes continued to survey the boisterous club behind us. The analogue of a hound was quite apt I now felt for he seemed to sit as her watch dog.
There was the slight trace of a smile, “Foresight – being aware of your opponents move and anticipating it so as to counter it before it is made. To drop her purse on the diced up girl, upends everyone’s plans. And that is when mistakes are made. Dean missing is but another tale of a skirt having gone a bunk with some young man, and no one is the wiser. But, if she becomes the diced up girl on the river, then she is something else again.
“One would suspect Edward, you were never intended to solve anything.” And this was a truth for which I did not need her suggestion for I had long suspected – and my suspicions had become such that I had begun to question the integrity of the Yard. And of AC Barrington – someone for whom I have had quite some considerable respect for. This spider come to sit down beside me – was it her intent to plant these seeds of doubt – or was she in fact releasing captive truth.
“Which is why they placed me in change of the murder investigation to begin with” Alderton said softly as she looked up from her notebook. A long held suspicion of Alderton’s top which she had now given voice – an articulation of which I was most concerned—for whatever her motivations, should she be in fact be a revelation – I did not trust Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk.
Distrust had nothing whatsoever to with Spenser for in truth I intensely detested the man and I flushed with some heat as I took notice that he was preparing to applauded PC Alderton’s voiced doubts of her self-worth – but a quick look from Robertson-Kirk cut him short, “Yours is a lack of conviction. You stood on a bridge with eyes that do not see. Tell me. Neil Byrne? He snapped his own neck upon his own accord? Suicide, is that the supposition?’
“A lie you know to be self-evident.”
“I—I am still vexed by the circumstances of that night – the trick of the light, the winter’s elements . . . the fact—“
“By now you have the book, do you not?” And Robertson-Kirk set her glass down upon the table.
“Dracula?” Alderton asked quizzically.
I frowned, “Yet more misdirection? What does such a fantastical novel have to—“
“Hamlet. Act 1, Scene 5.” She cut those green eyes, “There are more things in heaven and earth . . . Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Alderton put down her pencil, “For all your infamy, madam you are no mere patron of night spots, nor are you a but some member of the Metropolitan Police – discharged in disgrace.”
“Injudicious conduct, unbecoming. But, as PC Alderton does suggest, my suspicions are such Lady Molly, as to there being no sniffing about this inquiry from kennelled agents of The Admiralty, or for the War Department, or the Home Secretary, or lastly of Captain Purdy’s Naval Department, it is that their inquiry agents are even now at play in the field. Some, I suspect, are close to hand.”
“Careful Edward. For I can assure you this is a parade to which you do not long for a ticket.”
“In that regard, madam – it is a bit too late for I have already had such punched.”
Those green cat’s eyes now filled with resolute conviction, “You have but seen the advertisements placed upon the hoardings for such a parade. But the procession – you best take care if you decide to join Edward – for in this I am in all earnestness. For all the bluster you may hear – none wish you a speedy resolution to his crime.”
“You know me well, Lady Molly. Those who may have made such decisions have done so with foolhardy intent. I will find this murderer of the diced up girl – and all such crimes borne from her bitter fruit.”
“Oh indeed it is a taste of biter waters and none of the sweet.” And for a moment there was a kindled reflection in her eyes and voice.
“Of this Shakespeare, I am unaware, but—” I began to only be cut short.
“Stoker.” She replied and lifted once again that glass.
“Again that damnable novel.”
She gave me a long look, “Yes—indeed.”