The Coldfall Sanction

Takes Tea at {unintelligible}
Session Four - Part Two

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Most Immediate – For Director’s Desk
Transcription of radiophone surveillance with observational notations:
Randall Tanner, Aerated Bread Company, Regent Street, 11 March 1916

Subject Tanner, Randall. Cadet, current posting, Office 40, Admiralty House. Following usual routine: departure from flat, Brewer Street, 7:15; purchase from news vendor, Shaftsbury Avenue, 7:25; purchase from tobacconist, Piccadilly Circus, 7:35; arrival Aerated Bread Company, Regent Street, 7:45.

Upon arrival subject was seated at experimental radiophone surveillance table.

Transcription:
KIPPER: Will this table serve?
RT: Looks fine. Tea and toast. Thank you.

{Sounds of chair movement, a plate and eating utensils moved about. The rattle of paper as a newspaper broad sheet is placed upon table near center piece in which receiving horn is concealed}

[The paper is the Daily Express. Review of copy based upon KIPPER (agent acting as waiter) indicated subject’s attention was drawn to a column concerning the Thames Murder, Pamela Dean, and the column author’s reference to not only “Saucy Jack” but similar murders labeled by Fleet Street as the Thames Mysteries. Similarities drawn to a series of murders which took place during the period of 1887-1889. Four known incidents in which women were found dismembered. One of which was discovered in the foundation of the construction of Scotland Yard’s current location.]

{Sounds of broadsheet paper being handled. The rattle of china as KIPPER rights tea cup in saucer and pours tea. Sound of the setting of tea pot upon table as well as the plate of toast}

KIPPER: Will there be anything else sir?
RT: Oh, this will do.
KIPPER: The tea is satisfactory?
RT: Quite

{Sound of tea cup being returned to saucer. Broadsheets moving}

PJM: Randall, so good to see you.

[Subject is joined by Professor John Milton, Codename redacted ]

{Sounds of papers rustling. Chair movements – subject arising to greet Professor John Milton}

RT: Ah Professor! It’s good to see you too Sir. [Observer notes subject motions to opposite chair] Please, do sit.
PJM: Well thank you Randall. {Sound of chair movements) It is rather fortunate that we should meet this morning.
RT: "Oh? and why would that be sir? (China rattle as tea cup returned to saucer}.
KIPPER; May I be of service
PJM: Yes. Being as this is Saturday, is Fredrick today’s chief?”
KIPPER: Yes, sir.
PJM: Excellent. I would love eggs and bacon and that exquisite sausage of Fredrick’s. And, please do tell Professor Milton sends his regards.
KIPPER: Certainly, Sir. Will there be anything else?
PJM: A coffee. Au lait. Hot.
KIPPER: Very well, Sir. And for you, Sir. Would you care for something to compliment your toast?
RT: No. No thank you.
PJM: You should really try the eggs. Although it would seem such a simple item to prepare, Fredrick does something truly remarkable with them.
RT: Just tea and toast for me.
PJM: As you wish.

{Background noise and muffled footsteps of the departing KIPPER}

PJM: As I said it is most fortuitous we should meet this morning. I have heard some rather unsettling things. I mean. Dismemberment. Body Parts. Bits of femininity tossed along the Thames. Connections to Dierks & Company. The Nachrichtenabteilung. And Espionage. I must say, it is all really quite disturbing. And so . . . as I am aware you are acquaintances, do tell me Randall, are you in any way involved in this Lieutenant McFarlane affair?
RT: Bradley’s having an affair, Sir? I could have sworn that he and Miss Wells were getting on just fine. I haven’t seem him lately – hear he called in sick.

[Observer indicates no visible reaction as the subject calmly butters his toast as he placidly observes the Professor. Subject takes a bite of toast]

PJM: Yes. Well, I see, you have retained you cautious nature. Precisely why I recommended you for Room 40.

[Observer reports the Subject for a brief moment flashed a toothy grin, before realizing his mouth was still full and so suddenly closed it. At this time, the front door of the Aerated Bread Company opened and HOUND, wearing a black dress with her red hair pulled up beneath a large brimmed hat was prepared to enter but caught the slight motion of the Professors slight hand, whereupon she turned and departed. Observer is uncertain if the Subject took note of the movement of the Professor’s hand, but observed that the Subject did turn and must have caught sight of HOUND’s departure. Before Subject once more returned his gaze upon the Professor. Observer continued to indicated Subject revealed no discernable change in expression. The Professor sitting forward donned a pair of pince nez, and picked up the paper in order to inspect the page to which it had been so folded by the Subject.]

RT: Thank you, Sir.
PJM: I must say, a young man with your background and remarkable aptitudes, I wonder that any number of agencies have not recruited you away.
RT: How could I Sir, after your recommendation? I mean, I feel a bit duty bound to live up to your high estimations. And Room 40 and I are well suited.
PJM: Which is why I feel it is my obligation to speak to you concerning this apparent regard of yours for Lieutenant McFarland and Pamela Dean. Friendship is commendable but in this case it may be misguided. I must caution you to follow in their footsteps would be rather unwise to follow in their footsteps, particularly as to where their path leads.

{Subject’s voice lowers}

RT: And wherefore does this path lead Sir?
PJM: For those lacking access and agency it can be a one-way path to the ruination of reputation and the oblivion of careers.

{Observer reports the Subject begins buttering a fresh piece of toast}

RT: Well, Sir, I’m flattered you still think I have any reputation left to be ruined, and I appreciate you trying to save it. But if you will forgive me: I think poor Pamela’s was far more than an oblivion of her career.

{Professor Milton’s voice lowers}

PJM: Yes. Well. It was tragic. What happened to Miss Dean. Sincerely. But, she and Lieutenant McFarlane stumbled upon something for which certain individuals, shall we say, with agency have become quite concerned. No, it is better to say it clearly, who are have become quite agitated and disconcerted to say the least.

{Sound of KIPPER returning}

[Observer indicates Kipper places the Professor’s plate and a saucer with a cup of coffee before him. Subject watches with interest as he takes a bite of his toast.]

PJM: Ah, and to think the ABC began as a ladies tea room – they make a most marvelous breakfast.

[Observer indicates the Professor takes up his fork and cuts a bit of egg]

PJM: You should really try the eggs. Fredrick is truly and artist in the kitchen.
RT:“I have before; they really are quite delicious. You also should try some of their bread with salt beef, it is a treat Sir.”
PJM: “Sounds marvelous.”

[Observes indicates the Professor takes a bite of bacon, then wipes his fingers upon a white napkin.]

PJM: I have to take you to [unintelligible]. Run by Harold MacMasters. An American. Which we won’t hold against him. He’s from Chicago. He makes a salt beef sandwich which is something to die for.
RT: To die for?
PJM: Yes. Begs the question doesn’t it. Just what is one prepared to die for? Take you for example – is there anything you are truly prepared to die for? Say, this Lieutenant McFarlane or his paramour – what is her name, ah yes, Veronica. Veronica Wells. A lovely girl I hear – although a bit promiscuous – but then, she’s a socialist.
RT: A suffragette
JPM: That as well. Are you prepared to die for either of them?
RT: Sir?

[Observer reports the Professor lifts his cup and coffee and motions toward the Subject]

JPM: Just what are you prepared to die for?

[Observer indicates Subject looks at the Professor was he sips his coffee and then places the cup in the cradle of the saucer]

RT: There is a war on, Sir.
JPM: Indeed there is.
RT: We die for King and Country, Sir.

{Momentary background sounds as neither speaks. There is the sound of silverware upon china}

[Observer indicates Professor takes another bite]

JPM: As usual Randall, you have never let me down. Which is why I am recommending you once again.
RT: Sir?

{Professor’s voice low}

JMP: To follow this path without agency is indeed perilous. Perhaps, even with it. But, as you have classified clearance {unintelligible}. I am prepared to give you that agency. Of course, what I am about to say is of a highly sensitive nature."

[Observer indicates Subject’s first visual reaction as he furtively glances about the tea room, at the other patrons, at the staff, before he leans closer.]

{Start}
RT: This is the recruitment?

{Observer indicates Subject calmly takes a sip of his tea}

PJM: [Observer indicates the Professor slices a piece of sausage and picking it up on the tines of his fork leans slightly forward.] {His voice is lowered, but audible owing to proximity to tbale’s center-piece} The Empire has many secrets, some are worse than others. This is one of the worst. It started as an ill-conceived operation— and from there, it all went horribly wrong. And ever since, it has all been an endless contrivance of containment and concealment. Now, at the moment it is both."

{Observer indicates Subject takes another casual sip of his tea as if attempting to conceal from any possible onlookers the nature of their conversation.}

[Observer reports Subject took a sip of his tea in what appeared to be an attempt to disguise to any casual onlookers the nature of their conversation.
RT: “So – this is the recruitment?
PJM: There are those who have a need of someone with your unique talents. And owing to our long association, I have been asked to speak on their behalf. Suffice it to say, there is an organization outside the normal intelligence apparatus, which, since 1894, has been ever on vigil against a threat foreign and domestic. . . An organization entirely clandestine in nature – owing to the particular character of enemy we face, which is far more reminiscent of an infection than an insidious invasion.
RT: I take it we’re not taking about the Central Powers.
PJM: In a way, we may very well be . . . that has yet to be determined.
RT: Sir, I work in Room 40 and you’re being about as highly cryptical as the messages I decode all day. Invasions and infections? Just what are we talking about here, Sir?
PJM: One of our most horrid failures – and one whose consequences could very well spread over centuries.
RT: Surely {unintelligible}.
PJM: Imagine a contagion. A contagion brought to these shores by unwitting men of good intentions. A contagion which left unchecked could bring about the destruction of untold thousands and the world as we know it.
RT Sir! {Subject’s voice lowering significantly} Are you suggesting . . . have the Germans some how weaponized . . . something like the plague?
PJM: No. Not a disease. But a contagious corruption which bears all the communicable aspects of a disease, one which is endowed with the intelligence and cunning of a most strategic mind. A brilliant and sinister mastermind.
RT: Sounds a bit like that Fu Manchu.
PJM: Yes. A very apt comparison—but alas, the Devil Doctor and his minions of the Yellow Peril are mere fictions, whereas our threat only appears to be. I suspect by now, you have read some if not all of the Hawkins Papers. Do you have the novel?
RT: Well, I have a novel, not sure if it’s the one you’re describing as I’m not certain if we’re talking about Rohmer or Stoker.
PJM: Our theatrical chronicler.
RT: {Unintelligible} I have, borrowing it {unintelligible}. But I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, although it promises to be an interesting read.
PJM: Read it.

[Observer indicates the Professor lifts a piece of bacon and takes a bite]

PJM: "Now, it is important to understand—it was never intended to be published. But then, in what was considered at moment {unintelligible, the rattling of china as in saucers being returned} insight; it was authorized to be published to serve as disinformation. So, in many instances you will find critical things have been redacted. And merely incidental things have been rather embellished by the Irishman.

[Observer reports Subject displays a toothy grin]

RT: It will be on the test, eh professor?

[Observer indicates that Professor Milton returns the smile as he cuts into his breakfast]

PJM: An essay question at the very least.
RT: I must say – this all sounds a bit, well , something for a clandestine intelligence operative. Whereas I am but a humble cryptologist.
PJM: Yes, well. The truth of the matter Randall is that you have been in contention for admission to this . . . circus . . . ever since you were in receipt of an odd communication sometime back.
RT: Professor Milton, it is my job to receive odd communications and make them less odd. You may have to be more specific.
PJM: To be more precise you received, inadvertently I can assure you. a communication containing a code word that should have had no meaning – one which you most wisely filed away and did not react.

[Observer reports Subject lilts his cup of tea and places it to his lips to speak above it.]

RT: You mean EDOM
PJM: Yes.
RT: Seien Sie aufmerksam für das Britische EDOM-Projekt. {Subject speaks in a workable German} I did look it up. EDOM. It was an ancient Levantine kingdom bordering Israel 13th century BC. But I can’t seem to make the connection Sir. Especially if its about what I think we’re referring to here – cryptically.
JPM: Now, I know this sounds all to fantastical and at the moment if I were to try and lay it all out it would sound even more so – and to that point, as I have always said, it is best to learn through experience, which is why I feel that for you to gather the full import of the threat with which we must contend, you should speak with someone who can provide a more personal accounting. Have you heard of the X Club ?

[Observer indicates Subject finishes the last bite of toast as he shakes his head.]

RT: No sir, can’t say I have.
PJM: The X Club was a prominent dining club consisting of nine influential scientists. We were at times given various governmental proposals to evaluate and give our recommendations upon. There are now only a few of us, sadly to say. Now, one of them you need to see is Lord Charles Standish Reed. He is retired – but I think hearing from him and reading the novel, you will gain a proper perspective as to the threat we face.

[Observer reports the Subject nods ascent, and places a thumb to his lips to lick apparent butter upon it.]

RT: Very well. And were may I find this Dr Reed?
PJM: Although he is retired from Oxford, he does do some consulting with the archaeology chair at Kings College. I am aware he is doing so this week.

[Observer indicates Professor Milton places his fork down and picks up his cup of coffee]

PJM: Trust me Randall. I know this seems all seems vague and rather confusing, but speak with Lord Charles. After which, I would suggest you begin at the beginning.
RT: I see—the beginning. Well, . . . literary analysis with a retired Archeologist sounds like it will be a most enlightening afternoon, sir. I shall definitely see if I can make it out there. There’s just one question that is nagging at me sir."

[Observer reports the Professor pauses to look over the rim of his coffee cup before taking a long sip as he looks to the Subject with that is indicated to be a wry smile]

PJ: “Just one?”
RT: “Am I getting extra credit for this sir?”

[Observer reports the Professor sits for a long moment before speaking]

JPM: There is a certain innocence one possess in correlation to what one knows of reality. Not their reality – but one of a much larger truth. I am sorry to say, should you pursue this further . . . you will find your days of innocence will quickly draw to a close and for that I can only say, in all honesty, I regret my role in that revelation. But alas, setting aside King and country, if your friendship with Lieutenant McFarlane is of worth – or for that matter, his pretty little paramour, then, you may very well yet save them.
RT: “Ah.”

[Observer indicates the Subject picks up a pencil from the table, where speculation maintains it was left by a previous patron, an errant crossword enthusiast who had been re-directed from special surveillance table earlier. The Subject begins using the pencil upon the newspaper as he sits in apparent silent contemplation.]

{The only sounds are background sounds and that of silverare upon china}

[Observer reports the Professor continues eating his breakfast not interrupting the Subject’s apparent deliberation.]

[ KIPPLER reports that upon the folded newspaper the Subject left behind, the Subject had drawn a ‘doodle’ of an envelope – which he had been shaded to black.]

RT: Well, then. It sounds just fine by me." {Subject exhales a long sigh} “It has been quite the wonderful breakfast, Sir.
PJM: When you have spoken to Lord Charles. We can have a more in depth discussion . . . as then I think you will understand the consequence of our initial failures. But, if at anytime if you need to see me, go to the Savile Club and ask for Count Szekely and I will get back in touch with you.”
RT: Count Szekely.

[Observer reports that the Professor took up his fork again and then another bite of his breakfast and nodded]

PJM: Really, Randall you should try the eggs they are perfection. And this sausage—
RT: To die for?
PJM: Precisely.

[Observer reports that the subject took up his hat from the table and stood with a smile]

RT: Then I’ll let you finish you eggs so they may rest in peace, Sir.

End of Transcription Report
Classified – For Eyes Only – Director’s Desk

View
Underground
Session four - Part One

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Police Constable Vera Alderton’s Report:
Evidence given in regard to events that transpired late the night of 10 March 1916 and early the morning of 11 March 1916

Upon returning to Scotland Yard at approximately 4.45 Inspector Stone and I proceeded to the office of Assistant Commissioner Barrington. We were informed that the AC had left for the day. Inspector Stone pressed as to whether the AC would be returning and was informed smartly that he was in a meeting. When Inspector Stone continued to press for information as to the nature of the meeting he was informed it was an official Metropolitan Police affair. Upon receiving this information I expressed to Inspector Stone the urgency of our reports, owing to the discovery of the self-inflicted demise of City of London Police Constable Andrew Baxter, of 25 Somerset Street. Inspector Stone assented and returned to his desk, while I retreated to mine. Having completed my official report of Constable Baxter, I then began a memorandum of evidentiary supposition in regards to:

1.) Homicide of Pamela Dean, Head Clerk, Admiralty House: Was the butchery of Dean done as part of some ritualistic sexual motivation or was it done to suppress evidence as to the true COD. If suppression of evidence, why then was Constable Baxter given supplemental evidence (Dean’s purse) to be placed upon the scene of the crime so as to hasten identification of the discovered portions of the female anatomy as Pamela Dean. Identification of Pamela Dean is wholly based upon evidence so placed. Speculation: Is the discovered lower portions of the woman’s body really those of Pamela Dean?
2.) Homicide of Detective Lewis Cotford, City Of London Police, Thames Station: Upon his arrival at 85 Blackfriar Road, Detective Cotford greeted Inspector Stone and I upon the door step and was then preparing to proceeded to move through front door into Pamela Dean’s flat, whereupon as he so entered he took notice of the intruder thus discovered there. He was thereupon heard to say: “Hey, you. I know you, we . . “ Or words to that effect. Detective Cotford then received one shot to the head, killing him instantly. Supposition: Why did intruder shoot Detective Cotford, whereas previously he had only threatened Inspector Stone and myself. Why did the intruder not shoot Inpsector Stone or myself? Was the word about to be expressed by Detective Cotford “worked’? Did Detective Cotford know the intruder? Was he thus silenced for that knowledge?
3.) The book purloined by intruder: Speculation: The novel was by Bram Stoker, Dracula. Perhaps used as book cypher?
4.) Detective Cotford’s Casebook, discovered upon body of deceased by Inspector Stone: Of witnesses interviewed, two were of primary significance, Jeremiah Hurley, of 10 Arundel Street and Constable Andrew Baxter, of 25 Somerset Street. Jeremiah Hurley, a broom-man, witnessed the arrival of a large black motor car, tentatively identified as a Lanchester limousine, upon the scene of the discovery of the female pieces of anatomy on or near the Victoria Embankment. Vehicle identification number unknown. Said witness reported seeing a ‘red-headed’ woman of remarkable features hand over a purse to Constable Baxter. Witness then stated he had observed said constable furtively place the purse upon the scene and then proceed to pick it up as evidence found. Witness was forthcoming during interview, even upon the revelation of possible attempted intimidation by a member of the City of London Police. From description given possible identification of said City Police detective as Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer. But then drew reticent and refused all further cooperation upon discovery of the death of Neil Byrne, a veteran of the war turned to drink. Supposition: What connection is there between Hurley and Byrne that said revelation of his death had such an effect? Even more so than intimation by City of London Police?
5.) Captain Alexander Purdy, The Admiralty House: Interview with Captain Purdy was purposeful in the revelation regarding possible espionage and the proposition that Pamela Dean, head clerk, and a Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane had stolen classified information known as the Harker Memorandum. Captain Purdy proceeded to identify Dean and McFarlane as agents of German Intelligence, owing to evidence so far gathered by Naval Intelligence. Evidence in support of allegation was not forthcoming. Supposition: Was Captain Purdy truly forthcoming? What evidence was his supposition drawn? Why was it not revealed? In that regard, why was Scotland Yard privy to such national intelligence information while Naval Intelligence was apparently conducting an on-going investigation?
6.) Detective Inspector James Fitzjames Spenser, former Inspector of Scotland Yard, former private investigative consultant, current City of London Detective Inspector: Detective Inspector Spenser has so far appeared at each crime scene and seems far more intent upon obstructing or hindering investigation, why? Inspector Stone’s recent revelation that Detective Inspector Spencer was a former member of a special division within Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and was dismissed for irregularities and possible judicial misconduct tied to the injudicious misconduct by an Inspector Molly Robertson-Kirk. Inspector Robertson-Kirk, was revealed by Inspector Stone to have been not only Spenser’s commander but is well known for having a distinguishing feature, red-hair. Speculation: Is she the woman in the Lanchester limousine?
7.) Lady of the Mist and Neil Byrne: What significance do they have to the homicide of Pamela Dean – none it would appear, were it not for the reaction of Jeremiah Hurley at the revelation of Byrne’s death.

I then proceeded to review photographs taken of the female remains, a leg (right, severed just above the thigh) and pelvis. I studied various views of the pier and the embankment, as well as the lumber yard and the area below the arches of Waterloo Bridge. Upon this deliberation I grew tired and the hour was late. At approximately 7.45 I left Scotland Yard and proceeded by underground to my rooms. Upon arrival there, having grown weary, I sought a good night’s rest with the intention of reviewing once again, in the morning, my memorandum.

Upon a careful approach of the steps leading to my rooming house, owing to the renewed snowfall which had proceeded to grow heavier since leaving the underground station, I took notice of a small boy. He wore a cap with a brim, olive in hue, a pair of much worn dark trousers and a short, woollen jacket. His boots were one size too large. “You a policeman?" He inquired as he approached. Due to the weariness aforementioned, I sighed and in reply answered, “Yes, yes I am.” To which the boy responded, “He said you were a policeman—but, are ladies policemen?” My suspicion was somewhat aroused upon the utterance of the word “He” and in response I looked about but the street was all but deserted. A few late pedestrians were hurrying to be out of the snow. There was no traffic along the street. “So, are you PC Alderton?” The boys continued as he rubbed the back of his hand across a runny nose.

“I am, yes. Do you need any assistance?” I answered as I shifted subtly into a defensive stance. The boy then replied, “He says, I am to give this to a policeman named PC Alderton." Thereupon the boy removed an envelope from inside his woollen coat, which he then proceeded to hand over to me with the same hand he had only moments before back-handed across his nose. For this reason I took it gingerly and responded with a thank you and offered him a coin, which he accepted with a smile before turning to hurry away into the obscurity of the snowfall.

Upon obtaining the envelope, I took note the only marking it bore was a single circle drawn upon the front in red ink – which I immediately recalled to be very similar to a red circle found earlier at Dean’s flat drawn on a piece of paper. Inspector Stone and I speculated Dean had apparently, for reasons unknown, used an adhesive to apparently attach the drawing to a window pane near her desk.

I thereupon quickly tucked said envelope into my bag and then proceeded to hurry up the steps of my rooming house.

Personal digression for sake of accuracy and later reference:
Owing to the events of the day, I do admit to seeking warmth and a possible bath in order to relax and reflect upon the events of the day, all of which would have to wait until I dealt with my flatmate. Whose “THERE YA ARE HUN!” abrasively greeted me upon unlocking the flat door and stepping inside. “I was about to send the flatfoots to look for you!” She continued. My flatemate is Irene Reedmin, head librarian for Kings’s College library. Upon entering my flat I apologized for the lateness by expressing the fact I had had a very long day. Irene had prepared dinner. To which she replied, “What kept ya, if you mind me asking? or is it top secret police business?” As I was not seeking to further discuss an on going police investigation, I smiled and picked up the plate, which she had prepared for me, in order to retreat into my bedroom: I replied, “A suspect hung himself.” To which, Irene an avowed women’s suffragette explained, “Himself? HUZZAH! another win for womankind!’ This response was of course owing to the accompanying large drink of whiskey she offered in way of a toast. To which I replied, in some exasperation, “Must you spend all your money on whiskey and books.” Irene countered that she spent it as well on cigarettes. She then spoke to my having sent Inspector Stone to Kings College library the previous night, in regards to analysing a listing of books I had made of Pamela Dean’s private collection, “And don’t think I don’t know what you tried the other day, sending that copper to the library.” I was more than aware of what she had misconceived as my intent, “ I assure you that was purely work related Irene.” At this point my weary day consumed me and I told her I was tired and as such was going to retire for the night and get some much needed sleep. Upon entry I placed the plate prepared upon my chair and collapsed upon the bed. There upon Irene began to play upon her gramophone, much too loudly, some new disc records of American Ragtime.
End of Digression

Unable to successfully drowse, I recalled the envelope in my bag. Upon removing it, I proceeded to examine the envelope. It was a standard postal envelope, which could have been obtained at any Postal Office. The only markings upon it was the red circle drawn with a steady hand, using a common red ink which could have been obtained at any stationary. The pen used had a fine point. The circle seemed to be drawn with some precision.

Upon carefully opening the envelope with a slow slice of a letter opener, I thereupon removed one sheet of paper. It had been tri-folded. The letter’s contents had been constructed using letters taken from various newspapers; some words were small taken apparently from news articles, some were letters which had been removed from headlines.

“Upon morning go 2 Waterloo Station. Take train 2 Charing Cross then switch lines 2 Euston Square. Switch 2 Notting Hill Gate. Then switch 2 Liverpool Street Station. Tell no 1. Come alone. Make certain U r not followed. A wait instructions.”

Personal digression for sake of accuracy and later reference:
Upon seeing the message I sighed and uttered, “Of course.” Whereupon I then glanced at my small library of detective and mystery novels, with the momentary thought that it was upon Irene, my flatmate, this was to blame. For all she ever gave me were books and headaches. I called out to her a couple of times before opening the door, or, perhaps it was thrown open by the volume of her "music.” “IRENE, I need you let me use the library’s telephone.” I told her as I stepped from my bedroom. “Just because work never ends for you,” She replied standing with her hand on the syphon as she prepared to add soda to her whiskey; she turned and lifting the keys from the sideboard, tossed them in my direction. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t end for us. I’ll keep the light on for you.”
End Digression

As there was little street traffic and the Kings College campus was but a short three blocks distant, I proceeded on foot through a light snowfall. I did not observe anyone following. And so I arrivied at the library at 9.45. I unlocked an employee entrance, using Irene Reedmin’s keys. Thereupon I placed several calls.

Upon departing the library and locking up I began to ponder the letter and the consequence of it and in so doing decided to walk about rather than return to my flat, owing to the musical annoyance. As I proceeded through the fluctuating flurries of the night’s falling snow, I was ever vigilant for any possible surveillance as the letter had forewarned of the possibility of my being followed. I did not detect any suspicious activity among the few pedestrians hazarding the night and the weather. It was well upon 10.30 when I ascertained my wanderings had taken me upon an approach to the front entrance of Inspector Stone’s residence. I proceeded to write a short note relating events hither to and tore the page from my casebook and, with the original letter, I slid them under his front door.

From thence I hailed a cab and took it to Waterloo Station. I arrived at about 5 minutes past 11. In that the last trains were to make their stops, there were only a few passengers awaiting to board. Upon the departure of the last scheduled train, 10 minutes past midnight, the station was all but deserted save for a pair of broom-men (which in reality were ladies, owing to the war effort). I took a position at a bench which gave me the best view of the station entrance and exit. At about 1.30, alone in the station, I proceeded to lie upon the bench in order to take what little sleep I should chance upon.

It was 10 minutes past 5 when I was awakened by sounds of a dour woman, who I later learned to be Myrtle Finchely, 231 Lambeth Road, who was setting up a flower stand near a news vendor’s, which was opening as well. The woman stepped over to the proprietor of the newsstand while unscrewing the cap of a flask from which she took a drink and offered same to the stout, moustached gentleman who owned the stand, I have since learned he is a Gordon Downes, of 119 Chicksend. I proceeded to take up a position in order to watch the arriving passengers for the early train, running at 5.35.

With a rumble the wooden carriage of the London Electric Railway, Bakerloo Line arrived. No one exited and passengers began to board. I held back and was certain to be one of the last passengers. I took note of another who seemed to wait as well for the others to enter. A tall gentleman in a dark black suit with a corresponding hat pulled low over his forehead so as to obscure his countenance.

The train rattled off and 5.36. The carriage grew dim with the occasional bright flash of light which flickered through windows from lamps outside set along the tube. I carefully ascertained that no one seemed to be of interest, save the gentleman in the black suit, who occasionally glanced in my direction.

The 5.36 from Waterloo to Charing Cross was uneventful. I exited and switch lines to the Central London Railway for arrival at Euston Square. The gentleman in the black suit followed but after purchase of an morning edition from the news vendor, a elderly gentleman who was hawking papers, he left the station at Euston Square as I switched lines to the Metropolitan Railway for the Notting Hill Gate connection.

Upon arrival a Notting Hill Gate Station I took notice of two Metropolitan constables standing near the entrance. The station at this time, 6.15, had a more substantial gathering of awaiting passengers.

In not wanting to attract undo attention from the constables, I perked by collar and likewise proceeded to purchase a morning edition. Upon the received instructions, I awaited the last train, the London Electric Railway, Hampstead Line, to Liverpool Station.

The train ran behind schedule and arrived 5 minutes past its appointed time as it rattled and rumbled into the tube station. There was a push of passengers against those exiting as it began to board. The two constables I had previously regarded were observing those exiting as if seeking someone of particular interest. I was careful to enter amongst the last in order to ascertain whether there was any about who might have been watching me with particular regard. I was aware of a gentleman, about 6 foot in height, wearing a dark suit, corresponding hat, stocky of shoulders, who stood reading The Times. Upon turning the page, he seemed to look in my direction.

The train departed the station. I was aware the first of my wires, which I had rang up the night before from the King’s College library, should be arriving to give explanation to the Desk Sergeant that I would be appearing at the Yard later in the morning. With the carriage rumbling its way to Liverpool Street Station, my final destination, I felt a growing sense of anticipation. With a few minutes remaining before the train was to arrive at the platform I became aware of a man in a grey suit and long heavy overcoat. As he folded his copy of the Daily Express, he glanced at me and smiled. I returned the gesture with a taciturn stare.

We arrived at the station and the passengers began to disembark. As I had some concern about the gentleman in the grey suit, I retained my seat and watched as he exited. As he did not glance in my direction in exiting or upon gaining the platform, I likewise left the carriage. I left the paper I had earlier purchased upon my seat. Passengers were pushing to enter and so it was not until I had cleared the congestion about the carriage door that I marked the presence of Inspector Stone standing at a news vender’s handing over a coin for the purchase of a copy of The Times. This was unexpected as my note, left under his door the night before, had been specific in that he should take no action unless he failed to hear from me by 10 o’clock.

Neither of us gave any indication of the awareness of the other as I was suddenly brought to heel by a young girl, her attire worn and showing signs of impoverishment, as she stepped up to me and inquired, “He says you are a policeman, are you a policeman?"

I looked about to ascertain if there were any surveillance.

“Are you Policeman Vera?” The child asked and grinned, “That is a funny name – Policeman Vera.”

“Yes . . . yes, I am.” I replied softly and knelt before the child.

’This is for you Policeman Vera" There upon she handed me another envelope so marked with a red circle.

Upon me taking the envelope the girl dashed off. I stood and quickly opened the letter, within there was once again a single sheet of paper of ordinary, common stationary stock, tri-folded. The message was composed as before from cuttings taken from various newspapers:

“When no 1 is watching go 2 end of platform. There r service rungs. Please enter into the tube. Take care. There R high electrical connections. Proceed 35 yards. Stop & turn right. There U will find a door recessed in the wall. Enter.”

I returned the page to the envelope and noted the time, 43 minutes past 6. I could find no evidence of the girl. I hazarded a glance to Inspector Stone who had moved so as to stand near some wall advertisements for North British Clincher Rubber Motor Tyres, Brownville Cocoa, Cockle’s Antibilious Pills, Coldfall House Charitable Trust, Junior Army & Navy Stores, and the British Empire Hotel. His interest appeared to be lost an article of The Times.

I proceeded down the station platform. As I reached the end, I then turned suddenly and called out loudly, “Stop! Stop! Stop that man!” The suddenness of my outcry turned the attention of those near the end of the platform in their effort to look for a man to stop, while I quickly sidled my way down the rungs attached to the platform, which allow access to the rails below. I then moved quickly into the darkness of the tube.

At an interval of approximately ten feet, small electric bulbs where recessed into the tube wall to afford some visibility. I took care to maintain a safe distance from the rails, having lit my torch. There appeared to be little in the way of interest along the narrowness afforded between the rail and the tube walk. Earth and gravel. I had proceeded approximately 15 feet into the tube before I turned to look back at the opening to the station platform to ascertain whether or not I was being followed. The tube was deserted.

Having progressed about 30 to 35 feet into the tube tunnel, I came upon a metal door just as the letter had indicated. Having removed my truncheon, I proceeded to use it to knock upon the door. There was no answer.

Upon checking the latch I found it unlocked. Cautiously I opened the door to reveal beyond what appeared to be a railway maintenance room. It was very dimly lit. I entered. Using my torch to examine the area, I turned suddenly upon the slamming of the metal door.

My truncheon at the ready, the light of my torch, revealed a man of medium height, dark hair, slightly tousled, wearing a heavy winter overcoat and a fashionable grey suit. He was sliding the three bolts of the door into place: "I am a bit sorry for the melodrama, PC Alderton, but they did kill Pamela,“ he said in a soft, subdued voice. He turned to face me, “So—how much do you know?”

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Trompe L'oeil
Session Three - Part Six

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Mrs Burrows Diary
10 March – late evening

Lord, but I might have killed him. And he was a handsome one that’s for certain. I was just checking on the front door – what with them going out and saying they would return shortly. I should have thought to lock up behind them, what with it being 9:30. But, leastwise I was entering the foyer and rounding the big, center table when I took notice of the door latch. It was moving. Not consistent – but a bit here and then a bit there, as if someone where trying to see if it were locked. And it gave me a fright— but not so I didn’t have my wits about me and so I quick looked around and all I could lay hands on was one of the silver candlesticks next to the old vase of flowers on the side table. And so I picked it up – my heart throbbing like as to hear it in the back of my ears as I stood there with my candlestick held aloft ready to do as much damage as I could possibly muster. I was just thinking I would try and reach back for the light switch thinking it might go better in the dark when the door pushed open a bit. And there I was tense and ready but – then I thought it might be one of them come back and so I says, “Who’s there!”

And he peered in to see the candlestick at the ready and me a about to give it to him, “Oh—’scuse me, didn’t mean ta startle ya.”

His eyes all a twinkle and voice so filled with charm I knew in a moment it wasn’t no burglar come to call.

“I say you gave me a fright.” Still holding the candlestick a bay.

“Sorry, just wantin’ ta know if ya had some rooms to let.”

Now it was strange to say the least, it being 9:30 and all but as I said his voice was charm itself . . . and he was quite handsome in his naval uniform and as there are those about on leave which arrive when the ships dock.. "Well now, young man, you nearly frightened away ten years from me that I will say.” And I lowered the candlestick, “You’re with the Navy?”

He took his cap right off as he entered the foyer in great politeness, “Yes’m, just got transferred from th’ ‘York’ to some cushy job here. Names Corke, m’m. Midshipman Thomas Corke.”

“Well, don’t just stand there in the cold, Midshipman Corke. Come in. Come on in, and have yourself a glass of brandy to warm yourself. “ I says and stepped back from aside the door and into the foyer. “This beastly winter and snow seems as if it shall never pass.”

“Aye it is. As I was just sayin’ a bit early, the devil certainly is walking out tonight.” He closed the door behind him, having stomped the snow off his boots before he entered.

“Best you come on into the parlour. I have a nice fire in the hearth.” I offered as I returned the candlestick to the side table. I took notice that he aligned it properly with the matching one on the other side of the vase of flowers, as I led the way toward the open double doors. “You will find no more loyal a supporter of our men in uniform than Elsa Burrows."

“Well, thank ya kindly m’m.” He removed his cap.

“I do volunteer work you know. Whatever I can, But every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m to the church rolling bandages.” I informed him as I stepped over to the parlour sideboard and lifted the bottle of brandy, and took up two glasses, “So, Thomas, you were on the York? How long you have before setting back out to sea?”

“Not leave m’m, transfer. But I really can’t talk about it m’m.” His voice drops conspiratorially. “Wot with German spies about an all.” He knowingly taps the side of his nose.

“Oh don’t I know it.” I gave him a knowing wink, “Damn Germans – you can’t be too careful in what you say, and when you say it, as they’re just about everywhere. Immigrated in before the war so as to be all set up in business, sweet shops and bakeries, and such, long before the declaration – is what I says. All a strategy of the Kaiser believe you me.” Says I as I moved over from the sideboard and toward the sofa.“ I said as much to Agnes, just the other night, at the Women’s Bond meeting. And so, right you are Thomas, one can’t be too careful these days, you know. Here.” I says as I poured him a stout brandy and passed it over.

“Well, thank ya m’m,” He said a bit distractedly. I hope it wasn’t the papers what I had left lying about folded to the bad news from the front an all.

“Now as for rooms,” I says sipping my own drink, as I took a seat on the sofa and motioned him over to the high-backed chair. “You just might well be in luck, seeing as how one of my best tenants has taken it in her head to be taking her leave of her rooms tonight,” I says as I took another longer sip and sighed, “The lord knows—I do so hate to see her go.”

“Tonight ya say?” He asked, “Now that would be swell, right innit? ‘course, sorry ta see ya put out of a good tenant, but didn’t ya have time to make peace with her leaving?”

I looked at my drink as I had not had time at all in fact – it coming on all of sudden. “I don’t rightly know what to think. I mean, I was away at my meeting," I refreshed the brandy in my glass and checked to see if Midshipmen Corke need a topper, but he seemed to be rationing it rather well, “The Women’s Bond of Freedom – which was wonderful, absolutely wonderful as we had such a great speaker tonight, Alderman Dunsdale, speaking of homeland duties and all, but then I come home and what do I find? That Veronica, she’s giving notice and is moving out. . . . tonight. Of all things. If you ask me it is all the doings of that friend of her beau’s – he’s one of those Conchies,” I says with a knowing nod, “I mean, a man who refuses to serve, who declares some higher callin’ than the preservation of England and all we hold dear from the huns, but then, he’s a lawyer too boot. I have no way of knowing what happened, but something did. I mean who does such a thing at this hour – and in this weather, unless there is something behind it.”

“Does seem to bear some consideration. She given notice before?” He says.

“No – seemed ever a steadfast tenant,” I says, “Even given her liberties with her rooms, so to speak – you know – with her Lieutenant.” I lifted a knowing brow and saw he took my drift, “But – it’s not as if I were not aware she was more than a bit head strong. A college girl – education and science and that beastly Darwin. But, I don’t hold it against her. She’s truly a lovely soul – a might young . . . and a bit too naïve if you ask my opinion.“ I says with a sigh and another sip of brandy, “Going out late a night and such – like she did last night. She might needs to be a might more careful as to which coterie she attends – like them that are in her assistance.”

“Them her in assistance?”

“A big carrier’s man working for that woman – I think she was Lieutenant Bradley’s landlady. They took out some boxes of Veronica’s a might earlier and I should be expecting them back shortly.” I says, looking back toward the foyer.

The midshipman took on this very serious tone with me, “M’m, I have a very serious question to ask. May I meet this tenant? It’s a queer request I know. But if, as you say, anti-war groups have been reaching out to her, it is my duty as a member of his royal navy to see if she has been, dare I say it, coerced into to any acts for certain foreign agents.”

I know my eyebrow raised mightily upon hearing that – the sheer thought of foreign agents . . . under my roof! And that carrier man looking like a common street thug from Whitechapel.

“While most in these pacifists groups are naïve stooges, there may be some. . . compromised you know, on th’ take, so they say.”

“Lord, I never thought of that. This conchy lawyer: he went up to see her and her Lieutenant, looking all smart, with hat in hand – why, I even took them up some tea – which no one seems to have touched. Why my word – come to think of it, if it isn’t long after that bang she’s off—what ever could it mean? Lord, you don’t think . . . spies?”

“Ya never know, m’m. Ya never know.” He sipped on the brandy thoughtfully. “Less conclusions jumped to, the better. Still, I would like to have a word with the miss. If I have your permission that is.”

I looked at him with growing anxiety, “Well, then, Midshipman Corke, if it is as you say – then perhaps you best have a few words with her. Her name is Veronica, Veronica Wells. And such a sweet girl. I do hope she is alright and hasn’t gotten herself mixed up with these bloody Kaiser pacifists.”

“Shutter at the thought m’m.” He says as he arose from the high-backed chair.

“She has rooms on the second floor, third room on the right.” I rose from the sofa and stepped over to the double doors and pointed upward to the landing above. “Third door on the right.”

Veronica Wells’ Journal
10 March – late night

So tired and yet I want to put this down before attempting to sleep in yet another strange bed. Alas, I awoke in one and now I fall back into another. And I am disquieted, very much so. Not from the hasty departure from Mrs Burrows, which was anxiety itself, or the bullying about by Mrs Willingham and her man, the brutish Mr Crump. But rather what I saw or rather what I thought I saw – but believing it is beyond all reason. For to do so – if it were true – then all I know of science is called into question. Miss Miniver upon a rooftop – and then the climbing down. No—I must put away all fanciful considerations, for it can be nothing less than the formulation of a trompe I’oeil of the snow and light reflection upon a windowpane, suggested by Bradley’s extraordinary revelation to Robert Wise with its undeniable allusions to the novel Dracula. Compounded of course by the tumult of a day begun with a morning head, somewhat alleviated by that marvellous concoction of Miss Miniver – and the small supply of cocaine she had provided – which had long since worn away. And Miss Miniver! Her dark, inquisitive eyes appraising me as I got dressed this morning. Her look how it lingers. It is surely the stuff of which dreams are made of – as well as the beginnings of superstition. My obsessive imagination running headlong against my utter lack of understanding of the Sapphic nature? Yes! Incubuses and succubuses – are they not all derived from sexual repressions and desires and ignorance. Mrs Willingham is correct I must get a grip –

It’s all so vexing. Then as now—and I was vexed! I had dropped the vase, of which I knew not the sentimentality nor expense thereof, owing to it belonging to Mrs Burrows, and it shattered. “Oh, Goddamnit!,” my new found habit of cursing exploding as I stood looking down at the porcelain shards.

And then came yet another damned knock upon the door. I took a deep breath, and held clenched fists to my temples as I proceeded to answer. “Yes!” I knew it was not Mrs Willingham and her lackey returned for she would have merely entered upon her own accord.

“Excuse me miss, but may I have a word.” Came the masculine voice outside the door.

I did not recognized it. Yet another of Lady Helene’s minions seeking their Rapunzel to hide away? I opened the door: “You can bloody well tell Mrs, Willingham I am packing as best I can.”

Rather than a bit of thuggery, I found instead a naval officer standing with cap in hand, “Veronica? I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure, I’m Randall, Bradley’s mate?” He spoke in a soft voice as if seeking not to be overheard.

“Oh, I am sorry. Did you say Randall? Randall Tanner? Bradley has mentioned you.” I said and motioned him into the room and closed the door and suddenly felt overcome, so I abruptly embraced him, “Oh, Randall is it all so absurdly horrid.”

I could feel his reaction – at first momentarily stunned by my unexpected embrace, before he relaxed a bit to hold me comfortingly.

“They say – they say Bradley is a spy. Not only a spy but a murderer.” I told him as I held him tightly, wanting desperately to confess . . . to confess everything – the whole sordid affair with Pym and Beltham and Willingham. Confess that it was me and not Bradley in the company of spies. But—although I told myself it was for his sake – I did not, for I know in truth it was for mine own. “It can not be true. It must not be true.” I looked at him, “It is not true—is it?”

He shook his head, “None of it is true. He has gotten himself up against the wall, and now they are trying to silence him for it. How much has he told you?”

“So very little,” I replied and stepped back. “Here, please, have a seat," I offered the chair at my writing table in which Bradley had earlier sat when he had met with Robert.

But before he would take a seat, he stepped around the shards of the shattered vase and moved over to the window in order to furtively peak out from behind the curtains. I watched him with some curiosity – was he aware? Where they watching? Did he know about the cabal of which I was an involuntary member – and, as I write this I have to inquiry as to just how involuntarily.

“This Willingham?” He asked looking out through the window to the street below, “Who is that?”

“Bradley’s landlady.” I replied, “I knew her – before Bradley and I met.” I explained, “The movement.”

“Ah, suffrage.” He nodded and walked back over to the writing table. “He was to have seen you this morning,” He said as he took a seat placing his cap on the writing table.

“Yes. Yes, he came to see me—it seems we have been missing one another’s communications . . . “ I told him as I knelt to beginning picking up the shards of the vase. “You see, I . . . I had been tending to a sick friend. But, before he could tell me anything of significance, Robert Wise, his barrister appeared.”

As if putting together some puzzle, I carefully arranged the pieces of porcelain so as not to cut myself, “It seems Bradley had rang him up, earlier. Before he arrived. Then once he was here he began to tell him this bizarre story about Exeter and classified documents – and of his trip there, to Exeter, to check upon a solicitor – which, strangely all began to take on this odd similarity to characters from of the Bram Stoker novel. Dracula – have you read it?”

“It is upon my list.” He replied taking notice of it as it still lay upon the bareness of my writing table.

“The more he went on, speaking of a visit to some house agents – which were lifted right out of the novel, Mitchell, Sons & Candy.” I stopped gathering the pieces, and turned to look at him, “Randall, is there. . . . is Bradley . . . I have heard of those who have what they call the shell-shock, but, he has not been in combat – only . . . I fear there is . . is there something wrong with him?"

Randall picked up the novel in question and fiddled through it’s pages. For some reason I had not packed it with my other books, which were even now being transported to whatever new rooms Mrs Willingham had selected for me. “The data is inconclusive at this time, however I have seen everything he has, and it seems to pan out. Veronica, he may be in danger. Where is Bradley now?”

I arose and carried the porcelain shards of the vase to place them on a small end table. “I have no idea.’” I replied, “Robert had talked him into turning himself into Scotland Yard, and they had left to do so, but then, Robert very shortly returned. It seems there had been an accident with their motor cab and Bradley – well, Robert says he told him he had had second thoughts . . . about going to the Yard; and so . . . he ran away. I am desperate to know where he is – if he is safe."

“We’ll find out, now don’t you worry. “ He said reassuringly and stopped his idly turning of the pages in the book, “Now, why is Willingham having you move?" He asked as he looked up from one of the pages – I am certain it was in order to study my expression. For as much as he was Bradley’s friend, and I and hoped by extension mine, there was sly craftiness behind his eyes – much like I had glimpsed at times in Lady Helene’s.

“It was she who came this afternoon to inform us his apprehension was sought by the police. They had come to his lodgings. Whereupon she was told of their belief that it was he who had cut up that girl and tossed her into the river.” Upon which I had a sudden recollection of that night I had spent incarcerated, before my father had arrived with Sir John Paxton – the hardness of the cell, cold and stark, and narrow and so claustrophobic; the clothing thrown at me all course and insufficient; the prying eyes ever looking at me as I was forced to undress, to watch me even at my toilet. Just what horrors would have been inflicted had my father not relented and had mercy upon his prodigal – unaware that as soon as returned home I would thereupon be almost immediately once again seeking ways to take flight from him and his home. The damned fattened calf having died for nothing. All of which had only replaced one jailer with another – Mrs Willingham. For she cared not a rap about Bradley – she had come to

“She fears I should not be left alone—here. As it is an address known to him. For she likewise believes in the police’s accounting – that it is was Bradley who butchered . . . that poor woman.”

“I fear for your safety too.” He admitted. “It was my hope to secret you both away on a train to the country tonight. Only, it looks like Bradley’s done a runner without me. You don’t know where he would have gone? No, I suppose if you did you would have said so. . . .” Randall looks once more at the book before him. “How much do you trust Bradley’s landlord to keep you safe? More than your own? I mean, Mrs Burrows seems as capable as any landlady.”

I was silenced by the contradiction. For I was sorely tempted to say yes—to be on board that train, traveling in some cloistered compartment, shades pulled down, bound for some secret destination, far from London, even further for Moringside Park, someplace where I could begin again, where I was a complete unknown – beyond the reach of father, of Beltham and her nefarious stratums and disreputable associations. But of what consequence if took up his offer? Had she not conveyed the extent of the reach of her enterprise. What would be her retribution? Of what was she capable? While, at the same time I have to admit there was more than a hint of wickedness in me, which I had fully intended to try and explain to Bradley, had we been given the chance, else I would not have been so truly enticed by the improbable opportunities Lady Hélène had articulated, as dubious as they undoubtedly were, nor the allure of mystery and the novelty of intrigue that inhabited Lady Hélène’s world. Truly, I am self-serving – selfish, above all others. Yes, it had come to me this morning in the flat of a pornographer, completely nude, and far too please by the Sapphic appraisal of Miss Miniver – the one person I truly loved was Veronica Wells – and in that revelation, I had to get a hold of that. But, at the moment there had to be some datum of truth in what I offered as way of explanation to Randall. "You see, Mrs Willingham—she is a socialist and as such she has—connections. In particular, organizers for unions— and so, she feels more than certain she has the capability of keeping me safe.”

He gave me a highly perplexed look – in learning of Mrs Willingham’s political affiliations.

“No. Really, I—I think I will be fine with Mrs Willingham – although she is a bit over protective.” I continued, trying to appear steadfast and resolute, hopeful my true regard for her remained concealed. I am becoming far to practiced at deception.

He closed the book with a soft snap and stood up. "Wouldn’t you rather disappear entirely? Not fatally I assure you, but go where no one can find you? Until we can find Bradley and solve this mess? I fear I worry about the police, there is no love lost between the police and the socialists, of that I can assure you. If you are willing to throw your lot in with them and their band, then that is up to you. But, if I may, I would suggest rather an escape to a village in Kent to stay with my family for now.

I moved towards him, “That is so tempting, Randall, truly it is. But—“ There was more than enough for him to worry about – and he needed to be single-minded in his devotion if he were to be a help to Bradley, so, I had to reassure him of my circumstance. “I feel a need to stay close and somewhere that Bradley can find me should he had a need to.” I placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “It is a marvellous offer – but, Randall, if I am here in London, than I can be of assistance, when need be as, you go about trying to sort through this terrible misunderstanding out and help him.”

He stood at the writing table and tapped upon the Dracula novel twice as if thinking. “Alright.” He said shortly and pulled out a notepad from his inner coat pocket and flipped it open. Producing a pen he began to write. “Once you get settled into your new place, send me a wire to this address." He tore the page out of his notepad and handed it over. The Address was a flat on Narrow Street, Limehouse.

As I took it, he held it fast for a moment, “This is not my address, but a safe house and intermediary. I visit there once a week. I will keep in touch.”

I smiled at him, “You are every a dear friend Randall. Thank you so much for believing in Bradley – he needs you so. . . now more than ever. And—and I feel so much better knowing that I have this,” I said indicating the note with the address upon it. For if things did go badly, I knew at least someone in London I could turn to for assistance.

“Now, one last thing. . . “ He said, and picked up the novel, “May I borrow this book?”

I frowned, “Dracula? What is it about that novel. Bradley was going on about various characters out of that book earlier. So much so I fear a mania. But yes – certainly, if you think it will of help, by all means take it.”

“Thank you.” He returned his notepad to in his inner coat pocket and slipped the book into some much larger pocket in his heavy wool naval coat.

Worrisome, I rubbed my hands together, "They were to be back soon, they took several things to my new rooms earlier.” Desirous of retaining Randall as my secret confidante, I hoped for him to be able to depart before hey returned, and yet, I could not just come out and announce the need for his hasty departure – it would only arouse more suspicion. And I would have to explain far more than was my intent. And so, I casually moved over to the window as if merely curious as to whether they had yet arrived and pulling back the thin curtain I happen glanced down to the snowy street below, before my eyes wandered upward to look at the front of the house across the way.

“If anyone, especially Ms Burrows were to ask, I am Midshipman Thomas Corke, investigating suspicious activity among conchies.” Where he had previously had been very serious and formal up, he now gave me a toothy grin and a wink.

“Certainly, Thomas." As I held the curtain back, turning to give him a smile before returning my gave once more to a lingering moment to look out the tall window.

And it was in this moment, either my imagination or the play of light against the windowpane gave me a start. For at that precise moment I was certain I saw amidst the falling snow, standing upon the rooftop, next to the huffing chimneystack of the house across the street, a tall, slender woman. Which in the dimness of the overcast moon, I was more than certain I recognized her to be Miss Miniver.

“Someone there?” Randall asked with some concern.

“I-I,” I gripped the curtain – a side-effect of the cocaine? An effect of light and shadow and the reflected glare upon window glass – as suddenly seemed to witness Miss Miniver begin to climb down the side of the building . . . face down, like a lizard.

“What is it?’ Randall asked with some anxiety.

“That is not at all possible—“ I knew I must have appeared quite pale for it was the enactment of a scene from that horrid book of Stoker’s.

And even now as I write of it I am more than aware of the impossibility. A fictional character creeping down a wall in some lizard-like fashion is some creative brilliance upon the imagination of an author, but in reality – how it is possible? Scientifically – how does the flesh of the fingers adhere to the stone. How the tip of the toe encased as it is within some shoe leather? How does a person inverted, counter the laws of gravity in that the long skirt they wear does not tumble down about them, not only concealing them, but impeding such an extraordinary descent. No – in the cold reason of hindsight—it could not have been what at the time I had thought I had seen. It defies all I known logic of science and biology.

As he rushed to my side, he put a hand upon my shoulder. At the touch, I looked up at him in what must have been some wide-eyed glance of astonishment, while with his other hand he held back the curtain even wider so as to peer out into the night.

Together we now saw a tall, slender woman, standing beside the front of the house across the way. She was coatless in the snow, adjusting the hem of her skirt. She looked up to see us looking down upon her.

“Do you know her?”

“It is Miss Miniver.” I replied tersely, “She is an associate of Mrs Willingham.”

No doubt having been sent to surveil – or was it some other reason she found herself outside my window? I found myself longing for another of her miraculous morning head elixirs.

He quickly closed the curtain and moved me away from the window – “What was not possible?”

I recovered hastily, “That they would have sent her ahead of the carrier’s van.” I tried to keep it al so very simple. And yet, I could not help reaching out and touching the contours of the bulk of the book inside his jacket, and laying a hand upon it. “Promise me—you will read this.”

“Of course.” He said and with renewed concern he took my slightly trembling fingers in his hands, “You are certain you will be safe – with them.”

“There is nothing certain in this life,” I said, “Midshipman Corke.”

With his serious conviction returned and aware of the time, he glanced about, “Now, is there a back entrance? Preferable one where Mrs Willingham cannot see my egress?"

But alas, it was too late. For there came now the sound of footsteps on the staircase, accompanied by the voice of Mrs Willingham: “Crump you will take care. You are tracking up Mrs Burrows stairs.”

“It is Mrs Willingham and her man, Mr Crump.” I said hurriedly in a whisper.

“Damnations, not fast enough.” Randall gave me a slight smile, “But fear not. I will manage.”

Thus said he briskly walked to the door and loudly proclaimed, “‘ell, if that’s the way ya feel about it m’m, I’ll bother you no further. Good evn’ to ya.”

And with that he winked and opened the door to the hall.

As I stepped over to the door, I observed Randall exiting to all but collide with Mrs Willingham as she arrived at the top of the landing. She was obviously startled to see a naval officer stepping out of my room – specially one that was not Bradley MacFarlane.

“Oh, my,” She exclaimed as she stepped to one side, “And you are?”

Randall gave her a slight bow and a charming smile. “Ah, you must be Mrs Willin’ham, m’m. Pleased to meet ya, Midshipman Corke. Thomas Corke. Just checking in on the suddenly departing Miss Wells here—and what will soon be me new bunk. Only had a few moments, but all seems ship shape and squared away, so I’ll leave you to it.”

And without giving her much time to react he sidled past her and began to descend the stairs, with a backward wave of his hand.

She stood beside Mr Crump and watched for a long moment his descent with a slight frown . . . and then turned and motioned for the large, burly man to accompany her into my room.

“My dear, who was that?” She asked sternly as she closed the door.

“Apparently a new tenant.” I replied, “He wanted to see the size of the rooms. It would seem Mrs Burrows will not weep at my departure.

Mrs Willingham reached out and touched my arm, “We are the better for it. But –“ she looked back the door, ‘Something has upset you, I can tell. The midshipman?”

I gave her a rather straightforward glare, "I – I just saw Miss Miniver . . . she upon the rooftop of the house across the way – and I . . “

Mrs Willingham gave me a becalmed looked, “And?”
“I could have sworn I saw her climbing down the wall in a most –“

Mrs Willingham, in unpinned her hat and placed it on the writing table, interrupted, “Miss Miniver on the rooftop of a building?” Her voice filled with incredulity.

“I am certain of what I saw?’ I said fixedly.

“Really?’ Mrs Willingham sighed, “I see that your novel has disappeared? Perhaps, the swift hands of the Midshipman?” But rather await an answer she slowly stepped over to the window and pushed aside the curtain, “Come. See for yourself, Veronica. There is nothing here but snow. I don’t know what you saw, or thought you saw, my dear, but Miss Miniver? Climbing down and wall.” She laughed, "Our dear Miss Miniver is far to prim and proper for that to have ever happened. Please – come and see.”

I walked over to the window and looked across at the rooftop, and then down to the street below. There was only the falling snow. “You see—nothing. I suspect it has been a rather long day – starting of course with such a terrible morning head, “ Her hand reaching out to touch a strands of my hair that had fallen across my temple,“ And then, mayhap a too liberal use of Miss Miniver’s recuperative elements compounded or course by the shock of Bradley’s predicament, necessitating our need to move to a more secure location. It has all been a bit much – hasn’t it my dear.”

I looked at her sternly, “I am no long anyone’s dear – especially yours.”

“I do not know what this Corke has said to upset you, or what you discussed regarding the missing novel, but, at the moment you are all heat once again.” Mrs Willingham said and looked back out the window, “It is still some conviction that you saw Miss Miniver climbing down a wall.”

“It – was very much like a scene in the novel.” I replied earnestly.

Mrs Willingham sighed heavily, “Can you hear yourself, Veronica Wells. No—really, can you hear yourself? Like some scene in a novel! My dear girl, you really must get a hold of yourself. You are a scientist. A Darwinist. Soon to be a member of the Chemist Society. And, yet some wide-toothy smiled naval officer, some apparent aficionado of a theatre-manager-hack of a novelist, has you all wide-eyed before the window seeing – lord, I can not even speculate what transpired to so discombobulate your wits.

“’’ell I dunno about science an’ scientists an’ such, but I ‘ave fairly toted enough books to-night for one, I can rightly say.” Mr Crump interjected, his worn hand held in hand.

Mrs Burrows Diary
10 March – late evening – continued

With all the tramping in by that big heeled man of this Mrs Willingham, who followed after like some well-heeled dog, I stepped back out into the foyer just in time to see them clumping their way back up to Veronica’s. And then, I sees Midshipman Corke appear, stepping out of Veronica’s door and making his way past them and was descending the stairs.

“So, Thomas. How did it go?" I asks stepping over to the foot of the stairs, "She okay or did that Conchy lawyer get to her with his damn pacifist ideas?”

He smiled brightly, “No m’m, it twernt the conchies. ‘parently her young gentleman’s gotten himself in a spot of bother, and she’s worried it might be commin’ for her too.” He says, leaning down all confidential, his voice lowered as those atop the landing, just entering into Veronica’s rooms, could not overhear. “Evidently, this Willin’ham’s got connections. An’ she’s apt to use ’em to keep Miss Wells safe.”

“Bradley is some mix up in something?” I says – amazed as he seemed far to straight-laced to get himself into a bother, “What’s the dear boy gone and done?”

Moving away from the stairs, he he glanced back up the stairs to be assured the door to Veronica’s room was closed before he continued in his confidential tone, “I don’t rightly know m’m. Miss Wells was not too keen to talk about it. Now, don’t spread it around, but, between you and me, I think he’s being framed for something. I don’t know what, but its a sad day when a bluecoats done in like that.” And then, he suddenly raised his voice, “Still, I ‘spect she’s in capable hands, and I’ll be moving me kit in first thing tomorrow morning. What rates ya lookin’ at?”

I caught his intention and nodded with a wink, "Well, I was getting three shillings a week from Veronica – but for a lad in uniform, I can make do with two – if that meets with a midshipman’s allotment.” Lifting my voice as well as I says.

“Oh most nicely m’m, thank’n ya kindly.” He replies with a wide smile.

He seemed anxious to make his way to the door and so, I took a step towards it myself, “Well now, will you be moving in on the morrow?”

“Certainly. Gots ta get the final go-a-head from my CO and get my kit moved out of the barracks.” And suddenly he pulled out four shillings from his pocket and handed it over, “Here ya go m’m. Two weeks advance. Can’t say I’ll always be in all nights, but I can at least be honest with my rent.”

I weighted the coins in my hand, “Now be sure to come around early and I’ll have a big breakfast on,” And I gave him a wink, seeing as how I was overjoyed at having a man in uniform under my roof.

“Cor, I’m sure it’ll be amazing. Thank’ee m’m. I’d best be off,” he says buttoning up his coat and grabbing his cap off the chair were he had left it. “First thing tomorrow, I’ll see ya then m’m.”

Although I was about to offer him another drink, I felt he must have some duty call to answer before much longer and so I opened the door for him, revealing that the earlier flurry had turned into quite a heavy snowfall. “My it’s certainly picked up.” I says to him as he stepped out the door and flipped up the collar on his coat.

“You take care now.” I says

“Short jaunt to th’ tube, and I’ll be fit as a fiddle. Ta!” He says and the wind and the snow whipped about him as he made it down to the walkway and started off smartly up the street. I closed the door and once more weighted the money in my hand.

Notes on inside cover of Dracula, by Bram Stoker, handwritten by Randall Tanner.
10 March 1916

A soft woman’s voice. Calls my name. Cover blown? It is a tall, slender woman. Dark hair. Glasses. A librarian? Upon closer look – it is the woman we saw from window. Long black skirt, stiff white blouse, high collar. No hat or gloves. Not dressed for a brisk winter wind. Her soft voice almost a whisper: You best keep watch on Veronica Wells – those about her are not what they seem. You have me – at a disadvantage I said. Who are you? Her reply—I am a warning. Calamitous crashing suddenly somewhere from behind. Turn and then she is gone.

No footsteps in the snow!

View
Curiouser and Curiouser
Session Three - Part Five

turkhead.jpg

Inspector Stone’s Casebook
10 – March

We left Arundel Street and Jeremiah Hurley contemplating his rye. It was a half past three and as I proceeded along Fleet Street, passing the offices of several of the broadsheet harbingers of misfortune and advertisements. I wondered what headlines they were preparing for the evening editions. Alderton sat looking out the passenger window contemplatively. She had been quite since we left Hurley’s lodgings.

The day had been one of many revelations – not all of which seemed resolute. I was the first to break the silence, “There is something of this I can not make right.”

She looked over at me, “Merely a something?”

“This evidence. The purse.” I said and shifted gears as we passed St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“Which we know was placed upon the scene by this Constable Baxter.” Alderton replied thoughtfully.

“Yes. Why?” I was careful over a glaze of ice – taking note of the dampness striking the windscreen as a renewed flurry began.

She looked over at me quizzically, ”Are you are asking me? I think that is a question for Baxter.”

I shook my head, “No, the purse. I can not make the sense of it. Upon one hand it would appear that Robertson-Kirk – who I have no doubts was the woman in the motor car Hurley witnessed upon the embankment – went to some lengths to place this evidence for our eyes. And yet, on the other hand, it would appear Spenser seeks to suppress it.”

“Yet another contrivance?” She asked with a wry smile.

“The woman Dean. Diced up, she would have been hard to identity.” I turned off Cannon Street past the Bank of England on Threadneedle to Bishopsgate. “But for the purse.”

“Someone wanted us to know who she was.” Alderton surmised.

“But to what end?” I inquired, “There is more and more a feeling of being lead and it gives me pause to wonder by whom and for that reasons.”

She stared back out the window, “Perhaps Baxter can be more enlightening.”

We arrived at Somerset Street with it’s three-story façades, most of which had in their front windows neatly placed cards bearing the word: Apartments. An effect no doubt of the economy of war.

I pulled to a halt in front of number 25.

Alderton looked at the building and sighed.

“This City Constable – Baxter. Andrew Baxter.” I said as I turned off the motor, “I reviewed his service record this morning. Nothing of significance in his schooling. Mere odd jobs before signing to become a constable. He as been on the beat for the City a little less than a year.”

“Perhaps to evade conscription?” She suggested.

“My thinking as well.” I nodded, “There were no annotations of irregularities or of malfeasance. He lost a brother recently at the front—in that, and, if he were so concerned with conscription, it seems highly irregular he would become entangled with something like the placing of evidence."

“Lost his brother?” Vera Alderton asked still looking at the front of the building, “Yet another possible political motivation.”

“As I said there is truly no end of complications and contrivances in this investigation.”

“Indeed.” Her expressive eyebrows furrowed with irritation. “And so, at the least, we shall do our duty.”

We exited the motor car and I stepped about the bonnet. I could feel the dampness of the small flakes of snow falling now intermittently upon my cheeks. “He lives in rooms upon the second floor.”

“Rooms?” Alderton asked as she gave me a side glance, “This neighbourhood. One would suspect it would be an expense especially upon a constable’s stipend.”

I looked about, “I suspect even here the economics of the war would have been felt.”

“Or, he finds supplemental income.” She suggested as we approached the three steps leading up to the front door. I lifted the heavy brass knocker and allowed it to strike thrice. I then took a step back in order to cast another brief survey of Somerset Street. It was deserted. I could not help wondering if it was merely the bad weather.

But my thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the door. A tall, thin woman, who looked as if she were better suited to attend a mortuary than a boarding house stood before us, “Yes?”

“Hello, is Mr Baxter in?” PC Alderton asked politely.

“He came in early this morning. I have not heard him leave, so, I would assume he is still in his apartment.” The woman replied in a matter-of-fact voice. "I must say it is inconvenient of him not to have informed me he was expecting visitors, and so, the parlour is not prepared for use. “

She glanced at us as we stood there upon the landing and then looked past to the motor car.

“Ma’am, we’re with the Yard” Alderton informed her as she displayed her identity card.

I displayed mine as well and allowed her to peruse it.

“The Yard? My.” She said dourly, “Well, Constable Baxter – he is with the City Police.”

“Yes, ma’am, we are aware,” Alderton replied, as she removed her gloves. “We have but a few questions for him.”

“Well—then, if this is official police matters then you should come in. Yes, yes, come in.” She said stepped back to allow us entrance and then took a quick look out the door before closing it – no doubt owing to concern of what the neighbours might observe.

“If you will but wait here I will get him."

“Thank you kindly.” Alderton said with a reassuring smile as she looked about the large, dimly lit foyer.

The tall woman, lifting the hem of her dress began to ascend the stairs, "He’s just atop. Has the first rooms.”

I removed my hat and looked about the foyer. It was rather dusty. The carpet threadbare.

The sound of the woman’s footsteps on the stairs were loud as she clumped slowly up them.

I turned to glance into the parlour and noted it seem entirely presentable. I took a step through the double doors and glanced about. A collection of silver framed photographs upon the mantel. A pair of candlesticks with half burned tapers. The furnishings were old and worn. A modest fire in the hearth. It needed a dusting.

I made a motion for Alderton to draw near.

“From the appearance of the foyer and this parlour, I strongly suspect there are no servants retained.” I observed.

She peered in the door and nodded, “Your surmise of the war? It would explain the let as well.”

At the stop of the stairs the woman began to knock upon the first door atop the landing, “Mr Baxter – there are visitors here for you.”

I noticed that Alderton now redirected her attention to the landlady.

There was apparently no reply to her knocking.

The woman knocks again, a bit more insistently, “Mr Baxter. There are two members of Scotland Yard here to see you . . . Mr Baxter.”

“Perhaps he as gone out unbeknownst to her.” Alderton said stepping closer to the staircase.

She knocks again.

“Mr Baxter—” And the landlady tries the door and opens it slightly as she finds it unlocked. "I say, you have—“

I was aware of a growing tension within Alderton as she stood looking upward from the foot of the staircase, before she turned to look at me, “Should one of us assume role of look—“

Suddenly a scream broke the gloom.

Alderton stopped mid-sentence and gripping her skirt, to lift the hem, hurried up the stairs.

I moved from the parlour door towards them.

The scream was now accompanied by another.

Alderton having taken the lead arrived at the top of the landing before me, where she found the tall, gaunt landlady standing with a hand to her mouth as she looked to Alderton and then pointed into the room.

She hurriedly stepped over and placing her hands gently on the woman’s forearms moved her back out of the threshold. She then looked into the room, “Stone, it appears your fears were well grounded.” She said as I reached the landing.

I hurried to the door and found before me the dangling body of Constable Baxter, dressed in his blues, hanging from a lighting fixture from the ceiling. A small white cord about his neck. A small stool lay near on it’s side.

Before entering the room we tried to comfort the horrified lady of the house and moved her further from the door, “It is best to step away.” Alderton suggested.

“Yes, madam, it is best you should retire to the parlour. I see there is a fire and there should be some comfort to be found before the hearth. Do you have sherry?” I asked

She nodded in the affirmative.

“Then, have a glass and await us there.” I tried to be sympatric, “We have a bit of work to do here."

“Is he dead?” She asked through her fist which she held to her mouth.

“The sherry madam.” I replied.

“Ma’am . . . parlour . . . now . . . we’ll be with you shortly.” Alderton told her sternly.

I watched as the woman departed the landing, to descended the stairs, trembling slightly as she held her hands before her waving them in some disbelief.

Behind me, I detected movement as PC Alderton entered Baxter’s rooms.

I stepped over to the threshold to see her inspecting the body.

“Yet another.” She said with a sigh.

I moved slowly into the narrow sitting room of the apartment. There was a small writing table, two chairs, the upholstery of which had once been rather fine but was now worn, the seat of one showing it had been much sat upon. The table beside it, with a small lamp, had a folded broadsheet placed next to a glass. I inspected both – the Times and whiskey. The bottle was not to be found. Beside the much used chair sat a pair of boots. I then stepped over and looked up at the ghastly face of Constable Baxter.

“Do you see any signs of note?” Vera asked as she began to look about the room.

“If there is, it was not placed easy to hand,” I indicated the chair and table with the newspaper and whiskey glass.

“I will check the other room.” She offered and moved through the connecting door to the bedroom.

As I approached the body, I looked at it keenly. He was dressed in his blues, the tunic upper buttons undone, his feet were encased in woolen socks. Not apparently new. I then reached out and grasped the uniform sleeve of the hanging man’s left arm and lifted it slightly.

“Rigor has not taken hold—this is but shortly done." I called out to Alderton.

“Did you hear anything as we entered?” Alderton asked from the bedroom.

“No – the foyer and parlour below consumed my attention.” I explained, “But this self-slaughter, if it be, I hazard took place before our arrival.”

She stepped back into the room with a lifted brow, “If it be? There is reason to suspect it is not?”

I stepped closer to the dangling body and knelt down, “"Have a look."

Alderton moved across the room, even as her eyes were still examining it for evidence.

I motioned to the stool. Righting it, I placed it’s rounded platform under Baxter’s feet. There was a noticeable gap from the bottom of his sock-enclosed feet and the top of the stool.

“Seems another murder then.”

There was suddenly the ominous sound of a struck match—

“Beyond your jurisdiction again I see? How many does that make. If you wish, I can see to having applications sent about.” Inspector James Fitzjames Spenser said casually as he stood in the threshold of the door lighting his cigarette.

“And what brings you here sir?” Alderton asked.

“The dangling Baxter.” He said and whipped the match with a quick snap of wrist to extinguish it – which he let fall to the hardwood floor.

“So among your skills you claim clairvoyance?” Alderton asked with a bit of irritation in her voice.

“One would at first suspect it odd your appearance here, Spenser.” Stone says, “Before the alarm has been given. But then again, upon a second glance, it is not so extraordinary . . . as I suspect you are up to your old methods once more.”

“If one were to have suspicions?” He said slowly entering the room, “They may be fixed upon you, whom I find, on far too occasions, at the discovery of yet another corpse.” He removed the cigarette from his lips and exhaled a long plume of bluish-grey smoke as he stood looking now at the body of Constable Baxter.

“As to your assertion of clairvoyance, PC Alderton. I make no such claim to the supernatural arts.” He cuts a glance over to her, “Although, the magic appears to be the sudden reappearance at Thames Station of Detective Cotford’s casebook—which arrived, oddly enough by courier – from the Yard. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.”

He flicked ashes upon the floor.

Alderton observing his contamination of the scene cleared her throat, “I would ask you to at least stay out of the crime scene.”

He smiled, "Sorry, but are you not a bit off your patch once more? This is a City Police obligation.” Spenser replies, "But one street over, and then it would be yours.”

“The understanding, Inspector Spencer, was that we were to investigate the murder of Pamela Dean, while it was given to you to investigate the death of Detective Cotford. “ She informed him smartly. “And it is to that end, we find ourselves here. For Constable Baxter was material in events of the morning upon the discovery of Miss Dean’s remains.”

He takes a long drag from the cigarette, "And, there is equal indication that Baxter is material in the death of Detective Cotford.”

“Therein we find the dilemma.” I told him.

“The dilemma I see is all yours, Edward.” He said evenly, “For your obligation is the atrocities which befell Pamela Dean. And to apprehend he who is responsible. And yet, even when given evidence by the Admiralty House – of the diced-up spy and her named accomplice – what do I find. You here. Off your jurisdiction, once more. When your suspect has been all but handled to you.

“There are irregularities —” Alderton began,

The cigarette held in his bare fingers, revealed from the cut-away gloves, wreathed his head with smoke as he once more brought it to his lips, “There are?”

“As you well know,” I replied heatedly. “It is the same such reckless indiscretions that were well known amongst yourself and Robertson-Kirk.”

Spenser smiled wryly, "Edward, you never let anything go.”

“Would that one could – but there is a suspicion of her involvement.” I forced upon him the issue.

Inspector Spenser calmly withstood my accusation and slowly exhaled a smoky breath, “I would offer caution Edward –“

“Of the placing of evidence upon the embankment.” I studied him for his reaction and yet he seemed mute upon the point, “For what consequence I don’t know – but her hand is in this.”

“This is something you fancy . . . or something you can prove?” He said evenly.

“Does she have a hand in this?” I demanded pointing to the dangling constable.

“What is it Edward that so disquiets you about her?” Upon this Spenser’s heat had arisen, “One might suspect your obsession borders upon monomania.”

“And you? What is it about her that ever makes you her hound to scratch up the earth so as to conceal her shite.” I asked with stern conviction.

“Stone – Simmer down.” Alderton interjected.

Spenser looked at me hard for long moments, “It is you who dogs a trail. A trail upon a case, which we know from past history, left to the Yard’s own wherewithal, it is fundamentally incapable of solving . . . or of bringing to heel such a madman – even now—when his name is known to you.”

“You would bring Ripper into this contrivance?” I said and took a step forward. “I know from whose lips this springs – for misdirection is ever her name.”

“She is retired, Edward. As I can assure you, you will soon be if you continue this damned course.” Spenser said pointedly as he dropped the cigarette to the floor and crushed it with his toe, “You and your accomplice in curiosity. You travail across the city. Crossing jurisdictions, purloining casebooks from the pockets of detectives as yet not cold, visiting libraries in the dark of night to seek odd books, putting questions to besotted broom-men, and to what end? A young detective is dead. A besotted rummy is murdered before your very eyes. And now a self-slaughtered constable dangles before us. Like an angel of Death, the further you go . . . the more bereavement you bring.”

“STOP YOUR BICKERING,” PC Alderton suddenly interrupted with severe vexation, “CHRIST ON A PONY!”

Spenser looked at Alderton, "And what of you PC Alderton? Have you no ambitions to rise beyond the confines of our basement lair? Are you not the lead upon this investigation, and yet, what evidence do you have in regards to the death of Pamela Dean, other than what has been provided for you by the Admiralty? Upon your own, what do you even know of the fate of Neil Byrne?”

“The largest piece of evidence we have is that in following every lead it bounces us back to the City Police and their recently deceased employees.” She said with stern and earnest conviction, “So, logically, if we could . . . put a lid on the bravado. Else one might ask, Inspector Spenser, what do you know of these cases? As to what is known – these homicides are interconnected and that makes this just as much our crime scene as yours. Now are you going to keep seeing who can piss further, or do you think we can cooperate for the sake of justice?”

To which Spenser replied with a polite smile, "If you would be so good as to have the constable below come up as you leave, it would be of great assistance to the London City Police.”

“I’m not your damn secretary.” She informed him coldly.

In my heat I continued to hold my fist ever clenched. “I give forewarning Spencer. If you and Robertson-Kirk are involved in anyway in this entanglement, I shall see to it justice this time prevails.”

“If it is justice you seek rather than another soliloquy.” Spenser said evenly. “Then the name Bradley McFarland, above the charges of espionage and murder, should be writ upon the warrant you serve. But—as far as I can see, Edward . . . the treasonous Lieutenant is not here. And perhaps—neither should you.”

I turned to PC Alderton, “It is a City Police matter – and as such, we shall leave this dangling policeman,” I then looked at the body of Constable Baxter, “To the investigative abilities of the good Inspector.”

I motioned toward the door and we moved towards it.

“Don’t forget—“ Spenser re-joined as we were preparing to depart Baxter’s rooms, “To send up the constable below.”

Alderton stamped downstairs, stopping a moment to quietly tell the constable at the foot of the stairs that Spencer wanted him to pick up a pastry from a bakery four streets over.

Thereupon we exited into the lightly falling snow and I took a long bracing breath of cold, winter air. My hand still slightly atremble from where I had held it far too long tightly clenched. “There is nothing in this case that does not speak of treachery.”

“Please, for the love of god, tell me you were able to grab something during my tirade.” She said, the steam of her breath curled upon each word.

I put my hat on as I turned and looked back at the building, "In regards to whomever hoisted Baxter? No. There was not enough time.”

“So all our witnesses are either dead or too terrified to speak to us. The City Police is claiming every piece of evidence they can and we’re no closer to finding Dean’s murderer than we started.” She said slowly putting her gloves back on.

I looked at her, “Then you suspect this McFarlane to be some machination as well?”

“Although the evidence comes from the Admiralty – there is much to question. Does it seem logical for a spy on the run to take the time to butcher an accomplice?” She replied with those expressive eyebrows rising. “Were she strangled – there would be more logic to it.”

“That is my estimation as well.” I nodded.

“And, Inspector Spenser seems too well informed of our itinerary,” She added.

“There is more to this case than we have yet glimpsed. It is time we found out from Barrington what he truly knows—and to what height this reaches."

Extemporaneous Memorandum Sub-Lieutenant Adrian Rice
10 March 1916

The motor cab pulled to a halt. Number 31 Theobald Road. A smile crossed my lips, number 31. I reached over and passed the fare to the driver and stepped out into the street. The only sound in the quiet winter hush was the motor of the cab. It echoed against the drifts. Although the Cleaning Department, along with whatever light of day that had found itself upon the narrow way, had mostly cleared the cobblestones, there was a light flurry starting to kick-up so as to begin a renewed deposit of accumulation.

The wind was damnable cold. I pulled up the collar of my long coat and surveyed the street and all of its the suspicious shadows and little niches. The nearest street light was some distance away – being a blasted nuisance really – if one were going to put up a street lamp it should be closer to the pub and the foot traffic. Or else the pub should have been established closer to the lamp. Either way it did little to illuminate the entrance to the pub, leaving it recessed into shadow. Looking up at the swaying wooden sign, so weather-beaten one had to strain in this light to observe The Turk’s Head – the pub had been nestled here at 31 Theobald Road, for quite some time, mayhap even when James came quite stately long this route.

Adjusting the collar, I concluded there were only two others braving the stout wind and the light snowfall. A woman, who by the roll of her gait was seeking a shilling or two to warm her up, so to speak, and a middle-aged man hobbling along upon a rough looking crutch.

With a grind of gears the motor car lurched on down the road, leaving me to make my way across the street. In the wind the ancient, sign hanging above the pub door squeaked from the need of a bit of oiling. I looked up at it. Once there may have been an actual Turk’s head dangling there back in the good old days, but now it is just a worn picture on a wooden sign.

Why Randall would have chosen this out of the way spot was curious – and so I took one last wary glance back over my shoulder. Snow and shadows. I grasped the iron latch, cold even through my woolen glove, and opened the door, where the escaping warmth was a sudden comfort. There was also rush of various scents: cigarette smoke, pipe tobacco, ale, a fine mixture of spices amid the aroma of a meat stew, and the tang of burning firewood. Hearth and home to some.

Inside, the small pub had yet to attract a large crowd. There was a Crimea veteran sitting at the far end of the bar nursing his drink, talking to a recruit. “Tis all changed kid. No more charge of the light brigade, I can’s promise you that son.” I heard him say. It was an odd mix of the youthful optimism of the one and the grizzled memories of the other. The publican stood close by, listening as he cleaning one of the pint glasses in preparation for the oncoming rush.

He looked up, nodded and smiled non-committedly. As if whether I came in from the weather and had a pint or exited back into the snow was no great concern of his. I gathered he wasn’t the owner.

With a quick glance about the narrow public room, with it’s slap-dash patching of cracks upon the walls, quickly covered in some glossy burgundy enamel, I spotted Randall over in the corner, sitting at a table alone by a roaring fire, writing in his notebook. I took note he was half-way through his pint of Stout. The place was dimly lit as gas was still laid on.

“If you have a mind to stay, close the bloody door.” The publican admonished.

I closed the door behind me as I stood and unbuttoned my coat. From a narrow doorway behind the bar, I took notice of a tall, slender wisp of a girl with dirty blonde hair as she appeared. I moved over and smiled, “Now, I would have made a note to myself to stop here more often . . . if I knew the women were ever so lovely.”

“Does your mother know you are out?” She asked with a mock mean-girl leer.

“What can I say, darling, it was she who kicked me out into the cold, cruel world.”

“Can’t says as I blame her,” she replied.

“A pint of your best.” I said, with a knock of a woolen knuckle upon the bar. “And one for my mate,” I motioned over toward Randall.

“You’re with Randy?” She asked now looking at me with a more amiable expression.

“He will be there all night.” Randall suddenly spoke up as he continued writing. “Just give him the pints Darlene.”

“Right you are.” And she handed over the two pints.

“Start a running account if I may?” I asked.

“Well, seeing as how you know Randy.” She gave me a winsome look. “And we always know where to find him.”

I took the pints and stepped over to Randall’s table. The ease and comfort with which he sat gave the appearance this was the usual spot for him at The Turk’s Head. He put away his pen and produced a rolling paper and looked at the pint I placed beside his half empty one.

“Better luck if you take off you cap, Sub-Lieutenant.” He said as he removed a tin from his pocket, opening it to tap out tobacco onto the paper. He licked the side of it and began rolling it up.

I took off my cap and began pulling off my woolen gloves: “I say, that wind is quite the devil tonight.”

Noting a series of pegs near the hearth, I stepped over, took off my coat, placed my gloves into my hat and hung them all upon the peg.

“Aye, that it is, Sir. The devil certainly is walking out tonight.” Randall flared a match into flame and lit the rolled cigarette, “Did you happen to catch a glimpse of him by any chance?”

I took a seat, “Not to put to fine a point upon it, I am not sure. I thought for a moment, I might have, but then again—I made it the long way around just in case.”

Randall flashes a grin and exhales a long plume of bluish-grey smoke.

“Now look here, old man, do tell—whatever have you gotten yourself into?” I asked.

Randall brought the cigarette back to his lips to take a long drag, the paper growing red with bits of it falling in red embers, “Me? Whatever do you mean?”

“Ah, playing coy.” I took a sip of my pint, “But see here Randall, this won’t do. You can’t come around one moment and ask me to keep an ear to the door regarding your mate MacFarlane and then, when there’s all manner of confidentials and most immediates passing about, you can’t go all indifferent on me.”

Randall took a drag of his cigarette and flicked ashes into the heart of the ashtray, “Steady on there, Sub-Lieutenant. I’m not the one hoisting semaphores – I am only on the receiving end – you’re the one with all flags waving. I’m just a Pelican in the wilderness.”

I sighed, “And I’m the one who has to work for ‘His Purdyship.” A first water prig.”

“Right you are,” Randall looked at me as he pointed the red tip of his cigarette, “And you do too fine a job for him. And you know it—that’s why it’s all ‘Yes Sirs’ and ‘No Sirs’ for the foreseeable future. So – now tell me what’s whipped up this gale.”

“Your Lieutenant MacFarlane.” I informed him straightaway.

“Bradley?” He asked in some astonishment.

I leaned forward to speak in a more muted tone, “I mean dash it all Randall, you no sooner ask me to let you know if anything should shake out concerning McFarlane, and the very next thing I know . . . there’s coppers all about Purdy’s office making inquires.”

“Coppers?” Randall asked rather calmly.

“I do hope you have not gotten yourself tangled up in anything with this Lieutenant – there is some significant heat now upon him." I told him rather adamantly.

“Heat? On Bradley? Bradley’s too proper to get up to no good, you know that.” Randall said still flicking ash from his cigarette as he looked at me far too inquisitively, to believe what he had just said. “Just what are these coppers accusing the man of?”

I reached into the pocket of my uniform jacket and removed a crumpled pack of cigarettes, slowly pulling one free, “Well, there’s City coppers and then . . . there’s the two of them that came from the Yard." I placed the cigarette in my mouth, returned the pack to my pocket and searched for a light. “One of them was a right proper looker I must admit. Can’t say as I have never seen a copper in a skirt before, but, I have to admit it was a bit of an arousal, y’know. ” Randall struck a match against the side of the table and held it out for me. I leaned forward to the flame, “Wouldn’t mind giving her a slap and tickle sometime. But, as regards to your Bradley McFarlane, it was the City copper. . . “ I puffed a bit on the cigarette lighting it, “That would be worrisome to say the least. Just looked up and there he was. All dressed in black, save for a white shirt with a severely starched collar. One could fairly cut oneself with it, I dare say. He looked like a bloody undertaker. I can tell you, the old man seemed to sit up right and proper when he entered.”

Randall pulled a well worn deck of playing cards out of his inside pocket and started to shuffle. “This copper have anything to say – that you’d hear?”

I nodded as I took a drink of my pint and watched the cards being shuffled and passed over for a cut, “Sort of comes with the position you know, at times, Purdy just forgets – I am there. And so, like I take the copper into Purdy’s office and announce him, and he just takes a seat, and I’m heading back out the door when he says, “She is most seriously displeased that things have reached this point.” And Purdy, well taken a back I can tell you, replies, "Well the business with the copper was going too far.” And that’s when the copper took notice of me having not quite closed the door and gave me a look that properly chilled me.

Randall dealt out three cards, “Now that’s queer, innit?” He placed one card face up in the centre of the table and the remainder of the deck beside it. “Wonder who this ‘She’ is. Not referring to this bird copper where they?”

I picked up my cards and looked at my hand and then at the card on the table, and checked my pocket for coins, which for some reason I was short. "I can’t say. I don’t think so, as the old man did not have the same look when she arrived as he did with that city detective mentioned ‘her.’”

Randall waved a hand, “Shall we dispense with putting up the three and just play 31 single-handed, say for a shilling?”

“Let’s make it a pound.” I replied, looking at my cards: a king of hearts, an eight of hearts, and a five of clubs. Holding 18. “I mean, you know what an ass Purdy is and all straight-laced and immaculate – but I can tell you, he was quite shaken and I could see it. Whoever this ‘she’ is—I’m more than certain he is troubled by her. Oh, three-of-a-kind count 30?”

“Of course.” Randall replied with a smile.

I took a card from the deck: 4 of Clubs. 18 in hearts, 9 in clubs. I discarded the 5.

Randall took the 5 and placed down a deuce of diamonds. "So when these other coppers, the ones from the Yard, arrived, what, they had questions about Bradley too? I mean, I’da thought they’d be asking about poor Pamela what she’d done a croaker.”

“Well, that’s just it.” I said placing my cigarette in the ashtray to take a drink of my pint, “The coppers I don’t think were so much asking the questions as Purdy was giving them answers to things they weren’t even inquiring about.”

I drew a card, 3 of spades. 18 in hearts, so I put the 3 of spades on the discard.

“Now,” I reached over and took a drag from my cigarette, “I told you about how the old man’s interoffice is a bit on the flake—I can at times jiggle my end and I can get bits and pieces of what’s being said in his office.”

Randall smiled, “Rice, you scoundrel.”

“So, before I had to leave in order to escort the Metro coppers up from the front desk, I heard the City copper say, “Here, this morning’s edition. It’s all laid out.” And then Purdy saying something about, “Her needing to take care of bad weather or something of the sort.”

Randall did not take the 3 of spades and drew instead – checking his cards. “So—what’s all the heat about concerning Bradley?” He asked and put down a 7 of diamonds.

I studied the play a moment.

“Well—when those from the Yard arrived. I overheard that they had come to the Admiralty in response to Purdy having placed a call requesting them, apparently.” I said contemplating the cards.

“Purdy called the Yard?”

“Right,” I drew a card from the discard pile – 9 of spades. I discarded it. “Seems he called them in to reveal . . . well, he says Dean—right out accuses her of having gone all beastly rogue . . . says she’s gone and stolen some dashed plans about some bloody banking caper in Germany."

Randall checks his cards. Keeping the cigarette in the crook of his fingers, he grabs his pint and takes a swig. “Banking you say?”

“Right, something hinted at in today’s paper.” I took a draw from my cigarette and tapped ashes into the ashtray. "He told them it was all about something codenamed The Harker Memorandum.”

“The Harker Memorandum?” Randall repeated looking down at the discard pile.

I could tell the whole bit of information about the Harker Memorandum had Randall distracted even as he was still looking to make a play.

“Have you heard of it?” I asked him.

Randall frowned and shook his head slowly, “No. Nothing. Mean anything to you?”

“Randall, it is like I said. Purdy . . . well—he’s just such an ass . . . I mean everything he does comes straightway through me; he doesn’t do a lick of the paperwork . . . and so, I can tell you straight on there’s no such thing – this Harker Memorandum. There’s not a hint that it or of anything else for that matter regarding anything he was telling them coppers about what’s supposed to have been purloined by Dean or anyone else for that matter – or, at least, not any information coming through Purdy’s office. If there were, I would have been the one to have been on all the confidentials.”

Randall drew a card and quickly discarded the 9 of clubs.

“Look Randall, I know this Lieutenant McFarlane is a friend of yours. I don’t really know him. But I knew Pamela Dean. She was a good bird—I liked her. I don’t like what they are saying about her – and so . . . I mean, damn it all man as far as Dean’s concerned, no one I know has ever said a disparaging word against her. But, this mate of yours, this McFarlane. Well, I can tell you all the bloody noise he made in that row about those misplaced classified documents. Now, there was a deuced bit of most immediates all over that I can quite assure you."

I drew a card, a 5 of Diamonds. Damn. Still 18 in hearts. And that 5.

“So they think Pamela was what? A spy?”

“That’s the word Purdy used. Spies. Said they had been monitoring communications which tied Dean directly to Dierks & Co, which we have known for sometime to be a cover for the Nachrichtenabteilung. German Naval secret service. Although, he indicated they believed she had been gulled into it by Lieutenant McFarlane. The way Purdy laid it all out is that he was the mastermind behind the whole thing. Stealing this – this memorandum – and that he got Dean to assist him, seeing as how she was the head clerk and all. But, then Purdy surmises that McFarlane gets word that they’ve been discovered . . . and so, being found out, Purdy surmises he sets out to clean up the operation. Randall they are saying McFarlane killed Dean. I mean, Purdy told them to arrest him straightaway. And then the City copper, he says how since some City detective had been murdered, they had been given orders to hand out arms to all those on the case and so, he was giving orders a shoot to kill if need be.”

Randall nearly spits out his drink.

I watched as he anxiously flicked ashes into the ashtray, “That’s when I came straight to you. Randall—you best assure there is some distance between you and this Lieutenant McFarlane. Purdy’s put the hounds upon him.”

“You tellin’ me they’re angling to just off Bradley in the streets? Not even a kangaroo court?”

“There’s a War on Randall – they can do anything.” I looked around and then leaned forward, “Look, I checked into this City copper. He was once with the Yard. Part of some secret division within their special branch or whatnot. From what I could gather, as discretely as I could, he was summarily dismissed. Apparently, there were major irregularities and hints of outright illegalities. This one, this Inspector Spencer—he’s a real bad egg for sure. And what’s more,” and now I whispered, “I think he’s got it over on Purdy and Purdy is doing his bidding.”

I then discarded the 5 and knocked on the table.

Randall adjusted his cards a bit nervously.

“Adrian, Adrian, as you lay it down.” He suddenly says picking up the 5 I had just discarded and then cleanly laying down his three 5’s. "I’m picking it right up, Sir. That’s 30.”

“The deuce you say,” I replied putting down my 18 in hearts.

Randall sat back and finished his stout. “And here’s what I say. We don’t need this kind of corrupt dealings interrupting things. There’s a war to win! Bradley found something, that much is clear. Now Bradley is no simp, but he’s not the best with the surreptitious . . . you know what I mean.”

“It’s bad for him Randall.”

“So, what, your just going to stay away from this one Rice?” Randall asked heatedly. “I’m sure Captain Hall would love to know what’s been going on with his second.”

“He’s all straight as a pin—no doubt about it. But, if they’ve got Purdy on their side and we have got no evidence on ours – then we may well end up in the river like poor Pamela.” I told Randall straightway. “As I know he was a friend to Pamela and to you – that’s why I came straight on to inform you of what hand they are dealing to McFarlane. Whatever he stirred up with them damnable documents, someone is about to try and put him down for it – it’s as sure as the sun’s coming up tomorrow. And as for us . . . Randall, they chopped her up. They put her in a river. And now, they’re setting the hounds on McFarlane. Take this to Hall? You think they would hesitate to do us in? If Purdy is corrupt, then count me in for seeing the old man brought to heel. But we need proof, old man – some real evidence. Have you got any?”

Randal sat for a moment looking at me.

“And I thank you Sir, for all you’ve told me about poor Bradley. Truly I do.” He said as he finished the last draw on his cigarette.

Then he stood.

“I want you to know you can count on me – I’ll keep you informed. Do all I can to keep an eye on Purdy – but without some evidence on our part – I just don’t want them coppers on me like they’re on McFarlane. We have to be clever and be sure we have evidence that we can produce.” I offered.

Randall put on his cap at an jaunty angle and smiled, “And nor should you. At least not without evidence and a case to back it up. Leave it to me Sir, and I’ll see what I can scrounge up." He took his coat off the peg and threw it around him. Picking up his notebook, “Let’s say we forget about the pound on the game. Now, you’ll have to excuse me, Sir, but I promised some other mates of mine a round at the Snipe & Shaft, and I’d hate to disappoint.”

“Be careful Randall.” I said sitting back to watch him move around the table, “At this point it would be wise to trust no one.”

Randall gave me a wide toothy grin. “Who said I ever did?”

He placed payment for his bill and then nodded to me as he walked away and through the narrow pub and out the door into the night and the cold.

I looked at the cards. He had left them. I sighed and stubbed out my cigarette. Rising, I reached over and grabbed my coat, cap and gloves and then stepped over to the bar to pay the lovely Darlene. “When you get old enough to leave your mother come back and see me.” She said with a warm smile.

I gave her a winning smile, “The War is my mother.” And I put on my coat and stepped out of The Turk’s Head and into the cold. Buttoning my coat I was amazed I did not see Randall anywhere along the street. Pulling on my gloves I proceeded toward the streetlamp to hail a passing cab. About twenty feet from pub’s entrance, there was the sudden flare of a match in the darken recess.

Inspector Spencer lit his cigarette, “Will he be heading to McFarlane?”

I shook my head, “No—he’s far too clever for that.”

View
What the Broom-Man Saw
Session Three - Part Four

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Inspector Stone’s Casebook
10 – March

I eased the Wolseley from the rear of the Yard and proceeded along a side street before turning down Whitehall, passing once more the Adam’s Screen protecting the entrance of the Admiralty House “It would appear there may have been some chicanery afoot the morning upon which a part of Miss Dean was discovered deposited into the Thames.”

“So it would seem.” She said looking up and through the windscreen. “At least, by way of Cotford’s casebook.”

We approached Trafalgar Square and I turned right to Strand.

“Hopefully there shall be no murderers hiding in the house this time.” She added.

“We can only hope.” I nodded, careful with the streets as the shadows of the afternoon have allowed those parts of the roadway, upon which the snow has melted, to begin to ice over, “We must take some care as we will once more be stepping onto the City Police’s patch, this Hurley lives in their jurisdiction.”

We passed Charring Cross Hotel.

PC Atherton sighed, “Spies, murders, muddled jurisdiction—“

“There is no shortage of complications and contrivances to be sure.” I agreed. “This investigation in its angles seeks to become indecipherable Vera – if I may.” I looked at her inquiringly as to ascertain if the use of her name did not bring discomfort.

She looked at me seemingly unconcerned, “Certainly.”

“But we shan’t allow it to do so.” I said “We shall follow the evidence and its interpretation will be ours. And we will brook no elucidation by others. Now, this Hurley is a broom-man and thus he must have been early upon the streets. There may be more that he has yet to have enticed into remembrance. “

I shifted down the gears and the motor whined, passing through a shaded patch of roadway covered in a glaze of ice.

“I would speak to you of Spenser.”

She looked at me with some curiosity.

“You are aware he was once with the Yard?" I explained.

“He was?”

We were approaching the Lyceum Theater. I glanced at it in passing – there Stoker was business manager. There seemed no end to the coincidences. “Yes, before your arrival at the Yard. There was a time of growing unrest and protests. Owing to various militant groups, before the war, Special Branch created a Secret Division. It was given a mandate to investigate cases that were suspected activities of radicals, militants, and of course, agents of foreign powers.”

“So . . . a mole hunter?”

“More than that,” I informed her. "He was thuggery on a leash. The Secret Intelligence Division was headed by an Inspector Robertson-Kirk, who held that leash. They also saw it advantageous to skirt beyond the edges of the law— in a more singular case, the Callaghan Investigation, Robertson-Kirk and Spenser were accused of illegal activities in bringing about the apprehension of their suspects.”

She sat attentively listening as I continued.

“They were dismissed and the Intelligence Division was closed down.” I told her as I turned right on to Arundel Street.

“As to what insanity has overtaken the Commissioner of the City Police, I do not know, but he has reinstated Spenser as an officer of the City Police. But I strongly suspect there is more to his presence at Captain Purdy’s office than merely the Dean investigation.”

I took notice of her countenance as she began to frown.

“Yes?”

“I was remembering something Irene mentioned.” Her brow furrowed. “She once told me in one of the mysteries she reads about there was use of a . . . a cipher? It is based on having a specific book and within the book a specific passage to read in order to decipher an encoded message . . . maybe that’s why the Dracula book was taken.”

“I must confess what this book has to do in connection to this case has been a puzzlement.” I admitted as I looked past her to glance at the numbers of the small houses along the snowy street.

Number 10. It was a small, narrow single floor dwelling.

“I am beginning to think we shouldn’t be treating this as a murder, maybe we should be treating it more as if it were an espionage case.

I turned off the motor and looked at the small house. It was without lawn, nothing at all of a stoop, just a doorway that let out upon the narrow walkway.

I looked at her and she returned my look with some puzzlement, “What?”

“There is one other thing of import, Vera.”

“Yes,” Her frown having not dissipated.

“You were not the first female member of the Yard.”

She blinked, “I am not certain why that is important.”

“Contradictions, contrivances and coincidences, Vera. You see, that distinction was held by Inspector Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk, head of the Secret Select Intelligence Division.”

Her right brow rose as she considered the implications.

“And the reason of its import is that Lady Molly has red hair."

PC Alderton quickly makes notes in her casebook, “Duly noted.” She said as she closed it and slipped it into her pocket.

Exiting the car I buttoned my coat as I walked about the bonnet of the motorcar as I surveyed the street. It seemed unusually deserted – but then there was the lingering effects of the night’s snowfall to contend with. I was also aware that PC Alderton, as she was adjusting her cap, and straightening her jacket, was inspecting the roadway as well. She look up the narrow Arundel Street and then down it.

We both were aware we had stepped from our jurisdiction onto Detective Inspector Spencer’s patch.

Together we proceeded to the faded pale blue door. PC Alderton knocked briskly.

From within there was the sound of footsteps, heavy, slow, and plodding before the door was opened a crack just enough to reveal a weathered eye peering out from beneath a thick, bushy grey eyebrow. PC Alderton stepped slightly to the side, almost instinctively in case the door were to open with another revolver present.

“Right, who is that be knocking upon me door.”

Vera quickly produced her identity card and pressed it up against the crack of the door before the peering eye, “Scotland Yard.”

“Scotland Yard,” the rummy voice repeated with some scorn, “You’re Metropolitan blue and so you are beyond your jurisdiction. And so’s I ain’t got no obligation to you –“

I stepped forward and leaned against the door frame, “Mr Hurley, we would speak with you. Upon the day the woman, Dean, was found diced and separated and put into the river you did lay severe accusations upon certain doorsteps. It is in this regard we have arrived upon your doorstep on this rather cold and grim-gray day. We seek to ascertain the veracity of that which you have claimed. And to that end, should you continue to bar this door, I can assure you I will be obliged to find a way to help you discover your obligations.”

Jeremiah Hurley pushed open the door a bit more. He was a man in his late forties, with iron-gray hair, who had not seen a razor for several days. His eyes were deep-set and dark. He looked at PC Alderton with some disdain, “This lass a copper? She’s too frail to be wearin’ blue.”

Alderton showed him her credentials once more, he looked hard upon it: “Come in. Come in.”

And he stepped back to allow us entrance. The house reeked of boiling cabbage. The front room was narrow and the small amount of furnishings were tightly fitted into the space allowed. He motioned to a couple of cushioned chairs whose seats and been well broken-in.

He fell heavily into an old high-backed chair and picked up his glass of rye and squinted in the dimness of the room with a frown, “So it be the Met lookin’ into who diced her up? Figured they’ve be City coppers – jurisdiction and all – seeing as how you ain’t found the Ripper.”

“Yes, well, as for Jack, that is another case. We’re assigned the diced up girl as you say.” Alderton replied.

“Thought it was that copper who first took me statement, Codfish I think were his name.” He took a sip of the rye.

“Cotford. He is dead.” She told him.

He put his glass down and looked at her, hard, “Dead?”

“In the line of duty.” She added.

“Lord—ain’t got nothin’ to do with the lass in the river, would it?” He asked suspicious.

“You were sweeping that morning?” She replied.

He looked at her and then to me.

“Aye, for a bit – but with the snow and all, it weren’t much me and my broom could do. “

“Now you were a witness – at the embankment of those investigating the scene.”

“Of the diced up girl?” He nodded. “Was on me way home to take a nip to warm up a bit and so’s I took notice of the goings-on at the embankment – and the lumber yard.”

“And you went down to see?” She asked.

He took another sip of rye: “Aye.”

Alderton took out her casebook and began taking notes, “Did you happen to get the names of the officers you came in contact with that morning?”

“Well, now there was the Detective Codfish. Then there were Constable Harper, he be the copper that is the normal Stand beat copper. It was him who asked me to find the other copper, he was . . . now, let me think upon it . . . yes, he was up along Surrey Street, whereas he should have been up along the Embankment and the Waterloo beat to Commercial Street and Upper Ground.” He made odd motions of his hand to indicate the grid of the streets.

“So, he was not where he was supposed to have been.”

He sipped the rye, “Aye – now that I recollect.”

“He is City Police?” She asked looking up from her notes.

“This here all be City Police’s beat.” He said and sat back in the well broken-in chair.

“You know anything of this Baxter?” She inquired.

“Naw—Harper he be the copper I knows the best. Baxter this be the first I had any real speakin’ to him. I had seen him of course, in me sweepin’ but not to talk to. “

Alderton looked up at him with an expressive lift of her eyebrows, “Didn’t you think it strange that a member of the police sent you to get help instead of raising the alarm?”

He blinked and looked at her in some bewilderment, “A copper tells me to do somethin’ especially a City copper who works me streets, I’m goin’ do it no questions about it lass.”

“Now – of this there is some significance, Mr Hurley – in the evidence you gave to Detective Inspector Cotford, you stated that you saw this Constable Baxter approach a motor car, one which made its way down to the embankment from Waterloo.”

“Aye.” Hurley nodded.

“Do you have any recollection as to who allowed it upon the investigative scene?” She asked sitting slightly forward.

“I don’t rightly recollect. I just looked up and there it be, slowly rolling to a stop.”

With that eyebrow slightly raised, she nodded, “And once it had halted, what then transpired.”

“Well – like I says—“

She shook her head, “I mean, did someone from the motor car make some motion to the Constable so as to attract his attention, or, did he make his way there unbidden?”

“As I recall – he turned and made his way up to the car upon his own.” Hurley replied, “Now there might have been some hither to given, but I didn’t see any such like.”

“And then, when he arrived.” She led him along.

“That’s when the window in the back of the car, it lowered; and then, the lovely in the back she spoke to him. “ He told her

“According to the evidence you’ve given, this Constable Baxter took something from the woman in the car – which he then proceeded down the embankment to place it down upon the scene and then took it up again, as evidence found? Am I correct?” She asked him straightway.

He sat silent for a moment as if hesitant to proceed. “Now – seeing as how there was more than a bit of trouble that morning, you see, as how I was off me normal route and schedule, and being of course with the weather and like, and then being asked to run forth to find and fetch coppers and all . . . “

“What did you see?” She pressed him.

He sat grimly silent.

His reticence to confirm his evidence was more than apparent and so I spoke up, “It would be best for you Mr Hurley to give up your evidence as regards the diced up girl. For him who next comes upon your door,“ I made a gestured to point toward it, “Will be with the City Police, and with him comes a means less hospitable in seeking evidence of the death of one of their own. Thus, upon this arrival, “I said moving my hand so that my finger, which had been pointing toward the door now stood in marked attention by pointing towards him, “You can say, I have given my evidence of the girl to Met and of the other I know nothing. And as we share jurisdiction on this matter – it would serve notice to them that you are a witness for the Met.” I explained his situation.

He took a good strong brace of his rye and then looked at me, “Well now – you are a might short off the measure on that one Sir, because of whom you speak . . . he’s already been at me door. And far more sinister than the likes of either of you – of that I can rightly assure you.’

“This man upon your door, all in black was he?” I asked.

“Like a bloody undertaker come to fit the livin’ – felt as if his eyes were measuring you up for a box.” Hurley replied.

“He give the name of Spenser? Detective Inspector Spenser?”

He took another long sip of his rye and nodded. “Banging like the devil he was upon me door.”

“What did he have to say?” Alderton asked.

He reached over for the dark bottle of rye and uncorked it, pouring himself another good measure in his glass. “He comes in and doesn’t say anything. Just looked me place over, and then turns his eyes upon me.” He forced the cork back into the bottle, “You made a report concerning an odd incident morning last. At the embankment. Tell me about it. And so I does.”

“I see – he knew of your evidence to Cotford?” Alderton asked as she glanced in my direction.

“Aye. “ He takes another drink.

“What was his reaction?” She followed up.

“He picks up me bottle and says, I am sure you had quite a few to warm yourself up that morning. And I says, a few. And he says, well now then you might not have seen what you said you saw. And I says I saw what I saw.” He held the glass as if trying to decided on another drink, “And then he puts the bottle up hard against me chest and he says, well you know, working where you do, having a bit too many drinks in the morning, you might just want to take care. Accidents do happen."

“That’s intimidation –“ Alderton began as she looked over at me sternly.

“Mr. Hurley, be best advised in that evidence you give in regards to the death of Pamela Dean brings with it a security as witness for the Yard.” I replied and tried to reassure Alderton.

“Well, so, Mr Hurley. Returning to that morning, it is you statement that you, upon morning last, observed a Constable of the City Police, a Constable Baxter, approach a motor car, which had been allowed to proceed down the embankment so as to encroach upon the scene, where upon, the said Constable Baxter did approach this motor car, and thereupon he did converse with a woman seated in the rear of the conveyance. “

Hurley looked at Alderton and then at myself, before he sighed heavily, “That’s what I told the other copper, Codfish.”

“You further stated that you observed said constable, Constable Baxter, take into his possession an object, which he then proceeded to placed upon the site under investigation, to then lift up said object and proceed to enter it into evidence?”

“Right,” Hurley nodded, “I seen what I seen and I seen him do it.”

‘There is no uncertainty of the matter? He took something—“

“A purse.” He interrupted.

“A purse?” She repeated, “Of that you are certain?”

“Oh, aye – I know a purse when I sees one.”

She made several notes, “And the car—did you happen to see the registration number at all?”

Hurley rubbed his nose, "Naw, I wasn’t payin all that much attention to the motor car—not with her that was in the back of it. She had all me attention. I mean, she was a right looker she was..”

“Could you describe her please?”

“Well, now,” He took another brace from his rye, “She was fair. Her skin, it was fine, smooth, you know, to touch—I mean, you could just tell. Her lips were not rouged up, you know, quite natural like, in fact she had that look that didn’t need any of those brushes and creams and such. And she had the most beautiful red hair I have ever seen. A true vision she was.”

“What can you tell me about this vehicle?” Alderton pressed upon some means of identifying of the motor car.

He reached over to the small table close to hand and picked up a small tobacco pouch and one of several loose cigarette papers lying near. He pinched up a bit of tobacco and sprinkled it on the thin paper, “It be one of them rather long motor cars.” He closed the pouch and began rolling the cigarette. “One of them limousines I think they call’em.” He licked the paper, “Maybe one of them Lanchesters. The driver was a rough looking sort. Might have been a pugilist as he had the look.” He struck a match which flared into flame as he lit his cigarette. “But is was an expensive one I would think .”

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“Is there anything else you can tell us about that morning?’ She asked leaning forward to rest upon the knee of her crossed leg, “Anything that seemed out of the ordinary?

“Well – it were cold. Mighty cold – wind off the river an all. Not many out and about – just mostly the coppers.” He took a drag off the cigarette.

“Do you happen to know a Neil Byrne?” She inquired.

He takes a long draw off the cigarette and exhales a thick plume of smoke, “Did I know?”

Alderton frowned, “Sadly Mr Byrne is dead as well.”

Hurley’s face goes slack for a moment, “Neil is dead?”

“Yes. His neck was broken.” She informed him, “He was found on a bench on the embankment. Not far from here actually.”

“Murdered you mean.” Hurley said.

“That is – Yes.” She nodded solemnly – her thoughts no doubt returning to her discovery the body in the mist and snow.

“Then . . . I got nothing else to say,” Hurley suddenly stubs his cigarette out in the too full ashtray.

“Mr. Hurley – I do wish to confirm a point. This woman—the one in the limousine—you are quite certain she was red-headed?”

He stood up suddenly, “The copper’s dead and so is Neil. It’s like the other Inspector says, I may perhaps have had one too many that morning. And so, I can’t rightly say that I might have not seen anything at all of what I seen."

Alderton looked at him now with some surprise, “But you have just given evidence."

“So— well,” He lifts his glass, “It ain’t like I ain’t been drinkin’ now is it lass. And so, as I says, I ain’t got nothing else to say. Good day to ya and I ask you to leave."

Alderton rose from her chair, “Very well, Mr Hurley. But, may I ask you to let us use the backdoor?”

I was not certain of the reasoning behind her request, but I arose and nodded to Hurley as I handed him my card, “Should Spenser return you inform me.” I told him but he waved his hands at us.

“Out, get out!”

And I followed Alderton as she moved through the narrow, cramped room to the corridor that led back into the confines of Hurley’s dismal lodgings. Hurley ever present behind us as we made our way through the confining corridor kept careful watch. I noticed PC Alderton was slowly observing, inspecting , the rooms as she passed heading toward the kitchen – where there was cabbage on the boil.

She took one last long look and then exited out the back door, which opened upon a extremely narrow alley way. There was barely enough room for us to walk without having to turn to the side.

The alley ran back to the Strand, where once we gained the snowy walk we proceeded around the corner back to Arundel Street, were our car sat parked in front of Hurley’s residence.

“I wanted to get a look at his lodgings.” She said, “but there was little of interest. It is odd his reaction to Neil Byrne.”

“Mayhap a new avenue of inquiry.” I said, “But, it is as I feared. Spenser is still upon Robertson-Kirk’s leash. Of what meaning this has, I do not know. But what is of concern to me now is this Constable Baxter.”

She nodded in concurrence, “Next stop do you think?”

“Yes.” I replied, aware of the tension in my voice, “Although, I fear we may be too late.”

View
Knocking on Veronica's Door
Session Three - Part Three

burrows.jpg

Telegram, Neville Pym to Lady Aurora Carradine
10 March
Subject of scrutiny finally ascertained. Winston Pleydell-Smith. Chief chemist for May & Baker. Singleton and Eskimoff bare watching.

Mrs Burrows Diary
10 March – Afternoon

Early afternoon. Day brightening. Yesterday’s snow beginning to give way to dirty slush. Mr Fentimen, the gentleman in the far right, second floor room, had made arrangements to meet with some advisor regarding some financial transaction, or so he explained, in the front parlour. I had served tea. Their meeting having broken up, I was putting away the tea cups and waving away the smoke of their pipes. Both of them having smoked like chimneys – when I took notice of the newspaper he had left behind.

Newspaper Clipping:
The Verdun Battle
(Pasted in Mrs Burrows Diary)

The German report of yesterday announced that west of the Meuse they had advanced nearly two miles on a front of about 3.3 miles below Bethincourt, and had occupied Forges and Regneville. The captures number over 3,300 French troops and ten cannon. This is the first reference in the German report to infantry actions west of the Meuse. Paris had already announced a German advance. Last night’s French report announced the repulse of a strong German attack at Bethincourt and the recapture of the greater part of Corbeaux Wood

Which of course was only columns away from more distress.

Newspaper Clipping:
Memorial sent to Mr Asquith
(Pasted in Mrs Burrows Diary)

“That we, several hundred attested married men, declare to a man that had we been told before attestation that we would be required to leave our wives and children to fight and protect the supposed conscientious objector we would not have attested. We request that arrangements be made dealing with the financial obligations of called-up married men, when their turn comes, such as the payment of rent, insurance premiums, mortgage interest, goods purchased on the hire system, etc. We are proud to recognize our attestation, and we are ready to fight for our King and country, our wives and children, but insist that the bargain made and offered by you as Premier of your own free will must be kept, otherwise we will fell justified in seriously considering the offer made by you that we should be relieved of our pledge if yours was not kept. “

I had not time to feel the vexation these clipping give me now, as I put the paper down owing to the rap of the door knocker. Putting cup and spoon on the silver service tray I left the tea set in parlour to answer the front door.

He was a tall, slender gentleman. Could have been right handsome save for the spectacles, which made him look all too bookish for my tastes. “Good afternoon, Mrs Burrows .” he said with a wide smile.

I gave him a quick survey: “I don’t have a room to let at the moment—though, you don’t look like you would be looking for one. That suit looks too West End.”

But he wasn’t having any of that, “Oh no!” says he, “Don’t you remember? I am Robert Wise, a friend of Veronica and Bradley’s. We met last month.”

“Last month you say?” I couldn’t place the spectacles nor the suit.

“If I recall you where handing me a white feather." He said solemnly – which he should, if he was refusing to serve.

And then, he gave me a sort of weak smile and that’s when I remembered him – same weak smile when I gave him the feather. “Oh, the lawyer,” I says with some irritation. “The one who as I recall was quite amiable to just letting Wilhelm motor his way up Whitehall.”

Of course he gave me a frown. “I think that’s rather exaggerating Mrs Burrows.”

“Well don’t be expecting any sympathy from me, especially after looking at the Times and this Verdun business. Says there’s 3,300 brave Frenchmen captured.” I said barring the doorway. “And good married men wondering about how they will take care of their poor families when they go off to fright for the likes of you.”

“I am quite sorry you feel that way, Mrs Burrows – but –“

“But, that’s no reason for me not to be civil –“ I says having taking note of the ring on his finger, queer new custom though it is—for whatever his excuses, there was a woman somewhere worried about him. “So come on in here and get yourself out of the cold."

He entered the foyer and took off his hat while awkwardly rubbing his hands together for warmth.

“I would be right in assuming you’re here to see Lieutenant Bradley.” I said closing the door.

“Well, yes in fact. I’ve, uh, come to check in on him and Miss Wells.” He says.

“Good thing.”

“How so?” He asks.

“He arrived here looking—well, all nervous-eyed and anxious about something.” I says, reaching to take his hat from him since he seemed awkward standing there not knowing what to do with it while trying to warm his hands. “I know he’s been worried about Vee and all, so that’s why I let him on up to her room, seeing as how the parlour was occupied." That’s when I gave him a rather pointed finger before he got any ideas about what kind of an establish I run, “ Now, don’t be getting any thoughts, I run a respectable place of lodging. But, I am of a mind if a woman today wants to have a gentleman caller step up to her room – particularly when she’s a right smart girl like Vee, and a suffragette – then she’s more aware of the consequences.”

And there he stood rubbin’ his hands with a look of bewilderment.

As I had little time for him: “The parlour was but recently occupied there’s still a bit of straightin’ and cleanin’ and so’s you can go right on up — first door at the head of the landing. I’ll have it ready shortly.”

And he nods with an “Er, yes quite. Thank you Mrs Burrows.”

I’m not at all sure I’m be taking the advice of the law from him I’m sayin’

Veronica Wells’ Journal
10 March – 3:00pm

If I could but turn back time. But alas no. It won’t do. One must squarely face the facts and the consequences for being the uttermost fool in existence. The last two days have been a mix of profound anxiety, intense anger, flashes of vehement rage, disgust and hurt, the sinking of my heart, and then, finally, a complete and unreserved capitulation. And now – the probable loss of Bradley. Forever? No doubt. For how much can his perilous predicament and possible involvement in some sordid conspiracy be traced back to those with whom I now associate? A scandalous lot. Pym, and the most insidious Mrs Willingham. The mysterious Lady Hélène Beltham. Francis Aytown, the smut peddler, and the mesmerizingly sapphic Miss Miniver. Did they not express their interest in him upon that first night?

How fortuitous your relationship—

Damn!

To what were they capable? To what was I culpable?

“Is there something wrong,” He had asked upon entering my room and taking me up in his arms – almost desperately. And at the time I knew not the reasoning and so burden with secrets of my own, which I did not know whether I could or should divulge, and perhaps wisely concealed, he had immediately detected something of them in my demeanour.

“Wrong – no, of course not.” I lied.

He stepped back – “Veronica? What is it? I can feel it – just now in your embrace, your kiss – there is some reservation – you all but flinched.”

“I don’t think that I did.” I replied trying my best to maintain an amiable tone, even as Miniver’s concoction was beginning to wear thin.

And in that moment I so desperately wanted to scream – is there no one who does not want something from me?

I wanted to take his hand and sit him down and do my best to explain: Bradley there is innocence in this world and I know you long for it. But there is none in me. Truly. And so I must be forthright with you. I mean, as Elizabeth Bennett had rightly informed Mr Darcy . . . to be sure, you knew no actual good of me— Bradley, there is no good in me. My reputation – I have no reputation. I lost that long ago. At my core, I am selfish and vane and impatient. And I have little resistance to evil compulsions. No, you have to listen to me Bradley. I am not a good woman. Or, I would not be so sorely tempted . . . and I am so sorely tempted. I know now that I am a bad girl trying desperately to be good – but it won’t do.

Instead, we stood for a long moment as he tried to discern the source of the weariness I could not conceal.

“Well something’s wrong that’s for certain.” Bradley was insistent. Worry was deep set in his eyes—

“I am just tired.” I explained and was reprieved as there suddenly came a knock upon my door.

Which stopped the interrogation. I sighed heavily, as I made my way over to the door “Please—keep your voice down. It is Mrs Burrows?”

“Bradley? Veronica? It’s Robert.” The voice that called out from the other side of the door was not Mrs Burrows – but rather another I recognized.

It was Bradley’s friend, Robert Wise. I opened to door to find him outside on the landing in his long woollen coat and gloves, hat in hand. I involuntarily lifted a hand to my hair, well aware that I must look a horrid mess – for I have already seen the dark circles under my eyes. “Oh, Robert? I didn’t know you were coming by this morning. Please, excuse me. I was up all last night . . . with a friend – she was not well.”
“Robert, is that you? " Bradley hastily stepped forward.

“Yes, I came as soon as I could. Sorry it took so long.”

Robert entered my sitting room as I closed the door behind him, and being a barrister, he immediately detected the feelings thick in the air. “I’m sorry to find you both like this. It seems times are not well for either of you.”

Bradley moved over quickly and grasped his hand, “Oh, take no mind at all, Robert, it is ever so good of you to come out on a beastly day like this—to see me. I know it is quite a bother, not coming by your office and all, but things are . . . well, to say the least, I just don’t know how things are.”

“Bradley, whatever is the matter?’ I asked – well aware he had been anxious since he moment he arrived. I was at the moment deservedly concerned – and I am callous to admit, less for him than for me. Did he know?

’That’s just it, Vee,” His concern now for the perceived lack of my affection to his embrace apparently forgotten – for as he turned from Robert, he gave me a look of utter confusion. “I don’t rightly know what to make of any of it—but I am frightfully worried that things are going to get worse."

“Worse—whatever to do you mean?” I asked trying to draw him out.

“Calm down man, you’re getting ahead of yourself.” Robert gently reached out and motioned for him to have a seat at my small writing table. I hurriedly took up my journal and notebooks as well as the chocolate-and-yellow pamphlet, and moved them over to my small bookcase – giving them the desk as I have only two chairs.

“Now, it was readily obvious from your call, there is some distress. . . so, tell me how may I be of assistance, as a legal counsellor, and as a friend?" Robert asked as he pulled back a chair.

Bradley looked at him, "Well Robert, I barely know how to begin. I mean it’s all so abominable out of the way, you know. It seemed so – well damned accidental, actually. At the office there were some documents misfiled and I found them and well made a bit of a row about it – and then,” He paused for a moment, “And then poor Pamela is beastly dead.”

“Dead? Who is dead Bradley?” I asked anxiously anticipating what new horror could this day bring.

“Pamela.” He said in a solemn voice. “Pamela Dean.”

“Pamela Dean?” Robert inquired as he placed his hat, before him on the table, “Wasn’t she the one they found dismembered yesterday? I think I read about it in the papers.”

“Oh Bradley, are you caught up in all this?” It was suddenly obvious that he was involved in that ghastly story concerning the poor woman, well, parts of her, who had been found by the river. As disconcerting as it was – at least it was reassuring to know it was not as a part of mine own ‘corrupt corerie.’

“If only —“ And he discontinued the sentence. “Yes. I am afraid so,” He began anew, “Oh dash it all, Robert I fear I got that poor woman murdered.”

“What’s this?” Robert asked his eyes growing with intent.

“Bradley?” I could not restrain the shock of his statement.

“Now, Vee, I swear – there wasn’t anything . . . nothing like that . . . between us.” He tired to reassure me, as if my reaction were due to some inclination toward jealousy – which when he said it gave me pause. For it drew my attention to the fact that perhaps I should have felt such if I were truly in love with Bradley. Instead I was but filled with relief. Oh, there is truly no good in me – I am so despicably self-possessed.

“You see it was all about that beastly document fiasco and the meeting at Waterloo Station – I am certain.” He continued to explain.

Robert interrupted, “Now, just a moment, Bradley, I do like a story to have a beginning. “

“Right,” He nodded, “Well, I should start this right round from the beginning.”

“Yes, please do! But, I must ask, before we begin, if you think you have information about this murder, why call me? Why not go to the police?” Robert inquired – he had that same mater-of-fact tone of father’s. The logical processing of the legal mind.

“Well – you see . . . it’s all so confounded confusing . . . and then, when that Inspector . . . when he asked if anyone happened to know of me . . . well it, I must say, it shook me old man . . . " I had never seen Bradley so unsettled.

And then there was a knock on the door.

Bradley sat forward and looked at Robert then the door.

It startled me as well – but I quickly went over to see who it was. I noticed Robert had risen and stood watching me with concern. I think they both expected the police.

Instead there was only Mrs Burrows holding a serving tray with a tea setting, "As the parlour is freshened up, you could have it, but, I am thinkin’ you most likely would be comfortable just stayin’ here. And, as I am off for a meetin’ of the Bond, I brought this up for you.” Mrs Burrows explained handing me the serving tray with cups and a pot of tea and a few biscuits. “Just take it back down to the kitchen when you’re done.”

“Oh, thank you ever so, Mrs Burrows. You are too kind.”

She winked, “We women have to stand together you know, dearie.”

She closed the door for me, and I carried Mrs Burrows’ best serving tray over to the table, “Now Bradley, please get on with this.” I urged. My mind filled with conflicting emotions.

“Er, yes indeed.” Robert sat down again and pulled out his notepad and a pencil.

“Well, you see a chap I know, we went over to Pamela’s flat this morning—“

“Which is a crime scene.” Robert said pointedly.

“Right,” Bradley confessed. “But you see, as we wanted to determine if there was anything Pamela might have left behind—and as we were looking the place over, this City Detective-Inspector arrived. A rather sinister looking bloke for a copper, I must say. And he made a comment in passing, just as we were leaving, by way of asking if anyone by chance knew me – as I was not me, at the moment, you see."

Robert adjusts his glasses, trying to make as much sense of this as was I. “Impersonating someone and breaking into a dead woman’s flat? Good heavens Bradley, what kind of chaps do you associate with?”

Bradley sighed, "Well, the chap I know, he . . . he knew Pamela as well and we both wanted to follow up on this document she sent me – apparently just before she died.” And Bradley removed an old document from his jacket pocket and handed it over to Robert, who unfolded it carefully and began to look it over.

Hawkins Letter Handout

He placed the yellowed piece of paper on the table before him, “As I said, Bradley, I know you’ve apparently have had a shock or other – but, I do like a story to have a beginning.”

“Right. Well, it all started with these deuced misfiled documents at NID. You see, a bit back, I found some documents, classified and all, which had been frightfully misfiled. I thought nothing of it at first, I mean it was no doubt a mistake, right. But then I the more I set about looking at them, there was something rather queer about it all. Top Secret. Classified. And yet, they were nothing more than requisitions for office equipment for a Peter Hawkins in 1894 for his law office in Exeter."

Robert took notes as I poured everyone a cup of tea.

“I spoke up and turned the documents over to Hall, and then, well I kept wondering about them you know, why would something like that be classified. So I did a bit of research and there have been three Peter Hawkins’ since 1894 – each a solicitor in various locations, all of which have had their office requisitions classified.” He reached over with a smile for me as he moved the cup of tea I had poured closer, “They are of course all listed as deceased, but – oddly enough they all have the same birthdate. So—I went to Exeter to see about this first Hawkins. Took the train down."

“Wait, wait, you started an investigation into top secret documents on your own?’ Robert inquired as he looked up from his notes, “With a war on?”

Bradley tried to smile but it only made him seem slyly more guilty, “Well, yes – I felt. Something was not quite right. Damnit Robert, there was something just dash wrong about it all, and so . . . well, my curiosity was up. Thus off I went to Exeter and there I discover that this Hawkins wasn’t just a Hawkins, it was in fact the law office of Hawkins & Harker.”

“Hawkins & Harker? Exeter?” I softly muttered as it seemed all just too coincidental and far too fabulous a thought, and yet, I turned and went over to my bookcase.

“Right – “ Bradley continued as he watched me rather quizzically. “Only the office is a tobacconist’s now. As Hawkins bequeathed the business on. It seems that Harker inherited the offices, and then his wife sold them – but all of the documents concerning the transactions were destroyed in a fire at Mitchell, Sons & Candy, the house agents who handled it all for her.”

I removed the book from the shelve and opened it fairly certain I recalled where the passage I was seeking would be found, and I was quick to find it, yes, Chapter One, just when the caliche and the mysterious driver arrives. Yes—it was there: Denn die Todten reiten Schnell (For the dead travel fast.). Precisely what Madam Eskimoff had whispered to me last night – I felt a prickling of my skin. Was she trying to forewarn me of Bradley’s predicament?
“So, seeing as how Pamela was the head clerk, and a wonder at research, I telegraphed her and asked her to meet me at Waterloo Station. Now look here, this business at Exeter only made things even more curious and so I asked Pamela to look into this Harker. “

“At Waterloo Station – at about what time was that?” Robert asked.

“Oh, a little past nine.” Bradley said reflectively.

“It couldn’t wait till morning?”

“It was all so suspicious Robert. I didn’t want to be talking about it at the office, I mean once your suspicions are aroused then there’s no end to the imagination to deal with.” Bradley replied, his fingers worrying with his tea cup, turning it idly. “And then—the next morning: she was just beastly dead. Chopped up. And when that document arrived in the post."

“Well, I really don’t know what to say about this.” Robert frowned slightly as he lifted the document .”

“You said Harker. Jonathan Harker?” I asked returning to the table trying to decided if I should tell them about Madam Eskimoff – but to do so meant I would have to explain how and why I was at the Cavern.

Bradley glanced at the book and then at me, “Right – same as in the book.”

“Book? Which book?” asks Robert

Instead I just handed Robert my copy of Dracula.

He looked at the title and shifted his gaze first to me and then at Bradley, "Now hang on old chap, you don’t expect me to believe that this . . . this novel has anything to do with top secret documents? Or Pamela Dean’s death?”

“I know it sounds right off the rails old man, but then that chap I was speaking of, he found another document hidden in a gas pipe at Pamela’s. It’s a letter from Admiralty House dated 1898 which is addressed to Stoker, the author. It would appear that at some point they had given him an after-action report, which was what we suspect Pamela referred to as the Hawkins Papers in her letter—“

“Letter?” Robert looked up from a passage in Dracula, “What letter?”

“Oh – yes, the document arrived with a letter from poor Pamela.” Bradley reached into another pocket and produced it.

“As I was saying, it would appear that Bram Stoker was supposed to compile all he had been given into some kind of coherent report—with a bit of checking I discovered that it seems his brother George, a doctor, was with the NID as well – and so perhaps he had done something like this for them sometime before. Only from the document we found, it would seem he rather turned it all into that . . .” He made a motion to the book Robert closed and placed upon the table, “Novel.”

“So, what are you saying Bradley – is that – that this is supposed to be – real?” I asked pointing at the book beside Robert’s notebook. My head ached and the cocaine had worn off and my world was already far too claustrophobia with spies and wicked socialist grandmothers and pornographers and spiritualists and some mysterious aristocrats with hints of South African accents and talk of byzantine international criminal organizations bent on global domination and if there were a God only he knew what else and now— and now Bradley wanted to add vampires? I rubbed a palm against my temple – Madam Eskimoff’s whisper would not get out of my head. I could all but feel her warm breath upon my ear, “blood is not only the life but an uncertain death.”

“I dashed don’t know what to make of any of it, Vee, “ He said to me, “I mean, this other document – although there are severe hints of irritation in having not receiving what was requested – actually authorizes him to publish the damned book . . . as some sort of disinformation. It plainly indicates – they would rather have it out should anything come to light, so they could easily just lay it off as nothing more than fabrications taken from some fabulous fictional account. Which of course leads one to considering that within the ghostly gothic, some parts,” and he looked at the novel near Robert’s hand, “must have some bearing upon the truth.”

“That is just insane, Bradley.” I said with some vexation, “Vampires don’t exist.”

To which Robert took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is all a bit beyond me. I don’t know what you are expecting to accomplish with this investigation, although it sounds as though someone is willing to kill for it.” He replaces his glasses.

“That’s just it Robert I can’t rightly say. It is not that I got into this as a lark or anything, there were some jolly dammed suspicious coincidences, but, now, it has become all rather sinister and mysterious. As you say, it would appear there is something here worth killing for – but what? Transylvanian boxes of earth?”

Or Romanian Oil? I could not help but try to find where the fragmented pieces of my knowledge concerning Lady Helene Belthram nefarious cabal and the cryptic messages from the spiritualist last night might fit into the bizarre puzzle Bradley was laying out upon the table for Robert.

“Look here Robert I rang you up because, well to be honest, I am not bloody sure just what I have gotten myself into. I mean this whole thing sounds as Vee says rather insane on the face of it, but someone killed poor Pamela over these documents, of that I am more than certain. They’ve even killed a City Police Inspector right in the doorway to Pamela’s flat.”

Robert was taken aback, “Killed a policeman?”

“Shot.”

“Well – that certainly adds a new perspective,” Robert told him, “If you want my advice, I would suggest handing yourself over to the police.” Robert held up his hand as if expecting a heated response. “I know it may be unsavoury, but it sounds like you’ve gotten yourself into a fine jam, and I can only really help you though the legal system. I would be happy to represent you every step of the way, and with a high court inquiry into the whole affair we might be able to blow any conspiracies out into the open.”

How is it possible that I could feel a pique of anxiety at that statement – I mean, didn’t I want this whole dreadful conspiracy I was caught up in to be exposed? And yet, with my continued silence was I not aiding and abetting Lady Beltham’s menagerie of villainy. Was it merely concern over trying to maintain whatever degree of respectability remained of the façade of my reputation or was I now in fact trying to conceal my implication. Had I not acquiesced. Had I not met and had drinks and even flirted with Winston Pleydell-Smith. But what of Bradley? Did my involvement in Lady Helene Beltham’s intrigue have anything material to do with this wild and seemingly outlandish difficulty of Bradley’s. Perhaps if my head was not so clouded from those cloudy drinks last night I might be able make the pieces fit – and in truth the only mention of him was in how fortuitous it was I had a formed relationship with him – being that he was with the NID, and I could monitor his activities . . . but that could have been solely in regard to whatever nefarious scheme of Beltham’s fundamental objective—which seemed to be all about oil and geology.

“Do you think that is best?” Bradley asked, looking to Robert and then to me, "I mean, I trust you and all, old man, but to be honest, I am not at all sure whom I should trust at the moment. And dash it all, to be honest, there isn’t any likelihood of my being able to have the faintest chance of affording your fees.”

Robert smiled, “Don’t concern yourself about the fee. It’s your safety I’m worried about.” He looked at the old document Bradley had given him once more, “At the least think it over.”

“Well Robert, that’s just damned good of you. I mean you’re just a brick.” Bradley said and grasp his hand once more and shook it, “I mean I have been in an awful state since leaving Pamela’s flat.”

And then there was suddenly another knock on the door which I think startled me more than either of them.

“Steady on.” Robert advised as he turned in his chair.

“Vee?” Bradley asked with a look which gave all indications of his concern that this whole intrigue had been too much for me. I smiled faintly and stepped over to answer the knock.

Robert arose from his seat and stood watching me advance to the door.

Although the sound of the knock had been disconcerting, what with the temper of the conversation, I truly expected to open the door to find Mrs Burrows, only I was appalled to discover standing there on the landing, in a light-grey woollen coat and a large hat with some intricate lace about the band, Mrs Willingham – the woman I had vowed I would never speak to again.

“Mrs Willingham!”

“Oh, Vee –“ She was all fretful anxiety, “I am so frightfully worried for you.” And then she looked past me into the room, “Oh, is that Bradley?”

Thankfully my back was to Robert and Bradley for if looks could kill she would have shrivelled up and died upon the spot, “What are you doing here?” Of them all her betrayal was the unkindest of all – her ruse of maternal like affection.

“A friend of yours Veronica?” Robert inquired.

“This is Bradley’s landlady.” I said icily over my shoulder, “We were once in various women’s movements together.”

“Oh Vee, you must let me in.” She said and pushed her way through the door. “It was horrid, simply horrid.” Her grey-gloved hands wringing worrisome as she moved restlessly about my bed-sitting-room. “That man, he was so rude and disrespectful.”

Standing with the door still open, fully prepared to ask her to just as quickly exit, I gave her a quizzical look: “What man?”

“Why, Inspector Spenser,” She replied, “From the City Police. He came banging upon my door with writs and demands and policemen to see Bradley’s rooms.”

“The City Police?” Bradley said standing up quickly.

I closed the door.

“As I said, steady on.” Robert advised once again.

“He was dreadful, simply dreadful, Bradley.” She said moving over to touch his forearm. “He just tore through your flat."

“This Inspector—“

“Oh, didn’t I say. Spenser. Spenser was his name. A simply horrible man.” She said waving a dismissive hand and then looked over at Robert as if trying to determine who he was—

“I am Robert Wise, Barrister and confidant of Mr McFarlane,” He introduced himself readily discerning her look.

“Harriot Willingham.” She gave a brief nod of her head.

“Please to make your acquaintance, Mrs Willingham.”

She smiled at him graciously, then looked back to Bradley, “Well, you certainly need one, Bradley. They say you killed someone by the name of Dean. A Pamela Dean. I think it is that woman they found all – maimed and butchered – and chopped up.” They say you are a spy.”

“What—“ Bradley went suddenly pale.

She glanced at me and then back at Bradley, “A spy working for the Germans. Now, I said that is not possible. Heavens no. Not my Bradley. But they said oh yes it is true. We have evidence.”

“Did they indicate what evidence.” Robert asked.

“Oh, no, they were far too busy tearing apart the flat.” And she turned to me suddenly and grasped me to pull me close in a comforting hug, “Oh, Vee, you poor dear.” She said and then very softly whispered into my ear, “Say absolutely nothing, you hear."

I looked at her, as she released me, “I do so worry about you. The both of you.” She said as she grasped my arm seemingly in order to offer further comfort and reassurance where in reality, I knew she only wanted to maintain some restraint, to keep me from saying something ill-advised.

“Now these are certainly some major accusations.” Robert offered as he turned to look at Bradley.

I looked at poor Bradley—and found myself thinking that this was the first time I had ever thought of him as such, a poor Bradley, as he was always so jovial and self-assured, whereas now, he seemed more like a apprehensive schoolboy oddly dressed in a naval officer’s uniform as he looked to Robert in fretful need of guidance. Was this but a glimpse of my future – the necessary of legal representation from various forces of the law – civilian as well as military.

“And they are fast upon him, Sir.” Mrs Willingham offered in a most sincere voice of concern – which I knew to be mere deception.

Robert’s fingers worried with his wedding band as he stood in thought, “Yes. And if it is true the City Police are looking for you with ill intent, then, I would suggest we move post haste to the Met. Bradley?"

He nodded slowly in resignation, “Yes, I would much rather be in the hands of the Yard than this City copper."

Mrs Willingham sighed, "Wise, Bradley, very wise. It is wise to take Mr Wise’s advice.”

Robert frowned – as I was certain he had heard all the surname related wordplay for years and years.

“So, Robert, should we call or should we go down to the Yard?” Bradley asks.

“Not all the way to Scotland Yard, no. We should go to the nearest station. Once you have turned yourself over for questioning, then you will be in the Mets protection, at the very least.”

I could see this was a hard decision for him as he stood a long moment. He looked over toward me and then sighed heavily. He stepped away from the table and came over to give me a heart-felt hug, “Oh, Vee, I am so sorry.” He said, “But, not to worry, we are in Robert’s hands.”

“Not mine old chap, the law’s.” Robert corrected.

“Bradley— “ And even now I must admit I am not sure what I would have said had Mrs Willingham not interrupted.

“We’ll be taking good care of her Lieutenant – upon that you can be assured.” She said with a winsome smile.

Upon releasing me he placed a hand on Mrs Willingham’s deceitful shoulder and then turned to Robert, “If you would accompany me old man, I would be forever grateful.”

“Right, then, very well, let’s be off.” Robert gave a me a reassuring smile and they departed.
“You must throw him over, Veronica.” Mrs Willingham said as she listened to hear their footsteps descended the stair.

I turned upon her and told her to get out of my flat.

Her reply was to slowly remove her gloves. “Yes—well, we will have to see to that, won’t we? We may need to move you – depending on the outcome of this Bradley misadventure. “ As this was the first time she had been in my room, I observed her looking it over. How cheap and desperate it must have all seemed to her—knowing I had had little in the way of finances other than the loan from Pym, when I left Morningside Park and father’s house for this room of my own. Moderate sized with a single window overlooking the front door with my dressing table before it. A very narrow bed on the left-hand side of the room with a comfortable arm-chair and small open bookcase, the fireplace on the right, and the small writing table. “For toilet I would assume you share?” She said with some derision.

I assented as she gave it all a severe summation, “Yes—we certainly will have to see about having you moved.” She turned to me, “But of course, we will have to first determine if that is the right course of action – under the circumstances. We want no suspicion upon you. At first we had thought it rather advantageous, your match with him, but, that was before we knew he was a vivisectionist.”

Lord—I can not finish a thought. Someone’s at the door

Veronica Wells’ Journal
10 March – continued

It was Robert Wise. It appears that Bradley is in the wind. I am not at all certain this is the right course of action for him – or for me. Mrs. Willingham stayed but a short time after her haughty dismissal of my meager lodgings, indicating she would return after having given a full accounting of the situation to Lady Hélène. But, I should be prepared to “leave all this behind.”

Now Robert informs me that Bradley has taken flight. It appears they had hailed a cab directly upon departing. Robert indicated that in the cab it was readily apparent to him Bradley was still very hesitant as to whether he should in fact give himself over to Scotland Yard. He had brought up the old Ripper fiasco with the Met and their inability to apprehend the madman then – and now, here he was deuced caught up in the murderous actions of what surely must be yet another madman . . . and to compound it all there’s a mystery tied to some damn nonsensical book.

He explained he had tried to reassure him this was the best course of action particularly with the City Police in search of him under the suspicion he had something to do with the death of one of their own. Robert said he felt he had successfully brought Bradley around to this point, but as they were having to traverse streets that were still rather snow covered and icy, what with the cleaning department not have the man power it once had owing to the war, they came upon a particularly nasty bit of roadway covered ice.

And thus the driver had been hard put to stop in order to keep from hitting another cab making too wide a turn into their intersection. In doing so, their cab’s bonnet had rather maliciously wrapped itself upon a street lamp. Everyone being shook up, Robert said he was hurriedly checking the driver, trying to ascertain his injuries as he seemed to be in sort of a bad way, bleeding from the forehead, when he looked out to find Bradley had exited the cab and was looking about suspiciously.

I asked if Bradley was injured and Robert said he appeared not to be as he ducked his head into the cab to informed him – that he was rather sorry old man, but should I give myself up – who knows, I may have quite another accident in my cell. Robert said he had explained this was extremely wrong-headed and to wait as the driver needed their help – only Bradley replied he was sorry and slipped away into the long shadows of the late afternoon.

He asked me if Bradley had returned to see me and I told him that he had not. He explained that should he contact me, I needed to get in touch with him directly – as it all might have some consequence for me.

I could not explain it already had consequence.

View
In the Cavern of the Golden Calf
Session Three - Part Two

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Veronica Wells’ Journal
10 March

A cold winter’s day, as grim and grey as my disposition. All of which owes to my debauchery and a lack of a good night’s sleep. Which was not to say a lack of some indeterminate period of unconsciousness, as there had certainly been that – for I had awakened in a bed not of my own making. Or at least, in a strangers bed. For whereas to the truth of the matter as to whether or not it was a bed I had made – there was very little doubt I most certainly had . . . and was now lying in it. A curiosity born not only as to the preparation of a glass of absinthe but the taste had led to another and another – and perhaps, even one more. I am not at all sure. I have only Miss Miniver’s recollection as to what transpired after Madam Eskimoff leaned over, so close I could feel the odd delicacy of her warm breath, as she whispered: “blood is not only the life but an uncertain death.” And with that sudden remembrance I awoke to place the back of my hand against a most resoundingly painful temple.

“A sure and certain resurrection,” was the voice that greeted me.

Cautiously opening my eyes, I found Miss Miniver at the foot of the bed. Trim and prim as ever in her high-collared blouse and long black skirt, she stood looking down upon me – where, having been at some point undressed, I lay nude and entangled amongst some very tousled linens. Her voice as melodious as always seemed devoid of all emotion, and yet, I was uncertain of the inquisitiveness of her eyes devoid now of her glasses. Were they diverted by the exposure of the flesh of my shoulders and neck or of that of my breast. I mean by all accounts given, I had been lead to believe she was Francis Aytown’s lover – but, now from the expression and attentiveness of her glaze it was more than obvious her attractions lay elsewhere. I had a vague remembrance of the taxi. Of her giving assistance as I attempted to exit. And then, of her lifting me, effortlessly, in order to carry me up the stairs to Aytown’s studio.

I was a-swoon in a great lassitude: “Did you – “

“Undress you?” Miss Miniver said completing my inquiry, “Yes—you will forgive my familiarity, but until Lady Hélène augments your wardrobe it is best, what little you have, does not have the appearance of having been slept in.”

In all modesty I clung to the linens as I got out of the bed, not at all certain of my ability to stand, feeling rather weak and light-headed.

“Francis has gone out.” She answered my unspoken question while lifting a casual hand, palm outwards, toward me. “You may dispense with the hazard of the sheet as well as any reticence – there is nothing I have not seen . . . here in this studio. Or in undressing you.”

I looked out across the spacious openness of the pornographer’s studio and flat, which was not at all compartmentalized into any rooms, and observed the easels, the worktables cluttered with their paints and palettes and brushes, the stacks of blank canvases as well as those which hung to exhibit the avant-garde talent of Francis Aytown in an eclectic mix with his flat’s furnishings. He lived where he worked and my eyes narrowed as they fell upon the photographic equipment—all of which appeared rather sinister and futuristic. A technology of evil, in the subdued light falling through the tall mullioned windows, as this was where, under the influence of whatever they had used to work their will upon me, they had brought me, once before, in order to take their lurid photographs. Did she undress me then in their preparation to pose me as a slattern expressing an implicit invitation for sexual intercourse? Undressed and posed for the purposes of their vile blackmail? Looking upon the equipment, the cameras mounted upon their tripods, I had a vague recollection of Miss Miniver watching it all with a strangely fascinating and almost mesmerizing gaze of appraisal.

Where once they had the advantage of my naïve, my shame and the loss of my wilful resolution, I now refused to be so predisposed. Cocking my head as haughtily as ever I could, I let the linen fall where it may. If she were so predisposed to see me thus, then let her look. To which Miss Miniver’s right brow elevated and her lips curled into a smile, revealing the hint of an oddly sharpened eye tooth, as she looked upon my nudity with appreciation.

I can only marvel at the rapidity of my descent into decadence – and deceit. And though I am still plagued with the languid gloom of the night’s lingering lassitude, I must endeavour to record last night’s events as they are still fresh in my mind if I am to maintain as accurate an accounting as possible. For I am more than well aware of my complicity in . . . . well—as yet, in truth, I know not of what. But, I am resolved in the fact it most certainly is a litany of illegalities.

And so, it was after having dined with Mr Pym and Miss Miniver – although, in truth Miss Miniver did not eat, even though Ritter’s has a most excellent kitchen – and forbearing my natural inclination to refuse to acquiesce to their scandalous blackmail, I gave assent to assist them. With the caveat of promises that the salacious photographs would be handed over at the conclusion of whatever it was they had need of me. Pym smiled and gave me his assurances – whatever they are worth.

I had then returned to my apartment and while in the midst of undressing, I decided rather to continue the extemporaneous accounting of my now extorted indenture – as it was late and I was growing tired – when suddenly I was interrupted by a knock upon the door. At the hour, I assumed it to be my Bradley – eagerly longing for the comfort of his arms, upon opening the door, I instead found Miss Miniver. She took quick notice of my loosened buttons . . .

Apparently upon departure from Ritter’s, they had decided upon an excursion to a night spot. Whether this was Pym’s idea or hers, I do not know. She only informed me that they desired my accompaniment.

But it was already late. “DORA proscribes such establishments must be closed at 10:30.” I explained.

With a tight lipped smile she replied, “You will find, Miss Wells, for us the rules do not apply.”

Having already agreed to be counted as amongst their number, I fastened up the loosening of my garments and fetching my purse followed Miss Miniver out into the snow and an awaiting taxi. “Ah, our lovely Miss Wells—splendid.” Mr Pym said opening the door of the Unic, “We are off to be entertained until the wee small hours in the glorious Cavern of the Golden Calf.”

Settling into the motor cab, I expressed that although I have never been, I was more than well aware of the reputation of the Cave of the Golden Calf. A very avant-garde, hedonistic, and infamously reputed artistic night spot, but I thought it closed. The owner, Frida Strindberg, the divorcee of that Swedish playwright, August Strindberg, having succumbed, I had heard, to either pressure from the Defence of the Realm Act or financial difficulties. Mr Pym pointed out DORA had in fact been passed several months after dear Frida had over extended her financial position by her intemperate support of far too many struggling writers – which would have been commendable, if they had not all been the most charming of excruciatingly bad writers. And worse artists. But not to fear – for the Cave was now the Cavern of the Golden Calf, having been resurrected by new owners.

We arrived at 9 Heddon Street, a cul-de-sac just off Regent Street. Several motor cabs were arriving and departing despite the weather as we pulled to a halt and Pym stepped out into the heavy, wet flakes of a deepening snowfall. He helped each of us out of the cab and settled accounts, before we proceeded down the steps into the basement of the low-ceilinged nightclub sunk beneath a draper’s warehouse. I must say I could not help feeling a growing sense of excitement – I had heard of the Cave with it’s infamous notoriety and fashionable clientele but I had never expected to venture through it’s doors. And yet, here I was passing through the entrance with it’s provocative declaration of an impermissible worship in the form of a bas-relief of a obviously male golden calf. One almost felt as if God himself, as he had done with Sodom and Gomorrah, were about to invoke destruction, even as had Moses, upon viewing the pagan worship his brother had aided and abetted with his fashioning of the sinful idol. But the rumble beneath my feet came not from above but from the muffled music below. As if a proper gentleman, Pym stood attentively and motioned for us to proceed before him as Miss Miniver led us past an obviously vandalized abstract depiction of a carnival, before continuing down the stairs through the brilliant colours of more oddly abstracted hunting and jungle scenes upon the walls and the carved pillars of seductively draped women. And then there was the Cavern. The club was a riotous mix of American Ragtime being played by a colourful negro band and the cacophony of conversations from the maze of tables so situated as to make way for two dance floors, each of which were well occupied. The walls were all adorned with the art works of various famous artists, which like the abstracts above showed signs of the work of less appreciative vandals who had been given freedom of expression during the night spot’s vacancy. In appearance it would seem the new owners in resurrecting the Cave into a Cavern had decided upon leaving the damage and molestation intact as if exhibiting a new school of art. Vandalism. On the whole the club was a haze of smoke from American, Turkish, and pipe tobacco.

Pym attracting the attention of the maître d soon had us escorted through the crowd to a table just off the central dance floor and near one of several bars. I must admit I was overwhelmed. The America band – their music was amazing, just so right on the spot. I felt my feet beginning to tap even as I looked about to see various celebrities I recognized from the papers and illustrative magazines. Wyndham Lewis, Lily Elise, and Katherine Mansfield were in attendance, as was the laughing Lady Diana Manners and Nancy Cunard, siting at a table with whom I assumed to be members of the ‘Corrupt Corerie’ – or at least those who were not serving in the trenches. Of which, there were also present a fair number of Tommies, full of boisterous bravado and flirtatious eyes, sitting about, in what were obviously assigned tables so as to only not provide them a most advantageous view of the dance floor, but to have them thus situated so as to be prominently on display. An ostentatious honorarium provided by the establishment for their service no doubt. The thought of which gave me a pang of guilt, sitting here amongst all this gaiety and merriment, even as they sat amongst the revelry, while along the murderous front there were other fair young lads dying in the muck. And with the horrid Verdun offensive – there would be an even greater demand for blood and human sacrifice.

And for my part, I sat in a nest of spies. But—for what good reason? To maintain respectability? My reputation? I looked across the way at Lady Diana, who seemed to give a hang for what others had to say about her. Or was that only my estimation born upon the prejudice of my upbringing and class. For I had not her wealth or her connections or her peerage, nor the fact she is reputed to be the most beautiful woman in England, which allowed her to demonstrate such perceived decadence while she was hailed for her work as a V.A.D. at Guy’s Hospital. Whereas, who was I? And what had I done? Really?

A final year student with honours. A suffragette, who several years ago found herself caught up in a protest that had somehow turned disastrously into a row, and so had been arrested. A penitent daughter, who had instinctively sought the assistance of her father and his legal connections so as to advert the inevitable prison sentence. A hypocrite, who, almost immediately, thereafter began to chafe once more at the restrictions of his household, at his, and my aunt’s, out-dated Victorian convictions. A petulant and ever resentful daughter, who had no appreciation for what he provided—a marvellous home in Morningside Park, the want from financial distraction, tuition for my studies, dress and book allowances, which I used to bring in tracts and volumes I knew would only irritate him. As well as seeking new ways to rebel against his social order. A militant suffragette. A Socialist. A Fabien. A New Woman? And if so, well, a very naïve one – so blissfully unaware of the actual complexities of the harsh realties of the tangible world about me versus my grandiose intellectual ideas and the haughty argumentative discourses at the university as well as amongst my friends. A silly, impetuous young woman blind to propriety and the utter subterfuge of Mrs Willingham and the gulling of Mr Pym – and Pym . . . how foolishly I had been to take his 50 pounds. A gift from a friend? From a man whom I knew only from a train? Wilful, selfish, and impatient—Aytowns’s smut, their threats of the fabrication and distribution of a dossier detailing a wanton lifestyle of sexual indiscretions – it was all no more than what I deserved.

My introspection was suddenly interrupted as a gentleman bearing a cane and a swagger appeared to place a solid hand upon Pym’s shoulder, “A toast to an ally.” He said lifting a glass of champagne.

Pym gave him a very disconcerting look, “Pemberton. One would think a member of your vocation would understand discretion – particularly if one wishes to maintain anonymous sources.”

“One would, if one were to have supplied the information regarding certain activities in Limehouse – that one said they would.” The gentleman said leaning down as if to speak confidentially.

Pym lit a cigarette and extinguished the flame of his match with his usual flourish of a flicking hand. He took a long drag and then removed the cigarette from his lips to reply—without looking at the man, whom he had addressed as Pemberton, “One inquires of Lascar Sal with extreme delicacy.”

“Which is why I have enlisted your aid,” The gentleman said as he leaned upon Pym’s shoulder.

“Limehouse is a world unto its own. It gives up its secrets rather fatally.”

“But you do have something—” Pemberton, still leaning close, continued in his tone of confidentiality.”

Pym, still having not turned to look at the man, took a measured inhalation of his cigarette, “A lead, perhaps. But it runs of course to the most impenetrable of fortresses.”

The man Pemberton smiled like a Cheshire Cat, “I shall be the judge of just how impenetrable.”

Pym’s expression became extremely mischievous as he turned now to look at the man, “Then follow the finances, Pemberton. It would seem that the various accountants, whose shadowy transactions run along the most circumlocutious of routes, are upon occasion, forced to leave a seemingly innocuous trail. But a trail nonetheless.

“Yes?” Pemberton urged.

“A trail which leads to The Box Brother’s Bank.” Pym told him with some satisfaction.

Whatever the significance of that establishment, The Box Brother’s Bank, Mr Pemberton frowned severely and knocked back his glass of champagne—which was obviously already one of many. “I want the name of the power behind Sal – and you,” He pointed to Pym, “You. You owe me.” He put the empty champagne glass down on the table so as to lean down to look sternly at him.

I could barely suppress a smile for it would seem that even the nefarious Mr Pym could likewise be intimidated—even extorted.

“Carmichael,” Came the sultry voice which I immediately recognized as that of Lady Hélène Beltham as she approached our table. She wore a striking emerald gown with a matching silk top-hat, whose veil fell across half her face, “As I am covering Neville’s debts – I must say, I have no recollection of your name in the ledger.”

“There’s a mystery lurking in Limehouse.” The man whom I now knew to be Carmichael Pemberton, replied rather curtly. “The syndicate, whose root has ever been planted firmly along the Limehouse Causeway, is seeking to extent it’s reach, far beyond West India Dock Road and Pennyfields, owing now to the fragility of London created by this damnable war. And behind this criminal network there lies a name. A name no one dares even to whisper. But, it is a name I intend to hear.”

Sweepingly languidly into a chair beside me, Lady Hélène smiled – and it was one of the most sinister smiles I think I have ever seen. “There are some who believe one should not invoke the name of something, which once summoned, one can not put down. Am I not right Madam Eskimoff?”

The woman to whom Lady Hélène addressed was tall and slender with huge expressive eyes which one would have expected to have seen in some magazine illustration. They were, upon the briefest of glances, absolutely captivating. Her silver-streaked tresses were pinned up, but done so in such a precarious manner that one would think a careless hand could have haphazardly reached out and with the slightest of touches allowed it to all to come tumbling down. She wore a black taffeta gown that looked simple but not severe, as well as amber beads and a Lalique brooch. “If one values their life.” She answered.

“Carmichael seeks to invoke names.” Lady Hélène said rather whimsically to the woman in the black taffeta gown. “What prediction do you have for him in that endeavour?”

“I see another glass of Champagne in his future.” The woman in the taffeta gown said dispassionately as she continued on her way past our table.

Gruffly, Mr Pemberton strode away.

Lady Hélène’s smile disappeared as she glared through her veil at Mr Pym, “While we remain associated, you will refrain from any and all prospects as a private inquiry agent, should they arise. I demand exclusivity, as do my clients – and that includes your Embassy as well – particularly, in regards to any communications or directives, of which you shall keep me apprised. Do you understand.”

“Certainly,” He said with that wave of the hand bearing his cigarette – which he seemed ever to use as some theatrical prop.

“And so Veronica?” She turned abruptly to me and asked, “What do you think?”

“In regards to what, Lady Hélène.”

“The Cavern.” She replied as if the question was simply obvious.

“It’s all so splendid.” I told her truthfully.

“Am I as hateful now?” She inquired, turning to gaze at me inquiringly, but continued before I could reply. “What a wide world we live in and only such a small part of it we are allowed to see—each, of course, according to our own circumstance. And yet, as you can observe, I give to you access and agency to all my considerable connections.”

I looked at her in puzzlement.

The atmosphere of the Cavern and Vodka seemed to have made her accessible, even capricious as she looked at me somewhat amused and conspiratorial, “Let us take Neville here for example.”

He smiled and nodded in some deference.

“When first he arrived in London he had only those contacts which had been established, at some appreciable cost, by the Ohkrana, using bribes and blackmail and sweet scented sex. To which, he has since augmented by his own ingenuity and initiative. But, now—he has broader horizons for he has at hand all of my network here and in France and . . . .”

“France?” I asked.

She smiled, “Oh, yes—I believe you would love Paris.”

“Paris.” I had to admit I repeated longingly.

Her hazel eyes beneath the lace of the veil seemed for a moment to be contemplating the possibility of just such an excursion, afternoons at café’s and along, narrow, sun-dappled Parisian streets, with her as guide and myself as – as what? What was I other than some indentured servant bound by blackmail and extortion. Only as she sat there beside me, it in some ways felt more like when the instructress came to sit at the biology lab table to go over my dissection. And so—if not a servant? What? For a brief moment I thought – a protégée?

“So you see my dear, we all seek to extend our reach. You. Neville. Even myself. For as considerable as my influence and the sphere of my operations, there other far more extensive networks which masquerade, in the light of day, as mere criminal enterprises, but who are in truth, a shadowy world of forces of destabilization and grand Napoleonic ambitions. This war – it will manifestly unleash those, who with their agent provocateurs and their false flag assassins and saboteurs, have sought to systematically deteriorate governments and realign borders so as to escape the limits of their nationalistic containments in order to achieve the wide ranging goal of obtaining global access. Of these, one has reached out to me for assistance.” And her smile softened, “An assistance I provide through you my dear. For which, you shall be recompensed by an invitation to my world and all that is within it. And so, now you must ask yourself – what price comes with this ticket?”

“But you’re talking about –“ I grasped the ramifications.

“I am talking about power. A power that you already seek.” Lady Hélène’s sultry voice said over the din of the Cavern. The energetic negro band’s raucous music, the muttering dissonance of the conversations, the boisterous outbursts of laughter all seemed to fade away as this villainess in the chic emerald gown and silk top hat, with its frail veil failing to conceal her face, did in truth captivated me. “You are a suffragette—a radical seeking to change a world she knows to be unjust, to be unfair . . . a world into which she has been enforced to inhabit owing to the very nature of her birth. To be born a woman. Coerced into subservience to a masculine world by convention, by law – by man-made law. Restricted in all things until she acquiesces to the acceptance of some proper alliance with a man.” She placed her delicate, long finger hand above my heart—which I felt flutter at the touch, ”You feel it here. An anxious passion – for what? The vote? And what if you obtain it? Will it set you free? No. You will still be just as shackled to your skirt. And you know it.” She pressed her hand upon me harder. “Power is freedom. Freedom to do what you will – to act upon the world and to do so at your whim. And to do that my dear you have to have very real power—economic power and the will to wield it. It is money my dear and the connections that it brings, which gives you equal footing in this man’s world. When you can walk into a room and you can buy any man within it. And as evil as you believe me to be that is what I can offer. A ticket to my world. And what if the price of the ticket is a bit of venery? You are no innocent. You give it away now as the price on a lease to the very world you so long to escape.”

More than amazed, I was extremely vexed with the contradiction – upon one hand she expresses accurately all my wrath for the order of things, the state of affairs, the lot of women in a world of injustice and enforced sublimation, the very basics of my membership in the militant movements, and so entreaties me to join her association so as to achieve the every freedom and power that I seek, while upon the other, she has used the most vile and reprehensible forms of coercion, no extortion, to force me into subservience which was the fabric upon which this purported ‘ticket’ was printed: “And this grand illusion of a wondrous and magnanimous invitation of which you speak, of power, of freedom, is offered upon the very founding principles of extortion and blackmail?”

I was taken aback by her smile at the vehemence of my response, “Guilty before the bar.” Her hazel eyes for the first time looking at me subjectively rather than as an mere object of her possession, “But as I said, Veronica, the freedom that I offer – is the freedom to do what you will – to act upon the world and to do so upon your whim. And so, for myself? I act in mysterious ways – my wonders to perform. It is not my lot, nor my inclination, to save all of womankind. In that regard I am selfish and I make no pretence to the contrary. After this war, by attrition, women shall achieve a numeric superiority – let them do with it what they wilt. But as for you – whatever the origins of our association – I am, by accounts given, most decidedly certain you would be a very considerable asset. If you will assist me, I can assure you I shall give everything back you rightly think I have taken from you . . . and more, for in further compensation, I can make you remarkable.”

“And so, from your lofty mountain side, I assume you desire I counter-sign this ticket of yours in blood.” I disparaged the offer, “Payment due: my soul?”

The placid Miss Miniver, who had seemed utterly distracted by the conversation now gave me a quick glance.

Whereas, Lady Hélène merely cocked her head slightly, “I just need your heart in this endeavour. You can keep your soul.”

To which Miss Miniver suddenly arose, “Well—if you will excuse me. I’m going to look for a soul to take.” And then, she glided away into the crowd.

“Souls?” Came an soft voice, nearly a whisper, with an accent so oddly out of place it startled me in that it was German. “It is the night to speak of them. Madam Eskimoff and Mr Singleton share a table with Miss Coleman-Smith, and I have been told Mr Waite is somewhere about. I soon suspect there will be the reading of palms. If not Miss Pixie’s marvellous cards. Perhaps – you have brought your spirit board?” The gentleman was of medium height, well dressed in dark evening clothes. He had a white rose in his lapel. “It is so good to see you again Lady Hélène.”

“And you Anton.” She acknowledged, “It is all as decadent as ever it was.”

“Oh, that is very high praise, indeed Lady Hélène.” He gave her a most vulpine smile. “But I can not take all the credit – much of it lies with by lovely partner, Christabel. Who at the moment is detained with matters of some importance. But, as I understand it – she requests Mr Pym, a brief consultation before you depart this evening.”

Pym nodded, “I would be delighted.”

Lady Hélène cocked her head as she looked at Pym.

“Now if you will excuse me – there is some business of which I need to attend. It was so nice to see you again, Lady Hélène.” The gentleman said.

“As always, Anton.” She nodded.

Lady Hélène explained as I watched the man stride through the crowd, stopping to place a reassuring hand upon a shoulder, or to grasp in handshake, or to kiss, the hand of a patron, that the soft spoken gentleman was Anton Baader. A Swiss financer who had backed several night spots in Zurich, and, having become aware of the distress and bankruptcy of the Golden Calf had, in partnership with a young American, a Christabel Winthrop, from New York, taken the Cave out of receivership and resurrected it as the Cavern of the Golden Calf. But I gathered they knew each other long before he arrived in London.

“Neville, please entertain Miss Veronica, as there is someone I need to see,” And suddenly she too was up and gone in a rustle of the fabulous fabric of her emerald gown.

And so with Miss Miniver’s departure and then the sweeping exit of Lady Hélène, I was left alone with Pym, who looked a bit distracted as he had been every since Mr Pemberton’s hand had alighted upon his shoulder. Nonchalantly, he brought his cigarette to his lips. “You truly must already be remarkable. I have never heard her make such a offer.”

“You fancy?” I said coldly, “Whereas upon my experience, with particular regard to you Mr Pym, I suspect a mere gulling in order to achieve whatever is her daily whim.” And I arose from the table. I wanted to be away from them all so they could no longer divert my mind with their persistent ploys of alternative threats and compliments. But of them all I wanted to be away from Pym and his supercilious smile. “And so, if I am not shackled to you, I would like to do a bit of spelunking.”

He waved a smoke trailing hand as if in dismissal and I stepped away from the table with the hope that Mr Pemberton would soon return to take up my vacated seat.

In the large but narrow cavern of the club, I slipped easily into the flow of the busy foot traffic which progressed about the outer edges of the tables and carefully skirted the smaller dance floor. I passed two keenly observant and ostentatiously preoccupied waiters as I attempted to proceed with that air of self-confident serenity which I felt should be the proper decorum for a young lady, alone, amongst such a lively gathering, even as my thoughts were anything but serene. My deliberations were in such contradiction. On the one hand I felt myself a gilded prisoner shackled to the machinations of those whose motivations I could only suspect. While on the other hand, as I moved about the Cavern, I found myself wondering what my life would be like if I were to accept Lady Hélène’s most unseemly offer. And for a moment found myself, amidst these revellers dancing and laughing and conversing in a den consecrated to a Golden Calf and was struck by the sheer wickedness of it all, which in turn suddenly brought up odd thoughts and vaguely half remembered bits of scripture from the bible. I mean I have read it, as I guess everyone has, or anyone brought up in Morningside Park would, but as to religion, there wasn’t any in me—not really, nothing worth a rap. I suppose I believe in God . . . perhaps indistinctly as some substratum of the evolutionary process, but with a rather vague sentiment that in truth demonstrated that I had never really given a contemplative moment for God the Father or his Son. And I must say how horrid that appears in writing, but however counter to social convention, it is the truth. I am a student of science, a scientist and a true believer in Darwin’s proposition – but nevertheless, while seeking the ladies retiring room, I could not help thinking of Christ and of his temptations – only rather than Lucifer, the bright and morning star, Lady Hélène was my temptress. “All these things I will give to you” (which of course, if one were to logically analyse said temptation, it begged the question as to the proper ownership the proffered kingdoms and of the world, particularly, if one were a believer). But this world – which the Cavern of the Golden Calf could be considered as a cathedral or some form of temple of impermissible worship, hence the very golden idol itself – of hers, with its promise of influence and power, with its connections to men and women of rank, was without a doubt a considerable and compelling lure.

I eventually found the retiring room, which was an absolute marvel to behold. Enamelled hand basins with gold taps and fixtures, fluted bowls – enclosed within their own private closet rooms – adorned with rich mahogany seats, which rather than having china cisterns mounted upon the wall had instead suspended glass globes, which contained seemingly contented goldfish. It was all ornate and bespoke of excessive decadence – which was what too many woman still felt in retiring to one and so refused to use such public facilities. Feeling far more comfortable than when I had entered, as I exited the privacy of my cherry wood water closet and moved across the black and white tilted floor a dour attendant stepped over and held out a fine hand cloth. I stepped forward to the basins and took notice of a very tall and strikingly beautiful young woman standing before one of the full length mirrors, arranging her stays and turning to the side to inspected her figure. “You are Lady Hélène’s new pet.” She said evenly.

I turned and looked at her with a mounting anger – this was beyond imagining. To be followed – even here. But, clutching the wash cloth and aware of the attendant, I sought restraint. “I beg your pardon.” I replied coldly.

“It’s alright.” The young woman said to my reflection in her mirror, “There are only a few of us tarts brazen enough to come and take a piss.”

“Do I know you?” I was vaguely aware there was something familiar about her.

“I am one of Francis’ models.”

“You where there that night.” I now recalled and glanced at the attendant – a rather severe looking woman in a matronly olive-hued uniform and heavy shoes. This was certainly not the place to discuss – the events of that night.

The fair-haired woman smiled in the mirror glass, “Anton assures that the attendants know better than to pay heed to anything they might overhear. But yes,” She turned from our reflections to look at me, “I was the one to help you with your clasps and buttons as Miss Miniver seemed . . . usually reticent. I must say, you certainly do have the goods. There is quite a growing occupation for smut, you know.”

“I can assure you—“

She smiled as she sauntered toward me, one hand upon her hip. Close now, she suddenly reached out and took my hands before I could resist and turned them over to examine my wrists. I took note of her eyes as they glanced up to my throat. “Come and see me—whenever you grow wearisome to them.”

“And you are,” I pulled free of her grasp.

She produced a card, almost as a magician would reveal a concealed silken handkerchief, from her left sleeve: Hermione Dove. “After you have decided.”

“Decided what?”

“Whether or not you are still a daddy’s girl trying to determine if she is a good girl about to go bad, or a bad girl trying her to maintain that she is good.” She smiled seductively and then began to sashay toward the door, “Oh, a word of advice.” She stopped, her long slender fingers upon the threshold, “Be mindful to stay clear of Coldfall.”

I looked at the dour woman, who adverted her eyes. Hermione Dove stepped beyond the threshold and was gone. I stood there looking at her card, her name and an address in Soho. I put it away in my purse and hurriedly washed up .

Upon exiting the retiring room, I once more resumed my role of flâneur. For everywhere, I turned there was something else to see. And I hoped my awe entranced gaze was not as discernable as I felt it to be, especially as I passed a table were the company T. S. Elliot entertained were discussing the weather and the seemingly endless days of snow and gloom over London. I overheard them voicing their desire for March to make haste and to be gone, to which Eliot replied, “Ah, but alas, I find April to be the cruellest month.”

And they all laughed.

I had loved his Love Song of J. Alfred Purfrock, with it’s melancholy of longing and regret. And time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions . . . even as the pathway between the tables now presented a bifurcation, for which I felt a moments indecision. Which to take. For an odd second I had the thought that one would leading me to a vision of myself as I was, while the other a revision of what I might become. More amazing was that just as I had made a decision and was about to step forward, still contemplating the line from J. Alfred Purfuock, I chanced to overhear: “You would be well advised to take care Alfred.”

It was a voice I recognized.

I turned to see at the table to my left the woman in the black taffeta gown, Madam Eskimoff, who was sitting with a gentleman and a woman in a magenta dress and strands of beads layered about her neck, as she absently smoked a cigarette from a short, silver holder, while she sketched upon various napkins she had obtained.

“You very well know what they are capable of . . . “ Madam Eskimoff abruptly broke off their conversation as she glanced up at me with those dark, inquisitive eyes, “You were with Lady Hélène?” She observed more than questioned, “You are indecisive, yes. A choice lies before you.” I could not place her accent. “I sense there is much vexation.”

“Yes—“ I replied.

“Perhaps you should have a seat, Miss Wells.” She offered.

“How did you know my name?” I asked.

“She is Madam Eskimoff,“ The gentleman beside her said arising to pull back a chair for me to have a seat, “Allow me to introduce Mr Singleton,” she offered. And he took my hand and explained he indeed was Alfred Singleton, an occasional psychic and a freelance author for the Journal of the Occult.

“Occasional?” I asked perplexed – thinking one either claimed to have the talent or not.

“It is just that my abilities wax and wane.” He explained as he reseated himself by Madam Eskimoff, “You see, rather than being able to direct my gift, as some, I am in fact, at times, quite the victim, paralyzed by some of the most unwanted and quite disturbing of visions. All of which come upon their own volition.” He explained.

“Or when the stars are aligned,” Madam said, “And this – this is Pixie.” She continued her table’s introductions.

The woman looked up from her sketches, “If you are going to do a reading, I would much rather you wouldn’t. Whenever you start dealing them out everyone starts gathering about and wanting . . . autographs—with sketches.”

“Pixie you see is Pamela Colman-Smith,” Madam Eskimoff explained as she removed from her purse a square object wrapped in a black silk cloth. Slowly removing the cloth she revealed a odd deck of cards. I took note now that Pixie was looking about anxiously, “I asked rather you wouldn’t.”

“It was been a rather exhausting evening and I have not the energy,” The lovely Madam Eskimoff sighed as she placed the deck before her. She smiled, “You see, Pixie illustrated these for Mr Waite.”

The woman frowned, “He’s about,” She waved the charcoal with which she had been sketching, “Somewhere.”

“These are the Tarot?” I asked.

“Indeed.” There was an amused flash in her dark fascinating eyes. “You wish a closer inspection?”

Of course, I have as little belief in the occult as religion but I must admit the wicked deck of cards held a certain allure. “May I?”

She nodded ascent but left the deck sitting in place before her rather than pushing it across the table as I would have expected.

I reached out to pick them up.

“It would be better to use your left hand.” Colman-Smith said as she took a long drag from her cigarette holder, which she held between her thumb and forefinger as she sat back in her chair looking away to the crowded tables. I was aware of Singleton’s singular observation of me. Seeing visions I wonder?

“Yes.” He said.

“I am sorry?” I replied awkwardly.

“She was quite correct,” He seemed now to be a bit entranced, “You certainly do . . . have . . . the goods.”

My hand froze above the cards.

“Alfred—one should really try to keep someone else’s thoughts to one’s self.” She looked at me, her eyes now more compelling, “Miss Wells – please. You wished to see the cards.”

I took the deck and rifled through them slowly seeing various cards which seemed to be depictions of archetypes, such as The High Priestess, The Moon, The Star, Judgement, and then some that seemed to be depictions of various scenes of conflict or family life. An eyebrow lifted, Miss Colman-Smith, turned back to look at me with some interest as I examined them – no doubt attempting to ascertain my reaction to her illustrations – which were all marvellous.

“Within the tarot deck there are 78 cards divided into two Acrana’s, the Major, consisting of 22 cards, and the Minor with 56.” Mr Singleton explained a bit shamefaced, recovering from his previous impropriety. “They have been used for games as well as for divinatory and esoteric purposes.”

I looked at the card Judgement with it’s depiction of an attractive blonde cherub blowing a trumpet from above, whilst below, what appeared to be a family, naked, a man, a woman, and a child, were arising from either coffins or crypts with hands uplifted. “Games?” What possible games could be played with such cards?

“Oh, yes – well, perhaps not so much in England.” He replied and took a sip from his sherry glass.

But any further instruction was interrupted: “Veronica, if I may,” Lady Hélène said suddenly as she appeared at my side, “Madam Eskimoff, if you would excuse us.” She had taken my hand and helped me to my feet.

“Of course,” Madam Eskimoff’s dark eyes were in disarming contradiction – as if she had more to say. I arose from the table as she reached out to retrieve the cards – one of which had fallen clear of the deck. She picked it up, with it’s back to me, and then looked up, “But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen.” She said.

“How?” I started to ask how she knew I had been thinking of Eliot’s poem, but Lady Hélène’s palm, pressed against the small of my back, was insistent.

I cocked my head slightly as I gazed back at her. “Would it have been worth while?”

“Perhaps, you will see me before you depart this evening.” She reached out and took back her cards.

I nodded as I accompanied the insistent Lady Hélène. We moved from the table and proceeded now a few paces toward the large bar that occupied nearly the whole of the back of the Cavern.

“It is impressive is it not?” She asked as she moved along among the tables, “Representatives of all the arts. Painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, poets, singers, dancers.”

I was uncertain of the intent of this promenade as we skirted a lively table of khaki service men, “Service men.” She continued as we approached a crowd of gentlemen standing or lounging about the long, mahogany bar in their various cliques of conversations. “Politicians. Members of the aristocracy.” She waved a hand, “Everywhere you look there are people here who will make or change history. “

She stopped and turned to look at me. I took notice that an eyelash was close to flickering against the material of the veil that swept across half her face, her hazel eyes thought looking into mine seemed guarded.

“As well as those from academia. Mathematicians, physicians, literature professors, and of course scientists.” Her lips curled into a smile, “Science—isn’t that your subject. Yes?”

“Yes.” I concurred – still trying to determine precisely the meaning behind this meandering discourse and excursion within the Cavern.

“There, you see that gentleman at the bar?” She asked discreetly.

I glanced over to see several gentleman, “The tall one in the grey suit, “ she directed my gaze.

The gentleman indeed wore a grey Savile-Row suit and stiff starched collar. He was tall, exceedingly so, a forehead made more prominent by the recession of his hair. His long fingers were busy now mixing drinks for his companions, rather than allowing the bar attendant to do so.

“That is Winston Pleydell-Smith. A member of the board of the Chemist Society. He is among the head chemists for May & Baker, one of several influential chemical companies in Britain, which also happens to have licence for various patents from the Établissements Poulenc Frères, with whom they now collaborate.” The sultry voice, soft and low, a near conspiratorial whisper as she stepped ever closer.

I watched as he handed over a drink to one of the gentleman beside him, and he took up a bottle of emerald liqueur and began to mix another.

“He’s rather unique in that not only is he a scientist, a chemist, but, he is also an alchemist as well.”

“An alchemist?”

“The well from which all our chemistry and physics arise. Even now he is working on experimentation to wed the two.” She turned to look at me, “Are you aware that that in regards to world oil production Romania ranks 6th. I would have never guessed. But, of course it’s production has steadily increased since 1904 – with the assistance of the Standard Oil. Now—can you guess for whom Winston Pleydell-Smith worked before he joined May & Baker?”

“Standard Oil.” I hazarded. Pym had already indicated that much of whatever it was they had need of me, it was in some way wrapped up rather obtusely with oil – and now Lady Helene had so confirmed.

She gave me a satisfied smile, “There, he received all manner of geological surveys from Romania. As well as from Hungry. The whole of the Balkans, conceivably.”

I could not suppress the quizzical look as I had no idea what all of this meant.

“From all accounts we have been given, he has maintained possession of them even after having departed Standard.“ Her voice becoming barely an audible whisper over the conversations and the music of the Jazz band. “And so, my dear, what I need, is I need you to get to know him – to get close to him—by what ever methods necessary, so that you can obtain access into order to get copies of his geological research considering those surveys. As well as any work he maybe doing with antimony.”

“Antimony?”

“Or Mercury, as well.”

“And why not vermillion, since you’re talking about alchemy.” I retorted.

“And why not?” The palm of her hand once more pressed into the small of my back as she suddenly urged me forward.

I took a few halting steps – so this was their game. Oil? I glanced back as she stood for a moment watching. Was the nefarious organization to which she had earlier referred, Standard Oil? Or Royal Dutch Shell? Not Russian, or German, or Austrian-Hungarian, or French, or Turkish, or even Italian, but rather, this was all a matter of some industrial espionage over petroleum?

But why had Miniver said blood?

There was nothing else for it but to proceed. I approached and watched, as with a steady hand and a cool demeanour, the tall gentleman began preparation for a new drink. His smile widening appreciably as I approached, “I say, what have we here? A aficionado or a neophyte? Either way, step aside for the lovely lady, Ormbsy. That’s a good fellow. Just so – and now, we shan’t await a moment longer, you must tell us have you been properly introduced to The Green Lady.” He asked in a voice that seemed perfectly suited for public ingratiation or the clergy.

My thoughts immediately flew to the svelte and haughty Lady Hélène in the emerald gown, with her matching top-hat and veil, whom I took a furtive glance to see if I were still under her observation only to find she no longer stood at her previous point of vantage. “The Green Lady?” I replied inquisitively, in a voice far more social than I would have imagined myself capable – owing to the circumstance. Get close to him by any methods necessary – she had said and I knew precisely her implications.

His eyes fairly twinkled with amusement as he turned the bottle of emerald liquor toward me revealing the label, it was a French brand of absinthe.

“Oh, well, then. I am most certainly a neophyte. I have heard a great deal but I have never made her acquaintance.”

He brought his hands together and rubbed them eagerly, “Then, by all means you shall be properly introduced.”

To which several of the gentleman about him hardily disagreed as they wanted their moment of introduction first, to which Winston Pleydell-Smith, introduced them each in turn as either colleagues from May & Baker or from the Chemist Society.

Each were very glad to make my acquaintance and wanting to know a bit about me, were all enthused to hear I was just finishing University with double-firsts in biology and chemistry – to which there were lifted glasses of hardy congratulations.

“Now by all means we certainly must get you and The Green Lady acquainted,” He said with a jaunty cock of an eyebrow.

Thus he took a glass, which he informed me was a Pontaarlier – “Named for the French town which was home to the first large absinthe distillery, although the history of the liquor actually predates back to the Egyptians, don’t you know, but, the real credit, ah”—and he stopped to slowly pour the emerald liquid from its bottle into the bubbled-stem bottom of the glass, which he later explained was the ‘well‘ as his steady hand filled it perfectly—“that lies with Dr. Ordinaire, Pierre Ordinaite,” his commentary continued as he took up what looked like some flattened, ornate utensil which resembling a fork, one whose tines had all been enclosed and then surrounded by rather intricate openings, but, it is called a spoon. He used it to point to the glass—“Now Dr. Ordinaire, having taken his retreat from the bloody French Revolution, like any sensible man would, to a small Swiss town decided one day to mix up some local herbs with artemisia absinthium”— which he gave me a look of approval when I recognized wormwood. “Spot on my dear, spot on,” he exclaimed as he placed the ornate silver spoon flat atop the glass, and reached over to take up a cube of sugar. “Now Dr Ordinaire passed about this marvellous little emerald concoction as a cure for just about everything from anemia to flatulence – although, of course we know the history of the use of wormwood for medicinal purposes goes as far back to the Greeks, who used it for the treatment of intestinal worms.” He began slowly pouring water from the pitcher upon the sugar cube, which began to slowly melt away, dripping down into the well of the glass and forming a milky cloud within the emerald liquor. “But alas, those having a taste of the little elixir did so less for its medicinal purposes. Seems it spread throughout France shortly after our Dr. Ordinaire passed on the secret of his recipe before he himself passed away and Henri-Louis Pernod began to distill it. Now, if you watch carefully you will see the reaction of the fennel to the water.” In the well the emerald liquor began to materialize as swirl of a cloud witin the glass. “That is the louche.” He explained with a warm smile.

“I hear it has a psychoactive element.” I watched the as the liquor became cloudier as the water dripped through the spoon’s opening and the cube of sugar continued to dissolve.

“That would be the thujone, my dear.”

He removed the spoon and handed me the glass, which had a slight scent of mint or menthol, “I find the blissful aroma sooths away the day.”

“Here, here,” all the other gentlemen hardily agreed.

They all watched as I took a sip. “It is rather good.”

“By Jove, I think she likes it.” He said to his companions and and then began preparing another.

And mayhap he was correct for I soon fell into an easy and quite agreeable conversation – which was facilitated in part by his amiable nature, as well as the cloudy drink. Each sip grew lovelier and lovelier and I soon found myself no longer awkwardly self-conscious and anxious upon the occasion of this furtively and manipulated encounter. I soon found myself discoursing upon various topics, the atmosphere of the Cavern, the celebrity of its clientele, the admission that this was my first visit to the night spot and that no I had not seen it when Madam Strindberg was the proprietor, nor, any of the little entertainments she had produced, as in most cases my nights were involved in study. Upon this he was curious – and even more so when I proclaimed my studies were in biology and chemistry, of which I had just received firsts, as there was the clear sense that his attentions now began to manifest themselves now beyond just my hips and bust. He seemed particularly fascinated in my interests in comparative anatomy. He mixed up another drink – and as I sipped I felt myself growing more conversant. I admitted to having made no plans at the moment past the university – and here, I wandered into a prolonged discourse upon my impatient and imperative need for independence from the restrictions of my father’s household and his manifest display of ownership. As if parenting were proprietorship and I was nothing more than some common household good. Which of course was the way of the world was it not for women – in one way or another, to be indentured. To be used. It was ever the commodification of the vagina. The bawdiness of which threw the clique of companions into sudden grew silence. Until it was broken by one of the gentleman, of his group, a Mr Ormbsy Cooper, who asked if I were a suffragette. I admitted that was the case – taking note now of several frowns. But, Winston Pleydell-Smith, took up the defence. “As biology is wont to teach us – the female of the species is a worthy adversary – better take care Ormbsy.” He handed the gentleman a drink and gave him a smile. I felt flushed and euphoric – and am positive at some point I began to grow a bit flirtatious with the tall, amiable, and idealistic chemist. I am not certain how long we stood there conversing before Miss Miniver arrived to apologetically interrupt so as to excuse me – indicating our party was preparing to depart. To which he passed me is card, and told me to contact him – should I decide on chemistry – as he would be more than happy to use his connections at May & Baker.

It was upon moving away from him and his companions, some of which were not as sorrowful as others to see me go that I felt the full effect of the drinks. Miss Miniver guided me through the maze of tables, “It would be best we leave him with the impression of his intelligent schoolgirl verses the memory of your all too imminent collapse.”

In passing Madam Eskimoff’s table I slipped away from Miss Miniver, whose grasp was so strong she would have not left me go save for making more of a scene than my intoxication already displayed. I took a seat beside her, as apparently Mr Singleton had stepped away. Even though aware of Miss Miniver hovering over me, in her seeming unperturbed composure, I looked at Madam Eskimoff and then up at the pale, prim woman, “What do you think? Do I a have a future?”

“Yes, my dear Miss Wells. If you take care.” And she leaned forward and whispered “The dead travel quick. Blood is not only the life but an uncertain death.” I felt her slip a card into my purse, which I was surprised I was still clutching.

And so it was with a kaleidoscope of fragmented memories and an most abominable headache, I stood within the dim sunlight falling through the tall undraped windows of Francis Aytown’s studio, in haughty nude defiance of Miss Miniver’s gaze. The ardent scrutiny of which she refused to advert by way of any propriety as she allowed it to linger over the fine lines and curves of my body, the delicacy of structure of hip and pelvic bone, the pale complexion of my flesh, the wanton exposure of my carnality. Whereupon I was amazed that rather than being intimidated by her frank observation, I felt devoid of modesty or shamefulness.

“Here. Drink this.” She handed me a glass.

“What is it?” It did not look at all pleasant.

“Magnesia for the heartburn. Rum. Sugar syrup. Cocaine.” She said as I took the glass from her cold fingers.

Languidly, a trifle off-balance, I began a search for my clothes. “I was led to believe . . . you and Aytown . . .”

“Were lovers?’ She said as she continued to watch me with interest as I moved over now to a high-backed chair upon which my dress was draped.

“We have a mutually beneficial arrangement.” She told me as she sauntered over slowly to pass me my undergarments. We continued to converse as I unhurriedly began to get dressed – apparently they had established their arrangement about a year ago. He had already been a smut peddler – but the clientele and distribution for his photographic art work had manifestly increased upon her intervention and procurement of far more appropriate modelling talent for his . . . artistic enterprises. I asked her if she felt any sense of betrayal or guilt in her acquisition of young ladies to be so luridly captured by the lens of Aytown’s camera. To be so fetishized purely for the satisfaction of masculine desires.

“Because I should be one sister woman to another?” She sardonically asked, sloganeering from the woman’s movement.

I no doubt was beginning to feel the effects of the cocaine, “No.” I told her forthrightly, “Because you’re a sapphist.”

Her sharp-toothed smile was wicked as she reached over and slipped the top button of my dresses’ high collar into it’s button-hole. “Time you found your way home Miss Wells.”

Dressed, hair loosely pinned and hatless, I descended down the narrow flight of stairs and outside into the narrow lane, where I found the night had blanketed London in a lovely white sheen. And though I longed to savour the wintery hush of the city, it would have been quite a snowy walk to my rooms and I was unaware of just how long Miss Miniver’s delightful concoction would last. I clasped the money she had given me for a cab and quickly hailed one.

In hindsight I find

I must break off – there’s Bradley at the door.

View
Scotland Yard Jacks
Session Three – Part One

Ripley_building.jpg

Inspector Stone’s Casebook
10 March – Morning

It was 10:00 o’clock when we stepped from the warmth of the striped red brick and Portland stone constabulary castle of Scotland Yard and into the grim, grey winter’s day. The sun was obscured by the leaden clouds. The wind came brusque off the Victorian Embankment and the Thames.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” PC Alderton said as she secured her hat.

“A sentiment we both share." I replied while buttoning my coat, “I fear there shall be nothing but more obfuscation to come from this visit to The Admiralty.”

With a slight adjustment of her glove, PC Alderton turned to look up at the grim sky: “Obfuscation? My you’re quite the optimist this morning Inspector Stone.” She turned to give me that wistful smile of hers: "Whereas, for me, I see this all ending in some mysterious visitation from men in black suits—with orders sufficient to explain how we have never existed. If the death of Pamela Dean does indeed lead into the halls of The Admiralty House, then mist and fog will be of little comparison to the high and mighty muckety-muck to which we will soon find ourselves to be wading.”

I gave her an appraising look — Vera Alderton was fast becoming prescient in the commodification of justice and its application in regards to peerage and privilege. Save, I did not know as to how privy she was to the shadowy hellhole that was the Thorndyke affair. There had been the erection of the wall of silence built not only to protect the Yard but the reputations of those who had commissioned Robertson-Kirk to begin with. And so, new to the constabulary, and even more so being a woman, I could only speculate as to whether the whisperings regarding Robertson-Kirk from the lofty turrets above had filtered down into the storage basement of which she made her office—

I looked at her and decided there would be time enough to discuss the Machiavellian machinations and the apparent resurrection of City Inspector Spencer. But what distressed me, owing to my conversation with Barrington, was the prospect, which continues even now to plague my mind, is that though he’s been reinstated into the City of London Police did Robertson-Kirk still hold his leash. Ever held tightly, he was not known to run too far. And there were indications – but to what ends? Robertson-Kirk had been thoroughly disgraced. I didn’t want to speculate with Barrington nor to burden Alderton – not at this preliminary juncture, but what was troublesome was the irksome wonder if it were at all possible that the dismantling of the Secret Investigative Division had been nothing more than a sham. The gulling of meddlesome broadsheet scribblers and reactionary politicians.

PC Alderton took a step down and asked, “Shall we walk?”

Although the city had been blanketed with what had been officially recorded as 2-inches of freshly fallen snow, the Cleaning Department had been at work upon first light clearing up Parliament Street and Whitehall. “I will follow your lead.” I motioned with my hand for her to proceed.

“This woman, the one you saw upon the bridge. Are you certain she was alone?” I asked idly as we walked now side-by-side.

“Quite certain.” PC Alderton replied as a wry smile curled the corner of her mouth, “The only person on the other side of the bridge was the snowman I made.”

I cut a humorous glance toward her, “From you report you indicated that she was pale—was there . . . perhaps any indication as to the colour of her hair? Might it have been red?"

We approached Horse Guards Avenue.

She gave me a quizzical glance, “How do you mean?

I retrieved from my heavy, woollen coat a page from the facsimile Miss Reedmin had produced for me the night before and passed it over to her, “From Cotford’s Casebook.”

Evidence of Jeremiah Hurley- Verbatim: I live at 10 Arundel-place, Arundel -street, and I am a broom-man. I work for various establishments along the Strand where I sweep up before morning business. I was coming back round Surrey Street heading to my digs to get a bit of mother’s ruin to warm up, when a copper he come runnin’ up to me. He was a bit off the rail so to speak and winded. He told me to run off and find his mate, which I did and directed him to the pier from which the other copper had come. I was of a mind to see what was what and so I stood as to where the other coppers would let me and watched. I had not seen anything or no one earlier carrying anything. Now – I did see something a bit queer. And not likin’ to cast me dispersions in anyone’s direction like. But, as I was standin’, watchin’ where I could, before them coppers come to move me a-ways, I saw a black motorcar pull short like of the bridge there and it makes its way slowly down towards the timber yard. Not like all the ways, but just like, right there. You know. And this here copper, the one that I fetched for the first one, he walked up to it. When the window lowered, crikey there was a really nice piece in back with red-hair. She spoke to the copper. He reached in and took something from her. Could be wrong, but it looked like a purse to me. They spoke a bit and then the motorcar backs away and goes off over the bridge. The copper, he makes his way quick-like down the embankment and then comes back up. And he ain’t got the purse no more.

In silence we continued down Whitehall as PC Alderton read the account taken from the broom-man.

“As to the colour of her hair, sadly I was not able to distinguish. Doesn’t mean there might not be a connection though.” She said passing the facsimile back to me. “It was well after dark after all.”

“It is of course not confirmed. The red hair.” I replied folding the page and placing it in my pocketbook and returning both to my inner coat pocket, “As we have not yet put scrutiny to this evidence. But, I think before this day is through we should see Mr Hurley, do you not agree?”

“Assuming the admiralty doesn’t imprison us first.” She said with some anxiety.

“There is of course that possibility.” I muttered softly as we now approached The Admiralty.

Lads already chilled by the first hours of their sentry duty at the Adams Screen, it’s ornate stone façade protecting the entrance to the front square of the three-story structure of offices and apartments for the Lords of the Admiralty, watched as we approached.

A brisk wind blew along Whitehall whipping up snow.

“Good Day. Do you have business here?” The naval sentry asked as he raised his gloved hand before Alderton’s slow approach.

“We are from Scotland yard.” She calmly informed him as she stepped forward removing her identification card from the pocket of her long skirt, “I am PC Alderton and this is Inspector Stone. We are expected. We are here to speak with a Captain Purdy.”

The sentry looked at her Identification and then glanced over to me. I pulled my card out and passed it over as well. He inspected them – twice.

“Right.” He handed the identification passbooks back – mine first and then hers in obvious deference.

I took note of the slight display of irritation in PC Alderton’s eyes even as she did well to conceal her immediate reaction to the sentries preferential treatment, which she, as well as I, felt was spawned less by rank than by gender. But here at the Adam’s Screen was not the proper venue for a philosophical or political discourse on the vagaries of the inequality experienced by women in our society. The young sentry, dressed smartly in his naval uniform and woollen coat, bearing a sidearm, stepped aside and waved us through the Adam Screen’s secured entrance.

As we strolled across the square toward the front entrance of The Admiralty, Alderton, her brows knit slightly, cut a side glance toward me, “I am more than well aware, Inspector, of the impendence for which AC Barrington was coerced into assigning myself as lead of this investigation. I could not help but notice, after our morning assembly, the AC held you back for a private consultation.”

“There were concerns regarding the possible contrivances by members of the London City Police.” I explained as we neared the entrance to the three story, U-shaped brick building of the Admiralty.

“Then this mornings annoyance has yet to breed a consequence?” She asked.

I gave her a steadfast look as I opened the door, “Speculations in that direction are as yet unfounded I can assure you.”

She gave me a look in passing which indicated she still harboured such suspicions. In truth, I too had suspected as much earlier – but Barrington’s overriding import of the morning had been the inclusion of James Fitzjames Spencer into the joint investigation. Just what circumstances could have necessitated his reinstatement into the enforcement of law – which was irony itself. There was of course the possibility with the war effort and the recent conscription – and knowing Spencer, by way of some bureaucratic undertaking upon his behalf, he had sought a method to Star his blue card.

We entered into the lobby which was dimly lit by the muted sunlight falling through the tall windows and echoed with footsteps and shoe leather, the opening and closing of doors, the shuffling of papers, the shutting of desk drawers, the clatter of typewriter keys, amongst a cacophony of voices engaged in public and private conversations. The lobby was a hub from which corridors emptied a host of uniformed personnel preoccupied with matters of war. Dispatches, no doubt, regarding contingences as regards Berlin’s latest actions toward Portugal, as well as the continued swirl of controversy regarding Colonel Churchill’s speech and his subsequent replies regarding the First Lord of the Admiralty.

I removed my bowler as we approached the front desk.

“We are from Scotland Yard. We are here to speak with Captain Purdy, Alexander Purdy.” PC Alderton stepped forward with renewed authority.

The burly naval officer behind the counter did not look up from the various papers before him, “Scotland Yard Jacks.” He grunted in way of receipt of the knowledge.

A young woman in a telegram delivery uniform walked past, waving to the person behind the front desk. It was obvious she had been through this way many times before as the stout naval officer looked up from the pages with which he attempted to be preoccupied. His eyes following the figure of the young woman as he smiled.

Alderson’s attention was diverted by the woman as her eyes followed.

“We arrive here this day upon the direction of the Admiralty.’ I said in rebuff of the man’s disrespect to Alderton. “Captain Purdy made entreaties upon the Yard. If to those who attend him this is of little import, then we shall say good day.”

“Yes, now.” He replied hurriedly, “You have an appointment?”

“I am uncertain of the time, but yes.” Alderton replied returning her attention once more to the man.

“There was a call placed to the Yard. This morning by a Sub-Lieutenant Rice.” I continued.

“That would be Captain Purdy’s aide.” The man nodded as he lifted the receiver of a phone and rang someone up, “Right, I have two coppers here from the Yard to see Captain Purdy. Right. Yes, sir. So, you are coming down? Right.” He hung up. “Sub-Lt. Rice will be here shortly. Mind you stay about the desk.”

“Certainly” Alderton replied

For a few moments we stood idly watching men and woman hurrying about. Some of them on their way no doubt to a cloistered room to plot some naval action which will mean death not only to the enemy but to British sailors as well.

“Be careful if any of them offer you a drink.” She whispered.

“Frightfully sorry to have held you up.” Came a voice from behind. We turned to see a slender young man with straw hued hair, “I shall take you straightway to Captain Purdy. If you will but follow me.”

“Most certainly, sir.’ Alderton replied

We follow the young naval officer down a long hall to a set of elevators. We ascended.

Excerpt from the unpublished novel by Carmichael Pemberton

Randall T________ sat at his desk in Room 40. He had ensured that word got out, anonymously, about B________ being ill, and has just finished copying down the note the two of them had found in his own shorthand.

He put the original document in an envelope, and sealed it, looking around to make sure the few people in the room at that moment had their attention elsewhere.

At that moment, there was a light knock upon the door, and the young telegram delivery woman stepped in.

“Ah Bea!” he smiled and stood as she entered. “Wonderful to see you, just the person I’d been hoping to see. That jacket really does bring out the colour in your eyes you know.”

The woman identified as Bea glared at the rakish cadet. "You do know it is a uniform . . . "

“Yes, yes, but it suits you so very well.”

She sighed, having put up with this before. “What do you want Randy?”

With another smile, Randall handed her the envelope containing the paper he had found this morning. “I want you to take this to the safe deposit box at the telegraph office.”

“Is this official Naval business? Why would you keep this at the telegraph office?”

“You know I can’t tell you that Bea! Besides, would it be anything other than official naval business?” He holds the envelope out to her.

She hesitated for a split second before taking the envelope and putting it in her satchel. “You’d better not be stealing things and using me to get them out. There’s two coppers downstairs.”

For an unperceivable second, Randall’s heart skipped a beat, but he quickly rallied and flashed yet another toothy grin. “You think I’m some kind of spy? Don’t even joke like that Bea, you could lead a man to their doom that way.”

Bea rolled her eyes. “Is there anything else Randy?”

“Dinner?”

“Not on your life.”

Randall shrugged. “Very well, then a delivery shall suffice.”

Bea gave a curt nod, swiftly turning and exiting the room walked on to the other offices to deliver and collect messages.

Randall picked up his lunch bag. “Hey Thomas, I’m heading out for lunch, be back in an hour.” The man addressed as Thomas waved an acknowledgement without looking up from his work, and Randall exits, heading for the roof.

Inspector Stone’s Casebook – continued

The motor of the lift whined to a halt and the metallic grate slid back and the door opened. Sub-Lieutenant Rice, who engaged in only the most perfunctory of conversation in the lift, strode smartly down the hallway. Behind doors bearing half-panels of frosted glass, the sound of typewriters could be heard loudly clacking. The floor is highly polished. It reeked of bureaucracy.

I glance over at PC Alderton, whose observant eyes were scrutinizing everything in passing.

“Well, then, here we are.” Rice announced as he stopped before a door and quickly opened it, which gave entrance to a small anti-chamber, appropriately furnished with a desk, chair, coat rack, and filing cabinets. There was a painting of some 18th century sea battle. As aide, this was apparently Rice’s office. Injudiciously the connecting door had been left ajar so part of an conversation within could be overheard: “. . . it would be far more judicious in the future to use professionals. This smacks of cut-outs. It only complicates matters—and you can damn well tell her that.”

The voice was stern.

Hurriedly the Sub-Lieutenant stepped over and pushed the door further so as to inform those within that there were other’s within earshot, “Captain.”

“Rice. When in consultation, you know best to knock.”

“Right sir.” Rice furtively replied to conceal the fact the door had been left ajar, “Sorry Sir. The inspectors from the yard are here, Sir."

“Send them in."

Rice move so as to allow us entrance into a richly furnished office of mahogany and red leather. A massive desk secured one end of the room, with two Chesterfield chairs positioned before it. In the left hand chair a man sat with his back to us. Behind the desk was another gentleman of middle age, attired in the seemingly impeccable uniform of a naval officer. He was busy attempting to secure the ignition of the tobacco in the bowl of his pipe as he held a flaming match above it.

Without turning to observe our entry, the man in the chair lifted a hand adorned with a woollen glove which had been shorn to expose the flesh of the fingers from the knuckled to fingertip: “Edward.”

The voice was unmistakable. It was James Fitzjames Spenser.

Alderton was momentarily distracted as she watched Rice close the door behind us.

“I would not gainsay to chalk it up to providence that our paths cross again, Spenser.” I said by way of reply as I strode further into office, looking from the naval officer fiddling with the flame of his match held to his pipe and then to the back of Spencer’s head. He was in need of a haircut. “But, merely as overture to this sad opera which begins with the demise of Pamela Dean.”

“And a City Detective.” Spenser added coldly.

“I gather the two of you are acquainted.” The immaculate officer said as he whipped the match in order to extinguish its flame as he tossed it into an ash-tray near at hand. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Captain Purdy.”

“Inspector Edward Stone.” I nodded rather then stepping forward to extend a hand, as the man behind the desk did not likewise move to do so, “This is PC Vera Alderton. I understand you wish to have words with us this morning – I can only deduce this is in regards to the murder investigation of Pamela Dean.”

“You deduce correctly, Inspector.” He waved his hand in the direction of a pair of chairs on either side of a long sideboard sitting against the far wall as he indicated the need to supplement the chairs before his desk, seeing as how Spencer did not rise to offer one to Alderton. “Bring up a seat.”

“I would prefer to stand, if that is ok with you Sir.” Alderton replied as she stood her ground and crossed her arms.

Puffing at the pipe the officer leaned back in his chair, “As you wish.”

“It is most unusual to receive a summons from the Admiralty in a murder case.” Her brows were slightly knitted.

“Quite,” The Captain said. “But, these are unusual times.”

“How so?” She inquired.

The Captain cut a look, “Beyond the daily miscreants and ruffians to which you are no doubt tirelessly devoted to bringing to heel – there is a war on.”

“And Pamela Dean’s death is material to the war effort?” Alderton asked coolly.

“In actuality, yes. And I must say I am surprised Constable—“ Captain Purdy sat up.

“Alderton.” She repeated for him.

“Constable Alderton, I would not have thought you to have so curtly dismissed Dean’s death as nothing more than some mundane occurrence.”

“Murder is not a mundane occurrence, Sir.” She retorted.

Spenser having maintained a silent air of detachment slowly clapped his hands together, once, twice, thrice.

Captain Purdy gave him a look as he picked up his box of matches and removed one, which he struck: “Perhaps it would be best if you were to inform me as to where things stand regarding the investigation into Dean’s death."

Alderton biting her bottom lip slightly considered the request for a moment, “ As this is an active investigation, Sir, it is unfortunate we are not at liberty to discuss our progress.”

Spenser now turn in his chair to look at me, “So, it is true what I have heard? They have you playing second violin on this one Edward.”

“Whatever my part may be in Spenser, I can not help but ponder precisely in what capacity Robertson-Kirk’s presence may yet be revealed in all of this.” My ire having ever steadily risen since having been told of this reprobate’s reinstatement. “For whatever instrument you may have been given to play in this intrigue, it is Robertson-Kirk who ever is your conductor.”

“Gentlemen.” Captain Purdy said rather sternly, having relit the bowl of his pipe and once more extinguishing the flame with a flick of his wrist. “Whatever the historical antecedents are in regard to your petty grievances, I ask that we belay them. We are here to discuss matters of far graver import.” He tossed the spent match into his ashtray, “Whereas your Constable Alderton here finds herself in the unfortunate position of being unable to discuss the progress of your investigation, I find myself, owing to circumstances, in a position within which I must be far more forthcoming.”

There was a brief interlude of silence as Captain Purdy puffed at his pipe and then took a glance at the bowl to assure himself it was properly lit, “What I am about to reveal is of a highly sensitive nature and as such it’s particulars must remain for the most part within this room. “

Alderton, still standing with her arms crossed continued to hold her ground at the edge of his desk, “Most certainly.”

Purdy leaned slightly forward, “I am certain you are aware that we have agents spread throughout Europe working on various strategic operations?” He began "One of which is keyed upon German armament and manufacturing. Have you perchance seen today’s paper?”

PC Alderton glances at the boradsheet lying upon his desk, reading the upside-down sub-heading: “A paper and soap scarcity?”

“The hallmark of a well planned operation is misdirection.” Captain Purdy smiled and picked up the broadsheet folded to a section of interest as he began to read: “The Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung publishes an official reply to ‘the campaign of lies and calumnies which Germany’s enemies are directing against her financial position.’ His voice lowering for effect, “It says—The first fireship to be set at Germany was the suspension of payment of a completely unknown and unimportant Stuttgart firm; then followed the invention of the bankruptcy of the two greatest South German banks, whose names were not mentioned for several reasons. And now comes number three; ‘Essen bank fails. Krupps war-workers lose their savings,’ in sensational headlines.’ He puts the paper down, “Two feints to get to the target – and I would imagine the headlines are a bit of a sensation.”

Newspaper Article for 10 March Morning Edition

“Friedrich Krupp AG—Germany’s premier weapons manufacturer?” Alderton inquired with some amazement.

Purdy gave her a telling look. “Of course, as reported, it is all denied,”

“The failure of this Essen Bank affects the workers at Krupp Armaments. Seeds sown for dissension.” Alderton said with a lifted brow.

“Just so.” Captain Purdy nodded in ascent.

“And this—this has something to do with Dean?” I asked.

“You see, Inspector, Pamela Dean was head clerk in the Intelligence Division. There she was privy to documents of incalculable secrecy—among which was a plan devised to put various financial operations into play so as to eventuate this effect upon Krupp’s financial position. An ingenious bit of financial misdirection to achieve, as I said, the line of sight to the intended target. Cleverly devised by a financier by the name of Thomas Harker. Thus, the whole operation was known by the designation: The Harker Memorandum.”

Alderton frowns, “You said Harker?”

“Yes.” Purdy replied evenly

“Like from the novel Dracula?”

“Dracula?” Purdy asked as he blinked somewhat quizzically,

“Let us just say that . . . it has come up a few times.” She explained.

Inspector Spencer now turned to give her a wry smile, “And I would have thought, PC Alderton, you would while away your nights with something a bit more intriguing than laying in bed reading Penny Dreadfuls?”

She looked at him in silence.

Silence which was suddenly broken by the Captain: “I am sorry I don’t see why the deuce anyone would dredge up that drivel nor why they would try to make such a connection? It’s asinine – just asinine.” He removed the pipe from between his clenched teeth, with some irritation. “Now see here—the Harker Memorandum in the wrong hands would not only reveal our involvement in effecting the financial positions of various German financial institutions, just as they have rightly accused us of doing, but it would reveal as well just how precisely we were able to do so – not to mention, putting an agent in Amsterdam—a brilliant fellow known only by Thomas Harker, codenamed Hawkins – in extreme jeopardy.”

“And Dean ?” PC Alderton pressed the question.

“Purloined the Memorandum.” It was Spencer who spoke up.

“I dare say it sounds really all too much. Dean’s been with the department going on five years. There was nothing on her confidential record when she came to us. Intelligent. Was promoted just a year ago to head clerk.” Captain Purdy began sounding too business like. “But, it’s been confirmed. Communications tying her directly to Dierks & Co, which we know to be a cover for the Nachrichtenabteilung. German Navy’s secret service.”

“And they have traced the telegraphs to her accomplice as well." Spenser added.

’You seem to be well informed this morning Detective Spenser." I said with annoyance.

He remained reticent to look at me, not turning as he spoke to correct me, “Detective Inspector.”

Alderton glanced at him then back to Purdy, “Her accomplice being?’

“Another bit of bad business.” Purdy said with some ire, “Which is why I called you here today. His name is Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane. I am more than certain he gulled the girl into it. We believe he has the documents in question.”

Alderton removed her casebook and began to make a note, “Is that McFarlane with an ‘a’ or without.”

“Without.” Spencer answered for the Captain. It was becoming decidedly obvious that Spencer either had some confidence with the Purdy or someone else at the Admiralty.

Purdy was definite as he took the pipe from his mouth and cocked it at Alderton. “I need you to find and arrest Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane for espionage."

“We will certainly find this man, and bring him in for questioning.” She told him.

“I would look to him for murder as well.” Spenser added drily.

I then stepped forward, “This is the estimate of the reasoning for her dismemberment?”

“He cut her up to throw you off the trail – to have you looking for a madman. Something the yard is wont to do with little success." Spencer still sitting with his back to me.

“Please do try to be civil Mr Spenser.” Alderton admonished.

“Civil?” He all but sneered, “A fellow officer lies in the Dead House, a bullet in his brain placed there by this McFarlane.”

“And I chased down his killer with his blood and brains upon my uniform.” She replied, controlling her voice but not the glare in her eyes.

Spenser rose and looked at us with a wintry smile, "Which is all very admirable – but sadly—he got away.” He then looked to me, “But the facts are clear. Whether via monetary inducement or romantic enticement, he got the poor girl to steal the documents. And when he was burned? He then set about adherence to some exit protocol. The disposal of Dean in grisly fashion to toss off the scent. Then was in preparation of securing her flat of any incrimination when he was interrupted by Cotford. And yourselves.”

“I would say there was more of the rookery than of the military in the man whom we encountered.” I strongly observed as the intruder in Dean’s flat certainly did not measure up to have been an officer working within the Admiralty.

“Then there are more accomplices.” Purdy said rather testily. “There are agents of N freely moving about the city. It is for this reason I have need of the police, both the Metropolitan and City. And with the Metropolitan’s sad track record for apprehending a madman with a knife – I would spend less time in rancour with officials of the City Police. I can not impress upon you the need to bring this McFarlane to heel.’

Pc Alderton lifted a brow and stood her position, “As these are but accusations, Sir, I can assure you we will find McFarlane and bring him in for questioning and then press charges accordingly.”

The very auditable drop of Purdy’s pipe into the ashtray was his sudden response, “Have I not made myself at all clear constable? There is no questioning about it. To have brought in civilian law enforcement upon such a matter as the security of the nation is something in your estimation would be done lightly? Is this the same reasoning that allowed your forces to let a maniac make a blood bath of the Whitechapel streets? I have called you here to have you do your damn jobs. Not to make fine distinctions or rehash old acrimonies. Do I make myself clear?”

Alderton rose in my considered appraisal as she responded, “Is there anything else you need to add Captain Purdy?”

“Yes. As this whole conversation is classified, I must warn you—none of this can be made public. As far as the official scope of this investigation, it is in concern of the death of Miss Dean and of Detective Cotford.”

“As Cotford’s death is under our jurisdiction, I can assure you sir he will be found and brought to justice.” Inspector Spencer informed Purdy, as he stood before his desk with a hand in his pocket, and I suspect any number of others so co-located. “As a City Detective has been killed by a suspect considered armed and dangerous, we shall respond in kind. Word has been given to bare arms and if necessary we shall shoot to kill."

Purdy picked up his pipe again and opened a desk drawer to remove a pouch of tobacco so as to refill the contents spilled from his pique, “Well, Inspector, do what is necessary.”

I looked at Alderton, “We have quite a lengthy to do list PC Alderton, I think it best we say good day.”

Excerpt from the unpublished novel by Carmichael Pemberton

On the roof, Randall removed a brick from a chimney. The brick has been carved away on the inside, leaving a small empty space. Randall carefully placed the key he found in the hidden space, on top of a small stack of 10 pound notes. He then replaced the brick.

Picking up the last bit of his cheese sandwich, he swallowed it whole, dusted off his fingers, and watched from the roof as the coppers below crossed the square toward the Adams Screen. In particular, he watched the City Inspector pass out the gate to the street and get into a car and drive, presumably back to the city.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he opened the door and descended the stairs back in from the cold.

Walking back through the building, now beginning to bustle with busy naval officers back from their own lunch breaks, Randall passed Sub-Lieutenant R____ . “Afternoon sir.” He said with a salute.

Sub-Lieutenant R____ nods and whispers out of the side of his mouth, “We need to talk—it is worse than you imagined.”

He whispers back “6:00, The Turks Head”.

R____ nods and continued down the corridor smiling at an attractive girl just stepping out of an office, who smiled back and slipped the stub of a pencil into her hair just above her ear.

Randall continued back to Room 40 where he prepared to begin the actual work for the day.

Journal of Lord Cyril Blathing
23 February, Kalivac – We are at our last stop before we cross over behind enemy lines. The past couple of days have been fairly quiet, if cold. In Valona we got enough supplies to last us and a horse drawn wagon. Ivan has really taken to the horse, a beautiful piebald. He has named it ‘Lokva’, or puddle, though I would prefer to call him Šarac, the name of the mythic Prince Marko Kraljevic’s steed.

We are now waiting in a Kafana for nightfall. We met with our guide, a local gypsy named Yanko. He was initially reluctant to guide us, but silver goes a long way in these parts. Marko did most of the talking in Albanian. He says that Yanko will guide us up a mountain. On the other side is Austrian controlled territory. It will take a few days to cross, but we should avoid any Austrian patrols.
For now, we wait.
-C

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By Tricks and Stratagems
Session Two - Part Three

session2pt3.jpg

Lt. Bradley McFarlane’s Journal

10 March – Morning

The morning started with the prospect of being miserable. Cold, with a brisk wind. The sky a dull, heavy leaden grey. The previous night’s snow storm had lain upon London a dawning new whiteness. A winter’s lustre to replace that which had faded from the seemingly endless flurries of earlier in the week. The Cleansing Department was already out and about doing their best to clear up the hoary drifts and slippery thoroughfares. A bit breathless, I stood curb side awaiting Tanner, who had rung up earlier to inform me of when he was to arrive. Miss Willingham’s was all silent below when I came down – or I would have popped in to see if she had some word from Veronica – for whom I was growing exceedingly worried, when suddenly, about the corner there came the spectacle of a canary yellow Humbler, skidding about as it cornered rakishly too fast, especially with two young seamen in their dress uniforms, beneath long woolen coats, holding as tight as ever they could, standing as they were upon the running boards. The Humbler pulled to a crunching halt beside me.

“Good morning, Lieutenant.” Tanner, far brighter than the night before, said as he leaned over to pop open the invitation of the passenger door.

I must admit I had to admire the motorcar, “I say, wherever did you manage to get such a machine Tanner?”

“Oh, now, he’s not telling,” A young seaman standing so precariously upon the running board said as he stepped off, removing his gloves, in order to blow a warming breath into the cup of his hands. “We’ve already tried all manner of inducements to get that bit of information from him.”

“We’ve even told old Randy here, we would stand him up for pints at the Snipe & Shaft.” Added the other seaman from the opposite side the car.

“But mum’s the word.” The seaman nearest me, rubbing his hands together, replied in a bit of a lowered voice in mocking Tanner’s apparent secrecy.

Tanner leaned over on the seat of motorcar so as to look out the open door, “That is Andrew, and this . . . “he continued, looking back over his shoulder at the seaman standing the running board behind him, “Is Michael.”

“Lieutenant.” They each said and passed off a rather sloppy salute.

“Andrew . . . Michael,” I acknowledged each in turn, uncertain as to why Tanner had thought to bring these young lads along, especially for the scandalous task we had set for ourselves – which I would have thought necessitated a certain degree of stealth and far more unobtrusiveness than a couple of seaman dangling from a jaundiced motorcar.

1916-humber-11_9-tourer.jpeg

“Shall we be off?” Tanner asked patting the seat in inducement for me to enter.

The Humbler navigated its way stoutly along the narrow, hoar covered thoroughfare, its narrow tyres cutting fresh ruts in the new fallen snow. Although it was a cold morning, I felt gladden by the weather as there were so few souls out and about to brave the streets, seeing as how we were providing quite a sight. As to why Andrew and Michael did not seek the back seat and some comfort away from the elements, I didn’t press – even as I didn’t question whether their names were really Andrew and Michael, owing to the lack of any surnames by way of introduction, or, as to why Tanner had brought them along to dangle from the motorcar. My mind was still rather conflicted. I mean, where the deuce was Veronica?

Tanner’s call to inform me this morning of when precisely he expected to arrive at my flat had given me ample time to pop off to the local post-office and send yet another telegram. I had taken a cab around to her rooms last night, amidst the thickening of the snow storm, but she was not home. All of which was a worrisome bother what with the weather and the fact I had not heard from her in the last twenty-four hours. Her landlady, Mrs Burrows indicated that Veronica had been in during the day, but had gone out earlier and as yet had not returned. And so, I left with Mrs Burrow’s a note – but, this morning there was still no reply to either my note, or my letter, or any of my telegrams. And with the possibly of a maniacal vivisectionist wandering about with a sharpened set of knives I could not help being overcome with a growing sense of dread. As terrible as the thought, I could not help but think it best she was avoiding me as some precursor to a break-up.

Tanner navigated through the slippery streets with considerable skill as we made our way toward the Thames and Blackfriar Road. I took note of Andrew hanging from the motorcar beside me, the cold wind entering as the window was let down so he could hook an arm about the post, as he, with quite a display of dexterity, opened a small flask , which he had taken from his hip pocket, and knocked back a nip. I could have certainly used a quick brace myself what with the chill whipping about the interior of the motorcar.

“What’s all the dangling about? Can’t they just take up in the back?” I inquired of Tanner.

He smiled, “Had a bit of a night at the Snipe & Shaft.” He explained, “The air’ll do ‘em some good – we want them sharp at Pamela’s.”

I nodded “Pamela’s. Quite Right,” and I pulled my collar up and huddled into the seat.

In some contemplation of our chosen course of action— I was ever mindful that the police, either of the Metropolitan or City variety, would doubtless have poor Pamela’s flat well locked up and secured, with perhaps a few harried coppers about to stand guard beastly miserable in the brisk wind and the new fallen snow. But, from our earlier conversation, Tanner saw the night’s snowstorm as nothing less than a most fortuitous opportunity. The weather, by his estimation, could only serve to be an invaluable distraction aiding in the implementation of his stratagem, which, as yet, he had not divulged. The fouler the weather, Lieutenant, the less coppers we may have to contend with, he had said with some enthusiasm.

As if guided by clairvoyance, he glanced over with a wide smile and asked, "So Lieutenant, still worried about the constabulary?”

“Well, it is a crime scene after all, don’t you know.” I mused.

“So—what do you figure? There be what, one, two peelers at the place?" Tanner inquired with a distinctive air of professionalism as he shifted gears and the Humbler lurched. It was highly evident he had done something quite as ridiculous as this before—perhaps not in a while, but, certainly more than once, and the closer we drew to Blackfriar Road the more I could detect in him a growing excitement.

Speaking over the sound of the motor, I replied: "Well, I would suspect they will have at best a constable or two at the door, perhaps, one more to secure the back, assuming there’s a back entrance. And there’s no reason not to assume there isn’t. Unless, they have determined that her flat was the site of her murder – then . . . well, there’s no accounting for what we might be in for; and, if that’s the case, then, well our whole plot’s gone bust. They will have picked the flat apart.”

Tanner nodded and fished a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and placed it between his lips, “Yeah, sounds about right.” He awkwardly struck a match against the side of his shoe and lit the cigarette, blowing smoke through the window. “Best we play it as it lays, sir.”

“Right.” I nodded in agreement, “And Tanner – I can’t say enough, you pitching in like this to help.”

“Well, Pamela was too good a bird for what was done to her. “ He replied softly and with a bit of sentiment as he exhaled a plume of smoke, which the whipping wind unfurled about his head.

Drawing near, the Humbler made a turn and then proceeded to make its way up Blackfriar Road, the tyres slipping and cutting new ruts in the undisturbed snow. I inspected the numbers of the row-houses. There was a thin woman, attired in a long coat and a scarf about her head, sweeping at the snow upon her porch, with a expression of annoyance at having to sweep away that which she had only swept away earlier in the week. I took note of the house number and following the progression pointed ahead, “It’s the one there ahead on the end.”

“Right you are Lieutenant,” Tanner said looking ahead to take note of the two constables, one standing on the short front porch conversing with the other who stood his ground before him. They seemed to be moving rather nervously about, which I suspected was more an attempt to keep warm than from any unease.

I looked over at Tanner, "If there is one watching the back entrance then it’s about what I would have expected.”

“Then we’re bang on,” Tanner said with a smile, “Have you heard of Wilhelm Voigt?”

The name sounded fairly familiar but at the moment I couldn’t place it. “No—I can’t say that I have.”

“German chap,” Tanner explained over the sound of the motorcar’s engine, “Ten years ago. He dressed up in an army officer’s uniform in a town outside Berlin.” He removed the cigarette from his lips and looked over to me, “Convinced everyone he was an officer and moved to have the mayor arrested. He then ‘confiscated’ 4000 marks.”

That said he pulled the Humbler to a halt in front of 85 Blackfrair Road. Andrew and Michael stepped off lively from their running boards. Andrew moved purposefully around the bonnet to stand beside Michael just outside of Tanner’s door.

The two constables looked at our motorcar, then at one another, and then back at the Humbler and the two seamen.

“He was such a good actor the soldiers actually followed his orders.” Tanner calmly finished as he shut off the motor, “Now, Lieutenant I need to you be at your all officious best and moving about with intent.”

“Here on official business,” I agreed opening the Humbler door and moved around to stand with Andrew and Michael, while as Tanner got out and buttoned up his coat.

“Now boys you know the gaff?” He clasped his hands on the shoulders of his two seamen friends.

“A Voight,” Andrew replied..

“Right—only better." Tanner replied with a sly wink.

“Only—we’re not confiscating anything? Right?” Michael asked.

Tanner tossed his cigarette into the snow, “Sorry, Michael, this time we’re not innit for money, we’re just gonna look the place over for our good friend the Lieutenant here, who’s going to stand us all up for drinks after.”

Which seemed to settle the matter for Michael.

I looked at Tanner and his lads in amazement, even as the policemen stood watching us with all matter of suspicions. Only the gaze of the coppers, which was to say the least worrisome to me, seemed to have absolutely no effect upon them and for a brief moment I wondered just what Tanner and his crew were capable of upon those other ‘times’ when they might have been in it for the money.

“I will just follow your lead,” I said trying to look as if we had purpose for being there, “You lads are far more adapt than I at this type of field work.” I told them.

Tanner, donning his peaked naval officer’s cap, made a quick survey of the area, while the two seamen moved to stand beside him smartly. With a slight nod of his head, Tanner proceeded to walk away from the Humbler and up the snowy walkway leading up to Pamela Dean’s flat. Together we progressed side-by-side: two naval officers and their apparent escort approaching now the obviously curious policemen. I took note of the snow covering the walk, there seemed to be only the footprints of the two constables, which would indicate that they had arrived and had been stationed to this duty of securing Dean’s flat sometime during the night. The good in this evidence was they would be tired and less likely to be fully alert. The bad being that someone should be coming to relieve them shortly.

“Hey, now, you gentlemen— you need to step back.” The eldest of the constables warned as we drew near.

The second policeman seemed less certain what with a complement from the naval department advancing upon him.

“Good morning gentlemen.” Tanner responded to the stern warning with a strong, purposeful voice. “Good to see you’ve been keeping the crime scene nice and clear of vagrants.”

The second constable spoke up, "And a right nice morning to you Sir. But, we will be asking, what business do you gentleman have here?”

“I’m Lieutenant Joseph Clay, this is Lieutenant Bradley Loam. We’re from Naval Intelligence, and we’re here to investigate these premises.” Tanner reached into his inside jacket pocket and removed a very officious looking document, which bore the purple bruise of some formal stamp. Without a moment’s hesitation he handed it over to the second constable, rather than the first. Glancing at it I took note the document was in fact an official form authorizing access and agency to the premises for the expressed purposes of conducting a naval investigation. It was signed ‘Admiral Henry Plowman.’

The constable, whom I later was to discover was PC Winston, took the paper and began looking it over as the elder constable, a PC Reid, stepped over to have a look. He took the form from Winston and began to give it some scrutiny.

“She did work for the Naval Department from what I have heard.” PC Winston reminded.

“Right, I am aware of that.” The older officer snapped curly, as he took the document from the younger man and refolded the page. “Now, not to be obstructing the Navy in any way sir, but, owing to circumstances just as they are, I have to ask, does this here, “ and he waves the folded form, “Pertain to the war effort?”

Tanner took a moment and lifted a knowing brow, "Owing to her role in the Naval Intelligence Department, which I’m sure you are aware we cannot divulge, at this time, there is sufficient reason to suspect that her most brutal murder is related to such efforts as became her role.”

PC Winston nods, “Understand sir, and pardon for having to ask. But you see one of our own was beastly murdered here last evening.”

“A constable murdered? Here?” I asked throwing some authority into my voice in the hopes of disguising my astonishment. .

“Aye.”

Andrew stepped forward and grimly peered at the front door. "Sir? There’s blood on the door here.”

“Aye, a City Inspector – shot in the line of duty. Confronted an intruder on the premises, he did." PC Reid replied, as he continued to hold the folded document. It was obvious he was still uncertain and was trying to make a decision as to which way to react to having the Navy coming to call upon his door.

“Certainly gives credence to your intelligence Sir.” Michael popped in to the conversation – timed so that Tanner gave him a quick look. .

“This is most disconcerting news gentlemen” Tanner replied, returning his attention to PC Reid, “Most disconcerting. Events may be proceeding a pace far faster than we have anticipated.”

“We need to take a closer look, Lieutenant Clay.” I added with all seriousness.

“Right.” PC Reid having made his decision, handed the folded form back to Tanner. He turned and stepped up to the blood-stained door and took a key to what looked to be a freshly installed lock.

Tanner tucked the folded document back into the inner pocket of his coat.

“Thank you constable for your service. It’s an honour to those proud lads doing their duty for the nation that you so protect their loved ones.” I said in hopes of puffing them up a bit so as to be ever more obliging. “I say, I don’t think we got your names.”

“I am PC Thomas Reid and that there is PC Peter Winston, sir. We are with the City Police.” He replied quickly as he opened the door, which revealed more than enough evidence of the violence which had taken place just inside poor Pamela’s doorstep. Blood was splattered upon the facing of the door, as well as upon its side jabs and sill. There was also visible a rather good sized stain just beyond the threshold on the hardwood floor.

“Several inspectors and the surgeon were here till late in the night and then we’ve been on watch every since” The constable offered up a brief report of events, “It’s been quiet. Nothing, out of the unusual. Just the snow and the wind.”

Andrew was quick with a notebook and a pen with which he began to take notes.

PC Winston, the younger of the two constables, whom at first I thought to be the more helpful in our stratagem, watched with some considerable interest as Tanner and Andrew stepped carefully across the threshold to skirt about the stain on the floor. His expression far more suspicious than that of PC Reid, who, it was readily apparent, was the superior charged with securing Dean’s flat.

PC Reid continued— “They will be sending replacements down shortly.”

“Nothing like a warm room, and some hot tea after such a shift, eh?” Tanner remarked, seemingly distracted as he pointed at the floor making a motion to Andrew who nodded and wrote something down.

“That’s the truth sir. Me feet are all but frozen.” The amenable constable admitted as I stepped into the sitting room, which was in some considerable disarray. Furniture moved about haphazardly. One drape had pulled down and was lying in a cast-aside heap on the floor. Several small pillows from the chair and sofa were tossed on the floor. A small rug was kicked back. Clots of mud littering about the floor. Dirty footprints tracked every where.

“Then sir, by all means, do come inside and get a bit of warmth,” Tanner ordered and both constables did as he suggested, followed by Michael, who amazing produced, as if by some legerdemain, a Kodak Brownie. Where the deuce he had that hidden was beyond me.

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Tanner pointed to the floor, “Several shots of these mind you, and the door. Various angles.”

“Right, Sir.” Michael said and stepped over to aim and shoot.

PC Reid watched the bit of photography with idle curiosity: “So you’re with the NID? I had a cousin who wanted to get transferred, but, he’s on a ship in the Med about now.”

“Is he now?” Tanner asked.

“Reid you assist the gentlemen, I’ll maintain watch.” PC Winston offered, standing just inside the front door, as we continued our movement about the disarray of the sitting room.

“Yes, sir.“ Was PC Reid’s reply to Tanner as he seemed now quite domesticated, following in Tanner’s footsteps as he continued to point out various parts of the room, to which either Andrew took a note or Michael a photograph.

Pushing the peak of his cap back with his thumb, he placed a reassuring hand on the constable’s shoulder – “I wish him the best. Get out of Gallipoli did he?”

“Oh, he was at the Dardanelles. Terrible defences them Turks got down there.”

“Threw every bloody thing we had their forts but they mostly held.” I offered picking up the pillows and putting them back upon the sofa.

“Oh, aye, he was lucky Sir. I told the missus the lord must have been smiling upon him.”

Tanner squatted down to look at a muddy footprint. “Well, we can all hope that transfer comes through.”

“Assume it was a long night here." I offered peering down at the footprint as well.

“Aye, right long.”

Tanner takes out a note pad and points down at the footprint, “This number 10 here, was it before or after the tramping about.”

“Oh, that’s one of the constables, I fear, sir.” Reid explained, “Most of what you see here is from them tramping about as you say sir – what with the weather and all. And then, there was them first two Metro coppers, Inspectors as I was told, who were on the scene when poor Inspector Cotford took that shot in the head.”

“Metro – The Yard? I would think this is City jurisdiction.” I asked.

“They were in and out of here long before our City coppers arrived.” Winston said with some heat from the door, “They left the place well tended – I must say. What with the poor Detective Cotford beastly dead. But no time for him. Least wise it seems. Off to do more important detecting. But, as PC Reid said, what with the weather we had, and all the comings and goings, the place ain’t as tidy as it was when we first arrived.”

“I see.”

“Like as not you can request a report of them that was here.” Reid offered, “And then there’s the surgeon’s report as well. Not sure, you would get much from them Metro’s, seein’ as how they couldn’t catch that madman years ago – I say what bloody good are they?”

“These Metropolitan’s would you happen to know their names?” Tanner asked as he arose from his inspection of the number 10 footprint.

“Madman?” I asked.

“You know, old Saucy Jack.” The older officer replied.

“You mean, The Ripper?" I deduced his meaning.

“Some thinks it’s him back from retirement." Reid offered.

“Or the dead.” PC Winston scoffed.

“Now, you don’t be making light – the man, if he were a man, had more than a bit a whiff of the occult about him, I says.”

“A Ripperologist?” I mused.

PC Winston slyly smiled, “Thinks it runs in the family.”

“I have said, many times before, there is no relationship.” PC Reid heated for a moment, his hands making a sort of waving motion of negation. Reid – right. I now made the connection— Reid being one of the Inspectors that had investigated Ripper.

Tanner moved on and stepped through the connecting door into the bedroom, which apparently Dean used as a study as well. On his way he stopped briefly to place a reassuring hand on the constable’s shoulder, “Could be, or could be a saucy Kraut. That’s why we’re here.”

The bedroom was just as disheveled. The police having ransacked it. Books scattered. Desk drawers half open. Bed linens stripped and tossed about. I frowned as I took note of the spread from the bed, having been pulled away. It lay wadded in a corner – blood-stained.

Poor Pamela I thought – look what they have done to your most private chamber.

Tanner stepped over to scan the desk and bookcases. He pulled open each drawer and inspected them.

“Well, he didn’t use a firearm. The blade was his weapon of choice.” I muttered looking at the titles of the books lying about at my feet.

“There is that sir.”

“Quite the cyclone came though here, din’nit?” Tanner suggested over his shoulder glancing out the window to the rail yard beyond, before resuming his slow survey of the room.

Reid nodded, “Well, you know, when one of ours goes down, they are none too gentle in looking for a clue. It appears someone entered from the back, there, through the kitchen, and pulled a weapon on those Met detectives. Then Cotford arrived and the intruder shot him.” Reid motions again toward the door-less threshold leading to the kitchen, “Then he took off out the back here.”

Winston from the front room could be hear to snort—
“One of them was a female.”

“One of who?” Tanner asked looking over at the constable.

“Them Met coppers." Reid replied with a hint of disgust. "It’s the damn war – all the good men are off fightin’. “

Tanner nodded, “That’s the truth. Still, would you rather the petticoats on the beat, or in the trenches?”

The constable cocked his head to one side as if studying the question before he nodded a bit in ascent to Tanner’s suggestion. The later was busy moving about the room, his eyes keenly making observations. He was far better at this than I. He seemed, for a moment, a real detective. He stepped through the threshold so as to enter into the kitchen, “Gas was once laid on but it’s been converted.” He mused.

“If you say—it’s electric now.” Reid replied.

I noticed that some lingering gas pipes along the upper left wall of the kitchen seemed to have attracted Tanner’s attention. He stood looking at them as he wrote something in his notebook aware that Reid was observing him. As PC Reid moved over toward the desk, where Michael was taking a few photographs, I caught a movement of Tanner’s head toward the pipes and then he looked at the constable. I quickly gathered his meaning.

“Be sure to get shots of most of this room,” I said to Michael as I stepped over toward them.

Behind me Tanner reached over for a kitchen chair.

PC Reid reached down and picked up a book, “I must say the poor girl must not have had much of a social life, seems all she did was read.” He put the book on the desk distractedly.

“So that’s the rail yard beyond.” I said standing so as to block the view to the kitchen and misdirect the constables attention out the window.

Tanner placing the chair into position stood upon it to better inspect the gas pipes which had not been removed after the transition to electrical power. I caught a glimpse of him as he started to lightly tap on the pipes with his knuckle.

“Right, runs to the Blackfriar rail bridge and points beyond.” The Constable explained, “Not much of a view for a lady.”

“But these flats would no doubt make up for that by being economical.” I said, continuing to keep PC Reid’s attention distracted from Tanner and the kitchen.

“Oh, aye, I would think so.” He said,

“Oh and shots of the bed.” I said to Michael. The constable turned now to looked over as Michael took a photo of the stripped bed.

“Like I said, you might wish to request reports from the Thames Station seeing as how this was all done last night by them that was investigating.” PC Reid informed him.

I hazarded a quick glance to observe Tanner inspecting the cap on the end of the pipe. He seemed to be looking at it as if examining small scratches about it, before he lit a match and placed it near – no doubt to confirm that the gas was off.

“So—they don’t suspect this as the murder site.” Michael said aware of our intentions in keeping the constable distracted as he took another shot and then looked over at Reid.

I watched as Tanner reached up and grasping the cap at the end of the pipe gave it a twist—and it yielded. He turned it quickly and removed it. He placed two fingers within before lifting the dying match up, and rising on the tip of his toes, peered into the pipe.

“Well not for the Dean murder.” Reid replied.

“No clue as to that then?” Michael asked.

“Not that I have any awares.” Reid shook his head

I took notice that Tanner was now trying to push his fingers further into the pipe as if trying to get at something. He removed them suddenly. Rather than risk getting his fingers caught in the pipe embarrassingly, I watched as he used the eraser end of a pencil to get at whatever had drawn his attention and saw him sliding forth papers rolled up so as to have been inserted into the pipe.

Tanner took a quick look at the papers and then hurriedly placed them in his coat pocket for investigation later

Reid turned and now concerned he has not kept watch on Tanner in the kitchen moved past me to see him standing on the chair where he was looking up at the upper shelf of one of the cupboards. He stepped down and pulled the chair back to the table and looked through the doorway, “Right – well Officer Reid, I think we’re about finished here. The place has been fairly well given the go through by the good men of the City Police it would appear.”

“They went through it last night as I said”

Tanner stepped away from the table. “Right you are – and a right thorough job of it they’ve done. Now, Miss Deans affects? They would be at the city police department, yes?’

“Thames Station.” PC Reid nodded. “What’s still there. Most of Dean’s personal items were to be sent over to the Yard. You see they made an arrangement.”

“An arrangement?” Tanner asked as he re-entered the bedroom wiping his hands together.

“Right. So, the City Police retain jurisdiction for Inspector Cotford’s murder and the Yard will be handing Miss Dean’s. The commissioner and some AC from the Yard were here last night working it all out."

“Alright, that’s just fine. We’ll stop by both.” Tanner nodded.

“Yes, gentleman, that is situation as we find it this morning,” A new voice said. I turned quickly and there standing in the threshold of the bedroom door was what was evidently a City Inspector. He was dressed in a black suit, with a clean white shirt and a narrow black tie. His overcoat was an even darker hue of black than his suit. He wore a pair of black woolen gloves, the fingers of which had been cut away to expose the flesh from the knuckles to the tips. He stood idly shifting a box of matches in hand as he looked at us all. “And, so . . . can we say the Department of the Navy is satisfied with our investigation – thus far?”

“Looks most efficient sir.” I spoke up.

He gazed at me. “Is it now?” He stopped shifting the matches within the matchbox. He opened it and removed one, which with the edge of his thumbnail he fared into a flame to light his cigarette.

“Alright boys, pack it in.” Tanner raised his voice for Andrew and Michael to hear, before he replied to the new arrival. “Certainly, you must be here to relieve these fine gentlemen from their lonely sentinel.”

He takes a long drag of the cigarette and flicks the flame of the match out. “So—might I ask, Miss Dean, was she working on anything . . . special?”

Tanner smiled amiably, “I’m sure you are aware I cannot disclose that information.” Michael and Andrew having moved to stand at attention behind him. “There is a war on after all.”

I smiled as well at the apparent City Inspector, “Am sure you understand, security protocols and whatnot.”

“Now, we have all we need from this site, we shan’t get into your way. I understand you have to find a copper-killer.” Tanner said by way of excusing himself as he moved toward the door connecting back into the sitting room, “My most sincere condolences”

The detective in black stepped aside to watch as we exited, before he slowly turned to follow—
“The Naval Department shall be more forthcoming, of that I would be most assured.” He was careful to remove the cigarette from his lips by using the exposure of his fingertips, “I have an appointment there later this morning."

PC Reid having followed us as well – seemed more than a bit anxious to return to his post at the door, having been caught off guard as he was by the arrival of the detective. Tanner took a moment to reward the constables for their assistance, which neither seemed at all eager to receive at the moment. “Thank you both, you’ve been a great service to your king and country. I’ll be sure to mention you both favourably in my report.”

“Either of you happened to know a Captain Purdy?” The man in black asked standing in the threshold of the ransacked bedroom. “Alexander Purdy?”

I took note of Tanner as he looked at this rather imposing Inspector from the London City Police as if trying to figure his game.

“Certainly, Captain Hall’s second.” Tanner replied now within an arm’s distance of the front exit.

“A good man?”

“Certainly.” I replied.

“Just wondering.” The man in black took a long drag from his cigarette watching as we all headed to the front door – no one side-stepping the stain on the floor in our haste to escape the flat.

Tanner exited first, followed by Andrew and Michael with myself last to follow in their wake. I could feel the glare of the man behind him as I nodded to PC Winston and was just stepping off the porch when the City Inspector stepped into the open doorway, “I am sure he will be waiting for your report as to our efficient investigation thus far.”

Tanner let us pass him by as we proceeded down the snowy walk, “I am more than certain he will be pleased.”

As the man spoke smoke escaped his lips, “This Purdy.” He flicked ash from the cigarette allowing the grey particles to flitter upon the breeze to stain the snow. “He rang us up this morning. Seeking an appointment to discuss Miss Dean. Something about national security. I would guess you couldn’t speak to that—“

He motioned for Reid to stop advancing toward him with a flick of his hand.

“I’m sure you’ll get all your answers at your interview later. Come on boys.” And Tanner turned to follow us we proceeded toward the Humber. “Good morning to you inspector”

We could all feel the man’s eyes upon us as he watched us making our way to the motorcar.

I feared it was frightfully evident we were trying not to hurry.

“Oh, I say. One other thing.” Came his voice from the door.

I took a glance to see him motion for PC Winston to stand his ground.

“Either one of you happen to know a Lieutenant McFarland? Bradley McFarlane?” The man asked.

My heart went all a rush in my chest as I followed Tanner.

Tanner practically pushed me around the bonnet to the other side of the Humbler before he opened his door, “A good day to you sir.” And he took his seat behind the wheel. “Do not react.” He whispered out of the side of his mouth as he started the motorcar’s engine.

I looked up to the flat’s front door where the man in black stood slowly smoking. I could tell he was speaking to the constables. I was more than certain he was telling one of them to take down the number plate of the car just as Winston stepped down from the porch.

Tanner engaged the gear and the car lurched forward as we witnessed PC Winston slipping on the snow as he hurried out toward us with his notebook in hand.

The last I saw of the City Inspector he had turned to point a finger hard into the PC Reid’s chest – where I am more than certain he was saying: “And you sir. Tell me everything they said—and everything they did.”

Finally out of earshot and around a slippery corner, Tanner was relieved so as to sigh heavily. “Godshooks, that man gives me the shakes. Bradley, you’re home sick today. No—no arguments. I don’t want you around when he comes calling. Michael, Andrew, you lads might want to keep out of trouble too.”

“What was that all about? “ I turned to Tanner, “Purdy wants to talk to the City Police about what? Dean? National security? And how the deuce does he know my name?"

“I don’t know, but ol’ Purdy’ll raise quite the fuss if he finds out we’ve been out here.’” He told me, taking a quick glance backward, “We’ll ditch the car out back of ‘The Lion’, and take the tube. Will Veronica kill you if you grew a moustache?

I looked out of the window. Something was very, very amiss. First Dean – Dean so beastly dead. And second – well, I had seen her that night at Waterloo. Which of course meant I was perhaps the last to see her alive. Which would make me material, but then, that would mean it should be the police metropolitan or city who would have been around to call. Not Admiralty House calling the other way around – and to what end? Speak to them about me having seen her? But, how would they have known – unless . . . I hazard even to write it down, but unless bang it all whatever it was I had uncovered, with that documentation concerning Hawkins, had been such that they had had me followed to Exeter. And so, they would have seen us making that late night rendezvous – and yes, there were those two surly men at the newsstand. I had quite forgotten the blighters. Unsavoury gents to say the least – and why did I not stay about with Pamela with them about. Because one sees blokes like that in the station all the time, particularly these days – those seen not adequate to serve.

“Bradley?” Tanner’s voice rose as he sought to gain my attention. I turned to him, “W-what? Oh, no – well, I am not sure. Make me more like one of those film stars I would suppose. But then, Veronica may be giving me the old heave-ho anyway.”

“What’s that?” Tanner, by circuitous route, now making his way back along streets which were beginning to loosen the snow into slush . “The gorgeous Miss Wells—say it isn’t so.”

“I don’t know. She’s not answered any of my telegrams or my letter of yesterday.” I said, “She wasn’t even home last night when I went around to call.”

“Well, old man best to fess up to whatever’s on her list of particulars and offer absolute contrition.” Tanner replied.

As he was heading to Veronica’s now rather than my rooms, he asked," You do have a key to her rooms?"

I nodded, “What ever did you find in that pipe?”

Tanner removed a key from the his jacket pocket and the documents he had extracted from the pipe in Pamela’s kitchen, “These.” He held them up. “I suspect the murderer couldn’t find the dead drop the first time round, and came back looking for it, but finding instead the Met officers and the City Inspector. What can you make of it?”

He handed them over and I unfolded the papers, which tended to fight back in order to retain their curl from the tightly rolled positioning they had held within the gas pipe. They were slightly discoloured from age, dated 8 February, 1896, which even now as I re-examine them were an amazing revelation.

Document discovered at Pamela Dean Flat

But suddenly, from the backseat, where Andrew and Michael had hastily deposited themselves in order to escape the glare of the City Inspector, who had so suddenly appeared at Pamela’s flat, Andrew chimed in—"Are we really having an investigation, sir? I thought we was just playing at it?"

“A bit boys, perhaps. But you lads played your part admirably, and you know what, tonight, pint’s on me. Just, keep this to yourselves, eh?”

“Oh, and I shan’t forget – I shall stand you all up myself when given the chance. So frightfully grateful and all, but right at the moment, I must admit I am uncertain of the next hour.”

Andrew reached forward and placed a hand upon my shoulder, “Well, any friend of Randall’s is a friend of Michael’s and me – and so, if you have the need you get with Randall here and we’ll all be down straightway.”

I looked back gratefully and smiled, “I’m not right sure what kind of bother I’m in but that is awfully kind of you. And, I may hold you to it.”

“So—“ Tanner interrupted the morning platitudes and gratitudes with an eager, “What do you make of it.”

I returned my attention to the papers. They were from Admiralty House. 1896. “It appears to be a letter to admonish someone who has been asked to collate documents and files, but apparently they were an author and they had turned it all into some kind-of as it says, “penny-dreadful’ manuscript.”

Tanner took another turn and once again glanced backward over his shoulder as if expecting the City Detective in black to be following. Instinctively I did so as well. There was nothing but the lads in back and the hoary thoroughfare behind. “Had only a briefest of glances there in the kitchen. It is addressed to a Mr Stoker I took note.“ Tanner said minding the road.

“Right. Stoker.” I continued reading, “I have never seen this letterhead – and EDOM? Whatever the devil is that?’

“Classified I would say.” Tanner offered.

“The manuscript turned in was apparently titled the ‘Un-dead.”

“Like vampires?” Andrews chimed in from the back.

I stopped reading upon that exclamation and suddenly felt my heart beat a bit faster as I began connecting, Stoker . . . and brother’s house. . . and 1896 . . . and the Un-dead . . . the Celtic temperament.”

“The Gombeen Man?” Tanner said disrupting my train of thought.

“”W-what?” I asked looking over at him.

He kept his eyes on the slippery road, “I saw ‘tale of the ’Gombeen Man’ must have been something he was written.”

“Right. The Snake’s Pass.” I replied by way of explanation as I got a hold of this now, “It was his second novel. The Gombeen Man was Black Murdock: a villainous moneylender. I read it owing to the fact there were allusions to British rule in Ireland. This is a letter to Bram Stoker. Tanner, they are writing about ‘Dracula’.

“Dracula?” Tanner said with some amazement, “The blood and bosom penny-dreadful—“ He looked over at me suddenly . . . “Are you saying . . .”

I continued to read, “They are saying . . . even though they seem to be severely displeased with what he has done with their transcripts and other such documents, that what he has written, were he to make it more lurid and fictionalized, might be of some use for them. ”

“You mean add more blood and bosoms.” Tanner added.

I glanced over at him, “Have you read it?”

“Lord Lieutenant, there’s a war on, “ He replied, “I haven’t the time to read ladies gothic novels." He cut a sharp glance, “Have you?”

“Veronica has it. I flipped through it one night. The part about the three brides had caught my attention—oh, my god, it can’t possibly be!” I suddenly recalled sitting there a bit bored, awaiting on Veronica as we were going out, and picking up the book and skimming through the pages – reading about the voluptuous lips and the hot breath on the neck of . . . Harker. Jonathan Harker. “Hawkins & Harker, solicitors.”

“What.” He turned with an honest astonishment. “Your Hawkins?”

“Exeter. It all fits—somehow. “ My mind racing now with all manner of fantastic speculations.

“But from a quick glance, it all seemed to be about some after-action report. Something that happened back in 94.” Tanner said thoughtfully.

“1893 and 94.” I muttered softly having the pages before me.

Whatever could it all be alluding to? It seems there were some events they were trying to somehow contain . . . cover-up? What did it say, yes, damaging allegations. About what? And what the deuce was EDOM?’

“Tanner – what the bloody hell have I gotten myself into?"

“Myself?” Tanner replied a little more anxiously then he had the entire morning, “Ourselves—I’m well into it as well. Regardless— we should become familiar with this book. You spend this sick day reading it, at Veronica’s flat. I’ll cover for you today, but I’ll be busy with my head down avoiding our Inspector friend."

“Right." I said as Tanner shifted gears and took the next corner.

“And there’s still this . . ..” He reminded me as he held out the key.

Inspector Stone’s Casebook
10 March – Morning

His hand slapping down upon the desk struck with such force it jarred the earpiece of the telephone in it’s cradle. “ What the bloody hell!” Beside me PC Alderton flinched at the blow and hesitated in her desire to take a step back.

Welcome to the parade.

From the moment of my return to the embankment from the Kings College Library and my interview with Irene Reedmin, to find PC Alderton amidst several constables gathered about the deceased, Neil Byrne, a gin-tippler, I could hear the striking up of the band. The dismembered parts of Pamela Dean, thus far discovered, would have already cued the word mongers and now, with the deaths of a City Detective and some gin-soaked vagrant, in connection to that grim murder’s investigation, it would eventuate the ululation of their penny tune to be played for their readers.

And the Daily Express’ headlines confirmed as much as I took note of the page to which the broadsheet had been folded to lie beside a copy of the Times there upon AC Barrington’s desk. He sat imposingly, his countenance unable to suppress his irritation, which had grown into anger, "Did I not make myself clear?”

It was more a statement than a question.

“The intention, if one bloody well did received it,” He continued gruffly, “Was to assure the public that the Metropolitan Police, unlike in previous years, is far more than capable of handling a case of such sensational, as this bloody torso murder, an appellation to which they are now wont to call it.” His hand upon the desk closed into a fist, “And what the bloody hell do I have this morning? A dead City copper and a pie-eyed tramp with his neck broken. The last of which it seems to have taken place right before the very eyes of the lead investigator."

“Sir—“ Alderton swallowed anxiously as she wanted to speak.

Barrington’s eyes narrowed to silence her: “Jesus on a pony. Twenty-four hours. Just twenty-four bleeding hours—and things are this off the rails?”

“Sir . . . it is umm . . . possible, that this murder is well more than . . . a murder.”

AC Barrington sat back, “Oh, how so, PC Alderton.” His voice becoming deceptively business-like. “Perhaps, it is weather related? Fog or was it a mist?” He asked sardonically as he made a dismissive motion with is hand., “Having read your report, I really wasn’t really quite sure. It could have been the fog or then again it might have been the mist that slipped up and snapped Neil Byrne’s neck. And so – PC Alderton, are you suggesting perhaps we are to chalk it up to death by inclement weather?”

Quite successfully baited Alderton continued, “I am not certain, Sir. It looked like fog . . . but moved more like mist and I do not yet know the word for any vaporous state for something that – but, I can amend my report, once I have time to consult a dictionary, Sir.”

“Amend it? By all means to bad weather?” He nodded and gave her a cold look, “But wait. There is Cotford! Now, that was a bit of lead. From a Webley as I recall? Or did the surgeon get that wrong? Perhaps it have been hail?”

“No sir. I strongly suspect an accomplice of the woman I saw on the bridge.”

“Ah, yes, the woman on the bridge? The one that vanishes in dispersing mists?” He cut a glance to me and then returned his cold back gaze upon her, “Described as . . .” He lifts up Alderson’s report so as to read from it: “A figure so obscured within the foggy mist, she seemed at times to be quite indistinct, almost as it transparent. But, there was no mistaking the figure as that of a woman.” He looked up from the page, “Excellent police work Alderton.

“In hindsight, sir, judging by the height of the street lamps, I would say she was of at least middle height, and was exceedingly pale, almost the colour of the snow itself.”

Barrington sighed as he leaned back heavily in his chair and pursed his lips.

“I would assume the Commissioner—“ I spoke up, to be cut off curtly.

“As always Edward, you ever are so prescient.” His cold gaze fell upon me, “And, as for you. You decided what? It best to leave a City detective lying cold and turning blue so as to make a visit to the library?”

“I had need in regards to the one thing we know for certain.” I explained evenly. It was a miserable morning, the weather not withstanding, for Barrington had been upbraided by the Commissioner and as such it was to be our turn, but his foul temper was not about to dissuade me from the defence of my actions in the attempt to ascertain more information in regards to the book, and its possible significance, which had drawn the intruder to Dean’s flat in order to retrieve it – or, in obtaining a facsimile of Cotford’s casebook, of which I had yet to make a decision as to whether or not I was going to make a disclosure as to my possession. “The intruder who had slain Detective Cotford, his mission at the Dean flat was to retrieve a book – thus it was of import to try and determine what this volume may have been and of it’s significance.”

Barrington lifted a brow with irritation, “You mean a bleeding copy of Dracula.”

“Yes – well at the time . . .” I replied.

“At the time.” Barrington reiterated but seemed to let it go as he turned his ire once more upon Alderton, “PC Alderton was embarking upon her own Wilkie Collins narrative, chasing feminine will-of-the-wisps amidst the mist and fog of Waterloo Bridge in the dead of night. Of no particular interest PC Alderton, but this pale woman of the bridge – did you think to examine footprints in the snow?”

“Sorry, Sir.” She stepped forward, “I would have been certain I make note of it in my report if there were any but there none. That could be found. I can amend that as well to so indicate.”

He placed the report upon his desk, “Leave it be.” He looked up from the page, “In particulars this is as accurate an accounting, as of your memory serves?”

Alderton nodded, “Yes, sir.”

Barrington sighed, “Then it would appear our Mr Byrne was quite the aficionado of our dear, old departed Jack.”

She nodded, “He seemed fixed upon the suggestion he was involved in the dismemberment of Miss Dean . . . alluding to him being back, as he said.”

“Before we bring up all that hell—I would caution we should be ever so mindful to be of care in even alluding to . . .” I said taking a step forward.

“Saucy Jack?” He asked, “My what a change a day makes. If I remember correctly, you were just here, what, only yesterday, making some such suggestions yourself. But, in that you have undoubted received some significant insight of which I am sure you will be most forth-coming – but in the matter, you are damned right—Jack is a hell of which we do not need to be reminded. But, having said that, this Byrne.” His fingers reaching up to play at the lobe of his ear, “It would appear he seemed to know quite a bit about our Jacky. Dear Boss. Little Games. Saucy Jack. Rippin’ up another.”

“As I reported a gin induced fixation.” Alderton explained.

“But this— are you sure he said this.” He looked at Alderton. “White apron? He said white apron?’
“Yes sir.”

I looked at Barrington, who had glanced up to see my reaction, “That is wrong." I said, to which he quickly replied—

“Indeed. it would appear our Mr Byrne states—and I quote from PC Alderton, ‘wearin’ me white apron’.”

“If I may,” I asked stepping toward AC Barrington’s desk and reaching out a hand for the report – which I had yet to see as Alderton had apparently risen much earlier in the morning as to have hurried into make her report. Barrington handed it over to me as he sat back in his chair and watched for my reaction as I quickly perused the document for any quotations regarding J.T.R as recorded by Alderton.

“If he knows so much that’s correct, why does he get this one wrong?” I pondered, re-reading the section. My earlier misgivings of having left PC Alderton alone at Waterloo Bridge were now somewhat mitigated, upon reading of this musing by the deceased Byrne. Had Alderton not been at the bridge she would have not been witness to his death nor would she have been able to record his references to Ripper. “It should be leather apron – not white.”

To which Alderton responded: “Perhaps it was light reflection off blood? mildew on the apron?”

I handed her report back to Barrington, “There was no accounting of Byrne among the witnesses.”

“You don’t say.” He lifted a brow sardonic brow.

Having taken note of PC Alderson’s rather inquisitive expression I turned to inform her, “J.T.R was somewhat before your arrival PC Alderton, but for those of us who find his madness a source of study, this anomaly, as regards to the apron, is of significance – especially owing to Byrne’s all too readily accurate remembrance as you have recorded – for it should have been a leather apron rather than a white one. Which might be an indication of Byrne’s confusion regarding the hue of the apron as his mixing of the remembrance of Ripper with a more recent occurrence at Waterloo Bridge and the embankment. He may have very well been a witness as yet undiscovered.”

To which AC Barrington solemnly added: “Which just might be why he got his neck snapped.”

“If J.T.R were there last night—or an accomplice, then why did they not try to—“ and her worrisome thought quickly trailed off.

In response, Barrington gave her a rather stern look, "One of the things as I have said that I best not hear, said aloud or whispered —particularly beyond this office—are any such suggestions as to the possibility of him being back – is that understood?”

Alderton’s mouth formed a thin line as she frowned, “With all due respect sir, as investigators we must consider ALL possibilities”

“Then we shall keep those possibilities to ourselves until we have some evidence to the contrary.“ The Assistant Commissioner reiterated, “Other than the rambling of some unfortunate rummy making a grand lodging of a bench, there is absolutely no evidence, whatsoever, for the continuation of this conjecture. The premise more likely is the one Edward proposes. Byrne saw something. Something he has confused in his gin-riddled brain with memories of our Jack – but something material nevertheless in the Dean murder for which he was silenced. Headlines and word-mongering aside, the primary line of our investigation remains, as it ever has with Pamela Dean. To that end, I’ve received a call this morning from The Admiralty House. A Lieutenant Rice, requesting to have sent around those investigating Dean’s death in order to meet with a Captain Purdy. Alexander Purdy.”

“Any indication of why they would be making the request?” I asked, as in the normal course of events we would have been the one to have called upon them. In fact, it was one of the areas of inquiry I coincidentally felt we should me making the rounds of today.

“It could be the deceased is a member of the Naval Department and there just happens to be a war on.” Barrington replied a bit contemptuously, “So, let’s not get lost in the fog and snow on this, shall we.”

“Yes—No, sir.” Alderton replied.

With a cock of his head he sighed and the waved a dismissive hand, “Shall we strive for these next twenty-four hours to achieve something like normalcy in a murder investigation? Yes? Now, off with you – straight away, the Department of the Navy has need of you.”

As we turned to depart, Barrington asked me to stay a bit longer. I assumed this would be when he would inform me the Alderton experiment was to soon draw to a conclusion, which even Alderton may have very well suspected glancing back at me anxiously as she exited AC Barrington’s office; but, I was not correct in the surmise.

He tossed Alderton’s report to the side, “Detective Inspector James Fitzjames Spenser. Aware of him?”

“He was one of Roberson-Kirk’s.” I nodded, “Dismissed from Special Branch, owing to the severe improprieties in the matter of the Callaghan Investigation.”

“Well it seems he is now with the City Police.” The Assistant Commissioner said placing his elbows upon his desk and interlocking his fingers so as to rest his chin upon them. “They have put him on Cotford’s murder investigation.”

“The devil you say.” This was beyond belief. More than mere irregularities, which was their wont, their actions were rumoured to have passed beyond, into undisclosed illegalities, which had brought dismissal rather than charges, owing to the need for the preservation of reputations of some such personages of rank and some considerable notoriety.

His smile was the once old wicked smile I had seen long before he was docked behind the massive desk, “Yes, the devil no doubt. Sly and crafty. And now he works for the City Police.

“How is this permissible?”

His look was one of some considerable commiseration as he sighed heavily, "It is the way of the universe, Edward. The devil walks hither and tither or so he says.”

“With Robertson-Kirk it is ever among Minsters and MP’s.” I added. “Sir,“ I took a hesitant step forward, “There is some evidence that there might by some chicanery afoot.”

“And where might this evidence spring forth, I have not seen it in any report.” Barrington asked pointedly.

I removed Cotford’s casebook and placed it on his desk. He took a look at it with a glance suggestive that he did not really see it at all lying there. “And, that, I am assured shall make it’s way back from whence it came – with no dog path leading back to the Yard.”

“Upon my to do list for this day.” I replied, “ But—there is a witness that might suggest the purse—Dean’s purse—was planted. And, there is an indication of the involvement of a red-headed woman.”

He looked up, “That is suggestive.”

I nodded grimly.

He gave me a very long and knowing look, “Take care Edward. Whatever this is it reaches into Admiralty House.”

View
A Bridge of Sighs
Session Two - Part Two

waterloo.jpg

Inspector Stone’s Case-book
9 March – late afternoon—continued.

Cotford lay just inside the threshold. A small entry wound in the forehead. A massive exit wound which had expelled considerable tissue, brain matter, and bone. He lay on his back. Head to the door, thus positioning his feet into the sitting room. His left hand splayed open, palm up. The right lay across his chest. His hat—his hat. I looked up and through the open door and saw his hat, which had fallen off from the impact of the bullet – where it lay now just beyond the short porch. It was being kicked about by the wind. I hurried to retrieve it. In the distance, I could hear the sound of police whistles. Constables on the run. Hat in hand I glanced across the road to observe several ladies beginning to step outside their barely opened doors. Apt not to have seen anything – they usually don’t. I turned to return to poor Isaac – and as I approached the open threshold I took note of the significant blood splatter upon the door and moulding, the bits of tissue oddly clinging to the wooden surface. I exhaled a long sigh and forced myself to not allow this to bring up old memories of my father. He too had been taken down in the line of duty. But that was what keeps us progressing forward, duty, to the living as well as to the dead and so, stepping across the body, I bent down to begin a quick examination of his pockets.

What I was most particularly interested in was finding his case-book. I wanted to see what notes he thus far complied in his investigation. I discovered it in an inner pocket of his heavy overcoat. I was just scanning a few pages when a breathless constable came trotting up the walk to the short porch.

“What’s the matter here—oh, Christ on a pony . . . t-that’s Inspector Cotford.” He exclaimed upon seeing the body.

“Yes,” Still kneeling beside the body, I confirmed his identification, even as I fished out my identification from my coat pocket and held it up for his inspection, “Metropolitan Police. I am Inspector Stone.” And, as chance would have it, PC Alderton, returning by way of the back door, quite visibly shaken, stepped into the sitting room, “And this . . . this is PC Alderton.”

I arose, Cotford’s case-book in hand, holding it as if it where my own. “There was an intruder. We had arrived to search the flat of the dead woman, Pamela Dean, and we came upon him in surprise. He pulled a firearm. And, at a most inopportune time, Inspector Cotford arrived at the front door. As he attempted to enter the premises, the intruder fired; and then made way his escape through the back, there,” I pointed toward the open doorway leading from the sitting room to the bedroom, “With PC Alderton giving chase.”

The constable looked at her a bit incredulously.

“He made his way along the access road along the railway.” Alderton a bit breathlessly explained, “He took a shot at me as well, and then escaped by way of a motorcar. A black Napier.”

I glanced up to the constable at the door with some agitation, “Quick man. Get word to Thames Station. We have need of a surgeon. A supervisory officer to take charge of the scene . . . as well as several constables to secure these lodgings. An Inspector has been murdered here.”

“Right, Sir,” and he stepped off smartly.

As he stepped off upon the snowy walkway he spoke to an approaching constable and I would assume gave him the particulars of the scene. The arriving constable hurried up to the door and looked at the Inspector’s body. The splatter of blood and brain tissue.

“Keep watch of this door.” I told him, as I began to flip through the pages of Cotford’s case-book.

Handout:
Detective Inspector Cotford’s Casebook

“Aye, Sir”

I turned a page of the case-book and stopped. The whole of the evidence of the broom-man, Jeremiah Hurley, was troubling. More so in that Constable Baxter had not returned to the station to make his report. I turned toward the door leading into the bedroom. Entering I found PC Alderton busy transcribing the titles of books upon Dean’s desk.

“Anything of interest?” I asked.

“He had a book – in his hand – which he took.” She explained, and having completed the inventory of the desk proceeded now to the end table, “An accounting of what remains may be significance.”

“A book? Did you take note of the title?”

“Didn’t see it, “ she kept scribbling the titles upon the page of her note-book, “It was yellow, with a red title on front and spine. Looked rather ornate.”

“She does seem to have been quite the reader.”

“That she was.” She agreed, “Didn’t she have a receipt from a bookseller in her purse?

“Yes, I think she did” I nodded, continuing to read of Cotford’s notes, I flipped back a page, “Yes—a sales receipt from Hathaway Fine Books.”

“Of course, she may have gotten it elsewhere, but we should see what she purchased there.” She added distractedly as she scribbled titles furiously. I could tell she was aware of the time element as well.

“This is not going to sit well, the City Police who were already unhappy about the Yard stepping in and now, one of there own has been shot. We will not have this note-book long I can assure you.” I stated the obvious.

“Then I propose we copy what we can out of the note-book.” She offered as she flitted from place to place, jotting notes, titles of books, while flinching ever so slightly whenever she came accidentally in contact with the bits of grey matter which had splattered upon her uniform.

“Not to put too find a point on it, in asking, do you know shorthand?”

“Although I may be a woman, Inspector,” She quickly replied and looked sharply at me, “That is not one of my talents.”

I nodded as I put Cotford’s case-book in my coat pocket.

PC Alderton taking note of my disposition of the Inspector’s case-book gave me a inquiring glance.

“In our haste we may have forgotten it was put away for safe keeping. It can be returned upon request.” I explained as I proceeded to look about the bedroom. It served as well as a kind of study – for there was a desk before a pair of windows looking out upon the back yard and across the way, the industrial view of a rail yard. The flat consisted of four rooms: a sitting room, the bedroom/study, a kitchen, and WC. The bedroom was neat and tidy, very well kept. I took note of the books. They were arranged, either on the end table, the desk, or, upon the floor in a symmetrical ordering. The room was growing darker and so I stepped over to the desk, upon which sat, centrally located a reading lamp. The flat had had gas laid on, by the discoloration and marking left upon the wallpaper, but had since been replaced with electricity. I turned the lamp on. The desk was sparse: a pencil, an ink well, pen, and paper. And of course the books.

“This—this is all wrong.” I said with a lifted brow.

PC Alderton looked up, “Wrong, how?"

“Look at this room is there anything amiss?” I asked and once again turned to observe the room, “In the whole of the house, everything is as she left it, all fastidiously neat and tidy – there was no ransacking of the premises. Our intruder, he knew what he was looking for – and it was apparently this book of which you speak? It just seems odd."

She stopped writing titles of the books in the small bookcase in order to look at me, “You’re right. This is careful. Planned.”

I turned once more to the desk, “Did you check the desk?" Before she replied I had opened a drawer or two, but there didn’t seem to be anything amiss or of any interest.

Aware I was already into the desk, she stepped over so as to observe my inspection. “It is possible her dismemberment . . . is meaningless.”

“Yes—or possibly a means of subterfuge to conceal the real facts of her death.”

She looked out the window to the darkening twilight, the small yard and half-wall creating the small separation from the mechanical activities of the railroad across the way.

“These homes are not the best situated,” I remarked with a wave of my hand before the window, “Night trains travel through during the early morning hours. One can not be a light sleeper.”

“Stone—“ She began.

Only my attention was drawn to the small stack of paper well placed upon the desk. It lay pushed back from the centre, as if it were the resting place when her writing had been completed. I tilted my head slightly and yes, there, in the light from the window was a slight indentation upon the top page. I reached over and lifted the sheet and glanced at it askew. Picking up the pencil atop the desk I discovered the lead had been broken. “Do you have a pencil?”

Alderton gave me a look as she handed me the one she had been using to transcribe the book titles into her note-book.

“I know that I am not terribly well liked or trusted in the station,” She continued the thought she had begun, which I had interrupted – being as I was not at all certain where this was heading. But, I was more than sure she had an obvious grasp of the situation – not that she had not been set-up by the toffs just in case of such an disadvantageous occasion. A dead City Police Inspector just inside the door of the murder victim’s flat mere hours after having accepted the assignment of the Dean murder hunt was not going to sit well with anyone, least of all the powers that be at the London City Police. " A woman? " I could hear it being said in Barrington’s office, “You placed a woman in charge of an murder investigation. And not even a detective at that. I mere Police Constable. Just how many cases does she have under advisement. What if there is some outbreak of hysteria when the press turns this all into a night out at the opera? Oh, this is dodgy Barrington very, very dodgy to say the least – and what do we have to show for it, hey? One of our own murdered! A City Police Inspector.

I tried to concentrate on the paper in hand.

“If I asked you to do something . . . “ She continued, standing rather close, observing the paper in my hand, “Something abnormal . . . would you?

I placed the page upon the desk and taking the pencil began to rub the lead upon the it, as I gave her a side-long glance, “"Abnormal you say?"

“Would you go to the library for me?” She asked.

I stopped the rubbing and looked at her: “And this is your estimation of abnormal? The library?”

“Yes.” She said with an edge of anxiety in her voice.

“If I know that for which I am being asked to look for.” I replied whilst my attention was diverted to the rubbing upon the page, “Here, take a note of this.” On the page the lead of the pencil rubbing had revealed via the impression: Waterloo tonight, Bradley.

PC Alderton smirks slightly, whether in regards to my response or the message revealed by the pencil lead I was uncertain.

“Neither of us know what we’re looking for, but I have a friend there who probably does.”

“At the library?”

“Yes – It is about the books, I am certain.’ She replied.

I then used the lead to make yet another rubbing, slightly lower, written at an angle, possibly some time later than the first: Contact for sale assured.

“Plus, she has a reflexive reprographic machine with which she could copy this journal a lot faster.”

“I must say I would certainly desire to maintain a facsimile copy.”

I turned to her, “Here what do you make of this?" I asked as I handed her the page, "Waterloo Station is very near where the dismembered parts were found. But, where would one . . . " I let the thought trail away – where ever she was disassembled, it had not been here in this flat.

“Them I will trade you,” She torn the page from her case-book upon which she had made the list of books, “I will take Waterloo – if you take this list to her. Her name is Irene Reedman. Maughan Library, Kings College.”

I glanced at the lengthy list of books and folded it and placed in my inner coat pocket as I continued to look about the well organized flat. “ I wonder who this Bradley is? There is no mention of him in Cotford’s case-book. “

“Hopefully we’ll find out tonight when we trap him on the bridge.” She sighed.

But I was suddenly preoccupied as I had taken notice of something near the window, barely concealed behind the drape. “What is that?”

PC Alderton stood for a moment looking at the drape before pulling on it slowly to reveal a piece of paper propped up behind it. She took immediate notice that the front side was marked with a large red circle. Her fingers also uncovered a stickiness at the top where multiple pieces of adhesive had been used. She reached over to the window pane and touched the pane. “It has been held here against the glass with adhesive.”

“A sign – used to signal some confederate.” I surmised, pointing out the window, “Perhaps located strategically along the rail-yard to observe.” But at the moment I had little time to examine the find as from the bedroom door there now came the voice of a constable.

“They’re sending a City Inspector and the Surgeon down, Sir,”

“Very good,” I replied as I turned to face him, “Keep watch upon all these accesses to the flat. We have little idea from whom these rooms may next draw attention.”

“Right you are sir." And the constable was off.

“I think it is our time to leave Mr Stone,“ Alderton said flatly, folding the paper to put into her case-book.

“I wonder what that is all about?” I remarked indicating the page she had slipped into the case-book. It clearly indicated there was someone else involved in whatever Dean was about.

PC Alderton sighed, “Well. . . we have a dismembered woman, an un-ransacked apartment with only a book missing. . . a few furtive messages and I am covered head to toe in what used to be another person . . . If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we’re in a spy thriller . . . She did work for the Admiralty. I wonder if this is maybe a naval symbol?”

Stone lifts an eyebrow, “Well, if we are not going to be detained here for the night, we best depart before the City Police arrive.”

Purposefully we moved back through the sitting room to be confronted once again by the grim spectacle of the blood and tissue splattered door. The bluing corpse of Inspector Cotford lying just inside the sitting room. Instinctively, I placed my hand flat against my pocket reassuring myself that his case-book was secure.

The constable standing just outside the door, speaking to another, who had apparently only recently arrived, glanced back at us inquisitively. “And here they are now.”

I pointed to the door, “Ensure no one passes until the surgeon and the supervising officer arrives.”

The newly arrived constable gave us a look, “You are departing?”

“Yes – there are other avenues of investigation to which we are called.”

I made way for PC Alderton as she stepped over the body and across the short porch to the snowy walkway upon which there was now a track various sets of footprints.

“I say sir, the Surgeon and an Inspector should be here—“ The Constable protested.

“Of that I am certain.” I replied following in Alderton’s wake, “But need I remind you we are on the trail of a murderer who does not put too find a distinction upon those who wear the uniform. Inform them of all that has transpired here.”

“But – what sir, has transpired here?”

I turned sharply, “The murder of a Detective Inspector.”

“Oh, aye, so glad you lads at the Metropolitan could take a moment in your busy day to so inform us.” The smart tongued constable said unable to restrain his irritation. One which if I were in his position I would also entertain.

But we continued unhurriedly toward the Wolseley; drawing near, I extended my hand, “The keys.”

Alderton seemed hesitant, “I will have need of the car for the trip to the library,” I explained. She handed them over, “And as for you, I would suggest you review what we have uncovered as Barrington will be most anxious for a report now that we have a City Detective murdered.”

“I’m going for the bridge.” She said closing the door of the motor car.

“It grows late.” I said replied closing my own door and starting the Wolseley, “And night is upon us. And more snow is coming. I shall feel not at all comfortable in leaving you alone—not there.”

“I’ll raise a couple constables.” She told me as I turned the motor car about in the slick slush mucking up the street and headed back toward the Thames.

‘This sign. This red circle. We best look into this – it gives strong indication that whatever Miss Dean might have been involved with, she may very well have had accomplices. I will see this – woman . . . at the library—“

“Irene Reedmn,” She told me with a smile as she adjusted her hat, her hand careful of the bloodstain upon the shoulder of her overcoat.

“Yes, Irene Reedmin –“ I nodded, “But, I would be remiss in not saying that I see nothing good of this desire of yours to observe the bridge.”

She was looking out her window, “They are covering their tracks, Inspector. Although having been carefully examined and searched, they may still feel some sense of obligation to see for themselves they have left nothing behind. And, then there is the rubbing.”

I glanced over at her, “But we know not when that assignation was intended.”

Whereupon she sat silently, watching twilight give way to dusk

I drove back to the Victoria Embankment and pulled to halt near Tillman’s Timber Yard. There was an undisturbed covering of fresh snow lying atop the stacks of timber, as well as upon the decks of a small ship now docked, and the wharf, lined with dark-hued crates and barrels, each bearing the beginnings of new hoary drifts. Along the small pier near the bridge and the arch closest to the embankment, various small boats rocked in the wash of the Thames. "Are you sure you will be quite alright, Alderton?” I looked about, Tillman’s looks deserted enough. “There is a beat constable that passes by here – a PC Harper I believe – from Cotford’s notes. Be sure to flag him – I don’t want you here alone for long.”

“I shall be quite well Sir.” She told me closing the door and stepping back from the vehicle, “I am a very adept swimmer.”

“Swimmer?” I knitted my brows and pointed to the Thames, “You will maintain a discreet distance from that water.”

She smiled and waved me on.

I shifted into gear and the car lurched forward as I proceeded to Kings’ College and the library. The snow falling lightly upon the windscreen; although I strongly suspected it would soon grown in intensity. I glanced back to see Alderton turning on her torch and stepping forward. What makes a woman want to take a job such as this? I sighed heavily as I was suddenly mindful of the sight of her flinching when she had accidently touched the clinging bits of Cotford’s brain upon her coat.

Police Constable Vera Alderton Report
Evidence given in regard to events that transpired at Waterloo Bridge, 9 March, 1916.
Begin Soundtrack:

Having proceeded from Number 85 Blackfriar Road, SE (the flat of the alleged murder victim Pamela Dean), Inspector Stone and I took separate lines of inquiry. Owing to the brazen intrusion of the Dean premises by the intruder, in apparent search of nothing more than a solitary book, I was of a mind that he and his motorman might feel the need to revisit the site upon which they had first haphazardly installed the dismembered parts of Pamela Dean, for some other overlooked clue; as well as the information supplied from the rubbing taken off the impression left upon a page of writing paper discovered upon the victim’s desk. I decided to take up surveillance of the Waterloo Bridge. It was 7:05. The night was chill. A light snow had begun to fall as I looked about seeking an advantageous position from which to observe the area of the embankment leading up to the bridge with its collection of small piers and boats. As well as the arches and the dark recesses underneath. As I was aware that a constable from the Strand made a route along Surry Street and then around to Arundel in order to make his round back to Strand, I kept a wary eye for him. If necessary I could call out for assistance, but as one officer of the law had already died during this investigation I was determined not to allow that to happen again. The foremost weakness in my plan to lay observation to the bridge, should I once again encounter the Blackfriar Road intruder and his motorman, was in the fact there was only myself to keep watch. A brief search of Tillman’s Timber yard provided me with a pair of good sized dowels, which binding with twine and using my coat, I dressed as best I could to serve as a ‘scarecrow’ constable to give the appearance of having not only a reinforcement but a watch from another vantage point. It was growing considerably colder as the wind from the river was brisk and I was now without my overcoat. The flakes of snow began to grow more and more frequent as the flurry increased. I extinguished my torch and settled back amongst a stack of timber, to serve as brace against the wind as well as to afford concealment. It was then that I took note of a man approaching along the snow covered walk along the Embankment. He approached from the east and made his way toward a streetlight located near a bench. From his worn shoes, threadbare trousers and the frayed edges of his coat’s lapels and cuffs, along with the bottle of gin in hand, I surmised he was one of the occasional casuals who found a refuge beneath the arches of the bridge. He was humming a tune which I hazard to say was a sad attempt at ‘Nancy Lee.’ “’ey you, ain’t you got no sense girl. Jack’s back and he’s ripping’em up once again. Damn police never did find his arse.” He proceeded to exclaim having apparently spotted me as he approached. I ignored him. “You best take care, Saucy Jack if ‘e get’s ‘is ‘ands on ya, then—” And he made a motion with his hand across his throat, “Then you ain’t even got time for to scream.” He then proceeded to cackle at his mirth and took a long drink from his bottle of gin. I sighed and muttered a comment to myself. Shivering slightly, I continued to maintained watch long the approach from the bridge as well as the area beneath it’s arches. The light snow had begun to increase into a steady downfall as it collected upon all it lay a claim upon. Its hoariness gave a eerie illumination amongst the gathering of shadows. In the glow of the streetlamps along the Waterloo Bridge I could see the falling flakes as they gathered momentum. Upon the Victoria Embankment, the vagabond drunk had staggered over to the small bench where he had taken a rag to dramatically clear away the nearest edge in order to take up a seat to occasionally tip back his bottle of gin as the snow began to settled upon his shoulders. Off in the distance a rather forlorn dog howled. As he had apparently decided to sit and entertain himself by his observation of me, I left my place of concealment and approached. “What is you name?” I inquired, hoping that in making an official query I could move him along. “Neil Byrne. And this ‘ere bench it be mine, well most nights, anyway.” “Was it yours last night?” He squinted up at me, “What’s a girly like yourself doin’ out ‘ere, anyways. You don’t ‘ave the looks of one who shelters here much among the timbers. Them shoes of yours be not worn.” I felt a rise of frustration. His presence could dissuade any possible visitation by the intruder or a meeting that may have been arranged. “Official police business,” I explained and showed him my identification. To which he tossed back his head and laughed, “Police business you say? Lord, save us! Women coppers. Damn the war!” And he spat. I took a step back – uncertain if it was the war to which he directed his expectoration or myself. I revealed my truncheon in any case, aware of the snow stinging upon my heated cheeks. In the distance the dog howled once again. “I could have you in for an attempted assault upon an officer of the Metropolitan Police.” I said in the renewed hope of running him off. He took a sip of his gin, “The Met you say? You couldn’t catch ‘im then and you won’t be catchin’ ‘im now.”’ And, he spat again, this time ensuring it was away from me. “Bleeding Scotland Yard! What good were any of ya? So’s, now you ‘ere abouts the bits of the poor lass they found lying all about?" He made an expansive wave of his hand. “No, I’m here about a drunken git that sleeps on a nearby bench harassing passers-by.” He smiled and looked up at me, “I say’s it’s ‘im that be back – took ‘imslef a ‘oilday, ‘e did, off to the Isle of White for a bit of sun and such.” And as the dog continued to howl once again I was prepared to roust Byrne away when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I took notice of what appeared to be some movement in the light cast by the streetlamp upon the bridge. “O aye, and that stickman of your’s ‘e ain’t goin’ be all that much to rip.” “You—you be quite.” I told him sternly. It was 7:15. In the dim visibility, I returned my glaze to the Waterloo Bridge to see standing there behind the stone balustrade the figure a woman. She seemed to be looking down toward us visible as we were in the glow of the streetlamp near the bench upon which sat the gin soaked Neil Byrne. The dog howled again and somewhere not too far distant another dog echoed his howl in reply. For a moment I hesitated, unsure if the figure upon the bridge was but a mere passer-by or a person of interest. "Dear Boss,” The drunk continued to mutter, "So, it’s back to the little game. Sawin’ em off in the timber-yard for ya. Ha Ha.” The woman upon the bridge stood unmoving in the swirl of the flakes discernible within the glow of the streetlamp. Byrne took yet another drink of his gin, “Bringing’em in me cart, all tall and in me whites.” “You,” I said to Byrne with a sigh of growing frustration, “Keep your arse on this bench.” And so saying I began to make my way toward the bridge. I looked back at him, pointing to the bench, for emphasis: “You hear what I say?” “Oh, aye, lass.” He smiled. “As I say, this ‘ere bench it be mine. . . most nights, anyway.” I sighed and turned away. Approaching the Waterloo Road from the embankment so as to step upward from the slippery slope to the roadway in order to make my entrance to the bridge I was suddenly aware that for a cold, snowy night there was an oddly growing mist. A fog which seemed to swirl about the streetlamp and about the woman. Stepping upon the bridge I produced my identification card, “I am Vera Alderton, Scotland Yard. Identify yourself.” But the mist thickening now into a heavy fog, seemed intent upon devouring the woman as well as the falling snow. I could barely see the feminine outline. She was tall, trim and proper. Not one that would usually be expected to wander Waterloo Bridge at night, in the snow, without a coat. Cautiously approaching I proceeded closer as I entered into the bank of fog. “Show yourself.” I ordered. But my only reply was from the waters of the Thames below and the howling of the dogs in the distance. I moved forward, my hands outstretched seeking a touch of the woman, and as I did so the fog suddenly began to dissipate as rapidly as it had appeared. I continued to reached in the sure expectancy of grasping the woman only there was nothing upon the bridge but the falling snow and the fading mist. A fine mist which oddly did not seem to be damp upon my flesh. I turned about, torch and truncheon in hand, but I was all alone upon the bridge. I took a step over to the damp, snow capped, stone balustrade and peered down into the dark waters, but I was already more than certain the woman had not jumped as I would have heard the accompanying sound of her immersion into the river. I looked now from the vantage point the woman had had to see Neil Byrne still seated upon the solitary bench. But now, as the echoing chorus of howling dogs began once more, I saw in the light of the streetlamp behind him the first hint of a mist. “You there, beware!” I called out uncertain of my apprehension; only the gin-soaked Byrne did not seem to hear as he continued to be muttering to himself. I turned to hasten back down from the bridge, watching as the mist in the glow of the streetlamp behind Byrne began to thicken just as it had earlier. As I turned to exit Waterloo Road back upon the Victoria Embankment, the mist had thickened into a fog spreading out toward the bench, where I could hear Byrne continuing in his preoccupation with JTR: “Time again . . . to play the funny little game. Ha Ha. You won’t see me in me white apron . .” The fog swirling thickly now to all but conceal Byrne, “Come away from there.” I ordered as I drew near. In reply Byrne cried out horribly. I drew upon the bench even as the mysterious fog once more began a sudden dissipation. I could now see Byrne slumped upon the bench. I walked over to him as the fog broke apart and faded to reveal the wet flakes of snow as they fell upon him. Upon reaching out to Byrne, when I touched him, the bottle of gin fell from his fingers. A quick inspection revealed him to be dead. His neck broken.

Inspector Stone’s Case-book
21 February – Evening —continued.

I must say I felt some considerable trepidation in having left PC Alderton alone upon the Victoria Embankment, but, for good or naught, this night would either assure AC Barrington’s experiment in the empowerment of the female ranks, or dissuade him of the idea altogether. For myself I had found my appraisal of Alderton having moderated by way of observation of her decorum and insights during our current investigation – in particular, her unhesitatingly giving chase to an armed assailant. I had seen many a man in uniform who would have balked at running head-long down that narrow access road mindful of facing a loaded Webley. Thus I wanted this errand done and a swift return to the embankment. There were still several lines of inquiry that needed attention.

But for now it was to the library.

The night had grown considerably more chill with the increase of the afternoon flurries as they gave way into the fullness of the evening’s snowfall, which, as I parked the motorcar before the imposing structure of the Maughan Library, had begun an accumulation upon the earlier slush of the street. Soon the tracks of trodden feet and the ruts of wheels carved upon the roadway would be obscured by newly fallen layer of fresh flakes. I hastened to the heavy front doors and entered. Whether it was the day, the hour, or the weather the library was scarcely populated. I made my way to the front desk. Presenting my identification, to the prim, white-haired woman sitting behind the counter on a high stool: “Yes, I am Inspector Stone. Metropolitan Police, I would speak with a Miss Irene Reedmin.”

She looked up to give me a rather haughty and a most unimpressed glance, “Metropolitan Police, you say?”

“Yes, madam.” I replied – twenty plus years and still the infamy of that mad-man retains amongst many of the citizenry a predisposition to hold us in their lowest estimation for our failures in his apprehension. And now, there where vague hints of his possible return.

The woman placed a heavy book on the desk with a laborious sigh, “She is on the second floor. Medical Reference."

“Thank you,” I replied and turned seeking the stairs

“Perhaps you might find the second floor.“ She called after me, “It is not all that difficult to locate, even for a Metropolitan.”

I ignored the slander and finding the stairs hastened to ascended in order to gain the second floor. It was even more solitary than the first. I took a moment to gather my bearings and then moved along the rows of the bookshelves. In the distance I detected the sound of what I surmised to be metal wheels rolling upon the hardwood floor. Thus, moving along a row of bookcases, I turned to observe a woman pushing a cart bearing upon it several stacks of books, from which she would retrieve one to place back upon a shelf. She was I would hazard to say in her early thirties. Her dark hair was gathered up and pulled back sharply to the nape of her neck, there pinned into a bun, from which idle strands found their escape; she wore sensible shoes for the profession; a long, hem to the ankle, dark skirt and a periwinkle hued blouse with a high collar adorned by a small cameo brooch. She wore a light grey smock, which I took for a professional garment.

“Excuse me, madam. I am Inspector Stone of the Metropolitan Police” I said by way of approach removing my identification card from my coat and presenting it, “ Would you happen to be Irene Reedmin?”

Little or no heed given to my identification, she slid a heavy book into place on the shelve before her, “Funny papers are in basement.”

“Yes, well madam, I am sorry, but I do not find murder to be at all humorous.” I retorted as I returned my identification card to my pocket, “I have been given to believe that you know, Vera Alderton. Is that not so?”

She paused in her resumption of pushing the cart and turned to look at me, “What’s Aldi done now?”

“At the moment, she is leading a murder hunt, and to that end, she has requested that I deliver to you this note,” I took the folded page torn from Alderton’s case-book bearing the list of books she had inventoried from Pamela Dean’s flat and handed it to her.

“Christ, and the woman says I’m gonna be the first to die.” Was her response as she took the note and unfolding the page began to scan the list of titles.

“Yes, well, I do think she strives for humour but it does not come easily to her.” I replied.

I watched somewhat astonished as Miss Reedmin reached into the left hand pocket of her grey smock in order to remove a narrow box of matches and a small cigarette case. She extracted one of the several rolled cigarettes, closed the case, and struck a blazing match. Lighting the cigarette, which gave off the scent of pipe tobacco, she then, with a quick flick of her wrist, extinguished the match, which went back into the matchbox. In a some what slightly undignified manner, she lifted a hip in order to settled herself upon the book-cart.

There perched she sat smoking and examining the list of titles.

“Where and when was this missing book purchased?’ She inquired, looking up from Alderton’s list, one hand tossed back with the cigarette burning between her fingers.

I reached into the inner pocket of my overcoat and removed Cotford’s case-book so as to review his notes in order to refresh my memory regarding the contents of Pamela Dean’s purse, “I am not at all sure this aligns with the book which was taken, but a receipt we have indicates about a fortnight ago.”

“And which seller?”

I checked again, “Hathaway Fine Books.”

I immediately took notice of her eyes. They seemed to glaze over upon the mentioning of the establishment, taking on that cast which I would say best described the allusion to a 1000-yard stare. She suddenly took a long frag from the cigarette.

“That lying swine!” she suddenly exploded in an exclamation of derision.

I frowned as I watched as she hopped off the book-cart and proceeded down the aisle, leaving her cart unattended.

“Pardon?” I asked uncertain of reasoning behind this exclamation.

Waving the hand with the trailing curl of cigarette smoke, she suddenly ordered me to follow: “Come along flat-foot. Keep up.”

I did as I was bidden.

“Your book,” she continued as we walked; her leading; me following behind, “It’s a first edition of Dracula, published in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company, Westminster. Cloth bound. Yellow with red stamping.”

I admit to a certain puzzlement upon this pronouncement: “Dracula?” I am not at all certain what I expected but this information in regards to the book for which the intruder had risked detection and subsequent apprehension, had murdered Cotford, and no doubt Pamela Dean as well, was nothing more than some fantastical novel of penny dreadful drivel was all but incomprehensible. “You mean that gothic romance about some Transylvanian reanimated corpses?"

She stopped and turned to look at me with some consideration, “A well read male.’ She took a long inhalation of her cigarette as she looked at me anew, “ And a copper at that.”

“Yes, my late wife. She purchased it. I found it all a bit too fanciful. I mean, a man transforming into a bat? And where pray where would his clothing be found when he performed this transform back from bat to man. A villain in his all together in the middle of the night? Not at all well thought out." I critiqued.

She smiled, “And—a critic at that.” She placed her cigarette between her lips and continued now along a main aisle. I continued to follow along behind. She raised a hand to wag a finger, “I told Hathaway to let me know if he ever came across one—that son of a whore.”

“Do you mean to say this book . . . it has some value?”

“Earliest we have is the 1901 abridgment, afraid it’ll have to serve you.” She said as she abruptly turned down an aisle.

“Enough to kill for?’

“Who knows what one will kill for?” She said philosophically as she ran her fingers along the spines of the books to suddenly pull one free and hand it to me. I reached out to take the proffered novel, but Miss Reedmin continued to hold it rather tight. “Well read or not, you listen here bobby, these books are like . . . family to me.” She lifted a high arched brow and glared at me, “If anything happens to this one, I mean anything, if it comes back spattered in blood like that note-book, well, then your station fellows are gonna be hunting for a "Jacquelyn the Ripper. Mind?”

I nodded assent.

She release the book into my care, “This bookseller, Hathaway you know him?”

“Well enough to curse him.”

“Would he be one that in having sold a book, let us say a first edition, then seek someone to hire in order to purloin it back, should another, wishing to obtain such a volume, be inclined to offer more that his original selling price?”

She cupped a hand to capture the ashes of her cigarette, “Possibly . . . but I would doubt it. There wouldn’t be that much of a bidding completion for a first edition this recent. And not for this book. Not unless he received an absurd asking price. Which in an of itself would be criminal in my opinion. I mean, even what with Stoker having recently died – there’s still the memory of his last . . . The Lair of the White Worm . . . to content with . . . “ She laughed and pointed at me, “ Now, there’s a far too fanciful novel for you. A complete mess. Why Richer and Sons of London ever published it – at least in its present form. Is beyond me. Instead of binding it, they should have had Stoker figure out whatever it was he was trying to say with the monstrosity.”

I randomly flipped through a few pages – it being written in letters and journals to give it a more realistic feel, “Then, you can think of nothing significant in regards to this book, madam?"

“Aside from the text not having been altered like later editions—no.”

I shut the book, “Altered you say, in what way?"

She shrugged and was obviously growing tired of my questions, even as I felt foolish in asking them now aware of the book under discussion, “Well, I could tell you the differences Sir, an no doubt why they were made, but you see that bastard Hathaway didn’t sell it to me.”

“Is it common place for there to be such alterations in editions?”

She nodded and was now in need of a place to extinguish her cigarette, “Horrifically yes. Sometimes those editorial butchers hack-away whole chapters to make the story "read better” or so they say.”

“And so, this edition may be missing substantial portions of the first edition.”

“Less paper, a lower price. Whose to know.” She told me as she turned to walk away.

“Madam,” I said to halt her progress, “I will not take up too much more of your time – but I was informed by PC Alderton you have an apparatus . . . some such device which can make a copy of this?’ And I held up Cotford’s case-book.

She looked at it disdainfully, “I do.” She confirmed. “But I’m tempted to charge you 5 shillings for any cleaning that note-book might may require of the machine afterwards.”

“Madam, I am more than certain you shall be compensated for any repairs.”

The woman sighed heavy, and reaching into a shelf to remove a small tea cup, she ground out the stub of her cigarette. “Then by all means, let us make way to the basement bobby!” And she proceeded to march out of the aisle and toward the door which lead to the stairs. “We shall take the back stairs, I don’t want to hear that old drone Littleton gossiping about me alone with a man in the basement. HA!”

I followed Miss Reedmin down the flight of stairs into the a basement filled with the scent of old books and dust. I was growing more apprehensive of the time, being well aware that the City Police would by now have discovered Cotford’s case-book to be missing and that as PC Alderton and I had left the scene they would suspect it to be one of us to have possession of it.

Miss Reedmin progressed through a maze of boxes and dustbins to a worktable beside which stood some mechanical apparatus covered with a drop-cloth, which I hazard was to secure it from dust and soot from the furnace. “This process it is not time consuming, is it?” I inquired as the device looked rather complicated when the cloth was pulled free.

“Reflexive reprographic machine is the fastest copying system currently known to humanity.” She said with a bit of pride as she reached out and took the case-book from my hand. In examining it she glanced at the bloodstains and then with brows knitted looked over to me, before she set about operating the device.

“If it is lengthy process, I need but the last five or six pages.”

She waved me off, “Never fret.” And she busied herself with whatever operation the device needed as she worked upon the rather loud leavers and gears for close to two minutes, before she turned about and handed me back the case-book and the copy sheets.

I flipped through the pages and marvelled at the continuing ingenuity of our age, “Thank you very much Miss Reedmin. And having taken too much of your valuable time, I will say good bye.”

She nodded and was busy covering up the reflexive reprographic machine as I left her to make my way back toward the stairs.

“You might check with his widow, Stoker’s, if you are interested in his notes and such. Her name is Florence.” She called out to me.

“His wife?” I repeated as I looked back at her and smiled, “Yes. Very good idea Miss Reedmin, thank you and once gain, a good evening.”

“Good evening to you.” Her voice growing more soft and indistinct as I mounted the stairs and hurried back the way we had come. From the second floor I retraced my steps to find once more the stairs leading back to the main lobby, where I was greeted with the same scowl from the older woman at the front desk. Upon exiting the front doors of the library I found that the light snow had progressed into a considerable snowfall.

I pulled up the collar of my coat and headed quickly towards the comfort of the Wolsely. Upon opening the door of the motorcar, I by chance happened to glance upwards, as something, some movement, had caught my eye. At first I thought it a flake caught upon the lash of my eye and so brushed at it. In doing so I was still looking upwards. The snow falling from the cloud laden sky was visible against the light of the obscured moon, and for a second I could have sworn there was a woman standing atop one of the buildings. In point of fact I could all but feel her eyes upon me. I placed a hand to shield my eyes from the hoary flakes to have a better look – but there was no one there.

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