The Coldfall Sanction

By Tricks and Stratagems
Session Two - Part Three

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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.

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“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, 21 February, 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.

View
Long Coats and Blackfrairs
Session Two - Part One

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Beginning of first draft of Jackson Elias’ Dispatch: February 20, 1916—Corfu Island, Jackson Elias – Kane News Syndicate

Corfu, The Ionian Sea — And the Lord did not go before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; nor by night as a pillar of fire, to give them light, as they hurriedly raced and tumbled and scrambled their way by day, and by night. Soldiers, members of the National Assembly, bureaucrats of the government, helpless civilians, innocent children, fleeing before the might of the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Bulgarian armies, who perused them through the Golgotha of Albania. And none there lifted a hand to spare them, for even the hands of the Albanian Tribesmen, were lifted up, to smote them down, so as to add to their misery, and their slaughter, as death followed them by day, and by night, and in their wake they left the trail of their dead; and the number of these shall be 240,000, to give or take a few. And yet it did come to pass their exodus finally reached the shore of the Adriatic, and thereupon they stood with the sea to their back and their enemies before them. But alas, there were no magicians among them. There was no one to lift the staff of the Lord, to deliver them, to stretch it out over the sea to divide the waters. There was only a rag-tagged fleet of allied transport ships hastily diverted to take aboard that which they could; and so, they were brought to the isle of Corfu.

And out of the wilderness, the Lord brought upon them rain. Eight endless days of rain in celebration of their exodus as they clung to life upon the rock they now called salvation. Truly? An Island of Salvation? For some. While others are dying of the influenza. They huddle upon the beautiful shoreline like so many seals basking in the sun. They have insufficient food and medicine and clothes and tents and blankets, and though the sun brings warmth, the wind from the Ionian Sea is chill by day and cold by night as winter’s breath still lingers. Most of those having reached the promise of the Isle of Salvation shall die here. Their bodies to be buried into the deep blue graveyard of the sea from which the lice will rise to the surface and make for the shore, seeking yet another body for shelter. What a desperate group of men are these once proud soldiers.

But alas, this island of salvation is too small to save them all.

From Jackson Elias’ Notebook

February 20 – Afternoon – Corfu Island
The sun was bright off the blue waters of the sea, and yet, it is February and the Ionian breeze is chill. I waiting on the L-shaped veranda wearing the light-weight, long coat, whose hem reached to just above my ankle, which I had borrowed from Djovana, the daughter of Ioannis Gazis, who owns the hotel. The wind catches the smoke from my cigarette and whips it apart in front of me – no more substantial than anything else around here. They are tearing the island apart to try and give the thousands of Serbian soldiers and civilian refugees anything with which to make some tumble-down shelters. The tents have long since given out. I saw a woman and her two children working valiantly in the mire, struggling with what had been little more than a shed a few hours before and was now being transformed into some semblance of a house. A home? The little boy had straw hair, filthy, clothing ripped and torn – he wore only one sock. Where had he lost the other one? (Note: The missing sock – should use as a metaphor.) I am not supposed to go beyond the perimeter of the hotel, or so the Serbian officers have inform me in French – and the sentries try to reiterate, but, it’s mostly Serbian or some other language I don’t recognize. And so, we have established a routine: the sentries tell me what I can’t understand, and I reply in what they can’t understand, and I make a display of shaking my head and smiling, and then I offer them a couple of cigarettes, which grants me a walk along one of the roads leading away from the hotel. Of course, the sentry accompanies me. I am not allow to stray too far beyond the village. As the island is mountainous and the roads rocky, there is good terrain to conceal most of what they think I shouldn’t see. But, when the wind is right, I can catch the stench even the sea breeze cannot hold back. Death. (Note: The island of salvation is a massive rock arising out of the Ionian Sea, so rough and mountainous they can’t even bury the dead – they have to carry them out to sea.)

I am awaiting to interview Lord Cyril – if he keeps the appointment. I had returned to the hotel and a bite of lunch after having shot the German spy. Still no word as to what he was about. Although I strongly suspect it has something to do with the Lord Cyril and the Serbian Lieutenant’s discussion. A discussion I very much want to learn more about. Restless, I couldn’t settle down to work, so that was when I decided on the walk. It was a bright day, the rain having stopped. But everything is mud – which is to be expected after an eight day deluge. I was standing at the railing of the veranda, left arm crossed at my waist, so as to rest my right elbow in hand, in order to hold the cigarette close (a pose I so associate with mother – as she has haunted me all day), when Lord Cyril arrived. Punctual. I turned upon hearing the sound of the door, which leads from the hotel restaurant to the veranda, opening as he stepped out, squinting for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the light.

“Lord Cyril.” I smiled, “It is so good of you to see me.” And I tossed the remains of my cigarette into the wind, watching it as it was whipped away.

Even here upon an island amid so much despair, on a veranda deserted save for the single table I had earlier commandeered from the restaurant, all the others having been taken away for other purposes, he appeared a perfect English gentleman as he smiled, “Miss Elias.”

“It is so beautiful here, and yet, I cannot help but think that it is soon to be a big blue graveyard.” Was my immediate reply as my thoughts continued to linger upon my article.

He held back my chair.

“There is beauty throughout this wide world of ours. Even though it seems to have lost all sanity.” He said reassuringly.

I gave him a gracious smile even as I have never been certain there has ever been sanity in this wild world. Stepping away from the railing, I thanked him as I took my seat.

“Our waiter shall be out momentarily.” He informed me while he stepped over to take the seat opposite.

“In a way, it is all a bit disturbing, to see all those suffering and dying and yet, we have the comfort of the hotel—“ I continued, able now to closely observe the Earl of Gavilshire. With his well trimmed beard and freshly starched shirt and collar, of which I am certain the hotel staff had procured for him from somewhere (although, I had strong suspicions as from whom) he looked more as if he were sitting upon the veranda of a fashionable English seaside resort than this island refuge. He gave no evidence that he had just recently made an arduous exodus through terrible weather and the Albania mountains – what I wondered was why the 7th Earl of Gavilshire, who was not a young man, although he seemed in remarkable shape for a man surely in his early fifties, had remained here on Corfu. He could have steamed out to a British transport and by now have been rounding Gibraltar headed to home and the safety of London. I gave him one of my best demure smiles as I continued, “But, I must admit I for one enjoy the comfort of my bed, while I have it.”

“Yes, Ioannis is the epitome of hospitality.” Whether I had chosen incorrectly and the veranda was more chill than was comfortable with the lowering of the sun or he had another meeting elsewhere, he quickly cut straight to the matter. “Though I believe you have much that you wish to discuss.”

He was direct I liked him.

“Yes—sorry, but yes.”

The door to the veranda opened once more and Djovana stepped out and approached our table, “May I be . . . of service?”

I glanced over to Lord Cyril, “Tea or coffee?”

“Yes, we would like some tea and sarma if you have some please.” He requested.

Djovana made a small curtsy, “I will see if we have . . . such supplies . . . remaining.” She struggled with her English.

From within a side pocket of Djovana’s coat, I removed my notebook and a umber pencil and smiled at her and then looked back to Lord Cyril, “I am sorry, I tend to take notes if that is okay?”

“As befits a reporter, I would expect nothing less.” He replied, his attention for a brief moment distracted at the sound of Djovana closing the door behind her. His experiences have made him wary.

I lean a bit forward, “You were in Montenegro. Was that by design? I mean, what with the inevitable Austrian advance—I would have thought you would have left for London long before then.”

He smiled, crossed his legs and folding his hands in his lap reclined a bit in his chair to take a breath of the cool air. An academic rather than a politician, and yet he certainly had the composure of one. "Yes. I have lived in Ragusa, Dubrovnik to the local Croats, for many years. When the War began, I was allowed to leave to Montenegro. I remained there as a liaison for the British Empire and Montenegro, though of course I cannot disclose the details, I am sure you understand.”

I could not resist an impish smile. "Of course,” I replied and made a note. For whom did he work? The War Office? Or was he someone’s fabulist intelligencer? One thing was for certain – he drew German attention. “I can’t help but notice that you are perhaps still acting in that capacity, as I have noticed you speaking with various members of the exiled government.”

He smiles. “Again madam, I cannot disclose details. Merely that I am indeed still in the service of the crown.”

“With the National Assembly installed in Corfu’s National Theatre, I would assume you meet there often?” I replied off-handily as I was writing.

“As I said,” He answered pleasantly, “There are certain details I can not discuss.”

“As befits a gentleman such as yourself,” I said, looking up with a wry smile as I repaid his compliment, “I would expect nothing less. So – in preparation for the Serbian evacuation, the French taking formal military control of the island, which was once a British protectorate, I assume that was a decision jointly made by the French and the British, for Greek sensibilities?

He pulls at his beard in thought, “I am not a military man, I can’t say for certain what discussions go on between the British and French high commands. It is entirely possible, but I cannot say for certain.”

“So, just were do the Greeks, with their avowed neutrality, stand, officially, what with the Entente de facto seizing control of the Island?”

“The Venizelos government has repeatedly offered aid to the Entente, and the Greek people have no love for the Turks and Bulgarians.” His reply was no more than I expected, he was, at the moment answering as a diplomat, “From all I have seen of the Greeks here, they have little, but are very willing to give to aid their orthodox allies. ”

“But with Montenegro being overwhelmed in January, do you see a path where Greece finally enters the war on the Entente’s side?’ I tried to press the issue further, “I mean, they were obligated to aid Serbia by treaty, and I don’t think this island particularly constitutes the intention of that agreement.”

“I am not privy to the goings on of the Greek government. I have been somewhat out of communication with the outside world for some time. From what I understand, the Prime Minister and the Greek people are on our side, but the King is a Germanophile.’ He smiled, “I do hope it is only a matter of time.”

“It must have been arduous getting through the mountains, but then, when you got to the Adriatic, how did it feel to have the sea at your back – I mean, it must have been like the Israelites awaiting the Egyptians?”

Cyril shifts in his chair and straightens upright. “I was fairly lucky compared most of the others. I left Montenegro when I heard that Serbia was falling. I didn’t wait for the Austrian invasion. As a result, I was able to stick to the coast and the major cities. When I met up with the Italian army in Valona, I was able to evacuate from there.”

“Well, at least the Italian Navy was there. In whatever capacity it could throw together—but, from what I have heard, shouldn’t English and French ships have given them more support, rather than leaving so much of it to the Italians?”

“Well, this is the Adriatic. Italy is just across that horizon” He points westward. “Logistically it would make sense for the Italians to bare the brunt of the effort in this part of the world.”

“I know the French hospital ship, St. Francis of Assisi, is doing all it can to assist with the influx refugees, the wounded, the ill, but, do you really think the French and or the British will be able to save these poor devils clinging to this rock? I mean how many are dying a day? Hundreds?” I could feel my emotions beginning to influence my questions, and yet I continued, “I mean, I am sorry, but the Hapsburgs, the Holy Roman Empire—driving men and women and children into the sea like so many drowning rats.”

With the frown of a stuffy history professor, he answered: “The Holy Roman Empire has not existed for over a hundred years Miss Elias. As for the Servi—” he corrected himself, “Serbian Army, I do believe they are to be transported as quickly as can be allowed to Salonika, to continue the fight and retake their homeland.”

“So, you think there will eventually be an counteroffensive? Out of Greece?” I gave that some thought. “And, I am sorry, Lord Cyril,” as I quickly apologized for one of my Charles Foster Kane outbursts – which I had seen on more than one occasion – for which I found I too easily emulated. A reason, no doubt, Jackson Elias was sitting here—we were both unstoppable forces when we wanted something. And I wanted something. "I mean, regarding the crack about the Holy Roman Empire. But, you would think . . . if religion meant anything it might have taken hold—you see, I have to admit I am a bit down on religion. God too for that matter.”

Cyril raised an eyebrow. “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

“Pardon? My thoughts regarding an Empire that called itself Holy and yet has no mercy, for women and children, or my thoughts on religion? Or God?” I looked up and laughed, “Or all of it for that matter. I guess they all sort of go together—don’t they . . . once again, I am sorry . . . that is not at all professional of me. I guess it is seeing all these poor men suffering. Knowing how many are dead. Uncertain how many are dying.” I didn’t say anything about the mother of that straw-haired little boy and his missing a sock.

“These are indeed trying times. But we must still hold out hope that this will be the war to end all wars. The problem now, is to make sure that this final war is won, so that all this will not have been in vain.”

“Let us do so hope.” I agreed as Djovana opened the door upon us once again and returned with the tea and set it down. She poured us a cup and placed it and its saucer, very precisely, before us, leaving the tea pot in the center of the table and stepping back.

“Ah, thank you Miss.” Lord Cyril said in English lifting his cup, and then spoke in Greek. As I recognized the word Sarma, I assumed he was asking about it as she had not brought any with our tea.

Djovana shook her head, then she looked at us both – knowing I did not speak Greek—and so she struggled with her English, "Sorry. Supplies so low. We are run out. Father say next boat . . . soon come. We need—save. For later. We are sorry.”

“Not a problem at all miss. There is always a shortage in these times.” Lord Cyril assuaged her.

I reached into the pocket of her coat for my package of cigarettes, removed one, placing the pack on the table beside my notebook, as I carefully struck a match, shielding it with both hands against the wind – Djovana was right, conservation is upmost now and so one should not waste even a match.

“I would have expected that you might head to Greece, or perhaps to England.” I said exhaling the smoke from my cigarette, while extinguishing the match with a shake of my hand. “But, if I am not incorrect, when I noticed you and the Serbian Lieutenant talking earlier, you are planning an expedition—back to the mainland. What I think is that you are going to make a try for Romania.”

Lord Cyril sipped his tea and set the cup down as he turned to say something in Greek to Djovana, which I half recognized as a polite dismissal.

She nodded and turned to depart.

He waited for her to open the door and re-enter the hotel before answering. “Indeed. You are very observant, Miss Elias. But, I must insist however, that you do not publish this information until the expedition is either over or has failed. As a security measure.”

I reached over to remove the tea cup from its saucer and placed the spent match upon the saucer as there wasn’t an ashtray upon the table. “There is a way you can be assured. Let me accompany you. You see, I want into Romania as well.”

He took another sip of his tea and said earnestly, “I had thought you might ask that.”

“I can assure you I will not slow you down.” I flicked ashes into the saucer, “I can hold my own. For some years I grew up in a western mining town. And, as you have seen, I can handle a gun.”

“Indeed, and not afraid to kill a man.” He peered at me over his glasses.

“If it comes to that, yes.” I informed him coldly, “He was not the first man I have had to kill.”

He paused for a moment before replying, “I have spoken with the Lieutenant. Peter Kadijević is his name. He is a good man. He is willing to transport me to Romania behind enemy lines for an opportunity to organize a Chetnik uprising. Are you familiar with the Chetniks?”

I had to admit I had heard of them but that I was quickly playing catch up here in Balkans, which was why I was so eager to accompany him, not only for their assistance in getting into Romania, but because he was a wealth of knowledge.

“The Chetniks were bands of brigand rebels who fought the Ottomans in an attempt to free Serbian lands from the Turk. Peter is evidently an old Chetnik, as is his sergeant, Marko Pasic. His brother-in-law as a matter of fact.” He explained, “I have used my clout to convince Peter’s superiors to approve the trip to get Peter, Marko, and a few other soldiers behind enemy lines and organize an uprising. Peter is impressed with your shooting, he asked me to tell you.”

“Well, please, when you see him, tell him I said thank you.” I took a pull from my cigarette and watched as a transport ship sailed toward the horizon as I said solemnly, “I am just glad I had the opportunity to stop him before he was able to shoot either your Lieutenant . . . or you.”

Lord Cyril pulled out his pipe and tapped it gently against his shoe. “Yes, we are both grateful. Although, it would have been wonderful to have questioned him.”

I held the cigarette aside to keep the breeze from curling it back into my eyes. He meant it would have been better if I had aimed lower – but, the old Russian who had taught me to shoot, taught me that if you were going to shoot a man, then you aim for the head. “Seems odd. A German spy here, on Corfu. I wonder why? And, more importantly, why was he so interested in the two of you?”

“He was probably Austrian, given the theatre. Peter is willing to let you come along if you will write flattering exploits of our journey and his attempts to organize a resistance. Having it translated into Serbian and distributed among the troops here would sure raise their morale. You pointed out yourself the desperate situation here. Good news can do wonders.”

Adjusting my cigarette to my left hand I reached out across the table with my right, "You have yourself a deal, Lord Cyril. You see, having read John Reed’s Metropolitan Magazine articles about his travels through Eastern Europe, I so long to do the same.”

Obviously humoring an American, he took my hand to shake, "John Reed?”

With a winsome smile, I quickly sought to reassure him, “I’m not a socialist. I have too much in the bank.”

He nodded, “Of course. Once we reach Romania, I must ask that we go our separate ways."

“Certainly.” I agreed, “I understand. And, I have but one request of you in return.”

“Oh?” I could detect a bit of suspicion in his eyes.

“Yes. And don’t be modest, Lord Cyril, you are infinitely knowledgeable.” I told him, “You are after all a leading Orientalist. And so, if you would be my professor, and I your student, I would be most humbly grateful.” I wanted to ask him if he knew Arminius Vámbéry, being as he was a fellow Orientalist and Professor Vámbéry had been at Buda-Pesh University, they must have corresponded. Perhaps even visited one another before the war. I was reading Vámbéry’s Travels in Central Asia, which I had picked up in Paris at a small bookstore on the Rue St. Jacques. But, I did not want to press him any further this afternoon – I could tell he was a bit reticent to begin with in assenting to allow me to accompany him.

Carefully he blew through his pipe to ensure it was clear of all obstructions, and, then began to fill it again, “As long as it does not include sensitive material outside of our journey, I would be happy to answer your questions about the region and its history.”

“And, perhaps your study of the regions folklore as well.” I said in an exhalation of smoke from my cigarette. I was well aware that Eastern Europe was a whirlpool of superstitions.

He nodded. “Certainly”

I set back exhaling a smoky sigh of satisfaction. I had wanted to join whatever expedition Lord Cyril was about to engage from the moment I had seen and overheard him and that Serbian Lieutenant, my eyes glancing at my notes, Peter Kadijević, as they had been reviewing a military survey map in the restaurant this morning. Which I had take note of as they were pointing to references upon it while they were placing it out across the table. I saw it immediately. Romania. And, if my instincts were right and Lord Cyril was heading there – I was certain it was to influence Romania to drop neutrality and join the Entente. And if that happened, I wanted to be in Bucharest. I lifted my tea cup and took a sip, while I watched as he continued to fill his pipe. "Thank you, Lord Cyril. Truly. I had been trying to arrange something with a Bulgarian smuggler, but I feel I am in far more reliable company.”

Finishing with his pipe, he looked at me for a long moment, then inquired: “I must ask Miss Elias, what languages can you speak?”

I was no linguist, certainly not as he: "English, French, and I have been trying to pick up a little Greek since I have been on the island.” I answered, “I picked up French and a little Russian from a pair of miners in California. They watched over me, sort-of-like a couple of surrogate fathers.”

“Most unfortunate, unfortunately,” He said, lighting a match to which he protected the flame from the wind, with the cup of his hand, as he placed it at the bowl of his pipe and sucked the flame down, “Among the band that is to accompany us not one of them knows English, French, or Greek.” He puffed smoke. “Though admirably, Peter is well versed in Macedonian, and Marko in Albanian, which should serve us well for the first leg of the journey. Of prime importance is learning Serbo-croatian, of which I am willing to teach.”

A hand to my chest as I replied, “I am your student, professor.”

“From what I understand, we will be ready to leave tomorrow. In the morning. Can you be ready by then.” He said as a cloud of pipe smoke ascended above his head.

With my best wry smile I answered, “I am traveling light. My bag, my Navy Colt, and of course, my typewriter, that’s all I need.”

Inspector Stone’s Casebook

9 March– late afternoon—continued. The grey afternoon sun, obscured by a low overcast which bespoke of more snow, was just lowering to soon slip behind the roofs and smoking chimneys of London. The earlier snow had given way to a dirty slush rutting the cobblestones of the roadway. As PC Alderton having been given lead of the investigation, I passed her the keys to the Wolseley upon her affirmation of driving skills, which she demonstrated quite admirably. I must admit she has growing in merit. I would have chosen to interview the Pierman, Gregory J. Morris, but it was prescient that PC Alderton decided upon Pamela Dean’s lodgings.

It was 4:44 when we arrived at 85 Blackfriar Road. It was the last dwelling among a row house of seven.

“I am sure the City Police detectives have been here before us,” I said as we stepped out of the motorcar and I pulled up the collar of my overcoat as the wind was getting colder. PC Alderton consulted her notebook to be assured of the correct address.

“Number 85.” She confirmed.

“From the information supplied by the City Detectives, she apparently lived alone.” I took note of a few curtains, in the row house opposite the street, as the fell back in place as we walked around the motorcar.

“Not exactly the best place for that I should think, especially if she works late.” PC Alderton replies as she stepped slowly along the snowy walkway leading to the doorstep, which served as porch as well. Her eyes were scanning the small yard for any signs of struggle. But the snow lying about looked undisturbed.

As we approached, I took a quizzical look about. Odd, there should have been a constable from the City Police, if not, certainly one from the Metropolitan, owing to having taken the lead on the murder hunt. But there did not seem to be anyone securing the premises. I glanced over at PC Alderton, who in returned gave me a look that suggested she had had the same thoughts as I.

“Odd is it not?”

“There are a lot of odd things, Inspector Stone,” She replied making a note in her notebook as she step upon the doorstep. Her dainty hand reached for the door latch in order to check the lock. It was unlocked. She gave me a quizzical look as she opened the door, “Even Odder.” Upon entrance we found a small sitting room with modest furnishing, well-kept and very tidy. To the left was a connecting door – from which we suddenly heard a sound.

Upon so doing, PC Alderton quickly wrote upon the page of her notebook and then turned it toward me: “Is there a back door?”

I was more than certain that in this neighborhood the rowhouse flats should certainly have a back entrance and so I nodded assent.

Alderton motioned for me to exit and make for the rear entrance, I reached into my back pocket and removed my truncheon and indicated for her to remain where she was until I had time to locate the back door.

PC Alderton informed me, upon my exit she heard the sound of something being moved, which she assumed to be furnishings; and that upon this evidence of movement within the next room, she gave herself a count of twenty before calling out: “This is the Police!”

Upon which PC Alderton reported there was a sudden silence.

Having replaced her notebook for her Truncheon, Alderton reported that she cautiously began moving toward the connecting door and gave the command to “Come down peaceably.”

At such time, a man described by PC Alderton as tall, being of medium build, and dressed in a black suit, with a well pressed shirt and sharply knotted tie, wearing a hat, whose brim was pulled down in some attempt to conceal the full of his face, stepped forward so as to be seen through the threshold. He held a Webley in his right hand, which he pointed at her.

In the interval I had hastened around the front of the row house, wherein we were fortunate in that the location of Pamela Dean’s lodgings was in the last of the seven flats. There was a half-wall, of brick, which I hastily vaulted and moved toward the back. In doing so, I saw through a window, adorned with a cream gossamer curtain, the figure of a man, tall, dressed in black and wearing a hat. Upon reaching the back entrance, I discovered this ingress was as unlocked as the front entrance and so I thereupon entered the premises. The entry was into a narrow kitchen with a small table.

From the connecting room I heard PC Alderton command the intruder to “Come down peacefully.”

There was no corresponding reply,

As I stepped from the kitchen into the bedroom as the flat’s configuration was fairly straightforward (a sitting room, bedroom, WC, and kitchen), I could hear PC Alderton say, in an calm and even voice, “Good evening Sir.”

There upon I announced myself: “Scotland Yard. Put down that weapon.”

The intruder turned and took a step back upon the sound of my voice in order to assure he maintained both of us in his field of vision. There was something about his baring that bespoke of his having been in the military. He answered through clenched teeth, "I figured you boys—“ And he stopped for a moment to look at PC Alderton before he continued, “Would be coming around soon. But, make no mistake, I will shoot.”

“That sir would not be advantageous for any of us.” PC Alderton informed him

To which the intruder replied: “So, then—just step back a bit, and you—,” he said indicating me, “Move over there with her . . . and everything will be fine. And as I said, if you don’t—well then that’s on you."

“There is no need to shoot anyone sir. We only want to talk.” Alderton continued, calmly.

“Sorry to say, I am a bit reticent on conversation at the moment”

“Oh, I do say.” PC Alderton replied evenly.

PC Alderton informed me that at this time she took notice of a book the intruder held tucked under his arm. It was yellow bound with a red title.

Thus confronted with an armed intruder, whose intent to use his fire arm was not in question, PC Alderton glanced across the bedroom to me, “I think the error may be upon our part. Inspector Stone, it would see we have the wrong address. I suggest we depart and leave this gentleman to his . . . well-earned leisure."

The intruder gave me what I would best describe as his attempt at a wry smile as he replied: "And there are some who say women don’t have the smarts for police work.” He then waggled the Webley to indicate he wanted me to move from my present location. “Now, I’m assuming you’re the Inspector Stone of which she speaks. And so, being the Scotland-Yard-in-Jack, you just move, very slowly, right over there with the intelligent young lady. And, oh, you can drop the truncheon as well.”

I looked PC Alderton and dropped my truncheon before I slowly moved across the bedroom towards her, hands not completely raised, but held so the man could see them.

“And so, I do believe that we will just calmly step backward through the door and be on our way, sound fair to you sir?” PC Alderton explained to the assailant.

“Right. Just make like it is the wrong address and step on out the door, as I said, very slowly.”

“Come along Inspector Stone.” Alderton said as she took my arm and moved me through the threshold into the sitting room. At the time I felt must admit I felt compelled to comply, especially with PC Alderton at my side – even as I must also admit she was and had been remarkably calm during the whole of the altercation with the gunman.

Moving across the sitting room toward the front door, Alderton used my body as a shield so as to use her hand to indicate that we should once more head straightway to the rear of the flat, as I looked at her to see her mouth the word: “Follow.”

As I opened the front door of 85 Blackfriar Road, we found a tall, slender man in a light brown coat and hat standing upon the doorstep – as if he were about to enter. I immediately recognized him as City Detective Inspector Cotford.

“I might have known it would be you Stone . . .” He remarked.

“Not now man.” I informed him.

Cotford’s expression quickly changed to suspicion as he look at me and then PC Alderton and then past us to see the man with the gun. He suddenly pushes past PC Alderton in an attempt to enter the sitting room.

“Hey, you . . .” He exclaimed upon passing through the threshold, “I know you — we wor—“

He did not have the opportunity to finish his statement as the Webley discharged loudly.

Detective Inspector Cotford’s head snapped back as the intruder with the gun proved to be a steady marksman as he placed a bullet in center of Cotford’s forehead, His blower hat was kicked off to roll on the walkway outside.

I was startled by the violence of the moment as PC Alderton shrieked, the exit wound having torn out a good portion of the back of Cotford’s skull as blood and brain matter splattered us. Instinctively I reached out to catch the body

As I helped to slow the collapse of Detective Inspector Cotford’s body to the floor, the murderer turned abruptly and sped through the bedroom and out the back entrance.

PC Alderton quickly gave chase. She ran through the threshold of the bedroom following the assailant. Although it was more than evident, I checked to assure myself of Cotford’s death before I stepped outside to answer the sound of a near-by constable’s whistle by raising mine to signal in return.

Inspector Stone’s Casebook – continued
Report taken of PC Vera Alderton:
Upon the discharge of the weapon inside the victim’s flat at 85 Blackfriar Road and the quick departure of the intruder of said domicile, I gave chase. The assailant moved from the bedroom through the kitchen and exited the flat through the back egress. The door was just slamming as I reached it and I exited behind him. The back lawn was small and unobstructed save for the covering of the earlier snowfall. The assailant was several meters ahead making for the half-wall, standing about waist high, which set the boundary of the rowhouse flats from the narrow access roadway running opposite a set of railroad tracks. The assailant made it over the wall. I followed. Once over the wall, I then signaled with my whistle. At this time I heard another whistle which I took to be Inspector Stone also raising alarm. As the assailant continued running down the access roadway I continued pursuit. It was late afternoon and there were no other pedestrians in the alley, nor were there any railway men visible. The earlier snow had not melted and so there were several icy spots. We had progressed about half the distance of the length of the narrow access roadway when the assailant’s foot gave way on a slippery spot of ice and he dropped a book he had removed from the victim’s flat. It was yellow, cloth bound and bore red lettering on side and front. As the assailant clambered to gather up the book, he turned and fired. The shot went wide and I continued to gain upon him. At this time several police whistles could be heard. I had made significant progress in pursuit owing to his recovery of the dropped book. As he approached the end of the access road where upon it opened to a larger expanse of pavement there suddenly appeared a motorcar which pulled to a halt. It was a black Napier Motor Carriage. The driver was a large shoulder man. I could not discern his features or any distinguishing marks as he wore a hat pulled low on his forehead. The assailant clambered into the rear of the motorcar and it speed away. I returned to 85 Blackfriar Road where upon Inspector Stone informed me that Detective Cotford was deceased.

Journal of Lord Cyril Blathing

21 February, Ionian Sea.
Our cross-Balkan journey has begun, and I can say I am really feeling the old sense of adventure again. This promises to be no walk in the park, but I plan to not let my apprehensions of the task ahead get in the way of my optimism. We have a 500 mile walk ahead of us through enemy territory, and I do hope to be in Bucharest within a month.

We are en route to Valona (Vlore) in the Italian zone of Albania. In Valona we shall obtain some supplies, clothing, and a wagon. We will travel east, crossing the river Vlosa near Kalivac. There, we plan to hire a guide to take us past the enemy lines.

The Albanians do not like the Serbs. The Serbs have taken every opportunity to conquer the Albanians in the past, and now they have an opportunity to fight back. One can hope that bribery in these times can keep our guide disinterested in the true nationalities of those they are guiding.

The hope is to get through Albania quickly, avoiding the town of Korce and crossing into the Macedonian region by way of boat over Prespa Lake. In Serbia, we should expect more support from the locals.

I suppose I should take this time to make note of our band. Our leader is Lt Peter Kadijevic, a man I have the utmost respect for. He is of humble origin, but from what I can gather a skilled strategist and logistician. He has the concrete plans for after we cross the Lake.

He is an old Chetnik along with Srgt Marko Pasic, his brother-in-law. Marko knows Albanian, as he grew up in the Kosovo region. He will be our main interpreter on this first leg of the journey. He is a jovial fellow with an impeccably waxed mustache, and always has a traditional proverb to lighten the mood.

There are two privates who where chosen to accompany us. One is named Konstantin Zukic. He is constantly sulking, and muttering about all the negative things that could happen to us. He is constantly followed by the other private, young Ivan Cavoski. He assures me that he is 18, though I would wager the boy is no older than 15. I suspect he lied about his age to join, a fact which Peter is not over concerned about. Evidently both are to be considered fine specimens of soldiery, though to my untrained eye they are a rag-tag pair.

Finally there is Jackson Elias, who is, despite her unfortunate first name, an American woman reporter. She is a crack shot with a handgun, and evokes tales of the wild west and Indian-fighting. I am however, taken to understand she comes from New England. She is constantly writing things down, either in her notepad, or on that loud typewriter she has insisted on bringing. She will be writing the exploits of out journey and we shall part ways in Romania.

In fact, the Serbian soldiers shall part ways with us by the Romanian border. They are to stay and organize an uprising, and I do hope they all survive. After this war, I shall track them down, but for now, we approach the dock.

-C

View
Wrapped in Brown Paper
Session One - Part Three

Thames-Division.jpg

Newspaper Clipping from The Times, 9 March

Newspaper Article for 9 March Morning

Telegram Veronica Wells to Neville Pym

9 March —Take no action until we can discuss. Please. Will not meet at Willingham’s. Luncheon perhaps.

Newspaper Clipping from The Evening News, 9 March

Newspaper Article for 9 March Afternoon

Inspector Stone’s Notebook

9 March – late afternoon —What dross. No! I will not allow the toffs to prejudice in any way my casebook. In all things I will follow Vincent’s Code. And so, I shall refrain from putting too fine a point on their chief motivations, which are political and ever were. I arrived at New Scotland Yard at 4:45, having read The Evening News, in which once more it would appear the press is very well informed. Word on the street as to the identity of the mutilated woman, whose leg (right, severed just above the thigh) and pelvis (wrapped in thick brown paper and bound with low-grade twine) had been found (either floating in the Thames, or on the embankment near the Temple pier) had it that she was Pamela Dean, of Blackfriar Road. Information which seems to have found its way in print before reaching the gothic red and white brick walls of the Yard. No doubt given to the The Evening News by City Detectives disgruntled with the decision to have it kicked over to the Yard. Whether I just wanted the case, or assumed it was mine, owing to my success in closing murder cases, I felt that I was already working the Pamela Dean murder hunt. I was well aware even at this preliminary stage of the investigation, there were just too many similarities with the previous unsolved mutilation murders, which had been given, by the newspapers keen wordsmithing prowess, the appellation: “Thames Torso Murders.” Which is not to say other Inspectors were unfamiliar with this series of grotesque homicides, but I had studied them, as well as our “Jack,” owing to my belief they had been interconnected.

I arrived with barely time to remove my overcoat and drop the Evening News upon my desk before I felt the presence of prim Inspector Gudgett.

He pointed to the paper, “The closest you are going to get is in their column inches, Inspector.”

“Pardon?” I am not in a habit of being involved in interdepartmental frivolities and most are aware. What I wanted was to locate the evidence collected by the Thames Division, which had been sent over—along with the investigation, seeing that someone amongst the toffs was well aware of the implications.

Gudgett leaned forward confidentially, “They’re kicking it to the bird.”

“Who is?”

“The AC.”

I turned and left him standing there. I marched through the maze of desks to the corridor leading to the stairs. Unbelievable as it was, I knew it was not out of the realm of possibility. What with the war, the toffs, since 15’, had been making allowances for women. Opening the ranks to allow them service owing to the ever growing shortage of able, young men. No one wanted to use the word officially but just as the factories had, so were some restrictions eased in order to allow some dilution in filling uniforms. As I whipped open the door at the head of the stairs and made my way down the corridor toward the AC’s office I spotted Sargent Pumberton, “Is he in?” I asked, well aware of the irritation in my tone.

“He’s not in a good mood.”

“Neither am I.” I replied and continued toward Assistant Commissioner Barrington’s door.

I did not knock, but opened the door smartly and stepped in as AC Warren Barrington sat back in his grand chair. He looked up at my stormy entrance, lifting a not at all amused brow. Barrington was a big man. He filled up his chair, and his presence commanded the spaciousness of his desk. I had been before him on more than one occasion to feel the fullness of his irk. But the look he gave me now indicated he was not at all surprised to see me.

“What the bloody hell?” I said, hands on hips, well aware the door was still open behind me. “Is it true?”

AC Barrington fell back upon his more passive face, looking at me with some reticence, “It has been decided.”

Suddenly aware that I had not remove my hat, I tossed the bowler in the chair before his desk, “You well know my rate of success.”

Assistant Commissioner Barrington tapped an idle finger upon his desk, “It has been decided.”

“By whom? Henry?”

There was the sly smirk, “Who else?” He leaded forward, arms resting upon his desk as he looked at me in all seriousness, “The commissioner is of the opinion it will play well with the suffragettes.”

“Emmeline Pankhurst?” I surmised. “And this is how we are now making investigative assignments? By the placation of petticoats?”

This amused him, “I would hazard a wager she doesn’t wear a petticoat.”

“This is preposterous in the extreme.”

Barrington narrowed his eyes and continued, “Be that as it may, Edward. As they have called for, and have been able to maintain, a moratorium on public displays and protests, the Commissioner feels it best we demonstrate to the activist community a bit more confidence in the female PC’s we have thus far appointed.”

I frowned as I tightened my lips in a grimace, “Then, truly it has been decided?”

“Yes.” AC Barrington sighed, “Like it or not, Edward, there are political implications even to crime. And so, whether we like it or not, it is a sop to the WSPU.”

As aware as I was that Barrington had once worn the uniform and having worked his way up the ranks, his commission did not come by way of having a ‘Sir’ before his name, or, being beholden to any MP’s – which, meant that the leash those higher up held was a shorter one – I could not refrain from saying what I suspected we both felt, “"A Sop? Did I hear you say, a sop? We bloody well have a woman chopped up, parts of her body . . . floating about in the Thames, while the rest of her is . . . God only knows . . . and we are giving out sops?"

The Assistant Commissioner sighed, “As I have already said. It has been decided."

We stood for a long moment looking at one another. I felt it best to hold back my frustrations, else I would find myself even further from the case than I already was, and so I stepped over and looked out the window at the glistening blanket of light snow, which had fallen earlier in the morning.

I crossed my arms and glared at my pale, translucent reflection in the windowpane as Barrington pressed the switch on the intercommunicating system upon his desk, “Pumberton, have PC Alderton come in here.”

“Yes, sir,” came the tinny reply

“He could be back you know.” I said not looking away from the window.

“Oh, bloody hell. It’s been twenty-eight years.” Barrington swivelled his chair to look at me – there was the haunted trace of a remembrance etched upon his face, his bow tie slightly askance. “Do not forget Edward, I saw what he did to Mary Kelly. And so, I can say without reservation, there was never any real link between him and the maniac that was chopping them up and tossing pieces of them in the river other than the hysterical press’ speculation. As improbable as it may seem, then and now, it was merely happenstance. And no,” He suddenly held up a hand, before I could speak, “I don’t what to hear about any theories concerning the torso found in 1902 in Salamanca Alley. It is two separate MO’s entirely—it was then and always has been, and so, I don’t want you stirring things up about it, do you hear.”

“How old might he be, you think?”

Barrington looked at me, his exasperation obvious, “How the bloody hell would I know? I’d say bloody old enough to chop one up if he was a mind to.” His eyes narrowing – Jack had taken a lot out of him when he was a younger man. “But there is absolutely no indication that this is he no matter how much you wish for it to be – he’s either dead or he got away. And so, until we get a ‘Dear Boss’ letter, we will not be operating on the supposition as if there is one. Do you understand?”

“From what I am to understand, it is not my case.”

His lips went tight and he reached over to the intercommunicating system once again “ Where the hell is she?”

“Right here—in front of you Sir,” Came her reply as we both turned to see her standing before Barrington’s desk. Neither of us had heard her enter.

“Yes, so you are.”

PC Vera Alderton was a slender woman. I would guess to be between three-and-twenty and five-and-twenty. Slight for this line of work, mustn’t weight more than 7 stone. I am unaware if I had on any previous occasion taken note of her hands. They were decidedly dainty. Long fingered – perfect for the typewriter and teletype, but a truncheon?

Assistant Commissioner Barrington cleared his throat. AC Alderton stood stiffly, erect, assuming an almost military posture. Barrington for a brief moment sat silent, the tip of his forefinger once again idly tapping upon the desk, as he appraised her, “Yes. Well, good. You know Detective Inspector Stone?”

“Yes, Sir. Quite a commendable record, Sir.”

“Right.” Barrington continued to tap his forefinger, “I gather you have by now heard what they have fished up out of the Thames?”

“Yes Sir. From what I hear it is bad. Very bad. Sir.”

“Just another example of man being fully imbued with the spirit of western Christian charity.” Barrington said sardonically. “So, you think you are prepared for that PC Alderton?

“Yes, Sir.”

I half turned from the window, my arms still crossed as I watched her bear up under Barrington’s inquisitive scrutiny, “Very well then. Seeing as how you held your own remarkably well in Mr Asquith’s coroner’s court, regarding the matter of Emery and his abominable mother, the Commissioner has decided we are to assign you as lead investigator on this Thames homicide.”

I do have to admit, she concealed her excitement commendably. “Thank you Sir.” And then she broke rank and took a slight step forward, “If I might ask, Sir, I understand there has since been another part of the body discovered?”

“Yes. They found an arm in an alleyway off the Strand.”

This was certainly news to me, “They?”

“Which arm?” PC Alderton asked pointedly.

“Ah—“ Barrington addressed a note lying beside his phone, “Left one . . . just below the elbow.”

“The forearm.” I muttered to myself.

Barrington craned his neck to look up a me, “What?”

“Forearm, Sir.”

“Right!” He continued to refer to the note, “A forearm. It was found by some carrier men. Carter Paterson & Sons. Wrapped in brown paper.”

“Kraft paper.” She put forward, demonstrating those encyclopedic prowess of which Inspector Gudgett so enjoyed to mock.

Barrington dropped the note back upon his desk, “Kraft paper?”

“Sold to butchers, mainly. Cheap and sturdy. It’s paper manufactured using the Kraft Process. Invented by Carl Dahl, in Danzig.”

“German?” Barrington asked with the lift of his eyebrow.

“Prussian at the time.” She corrected politely.

“Yes, well enough History lessons for the day.” He waved his hand, “Standing around isn’t going to find this maniac, so get on with it. ‘

“Yes Sir.” She replied and for a brief moment I could she her hesitate, trying to decide whether or not she should to doing something upon dismissal, possibly even contemplating whether or not to salute, owing to her entire stance before Barrington having been one far to militaristic, but, instead she turned to leave.

“Oh, one other thing,” Barrington added, “I am assigning Detective Inspector Stone to assist you.”

“What?” I know that I glared in disbelief even as I caught the all too brief suppression of a bemused smile as Alderton and I exclaimed in unison.

“I am sorry, Inspector Stone is assigned to assist me?” She asked looking over at me.

“Detective Inspector Stone is undoubtedly one of our most experienced Inspectors in regards to murder hunts. As I am more than certain, you will soon discover. I shouldn’t have to remind you this isn’t just a simple homicide, Constable Alderton. As you no doubt will be shortly made aware there’s a possible history here for the pressmen to dredged up as unfounded as it may be.” Observant, she took note of AC Barrington’s eyes cutting to me, “And so, as more of these grisly bits of what remains of this most unfortunate woman appear about London, the chroniclers are going to go off half-cocked and when they do we shall have ourselves headline sensations. I for one do not care for sensations, but, they are a fact of life, and if and when we should have one then it is far better in the reportage that we have a team on assignment than a single investigator.”

He didn’t have to say a female investigator – that was more than clearly obvious by all concerned. She gave him a curt nod and me a rather insincere smile. Begrudgingly I had to admit she stood up well. She knew full well the circumstance. She was being set up. They were handing her a grotesque homicide with the sure and certain expectancy that there were going to be even more grisly dismembered parts of a woman’s body surfacing around London – each new one bringing with it a more censorious headline – and so the toffs, with the full anticipation Alderton would not be experienced enough to handle the media carnival that was soon about to make its presence known, or, going one even better, that she would not be emotionally able to handle the gruesome visage of severed human anatomy, could then point out that they had, in due diligence, offered a high profile murder investigation to one of their best female constables and she had not been up to stuff to handle the situation.

“As you say Sir.” She strode for the office door.

“One last thing, do handle this with some care. From what I understand this Pamela Dean was a clerk with the Naval Department. It is not bad enough to receive news from the battle front – but Naval Department clerks being chopped up and dumped into the Thames?” He allowed the statement to drift off into a sigh.

I retrieved my hat and followed Alderton out of the office and into the corridor, “The Thames murder cases. 1887 to 1889. I gather you see similarities.” She remarked over her shoulder to me.

“Yes.”

“Some suspected they linked to Jack.” I suppressed a wry smile, not only had she done some preliminary research on her own, or, had had the time to sit about and look at old casebooks, but she had certainly picked up on all of Barrington’s little hits as to my inclinations of the subject.

“There were those with such suspicions.”

“Twenty-eight years is a bit of a retirement don’t you think?” She asked as we moved down the corridor to the door leading to the stairwell.

We headed down the stairs, several flights down.

“PC Alderton, just were is your office.”

She looked back over her shoulder at me once again, “The basement.”

When we finally arrived at the most inhospitable niche of an office that she had been given, PC Pumberton was just stepping away from her desk, where he had deposited the evidence transferred from the Thames Division. PC Alderton moved a few things aside on her small desk. It was cramped enough for her and with me stepping closer making it even more so.

She peered in through the opening of the evidence package and then shuffled the contents out atop her desk. She immediately reached for a small purse.

Upon her desk she spread out the contents and carefully moved them about with her pencil. A small brush. A comb. A small box of face powder. A powder puff. One of those new plain, dip-nickel tubes, with those side levers for the lifting and lowering of the lipstick. “Two pounds and four schillings.” She said. I watched her with some interest as she took her time examining each item as if they were to give her some keen insight. There was a ticket from the underground: Waterloo Station. Two, mismatched buttons. A key chain bearing the ornamental insignia of the Admiralty. A Swan’s fountain pen. A package of cigarettes with only three remaining. A box of safety matches. A crumpled, and much battered sales receipt tucked into the corner of the purse from Hathaway Fine Books. An identification card which indicated she worked at the Admiralty, Naval Department. A folded envelope, empty, which had at one time contained a telegram. The telegram was missing. There was the stub of a pencil. A few loose hair pins. A small piece of paper torn from a much larger one, upon which was written: Harker. Then below, how much does he know.”

PC Alderton handed it over to me, “Wonder who he is?”

“And what does he know.”

‘So, she was found by a pierman?”

“Gregory J. Morris, the discoverer of the arm.” I informed her.

“Well, time to see the pierman.”

The sun was bright on the light layer of snow such that one had to squint upon exiting the Yard. PC Alderton hailed a cab and we silently made our way to Lower Thames Street and the address given for Gregory J. Morris.

Telegram Neville Pym to Veronica Wells

*9 March *Just now in receipt of your message. A very hectic morning. Will Dinner at Ritter’s suffice? 7:30.

Lt. Bradley McFarlane’s Journal

9 March – Evening – Surely I most have seemed a monomaniac sitting there alone at the small table nearest to the hearth, where they had a good fire going, as I urgently flipped through the thin pages of the broadsheets. I had stopped at the newssellers in order to gathered up all the evening editions so as to search for any new details concerning the atrocity discovered at the Victorian Embankment or of any further mention of Pamela. But, apparently the identity of the victim had been an exclusive to The Evening News, as I could find no other mention of Pamela in any of the other papers.

It was ghastly enough reading about the discovery of the mutilated remains in the morning Times, but to later find that the victim had been identified as Pamela Dean was beyond startling. It was almost paralyzing – only the night before I had seen her at Waterloo Station, where she had given me that smile of hers—which was beyond a doubt dazzling. Flirtatious. And now, she was beastly dead.

I could not shake the growing dread that it all had something to do with my asking her to meet me at the station in order to seek her assistance in my growing obsession with this Peter Hawkins intrigue. Save for my telegram she would not have been there. What was it she had said, curiosity kills the cat. There was no way in which I had not contributed to her demise. Her dismemberment? Lord God, the horror of the very thought of it, of someone – hacking or cutting, or, god how does one take apart a human being and wrap them up in butcher’s paper. For surely that is what it was. The Times had said brown paper but it must have been butcher’s paper for it was butcher’s work.

I finished my whiskey and lifted the glass, giving it a slight wiggle, indicating I needed another. Had she been still alive? When it was done—the dismembering? I shivered.

The pub at Jack Straw’s Castle was filling with beery shadows as the day beyond the high, cold windows deepened into night. It was cold without and chill within, but my shiver came from imagining the horrifying possibility that poor Pamela had been alive as her butcher set about his systematic work of removing her limbs, and then—even more, as I was assailed by thoughts of what that madman Jack had brought from hell. And as he had sent his saucy dispatches, so had I received a letter in the afternoon post. From her. Dropped in the post just before her assault?

To compound my guilt and remorseful preoccupation was the mounting concern regarding Veronica. Where was she? I had sent a telegram, as she had no phone and so I could not ring her up. But, there had been no reply. I was well aware that today was not a day in which she had any university sessions. I could remember her telling me of no plans for the day.

My worrisome fingers were preparing to remove once more the letter within my inner jacket pocket, when suddenly: “Two pints o’ stout Lizzie.”

Cadet Tanner called out to the waitress as he took off his hat and set it on the table. I looked up as the hat hit the table before me. Cadet Randall Tanner worked at NID as well. He worked in Room 40, in decryption. I had rang him up earlier and asked him to join me, being as I was also aware he knew Pamela Dean as well.

After loosening his collar, the young man pulled out a cheap cigarette and lit it, letting it half dangle from his lips. “Bit early for this innit Sir?’ He indicated the empty whiskey glass before me, “Not that I mind, ‘specially if you’re payin’.”

“Certainly a bit early for me Cadet.” I agreed, “But, at the moment, I am a bit off the rails all together. Thanks for coming on such short notice."

Randall shrugged, “No problem at all Sir. What’s on ya mind?”

At that precise moment the waitress arrived with my requested whiskey and Tanner’s pints. He looked at the ample figure of Lizzie as she placed the glasses of dark porter on the table, before he allowed his eyes to take a quick survey of the pub. Whether suspicious or cautious I was uncertain. The pub itself was a level down from the main floor of Jack Straw’s Castle, a step down as one entered. It was dim and growing dark. The electric lamps having been installed along the walls, replacing the gasworks, were intentionally small. There were a couple of dart boards off to the left, with only a pair of amiable gents tossing arrows. The bar, waiting to fill in later as the evening progressed, was occupied by a few regulars and glinted with glasses of ale, slender sherry glasses, and short whiskeys.

My fingers curled about my own whiskey glass, which I found myself slowly sliding idly about in a tight little circle. "It is frightfully horrid about old Pamela.”

Randall’s cheery demeanour quickly faded and he took a sip of his pint, “Yeah, damn shame that.”

“From what I hear you two knew each other. “

“I knew her alright. ‘Course I know about half th’ birds in the Admiralty.” A brief grin showed itself, but was quickly lost. “Didn’t know her well, but no one deserves that. Hear enough about butchery from Th’ Front, don’t need it here too.”

Damn right, mankind was butchering itself all about the globe.

I took a sip of my whiskey.

The door to the pub opened and feeling a bit anxious, I glanced over the Cadet’s shoulder. I wasn’t certain what, if anything, I was expecting – but the letter I must admit had unnerved me. Only, through the pub’s threshold entered an old gentleman, who as apparently another of the establishment’s regulars, as he returned Lizzie’s energetic wave.

“It is devilish don’t you think? I mean, how does one go about it?” I found myself unable to help from articulating my more gruesome thoughts, “What kind of a person would – could contemplate such a thing, chopping someone up like that."

Randall thoughtfully took another sip of his porter. I could tell my own demeanour was perhaps making the usually gregarious young man a bit apprehensive as I took note now that he glanced over at the bar mirror, surveying the room. He looked at a soldier with one leg and one arm nursing a pint in the corner. “Yeah, there’s demons everywhere ya go mate—Sir.”

Odd he should say that but I felt Randall should have a better understanding of the facts and events leading up to my sudden request for tonight’s meeting. Best he knew the whole of it before trying to present him with even more enigmatic correspondences. “You couldn’t be more right, but, getting to the reason I asked you to meet me here tonight Randall – since you knew Pamela, I was wondering if she had ever mention any thing to you about something she might have thought of as odd going on.”

“Odd? No, she was always tight lipped with me. Which, I suppose is a good rule of thumb in our business, eh?” He pulled the dangling cigarette from his lips and waved it with a motion of his hand, “Why? You didn’t get her wrapped up in all this misfiled document mess, did you sir?"

There was more than a slight accusation in his tone—and in response I sat for a moment looking at him.

“I see.” He replied having deduced the reticence of my silence.

“I merely asked her to look into someone for me.” I confessed.

“And when was this?”

Nothing for it now but to bang on, “The night before—“

“She was dissected!.” Randall’s aggrieved expression growing with anger, “Over a clerks error?“

“Yes, well, it all seems so simple at first glance. A misfiled document. Nothing seemingly significant about that at all. Just another clerical error. An example to be used for more instructive training After all it is just an authorization for the reimbursement of funds in setting up a law office back in 1893 for a solicitor named Peter Hawkins – only, the document is appended. There’s a request and a subsequent authorization to supplement the funding so as to draw sufficient funds in order to bequeath an inheritance.”

Randall’s interest now suddenly piqued, “An inheritance?”

“A line item to be sure. Right there on the appendix to the reimbursement requisition.” I explained further, “And the whole blooming thing marked Eyes Only.”

“Cookin’ the books eh?" He said softly, almost to himself.

I nodded my assent, “My thoughts exactly – being as I was an accountant before taking up the law.”

“Ah, now ‘hat explains it.” Randall said with a slight grin.

“Especially when I started looking back through various ledgers and accounts and I happened upon another reimbursement request for another solicitor in London, by the name of Peter Hawkins, dated 1895. Who, when he subsequently passes in 1909, there is in 1910 a funding authorized, one year later—“

“For another Peter Hawkins?” Randall surmises accurately.

“A Peter Hawkins Esq.”

Randall brought his fingers up to his mouth, his lips closing about the cigarette to take a thoughtful inhalation. “A rather cheeky bit of paperwork.”

“And then, suddenly, this Hawkins – Peter Hawkins, Esq. – upon my inquiry, I find has passed away from natural causes—the day, the very day, after I reported the misfiled document.” I explained as I pressed my finger down atop the table for emphasis. “Of course, his office is closed up now – vacant. No official record of him at all. Not even in the Incorporated Law Society. Where the first two Peter Hawkins do appear. It’s as if they’ve gotten better at covering their tracks, don’t you see. It is all so dreadfully odd— even more so in that tracing back to 1893, and 1909, and even more recently. And the fact I can not even find an indication where any of these Peter Hawkins’ had any official affiliation with NID. And yet, there are the bloody requisitions. For them all. And on top of that – they were all born the same day.”

“The deuce you say.” Randall sat back and took a drink of his pint, “That is bit of sloppy work. But, look sir, I don’t know about 1893 or 4, it’s before my time." And then he leaned in towards me and lowering his voice “But if you think the higher ups are hiding something, don’t you think it’s something to do with field agents? Looking into this is dangerous, and unless ya want to get mistaken for a German spy, or worse, it’s probably in ya best interest to ignore all this and move on.” But, then his grin returns "I can’t say it doesn’t tickle my fancy. Sounds as if it’s a crafty little bit of embezzlement.”

Still uncertain as to whom I could trust, or should trust, Randall included—my eyes continued their occasional survey of the pub’s public room. I looked at him and said solemnly, “I would but I can’t, not now, as I think I may have gotten Pamela murdered.”

“Steady on man, ya don’t think…”

“I don’t know what to think.” I sat back with a sigh, “This is all off book, Randall. You see, I went to Exeter yesterday to try and trace the 1893 Peter Hawkins. Seems the Hawkins offices were actually known as Hawkins & Harker. Of course, I can’t find anything about this Harker, and the files regarding the selling of the law office were all so mysterious burned a few years ago. So, I sent a telegram to Pamela and asked her to meet me at Waterloo Station when I arrived back in London. I asked her to look into this Harker – and then, this afternoon’s Evening News reports that the poor woman hacked up and deposited as so much rubbish in the Thames is our Pamela.”

Randall flicks his cigarette and takes another sip of the dark porter. “So if they’ve got it out for her, ya think ya’re next?”

“Me. Maybe even Veronica, my girl. I don’t know for sure. Look, I am going to be honest with you. I may be taking a chance here, but seeing as how you knew Pamela, and well, I know a bit about your past. And so, don’t take this the wrong way, but I think I am in need of someone with your particular insight on well—subterfuge.”

Randall leaned back and places his hands behind his head. “Ya’ve been quite busy with the research, havn’t ya Sir. Really airin out my dirty linens, eh?”

“I am an analyst. It is my job, which I may be very well over my head in at the moment, and so, I am sorry, but I thought of you." Bradley reaches into his jacket pocket and removes an envelope. "And I haven’t even told you the strange part.”

“This gets stranger, mate?’

“I received this in the afternoon post." I informed him as I slipped the slightly bulky letter from the inner pocket of my jacket. But then, I froze for a moment as the door of the pub opened. The action as well as no doubt my expression betrayed me, as Randall turned as well to look at the couple entering with a burst of laughter.

He then reached over and took the envelope from my fingers and opened it to remove the two pieces of paper. He took note of one, which was aged, and placed it aside as he settled upon the newer sheet of paper having recognized Pamela’s hand-writing.

Bradley,
Writing this hurriedly as I think they are finally on to me. Sorry I wasn’t sure if I should trust you, not sure now. I am well aware of what they tried to do in 1894. You have no idea. It’s all so ungodly! They have written it all as disinformation – but Bradley, it’s all goddamned true! All of it! We must take care, they are hidden within NID. It’s in the Hawkins Papers. You have to see them to understand. Can’t write it. Let’s meet tomorrow – same location should I survive the night. If not there is a clue in my flat. Dropping in post.
Pamela.

Randall read quickly, then folds it over. “Bloody hell she couldn’t write it here. You got this in the post?”

“Yes.”

He picked up the other sheet of paper which she had included. He unfolded the yellowing sheet of paper. He looks at it then up at me, "This scripts worse than mine, blimey.”

Hawkins Letter- Dated 29th August, 1893

He read aloud under his breath, mumbling, as he started the letter: "Sir, I beseech you . . .” He adjusted the page into better light trying to make out the wretched penmanship of the letter.

“I know it is in a horrible pen.”

Slowly reading out the letter, “Preternatural gifts? That’s obvious enough. Ya sure this is pukka Sir?”

“Whatever this is,” I pointed to the badly written and aged document, "I think it is part of this Hawkins Papers to which she referred.

“I can say, she sure knew how to get a bloke interested.” Randall takes another sip from his drink. A curl of smoke drifting across the table from the cigarette between his fingers .

“I think they killed Pamela because of it – or for these Hawkins Papers."

Folding up the old letter, Randall placed it and Pamela’s back into the envelope. He returned it to me, “"Right, so they’re keeping this Hawkins bloke under wraps. Whatever it is, it is something long before the war, so it’s pro’lly not some new cover, and even then why keep him here? In London, or in Exeter. Think they murdered the real Hawkins, and had this person take his place? ‘For services rendered . . .’ As a reward?"

What a remarkable fellow, he was already engaged in the intrigue. He was just taking another, deeper swig of his stout as once more the door behind him opened to allow others to enter. And now, rather than me keeping a ever vigilante eye on the door, it was Randall who turned to take note of a man in a dark suit, who had entered to look about the pub, before heading over to the bar. I was uncertain whether this dark-suited gentleman’s eyes lingered upon us or whether I was merely imagining it.

“’s getting might busy in here, innit?”” Randall suggested as he looked back at me, both of us suspicious of the new arrival.

“Randall—I know this is something I shouldn’t ask,” I began, “And I am, of course not asking as a ranking officer, but rather as a friend of Pamela’s – could you assist me in gaining access to her flat? It could be a bit dicey, I know, as the police might have it secured.”

The much too busy pub door opened again, allowing a strikingly tall, red-headed woman in an expensive dress to enter. She had a most purposeful stride as she made her way straightway over to the bar, where she sat down to accompany the dark-suited gentleman who had entered earlier.

Randall grinned, “Ah, don’t mind the Peelers. Us Blue Jackets gots ta stick together. Even if we are just clerks in clobbers right now.”

“Right,” I lifted my glass to toast our newly created conspiracy and clinked it slightly against Randall’s pint.

“Cheers Sir.”

Veronica Wells’ Journal

9 March— 10pm. It is late. I am tired. And my life is undone. For it seems I am now a spy! For whom, I am not at all sure. The Okhrana? Which, as I now understand it, is supposed to be some Machiavellian, Tsarist secret police tasked with detecting and suppressing threats against the monarchy. And so, having been ‘impressed’ to be ‘an asset’ by the immoral machinations of this blaggard, I have been told I work for Mr Pym, who readily admits to being a member of this Okhrana – and so, I should think I would be with the Russians – although, I am a left-wing socialist, which, one would think is the very epitome of that Mr Pym should be monitoring rather then recruiting. He gives a most unlikely story as to his mission for them here in London. It is all Byzantine to say the least, as he readily admits he works for Lady Hélène Beltham as well. Of whom, he refuses to give any indication as to whom she is affiliated — although, tonight he gave indications she indeed had someone to whom even she answered. Of the them all, I am decidedly more frightened of Beltham. Even more so than of Miss Miniver who is decidedly odd.

And so, I continue my accounting in the hopes it may some day vindicate me.

Most of my day had been spent in the anxious anticipation of the return telegram from Pym. I had awoken with the realization that just merely tossing those vile photographs of pornographie back at them and rushing out of Mrs Willingsham’s had none nothing whatsoever to alleviate by predicament – in fact, as I lay there, curled tightly into a ball amongst my covers, obsessively recalling the whole of the horrid encounter the night before, reliving it over and over again, it was too frighteningly evident they may be even now sending out photographic packets of my drug induced venery. Letters no doubt dispatched to my father, detailing a life of debauchery he would have no way of knowing was a fabrication. Civil papers being filed by Pym’s solicitors in court over remittance of my debts. The orchestrated ruination of my reputation – my future, my very existence. To be named not a spy but a whore. Little did I know the prescience of my thoughts.

And so I got up and hurriedly dressed in order to rush to the nearest phone box in order to ring up Mr Pym, but he was not in his offices. His secretary indicated he had not yet arrived this morning. And so I send a telegram, desirous as I was to communicate with him in order to forestall any action upon their part until I had time to discuss the matter further. The day overcast, grim and grey as I felt, the whole of the morning I was unable to do anything but pace and fret, awaiting as I was upon his whim of whether to answer. It came that afternoon. A telegram in which he suggested dinner at Ritter’s – an establish he knew I would be familiar with as we had luncheon there on several occasions.

I took a cab. Disregarding not only my lack of contact with Bradley, whom I was unsure I could ever look upon again, at least until I was certain of what my future held, nor, could I reply to his telegram (which, when it arrived, I eagerly thought was Pym’s and is so horrific an admission, I am dismayed to even see it written upon this page), and the social decorum of a lady arriving at Ritter’s unescorted and asking for the table of a gentleman who was awaiting her.

On Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, Ritter’s is a discreet little rambling semi-bohemian room with a number of small tables, adorned with lamps, which wore red electric light shades, and small vases of flowers. A place I had liked tremendously, upon those occasions when Mr Pym had taken me to luncheon. But tonight, as I removed my coat and passed it over to be checked, I felt the atmosphere to be entirely suspect and corrupted as I viewed everyone now with suspicion.

He was sitting at his usual table pouring himself a glass of wine. He smiled as the maître d’hôtel escorted me through the maze of small tables – I was well aware of several stern glances cast my way by a few ladies as I strode past them.

“Miss Wells, so delightful to see you.” His voice was all suave civility. “Armanno, thank you.”

The maître d’hôtel bowed and stepped away.

I took a seat and slowly removed my gloves and placed them precisely upon the table, “You are a prig of the first water.”

He smiled and reached over to take my empty wine glass, “And you my dear are really quite lovely.” He replied as he poured me a drink and then placed the bottle down. “I thought so from the moment we met on that first morning commute.” He opened a silver cigarette case lying on the table and extracted one, “I must admit, I wondered whether that graceful figure was a natural one and not due to ably applied stays. I mean,” He closed the case and lit his cigarette, “I took it for granted you wore stays—“ He exhaled a plume of smoke, his fingertips touching his lips to remove a stay bit of tobacco, “Mild stays, perhaps, but stays, nevertheless. That is until now. “

I wanted to splash the wine he had just poured into my glass straightway into his face, but I clasped my hands together tightly to constrain my anger.

“But, alas, Miss Wells you were not chosen merely because of that marvellous figure of yours.” He waved his hand, the cigarette smoke trailing behind it, “But, owing to the high marks in your science sessions.”

Was there no place that I had not been compromised? They had spies in the university? In my sessions? Among my classmates? “My marks?” I asked perplexed in that at no point in their sordid blackmail scheme had any there been any indication of an interest beyond, as Pym had so succinctly put it, my figure and stays.

Pym took another drag from his cigarette and placed his elbow upon the table to lean slightly forward, “My dear, Lady Beltham has had her eye upon you for some time.”

He then rather casually began to elaborate upon the whole of the conspiracy perpetrated upon me. He explain how he had let a home in Morningside Park, my father’s suburb, in order to commute to London each morning so as to engineer a relationship. That is precisely how he said it: to engineer. That is once Lady Beltham had decided upon me – apparently there had been other candidates for blackmail – as I had originally been selected in order to gain the confidence of someone Lady Beltham needed to have closely observed, for the eventually of gaining access, in order to retrieve some information. And by the way he brought the cigarette up to this lips with the bluish-grey smoke curling about the word confidence, I was more than certain he was intimating something decidedly carnal.

“You are reprehensible.” I could not contain the anger or the pain – the utter lack of propriety as he spoke of me as if I were nothing more than some object to be engineered, to be manipulated at will. To be whored out. Lord God how had I come to this, how had I been so naïvely blind.

“But, sometimes, no matter how well conceived a plan of action, one just encounters plain, overwhelmingly, blind luck.” He continued with a lilting move of that ever animated cigarette. “In that you and the young Lieutenant happen to meet – and, you find your way all upon your own into his bed.”

The flush of my face was as telling as the look of the Italian waiter who arrived at that precise moment so as to overhear the intimate details of my life. The charming, convivial gentleman had ceased to exist as there was no more need of pretence as his villainous nature was now known. Pym, snuffed his cigarette into his ashtray and proceeded to order for the both of us and I did not protest as I wanted the waiter and his side long glances to be gone.

And once he departed, Pym’s sordid elaboration continued as he explained that once it was obvious that I had taken the Lieutenant to my bed, Lady Beltham was exceedingly delighted in her good fortune as I was now a far more valuable asset. Not only to proceed with her ladyships’ original intent, but now I could monitor Lieutenant McFarlane.

“Whatever your inducement to procure those vile photographs of me, Mr Pym, I can assure you, as well as she who holds your chain, Lady Beltham, I will not be prostituted by blackmail.” I am still amazed that my voice did not crack as I spoke to him with just hateful vehemence.

It was less a smile than a smirk as he lit another cigarette. He placed an elbow upon the table, yet again, and rested the hand with the wafting cigarette against his cheek and chin, propping it there, “Miss Wells, we all have masters. Even Lady Beltham. It would be wise not to incur their wraith. Now as to the fulcrum between your thighs (and upon this I truly wanted to slap him and his vulgar mouth with all my might) – whether you need see fit to avail yourself of it, my dear, rests entirely upon you and whatever stratagem you devise, when the time comes to procure that which Lady Beltham desires. Although, I would hazard that perhaps your preoccupation with carnality may not at all be necessary in gaining, a certain confidence, as the criteria upon which you were selected had far less to do with your stays than with the passing of your general science examination with double honours, and you current marks at University.”

His hand leisurely moved to the ashtray to flick ash, as he squinted against the curl of the cigarette smoke, before he reached within his jacket to remove a folded piece of paper, which, held between index and forefinger, he presented to me dramatically.

I reached out for it, but he lifted it away for a moment, “Which, isn’t to say, you were not selected as well for your more than photogenic attributes as well.”

Oh, he has a foul mouth.

He then handed the document to me.

Hesitantly, wondering what new devilment this would bring, I unfolded it to discover an application for the Chemical Society.

I looked up at him, “I am not a Chemist.”

“Yes, well, although your interests would appear to lie in . . .” He waved a dismissive hand, “A Bachelor of Science in biology, other sciences are incumbent upon you, and your marks in chemistry, to use your words, are of the highest water. “

“But, I am still a student.” I protested.

He gave me a wicked smile, “Trifles my dear. Mere trifles. Of which Lady Beltham will soon dispense. Now, what is of importance is can you hold your own within the confines of this august association?’

“Depending upon circumstances — perhaps. But, as I said I am not a chemist.”

“Yes, well a dossier of whom you shall be is all but complete,” The voice had an oddly distinct quality, which at best I can only describe as a lilting musicality. I turned to see a slender, dark-haired woman, whose hair was parted in the middle and pulled back into a bun at the base of her skull. She seemed pale in the soft illuminated ambience of the small electric lamps with their distinctive red shades. She wore a long dark skirt, a high-collared lace blouse and a matching three-quarter jacket. I recognized her as Miss Miniver. “Has she assented?” she asked, her eyes behind the wire-framed spectacles casting an stern glance at Pym.

“I am not a spy. And, as I have told Mr Pym, I shall not— “

“Everybody is not something.” She said in that melodious voice and turned her malevolent gaze upon me. “To be sure, Miss Wells, Francis the whole of the afternoon has been preparing packets. Packets to be distributed to your aunt, your father, your brother, Lieutenant McFarlane, Lieutenant McFarlane’s superior officer, the administrative board of your University, your landlady, and various others of your acquaintance. Upon opening these packets they will discover photographs of a most shocking nature, some of which you have seen, along with a comprehensive account of the life style of an wanton and amoral New Woman, and her casual carnal relationships with various men, and women among the suffragette movement. Of which, there will be details of the activities of a radical socialist and her associations with anarchist groups, plotting not political protests but actions of an more extreme and violent nature. It will also indicate financial transactions received by entities which are currently considered enemies of the state.”

I looked at her and then at Mr Pym, whose hand was once more propped against his cheek and chin, observing me thoughtfully. I felt my hands tremble, my heart racing to a point I felt a bit light-headed. Not only had they plotted the absolute destruction of my reputation – they were framing me for acts which would lead to certain incarceration. I had already been arrested once as a suffragette – it would be no difficult task, not for this sophisticated cabal of vipers, to fabricate evidence that I was an anarchist terrorist as well.

My hands covered my face as I leaned forward—there had to be a way out, but, for the moment I could see none. Later—perhaps, there may be some opportunity of escape, but now, they firmly had the upper hand. I lowered my hands and straightened my back. I was no longer going to give them the satisfaction of seeing my utter desolation. “So—I am working for the Russians.” My voice weaker than I had anticipated before I spoke.

Pym looked at me with a puzzled expression, “Russians?”

“You are with the Okhrana.” I explained, it was said the night before.

“Well, yes.” He laughed a bit wickedly, “But unlike your Jesus I can serve many masters.”

“But you are here in London for them?”

“As I said, among other interests.”

“Are we not allies? Why would they send you?”

He reached over and flicked ashes into the ashtray, “Oil, my dear. Oil. The English and the French are plotting even now a new world order after the war regarding the ownership of the petroleum fields of the East.”

“So, this is about oil?” I so did not want any of this to be about treason or anything to do with the war effort. I could see that he read my reasoning for asking and was preparing to say more—

“It is about blood.” Miss Miniver suddenly interjected with great intensity as she lifted a hand to silence Pym, “But that is not of your concern. Your concern is acting in the best interest of Lady Beltham. In that regard, your contact shall be Mr Pym.”

Abruptly the Italian waiter arrived bringing our meal as he excused himself in order to move Miss Miniver, who asked for and received a third chair at our table. Mr Pym ate hardily; I could eat little of it; and Miss Miniver ate nothing at all. She and Pym did most of the conversing as I watched them intently, hoping to discover something of which to make an advantage. But they were far more experienced than I in the nefarious underworld in which they lived – and was now my home.

View
From Okhrana With Love
Session One - Part Two

image-1.jpgLieut. Bradley McFarlane’s Diary

8 March, Morning — I can not help but think that my memorandum regarding the discovery of the misclassified, as well as misfiled, documents regarding the disbursement of funds for a Peter Harker, solicitor, in Exeter, in 1884 has brought some scrutiny upon me. Captain Hall seemed amiable enough, when I was called before him, although he barely looked up from his perusal of some documents, no doubt of considerable import, in the open blue file before him, to mumble something in the order of “fine catch there, McFarlane. Have to keep a better eye on our clerks, heh.”

But I have to admit, afterwards, I could not help the feeling that the Duty Officer seemed to keep a eye more upon myself than the those attending the files. It’s been two days and it still troubles me. The whole bizarre nature of the multiple Peter Hawkins – reimbursement of funds for two minor solicitors offices, and more importantly the Eyes Only classification. Of course, it could all be just as I had first imaged, a clerical error. I spoke to Tanner and he thinks it’s all a lark. “What can you expect, Bradley, most of these clerks are former domestic servants. A to Zed, what could that have meant to any one of them a year ago?” And yet, I arose this morning and after tea and a couple of slices of buttered toast, I decided I was off to Waterloo Station for the London and South Western and the 11:00 am express which arrives in Exeter at 2:32 pm. It’s fairly a whole day of it and whether or not this places me even more under the well trained eyes, I can have little doubt, but I feel it necessary to look into this Hawkins business.

Veronica Wells’ Journal

8 March. Night. — I am undone! How could I have been so naïve – no, foolish. Reckless beyond all comprehension! Pride and arrogance is my undoing. My hand still trembles such that I have to stop and take a breath to even write, and I must, and yet, should I even put this pen to paper? On this very point I am so conflicted. Am I only compounding my distress? Providing them even more with which to compromise myself? What if this is found or even worse purloined. Oh, my dear Bradley, if only I could speak to you. But I have no where to turn, no one to ask for advice, no one to whom I can confide – which is how this whole horrible nightmare began. My impetuous folly. My misplaced trust. But, enough I am of a mind to it now, and so, I must make this account of the night’s events as I know not what the future may hold.

My evening was to have been a brief visit with Mrs Willingham, Bradley’s landlady, before going up to Bradley’s flat, being as I was aware he would be arriving late from his trip to Exeter. Being a solicitor’s daughter, I think it best I should undertake to arrange an order to things, and so, I first knew Mrs Willingham, before I met Bradley. My introduction to Mrs Willingham was by way of Mr Pym, Neville Pym, of Pym’s Brokerage, LLC, whom I first encountered on the train, owing to my season ticket purchased by my now estranged father, for the commute into Waterloo Station in order to attend my university sessions. Mr Pym was very cordial and we soon struck up the casual acquaintance one makes during the interlude of a daily commute, which as I reflect upon it, became, as the days progressed, and particularly on my side, more and more one in which I grew less reticent in discussing my growing frustrations and impatience with the condescending and confrontational relationships with my father and aunt. Mr Pym was an attentive listener, and more often than not, was content to allow me to vehemently articulate my vexations. On occasion he offered advice, especially when he discovered I was attending sessions in science at Bedford. It was Mr Pym who one morning suggested—‘”I gather what it is you desire most is independence. I mean true independence. “

To which I of course without hesitation replied, “It is what I long for.”

“Well, my dear, there are many kinds of independence. Independence of thought. From restrictions upon movement. Of expression of ideas. Financial independence. But, for a woman, to obtain any of these it means she must first become emancipated and that only comes through true political independence.”

“Yes,” I replied, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.

“I mean, look at what the New Woman movement as brought about already, for example, look at the two of us.”

“Us?” I asked uncertain where his train of thought was directed.

“There was a time we would have not been able to have sat here each morning on our commute and engaged in such casual conversation. It would have been scandalous for your reputation.”

I sat back and sighed, “My reputation.’ But upon a rattle of the carriage I turned to look at him anew, “So, I gather you are amenable with suffrage?” I asked

“Oh, my, yes.” he replied,” I have my dear what some would call,” and here he slightly lowered his voice, “Socialist leanings.”

Which I must say I found rather surprising being as he was an outside broker and the proprietor of a financial newspaper. But I must admit his interest and sympathy was of such a flattering nature I found myself quite eager to explain and elaborate upon my circumstances, far more than in any other previous conversations, feeling now as if I needed to justify the interest he had show in me, by revealing intimate details of myself, which to any other stranger I would have been quite reticent. I informed him with a bit of bravado that I too was a Socialist and had even been arrested. I explained to him how at the time it was the most frightening and yet exhilarating experiences of my life, even as I went on to inform him that even though steadfast in my convictions, I nevertheless found myself trembling in trepidation upon my incarceration – this owing to being well aware I did not have adequate connections or finances to see a barrister in order to assist in my defense, being more than certain my father, once he heard of my predicament, would react just as he had to my sister Gwen’s most grievous offense by away of her elopement, in which his wraith was so aroused he henceforth forbid her name to be mentioned in his hearing and had her barred from entering his home, as well as her most unsatisfactory actor of a husband. Only to my amazement, owing to his connections with Sir John Paxton, the ex-President of the Law Society, not only was I quickly released but the arrest itself was expunged. As I recall it now, Mr Pym’s interest was not piqued so much by my revelation of this circumvention of justice but at the mentioning of the connection to Sir John.

And so we continued to speak of politics and expressed our mutual disagreement with the current state of the movement in that for the duration of the war there had been a suspension of protests. In this he said he resolutely disagreed with Emmeline Pankhurst. He indicated he was deeply concerned about the long term effects of such an moratorium and the probability of it inducing a lack of enthusiasm for major militant suffragette campaigns in the future, whenever this self-enforced armistice of public protests came to an end. “One must keep up the struggle. Or once again contentment of one’s lot will arise,” he declared. He also proposed that he should very much like to introduce me to several of his friends and to become more actively involved in any number of groups he could recommend, which were still actively engaged in the suffrage cause, but, I reminded him owing to my present predicament – particularly in the aftermath of my arrest – my freedom revolved around my daily sessions at the university and then the commute back to Morningside Park were I had no other recourse but to remain in my father’s house. With my allowance having been all but entirely suspended I was severely restricted in all things. My frustrations and impatience overflowed as I expressed just how much I longed to have a life. To be able to go and to do, what I wanted when I wanted. And how I felt, should I have gone to prison, I could not have been more incarcerated. I even revealed to him that in order to go to the theatre I was either to be accompanied by my aunt or someone of whom she and my father had had strong recommendations.

It was thus he made what I considered to be a most spontaneous and surprising offer: “Miss Wells, if all that is hindering your chance for a life beyond the confines of your father’s patriarchal imprisonment is the mere lack of financial reserves, then, my dear, I am more than willing to invest a sum in order to allow you to experience life and to experience it more abundantly. To have a life in the City. To have the freedom to meet with those of a like mind. To go to the theatre. I am prepared to offer you an amount which would allow you a modest flat and some income while you finish out your last year at the university. “

“Oh, Mr Pym, that is a most considerable offer, but I fear I am—“ I started to protest, but he held up a hand and informed me there was no need to protest, it was merely what he was in business to do, invest in stock he believed would bring a future return, and so, he was investing in me and in science.

“We can work out beneficial terms when you have graduated.” His smile was so sincere.

Being at the time so overjoyed at the prospect of being on my own and in London. In The City! I did not seriously suspect my dear train companion and confidante of anything untoward. In fact, once I was established in London, having found a reasonable flat well situated of exceptional quality in space and furnishings (save of course for the wall being papered with that green, large-patterned paper, which is more than just a trifle dingy, which I have written of previously and am not sure why I am even doing so now, although I so do want this to be an accurate accounting of the night’s crisis and everything leading upon it) northward of Eustace Road, near Hampstead Road. Whereupon, shortly there after, Mr Pym stopped by to be assured everything was adequate to my needs, perhaps the bed, he suggested needing to be replaced. And now, the horrid thought of him in my rooms and discussing my bed is beyond repulsion. But—I explained he had already been too generous. Soon he was inviting me to various small gatherings where he introduced me to his circle of Bohemian friends: artists, actors, actresses, writers, poets, journalists, and of course more Socialists. One of which was Mrs Willingham.

I must admit that in Mrs Willingham I saw a great many resemblances to my much beloved and grievously departed grandmother. Her house at 220 Marylebone Road, near Regent’s Park, was a veritable trove of radical and Socialist tracts, pamphlets, manuscripts, books, newspapers, and magazines. It was through Mrs Willingham that I was introduced to the works of Emma Goldman and the far more radical Vladimir Lenin. As well as to the very handsome Naval Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane, who happened to rent her second floor flat.

It was rather late when I arrived at the doorsteps of Mrs Willingham’s home. The night was cold, a brisk, freezing wind whipping along Marylebone Road, which swirled about the shadowy flakes of the falling snow. I had arrived to find the steps to the porch, having been swept earlier, had now recovered. As my own cab had pulled way, I was surprised to see another pulling up. Mrs Willingham, bearing what appeared to be a most disconcerting expression, as she alighted from the cab, quickly grew animated with affection as she saw me at her door. “Veronica, it is so good to see you,” she said in her usual fulsome greeting.

The cab was pulling away as she carefully mounted the slippery doorsteps and producing her key open the front door, “Let us get into some warmth.”

As I had upon countless occasions, before and after I had met my dear, dear Bradley, I quickly followed her into the most excellently polished foyer.

“I do think he is out,” she said with a knowing wink as she turned on a lamp and placed a parcel she had been carrying upon the round table in the centre, near the stairs which led upwards to the second floor flat she had let to Bradley. She took off her heavy overcoat and gloves, even as she took mine and placed them within the coat closet built within the back of the stairs.

“Yes, he went to Exeter.” I explained.

“Exeter?” She asked, withdrawing her hat pin in order to remove the large and fashionable hat, which she placed upon the table, “What ever could be in Exeter?’ She smiled and patted my hand, “Well, at any rate, he shall be a bit late. So, do come and join me for some tea.” And smoothing her dress about her hips she moved over toward the parlour. The double French doors were already open as she entered.

I followed her as she turned on a large lamp revealing the comfortable furnishings of the parlour. The tall bookcases filled to overflowing. The end tables cluttered with magazines and newspapers. The large, round table in the centre of the room cluttered with papers and half read books opened and lying face-down. She stood for a moment in thought and then looked at me, and smiled: “Yes, some tea. “ And with a wave of her hand she told me to make myself comfortable. It was a room in which I had been quite comfortable many times before, and so I sat down in my usual chair, placing my gloves on the end table beside me. I could hear her in the kitchen at work upon the kettle.

“So tell me my dear, how have you been?” She asked upon returning and taking a seat. We engaged in a bit of idle conversation. She asked how things were with my Lieutenant. I dare say I must have betrayed some emotion as she smiled, “Just as I said, didn’t I, you two make such a lovely couple.”

From the kitchen came the sound of the kettle – but rather than arising Mrs Willingham remained seated. And from the kitchen came the sounds of the kettle being removed from the stove, and some rattling about as someone was at the cupboard.

“We are not alone?” I asked – as no one had entered with us.

Just then Mr Pym entered Mrs Willingham’s parlour carrying a silver serving tray upon which sat an arrangement of blue china cups and a matching tea pot.

“Mr Pym?” I said oddly surprised, as he had apparently been in her home while she was away.

“Miss Wells, so good of you to come.”

“Yes, it does save us the trouble.” Mrs Willingham replied watching as he placed the silver serving tray down on a sideboard, and the set about pouring the tea.

“Trouble?” I asked confused as their countenance as well as their tone of voice was something decidedly different than was customary.

Mt. Pym handed Mrs Willingham her cup and saucer, “I am afraid my dear it is time we had a little discussion regarding your future.”

“My future?” I took the tea cup resting in its saucer as Mr Pym handed it to me, while I looked at him in some attempt to ascertain precisely what this was all about.

“Why yes, I mean, you do own Mr Pym a considerable sum.” She lifted her cup and took a sip.

I look at him in astonishment for we had met at one of his parties only the day before yesterday and he had said nothing about our financial agreement.

“Well yes, but that is between Mr Pym and myself, as we have an understanding.”

“Yes, an understanding that you owe him a quite a considerable sum.”

From outside the parlour there came the sound of a key being turned in the front door latch – and I felt an almost audible sigh of relief expecting it to be Bradley. Only when the door opened a tall, very attractive woman with blonde hair entered and closed the door behind her. She removed her overcoat, shaking it free of clinging flakes of snow, to reveal a very expensive suit. She carefully removed her gloves and placed them and her small purse on the foyer table next to Mrs Willingham’s hat. And then, as if she had been to Mrs Willingham’s many times before, she sauntered over to the coat closet and hung her coat within. She gracefully smoothed the front of her skirt and approached the open French doors.

Lady Beltham this is most opportune.” Mr Pym fawned to the newcomer. “We were not expecting you until much later. Allow me to get you a cup, we are having tea.”

“No thank you Neville.” She replied, arresting his turn back toward the kitchen. Her voice, affected with what I took to be an accent from southern Africa, was low and sultry—which was a term I had read many times in novels but had never actually heard the sound of, until now.

At this particular moment I was startled as much as I was confused. Mr Pym and Mrs Willingham were no longer the man and woman I had come to know. There was now a decidedly a new tone in their voices that was not only professional but somewhat rather sinister.

The woman they had called Lady Beltham, upon entering the parlour turned and closed the French doors behind her: “I gather we have had the conversation?”

“We were just beginning.” Mrs Willingham said taking another casual sip of her tea. “Yes, now, as we were discussing, Miss Wells, there is quite a sum that needs to be repaid to Mr Pym.”

“And as I said,” I replied as I placed my teacup aside, preparing to leave, “That is between Mr Pym and I.”

“No, my dear that is between you and I.” Lady Beltham said icily, and placed her purse on the table before her. “The only funds Neville has access to are mine.”

“Yours?” I am sure at this point I could no longer conceal my bewilderment.

She strolled further into the room and rather than taking a seat stood looking at me – she was strikingly beautiful, with eyes that were as blue and cold as the Artic Sea. “Yes. In this instance, he was recruiting for me.”

I cut a look at Neville Pym just as cold as hers, or, so I had hoped. “Recruiting?”

Lady Beltham stepped over to the end table beside Mrs Willingham and reached down to open the ornate cigarette box in order to removed one. Mr Pym was efficacious in stepping over to light it for her. She exhaled a long, curling plume of smoke, “I must admit, our intention was for you to become involved with a rather mundane politician, but, events have, in the interim, turned out far more fortuitous for you. In that you and the handsome Lieutenant have become young lovers.”

At this I was beginning to rise.

Lady Beltham brought the cigarette to her lips, “Not only do you owe me money, which you have absolutely no way of repaying, but here you sit, a Socialist in a nest of spies. I wonder just how will that effect your handsome Lieutenant’s career. “ She gave me a questioning look as she took a long drag of the cigarette. “A British Naval Intelligence officer sleeping with a Socialist and a spy.”

“I am not a spy.” I sat back, the very idea was preposterous—but the knowledge that Bradley was an intelligence officer came as a shock.

“You took money from Neville and he’s a spy.” She said matter-of-factly, smoke escaping from her lovely lips, “Although he works for me, he is also with the Okhrana.”

“The—“

“He’s a Russian spy, Miss Wells.”

“I have no idea what . . . “

“What we want is for you to gather information on Lieutenant McFarlane. It’s really quite simple.”

The front door opened. Everyone at that moment grew silent and looked at the closed double doors. Lady Beltham cut a quick, cold glance in my direction – even as I saw Neville Pym’s hand slip into his jacket pocket. It was obvious. If I were to call out, things would go badly for not only myself but for Bradley.

My heart pounding so that I could barely hear, I listened as he went up the stairs to the safety of his flat.

I look at them in horror and disgust. All I wanted was to was to get out of that room. To tell Bradley. And yet, Lady Beltham’s words rang true: what would my naïve folly do to his career? To me? I already had been arrested once. Even if my father had the record expunged from the Metropolitan Police, certainly someone, somewhere within the government was well aware of arrests of Socialists. And then an even more sickening thought prevailed upon me: what if Bradley had been assigned to investigate me? Did he believe me to be among this host of villains? It felt as if some alchemical transformation of my universe had taken place. This was all so inconceivable. Pym a spy for the Russians. And Mrs Willingham? Who was she working for? And this Lady Beltham – whomever she was, owing to the others deference, she was certainly the mastermind. And my Bradley, he was an intelligence officer. What did he know? And, if he were as uninformed or unsuspecting of all this horrid chicanery as was I, what would his superiors think?

“Should you need any more inducement.” Lady Beltham continued, “Show her the envelope.”

I watched with a growing apprehension as the woman I had come to regard in some aspects as a substitute for my late grandmother arose from her chair. She stepped ever so dramatically to the large, round table which dominated the centre of the parlour, from which she picked up an large, white envelope, the size of which resembled something one received from a photographer. I found myself looking up at the Lady Beltham, who with an arm across her waist so as to perched the elbow of her opposite arm upon it’s fist in order to hold her long, slender fingers close to her mouth as she languidly smoked from her cigarette. She returned my gaze unemotionally. As Mrs Willingham approached I could not help the feeling she was bringing to me something offensive and vile. She held out the evil envelope. I took it aware of the visible betrayal of my trembling fingers. Whatever this new inducement was, I had no idea, but I was furious and yet so terribly frightened at what could be concealed within. At that very moment I thought to dash out of that room and run up the stairs and fall into Bradley’s arms and tell him all about this nest of vipers just under foot, but instead my fingers slowly opened the flap and removed, yes, it was photographs – and seeing them, I could not breathe! My heart was once again pounding. They were photographs of me! Nude! Lying back languorously upon some antique chaise lounge. The horror of seeing myself lying there was beyond comprehension. I slipped one photograph behind another as I inspected them, each one ever more explicit. How was this even possible? My hands shook as I looked at them – and then, there were two of them, the last, revealing me lying on a bed with some muscular man, both of us—

“This – this—is not possible.” I exclaimed

“I am sorry to say, but Neville does have some very nefarious acquaintances. Some are quite the artist with a camera, and some, are invaluable resources for narcotics.”

As I looked at the odd sleepy wantonness of my eyes in the photographs I suddenly remembered a party at Pym’s, and how I had felt light-headed and faint and had to sit down for a bit. And then I recalled a Miss Miniver. Yes, a very slight, dark-hared young lady, with these large emotional eyes. I seemed to remember they appeared to be magnified by the glasses she wore, and her friend – a Mr Aytown. Yes, I recalled the name, Francis Aytown, who had also sat down beside me to ask if I needed any assistance. And then—nothing. Yes, it had to be. That morning I had awoken in my flat unable to remember how I had left the party – how I had even gotten home. Mr Pym’s off hand explanation that I had had a bit too much to drink but not fear he had seen to assuring I was returned home safely. The liar! They had – they had drugged me and taken me somewhere in order to compose these vile compromising photographs. My anger welled up into tears so as to make the images grow blurry but they would not wash them away.

“I can not imagine,” Lady Beltham said waving her hand with sweep of cigarette smoke, “Just what poor Lieutenant Bradley is to think. Not only is he sleeping with a Socialist and a Spy. But with a whore as well.”

I threw the photos at her and ran. I so wanted to hasten up the stairs to Bradley, but how could I? With all they had accumulated against me. I had to get away. I snatched by coat from the closet heedless of my gloves and raced into the snowy night. I hailed a passing cab. I had to get away from that horrid house. I needed time to think and so I hastened home. And the tears will not stop. I am so undone!

Spies and worse—dealers in pornographie.

How could they had done this, I have absolutely no recollection at all of having . . . of being naked before a photographer! Narcotics they said. And it must have certainly been for I would have never posed for anything so lurid, so sordid. I hear the words of my father like the voice of the Lord God almighty, “The life of a young girl is ever beset with prowling pitfalls, for a girl is soiled not only by evil, but by the very proximity of evil.”

Oh dear God! What am I to do?

Lieut. Bradley McFarlane’s Diary—continued

8 March, late evening — I returned from Exeter on the 6:45 train arriving at 9:00 P.M. I was able to find the old offices of Peter Hawkins, which was now a tobacconists. Mr Richard Stanley did not know Hawkins, as he was deceased when he brought the property, which at the time was known as the offices of Hawkins & Harker. Stanley was uncertain who Harker was, thought he said the name sounded familiar. I must admit, it as a familiar ring to me as well. He purchased the old law offices in 1902 from Mitchell, Sons & Candy.

A visit to their offices was just as fruitless owing to there having been a fire about eight years ago, which had consumed most of the files. As William Mitchell was deceased and his son out of office, I spoke with the elderly Samuel Candy, who said he remembered the transaction, thought he had little dealing with the gentleman, a man whose hair seemed to have gone prematurely white. But as he recalled the transaction was handled almost exclusively by the wife. He could not remember their names – other than Harker. Of course there is a registry of the deed, but by that time, the government offices in Exeter had closed. I telegraphed ahead to ask Pamela Dean to meet me at the Waterloo Station. I asked her to see if she could rummage up something regarding the seller, Harker or his wife. Pamela is coolly efficient and I expect she will have some information straightaway. Of course, she wanted to know what this was all about, and why I was looking into something outside the departmental offices. I explained that in reality it was most likely nothing, but I had caught a hint which I wanted to follow through. Just my old curiosity, I told her. She gave me that smile, which would be tempting—if not for Veronica. “You know,” Pamela said as we began to part ways, “They say curiosity kills the cat.”

Odd that she should say that just as I happened to take notice of two rather unsavoury gentlemen stepping over to a newsstand. They certainly looked as if they had killed a cat or two.

Newspaper Articles for 21 February

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The Beautiful White Venice Hotel
Session One - Part One

corfu.jpeg

Corfu Island
20 February 1916

The warmth of the sun shines through the tall windows which over look the clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea. Jackson Elias, wearing a simple long skirt, a white blouse with a loosely knotted tie, sits at the table with her typewriter before her. The keys loudly clacking as her fingers work intently upon her latest article. The manager of the White Venice hotel frowns as he glances into the sparsely populated restaurant to see the American sitting in the niche by the window, which the American woman as commandeered since she arrived the day before yesterday.

One of Ioannis Gazis’s, the owner of the hotel, daughters steps over to Jackson and with a dainty smile as she inquires in French, “Would Madam care for some tea.”

Jackson continues to type, “I’d love a cup of coffee.” She replies.

“We have so little coffee Madam, the war.”

Jackson stops typing and sighs, and then sits back.

“Then a cup of tea would be lovely.”

The girl nearly bows as she nods and turns to make her way toward the kitchen. Jackson watches as she walks away, the sway of her lovely hips, and the fact she is barefoot. In this luxury resort of a hotel, the daughter’s owner still walks barefoot. She smiles. Then returns her attention to the page curled up out of her typewriter:

‘The island of Salvation? For some. While others are dying of the Influenza. They huddle upon the beautiful shoreline like seals basking in the sun. They have insufficient food and medicine and clothes and tents and blankets, and though the sun brings warmth, the wind from the Ionian Sea is a brittle, cold winter’s breath. Most of them having reached the Island of Salvation shall die here. Their bodies to be buried in the deep blue sea from which the lice will rise to the surface and make for the shore, seeking yet another body for shelter. What a desperate group of men are these once proud soldiers. But alas, the island is too small to save them all.’

She slips a pencil behind her ear as she looks up to see two men engaged in conversation as they sit at a table near another of the tall windows of the White Venice’s restaurant. One is a rather tall, elderly gentleman, wearing a suit far more rumpled than he is accustomed, speaking animatedly with the other man, who is dressed in a Serbian officer’s uniform.

It’s been a quiet morning. For the most part the hotel has been requisitioned by the officers to serve as their headquarters, which is why she has chosen this niche for her own.

The young waitress returns with a white tea cup and pot, which she places on the table. Jackson gives her a smile and the young girl departs as she begins to pour herself a cup of tea and continues to watch the gentleman. Even thought she can hear the low tones of their voices, they are speaking Serbian, and so she can’t make out what they are animatedly discussing. Her interest is drawn to a map of the Balkans they have unfolded upon the table before them. Each is pointing to differing areas. The officer shakes his head at whatever the older man has placed a finger upon. She is fairly certain she knows who the elder gentleman is, but the Siberian officers, fatigued and wearing long lived-in uniforms, fade into one another.

Jackson takes a sip of the tea, which of course is weak and reaches for her package of Greek cigarettes. She places the tea cup down on the table, sliding the saucer aside, watching as the elderly gentleman pats his jacket pockets, as if looking for something.

Absently lifting the match box and opening it, removes one, which she ignites with the edge of her thumb. The flame sizzles with sparks as she lights her cigarette and flicks the flame out.

With a word and a hand gesture to the Serbian officer, the elderly gentleman steps away from the window and moves toward her.

Jackson smiles as he approaches.

‘’You sir must be Lord Cyril Blathing, 7th Earl of Gavilshire.’’ She says as each word is accompanied by wisps of smoke.

He opens his mouth, not expecting to be recognized. Clearing his throat, he responds. “Yes, quite right madam, although I am afraid you have me at a bit of a disadvantage in the name department.”

Her smile brightens, "Sorry, I am a reporter for the New York Daily Inquirer. Jackson Elias. “ She offers a hand which he is uncertain whether he should shake or lightly kiss the top of and settles for the shake, recognizing she is an American. “When a British Lord is among a group of desperate men outrunning the Austrian Army – you happen to be news.”

He smiles slightly, “I much rather not be news.”

She gives him a lifted eyebrow, “Care for some Tea?" She offers, pushing several folded newspapers aside to clear a spot at the table, “Sorry, it’s all I have as they have little or no coffee. I’m really not sure. Yet. I have to warn you, the tea is very weak.”

“As much as I would love to join you Miss . . . " He pauses, trying to wrap his mind around the reporters first name “Elias, I could not abandon my friend over there for the simple pleasures of tea. At least, not right now.”

She takes a long drag from the cigarette, and drops the spent match which she was still holding into the saucer. “I see.”

He strokes his beard, “Actually, I was going to ask if I could borrow the use of your pencil.”

She extracts the umber pencil from behind her ear and hands it up to him. “Of course.”

Jackson lifts an eyebrow watching, “Any chance I might be able to get an interview with you, Lord Cyril, when you have a moment?” She asks as he takes the proffered pencil from her slender fingers.

At the white framed mullion windows of the French Doors that are the entrance to the restaurant, a short, swarthy man in a wrinkled, white linen suit approaches to watch their interaction.

Lord Cyril takes the pencil. “Oh, perhaps.” He takes a pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket. “How does 4 o’clock suit you. We can have a proper tea, and I can return your pencil.”

“You have a date, Lord Cyril.” Her lips curling wryly.

He clears his throat again. “Um yes. Very well. 4 o’clock then.” Replacing his watch.

She brings the cigarette to her lips – as she can’t help thinking of the rabbit in Alice’s wonderland.

Cyril nods and returns to the Serbian officer. The two begin marking up the map.

One eye squinting against the curl of smoke from the cigarette dangling from her lips, Jackson’s fingers return to the Corona’s keys and her article. She types a bit, stops, looks up, and then starts typing out a new thoughts.

But she is distracted as her eyes cut to the man in the wrinkled, white linen suit. He seems very interested in Lord Cyril, even as he tries to stroll idly into the restaurant to take a seat at a discreet distance . . . but one where he can watch the two me conversing. And if he knows Serbian can eavesdrop.

Cyril and the officer continue to talk in hushed tones, though they occasionally will become animated. To a the man in the white suit who does understand, he catches words like “midnight” “20 Kilometers” " becomes Delvina " and “Mountains”.

Unable to maintain her train of thought, Jackson sits back from her Corona to take note of the man who far too interested in Lord Cyril. He has removed a small notebook from his inner jacket pocket and has begun scribbling with the small nub of a pencil.

The young waitress approaches the man, and asks if he would care for something. He orders tea.

Cyril pulls out a pipe and begins filling it.

Stubbing out her cigarette in the saucer, she leans over and reaches into her large purse as if looking for something, before she rises from the table and walks over toward the man at the table.

He looks up at her, “Madam?”

With a nod and a handshake, the officer rises and folds up the map. He puts it in the inside pocket of his greatcoat and walks towards the door.

“Borrow you pencil?” She asks.

The man is distracted by the Serbian officer, watching him leave, and so he curtly replies, “Nien.”

Cyril lights up his pipe and begins to stare blankly at a picture on the wall.

“Not from around here,” She asks

He frowns, “Are you from around . . . here?”

He pushes back his chair and rises to follow the officer.

Lt Peter Kadijević walks briskly. He has plans to organize, superiors to convince, and a team to select. He makes a beeline for the Army refugee camp.

The man in the wrinkled suit frowns at Jackson, turns on his heel, hurrying out of the restaurant, even as the waitress arrives with the tea.

“Sorry, appears he’s a coffee drinker.” She tells the young woman.

Cyril, lost in his thoughts, now hears the commotion Jackson is making about a coffee drinker and looks back at the door.

Slowly Jackson walks away from the vacant table and makes her way over to Lord Cyril’s table, “Not one to intrude, Lord Cyril, but If I might—your conversation with that Serbian officer, was it of any importance?”

“Well, I really can’t say specifics Miss Elias.” He puffs on his pipe, “It depends on why you are asking.”

“Well, the reason I am asking, is the gentleman that left rather quickly just now. He was German and his skin was stained with tea to make himself look darker, as if from the islands.” She motions to her collar, “There was a stain around the edge of his collar, and the skin whiter where it had rubbed off. I figure he’s a spy and he has quite an interest in your young officer. I would think he’s being followed even as we speak.”

“I see.” Cyril removes his pipe from his lips and rises, slowly. “Thank you Miss Elias. You have been very helpful once again.”

He hands the pencil back to her.

“There is a war on Lord Cyril and you would be amazed at just how many spies there are out and about. Which I am sure I don’t have to inform you. " She shifts her weight to her left hip, “So, if you or your officer need any help, let me know. I carry more than a typewriter around.”

She is more than certain there’s a story here. And more importantly, there is far more to Lord Cyril than it first appears.

“Yes, I’m sure. But still, I must warn you not to get involved in this.” He begins walking to the door.

She smiles, cutting a glace to him as her hair sweeps across her forehead, "I can’t remember just how many times people have told me that. “

He looks at her for a moment and then continues out of the restaurant.

“Looking forward to seeing you at 4, Lord Cyril." She calls after him.

He sees the front door of the hotel closing as he enters the lobby and moves to follow. As he exits the hotel’s cafe, Cyril whistles at the quickly leaving Serbian officer.

Lt Kadijević turns to sound of the whistle, and sees Cyril pointing at the man in the white suit. “German spy.” The Lieutenant draws his pistol and calls out to a pair of sentries posted to watch the entrance of the hotel, ordering them to detain the accused spy.

The man in the white linen suit steps back, and pulls a small pistol out of his back pocket and waves it a bit as he turns to run.

Lt Kadijević and the two sentries open fire.
The sentries, not really expecting any sort of action of Corfu, miss, but Lt Kadijević hits him square in the gut.

The man grasps his abdomen with and exclamation: ’Mien Gott!” He fires back at them, but his shot is wide.

The man quickly turns and aims for Lord Cyril as he is descending the stairs of the hotel entrance.

When suddenly a shot rings out and the man whirls around to fall heavily backward upon the ground. His white suit is staining rapidly crimson from a wound in the center of his chest.

Lt Kadijević in midst of calling out in Serbian for the sentries to take the man alive before being caught off guard at his sudden death.

Lord Cyril turns to see Jackson Elias standing on the porch of the White Venice with her heavy Navy Colt upheld, a wisp of smoke still escaping the barrel, “As I said Lord Cyril, I am looking forward to seeing you at four.”

Lt Kadijević violently curses at the woman in his native tongue for not letting them interrogate him, while Cyril stands puffing at his pipe.

The hotel manager is busy yelling in Greek to several people who have gathered at the front door of the Hotel Venice

Jackson lowers her weapon. The wind is cold blowing in from the sea and she shivers slightly.

“They wanted him alive, Miss Elias.” Lord Cyril informs her.

“Sorry, but I am certain he was aiming at you.”

Cyril frowns and turns to continue to looking out upon the scene, while Lt Kadijević, not able to understand English, glares at the woman and orders the sentries to search the body.

They find a small flask half-filled with whiskey, a wallet with several Greek Drachmas banknotes within, a picture of a dark haired young woman, coins, a pocket knife, a key, a stub of a pencil, and a small notebook. All the notations are in German.

Lt Kadijević takes the key and the notebook to give to Cyril, who can read it later, while the soldiers split the money and whiskey between themselves. Cyril’s pipe goes cold, and he begins to stride over to the scene of the shooting. More Serbian soldiers show up at the sound of gunfire.

Lord Cyril takes his time, while Lt Kadijević is explaining what has just transpired to his superior officer.

“Madam, please,” The manger says cautiously in French as steps over to Jackson . His eyes nervously upon her gun, “Could you conceal . . that—” he points. “I think we have found some coffee, if you would just step inside . . .” He smiles at a man walking by looking on with puzzlement.

Jackson frowns. And turns to walk back into the hotel and her niche. It all seems very odd. A German spy taking such drastic action on an island full of Serbian troops? He didn’t even try the usual subterfuge of a hapless businessman trying to sustain himself even with a war on. Lord Cyril and the Serbian officer, whatever they are up too, it must be significant.

Well, at least they say they have coffee.
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