Notes of Evidence, 12 March 1916 – Police Constable Vera Alderton – The day was overcast – ominous, grey clouds, bearing renewed threats of snow. I had arisen early. Prepared a light breakfast of toast and bacon with tea and gave my attention over to the latest news of the war. Irene had been out when I had arrived home last night and has as yet not returned. Putting aside the Sunday Times, I cleared away the breakfast table and upon it laid out notes and documents in order to ponder them. Taking a few personal calling cards, I made comments upon the back and dropped them as if in annotation as I placed comments upon the paper mosaic there before me upon the table – the central one being the Diced-Up Girl. (An annotation I picked up from the table to review as I took note that I have at some point apparently taken up Inspector Stone’s appellation for the victim). I place it back upon the survey map of the Victorian embankment wherein the pieces of the woman had been found. Woman. As the central question still remained in my mind – just who was the Diced-Up Girl? Pamela Dean?
Possibly, for the only identification we had to support such a conjecture was a purse – found upon the scene –and which had been confirmed, by Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk, to have been placed there intentionally to promote just such an identification.
Whatever proper role Lady Molly had held with Scotland Yard, I was of the opinion she maintains some role of authority – and as it was purported to have no longer been with the Yard – I suspect it is in some way a part of the government. Which upon the whole only complicates matters for there is no end to the possibilities . . . and more importantly, to what ends. What was it Red Circle had said – there was some some secret organization that does not officially exist – and hasn’t existed since a mission in 1894 when everything went abominably wrong.
Once more a look at the police surgeons report; the contents of the purse; my notes upon examination of Dean’s rooms – notes on Lieutenant McFarlane. Upon a quick survey – I find I have nothing on McFarlane’s flat. I thereupon checked once more information supplied by Purdy – I took note he let rooms from a Mrs. Harriot Willingham.
Her house was number 220 Marylebone Road, near Regent’s Park. I had taken the underground and thereupon proceeded to the two-story house. As there was the brisk wind, just that I struggled to hold a hug upon my coat. In hindsight should have sought cab. Although I had not partaken of any of any alcoholic drinks at the Cavern of the Golden Calf the night before, my head ached as if I had.
As I approached the two-story residence I slipped slightly upon a patch of ice and grimaced at the turn of an ankle. Assured I had not sprained it – one more complication to an already too complicated case – I proceeded to number 220. I rapped smartly with the British Lion brass door knocker, and glanced at passing pedestrians.
As I stood waiting, gathering myself against impatience, a sudden wind whipped up along the street and bellowed in my coat, which I did battle to keep down – as the door opened. A grey, haired matron, of about five foot 2 or 3 inches, and approximately stood in the doorway.
She offered a genial smile, “Yes?”
“Good afternoon, Ma’am, I’m PC Alderton with Scotland Yard.” I informed her as I held forth my Identification Card.
The woman peered forward to inspect the card, “Oh, my. Yes." She says, “I must say, I have never seen the likes of so many identification cards.”
To which my curiosity was piqued: “So many?”
She looked up from the ID card, "I suppose this is about that horrid Lieutenant,” she remarked and lifted an wry brow, turning her attention now full upon me with a look of which I have seen many times before – a female in uniform., "Oh my yes—there have been constables and detectives from the City Police – and some gentleman from the Navy; and now, Scotland Yard. But—where are my manners, my dear—” she gathered herself and stepped back, “Please, yes, do, please step in out of the cold. You must be positively freezing out there.” And she proceeded to move further inside from the threshold to allow me entrance, “It is just beastly – that wind today. It makes it so much colder; don’t you think? It nearly took away my new hat.”
“One must never lose a new hat,” I smiled, stepping into the warmth of the large foyer. I detected the scent of something rather delicious baking as I removed my slim casebook and umber pencil; and with a smile opened it and took note of those investigative agencies of which she had enumerated having already called upon 220 Marylebone Road.
Closing the door to block the wind’s chill entrance, she turned and smiled rather brightly, “Oh, and it is a lovely one too – several large feathers — which of course on a day like today, I should have known better, but,” She gave me a slight nod and a wink “It is Sunday – and what is Sunday for but to wear one’s best new hat? It looks ever so wonderful – I do love hats, don’t you?”
I nodded, “Oh most definitely, unfortunately, I don’t get to wear as many as I like.”
“Oh, you poor dear” She took the back of her hand to press at the loosening hairs of the bun at the back of her head, “That sounds simply horrid— to be sure. Of course, it is no doubt some male mandate or other, uniform dress code or what not. So—” and she clapped her hands together and looked at me most inquiringly, “There is still no word on terrible Lieutenant McFarlane?"
“I can’t speak to an on-going investigation; I am sure you understand . . ..” I informed her, “Mrs?”
“Mrs Willingham, Harriot Willingham,” she introduced herself, and watched with interest as I wrote her name in my notebook.
“So—Mrs Willingham, you say the City Police, as well as the Navy, have already been here?
“Oh, my—yes.” She replied with a look of rather mixed with awe and perplexity, “Looking for something—” She leaned to impart rather confidentially, “I would say – there was an Inspector.” And then she offered to take my coat and I removed my gloves as well and placed them in the coat’s pocket as she took them and walked over to a coat closet within which to hang them. The heels of her shoes hit heavily upon the hardwood floor, for some reason I took note. "From the City Police.” She leaned slightly forward again – as if speaking confidentially – although there were only the two of us in the foyer, “A rather unkempt looking young man – I would say rather than gentleman – scruffy if you know what I mean. In need of a mirror and razor. He wore these bitten-down gloves,” she held out her hands, wiggling her fingers.
“The gloves had the fingers removed?” I asked.
She blinked in some surprise, “Why –yes. Wool ones. The fingers snipped off. Looking all the world like some Bob Cratchit out of a Dickens’ theatrical. Now, there is a gentleman that could use a dress code."
I held my pencil at the ready, well aware of the name I was about to write: – “Did he give a name, Mrs. Willingham?”
“Yes. Now, let me see. His name was—Spectre. No. No, Spence.” She seemed to be thinking rather hard, and her eyes grew bright again, “Yes — I have it now, Spencer. Detective Inspector Spencer and some constables.” She said with some irritation.
“I see . . .”
“Came right in he did. Trooping along – him and those constables. No manners at all. Did not even have the curiosity to stomp off the snow from their boots. Just a flash of an Id card, and where’s the rooms, he said. And when I told them—it was bang right up the stairs, boots all stomping, to his flat to smash open the door.” She related the events and sighed.
“Do you know him?” Mrs Willingham inquired.
“We have met,” I said, certain I did not disguise my dislike for the man.
“I see,” she said. “And you—are with the Yard. Scotland Yard.”
I nodded, “Yes ma’am.”
“Right, well so many comings and goings it is hard to keep it all straight.” Her hand lifting to press up once again at the loose strands of hair falling free from the bun above the nape of her neck, “I would have never let to him you know, the lieutenant that is, had I known. They say he is involved in,” and she leaned toward me and whispered the word, “Espionage.”
Mrs Willingham seemed anxious as she suddenly added: “A spy!’
Whereupon she then raised both hands heavenward, “The Good Lord – a German!” Thus said, her hands shook, “The thought of it! Under my very roof!”
A telephone suddenly rang, to which, owing to my preoccupation with the witness, I was momentarily startled.
Mrs Willingham did not proceed to answer said phone — but rather glanced at the open doors of her sitting room.
“If you need to take that, I can wait,” I directed with a motion of my pencil, should she be of the impression she should not go, owing to my presence.
Only Mrs Willingham did not proceed to do so. Rather she stood with me, there in the large entrance hall; her countenance serene with a most amiable smile.
The telephone then rang twice more, upon which I gave her a rather suggestive look.
“Oh, it is no bother,” she began to explain as to why she had as yet made no indication that she was either prepared to leave me alone in the entrance or that she was in any way concerned about missing the call: “My nephew will get it."
To which I nodded, “Oh, does your nephew live here with you?”
She frowned at the suggestion or of the thought, “Oh, no. He has his own flat. Down past Blackfriar’s bridge. He’s here to visit. It’s Sunday.”
“Blackfriar’s Bridge?” I made a notation of the coincidence in that the purported victim, Pamela Dean, had resided at rooms upon number 85 Blackfriar Road.
“And his name would be?”
“Garrick. Garrick Gooch,” she said, watching as I wrote, “27 St. George’s Road.”
Thereupon there came, as if having heard his name, the sound of the clumping of heavy boots, a large man in a grey suit, which seemed a bit tight about the shoulders – and hung unbuttoned. He stepped to the door of the sitting room, "That was Mr Ferguson. Wants you to call ’em.”
“Hello, sir,” I smiled at him.
“Ferguson you say.” She repeated and then looked to me, “Must be about the coal. Changing merchants you see – such a bother. Thank you, Garrick.”
“Ma’am.” he nodded his head politely.
I made a note of the name and an annotation – possible coal merchant.
“You got any more of them little Victoria Sponge Cakes?" He asked of Mrs Willingham.
She smiled at him, "I expect you will find one or two left in the kitchen, Garrick.” And then she turned to give me a rather thoughtful look, “I expect you will want to see his room – the Lieutenant’s, I mean.” Then she shrugged, “Or not. It is an awful mess, I will say.”
“Well, Mrs. Willingham.” I sighed, “If two other groups already searched over the flat, I doubt I’ll find much—but, I’ll still want to give it a once over, but in a couple moments, as I have a few questions.
“Yes, well. Certainly. Care for some tea.” She said, as she now motioned toward the open doors of the sitting room. “I can have Garrick put the kettle on."
“Oh, yes. Thank you kindly,” I proceeded to follow her into the sitting room.
The room was rather cluttered. A vast collection of framed pictures were crowded to near overflowing along the mantle. Two walls of the room were taken up by tall bookcases, equally overflowing. The end tables were also cluttered with magazines and newspapers. There was a round table covered, not with the usual “tapestry” cover, but with a plain green cloth that went passably well with the wall-paper. The table space was encumbered by stacks of pamphlets, various tracts, and half read books, opened and lying face-down.
A quick glance revealed them too be almost entirely political. Most advocated the suffrage movement, others aligned to the Socialist cause.
“Garrick, be a dear and put the kettle on,” She directed her nephew; who nodded assent and plodded off with heavy shoes.
Whereupon, Mrs Willingham motioned me over toward a chair sitting near the grate, behind which a fire was crackling.
I, for a moment, as I took a seat Mrs Willingham’s warm sitting room, found myself pondering as to why every place I have yet been in, regards to this investigation, save of course the subway, would be a place Irene would feel quite at home – particularly, as I took notice of the framed poster upon the far wall of that most infamous of tactics, having been enacted by the government to have suffragettes yield in their protests.
“A political activist?” I inquired.
“Oh, yes,” She said and sat down, “The WSPU. Emmeline Pankhurst.” She explained, “Although, I must admit, I have not been attending as many meetings as I am accustomed,” Her hand once again to the nape of neck and the stray hairs falling, “What with this beastly moratorium on – I am still undecided, as to whether I am leaving them again or not. Sylvia, and the East Londoner’s, I find ever so much more in the van, these days.”
“I see,” I nodded, I sat there “Such decisions can be quite weighty.”
“Quite,” She nodded and drew comfortable in her chair, “I have left them once before.’’ And then, she folder her hands in her lap, “There was a time, when they started discussing arson as a tactic.”
She took note of my reaction and nodded, “A bit severe—I thought as well. And so, I did leave for a while."
“Officially, I have to say that was a wise decision.” I told her plainly – arson? As a political tactic?
“That was when we were full of firebrands and anarchists.” She sighed, “But then came the war, and with it the time to take up the ploughshare. Emmeline called for a moratorium. On protests. And things have gotten less – shall we say confrontational. I have sat in on a couple Sylvia’s meetings of late. War or no war – we need equality, and to achieve that we have to have vote. Can’t give up the cause.” And then she peered at me approvingly, “As you should well know my dear. Look at you! In uniform – but, are you treated equally? I dare say not. I am sure you see it every day. The way they must treat woman.”
I found myself nodding in agreement, “I try my best. About the most anyone can do.”
“Oh, my no, dear – not the most one can do—surely. We women, even with half and effort, give it our best!”
And from somewhere beyond the sitting room, there was the loud sound of clattering pans, which gave evidence of the direction of the kitchen.
“Garrick,” and she rolled her eyes.
“Yes.” The clattering bringing me back around to the matter at hand.
“Everything well, dear?”
“Yes—” the distant voice called, over more clattering, and she sighed, and smiled.
“Now then . . .” I glanced at my notes, “Do you remember when the navy and police were here?”
There was the sound a kettle’s whistle and suddenly her hands came to together, "Oh, the tea,”
And she was up from the chair – I notice far faster than when she had sat down in it rather heavily – departing from the room; her footsteps indicted she traversed a hall to the kitchen. I glanced at one or two of the front pages of several pamphlets near at hand – Socialistic. She soon returned with a silver tea service and places it on the round table, where she poured a cup and turning. Asked: “Sugar? Bit of cream?”
I smiled, “Thank you.”
“Now—let’s see.” She handed me a cup and saucer, “The ratty policeman—now, he came, I think, the day after they found that poor woman – all beastly chopped up and tossed in the river.” She then turned to pour herself a cup, “Yes—it was the very next day, I am certain.”
Careful with the tea, I was able to jot down the information.
She walked back to her chair, “Now, this Naval officer. Some odd rank or other it was, a Sub-something—Lieutenant – I believe – which is something I for one have never heard of, but he had an ID card.” She took a sip of tea and smiled brightly, “A rather nice-looking young man. Bright smile and all politeness. Looked very smart in his uniform. Rice. Yes, Rice that was his name. I forget his first name, but the last was most certainly Rice.”
“Yesterday, you say?” I made a note of Sub-Lieutenant Rice.
’Yes. It was rather late in the evening. I was just heading out and opening the door, and bang, there he was at the door. Have you met the gentleman?” She asked sipping her tea.
“Briefly.” I nodded.
“Well, as I say, rather attractive, don’t you think? And with so few men available these days – you could do far worse, my dear.”
“Pardon.” I looked up from by casebook, juggling the cup and saucer.
She touched the back of her bun again, “Just saying my dear. Not that one needs one to make one’s way in the world, as you well know, and I must say, you are doing rather well – but one does tend to need – companionship, upon occasion.”
She took a sip of her tea, then frowned, “You must see some rather horrid things, my dear, in your chosen profession. And although I say, equality in all things, I must admit, I am not at all certain I would have the constitution for it. In truth, I am still more than a bit shaken . . . to think—I let out a flat to a man who could –" and She shuddered, “Chop . . . up . . . a woman. I mean, heavens! Who would do such a beastly thing?”
She held her cup close to her lips, “However would one go about doing . . . it.”
Then, she looked over the rim to me, “Did you see, those bits of her?”
“I have.” I admitted with a slight grimace.
She leaned forward and waved a hand as if in distress, "Oh you poor child. It must have been just horrid. Simply horrid. They said she was hacked up . . . just pieces . . . wrapped up in brown paper, Kraft paper I would suppose – used by butchers. And one would have to be a butcher, don’t you think? Oh it is just so ghastly to ponder upon. I think they said it was a pelvis.” She looked dismayed, “A pelvis! I mean, that certainly isn’t much to make an identification upon.” She took a thoughtful sip of tea, then asked: “How ever did you manage an identification?”
“I’m not at liberty to say, Ma’am.” The cup and saucer were becoming bothersome and so I placed mine on the end table near at hand.
“Oh, of course, certainly and here I am just rattling on,” She smiled, “Must have been a terrible difficult thing to do, I would imagine – “
“Identifying a body from such a few pieces—” and she sipped her tea. “And from nothing more than a pelvis.”
“Did they ask you any questions in regards to visitors? Any acquaintances that may have from time to time stopped over to see him.”
“Well as I said, I am in and out so much – my meetings and philanthropic work, you know. “ She held her tea cup steady. “I don’t know if he had – well, none that I were to have taken notice. Co-workers and the like. I mean, the woman, the one they say he chopped up – he knew her. A clerk at the Navy, as I understand it. A Miss Dean. Worked with him – now of course, I never saw her – well, not that I am aware you know. Of course, there was his girl, but I think they had broken if off before all this mess."
“He had a girl?” I asked with some interest. “Steady on?”
“More like time to time – really.” She said, her hand to the back of her nape again, “He worked mostly – kept late hours. The war I imagine – but now, I guess ne was meeting with spies – oh, it is all so dreadful to ponder. A spy. In the Navy!”
“Do you remember her name at all?”
“Miss Dean – that’s what I have heard.”
“No, his girl, of whom you spoke.”
“Oh, let me see—” She said trying to recall, “A mousy little thing. I never saw much in her. Her name, yes—Vivian. Or Vanessa. One of those, I think. Victoria—that’s it. But as I said, they had broken things off long before any of – this.”
“How long would that be?”
“Ages.” She sipped at her tea, “Simply ages.”
“They had broken up – ages ago.” I reiterated.
“Oh yes, as I said, a mousy little thing. And the lieutenant – in his uniform. He had quite the pick of any of his choosing – as I am sure you understand. And he was well involved with some other girl – this poor Dean girl. As I have heard. But then again – maybe, it wasn’t at all anything so romantic – she was a spy as well.” She sat her tea down and looked most distressed, “Confidantes, you know. Sending secrets to Berlin. Spies! Dreadful to even think of it. And in the Navy. But then again — perhaps, it was that devil of a smile of his. One has to be careful you know. And this Dean girl? The naval officer said something like she was up to her pretty little neck . . . . Oh – my such a horrid thing to say – considering.” She reflected upon the turn of phrase, “Was she a spy as well?”
I side-stepped the inquiry, “Do you have an address for this – Victoria?”
She gave a brief look about the clutter of the sitting room – “Well, possibly, I am not sure. Perhaps I need to look about – shall I sent it to you should I find it?”
“Certainly.” And I handed her my card. “Did you tell the others about her? This Victoria?”
“Well—no, I didn’t.” She looked at my calling card, “I can’t say as I liked the look of that City Inspector and that other, the Naval Officer – as easy as he was on the eyes, there was at times a smirk about him, you know, and well, I just felt that the poor girl had such a horrid time with that deceitful scoundrel, so why bring her into all this – I mean, as I said, it was ages ago . . . but – well, you my dear, you seem quite sensible and I can’t see the harm in telling you.”
“And I thank you, now as to a description?”
“As I said, a rather slight girl. I would say about two and twenty, close to. I found her to be rather sweet than attractive, not to be unkind, if you know what I mean. But men? Who knows what they look for when they see a woman?” She shook her head sadly. “Or rather—what they want to see of a woman. Of middle height. Dark hair. Was a student – at university. Can’t say as I recollect which one – isn’t that horrid – I know it was one of the women’s schools.”
I nodded, making a note to check into this girl of McFarlane’s – ages and ages ago. “Might I ask you to not discuss it with anyone else?”
“Oh, absolutely.” Mrs Willingham nodded as she idly tapped her fingers upon the arm of her chair, "There has not been anything new reported in the papers – have they found . . . well, any more bits of her?”
“All I can say Mrs Willingham is that I can’t comment on an on-going investigation.” I told her, “You have mentioned a few lines of inquiry – that are of interest. But for now, they are just that — lines of inquiry. I do have to ask—how did you hear about these specific angles of investigation?”
“Oh – well, " She replied, "A bit here and there, from those searching the rooms and such. A little of what they say. A lot of what they don’t. But mostly, what I have read in the papers – although, there hasn’t been much in print recently – so, I guess they have not found any more of her, or there would be . . . “ she said letting the thought drift off.
“And the others, the inspector from the City Police?” I asked.
“The scruffy one? The one with two James’ in his name – he didn’t say much, just wanted to see the Lieutenant’s flat – and as I said, he and his constables, they fairly well tossed everything about.” She continued to sit serenely sipping her tea, “It was almost as if they were searching for something – I guess papers, or what not, being as he was a spy— or so they alluded to. The one handsome one, from the Navy, the one with the smirk, was far more forthcoming about the lieutenant’s scandalous behaviour. German Naval Intelligence.”
I continuing jotting down notes – the Jameses, that would have been Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer.
“Now that one. Rice, as I recall. He, well, he asked me all kinds of questions – did I know the Lieutenant’s habits. Did he receive letters with foreign postmarks? Did I see him with maps? Did he have visitors at his flat recently? Had he made trips out of London? Over night? Over weekends? Did I know what he was about in Exeter? Did that Miss Dean come to call? Did he have her in his rooms?”
“What did you tell him?”
“Well as I said, I’m just his landlady, and I have my own comings and goings and so, I can’t say if he had any visitors, when I was not about. And as to his trips? Well, he certainly didn’t stop off to tell me anything about it. As I said – what kind of a spy would he have been if he had been telling me what is what up to? And if I had known what he was about, I would have done my duty and informed the police – someone, I hope as nice as yourself dear.”
I gave her a smile, “You are quite a sensible person.”
“I must say, it is so gratifying to see they have placed a woman as capable as you on the force. Long overdue – and see what this world would be if we women were given authority and latitude.”
“Well, thank you kindly” I nodded, “So – this trip to Exeter was of some interest?”
“To the Naval officer yes –“ She replied, “I can’t say as if the Inspector asked.”
I added to my notes, “He did not receive any unusual packages, or have deliveries.”
She sat for a moment reflecting, “Can’t say as I remember, anything unusual. Normal mail and such like. Can’t say but he received maybe one or two telegrams, least that I am aware. But as I said I am in and out.”
“Might I see his flat?”
“Oh, but of course, dear.” And she set aside her tea cup and saucer and rose up slowly from the chair. She stepped over to the large round table adorned with the green cloth and stacks of tracts and pamphlets, and opened a central drawer. She removed a key and motioning to me, she stepped over toward the open double doors of the drawing room. “This way.”
Closing my notebook, I hurriedly took a drink of the tea I had set aside; and putting the cup back down arose to follow.
Mrs Willingham walked over to the stairs and began to ascend them to the second floor, “Mind you the place is a mess – they told me not to touch a thing until I was given notice that I could.”
She slowly takes the steps one at a time, holding to the railing.
Watching her slow ascent I nodded, “Sadly, that is a part of the process. I promise I’ll try to speed things along to get you that notice. It can be hard for a landlady being unable to collect rent.”
She stopped and looked back at me, “Particularly in these times.” Her hand reached out and patted mind upon the bannister, “And if you could — that would be a blessing my dear, just a blessing.”
We arrived upon the first-floor landing, a narrow corridor leading to several closed rooms.
“Other boarders?” I asked.
“What?” And then she looked about, “Oh, no – not at the moment. Just had the Lieutenant, you see. Now, here we are,” she finished by advancing to the first door.
A turn to the key and she opened the door.
I stepped through the threshold to behold a two room flat which been completely ransacked. Drawers pulled out and emptied. Books scattered on the floor. Cushions removed from chairs. The drapes pulled down. Bed clothes pulled off and tossed on the floor. Papers scattered everywhere.
I sighed a bit, the odds of finding anything of use here was slim, very slim, but taking a bit of heart with the fact the scene has already been violated – “I hate to be a bother Mrs. Willingham, but do you have a box or crate of any sort perchance?
“A box?” She replied thoughtfully, “Well, let me see.”
And she exited the room, her heavy footsteps continuing down the first floor corridor.
I stood amidst the debris of the two searches. The scattered papers and books along with just about everything Bradley McFarlane owned lying on the floor. I rather absently picked up a wall painting that had been knocked to the floor and left to lie there face down.
It was a depiction of some naval battle. The frame was in good shape but the glass had been shattered and I had to take care not to cut myself, but as I did so, I took notice that slipped into the lower left corner of the picture, there was a small business card. As if pressed there so as not to be left lying to get misplaced.
I gently pulled it lose with a handkerchief.
The card read: Mitchell, Sons & Candy. Land Agents. Exeter.
There was at that moment the sound of Mrs Willingham returning, and so I placed the card within my handkerchief, and slipped it into my pocket, putting the picture back on the floor, face down, just as she entered the door carrying two large hat boxes. "I say – will this do? Both of these old hats have seen better days, and so, I was preparing to donate them. So, will their boxes do?”
“Yes, those will do.’ I gave her an encouraging smile, “Thank you kindly. I promise to return them once I’ve transported anything I’ve found to the yard.
“You are a dear.” She said placing the hat boxes on a table, upon which lay the scattered debris of Lieutenant McFarlane’s desk drawer. “As I said, I am sorry for the mess.” She looked about and then stepped over to pick up the picture, “Oh look they shattered the glass—” she shakes her head as she hangs it back on the wall, slightly crooked.
“A significant picture?”
“This—oh, no, well I don’t think so. It was the Lieutenant’s.” She replied with her hands resting upon on her hips, "Navy officer.” She sighs looking at the picture, “I guess they all long for the sea and if they can’t – well, they have pictures. There is another over,” and she points but hesitates as the wall is blank. She steppes over and looks around to find another fallen picture and picking it returns it to the wall.
I continued to mill about the room, looking at items tossed to the floor, the titles of books, dropped wherein their titles were visible. “Pardon me, but, if you would please stay by the door, I don’t expect there is much of anything left, but don’t want to damage any evidence that might remain.”
She made an expression as to say, I am so sorry and hurriedly did as I requested.
I made as diligently a search as if I were the first upon the scene, but did so far more neatly, organized, checking from the tops of heavy furniture all the way to the floor. Then I knelt to begin to reach beneath the furnishings, before moving on to sort through and examine those papers which had been tossed so haphazardly. As I did so, I grew more and more dishearten as it appeared all of the previous searches had gathered anything of significance – other than of course, the apparently overlooked business card I had happened to find stuck in the corner of the picture. Unless of course – it had been placed there intentionally, at some point after the initial searches. It was not as if evidence had not already been nefariously placed in this murder hunt. My first thought was of the nephew. He had been alone most of my time in the house and could have easily ascended to the second floor – might even have his own key. But then that would call into to question Mrs Willingham as well – who was or was not a part of this conspiracy, or, was I letting paranoia guide my thoughts. Red Circle had said it was fathomless.
I began to tidily place what scattered papers if discerned may have some value into one of the hat boxes, even as I began to think, I would have to check into Mrs Willingham. And most certainly the nephew. It would be good to find out more about this Victoria, or Vivian or Vanessa, from ages and ages ago. There was nothing to give any indication of her – well, remaining, The previous searches would have gathered anything of her – if there was anything of her.
I arose and picked up the second hat box and returned it to Mrs Willingham.
“Oh, you just need the one dear?” She asked.
“As I feared, there isn’t much.” I told her, “And thank you for your time and cheery disposition though out my inquiry, it makes for a nice change.”
She once again gave me her most serene smiles, “Well as I said, it does one good to see a young woman such as yourself finally getting on with a career – and one with Scotland Yard. It makes all of us proud to see a woman in such a position.”
“Now, we just have to keep up the fight for the vote!” I smiled at her.
“Resistance my dear.” She said a bit defiantly.
Carefully, carrying the large hat box, following in Mrs Willingham’s careful wake, she led the way back down the stairs, having locked up McFarlane’s room once more.
Within the large entrance hall once more, she placed the unused hat box upon the table, and her heavy heels strode over to the coat closet where she retrieved my coat. As she passed it over to me, we exchanged formalities in preparation for my departure – but then, she suddenly stopped and held up a hand. She moved over to the table set in the centre of the hall and from a drawer she removed an ivory button bearing the words “Votes for Women.” “Every woman has the right.” She said.
I agreed with her and then made to the front door — which she opened for me, encumbered as I was with the large hat box. As she did so, there was a tall, elderly gentleman in a dark suit and top hat standing on the step, his back turned to us.
“Yes?” Mrs Willingham said a bit quizzically.
He turned to smile, “Yes,” he replied as he removed his hat and held it in his hand which also held his gold handled cane. “I am Sir John Paxton of The Law Society.” He held out his card, “I have come to offer my services to most unfortunate Lieutenant McFarlane.”