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.