Newspaper Clipping from The Times, 9 March
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
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.”
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?
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?”
“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.
“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.
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.
Randall read quickly, then folds it over. “Bloody hell she couldn’t write it here. You got this in the post?”
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.”
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.
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’ like some unwitting sailor of old, to be transformed into ‘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. 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 someday 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 of 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 establishment 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 uncertain if I should could ever look upon again, or at least until I was certain of what my future held, owing to his naval commission, and so 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), I arrived at the restaurant.
On Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, Ritter’s is a discreet little rambling semi-bohemian room with a number of small tables, each adorned with a vase of flowers and tiny lamps, which wore red electric light shades. 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’ 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’ 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 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 Hélène has had her eye upon you for some time.”
He then rather casually began to elaborate upon the whole of the conspiracy which had been 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 Hélène had decided upon me – apparently there had been several other viable candidates for selection and blackmail – as I had originally been chosen in order to gain the confidence of someone Lady Hélène needed to have closely observed, with the expressed intention of eventually gaining access in order to retrieve some information Beltham had been commissioned to obtain. 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. To be whored out. How had I come to this, how had I been so naïvely blind.
“But, then 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. “I mean how fortuitous not only that you and the young Lieutenant happen to meet – but that 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 Hélène was exceedingly delighted in her good fortune as I was now a far more valuable asset than she had first imagined. Not only to proceed with her ladyships’ original intent, but now, I could monitor as well Bradley, whom for some reason they felt could become troublesome to their plans. Was he aware? Was that why he had—I dare not write that thought.
“Whatever inducement you used to procure those reprehensible photographs of me, Mr Pym, I can assure you, as well as she who holds your chain, I will not be prostituted by blackmail.” I am still amazed that my voice did not crack as I spoke to him with such hateful vehemence.
It was less a smile than a smirk as he lit another cigarette. He placed an elbow upon the table, yet again, propping it so that he rested the hand with the wafting cigarette against his cheek and chin, “Miss Wells, we all have masters. Even Lady Hélène. It would be wise not to incur their wraith. Now, as to the use of the fulcrum which lies between your thighs (and it was 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 Hélène 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 examinations with double firsts.”
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 rather 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 do not want to be 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 first in chemistry, to, to use your words, are of the highest water. “
“But, I have yet to be officially graduated.” I protested. “I have no real experience.”
He gave me a wicked smile, “Trifles my dear. Mere trifles. Of which Lady Hélène 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 the dossier of whom you shall be is all but complete,” The voice had an oddly distinct quality, which at best I can only be describe as having 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 Francis Aytown’s lover, 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. “So as to be fully informed, Miss Wells, Francis and Mrs Willingham have spent the whole of the afternoon busily preparing yet another dossier. A dossier 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. Now, upon receipt of these dossiers they will discover not only photographs of a most shocking nature, some of which you have already seen, but along with them a comprehensive account of the life style of an wanton and amoral New Woman, and her far too casual carnal relationships with various men, and women among the suffragette movement. Of which, there will be specific details linking the activities of a radical socialist and her associations with anarchist groups, in plotting not political protests but actions of, shall we say, a 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 as well for acts which would lead to certain incarceration. And having 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 had been 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 working for them?”
“As I said, among my 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 in 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 Hélène. In that regard, your contact shall be though Mr Pym.”
Abruptly the Italian waiter arrived bringing our meal as he excused himself in order to accommodate 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.
There are footsteps upon the stairs – my Bradley! I so want to tell him everything and yet — dare I?
There is the knock upon my door