Inspector Stone’s Casebook
10 – March
I eased the Wolseley from the rear of the Yard and proceeded along a side street before turning down Whitehall, passing once more the Adam’s Screen protecting the entrance of the Admiralty House “It would appear there may have been some chicanery afoot the morning upon which a part of Miss Dean was discovered deposited into the Thames.”
“So it would seem.” She said looking up and through the windscreen. “At least, by way of Cotford’s casebook.”
We approached Trafalgar Square and I turned right to Strand.
“Hopefully there shall be no murderers hiding in the house this time.” She added.
“We can only hope.” I nodded, careful with the streets as the shadows of the afternoon have allowed those parts of the roadway, upon which the snow has melted, to begin to ice over, “We must take some care as we will once more be stepping onto the City Police’s patch, this Hurley lives in their jurisdiction.”
We passed Charring Cross Hotel.
PC Atherton sighed, “Spies, murders, muddled jurisdiction—“
“There is no shortage of complications and contrivances to be sure.” I agreed. “This investigation in its angles seeks to become indecipherable Vera – if I may.” I looked at her inquiringly as to ascertain if the use of her name did not bring discomfort.
She looked at me seemingly unconcerned, “Certainly.”
“But we shan’t allow it to do so.” I said “We shall follow the evidence and its interpretation will be ours. And we will brook no elucidation by others. Now, this Hurley is a broom-man and thus he must have been early upon the streets. There may be more that he has yet to have enticed into remembrance. “
I shifted down the gears and the motor whined, passing through a shaded patch of roadway covered in a glaze of ice.
“I would speak to you of Spenser.”
She looked at me with some curiosity.
“You are aware he was once with the Yard?" I explained.
We were approaching the Lyceum Theater. I glanced at it in passing – there Stoker was business manager. There seemed no end to the coincidences. “Yes, before your arrival at the Yard. There was a time of growing unrest and protests. Owing to various militant groups, before the war, Special Branch created a Secret Division. It was given a mandate to investigate cases that were suspected activities of radicals, militants, and of course, agents of foreign powers.”
“So . . . a mole hunter?”
“More than that,” I informed her. "He was thuggery on a leash. The Secret Intelligence Division was headed by an Inspector Robertson-Kirk, who held that leash. They also saw it advantageous to skirt beyond the edges of the law— in a more singular case, the Callaghan Investigation, Robertson-Kirk and Spenser were accused of illegal activities in bringing about the apprehension of their suspects.”
She sat attentively listening as I continued.
“They were dismissed and the Intelligence Division was closed down.” I told her as I turned right on to Arundel Street.
“As to what insanity has overtaken the Commissioner of the City Police, I do not know, but he has reinstated Spenser as an officer of the City Police. But I strongly suspect there is more to his presence at Captain Purdy’s office than merely the Dean investigation.”
I took notice of her countenance as she began to frown.
“I was remembering something Irene mentioned.” Her brow furrowed. “She once told me in one of the mysteries she reads about there was use of a . . . a cipher? It is based on having a specific book and within the book a specific passage to read in order to decipher an encoded message . . . maybe that’s why the Dracula book was taken.”
“I must confess what this book has to do in connection to this case has been a puzzlement.” I admitted as I looked past her to glance at the numbers of the small houses along the snowy street.
Number 10. It was a small, narrow single floor dwelling.
“I am beginning to think we shouldn’t be treating this as a murder, maybe we should be treating it more as if it were an espionage case.
I turned off the motor and looked at the small house. It was without lawn, nothing at all of a stoop, just a doorway that let out upon the narrow walkway.
I looked at her and she returned my look with some puzzlement, “What?”
“There is one other thing of import, Vera.”
“Yes,” Her frown having not dissipated.
“You were not the first female member of the Yard.”
She blinked, “I am not certain why that is important.”
“Contradictions, contrivances and coincidences, Vera. You see, that distinction was held by Inspector Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk, head of the Secret Select Intelligence Division.”
Her right brow rose as she considered the implications.
“And the reason of its import is that Lady Molly has red hair."
PC Alderton quickly makes notes in her casebook, “Duly noted.” She said as she closed it and slipped it into her pocket.
Exiting the car I buttoned my coat as I walked about the bonnet of the motorcar as I surveyed the street. It seemed unusually deserted – but then there was the lingering effects of the night’s snowfall to contend with. I was also aware that PC Alderton, as she was adjusting her cap, and straightening her jacket, was inspecting the roadway as well. She look up the narrow Arundel Street and then down it.
We both were aware we had stepped from our jurisdiction onto Detective Inspector Spencer’s patch.
Together we proceeded to the faded pale blue door. PC Alderton knocked briskly.
From within there was the sound of footsteps, heavy, slow, and plodding before the door was opened a crack just enough to reveal a weathered eye peering out from beneath a thick, bushy grey eyebrow. PC Alderton stepped slightly to the side, almost instinctively in case the door were to open with another revolver present.
“Right, who is that be knocking upon me door.”
Vera quickly produced her identity card and pressed it up against the crack of the door before the peering eye, “Scotland Yard.”
“Scotland Yard,” the rummy voice repeated with some scorn, “You’re Metropolitan blue and so you are beyond your jurisdiction. And so’s I ain’t got no obligation to you –“
I stepped forward and leaned against the door frame, “Mr Hurley, we would speak with you. Upon the day the woman, Dean, was found diced and separated and put into the river you did lay severe accusations upon certain doorsteps. It is in this regard we have arrived upon your doorstep on this rather cold and grim-gray day. We seek to ascertain the veracity of that which you have claimed. And to that end, should you continue to bar this door, I can assure you I will be obliged to find a way to help you discover your obligations.”
Jeremiah Hurley pushed open the door a bit more. He was a man in his late forties, with iron-gray hair, who had not seen a razor for several days. His eyes were deep-set and dark. He looked at PC Alderton with some disdain, “This lass a copper? She’s too frail to be wearin’ blue.”
Alderton showed him her credentials once more, he looked hard upon it: “Come in. Come in.”
And he stepped back to allow us entrance. The house reeked of boiling cabbage. The front room was narrow and the small amount of furnishings were tightly fitted into the space allowed. He motioned to a couple of cushioned chairs whose seats and been well broken-in.
He fell heavily into an old high-backed chair and picked up his glass of rye and squinted in the dimness of the room with a frown, “So it be the Met lookin’ into who diced her up? Figured they’ve be City coppers – jurisdiction and all – seeing as how you ain’t found the Ripper.”
“Yes, well, as for Jack, that is another case. We’re assigned the diced up girl as you say.” Alderton replied.
“Thought it was that copper who first took me statement, Codfish I think were his name.” He took a sip of the rye.
“Cotford. He is dead.” She told him.
He put his glass down and looked at her, hard, “Dead?”
“In the line of duty.” She added.
“Lord—ain’t got nothin’ to do with the lass in the river, would it?” He asked suspicious.
“You were sweeping that morning?” She replied.
He looked at her and then to me.
“Aye, for a bit – but with the snow and all, it weren’t much me and my broom could do. “
“Now you were a witness – at the embankment of those investigating the scene.”
“Of the diced up girl?” He nodded. “Was on me way home to take a nip to warm up a bit and so’s I took notice of the goings-on at the embankment – and the lumber yard.”
“And you went down to see?” She asked.
He took another sip of rye: “Aye.”
Alderton took out her casebook and began taking notes, “Did you happen to get the names of the officers you came in contact with that morning?”
“Well, now there was the Detective Codfish. Then there were Constable Harper, he be the copper that is the normal Stand beat copper. It was him who asked me to find the other copper, he was . . . now, let me think upon it . . . yes, he was up along Surrey Street, whereas he should have been up along the Embankment and the Waterloo beat to Commercial Street and Upper Ground.” He made odd motions of his hand to indicate the grid of the streets.
“So, he was not where he was supposed to have been.”
He sipped the rye, “Aye – now that I recollect.”
“He is City Police?” She asked looking up from her notes.
“This here all be City Police’s beat.” He said and sat back in the well broken-in chair.
“You know anything of this Baxter?” She inquired.
“Naw—Harper he be the copper I knows the best. Baxter this be the first I had any real speakin’ to him. I had seen him of course, in me sweepin’ but not to talk to. “
Alderton looked up at him with an expressive lift of her eyebrows, “Didn’t you think it strange that a member of the police sent you to get help instead of raising the alarm?”
He blinked and looked at her in some bewilderment, “A copper tells me to do somethin’ especially a City copper who works me streets, I’m goin’ do it no questions about it lass.”
“Now – of this there is some significance, Mr Hurley – in the evidence you gave to Detective Inspector Cotford, you stated that you saw this Constable Baxter approach a motor car, one which made its way down to the embankment from Waterloo.”
“Aye.” Hurley nodded.
“Do you have any recollection as to who allowed it upon the investigative scene?” She asked sitting slightly forward.
“I don’t rightly recollect. I just looked up and there it be, slowly rolling to a stop.”
With that eyebrow slightly raised, she nodded, “And once it had halted, what then transpired.”
“Well – like I says—“
She shook her head, “I mean, did someone from the motor car make some motion to the Constable so as to attract his attention, or, did he make his way there unbidden?”
“As I recall – he turned and made his way up to the car upon his own.” Hurley replied, “Now there might have been some hither to given, but I didn’t see any such like.”
“And then, when he arrived.” She led him along.
“That’s when the window in the back of the car, it lowered; and then, the lovely in the back she spoke to him. “ He told her
“According to the evidence you’ve given, this Constable Baxter took something from the woman in the car – which he then proceeded down the embankment to place it down upon the scene and then took it up again, as evidence found? Am I correct?” She asked him straightway.
He sat silent for a moment as if hesitant to proceed. “Now – seeing as how there was more than a bit of trouble that morning, you see, as how I was off me normal route and schedule, and being of course with the weather and like, and then being asked to run forth to find and fetch coppers and all . . . “
“What did you see?” She pressed him.
He sat grimly silent.
His reticence to confirm his evidence was more than apparent and so I spoke up, “It would be best for you Mr Hurley to give up your evidence as regards the diced up girl. For him who next comes upon your door,“ I made a gestured to point toward it, “Will be with the City Police, and with him comes a means less hospitable in seeking evidence of the death of one of their own. Thus, upon this arrival, “I said moving my hand so that my finger, which had been pointing toward the door now stood in marked attention by pointing towards him, “You can say, I have given my evidence of the girl to Met and of the other I know nothing. And as we share jurisdiction on this matter – it would serve notice to them that you are a witness for the Met.” I explained his situation.
He took a good strong brace of his rye and then looked at me, “Well now – you are a might short off the measure on that one Sir, because of whom you speak . . . he’s already been at me door. And far more sinister than the likes of either of you – of that I can rightly assure you.’
“This man upon your door, all in black was he?” I asked.
“Like a bloody undertaker come to fit the livin’ – felt as if his eyes were measuring you up for a box.” Hurley replied.
“He give the name of Spenser? Detective Inspector Spenser?”
He took another long sip of his rye and nodded. “Banging like the devil he was upon me door.”
“What did he have to say?” Alderton asked.
He reached over for the dark bottle of rye and uncorked it, pouring himself another good measure in his glass. “He comes in and doesn’t say anything. Just looked me place over, and then turns his eyes upon me.” He forced the cork back into the bottle, “You made a report concerning an odd incident morning last. At the embankment. Tell me about it. And so I does.”
“I see – he knew of your evidence to Cotford?” Alderton asked as she glanced in my direction.
“Aye. “ He takes another drink.
“What was his reaction?” She followed up.
“He picks up me bottle and says, I am sure you had quite a few to warm yourself up that morning. And I says, a few. And he says, well now then you might not have seen what you said you saw. And I says I saw what I saw.” He held the glass as if trying to decided on another drink, “And then he puts the bottle up hard against me chest and he says, well you know, working where you do, having a bit too many drinks in the morning, you might just want to take care. Accidents do happen."
“That’s intimidation –“ Alderton began as she looked over at me sternly.
“Mr. Hurley, be best advised in that evidence you give in regards to the death of Pamela Dean brings with it a security as witness for the Yard.” I replied and tried to reassure Alderton.
“Well, so, Mr Hurley. Returning to that morning, it is you statement that you, upon morning last, observed a Constable of the City Police, a Constable Baxter, approach a motor car, which had been allowed to proceed down the embankment so as to encroach upon the scene, where upon, the said Constable Baxter did approach this motor car, and thereupon he did converse with a woman seated in the rear of the conveyance. “
Hurley looked at Alderton and then at myself, before he sighed heavily, “That’s what I told the other copper, Codfish.”
“You further stated that you observed said constable, Constable Baxter, take into his possession an object, which he then proceeded to placed upon the site under investigation, to then lift up said object and proceed to enter it into evidence?”
“Right,” Hurley nodded, “I seen what I seen and I seen him do it.”
‘There is no uncertainty of the matter? He took something—“
“A purse.” He interrupted.
“A purse?” She repeated, “Of that you are certain?”
“Oh, aye – I know a purse when I sees one.”
She made several notes, “And the car—did you happen to see the registration number at all?”
Hurley rubbed his nose, "Naw, I wasn’t payin all that much attention to the motor car—not with her that was in the back of it. She had all me attention. I mean, she was a right looker she was..”
“Could you describe her please?”
“Well, now,” He took another brace from his rye, “She was fair. Her skin, it was fine, smooth, you know, to touch—I mean, you could just tell. Her lips were not rouged up, you know, quite natural like, in fact she had that look that didn’t need any of those brushes and creams and such. And she had the most beautiful red hair I have ever seen. A true vision she was.”
“What can you tell me about this vehicle?” Alderton pressed upon some means of identifying of the motor car.
He reached over to the small table close to hand and picked up a small tobacco pouch and one of several loose cigarette papers lying near. He pinched up a bit of tobacco and sprinkled it on the thin paper, “It be one of them rather long motor cars.” He closed the pouch and began rolling the cigarette. “One of them limousines I think they call’em.” He licked the paper, “Maybe one of them Lanchesters. The driver was a rough looking sort. Might have been a pugilist as he had the look.” He struck a match which flared into flame as he lit his cigarette. “But is was an expensive one I would think .”
“Is there anything else you can tell us about that morning?’ She asked leaning forward to rest upon the knee of her crossed leg, “Anything that seemed out of the ordinary?
“Well – it were cold. Mighty cold – wind off the river an all. Not many out and about – just mostly the coppers.” He took a drag off the cigarette.
“Do you happen to know a Neil Byrne?” She inquired.
He takes a long draw off the cigarette and exhales a thick plume of smoke, “Did I know?”
Alderton frowned, “Sadly Mr Byrne is dead as well.”
Hurley’s face goes slack for a moment, “Neil is dead?”
“Yes. His neck was broken.” She informed him, “He was found on a bench on the embankment. Not far from here actually.”
“Murdered you mean.” Hurley said.
“That is – Yes.” She nodded solemnly – her thoughts no doubt returning to her discovery the body in the mist and snow.
“Then . . . I got nothing else to say,” Hurley suddenly stubs his cigarette out in the too full ashtray.
“Mr. Hurley – I do wish to confirm a point. This woman—the one in the limousine—you are quite certain she was red-headed?”
He stood up suddenly, “The copper’s dead and so is Neil. It’s like the other Inspector says, I may perhaps have had one too many that morning. And so, I can’t rightly say that I might have not seen anything at all of what I seen."
Alderton looked at him now with some surprise, “But you have just given evidence."
“So— well,” He lifts his glass, “It ain’t like I ain’t been drinkin’ now is it lass. And so, as I says, I ain’t got nothing else to say. Good day to ya and I ask you to leave."
Alderton rose from her chair, “Very well, Mr Hurley. But, may I ask you to let us use the backdoor?”
I was not certain of the reasoning behind her request, but I arose and nodded to Hurley as I handed him my card, “Should Spenser return you inform me.” I told him but he waved his hands at us.
“Out, get out!”
And I followed Alderton as she moved through the narrow, cramped room to the corridor that led back into the confines of Hurley’s dismal lodgings. Hurley ever present behind us as we made our way through the confining corridor kept careful watch. I noticed PC Alderton was slowly observing, inspecting , the rooms as she passed heading toward the kitchen – where there was cabbage on the boil.
She took one last long look and then exited out the back door, which opened upon a extremely narrow alley way. There was barely enough room for us to walk without having to turn to the side.
The alley ran back to the Strand, where once we gained the snowy walk we proceeded around the corner back to Arundel Street, were our car sat parked in front of Hurley’s residence.
“I wanted to get a look at his lodgings.” She said, “but there was little of interest. It is odd his reaction to Neil Byrne.”
“Mayhap a new avenue of inquiry.” I said, “But, it is as I feared. Spenser is still upon Robertson-Kirk’s leash. Of what meaning this has, I do not know. But what is of concern to me now is this Constable Baxter.”
She nodded in concurrence, “Next stop do you think?”
“Yes.” I replied, aware of the tension in my voice, “Although, I fear we may be too late.”