SS novice field agent
Posted - 09/26/2007 : 13:25:45
| Note: In order to facilitate this idea making it on to paper, it was necessary to ‘nudge’ our two heroes one and a half decades into the future. Although this is not my comfort zone, I relished the idea of coupling West and Gordon with both a fictional and a non-fictional historical character of this time period.
The Night of the London Fog
The audience would not let the performers leave the stage. Once again, the Shakespearean actors succumbed to the pulls of applause and cheers of the happy mob, and took center stage for a third time, bowing and curtsying their ‘your welcome’ to the delighted crowd. Never before had King Lear gotten this reaction at the Old Vic Theatre, on the south side of the River Thames in London. The Old Vic Theatre had always presented Shakespeare’s plays, much the same as his own Globe Theatre did. And when one of your country’s sons just happened to be the most proficient playwright of all time, it had seemed a natural fit to the owners of the Old Vic. Tonight’s crowd was a sellout, as most were, but tonight the crowd had additional reason to cheer. There was a magnificent group of Dignitaries in the audience tonight, including American President Grover Cleveland and British Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, as well as their spouses, seated to the right of the stage in a majestic private balcony. Just outside of the box a group of Secret Service agents and officers of Scotland Yard patrolled the corridor.
The United States Secret Service had numerous duties, but their primary function was to protect the chief executive, and they had two devastating failures in the last twenty-three years, unable to prevent the assassinations of both the sixteenth and twentieth presidents. Two gentlemen who had chosen to serve their country in this elite force were among the party of six agents who had accompanied President Cleveland to the theatre tonight, and they had worked together for most of their careers. The one gentleman, Artemus Gordon, was winding down his service with the Treasury Department, and he imagined this would be one of his last big assignments. Most of his duties lately had been in the laboratory and office, working behind the scenes as his foray into domestic life took hold and became his priority. He relished Shakespeare and the London theatres and was especially keen to take part in this official visit because it gave him the chance to indulge his passion. The second agent was James West, ten years younger than Gordon, and obviously saddened by his partners diminishing work in the field, as he desperately missed working with Gordon on a regular basis.
The two agents also accepted that their prior relationships with chief executives had diminished drastically, as they had been close to the three Civil War generals who had become President, Grant especially, but also Hayes and Garfield. With the assassination of President James Garfield, wholesale changes were made in the force, and although neither West or Gordon were assigned to protect President Garfield on the day he was shot, they along with all other agents bore the brunt of that dastardly act. President Chester Arthur had little contact with the two agents, and President Cleveland had only slightly more. The glory days of messages and meetings with President Grant were long since passed.
The Cleveland Administration was nearing an end, as he had just been defeated by Benjamin Harrison in the November 1888 election. Nobody knew it at the time, but Cleveland would make history in four years when he once again claimed the title of President of the United States, becoming the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was surprisingly upbeat on his visit to Europe, insisting on keeping the date with the Prime Minister Gascoyne-Cecil and Queen Victoria, despite the loss. He had always been close to both, and was eager to visit London at least once during his term as President. This trip had so far caused West and Gordon to have more contact with Cleveland than any other event during his first term. West had jumped at the opportunity to travel to London for the first time, looking forward to not only seeing the great city he had heard so much about, but enjoying two weeks with Artemus Gordon once again. He missed him dearly.
“Jim,” Gordon said, “lights are coming up.”
“Got it, Artie,” West responded.
With that West ventured down the tight hallway as Gordon secured his spot just outside the door that led to the box where Cleveland had just finished watching the play. Both agents looked very elegant in black suits and stiff white collars. Not wearing gun belts, they nevertheless each had concealed weapons beneath their coats. As Gordon stood at the ready by the door, West satisfied himself that all was safe and secure on the east side of the second floor of the theatre. One other agent was located on the first floor at the base of the staircase, with the three remaining agents outside waiting for the President’s emergence onto the London streets. Two hansom cabs awaited the two dignitaries, with another two allocated to the security forces, one that would lead the way and one that would follow. These were to be shared by a combination of Secret Service agents and elite officers of Scotland Yard. The exit from the theatre proved uneventful, due to monumental planning, and soon the iron shoes of the horses clacked and rattled on the cobblestone surface of the roads. Within two blocks, they crossed Westminster Bridge and were once again on the north side of the Thames, making sharp twists and turns as they meandered their way north and then west to Buckingham Palace, where the President and Prime Minister were staying during the visit. The journey was short, and with the four hansom cabs passing through the gates and guards of Buckingham Palace, the two agents who were to stay with the President exited their posts on the security coaches and remained at the Palace. West and Gordon had accommodations at the London Thistle Hotel, which was less than half a mile from Buckingham Palace. They would not be needed until 3:00 tomorrow afternoon, as the President was going to make an appearance in the House of Commons. President Cleveland was protected by his two favorite agents, and West and Gordon had come to accept their lesser roles concerning the President.
“Well, another successful outing for the President,” West yawned. “So tell me Artie, what did you think of the play?”
“Are you kidding?” a bemused Gordon answered. “Shakespeare. In London. At night. With the President and Prime Minister in attendance. Come, come, Jim,” he silently scolded his partner. “do I really have to answer that?”
Both men laughed.
“I miss this, Artie. You know, the old times.”
“I know, I know. So do I. But I’m not getting any younger, and life is more wonderful than I could have ever dreamed it could be. Lily and the children have shown me how much more there was to life, how much I was missing out on,” Gordon looked at West as they passed under one of the numerous gas lights and noticed him look down at his hands, “I don’t mean it like that, Jim,” West looked up, “I really did love and cherish all of our time together. I really do treasure those memories.”
“I know, Artie,” a melancholy West responded. “I don’t want to put a damper on this assignment, I have looked forward to this one for quite a while.”
“Me too,” Gordon countered while touching West’s closed hands, “me too.”
The horses’ hooves pounded away at the cobblestones as the fog descended upon a darkened city of London, and soon West and Gordon arrived at the hotel. Exiting the cab, they climbed the dozen steps that led them inside the lobby and retrieved their keys from the front desk. They entered the lift and climbed five floors until they reached their adjoining rooms. As they reached their respective doors, West looked at Gordon.
“Artie, how ‘bout a nightcap?”
Without turning his key in the lock, Gordon removed it and answered, “Certainly, James. A toast to a successful evening…and a delightful performance…however, the court jester,” Gordon feigned criticism, “I believe his timing was slightly off, and he spoke too much to the cast and not enough to the audience,” making eye contact with West, they both smiled.
“The court jester? I thought he was quite good myself,” West responded.
“And just what do ‘you’ know about the theatre, my good man,” from Gordon as he passed by West and entered his room. “Well?”
West laughed, patting Gordon on the back as he passed him. “Artie, let’s open a bottle.”
“Apparently they’re having a serious problem here, Jim,” Gordon advised him the next morning as he perused the London Times over breakfast.
“I know, I asked for a second cup of coffee five minutes ago and it’s still not here,” West answered while simultaneously looking at his pocket watch and surveying the crowd for the young lady who had been serving them.
“What?” Gordon looked up from the newspaper, “No, no. Here,” pointing at the Times, “they’ve had five savage murders in the district of Whitechapel. Going back…some eleven weeks, well, just a little more than that. No concrete leads. Brutal, just brutal.”
“What do you mean?” A suddenly interested West asked. “Robberies gone bad?”
“No, not these,” a serious looking Gordon said. “Listen to this. Starting with the killing of Mary Nichols on 31 August 1888, London has been terrorized with repeated murders committed by,” Gordon paused, “a character named Jack the Ripper.” Gordon looked at West, and they made eye contact. Gordon then looked back to the newspaper, “his second victim was murdered on 8 September 1888, his third and fourths both on 30 September 1888, his fifth on 9 November 1888 (just ten days ago) and nothing further, save a series of taunting and tormenting letters directed at Chief Inspector Abberline of Scotland Yard. All five of the victims were prostitutes, and each was torn apart with the savagery of an animal, but the skill of a surgeon. This part is rather gruesome, Jim,” Gordon looked again at West, “the women were dissected…that’s the word in the paper…intestines, vital organs, including kidneys, livers and hearts, and their sexual organs were removed and strewn about the areas where the bodies were found. The police are baffled, and a message was left in blood at the scene of the 30 September killings, which further mocked the authorities and angered a segment of London society, as there was a racial undertone to it.”
Gordon looked at West, resting the paper on the white tablecloth.
“I’m sorry sir,” a beautiful brown haired English young girl said, “I’ve been so busy, please forgive me,” she said as she poured additional coffee into West’s cup. “Most of our orders are for tea.”
“Thank you sweetheart,” West responded. “Miss, may I ask you a question?”
“Certainly,” she answered while surveying West’s empty ring finger.
“This Jack the Ripper story,” pointing at the Times, “you must talk to lot’s of different people, what’s their mood, I mean are they confident the police have things under control, there hasn’t been a killing in what…”
“Only two weeks Jim, it looked like he had stopped as there was a,” mentally tabulating the days, “the whole month of October, and the 9th of November was the date of the fifth murder, forty days, Jim,” Gordon said.
“Forty days, then he strikes again. Are most people still on edge, or is it just the working girls at night who are concerned?” West asked the lovely creature.
“Quite the contrary, sir. We all read the papers, at least those of us who can read,” she smiled. “Have you read any of the Ripper’s letters published in the paper?”
“No, we’re from America,” Gordon answered.
“With those accents?” she laughed.
“Yes, I guess it shows, doesn’t it,” West laughed.
“Just a bit,” she said as she held her thumb and forefinger millimeters apart.
“What about those letters?” Gordon asked.
“They’re horrible! Taunting the police, threatening the people with additional killings, just horrible,” said while she folded both hands over her rapidly beating heart. Then looking behind and answering another customer, “Yes sir. Be right there.” Looking back at West and Gordon. “I’m sorry gentlemen, but I must keep moving if I’m to make any money. Good day.” And with that she disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.
West and Gordon looked at each other. “What do you think, Artie? It’s only 8:40. How about we stop by Scotland Yard and talk with, what was his name?”
“Chief Inspector Abberline,” Gordon answered. “yes, I think we’ve got some questions for him, what with our concerns with the President visiting. We’re free until, say 2:00. Then we need to get ready for the trip to Parliament.”
Both West and Gordon leapt to their feet, with West swallowing the last gulps of his coffee.
“I’m desperate, sir. My career is in jeopardy. I can’t sleep at night. My wife and children are terrified. He’s mocking me, and the entire investigative force. I don’t know where else to turn. Can you…quietly look into this case?”
“Inspector Abberline,” he answered. “It does intrigue me, I must admit.”
“May I take you to the sites? Where would you like to start, maybe the letters?”
His host stretched his long arms over his head, still waking up, and returned them and gently folded and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He looked at the desperate head of Scotland Yard.
“Did you bring the letters with you?”
“I must admit to having toyed with this case in an ancillary fashion, but the murder of a few prostitutes did not grab and hold my attention; however, the desperation and fear that I now witness in the eyes and actions of the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard does fascinate me, and I will look at the writings again. I already have a good idea who the culprit is, but should be able to prove it after a few hours of…” he smiled, “assisted investigation,” said while looking toward his tobacco and syringe sitting on the table next to him.
“Thank you sir. Any information you can give…us…will be appreciated.” He stood up, snapped his fingers loudly, and a man who had been standing just outside the partially closed door emerged, bringing handfuls of documents. “I hope this will help you sir,” the meek Inspector said, “I cannot thank you enough for your assistance.”
With this last comment, the officers of Scotland Yard departed and the lone gentleman began to unbound the papers, but not before injecting a small amount of narcotics and lighting the huge Turkish blend of tobacco, filling the small sitting room with heavy, acrid smoke.
“I’m sorry gentlemen, the Inspector had an appointment this morning,” the pretty secretary informed West and Gordon. “He should be back late morning, perhaps lunch time. Was he expecting you this morning?”
“No,” Gordon smiled. “It’s nothing official. It was concerning the Jack the Ripper case, hoped he could bring us up to date on that, how it’s going.”
“Going it’s not,” she coyly answered. “This case has everyone baffled. Have either of you seen the photographs from the scenes?”
“No, we haven’t,” West responded. “But we’d like to, if perhaps one of the investigators could bring us up to speed, so to say.”
“You’ll be sorry,” she caringly said. “Never seen anything so brutal in my life. Let me check with Inspector Daniels. He should be able to give you a pretty quick insight into what has turned this city upside down these last three months.”
“Thank you dear,” Gordon said, observing the lovely fawn-like eyes possessed by the girl. “You’re so kind.”
She smiled and stood up from her desk, drifting back to one of the noisier rooms behind her.
“Maybe this Daniels will be able to give us an unbiased report,” Gordon told West, while waiting for the young lady to return, “unlike the probable exaggerations of the London Times. You know James, they’re trying to sell as many copies as possible.”
West looked at his partner, and saw in Gordon’s eyes that he didn’t really believe what he had just said, but said it more as wishful thinking. People didn’t panic like this over a few prostitutes being murdered. This one seemed scary.
“Maybe so Artie, maybe so,” West responded, as Inspector Daniels emerged into the crowded lobby. He was a short man, very official looking, with a drab grey suit that came to life when wrapped around his constantly moving little body. His hair was combed immaculately and he was cleanly shaven, unlike a good number of the English police officers they had seen to this point, who all seemed to sport taut little mustaches.
“Gentlemen,” he beamed as he reached out to shake each agent’s hand, “ I am so glad to meet you. Miss Armstrong informed me that we had two of President Cleveland’s security team here. I hope I have not kept you waiting.”
“Not at all Inspector Daniels,” Gordon smiled, “we only just arrived. We were asking Miss Armstrong about the Ripper case. News about that has not filtered back to America yet. It sounds very ominous.”
“Any chance the papers are exaggerating the situation a bit,” West interrupted.
“Unfortunately not,” a defeated looking Daniels answered while looking away from their inquiring eyes. “If anything…it’s worse.”
“How so?” a concerned Gordon asked.
Looking around the lobby, Daniels’ eyes moved almost as much as he constantly shifted from foot to foot, unable to contain his nervous energy. “Gentlemen, please follow me.”
With that the three meandered through the maze that was the first floor of Scotland Yard, eventually ending up in the surprisingly tiny office of the Inspector. They visually looked at the open door, and the busy little man picked up on their concern.
“Oh please, gentlemen, everybody and their brother knows everything I’m going to show you. At least everybody that can legally penetrate this deep into our headquarters.”
West and Gordon looked at each other, accepting the private scolding without making any comment.
“Look at these, if you can stand to,” Daniels said as he tossed a packet of photographs upon his desk.”
Each agent started with a handful, and flipped through the pictures. Suddenly Gordon looked ashen, as the blood drained from his face. He felt he would get sick. West hid his feelings better, but the effect upon him was obvious.
“They are literally dissected,” a stunned Gordon said, shaking his head in disbelief. “How could this be possible?”
“Mr. Gordon, you are correct in your analysis. They were dissected, most likely with a surgeon’s scalpel. The wounds are deep, and from each knee to abdomen, from face and throat to the reproductive part of the body, and in each case the heart has been removed, as well as the kidneys, liver, and he has not only removed the intestines, but he has draped them about the crime scene, sort of like a demented butcher. I’ve never seen destruction and devastation like this before.”
“We had no idea it was this bad,” a subdued West added. “And I understand you don’t have any strong leads.”
“Well,” Daniels tried to bring some humanity to an animalistic scene, “leads we’ve got. More than we know what to do with, but we can’t follow them to fruition. He has confounded the best minds of Scotland Yard. May I show you the letters…there are six. Plus a message painted in the victim’s blood from the night of the double killing.”
“Yes, please,” a recovered Gordon begged.
“Inspector Abberline believes the letters reveal his identity, but nobody here can make the messages mean anything other than the ramblings of a mad man, a very much unidentifiable mad man.”
West and Gordon looked at copies of the letters, as well as the menacing message left at the scene.
“So five gruesome murders, six letters…”
“Oh no,” Daniels cut West short, “we’ve received hundred of letters claiming to be written by the Ripper. It has, in a sick way, captured the fancy of some, don’t ask me why, but we believe these are the only six letters that are legitimate.”
“Fascinating,” muttered Gordon. “I feel for you,” Gordon looked up from the table into the nervous eyes of Daniels, “I really do feel for you, and the rest of the city.”
West suddenly became aware of how much time had slipped through their fingers, and spoke up. “Artie, we’ve got some ground work to do for the visit today at Parliament. We’d better get back to our real jobs here. Thank you so much, Inspector.”
“Yes, thank you for sharing your story with us,” Gordon said as he placed the letter he had been reading upon the man’s desk.
The members of Parliament gave a typically raucous send off to the visiting leader of the United States. He had said all of the right things, and the English appreciated that. They were very fond of the people of the young country that had formerly been their largest and most important colony. Although the transition from colony to independent country had been difficult for the Kingdom to accept, time had the ability to heal the wounds and mend all the bad feelings from previous generations, and the two now were the strongest of allies.
President Cleveland’s exit from Parliament was as smooth as his departure from the Old Vic Theatre the night before, and his destination was once again the same. The journey from building to building was a little bit shorter, and the hour was considerably earlier, making the trek easier for the force responsible for their leader’s safety. Once again West and Gordon left the President inside the gates of Buckingham Palace, and had the evening to themselves. Gordon had looked forward to this night, planning on being entertained by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which was playing at a theatre in Piccadilly Circus. He had lost interest in entertainment however, and he and West had decided to see if they could lend their services to Inspector Abberline’s forces tonight.
“Jim, before we head back to Scotland Yard, maybe we should visit the scene of the killings. I’m not that familiar with Whitechapel, but it looks like the five spots can be visited in under an hour.”
“Sounds good Artie,” West answered, then shouting to the driver, “Off to Whitechapel, driver, near east Aldgate.” With that command, West returned to his seat and the loud and bouncy ride commenced.
The journey lasted about twenty minutes, and West gazed outside the window at the sites of Parliament, hidden behind Westminster Abbey, then the massive dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and finally the majestic Tower of London, which still guarded the banks of the River Thames. West was very much the tourist in this city, with Gordon also enjoying the sites, but having seen them before on his previous visits, and being less in awe than his partner.
The cab slowed, and then stopped near the church at east Aldgate. The two agents hopped out, leaving instructions for the driver to wait for them to return in a little more than an hour.
They walked through the slowly darkening streets, arriving at Winthrop Street where Mary Nichols was killed on 31 August 1888. The cool night air added to the chill that both agents felt, and they looked around until gliding down the street to the intersection of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street, where Annie Chapman was butchered the night of 8 September 1888. The two again surveyed the area, checking out possible hiding places, the frequency of pedestrian traffic, and the level of increased police protection they observed. A few minutes later they were at the site of Liz Stride’s killing on 30 September 1888, just off of Berner Street. This was the one that intrigued them the most, as the message in her blood had been painted on the wall above the fallen body. It had unfortunately been cleaned off quickly, as the message could have possibly inflamed a segment of the community that was blamed for the murder. Gordon stared at the wall, looking for any site of the former message. The two eventually ended up at Mitre Square, where Catharine Eddowes was disemboweled on the same evening as Liz Stride. The Ripper had time on his side with the first killing, leaving the elaborate message, but had to quickly kill the second victim that night, still brutally destroying her body but not taking the time required to completely dissect this poor girl. They silently wandered to the site of the fifth murder, where poor Mary Kelly met her demise on the night of 9 November 1888, just three days after Cleveland’s attempts at re-election were stymied. West and Gordon stared at the spot just off of Dorsett Street, again without speaking.
Finally the silence was broken. “Seen enough Artie?”
“Yes, let’s go,” he answered while struggling to check the time in the fog enshrouded streets. “I’m sure our driver is wondering where we wandered off to.”
The two men passed a total of nine police officers during their seventy minute walk. Obviously the police were doing all they could, however ineffective their efforts were.
They returned to their hotel, checked to see if they had received any messages (which they had not) and then turned in, once again imbibing in a shared drink before they each drifted off to sleep, although the visuals of the day made that considerably more difficult.
“Well Jim, last full day in London. The President is not leaving Buckingham Palace, and we’ve got the day to ourselves. What do you say we try to do something different, I’m sorry I got so wrapped up in the case. I feel like I’ve kept you from seeing the proper tourist sites.”
“No Artie, I got equally involved in the case. To tell you the truth, we still haven’t been able to talk to Inspector Abberline. How ‘bout we try to see him once more. At least we can talk to Daniels again, maybe give him an idea of our observations from last night.”
“You mean that? Tell you what, if we start out early enough maybe we can at least tour the Tower and Westminster Abbey later. I’d really like for you to see them both.”
“Great, let’s go,” West said as they left their partially unfinished breakfasts behind.
“Mr. West, Mr. Gordon, a pleasure to finally meet you both. I heard you stopped by yesterday, and I am sorry I was occupied and did not have the chance to get acquainted.”
Inspector Abberline was a tall man, solidly built and splendidly attired. He heartily greeted West and Gordon, firmly grasping each agent’s hand. He seemed a changed man from the individual from yesterday, but neither West or Gordon had seen that shaken man.
“Thank you so much sir,” West responded.
“And thank you for the professional assistance from your forces during the President’s visit,” Gordon added.
“Yes, yes. Delighted to have him here. Too bad to hear about the recent election, but nonetheless, a wonderful visit. A feather in our cap, when we really needed a lift.”
“Yes sir,” Gordon continued, “Mr. West and I have been looking into the Ripper case, and wondered if there was anything we could do to help?”
“Yes,” a suddenly frustrated looking man answered, “I have come to believe that case will haunt me the rest of my life,” then looking up and seeming instantly rejuvenated, “I do suddenly have a very good lead, with the assistance of a private detective who resides on the north side of London. I met with him yesterday morning, and he has sent a letter by post first thing this morning, wants to meet with me at his place. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if a couple of American Secret Service agents tag along.”
Gordon looked at West, then responded, “Sir, we’d be delighted, really we would.”
“Well gentlemen, your timing was impeccable this morning, let’s get going.”
The carriage traveled through the busy London streets, slowly drifting away from the center of the town. The three passengers talked about the case, with Abberline informing West and Gordon that this gentleman had helped him before, that he was somewhat eccentric but brilliant, and to not let looks deceive them when they met the gentleman. He let them know that the only information that he had left yesterday was the writings of Jack, and that as far as he knew the detective had never left his flat, but still claimed to have solved the case.
“But how is that possible?” Gordon asked. “Didn’t he even come down to Scotland Yard to combine his ideas with the trained professionals? How could he have solved the case?” A doubting Gordon asked.
Suddenly Abberline pounded his walking stick into the roof of the carriage and shouted at the driver, “No! No! Turn back! You’ve gone too far! There, south on Abbey Road to Baker Street. Come on now, man!”
West looked at the red faced Inspector. “Wrong way?”
“I’ll say! We’re in St. John’s Wood. At least half a mile north of where we should be.” Then settling down somewhat, “We’re almost there though.”
Soon enough the carriage was in the right section of London, and pulled up outside of 221-B Baker Street. With the carriage coming to a stop the three exited, with Abberline giving the driver a stern look. Abberline led the way, with West and Gordon one step behind. The Inspector tapped on the door with the same walking stick he had slammed into the roof of the carriage, applying it with a much more delicate touch. The door opened, and a landlady escorted the three visitors upstairs to the flat of the private detective. She lightly knocked on the door, and then opened it and pointed the way toward the front sitting room. They entered a room that reeked of tobacco smoke, completely disheveled, looking as if it had been ransacked by thieves, and in the center sat a sickly looking pale man, long and thin, with dark eyes, sunken into the chair he rested upon. His dress was tattered and dirty, and he barely looked up at the three men who entered his private world.
Inspector Abberline spoke upon entering, “I received your letter this morning sir, I am anxious to hear what conclusions you have reached.”
The man weakly looked up at Abberline, then his tired eyes drifted past him to the two agents who stood behind him, with the Inspector following his glance.
“Oh, these are two visiting American Secret Service agents. They have been accompanying President Cleveland during his visit to London.”
West stepped forward and reached out his hand, with the unkempt man simply looking at it, failing to reciprocate. West tensed, and Gordon quickly tossed cold water on a potentially volatile situation by noticing the violin that sat unattended in the corner of the dark room. He immediately shot across the little room to the musical instrument and picked it up.
“Oh this is beautiful sir,” Gordon commented as he caressed the oft played violin. “It looks like it’s been played many, many times.”
Gordon looked out of the corner of his eye at the man, who followed his movements without moving any part of his body save his dark eyes.
“May I?” said while approaching the tired detective.
“Do you play?” he mumbled.
“Yes, and this is a beauty,” Gordon said while instantly taking a seat and launching into Beethoven’s Emperor concerto. Everybody sat in silence as Gordon continued playing, until he finally set down the instrument with a smile after four minutes. He opened his eyes to look toward the detective, who was restored to life, sitting more upright than when they first entered, and not nearly as moody looking as before.
“Excellent performance sir,” he commented. “I’m sure your parents started you at a very young age.”
“Why, yes they did,” Gordon answered. “I had many hours of lesson after lesson when I was just a youngster.”
Abberline saw an opening, and spoke up. “I’m so sorry, I neglected to mention these gentlemen’s names to you sir. The gentleman who played the piece is Mr. Artemus Gordon,” in a seated position Gordon still managed a half bow, “and his associate is Mr. James West,” who made eye contact with the detective when he looked up from his seated position. “And may I introduce you two gentlemen to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
Holmes staggered to his feet and went to the window, brushing aside the sheer curtain to look down upon the busy street. He surprised West and Gordon when they saw how tall he was, and he turned his lanky form around while in front of the window and looked toward the Inspector. Neither West or Gordon were very impressed with what appeared to be a drunken or drug addicted individual, pale and sickly looking, morose, moody, indifferent to the visitors who were circled around him. They each made eye contact, with Gordon visually telling West to back off, and let the Inspector handle this situation his way. They were surprised how humble Abberline was in front of this strange man, giving him the benefit of the doubt and accepting that he must know something of this man that caused him to become so subservient in his presence.
“Mr. Holmes, you said that you had come to some conclusions sir?” Abberline inquired, with Holmes blankly once again looking out the window. No sound was made by anybody, and the three watched Holmes for almost a minute before the tall man quietly walked over to his massive desk, pulling out the bundle of papers the Inspector had left the prior day, and gently tossed them back to their previous owner.
“I’m sorry sir,” the contrite head of Scotland Yard begged, “am I to find the answer in here?”
“Yes. You had the answer right in your hands, you gave it to me, and I have given it back to you,” Holmes slowly answered.
Abberline opened the bundle, but saw only the same papers he had given Holmes twenty-four hours earlier. He looked up to the detective’s eyes, made eye contact, and meekly asked, “But sir, I don’t know what the answer is?”
West and Gordon were confounded by the Inspector’s submissive nature, not believing a great man such as he could lower himself to grovel at the hand of a dirty drunk.
Holmes grabbed a pencil and paper from his desk, and immediately wrote out the message that had been left in blood at the site of the third killing. “The answer was in the message from Stride’s murder. The six letters are simply the killer seeking glorification and a joy at tormenting British authority, which you represent, with the exception of the one received after the night of the double murder, which also contains a clue. Read the message Mr. Gordon,” Holmes said as he handed the just written message to Gordon, who stood next to him.
Gordon looked at the paper and read what Holmes had just written down, slowly and deliberately. “THE JUWES ARE THE MEN THET WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR NOTHING,” Gordon looked up at Holmes after reading the message. “Sir, we saw that message with the letters, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
Holmes looked at Gordon and touched his shoulder with his right hand, smiling. “I so enjoyed the way you played. I am partial to Mozart, but who can argue with Beethoven, especially such a choice as you made.”
“Artie,” an agitated West said, “let’s go.”
Gordon stared at West in a way he had not for a long time, maybe never in the entire time they had worked together, and West stopped dead in his tracks.
“It’s just that,” a humbled West said, “I don’t hear any answers, that’s all,” said as he looked away from Gordon and toward Holmes.
“But I’ve just told you the answer. Don’t any of you understand?”
“No, I’m sorry sir,” the Inspector said, “we don’t.”
“First of all, he is educated, has had medical training, is an expert on human anatomy, tall, strong, sexually insane, a misogynist…need I continue?” Looking around the room.
“I see,” as he looked at blank faces and open mouths, “the six letters are written by the same man who wrote the message, but they are much longer and tell us more of his misogyny and sexual insanity than anything else, in addition to his level of intelligence.”
“Sir,” Gordon spoke up, “misogyny I understand, hating women…but sexually insane, that’s one I haven’t heard before.”
Holmes looked at Gordon and answered, “Mr. Gordon, in Victorian England that is simply a term for a homosexual.”
“Now if I may continue, the other conclusions were simple, the murderer used a surgical scalpel, knew where organs were located, overpowered his victims quickly and quietly, as Inspector Abberline has numerous men patrolling the Whitechapel area on a regular basis, had a long stride based on the blood splatter from the second killing. As I said, you gave me the answers.”
The three listened, digesting the information, but a still annoyed West could not remain quiet, “But who is it? What’s his name?”
Holmes looked at West and answered, “Montague John Druitt.”
The three were motionless, with West for the first time in his career frozen in his tracks.
“How do you know what his name is, just from what he wrote?” Inspector Abberline asked, thoroughly confused.
“Inspector,” Holmes said, “remove the letter dated 2 October, it should be the fourth item in the bundle you hold.”
“I’ve got it.”
“Now the letters are written by an intelligent, educated man, while the message contains errors. There are no errors, no misspellings in the letters at all, yet the same man wrote both. How is this possible?” Holmes asked his audience.
“Perhaps he was in a hurry,” Abberline suggested.
“Certainly he was in a hurry at the murder scene,” Holmes said, “but that does not cause somebody to suddenly forget how to spell, or to blame a group of people for ‘nothing’ as he wrote. He deliberately made those errors, because he was mocking you, openly telling you who he was, and getting great satisfaction out of the fact that you don’t see what he thinks should be quite obvious to you. Go to the bottom of that letter, Inspector, and read the last three lines written down.”
“By his name?”
“Yes. At the end of the letter, which is mere ramblings, there is a gap, then three lines. Read those.”
“The first line of the final three says ‘HE SENT THE WOMEN TO HELL’, then he has signed the letter on the next line ‘JACK THE RIPPER’ and finally the last line simply states ‘HATE WON’…How are these words more important than any others in the letters?”
“Mr. Gordon,” Holmes said as he spun around, “lay the paper I gave you upon my desk, and pick up the pencil I used. Sit down if you are more comfortable that way.”
“Cross off these letters, one at a time. HE SENT THE WOMEN TO HELL. Now HATE WON.”
“All right, but there are many left,” Gordon answered.
“Now MJ DRUITT.”
“Yes,” a confused Gordon answered. “I’ve done that.”
“There is your answer.”
“But…you have left out,” counting the remaining letters, “more than…you’ve still got eleven letters remaining. You could have put anybody’s name in there, not just Druitt’s. This doesn’t point to him any more than it points to another individual.”
West began to very quietly laugh.
“And what do the remaining letters spell out Mr. Gordon?”
He looked down, then wrote the letters that remained off to the side. He looked at them for a few minutes, but could not make them mean anything in his mind.
“I don’t know,” he said as he looked up at Holmes.
“They spell out the name of the person the Ripper has been toying with, FG ABBERLINE.”
Gordon dropped the pencil. The Inspector staggered backwards from the group, then came forward and looked at the paper.
“You see gentlemen, the message left in blood, with the purposeful misspellings, that said ‘THE JUWES ARE THE MEN THET WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR NOTHING’ spells out the two messages around his name on the letter received after the killings where the bloody message was left, the Inspector’s name, and Jack’s real name.”
The entire room was silent, as the three men stared in awe at the mysterious detective.
The four men stood at the spot where the message had been left on the wall. Evening was descending on the great city, and tonight the fog was growing increasingly thick, prime conditions for Jack. Holmes had showed up minutes ago, having arranged to meet the three there at 6:00.
“Mr. West, will you and Inspector Abberline travel down Middlesex, in an easterly direction, and when you reach Stanley Road split up, one going left, one right. Walk no more than a quarter of a mile, then secure a hiding place and do not move. Not one muscle. I believe he conceals himself in such a way, but he would not have dared to come out yet, not until total darkness is upon us. Mr. Gordon and I will mirror your actions to the west on Middlesex, which splits Whitechapel. And Inspector, if you see your men moving about, do nothing to let them know of your presence.”
The three had come to have a monumental amount of respect for the unusual man, and obeyed without questioning his instructions. West and Abberline walked off, and Gordon and Holmes did as well, traveling to the opposite side of the district.
“Mr. Holmes,” Gordon said while briskly trying to keep up with the long stride of Holmes, “I have a number of questions still. May I ask you them as we walk?”
“Certainly Mr. Gordon, what can I help you with?”
“I mean, MJ Druitt…had you any reason to suspect him, or had you ever heard of him before?”
“No, not at all. And why should I have heard of him? He is not anybody that anyone would have known of, just another one of the masses of London. I did realize whoever was doing this, they had a connection to Whitechapel, and they had medical knowledge, in addition to access to a surgical scalpel. I found a doctor just outside the district of Whitechapel, who had a nephew who was trained as a lawyer, but did not practice. He had worked in an all male school as an instructor, but was discharged. His mother was committed to an asylum and has committed suicide. His sister is committed. It was not hard to connect the dots sir. Now, you walk that way,” pointing behind Gordon, “and I will go this way. Remember the police whistle, Mr. Gordon. Anything that looks suspicious, and blow as hard as you can. The other three will converge on that sound within minutes. Other than that, when you are in hiding, do not under any circumstances reveal yourself. He must not know we are in hiding.”
Gordon quickly headed off to look for an appropriate place, amazed at how much life and vitality this man who had seemed to lackluster earlier now possessed. He found a suitable spot, hid himself, and waited…and waited…
After almost five hours, the four men had watched countless men, women (they were forced to still walk the streets trying to make their money) and police officers passing by, with not one person having seen the four who hid in the shadows. None had looked overly suspicious, although some had warranted extra observation, which had led to nothing. They were true to their word, and did not even move to look at their pocket watches, but kept track of the time as they listened to the rumblings of Big Ben every fifteen minutes, and the heavy fog muffled the usually loud sound into a somewhat subdued version tonight. They dared not move, and were determined not to disappoint the great detective, but to wait for him to come for them when he deemed that they had waited long enough.
And then it happened. Gordon saw a working woman across the street, slowing down and leaning back against the ivy covered iron fence. He watched as she looked left and right, not seeing any signs of life in either direction. Gordon did not take his eyes off of her, but silently watched. He thought he saw a passing shadow behind the ivy to her left and concentrated as well as he could. She was not directly across from him, but somewhat between himself and Holmes, although probably out of Holmes’ sight. Gordon thought he saw the shadow again. He was unsure what to do, as he did not want to make a scene if nothing merited that. The rolling fog did not help, as he strained to look for a possible moving shadow behind the woman, partially illuminated by a gas light about forty feet to her right.
It seemed to happen in slow motion, but Gordon watched as a large man leapt over the fence, tackling his chosen victim. She screamed, and Gordon charged from behind the large tree he had buried himself behind so many hours ago, blowing the whistle as loudly as he could as he ran to save the poor woman. His muscles ached as he had remained motionless for so long, they now resented the sudden exertion he requested of them. Druitt and his victim both looked toward the charging man, with the woman continuing to scream for her life, prostrate on the ground at the feet of her attacker. Gordon reached the two, and Druitt wheeled around to face the American, turning his back on the shaken woman, who stood and ran for her life as she kept screaming. Gordon had pulled a small revolver from under his coat, and Druitt immediately slapped it out of his hand with a cane he carried. The revolver landed in the middle of the street, and Gordon faced the Ripper who now wielded a razor sharp scalpel which glistened under the burning gas light. Druitt swiped the blade at Gordon’s throat, but the agent barely pulled away from the strike, which only angered the aggressive madman. Again he swung with all his might, attempting to sever Gordon’s jugular vein and instantly end his life, and again Gordon evaded the thrust. A third time the Ripper tried to end Gordon’s life, and this time when the agent move backwards he stumbled on the curb and fell backwards. He landed on his back and vainly tried to regain his footing, but it was too late. The Ripper was upon him and the large man used his weight to secure Gordon as he raised his right hand, and when reaching its apex he drove the scalpel directly at Gordon’s heart as hard as he could. But the weapon did not strike its intended victim, as Holmes smashed into Druitt simultaneous to him driving the weapon downward. With the three men, shaken and lying upon the cobblestone street, Holmes attempted to secure Druitt by wrapping his right arm around the attacker’s head and neck, holding him down as well as he could. Druitt would have none of this, and buried the razor sharp scalpel deep into Holmes’ left thigh, instantly freeing himself and causing the great detective to scream in horror as he grabbed his leg about the wound. Gordon jumped to his feet only in time to see the large, athletic man run down the street, encounter a concerned hansom cab driver who was drawn to the screams, throw him to the ground, and whip the horses into a fury as he made his escape.
“Jim!” Gordon shouted as he saw West filter out onto the street from the other side of the district, “over there, in the cab!”
West saw the out of control cab come flying down the street directly toward him. He jumped out of the way just in time, and instantly jumped up and ran toward an officer on horseback who was responding to the chaos. He pushed the confused officer off of the horse and took off after the madman as he flew down the dark, foggy London streets. West was behind, but easily closing the distance between him and the Ripper, who continued to whip the two horses that pulled the cab. They found themselves on a street that ran parallel to the River Thames, and were rapidly approaching one of the many bridges that crossed over that body of water. Druitt tried in vain to make the ninety degree turn to allow him to pass to the south side of the Thames, hoping he could disappear if only he could reach the Dockside area immediately on the other side. It was not meant to be, as West watched the horses slam into the short barrier on the far side of the bridge as they tried to make the turn. The cab followed their lead and also hit the stone barrier, flipping it and the animals into the dark river below. West leapt off of the horse and peered into the rapidly moving water, seeing no sign of life.
The public did not know it immediately, but they had been saved from any additional murders being committed by the legendary Jack the Ripper. Inspector Abberline believed they had killed Druitt, but without a body the skeptics would continue talking about Jack for generations to come. People still feared the foggy London nights, but eventually they again came out in mass. Holmes once again secluded himself in his flat, only emerging when mentally challenged to. West and Gordon left for America the following day, escorting President Cleveland back to Washington. Gordon would fondly remember the evening in London he encountered Jack the Ripper, and he would occasionally wonder what ever happened to that amazing man that had helped so many people that night.