I have only read some Arthur Conan Doyle. Personally, I didn’t
care too much for “A Study in Scarlet,” though is sits on my desk, lit by
candle, and picked up only when I can’t seem to close my eyes at night. My wife
tells me to put it down if I abhorred it so much. I couldn’t, however, and that
is one of the reasons I didn’t care too much for it.
At a quarter to one, Friday afternoon, I received a letter from
young Charlie Wales. He is our mailboy, short and stout with a lazy eye. He’s
the son of Chief Constable Wales, brother of Admiral Wales, and is apparently
fit to run mail in our little corner of the Yard.
The letter was simple, written by someone who has had a least
some cursory education, and requested, rather urgently, that I should meet a
Missus Regina Carver at St Paul’s cathedral on Paternoster, an area I’m well
acquainted with. It is, after all, just a short jaunt to the north and east.
Why I felt compelled by this is no coincidence. Regina Carver
was complicit in a series of thefts that have recently ravaged the Piccadilly.
They were almost inconsequential, however, the amount of all the thefts nearly
totaling a modest eight pounds and a handful of shillings. Trite, when the
paperwork had to be turned in. Regardless, I felt she wouldn’t have contacted
me if she hadn’t had more information to share. Perhaps we could finally nab
these petty thieves, who I was convinced were no more than some bored children.
Part of me, however, reluctantly accepted that this chance meeting may be
related somehow to the Ripper, though that case has been closed, and the number
of murders fitting his profile have dwindled to zero.
I packed up my belongings, put on my overcoat and hat, and began
walking toward St Paul’s. It was a humid afternoon, having just rained that
morning. The bakery on Trafalgar saturated the air with its salty sweet breads.
The aroma sat heavily in my gut, having failed to eat breakfast that morning.
Pushing the impulse to stop in and chat with Mr Norrell further into my soles,
I strode by and onto busy Fleet Street.
When I arrived at St Paul’s, as described by the letter I had
received, Missus Carver was nowhere to be found. Instead, I found a letter,
left for me by Constable Billingsly. He said it was left to him by a small boy,
perhaps no more than eight, with a lopsided smile and black hair, perhaps
Polish. I thanked him for his time, for which he continued to speak to me,
telling me of how strangely the boy behaved. He told me the child persisted in
checking over his shoulders, as if “his mum were lurking around the corner with
a wooden spoon, waiting to see if he recited the speech as she gave it to ‘im.”
We shook hands, and I sat on a nearby bench, whereby I unfolded
the crudely assembled envelope.
“Dearest Inspector Drummand,
With all luck, you have received my letter. I have left it with
my nephew to give to you upon arrival at St Paul’s. Inspector Drummand, I must
needs speak with you in person. However, my very life is in danger, and I
cannot be seen in public, regardless of how holy the place. Please come to Lant
Street, the home of Dickens. There is an alleyway next to the house that is
Ms. Regina Carver”
The sun was setting, and I knew I could have been elsewhere.
But, it was always the thrill of the chase which kept the badge on my uniform.
I stood and resolved to stop by the bakery on the way to Southwark before
checking in with Ms Carver.
The stroll was lovely, the moon bringing with it a subtle fall
breeze. And before I had time to finish my cruller, I was staring at Charles
Dickens’s old house. He had passed away less than forty years ago, and already
had he left his mark on the face of literary history. A bright man, in any
regards. We had met once, and he greeted me with the warmth of an old friend.
Nearby, there was a taxi stop. A carriage drove by, dropped a couple off, and
continued on its way.
Around the time I was getting lost in my own respite, I noticed
the boy who matched Constable Billingsly’s description: fair skinned, dark haired,
with a limp. He checked both ways before entering the alleyway, just as
Billingsly had noted. I thought first to shout halt, but thinking I would scare
away Missus Carver, I instead waited for the child to disappear into the alley
I first found no child. He had apparently made for a quick
escape. A child like that could squeeze into even the smallest crevices and be
gone in a matter of seconds. What I found most notable, however, was that
Missus Carver was not there either. Instead, I found another envelope. How
tired I was getting of receiving mail!
I stooped to pick it up, assured that it was for me. My name was
penned on the front. I opened it eagerly, my heart beginning to pick up pace.
The letter began in similar fashion.
“Dearest Inspector Drummand.
If you may, please turn your eyes heavenward. Then, catch me if
When I looked up, Regina’s corpse was hanging from a wire, her
belly carved empty so that I could peer strait up into her ribcage. The heart
was coated in gold. Around her head was a halo of thorns. Her breasts removed
from her chest.
I heard a laugh echoing from somewhere nearby. I
was already playing along, and it was my move.