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Fidelity Fidelity Fidelity
By Anthony Plew
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Anthony Plew
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe old man was on his hands and knees, and his thinning grey hair was in disarray about his flushed face. Occasionally, he grunted or groaned. Beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead, but not to the point of running down his face. His knees were cratered into the soil, and his hands extended from his torso, reaching out to the soft earth. With his large, right hand, he clenched a fistful of dirt and removed it to the side of the hole he created. As if orchestrated, his left hand clutched a bedding plant, which he unceremoniously dropped into the hole. Just as quickly, his right hand pushed the dirt at the base of the plant and pressed hard, eliminating any air pockets. The ritual continued, and, after several minutes, he stopped to gaze at his labors. A smile came upon his face. The bedding area had been transformed into a beautiful wonderment of color. However, after a few seconds, the smile that gave him pleasure vanished.
"Emma and her bloody plants. This is a hell of a way for a man to spend his retirement and these so called golden years."
He didn't hear the footsteps of a person approaching from behind him. Suddenly, a male voice spoke out.
"Detective Frederick Abberline?" Abberline was taken by surprise. Still on his knees, he quickly crabbed forward, spun to confront the voice, and raised his torso straight up. However, he now clutched a garden trowel in his right hand. A scowl came over his face, and, in an agitated voice, he glared the stranger.
"Just what in the bloody hell are you doing sneaking up on someone?" Abberline pointed the trowel towards the person's mid-section. The man was startled and took a step back, as he outstretched his arms to show Abberline he was unarmed and wasn't a threat. He was amazed that Abberline, even at his age and portly size, could move so fast and be so agile. He also felt a twinge of panic and fear because of the face Abberline made, but it was his eyes that transfixed him. Never had he seen a look like that before. After several seconds of trying to recover his composure, he gazed down and in a soft-spoken, yet slightly quivering, voice said,
"My apologies, sir. It was certainly not my intent to startle you. I merely wish to know if you are Detective Frederick Abberline or the gardner?"
Abberline took offense at being referred to as a gardener but maintained his gaze. Irritated, and in a rough voice, asked, "Who be wanting to know and for what purpose do you have for Detective Abberline?"
"Once again sir, my apologies. I truly meant you no harm. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Robert Tarr, and I'm a free lance reporter. I was hoping to conduct an interview with Detective Abberline. Are you him?" Abberline relaxed and stood up, brushing the dirt from his pants and hands. He no longer perceived Robert as a threat, but he still remained cautious and skeptical. Robert extended his right hand. Abberline looked down at the hand, and then looked Robert in the eyes.
"No, I'm not Detective Fred Abberline. I'm Mr. Fred Abberline, retired from Scotland Yard. I'm proud to say that I'm a civilian." With a half grin on his face and looking Robert in the eyes, Abberline reached out and clasped his hand. He placed his thumb on the backside of Robert's hand and squeezed. Robert pulled his hand back and shook it. "That hurt! Why did you squeeze so hard?"
"Sorry, Bob. Just an old fashioned way I do things. You can always tell the mark of a man by the grip of his handshake."
"Since you called me Bob, and we're getting acquainted, do you mind if I call you Fred?"
"When I was on the job, those I came into contact with called me Detective Abberline. My friends call me Fred. You may refer to me as Mr. Abberline. My career ended a long time ago, and, since then, I've led a quiet, peaceful life. I don't grant interviews, and I don't have anything to say to the press. I bid you good day, and now be gone with you." Robert stood his ground, which slightly impressed Abberline.
"When I first heard your name spoken in my prior interviews, I must say I was instantly impressed. You're right. It has been many years since you retired, but people in the East End of London remember you, and you've become a folk hero. I have researched your background and read as many of your reports as I could get my hands on. My attention was particularly drawn to your involvement in the investigation of the brutal murders that were committed by Jack the Ripper. I only have a few questions, and then I shall be on my way." Abberline had not heard that name or thought of the Ripper in many years, and he shuddered. This was one case he did not want to discuss, and he became anxious to get Robert to leave.
"I've explained to you, Robert, I don't grant interviews and I don't talk to the press. I've no further comment about the killer you speak of. Every aspect of that case is in my reports at Scotland Yard. If you've read them, you know as much as I do." Robert was not an experienced reporter, but he did have an uncanny ability to read people's faces and body language. He knew he had touched a nerve with Abberline, so he became more assertive.
"All right I'll leave if you want me to, but, before I go, I just have something I want to say. If you still have no comment, then I'll get my information elsewhere." Abberline was just about to physically remove him from his property. However, his curiosity got the better of him, a trait he had had from his years as a detective. Besides, he wanted to know just how much Robert really knew, since he was so insistent. He cocked his head slightly to one side and a slight grin appeared. "An old friend of mine used to do that. I just happened to think of him just now. Are you on the square with me, as to why you're here?" Abberline paused and studied Robert's face. He didn't see a reaction. "I'll entertain your persistence for one minute. After that, I want you gone, and, if you ever come back, I'll thrash you within an inch of your nosy life. Do you understand what I've said?"
"Yes, I do, and I think that's more than fair. I do believe that you'll have a definite interest in what I'm about to say." Robert then paused to collect his thoughts and peak Abberline's interest. The few wasted seconds of his time limit were worth it. "Jack the Ripper didn't act alone and some of his victims didn't meet the end that was reported in the newspapers. The persons named as the Ripper, as the most viable suspects, are as innocent as a newborn baby. The Ripper isn't dead, in prison, or moved away, as Scotland Yard would have the public believe." Abberline scoffed under his breath, as he slowly shook his head. He paused and then looked back up into Robert's eyes.
"I would say you're daft, man. We have no clue to his identity today, let alone all those years ago. The Yard is content that, with the murder of the last victim, the killing stopped. This indicated to us that he had, in fact, died, was incarcerated, or moved away. I feel he's deceased. If he were in the prison system, a personality type such as his wouldn't go unnoticed. Just for the sake of argument, let's assume he moved away. Again, the killings would resume because of his personality or a renewal of his previous motives. We checked with many countries, including America, and killings like those that we experienced never occurred elsewhere." Abberline pulled out his pocket watch and looked at the face. "You're time is about up, Robert. Anything else?"
"The grisly murders only stopped after several key players, shall we call them, moved onto greener pastures, if you catch my subtle hint." Abberline closed the lid on his watch, placed it back in his pocket, and yawned, as he turned to walk away. He's grabbing at straws and has no proof, Abberline thought to himself. Abberline was good at reading people also and had honed this ability to a fine skill during his career with Scotland Yard.
"Listen to me carefully. What you're trying to propose is your theory, and it's baseless at that. Let this go, and don't make a fool out of yourself. You're young and could have a fine career ahead of you. The fiend acted alone. The Yard developed several good suspects but never had enough solid evidence to get an indictment. As for the unfortunate victims, trust me they lie cold and still in their graves. I've been patient with you, but your time is up. I bid you good day."
Robert narrowed his eyebrows and leaned his body towards Abberline. His voice became louder and intense. "Theory? Theory Mr. Abberline? Start by explaining to me why some of the victims were horribly mutilated and others weren't. Explain to me why the medical experts say different knives were used and couldn't agree which hand the Ripper used. Explain the witness that was accosted by two men and driven off, while one of the victims was being murdered. Explain why there are only vague descriptions of the Ripper, and, on a couple of occasions, the constables or the vigilantes were at the scene or not far from it and yet, no one saw him come or go. Explain, if you can, why your agency and several persons acting together with them destroyed key pieces of evidence and certain reports were tampered with or turned up missing from the file. Explain the witness that spoke to one of the victims several hours after her murder, yet her credibility was discounted. Tell me the woman that was butchered on Miller's Court is the same person whose name appears on the headstone. Finally, Mr. Abberline, tell me about the post card you received months later, after her murder."
Abberline stopped and slowly turned around. Memories of the investigation began to flood his mind. Robert definitely knew some things. But how could he? Abberline decided that for the safety and well being of the many people involved, including himself, he would have to become the interviewer and take charge. "Robert? Er, Bob, if you'll allow me to call you Bob. Let me start out by saying that I apologize for being so gruff with you. Getting old isn't all it's cracked up to be. I feel so embarrassed over this. As a sign of my good will, you may call me Fred or Detective. Maybe it's good to get my old detective juices flowing again. Besides, if I can aid you and prevent pure rubbish from being printed about the fiend, I will help you. Bob, are you the type of man that imbibes a little Irish Whisky?" Robert was taken by complete surprise. He couldn't believe this complete change. This wasn't the same man he met less than thirty minutes ago. He was curious and wanted to find out where Abberline was taking this.
"As a matter of fact, Fred, I do enjoy a shot now and then." He waited for Abberline to lead the way to a local pub. Instead, Abberline put his arm on Bob's shoulder and began to escort him to the back of the house. Bob tensed up and hesitated. Abberline gave him a friendly shake and smiled.
"Relax, Bob. I'm not going to hurt you. I have my own private stock in the garden shed. Emma doesn't approve of me having a snootful, so I keep my stash out here. She says it's bad for me, but do I look bad to you?" Abberline chuckled, as they continued to walk. Abberline held the shed door open, while Bob slowly entered. Abberline followed and peeked out the small window towards his house. "Ah good, no sign of Emma. She seldom comes out here, but one can never tell." He walked to a brown burlap sack, opened the top, and pushed his hand down into some seeds. As he removed his hand, he clutched a long-necked bottle. He patted the bottle several times and set it on the table. Abberline then walked to a shelf and moved a box. Behind it were two glasses. Both were dusty and dirty. He blew into each of them and wiped them out with a dirty towel. Bob's eyes grew wide, and Abberline saw his expression. "Don't worry about this. I've wiped them clean, and whatever is left alive in the glass will die as soon as I fill them up." Abberline let out a laugh. "Please have a seat." Bob sat down at the table, and Abberline pulled his chair up and joined him. He took the bottle and pulled the cork out with his teeth and he clinked both glasses as he poured. "This is the finest Irish Whisky I've ever had. When I was on the job, I came across this man who distilled his own spirits. He gave me a sample, and that began my love affair. He still comes by every two weeks and makes sure I'm supplied. I met him through a mutual friend. Drink up and tell me what you think!" Abberline motioned to Bob with his hand. Bob slowly raised the glass to his lips, looking at Abberline over the rim. Thinking how aromatic the liquid was, Bob took a sip and could feel it burn his lips, his mouth, and his throat. This caused him to cough a couple of times. Then, something strange happened. He could feel the warmth in his belly, and it instantly spread through his body.
"You're right, Fred. This is the finest I've ever had." Abberline raised his glass to Bob, and then, in one gulp, the contents were gone.
"Drink up, man! Don't let it go to waste." Bob took another sip, this one longer than the first. Abberlines eyes twinkled, and a broader smile appeared on his face. "Ah, I can tell you like my whisky." Abberline refilled both glasses once, then twice, and a third time. He could see the alcohol was beginning to have an impact on Bob, which is how he wanted it. "Bob, when you're researching a story are you able to see your brother in the dark as well as the light? Are you a profane man?" Abberline set back in his chair and studied Bob.
"I'm sorry, Fred. I don't have the slightest clue as to what you're talking about. What is it you're asking me?" Abberline smiled and shook his head.
"Nothing Bob. Nothing at all." Abberline took another drink and encouraged Bob to do so.
"Fred, I came in here of my own free will, and I expect to leave that way. I know you're up to something. Getting me drunk will not prevent me from writing this story. If you're planning on doing me bodily harm, I'll press charges. If the intent, God forbid, is to silence me, permanently, you'll never get away with it. Why do you keep stalling? You obviously know more than you're telling, and, quite frankly, I feel you're afraid of something. Can we quit playing these mind games and get-to-it?" His face had turned red, and his voice was angry. Abberline sat motionless and looked at Bob for several seconds.
"We shall, Bob, but there is nothing like a few drinks between friends before discussing business." He smiled. "Getting you drunk will not make you forget and go away. Bodily harm? Ha! I wouldn't waste the energy on you. That would only make others inquisitive and worsen matters. Murder you? I'm not an evil man. I swore to uphold the law, and that's what I did. Besides, I wouldn't go to the gallows over the likes of you." He paused and looked down, holding his glass with both hands, while he slowly turned it in a clockwise manner. His face had become paler, and Bob saw an expression of sadness come over his face. He slowly raised his eyes. His gaze was not directed at Bob or the wall behind him. The gaze in his eyes was distant, to a time many years ago. After what seemed an eternity, he blinked several times and spoke in a soft voice. "Believe me, this is one story you don't want to pursue or write about. I'm asking you to let sleeping dogs lie. Please, will you do that Bob?"
"Fred, we've been over this. If I do not hear it from you, then I will from someone else. Besides, there'll always be another reporter. No, Fred, I can't let this one go." Fred exhaled out of his nose slowly.
"All right. Understand this, though. You'll never see this story in print. People will die, starting with me. I'm old and tired, and the joys of life aren't as strong as they used to be. Death doesn't worry me anymore. Soon after word of the knowledge you possess gets out, I'll be dead. They will quickly figure out where your information came from. The authorities will find my house ransacked with me lying in the middle of the floor, bludgeoned. A report will be made. They'll claim someone broke in and surprised me. We scuffled, and I was struck. The official motive will be burglary. The story will appear all over England, but nothing will ever be done. In a few years, what happened will be forgotten. A detective, who was on top of his game, died at the hands of a common thief over property. The only problem is that won't be the true motive. This is called ironic humor." Robert got a puzzled look on his face.
"What about your wife, Emma?" Fred smiled.
Excerpted from Fidelity Fidelity Fidelity by Anthony Plew Copyright © 2010 by Anthony Plew. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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