Lestrade and the Ripper

Lestrade and the Ripper

by M. J. Trow
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In the year 1888, London is horrified by a series of brutal killings. All the victims are discovered in the same district, Whitechapel, and all are prostitutes. But they aren't the only murders to perplex the brains of Scotland Yard; in Brighton, psychical researcher Edmund Gurney is also found dead.

Foremost among the Yard's top men is the young Inspector Sholto Lestrade and it is to his lot that the unsolved cases of a deceased colleague fall; cases that include the murder of Martha Tabram, formerly a prostitute from Whitechapel - and the death of Gurney.

Leaving no stone unturned, Lestrade investigates with his customary expertise and follows the trail to the minor public school of Rhadegund Hall. It is his intention to question the Reverend Algernon Spooner. What he finds is murder.

As the Whitechapel murders increase in number, so do those at the school. What is the connection between them all? To add to his troubles, Lestrade is hampered by the parallel investigations of that great detective Sherlock Holmes. Who is the murderer of Rhadegund, and is he also the man they call Jack?

'Barrowloads of nineteenth century history... If you like your humour chirpy, you'll find this sings.'

Daily Telegraph

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781909609471
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Publication date: 05/08/2013
Pages: 268
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

M J Trow is a crime writer, historian and biographer who for many years doubled as a history teacher. Now retired, he is the author of three successful crime fiction series - Lestrade, Maxwell and Kit Marlowe, the latest written in collaboration with his wife.

He lives in the Isle of Wight, and as well as writing lectures on cruise ships has appeared many times on television in historical and crime documentaries.

Read an Excerpt

'Ruthless red-handed Murder sways the scene, Mocking of glance and merciless of mien. Mocking? Ah yes! At law the ghoul may laugh, The sword is here as harmless as the staff ...'

'Blind Man's Buff'

Punch 22 September 1888

Chapter One

False Trails

The two men sat in the silence to which they had become accustomed as they waited for their breakfast to arrive. Only the rustle of newspaper and the shooting of cuffs broke the stillness. The stockier of the two, nodding in the direction of middle age and with the unmistakable stoop of a man who had been hit by a jezail, probably in Afghanistan, raised his head and flared his nostrils as though scenting the breeze.

    'Eggs, I'll be bound,' he said triumphantly.

    'Mmm?' the other man mumbled in distant response behind his paper.

    'Breakfast,' said his partner. 'Mrs Hudson's been boiling eggs.'

    The paper fell. 'Ah, no, that's my current experiment -- hydrogen sulphide, Doctor. A little something you may have come across in your career. It's kippers.'

    'Hydrogen sulphide?'

    'No, breakfast.' The paper reader was the epitome of a man inches from neurosis, teetering on the brink, a martyr to jangled nerves. He reached elegantly for the yellowing meerschaum in the rack near his head.

    The other man coughed as if to warn him of Mrs Hudson's arrival, starched and bombazined, with the breakfast tray. He humphed as the kippers met his gaze.

    'Right again, Holmes,' he said.

    The taller man allowed a smile to flit across his lips.

    'Good morning, gentlemen,' said the housekeeper.

    'Any post, Mrs Hudson?' Holmes asked.

    'Nothing today, sir.'

    Holmes clicked his tongue and flicked his napkin into position.

    'Surely Miss Adler would not have had time to catch the post ...' his companion began and shrank into silence as Holmes's eyes slashed through him, cutting him to ribbons.

    'Will you be mother, Watson?' he asked icily.

    The Doctor dutifully poured the coffee and tackled his kipper with gusto. 'Anything in the paper this morning, Holmes?'

    'The usual trivia, Watson. I must admit, The Thunderer isn't what it was.'

    'I've never trusted them since they carried that article on Lestrade's promotion to inspector.'

    'Who?' Holmes paused before the porcelain hit his lips.


    'There is a little piece ... oh, of no significance of course. And yet ...'

    'Ah?' The Doctor reached for his notebook.

    'Finish your breakfast, my dear fellow. The game is not yet afoot, I fancy.'

    'Tell me, Holmes,' Watson urged.

    'Very well.' The taller man leaned back, running an elegant finger around the rim of his cup. 'Page eighteen, column three, sixteen ... no, seventeen, lines down.'

    Watson's jaw hung slack for a few seconds and then he ferreted in the paper. 'By Jove, Holmes, capital. How do you do it?'

    'Come, Watson, would you have me betray all my secrets? What do you make of it?'

    Watson buried himself in the article. Holmes poured more coffee, then, looking directly at the paper, said loudly, 'Doctor, you are moving your lips again.'

    Watson dropped the paper. 'How did you know that? I was behind The Times, dammit!'

    'You certainly were,' sighed Holmes, 'and you still are. The tiepin alone ... Well, what of it?'

    'A present,' Watson bridled. 'From a lady friend, if you must know.'

    Holmes slammed down his cup. 'Not the tiepin, man. The article,' he roared.

    'Ah, yes. The article. Some woman called Martha Tabram or Turner murdered.'

    'What do you make of her?'

    Watson laughed. 'Good God, Holmes, the whole thing is only half a dozen lines long. What am I to make of her? The poor soul was done to death.'

    'Poor soul, Watson? So you have formed a judgement of her?'

    'No, I ... merely a figure of speech.'

    'What of her profession?'

    Watson checked the paper again. 'It doesn't say.'

    'But it does, my dear fellow. Look again.'

    He did. 'No, Holmes. I have to disagree with you.'

    'That is your prerogative, Watson. It is also your tragedy. Let me help you. The deceased had two names.'


    'In your experience' — Holmes actually chuckled — 'what sort of person has two names?'

    'A schizophrenic?' Watson guessed.

    Holmes raised the eyebrow of derision.

    'A criminal?'

    'You're getting better, Doctor,' said Holmes. 'What sort of criminal?'

    'Oh, really, Holmes—'

    'She lived in Whitechapel, Watson.'

    The Doctor sat with his mouth open again.

    'According to Church of England estimates, there are eighty thousand prostitutes in the East End of London, most of them concentrated in Whitechapel.'

    'Martha Tabram was a Lady of the Night?' Watson positively rubbed his hands together.

    'Bravo, Watson. That would be my guess. How did she die?'

    'Er ... throat cut. God, how awful.'

    Holmes placed a spidery finger to his thin, dark lips. 'Now,' he said, 'what sort of person cuts the throat of a prostitute?'

    'A maniac,' was the best Watson could offer.

    Holmes dismissed it: 'Glib nonsense, Watson. When it comes to murder, no one is a maniac. There are degrees of mania, levels of insanity. Some men you would call mad are in fact geniuses. I myself have walked that narrow ledge that separates genius from insanity, brilliance from bedlam ...' He was suddenly aware of his own rhetoric. 'I shall be away for a while, Watson,' he said.

    'In Whitechapel?' Watson pressed forward, clutching the notebook convulsively.

    Holmes looked at and through him. 'Do not press me, dear friend. This case interests me strangely. Perhaps, though, I will find out less as Sherlock Holmes and rather more as ...'

    'Yes? Yes?' Watson bubbled like a schoolboy with his first cigar. 'Which disguise is it to be?'

    Holmes wagged a finger. 'Ah, no, Watson. That would be cheating. I shall be in touch, fear not.' He whipped the napkin from his lap, downed the last of his coffee and stood up. 'Have a nice day,' and he vanished into his room, humming manically.

Morley was dead. 'Nervous exhaustion,' said his friends. 'Drink,' said his enemies. 'Cirrhosis of the liver,' said the official findings. Whatever the truth, his caseload devolved on his brother officers at Scotland Yard. And all through the early summer, while the rain filled his basement, Assistant Commissioner Munro dithered first this way, then that. There was Frederick Abberline, the senior man, experienced, ruthless, capable. But something about the way his gardenia hung did not appeal. And then there were the unfortunate rumours surrounding Abberline and the fair sex. If he had the chance of sex, anywhere, anytime, then that was entirely fair. Then there was Frederick Wensley, gifted, dedicated, but he had this obsession with the City, talked to undesirables like Jews, Croats and constables. To get him to the Yard at all needed a team of drayhorses. There again, there was Tobias Gregson. He'd been a good copper once, but since they'd put him with the Special Irish Branch he and his reason had continually parted company. Rumour had it that his filing cabinet was devoted to one letter only: O. O for O'Brien, O'Shaughnessy, O'Banion, oh God. It was slander of course. The other drawer bulged with dossiers on men whose names ended in 'ski' or 'ovitch. He and Wensley were not speaking — the Jew-lover and the Jew-hater. Rumour had it that 'Mr Vensel', as the Chosen Community knew him, was among Gregson's dossiers too. There was also Athelney Jones, newly taken aboard the River Police. 'A good all-rounder' was how Howard Vincent had described him, but the creator of the Criminal Investigation Department had a reputation for generosity. The roundest thing about Athelney Jones these days was his stomach. Strapped into his regulation patrol jacket, it plied the river from Chelsea to Wapping with Athelney Jones just behind it. He was altogether, Munro decided, too wet behind the ears. And in front of them, too, come to think of it.

    And then, of course, there was Sholto Lestrade ...

The inspector of that name peered over the rim of the chipped cup. The chipped face said it all: the skin of parchment, the nose of the ferret, the moustache of the walrus. Only the eyes were sad. Only the jaw was set. He had not taken off his Donegal and had thrown his bowler at the wall where the hat stand had been before the economies had taken their toll. The new Commissioner had much to answer for. Lestrade scrutinised the two men before him.

    'Which of you is Derry?' he asked.

    'Sir!' The taller constable stepped forward. 'Five-four-six-three-two, Derry, William, sir!'

    Lestrade steadied his cup and his head and whispered, 'Tell me, Constable, have you ever been in the army?'

    'Three years, sir. King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, sir.'

    Lestrade shuddered as the boot thudded down again. 'Yes,' he said, wiping his face as though to obliterate it. 'Not light enough, apparently. How long on the Force?'

    'Six years, sir.'

    'With Mr Morley?'

    'Two months, sir.'

    'All right, Constable. Er ... stand easy or something, would you?'

    Lestrade noticed the feet slide outward, but the shoulders and the ramrod back moved not a jot. He looked at the other man.

    'Don't tell me you're an army man, Toms?'

    The Constable looked at the Inspector with some distaste. 'No, sir!' The boot came down on the uncomplaining floor. 'Royal Marines, sir. Four months.'

    'Four months?' Lestrade raised an inspectorial eyebrow.

    The Royal Marine crumbled a little. 'I couldn't stand the basic training, sir' and he ignored the snort of contempt from his colleague.

    'Edward, is it?' Lestrade asked.

    'Yes, sir,' — a pause — 'Edward Marjoram.'

    Another snort.

    'Do you have a cold, Constable?' Lestrade asked him.

    'No, sir!' Derry snapped to attention again, eyes staring straight ahead.

    'How long with Inspector Morley, Toms?' Lestrade asked.

    'Nearly a year, sir.'

    'Good. You may be of some help. Gentlemen, be seated.'

    Derry looked startled. 'Sir?' The old habits died hard.

    'That wooden thing behind you,' Lestrade explained; 'you probably don't have them in the army. We put our arses on them. Quaint, isn't it?'

    It was Toms' turn to snort.

    'I picked two short straws this morning,' Lestrade told them. 'I have been given the late Mr Morley's cases and the late Mr Morley's men. The only thing that's familiar to me is this office. Tell me, Derry, did they drink tea in the Yorkshire Light Infantry?'

    'Oh, yes, sir.' The Constable was faintly embarrassed to have to admit it. His back was not touching the chair. Lestrade couldn't help thinking he looked wrong out of uniform.

    'Then make me a cup. If Toms here didn't finish his basic training he won't know how. Oh, and have a small one yourselves.'

    'Yes, sir.' Derry jerked upright. 'Thank you, sir!' and he saluted briskly.

    'Remind me to have a word with you about that, Constable,' Lestrade said.

    'Yes, sir. Very good, sir,' and he vanished into the latrine that doubled as a kitchen in the less-than-Great Scotland Yard.

    'You were on Mr Morley's current case — that of Mr Edmund Gurney?' Lestrade asked Toms. The Constable nodded, swallowing hard.

    'I've been through the notes. Three shoe-boxes. Quite a load. Let's have your version.'


    Lestrade lolled back in the chair and sighed. 'All right, Constable, while the Sergeant-Major there is being mother, you run along and get your notebook, there's a good Marine,' and as Toms made his exit Lestrade whispered, 'Goodbye, sailor.'

Dead cases irked Lestrade. There were problems enough when the corpse was fresh, when the cell door was open wide, when the forged ink was still wet. But after seven weeks the problems multiplied faster than Lestrade had been forced to in the dark days of his childhood at Mr Poulson's Academy for Nearly Respectable Gentlefolk. Accordingly, he took his battered Gladstone, his regulation long johns, should the weather turn, and braved the rigours of travel by Southern Railway. And he went alone. The sight of the sea again might upset Constable Toms and he couldn't stand the compulsive heel-clicking of Derry. Messrs W. H. Smith let him down. He'd read The Flashing Lieutenant before, completely misunderstanding the title, and The Water Babies was not the stuff of which inspectors of the Yard were made. It was in fact the bowdlerised version, but the manufacturing process of the wood pulp was of no interest to Lestrade.

    The end of the season was descending on the villas and hotels of Brighton. Lestrade alighted from 'The Belle' and set off in search of the Royal Albion Hotel. It didn't have quite the panache of the Grand or the Metropole, but it was pleasant enough and certainly well beyond the pocket of an inspector of Scotland Yard. The manager was a portly man in his late fifties, inclined to nervous disorders and dyspepsia.

    'I thought all this was resolved,' he fussed, mopping his sweating brow and polishing the top of the reception desk. He swigged from a blue glass bottle. 'For my dyspepsia,' he said quickly. Lestrade had never thought Milk of Magnesia good for anything else.

    'An unfortunate incident,' the manager went on, 'very unfortunate. We lost trade, you know ...'

    'Tsk, tsk,' Lestrade shook his head in sympathy. 'Tell me about Mr Gurney,' he said.

    The manager gulped. 'He arrived on the Friday.'

    'That would be June twenty-second?'

    The manager nodded, then his face froze maniacally as Guests arrived. 'Ah, good morning, ladies. Out for a stroll this morning?'

    The Old Dears twittered to him, then noticed that Lestrade had failed to tip his bowler and left, muttering.

    'Please,' the manager was excruciated, 'come into the office, will you?'

    'What did you make of him?' Lestrade threw himself into a chair.


    'The late Edmund Gurney,' Lestrade reminded him.

    'Well, I hardly saw him. My clerk checked him in.'

    'Room sixty-four.'

    'Yes. He said he didn't want a view. Just privacy.'

    'What did you make of that?'

    'Make of it?' The manager swabbed his face anew. 'Look, Superintendent ...' He glanced frantically left, right and behind.

    'I'll do my best,' said Lestrade, 'but at the moment it's Inspector.'

    'Quite, well, you see, in the hotel trade ... Oh dear, this is very difficult for me ...'

    'Let me help you. In the hotel trade it is best not to ask too many questions, am I right?'

    The manager nodded.

    'Discretion is the better part of valet?'

    Lestrade was doing well.

    'And forty-three couples called Smith stayed here last month alone.'

    'How did you know that?' The manager was aghast.

    'Oh, it's a little trick they teach us in the Metropolitan Police, sir. It's called reading. Your register doesn't have the incision of The Woman in White but it passes the time.'

    'I believe Mr Gurney came here to meet someone.'


    'Assignations are not uncommon, Inspector. We merely provide a service. Oh, nothing dishonourable, I assure you.'

    'Of course not,' Lestrade concurred. 'Why do you think Gurney came to meet someone?'

    'Apparently, he asked my clerk, Gable, if there was a message for him. Seemed rather put out that there wasn't.'

    'Anything else?'

    'The next morning my clerk saw him taking coffee and brandy in the lounge with a man. Rather ... well ... working class, I'm afraid.'

    Lestrade looked horrified. 'That was your clerk, Gable?'

    'No, that was my clerk, Kent.'

    'I'd like to see these men.'

    'I'm very much afraid you can't, Inspector. They are no longer with us. Kent has gone into the newspaper business. Gable has gone into the theatre.'

    'An actor?'

    'That's a matter of opinion,' scowled the manager.

    'Who found the body?'

    'Dora, the third-floor maid.'


    'No, still with us. You don't have to talk to her, do you?'

    Lestrade stood up. 'I'm afraid I do, sir. Shall we?'

    'No, no.' The Manager was determined that the door should remain closed. 'Wait here. I'll bring her to you.'

    Dora added nothing that the Inspector did not already know. She had gone to clean the room and make the bed on Saturday afternoon. The door had been locked from the inside and the key was still in place. Unable to unlock it, and unusual in a menial of a little under five feet, she had shoulder-charged the thing and smashed it off its hinges. Despite her later complaints that the management should buy better fittings, she said management docked her wages and allowed her no time off at all, nor lightened her duties, despite the mild fracture. They wouldn't have treated her like that, Dora confided to Lestrade, if she'd been a Gas Hoperative or a matchgirl at Bryant and May's. They didn't ought to be so hoffhand. And her hunattached and all. The ramblings went on, but when Lestrade brought her back to the contents of Room 64 that Saturday in June, Dora became doe-eyed and recounted it all as though in a trance.

    'I can see 'im now, sir,' she whispered. Lestrade toyed with glancing behind him, but reason got the better of him. 'Lyin' on the bed, 'e were. Dead, 'e were on 'is left.'

    'Clothed?' Lestrade shattered the moment.

    ''Ere, this is a respectable hestablishment,' — Dora was loyal in her way — ''E 'ad 'is nightshirt on. Quite 'andsome, 'e were, come to think of it.' She caught sight of Lestrade's raised eyebrow and returned to her narrative. 'In 'is 'and 'e 'eld a sponge bag.'

    'Anything else?'

    She frowned in concentration. 'Yes,' she nodded, ''is nose.'

    It was Lestrade's turn to frown. He could remember no mention of mutilation in the coroner's report. 'Oh, I see. He was holding the bag over his nose?'

    'That's what I said,' Dora replied. 'There was this bottle by the bed.'

    'Did you notice a smell in the room?'

    'Well, I 'adn't 'ad a chance to empty the chamber pot.'

    'No, something else.'

    'They told me it was chlorophell 'e done it wiv. I din't smell nuffink, though.'

    'Did Mr Gurney talk to you?' Lestrade asked.

    'I told yet, Mister. 'E were dead.'

    Lestrade flicked his moustache in lieu of a smile. 'I meant before that. On the previous day, for instance.'

    ''E just said 'ello. Proper gentleman, 'e were. Nice, like.'

    'He didn't mention meeting anyone in Brighton?'

    'Na.' Dora shook her head.

    'Dora,' Lestrade leaned forward, 'how long have you been a chambermaid?'

    'Nigh on ten years, sir. Since I were a gel.'

    'You're used to beds, then?'

    Dora pulled back in fear. ''Ere, I've 'eard 'bout you gennelmen from Lunnon. I'm a good gel, I am.'

    'Of course you are, Dora.' Lestrade leaned back to reassure her by his distance. 'But could you tell, with your ten years' experience, whether Mr Gurney had been sleeping alone in his bed?'

    Dora stood up, ready to make for the door. 'I told you,' she shouted, 'this is a respectable hestablishment—'

    'It certainly is!' The manager hurtled from nowhere into the room and cuffed Dora heartily round the ear, 'but it won't be much longer if you raise your voice like that again. And you'll be out on the streets, my girl!'

    Lestrade waited until the overwrought proprietor left, almost bowing in abject apology to Lestrade.

    'Now, Dora,' Lestrade looked down at her, 'do you think Mr Gurney slept alone the last night of his life?'

    She forced back her tears and sniffed. 'Yessir,' she said, 'I do.'

    'Thank you,' said Lestrade.

The Inspector's next port of call was to the dingy offices of The Brighton Gazette, in search of one Douglas Blackburn, local hack.

    'If I can help, Inspector, I surely will. I fancy your calling and mine result in the same worn leather, the same fruitless search.'

    'Perhaps, Mr Blackburn,' answered Lestrade, not usually given to loathing people on sight, 'but I work for a living. How well did you know Edmund Gurney?'

    'G. A. Smith and I carried out some experiments with him, whenever he was in Brighton.'


    Blackburn looked surprised. 'Oh, come, Mr Lestrade.' The loathing was clearly mutual. 'You must be aware of Mr Gurney's business.'

    'I'd like to hear it from you,' he answered.

    'But I gave all this information at the inquest,' the newshound protested.

    'I know,' Lestrade told him, 'and now I'd like you to give it to me.'

    'Very well,' Blackburn sighed. 'Gurney was a ghosthunter, Inspector. A founder of the Society for Psychical Research. He roamed the country collecting material for books, treatises, et cetera.'

    'About ghosts?'

    'About the existence of the paranormal, Mr Lestrade.' Blackburn had already dismissed his inquisitor as an idiot. 'You've read Phantasms of the Living.'

    It was a statement, not a question, and Lestrade ignored it. 'And what was your part in all this?'

    'As a local journalist, I have various contacts. I am also, though perhaps I shouldn't say so, known for my integrity.'

    Lestrade ignored that too. 'And Mr ... Smith?'

    'Likewise. He was for some months Mr Gurney's private secretary. They were very close.'

    'Would you say Mr Smith has the appearance of a working man?' Lestrade asked.

    Blackburn chuckled. 'Why, Mr Lestrade, I do believe you are a snob. If you're trying to tie either Mr Smith or myself to Gurney's death—'

    'Should I be?' Lestrade interrupted. 'The jury decided that he was "accidentally suffocated by an overdose of chloroform taken probably for the relief of pain", and I quote.'

    'I know you do,' said Blackburn archly. 'I wrote the same words in this very newspaper. An Inspector of Scotland Yard does not trouble himself by treading the footprints of men who have died by accident. You know something.'

    'Quite a bit, Mr Blackburn. What I do not know is why I can eliminate you and Mr Smith from my enquiries. You were about to tell me.'

    'Indeed,' Blackburn subsided a little. 'Smith was on his honeymoon the day Gurney died, in Ramsgate — yes, not my idea of nuptial bliss either. And I was in Brighton Infirmary having a corn removed. You will find the records speak for themselves.'

    'I'm sure they do, Mr Blackburn,' Lestrade said. 'Can you think of a reason why Mr Gurney should want to take his own life?'

    Blackburn shrugged. 'He was a moody man, Inspector, much given to self-doubt. A sensitive type, if you'll pardon the pun.'

    As Lestrade was unaware of it he had no option but to pardon it. He was rising to go, when Blackburn stopped him.

    'There is one thing,' he said, a different tone in his voice, 'something I found after the inquest on poor Edmund.'

    'Oh?' Lestrade was all ears.

    'Have a look at this.' The journalist handed the policeman a printed sheet. 'It's the Fashionable Visitor's List for the fourteenth of June.'


    'About half-way down.' Blackburn tapped the paper. 'Fifty-six Middle Street.'

    Lestrade read the name. 'Mr Guerney, fifty-six Middle Street,' he repeated, 'A lodging house?'

    Blackburn nodded.

    'Have you been there?'

    Blackburn shook his head.

    'So if this Mr Guerney is our Mr Gurney ...' Lestrade was thinking aloud.

    'Then he had been in Brighton for over a week before he died.'

    'Is that unusual?'

    'Not particularly. He was interested in a haunted house in Brighton. All I know is that he didn't contact me or George Smith.' Blackburn paused. 'I wish he had.'

The landlady at 56 Middle Street remembered Mr Gurney well. He was tall, at least five foot four, with sandy hair which may have been brown. His beard was immaculately groomed, to the point perhaps of not being there at all. His eyes? Well, one was grey, certainly. The other she could not swear to. No, she had not seen him before. Or had she? No, that was the other gentleman. The one with the strong accent. Scottish. County Clare if she knew her accents. Mr Gurney's entry in the ledger was nearly as unhelpful. No Christian name, no address other than 'London'. It was possible that he had received visitors while there, but then again ... Lestrade left before he was tempted to reach for a blunt instrument with which to batter the woman to death.

    Edmund Gurney's nearest and dearest could shed no further light. His wife and daughter affirmed that he was a warm, tender, loving husband and father. His brother, vicar of the very church in Pimlico where young Lestrade had sung in the choir before they discovered he had no voice at all, affirmed that the deceased was a martyr to neuralgia and often went for nights without sleep. So familiar did all this sound that Lestrade momentarily wondered to himself whether Gurney had not at one time been a policeman. The vicar admitted in a grave voice that his brother had been known to use narcotics, chloroform among them, to ameliorate his condition. Lestrade had no knowledge of anyone called Amelia and let the matter drop.

    Mrs Henry Sidgwick was not in the end of much more use. Her husband, on whom Lestrade had called on his return to London, was lecturing in America and was therefore unavailable for comment. At first, Lestrade had hoped Mrs Sidgwick might be useful. She and her husband had founded the Society for Psychical Research along with Gurney some years before. She had the hard, murderous features of Kate Webster, who had tried to sell her mistress in little packets of lard a few years ago, but, unlike the aforementioned Kate, she had a sharp, observant mind.

    'It was murder, Inspector,' she told him flatly.

    'Oh?' Lestrade was surprised at her candour. Her wallpaper had taken him aback too.

    'And the guilty parties are drudges named Innes and Pierce.'

    Lestrade racked what passed for a brain in the tired cranium. Neither of those names leapt out at him from the shoe-boxes at the Yard. He had run his tape-measure up the inside legs of none by those names. Unless, of course, they were aliases.

    'You seem very sure of all this, Mrs Sidgwick. May I ask why?'

    'You've read Phantasms of the Living.' It was a statement again. Lestrade had been here before. 'But did you read the critique of that immortal work by Innes and Pierce? They crucified poor Edmund, Inspector, crucified him. "Lord, what fools these mortals be".' She drew herself up to her full height. 'What wretched beings these reviewers are. Lacking the intellect to write themselves, they must attack and ridicule those who do. And we pay them to do it! There is no justice, Inspector, saving your presence.'

    Lestrade smiled. 'So you think Edmund Gurney was so devastated by the attacks of his critics that he took his own life?'

    Mrs Sidgwick nodded. 'Culpable homicide,' she said.

    Lestrade reached for his hat.

    'Of course,' she stood up and hurried round the room, drawing the heavy velvet curtains, 'we could ask him.'

    'Who, madam?' Lestrade wondered if someone had come in.

    'Edmund, of course,' she said, turning up the oil-lamp. 'I have been waiting for him to come through for some time. Unfortunately his wires keep crossing with the Prince Consort's.' She caught his glance. 'You are a sceptic, Mr Lestrade.'

    'No, Mrs Sidgwick. I am a policeman. Good day.'

And there it had to rest. There was one more person to see, but that would involve Lestrade in more expense and more time. He must go north, tired of southern comfort, and penetrate the leafy glades of Northamptonshire, if glades there were and if those glades still had leaves, after the storms of the dismal summer of 1888. Two things kept him moving. One, he suspected, was the rather dubious cottage pie they served at The Stunned Old Duke of York. The other was the pencilled word in the bottom margin of Morley's notes on Gurney. A word written in Morley's own spidery hand. A word which echoed Mrs Sidgwick's first sentiments and the unspoken fears of Douglas Blackburn. It was the word 'murder'.

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