by Moira Brennan
Author's Notes and Disclaimer: I don't own Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, or Thomas Pitt. I also didn't make any money off of this. If you don't know who Inspector Thomas Pitt is then you shouldn't be reading this until you have read a few of Anne Perry's books.
The Thames - London, England
"...an' I ses me wife, 'wot in tarnation is that?' an' she ses--" Inspector Thomas Pitt let the scruffy bargeman ramble on while he nodded politely and pretended that he was hearing this retold conversation for the first time. The bargeman had come across the body of a teenage girl, laying face down near bank of the Thames. Inspector Pitt had been the first on the scene and as such, was currently trying to find out the identity of the girl. Which included the unpleasant duty of going from house to house, and person to person to try to find a clue. So far, he had none.
Pitt's ear caught a new word in admist the recycled rambling. "Would you repeat that please?" He interrupted as politely as possible.
The bargeman looked afronted as if his tale was somehow spoiled by the tall Inspector making his presence known again. "I ses: "When I gets down to the shore, the first thing I sees is that the poor blighter--I didn't know it were a girl at the time--is stark naked as a babe! Not a scrap of clothin' on 'er."
"No clothes washed up?" asked Pitt, resisting the urge to rub his neck. The bargeman was quite short and looking down at him from Pitt's height was starting to make his neck ache.
"No, sir," replied the bargeman proudly. "Me wife and I searched the surroundin' bank and even across the Thames too, but nuffink... well, nuffink that would fit 'er ever turned up." That didn't necessarily mean anything. Her clothes could have been caught on a drifting piece of debris that could be in the English Channel by now.
"Thank you, Mr. Wuddel, you've been most helpful." Pitt nodded briefly and turned his long legs towards the morgue.
Four days later, Pitt still had no idea who the poor girl was but, once again, he trudged up the walk, wet from last night's spring rain, to the morgue to once again review the same old data in hopes that he had missed something.
"Good morning, Inspector," a morgue attendent greeted him cheerily. "Still wondering about that poor lass from the Thames? I'm afraid the doctor doesn't have anything new for you."
Pitt nodded tiredly and asked to see the body. The girl was about eighteen, fair of skin, with blue eyes that were now glassy with death, and long dark brown hair. The only mark of violence upon her body was a small circular burn on her abdomen and a mysterious bruise about the size of a soverign right in the hollow of her left jaw. The autopsy report said that she had died from the accumulation of water in her lungs: she had drowned. Presumably, she had been held face first in the deep puddle found under her face but there were no marks of a struggle to confirm this and Pitt was of a mind that she might have washed up.
Pitt sighed and shook his head. Four and a half days of questioning various people along the Thames and other police stations for reports of missing persons had produced nothing.
"Inspector..." the attendent started, somewhat hesitantly at his elbow. "A medical collegue of mine shares rooms with a sort of amateur detective chappy who, if my friend's stories are correct, can glance at a person and tell immediately what the person does for a living. Now, I'm not suggesting that you get him to solve the case, but perhaps he could get you started in the right direction."
Pitt groaned inwardly. Just what he needed, an amateur swooping in eagerly, messing things up, asking annoying questions... but what other options did he have? Pitt nodded ruefully to himself. None. He dug out a stub of a pencil and a scrap of paper from the deep pockets of his jacket. "Although, I sincerely doubt he'll shed any new light on this case... Who is and where might I find this gentleman?" he asked, pencil poised. The attendent beamed proudly, his chest puffing out with an enlarged sense of his own importance.
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street."
Later, Pitt quickly alighted from the hansom from it's position in front of a unassuming flat and tossed the cabby his fare. Adjusting the bowler, which Charlotte had patched last week, atop his head, Pitt knocked smartly on the door. It opened to reveal a middle-aged woman whose appraising glance took in his gangly frame and unkempt appearance with, surprisingly, no hesitation whatsoever. He waggled the brim of his hat. "Good afternoon, ma'am. I'm Inspector Thomas Pitt of the police. Is this the residence of Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
The matronly housekeeper nodded and opened the door wider. "Yes, Inspector, won't you come in?"
"Thank you." Pitt glanced around as the housekeeper or landlady, whatever she was, offered to take his coat and bowler. It was rather nice to be treated politely for a change, rather than the stuck-up snubs from butlers he was used to facing.
"You'll find Mr. Holmes upstairs, first door straight ahead." Pitt again nodded his thanks and stepped quickly up the small staircase. Before he could knock on the door, however, a high, biting tenor from inside the room bade him enter.
Pitt opened the door to find himself in a room that was as cluttered as it's single occupant was tidy. Off to the side along the wall he could see a mess of glass tubes and beakers sitting on a stained, but sturdy looking table. A violin, looking very much used, sat upon the mantle beside a pipe rack, a stack of papers pinned down by a pocket knife, and some other odds and ends. A fire burned low in the grate and Pitt squinted at... was that a Persian slipper?
"Sit down, Inspector Pitt and make yourself comfortable. Mrs. Hudson should be bringing tea shortly. Or do you prefer coffee? I like it black myself." Sherlock Holmes, or at least that who Pitt assumed he was, rose from the depths of a chair and clasped his hand briefly. Pitt was pleasently surprised to realize that Mr. Holmes was one of the few people he could meet eye-to-eye without having to bend his neck uncomfortably. Holmes gestured towards a small settee for Pitt and then sat languidly in a stuffed armchair opposite the fire, a merschaum pipe clutched in one long-fingered hand. Oddly enough, as Pitt watched the man, he couldn't help but be reminded of a cat. Sleek, elegant, meticulous about his person, capable of curling into odd positions on the furniture...
"Tea is fine," Pitt replied, sitting down cautiously, dismissing his mental flights of fancy. "How did you know my name? I sent no one ahead of me...."
Holmes waved a hand casually in dismissal. "It is my business to know things, Inspector. However, I will say that I first deduced your occupation by the lack of callouses upon your hands. Your frame is rather sparse, which rules out any kind of occupatioin which requires intense physical labor. There is also a noticable lack of ink stains on your fingers or cuffs which would indicate a clerk or writer. There are a few other trifles about your person which ruled out others and therefore I deduced that you could only be one of London's finest." He paused to relight his pipe, Pitt waited patiently, intrigued despite himself, and once Holmes had it smouldering to his satisfaction, continued. "As for your name, I see your intials embroidered on the corner of a hankerchief peeking out of your pocket. Additionally, I've neglected to mention that a collegue of mine in Scotland Yard keeps me informed of the unfortunately few promising fellows in that organization. You, Inspector Pitt, have been described to me as one of them and how could I not fail to notice the characteristic sloppiness of your attire which my collegue informed me that you are fond of?"
"Extraordinary!" murmured Pitt, his doubts vanishing like a wisp of smoke.
"Elementary," replied Holmes staunchly, but looking discreetly proud of himself. He stretched out his long legs towards the fire as the landlady reentered silently with a tea tray and steepled his fingers. "Now, Inspector. What, pray tell, can I do for you?"
Pitt shook himself mentally and took a hasty sip of his tea before speaking. "For the past four and a half days, I have been searching for any clue as to the identity of a young woman found near the Thames."
"Dead when you found her?" inquired Holmes, a bushy black eyebrow raising slightly with expectation.
"Yes, there was water in her lungs. But the curious thing is, she was discovered without a scrap of clothing on her. No clothing that would fit her has washed up and, quite frankly, I'm at a loss of how to identify her. The usual method of going from house to house could take weeks since we're not sure exactly where she entered the river. You were recommended to me, Mr. Holmes. I would be much obliged if you could try and... 'deduce' anything about her that might help find out her name."
Holmes looked disappointed for a moment, as if he had been expecting more. Pitt waited, resiting the urge to nervously clench his hands. Then Holmes sighed. "I suppose I could come around and look at the girl. I don't really have anything else to do anyway."
Pitt rose slowly, relief coursing through him but feeling a bit foolish at the same time. He hadn't been this disconcerted since meeting Charlotte's Great-Aunt Vespasia. "Thank you, Mr. Holmes. I'll see you tomorrow at noon at the morgue... if that's a good time for you?"
Holmes nodded but stared glumly into the fire and didn't get up. Pitt hesitated awkwardly when the conventional 'good-day' was not offered but then settled for exiting quietly. Obviously, this Mr. Holmes was not a conventional man.
The next day at the appointed time, Holmes seemed in a much better mood when he greeted Pitt as they walked into the morgue together. The attendent greeted Holmes with wide eyes and hovered annoyingly near until Pitt shooed him away.
Holmes finished reading the autopsy report with a grunt and pulled back the sheet covering the body. With a face as stoic as if set in stone, he began to examine it. Pitt watched with interest as Holmes' carefully prodded at the wild mass hair, frowned slightly at the slender fingers, and made a small exclamation when he saw the bruise under the girl's jaw. Finally, he pulled the sheet back over the girl's still, pale form.
"I suggest you look in the lower priced concert halls in Whitechapel for her name. One of those seedy establishments that either cater drinks to paying costumers or those that have no qualms in letting those obviously on the wrong side of sobriety in. She was a violin player and was most likely exceedingly drunk before she was raped and held face first into a puddle of water until she died." Holmes was pulling on his gloves and didn't notice Pitt's stare of astonishment. "The man you should seek is taller than her, although not by much, a lusty sort of fellow who is used to getting his way with the women. Clever and probably above average intelligence, a dangerous combination." He paused, disdain weighing his voice. "This man also likes to smoke cheap, common cigerettes of the basest quality."
"How in the--?" spluttered Pitt, unable to hide his amazement.
Holmes fixed him with a cool eye. "You have eyes and a brain, Inspector. Use them wisely and you'll come up with the same conclusions that I have." Holmes finished by pulling on a deerstalker cap and, seeing that Pitt was unsatisfied, sighed. "The girl is obviously a violin player as you can see by the bruise under her jaw and the callouses on her left finger tips. I have a modest familiarity with that particular stringed instrument myself." He turned his head slightly and only then did Pitt see an identical bruise under Holmes' jaw. "In one so young, it is somewhat unusual to see callouses so well developed. Therefore, I deduced that she must practice excessively or perform nearly every night. Again, regarding her age and sex, it is extremely doubtful that she plays in a professional orchestra, however, those lower-class establishments in Whitechapel have no qualms whatsoever about hiring whatever entertainment they can find. Her class was further reinforced by the state of her hands. There were other callouses of note and some of the nails jagged, all very short. What well-bred lady of a class above the lower ones would dare not to take care of her hands?"
Pitt thought quickly, he had noted the girl's class by the state of her hands also. "The drunkeness?" He didn't bother to ask about the cigarettes, the burn on the girl's abdomen had obviously come from the lit end of one.
"The coroner's findings include a suspiciously empty stomach and a slight laceration of the esophagus which indicates repeated and prolonged bouts of intense vomiting. Obviously, the girl did not often imbibe, she was probably her family's only means of income and could not afford to be addicted to the bottle."
"The coroner didn't say anything about rape," protested Pitt triumphantly.
Holmes raised an eyebrow. "The coroner's report also indicated that she had been a virgin about three hours before you found her." He retireved the report again and showed Pitt the small, neatly printed lines. "There was still some blood in her cervix, left behind by the breaking of the hymen." Pitt colored slightly at Holmes blunt speech but at the same time was irritated at himself for not seeing what was blatently obvious now. "She was extremely drunk, Inspector, she probably had no idea what was happening to her. She might have even been unconscious, or perhaps in her drunken delirium she was a willing partner, therefore the usual signs of violent penatration would not exist."
Pitt felt nauseous. Uncontrollable passions were one thing but to deliberatly plan ahead.... "Poor girl..." her murmured, glancing at the still sheeted figure with dismay.
Holmes nodded. "Quite. But that's not all," he continued omniously. "I suspect, although I would be hard pressed to prove with so little evidence, that her assailent had tried many times to seduce her before this incident when she was sober but was refused each time. He waited patiently until some unknown factor prompted her to get as drunk as a lord. He probably then acted as a caring brother or father and carried her out of the establishment and into a dark alley, or perhaps a room he had rented somewhere. The girl vomited all over him, and in his rage, perhaps aided too by alcohol, stripped her completely and held her face in a little puddle only a few inches deep until..." He trailed off omniously. "As the girl was still feeling the effects of alcohol, she didn't or couldn't put up a struggle."
"We'll find this monster, Mr. Holmes," stated Pitt firmly, fury coursing through his veins.
Holmes held up a restraining hand. "A word of caution, Inspector. I have been wrong before so I entreat you to gather as much evidence as you can before formulating a theory upon my trifling conjectures." Holmes and Pitt had reached the exit by then. Holmes looked askance at the drizzling rain and turned up the collar of his coat. "Good day, Inspector Pitt." With that, Holmes launced himself out the door and was soon swallowed up by the dismal gray of the outside world.
Aided by Holmes' insights, Pitt took a constable with him and together they carefully searched out all of the concert halls in the Whitechapel district, eliminating them one by one when the proprietor of the establishment claimed no knowledge of ever having a female violinist. As a matter of course, Pitt also sent a pair of constables to check out concert halls in Bluegate Fields and the Devil's Acre but he had a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Holmes' deductions would prove correct.
Finally, after two days of searching they found the girl's usual place of employment where the owner seemed to be genuinely distressed to hear that she was dead. "Now dat's a cryin' shame, dat is. Judy--Judith Kling wos 'er name--wos a decent girl. Ain't normal for a place like dis," the beefy man blew his nose loudly into a stained hankerchief. "She were a good girl..."
From him, Pitt also learned a confirmation of Holmes' deductions. A particularly greasy, sleazy fellow had taken a shine to Miss Kling who wouldn't give him the time of day.
"Is this man here?" asked Pitt urgently. "Could you point him out to me?"
The owner nodded and glanced around before cupping his mouth with two beefy hands. " 'Ey, Don LeVine! The rozzers--erm, I mean, these gentlemen 'ere would like to 'ave a word wif yer."
Pitt groaned and suddenly spotted a man trying to sneak out the door. He caught Pitt's eye and froze like prey cowering before the hunter, Pitt and the constable with him ran towards the man. After a brief scuffle, it was all over.
About a day later, after getting some loose ends tied up, Pitt stopped by the Baker Street address again. He felt like he needed to inform Holmes of the end, since he had been so helpful in giving Pitt a direction. The amiable Mrs. Hudson recieved him without even a widening of the eyes at his early call and soon he was walking up the staircase again.
Holmes did not anticipate his arrival this time and Pitt had to knock before being admitted.
This time when Pitt entered, however, Holmes was not alone. A man sporting a mustache and friendly eyes sat at a table, just biting into a scone covered with thick globs of clotted cream from a stack on a silver tray.
"Ah, good morning, Inspector Pitt." Holmes waved languidly in the general direction of the tray from the depths of a chair in front of the fireplace. "You may help yourself to Mrs. Hudson's idea of breakfast, if you so choose."
Pitt's mouth watered and he wavered with indecision for a moment. His decision was made for him as the other man stood, wiping his mouth on a serviette and extending a hand. "Yes, yes, Inspector, by all means, have a scone or two. Mrs. Hudson is an excellent cook."
"That effusive fellow before you is my friend and collegue, Dr. Watson, who has a weakness for Mrs. Hudson's concoctions," drawled Holmes drily from the armchair, smoke drifting lazily upwards around his head.
Dr. Watson rolled his eyes good-naturedly and Pitt happily helped himself to a large amount of clotted cream to go with his scone. After savoring the first bite, Pitt sternly reminded himself why he was there.
"I just stopped for a moment, Mr. Holmes, to tell you that you were right. Going by your deductions about the man, we found a Mr. Donald LeVine who started to run away when we wanted to question him. He later admitted to... er... violating Miss Kling and then pushing her face into a puddle to drown her."
Holmes congratulated him and after a few awkward moments in which Pitt had hesitantly stood, Dr. Watson offered to escort Pitt to the door.
"I must apologize for my friend's weakness, Inspector. Usually he is much more..." the doctor hesitated for the words as Pitt slowly put on his coat and bowler. "Alert. He hasn't had a good case in several days... his incredible mind requires nearly constant stimulation..." Dr. Watson hesitated more, shrugging helplessly.
"Hence, the cocaine," offered Pitt gently.
Dr. Watson flushed angrily as if he would deny the charge but the reflex faded replaced only by a saddened nod. "How did you know? Heaven forbid," the doctor continued, looking horrified at a new thought. "Did he leave the syringe out in the open?"
Pitt shook his head. "No, sir. Many of my cases take me into most unsavory parts of London. It has become quite easy for me to identify the signs of drug usage." He jammed the bowler on top of his head. "Good day, Dr. Watson. It was a pleasure to meet you... and Mr. Holmes."
Dr. Watson nodded and shook his hand. "A pleasure, Inspector Pitt. Good day." Just as Pitt opened the door to the outside world, the mournful, lonesome strains of a violin pierced the air. Pitt glanced reflexively up towards where Holmes' sitting room was and sighed sadly.
How very tragic that such a great mind would contemplate it's own ruin by voluntarily ingesting poison. There was the mystery that he would never fully comprehend.