Chapter Notes: Out of all of the stories in this series, this one is going to be the most mysterious, and is not only going to highlight Watson as a multifaceted person, but as an investigator as well. I know in the past two installments he has not had a lot of opportunity to just be a Yard member in good standing, but I daresay in this installment he will make up for the last two! As a matter of fact the entire Inspector contingent will need to help him before we are done!
I've decided to stretch my legs a bit with the vernacular, so if there is a turn of phrase you do not recognize check the bottom of the page. I might have explained it already. If not, feel free to ask me.
I've always wanted to write a good serial killer story, this is my chance!
I hope you guys enjoy the trip.
Doctor John Watson, Police Surgeon: Scotland Yard 4
The Frozen Image
Lestrade was humming to himself as he made his way through the dark rain kissed streets in the only cab he could find in operation this early.
Having seen The Mikado twice now, Lestrade had to admit it was a cavalcade of catchy tunes. The one that stuck in his mind like a rusty harpoon was A Wan'dring Minstrel I, or some such. He was now humming it while he kept one eye on the drowsy driver, who was nodding his head in a suspicious manner.
The runner had arrived at the house earlier, rousing him and his wife from bed. He tried not to be beastly to the boy, but he was abrupt enough his wife felt he needed a slap on the back of the head, which she delivered with the utmost accuracy.
"He can't help he's gotta fetch you at an indecent hour, Giles, be nice," Clea said in a deceptively gentle tone. Her eyes flashed with peril of dinners served cold for the next month, which was a threat of a punishment he had endured more than once in the course of their matrimonial bliss.
Since she forbade he take his mood out on the lad, he silently vowed that Gregson, who had sent the summons, would suffer his ire.
He changed his plan later when he saw the tall Swede's face. The man was practically gray with shock.
He had arrived at the crime scene deep in London's East End; it was contained in an alleyway near the border of Aldgate and Whitechapel. The air had the taint of a tanner purveying their wares, open sewers somewhere in the fog, and overarching all, the deep bong of the bells in the steeple of St. Botolph's.
This area was in vicinity of the former late night Ripper prowling grounds of Mitre Square in Whitechapel, a fact trumpeted by one of the unwashed horde collecting on the fringe when he arrived. "Cor! Yu don think its bloody jack back makin tha rounds does ya?"
That brought to Lestrade's attention that there were too many constables milling around, causing a glut of bystanders and gawkers showing interest in the proceedings, some still rubbing sleep out of their eyes.
"Who's in charge here?" Lestrade bellowed to the lethargic Yarders, "this is a crime scene, not a bleeding show!"
He did not see any of the inspectors in range, so he grabbed the sleeve of the taciturn giant, Police Constable Reynolds. "Move those people along, Wyatt, they don't need to be here, and I leave you in charge of a proper cordon. Make sure we don't get any reporters through that line. Whatever this is, we don't want them blabbing."
Reynolds nodded. He was not a big talker, so he grabbed shoulders and gestured, using his size in the stead of authoritative dialogue.
Lestrade wondered what was causing this lack of focus among his peers. He was going to make sure there was some discipline over this.
He noticed something peculiar as he made his way to the alley mouth.
Bradstreet was comforting Hopkins, the younger man looked shaken to his core. Tobias Gregson was just beyond them gazing inside the narrow lane with a cigarette burned down to the ash in his fingers. He was standing with Chief Police Surgeon Georges St. Cloud, and the man was trying to compose himself, but failing at the task.
"Lestrade," Gregson grunted.
"What is going on?" Lestrade demanded without preamble, all thoughts to decorum lost to the queer mood that permeated his co-workers.
Gregson tossed the useless cigarette away. "We found a young girl, dead from strangulation less than an hour ago. Constable walking his beat checks this alleyway, there she is."
Lestrade felt confused. "I hate to appear callused but we have encountered young girls in such a sorry state before, I don't believe it justifies this level of involvement."
Gregson's haunted red-rimmed eyes met Lestrade's. "She was all done up, Giles, her hair was in ribbons, and she had a single tear drop of blood under her right eye."
Lestrade felt the world go gray for a moment. Gregson reached out to steady him, as if he had anticipated this reaction.
"Alister Eads is in Newgate. I saw him myself just the other day," he murmured shock tingeing his voice causing a tremor.
Gregson nodded. "Trust that I am well aware." He held up a well-crumpled note. "We just confirmed he is still in residence."
Lestrade turned to St. Cloud. "This cannot be the same killer. Tell me it isn't him, George."
St. Cloud clutched his bag to his chest, as if it was the last solid thing in his world. "It iz ze same killer, I am sure of eet."
Lestrade collapsed onto a discarded barrel. He removed his hat and ran a hand over his face; he knew his complexion had gone bone white. Gregson offered him a flask he been carrying concealed in his hand, lid long removed.
Lestrade accepted it, taking a swallow, even though he knew Tobias, so the contents were most likely vodka. He winced, as the vile fluid went down, and handed the flagon back.
"We need to call Doctor Watson, this is the reason we asked for his help after all," Lestrade insisted his voice raspy from the foul drink.
St. Cloud and Gregson exchanged a meaningful glance. "He is already here, for what good it will do," Gregson replied.
Lestrade gave the man a sharp look. "What do you mean by that?" he asked in a dangerous tone.
St. Cloud pulled out his handkerchief and was wiping his high forehead as he replied, "He iz very ill, inspector, a very zerious infection, zo he zed."
Lestrade closed his eyes.
The wound in his side, he said infection was inevitable.
"How ill?" Lestrade inquired.
Gregson winced in sympathy. "He had to be helped out of the cab. As soon as we saw his condition, we tried to send him home, but the man has a will to humble Cromwell himself!"
"And a temper to shame Robespierre," interjected St. Cloud.
"We found out what the good Doctor was doing while travelling for the crown all those years. He cursed us in three different languages!" remarked Gregson with a fond grin.
St. Cloud chuckled. "I counted four; I believe that last one was Hindi. German, Zpanish, French and Hindi."
Gregson shook his head in disdain. "Five, you are forgetting English."
"I try to, everyday," St. Cloud replied with a cheeky leer.
"Anyway," Gregson replied, clearly changing the subject," the good Doctor is not going anywhere voluntarily. However, you are certainly welcome to make an attempt."
Lestrade had to smile a little at that. "A daunting task indeed, how did he get here in such a state? Who was helping him?"
Gregson peered into the alleyway. "Some scary little bloke had a Diogenes ident, spoke like a kiwi, names Algon Mayweather. He was there a moment ago, must have slipped out for a fag."
Lestrade stood, dusted his trousers off. Tipped his hat and went to find Doctor Watson. The other inspectors nodded as he passed.
He could not see Doctor Watson clearly in the dim ally light, bent over the body, steeped in shadow, even with the lanterns hung overhead to give him light.
Lestrade strode toward his friend, trying to think of some pronouncement that would change the man's mind, knowing afore the hopelessness of such an attempt.
Suddenly, two hands grabbed Lestrade out of the darkness and flipped him through the air, slamming him to the ground. He ceased struggling when he felt a sharp point against his neck.
He heard the Yarders began to reach for weapons to assist when a smooth accented voice called out above him. "You blokes might want to take note that this knife is pressed against his carotid artery, he'll bleed out in seconds. I have jellyfish venom on this knife, one nick and he will pray for death before it finds him, so let's all play nice."
A familiar but very weak voice, tinged with amusement called out. "Mayweather, do be careful with the inspector, on occasion I find him useful."
Even with the knife pressed to his neck, Lestrade shot a glare in the direction of the Doctor. "On occasion?" he protested.
The pressure came off, and he looked up to see a hand offered to help him up. The possessor of said hand was a small slight man with thick blond hair peeking out under his bowler, well-tanned skin with two of the emptiest brown eyes Lestrade had ever looked into.
"Sorry 'bout that mate, but you failed to announce yourself," he commented in an offhand manner as if all he had done was ask for Lestrade's credentials.
"I will endeavour to do so in the future." Lestrade replied after regaining his feet and waving off the attempts of the constabulary to check his heath.
He then saw Doctor Watson and it gave him pause.
The man still looked superficially like James Watson, but the strength and determination shining from the eyes in that pale countenance left little doubt to the identity. Watson had left his hat behind, his hair plastered to his forehead by sweat; he was trembling in spite of the layers of coat he wore. (1)
"Doctor, I must remind you, if you are suffering nausea, please do not vomit on the body and disturb evidence," Lestrade called in lieu of a greeting.
"Mayweather, go stalk something, preferably away, I am as safe as I am ever going to be," Watson informed the younger man in a tone just short of command.
Mayweather looked astonished. Then he faded into the shadows as Watson bid, laughing quietly to himself.
"So…Mayweather?" Lestrade began to query. "Later," Watson interrupted.
Doctor Watson looked up at Lestrade his feigned irritation made suspect by the lopsided grin. "It took you long enough to arrive, I have been fending off the Yarders seeing to my welfare more than I have been able to work."
"Do not think ill of them, Doctor, they have no concept of just how mulish your bent," Lestrade informed with a sly smile.
"Certes!" Watson agreed in a clipped tone.
Lestrade reigned in any thought to further conversation on the Doctor's comfort, in favour of a focus on the matter at hand.
"Tell me about her, John."
Watson looked relieved that he asked.
"She was early twenties, and not in the best of health. Her hands were formerly callused, but she had not worked in nearly a year. I believe she was a seamstress of some stripe from the handmade quality of her clothing. I am guessing that she was forced to make her own clothing, because she could not go out into polite society."
He held up a well-used napkin to Lestrade.
Lestrade gasped when he saw the mottled red stains. "She was a lunger?"
The anger in Watson's eyes caused Lestrade instinctively to step back a pace.
"She was a sufferer from Tuberculosis, she was ostracized and isolated and in constant pain in life, you will show her the proper decorum in death," Watson demanded.
Lestrade's first impulse was to apologize but that would be an insult to the relationship between him and Watson.
"You are absolutely correct, Doctor, and I apologize for being insensitive, but need I remind you that not all of us are of the medical profession, and find the disease in question quite terrifying. Her sad state moves my heart, but you need to reign in your temper, sir, or I will have you restrained, taken home and forcibly sedated until you are better, even if we have to knock you unconscious to do so!"
Watson smiled, looking very tired. "You are right, Lestrade. You have my apologies. I will attempt to keep the bullpup at bay."
Lestrade relinquished the conflict with a gentle nod. "If you will pardon my indiscreet outburst, please continue."
"She was chloroformed, and the strangulation was just sufficient enough to kill her in her weakened state, then the ribbon used for a tourniquet was loosed. Her killer appears to have seen this as a mercy killing; she suffered not a moment in the entire affair. All the preparations to the body were most likely post mortem; she has been dead for four hours is my estimate. I will know more after I compare this victim to the others."
Lestrade sighed. "That would have been at the height of the fog, this alley way empties out onto High Street, whoever this killer is, they were clever."
"You never told me how you captured Alister Eads, some stroke of good luck?" Watson asked his fever glinting eyes curious.
Lestrade lit a cigarette while he recalled. "There were allegations of theft from a local feed store left in the tip box; a couple of constables were assigned. During their vigil a cart passed by, and they followed thinking it was the thieves in question. They watched in shock as Alister unloaded the body of Bonny Livrâtes, a mother of four who was until tonight the last victim. He arranged the body into his trademark style, and they even caught him bleeding the teardrop onto her face. It was the perfect collar, ironclad; we never could have imagined it would end so easily. He came quietly, confessed to everything, and seemed eager to do so."
Lestrade tossed the cigarette away after two drags, stubbing it forcefully. "We celebrated for days," he remarked with the irony thick in his voice.
"And the feed store thieves?" Watson inquired.
Lestrade gave him an odd look. "Why would we care about some purloined feed after the capture of the Red Tear Strangler?"
Watson looked grave. "Because if the tip was not intended for the feed store thefts..."
The truth came crashing into Lestrade's mind with a weight that nearly took him to his knees.
"If the feed store theft tip was intended to lead us to Alister Eads, and that person knew where he would dump the body..."
"He had an accomplice," Watson finished.
Lestrade and Watson have settled into quite an interesting relationship. We all have that friend who knows us well enough to give us space when we need it, and to call us on our behavior it if we need that as well. I think it is safe to say their friendship is quite different from Holmes and Watson, and I am having a lot of fun writing it.
Some explanations I feel necessary:
"Slipped out for a fag." Went to go smoke a cigarette.
"Spoke like a kiwi." A person of New Zealand heritage.
"Ripper" "Bloody Jack" Jack the Ripper who operated the streets of Whitechapel in 1888, nearly ten years before our series is set. The poor lower class especially viewed him with superstition and any murder that occurred was thought to be him returning. This alleyway was just a block or two over toward Aldgate which was a barrier between the City of London and the East End.
"Certes" is the Latin word for truth. It was used a lot from the Middle Ages and faded out in the mid twentieth. It just means, "You have spoken truth."
The infection that is afflicting Watson came from the wound he received from the assassin he fought off in the last installment. I changed the time line in the last chapter of the last installment to reflect a two night difference between the two stories.
The Yarders were under so much pressure to capture the Red Tear Strangler that they developed tunnel vision, so if the revelation at the end of the last chapter seems a bit obvious just remember this was at the tail end of a long arduous investigation in which they could not capture their quarry and they were just glad it was over that all else was ignored.
If I missed any thing...please ask!
(1) Picture in profile...check it out!