Read Norton, Andre - Novel 39 Online

Authors: The Jekyll Legacy (v1.0)

Norton, Andre - Novel 39 (7 page)

BOOK: Norton, Andre - Novel 39
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This he could endure, but what he hadn't
reckoned with was the morrow. Although the day dawned bright, he himself was
dull, his thoughts still shrouded in fog. He was peckish at breakfast, off his
feed at luncheon, and had no appetite at teatime.

 
          
 
But as seven o'clock approached Newcomen was
positively ravenous, and it was hunger—hunger for information—that sent him out
of the Yard and into the square a good five minutes before the appointed hour.

 
          
 
There was no fog tonight, and the lights on
the encircling streets cast a garish glow, so that Newcomen had no problem in
identifying Jerry's cab as it stood at the front of the long line. He'd come
early, the inspector noted; that was a good sign.

 
          
 
As Jerry glanced down at him from his perch
the cabby's gargoyle grin was reassuring, and once inside the cab, the
homeward-bound Newcomen had reason to rejoice.

 
          
 
"Found him?" he said.

 
          
 
Jerry shrugged.
"In a manner
of speakin'.
Leastwise I found 'er."

 
          
 
"Her? Who are you talking about?"

 
          
 
"The missus.
Or
so she says."

 
          
 
Newcomen frowned. "I didn't know he was
married."

 
          
 
The cabby's voice rose above the clatter of
wheels and the clop of hooves. "What say?"

 
          
 
Newcomen frowned. "I suggest you take a
turn straightaway at the next crossing and pull up," he said. "At
least we can talk without all this commotion."

 
          
 
"Right you are."

 
          
 
And it was to the right that they turned,
halting beneath the street lamp just beyond the corner of a small lane terminating
in a mews entrance at its far end. It was here, in solitude and
silence, that
a series of questions and answers began.
During their course Jerry revealed for the first time just how he set about
searching out information and informants.

 
          
 
"I
reckons
you
'eard of the Salvation Army," he said.

 
          
 
Newcomen nodded, but there was a guarded edge
in his voice. "You went to them for help?
Where?"

 
          
 
"Nightly prayer
meetin'.
Queen
Victoria
Street, one-oh-one."

 
          
 
"That's City, isn't it?"

 
          
 
"Right you are, but no matter. The
boozers come from all over, an' arter the band stops playin' an' the preacher
stops prayin', that's when they stand up to be counted. An' them as won't come
or can't stand, it's their wives an' muwers what gets up to testify an' pray
for 'em." The cabby's hand rose to scrape the stubble of a chin that had
not recently been scraped by a razor. "Staggerin', 'ow much you
learns
abaht, jus' by cockin' a ear."

 
          
 
"So that's how you found her!" Newcomen
muttered.

 
          
 
"Found 'oo?"

 
          
 
"'The missus,' as you
call her."

 
          
 
Jerry shook his head. "It was Betsy Dobbs
I saw."

 
          
 
"I don't know the name."

 
          
 
"Nahrt likely you would. Sails on 'er
bottom down Tower way, gettin' street trade from the barracks. Come to pray for
'er dear oP dad, she did, 'im as turned 'er out to earn keep for them both. '
E drinks up the rent money fast as she brings it in, so she stopped
by the meetin' to pray for 'is
salvation. While she was at it she
thought to put in a word to the Lord for 'er friend 'oose 'usband suffers from
the same complaint. That's when she made mention of 'is name—Edgar Poole."

 
          
 
"It was that easy?" Newcomen shook
his head. "I can't believe it!"

 
          
 
The cabby shrugged. "Bit o' luck. Most I
'oped for when I went there was bumpin' inter some bloke I knew 'oo might steer
me onto anower. You keeps on going '
an
somewheres down
the line you 'it the target." Jerry's gap-toothed grin returned. "But
'oo am I to tell you, Inspector? That's yer line of business."

 
          
 
"Get on with it, man. Tell me what you
learned."

 
          
 
"Per'aps I'd best tell you on the way
there."

 
          
 
"Where do you propose to go?"

 
          
 
"To
Poole
and his missus.
I 'ad a chat wiv friend Betsy arter the
meetin' broke up. She
give
me their number over on
Newgate Street
. Seein' as 'ow you was so keen on the
matter, I took the liberty of askin' Betsy to speak to Mrs. Poole and noterfy
'er y'd pay a call on the 'appy couple tonight."

 
          
 
"Why didn't you tell me this before we
started? Now I daresay we've come a good quarter of a mile in the wrong
direction?"

 
          
 
"No 'arm done," Jerry assured him.
"We'd 'ave ter clear
round
the square in any
case, an' if I doubles back at the next crossin' we can 'ead into 'Igh 'Olborn
by way of Shaftesbury."

 
          
 
During the journey the inspector pressed for
more information on
Poole
's background. He discovered that Dr.
Jekyll's longtime butler had entered matrimony only a few months ago, after
being discharged from his position by Ut-terson. That in itself was hardly
unusual; it was not customary for house servants to marry without the specific
permission of their employers, because experience had shown it tended to
disrupt them in the performance of domestic duties. What surprised him was that
Poole
's bride was Nell Curtis, who had been Jekyll's
housemaid.

 
          
 
Even more surprising was the fact that between
the two of them they had apparently saved a sufficiency to rent decent living
quarters. Instead of settling in an
East End
tenement they now occupied a rear three-room flat on the ground floor of a
comparatively respectable dwelling. Quite possibly they had it on the cheap,
for Aldergate was hardly a fashionable address, at least not in the shadow of
Newgate Prison.

 
          
 
Once past
St. Paul
's there was little traffic to be
encountered on the darkened side streets, and when Jerry's cab rounded the
corner Inspector Newcomen anticipated a similar situation ahead.

 
          
 
But there was light aplenty surrounding the
address they sought: a bobbing of bull's-eye lanterns darting to and fro before
the entryway to the four-story dwelling.

 
          
 
Apparently it had been emptied of its
occupants, for most members of the clamoring crowd on the walkway were in
shirtsleeves or house aprons, with no protection against the evening's chill.
Rays of lantern light slivered the sides of box-shaped vehicles stationed along
the curbing; the form of these conveyances left no doubt as to their function,
nor did the uniforms worn by the lantern bearers.

 
          
 
"Pull up!" Newcomen commanded. Even
before the cab halted completely he was out the door and headed toward the
nearest light source. The constable was wielding his lantern as a warning
signal, waving it in the face of the crowd and shouting at them to stay clear
of the walkway.

 
          
 
Preoccupied with the enthusiastic performance
of his duties, it took a full moment and a hard nudge in the ribs before he
acknowledged the inspector's presence. He turned with a glare matching that of
his lantern.

 
          
 
'"Ere now, whacher fink
yer doin'?"

 
          
 
"Inspector Newcomen, Metropolitan
Police." The reply was accompanied by a proper display of identification,
but had scant effect on the constable's glowering. And no wonder; there was
little love lost between the Metropolitan and the City police. But rank has its
privileges, and the City constable forced himself to be civil to a superior.

 
          
 
"Sorry, sir."
A perfunctory pinch of his helmet served as the modern substitute for a tug at
the forelock or a full military salute. "I diden' reckernize—"

 
          
 
"No matter," Newcomen said.
"Just tell me what's happening here."

 
          

 
          
 
The constable's lips moved in a reply that
could not be heard, for as he spoke the voices from both sides of the walkway
rose to a deafening level. Newcomen glanced toward the dwelling as, preceded by
a lantern carrier, four uniformed members of the City constabulary emerged
bearing a stretcher. The coarse departmental-issue blanket completely covered
its occupant, as they moved in the direction of an ambulance at the curb.

 
          
 
No need now to inquire what had occurred;
there was only one question and Newcomen asked it.

 
          
 
"Who?"

 
          
 
"Can't rightly say,
sir.
But we come 'ere on report uv a murder. Some chap as lived in the
flat at the rear."

 
          

Chapter 5

 

 
          
 
Edgar Poole had been beaten to death.

 
          
 
There was no question about that; Inspector
Newcomen obtained the name of the victim from one of the City detectives on the
night of the murder.

 
          
 
But little else was forthcoming and no further
information had been volunteered. It was made plain to him—not in so many
words, but rather by their absence—that the City Police were definitely in
charge of the case and wanted no interference from their Metropolitan rivals.

 
          
 
Naturally, he had no opportunity to speak with
Poole
's widow at the time. She had been taken
immediately to headquarters on
Old Jewry Street
for further questioning, and Newcomen had
to content himself with the cursory accounts of the crime published in the
papers on the following day.

 
          
 
As determined by these reports,
Poole
had absented himself from home during the
afternoon before he became the object of foul play. Where he had spent his
time, and quite possibly a shilling or so, was still a matter of conjecture,
but there was no doubt regarding what he'd spent it for. When he reeled home
shortly after
six o'clock
in the evening,
Poole
immediately took to his bed, ignoring both
the reproaches and the tears of his spouse.

 
          
 
According to Mrs. Poole he had been despondent
ever since the loss of his former position and made no effort to find further
employment. It was she who had been contributing to their support by doing
piecework, “sewing hats and such," at home. Indeed, it was the necessity
of delivering the results of her day's labor to a millinery establishment in
nearby
City
Road
that required her to leave their lodgings while her husband, fully clothed, lay
in deep slumber on the bed.

 
          
 
"Drunken stupor, more likely,"
Newcomen had muttered to himself when he read the newspaper story. But his
uncharitable comment was the product of professional frustration rather than moral
judgment. What
Poole
did was his own business; what was done to
him was Newcomen's.

 
          
 
Just exactly what had been done to him during
the hour's interval between his wife's departure and her return remained
unclear. None of the other occupants of the dwelling who'd rushed outside to
view the spectacle after the police arrived had since stepped forward in the
role of an eye- or even an ear-witness to the crime.

 
          
 
"Same old story—hear no evil, see no
evil, speak no evil," Newcomen muttered to himself. "Fine lot of
monkeys they are, too."

 
          
 
As for Mrs. Poole herself, she'd come back
from her errand with some hope of a cold supper but little expectation of
sharing it with a cold-sober husband.

 
          
 
What she was not prepared for was the
discovery of his battered corpse sprawled just beyond the doorway of their
bedroom.

 
          
 
Bones had been broken and facial features
disfigured by the force of the blows inflicted upon the victim; even if he'd
made no outcry, surely the impact of his fall should have attracted some
attention from other residents. But no one admitted as much and it was only
Mrs. Poole's own screams that summoned the neighbor woman from down the hall
and sent her out into the street in search of a constable.

 
          
 
There had been no further notices in the
public press, a circumstance that did not greatly concern the inspector, for he
placed little credence upon the probity of the penny papers. His immediate
thought was to seek out another opportunity to interview
Poole
's widow, but the plan was scotched; upon
presenting himself at the Aldergate address following her return there, he was
informed by a neighbor— coincidentally, the one who had first summoned the
police— that Mrs. Poole was in a state of prostration and had taken to her bed.

 
          
 
It occurred to Newcomen that the bed in
question was the one occupied by her late husband at the time he met his death;
as such, hardly the place in which to seek comfort and consolation. Still, he
supposed one had to make the best of it, and Mrs. Poole could hardly be expected
to sleep on the floor. Somehow, despite its tragedies, life goes on.

 
          
 
And so did the neighbor lady who informed him
of these circumstances.
Or would have gone on and on if the
inspector hadn't cut her short, thanked her, and made his departure.
He
had no time to waste on gossip and hearsay; tomorrow morning there'd be a
coroner's inquest from which the facts might be forthcoming.

 
          
 
Autopsy reports, official findings of police
officers at the scene of the crime, answers to questions addressed to Mrs.
Poole under oath—this was the stuff clues were made of. Despite the ongoing
petty rivalries between Metropolitan and City police, formal inquest
proceedings were open to the public and Newcomen intended to be present even if
only in the role of a private citizen.

 
          
 
It was not meant to be. Unfortunately, in his
role as inspector he spent the morning of the inquest in the apprehension and
detention of one Archibald Hix, who had been discovered jimmying open the rear
door of a haberdashery just off
Regent Street
. The arrest itself was a simple matter; not
so, however, the tedious paperwork required thereafter. And by the time
Newcomen was free to extract the watch from his vest pocket, the inquest was
long over.

 
          
 
Allowing for the equally tedious task of transcribing
its findings at City Police Headquarters, Newcomen realized he must somehow
contain himself for yet another day until he could hope to secure a copy.

 
          
 
This he somehow managed to do, and on the
afternoon of the day following, paid a call to
Old Jewry Street
, identified himself, and received a
transcript grudgingly given.

 
          
 
The findings of one Dr. Angus Blystone were,
as might have been anticipated, of little help. The deceased had suffered a
fractured skull—Newcomen made no effort to set down the sawbones' medical
Latin—contusions on and about the face and neck, plus broken bones in both
arms, the fingers of his right hand, and the rib cage. The immediate cause of
death was a massive cerebral hemorrhage at the point where the skull had been crushed
by a blow or blows from an unspecified blunt object or instrument.

 
          
 
Meaning they didn't know a bloody thing about
what had happened, or how. Newcomen scowled to himself as he read the familiar
phrases woven to form a threadbare but convenient cloak for ignorance.

 
          
 
Only two brief bits of testimony from the City
detectives offered some slight enlightenment. The first reported the presence
of bloodstains on the upper surface of the shabby sheet that did double duty as
a bedspread. The second involved the absence of anything that might have served
as the murder weapon.

 
          
 
Presence —the murderer had surprised
Poole
and probably struck the first blows even as
he awakened; then, staggering upright, he was battered to the floor.

 
          
 
Absence —the murderer came armed, or else had
found something in the room for use as a weapon and subsequently carried it
away upon departure.

 
          
 
But when asked, Mrs. Poole had been unable to
specify that anything was missing that might have served a deadly purpose. For
that matter, when asked, Mrs. Poole was not too specific about anything.

 
          
 
Newcomen's frown deepened as he went over her
answers given at the inquest, which did little to augment what the newspapers
had already reported. No, she could not account for her late husband's
depressed state
nor
his recent overindulgence in drink
except that both seemed the result of losing his position. No, they hadn't
quarreled. No, Edgar didn't have an enemy in the world.

 
          
 
And no, Newcomen told himself, it couldn't be
that much of a mystification. There had to be more to it than that, and she had
to know more than that. Or at least suspect.

 
          
 
Death at the hand of person
or persons unknown.
The expected verdict that didn't
explain the unexpected, the answer that resolved no questions.
Thus the
law simply washed its hands of the matter without removing the bloodstains.

 
          
 
Again Newcomen stared down at his hastily
scrawled notes. Something about them jarred his memory. Of course—it was almost
like the Carew case. Sir Danvers Carew had been murdered on a public
thoroughfare, Edgar Poole in a private residence; one victim was a member of
the aristocracy and the other a discharged manservant. But the similarities
were there.
A sudden surprise attack without apparent reason.
Death from a blunt instrument—in Carew's case, a cane that
had been broken and left at the spot where the onslaught occurred.
But
in the assault on
Poole
a similar weapon could well have been used
without breaking, whereupon the murderer merely carried it away with him.

 
          

 
          
 
There was, of course, an important difference
between the two affairs. In the first, testimony from an actual witness
identified the perpetrator of the crime as Edward Hyde. But Edward Hyde was
dead. Other later witnesses had identified his corpse. He could not have risen
to kill again.

 
          
 
That left only one more link, and a slim one.
Both Carew and
Poole
had a common enemy in the late Mr. Hyde.
And both had a connection, personal or professional, with Hyde's former friend
Dr. Henry Jekyll. Dr. Jekyll, who might be described as the late or the former
himself, for all Newcomen might know.

 
          
 
All he might know indeed, but not all he
wanted to know, which was precisely the point—there must be something else, had
to be.

 
          
 
It was in his office that the inspector's
ruminations were interrupted by the arrival of a uniformed runner from
downstairs who presented him with a missive received in the last delivery of
the day's post. The envelope addressed to him contained only a brief note
bearing the signature of Robert Guest, writing at the behest of his employer,
Utterson, but its message erased Newcomen's frown.

 
          
 
Utterson was inquiring if it might be possible
for the inspector to wait upon him tomorrow afternoon at three? If so, he would
have the opportunity of meeting
Miss Hester Lane
, a relative of Henry Jekyll's who had
recently arrived from
Canada
.

 
          
 
Recently arrived? Now there was something to
chew on. Had she been here when
Poole
died?
Did she know the whereabouts of Dr. Jekyll? In any event he was grateful for
Utterson's invitation. Barring the unforeseen, he intended to have a bit of a
chat with this recent arrival.

 
          
 
But that would be tomorrow's business. Right
now his watch was ticking closer to the hour and a glance through the begrimed
windowpane confirmed the imminence of
seven o'clock
.

BOOK: Norton, Andre - Novel 39
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