'Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.'—William Shakespeare
Perhaps, the mere thought of obsession can constrain the foundation of the psyche of man totally, with an uncontrollable desire and heightened anxiety that is implicit and misconstrued.
Therefore, the only precursor to reasonable sanity is the existing process that proceeds, before the precipitous illation that deviates to the continuous abyss of the spiralling madness that will devour one in the end.
I shall not dare to be unclear or impractical in my words of percipience, when speaking of the unaccountable and unpredictable riddle that surrounds devotion and obsession.
Ipse facto, we fail to acknowledge the indelible presence that encompasses, such illimitable perturbation seldom restrained, within the rationality of the criminal.
There are the insoluble mysteries to crimes that bound us to search and seek the unknown boundaries of truth and legend, and the untold tales of horror and delight that bewilder our minds to accept within our hidden fears, the actuality of good and evil that we cannot easily obviate the fulfilment of that prospect.
-Cutting from the London Gazette 13 March 1891,
The body of a fifth murder has been discovered in the East End of London, and the authorities believe that there is possibly an unsuspected madman on the loose committing these crimes of horror and violence.
The incontrovertible evidence at this time is scarce and vague, and the cruel and sanguinary manner that the victims were killed was gruesome and appalling.
The name of the fifth victim of the killer has been revealed to be Mary Esther Gordon, a hapless and wretched prostitute, who was killed in Hanbury Street late in the night yesterday. Her body was badly mauled, and her head was dissevered from the torso completely.
As I have, aforementioned scant details were retrieved from the crime scene, and no witness was present in the vicinity to question thoroughly.
For the nonce a nightly curfew has been imposed on the Londoners, and the city grows weary of the ominous reputation of harbouring a vile and savage murderer.
We shall keep you the public informed always, about the relevant discoveries of the case and the developments that occur afterwards.
I had been working on a previous case in the City of Edinburgh that dealt, with the supposed murder of a young nobleman, who was killed and his body was thrown from the cantilever railway bridge over the Firth of Forth unto the water below.
My experience you ask respectfully? Three years ago, I had worked incessantly on the unsolved murder of the Whitehall Mystery and the infamous Whitechapel Murders.
I had recently been promoted as a detective within the Metropolitan Police, and I had prided myself, in my diligence and active inquisitive mind. I had upheld the duties of the police, with the utmost discretion and application.
Upon one cold day of March, I had arrived in London at the bustling and obstreperous Victoria train station during the hectic evening, as I had departed from Edinburgh.
My name is Wesley Crow, and I am a detective that investigated and solved the most mysterious and deadly cases involving secret societies, cults and madmen, during the late 19th century and early 20th century.
I was requested to investigate the murders that were unfolding in London.
To describe me physically, I am neither tall nor short, but of medium constitution and weight.
My hair is short and trimmed, with a brunneous tint and parted to the right side.
I exhibit no moustache nor beard, but I am exceedingly fond of my stylish sideburns and the colour black.
As for my eyes, they are very studious and raven in composition.
There is one more peculiar detail of my fashion and that is the black Bowler hat that I wear over my head.
I was greeted at the train station by a police officer, who bore a circumspect mien and his traditional wool uniform with his Keystone cap.
'Good evening Detective Crow, I am Nigel Harrison with the London Metropolitan Police, and I have been assigned to be your assistant in the case. It is a pleasure and honour to work with you sir'.
'The pleasure is mine old boy, and I am eager to know all the details concerning this case, if you don't mind, can we leave at once, for time is of the essence?' I had replied.
'Why of course sir!'
Even though I was writing my memoirs of another important case that riveted England before that was the Mary Pearcey case, I had thought it very challenging and indispensable for me to accept the case that was simply named, 'The riddle of the skull murders'.
I was taken anon to the headquarters of the Old Whitehall Place, which had changed to the New Scotland Yard. The building of 23 Whitehall Place was to be my new address. Along the way, I was thereafter informed of the latest details pertaining to the skull murders.
Once there, I spoke to a fellow colleague and captain by the name of Charles Bailey, and he proceeded to explain to me, the other minor details I was not told of by Officer Harrison before. The mere mention of a skull and riddle had captivated my curiosity, during the entire trip from Edinburgh.
'Captain Bailey, there is something that intrigues me about this case that I do not fully understand yet. Why, is this case called 'The riddle of the skull murders?' I had enquired.
His response was, 'Those foolish newspapers are to be blamed, for this Detective Crow. Ever since the first murder occurred, there was a pattern discovered, with the evidence left behind at the crime scene, a lone skull and a riddle. The intrepid editors of the newspapers have attached this silly notion of a satanic cult, behind the unbridled spree of murders in the city'.
'I am not surprised, since their information is gleaned from pure speculative sources. Notwithstanding, we must deal with this spectacle at once, and not let this serious matter be dictated by the newspapers. If we allow this to happen, we shall not be able to control the situation for long. Therefore we must do all in our powers, to solve this case as soon as possible'.
'I hope so sir! We here in London, shall assist you in whatever endeavour necessary to accomplish this immediate task'.
'The first thing that must be done, is to increase the vigilance in the East End, and continue the curfew that shall be made known to the Londoners that we are serious in our search for the criminal; and that by imposing this curfew on the city, they will truly understand the severity of this case. We must be imperant in this and be willing to convey this message to the public. We must also use the newspapers to our advantage. Until we do not find any pertinent information about the identity of the murderer, we shall be at the mercy of their unyielding print of gossip I dread', I explained to him.
I was taken to the Cadogan Hotel, where my accommodations for my stay in the city would be. I had instructed Harrison my assistant, to advise me if there were any new tidings about the case, while I remained in my chambre of the hotel.
At the hotel I contemplated even the minutiae of the case and my perusal, wondering in my head, if the killer would strike anew upon this night. Soon, I would have my answer, and it would not be pleasant. A sudden rapping on my door I heard, and when I rose to answer the door, it was Harrison informing me that the killer had struck again.
I left at once to the crime scene. This time the murder scene was Dorset Street, and the murder was even bloodier and grievous—but as with the antecedent murders, nothing was purloined. When I arrived at the scene, there was a throng of onlookers gazing at the police and the crime scene.
Dorset Street was popular for the manifold thieves and wappened courtesans, who caroused the night in this area of the East End. There was an inscription written on a wall, by the presumed killer. Was there a cryptic message, behind this inscription? Did it have an ostensible validity or was this only verbiage?
'Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music! Beware the ides of March'.
My immediate thought that concerned afterwards, was preventing the press from sensationalising this horrific murder. I ordered the press back, and I knew that I had relatively little time, before the morning papers would publish the murder.
Fortunately, there was an important witness who had descried the assailant, and her name was Sally Doyle, a young prostitute of the area. She was certainly not a slattern, but nor was she a woman of society.
Once I was told about this, I quickly told Harrison to bring her to me. At first, she was startled and quivery with fear and qualm, as she composed herself enough to speak to me. Her distinctive accent was clearly Cockney, and I could mostly understand her speech. I was wont to all the accents from the Geordies to the tykes, and listening to the Cockney accent was somewhat refreshing. When asked to describe the culprit, she made mention of his peculiar appearance.
'You saw him young lady, how was his description? Did he speak?' I enquired.
Her response was, 'No, but methought him to be a bloke, yet he was no ordinary bloke. He was tall and handsome, but well dressed, with his walking cane. He was a swell I meantersay, for he wore a gaudy top hat above his napper, and his chivvy was rumbumptious. Me can’t forget the jerry that he pulled out from his benjy, ‘twas sparkling gold. I have never seen aught like that much me jack. He had a bloody shining ring with a fancy ruby. And those lamps of his were evil, like the devil I tell thee me jack'.
'What else can you tell me?'
'Blimey, for ‘twas the Devil in disguise me jack, for the poor buor had no chance to thwart the man. He had a beast with him'.
'A beast you say?'
She was reluctant to continue with her account, but I convinced her, for the sake of the victim. She had hesitated before she stared into my eyes, with such a swift trepidation seen in her as she had answered my questions reluctantly. Her unbelievable story would be persuasive until she began to blather, anent the Devil. The intensity in her eyes could be seen, as she cautiously muttered the fiend again.
I would dismiss the balderdash, as nothing more than perhaps an overriding hallucination or overreaction of a banality. But what I found more interesting and important to the case was the description she made of the imperious man. Before I finished with her statement, and allowed her to leave, she recalled one very intrinsic item that the individual had left and had been discovered by her.
'Oh ya must think me barmy for what, me mouth shall say me jack. But I tell ya that he was no bloke at all, and neither that beast. He was a bloody Devil and the beast as well! I know ya don’t believe me, but ‘twas a Devil. Now, before me go on me merry way jack, methink it best to give ya this fogle, for it belongs to the killer', she asserted.
The item was a silk black handkerchief that had the initials of D C, and what was more mysterious was the encrimsoned blood that had stained partially the handkerchief. It was indeed, the first important clew we had of the identity of the killer. It was no mere handkerchief, but an appurtenance to the killers' predilection. Now, all that was needed was to locate the origin and the maker of that strange handkerchief.
As for the reference of the Devil, I had to postulate that the actual culprit was a clever or insane man. The plot would thicken, with the referred component of the satanic cult. Perhaps the indomitable beast was Barmecidal, and his appearance could intimidate one to believe and fear the culprit to be the actual Devil. I had to apply my logic and rational explanation for this, since there was little to no other description feasible to comprehend or analyse. I worried about the prospect of a growth of hysteria amongst the human population in the city, and worse, suffusing with an untamed rapidity.
I knew then the terror would be ubiquitous and impossible to stop. How was I to avoid the murders from spreading afterwards to the Greater Metropolitan area? I knew that I had to be punctilious, and my demerits could not be detected so plainly, by the murderer. The key was of course, in revealing his veil of secrecy.
From what I could perceive of the killer, he was discreet but not pusillanimous. He had a modulated influence that wielded over the city, with sheer terror and looming dread. This I began to feel at intervals, and as I cogitated the effects of his control, I realised his capacity to be morbid and yet decorous at the same time.
Thus, during the night in my room, a sudden thought of the pattern in the killer I had concluded. The murders were primarily, in the East End of London, and from what the witness stated, the murderer's mien and guise was that of a foppish dandy or nobleman; but yet, I could not easily forget the mention of the beast.
It could not be a beast, and it had to be a huge canine or mongrel; but what I had forgotten in that moment was the fact that all the witnesses, who saw the beast spoke of huge teeth. Then through my pedantic assiduity, I began to think of animals. ‘Tis a wolf? No, it must be a stour dog. Could it be an animal from the zoo that had escaped? Was it peripatetic?
The next morning I headed toward the London Zoo, to explore the concept that obsessed and thracked me, during the night of the beast described. I had assumed the culprit to be an animal from the zoo or a wild animal if not a dog. This was my first supposition and the only reasonable probability. Although I could not discard anything at that moment, I had to admit.
Once there, I started to question the zookeeper, if he had any knowledge of an animal missing or escaping from the zoo. His reply was no, and there were no animals missing or who had escaped the grounds. His acknowledgement was quite peculiar, nonetheless, I was compelled to seek the mystery of the beast elsewhere.
I had instructed Harrison to investigate the origin of the handkerchief that was left behind, by the anonymous killer.
After conversing with the zookeeper, I visited the London Museum and sought to find any significant information, about large wild animals that could be capable of these abhorrent murders. There was scantly any evidence to support the theory of any wild beast at the museum.
Thence, I left the museum and went to the public library, where I had read and borrowed volumes of books on the matter.
At the library, I did not find any potential lead to my suspect. However, something in me a six sense made me wonder and doubt the presence of a beast. It had to be a large dog, and I attempted to convince myself.
Afterwards, I left the library and returned to headquarters to speak to Harrison and Captain Bailey to see if they had any new information dealing with the case. When I spoke to them neither had anything to divulge, except that the scandalous murders were being excessively exploited by the newspapers.
'Rubbish, plain rubbish they print in these worthless newspapers!' Captain Bailey uttered.
'I agree captain, but we must not permit these devilish editors to corrupt the minds of the public and interfere with our case', I said.
'Then what else shall we do sir? Time is of the essence'.
'For the meanwhile, not much, except to wait for his next move. Surely, he must make a mistake'.
A helpless frustration and ineptitude emerged in me, as I meditated in a pensive thought this quandary. I had dreaded that the murders could extend beyond the East End, and my portentous preoccupation would be heightened, with a sudden occurrence that would spell doom.
At around midnight, the murderer struck again, but this time the crime would be committed in Hyde Park, instead of the East End. The murder would totally surprise us and occur in an area, where there was no police presence or supervision. When I arrived at the Park, Captain Bailey was already there, and informed me of the details of the murder, according to the information he gathered, from the witness.
Apparently, the killer or killers were not that discreet and precise, with their crime. Not only was there a witness, but as well, clear evidence. There was the familiar inscription carved in a tree, by the presumed killers that had become a locutionary redundancy fangled.
'Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music! Beware the ides of March'.
This was what I had yearned, just that shred of reoccurring proof to bind to the killers even more. The sight of the deceased body was shocking and distressing.
Thuswise as with the prior victims, the ghastly remains were mired in gore and abundant in imaginative description. The head was dissevered from the torso completely, by a blade or saw with proficiency. Her gown was torn to shreds so easily, and there were bite marks of canines, around the legs and arms. The listless torso lain in the heavy pool of scarlet blood, as the loathsome flies and pestiferous rats were scavenging on her deceased body. The memorable skull was found in the crime scene and was the telling evidence left behind to be resolved.
'Only a madman or madmen could have done this. Indeed, this is the work of absolute madness', I admitted.
'’Tis ghastly indeed sir. What a horrible manner to die!' said Harrison.
'I agree Harrison, but we must not be occupied, with the disgust we bear. Instead, we must concentrate on the evidence that was left behind, as a vestige of the murderers. What have you to report Harrison?'
'We have a witness, and clews were left by the killers'.
'A woman by the name of Martha Townson saw the mysterious man, who was alluding justice and she heard his voice', Harrison explained.
He paused then continued, 'However sir, there is something else, the woman mentioned a Hansom carriage. She was very descriptive and said the man fled in the carriage into the night. There was deep intensity seen in her eyes, as she had related the account'.
I was not certain at first what to respond, when he made reference to the fleeing carriage. I was more interested and stimulated, by the evidence collected in the crime scene. What was that evidence? First about the enigmatic man, he was willowy in stature, well-groomed, and wore an illustrious top hat. His countenance was gaunt, and his voice was seductive but commanding, and he spoke a distinctive Welsh accent that resounded, within a lofty hauteur.
In the last crime he left behind a black silk handkerchief, and this time, what was discovered was an opulent gold watch. As with the handkerchief, the initials D C were engraved. I knew the key to solve this conundrum or haunting ado was to unravel the mystery of the handkerchief and watch. There was another telling and important piece of disclosure. Next to the body of the victim were strands of hair that appeared to be not human. It was too early to surmise or guess what type of creature or animal the strands of hair belonged to. There was also another salient piece of corroboration. The witness indicated ere that the stranger had fled in a Hansom carriage straightaway.
'Discretion is warranted in this intricate case Harrison my boy. Despite the fresh evidence found, the killers are very inimitable, and these virulent attacks cannot be limited to an unmitigated hypothesis. Yes, I know that a brazen disseveration of the torsos is like a decollation. However inordinate this case can be, we must be draconian in our measures, for the murderers shall not be lenient to our cause', I had replied.
It was close to early morning, and the obnubilated night was still discernible to the eye. But the most disconcerting thing of the murder was the identity of the victim. The victim was not only fain, but she was Sally Doyle. Yes, the same Sally Doyle, who was the witness from the case before. Even though the head was dissevered, and the body badly mauled, we were able to verify her identity.
Indeed, these clews were decisive and vital to the case, and all that was needed was to find the culprits. The relevant evidence that was ascertained that night proved to bear fruition. I did not sleep much that whole night afterwards, and when I awoke in the morning, I woke to the egregious distortion of the newspapers. The following was a cutting from the newspaper.
-Cutting from the London Gazette 14 March 1891,
A new victim of the 'The riddle of the skull murders' was discovered in Hyde Park late in the night. Despite the presence of the London Metropolitan Police and the curfew imposed, the murders persist and the incompetent and failed process of the police, have not achieved anything except, a massive concealment of the case and improbability of never apprehending the murderers. This blatant omission has begun to arrest the attention of the Londoners, and cause an unsettling birr in the city, amongst the most respected and distinguished members of London Society.
From the little details divulged by the police, the victim's name was Sally Doyle, a poor prostitute, who was found dead. Her head was dissevered from her torso, as with the others victims. But yet, the strange and ominous foreboding, is that the murder occurred outside of the usual area of the East End of London, and a strange inscription of Shakespeare was engraved on a tree.
Nothing is still known about the identity of the killers, and the queen herself, has asked that the Metropolitan Police solicit the service and assistance of the Prefecture of Paris. We shall keep the public as usual, informed of any new details from the case.
Of course it was not welcomed news for us, and it was nothing more than a vilification or diatribe expounded, through journalistic rubbish and repugnance, by the editor a Mr Maxwell. Although I was not overtly pleased to wake up reading the printed invective words of the newspaper, I was mostly concerned, with the recent evidence that was found at the crime scene. The strands of hairs of the animal retrieved were examined thoroughly and efficaciously by the lens of a magnifying glass, as forensic proof.
Yet in the end, nothing precisely or accurately was proved, about the origin of the beast, except that it perhaps was common to any known specie of large canines in the country. But I was mostly eager to determine to whom these objects had belonged to. Harrison had revealed to me that the manufacture of the watch was foreign American, as well as the handkerchief that was French.
Still, I was not convinced much, since the accent of the supposed villain was Welsh and from Wales. What was manifest to me in my assumption was that he was a nobleman and a passionate traveller. It was such a peculiar contradiction and yet a dire similitude. However, there was a strong likelihood that he was an actor or artist.
Soon I had Harrison investigate in hotels or other places he was staying, for any individuals who had a Welsh accent, and was very wealthy or a connoisseur. Meanwhile, I had decided to make a visit to a local theatre, and enquire if there were actors from Wales present, among the cast.
After perusing through the newspapers, I found a local theatre that had a certain man that spoke with a Welsh accent. His name was Dylan Craddock, and immediately I remembered the initials of D C that were engraved in the watch and handkerchief. I had asked for his whereabouts and was told he was in his dressing room, as he was preparing for his next performance. I discovered that the inscription was a fragment that belonged to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. He was performing that particular play in London.
When I entered and met him, he was sitting in his chair, with his back toward me. He was in disguise, and I could not differentiate his true guise. But his voice was unforgettable and remarkably noticeable. He was comfortable speaking from his chair and listening.
'Mr Craddock, I shall not take much of your time sir. If I may impose upon you could we arrange to speak this day, about a matter that is extremely important', I said.
'The riddle of the skull murders I presume, and you are wondering where I have been, and if I am behind the murders. I shall not take your assumption, with an effrontery or indifference, solely because I am Welsh and eccentric as Oscar Wilde Detective Crow. I am not inclined to dwell in such a facile manner, within my histrionic laurels or accolades. And as for your invitation, I shall have to defer, since I have several acts, and shall be leaving London soon. Please accept my cordial invitation to stay, and see the play in the proscenium. Do you not enjoy Shakespeare detective?' He replied.
'I dread I shall have to defer as well, for I must continue with the case sir'.
'Indeed, time for us thespians detective is precious even more. I hope that once you find your killers that you are not truly disappointed, with what you have revealed Detective Crow'.
I looked into his haughty eyes, and uttered, 'I shall be extremely satisfied sir'.
His last response was then interpreted as a quirk and visible sign of his histrionic hauteur. I perceived in him an eccentric and austere individual, who possessed the qualities of the culprit. But yet, this was not enough to arrest him, on a good suspicion. He smiled, with a devilish grin on his face, as he excused himself. I felt a unique chill in me, as the wind entered through the window.
I left the theatre, but I ordered Harrison to keep vigilance of Mr Craddock. I poignantly instructed him, to follow him wherever he went. I could not detain him based on circumstantial evidence, or keep him from not departing London. Time was ticking like a clock in the hall. I had to think perspicaciously, so that I could thereafter investigate this man more, while he was still in the city. I had discovered he was staying in a hotel called The Savoy.
The information I was told was that he had been registered, by the name of Dylan Craddock, and what was more crucial was that he had been in the city, during the murders. This was such relevant information, putting him in London.
I felt a subtle but yet, a very luculent perception then, about this surreal encounter. The case was evolving and details of the case also. Nevertheless, it was paramount that we captured the killers sooner than later.
I returned to the crime scene in Hyde Park, but before I did, I went to speak to a certain Madam Dillingham, about the issue of the preternatural Cult of Death and the skulls. I had brought one of the skulls retrieved. Harrison had informed me, about the possible nexus of this anonymous cult. Several newspapers were starting to imply this unknown and delitescent cult as well as the masons, as possibly linked to the murders.
After speaking to this charismatic and necromantic woman, I began to believe that the cult could be connected to the case. When I arrived at the park, I wanted to prove a theory I had that was very subjective and transparent. If the killers were brash and calculative in their murders, then they would have the audacity and obsession to return to the last crime scene.
The murders had terrorised and gorgonised the denizens of London. The populace was too, becoming more zetetic and sapient, with each and every murder. At the scene I observed with careful awareness the area and its surroundings. I sensed the presence of wandering eyes of hardihood, watching me argutely. I noticed there were fresh footprints made in the soil of the park, by the garden where Sally Doyle was located. It was difficult to make a proper analysis of the origin of the footprints. However, I had the police make a replica of the prints and retain them for purpose of evidence.
Thereafter, I returned to headquarters and spoke to Harrison and Captain Bailey. They were informed, about the finding of the footprints. I was anxious to hear from Harrison, what he observed of Mr Craddock's whereabouts during the day. Harrison did not offer me anything substantial. Mr Craddock only stepped out for an engagement he had in a restaurant in Piccadilly, with his fellow actors. I told him to have an officer observe him during the night.
There was an urgent resolve in me to identify the murderer or murderers, but I could not afford to make any real compulsive hamartia. The night was staid and halcyon, and appeared that London would be spared of a gruesome murder. And as the night evolved, it seemed that was to be the case; but the mesonoxian bustle of the city would be quickened, by three shocking deaths during midnight.
All the three murders would happen, in different parts of the city. One of the murders the first, took place in the East End, occupying the attention of the police. The second murder was in the upper West End, and the third the most disturbing took place, not far from the main thoroughfare of the city London Bridge. It was a new pattern in the murders, and one that I did not expect. Indeed, the criminal or criminals had beguiled and humiliated the Metropolitan Police.
Immediately, we gathered at the headquarters. Captain Bailey and Harrison were as perplexed as I was. What they spoke of the murders was utterly incredible.
First, the murder in the East End was to be supposed, another prostitute. But the murder in the West End an affluent area of the city and the murder at the London Bridge were not the typical victims. One was a noblewoman, and the other was a nobleman. And the few witnesses, they gave conflicting accounts, as far the speech of the assailants. One witness said he sounded American, while at the other crime scene, the witness said he sounded French.
However, the one common characteristic was the macabre skulls left, and the daunting inscription. The crimes as usual were horrendous and repetitive in nature, but never did I suspect the murderers to be so audacious in challenging the authority of the Metropolitan Police. I knew then, we were dealing with multiple murderers. It did not take time for the press to pounce on our unmitigated failure.
That night I slept little and spent the dwindling hours haunted by the phantasm of the murders. I was expecting the heavy criticism of the press, and I would awake to the scathing venom of all the major newspapers in London.
-Cutting from the London Gazette 15 March 1891,
It has been several days that has transpired, and yet the reprehensible and irrepressible murderers have not been detained, and the overwrought populace within London clamour indignantly, for justice and swift retribution. It is even more transparent with each repugnant murder that the London Metropolitan Police has been totally feckless to seize the astute culprits, and are apparently more incompetent and fretful in laxity, with their proceedings.
Impetuous rumours of the secret Cult of Death and the return of Jack the Ripper have begun to circulate throughout the city straightway, and the queen uneasy with the negative attention the case has received abroad, has therefore instructed the London Metropolitan Police to offer a lofty reward of a million pounds, for any pertinent information that leads to the lawful apprehension of the dastardly culprits. We shall keep the interest of the public always informed of any fresh details concerning the murders.
The press was in the front door of the building of our headquarters, and they were more riled up with the new murders that occurred yesterday. Extreme tension and anxiety were consuming the city, in a frantic frenzy.
There were appeals and demands on the Metropolitan Police to find the culprits, since they were now killing worthy aristocrats and had expanded their killing spree to other known areas of the city. This was intolerable and unacceptable to the queen and the English politicians, who had urged the queen to forget her discretion in the matter, and to be more involved in the case. I spoke to Harrison at once, and asked him, if Mr Craddock had left the whole night afterwards, and his response was no, he had spent the entire night in his hotel, with the rest of the cast.
The notion that the killers were various compelled me, to return to the theatre and inspect the names of the rest of the cast members of the play, to see if there were any American or French members. After a thorough search in the list of names I was given, by the dramaturge of the theatre, I found two particular names that had arrested my attention.
The first was a Mr Edwin Beaumont, and the second was Mr Robert Bonnaire. I was told then by this individual that Beaumont was from New Orleans and Bonnaire from Paris. I was fortunate to find the young American Mr Beaumont in the foyer.
He had just returned from a social engagement, as I saw his appearance clearly. He was of a man of medium stature, fair complexity, and his hazel eyes and dark hair were seen underneath his top hat. However, what was more conspicuous was that he was wearing an expensive ring with a sparkling ruby on top. He did not detect me, as I quickly turned my back as he passed by me afterwards. This was the information precisely that I was intrigued to know, and the thing that revolved in my mind was how could, I deceive Mr Craddock and the other two, in a place where they would be extremely vulnerable and visible? I thought in my head as I pondered this endlessly, and suddenly the ideal that floated in my head became a marvellous idea.
Although I knew it was an absolute risk to take, and perhaps, the plan would not work in the end, I had no other option before me, and thus, I shared my plan with only Captain Bailey and Harrison, the two individuals who I trusted the most. I did not want to distrust any one, but I was not certain if the killers had been collaborating, with any unwanted participants within the London Metropolitan Police. The suspicion of this clandestine Cult of Death behind the murders was then beginning to take hold in my mind, and the concept of multiple murderers suited the modus operandi of their pattern of homicides.
I thought of Madam Dullingham the spiritualist, who was an expert in this field of the supernatural. Thus, I went to her home in Gloucester Street and when I arrived, I found the rear door open, as I entered. When I passed the hall, I found her stone dead on the floor, and her head like the other victims of the horrid murders was completely dissevered from the torso. It was indeed such a ghastly scene, as there was the gore of blood everywhere. Her lifeless torso was submerged in the bloodbath that could be seen from afar. Upon one of the walls, I saw the inscription of the familiar words of Shakespeare.
'Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music! Beware the ides of March'.
There was also a letter that was left behind, and its contents were basically the words of one of the presumed killers goading me to catch them. It was addressed to me. The following contents of the letter I shared with utmost discretion.
Dear Detective Crow,
You who are wise and intelligent and will not back down, from a challenge; and one that rest assure you will enjoy to the fullest. If you are brazen to accept this exciting challenge, then be bold enough to find us. ‘Tis not important what my name is, or what you may decide to call me. What is more important is the cause we are seeking to impose. Perhaps you will think of me mad, but no madder than the social and political elites, who are nothing more than covetous leeches we slice and devour. We are devoted to our purpose, as you are to yours.
For decades we have tolerated the injustices imposed upon us, and no more, shall we stay idle and watch, how our rights to worship be destroyed. I shall not keep you any longer intrigued, but know that time is of the essence. 'The time of the ides of March, is present, the 15th of March!'
Indeed, today was that day—and it was the day the official opening of the London-Paris telephone system was to open to the public. But I was told due to the murders, the event was postponed. As I stood staring at the body of Madam Dillingham for one moment, an intruder would attack me from behind, as we struggled on the ground. He was dressed in all black, and had a mask on. I was fortunate enough to grab a rod from the hearth and struck the head of the assailant and he was unconscious. A large black mastiff entered, with its fierce sharp teeth, staring at me. I slowly grabbed my pistol from my waistcoat and shot the animal as it lunged toward me. The mastiff was lying then on the floor dead.
Soon, I would discover as I took off the mask of the intruder and checked his pockets that there was a note he was carrying. The note described a private meeting with the Marquess of Salisbury, the ruling leader of the Conservative Party at his home in Hertfordshire and a Mr Craddock. I knew then that their next victim however intrepid it may have seemed was the Leader of the House of Lords himself.
'Good God!' I muttered to myself.
I knew that I had very little time to waste, and that the plot was to thicken even more. Verily the immediate thought of the death of the Marquess was compelling me to hasten. Hurriedly I ran out of the home, and informed Harrison and Captain Bailey of the shocking discovery. There was little time to alert the authorities in Norfolk. Thence, we took the train to Norfolk and arrived there in the evening.
After arriving in Norfolk, we left the train station and took the carriage to the basilic estate in Hertfordshire. When we reached the estate, the Marquess was in the middle of an engagement he had with Mr Craddock, as they were sitting in the parlour. Mr Craddock was dressed in a debonair fashion with his elegant top hat, as he poured wine into the glass of the Marquess. They were lifting their glasses to drink, but I rushed into the parlour and took the glass from the Marquess, as he looked on with bemusement.
'Do not drink the wine Your Excellency!' I told him.
Mr Craddock rose to his feet then, and scurried but was captured by Captain Bailey afterwards. I quickly explained to the Marquess what was happening, and the guards of the old palace arrived with such immediacy. The devious and Machiavellian plot of the members of the Cult of Death was foiled and exposed clearly. But there was one more incredible surprise left, and it was a surprise I did not foresee or believe at all.
As Captain Bailey was busy detaining Mr Craddock, Harrison had pulled out his pistol and pointed the pistol toward me, while the Marquess stared in absolute bewilderment and ghastliness. Unknowingly, Harrison was a faithful member of the Cult of Death—but for how long? He showed me his ring, which I had seen earlier, but failed to associate it with the other members of the cult.
'What the bloody hell are you doing Harrison, with that pistol in hand?' I enquired.
He stared at me, with a devilish grin and said, 'Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music! Beware the ides of March'.
'Good God Harrison my boy, since when have you been involved in these murders and the cult?'
He laughed at me abderianly, 'Since the beginning Detective Crow'.
He hesitated then said, 'Who else would know all the details of the police sir?' He expressed, with a cynical stare.
'Now, put your pistol down, or I shall shoot the Marquess at point-blank range detective!'
I began to put the pieces together, and the minor details that I failed to notice of him. His demeanour since the start was peculiar, and his fidgetiness too was an indicator I did not equate to him. I did what he told me to do, and put the pistol down. But his inexperience and foolish desperation and obsession would cost him in the end, his life. The unstable commotion had alerted the guards, who were running toward the parlour from outside.
He then pointed the pistol at the Marquess of Salisbury. However, as he pulled the trigger at the frightened Marquess, a shot from afar to his head would make him fall on the ground dead. But not before he emoted, a last utterance that reminded me of the demented cause of the Cult of Death.
'Beware of the Ides of March, Your Excellency. Your day to die has arrived. I may die detective, but surely not the cause or the Cult of Death!'
He then died, with his eyes open wide. That was the terrible end of Harrison's life and the end as well, with the plot of the Cult of Death and the conclusion to the riddle of the skull murders. London and the rest of England were now rid of the horrible killing spree that terrorised the city, during the days of the month of March and the year of 1891.
The rest of the members of the cult were apprehended, committed suicide, or fled the country. New laws were imposed to deal with cults in England. As for the American and Frenchman, they were both soon apprehended in London as they tried to abscond. And the mystery of the large canine was solved also. The large canine that was mistaken for a beast was a mastiff.
The Metropolitan Police were commended with honours afterwards, and I Detective Wesley Crow received a noble award from the queen and Parliament. It appeared that the streets of London were to resume with normalcy. Although the years had passed, I still wondered in the depth of my mind, if there were not any more members of the Cult of Death still conspiring to relive the cause of that year.
The riddle of the skull murders had been solved, but yet I thought often of the daunting and memorable words of Harrison, and the written inscription, 'Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music! Beware the ides of March'.