'There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to accept what is true'.—Soren Kierkegaard
I have had many fascinating cases before, but none as fanciful to believe in nature, as the case of 'The villain of the Shakespearean mask'—yes the great patron of English literature.
The year I recall was 1895, and I was in London at the St James Theatre in King Street. I was attending that night by invitation, the premiere of Oscar Wilde's last play, the comedy, the Importance of Being Earnest, when I had been summoned by the London Police to assist, in a shocking murder of a nobleman by Piccadilly Circus.
The suspicion was that the murder was linked, to a mysterious secret society perhaps. Since I had dealt previously in London, with the Cult of Death, it was presumed naturally that I would be the best appropriated in solving this significant case.
It was a renowned case that I accepted, as one of the highest accolades of supererogation, because it dealt with the supposed likeness of the death mask of Shakespeare.
My name you ask is Wesley Crow, a dedicated and determined detective of London. Jolly England would be terrorised and yet intrigued, with the startling mystery that bound Shakespeare and murder.
It would require extraordinary perception and intuitive action on my part, and absolute resolution to solve the mystery behind this case. I was highly determined to unravel this enigma, and to conclude with irrefutable evidence that the case was completely soluble.
Unfortunately, I was not able to finish the play and had been notified of the vicious murder. Immediately, I departed the theatre, and was escorted by way of a Hansom cab to Piccadilly Circus.
I arrived at the area soon afterwards, and was kindly met by Officer Hopkins, who had proceeded to inform me of the disconcerting incident, involving the deceased aristocrat.
He related as well the few clews retrieved at the shop in the corner of Piccadilly Circus, and then escorted me to the crime scene. It would seem that the intention of the murderer was not blatant thievery, since the evidence proved that rational presupposition.
It was logical to surmise that the death of the nobleman was perpetuated, by his deadly encounter with the murderer and his wealthy status; but I discovered that nothing of value was stolen. This anomaly was something to not be overlooked. The pending question that intrigued me straightaway, who was behind this horrible murder and possible connivance?
The thorough investigation would have to commence effectively, with the victim and the hour the murder transpired. This macabre detail, that was detected, was paramount in order to establish the chilling sequence of events that unfolded afterwards.
Once the duration of the crime was gradually deduced, I began suddenly to connect the hour of the crime, and the time that elapsed after the deed.
'Officer Hopkins, it seems that the murderer or thief was very precise in effectuating, his meticulous plan. However, there is one small piece of information that is substantial, his knowledge of the area. From my understanding, Piccadilly Circus is close to Oxford Street and Regent Street. Therefore, the culprit had access to an escape route in the West End. The area is affluent, he could have fled in the vicinity of these neighbourhoods, knowing that he could assimilate into the area, if he was dressed as a dapper gent. Or he could have fled into the perennial East End, if he was poorly dressed. Either way, he would have had to been masterful in his plan, and either option of escape was feasible. Did the victim know or even see plainly his aggressor? The other possibility was that the criminal was observing the victim and had followed him already, from the beginning, Hopkins', I stated.
'From the information known, this area is not known much for heavy crime Detective Crow', Hopkins replied.
'I did not think so, but nevertheless, we must reveal that discrepancy. It is then necessary that we speak to any witnesses'.
His response was, 'Witnesses sir, there were none, except one. A shopkeeper from a nearby shop was the one who found the victim dead on the ground'.
'Then the shopkeeper is who I need to speak to forthwith. Where is he at now Hopkins?'
'Presently, he is in the shop sir. I shall tell him to come at once'.
When the shopkeeper had arrived, I questioned him, 'Mr Banfield, you told the police that you saw the criminal?'
'Please tell me what you saw?'
'What I saw was horrible sir. But if you must know, I shall tell you the best I can. Oh, the memory still haunts me and is fresh. I was in the shop, when I saw from the window, a stranger passing by. I thought it was odd, since it was unusual to have anyone at that hour of night visiting the shop, and the few visitors that do, are all known customers, who know the closing hours. Just by mere coincidence, the victim Mr Hayward a customer had stopped and knocked on the front door. I was going to step out to address his enquiry, but he was viciously attacked from behind, by the killer who had returned. I did not imagine such a horrendous scene. The murderer had scurried away, but not before his appearance I saw. Oh, I cannot forget so easily, his guise', he related.
'Can you give me Mr Banfield, an accurate or broad description of the culprit?' I requested.
'Oh sir, as I said before, his guise was impossible to forget. He was tall and imposing, and dressed in all black with a long black cape. His shoes were clearly polished that the lustre was visible'.
'Were you able to see finally his countenance clearly?'
'No sir', he muttered.
'Why not, Mr Banfield?' I enquired concerned.
'Because, he was wearing a dark black mask then, but it was not an ordinary mask sir. It was a mask of Shakespeare I tell you!' He emoted passionately.
His particular description of the black mask was indicative of the peculiar essence of this occurrence. Mr Banfield was still vividly shaken, as it was fully demonstrated in his narrative.
Indeed, his regard for the victim was natural, since he had a close rapport with him. It was such a remote area, where the inhabitants knew each other well.
The declaration given in its totality by the shopkeeper was compelling, but yet, there were many questions that remained insoluble. From the information gathered afterwards, I had surmised the succession of the victims' death.
First, the murderer had followed the victim dressed in eccentric clothing, and wearing a revealing mask, like a duplicitous thief.
Second, the murderer then attacked the victim, when the streets at that time were not full with vigilant eyes.
Third, the murderer had calculated precisely his escape.
Fourth, the only solid clew was the shopkeeper's description of the assailant. This clew of the appearance of the crafty villain was the most interesting and was the reason the London Police summoned me in the first place.
The direct link to a cult was not proven with this murder, and could have been done, by a madman as well. I suspected the latter and began to reflect on the evidence.
I pondered his eclectic mien and the operative intelligence he could have possessed. How could he be adroit in carrying out his devised plan almost to perfection? Also, I conjured in my mind, the actual murderer's behaviour that was predisposed to murder if necessary.
It was probable that we were dealing with a planned murder and a furtive murderer. What was obvious was that the thief was after the victim. I could not dismiss this crime as a random act, but the evidence presented indicated it was not. This case progressed in its course, and I was forced to determine with acumen, the culprits' whereabouts.
The clew was his unusual appearance. The assumption was that the mask of Shakespeare served as a distraction to allow the criminal to not be discovered. A thorough inspection of the vicinity was imperative, as generally the criminal leaves behind other apposable clews not detected previously. This I would have to wait for in the morning, when there was adequate light.
The next day, I went to the crime scene, to confirm my assessment about the incident, and as well, continue the investigation. Hopkins was waiting for me already there, by the closed off area in front of the shop.
Piccadilly Circus was not closed off for the investigation, since it was a main thoroughfare in the West End. If I thought that I would discover more clews in the morning, I would be sorely wrong in my daring assumption.
The shopkeeper Mr Banfield had decided not to appear at the shop. Perhaps, he did not want unwanted publicity, and stayed home. His absence was regretful, since I wished to converse with him, about any other pertinent facts that were disregarded before. I would have to wait, until he returned to the shop.
Thus, the ascribable details then ascertained were more than a supported asseveration to proceed. I quickly realised that it was impossible to find any visible impressions left by the soles of the villain at that hour, with all the active waggons and carriages astir.
The ongoing commotion also disabled our attempt in determining precisely, the escape route of the murderer. It did impress us to search for clews elsewhere.
From my preliminary conclusion and report, the strange Shakespearean mask described by the shopkeeper was the important clew and what I concentrated on afterwards; although it was difficult to be analytical, when the reference to the bard would seem too unimaginative to fathom. I had heard and worked on cases involving masks before, but this would be the first of this nature.
I went to the headquarters of the London Police, where I was instantly informed of a suspicious letter that was sent to them, by an unknown individual, whose address remained unidentified.
The anonymous letter was addressed to me personally. I was not expecting any letter, and least from the culprit.
When I opened this letter, I perused with cautious and attentive eyes. I read each and every word, with a magnifying precision. The style of the writing denoted a sense of proficiency that was not a griffonage. After slowly reading the letter, there was no doubt in my mind that it was sent conspicuously, by the culprit.
This act of direct audacity of the villain provided for more suspense to the case, and would prove one of my presuppositions of the association of a cult, behind the murder. The following is the content of that letter.
26 October 1895:
Dear Detective Crow:
There is no need for trivial formalities or wearisome circumlocutions that are pointless.
Therefore, let us address ourselves, as sir to sir, within the gesture of cordiality granted, amongst men of our influence and stature. Allow me the gracious privilege to correspond with you respectfully.
Oh, I am certain that you will reciprocate and be receptive to that petition. There is no need for a pompous introduction, except by inclination.
As for the murder it was a splendid manifestation of execution. I would be remiss, if I did not mention the murder. There is no need to be sordid in the details, except that I have delightfully enjoyed this game of cat and mouse.
Naturally, I am the cat and the victim, the mouse. Soon, you will know more of my tendencies for death. Since you are a very inquisitive fellow, the name that you shall know of me is written on the bottom corner of this letter.
Hitherto, discretion was warranted, and I could not afford to succumb to mere abrogation. The letter was a confirmation of his chicanery and degree of supposed madness. Even though it was too early to conclude madness as the reason, but perhaps it could be then attributed to his dauntless pretensions and charientism.
After all there is precedence in all these irremissible acts of depravities and that are linked to their irresistibility to recognition and exposure, irrespective of their cause. He gravitates to the spotlight, as an actor does to a scene of a play.
This, I had attempted to obviate the best I can, with my punctilious and officious inspection of the mind of the criminal. His pertinacity had to be my perseverance, and that had to be a salient point, with regard to the method of killing he utilised in his perversion.
In spite of the courtesy expressed in the letter toward me, I was not inclined to forget that I was dealing, with a cold-blooded murderer. I found his propriety to be less impressive than his studious persuasions. I had presumed that his proclivity for fame had superseded his brutal action amain. Anon, I would not have to wait much to know of his unpredictable doings.
That late night the culprit struck, and the murder was in the West End again, on St James Street. And this time it was another wealthy merchant, who met his untimely death. The victim was a Mr Glover, whose shop was located on Piccadilly Circus.
As with the prior homicide, the victim's neck was slashed, from behind, and the killer was able to escape relatively, with few to no witnesses, who could completely recognise his appearance.
The only actual witness, who offered substantial evidence, was a peddler. He did see the criminal's guise, and he saw the direction he fled. What he disclosed was explicit and portentous.
Profound consideration was advised in the interpretation and extrapolation of the ordeal, since the extenuation of the crime was imperative. It was an opportune detail that could not be casually dismissed, with what we had gleaned.
The descriptive reference to the death mask of Shakespeare was consistent, with the shopkeeper from last night. Two murders in the West End of London, and yet, no arrest made.
Once more he eluded capture, with a stellar performance of stealthiness. However, there was a possible lead to explore in the East End.
The dilemma that presented itself was the night, and this was impossible to neglect. The dimension of the East End was terribly endemic, in the menagerie of its surroundings. The homogeneity of its dreary and hean slums was the absorption of the dregs of London Society.
There, you shall mostly find the social misfits accrued, in the accretive tenements—ex post facto. The London Police's priority was to seize the criminal at once, whilst I pondered his next move, like a pawn of chess. This hyperbolic analysis was not to be equated to any conciliatory overtures of concession.
The proximate course of the criminal I had anticipated and I would be accurate in my assumption, another correspondence that would be sent to me.
Oh, so popular was this criminal that he was becoming a celebrity, due to the attention of his crimes, and the intrepid mask he wore to commit his heinous acts of violence and intimidation.
The London newspapers had scandalised and as well sensationalised the murders, and called the case, 'The villain of the Shakespearean mask', which I thought absurd and unfounded.
Nathless it was the typical example of absolute insinuations and prefabricated rubbish of partial evidence indirectly. I discredited the validity of their tidings, but when I woke up in the morning, I was handed as aforesaid, another letter by the culprit.
27 October 1895:
Dear Detective Crow:
I am certain that if you are reading this letter, you are aware of my last victim. Once more, I shall not bother you with graphic details, except to say, that with each murder, my craving appetite intensifies and so does my uncontrollable ego.
I shall not stop, until I have satisfied my irrepressible urge completely and need for vengeance Detective Crow.
P S-Think of me, as your inspiration Detective Crow.
I noticed this particular letter was shorter in content and perissology, as if it was abridged intentionally. Did the criminal intend to write it in this manner or did he not have time, due to hasty circumstances that were imposed upon him?
If there was a definition of his characteristics, the agreeable notion would be that he was both unhinged and yet, influential in his appersonation. That would imply a responsible insinuation, from the aggregated facts of the case already. This would pale in comparison to a new clew that unfolded.
In the bottom portion of the letter by the signature, there was a singular unmistakable representation of a cult. The symbol was a hexagram.
There were two triangles, a Tiphareth of seven planets, with an intimidating snake swallowing tail in the centre that drew my attention. This intimation could have concluded the involvement of a cult, or merely, that the criminal was a former member. The potential chance of that obviousness was also to be deliberated effectively.
There was a pattern that was becoming more compatible with the events, and a visionary connivance emerged of the murderer. He was not extemporaneous in his murders, and ultimate ingannation was his implementation.
The indagation of the significance of the mysterious symbol could relieve the imposition that I had confronted, since the first murder. A fleeting moment of fanding permitted me to cogitate that oddity. It did not negate the fact that we still had no tentative suspect in custody.
His brazen hubris was a superior part of his personality that was adapting to the perverted game he was seeking.
Consecutive ideas were necessary to ascribe to my thinking, and I could not falter to jangled nerves. This case did not exceed the normal mode of a murder that I had not seen ere.
I was accustomed to decipher as with my previous cases, the irrational agenda of the murderer, and the driven propensity for murder. These factors were always present and vital in establishing the profile of the criminal. My commitment and also my duty compelled me to find a completion to this case.
I had instructed Hopkins to return to the crime scenes in the West End, whilst I was to pay a visit to the East End. I was aware of the notorious reputation of the area, but I had to discover all the critical information I could ascertain of the murderer. It was too antipodal to the West End.
When I raught the East End, I descried the weighty mud that lined the carriageways, and the daily air filled, with filthy soot and smoke. The blocked drains and amassed cesspools, below the houses and the poor wives pouring buckets of water, from the fourth storey cramped tenements were washing from standpipes given by landlords.
The acclaim of the Old Nichol, a slum in the East End personified the chronic armth of the loafers, miscreants, lurdans, labourers of Irish and Jewish immigrants. It was precisely the ideal place for a killer to hide comfortably, but it was as well, an ideal place for witnesses to be sought. Such infinite despair and misery was there to be found in the East End, but I did not come for a social gathering.
I began to search amidst the children of dire inanition, the elderly infirm, and the weary prostitutes. I was received by the local inhabitants, with reluctance and somewhat indifference at variation. The precarious ambiance did not discourage me at all from enquiring. I asked several persons within the adjacent neighbourhoods of the area, but few offered any valuable information.
But as I was strolling the slums, I noticed that a stranger was following me. His guise was too vague, since he was distant, and his eyes were covered, by the pince-nez spectacles that he wore.
What was transparent was his stature. He was tall as the description given, by the few witnesses who saw him.
When he perceived my awareness of his presence, he immediately disappeared, into the mist that had agglomerated, since he followed me. The bestraught mist had prevented my vision, and I did not know with certainty, where he disappeared.
I knew clearly that Clerkenwell Road and Theobald's Road were arterial roads linking the West End and East End. The question was which of the two, did he escape? That was the predicament to be resolved. If the stranger was the criminal, then he was stalking me with tenacity and observation.
That was a disturbing admission to concede so plainly. I had to take the risk of endangering myself in exposure, but my occupation demanded resolution.
As I was standing in the middle of the street with the fog around me, a fair to middling man approached me and began to speak. I was not certain if I was dealing with a quidnunctious fellow, but his disclosing words would be redounding in importance and provide me another clew of the criminal to grasp firmly. I would have to apply the maximum concentration of thoughts, if I was to connect the crime with the criminal.
'You are looking for the man, with the Shakespearen mask, aren't you chap?' The man asked.
'What can you tell me about him? You saw him? Where did he go?' I enquired.
'Oh, he vanished into the mist. However, I have seen him before at Brick Lane, Detective Crow'.
'Brick lane, you say? How do you know my name?'
'Oh, even here in the East End detective, we are cognisant to your doings in the newspapers'.
'I am Mr Powell detective, and what I know, is that he has been busy in the East End'.
'What is his name Mr Powell?' I asked curiously.
'His name, that I do not know detective. What I do know is that he travels about the West End to the East End', he responded.
That was the extent of the information provided, by Mr Powell. In the end it was not that relevant, except that the criminal was deft and celeripedean. But, I realised that the East End conducted to the West End.
Was he a resident of the East End or West End? The logical conclusion depended, on a careless action of his unmodulated discretion afterwards. The gallimaufry of the slums of the East End renewed my perception of the villain's access in the confluence of the London streets. I had to trap him like a hound does with a hare, amid a vast concourse of commoners. I had to remind myself of his perceptive foresight.
I left the East End and returned to the London Police to speak to Hopkins, who had attempted to interview the shopkeeper Mr Banfield, from the first murder.
When we spoke, he had mentioned that the shopkeeper was still absent. I thought his absence to be queer, since the area was a lofty place of business. I had this intuitive feeling that could be construed, as an unabated presentiment, regarding the whereabouts of the shopkeeper. Soon, my suspicion would result in suspense and terror.
I had Hopkins accompany me to the home of Mr Banfield, and when we arrived at his residence, we discovered a dead body in the patio bearing a welmish complexion, among the bushes.
Apparently, someone had murdered an individual and had disposed his body in the thicket of thorns nigh. The dead body was not Mr Banfield.
The signs all pointed to an evident murder. He appeared to have had his neck slashed. This form of execution was similar to the foregoing modus operandi used by the killer in the West End.
Thereafter, the body was taken to the morgue, as with the other deceased bodies. Certainly, the criminal killed the man to perhaps maintain his silence—or without me knowing, he was stalking him as the next victim.
The victim appeared to be a simple labourer. There was no clew, but I sense the brash murderer was swift. Perhaps, he did not have much time to commit the crime. This murder also denoted the capacity of the criminal to go from one place to another, without much detection.
His range was impeccable and calculating. However, from the murdering pattern deduced, it did not extend, beyond the area of the West End. He could have easily killed in Westminster or Soho, but he did not—or chose not to.
This would lead to the conclusion that he was after merchants or men of wealth. If so, then what was the reason for this obvious selection? Was it for a subversive purpose gone astray? It was clear that whatever caused this spree of murders was aligned to some form of rational thinking.
But yet, could a madman have the superlative and ratiocinative ability to be consciously enough to make a distinction, between what is right from wrong?
The answer was twofold, and if I was going to apprehend him then, I would have to thoroughly investigate more the mysterious symbol, and have more vigilance in the West End and East End.
A strict curfew was afterwards imposed, upon the manifold Londoners. I wanted to avoid the scandalous newspapers, but it was clearly impossible to handle this case, as a pair of insignificant murders any longer.
I realised that despite their nuisance, I had to solicit their service, and it would happened, when I received the following letter sent, by the criminal that contained an abstruse an intricate cryptogram that was attached.
The murderer was callous, but his plot was not obtuse in nature. The odd cryptogram was an elaborate and convoluted conundrum that required profound rumination of miscellaneous symbols. They were written in clever cryptograms in English, and numerals. The letters added were in Hebrew. The letter also contained his demented agenda as usual.
His rhetoric was becoming more and more unstable and erratic in composition. I explained to Hopkins the need to publish an article in the newspaper, asking the public for assistance in solving the cryptogram's message. The content of the letter I divulge with discretion.
28th of October 1895:
Dear Detective Crow:
Oh, you are so shrewd and persistent in your diligent investigation, but I am more pertinacious in my resolution to achieve my objective.
If you are wondering who I am, you will never discover then, my actual identity. I am among the Londoners, and my true guise is reflective of any Londoner nowadays.
This game of death thrills me more, with illimitable passion and accretion. The murders will continue, and to entertain you more, I have designed a very brilliant cryptogram for you to decipher at will.
'This man is no man at all detective but a monster!' Hopkins responded.
'No Hopkins, he is a man and not a monster as you believe. The truth is that he is no ordinary man—for he is a calculated deranged fellow', I rejoined.
After wrixling, we waited days for a response, and the murders continued, without abeyance. The enigma intensified, along with the victims counted. There was absolute panic and preoccupation in the West End, and caution was indispensable.
The periphery of London was becoming the centre of attention, as a death was reported in Soho, and attributed to the killer.
The letters had continued and so did the cryptograms. Where amidst the miscellany of London was the lair of the murderer? Unfortunately, that reply would not be concise.
The Shakespearean mask was not extraneous in identifying the culprit—for it was only a cunning pretext devised. The mention of the killer's praeternatural prowess was dogmatic and redundant in the end. It would not take long, before we received an immediate correspondence from an individual, who was willing to assist us in the case.
His name was Mr Attenborough, and he was a professor from the University of London. He was a very studious fellow, and his disclosure of the cryptogram would be shocking and intrinsic. It would authenticate then, my horrid intimation of an involvement of a cult. He began to describe the nature of the cryptogram and the origin of the cult, after his perlustration of the letters.
'Detective Crow, have you ever heard of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn ‘Ordo Hermeticus Aurorae Aureae’ in Latin?' Professor Attenborough asked me.
'I am afraid I have not,' I answered.
'It is a pagan group devoted to the study and practice of the occult, metaphysics, and paranormal activities. The cult focuses on theurgy and spiritual development. It is possible that the author of this cryptogram and letter belonged to the Secret Chiefs, the highest level of the organisation. The Cipher Manuscripts are sixty folios containing the structural outline of a series of magical initiation rituals corresponding to the spiritual elements of earth, air, water and fire. They are written in cryptograms in English, and numerals. Letters are in Hebrew, such as the cryptograms I have perused before'.
'Good God, how many members are there?'
'There are roughly, a hundred members of the Victorian society, such as Yeats, Machen, Underhill, Crowley, and Mr Hastings, who are suspected to be members of this progressive group', he confirmed.
'These famous individuals are all at the heart of the avant-garde of the thinking of contemporary England'.
'Think of the killer, as your inspiration Detective Crow'.
Apparently, the cryptogram revealed the entirety of the cryptic message and then exposed the hidden agenda of the murderer at last. But there was another incredible revelation the murderer was a well-established man, who could be a merchant, a politician, a magistrate, or an artist.
The troublesome message of the cryptogram was that the next victim would be a member of the Parliament. I told Hopkins to inform the Palace of Westminster of this astonishing possibility, with immediacy. Soon, the vigilance of the palace and the politicians were put on heightened alert.
This meant the killer would strike in Westminster. Could he be so bold to attempt, such a maniacal artifice, and expose himself to being captured? Professor Attenborough had performed an outstanding achievement in deciphering the cryptogram.
The culprit had to be held accountable, for his despicable actions taken. There was no definite or repressive irresolution seen by him too, as his lethal course of murdering seemed irrevocable.
I began to seriously ponder the imperceptible clews that were unclear before, but yet, I had discarded one of the great importance, the illustrious Shakespearean mask.
Where could I truly find substantive evidence on the history of the mask?
I had an expert of Shakespeare appear at the London Police, a Mr Winham. This kind gentleman was also a professor.
He described the death mask discovered by Ludwig Becker in 1849, later disproved, because of the bony structure of the forehead. The staring eyes, the heavy face, the small sharp nose, and the upper lip, was elongated.
He then mentioned the Droeshout engraving with description. The head was clearly too big for the body. The forehead seemed bulbous, almost hydrocephalic. The whiskers of the moustache and goatee were not convincing. The left eye was queer and had a bump around the outer edge of the eyebrow. The Janssen bust, by Gheerart Janssen was as well discussed. In the end, I requested the statuary to make me a bust of the Shakespearean Mask that resembled the one used, by the killer.
When he had finished the bust, it was impressively exact, as the mask of the murderer. It was so efficiently shaped that the resembled bust was very precise in the contours of the vizard completely.
That day was spent in surveillance and protection of the Palace of Westminster. It was inconceivable that he would devise, such a deliberate concoction to murder a member of the Parliament.
Nevertheless, all our attention and resources were concentrated, in the adjacent area of Westminster. We waited and waited, and yet, no evident sign of the murderer.
At around eight o'clock the large clock of the tower of Big Ben struck, and unknown to us, another murder had been committed in the West End, by the culprit. He had deceived us in believing that he would kill a member of the Parliament, when his intention was in the West End.
It was indeed a very masterful plan carried out, with exceptional precision. The scoundrel had outwitted me, but it would be the last time he did.
The victim in the West End was another shopkeeper, who met the grim reaper. As for clews there was the familiar description of the mask, and little much in the way of substance.
Another letter was sent by the killer and another cryptogram too. This time the killer made one fatal mistake that was his scaevity, he left a partial seal on the letter that appeared to be a smudge from a first look.
After further examination, the seal was legible, and it belonged to a company, by the name of Simpson's Textile Company. This particular company once discovered had changed the course of the investigation.
This recent development, that unfolded, was a favourable boon to be capitalised. Certainly, the chance of solving this case increased, with this potential breakthrough.
Immediately, I instructed Hopkins to locate the address of the company. Fortunately, for us he located the address in the East End. It was a building on Wentworth Street.
While Hopkins was busy handling that vital assignment, I went to pay a visit to Professor Attenborough, from the London Police, and have him answer an enquiry of mine that was puzzling me.
I shall not reveal the content of the last letter sent, except for one key piece of evidence. The reference to Professor Winham. The daring villain had mentioned him and criticised him harshly, for his ineptitude. What I found peculiar was the fact that no one knew of the involvement of the professor in the case, except those who were involved in the case. That would imply that the killer must have known Professor Winham.
I knew he had imparted classes at the London University too, and along the way, I pondered on the possibility of him actually knowing Professor Winham as an acquaintance. I was told upon my arrival to the university that he was not present.
I had been given Professor Attenborough's domicile, and I headed there with intrigue. He lived in the prominent area of the West End, close to the juncture of the West and East End. Prudently once at the house, I knocked several times before he answered the door.
His reaction was surprise, and the utter expression displayed upon his countenance was bemusement. I had the impression that he was not expecting my visit convivial or official in nature. He then invited me inside the parlour, where I sat down in a settee.
He offered me tea, and while I waited, I perceived a strange aura of eeriness that prevailed over the house.
However, I was not certain what exactly it was, until I stared at a peculiar bust that was placed there. It was the bust of Shakespeare. The very same bust the sculptor had shaped so magnificently at my request. I rose to my feet to observe the statue, when Professor Attenborough had seen me standing in front of it.
'Think of it, as your inspiration Detective Crow', Professor Attenborough said.
'What? Good God! I did not hear you come', I replied.
'The bust detective. I am referring to the bust'.
'Indeed, it is a remarkable bust. Where did you acquire the bust, for it looks like a replica of the bust that a sculptor made for the case?'
'That is very simple to explain. You see, Professor Winham is an old acquaintance, from the university days as a student. He had mentioned to me that he was assisting on a case. He did not expound on the matter. He had recently been given a sculptured bust of Shakespeare, when I visited his home. I was captivated by this masterpiece that I asked him, if I could purchase the bust. I paid him handsomely then. I must admit we have had our moments of disagreements many times', Professor Attenborough related.
'Interesting! I was not aware of that acquaintanceship. The reason why I came to see you Professor Attenborough was the latest letter by the killer making a reference of his persona, and it is not flattering', I said as I handed him the letter.
He read it and then responded, 'I understand, but how would the killer know of my involvement in the case?'
'Unless the murderer was aware of your involvement'.
'Are you implying that the killer knows me detective?'
'Perhaps professor, perhaps'.
I left his residence, but I left with serious doubts. And one of those doubts was the accuracy of the story of Professor Attenborough.
If he was an old acquaintance of Professor Winham, then why would Professor Attenborough be so amicable with a man who had criticised him? There was a unique mystery behind this new revelation of the professor. I decided to visit the residence of Professor Winham.
Could Professor Winham know the killer, or worse—was the murderer? I had not even contemplated that eventuality.
Professor Attenborough had been so kind to give me his current address. But when I reached his home after knocking he was not at his house. The servant had informed me of his absence. Since he was not present, I returned to the London Police.
Hopkins was in the hall waiting for me. He told me that Professor Winham was in his office, waiting to speak to me, but before I went to have a conversation with the professor, he gave me a list of the names of the benefactors of Simpson's Textile Company.
And there amongst the names listed was Professor Winham. Was this a mere coincidence or his involvement in the horrid murders—be it a willing accomplice? I entered the office to speak to Professor Winham.
'Professor Winham, just the man I was looking for', I said.
He was extremely nervous, as if something was troubling him, 'Detective Crow, you have to help me. The killer is after me. He is stalking me!' Professor Winham asserted.
'Could it because, you are a member of The Heremine Order Professor?'
His reaction was not of culpability and resignation, 'I don't know what you are alluding to detective?'
'Then you don't need my protection professor?'
'Yes it is true, I am a member of that organisation. But I am no killer!'
'Professor Winham, what is your relationship with Professor Attenborough?'
'Professor Attenborough you say? I have not spoken to him in years'.
'You did not sell him a bust of Shakespeare?'
'No. I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding detective'.
I realised that if Professor Winham was telling the truth, then Professor Attenborough was the murderer. But what if Professor Winham was lying and he was the murderer? Perhaps they were both in collusion. This, I would have to solve at once, before another murder was perpetrated.
I had to devise a plan in which I could not only trap the murderer, but as well unveil his true identity. This was the only way I could decipher the mystery.
Thus, I had Professor Winham assist me in solving this case, but as the necessary decoy. Judging from the description of the murderer, the professors both could resemble the killer. Even though there is a tendency amongst witnesses to exaggerate or be wrong in their assumption.
The location for this experimental trap was the East End. I had a strong bodement that I would find the murderer there.
It was late in the evening, when we waited in the area. Hopkins was abiding in the junction between the West End and East End.
At around midnight, the murderer appeared in Brick Lane. He was wearing the familiar black polished shoes and long black cape that Mr Banfield, the first shopkeeper had described earlier.
Professor Winham was standing at the corner of the street, when a stranger appeared from afar. It was Professor Attenborough, except he was not wearing the mask. Then, from behind us came a black brougham that rode tantivy, through the darkness.
The intention of the driver was to murder Professor Winham and Professor Attenborough. I saw the guise of the driver, and he was wearing also, the black polished shoes and the long black cape of the culprit. However, there was one distinctive impression, and it was the horrendous Shakespearean mask.
There was no doubt, he was the absolute killer. I ordered the driver of a carriage that was passing, to follow the mysterious carriage of the murderer. Like a madman the killer drove his carriage, as my driver followed.
Since Hopkins was waiting at the West End, with the London Police, the murderer was forced to take a road that led toward the marsh embankment by the River Thames.
There his carriage hit a large rock, and flipped over, throwing him on the ground. He was badly hurt, as he attempted to escape. But he did not get far, and when I reached him, he stopped and confronted me.
'Think of me as your inspiration Mr Crow', said the murderer.
'It is Detective Crow Mr Banfield. I know everything. Give up!' I replied, as I held a gun to him.
I then explained to him, 'You almost fooled me and got away with not only the murders, but the large sum of money, you would have inherited with the others dead and the complete dominion of the order too. I noticed that from your declaration that you had seen the culprit's shoes that were muddy, and yet, you were inside the shop. But when I noticed your shoes, they were polished. This was impossible, if you had been walking the streets that night. Then there is mention of his height. Both Professor Attenborough and Professor Winham are tall like the killer, but so are you. Oh, you seem shorter, because you pretended to have a limp, when you don't have one. I noticed that afterwards with the footprints, but did not pay attention to that detail. Then there was the list of benefactors of Simpson's Textile Company that had included your name on the chevisance. You were behind the letters and cryptograms, along with the jactitation. As a member of the order, you knew of the involvement in the case of both of the professors. The seal was the definite answer to solving the case. You were prevalent to every little detail, except that you underestimated my sapience Mr Banfield. Now, remove your mask and put your hands up. You are under arrest'.
'Clever, you are detective, but you forget one thing, a criminal never lies to confess', he retorted.
He attempted to flee, but I shot him. He died instantly, as his body lain in the Thames River. When Hopkins arrived, we removed his floating body and mask.
And when we did, it was indeed the face of Mr Banfield. Hopkins was informed of my plan, but he did not know that Mr Banfield was the murderer.
As for Professor Winham and Professor Attenborough, they were arrested and charged with conspiracy and collusion; although their involvement in the murders could not be directly proven. They received a sentence of ten years in prison.
The members of the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn that did not participate were not charged, but the group's illicit activities were stopped.
The unthank to the order was not enough to dissuade its followers, since not all of the sundry members were involved, in the crimes committed.
I had received a letter but this time, from an anonymous author thanking me, for apprehending the criminals, and for not equating all the members of the order, as criminals.
I was even given a copy of his newest novel. I shall not disclose the name of this famous author bespoken. As for the mask of Shakespeare, it was destroyed. But, I did keep the bust in my hall, as a token reminder of the brilliance of William Shakespeare.