It occurs to me that I haven’t posted any fiction here for a long while, so a little something that appeared on a website a long time ago:-
THE “OTHER” WOMAN
She awoke to horse hooves clattering on the cobblestones just outside the kitchen window and felt a twinge of annoyance at herself for nodding off again. It was something that happened increasingly often, a sign of encroaching old age and that maybe it was time to think seriously about packing it in. A couple more years and she would abandon this identity, retire to that chateau in the South of France she and Jamie had always promised themselves and live out the remainder of her days enjoying the wealth they had amassed.
No doubt His Nibs was off on another case then, out to set the world to rights. She chuckled at the thought. That funny little man from Scotland Yard with a face like a squashed toad and a Frenchie sounding name had called round earlier, and next door’s scullery maid had informed her, with the complete assurance of someone who knows more about what’s going on in other people’s houses than they do themselves, that His Nibs had been called in to help catch the Ripper. Not before time either. After last night’s double slaying all of London would be in a panic and the rozzers didn’t have a clue.
No doubt he would find a way to connect the killings with Jamie, making them part of some elaborate plot which would be as far from the truth as anything in the pages of the yellow press. The Professor was responsible for half the crimes in Europe according to His Nibs. It was a ridiculous assertion. Jamie was a dear man and a genius with the numbers, but anyone who spent more than five minutes in his company would realise he had no head for practical matters. The vaunted Napoleon of Crime was nothing more than a figurehead. Like everyone else in her organisation he followed orders.
She flung open the oven door and pulled out the crème caramel that was cooking there, the scent of vanilla assaulting her nostrils. She’d planned on serving it for supper, but now most of it would have to be thrown out, all her effort wasted. She was forever having to throw out food thanks to the peculiar hours kept by His Nibs. He never thought to inform her when he wouldn’t be home for meals. The man was inconsiderate. There was no other word for it.
When she’d finished scraping the dessert into a bowl she made her way up the stairs and along the landing to the door at the far end. She knocked twice to be on the safe side, before letting herself in with the duplicate key she’d had made unbeknown to His Nibs.
As usual he’d left the gas lamp on – London’s foremost consulting detective didn’t need to think about saving the pennies – and she sighed at what was revealed by its soft light; papers tossed everywhere, clothes flung across furniture, the draperies for which she’d paid a small fortune coated in dust through which their original maroon colour was barely visible and the air muggy with the aroma of that awful Turkish tobacco he smoked. It was a pig sty. Time and again she’d asked him to let her clean his rooms, but he’d always insisted that nothing must be touched lest it disrupt his precious system.
There were people who thought His Nibs was one of the greatest minds in London, but she knew better. If you wanted to know how orderly a man’s mind was you only had to ask his wife or landlady, whoever had to clean up after him.
Over on the desk was the evidence he was working on for his latest case, the tattered remnants of a woman’s dress covered in dried blood. She recognised it of course. Elizabeth Stride had been wearing it the night before when they’d met in Whitechapel and got things sorted. She’d begged for mercy even as the blade slid across her throat. She must have bled out; there’d been nowhere near such a mess at the time. Too bad that damned peddler had come along or she could have had some real fun with Long Liz. The nosy cow hadn’t deserved such an easy death.
Put to one side of the desk was the packet of cachous she’d planted on the body. His Nibs would have the rozzers chasing up every shopkeeper in London on account of those cachous. She loved playing tricks like that on him. There was the time she’d had one of her men take that blue blood’s boots from outside his hotel door and His Nibs had jumped to the conclusion that they were being used to give the scent to a carnivorous dog. She smiled at the memory of that.
When he’d written up the case in his journal, His Nibs’ friend the doctor had made the dog out to be some man eating monster that they’d been forced to shoot, and no doubt by the time the adventure was made public knowledge, which for reasons of confidentiality couldn’t happen until after milord’s demise, the beast would have grown even more fearsome in his imagination. For all that he claimed to despise the drivel put out by the yellow press, the good doctor was every bit as prone to sensationalism. In reality the monster hound had been nothing more than an overgrown puppy, wagging its tail and licking people, so full of affection and wanting to be friends with everyone.
She’d felt bad about the dog – the poor mutt hadn’t deserved to get shot – but the thought of Long Liz, naked and stretched out on a cold stone slab somewhere with her skin turning blue, soon put the smile back on her face. And if the Eddowes bitch, the other one she’d had to take care of, was there as well then that was all to the good. With darling Catherine she’d had more time, time to practise some of the tricks of his trade the good doctor had imparted to her over the years, with no idea at all of how that knowledge would be put to use. And the rozzers had jumped to the conclusion the killer was a medical man, which was simply too rich.
Jamie was a dear soul. She loved him and was certain that he loved her, but like all men he just couldn’t seem to keep his thing in his trousers. All men that is except for His Nibs, who was much too high and mighty to ever have anything to do with women. It wasn’t proper, a man being like that. She saw the way in which the consulting detective and the good doctor looked at each other sometimes, and it made her wonder about the relationship between the two men although she tried not to. The thought of something unnatural going on under her roof made her feel sick.
She didn’t mind Jamie’s whoring – she understood that he had certain needs she couldn’t satisfy and it was out of consideration for her really that he went with the likes of Long Liz and the others – but just recently he’d taken to talking to his whores about business, and that couldn’t be tolerated. Her secret had to be protected at all costs, and so the whores had to be silenced.
Satisfied that His Nibs would, as ever, be barking up the wrong tree, she let herself out after taking a last look round to be sure she’d left everything as she’d found it. Waste of any kind was something she simply abhorred and so the temptation to turn off the gas lamp was strong, but she denied it.
And then she stopped dead on the landing as a new and simply marvellous possibility occurred to her.
By mutilating the bodies she was trying to make the murders look like the work of a madman. Perhaps next time then she should take a souvenir, a slice of liver say or one of the kidneys, a nice tender ovary. Perhaps she would use the meat in one of her stews which His Nibs always claimed to like, though she knew he was just saying that because he thought it was what she wanted to hear as if he really enjoyed her cooking then surely he’d make the effort to be at table more often.
The irony of the great detective and his self-appointed biographer sitting down to their supper one night and unknowingly consuming a vital piece of evidence from their most important case was simply too wonderful for words. The mere thought of it filled her with delight.
As she descended the stairs Mrs Hudson smiled knowingly, and laid her plans.