-- It was the Season of Murder. Polly Nichols was first to fall, a poor woman in the oldest and most dangerous of professions. Three more swiftly followed. No one dared guess when the nightmare might end ... no one except Sherlock Holmes. And he had his hands full with other terrible men, beside whom Jack the Ripper was an amateur. --


A Special Brand of Courage

Part I - The Season of Murder
Unexpected Visitors
My Introduction to Horror

Part II - Rallying the Troops
Against the Clock
Holmes' Parade of Suspects
Trading Clues

Part III - Two More Pieces of the Puzzle
The Absent Detective
Our Revealing Reunion
In Deadly Pursuit

Part IV - An Abundance of False Leads
Quimby Earns His Magnifier
The Devil in the Dark
The Final Secret Revealed
The Beginning and The End

Part V - Eliminating the Impossible
Sacrifice ...
A Mother's Life In Shambles
... and Redemption
The Final Curtain Epilogue


Part I

In a strange and somewhat whimsical reversal of fortunes, and much to his personal chagrin, Sherlock Holmes' notoriety has for a stretch of years now kept him under the most watchful public eye. He complains constantly of it being deliberately invasive as any man with a fresh copy of the Times, whether honest or otherwise, may be practically spying over his shoulder from morn till moon! And while at times Holmes manages this circumstance to advantage, it proves a relentless irritation to his clandestine labors. Fame and infamy, he has grudgingly discovered, are but "two sides of a similar coin."

Still it is a mistake to believe there is only a public side to Holmes. Beyond the gaze of countless eyes he operates, ponders, and indeed lives on a level far removed from the world's superficial scrutiny. Despite his celebrity it is likely many remarkable features of his life will never come to light.

One extraordinary detail, however, is about to ...

The year was 1889. Blessed spring had come at last - new life to soften the deadly toll of winter. It was one of those especially cordial days, with birds and window flowers to brighten our morning walk, that we ended up by chance in the east hall of Scotland Yard. Once there we faced an impromptu gathering beside the cracked window, an audience eagerly prodding Holmes on man's criminal nature. He responded in lavish but predictable fashion:

"We inhabit a dangerous world, you may be sure of that! Everywhere there are cruelties and mistrust which lead even to war. Some of these I have had the privilege to help mitigate. A few years ago you may recall the Bulgarians and Serbs at each others' throats. The Kaiser hesitated to intervene, but was finally persuaded by a remarkably reassuring piece of information. Other human catastrophes are entirely beyond my powers; just to mention one there is now a new uprising in German East Africa. Such is the course of empires.

"Yet it is not empire entirely which makes it this way. It would be troubling enough if human greed and cruelty operated only on such a broad and conspicuous scale, but it does not limit itself to that sphere. It is the individual who shapes the larger world. Who allows his nature to corrupt all that is around him. On the individual scale I have brought to justice an army of blackguards and reprehensibles, still others lurk in the shadows. They are like weeds; more are always springing up. One can only pull the worst of them when spotted."

Desk Sergeant Murphy then joined the crowd, eager as ever to share the spotlight with Holmes. He was nudging his way to the front, announcing questions of his own: How might one distinguish between good and wicked natures? What are the surface clues of speech, manner, or appearance?

"Impossible to say," was Holmes' conclusive and immediate response. "Lord Chesterfield is certainly correct in saying you must look into a man as well as at him. We live a very proper life when that is the safest route, but underneath our pristine cover may be a regular book of horrors."

"But surely the eyes, Mr. 'Olmes? Or the face?"

"Really, Murphy, you surprise me! Our eyes give us means to look out upon the world but it is quite another matter for the world to see in. The face is a notoriously unreliable indicator. Anyone might know at a glance the roaring bully Dr. Roylott, whip in hand, was not to be trusted. He was far and away among the most pitiless and avaricious of souls. But consider Carruthers the saintly night watchman, whose wretched disfigurement made him shun the daylight, and presumed him guilty on looks alone."

"Well p'raps if you say so, Mr. 'Olmes. Though I've often enough found it to be otherwise. It seems a man's soul comes out through them very portals, to a more practiced eye. But if it be as you say, what signs of character may we depend on if not the obvious, 'eh Mr. 'Olmes?"

He had unwittingly asked the final question. Almost in reflex my friend touched his ribs then, a gesture I had seen all too often, and the performance abruptly ended.

We departed without another word, our puzzled audience drifting away behind us. For the world was not yet prepared to hear - nor Holmes sufficiently recovered to tell - the secret at his fingertips.

Now I am utterly compelled to do so. To rebuke new criticisms of his seeming negligence in those dark days. To finally lay bare Sherlock Holmes' only physical imperfection: a small jagged scar connecting the ribs nearest his heart, terrible reminder of a ruthless villain. Holmes prefers to think of it as testament to the character of one small, courageous child, of those long ago days.


The Season of Murder

"This morning I quite decided to leave them
to their own self-destruction, Watson.
My time is better spent elsewhere."

All the preceding winter evil roamed London streets. Polly Nichols was first to fall, a poor woman in the oldest and some ways most dangerous of professions. Miss Chapman and Stride and Eddowes were slain soon afterward, with no one daring to guess when the nightmare might end.

Every one of us put our lives on hold as London's premier investigators gave pursuit of the stalker their gravest attention. And the hunt proceeded daily, but not without utmost difficulty. A fog had descended around the official investigation cloaking much in secrecy. And while it is true many details were provided the London press, one always felt the official force preserving its best leads for future service. The papers, as well, were full of talk about official rivalries. Very prominent men were accused of scandalous interference in the matter!

It was of course impossible that Sherlock Holmes not be drawn into the maelstrom, but as time passed a maudlin disposition overtook him. The morning of October 5th put an end to his official role altogether. I remember vividly Holmes crumpling that morning paper, tossing it into the grate, and peering at me from beneath a troubled brow.

"Watson," he rasped in frustration, "This 'leather apron' is a text book specimen of what is wrong with official police work today. You know the Yard and Home Office are working the case, as is now the London force after the Eddowes killing. One would expect complete cooperation. Yet while there is ample material to keep them all busy, they play a child's game of jurisdictional jealousy. Expectations run high that whosoever catches the Ripper will gain world acclaim, an honor not to be shared lightly it seems. Everyone is apparently pursuing their own leads; no one willing to share even what little they know.

"I have myself been kept mostly at arms' length for fear of my snatching the prize! The only matter on which I have been consulted is examining boxes of letters ostensibly sent by the murderer. Or murderers. It is the usual stuff and nonsense. I have classified at least three dozen different writers claiming to be the one. And though some are dropping hints, it is no more than what is available to a fertile imagination. At least one writer seems to be some crackpot, already connected to the police investigation.

"The only thing of particular interest was the quality of paper. Some of it suggests writers of considerable fortune; it is heavyweight and bears watermarks from respectable establishments. Still nothing remarkable in that. Until a writer offers one shred of new information of which even the police were unawares, I cannot authenticate any of them.

"As for the authorities, Commissioner Warren does little more than police the crowds and impede progress. In fact it was he who erased the message. All I could salvage there was the Ripper being average height in cheap boots, and if not for the discarded box he stood upon I would not have even that." The chalk message, none could possibly forget, was found above a doorway on Goulston Street after the Eddowes murder. It was eradicated before photographing, and Holmes was outraged by this destruction of evidence.

"Matthews, the Home Secretary, is also no help. After yesterday's inquest he again refused to offer a public reward. To make matters worse the thing grows more confounded when witnesses do come forward. Many eye-witnesses conflict, and some make up stories merely to be mentioned in the paper. They report the killer is somewhere between a dock sailor and a respectable gentleman, tall or short, bearded or no, has four different heights and a like number of ages. One witness puts a suspect in the exact middle as 'shabby genteel'.

"He may be two-faced, or dare I say, two people? The majority focus on either a tall ruddy foreigner or short pallid Englishman near the scenes. One may be possibly a lookout for the other, but even these near matches are fraught with irregularities. At the Chapman inquest a foreigner with beard and possibly a moustache, near forty years of age, was seen by two people. Before the Stride murder, five others saw a short young Englishman who resembled your typical office clerk. One even made mention of a paper package in his hand. Another observed a much taller gentleman of thirty-five years. Half the suspects wore either wideawakes or toppers on their head, the rest bare-headed. All wore either dark or colorful clothing, and were somewhere between light complected and coal black."

With yet unflagging optimism, I volunteered, "this at least tells you something useful does it not?"

"Indeed it does," he replied in his most sarcastic tone. "It reconfirms for me the common man is an atrocious witness, who cannot recall with slightest assurance whether he witnessed a murder or a milk delivery! One killing is said to have taken place several times of the night and early morning, depending on whether we believe the neighborhood gossips, drunks, or street harlots. And make no mistake, the witnesses themselves are not above suspicion. There is for instance Mr. Stanley the brewery worker, who was Annie Chapman's live-in lover. She was badly knocked about just days before her murder. He claims her bruises were at the hands of another woman, though I suspect it was him in a fit of drink. That he did not appear for questioning till days after the murder is another sign of his dubious character." At this Holmes sank tiredly into the chair, rubbing his brow.

"It is a heavy load to sort through without help, Watson. It is bitter enough to have the cold shoulder over this from the regular forces; to be handed the same from Scotland Yard goes beyond insulting. Imagine me being kept from the case. They have entrusted me with grand affairs of state, yet I am denied the inner sanctum over one local madman. The only alternative left me is exploring places no one else has thought to look, and seriously limits my prospects."


He pointed now to a stack of papers blanketing our table. "A mere hundred or so. My quarry is well hidden either by official bungling, official help, or his own camouflage. Else he is new to the criminal underworld."

"But surely, Holmes, you have been in these straits before. Always they have welcomed you back in the end!" I was of course trying to be the prop for my friend's sagging spirits. Alas, my words had no soothing effect.

"This time it is different. They are so busy knifing each other they have not even time for me! I asked for an appointment with the Home Secretary and was for the first time turned away. There is no surer sign you have overstayed your welcome than the master of the house refusing you a minute of his time. This morning I quite decided to leave them to their own self-destruction, Watson. My time is better spent elsewhere."

And so the morning went. As did many of those mornings.

Ultimately, however, it was not the jealousies of the official investigation which drew Holmes off that crowded trail, but something quite unexpected. He did from time to time compose his thoughts and deliver them to anyone willing to listen. Yet when one is purposely excluded, there comes a bridge that cannot be crossed.

Unexpected Visitors

October brought with it a much needed glimmer of hope. As days passed with no new victims found, London itself seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Crowds no longer intercepted news carts ahead of delivery boys, and daily conversation turned inexorably back to weather and politics and horse races. Still there was no change at Baker Street; Holmes was entirely unable to shake his melancholy.

I note on one particular morning his mood worsened considerably over the morning paper, and I too began to feel the press of its relentless weight. An article mentioned a parcel delivered to the Whitechapel vigilance committee, containing a kidney with a note claiming it belonged to one of the victims. This hardly improved Holmes' disposition, and I was about to suggest a drastic change of scenery when I saw him suddenly look up.

"Here is something of interest, Watson. Come to the other window and tell me what you make of this."

Eager for any fresh distraction I rose instantly, to observe on the walk below a man in suit and tufted collar carrying gloves and cane. Following him slowly from the cab was a rather inebriated fellow in rags, who swayed awkwardly beside as they approached our very door. The sober one had to actually grip the other around the shoulders to help guide him.

"Someone has stayed too long at the pub," I scoffed, lifting the mood. "You see the second fellow's collar is hanging loose and his shirt open. His boots, as well, are sliding about as if unlaced. Perhaps his friend believes you can help him find his missing sobriety, Holmes?"

"My stars, Watson, you saw all that? And so quickly. You are becoming real competition for me."

Feeling encouraged I was about to make further guess, when something peculiar caught my eye. Their cab was not hired; it had strange markings on the side. Holmes immediately caught my altered expression.

"Ahh, a twinge of curiosity. Good Watson. Now you really are playing detective. That is an embassy coach of some kind, and the man you believe drunken is leaning on his companion for something other than balance. Note the shadow. He is the taller of the pair by nearly a foot, though bent as if from some terrible fatigue. More mental than physical, I should say, if he is come here to see me. His steps are steady, if painful, and I will wager you there is not a drop of drink in him.

"As for the shorter, the gloves on his arm are bright blue and he wears a narrow blue sash with piping. That is certainly unusual for a native Briton," said he, flipping hurriedly through his political almanac. "I should say the one is here representing his consulate - here is the page, Finland - and it is the worn fellow who requires our help."

On the heels of this prophetic remark a card was brought up by the boy announcing a Mr. Aalto. There was no clue who the other might be. When the two were admitted I myself opened the door for them, and to be certain on one point sniffed at the disheveled companion for traces of alcohol. Holmes concealed a smile as he caught me at this and inconspicuously wagged a finger to chastise.

He addressed them cheerfully.

"Do sit, Mr. Aalto. And as your companion is weary he may have this seat nearest the window. It is our most comfortable." Ulteriorly it was the chair with the best light at the moment, allowing Holmes a more thorough inspection of the man, but our guests preferred to stand.

"Very well, but you will permit me to remain where I am. You and your companion are Finnish, if I do not miss my guess. He has recently sailed from there with dire news, so perhaps it would be best if you proceed at once."

The man was clearly taken aback. "How ... how do you ... ?"

"It is of no consequence, really. As your time is undoubtedly short you have my full attention. Proceed."

With some vigor they communicated in their native tongue then, and it was plain to see the taller had a rudimentary understanding of English yet relied on his companion for clarification. When they had reached obvious agreement both turned back to us.

Mr. Aalto began the talk. "I believe we think right coming to you, Mr. Holmes. Your ... rep ... reputation ... well deserve," said the one with polite bow. "I am Aalto, aide to Finnish ambassador."

"And naturally you wish to keep this business out of official channels."

Again the man appeared startled, but immediately regained his composure. "Yes, secrecy important. We want help ... without making scandal."

"Oho, a scandal is it? I should have guessed as much. You see, Watson, when official persons deign to use unofficial means it is most always to avoid the light. Do go on please." Mr. Aalto did so, and when problems with translation slowed the narrative it afforded his unidentified companion time to stretch. True to predictions he stood a head taller, yet might be a stick figure without clothes to give him bulk. There were clear signs of long hunger, whereupon I motioned for him to help himself to the breakfast table. He dove in like a man possessed! Rarely have I seen such passion for food.

The aide Mr. Aalto was by contrast rather ordinary, a minor representative of his embassy and still learning our language. He informed us his tag-along guest hailed from Finland's interior somewhere above the Arctic Circle, a truly uninviting place. He described cruel winds there which can smash the very trees to splinters. He explained in summer the heatless sun circles endlessly overhead, before plunging the land into blackest winter. Kolari is a province within that territory where none but the hardiest eke out a living, and it was a farmer of that region presently gorging himself at our table. A decidedly unsuccessful farmer, I thought to myself.

Mr. Aalto continued, "Kolari is place the Finn philosopher describe as original home of poverty. Many survive on straw bread, potatoes. Others move away after famine ... twenty years ago. They go to Norway to England to America. This man leave Kolari for differs ... for different ... reason. His boy stolen by émigrés. We do not know why."

A kidnapping!

"If they were fleeing the law a child might prove a useful disguise," I ventured. "Or come in handy for stealing food," added Holmes, eyeing our voracious guest.

The aide spoke with renewed energy now. "Yes, just so! Men take boy and father want to save him. They ride carts on bad roads, very slow. Father catch them but is hit on head." Our guest spoke some words to his companion then, who bent forward to show us where he had taken a serious blow. "They do not kill him. When he wakes ... he think they must go west, so he hunt again."

"Brave fellow," I exclaimed with growing admiration.

"Yes indeed," put in Holmes.

Holmes next invited the father to speak, with Mr. Aalto translating. "It is usually better to have first-hand accounts when they are so convenient. You will ask him to lay out the details, and from time to time I will question any point I am not clear about." But at this the aide became strangely reticent. There passed a suspicious exchange of glances between them before he yielded the floor to his ragged companion. And so reluctantly at first, but eager for our help, his partner pushed aside breakfast and offered what he himself knew of the crime. Hardly were we over the shock of the kidnapping when confronted with another far exceeding it.

The boy was taken, he said, while he was tending his fields. Bending down to pull a root he heard suddenly the intermingled screams of his wife and child! Frantically he ran home, only to hear one final unearthly shriek. As he neared his hut he witnessed two strangers riding swiftly away on the village road, and inside found his wife with her belly slashed, her life's blood a muddy maroon puddle on the dirt floor. In mortal agony she gasped their boy had been taken and he must bring the child back at whatever cost ... these were the last words she ever uttered.

We lowered our heads at this calamitous news, till Holmes urged him on.

The men were on horseback and he had only his own two feet. By the time he reached his village they'd gone, taking along their carts, an evil third companion, and his boy. Those who witnessed the hasty escape offered what meager help they could provide. Hastily they equipped him with the settlement's only riding animal, a half-lame beast of no great speed, and threw on it a sparse bundle of supplies. Then wishing him well they promised to bury his wife, prayed for his son's safe rescue, and returned to their own wretched existence.

The quarry was fortunately slow and conspicuous. Initially they faced an expanse of empty tundra, a terrible stretch even for those with proper equipage. Much of Sweden was crossed by way of the habited Jokkmokk-Narvik road, and everywhere they were noticed and unwelcome by the locals. But the true ordeal fell to the father of the abducted child. With few supplies to sustain him he lived on wild plants, and once was attacked by animals, yet pursued the kidnappers as if every beat of his heart required it.

At Narvik on the cusp of Norway the quarry halted. Either exhaustion or a false sense of security held them there, for they had indeed reached the very fringe of civilization. And it was there the desperate father caught up with them.

Again the translator spoke of the man being knocked unconscious, but the father's expression hinted at a far more sinister encounter. In the previous discussion there were three kidnappers. Afterwards only two. In any event they were forced back on the road and turned their sights to England.

"And how did the Finnish embassy become involved?" was Holmes' question.

It seems by determination alone the father trailed them to London, where the embassy began making inquiries on his behalf. It was a rather lean investigation, we were informed, because they felt the boy was not in imminent danger. He was certainly not taken for ransom, was seen alive during his passage to England, and obviously had some intrinsic value to the men. There was no reason to fear for the child's welfare. Such was the father's fervid hope, a point on which we all hastened to reassure him.

When his tale ended the father returned to his chair, emotionally spent. I was myself overcome with empathy but Holmes seemed completely unaffected. The detective laced his fingers with an ill-timed yawn, saying in a somewhat patronizing way, "that is truly an inspiring tale. I've also no doubt you love your son dearly, and are anxious about getting him home as soon as possible. Still I must tell you I am quite absorbed in other matters which are, if you forgive my saying so, far more urgent."

A jolt ran through the room! Holmes himself felt the backlash and reacted in kind. "Certainly I share your concern. But the boy appears in no particular danger so you must excuse me. No doubt even you have heard there are murders being committed hereabouts in very dire fashion, and though all London seems to have excluded me from the formal investigation I am nonetheless committed. Should it be solved I will be more than happy to help search for your boy."

What Holmes failed to account for is that only a man without family could understand him directing his powers to the greater good. I steeled myself for what must immediately follow.

Words again flowed between the visitors, and though Mr. Aalto was clearly dismayed it was his companion who commanded my full attention. When made to comprehend help was not forthcoming after all, it was perhaps inevitable he begin calling his son's name and sobbing into his sleeve. And though no one could remain entirely unmoved my friend remained resolute; by apparent force of will alone Holmes turned away to stare out the window.

At this harsh dismissal the aide offered a few palliative words to his companion. Doubtless he was explaining Holmes' business with the Ripper, for I distinctly heard that word used, and they reluctantly gathered themselves to leave.

Mr. Aalto led their funerary procession to the door then. But just as he reached for the knob the father assumed a new look of such pleading, such pathetic despair, that no man could ignore it and count himself among the human race. The ambassador's aide turned to Holmes, lips drawn tight. There was something he had been holding back.

"Mr. Holmes, men who take boy ... they have name."

Without so much as a glance Holmes replied, "I presumed as much."

"No, they have special name."

"Perhaps you will choose to share it," was the noncommittal response.

In desperation Mr. Aalto turned once more to his companion, who merely increased his own look of urgency. The aide surrendered at last to his untenable position, cast his glance downward as if expecting the floor to give way, and drew an unsteady breath. Still no words came.

"Now see here," exclaimed Holmes, finally facing their direction. "If you have something to say then do so. I have other important matters waiting."

"Yes, just so," whereupon Mr. Aalto's face became suddenly resolute. He fixed cheerless eyes upon us.

"Mr. Holmes your rep ... reputation. It is ... it is international. It is why we choose you. You are ... familiarly ... with notorious criminals outside England?"

"I am in fact familiar with most of the world's riff-raff. But what has that to do with this?"

Without further hesitation the aide plunged ahead. "Men who take this boy, Mr. Holmes, they are the Teurastaa ...."

I assure you the name meant less than nothing to me.

It brought Sherlock Holmes to his knees. He staggered against the chair as if his heart had quit, his face blank with shock. Mr. Aalto spun towards me in afterthought adding "... the Butchers of Kolari."


My Introduction to Horror

A shroud of silence fell. How long it lasted I cannot say, but when Holmes collected his wits he was first to speak.

"Forgive me, I was unprepared. Never did I expect word of them within our own borders. Are you absolutely certain? This is not a thing that allows for mistakes."

"There is nothing to doubt."

My friend softened at last. Wordlessly he approached the anxious father, clasped the shaking hands, and sat quietly. Almost immediately Holmes closed in upon himself oblivious to all else. The aide who carried this apparently monstrous burden to our door sat relieved of its tremendous weight. And from near the door Esa Torvald, whose name we finally learned, looked on in stony silence.

It was Mr. Aalto who next stirred the air, addressing me directly. "If your friend help us this Ripper comes at good time. All eyes on him. Our little problem ... um, ignored ... you must agree no talk of Teurastaa. Only Finns know."

"Just a moment!" said I, "this sounds beyond dangerous. Who are these terrible men? 'Butcher' is not an accolade given lightly."

My momentary outburst served to break Holmes' trance.

"Rest assured, Watson, the label is well deserved. I begin to think every country has its own version of the Ripper.” He rose to his feet now. "The Finnish version is a pair, if memory serves. Is one not named Kivi?”

“Yes, just so. Aleksis Klami and Uuno Kivi.”

"Absurd names to our ears, but trust me Watson, in their homeland they inspire fear and loathing. These men have a history of inflicting torment wherever they go, and keep on the move so authorities cannot end their career. You know Finland is a Grand Duchy under Russia's Alexander, and he has himself set a large reward for their capture."

Mr. Aalto brightened at this reminder. "You can have all rewards, Mr. Holmes, and they are not hard men to catch. They are strangers here." But Holmes needed no further incentive.

"Would you do me the courtesy of writing down the boy's description and name? Watson will find you a paper. Also the translation of several expressions which I shall give to you, little phrases like 'the police are here'. I will prepare for you the necessary list. You must also help me learn to pronounce them."

"You want to know Finn language, Mr. Holmes?"

"Let us say I am beginning to take an interest."

And so agreeing our quests provided the language lessons, rehearsed with us, and departed at our next meal, the father filling his pockets with food.

With unexpected vigor Holmes next led me to the table, and eyeing the closed door spoke in whispers, "small wonder we are asked to keep it quiet, Watson. Fortunately that should not be hard, as he says, with all eyes on Whitechapel. These Teurastaa compare to our own butcher in many ways, which is why I must confront them without my faithful chronicler by my side."

I was stricken with disbelief. "Really Holmes! You do not consider us separable over danger? I have faced armies of devils in service to the Crown."

"Dear Watson, ever the loyal companion. But do not imagine this to be anything like your desert campaign. The Ghazi were mere cutthroats. These men positively delight in mutilation. It were better if they drowned on their voyage here, if it took the whole ship and the boy with them. If you but knew the rest you would not so readily throw your fate in with mine."

I was immovable.

"Very well, then." Holmes sat back and prepared himself, gathering together the many connected thoughts now complicating the history. Clearly it was no simple tale.

"There have been some brutal murders lately, Watson, apparently not all at the hands of 'leather apron'. In his shadow seem to be others who either imitate or share his sadistic nature. I have been investigating whether the killings were somehow tied together, but it seemed increasingly unlikely. Yesterday I was uncertain how to attribute these attacks. Perhaps today they stand explained.

"So far, I have four otherwise unaccountable mutilations. One body was so badly mangled it could not be determined when or where a crime took place, but it had been hacked to pieces. The second, a woman named Martha Tabram, was stabbed dozens of times with a crude knife.

"Two more were discovered almost side-by-side in a single night. One of these, an older man named Fleming, was on his way home from an errand. He never made it. He was discovered four days ago, throat cut, hands hewn from his body. He had no known enemies and it was not robbery. Not far away was also found an old woman. Possibly one victim witnessed an attack upon the other and was rewarded with a double-murder. I was permitted by the footman only a cursory examination of the scene before the officials arrived to boot me out, but logic presumes the woman was attacked first and the man sought to save her. He was a pugilist, if his ears and face are to be trusted, and the mutilation of his corpse would seem to be an act of retribution for his interference."

"But Holmes, I've read nothing of this."

"By design, Watson. By design. The last two murders occurred in a place that is frightening to conceive. I may not tell even you. Yet if there is more than one dark force at work in this city, I shall need reinforcements. The Regulars will hardly speak to me at present so I shall need the Irregulars," he remarked with sudden conviction.

This was another stunning surprise! To my knowledge Holmes had made but infrequent use of them in recent years, and this case was of such an evil nature he sought to exclude even me. Many of the originals had outgrown their usefulness and been dismissed, Holmes retiring them with some brief ceremony and a small magnifying lens. Those who remained seemed quite young for consequent value and I fervently opposed the risk. Nevertheless, his mind was made up.

"You need not be so concerned, Watson. Their duties will be superficial not perilous, and they have talents we as adults do not. Remember, you must never mistake size for ability. That dreadful pigmy was no bigger than they, yet capable of enormous evil." Then recalling it was that very episode which brought Mary into my life added with a smile "... and one enormous good. Now if you will excuse me there is much to be done." So supplying himself with the usual matches, pencils, and paper, he snatched up the few remaining bread rolls and headed for the door.

There he momentarily paused.

"If anything should happen Watson, well, you know my wishes." And at that he hurried out. I hoped not for the last time.

to be continued . . .

August 7, 2005