The BlueKilns Wharf incident
The report of Boughman Bart Culip to the Hearts of Oak Board
Brothers I have deemed it proper to give a full report as to the happenings here due to the troublesome consequences likely to ensue. As far as can ascertain the sequence of events are these.
Around eleven o’clock a group of five men and two women emerged from Chinatown into Narrow Street. They gave Ashantee Abe the licensed beggar two whole shillings, proving that they were Toffs. They turned right towards the Bluekiln worker’s gate where local lads loosed stones at them from catapults. The group paused whilst two of their number chased the lads. These then found the body of the harlot Fanny Smith against the Kiln works wall. A licensed employee of Sally Rotherhythe she was off duty or possibly actually moonlighting. Her true name is thought to be Mrs Philomena Swanscombe of 16 Barnet Street Poplar. She had been strangled. The Toffs told Ashantee Abe of their find and he sent his boy running off to the police station. In fact he met Constable Leatherhead on patrol, who immediately proceeded towards the scene of the crime. Meanwhile the Toffs inveigled their way past Adams the worker’s gatekeeper. They had the key to unlock the gate and told him that they were getting a passage on the Iron Duke. The body was left unattended until the harlots Joan and Jill, on duty patrol, stumbled over it. Being well acquainted with the victim, Joan screamed and Jill fainted! Whereupon Ashantee Abe joined them, telling them that his boy had gone for the police. This murder is very unsettling for the people here and is likely to attract unwelcome outside police interference. It also results in the loss of sixpence a week for my Bough until Fanny can be replaced. Sally’s other girls are now reluctant to go out on patrol. I told her that we would dispose of him if we caught him!
Around twelve minutes past eleven, Stanley the Newspaper seller of the Limehouse Lyre, saw four ‘suspect blokes’ coming down the Mary Road. He did not recognise any of them but Sergeant Tuckerton outside the police station did. From their photographs he recognised two of the four as being Sandy Harbour and John Wilkes. He then called out his three constables for support and demanded that the suspects come into the Police Station. This they did reluctantly. However when he said that he would hold them there until higher authority came, they turned violent and a brawl ensued. Our police had the worst of it and were stunned, handcuffed and locked in the cells!
Sandy Harbour, John Wilkes and the other two proceeded to the wharf gate and climbed over it. Challenged by the gate-keepers they incapacitated Derby. Harker’s blunderbuss misfired so that, wounded and outnumbered he ran off to warn the Professor.
Stanley the Newspaper seller came into my pub to tell me that Sandy Harbour and John Wilkes with two others, had not been held in the police station but had gone down towards the wharf. This sounded serious so I closed up and took Bartholemew, Hobart and Benjamin out to check at the police station. We found the Sergeant and three constables had been beaten up handcuffed and locked in their own cells. The cells keys were missing so I sent for jemmy’s and hacksaws to get them free. We had to wait twenty minutes before Benjamin fetched these and we could free them. Outside, Stanley the Newspaper seller said he thought he had heard shots at the wharf! So we, including the four police went down to the wharf main gate. In front of it was a mongrel lying whimpering and the body of a woman. “Strewth Bart she’s goner!” exclaimed Sergeant Tuckerton. “Looks like she’s been strangled!”
“She aint one of ours! Look at them boots!” exclaimed Hobart. ”She’s a gentry mort! What would she be doing here? Has them troublemakers done for her? Why would they do that?”
“Chalk, shut that dogs whining up will you! I cannot think with that noise.” ordered the Sergeant and PC Chalk silenced it with his truncheon.
I said that there was word that there was a strangler about after the harlots. Maybe copying Jack the Ripper. She may have been a victim of his but she did not look like a harlot. I was thinking that this murder would likely draw too much attention to our Bough. At that time I was still unaware of the murder of Fanny Smith. So I ordered Hobart and Benjamin to dispose of both the woman and the dog. So they carried them off to Ballast Wharf for dispatching out into the Thames. Leaving Stanley outside on watch the remaining six of us climbed over the gate. We found Derby lying still unconscious beside the gatehouse. Leaving Bartholemew with him we went across to the SS Iron Duke. On the quay beside it lay Carl one of the Professor enforcers. He had a bullet hole in him which had been bandaged? We stopped and listened but all seemed to be quiet now in the wharf. Then Second mate Pandit came to the gunwale of his steamer,
“A customs officer has been and searched all the ship. He has found nothing wrong. The men with him shot that bodyguard and the two French women ran away. There was then more firing beside the Maid of Orleans but I think everyone down there is gone.”
I asked “Are there goods in the warehouse that should be moved. I mean in case the custom’s man comes back. If there has been shooting other police may come too! Should you sail away?”
He replied “There is no need to sail away as he found nothing. If we sail they will be suspicious! There are goods in sheds one and three that might be questionable. It would be better if they were taken inland which is their destination rather than out to sea.”
So as the rest of the wharf was still quiet I told him to have his men plus the police to get the goods out. We would take them to the nearby Bentham slum. The Bentham’s were overdue with their rent and would have to find somewhere else. I sent Bartholemew and a police constable to carry Carl there and tell Joe Bentham his slum was requisitioned.
Then the sergeant and I went to visit the Maid of Orleans which was now wholly unoccupied. In the dark we could not notice any signs of a struggle, so we went to Warehouse Three. I knew this was where some of the Professor’s people hung out. It too was empty of people but bung full of arty crafty stuff such as the toffs live with. I decided that if time permitted we would collect all the easy to carry stuff, to be taken also to the Bentham Slum. Then I went to the workers gatehouse and found Adams still there on duty. He said that he had let in two Toff women, a Chinaman and four other men earlier as they said they were going to sail on a ship. He presumed that this would be the Iron Duke. Then he mentioned that they had found the body of Fanny Smith and that Ashantee Abe had had his boy call Constable Leatherhead. Leatherhead had called for the Doctor and now the body had been taken to his surgery. Adams had heard firing down by the ships whilst this was going on. After they had gone, the first Toffs with some others had come out bearing wounded men on the kilnware trolleys. Five wounded he had counted including a Chinese one. The whole gang of them had gone off into Chinatown. The Sergeant and I then went up to check with Ashantee Abe. He confirmed Adams’ story and said that Fanny Smith had definitely been strangled. That meant we were bound to have Scotland Yard snooping around! Worse, Abe said that the Prof was one of the wounded, which might be a serious blow to the Society. Brothers, I decided that Carl and the Sergeant should be sent away to our friends in Hull to start a new life. The constables should be safe enough, saying that they were just following the Sergeants orders. Adams did nothing the authorities can complain off and Derby was just defending the wharf from raiders. Seeing people climbing in over the gate! How should he know different? The Silchester Line can do their own explaining.
Since writing the above there have now been investigators come to the wharf but they have found little. I think we are fairly safe still but will need to work on the new police sent to the station. The old constables got posted elsewhere. I did set up some inquiries into tracking down who had strangled Fanny Smith. I had heard that there have recently been at least three other harlots killed in a like manner north of the river. However as you may know, the first Poplar Bough caught him and disposed of him, when he was seen killing Harriet Mayberry. And that concludes my report. Bart Culip
* * *
Dr Watson’s Journal
So we arrived at the top of Mary Road a little late. Holmes immediately noticed that there was a man selling newspapers outside the Queen’s head Pub. He thought it rather suspicious at this time of night? “He is undoubtedly a lurker ready to warn his criminal confederates of any dangers that may arise. See how he watches us!”
“It is probably Moriarty himself in disguise” I joked. Holmes gave the man a hard look in return as we went past. But trouble lay ahead as a police sergeant smoking outside his police station, called his constables out to stop us! He pointed at me!
“You are John Wilkes and I must detain you!”
“Nonsense that is Doctor Watson and we are about our lawful business!” snorted Holmes. But the Sergeant exclaimed, “And you are Sandy Harbour Sir, who is also on my suspects list! Please come into the station gentlemen so we can check the photographs!” So we and the four policemen all crammed into the police station. The Sergeant produced his photographs, which did indeed appear to show Holmes and I with different names. Inspector Hastings produced his warrant and said he would vouch for us. But the Sergeant said that orders were orders and he must hold the two of us in custody until his superiors came! “But I am a customs Officer and I need these two men to assist me at the wharf!” exclaimed Hibberd.
“I cannot help that Sir, you will just have to go away and come back later!” replied the Sergeant. Hibberd hit him and in an instant everyone was fighting. I hit a constable on the side of his helmet and soon three were down unconscious and the fourth surrendered. “Handcuff them with their own cuff’s!” suggested Holmes.
“I was nowhere near here gentlemen! Otherwise this might be a bit difficult to explain!” Muttered Inspector Hastings, who had received a sore blow to his left cheek.
“These men have undoubtedly been either duped or bribed by crooked forces, probably Professor Moriarty.” Holmes told him. “It does indicate that they have something that they wish to hide at the wharf!”
Having handcuffed and gagged the police we dragged them to the cells and locked them in. Then we went out and carried on down towards the wharf. Just as in Bidulph Road, we were annoyed by a woman with a crying baby! She begged money to buy milk and Holmes tossed her a penny just to get rid of her. As we reached the main gate to the wharf, we were menaced by a starving mongrel. I helped Holmes and Hasting up onto the gate and they, sitting on it, reached down to heave me and Hibberd up and over. Unfortunately Hibberd mistimed his jump and fell back down. This gave the mongrel its chance to try and get a mouthful. However Hibberd was in a fine rage by now and gave it such a clout on the nose that it passed out. However the two men in the gatehouse took us for burglars and came out to attack us. One had only a truncheon but the other more seriously, tried to fire a blunderbuss at us. Fortunately it misfired and he ran away. I stunned the truncheon man and we halted to take stock of the situation. Three figures were approaching along the wharf by the light of a flickering candle. An indication of the total lack of wind that night. The first two figures turned out to be women who said ‘Bon soir!’ but the third was a man armed with a pistol who demanded to know who we were and what we were doing. I was wondering if I ought put some arnica on Hibberd’s cheek which even in the dark I could see had swollen up, when the watchman or whatever he was shot me! As with the heroes in the sixpenny novels, the bullet hit me in the left shoulder without hitting a vital spot or breaking a bone. (It did chip my scapula.) Holmes and Hibberd fired back and the man dropped down. So I had two patients to treat whilst the other three went to search the ship, my enemy and myself! The two women hastened away along the wharf into the darkness. No nursing their companion for them! The ship the Iron Duke was manned by Lascars including the Second Mate in charge. After Hibberd showed him his warrant he seemed very willing to answer any questions. Although the ship had steam up, this was merely for in case there was an urgent cargo to be moved. There was no cargo aboard and the crew was only a harbour watch totalling six. After a thorough search the three came back ashore and I treated Hibberd with the arnica. Then we all moved onwards.
We glimpsed a party with women in it, going up the gangplank of the Maid of Orleans against a distant light. “Those cranks have got too bold!” exclaimed Hibberd. “They should have waited for the professionals to do the job properly! They are asking for trouble!”
“Perhaps we are too! We have company!” Exclaimed Inspector Hastings pointing. Down behind the wharf was a knot of armed figures looking up at us.
“Good evening gentlemen, may I present the infamous Professor Moriarty!” declared Holmes pointing at a balding man with a pistol in one hand and a three-branched candelabra in the other.
“Ah the curse of my life Mr Sherlock Holmes! We meet again face to face! If you and your outnumbered confederates surrender without trouble we will spare your lives?”
“Devious as ever Professor, but in fact it is we who have the force majeur. If you will all surrender you shall have a fair trial?”
I was sure that this stand off must end in a shoot out just like the famed Wild West OK Corral gunfight. There we were, the four of us like the Earps facing six criminals. But both Holmes and Moriarty seemed reluctant to come to business. Not fear surely but maybe a disbelief that their feud could really be ended in a few seconds. The clink of a missile thrown at Holmes from behind, triggered everyone into blazing away. Some firing from to the rear reassured me that Mr Helping was using the pistol Holmes had given him. Wrongly as it turned out, since he had left it in the Growler they used to get to Chinatown. But other members of his party downed Lee Chow on the ship. He was the man to whom the Tongs were paying ransom money. Hastings took two bullets but Moriarty and two of his confederates also fell. The other three fled towards the warehouses. Holmes first collected the enemy’s fire-arms and then he and Hibberd chased after the fugitives. I patched up first Hastings and then our three opponents. Behind, on the Maid of Orleans Miss Higginbottom bandaged Lee Chow whilst Miss Badamaru held a dagger to his throat. The rest of their party searched the ship. They took two thugs, a French Chef and a Chinese girl prisoner and released the three Tong Leaders. These had been imprisoned bound in the stern hold with Sack of coal on their backs. They and Miss Higginbottom’s friend Wun, wanted us to take all the wounded to the dispensary of No Manchu in Chinatown. Doktor Nichtwissen remembered some wooden trolleys that he had seen beside the great kiln, so we used those to carry them all. Whilst this was being organised, Holmes and Hibberd came back with the two French women we had seen earlier. These were Madame Mesme and her maid Hortense who had given themselves up willingly. The other three enemies had escaped through the large Oriel window at the far end of Warehouse three, leaving a rope ladder behind them. Holmes told us that warehouse had been fitted up as Moriarty’s lair and was furnished luxuriously. So most of us had a quick peep in before moving off to No Manchu’s dispensary. There were a piano, fine mahogany furniture, Persian carpets and paintings on the wall by real artists. Fine art as opposed to the impressionistic trash currently peddled by the French. Holmes found his spare calabash pipe on the table with some scattered playing cards. Later Madame Mesme told us that it had been used by Madame Zitzl to try and give warning of Holmes approach. It seems that Moriarty had kidnapped her for that very purpose. Madame Mesme had been hypnotised away from her French Banker husband to become Moriarty’s Mistress. (She claimed) Later, the Doily Carte Opera company employed her and the maid, as a soprano singer and a dancer. So one of the escapees was Madame Zitzl, one Harker the gate man with the miss-firing blunderbuss but we never did discover the name of the third. When Hibberd brought some of his men to search the warehouses and ships the next day, they had been cleared out. Only the piano remained in the luxury lair!
So we all went to this Chinese dispensary and naturally their doctor treated his countryman Lee Chow first. A woman came in with a gong which she started beating whilst screeching gibberish in a high voice. “What is she doing?” I asked Wun, who was present as interpreter. “She nurse! She frighten away the bad spirits from wounds!”
I said that in England we generally kept things quiet for wounded patients, to keep them from worrying. “But if bad spirits frightened away patient surely happy?”
Having removed the bandages Miss Higginbottom had used, the doctor (medicine man?) produced a pair of very long bronze pincers. With these he extracted all the bullets left in the wounds. When a bullet had turned an angle after glancing of a bone, he just bent the pincers to suit. He then anointed the wounds with some yellow stuff that looked just like custard. I asked what it was and Wun replied. “Sorry Doctor got no maggots but this armost as good. This Geta Whey. If drunk it cures Chorera and Bubonic Plague. Very fine medicine!”
With the nurse’s screeching getting on my nerves, I decided to leave the room before they wanted to treat my own wound! Elsewhere we arranged for the OVS ladies to be taken home and to set guards on Moriarty and his gang. I am afraid that after such a hectic time some of us dropped off to sleep. Holmes had ensured that Moriarty, his second in command Albert Spear and his bodyguard Will Jacobs were safe. Moriarty was unconscious in a critical way in fact. The Chef Gaston and the two guard thugs were locked in another room. However Lee Chow and the maid Ski-Vi had disappeared! We have seen no sight of them to this day! Annoyingly we found that Lee Chow’s account at the Shanghai Bank in Poplar, had been emptied and closed down! Furthermore the three Tong Leaders had also disappeared! It was going to be hard to accuse anyone of kidnapping without the victims to testify! Madam Song is very sure that the Tong Leader’s bodyguards were all murdered but claims not to know where her brother is! However Inspector Hastings who survived the Chinese Doctor’s treatments, was sure that his legal team could nail Moriarty on a plethora of other charges. After the first euphoria of our success Holmes became despondent and lethargic. “What is there for me to do now Watson?” He would ask me. With Moriarty behind bars he felt he had achieved his life’s ambition. But time would prove that he was wrong!
* * *
Exacted from the Journal of Miss Cordelia Higginbottom
Leica and I made sure we were at the rendezvous in good time and indeed we beat Professor Learning. Then we all took a Growler to not far from Jasmine Te’s father’s Godown. There Wun met us and led us through the darkened Chinatown. The smells reminded me so much of my teenage years in Hong Kong. Then we came to a lamp-lit street and Wun said “End Chinatown.” Leica drew out her dagger and I remembered that we were entering into a very dangerous enterprise. A wounded old soldier beggar with his son peering out from behind him, importuned us. Mr Helping threw him a florin which seemed overly generous to me. The man had bandages and a crutch and claimed to have been wounded in the Ashanti war but that was over ages ago! Anyway Wun led us to the right towards an unlighted area where we could hear the sirens of ships on the Thames. As we left the lamplight some nasty boys loosed stones at us from catapults. Manko the Herr Doktor’s servant received a wound on his knee, which left him limping for the rest of our expedition. He and Mr Helping rushed off to chase the boys away whilst the rest of us stood and waited. Coming back they discovered a woman lying against the broken glass topped wharf wall. “She is dead!” exclaimed Mr Helping, which set horrible thoughts coursing through my mind. “Starved?” inquired the Professor.
“No, murdered I think. We must report this to the police!”
“But we are here to be doing other things! Other peoples are relying on us!” protested Doktor Nichtwissen. So Mr Helping told the beggar about his find and he sent his son off to fetch the police. I stayed well away, fearing that this was another of the horribly mutilated bodies left by Jack the Ripper! I read later in the newspapers that it was a Mrs Philomena Swanscombe 23 of 16 Barnet Street Poplar. Deserted by her husband she shared a lodging with a Miss Belinda Gore. On that night apparently, she had gone to a concert. She had been strangled and the police were looking for her husband, last seen three years ago.
Anyway then we moved to the gate to the kiln works which Wun unlocked. Unexpectedly, a Gate man with three fierce dogs then challenged us! Wun had thought that the gate would be un-watched. Ronald Helping told the man that we had come to board the Iron Duke Steamer and that everything was in order, which was why we had the key to the gate. The man was perfectly satisfied with this explanation and Mr Helping spun him another florin. We went on in the darkness past the great bottle kiln and paused against its seaward wall. There the Doktor was enchanted to discover a parked steam lorry. “It would be a great thing to see it working!” he exclaimed
“I think they should be banned as they frighten the horses!” commented Mr Helping. “Horses are better as you can get them to move in an instant whilst that thing will take forever to get its steam heated up.”
“But it can move heavier loads than the horses when it is heated up. For the heavy wares of this kiln it is being a good idea.”
Leica was getting impatient with these technical discussions. “How are we to find Hsing Shrill from here, Do we search the ships?”
“Not yet!” snapped Ronald Helping whom I feel was nervous. “Our task is to stop anyone escaping from them. We do not know if Mr Holmes and his party have arrived as yet! We will wait here.”
So we waited and waited. Occasionally we heard the noise of vessels moving out on the Thames and I sensed that there were people moving slowly along the wharf moving away from us. There was the odd distant scream from the gloomy habitations behind us and then we heard three shots! These appeared to come from where the furthest steamer lay.
“That must be Mr Holmes in action.” Said the Professor.
“Yes.” agreed Leica. “If he is firing then it seems most likely that he has located the kidnappers! Let us go forward to stop any escapers?”
“But I have lost my pistol. I think I must have left it in the Growler.” quavered Mr Helping.
“Well you still have your mallet and we do have two other pistols and a crossbow amongst us. Wun and I carry daggers, I say let us do something!”
So we all walked forward up the ramp leading onto the wharf. Against it was moored a large sailing barge called the Incognita. Stung by Leica’s comments Mt Helping and Wun boarded it up its gangplank. “Is anybody here?” he asked. Then receiving no reply, he said that it would be a good idea to remove the gangplank, to make it difficult for anyone hiding on the vessel to escape. So all of us set to lift it off the vessels side and move it back on the wharf. It was very, very heavy but we managed it. This left Ronald and Wun still aboard the vessel but Manko and the Doctor easily helped them down to the wharf again. So easily in fact that I wondered whether our efforts had been worthwhile at all! But being long used to males blustering to conceal their foolish mistakes I held my peace.
“Now for the next one!” said Leica drawing out her great dagger again and so we moved towards it. It was a steamer called the Maid of Orleans. As we did so two women rushed past us, fleeing from the shots we assumed, as no one thought of stopping them. A waft of exotic scent reached us from them. “French!” commented Leica who had lived in France once.
There were some glimmers of light aboard this ship so Wun suggested “We search?”
We all headed up its gangplank without another word. We first went to the front part of the ship where there was a door leading into a low roofed chamber. There were a table and some hammocks hanging but it was empty. Leica, who had stayed outside looking over the ship’s side, then said “I think I can see Mr Holmes party coming. Four people anyway!”
Then there was shouting and we heard Holmes speaking to someone in a party down in the darkness beyond him. But a dark figure appeared at the top of the gangplank near us and threw something down at Mr Holmes’ group. And that triggered some firing between his and the ones beyond. I loosed my crossbow at the dark figure and the Professor and the Doktor fired their derringers. The figure flinched but threw another thing at Holmes ,so the Professor and the Doktor fired again whilst I began reloading my crossbow. This time the figure dropped down and Wun and Leica rushed forward with their daggers. I heard the figure say something that I am almost sure is a bad Chinese swear word but then he passed out. “Be guarding him ladies!” ordered the Doktor and he with Manko and Wun went to the steps leading up to the bridge level of the ship, at the back of which a light glowed. Mr Helping borrowed my crossbow and followed them whilst the Professor stayed guarding us with his empty pistol. I found the dark figure swathed in black and with black marks on his face. He had three bullet holes in him, which I bandaged as best I could. Leica, prodding him with her dagger said that it was a waste of effort. Her prods indicated that he was unconscious but from his labouredl breathing I knew that he was not dead. I said that it was my duty as a Christian woman to help any wounded person if only to ensure that he received a fair trial!
“If he comes round he might not appreciate that!” said hard-hearted Leica, confiscating his dagger and a throwing star weapon. Then she bound his hands with his own scarf. Meanwhile the Doktor had rounded up three men and a Chinese woman. One was a Frenchman who said that he was a fine chef and had never done anything wrong. The other two men said that they had been guarding the ship but without firearms they could do nothing to stop us attacking it! The Chinese woman pretended not to speak English so I questioned her in Chinese. Her name was Ski-Vi and she prepared meals for the prisoners and helped the chef in the galley. So then she led us down into the stern hold where the three Tong Leaders were held bound and with rucksacks of coal on their backs. They said that they thought that the kidnappers had killed all their bodyguards! Of course when we questioned the ship guards they said they knew nothing about the prisoners or any kidnappings! Later Ski-Vi said that the ship guards accompanied her when she took food to the prisoners, so they certainly did know about them. When the Tong Leaders saw our black clad figure they wanted to kill him but the Professor warned them off with his empty pistol. Hsing Shrill told me his name was Lee Chow and that it was he who had been threatening them and to whom their Insurance Firm’s money had been paid.
Meanwhile on the wharf and beyond Sherlock Holmes and his party had bested their opponents although the Police Inspector Hastings was lying badly wounded. They had captured three wounded men but claimed that two more with a woman had escaped. I helped Dr Watson patch up all the wounded and noticed that he sported a fresh bandage himself. Presumably he had been hit in the firing we had heard earlier. Doktor Nichtwissen remembered some trolleys we had passed beside the great kiln and we made our prisoners load the wounded onto them. Wun said that they would be safe in Doctor No Manchu’s dispensary in Chinatown so we decided to head to there. By the time we were ready to go Mr Sherlock Holmes with the rude Customs man had returned. They came with the two scented ladies who indeed were French. They were Madame Mesme Usirier and her maid Hortense ‘living under the protection of Professor Moriarty’! This Professor was now a very badly wounded prisoner. They had been living in a warehouse in which we were allowed a brief peek. It was really richly carpeted and with fine pictures on the walls. Madame and the Professor had occupied a bedroom with a gilt dressing table and wardrobe. From it a set of steps led up to the large Oriel window which now stood open for some of the kidnappers escaped that way. Holmes shut it and locked up the Warehouse before we all trooped out of the kiln works gate. The Gate man was agog with curiosity about what had been happening, so the rude Custom’s man showed him his warrant and said that he would be calling back in the daytime tomorrow. The dead body had gone and the Gate man told us that the policeman had taken her to the doctor’s house. He, Constable Leatherhead had left a message that he wanted the gentleman who had found the body to report to the Mary Road Police Station tomorrow morning! Holmes advised him not to do so, as his party had had trouble with the local police. He would be asking Scotland Yard to make an investigation of what had been happening in this area. We all reached in Doctor No Manchu’s dispensary and someone hired a Chinese Growler to take Leica and I home. It was half past three and Mother was up fussing over my absence but I was too sleepy to explain it all to her.
When in the light of day she questioned me again, I said that I had been out helping the men because I could speak Chinese and that Leica and I chaperoned one another. I admitted that there had been fighting between the men but mentioned nothing about the murdered woman that had been found. Secretly Leica and I were in whoops because we and not Sherlock Holmes or his snooty Customs man had actually found and rescued Hsing Shrill. As a result of Wun’s report to her, Madam Hsing Song sent a whole one hundred pounds to Ronald Helping for our Society! Sherlock Holmes intended that the man we captured, Lee Chow, be handed over to the police, over the kidnapping but he disappeared from the dispensary in the night. I have a suspicion that he may never be heard of again, as the Tong Leaders would not press charges against anyone. Apparently the Professor Moriarty and his two wounded colleagues were wanted for other crimes and were taken away to a prison hospital.
When we later compared notes with Holmes and Watson, they thanked us for our support. He said that Moriarty had been ordering attempts on his life and that now he was imprisoned he could go back to Baker Street. He said that Inspector Hastings was poorly but should recover within a few months. Because of the obstructions that the local police had given him, Scotland Yard was to investigate the running of the Mary Road Police Station. No charges would be brought against the two French women and they were being hired on a trial basis, by the Doily Carte Opera company. It seems that they were both talented performers. So apart from a few weeks of nagging from my mother, about not being drawn into dangerous situations, the Bluekiln Wharf Incident rates as one of our most impressive successes.
Ten days after our adventure I heard from Mrs Davidson that Verity Eegre had gone missing and her parents had reported it to the police. Leica and I went to them asking if we could help find her. Her mother was there and she was rude to us. She called us a bunch of cranks who had helped to lead Verity astray! She thought Verity had gone to dangerous places because of us! I stayed calm knowing that the price for living at the forefront of mystical science is to be mocked and misunderstood by less gifted mortals. Leica wanted to hit her and I had to drag her away. However at the next OVS meeting we mentioned the matter and suggested that the Professor might use the Culpepper’s Soul Seeker. He was very willing although Ronald Helping was not. He thought finding her might be an unfortunate mistake for the Society. The Professor disagreed saying that he had learnt some useful things about Cartomancy from Verity and in fact she had a pack of his Tarot cards in her possession. So Ronald was outvoted and we determined to find Verity. The Professor said that we would need something belonging to her to put in the Box. Well, we were not going to get anything from her parents, so we tried Verity’s married sister Prudence Harwich. She furnished us with an umbrella that Verity had left there and a wooden toy Noah’s ark set, which she had given to her nephew Mathew. The umbrella was too big to go in the box so we tried the Noah’s Ark. Unfortunately it gave us no help as it always led us towards nephew Mathew! After some debate we decided to saw the umbrella into pieces small enough to go in the box. Alas the pointer never indicated the same direction twice. Shockingly Doktor Nichtwissen suggested that a demon had carried her off to the nether regions! Ronald Helping suggested that it was more likely that the Culpepper’s Soul Seeker had exhausted its magic. Leica suggested that we hire Sherlock Holmes to try and find her but we were not having any of that! The Doktor then said, “If she is dead we may be able to get the Archangel to call her too us. Where might be a likely place?” Then Leica suggested we go to her house as that was where she last saw her, when she told her fortune. Then we worked out that it would be a moons duration of that in two days time! So all was arranged with the Doktor taking his apparatus and the Professor with the umbrella in his box.
I must say that I was doubtful that we would have any success. Besides with Verity being a friend I did not want to find out that she was dead! In this journal I have tended to concentrate on the few successful operations, whilst skating over the far more numerous utter failures. Still I thought using Leica’s home might aid us. Leica lived there with her old Aunt Griseldis, Housekeeper Fruszina and two English maids. There had been a Butler, Lazlo but he died. Aunt Griselda with her hooked nose, glaring black eyes and grey hair is the nearest thing I have ever seen to be a witch. Leica laughs and said her Aunt has few powers away from Rumania but her herbal teas taste very funny! She hates men and in particular her brother Boris. Boris arranged for Leica and her Aunt to leave Rumania, when they were threatened with some scandal that they do not talk about. First they went to France but apparently the investment money that supports them comes from England and with Leica having gone to an English School they came here. Had Leica been a boy she would have been the equivalent of an English Baronet and owned a small estate with a crumbling castle on it. Through the machinations of Uncle Boris, this is now owned by a Turk! Anyway Aunt Griselda had hidden herself away when we all called for the summoning. We moved back the furniture and rolled up the carpet out of the way so that the sextagram could be marked out with the Herr Doktor’s stick of gypsum. Before that he ceremonially swept the floor whilst Leica was allowed to circle round waving the space clearing rattle. He lit the six purple candles and began beating the ground, calling out “Oh Angel Gabriel, lift my spirit to Verity Lucknow Eegre that she may come here!”
And in less than a minute there she was, semi-transparent and glowing with a beaming smile! “Ooh I told him, um oh well I was sure that you would call me down my dear friends! I am permitted to tell you that I am dead. I was foretelling the dear Professor’s future with his cards and so I knew he was to go on a vessel with a female name at the wharf. It took me some time to locate the correct wharf for there are so many of them. Anyway I went down Mary Road to the Wharf Gate where there was a dog lying whimpering. I managed to get past it but the gate was closed and would not open! The walls on either side were much too high to climb and had broken glass on the top anyway! So I was wondering what to do when this man attacked me, completely without provocation! He called me bad names and said I was deserving of death. and well it was most unfair because with him throttling me, I could not tell him he was mistaken. I could not get his hands away and everything went blank. Then I was looking down as he dropped my body and went away. I stayed by my body and...and anyway some men including some policemen came and looked at me and the dog. One man said they had to take care of us to keep things quiet. A policeman hit the poor doggie till it died! Then two men carried me and the doggie, along to the next wharf where there was this big pile of rocks. They put two rocks in sacks and tied them to the doggie and I. Then they took us out in a rowing boat on the river and threw us in. And then.... oh I must not tell you that bit. I am allowed to tell you that my murderer was Jack Openshaw and that he killed some other women. He is dead now and will be...” And she disappeared! We did not get a chance to say a word to her!
“It looks as though she has foolishly aborted her own summoning!” commented Ronald Helping. “Consistent to the end!” And I fear that there was an element of truth in that.
“Perhaps the fact that her body is under water was the reason the Culpepper’s Soul Seeker failed.” mused Professor Learning.
“I wonder if it was the same man that killed the woman that Ronald found?” suggested Leica. “It does seem likely?”.
“What can we tell her parents?” I asked.
Leica shook her head, “They will not believe anything we tell them! What proof do we have after all?”
“Yes it is being always the same when we have ein gheist discovered, the peoples are not believing us!” declared the Herr Doktor.
I suggested that we could send an anonymous letter to them but got no support. Ronald Helping then said “We know what happened to her but to let anyone else do so would attract just the sort of attention we need to avoid. Even questions from the police. They have not got to the bottom of all the happenings at the wharf that night. There has been nothing in the newspapers about Miss Eegre’s disappearance and I think we should keep it that way. Is this agreed?”
I was reluctant to agree but saw no way out of it. So Verity’s parents still have no idea where she went or how she was taken from them.
From Professor James Moriarty’s secret journal
(Written in Rumanian using the Cyrillic script whilst in a prison hospital)
I write this to remind myself never to relax whilst Sherlock Holmes is out there!
Everything was going so well! The Norse saga’s tell of joyously feasting men being fey and unaware of the doom soon to befall them. That night I played three Beethoven sonatas as well as I have ever played them. Pauline sang beautifully and even Madame Zitzl’s contralto contributions were not displeasing. Hortense did an Apache dance and Albert Spear showed a couple of card tricks which almost fooled me. After the concert Pauline and Hortense went out with Carl for their constitutional evening stroll around the wharf. We four men set down to play whist. We heard a scream from beyond the wharf wall but that was a common occurrence any night of the week. We played on and Archon and I were winning as normal when Madame Zitzl rushed in. “Professor Moriarty! Professor Moriarty!” she called out. “Professor Moriarty I have sensed the owner of the pipe and he is near to us! I think he is coming in the main gate!”
“How can we believe such hocus pocus?” demanded Mr Archon who was holding a good hand.
Albert Spear held a rotten hand, “The Professor knows that she has the powers, otherwise he would not have hired her. If Holmes is here we had better be ready for him! What shall we do Sir?”
“We shall expect Harker to deal with him or Lee chow if he gets within the gate. Let us finish this hand at least.”
Some time later we heard three shots from the direction of the Iron Duke, so I suggested that we arm ourselves in readiness. Harker then came in the door. “There are four men broke in Sir! My blunderbuss misfired and Derby is down. I think Carl has been fighting them.” So I led the six of us out lit by my candelabra. And there on the wharf stood that inconvenient meddler Sherlock Holmes! He had three others brandishing pistols. He bandied words with me in his usual mocking way but both of us knew it had to end in a firefight. I hoped that the cudgel men on the Maid of Orleans could attack from the rear but it seems that Holmes had other people already aboard her. However Lee Chow was there also and I know he missed Holmes with at least one of his shirikin missiles. Unfortunately they proved the better shots as we downed one but both Albert and Will fell and for me everything went black!
* * *
I regained consciousness in a very Spartan Prison Hospital in Wandsworth. Albert Spear and Will Jacobs lay in nearby beds. The orderly told me that they had taken three bullets out of me. Will Jacobs was soon recovered enough to be transferred away but Albert and I remained on a while. Albert told me that we had been taken with Lee Chow and a wounded friend of Holmes, to a Chinese hospital that night. Holmes’ people had freed the Tong Leaders, so that we could expect to be charged with kidnapping! The three of us had been brought to the prison hospital the next day.
A week or so later Mr Hubert Archon came to visit us, to say that he had alerted Thinfellow and Hailsowen to represent us in the court cases. He managed to slip me the following note with their card.
Gateman and Clairvoyant left with me and Ledger. French both taken but not imprisoned. Now employed on a trial basis by Doily Carte Opera Company. Taverner put Carl, Sergeant and goods into safe hands. Customs raided wharf next day but found only some of home contents. Scotland Yard police active. Captain Isiah Wilberforce of the Maid of Orleans taken for questioning. Businesses mostly still flourishing. H.A.
Obviously he kept it cryptic so as not to give away much if it was intercepted but by and large it was good news.
Better came a week later via Obadiah Thinfellow. Apparently the three Tong Leaders had disappeared so that proving their kidnapping would be difficult. Holmes had had an affray (due to your machinations) at the Mary Road Police Station and the Sergeant had fled. The constables involved were only following his orders and the source of the identifying photographs could not be found. Most of your ‘businesses’ were continuing to operate, even the Silchester Line. You are accused of illegally using their warehouse for habitation purposes! Your Chef Gaston and the two guardian thugs are still held provisionally on the kidnapping charge. The Chinese maid Ski-Vi has disappeared as has Lee Chow. A little worrying is that his account at the Shanghai Bank Poplar, has been emptied and closed. This was where the Tong’s protection money was paid to you with Lee Chow keeping 5%! Madame Zitzl has been bribed to stay silent about her presence at the Wharf. She knows that her future would be short if she broke this undertaking. Pauline Mesme and Hortense might be called as witnesses but with their being French and of shady reputation, their testimony could easily be discredited. Bart Culip, the Landlord of the Queens Head and Boughman of the Bluekiln Branch still has control of all concerns except the new police. It was he (the Taverner) who got most of the stolen goods away. They are now at your Maida Vale depot. He also arranged for Sergeant Tuckerton and Carl to escape to Hull. He also says that members of the Poplar first Bough have avenged the murder of Fanny Smith, an associate of his Bough. They caught him just after strangling another woman.
Best of all there is now a plan to smuggle you and Albert Spear free on a trip for a full medical examination!
* * *
Games Master’s Account
After the Chapel Lane game I was musing on what other large money making rackets Professor Moriarty might be engaged in. Reading a book ‘Professor Moriarty’s Revenge’ I found that he had had a base in Limehouse which he had been driven out off. Not having the probably out of print novel that recorded this, I thought that I would cook up my own. Also after missing the very large sums of money from his crooked gambling scheme, I realised that the Professor would be very angry with Holmes. Limehouse was an East London docklands area that conveniently contained Chinatown at that time. (I believe this has long since disappeared as have most of the docklands.) I immediately thought that smuggling could well be a great money spinning activity for Moriarty to dabble in. So I went to our library to research what were the likeliest goods smuggled in the 1890s. The only the relevant book they had on their computer list was the ‘History of Smuggling in the United Kingdom’ which they sent away for. A fortnight later they realised that this book had ‘been in transit’ since last October meaning lost! They kindly agreed to order a replacement but it might take three weeks and I might have to pay £5 or only £4 as I was an OAP! At the time I was in the throes of building the ships and writing up some of the background but I agreed to wait. The book finally arrived but alas, it stated that our free trade policies introduced in the 1840’s meant that big profits in smuggling ceased! The lady librarian suggested smuggling women but I replied that at the time there was no shortage of them. So I settled for the stolen fine art goods story. The smuggling book did have a lot of interesting stories from earlier times which I may make use off at a future date.
However having decided on a docklands scheme I realised that my much used river quay pieces were too small. Storage space is becoming a bit of a problem even with our massive attic, so the wharf sections double as figure storing trays. The partitions are made from wooden venetian blind slats, of which I bought a horde for next to nothing at our local market. From the market I also bought the ‘Incognita’ sailing barge. I had to shave the keel of it and re-jig its rudder but otherwise it fitted the part. I made three ships gangplanks with the diagonal cross-pieces coming from plastic tile spacers. But I needed other vessels. At first I intended just the one but then I thought it would make more of a game if there were two of them for the players to search. Anyway I always have had a policy of making scenery in batches, not that most entail so much hard work as these ships did. Historically they would more likely have been paddle steamers but having made one water-mill wheel, I knew just what a difficult task it would be. My father made model ships and he gave me a paddle steamer, which saw much service with the toy solders of my boyhood. It was called the Iron Duke and a lighter he made for me later was called the Maid of Orleans hence the ships names. The Maid of Orleans was the name of the Steam Ferry that brought my father back from the beaches of Dunkirk. Studying pictures of likely ships showing their round sterns I eventually decided on using a sheet of vinyl flooring for the hull. For the bottom I used a sheet of compressed expanded polystyrene cut to shape, with thick cardboard for the main decks. This had large pieces cut out of it for the holds and boiler and engine room area. I knew one problem was that my many Blue Moon figures I use for this period have cumbersome round 22mm bases. To cater for these the ships are fatter than they should be. When base and main deck frame was built up I cut the hull sides in single long strips, trimmed to shape for the hull sides. The join at the bow was sewn as well as glued into place for strength. Needless to say there was a lot of step by step checking and measuring in the process. Then I built up the main deck with removable hatches and having the lower level of the bridge tower and the forecastle glued on it. Positioning the funnel and the steps down to below took some working out, as was the layout of the bridge and officers quarters. The lower level of the bridge accommodated the galley one side and a storeroom the other with the wardroom to the rear. The funnel came from sawing up a metal clothes prop and the two air intakes bends in copper water pipes. The boat davits came from plastic guttering supports, whilst the boats came from a long deceased sweets promotion. The only other construction work was to replace the thatched (sandpaper) roofs of some of my buildings to slate. Plus the Queens head now being Mary Queen of Scots instead of Victoria and putting up a few Chinese signs.
So in the story line the problem was how to involve both Holmes and the Occult Verification Society. The earlier Chinese involvement’s provided the answer to this. The loose alliance of Moriarty, the Stiff Sleeves and the local police seemed appropriate. The fall of chance cards played their part in creating the story. I regret the death of Verity Eegre but the cards decreed that Jack the Strangler met her at the bolted gate and the dice decreed the rest. In the heat of the game I was concentrating on moving the non-player characters and remembering to take the odd photograph. Which is how I missed Holmes’ party’s encounter with Carl. I know three shots were fired and Watson took a flesh wound, which was pretty clever since Carl was only armed with a club! However the story was altered to fit this. When Holmes and Moriarty and their supporters faced one another it was interesting that their players hesitated, sparring verbally instead of opening fire. Neither wanted to risk the saga coming to the abrupt end that would be occasioned if one of them died! In the end they realised that there was nothing else for it but to open fire. So what do I do now?
Incidentally it may be that some students of my modules, wonder why the Umpire Plans usually have numbered spots which have no apparent purpose. They are there because when I am creating a scenario I make the plan at an early stage and these spots are ones which I consider may have some item or entry point which may affect the story. The sudden high numbered spots out of sequence with the rest are afterthought additions.
Ships and Scenery
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