All the nights in woe,
Lyca’s parents go:
Over vallies deep,
While the deserts weep,
Tired & wobegone,
Hoarse with making moan,
Arm-in-arm seven days,
They traced the desert ways,
Seven days they sleep,
Among shadows deep,
And dream they see their child,
Starved in deserts wild,
Pale, through pathless ways,
The fancied image strays.
It is dusk in fairyland and gleaming carriage after carriage sets down its elegantly attired occupants outside the sparkling theatres and places of amusement London is famed for. See there, Madame Montaperti, extravagantly clad in a black silk gown trimmed with fringed beads and wrapped in a luxuriant Astrakhan trimmed shawl. Close on her heels follows Lady Elderberry whose large grey eyes sparkle quite as brilliantly as the Hesketh-Elderberry diamonds clustered around her pale alabastered throat.
She observes Lady Montaperti gracefully ascending the steps of the Theatre Royal and on the arm of some indubitably handsome but anonymous admirer, observes her but ‘cuts’ her dead. For t’is common knowledge that Lord Montaperti did attempt to burn his niece to death, indeed that he was responsible for the catalytic events that precipitated the Tooley Street fire, and so the Montaperti’s have become ‘persona non grata’. Cast out from the midst of respectable society they must survive as best they can.
Inspector Depta observes this encounter (amongst many others for fairyland is prodwigious bustling on such a night as this), and chuckles to himself. Inspector Depta, stalwart of the Detective Police of Bow Street, and keeper of the gates, to the open vault of the undisclosed secrets of half the swells in England. Inspector Depta, who, having observed the two ladies elegantly enter the Theatre Royal, also notes the maids trailing in their wake, Mrs Virgillia (an undisclosed Pinkerton employee) and Miss Demelza Thickett (an American secessionist’s daughter). So much intrigue trailing along behind such pretty skirts, t’is a wonder the aristocracy of England have held onto their rule for so long! But these matters can wait, for his is a far more pressing difficulty and one that if not soon solved may culminate in his demise.
T’is early in the evening, and so the hustle & bustle of carriages coming and going, may still be heard through the open windows of the palatial room Inspector Depta refers to most humbly as ‘his office after closing’. An ebony wood dining table, a decanter of brandy a finely wrought brandy glass, a gleaming cigar lit and perched most delicately on the rim of his glass. Inspector Depta, is a man of none too subtle tastes but this evening he is affecting to be congenial.
“Take a seat my fine fellow, please, sit down”
The ‘fine fellow’ in question,having been enticed out of a ‘nunnery’ in Whitehall by the offer of some stolen silverware, and then been bludgeoned into unconsciousness and flung into the back of a Black Mariah, can do nothing more than stagger into the velveteen armchair thrust before him. He has been dragged down stairs by the scruff of his neck and up them, he has been punched with some justification and none at all. In short his has been such a thunderous set of goings on for the last couple of hours that nothing Inspector Depta would care to demand of him would surprise him at all, nothing but this, “Where is she?”
“Eh? Where’s who?”
“Walt McKillen’s niece, Queenie McKillen’s daughter (God rest her soul!) what you done with er?”
A slow smile snakes it’s way across the fine fellow’s raddled face, both his blackened eyes light up and gleam, hard and sure like a rattlesnakes. Where’s he taken her? Where is she? Why no place else, than where they been took all these years! Did iz majestic care then? Did he eck! So what’s changed? The fine fellow thinks he knows. Snatching the glass decanter away from Inspector Depta and taking a deep swig from it himself he inquires slyly,”Walt McKillen’s niece,she important then?”. Inspector Depta narrows his eyes at the fine gent known to one and all as Billy Scroggins, he rubs his fists slowly over his bald head and sighs. Policing can be such a tiring affair, staying one step ahead of yer bosses and three steps ahead of such as sits before him here, a tiring, tiring, business.
Moving faster than a rodent with it’s tail dipped in tar and set on fire, the Inspector slides round the table catching hold of Scroggins by the cravat,”We’ve done good business in the past haven’t we my fine fellow? Bow Street has treated you well az it not? We az done you many a favour. Nah,Where.Is.She?”. What with the choke-hold on his windpipe, it is not possible for Scroggins to answer straight away, but perhaps that is best for t’is been nigh on a fortnight since the child in issue tumbled into his grasp, and since then there have been so many others, that it takes him a while to place her.”Queenie McKillen you say? The beauty wot took up with Bobbish Todger? An him a married man!”
The Inspector tightens his grip, till Scroggins is so blue in the face that it seems as if he has near slipped this mortal coil,”Where.Is.She?”. Loosening his fist a little Inspector Depta permits a choked reply to escape his blued lips,”Sold ‘er to Mrs Fard!”
“None other, a pretty penny she paid for ‘er, said she was pretty as a rose bud and well worth the price”. The Inspector’s face is a picture, t’is a long time since he felt any emotions remotely attributable to some moral sense of shame. But his face has hardened all the same, and t’is the lack of emotion on his reddened face that causes Scroggins to panic, for did he not wear that look on the day the Bow Street Detective ‘arrested’ his father, an he weren’t seen again neither.
“Inspector Qwinty” says he turning to the bullish looking gent hovering aggressively over the ‘fine gent’ Scroggins, “Let Mr Gladstone know we’ve found ‘er but don’t tell him where”. Nodding curtly Inspector Qwinty exits the office most relieved to be free of the corrupted and corrupting presence of both men, and most shocked to find that Inspector Depta does indeed have a heart (to be continued..)