Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

Inspector Depta & The Mystery Of The St Swithin’s-Bird Murders……A Prologue

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Morning has broken, like the first morning, and pert, well-fed Blackbirds have tweeted like the first birds. Ah! Did ever the Gardens of Eden seem more blessed than this? T’is a bright dawn, clear and bracing and awash with promise; ideal then for the Prince’s brisk cantering jaunt, through the heather strewn grounds of his newly constructed Scottish home, Balmoral.

“You will please note ze outstanding characters common to the Genus Suidae known commonly as ze Black-Legged Wild Boar. Low on the limbs, with eyes which are small but quick and shrewd in expression, and a sense of hearing that is most acute. See how it romps blunderingly midst ze undergrowth! Note the lower jaw which is strong and deep, the wide mouth bristling with blonde hairs, and perpetually open, to a degree almost unparalleled among terrestrial mammalia.”

“Indeed?” 

The wild boar has an extraordinary manner of tackling his antagonists, striking obliquely upwards with his lower tusks, jerking his aggressor first right and then left and then throwing the sorry fool off at a distance with his large wedge shaped head.”

“Most horrible!”

“Oh most glorious!” replies Prince Albert,”For it is from this terrifyingly indomitable genus (with its extraordinarily thick hide), this primitive remnant from the dawn of time, that our domesticated pigs are bred! Imagine, the fossilized relics of the Genus Suedae Black-Leg have been found by Professor Owen, in fissures from the Red Crag of Brume Polder, near zee village of Molten Tussock Minor!”

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“Are you saying that this dire looking beast’s antecedents were of prehistoric origin?” asks Lord Ponsonby, who in reality is bored beyond tears by the topic.

“Ja” replies the prince excitedly “according to Monsieur Jobert, zee prehistoric remains of Black-Legged Wild Boars were discovered in the Miocene and zee Pliocene Deposits, of zee tertiary system of Lyell!”

“Extraordinary!” exclaims Lord Aberdeen with as much good humour as he can muster on so early a morning’s ride as this. Why, the last time he’d been pulled out of bed so early London’s mill-workers had been in riot!

“Ja! A singularly remarkable instance of indomitable resilience! I am told Lord Molesworth has a fine litter of piglets, bred of an African Boar and a Hampshire Hog this Winter, time will tell whether zay will again bear a litter! We must journey to Lord Molesworth’s Estates and observe zem!”

Yes, Your Highness”

“Ja,wait! Wait!”

“Your Highness?”

“Over zer! Something is lurking in der undergrowth!Tis a stag think you?”

“Possibly Your Majesty, though it appears to be rather smaller than that”

A fawn perhaps? Separated from its mother and terrified by the sound of galloping hoofs, for as the noblemen gain speed it scampers into the woods, darting through them faster than a coursing hare.

“We’re losing it, faster!” cries the Prince, as Lords Ponsonby and Aberdeen exchange a sneaky glance. Faster, so fast that Lord Aberdeen wonders whether the manner of luring His Majesty into addressing this thorny constitutional problem is worth the loss of life or limb.

“Ha ha! We have you at the rattle keine fawn! Ha ha ha! Oh?!”

But what have we here? The Prince having cornered his prey finds himself at a loss! A child barely seven years of age at a guess, clad in a tartan shawl and with a most disconcerting likeness to Victoria’s Uncle ze Duke of Cumberland!

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“Lord Henry, on whose land are we?”

“The Countess De Fox-Pitts,Your Majesty.”

“This child hails from Lochnergarruld?!” His Highness is horrified, gott in himmel! Would zis horror nezah end?!!!

“Yes,Your Majesty”

“Er sind von Lochnergarruld Village?!!”

“Nein, Your Majesty, er sind von Abbey Lochnergarruld, situated in the mountains”

“Mein Gott! Is he the only one?”

“Nein, there are many, many, more”

The child (for it is indeed a boy, as tall as a fawn and looking to be around seven years old) continues to back away in fear of the Prince, a fine figure of a man, astride a ferocious looking stallion. Unable to find a place to escape to midst the bramble covered undergrowth, the child hisses at the king in some incomprehensible language (Scots Gaelic most likely).

“This Abbey,how close by is it?” asks the prince, staring at this miniature facsimile of the King of Hanover with a kind of horrid fascination.

“It stands at the foot of Mount Lochnergarruld, Your Majesty”

Ze mountain on which the duchess-“

“That mountain precisely sir” replies Lord Ponsonby glancing at Lord Aberdeen who had already notified the Abbey of the prince’s intended visit, and its motives.

Would Your Majesty care to visit it it? The abbey I mean? The child is doubtless lost, we could return him to his guardians there.”

“Ach so, let us visit!” and with that Lord Ponsonby dismounts, and talking at some length to the child in that foreign tongue (Scots Gaelic), persuades him to ride with them to that most unfortunate place. That prodigious Gehenna from whence many a ‘defective’ aristocratic child left to the mercies of howling Scottish Gales, had been fortuitously rescued, rescued and raised by the Brotherhood of The Penitent Confessor at Lochnergarruld Abbey.

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Satire

Faber Est Quisque Fortunae Suae

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O happy day! When political events fall out as one would wish,with the mutiny imperiously crushed India now bowed it’s head (and back) submissively to the British Empire. Whilst the swift re-opening of war with China (which the British Navy would promptly win), mean’t that the possibilities for Opium free trade in the Far East were now limitless.

Let the Chinkies kidnap British Sailors and hold them to ransom now! They would rue the day they tangled with Britannia!! Lord Smarsby Rucklesmoot smugly perused the list of diplomatic accomplishments his office had successfully concluded (in India and South Africa). His department had without a doubt acquitted itself most honourably. Puffing happily on his Cuban Cigar he availed himself of a pair of softest kid gloves, and carefully opening a glass display cabinet into which he dipped his hand, he removed a cockroach. The elegantly attired gentleman sitting before him cringed at the sight and blanched visibly, but Lord Rucklesmoot suffered no such disquiet, he quite liked cockroaches.

“When one reflects upon the evolution of those organisms classed as Articulata, one must recognise that what is being examined is an organism of extreme perfection and extreme complication. Consider, the centipede an organism in which the optic nerve cannot be detected and yet they are able to discern the light from the dark! Now let us consider the cockroach Lord Ponsonby, also a member of the Articulata class of organisms, also able to distinguish light from dark and yet with an entirely disparate pair of eyes! T’is a wonder is it not? Why the very cockroaches of St Giles yearn towards the light, they scuttle towards it Wendell and why? Darwinian Evolution!”

“Oh? And what are we to make of the Right Honourable Member of Richmond and Sitterworth who has scuttled a-top the spire of Christchurch Cathedral? There is talk of him firing upon a Goveen Monk, who I’m informed had murdered three women and was on the cusp of murdering a fourth ere he met his end”

“Informed you say? who informed you?

“Who do you think?”

“Dear God! Not him! What else is there to this business? If he is here (and so soon after the last debacle) there must be something else. Something tawdry, injuriously shameful and all too capable of blowing the government to smithereens! Tis a matter of tawdry dissipation I take it? A serious scandal?”

“The Duchess de Fox-Pitt commissioned the mad monk to commit the murders or so it is said, she passed away in the night I am told”

You were told? Who told you? Him again? No one told me! Dear God! The Duchess dead?”

“I’m also told that the manner of her passing was suspicious. Lamentably, there is proof that she was poisoned, an empty bottle of Laudanum and Arsenic was discovered under her pillow, worse still the bottle was issued from the Royal Dispensary at Windsor Castle”

“The bottle could well have belonged to her”

Lord Ponsonby shook his head, ” Baroness Von Astrian requested the drought and the Duchesses’ servants last saw the bottle in her possession. This sudden demise has all the hallmarks of a ‘Lehzen Intervention’ ”

“Oh?”

“When the inspector sought an audience with Baroness Von Astrian, she could not be found, and since he could not broach the matter with Her Majesty himself, he requested an audience with the Baroness who sent word she was indisposed, he then requested audience with me

“Where is Von Astrian?”

“She boarded a ship bound for Germany, late last night I’m told, the ship sailed early this morning”

“Some good news at last! The Bow Street Detective Police have no office in Germany, she’ll have died peacefully in her sleep ere they’re granted a warrant for her arrest”

Lord Rucklesmoot chuckled to himself, scandal averted! Lord Ponsonby held up a warning finger.

“There is however, the matter of the records of Royal Lineage which have not gone missing”

“Oh Sweet Gove,where is he?”

 

“Who?”

“The deuced Inspector Depta!”

“Where you’d expect him to be sir, at your pleasure”

“Quite! Have him come in!”

Would that this were a discrete conversation taking place within some place of dank seclusion such as St Giles; but, alas, the rank debauched taint of scandal sired there, has reached him here, in the Houses of Parliament. Lord Rucklesmoot is momentarily bereft, but then he recalls the former Chancellor of the Exchequer (lost to a civil war in the Americas apparently),and the good inspector’s part in that escapade and suddenly he finds himself cheered, this scandal couldn’t be as bad as that surely?

“Good day Inspector”

“I cannot say much as to what day it is minister, though I do trust that in the end the day may turn out to be quite temperate. Though I must confess that on this morn I find myself feeling not a little like Fra Lippo Lippi!”

“Fra Lippo Lippi?”

“That good Christian monk who painted the last supper, terrible shook up by the experience he was…apparently” the inspector smiled quite innocently at the Foreign Secretary, who noted that shark’s grin and shuddered.

“Indeed. I take it some crimes of which you are cognizant-and have ample evidence-have been committed by certain persons whose station in life would normally have precluded them from such predicatorial leanings?”

“I do”

“And that these matters could well lead to certain aspersions being cast upon certain significant members of society, in ways which would do no one any good, and many a great deal of harm?”

“Is that a cockroach you hold in your palm minister? A St Giles Cockroach?”

“Stick to the matter at hand inspector!”

“Yes sir” says he unbuttoning his silk waistcoat and exposing its royal blue lining as he reaches for a Lincolnshire Cigarillo “T’would seem so, tis a most unfortunate case and one that could occasion a great deal of scandal. But then a scandalous case can be made to….disapparate as it were. For on the strength of it what do we have here?” he continued as he lit his cigarillo with a narrowed gaze and puffed on it leisurely, 

“A poisoned Duchess, poisoned (by whom no one can tell). A discrete little poison bottle, easily lost amongst the prodigwous quantities of evidence we as police officers are apt to amass. A homicidal butler garbed as a monk (which religious order he might belong to is debatable, since no public records of his ordination are known to exist). Then of course there is the honourable Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe MP who has publicly broached these matters and in the hearing of my officers. But since he is atop the Christchurch Cathedral seeking sanctuary, tis merely a case of forcing him back to earth and then reasoning with him

“Indeed but what if he does not see reason?” Lord Rucklesmoot checked his pocket watch “Reason is always the key and they do say that Bethel Asylum has room to spare for another inmate

“Of course momentous decisions such as these come with a measure of risk and since my men Constables Qwinty and Come-Hither, have conducted themselves so admirable and so discretely in this matter, it might be a good idea to elevate their standing as it were considerably

“Considerably?” Lord Rucklesmoot watched his little cockroach scuttling swiftly over first one kid gloved palm and then the other, always veering towards the sunlight emanating from the window he was being held up to.

“What I mean is that a little promotion, say to the rank of inspector, might not go amiss, they are good men and we could do with men who have good brains and a little more clout”

“Quite so and with yourself elevated to the rank of Deputy Chief Inspector?” 

“Lor blimey!”

“Quite, it shall be done, good day Inspector!”

Send Lord Henry back in!”

 

“Yes sir, as ever it is a pleasure to do business with you” and with all current scandalous matters resolved the inspector departs. 

Ah the continuing pleasures of a morn well spent, and so much good news to pass on, two seats to become vacant and in the next month! Oh Darwinian exultation!

“Well Lord Ponsonby I have spoke with the inspector and the matter is settled and there is now-thanks to him-no matter. However, you will need to inform The Royal Prince of Baroness Lehzen’s role in that scandalous matter, which is now no matter. We may thereby ingratiate ourselves with him, and so further increase our good standing with Her Majesty

“There is also a matter of illegitimacy?

“Whose?

“A child Ethelbert-Smythe was lately in possession of, and who he has said is the daughter of The Eminent Politician!”

“But the man died a batchelor! For shame! He was a founding father of our party! The ill-intentioned slur alone will put us on a very poor footing with Her Majesty and society in general, pray, where is the child?”

“The inspector has delivered her to the care of the Coram Orphanage, where he says she will be well taken care of”

“Would not Bethel Asylum have been a better choice?”

“For a child Home Secretary?”

“We usually commit any who would disturb the queen’s peace there, there are wet nurses a-plenty in Bedlam!”

“For mercy’s sake! She is an infant child, not a pistol wielding madman!”

“Why even an infant child may have the power to overthrow an empire! Consider our saviour!”

“I frequently do so, but what is to be done about the Goveen Brotherhood?”

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Satire

Hors De La Loi & The Dawn Of Obstinacy

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How lonely Christchurch Cathedral seems-save for the body of Monsieur Planchette soon to be carted off to the coroner in a Black Mariah – a bleak place of sinister import, its presence looms oppressively over St Giles, exuding a dark, malevolent influence, that draws devotees to it still. The cathedral has stood on this spot for nigh on a decade, but the churchyard has been here for centuries. It is not comforting to see (on a closer inspection) the decaying, mouldering aspects of the marble mausoleum that lurks close by. Nor the gnarled and twisted silhouettes of the cherry trees extruding the cold morning light. Crumbling tombstones engraved with strange symbols nestle amongst the withered pastures whose sickly green hue attracts only the snarling rats and feral dogs of the Seven Dials.

Tis a bleak and desolate place frequented only by those churchgoers naive as to the true purpose of that sinister house of worship, or those eager to redeem their faltering aristocratic lineages in the dead of night!

” Well a fine time we’ve had of it I must say! Carting off dead murderers and fending off half the lunaticks of St Giles! What did I a-do-thin to wind up on guard here, outside this accursed chapel of the ruling classes?”

“Could not agree more sarge, I’ve taken more peaceful strolls through the worst rookeries in London!”

“But look you at the respectable Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe, him now clinging to that spire” he jerked his thumb up towards the cathedral’s peak, where the unfortunate politician might be dimly observed clinging on for dear life. 

Sergeant Slaughter sneered, “Cock a snook at im, the infant-kidnapping-ingrate! Starving the poor what ave turned to the workhouse for succour and shelter, then turning em owt-a doors in Winter if they can’t find work! Who voted him into parliament?”

“MP for Richmond and Sitterworth ain’t he? That’s fourteen houses with 23 voters living in em, voters whose landlord is The Reverend Unctuous, Archbishop of The Parish of St-Mary-Profundis, Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe’s patron and his Uncle”

“Why the man has less wit than a country yokel! Clutching at that church spire thinking he can dodge a spell at Newgate! That may well be the case in Southwark, but not ere mate!”

“Why, when thy uncle is a lord who rides to hounds in the House of Commons you may call yourself Jack the Ripper and still receive a knighthood!” both officers laughed heartily at this, afore absorbing the gloom of their surroundings afresh and falling silent. Silence, all is morose silence, save for the savage trilling of the Whipporwills those harbingers of death, the insane titterings of a gravedigger, and the despairing shrieks of a dissolute politician…..

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Hypocritical Cant, Politics, Satire, Social Justice

A Warfare of Tricks & Contrivances

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Chapter 5: A Warfare of Tricks & Contrivances

“Gawd elp us! Elp! Elp! Oh Gawd, elp!”  

“Silence! Trollop!!!”

“Awww Gawd! Mercy sir! Have mercy! I have a child!”

“Silence I sayyyy!!!!” 

The last word is bellowed so loudly that even the Whipporwills (those Psycho-Pomp harbingers of the netherworld) perched in the branches of the cherry trees fall silent. The sight of the monstrous monk struggling to make away with the chambermaid is at once a sight so piteous and so foul, that it takes all of Sergeant Come-Hither’s restraint, to remain hid ‘mongst the branches of the near-most tree. 

“Oh, oh ma gawd!”

It is not possible to see the face of the cowled monk struggling hideously with the distraught woman whose swaddled child lies scarce a foot away, but beyond any doubt t’is the mad monk Planchette.

“We can’t take him yet, the inspector says we needs the other to turn up a’fore we can!” mutters Sergeant Slaughter, his great fists clenching and unclenching upon his truncheon, which he would most surely bring to bear upon the crown of the monk if given half a chance.

“Have a little patience Slaughter, look at the muscles on er! Ooer! Oh he’s having a hard time of it! Dear Gawd, what a struggle! You’d think he’d know better than to grapple with a kitchen maid!”

“Oi oi take a gander at this, here comes another miscreant! What ave we ere?” whispers Constable Take-Fast espying another figure lurching forth into the church yard. 

T’is the Member of Parliament for Richmond and Sitterforth, but my what a change! Gone are the finely trimmed lustrous locks of certainty, and the blue eye of  righteous indignation, all gone! Did ever a gentleman look more dishevelled, more felled by tawdry calamity, more slain by depravity and smitten by rampant degeneracy than this? The right honourable Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe MP has at last been discovered clutching a Moses-Basket in his hands, and the officers little doubt that therein lies the downfall and the shame of the man.

“Planchette! Brother Planchette you devilish occulted spawn unhand the lady! Unhand her I say! Monsieur Planchette, you will desist sir! I have you in my eye sir!” 

Alas for Planchette’s nimble ferocity! In one fell swoop both hands are wrapped around the victim’s neck who, resist him as violently as she might, can scarce free herself from his grip. Exulting in his impending ascendancy, Planchette fails to note the manic gleam in the eye of the outraged (though dishonourable) Hardy Ethelbert-Smythe. The fervour of the monk’s fanaticism has caused him to ignore the resolution of the MP for Richmond and Sitterforth, who, depositing the Moses-Basket (containing the evidence of his shame) on the churchyard lawn, draws forth a pistol and fires roundly upon the mad monk.

“Now!” bellows Sergeant Slaughter blowing hard upon his whistle and following close upon the heels of Constable Take-Fast who, wielding his truncheon violently bids all and sundry to “Halt! In the name of the law!” 

What now of high reputation and unblemished honour? The Goveen Monk whose lunacy has been thwarted by a pistol shot lies mortally stricken, clept in the pitiless arms of Sergeant Slaughter, and what of the pistol wielding politician? Gone! Fled into the sanctum of Christchurch Cathedral taking the Moses-Basket with him.

After him and the basket! The inspector will not countenance another death, look to him Constable Qwinty! Sergeant Come-Hither! To arms sir! To arms!”

The wailings of the infant continue unabated, but the fevered politician hurries on, traversing the floor of the church, dodging the pews and throwing himself afore the sanctified altar.

“Pottering about on the sneak and with a child in hand! T’is an outrage!” roars Constable Qwinty “Hand over the basket!”

“I will not!”

“Give that basket ere!” growls Constable Qwinty inching himself ever closer.

“I will not! I claim the sanctuary of Christchurch Cathedral!”

“Sanctuary? With someone else’s child in thy hands?” replies Sergeant Come-Hither “You shall not! Come away from there! You’ll make things worse on yerself if you don’t!”

“Ha!”

“Ha? Ho! I’ll will ave you, you godless, murdering rapscallion!” and with that Sergeant Take-Fast sprints forward and makes ready to seize his man.

“Halt Sergeant Take-Fast! Halt I say and hark! Do you not hear it? That howling?” cries Constable Qwinty halting himself and turning towards the wide open cathedral doors, “Sounds to me like something’s a-thin outside”. 

Something is indeed a-thin dear reader! T’is the lesser people, the common herd who, their bosoms surfeit with rankling passion, have called themselves to arms, and made their way to the cathedral where (rumour would have it) the homicidal guardian of Spitalfield’s Workhouse is to be found. With breasts bared, teeth gnashing and hair streaming, with cudgels, bludgers and butcher’s knives stuck in make shift belts, the howling mob would do away with a man who has brought untold misery to thousands in Spitalfields.

“Where is he? Where is Ethelbert-Smythe? Bring him out to us, we’ll show him what it is to go a-murdering!”

“Carve up our women & steal our babes? I’ll carve HIM up!”

“Leave us to starve and freeze to death in the alleyways of the Seven Dials would he?”

“Bring him out, the Goveen lickalspit!”

“Bring him forth, the spring-lamb munching ingrate!”

The bells of Christchurch strike two and not for the first time this night Sergeant Slaughter wishes he were abroad patrolling London Bridge in peace. Indeed were it not for the luminous presence of Inspector Depta he and his men would have quit the heathen churchyard long ago.

“My, my! Well, if this don’t beat all hell!” roars the inspector holstering his pistol and holding up a police lantern so as he may address the members of his flock. 

“Ho! You!” suddenly the inspector thrusts his lantern afore him into the ferocious seeming mob and espies Bert Marsh, co-owner of The Sapphire of Jhansi, “Well and if it ain’t Bert! Come for’ard! Don’t be shy! And Is that Nat Spate? Cheat the Old Bailey out of an execution didn’t ya? The Newgate hangman had wind of you near enough!”.

“He did, he did near enuf!” the ferocious horde of vigilantes murmur cheerfully, waving their pitchforks to and fro in solidarity with the inspector’s fine opinions.

“Here we iz nabbing them warmongering members of the aristocracy wot don’t know to keep them murdering ways to themselves an ere you are stopping us! Is that fair I ask you? Well, is it? Is that you Bert Tobin crouching behind that tombstone? Come forth! Right out into the light where we can all see you! Well, and there’s a face to conjure with!” the crowd who know Master Tobin well chuckle quietly amongst themselves.

“Afore you descend into a riotous disorder! Look afore you and see the ailing mother whose poor neck is sore in need of medical attention!” the inspector says reminding them of their duty towards their own. Quick! somebody fetch Father Fitzpatrick! He doctored in the America’s did he not? Fetch Father Fitzpatrick! The murmured request ripples through the crowd swiftly, and a little boy scarce tall enough to be holding a pike makes off and a way to fetch the good father. 

Striding this way and that, the inspector continues to work the crowd,“What you are there are you Alice Marsh? Ain’t ad enough of it yet? What of you Milty? Ready for ten months more my boy? Mrs Becca Hayes! Business slacking is it? That you should be out ere with a carving knife hid in yer corset and poorly by my reckoning! (there is much hilarity at this assertion). Plot a dalliance with sedition and murder on my turf would you?” the inspector roars belligerently “Well, we ain’t having it, hook it! Go on! Justice is reaching it’s close an any as interfere will find themselves come orff worse! Hook it the lot of yer, get orff home!”

What a sight to behold! A more angry looking mob the inspector had not laid his eyes on

for some time, nor could he blame them.

“To hell with yer!” yells one straw haired fellow (a chimney sweep) waving a scythe aloft “To hell with all of yer! A fine world this is, where politicians and monks may ravage our women, and gammon us out of our children. Where milliners and dockers as are starved for work may be starved again of vittles, by such as Ethelbert-Smythe! Out of my way! I will carve my fill of him so gawd elp me I will!” and with that the straw haired denizen, scythe held aloft, leaps forward, and is promptly knocked to the ground by the butt of Inspector Depta’s pistol. 

“Sergeant Girdy! Clep him in irons! Well, and who else shall we be collaring and taking afore the assizes on this morn?”

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