The river looked deep and inviting, its darkness invading profoundly with commitment and solitude. Frederic stepped on a wet cobblestone and peeked downward at the treacherous Thames. Admiration rose over his face accompanied with fear and incurable helplessness. He couldn’t see any other way out of his mess. Frederic made another uncertain step forward, another step towards his eternal dive. A tensed shout came from behind “Inspector!”
Two weeks earlier
The clouds were thick as blood and the night had smothered the streets of London. It was past midnight and the rain hadn’t stopped for hours. The Wilson’s house, with its beautiful planted garden and luxurious architecture, was silent and still. Everyone was asleep – almost everyone.
A pitched black shadow sneaked between the wet trees and rested against the wall under a tall window in the backyard. One minute passed and the gloomy shape started climbing gradually until it reached a higher window. The furtive thief revealed a small metallic tool, which he used to unlash the window’s lock effortlessly. Surprised by how easy it was, he slipped inside. The room was unlit, yet the devious thief moved with conviction while leaving traces of water. He knelt next to a wardrobe and placed his hand under it while his fingers looked for something peculiar and they found it and clicked it. A six-inch drawer popped from the side of the closet. The thief shifted slightly in his place and fished out an egg-sized jewel from the compartment. He put it in a black leather bag and then he returned the drawer back to its place. As he stood up he heard a small sound in the corridor. Reluctantly he slid into a corner and the darkness swallowed him as the door opened. A walking stick appeared at first, and then Mr. Wilson, a 65 years old man, walked inside holding a full glass of whiskey. He reached the centre of the room where he stopped. The thief was able to hear some sort of mumbling followed by glass shattering on the floor and whiskey spilling all over his water trails. He watched the old man clutching his hands at his heart and stumbling sideways until he fell. Five seconds passed before the thief came out from his cover and looked at Mr. Wilson’s corpse. He had hit his head on the corner of the desk. Blood was spilling and the thief had not anticipated gory events, but there was no time to waste as someone would have heard the noises. He went to the window and climbed down swiftly before he disappeared into what was left from the night.
Frederick, a rising star detective from the city, arrived two hours later to the scene; the policemen had already established a perimeter around the house. He had an average height and a good build. His hair was combed backwards, which gave a sharper look to his pale face. His eyes were intelligent but aggressive, an intimidating complexion that sought either fear or respect from people around him. Officer Herbert was talking with two other policemen before he stepped inside the house with his hands in his coat pockets. They saw him and went quiet for a moment. “Detective Frederic Hobbs, it’s an honor,” said Herbert cheerfully yet unnerved. The other policemen held their breath. Silently, the detective walked carefully towards Mr. Wilson’s corpse and observed it. An awkward silence rose in the room until the detective decided to break it. He looked at the officer in charge and said “There’s no honor in meeting people under such circumstances,” and he looked back at the corpse. “So what happened here officer?” he asked while keeping his eyes on the dead body. Officer Herbert exchanged looks with his colleagues and said “We’re still not sure yet.The maid said that she heard a noise, so she came upstairs and saw Mr. Wilson’s lying on the floor. She immediately left the house and headed to the police station. There are no signs of theft or a fight, not even a break in. We’re still looking for clues.” The detective nodded and said “So what you’re saying so far is that Mr. Wilson over here just trampled and hit his head on the table?” then he took a deep breath. “No!” replied a voice from behind and the four lawmen turned toward the figure of the person standing at the door. “I’m sorry to interrupt you gentlemen, but that’s not what happened,” said an attractive woman who looked in her mid-thirties. “And you are?” inquired the officer. “I’m Mrs. Wilson, at your service,” she answered as she bowed with courtesy. “Aren’t you young enough to be Mr. Wilson’s daughter, or perhaps Mr. Wilson’s grand-daughter?” replied one of the policemen with a grin on his face which was followed immediately by remorse. The detective turned and gave him one of his sharpest looks. “What do you mean by ‘No’, Mrs. Wilson?” asked the detective while still focusing on the policeman who was drowning in deep regret. Mrs. Wilson walked towards the closet, kneeled and pressed a button that opened an empty secret drawer. “My husband kept a rare red jewel in here and now it’s gone, stolen. It wasn’t a natural death detective. Someone killed my dearest.” Hearing the new updates, Detective Frederic walked towards Mrs. Wilson and grabbed her gently on her shoulders and said “My deepest condolences. Thank you for your great help, could you meet me downstairs? I’ll follow you in a moment.” Mrs. Wilson nodded miserably and left the room. The officer and policemen were sweating although it was very cold outside. Detective Frederic closed the door behind her and turned towards the dampened law colleagues, “Well officer, I believe that now we have an angle for our interrogation, don’t we?” “Yes, I suppose we do,” replied the officer. The detective nodded and left but his daunting presence stayed within the room.
Mrs. Wilson was standing next to a large window with a glass of whiskey in her hand when detective Frederic came downstairs. “There’s no better remedy than a powerful drink,” he said, but she made no reply. “Mrs. Wilson, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you some questions,” said the detective with a voice that seemed more like an order rather than a request; he was the inspector after all. Mrs. Wilson snapped but she kept her composure, “I know how these things work, my uncle was a detective. I would appreciate it if we just get on with it.” The detective, amazed by her reaction, kept his face straight “Sure. I’m all ears,” a thin line drew up on his lips. Mrs. Wilson informed the detective that her late husband had once told her how valuable the jewel is and that it was stolen 20 years ago. It was found by a detective called Edmund Wiseman. She told him that her husband never had children, neither from her nor from his previous deceased wife, and that the jewel was his only legacy in this world – beside the big house and the lands he owned, thought the detective – yet he listened attentively as she voiced her distress and he nodded each time she declared what seemed like valuable information to the case. He left the Wilson’s property in the early morning, after the officer had carried out a second search for evidence regarding the theft. He went back to his office to file his report.
Inspector Frederic knew about Edmund Wiseman since the latter had a fruitful career in the department and was praised by everyone. Detective Edmund had retired from the force and was working as a private detective somewhere outside the city. Frederic had heard some rumors that Edmund became a drunkard after retirement, yet he didn’t believe any gossip until he saw proof. Drunkard or not, he needed to talk to him very soon.
The weather was not any better in Oxford. The rain had overflowed its slopes and made it harder for horses and wagons to navigate the tracks. Yet, the vision was not foggy, road signs and lanterns were available at every corner guiding travelers throughout the night. Edmund Wiseman sat inside the Greenwood tavern and ordered his ale around the clock. No one else sat with him but there were a lot of people around him. He had narrow piercing blue eyes that observed the secrets behind his surroundings. Some might see it as cynical with undeniable politeness. His equanimity resulted from an independent childhood and a successful history in his profession. He asked the bartender for his fourth drink as he wiped his beard using his sleeve. “I suppose it’s already late to advise you to go easy on yourself,” said Detective Frederic as he walked slowly towards Edmund and stopped. Edmund observed Frederic’s posture as he carried a soaked umbrella and his outfit, neat and tidy, a reminder of his own past. “Bartender! Make it two” he shouted. He turned toward Frederic and said “take a seat detective.” Frederic took two cups from the stewardess who was approaching them and put them both in front of Edmund and sat straight at his table facing him. “You still got your powers of observation as it seems,” he said and folded his hands. “Doing my best to drop it off,” Edmund replied as he downed his drink, “But it’s not working well so far. By the way, are you going to drink yours?” he signaled towards the other cup. “I don’t drink while I’m on duty,” Frederic said with major clarity in his voice, “Can we go somewhere less crowded?” Edmund took the second cup and downed it too, and then burped out loud. There was a cheer and applause inside the Greenwood tavern. “A detective is always on duty. Anyhow, let’s go to my place,” Edmund mumbled and stood up quickly. He called for the bartender and told him “He’s paying,” pointing at detective Frederic and went out. Frederic paid for the drinks that Edmund had drank without leaving tips and walked out of the door, he saw Edmund wandering around the two policemen who had escorted him to the tavern. The rain had taken a break from pouring down on the poor fellows. The three of them followed Edmund whose pace had increased as he took his first right, they kept up behind him, then Edmund took another right and Frederic sensed something odd but couldn’t grasp it, not until Edmund had taken another two rights and went back to the bar. Frederic stopped a moment in front of the Greenwood tavern trying to figure out whether he was being played or if Edmund was really that drunk. The two other policemen didn’t dare saying anything to him but he noticed a little-bitty smile on their faces. He followed him inside. Edmund was sitting on the same table with a drink in front of him. “Welcome to my office,” he said. Frederic, clueless of his recent perception yet insisting on not showing his predicament, he grinned and took a seat “I never took you for a humorous person.” “Well, I’m not really trying to amuse you,” Edmund replied patiently, then waved his hands pointing at the tavern around, “half of this belongs to me. I sleep in a room up there and I meet my clients down here.” Frederic, now certain that Edmund was drunk and playing him at the same time, decided to take the lead from there and said “Mr. Wilson is dead,” “Lucky wife,” Edmund interrupted him. “His young wife,” Frederic corrected. “That’s how Mr. Wilson liked them,” Edmund chuckled in his chair. “She said that he was killed,” Frederic continued absentmindedly, “and that his killer stole a rare jewel from the house. The jewel was stolen 20 years ago and was found with your assistance.” Even though the tavern was merely full, there was an untouchable silence engulfing their table. Edmund broke it by sipping slowly and noisily from his cup, he fixed his eyes on Frederic who didn’t show any irritation regarding his manners. He took another sip but this time with a louder noise. It kept going on for a while until he finished his drink, then Edmund noted “If you’re looking for the thief who stole it 20 years ago, then I can’t help you because he died in prison not long after he was sentenced. And even,” he waved his hand holding the empty cup around, “if hypothetically he was alive and had escaped without anyone knowing it, he wasn’t the kind of people who could kill another human being. He was as poor as a church mouse.” Frederic nodded at him then stood up and said “Fairly well. I’ll mention what you’ve told me in my report. Hopefully I won’t be bothering you any soon.” They shook hands and Frederic left the tavern.
Two days later, the sky was anything but bright and sunny yet it was bearable among the citizens of London. They had undergone such climate throughout their whole lives, from the poorest to the richest; the weather doesn’t discriminate anyone. Edmund strolled its streets moving politely sideways and saluting each passerby he encountered. He had busy thoughts regarding what inspector Frederic had told him and he fancied paying his condolences to the new Mrs. Wilson. He stopped in front of the big house and looked up at the sky. The sun was blinding if anyone could see it but no one could because of the thick clouds except for Edmund Wiseman. He was standing in the right place at the right moment when a tiny hole appeared through the clouds and the light beamed all over his face and locked on him for few seconds and gave him some stimulating sensations. He stepped through the Wilson’s gate. Hazel, the head house maid, old enough to recognize Edmund, let him inside and asked him to wait at the entrance as she called for Mrs. Wilson. Edmund stared at the interior of the house, he could see throughout the corridor new tusks added to a wall above the same untouched Windsor chair inside the living room. Also he noticed a new chandelier hanging from above his head, and the mahogany shelves and walls spread all over the house were recently painted. A giant mirror with a gilt wood frame stood next to a hat rack on his right which was apparently another new item in the late old man’s collection. Edmund wondered how much did his young wife had inherited. “I thought you were clear in stating that you can’t help in this.” Inspector Frederic spoke plainly as he emerged alongside Mrs. Wilson. “I said that I can’t help if you’re looking for the same thief, but I can offer my assistance yet again for the Wilson’s family,” replied Edmund sharply and then walked toward Mrs. Wilson and said in a compassionate tone “My sincere condolences to you my dear. May God gives you comfort.” Mrs. Wislon smiled with sorrow in her eyes and replied “Thank you Mr. Wiseman. My husband told me how much he valued your friendship when you were around.” “I deeply appreciate that,” Edmund said, while Frederic was looking at them both in wonder. There was a moment of awkward silence between the three of them; Edmund was enjoying it as much as he enjoyed every matter in his life. He wished to stretch it more but he came for a purpose and that purpose can’t wait too much. “May I take a look around the scene, perhaps I could inspire inspector Frederic to narrow an angle for his investigation,” he asked Mrs. Wilson in amiable attitude. Mrs. Wilson glanced at inspector Frederic and replied “Yes of course. Follow me.” As they were approaching the stairs, Edmund turned suddenly toward Mrs. Wilson and said “I apologise if I sound a little bit rude, but I really miss the whiskey that Mr. Wilson used to keep. Is it possible in any way to have some of it now?” Mrs Wilson nodded with puzzled eyes and went away. Both detectives didn’t share a word as they reached the room. Edmund started studying the room from the door and looking for anything that might be evidence. There was still shattered glass and dried blood on the floor and more of it on the corner of the table. He then asked Frederic how Mr. Wilson was laying on the floor. Frederic handed him his report and the coroner’s report.
Edmund glanced at them both rapidly, then he started moving around the room tiptoeing and adding theatricality to the scene silently. Then he straightened himself and said “Probably, there was no murder.” Frederic looked confused since he didn’t soak up what Edmund had exactly spoken, “Excuse me?” he replied. Edmund, amused of being asked, stood in the middle of the room and started explaining with enthusiasm: “Let’s suppose there was someone hiding inside and Mr. Wilson came in. The only way for Mr. Wilson to hit his head is if that someone had pushed him from behind towards the table since there are no signs of struggle or assault according to your report and the only place inside the room to hide from someone coming in is to stand behind the door on its left. Here.” Edmund stood behind the door for a moment, then he added “And if someone comes in, assuming that you were standing behind the door,” he stepped out, “you would either push him with an angle more inclined to the right or pull him forcefully to the left, but it’s highly improbable to push him straight from the door. I know it sounds strange for now but I would conclude the following: There was no murder here.” As he finished his explanation, Mrs. Wilson entered the room holding two glasses of whiskey. She offered one to Edmund and turned toward Frederic to give him his glass but Edmund pulled his hand and took the second cup from hers and said “He doesn’t drink while on duty.” He downed the first one then the second one right after it. “I think our dear inspector here will tell you of his new insights, I’ve got to go now. I’m on a timeline. Thank you for your hospitality Mrs. Wilson.” Edmund expressed happily. He moved toward the door and spoke over his shoulder “Inspector, you still need to catch the thief though,” and he walked out.
Edmund reached the Police headquarter and asked for Officer Herbert. “Edmund! It has been a long time,” yelled Herbert as he showed up with his hands wide open ready to lock him like a missed brother. Edmund choked the words “Indeed. Indeed.” under Herbert’s energetic embrace. “How is your family?” asked Edmund once he was released from his amiable captor, “Family is all right,” answered Herbert, “my wife wants me to quit my job and work somewhere else closer to the children. ‘You ought to be more present’ she keeps saying.” Herbert chuckled, and Edmund decided to humor him by adding a louder laugh. “I’m sorry I came here without prior notice,” Edmund said, “but I’m in a bit of hurry, although I have few questions regarding the Wilson’s incidence.” “Oh, right,” Herbert acknowledged and raised his eyebrows which indicated fascination and surprise according to Edmund, then he murmured with a lower voice while rolling his eyes, “You should see Detective Frederic, he’s the one in charge and he’s…” Herbert waved his hand, “He is more like you but less friendly and very unapproachable.” “Yes, our destinies crossed recently more than once,” said Edmund, “but I’m here to ask you if he strikes you as someone inclined to corruption.” “No,” replied Herbert immediately, “not corrupted. Maybe he looks unpleasant, but not corrupted. Why are you asking about that?” Edmund took a moment considering Herbert’s words, then he said “Oh never mind. I was just checking if the Wilson’s case was in good hands.” They both smiled genuinely at each other and Edmund said “I must go now. I have to be somewhere. I’m really glad that I met you. Maybe next time you’d tell me about your kids and wife,” and he winked at Herbert. They shook hands. Edmund left the headquarter and disappeared into an alley.
It was still daytime but the alley was dark. Edmund sensed there was someone shadowing him but he didn’t make any sign of panic or fright. He kept walking slowly and made a turn around a corner and quickly hid behind a box. After a moment a toddler walked across, a poor street child according to his appearance. “It’s dangerous to follow strangers through alleyways,” Edmund said straightaway. Fearless, the kid turned around calmly. He had eyes as green as emeralds. Edmund had mixed feelings between admiring his courage and sympathizing with his numbness. “It’s also dangerous to walk into an alley all alone,” replied the kid, as three more kids came into sight from both ends of the passage. Edmund, happy from taking the sympathy out from the equation, pulled a silver flask from under his coat, took a sip and threw it to the kid, and said “Careful with that, it would give you headache.” The kid took a sip from it and passed it to his friend who drank from it and coughed. Edmund laughed out loud then he produced a stack of money and walked toward the kid in charge and said “Five pounds for your name.” The kid took the paper and said “My friends call me Shadow.” Edmund produced another stack of money and said, “Okay Shadow. I’d like to hire you, along with your friends. You get 50 pounds for one week.” Shadow looked at his friends who were closing in and turned towards Edmund and replied candidly “The milk is a necessity for us as children and its price got really high recently.” Edmund nodded, even though he knew that these poor kids would steal the milk even if they had the money. They would steal anything, and he pulled a 20 pound bill and passed it to Shadow, who in turn raised his hand to take it, but Edmund kept his grip firm on it which made Shadow confused. “I’ll need to take back my flask. It’s not a healthy container for milk,” Edmund said wickedly and let go of the money. Shadow walked to his friend and nodded to him, who then threw back the flask to Edmund. “Do you know inspector Frederic Hobbs?” Edmund asked. One of the kids spit on the cobblestones, not that it was anything clean, yet he was expressing his opinion in ill-bred manners. Edmund smiled at that and said, “I want you to ‘shadow’ him all the time and tell me about his whereabouts when I come back again in less than a week.” The little kids agreed and Edmund walked away while consuming what was left in his flask.
Edmund revisited the headquarters the next morning. Inspector Frederic was sitting behind his well-organized desk on the second floor. They shook hands and sat, “So did you catch him?” Edmund asked with obvious humor in his voice. “No I haven’t” replied Frederic. “ What make you think it’s a he and not a she?” he asked interrogatively. Edmund stared at him for a while, then he burped loudly. Frederic smelled the whiskey but didn’t react because he didn’t want to play whatever game the drunkard in front of him was trying to pull. When Edmund noticed his resilience, he respectfully said “I have a question for you inspector, if I may. “Sure, anything that would relieve you,” replied Frederic – his eyes as aggressive as ever, Edmund noted in his head. “Well, in the report, it was written that there was glass shattered on the floor and that it was Mr. Wilson’s cup of glass according to its resemblance to the others cups he collected. Also, it was written how the whiskey was spilled on the floor. I mean with precision, like someone would describe a trail or a path. Don’t you think that’s weird? I personally admire Mother Nature and its way of readjusting correspondingly. You see?” asked Edmund. Then he bursted out laughing and clapped his hands. “What I find weird is how you can manage to get drunk at this time of the day,” Frederic replied bitterly. Edmund stopped laughing at Frederic’s seriousness, fixed his gaze at him for a moment and then cracked up hilariously for another minute. He calmed himself, wiped the tears from his eyes, then he produced his pocket watch and checked the time. He stood up, took a deep breath and said courteously “You’re right. I’m sorry inspector. In any case, I came here to tell you that I’m going back to Oxford now and I wish you a stroke of luck in your investigation. Have a nice day,” and left. The inspector watched him getting into a chariot at the station from the window of his office.
After a long day trying to explain to his chief Charles, a resilient headstrong individual, that there was no murder at the Wilson’s, only a theft, Frederic went home. The chief was convinced that the thief also murdered Mr. Wilson since he was blinded by his previous acquaintanceship with the deceased. Inspector Frederic couldn’t change his superior’s opinion. “Frederic. Is that you?” Mrs. Fleming, his landlady, called from the second floor. Her screeching voice could reach deaf ears within miles. Frederic mumbled without saying a word but Mrs. Fleming could hear him since she has distinctive hearing. Frederic put his coat on a chair and went upstairs. “Frederic. Are you well?” she asked and walked towards him. She bumped into the drawer in the middle of the corridor and strafed aside, Frederic noticed that her sight was getting weaker – he wished the same for her voice as well. They stood facing each other for a moment, then he asked “Did anyone pass by today?” “No” she replied, “but I sensed a weird smell in the house during the day, similar to the sewers’. Can you check the pipes in the basement?” Frederic nodded calmly, since he detected it too and said “I’ll see to it tomorrow. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to rest. Have a nice evening Mrs. Fleming,” and he entered his room. The smell was stronger inside. He lit a candle over the desk next to his bed, took off his clothes then he sat on the corner of the mattress – he didn’t move for a while. One would think there was no one inside that room. Frederic sniffed around and then he reached with his hand a wobbly plank in the floor and opened it. He pulled an egg-sized jewel out and murmured something under his breath. He put it back where it was hidden and fell asleep.
Mrs. Fleming knocked on his door in the early morning, it was Sunday. “Wake up Frederic,” she said, “I made you breakfast.” Frederic didn’t reply although he was awake getting dressed. Mrs. Fleming waited for a moment then said “I’ll leave it here on the table. I’m going to the church now,” still no reply from the room. “Have a nice day inspector. Goodbye.” Once he heard her leaving the house, Frederic opened the door. He glanced at the breakfast that Mrs. Fleming had prepared: beef and mashed potatoes, but he didn’t feel like eating. He went down to the basement as he promised and checked all the pipes but he couldn’t find anything unusual. Probably it’s rot or a dead animal somewhere near, he thought to himself. He left the house and headed to the Wilson’s place. After hearing the door being locked downstairs, Shadow emerged from under the inspector’s bed. He was worn out like a soldier after his greatest battle. His eyes were swollen and hollowed and his skin as pale as smoke. He stood over the plank with the secret compartment and mused himself on stealing the jewel as a reward for his recent undertaking. But his instincts stroke him harder than his eccentric tendency. He sensed that it would bring him burden rather than pleasure and wealth. He resolved to follow his hunch and not to steal this time. His new disposition didn’t last long once he stepped into the corridor. The sight of the breakfast took his breath away and he found no possible burden in looting what looked like decent food. He left the house through the window and headed toward the closest alley. He stopped for a moment and rubbed his satisfied belly, then sniffed his armpit. He smelled horrible indeed, he thought as he kept moving and the darkness of the alleyway devoured him.
Mrs. Wilson, wearing a black dress for mourning, approached Frederic who was waiting for her in her garden. She raised her hand and said “Good day inspector.” “Good day to you too Mrs. Wilson” Frederic said and kissed her hand. “Oh please, call me Sally,” she said with a flirting sign in her voice. Frederic understood her maneuvering and luckily to him, it corresponded with the angle he was trying to work on regarding his investigation. “I’d like to ask you something a bit personal” he said. “How did you manage to carry on with the relation? I mean physically…with the difference of age and all,” he asked without making eye contact , phasing into shyness. “Inspector!” Mrs. Wilson snapped as she was taken aback, “how could this be of any help to your investigation?” “It’s not for police work. It’s for my personal endeavor,” he replied while looking straight into her eyes. Frederic observed her blushing; a divergence of red and black in front of him like a ladybird. “Well, if that’s the case,” Mrs. Wilson said, misery filling the garden around them, “I can only say that there wasn’t much of intimacy between us. His heavy drinking habits had already weakened his heart way before our engagement. On our wedding night, his heart started to beat irregularly and he became breathless for a moment, it was too scary for both of us. I suppose he eventually chose alcohol over me.” There were tears in her eyes but Frederic was as skeptical as a cat. He didn’t trust her emotions and didn’t like the fact that she easily told him this story now even though she must have had informed him about it when he appeared at the scene the night of the incident. Silence was a must to puzzle out his dilemma. “I’m sorry to hear that” he said in a nice, warm tone. She nodded and wiped her tears away as if accepting his apology. “I must go now and keep looking for the jewel” he declared. Frederic sensed content over her face. As he was sitting behind his desk later in the afternoon contemplating how and what Mrs. Wilson had told him, she’s definitely after the jewel, he thought to himself. Probably she insisted that it was a murder in order to make him muster more effort to find it.
“Edmund,” the bartender said as he entered the tavern carrying a wooden box, “there’s someone here to talk to you. She claims that she’s the maid of the Wilson’s.” Edmund told him to let her in; it was still in the early morning. “Good day ma’am, how can I help you?” he said as soon as she entered and he took a sip from his cup. She looked frail and scared. She was wearing a dark grey coat that matched her white old hair. “I apologize for coming here like this,” she said. “Please take a seat,” Edmund offered, but she shook her head and told him “I’m not staying long, I quit today and I’m going to live with my sister in Northampton. I came here to tell you something that might help you out. I’ve served the Wilson’s family for 38 years and a half if I want to be more accurate.” Her eyes dropped to the floor, her fingers crossed over her belly – if she had kneeled, one would think she was confessing to a priest, but it was only a tipsy private detective in front of her, “and I’ve always kept myself out of others’ business, but Mr. Wilson’s new wife, this one,” she sucked the air through her teeth and her eyes met with Edmund’s, “I never liked her. She kept Mr. Wilson drunk as much as she could, with her insincere flirting and hollow seduction.” “Amen to that” Edmund interrupted her and took another sip. Her old eyes pierced him like a mother disciplining her child. Edmund felt embarrassed, he straightened himself and said “I’m listening, please continue.” “I have nothing to add. My chariot awaits me. I’ll go now. Thank you for listening anyway” she said and left the tavern. Commonly, people linger in order to appraise others’ reaction when they drop a bomb on them, but Hazel didn’t wait, Edmund noted.
Edmund stayed at the Greenwood for three days before heading back to London. It had stopped raining when he reached the alleyway where he previously met Shadow. The passage looked a little bit cleaner, probably because it had poured down densely Edmund figured. He reached the box where he previously discussed employment with the kids. He sat on it and pulled out his flask. “He has the biggest gem I have ever set my eyes on” Shadow spoke as he and his friends appeared from the dark. “Good. This means he still has it.” Edmund replied and winked. An authentic smile drew over his face. “We’re professionals,” Shadow said, chest pumped out and chin risen, “we know what to steal.” “Better and better. I knew I’ve come to the right fellows” Edmund said, “besides, it wouldn’t have done much good to you” he sipped from his flask. “What do you mean?” Shadow asked. Edmund realized that he had talked more than he should have had. He took another sip, jumped from the crate and said “You wouldn’t have been able to sell it, everyone is looking for it. Anyway I want you to go back again and steal it.” Shadow stared for what seemed like a minute at Edmund without saying a word. He then moved to the crate and climbed to where the detective was sitting. Edmund stared back at him until he understood what was missing; he pulled out two 50 pounds papers from his pocket and said “You get one now, and one after the job is done.” Shadow jumped back on the cobblestones and took one 50 pounds. Edmund smiled at him playfully then added “ I want you to replace the gem with a note, and I want you to hide the gem until I come back here. Do not attempt to sell it.” He produced his small notebook and wrote on a piece of paper using his right hand “I know.” He glared for a moment then he immediately shred the paper and threw it away while murmuring something, then he took another paper and wrote with his left hand “We know.” He handed it to Shadow and walked away.
It would be inhumane to claim that street kids have any benefits coming from their living state, but Shadow had always managed to look at the bright side. One of the good things, he thought, about being a homeless boy, is that other citizens wouldn’t pay any attention to him as long as he’s standing away and keeping his distance from them. He could walk into any street or even a backstreet without getting noticed – as Shadow would judge, a passive ability to remain invisible.
It was getting dark when he walked into the back alley behind inspector Frederic’s house. His friends secured the entrance from both sides in case someone would pass by, just as they did few days before. They gave Shadow sign that all lanes were clear. He started climbing the wall using the pipes as support. He reached Mrs. Fleming’s window and slipped through it. She always kept her window opened unlike Frederic. Shadow tiptoed through her room and went to the corridor. He could hear Mrs. Fleming singing with a horrible voice somewhere downstairs. He entered Frederic’s room and did what Edmund had paid him to do then he left the house the same way as he came in.
Two hours later, Frederic entered his chief’s office as per his request and found Edmund sitting with the chief inspector. They were both twittering quietly. “Frederic,” Charles said, “I suppose you two have met so no need for an introduction. Please have a seat.” Frederic walked towards his chair while Edmund was looking at him. “Edmund and I have known each other before I become the headman in here” Charles continued unheedingly, “and he was telling me some quite interesting observations from his side regarding the Wilson’s case.” Edmund kept looking at Frederic who was doing his best performance holding a straight face. Edmund was astonished that he even mused himself i wondering how long Frederic could endure his play without blinking. The chief felt something strange between them but he couldn’t seize it, so he carried on. “Edmund was telling me that…” “That if you find the killer you find the jewel, and vice versa,” Edmund cut in, his words stabbing and scratching like a lion’s claw. Frederic felt heat and it wasn’t fire burning, more like someone pouring acid on his head, every drop for every bone – normally, such feelings would bring about the fight or flight instinct. “I thought you said there wasn’t a killer and that it was natural death” Frederic said as he looked directly into Edmund’s eyes. “True, I said that” Edmund humbly admitted, “but I could be wrong.” The same hateful smile appeared on his face. “All I’m saying here,” Edmund continued indifferently while turning towards the chief inspector, “finding the jewel is the only key to the investigation.” He produced his flask and offered it to the chief who refused it politely claiming that his wife made him stop drinking – not that it was inappropriate to drink while on duty, Edmund beard in mind, then he drank from it enjoyably. “I totally agree with him,” the chief acknowledged and he demanded from Frederic some good results very soon, then he dismissed them both.
Edmund left the headquarters and went back to the same alleyway where he had met Shadow earlier. The street boys weren’t hiding. Edmund saw them from afar and kept at his pace. “Now what?” Shadow asked. Edmund pulled his flask and put it to his mouth then withdrew it and turned it to the ground. “Bloody empty,” he muttered and put it back into his coat and said, “Now, I want to see it.” Shadow revealed the jewel but kept his distance. Edmund gazed at it then he produced a 50 pounds paper and gave it to Shadow. He then added “ I need one more thing for you to do. I want you to go to the Wilson’s place in the morning, knock hard on the door and leave it there. Needless to say that you should sprint away as fast as you can without letting anyone see you.” Shadow nodded at Edmund who stepped towards him and raised his hand. “Nice doing business with experts like you,” Edmund said as they shook hands, then he left.
Frederic walked home slowly that night, trying to comprehend the whole situation. He considered that getting rid of the crimson’s stone would keep him poor but safe. He greeted Mrs. Fleming and joined her for dinner in the kitchen. She had made him a steak pie that he ate bit by bit. There’s no need to devour it, he thought, bad for digestion. Moreover, he was enjoying the hot crispy bites of meat with the cheese filling the gaps between his teeth. One would think he’s having his final supper.
They merely talked while eating, not that they spoke too much to each other anyway, but Mrs. Fleming told him that she caught the same smell during the day but it was weaker than before. Frederic thought that his landlady could be exaggerating the whole thing because she feels lonely, so he disregarded her remark, thanked her for the dinner and went upstairs to his room.
There are many levels of craziness in the world. Working in law enforcement makes you witness some really ugly fragments of it. In order to interpret the insane villains and to solve their crimes, detectives harness a particular set of skills of self-control, mentally and emotionally, to confront severe situations. This was one of the worse conditions a detective – and also a thief – could ever find himself in. When someone loses something, usually they experience a common pattern that consists of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but Frederic hit the bottom instantaneously thanks to the note that he found instead of the precious stone under the plank in his room. One shouldn’t in any case imagine that the note had eased Frederic’s distress as a shortcut towards the acknowledgement of his mistake and solecism. His reputation and career would be over and he wouldn’t be able to escape the city borders. Not to mention that he wouldn’t last a day in the same place with the criminals he had imprisoned in the past. He became mad, mad enough to put the mad hatter back into his hat. The only thing he was thinking about is how to pull himself out of his predicament . He stayed awake throughout the night contemplating the idea of a long drop into his final fall.
Even with having the ability to remain undetected, Shadow understood the fact that street boy or not, other people might notice anyone whom they’d encounter, even from a distance. He decided to play it as safe as he ever did throughout all his ventures performed in his life. It was raining heavily before sunrise which blurred the vision of any trespassers, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t stressed. He managed to climb the fence that surrounded the Wilson’s house and slid through the garden while crouching until he reached the door. Afraid of being unheard and of failing his mission, he kicked the door once and battered three times rapidly. He put the gem on the floor then he dashed away like a bat out of hell, stopping for a split second to pull out a scarlet flower and then back to his vanishing plan.
Frederic left the house at dawn. Edmund was already hiding around the corner watching him leave. Edmund tracked Frederic as he pounded the pavement till he reached the Thames. He observed him as he hesitated when he got closer to the edge of the sidewalk towards the river. Few minutes passed and Frederic stepped closer towards the verge.
“Inspector!” Edmund called from across the street. Frederic turned around right away but didn’t move from his place. “Good morrow to you too,” Edmund said smiling. Frederic didn’t reply, not out of courtesy but due to the shock. “I suppose you’re not a morning person,” Edmund continued. He pulled out his flask from his coat, “you’re not really going to jump, are you now?” he took a sip and waved his hand at him, “at least have a drink. Here, this one is on me,” Edmund said as he got closer to him and raised the bottle towards him. Panic and tension swept Frederic’s face but Edmund caught the signs, he instantly said “I know that you didn’t kill Mr. Wilson.” Frederic’s color came back to him even though he was pale by nature, “How?” Frederic muttered, “How did you know?” Edmund looked at him briefly and said “it doesn’t matter how. What matters is that I know who did it and that I’m willing to help you catch her.” “Her?” Frederic asked, still taken aback from the whole situation. “Yes, her,” Edmund replied, “Mrs. Wilson, to be more accurate about it.” “Can you prove it?” Frederic asked. Edmund’s face became serious and stern and he answered “Yes. Come with me and I’ll tell you how.” Frederic stepped away from the edge.
Frederic went to his office in the afternoon; he had spent the first half of the day listening to Edmund’s plan.
Chief Charles passed by his office to tell him that Mrs. Wilson was extremely happy because she recovered the gem. He congratulated him since he had put too much pressure on the killer in the street which made him hand over the gem. “That’s great news,” Frederic said, with a confusing smile. “Maybe I’ll pay her a visit later after I finish my work here. I still got to find out who’s responsible.” Frederic added. The chief agreed with him and left his office.
Frederic left the headquarters late at night and headed towards the Wilson’s house. He circled around the house and jumped over the fence once in the clear, exactly as he did the night he stole the gem two weeks earlier. He sneaked through the garden and climbed up to the highest window. He heard someone talking from inside but didn’t bother, he reached for the window and sneaked inside using the same metallic tool and hid behind the door of the room.
Meanwhile, Hazel was standing at the door talking to the new head housemaid who let her in, according to Mrs. Wilson’s instruction. “I’m not staying long. I just came here to pick up the rest of my stuff,” Hazel said. Mrs. Wilson smiled and said “of course,” she walked her to her room on the upper floor. “Too bad that you decided to leave,” Sally said with mockery filling her voice. Hazel didn’t reply.
They reached Hazel’s old room and Sally waited for her to get her things. On their way back, Hazel stopped next to the room where Mr. Wilson died and looked at the door, “I know that you liked him,” Sally said. “I know that you didn’t,” Hazel replied sarcastically. Sally smirked at her, walked to the door, opened it and stated “Well, that might be true. You better take a glance at your final memory from this house.” Hazel made one single step through the room and asked from her shoulder “Why did you do it?” “Why I did what?” Sally teased from behind. “I know your type. And I know that you made him drink continuously so he reaches his demise. I know that you planned for it,” Hazel said without turning around. “Time and tide wait for no woman in her thirties. You surely didn’t expect me to spend the best years of my life with that old sickening worn out man, now did you?” Sally asked and dissolved into laughter.
“I suppose you’re right, I didn’t.” Hazel replied and turned around to face her while Frederic stepping into the doorway with a big smile all over his face.
One week later, Frederic walked into the Greenwood tavern. Edmund was sitting at his usual table. He was drinking and singing with some other fellows. “Bartender! One more drink for our lovely inspector over here,” Edmund yelled as his friends cheered him and applauded. Frederic took his cup from the bar and walked towards Edmund. “Do you want us to go to my office?” Edmund asked. His friends burst out laughing. “No thank you. I believe it’s fine right here,” said Frederic and sipped from his cup. Another cheer rose inside the tavern. Frederic took a seat facing Edmund and told him “I’m sure that you heard the news about Mrs. Wilson. She was arrested. You were right about your hunch.” Edmund nodded and said “It’s not a hunch. Only experience,” and he drank his ale. “There’s more,” Frederic continued with a bit of seriousness in his voice, “Apparently the gem was fake.” Edmund, drunk as hell, nodded and smiled while looking at the table. He then started laughing hysterically and fell from his chair spilling his ale all over himself and his friends. Another joyous uproar filled the tavern. Frederic considered that Edmund was too drunk to accept the irony of fate. He helped him get on his legs and carried him to his room with the assistance of the bartender.
Edmund’s room smelled awful, rot filling the atmosphere, and it looked messy, as if a civil war broke out inside. They put him in his bed and went downstairs. Frederic took another drink and put the money on the bar. He even included tips and left into the night.
Edmund woke up at dawn; he didn’t look tired nor drained out. He opened the door of his room, glanced sideways then went back inside. He kneeled next to his bed and his hand reached under it. With a small effort he snapped a small box and pulled it in front of him. It looked very old, dust covering its surface. Edmund examined it; he blew on it and opened its latch. The sun was rising and the light was getting stronger inside the room while his eyes reflected the crimson’s stone that he was holding in his hands. “It was fake a long time ago inspector,” Edmund Wiseman muttered under his breath.