BF Book 1 – Chapter 6 – The investigation begins

When she arrived home, Amelia sent off a message to Dr Pennington and received back a message that he would see her the day after tomorrow at 10 am.  It would be better she thought to go and visit Scotland Yard to find out the situation from them before going to see Dr Watson. Lestrade had left the Yard and she wasn’t sure who had taken over from him. She would go in the morning and find out who was dealing with the case of the assault on Major Hawthorne and how they were progressing find the culprits.

The next morning Amelia dressed in her ‘widow’s weeds’ took a cab to Scotland Yard. she walked into the lobby and up to the enquiry desk and told the sergeant on duty that she would like to speak to an inspector about a murder. When he asked what murder that was and having been informed that it was her guardian who had been murdered and it had taken place 3 months ago he said “Well Miss, I’m sure one of our Inspectors visited you at the time”, she retorted, “I want to talk to the inspector in charge of the case to find out what progress has been made, if any”. Patiently the Sergeant told her, if there had been some progress and all the inspectors are busy. He would take down her particulars and if there was progress he was sure she would be informed. Amelia looked at him. She remembered many years ago a Sikh Sergeant in her father’s regiment who had been obstructive. He was tall, with a massive beard and turban, armed to the teeth and built like a brick shithouse, but he was no match for a 9 year old girl brought up in the Raj and supremely confident of the superiority of her breeding. This sergeant would be no different. She fixed him with a firm stare and said “I would like to see an inspector, immediately.” and after a pause “I do not want to ask again.” The sergeant maintaining what dignity he still had, and not wishing to be party to a scene, which observing the determination of the young woman could well escalate beyond the confines of the office, turned to a constable writing up reports and had a quiet word in his ear. The constable got up and disappeared through an adjacent door. A few minutes later he returned with a young woman dressed in a uniform. The Sergeant gestured  towards Amelia and the woman approached her She asked “Miss Ecclestone? I am woman constable Wilks. Will you come with me please?” She led Amelia through the door and into an office with numerous desks and much activity. Wilks approached one of the desks and she addressed Amelia “This is Detective Sergeant Jones. Miss Ecclestone. He stood and pointed Amelia to a chair at the side of the desk. “What can I do for you?” he began.  Amelia launched into the story of the death of her Guardian three months ago on a London Street. When she had finished Jones asked Wilks to bring the file. Whilst she was away, Amelia said “I did ask to see an Inspector, is Lestrade not here?” Jones gave her a wan smile thinking Dr Watson had a lot to answer for with his memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He told Amelia that Lestrade had left some time ago for a promotion at a force out of London. His replacement was Inspector Knott, who was out of the office at present. Wilks returned with the file, Jones opened it and began to summarise the report. Major Hawthorne had been attacked by two ruffians. They had laid some heavy blows on him using cudgels or some similar weapon. As he reached the part where the severest blows had been applied to his head, he heard a noise and looking up saw tears dropping down Amelia’s face, and he heard her sniffing. He gestured to Wilks and she produced a handkerchief. Amelia wiped her tears and blew her nose. “I’m sorry” she mumbled. She felt guilty that she had let herself down and embarrassed the police. “Perhaps it is better if I don’t go on” said Jones, but Amelia insisted that she was alright and she would not breakdown again.  “What was interesting about the post mortem analysis was that the blows to the head were so severe, it was inspected first and confirmed as the cause of death. The other injuries had been administered earlier but were not the fatal ones, and this is not typical of the kind of street robbery we usually find. However, the reason we did not follow this up was because we have around 6 such attacks every two weeks and we do not have the resources to follow up every one. What we do is keep the information on file and if evidence comes from another source we restart the investigation”. Amelia asked Jones how he would go about finding the culprits if he had the resources and asked if they could give her a list of the ‘usual suspects’ so she could follow them up herself. Jones was shocked. “I don’t think that would be a good idea at all, Madam. You have already shown that you have not recovered from your loss and besides, the kind of men you would be looking for are very dangerous and would not think twice about killing you if they felt threatened. I think we should finish this conversation and I entreat you not to try and take the law into your own hands.”  Amelia stood and took her leave. She realised that she had overstepped the mark and would have to be very careful about she proceeded, although at this point she had no idea how she might even begin to track down the people concerned. As she rode home in the carriage she thought a visit to Dr Watson might put her on the right track. Perhaps after she had kept her appointment with Dr Pennington on the morrow, she would go on to Watson’s consulting rooms and see what he had to say.

When she arrived home she found a message waiting for her from Alice. Alice was excited. She had spoken to Mackenzie and he had relented about allowing her to go out, on the condition that their butler, Talbot, should follow them to make sure they came to no harm. She wrote ‘I deployed all my weapons and went into battle and he had capitulated well before my armory was exhausted. Costa and I have been busy since early morning with needle and thread, and I have garments suitable for walking out. Please come this evening at 8.30 and don’t forget to bring your evening capes with you. I AM SO EXCITED’. Having been faced with virtual ‘house arrest’ for what, 6 weeks or so, until the baby is born, Alice now had a freedom of sorts to venture out. What a relief from oppression that appeared to her to be.  Having read the letter, Amelia went into a bit of a panic. She had to write up the notes of her meeting with Sergeant Jones before she could think of what she might wear for an evening jaunt. She certainly had nothing she could wear without a corset, so she would either have to ‘cheat’ and wear one or think of something quick. Then her mind turned to Cynthia. Since her death, Amelia had done nothing about her room or her clothes. There were wardrobes full of her stuff and as she had a matronly figure Amelia thought she would find no difficulty in finding something that would do. So after taking a little lunch she settled down to write up her notes. Once she was satisfied that she had a correct record of the morning’s proceedings, she steeled herself to go upstairs to Cynthia’s room. She unlocked the door, opened it and was met by a musty smell. The room had not been entered since the funeral over 3 months ago. She made a mental note to tell Mary to carry out a proper clean, and went over to the wardrobes. Cynthia had rows and rows of clothes, but the moths had been at some. She went carefully along a number of rails and picked out a white blouse with pretty embroidery and a brown skirt. They would both have fitted a mature lady a bit on the large size and Amelia thought they would probably suit her purpose. She tried on the blouse. It was very loose and totally overwhelmed her trim figure. The skirt was also very loose and she realised that there would have to be some pins and stiches if it was to stay up. Amelia was quite a bit taller than Cynthia had been and the skirt stopped well short of the ankle. She put them on and stood in front of the mirror, pulling in the waist of the skirt to hold it in place. She called for Mary. It was a bitter sweet moment, the realisation that she was wearing the clothes of her recently deceased and beloved guardian brought a tinge of sadness, but the view in the mirror was truly laughable, and when Mary came in she could not stifle a huge laugh. This broke Amelia’s reverie and she turned to Mary and said, “Stop laughing and help me sew up this skirt so I can wear it.”

At the appointed hour, Amelia arrived at Alice’s house, ex-corset and dressed in Cynthia’s old clothes, hidden underneath a voluminous evening cape and carrying a similar cape for Alice. Alice was ready and quite presentable, but when she spied what Amelia was wearing underneath her cape, she laughed out loud, just as Mary had done. Amelia was quite angry at the ridicule. After all she had  agreed to accompany her friend as a favour, but she soon cheered up and the two of them started to feel excited about their ‘daring adventure’. They were reminded of clandestine ‘midnight suppers’ they used to have as girls. Suitably attired they left the house followed at a discrete distance by Talbot, who had persuaded Mr Worcester to allow him to take along the maid Costa for company. The walk itself was quite without incident and both women prided themselves on the success of their ruse. It seemed so silly that grown women had to revert to such subterfuge to walk out without corsets but they knew how they would be shunned by society if they ever did so in full view. As Amelia left Alice thank her profusely and made her promise that they would do it again soon. Amelia had quite forgotten to share with her friend the meeting she had had with the police. She did not remember until she was in the coach on the way home and then it was too late. She vowed that before their next sally forth she would have something more appropriate to wear.

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