Holmes laughed. Watson looked even more horrified.
"It's alright, Watson," Holmes stage-whispered to his friend. "I assure you this is part of my investigation of the Whitechapel Murders. Miss Sherwood is assisting me."
Fifteen minutes later we were all seated around the fire in 221B Baker Street. I was still in the dress I had gone out in, but I had cleaned the paint off my face and taken down my hair. Poor Watson was still trying to get his head around the situation, and telling both of us off for embarking on such an adventure: the danger, the damage to my reputation… the usual rubbish. And to be perfectly honest, the only way to further damage my reputation would be to ride stark naked down the middle of the street like Lady Godiva.
"I knew the possible outcomes of the night's work," I told Watson. "I'm not as helpless as I look."
To make my point I took my knife out of my sleeve, and since I had just met the unfortunate man, I did not take my revolver out of its hiding place. Watson chose not to comment. I couldn't see Holmes because I was standing more or less behind him, but I suspected that he was keeping a poker face.
"Well was the evening successful, at any rate?" Watson asked.
"I believe so," Holmes said, and turning to look at him I saw that he had his eyes closed, so that he could access the memory without the distraction of his current surroundings. "It was too dark for me to clearly see the face of our suspect, but he was tall, looked very strong, was dressed like a fisherman, and I was fortunate enough to see that he had mud from the waterfront area on his shoes."
"Then you, ah, picked me up?" I asked.
"The papers said that the killer is another doctor," Watson said.
"Their judgment is sound enough, but erroneous. A doctor would have the knowledge of anatomy to make such a cut and extraction, but the wounds them self are more similar to that inflicted on a fish during the cleaning process."
We filled Watson in on the rest of the details of the case, and then he went back home to his wife. Holmes got that moody look on his face again, probably because he had once again been reminded that Watson had a wife. I got up and looked at my reflection in the dark window. I hadn't managed to completely clean all the paint off my face.
"I'm going to take a bath," I said.
"I'll not disturb you," Holmes replied.
What a night, I thought, as I ran the water. Tomorrow we would probably be back at the waterfront once the fishing boats got back. I wouldn't be a fisherman for the world. I get up hours before Holmes, but to have to get up around three or four in the morning! And then there were the insides of all those damn fish. No wonder Jack went crazy.
I stripped and got into the bath. The water washed away tension and left me feeling relaxed and ready for sleep. Dried, and clad in my nightgown and Oriental robe I opened the bathroom door, and total darkness greeted me. Holmes was either sitting in the dark, or he'd gone to bed himself. I carefully picked my way over to the door to my room. It was so dark I needn't have bothered getting dressed, I thought to myself. Oh, what was I saying? If Holmes was there he'd miss the sound of my skirts.
I did have some worries that the killer would not be put off by my exit the previous night, and would kill someone else, but when Lestrade had not appeared by the time I awoke, I felt that it was a good sign. The day was barely warmer than the night, and when Holmes and I set off for the waterfront I was bundled up like an Egyptian mummy. He wore very little to ward off the cold; when I lived in the United States I had loved the cold, and still did, but in England the lack of heat was ten times more pronounced.
I did not know exactly what, or who, we were looking for, but something told me I would know it when I saw it. Or him. The fishermen were mending their nets and doing other such tasks. I paused watching a bulky man with dark hair and a sour expression write something. He became aware of my stare and gave me an evil look, his green eyes flashing. I hastened to catch up with Holmes.
"Do you know him?" I asked.
Holmes shook his head. "I am curious, though, as to why he reacted as he did to you. Most men wouldn't."
I decided to take that as a compliment. "I noticed the boat's name, for what use that might be."
"It could be invaluable."
"She's called The Shark, which makes sense, I suppose. Sharks eat fish, and they're fearsome predators."
Holmes laid a finger on his lips, a sign that he was thinking, and I fell silent. After his hand had returned to dangling by his side, I asked another question.
"Where to now?"
"To the nearest public house," he replied expansively. "Always a center for local gossip."
Of course. The nearest public house was a small, rather spooky dark place called The Little Mermaid. No doubt the landlord thought he was hilarious. While Holmes charmed the old codger with his coin, I played the anemic young thing who was serving.
"Do you know anything about the men on The Shark?" I asked her.
"Which one?" She asked.
"The big one, with the dark hair," I said. "Maybe he was the captain? I thought he was nice-looking."
"No," she said vehemently. "You want to stay away from Captain Jacoby."
"Lot of reasons, first of all, is someone pretty as you can do a lot better than a fisherman. The gentleman you came with… you should stay with him."
"Yes, well, he's not without his eccentricities."
"His what? Anyway, some say ol' Jack, as he's called, is daft. Got a nasty temper, too, but he knows fish. Some say he's the best fisherman in London. Still, I get goose pimples every time he comes in here and not the good kind either."
"Well, I only glimpsed him from a distance."
The landlord yelled to the girl that he didn't pay her to stand around and gossip. I slipped a coin into her pocket as she hurried away to not gossip somewhere else. I surveyed the old man over my glass. He probably hardly paid the poor thing at all. I looked at Holmes, who jerked his head in the direction of the door. I was happy to leave.
"What did he tell you?" I asked.
"Not much. He likes the man, but he's a bit strange."
"The serving girl is afraid of him. Some say he's crazy, and he's got a nasty temper."
"Yes. The landlord did not seem to be a man of a sweet disposition, so he would in all likelihood not notice when one of his customers has a quick temper. But strange and… daft, did she say? I think it would pay to keep Captain Jacoby under closer surveillance."
"Mm hm. That and coupled with the fact that the first part of Jacoby is 'jack,' he begins to look more suspicious."
"Yes, but we have nothing concrete to go on, and he has seen you twice, though the first time you were very well disguised."
"What shall we do?"
"Return to Baker Street and have dinner. After that I will observe him."
We ate, and he disappeared into his room for about an hour, returning in a seedy disguise. I couldn't quite figure out what he was supposed to be, but it was a fairly safe bet that most people would try not to notice him. I settled in to resume my adventures with Edgar Allan Poe; Holmes couldn't stand his stories about Dupin, but I greatly enjoyed the tales of the supernatural and poetry. Annabelle Lee always brought tears to my eyes.
A knocking at the door jerked me out of the Montressor vaults and back to the present.
"Come in!" I called, standing up.
It was Inspector Lestrade, holding another envelope. He asked for Holmes, barely giving me a greeting. I told him that he had vanished without a trace, and I had no idea when he would be back.
"I have another letter from the murderer, or at least someone claiming to be him. This one was addressed to me personally."
"How interesting. Perhaps you could leave it for Holmes?"
"It's evidence, I want to make sure it's safe."
"And when he returns it will be in the best hands in Britain."
We argued on that subject for a few minutes, and at last he left the note on Holmes' desk. Once he had gone, I picked it up and read it. Contrary to whatever Lestrade thought, it did not spontaneously combust when I touched it. The letter was exactly like the others; it was written in red ink, the spelling was good but grammar was bad, and it was distinctly insane. Jack expressed frustration with his last two murder attempts, and promised that the next one would be the best yet, or the worse, depending on how the reader looked at it.
The letter put me off the murder in The Cask of Amontillado, so I occupied myself until Holmes returned by straightening things, poking the fire, and having a drink or two. I was reading the letter for the fourth time when he burst into the room.
"Hello, Holmes," I said.
He waved his hand at me, and disappeared into his room.
I called to him. "Did Jacoby post a letter while you were out?"
"This might interest you, then," I waved the letter in the air, even though the door was closed. "Lestrade brought it about half an hour ago. I had to go down on my knees and beg him for it."
About two minutes later Holmes reappeared, completely free of his seedy disguise and took the envelope out of my hand, which I was still holding in the air. I picked up my glass and let the last drop trick its way into my mouth. He examined it closely and then threw it down, picked up his pipe, admonishing me not to speak to him for approximately fifty minutes while he thought things over. I rolled my eyes, and picked up the story again, however I was so close to the end of the story that I was finished in about five. The Times held no interest for me, and after about half an hour I was so cagey that I finally bundled up for the night air and went out.
It was slightly warmer than the previous night, and the ice that had turned to slush during the day was slow to turn back to ice. My feet led me in the direction of Whitechapel, just out of morbid curiosity. Being slightly warmer than the previous night, there were a few more people about, though not many. I turned to go back to Baker Street, knowing that by now more than fifty minutes had passed. Coming around a corner I saw a woman standing around; a man appeared seemingly out of nowhere and stole up behind her. Steel glinted darkly in the moonlight, and I heard the nasty sound of metal against flesh. I screamed loudly, and the man turned around and fled. For a second he had faced me, long enough for me to recognize him as Jacoby. It was too dark for me to see the green of his eyes, but it was unmistakably the same man. I drew my revolver, but he was already gone.
The woman moaned, and I ran over to her. I frankly hadn't expected her to be alive. She clung to my skirts as if I were her last hope on Earth when I reached her. I made a pad out of my handkerchief, and pressed it against the wound. She needed a doctor. This being a throat wound, I was afraid to apply too much pressure.
I screamed again, this time calling "fire!" which was sure to bring a response. A crowd of people soon arrived, and someone ran for the police. Within the course of a few minutes Inspector Lestrade, two other constables, Holmes, and Dr. Watson were at the scene. I was only too happy to turn the woman over to his care, though she still did not let go of me.
"Where did you come from, Holmes?" I asked weakly, taking a drink from his flask.
"I followed you when you left Baker Street so suddenly. You got away from me for a few blocks due to your harum-scarum path, but your cry of 'fire' immediately aroused my attention. I observed the crowd, and hastened to fetch Watson."
"You followed me?"
He nodded. I was too tired to argue.
"I suppose it would be futile to point out that you let the killer get away in your admirable haste to save his victim's life."
"I know… I'm too full of the milk of human kindness." I wiped my forehead off on my sleeve. Despite the cold I was sweating like a racehorse. "Do you think she'll live?"
"I have every faith in Dr. Watson's abilities, especially in the area of wounds. He was after all an army doctor."
"Yes." I found that my skirt was free and stepped a bit farther away from the patient. "I did see Jack's face. Captain Jacoby's face, that is."
"Are you absolutely certain?"
"Which way did he go?"
"Down that way," I pointed.
"Then faces south and forward march!"
"What about Watson and Lestrade?"
"They will understand. Time waits for no one, and it is of the utmost importance that we catch up to Jacoby."