11,041 vagabonds plus:
sketchbook entry, August 19th, 1902
The dawn was clear and quiet. There was the absence of the usual hustle of vendors in the street below, free from loose-wheeled weighted carriages rattling, comings and goings. It could only be Sunday. No Detectives Need Apply.
The man opened the door slowly, a halting crack at first, then whisked in falling to one knee near the cot, his lips to the right ear of the open-mouthed sleeper.
'Watson', he whispered three times in one minute, each more quieter.
The sleeper stirred, changed position opposite, then mumbled half-awake, 'you're a loquacious type fellow, I say'.
'We have far to go', he chuckled. 'Our man's in Berkshire,' in a deeper, deadly voice. 'I'm afraid I'll need to ask you to bring your pistol'.
The sleeper sat up and nodded once. 'You can count on me, Holmes'.
"Our Man" could only mean the culmination of a horrible serial case to be wrapped neatly and sent to the gallows.
'Mrs. Hudson has sent up eggs and a decanter of coffee, my friend. Hurry now'.
Holmes sat deep in his favorite cushioned chair in the dark side of 221b Baker Street's upper lodgings smoking and watching the good fellow the entire time, Watson taking small bites, gazing out the window, shaking his head and smiling, touching the twisted gold pin in his slightly wrinkled lapel, staring into the coffee cup, not sipping.
'We can stop at Eton, Watson, on the way back if we can wrap this affair up in Windsor'.
Watson gaped open-mouth at the detective. 'How did you'?
Holmes leaned forward into the dust-sparkled light coming through the middle bay window.
'Easy enough. You know my method. I observed you. Your affectionate gaze, the touch of the pin from your beloved niece in Eton. Simple deduction. But we must go. Now, Watson'!
Holmes sat quiet, head bowed the entire train ride, eyes closed. His companion read the telegram again and again, mouthing the words, playing out scenarios along the twenty-seven kilometer jaunt, occasionally clutching the revolver deep in his left cloth coat, his black derby hat bobbing on the car's door hook. He read it once more:
Girl bludgeoned WB.
Man in custody denies.
Come at all possible speed.
Holmes looked up at Watson, then out the window.
'Maybe I'll just have you shoot Conrad', he said harshly.
'It has been irritating, but you're too harsh'.
He smiled. 'May be, Watson, he's good on his feet but rather dull'. He leaned forward and counted points on his fingers. 'In every instance the victims were brutalized with the clean, precise, mutilation of a surgeon's specialized tool, not your aunt's knife set'.
'A sloppy copycat'?
Holmes shook his head. 'Right out in the open of much-traveled bridge like he wants to be caught. More like a clumsy Jack The Ripper. We'll see. Maybe Conrad has sharpened after all. Here we are then. Watson, be so good to look in at Conrad. And see if the wounds are those of precision. Then bring Conrad along to the bridge'.
Windsor bridge was surrounded by thickened low lying mist, a clear view of the stream underneath from the center. Holmes stooped at the peak, down amongst the fresh stain of murder, a cats-eye view, finding torn clothing - a pocket ripped by the victim in her thrashing to stay alive. A pleasurable sigh at an overlooked piece of evidence that he knew in all probability would be there and overlooked by local police. He heard footsteps, and turning saw in clear gradual focus out of the mist a stocky figure, hands clinched into huge fists. Holmes stood proudly before the culprit like an actor making a grand entrance on stage.
He looked at Holmes sideways.
'Who are you, then? Give that to me'.
'I am Sherlock Holmes of London. Come and get it'.
The man's eyes widened, but Holmes went to him and struck first. The two men tumbled and grunts echoed. Watson and Inspector Conrad, arriving at once near the chill of waters edge, stopped at the echo. Watson, realizing quickly what was happening grasped his revolver, cocked the hammer, and rushed hurriedly up and across the bridge where he would fire only a solitary blast to free his friend's throat from a murderous clutch. In less than an hour, the two would be in a quiet Eton parlor sipping tea from miniature porcelain cups.
painting: Under Windsor Bridge(1912)
by Adolphe Valette (1876-1942)
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