Oscar wilde 07 jack th.., p.1

[Oscar Wilde 07] - Jack the Ripper: Case Closed, page 1

 part  #7 of  The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries Series

 

[Oscar Wilde 07] - Jack the Ripper: Case Closed
 


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[Oscar Wilde 07] - Jack the Ripper: Case Closed


  Praise for Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders

  ‘One of the most intelligent, amusing and entertaining books of the year. If Oscar Wilde himself had been asked to write this book he could not have done it any better’ Alexander McCall Smith

  ‘Wilde has sprung back to life in this thrilling and richly atmospheric new novel’ Sunday Express

  ‘Gyles Brandreth and Oscar Wilde seem made for one another . . . the complex and nicely structured plot zips along’ Daily Telegraph

  ‘Brandreth has poured his considerable familiarity with London into a witty fin-de-siècle entertainment, and the rattlingly elegant dialogue is peppered with witticisms uttered by Wilde well before he ever thought of putting them into his plays’ Sunday Times

  ‘Brandreth knows his Wilde . . . He knows his Holmes too . . . The plot is devilishly clever, the characters are fully fleshed, the mystery is engrossing, and the solution is perfectly fair. I love it’ Sherlock Holmes Journal

  Praise for Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death

  ‘Hugely enjoyable’ Daily Mail

  ‘A cast of historical characters to die for’ Sunday Times

  ‘A carnival of cliff-hangers and fiendish twists-and-turns . . . The joy of the book, as with its predecessor, is the rounded and compelling presentation of the character of Wilde’ Sunday Express

  ‘Wilde really has to prove himself against Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle when a murder ruins their Sunday Supper Club. But Brandreth’s invention – that of Wilde as detective – is more than up to the challenge. With plenty of wit, too’ Daily Mirror

  ‘I can’t wait until the next one’ Scotsman

  Praise for Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile

  ‘The murders begin. Highly theatrical ones . . . An entertaining and meticulously researched piece of pop fiction about Wilde and his circle’ Washington Post

  ‘An entertaining yarn – easy and pleasing to read – with an extensive set of vivid characters’ Gay Times

  ‘Very funny’ Independent on Sunday

  Praise for Oscar Wilde and the Nest of Vipers

  ‘Gyles Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde murder mysteries get better and better . . . Positively dazzling. Both witty and profound, it’s also devilishly clever’ District Messenger, newsletter of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London

  Praise for Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders

  ‘Literary and theological references merge easily into a skilfully crafted story that goes all the way to meet the standards set by his two eminent protagonists’ Daily Mail

  ‘Hugely enjoyable . . . a story that reminds us just how enjoyable a well-told traditional murder mystery can be’ Scotsman

  Praise for Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol

  ‘What sets the novel apart is Brandreth’s talent for conveying time and place. The barbarism of close confinement has rarely been so graphically and movingly portrayed’ Daily Mail

  ‘The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries just get better and better . . . and this is the best so far.’ Sherlock Holmes Journal

  Also by Gyles Brandreth

  Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders

  Oscar Wilde and the Ring of Death

  Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile

  Oscar Wilde and the Nest of Vipers

  Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders

  Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol

  CORSAIR

  First published in Great Britain in 2017 by Corsair

  Copyright © Gyles Brandreth, 2017

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book

  is available from the British Library.

  ISBN: 978-1-4721-5233-6

  Corsair

  An imprint of

  Little, Brown Book Group

  Carmelite House

  50 Victoria Embankment

  London EC4Y 0DZ

  An Hachette UK Company

  www.hachette.co.uk

  www.littlebrown.co.uk

  For Michèle

  always

  Principal characters in the narrative

  Oscar Wilde

  Arthur Conan Doyle

  Jimmy, bellboy at the Langham Hotel, London

  Martin, waiter at the Langham Hotel

  Melville Macnaghten, Chief Constable, Metropolitan Police

  Criminal Investigation Department

  Constance Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s wife

  William Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s brother

  Lily Lees, William Wilde’s fiancée

  Mina Mathers, artist

  Ivan Salazkin, ringmaster, the Russian Circus

  Olga Ivanov, acrobat

  Tom Norman, showman

  Stella Stride, prostitute

  Henry Labouchere MP

  The Marquess of Queensberry

  George R. Sims, journalist

  Alec Shand, writer

  James Barrie, playwright

  Bram Stoker, theatre manager

  Charles Dodgson, ‘Lewis Carroll’

  Festing Fitzmaurice, former courtier

  Sir Frederick Bunbury, Bt.

  Major Ridout

  Dr Gabriel, superintendent, Surrey County Lunatic Asylum

  Dr Rogerson, superintendent, Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum

  The acknowledged victims of the Whitechapel murderer

  Mary Ann Nichols, body found 31 August 1888

  Annie Chapman, body found 8 September 1888

  Elizabeth Stride, body found 30 September 1888

  Catherine Eddowes, body found 30 September 1888

  Mary Jane Kelly, body found 9 November 1888

  Macnaghten’s suspects

  Montague John Druitt

  Aaron Kosminski

  Richard Mansfield

  Michael Ostrog

  Walter Wellbeloved

  Contents

  Note

  New Year’s Eve, 1893

  1 1 January 1894

  2 ‘The toast is warm!’

  3 Paradise Walk

  4 16 Tite Street

  5 9 Tite Street

  6 ‘Am I a suspect?’

  7 Five only

  8 Breakfast at the Langham

  9 The Russian Circus

  10 The Surrey County Lunatic Asylum

  11 Face to face

  12 Oysters

  13 The Séance

  14 Kippers

  15 The Mortuary

  16 The Westminster Alhambra

  17 Whitechapel

  18 Darkness

  19 Opium

  20 Questions

  21 Freaks

  22 Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum

  23 Olga

  24 Ostrog

  25 George R. Sims

  26 Stay

  27 ‘Explain yourself ’

  28 ‘I can solve it all’

  29 The Man in the Street

  30 The Club

  31 Paradise Walk

  32 A toast to Prince Eddy

  33 Home

  34 Murder

  35 A true friend

  36 Revelations

  37 The promised end

  Aftermath 1924

  Gyles Brandreth

  Note

  I prepare
d this narrative in 1924, at the time of writing my memoirs. I knew it could not be published during my lifetime, for reasons that will become clear to any future reader. It may be that it cannot be published for many years to come. However, in the fullness of time, I trust it will see the light of day. Any truth is better than indefinite doubt.

  Arthur Conan Doyle

  New Year’s Eve, 1893

  He thrust his knee into her belly and held her head hard against the brick wall. The palm of his left hand pushed up against her mouth and nostrils and he pressed his fingers into the sockets of her eyes. In his right hand he held a small butcher’s knife and, with the force of a hammer blow, he jabbed it into the right side of her neck, just below her jaw. She made no sound; nor did he, as he pulled out the knife and struck again, this time tearing a line across her neck, from one side to the other, slitting her throat from ear to ear, plunging in the knife so deep that the tip of the blade reached as far as her vertebrae.

  Blood trickled from her and he stepped back to let her body slide down the wall and slump to the ground. Bending forward, he rolled the woman over, tore open her coat and jacket and blouse, pulled up her skirt and petticoats, and stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and stomach and groin. In all, he struck her thirty-nine times.

  1

  1 January 1894

  ‘It was the best of crimes, it was the worst of crimes.’

  ‘What are you saying?’

  ‘That’s your opening line, Arthur. “It was the best of crimes, it was the worst of crimes.”’

  ‘I don’t need an “opening line”, thank you very much, Oscar.’

  ‘Oh, but you do, my dear fellow.’

  ‘What for?’

  ‘For your new book. It must open with that line, it really must—’

  I interrupted: ‘What new book?’

  ‘The one you are starting today – tonight, when you get home. Your account of our latest adventure – the most remarkable of all our extraordinary adventures, Arthur.’ He raised his glass to me. His bright eyes brimmed with tears.

  ‘You’re drunk, Oscar.’

  ‘I hope so,’ he beamed. ‘I have made an important discovery, you know. Alcohol taken in sufficient quantities produces all the effects of intoxication.’

  Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde leaned back against the mantelpiece and laughed. He was thirty-nine years of age and looked both older and younger. He had the moonlike face of an ageing cherub, with full pink lips; waxy, pale cheeks; dark, arched eyebrows and what he called, proudly, ‘a strong Greek nose’. He was over six feet in height and, though running to fat, still a fine figure of a man because he held himself well. He was unquestionably ‘someone’. He was unmistakably the celebrated Oscar Wilde. He dressed the part. That Monday morning he wore an elaborately tailored three-piece suit of blue Donegal tweed and a broad silk tie that matched perfectly the indigo-coloured winter rose that was his buttonhole. He claimed that the pearl in his tiepin had once belonged to John Keats.

  When first I had met Oscar, four and half years before, at the end of August 1889, at this same London hotel – the Langham in Portland Place – he was already famous, though known more for his flamboyance and wit than for his short stories and his poetry. He was rising thirty-five then and I had just turned thirty. I had published the first of my Sherlock Holmes stories, but was relatively unknown still and earning my keep, inadequately, practising as a doctor in Southsea.

  At that first encounter – over a convivial dinner hosted by an American publisher who, happily, commissioned stories from us both – I was awed by Oscar’s intelligence and captivated by his personality. His charm was irresistible. His conversation left an indelible impression upon my mind. Intellectually, he towered above us all, and yet he had the art of seeming to be interested in all that we had to say. He took as well as gave, but what he gave was unique. He had a curious precision of statement, a delicate flavour of humour, and a trick of small gestures to illustrate his meaning, which were peculiar to himself. We became friends – at once. And remained friends. And, while we did not see one another regularly, whenever we met there was always an easy and immediate intimacy between us.

  That said, as the years had passed Oscar had changed. The gentlemanly delicacy that I remembered from the late summer of 1889 was less evident in 1894. He was as witty as ever (possibly more so), but louder and, it seemed to me, less mindful of others. He gave more, but he took less. There was an aroma of wine and tobacco about him now. His dress was possibly more sober than when we had first met, but his way of life was not. He had become successful as a dramatist. (His play, A Woman of No Importance, had just opened in New York.) He had become wildly extravagant. (The Perrier-Jouët we were drinking was the costliest vintage.) As a husband and father, he had become neglectful of his obligations. There was a recklessness about him that was alarming. Being with him, you sensed danger in the air, and even a touch of madness.

  But he was still wonderful company, still irresistible. That’s why I was there, at noon, on New Year’s Day.

  ‘And lunch?’ I enquired, pulling away my glass as he attempted to refill it. ‘You promised me “lunch and all the news”.’

  ‘I did,’ he said, filling his own champagne saucer to the brim. ‘And I trust you’ll not be disappointed by either. I’ve ordered potted shrimps and broiled lobster. The chef here is very good and he’s conjuring up a special mayonnaise.’

  ‘Lobster mayonnaise in January?’

  ‘It’s to be a picnic.’

  ‘A picnic?’ I repeated doubtfully.

  ‘Yes, Arthur, I know you’re a lamb-cutlets-on-a-Monday sort of man, but needs must. We’ll be eating on the move. But, fear not, we won’t go hungry.’ Smiling, he stepped from the fireplace to a side table by the window and picked up a small, dark, glass container. ‘Look. Russian caviar, the best beluga – as enjoyed by Tsar Alexander III and the more intimate friends of Oscar Wilde.’

  ‘A picnic?’ I said again. ‘In this weather?’

  He glanced out of the window. The rain was falling steadily. ‘We’ll be under cover,’ he said soothingly. ‘I’ve ordered a four-wheeler – with rugs.’ He looked below. ‘It’s waiting for us.’ He turned to me and laughed. ‘Where’s your spirit of adventure, Arthur?’

  I laughed, too. ‘What’s all this about, Oscar? What’s going on?’

  ‘I’ll tell you.’ He pointed to the clock on the mantelpiece. ‘In a minute’s time, I anticipate a knock on the door. It will be one of the hotel bellboys – Jimmy, most likely – an amusing lad, cockney and good-hearted. He will be carrying a small silver salver in his right hand and on the salver will be a telegram addressed to me.’

  ‘And what will this telegram say? “Fly at once – all is discovered”?’

  ‘Very droll, Arthur. It will say, “Come at once”, or rather, “Come at two o’clock. Bring friend Doyle if you can. He should prove invaluable.” Signed, “Macnaghten.” I shall then give Jimmy sixpence, which he will most probably drop, and we will be on our way.’

  ‘How do you know the boy will drop the sixpence?’

  ‘He is very clumsy.’

  ‘And how do you know what the telegram will say?’

  Oscar narrowed his eyes and drained his glass. ‘I have my methods, Dr Doyle.’

  As my friend carefully placed his empty champagne saucer back on the mantelpiece, there came a double-knock on the door. ‘Enter!’ cried Oscar. A red-haired, freckle-faced boy of about thirteen years of age came into the room. He was indeed holding a small salver in his right hand.

  ‘Telegram for you, Mr Wilde.’

  ‘Happy New Year, Jimmy,’ said Oscar. ‘You may give the telegram to Dr Conan Doyle. Have you heard of him, Jimmy?’

  ‘Who, sir?’

  ‘Dr Conan Doyle.’

  ‘No, sir.’

  ‘Have you heard of Sherlock Holmes, Jimmy?’

  ‘Course, sir. Who hasn’t?’

  ‘Dr Conan Doyle invented Sherlock Hol
mes, Jimmy. Sherlock Holmes is a figment of Dr Doyle’s imagination.’

  ‘Pleased to meet you, sir,’ said the boy, holding the silver salver before me.

  ‘“Honoured to meet you” is what you mean, Jimmy. Take the telegram, Arthur. And you, Jimmy, take this.’ Oscar gave the lad a silver sixpence and the boy dropped it immediately. It rolled under the side table. ‘Retrieve your sixpence, Jimmy, and go!’

  The bellboy did as he was told – with some alacrity – and Oscar chuckled happily. ‘Now, Arthur,’ he continued, ‘open the telegram. What does it say?’

  ‘“Come at two o’clock. Bring friend Doyle if you can. Macnaghten .”’

  ‘Is that all?’

  ‘Yes,’ I said, smiling and holding up the telegram for my friend to inspect. ‘There appears to be no mention of my contribution proving “invaluable”.’

  ‘I apologise,’ he said, taking the telegram from me and scrutinising it with hooded eyes. ‘Macnaghten’s a policeman. I suppose one can’t expect too much.’ He dropped the telegram on the side table, picked up the jar of caviar and looked out of the window and down into the street. ‘Come, Arthur, our carriage awaits. We must be on our way. As you’d have it: the game’s afoot.’

  2

  ‘The toast is warm!’

  Our four-wheeler lurched out of the Langham’s ornate portico and turned south into Regent Street. With a schoolboy’s glee, as though it were a tuck box, Oscar opened the picnic basket that the hotel porter had placed on the banquette between us. He handed me a large linen napkin and a china dish.

  ‘The toast is warm!’ he exclaimed delightedly, scooping a spoonful of caviar onto a piece of it. ‘Eat up, Arthur. We’ll be there in forty minutes, even in this weather.’

  ‘Where are we going?’ I asked.

  ‘Tite Street.’

  ‘Tite Street, Chelsea?’ I said, surprised. ‘Tite Street – where you live?’

  ‘Yes, Tite Street where I live – when I am at home.’

  ‘And you are not at home at present?’

  ‘No. As you see, I am staying at the Langham for a while. The hotel is full of strangers and foreigners. There’s nothing more comforting.’

 
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