Journal Entry of D.I. Arthur Gredge- Tuesday April 3rd 1855
Arrived at the scene at 8.20pm. The body was still warm and had the same puncture marks to the neck as the others, although not drained of blood this time. Obviously interrupted the bastard! We’re getting closer though, got my first look at the swine tonight. Should get the report finished before I retire for the night. If I can figure out what the hell it was I witnessed.
Lord in heaven knows how I’m supposed to explain this one to the Guv. Rowe nearly shite himself, poor sod. He’s a proper Captain Flashman that one, bloody typical P division. No balls. Nice boy though. Keen. Maybe I should have him transferred to me, make a proper bobby out of him.
I digress. I will try explain in my own words, the events of this evening, before attempting to write my report.
Me and Rowe rolled up just after dark. We’d been scouting the area after receiving the letter from Y.N. The other two bodies were found by the Victuallers’ Asylum in Peckham and on Kent street near London Bridge. Y.N’s letter pointed towards the next location being somewhere near Our Lady of Sorrows down on Friary Road. Turns out it was right on the bleeding’ steps of the church. Body laid out as bold as brass but not as neat as the others. This one looked ‘unfinished’. That’s when we saw it. I say ‘it’ because for all it looked like a man, what it did is beyond the realms of human capability. I swear, as I live and breathe, smoke shot out of its hands like steam from a kettle. Rowe actually squealed. I would have laughed had I not been so shocked. The thing was heavily cloaked and was lurking by the corner of the church, wouldn’t have even noticed had we not startled it. Can’t work out why it was hiding in the shadows when it clearly hadn’t finished with its victim. I have a mind to think on it as a master artist stepping back to contemplate the composition of a piece. If only we’d gotten there sooner, could’ve caught it in the act. Bloody thing buggered off sharpish before Rowe had even picked himself off the floor. Shit.
Arthur returned his pen to the ink pot and reached for the glass of cheap whisky. He took a long swallow then coughed as the liquid burned his throat. Beer would go down a treat right now. He glanced at the mantle clock. 11:45pm. He was due at the Yard for eight the next morning and he still had his official report to finish. Taking his face in both hands, he rubbed and slapped his cheeks attempting to motivate himself. It had been a long and very strange evening. He was dog-tired but knew sleep would evade him. Visions of the smokey bandit, as he’d unfavourably named the mysterious man-creature, filled his head. Gredge’s attention was drawn by the yellowed corner of a Penny Bloods magazine, poking out from underneath a sheaf of papers. He fished it out, a wry smile crossed his face causing his bushy moustache to twitch. The publication bore the title ‘The Southwark Sucker’.
“Tosh!” He said and tossed it aside but he couldn’t suppress the feeling of unease while he pondered the night’s events.
Journal Entry of D.I. Arthur Gredge- Friday April 6th 1855
As yet, no identity for victim number three, no further leads either. Returned to the scene during daylight in the hope of finding something, anything. Steps of the church have been scrubbed clean and Wednesday’s rain has washed away any further evidence. Walked the route from church to asylum, a pleasant afternoon despite the circumstances. Stopped at The King’s Head for a pint and asked around for information on any missing women in the area fitting the description. Got the usual reception. Asked if anyone had seen anything out of the ordinary at night. Got the usual with added lampoon. Caught the omnibus back to the Yard. Meeting with the Guv at 5pm. To say he’s not happy would be an understatement. I hate to say it, but Y.Ns letters remain my only viable leads. Will work through my notes and try to figure out where the next attack may be. Always being one step behind this bastard is infuriating.
Arthur blotted his entry carefully before closing his journal. It was one of several leather-bound volumes which he used to jot down his thoughts on the cases he worked. He found documenting the cases both cathartic, and useful when he needed to go over a chain events in the hope of a lead he may have missed. The chime of the mantle clock struck 7pm, time enough to pop down to the Rose and Crown for supper. He took in the vista of his compact living room with its worn, comfy armchair by the range, the bare floorboards covered by a substantial, if slightly tatty, rug, the two-seater dining table, and his desk. Never had a room reflected single life so candidly as this one. Donning his favourite bowler hat and long coat, Arthur shoved a few coppers in his pocket and set off. The long shadows of twilight coated the pavement where he walked causing a chill. He crossed to the other side of the road, something about the shadows unsettled him. The feeling stayed with him until he reached the corner of the street where the tavern stood. Music and conversation emanated from the building, a welcoming, familiar sound that bathed him with reassurance.
Once settled at his favourite seat by the window, the barmaid took his order.
“Steak and Kidney, boiled potatoes and a pint of your best please, Doris.”
“Only got the one ale in today Inspector. That’ll ‘ave to do ya.”
“As long as it’s cold and wet, I’m not fussed.”
“It’s warm an’ watered down. Take it or leave it.” Doris grinned.
“Better make it two pints then eh?” Arthur countered. Doris gave him a wink and flounced off. As he waited, he examined the room -force of habit for a detective- he took in the same old faces who frequented the tavern almost on a daily basis. Some met his gaze and nodded or raised a glass in acknowledgement, some ignored him, and some slunk out of view. Most were blissfully unaware of his consideration. These were the people he enjoyed watching the most. Arthur didn’t peg himself as much of a conversationalist, he didn’t have any particular friends to speak of but he had acquaintances and the camaraderie of the constabulary and that was fine. He was a people watcher. You could say it was a hobby of sorts, one that benefitted his career. You could discover an awful lot about a person’s character through discreet observation.
A hearty meal and a few pints later, Arthur left the Rose and Crown and headed home in the rain. The dull orange glow of the gaslights barely penetrated the gloomy street. Arthur shucked up the collar of his coat and set off at a pace, hoping the range was still lit. There was nothing worse than coming home to a cold house after a good soaking. The noise of raucous laughter from the tavern faded to be replaced by the pitter-patter of raindrops on roofs and the sloshing of the runoff as it splashed onto the cobbles. His irritation at the rain exacerbated when he stepped, ankle deep, in a pothole full of dirty water.
“Damnation!” He hopped out of the puddle almost toppling over on the cobbles. He cringed at the squelching in his shoe when he set his foot on the ground. By the time he reached home, his mood was as black as the sky.
The Gredge residence on Little Surrey Street was a modest middle-terraced one bedroom dwelling. He could’ve afforded better but in truth, he had no need of anything larger, it wouldn’t do for him to be rattling around in a big house by himself. Having grown up in the area, he was fond of it, warts and all. He had everything he needed, a good job, food in his belly, and a safe place to sleep. No friends, no wife, no children, said the voice in his head. He ignored it. Arthur felt the rain trickle down his neck and under his collar, he shivered. Reaching in his pocket for the door key it slipped from his grasp and on to the wet pavement. Things just weren’t going his way today. The comfort and warmth of the tavern seemed an age away. There were no street lamps here so he couldn’t see where the key had landed. Arthur grumbled and fumbled around until his hand closed on the cold iron. He plunged the blade of the key into the lock, more forcefully than he’d intended. It was at that particular moment when the skin on the back of his neck prickled. He paused mid-turn, his hand still on the key. How was it possible that the street seemed darker than it had just moments ago? He squinted, looking through the rain into the deepest shadows. The street was empty, there were no lights in the windows but all of his finely tuned senses told him he was being watched.