Episode 31( No Comments! )

Scribed by: CB Ash in Bloody Business

Conor struggled only once more while the constables shoved him into the police coach, but a quick punch to the stomach exhausted any more of the man’s attempts to force his way free. Quickly, the police hauled him in and handcuffed him into place. With the man secured, two constables sat down inside with him for their journey through night-shrouded Edinburgh streets to the police headquarters. Meanwhile, now free from his bonds, the still unconscious Jimmy Barnes was taken to a nearby physician to have his injuries tended.

Two hansom cabs arrived at police headquarters, fast behind the police coach that held Conor and two of the constables. Captain Hunter stepped out of one of the cabs in time to watch Conor being led glumly inside the large complex. By the time Hunter, Dr. Llwellyn, Rodney and Moira could make it inside, Conor had been placed in a small room off the main area for questioning. Having no other recourse, the four were directed to a small table where they could wait for Detective MacTaggart and what they hoped would be good news.

A half-hour later, Detective Inspector Oren MacTaggart slowly walked out of the small, featureless interrogation room with its lone table and two chairs. He let the door close behind him on the grim-faced Conor O’Daily, and walked out into the larger area where three hallways ended at the main room of police headquarters. He glanced around at the two dozen constables, hard at work filling out paperwork and sorting notes from various other ongoing cases and events of the day, then sighed wearily.

“Ah’d have better luck squeezin’ water from a rock,” he muttered aloud to himself.

The detective removed his glasses and tried to rub the fatigue from his eyes. Failing at that, he sighed and slipped on his wire-rimmed spectacles. He held up his hand-sized, leather bound notebook, glanced at the sparse notes he had taken, flipped a page, then closed it all with a sigh.

“Any luck, Detective?” Hunter asked, sitting at a nearby table across from Dr. Thorias Llwellyn.

Moira, who had been teaching Rodney how to play a game of twenty one with a well worn deck of playing cards she had found on a nearby desk, looked up at Hunter’s question. “Did he tell ya where the others are?”

MacTaggart dropped his notebook into his coat pocket and joined the other two at the table. “Och, some luck, though not quite what we’d be hoping for. Of any we could be catching, Conor O’Daily, would be the right one to catch. Between running off with the Barnes lad and what he did to your man William, Ah’d say he’ll be spending a long time mending herring nets in prison, or be hanged.”

Thorias immediately caught the Detective’s hesitation, “however?”

MacTaggart took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, “However, while he’s a greedy bugger, he be no one’s fool. He admitted to nabbin’ the boy and the fight with Sirrah Falke, but givin’ up who was helpin’ him? Nary a word. Won’t even give up the family name of this Liam, either.”

“What?” Moira exclaimed in astonishment.

“But, wait now, that’s not right,” Rodney said, confused.

“Rubbish!” Hunter growled. “William described two men, Dr. Belker described two men. We were attacked by two men at Hiram’s boat. One of which we know must have been O’Daily. I have a hard time believing William, the best trained scout I’ve known in years, would be mistaken. You mean to say he didn’t budge one inch at even the mention of Liam’s name?”

“So you’re saying he’s less afraid of being put in the noose than betraying those he worked with?” Thorias asked incredulously. “Not even to clear his conscience? Perhaps even offer his accomplices up in exchange for leniency? Nothing?”

The detective raised a hand to stave off any more objections. “Ah know. It makes little sense to me also. He claims the second man was just a dock hand he hired to help. Never knew the man personally. It seems he’s more frightened by what his accomplices will do to him than what a court will.”

Dr. Llwellyn frowned thoughtfully, “He did claim ‘she’ would murder him. I’m not so certain he meant it metaphorically.”

Suddenly, a commotion erupted on the other side of the room. Constable Silas Martin, accompanied by four others, burst through the wooden double doors. In between the collection of blue-coated officers was an angry Gilbert Monkhouse. In his free hand Constable Martin clutched tight to a pair of green leather-bound accounting journals marked ‘Monkhouse Woolen Mills’.

Gilbert’s impeccable appearance from his meeting with Hunter days before was gone. In its place was a disheveled, tousled, plump man whose face shook with a red-faced fury. His entire appearance spoke to being jarred from a quiet evening at home, from his wrinkled trousers, to his unbuttoned waistcoat that had been hastily thrown over his red and white striped nightshirt. He struggled furiously against the firm grip of the constables with little success. Eventually, they came to a stop a few paces away from Detective MacTaggart.

The mill owner glared daggers at the Detective Inspector. “Have you any idea who I am? Rousting me out of my own home like the filth of a common criminal! The outrage!”

Constable Martin held up the accounting journals for the detective to see. MacTaggart, ignoring the bluster from Monkhouse, took the journals, then indicated for Constable Martin to follow him.

The pair turned their backs on Gilbert Monkhouse and walked the few short distance between where they stood and Hunter’s crew. Behind them, the irate mill owner turned to rant and bluster at the nearby constables.

“Sorry for the disruption, Detective,” Constable Martin apologized, “when we asked him quite politely if he be comin’ along, he refused. We pressed the matter, tryin’ to indicate the urgency, but he snatched up a broom and started to swat meself and the lads, tryin’ to shoo us away. So, we didn’t think we needed to observe the proprieties at that point.”

The detective placed the accounting books on the table between Hunter and Thorias. “Any of the lads gone out to check the wagons?”

“Right before we went callin’ on the Monkhouse residence, Detective,” Constable Martin replied. “They all looked in order.”

Thorias picked up one of the accounting journals and began to flip through it slowly. He glanced over at Hunter, then Detective MacTaggart when a thought occurred to him, “Detective, if I may, it’s not what is on any of the wagons, but the wagons themselves.”

Hunter smiled with a thoughtful nod, “Of course. Surely Conor would’ve used a wagon to carry young Jimmy Barnes across town for the trade. Which begs the question, were any of the wagons missing?”

MacTaggart glanced over at Constable Martin. “Good thought, were any missing?”

The constable nodded, “Looked like it. We’d need to check the accounting records, to be sure.”

“Or we can ask the source,” The detective said with a glance over at the ranting Gilbert Monkhouse.

Gilbert, realizing that he was under scrutiny again, jerked his arm away from a constable, “I said unhand me!” The portly man wagged a finger in the Detective’s direction, “My barrister will hear of this!”

MacTaggart stood upright, stiffened his spine, and clasped his hands behind his back, looking over the rim of his glasses at the suspect. Waving at the constables to let the portly man free, he answered coolly, “sendin’ a message to your barrister might be a fine idea, Sirrah Monkhouse. There’s been a few missing people, and some just murdered people Ah’d like to be having a word with you about.”

Monkhouse jerked at his coat in a futile effort to repair his appearance. As the implication of the detective’s words settled in on Gilbert, his eyes widened momentarily before a furious heat erupted behind his eyes. “You dare accuse me of anything of the kind? You dare?” The woolen mill owner’s voice rose to a near-shriek. “I demand an apology!”

“Ah’d hoped ye might be a gentleman about this, but as ye seem bound to drag it out here, then so be it. We’ll be doin’ this the hard way,” MacTaggart replied evenly.

The detective took a deep breath, as if letting go of a heavy burden. “It seems two of your lads have been up to some deadly mischief. Killing people and selling their bodies, you see. A pair of regular ‘Resurrection Men’. We’ve an idea that you’ve got a hand in it, or at least they’ve been using your wagons to transport their goods. So, what say you? Do you know about any of this?”

“I say rubbish!” Monkhouse roared, reaching up to adjust his waistcoat, trying to regain a shred of dignity. “All equipment is accounted for. Each driver must account for his whereabouts each day once the wagons come and go. If what you say is true, then I’m astounded. But I’ve no part in it!”

“Ah see,” the detective said thoughtfully, “does anyone else know where your records are kept? Such as Conor O’Daily?”

“He does not. He’s no head for money, so it’d be a waste of my time. My wife does, however,” Monkhouse replied angrily. “She helps me keep the books. Better her than some overpriced accountant. Liam Farrell likewise assists on occasion, but Anita always checks the work. Just to make sure those two Irishmen aren’t up to anything.”

“Where is your wife, by the way, Sirrah?” Detective MacTaggart asked curiously.

“Not suffering the indignity of being here!” Gilbert shot back. “She’s on an errand, and will be terribly worried when I’m not found at home!”

MacTaggart arched an eyebrow at that. “About at this hour? A woman alone?”

“Alone? While she’s off on another of her ladies social club parties? Of course not!” Gilbert retorted irritably. “I sent Sirrah Farrell to escort her. It’s part of what I pay him for, being a bodyguard. Safer that way after all.”

“Cause he did such a bangin’ good job keepin’ you safe tonight,” Moira muttered low with a smirk. Monkhouse shot her an ugly look.

Hunter cleared his throat, “Would you or your wife know if these have been altered? Say by comparison to a duplicate copy?”

Gilbert snarled as if he finally noticed Hunter for the first time, “You! Why are you here? If anyone is to blame it would be you! This is all just so you can have your tryst with that little slip of a dollymop!”

Hunter’s look switched from calm to deadly cool in a second. MacTaggart noticed the shift and took a step to put himself partially between the two men. “Just answer the question. Do you keep copies?”

Gilbert’s hateful look turned back to the Detective, “I do. They’re in my office at the factory, hidden away in my desk.”

“Ah’ll get them, Detective,” Constable Martin said quickly. He turned to Monkhouse, “Are they locked away?”

“Of course,” Monkhouse replied curtly, folding his arms over his chest.

“Then Ah’ll need the key,” Constable Martin said firmly. “Or I’ll have to be bustin’ your desk open.”

Gilbert stared at the constable a moment, then fished a small key from his waistcoat. “Here, get them and let’s be done with this nonsense once and for all.”

Key in hand, the constable raced out the door for a carriage, with another constable in tow.

Hunter, whose temper had cooled slightly, reached out to pull the second accounting journal over to him. He idly leafed through the pages, taking note of the various entries there for wool, dye and other items.

“Sirrah Monkhouse, you see to your worker’s medical needs, yes?” Hunter asked carefully.

“Of course I do,” Monkhouse snapped. “I’m not some monster.”

“Indeed,” Hunter replied tactfully with an acidic undertone. “Who did you call upon? Was it a Dr. Benjamin Belker?”

“Most certainly not. Dr. Belker is far too expensive,” Gilbert replied with a haughty sniff. “The man charges far above his actual skills, in my opinion. No, I retain the services of a younger doctor who’s had trouble getting herself established. Better a fresh mind, keeps the workers on the go and my factory running like clockwork.”

Hunter frowned at the mill owner, “Just who is this young doctor? Does he have a name?”

“‘She’,” Thorias interrupted quickly. “Your physician is a woman? Is she a skilled surgeon?”

Monkhouse smirked and started to reply, but stopped himself while the wheels turned behind his eyes. “What the devil’s difference does it make?”

“A great deal,” Dr. Llwellyn replied, “as it may save at least three lives, perhaps more. Who is she?”

“It’s quite enough that the lot of you brutish louts are harassing me, but I will not stand for you harassing anyone around me with these murderous fantasies!” Monkhouse snapped back.

In the blink of an eye, Captain Hunter was on his feet and lunged at the man. Caught unawares, Gilbert barely had time to yelp a half-formed protest as Anthony grabbed him by the collar and bodily shoved the man, bulk and all, against a nearby counter.

Wood cracked on impact, mingling with the scream of terror from the woolen mill owner. Captain Hunter leaned in close with a look of pure rage in his eyes.

“My patience is fully exhausted with your cheap theatrics, Monkhouse!” The captain snarled. “Do you have any idea how close you are to prison? To the noose?” Hunter paused with a sneer, “No? Let me help you with that, my good man.”

Hunter adjusted his grip and shook the man slightly, just once to emphasize his point, “Your man, Conor, is bound in irons now. He was caught selling a young boy, thankfully not quite dead. He’s half-admitted to killing others. It’s a rather good assumption he’d need a wagon to transport the bodies.”

“What? Selling a what?” Monkhouse sputtered, “Nonsense!”

“We also know he has an accomplice,” Hunter said slow with dark acid dripping off each word. The mill owner’s face turned a shade paler. The captain smiled none too pleasantly, “there is some suspicion it is your other man, Liam. However, given one of the victims was in your employ at one time and if one of your wagons are missing, you could be considered the accomplice!”

Gilbert’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “What?” He shrieked. “No! I didn’t do that!”

“Then convince us otherwise!” Hunter roared in Gilbert’s shaking face. “Otherwise that noose might feel terribly tight on that thick neck of yours!”

“Hunter!” Detective MacTaggart barked.

Captain Hunter shot a hard glance to MacTaggart, then reluctantly let go of Gilbert Monkhouse. Braced awkwardly against the counter, the large man lost his balance and dropped to the floor, sobbing.

“Damn her,” he sobbed, his nerves obviously at their frayed end. “I told her this would ruin us. She just wouldn’t hear of it. Confound it, I told her!” His rotund body shook, wracked with sobs of despair.

“Pull yourself together, man!” The detective said firmly. “Speak plainly.”

“Or we’ll surely go get the rope ourselves,” Hunter snarled in a low tone.

“Hunter,” MacTaggart replied in a low, cautioning tone.

“Well, if ya don’t like rope, we could just tar and feather ‘im?” Moira suggested brightly. “I saw a butcher down the road, if they’re up, I could run get some goose feathers?”

Detective MacTaggart gave Moira a reproachful look over the top of his glasses.

“Or … not,” Moira said, sheepishly looking down towards the playing cards on the table.

Gilbert waved his hands as if to ward off any more threats. “Her name is Dr. Hereford. Dr. M. Hereford. I don’t know her first name. Anita put her on retainer. It was all Anita.”

Slowly, Gilbert managed to get control of his gasping sobs, “Shortly afterwards, Dr. Hereford became quite friendly with O’Daily. Who was I to argue? Dr. Hereford kept my workers healthy, if I looked the other way when a wagon was borrowed from time to time. It was always at night at the same time, fifteen till midnight. She even paid a little rent for them to make it legal.”

“Legal,” Moira snorted in disgust, flipping a playing card over in her hands. “They were killin’ people and sellin’ them like sides of mutton. Nothin’ legal or moral about any of that. Just horrid.”

The mill owner shook his head, “Anita took care of things, said it was best I not know. She said it would only upset my constitution, but I knew. I just knew … something wasn’t right. Those two Irishmen, I just knew something was wrong with them. But Anita said she’d handle that. She’d take care of it, and I just needed to take care of the business.”

The detective waved over a pair of constables, “Help Sirrah Monkhouse to his feet. He’ll be here with us awhile longer. Take him back to a cell, but keep him alone. Last we be wantin’ is for him to get hurt by one of our other ‘guests’ in the Tower.”

While the constables hauled Monkhouse away, Hunter turned quickly back to the accounting journals. Thorias already had them open and was searching the entries for the time Gilbert mentioned.

“Fifteen to midnight. Rather odd time,” the doctor commented. “However, there it is, regular as clockwork. A load of broken parts being taken for smelting. Seems they resell the parts back to foundries.”

“Quite inventive,” Hunter added. “The bodies could be on the wagon and the parts would provide the necessary disguise to anyone glancing inside the wagon. They head to the docks for delivery, which has its own smelter.”

“I don’t understand, why even write it down if yer wantin’ ta keep it all a secret?” Moira asked, confused.

“I understand, I think,” Rodney said while reading over Thorias’ shoulder. “Brilliant actually. It provides a reasonable excuse for repairs to wagons that should not quite have as much wear and tear on them as the ‘borrowed’ ones might,”

Hunter tapped the journal with a finger. “That’s how they’ll dispose of the others.”

“The foundry?” Detective MacTaggart asked.

Hunter nodded. “The very same. However, I don’t know how they’ll slip the bodies in. Any foundry will inspect the parts and find the bodies. They can’t just toss the bodies in the water, they’ll be seen. Perhaps something about the time is significant?”

Rodney shrugged, looking around at the others, “Well, it’s the last shift change at the foundry for the Leith Docks shipyard.”

“Of course! They’ll use the commotion of people coming and going to slip the bodies inside, or at least get themselves closer to the water.” Thorias said in astonishment.

Moira grabbed Rodney in a bear hug, “Brilliant!”

Rodney laughed nervously, then shrugged while he removed his glasses. With fumbling fingers he tried to clean some imaginary dirt from the lenses while his cheeks glowed a deep crimson.

Captain Hunter pulled his watch from an inner pocket and checked the time. “Indeed, given the time, they’ll be loading a wagon now.”

“Martin’s gone for the factory with another of the lads,” Detective MacTaggart said with thoughtful air.

“Yes, and he could be walking right into their hands, if they see him coming. We’ve got to warn him!” Hunter said, snapping his watch shut and rushing for the front door.

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