STORYLINE - 19: THE BLUE MOUNTAIN CASE - DCI Champion traces the Beulah Cane
The Beulah Cane
City of London Police Report: Unexplained death, St Michael's Alley, EC3
[A senior police officer breezed into his office, slapped his brolly down onto the nearby spare chair and thumped down heavily into his own armchair behind the ancient, chipped walnut desk. Having had a hard, sleepless night he rubbed his eyes. The duty sergeant knocked and entered, saluted, set down a new file in the empty In-tray and made to leave again without a word]:
'What's this, Simpson?' DCI Champion leaned forward in his chair to lift the file the duty sergeant dropped into his In-tray.
'It's a death, Sir. Something fishy if you ask -'
'I shan't ask, no. Is Detective Sergeant Withy in, do you know?'
'He's over there now, Sir, near Cornhill. He went earlier'.
Detective Chief Inspector Jack Champion looked through the file and stood up, stretched his arm for his coat and scarf and led Simpson out of the office.
'Get Withy on his mobile, tell him i'm on my way'.
Champion left the office for the car pool and told the driver,
'Cornhill, Everett, if you please - the end of St Michael's Alley'.
'Sir', the police driver pulled away. Before long he pulled up in the shadow of the futuristic Lloyd's exchange to set Champion down.
'No need to wait, Everett. I'll catch a lift with Sergeant Withy', Champion told the driver and looked around for his detective sergeant. On seeing him in the doorway of the Jamaica Wine House, 'Withy, what's this about an unexplained death down here?'
'It's a rum one, Sir', Withy pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose.
Champion stared at him, tapped the sign outside the Jamaica Wine House,
'Are you being funny?'.
'Er, no Sir, although the man there was walking away from here when he collapsed'.
'Do we know a name?'
'Henderson, Sir. He had credit cards and floor pass for the Lloyds' building across the road there', Withy nodded that way..
'So he wasn't on his way back to work', Champion chewed his upper lip. 'Have you asked in there whether he was a customer, Withy?'
'He was, Sir. Left in a hurry it seems. Someone went in there, asked for Blue Mountain coffee and put a walking cane down by Henderson's chair as he drank with friends. He left in a hurry. Henderson followed him out, frightened, the barman says'.
'Is the cane still there?' Champion led the way in through the dark, stained wood door.
'The manager's got it in his office, Sir', Withy hurried after his senior officer.
Jack Champion had seen many odd things in his thirty-eight year career. When he looked closely at the walking cane he saw a maker's name and address, 'Smith, New Oxford St, WC'. Made at least fifty years ago', he said to himself. Could they help?
'There is a serial number', the assistant looked through a magnifying glass near the top of the cane's shaft, just below the grotesque animal head. 'We have records that go back to when bespoke canes were first made, Sir. This one isn't as old as that. Can you give me five minutes?'
Champion nodded. He was prepared to wait five hours if it was likely to bring results. He hoped the post mortem report would be waiting for him on his desk if Withy was off duty by then. The assistant came back after a while, more than five minutes later, white as a sheet.
'The cane was made for a gentleman by the name of Moriarty, Sir. That was in 1890'.
'Moriarty? Withy is this some sort of joke?' Champion looked askance at the assistant. 'Professor Moriarty? Wasn't he some fictional gang leader in the Sherlock Holmes stories?'
The assistant nodded. Champion looked at his watch. It had the date on it, May 31st, 2008. Nothing odd there.
'Leave it with me then', Champion said almost absently as he left the shop that looked onto Museum Street across the way. Withy, waiting in the car around the corner was arguing with an irate female traffic warden that he was on duty. 'What is it, Miss?'
'Don't give me 'Miss' - patronising police officers! There is a double yellow line here. You know what that means'.
'I know what it means, Ms. I also know you are being unreasonable. We are on police business, investigating a possible murder. - understand?'
The traffic warden pouted and stalked off to find new victims. Champion watched her disappear into the crowds down Bloomsbury Way and shook his head.
'Is the City of Westminster that desperate for funds?'
'Nothing Withy. Drop me off at the Museum of London on your way back to Wood Street, be a good man. I've got a favour to pull in'.
'Sir', Withy nodded and found his way into traffic along Bloomsbury Way, back to the City of London. Champion watched Withy drive off the short way to Wood Street and scaled the stairs from street to upper level where he asked for Nigel Crampton at the museum. He was ushered to the curator's office where Crampton awaited him, forewarned by the girl at the reception desk in the lobby..
'What can I do for you, Jack?' Crampton asked when Champion eased himself into the guest's chair. 'Coffee, or something stronger?'
'Coffee will do thanks, Nigel. What do you know of the significance of the Jamaica Wine House in relation to the Sherlock Holmes stories?'
'Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited on his way back to St Bartholomew's Hospital', Crampton answered without hesitation, 'where as you might know he was a senior surgeon'..
Champion shook his head absently before launching into the business of his visit,
'There's some joker pretending to be Professor Moriarty. Left a cane there that he'd had made at Smith's in New Oxford Street -'
Crampton sat bolt upright in his chair,
'But he was fictional, wasn't he?'
'They have a record of him ordering a bespoke walking cane with a weird animal head'.
Crampton pulled out a writing pad and pad and asked Champion to draw it for him,
' - If you can remember it?'
'Well I'm no Leonardo but here goes', Champion scribbled what he remembered, sat back, looked at it and handed the pad back.
'The Beulah Cane! It was a joke, Jack. A prank thought up by some wag and it made the London Journal where the Sherlock Holmes stories were published weekly'.
The phone rang just then. Crampton handed it to Champion,
'It's your Sergeant Withy'.
'Well, Withy - have you seen the report?'
'Heart failure, Sir. Apparently Henderson stole the cane from a museum. A friend of his walked off with it and he hadn't seen it again until now. He thought he'd been rumbled'.
'Serve him right!' Champion handed the phone back.
British police forces come under the Home Office and are divided into County Divisions, Metropolitan (London) and city forces such as City of London, whose HQ is at Wood Street near London Wall (and the Museum of London). Each police force is sub-divided into Uniform and Plain Clothes (detectives) branches. There are Uniform grades from constable upwards to Chief Commissioner, and uniform grades are invited to apply for plain clothes posts after basic training - or might be asked to apply if they're particularly promising. Ambition on its own won't achieve status... although there are 'queue-jumpers' (freemasons), but they'd be found out in time if they weren't up to the job. [PS: I've never been a policeman, this is just from watching 'Morse', 'Lewis' and 'Midsomer Murders' etc]
A complete Sherlock Holmes from Knickerbocker, you can't get much better. All your favourite Holmes stories, The Hound of The Baskervilles', 'A Study In Scarlet'... You name it, it's here. A mini library in a box. Savour the master's craft!
What else is on offer in this series?
Another in the 'STORYLINE' series of short stories. This one is as a response to a challenge by Chris Mills ( cam8510 ). Try one of the others, for example:
3: BATESMANIA - a light-hearted response to one of Bill's challenges;
9: THE CODFATHER - comic look at life on a North Sea trawler based in Peterhead, Scotland;(there is a chip shop in London by this name);
12: 'SORRY, I Just Missed Your Chimney!'
There are now twenty-one to choose from, some in deadly earnest, some funny, some just plain wistful.