He was running out of time.
Detective Inspector Darren Blake of Scotland Yard sprinted down the narrow corridor, which displayed a rather strange, yet sophisticated appearance of crimson wallpaper with gold-framed oil paintings set at regular intervals. There was a small amount of ambient lighting, the only thing which allowed the detective to see were the small, white candles that flickered as he ran past.
On his journey down the corridor, he drew his Smith & Wesson Model 67 revolver from the inside of his jacket. He cocked the hammer with his thumb so he was ready to fire, which was almost undoubtedly going to happen.
He reached the end of the corridor. There was an old pine door in front of him. It had a gold handle, and was shut.
There was a shuffling noise from within, and the gentle clicking sound as someone cocked a hammer from a revolver.
When the detective entered, which he would, he had to be ready for two people. The two distinct sounds had come from opposite sides of the room.
The clicking noise from the revolver sounded exactly like his own, so at least one of them had a firearm.
He knew when he opened the door, the man with the revolver would aim at him, so he would have to push the man’s arm aside to avoid being killed. If he timed it right, which he knew he would, the man would shoot his comrade, who was the one who made the shuffling noise. This would, at least, take care of one of the men inside the room.
Of course, the man armed with the revolver would fire a blind punch at him, which he would have to counter with a forearm block. To twist the gun out of the man’s grip, however, he would need both hands free.
He put his revolver away.
The detective twisted the handle rather violently and opened the door quickly. The man with the revolver was stood behind the door, and immediately aimed at him. He grasped the man’s twist and forced it to the right. As the armed man pulled the trigger, he shot the other person who was in the room with him.
As the detective figured, the blind punch came and he countered it just as quick as it came. He twisted the gun out of the man’s grip, then spun underneath his flailing arm and slammed his elbow into the man’s stomach.
The man doubled over, and Darren used the revolver to club the man over the head.
At the back of the room, there was an acute hole in the floor, and he could see the top of a steel ladder that ran down the side of the building.
"Bloody hell," he said in his thick London accent. He had to hurry up, otherwise the suspect would escape.
He ran to the ladder, placed his gloved hands either side of it. He slid down the ladder, then as he reached London street level, he started sprinting, after taking a small moment to make sure his dark blue bow tie was level.
The detective wore a dark grey fedora, with a brown single-breasted suit jacket and black trousers. He drew his gun again.
Though rather clever, the detective’s shooting skills left a lot to be desired. The only gun he could even remotely shoot anything with was his Smith and Wesson. Other than that, he doubted he could shoot anything at point blank, even. And yet, no matter how hard he trained, his marksmanship never got any better.
He saw the man in the top hat – the suspect – run down a dark alley. He knew that it was a dead end, rather literally if he remembered the map of London right. It was a small cliff, perhaps fifty metres tall, which had recently suffered from cliff collapse due to the heavy rainfall that had happened the week before.
It was rather ironic considering the man’s crime. A few days ago he had killed a man with the exact same cliff that he was going to fall down. He, however, was going to save his rather excellent explanation for when he caught him.
He heard the man shout as he turned into the alley and followed him. There was a slight drizzle of rain in the air, which formed tiny droplets on his face and clothing.
The detective reached the cliff, and looked down. The man was hanging on a ridge about the size of a palm, which was rather unsteady. The soil was breaking apart, even as he watched.
"How ironic," he began, "You were killed by the very thing you used to kill."
"How did you figure it out?" the man asked through gritted teeth as he tried to hang on. He had a small amount of stubble on his chin, a flat nose and brown eyes with bushy eyebrows. His hair was all hidden underneath the top hat.
"Salt. On the cliff edge. This is what happened:" the detective said, "You wanted to buy the land that Mr Stevenson owned. But he refused to sell. So you decided to kill him. But you needed a way that would promise his death without linking you to the crime. Then the storm came, and that gave you an idea. You got brine. That’s sodium chloride solution, and poured a very large amount of it on top of the cliff. You made two electrodes out of graphite, and stuck them in the ground. During the lightning storm, you used electrolysis on the solution which would, if we were smart enough to ask you about it, provide an excellent cover. We would have thought the lightning had caused it. Anyway, chlorine and hydrogen were produced as gases and escaped, and the chlorine was smelt by a farmer nearby. But that wasn’t the only thing that was a result of that, was it? Sodium hydroxide. An extremely powerful alkali. In the rain it formed a solution and ran down into the well, Mr Stevenson’s water supply. He then drank the sodium hydroxide solution, and was corroded inside. You then bought his land, and tried to manufacture illegal drugs. Am I right?"
The ground the man had a grip on suddenly dropped down a metre or so, slamming the man’s legs against another part of the cliff. The detective stayed calm.
"But there were two things that gave you away," he continued, "The waxy residue on your boot, and the burn on your hand from the sodium hydroxide solution where you accidentally spilt it on yourself. It was a good, perhaps a plan of genius, even. But you made crucial mistakes. You are arrested for the murder of Mr George Stevenson and the production of illegal drugs. You used your impressive skills as a chemist, just as I used mine."
He took a small cane out of the inside of his jacket then flicked it outwards. It doubled in size. His cane was something he was proud of. It was telescopic, and that allowed for easy transport.
The man grasped the cane and the detective pulled him up the cliff.
Suddenly, the man lashed out and tried to catch him with a punch to the face. The detective slapped his hand away with his cane then swiped his feet from underneath him.
As the man landed on the floor, the detective forced his hands behind his back and clicked handcuffs in place.
"At least I have something to say at your court trial," the detective said with a grin.
He exited Scotland Yard with a praise from the chief of police. He walked through the charted London streets, his mind full of different suspects of Jack The Ripper.
The man – the murderer – had evaded him for around a year. No matter how close he thought he was to solving the case, something always cropped up which meant his theory had been proven wrong. It was a completely open case, yes, there were suspects, but no evidence to back his accusations up. No one, ever, managed to evade him for over a year. No one.
"Oh hello!" said someone from next to him. He turned his head.
"Robert, what the hell are you doing here?" the detective asked. Robert was his oldest friend. They had known each other… twenty. No, twenty-one years. Robert always wore a grey top hat and a grey suit, with a black cane. He sometimes assisted him with his investigations. Sometimes.
"Oh, well, I have just come back from France. They are strange, them lot…"
"They eat frogs. I mean, they rip the legs off frogs and eat them. Oh, and snails."
"I have just solved another crime," the detective pointed out.
"What would that be?"
"The man who killed Mr Stevenson. He is in prison and awaiting trial."
"Congratulations. I noticed there were several crimes reported in the newspapers…"
"The person who stole Mrs Buckinghamshire’s money."
"The butler. Anything else?"
"The ammunition going missing at the Fort."
"That would be the general there," he pointed out, then raised his finger and said, "Because everyone knows that he’s corrupt." He gave a slight shrug.
"Is there any crime you haven’t solved?"
"Jack The Ripper."
"No one can catch him. You know what rumours are going around? They say he’s a demon."
"How are your shooting skills?"
"They actually still need work."
"And your martial arts?"
"And your personal hygiene?"
"Still the same. Still brilliant."
"There’s another thing I want you to look at. A murder on Rosegarth Avenue. No suspects, no murder weapon, the victim was taken out by nothing, it seems."
"Sounds interesting. I will investigate immediately."
"Let’s go, then."
"I can’t right now."
"You said immediately."
"A different immediately. I have a small errand to make."
"Then why say immediately if it’s not immediately?"
"It is immediately, just a different immediately."
"So when is your immediately?"
"It’s now nine forty five."
The detective shrugged, "Three is immediately."
"You confuse me."
"You amuse me."
"Goodbye Detective Blake."
When Robert arrived at Rosegarth Avenue he was rather surprised to see that the detective was not there. He did a full circle of the house, but the only person who he saw was a man with a small cat in his arms. As he reached the front of the house again the man walked up to him. He was wearing a black fedora and a black suit.
"Robert," the man said, "Good to see you."
In a flash, the man had taken off his coat and turned it inside out, and returned it back to his body, showing a new brown suit. He also reversed his hat, giving it his trademark grey fedora.
He also pulled off the beard he had stuck on to his own chin.
"A very nice disguise," Robert pointed out.
"Fairly adequate for remaining inconspicuous around a crime scene."
"So what have you found out?"
"I haven’t actually entered yet," Blake said, shrugging his shoulders slightly that only the minute crinkle in the material of his suit gave it away, "But something I could tell is that the murderer didn’t break in. The lock isn’t broken, neither are any of the windows."
"Which would mean that the victim knew who the murderer was?"
"Let’s go in, then."
Blake led the way through the front door, which was open. This would have, in theory, meant that the victim wouldn’t have locked it again upon the entrance of the murderer, once again hinting at the possibility that the victim knew the attacker.
He made his way into the living room.
Even though he was completely expecting a bloody mess all over the room, there were only distinct crimson markings on the wall. The body, however, was that of a young woman, who looked about twenty. She had black hair and had a round, rather beautiful face. She wore a red dress that finished at about her knee. She had no injuries, and there was no blood on the floor. It would look as if she was sleeping, but her face was pale and relaxed.
"Her name is Tara Rhodes. She’s an upper class woman, single, and lives here with her cat," Robert informed him.
As he stepped over the body, the cat was dead on the floor next to her. Again with no injuries or blood that he could see.
"This will be a hard one," Blake mused.
The markings on the wall, he saw, spelt letters.
"Beware of The Dark Shadow" it read.
"That is most interesting," he pointed out, "Have you ever heard of The Dark Shadow?"
"Not to my knowledge," Robert replied, thoughtfully stroking his short moustache, "Aren’t all shadows dark?"
"Her dress hasn’t been upset," Blake told him, "It is perfectly shaped, so she didn’t try and defend herself. There’s no scuffing like there would be if there was a struggle, so that rules out injections and most conventional means of murder."
"Perhaps something in the air?"
"When did this murder happen?"
"About two hours ago."
"All the windows are closed," Blake said, "The time it would take to circulate the air around the house and for the probably heavier substance within it to escape the room for us to breathe would have been a lot longer. There is even no residue on the floor from where it would have fallen."
"That wouldn’t explain the blood on the wall. There’s something else at work here, Robert. We’ll need to examine the body."
As he glanced over the body he noticed a thin sheet of parchment slightly protruding from the woman’s hand, "Wait one moment," he told Robert.
He knelt next to her and slid the piece of parchment out from underneath her hand, slightly making her hand into a fist as he did so.
Blake uncurled it, then looked at the faint, black, curved lettering that filled up the brown tinted parchment.
"The secret lies with Barry and Pugin."
Blake showed the parchment to Robert.
"What do you think it means?" Robert questioned.
The detective thought for a moment, "Well the secret implies that there’s something… missing, something hidden, something invisible. Barry and Pugin…"
"I know someone called Barry."
"As do I, but in this particular case Barry is not a first name."
"How do you know?"
"Pugin. Barry and Pugin were the ones to design the new Houses of Parliament after it was destroyed in 1834."
"So there’s something hidden in the Houses of Parliament?"
"Possibly. This is our first clue, Robert. I’ll get the professor in to have a look at the body, to see how this girl died. Then we will give Parliament a visit."
"Do you think we’ll be allowed?" Robert asked.
Blake smiled, "No. But that has never stopped me before. I have a plan."