Murder by Sarah Pinborough – Extract

Murder

PROLOGUE

Extract from letter from James Harrington to Edward Kane, dated 1887:

. . . and I have just returned from their funerals. I suppose it is a blessing that they are to lie at rest together and neither one must continue living without the other (as I truly believe, as I told you in Venice, that my parents did love each other) but my heart is heavy with grief, and although I am almost recovered from the poisoning that took them from me, I continue to feel plagued by the black cloud that has hung over me since my return from Poland.

I wish you were here. I have never made friends overly easily, and those few I have tended towards are of a serious sort – there is not a fellow among them I feel I could bare my soul to without judgement. Your lively spirit and positive attitude would be a tonic to me in my present predicament.

In my previous letter I mentioned that I had been ill in Poland but there was much that I omitted – perhaps because I wished to forget most of the experience myself; I blamed the fevers I had suffered for addling my brain somewhat. However, since my return to London I have begun to believe – and God help me in this – that there may be some truth in the madness. Or perhaps it is I who am mad. I have tried several times to write down what really occurred, about what the villagers and my poor dead guide Josep believed had infected me, but each time I have thrown the paper onto the fire. It is enough that I am plagued with doubts without driving you away with tales of monsters and legends that have no place in this modern world.

And yet I am still gripped by terror.

The night my mother and father fell so fatally ill, we had eaten a jar of mushroom preserves I had brought back with me from my travels. I heard myself tell the doctor as much as soon as I was well enough to speak, and there was an empty jar and the remnants of food to evidence this – and yet now I am recovered, I cannot remember ever buying the mushrooms, or eating the dinner, although I must have done both. This is not because of the effects of the poisonous mushrooms; I have been suffering periods where my memories are vague, as if sometimes I am living in a fugue state, where my desires and emotions are not entirely my own. I fought with my father that night – I have a memory of the anger, but not of why we argued. One day I found myself walking through a slum part of London, with no recollection of getting there other than vague dream-like memories that felt at once to be mine and not mine.

I had a similar experience in Paris, but that time, when I regained my senses, I had blood on my clothes. These moments are at their worst when the recurring fever is with me.

I fear, reading this back, that it must appear nonsensical. You probably think that my grief has left me ‘touched’ – and believe me when I say most earnestly that I hope this is indeed the case. The madness I could live with, but I fear the dreams I can’t help but think are real. And there is something almost worse: a constant weight on my back, as if there is something just behind me I cannot quite see.

I can picture your smile of disbelief from here, and in many ways that image is a comfort. Of course I am simply a victim of illness. There can be no more to it than that. I shall throw myself into running my father’s business, as I need a distraction from these dark thoughts, and that will certainly provide a worthy one.

I must hope that you received my first letter as I have had no reply from you – you may well, of course, still be on your travels or at the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice, where I last saw you, but as I doubt that your family business commitments would have allowed you to stay in Europe for so long, I must presume my letter was lost rather than that you have forgotten our friendship. I shall continue to write, and I hope that one day you can visit me in London, and that by then these miseries which plague me will be long forgotten.

Your dear friend,
James Harrington.

1

The Singleton Argus
Saturday, June 27, 1896

——

Jack the Ripper

Carl Feigenbaum, who was executed in the electric chair at New York, has left a confession with his lawyer, from which it seems possible that he may be no other than jack the Ripper. The account of the lawyer, which has been given to the Press, reads:—“l have a statement to make which may throw some light on this case [the murder for which the man was executed]. Now that Feigenbaum is dead and nothing more can be done for him in this world, i want to say as his counsel that i am absolutely certain of his guilt in this case, and i feel morally certain that he is the man who committed many, if not all, of the Whitechapel murders. here are my reasons; and on this statement i pledge my honor:—When Feigenbaum was in the Tombs awaiting his trial, i saw him several times. The evidence in his case seemed so clear that i cast about for a theory of insanity. certain actions denoted a decided mental weakness somewhere. When i asked him point blank, ‘Did you kill Mrs Hoffman?’ he made this reply: ‘I have for years suffered from a singular disease, which induces an all-absorbing passion; this passion manifests itself in a desire to kill and mutilate the woman who falls in my way. At such times I am unable to control myself.’ On my next visit to the Tombs I asked him whether he had not been in London at various times during the whole period covered by the Whitechapel murders. ‘Yes, I was,’ he answered. i asked him whether he could not explain some of these cases on the theory which he had suggested to me, and he simply looked to me in reply.” The statement, which is a long one, proves conclusively that Feigenbaum was more or less insane, but the evidence of his identity with the notorious Whitechapel criminal is not satisfactory.

14 October, 1896

Dear Boss,

You will be surprised to find that this comes from yours as of old Jack-the Ripper. Ha Ha

If my old friend Mr. Warren is dead you can read it. you might remember me if you try and think a little Ha Ha. The last job was a bad one and no mistake nearly buckled, and meant it to be best of the lot & what curse it, Ha Ha Im alive yet and you’ll soon find it out. I mean to go on again when I get the chance wont it be nice dear old Boss to have the good old times once again. you never caught me and you never will. Ha Ha

You police are a smart lot, the lot of you could nt catch one man Where have I been Dear Boss you d like to know. abroad, if you would like to know, and just come back, ready to go on with my work and stop when you catch me. Well good bye

Boss wish me luck. Winters coming “The Jewes are people that are blamed for nothing” Ha Ha

have you heard this before

Yours truly

Jack the Ripper

Chief Inspector Henry Moore’s report to Chief Constable Melville Macnaghten.

18 Oct 1896

I beg to report having carefully perused all the old ‘Jack the Ripper’ letters and fail to find any similarity of handwriting in any of them, with the exception of the two well remembered communications which were sent to the ‘Central News’ office; one a letter, dated 25th September 1888, and the other a postcard, bearing the postmark 1st October 1888 . . .

On comparing the handwriting of the present letter with handwriting of that document, I find many similarities in the formation of letters. For instance the y’s, t’s and w’s are very much the same. Then there are several words which appear in both documents; viz:- Dear Boss; ha ha (although in the present letter the capital H is used instead of the small one); and in speaking of the murders he describes them as his ‘work’ or the last ‘job’; and if I get a (or the) chance; then there are the words ‘yours truly’ and – the Ripper (the latter on postcard) that are very much alike. Besides there are the finger smears.

Considering the lapse of time, it would be interesting to know how the present writer was able to use the words ‘The Jewes are people that are blamed for nothing’; as it will be remembered that they are practically the same words that were written in chalk, undoubtably by the murderer, on the wall at Goulston Str., Whitechapel, on the night of 30th September 1888, after the murders of Mrs Stride and Mrs Eddows [Eddowes]; and the word Jews was spelt on that occasion precisely as it is now.

Although these similarities strangely exist between the documents, I am of the opinion that the present writer is not the original correspondent who prepared the letters to the Central News; as if it had been I should have thought he would have again addressed it to the same Press Agency; and not to Commercial Street Police Station.

In conclusion I beg to observe that I do not attach any importance to this communication.

2

London. November, 1896

Dr Bond

By the time the brandy arrived, I was feeling pleasantly full. The warmth of the restaurant was a far cry from the bitter cold outside, and as Andrews passed the cigars around the room had quietened; it was late in the evening and many of the tables that had been full on our arrival were now being cleared away by brisk waiters.

‘And so the letter was nothing?’ I said. It was not unusual for Andrews and me to dine out together, but tonight Henry Moore had brought the three of us together and I knew it was not just for the pleasure of our company.

‘Just another to add to the hundreds of others,’ he said behind a small haze of smoke. ‘They’re all worthless. Whoever our man was, he’s either dead or fled.’

He looked well. Unlike Andrews, who had retired from the police force a year or so after that bloody summer, Henry Moore had gone from strength to strength, being promoted to the rank of Chief Inspector after taking over the ‘Ripper’ case from Inspector Abberline. He retained his sense of earthy hardiness, and although he must surely feel the same frustration that plagued Andrews that their man had never been caught, he was a pragmatist. He would be disappointed, but he would not suffer as Andrews did.

‘These are fine cigars.’ The smoke was sweet and strong. ‘Are we celebrating something?’

‘Celebration might be too strong a word,’ Moore said, ‘but it’s certainly the end of an era. We are no longer actively investigating the Ripper case. We’ve done all we can. We’re not going to catch the bastard now. It’s time to move on.’

His words came as no real surprise to me, and in my heart I was glad of the news. It was the final door closing on a chapter of history I had done my best to make peace with and forget. Perhaps now that the decision was made, Andrews too would be able to let it go. He had become a close friend since his retirement from the police force. He was thinner than I, and although nearly ten years younger, he looked far older than a man yet in his forties should. He still mused on Jack’s handiwork over our games of chess or backgammon, as if hoping one day to remember some small snippet of information that would lead to an arrest.

‘Perhaps it is,’ Andrews said before sniffing his brandy. ‘But I wish to God we had got him.’

‘It’s a wide world,’ I said. ‘It’s possible that some policeman somewhere caught him.’

‘Then I shall imagine it’s so. For my own peace.’

We sat in comfortable silence for a moment as we sipped our drinks and smoked our cigars and reflected on those deeds that seemed at once a while ago and yesterday, as memories often did.

‘It’s not as if there isn’t enough crime in London to keep me busy,’ Moore said after a moment, his eyes twinkling. ‘There are days I envy you, Walter, in your decision to change professions. Look at you now: the gentleman investigator, Sherlock Holmes himself.’

We all laughed at that. Andrews had indeed moved into private investigations since leaving the Force, but the reality of the job was a far more mundane affair that that presented in fi           and it involved very little working alongside the police. ‘Who knows,’ Moore continued, smiling, ‘perhaps it will soon be time for me to move on too. I’m starting to feel like the old dog trying to herd eager pups.’

‘Retirement?’ Andrews said. ‘I’m certainly contemplating it – but you don’t strike me as the sort.’

‘You see me dying on the job? Driven to an early grave by paperwork, maybe.’ He let out a gruff laugh. ‘I’ll see a few more years on the Force, I’m sure, but then – who knows? I imagine – and in many ways I hope, because I’m too tired to chase another bloody lunatic like that one – I’ve already worked on the case I shall be defined by. We all have.’

It was unlike Moore to be so reflective, but he had a point. London hadn’t seen six weeks like Jack’s before, and it was unlikely to again. We had played our parts in that, even if the man himself had never been brought to justice.

‘Jack, and the torso man,’ Andrews said. ‘I hope we were wrong and they were one and the same – that way we failed to catch only one man.’

My grip tightened on my brandy glass. We rarely talked of the torso murders. For Andrews they had always been secondary to Jack’s, and I was glad of that. For the first few years after those terrible events my sleep had suffered. I kept the memories locked away in my soul and I weaned myself from the laudanum, but often my days were wrecked with tiredness. I had not seen either the priest or Aaron Kosminski since that fateful night in Harrington’s warehouse. I had slowly managed to convince myself that the drugs had induced a kind of madness in us, but still I felt an awful sense of dread when walking the streets of London.

But for the past eighteen months or so that too had lifted and the whole affair had begun to feel like a terrible dream. I had no doubt that Harrington was the killer, and so I felt no overwhelming guilt over his death, but neither did I like any reminder of those events for fear that once again my anxieties and insomnia would return.

‘It’s possible,’ Moore agreed, but I sensed more for Andrews’ benefit than because he truly thought so.

‘We should dwell less on the past,’ I said. ‘If the case is no longer active, then perhaps we too should let it rest. And ourselves as well.’

‘I’ll drink to that,’ Moore said and signalled the waiter for more brandy.

*****

It was late when I returned home to Westminster, but I had the pleasant buzz of having spent an evening with friends and before bed I went to my study to write a few more notes on my paper on the nature and treatment of hunting injuries. I wanted to push any dregs of thoughts of Jack and the torso killer to one side with practical work and I found it was not too difficult in the comfort of my own home. The sense of being haunted had truly left me, and although I had moments of fear that it would return, with every day that passed I relaxed a little more and allowed myself to feel content in my life. There would be no more opium. There would be no more madness. The priest and Kosminski were merely figures from a dream. They were not tangible, and as such, they could no longer affect me. Justice was done – even if it had been a crude version that I could never share with Andrews and Moore – and I refused to feel guilt for my part in it. It was far kinder for Juliana than any trial would have been, and I had no doubt whatsoever the outcome would have been the same.

Finally, I turned out the lamps and climbed the stairs to the bed I no longer dreaded. Yes, I thought as I slipped into an easy sleep, life was good at last.


Excerpted from Murder by Sarah Pinborough. Copyright © 2014 by Sarah Pinborough.
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus, 55 Baker Street, 7th Floor, South Block, London, W1U 8EW.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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