The Case of the Mysterious Wound
Wesley Mortimer woke. The morning sun shone through parted curtains, blinding him in his dazed state. Shielding his eyes, he rose and wobbled slightly, steadying himself with his free hand on the bedpost, before getting dressed slowly with all the grace of...well, he didn't know, it wasn't his job to come up with similes. Outside, the sound of wheels echoed, clattering over cobblestones with a slight err to the usual pattern. Moving away from the house, he thought, remembering the missing cobblestone down the street.
Stumbling through the brown-walled kitchen, Wesley pulled a chair from under the kitchen table, before slowly sinking into it, stifling a yawn. Rubbing his eyes, blurred vision cleared and something slowly came into view. His brow furrowed. He blinked. And then he stood slowly up, hands shaking as he backed away from the table.
His companion's face appeared behind him, shortly followed by the rest of him. “Ah, good morning!”
“No, Grimshaw...this is is not a good morning. Why,” Wesley sighed, exasperated, “is there a corpse on the kitchen table?”
“Oh, the same reason for the skin in the kettle.” Grimshaw pointed at said kettle, which whistled away on top of the stove. “Tea?”
“Shame.” Grimshaw almost pouted. “Have you seen the magnifying glass?”
Wesley looked at the kettle, and quickly voiced a burning question. “Why?”
“You remember Henry Herman?” Grimshaw tossed a slice of bread aside, delighted to find his magnifying glass lying underneath.
“Yes, missing chap.” Wesley cocked his head, leaning forward to watch Grimshaw pour most of the contents of the kettle onto a small china plate, and the rest into a cup, which he stirred with the magnifying glass's handle. “What are you doing?”
Wiping the magnifying glass dry, Grimshaw observed the small bubbling square of boiled skin he'd poured onto the plate. “Well, it appears that Stangerson's boys have proved moderately adept for once. You probably heard them leave.”
“Yes.” Wesley took a deep breath. “But why is his corpse on our kitchen table?”
Grimshaw waved his hand dismissively at Wesley. “No room on the floor. Anyway, it's on a cloth, it's fine.” He took a sip from his cup, pausing briefly. “Mr Herman's skin certainly gave this tea a bit of extra...oomph.” He took another sip, placing the cup gently down next to the stove. “Hand me a knife.”
Wesley grabbed a knife from the next chair, and swapped it with Grimshaw's magnifying glass, taking care to hold it by the lens and not the still-dripping handle.
“Thanks.” Grimshaw muttered, before slamming the knife down onto the square of skin, cleaving it in two and cracking the cheap china.
“What are you doing now?” Wesley moaned; he hadn't intended it to be whiny, but there was only so much he could take.
“This man,” Grimshaw explained, “was found floating in the Thames earlier. Obviously he died – hand me the magnifying glass – recently, as his skin is not much paler than I imagine his usual complexion to be.”
“So, why do you have it? Him, I mean.” Wesley placed the magnifying glass back into Grimshaw's outstretched hand, taking the knife from him.
“Because of the – thanks – nature of the wound.” Grimshaw observed the skin with the glass again, pointing at the wound.
Wesley bent to look at the wound closely. “Well, it's a stab wound, but the skin is...blackened? Burnt, maybe?”
“Hence the skin in the kettle.”
“Wouldn't that just boil the skin?”
“Well, yes.” Grimshaw nodded enthusiastically.
There was a brief pause.
“Am I missing something?” Wesley wanted to shout at his companion, to release the knot in his stomach.
“Yes, you are. You forget also, that I wanted tea. And boiling was close enough.” He looked coyly at Wesley. “Killing two birds with one stone.”
Wesley looked confused. “Is that expression around in the 1920s?”
“Yes, it's been around since Hobbe used it in 1656.”
“Oh, wow.” Wesley nodded appreciatively. “I thought it was a post-World War Two thing.”
“Don't be stupid. There'll never be a second world war.” Grimshaw tutted as only an Englishman could.
“Why do I put up with you, Grimshaw?”
“Because I pay your rent, Mortimer.” Grimshaw reprimanded as he walked out of kitchen, sliding into polished shoes and grabbing his hat and cane.
Wesley followed him like a sheep after an insufferable dog. “Where are you going?”
“Scotland Yard.” Grimshaw said, opening the door and strolling out into the street. Above the door, a brass plaque read:
Kate Mortimer nee Grimshaw
In Loving Memory
“Right.” Wesley stuffed himself into shoes, slamming the door behind him before he could lose sight of his companion.
“Indeed.” Grimshaw raised his hand. “Cabbie!”
The cab stopped outside Scotland Yard, just like it should. Whenever he got in a cab, Wesley couldn't help but think of Jefferson Hope. He'd never dare voice that though, just in case nobody got the reference.
“Thank you, kind sir!” Grimshaw called to the cab driver as he handed him a tip and walked away, Wesley following.
“Kind sir?” Wesley hissed at Grimshaw. “Must you be so patronising?”
From the look Grimshaw gave him, Wesley almost expected a flat-out “yes”. Instead, Grimshaw remarked, “Any man who is prepared to endure vast amounts of hardship to aid others must be a kind of gentleman.”
“By that logic, I'm a kind sir...” Wesley muttered.
“Aren't we all?” Grimshaw asked.
Wesley did not answer, for it was rhetorical.
Grimshaw strolled into the building; doors were no barrier, or else his presence caused them to shuffle to the side out of discontent. Policemen turned to stare, and the tapping of typewriters paused in his wake.
“Stangerson!” Grimshaw called as he approached the grey-haired Chief Constable, whose desk was littered with paperwork in complete ignorance of in-trays.
Stangerson turned to face him and rolled his eyes. “Grimshaw.... Lovely to see you twice in one day!”
“Indeed.” Grimshaw seemed oblivious to sarcasm, Wesley had noted; an egotistical mind generally was. “A great day this is for you, to be graced by presence, as well as having the case of Henry Herman practically solved.”
Wesley swivelled to face Grimshaw, and he could feel lines of confusion etched onto his face.
“Really?” Stangerson seemed enthusiastic now. “Who did it?”
Grimshaw shrugged. “We don't know.”
“Do you have any leads?” Wesley could hear the annoyance in Stangerson's voice.
“Not-” Wesley began, before Grimshaw cut him off.
“Of course,” Grimshaw beamed, “the murderer is careless, shown by the disposal of the body; floating in the Thames? Not smart. He must then live near the Thames, as he wouldn't want to travel far from home in this winter's cold and pouring rain. Judging by the time he's been missing, Henry must have been kept somewhere out of sight, suggesting an attic or basement. Also, the surname “Herman” is German, so we could assume that the murderer lost either friend or family during the war, and wanted some sort of revenge.”
“That really doesn't narrow it down.” Wesley tried to say it gently; he knew how worked up Grimshaw could get.
“Also, note the wound. A very large incision; not made by a standard knife, no. I can assume that the murderer is a professional who uses knives in his business.” Grimshaw folded his arms, as if the case was over.
“You assume, do you?” Stangerson asked carefully. “Guessing is not the same as evidence.”
“Assumptions from evidence are not merely guesswork.” Grimshaw abruptly turned away, and walked out of the building, Wesley staring after him.
Stangerson looked at Wesley, who shrugged. “You know what he's like.”
“I know.” Stangerson sighed, “I'll look into what he said, and send a courier around later.”
“Thank you.” Wesley turned and ran after Grimshaw, who was strolling down the street. “Wait!”
Grimshaw paused and turned. “Ah, Wesley. You caught up.”
“You left me behind!” Nameless faces turned to him for all but a second.
“I never asked you to come with, you just followed.”
Wesley spluttered, before realising that Grimshaw was right. “Fine....”
“What did Stangerson say to you?” Grimshaw asked.
“He said he'll look into what you said.” They began to walk again. “Where are we going?”
“To where the body was found.”
“But Stangerson said-”
“The police are too slow.”
Wesley tried to keep up with his much-taller companion's larger strides, and soon found himself short of breath. Everytime... “Are we walking there?”
“Yes.” Grimshaw answered flatly, “Problem?”
“Can we not get a cab again? I've got plenty of change here.”
Grimshaw sighed. “Wesley, you know in films, where people ask “why didn't they just get the bus” or something foolish like that?”
Wesley nodded hesitantly.
“Well, the answer is usually something to do with better film-making or story-telling.” Grimshaw explained. “And while this is neither – in fact, the 1920s don't even have films with that content – it operates on the premise that we don't want to do the same thing twice.”
“Alright, whatever, let's go.” Wesley was sick of Grimshaw's crap.
The Thames rippled in the morning breeze. Grimshaw's cane was pointing at a specific point. “That,” he proclaimed, “is where the body was found.”
“How do you know?” Wesley asked, in awe of his partner's deduction.
“Stangerson showed me earlier.”
“Anyway, we're looking for a butcher.” Grimshaw's voice held a level of certainty about it.
“How can you be of sure of that?” Wesley regarded him with suspicion, expecting another trick.
“Heat and knives! Of course it's a butcher. The stench of death and the sounds of customers would easily hide Henry's cries for help, or any stench from his body. Most butchers have a basement for storing stock, and Henry was likely thrown in there. Obviously, in the month he's been missing, he would have been fed, so a place where food originates from would be a perfect source.” Grimshaw grinned. “There is one, not far from here, we'll start there. The investigations begin!” He tucked his cane under his so he could rub his hands together.
Wesley shook his head. “What if you're wrong, Lewis?”
Grimshaw's face twisted in confusion. “You never call me Lewis.”
“What if you're wrong?” Wesley asked, louder this time.
“Well...” Grimshaw paused, looking lost just for a moment. “Well, then we go back to see if Stangerson's courier has visited.” He nodded to himself. “Yes. Come on!”
The British flag hung over a window of the butcher's, with the other displaying a selection of meat, none of which Wesley was able to identify.
“I've got a good feeling about this one!” Grimshaw smiled.
“You said that about the last three.” Wesley huffed.
“This time is different!”
“You said that about the last two...”
Grimshaw shot Wesley a scathing look, before entering the store, a bell ringing as the door opened. He looked around, taking in every detail: A fire and stove behind the counter, as well as a knife rack; murder weapon there? Possibly. Floor is chipped in multiple places: general wearing of feet eroding the ground, or signs of a struggle? Proprietor is bald and clean shaven, so no hair will fall on either meat...or corpse.
“You need a hand?” The butcher asked.
Grimshaw walked towards him as Wesley entered the store. After nodding at Wesley, Grimshaw smiled, and said “Ah, Guten Tag!”. Wesley winced at the barely-passable German accent while Grimshaw watched the butcher's reaction. Eyes widened. Lips tightened. Eyes squinted back again, and body language became closed, shifting back and crossing his arms. Gotcha! “My friend, Henry Herman. You seen?”
The butcher's eyes darted unconsciously to the knife rack, before saying with a shake in his voice, “Never heard of him.”
“Are you sure?” Grimshaw asked, accent returning to usual now. “Because he's been stabbed recently, and you glanced at your knife rack at the mere mention of his name?”
For no more than a second, the butcher's eyes darted left and right, before he reached for a knife. Wesley darted forwards, and Grimshaw lashed out with his cane, hitting the butcher around the head. With a cry the butcher fell, with another blow winding him and knocking him to the floor. Grimshaw stepped over him, noting his name. “Sir butcher, you are under arrest for the murder of Henry Herman.” Grimshaw smiled. “Anything to say Wesley?”
“Nothing much.” Wesley shook his head.
There was silence.
“Yes?” Grimshaw kept the end of his cane on the butcher's face, ready to lash out if he tried to escape.
“Do you think we'll ever be as famous as Holmes and Watson?”
“We could do with the cash, couldn't we?” Grimshaw nodded, considering it.
Wesley agreed, despite it being rhetorical. “But do you?”
“No.” Grimshaw shook his head. “They've got a much better author.”