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Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror


Randy Williams


To William A. Cheetham (1929-2013)
Thank you for all the love, for being my dad, my role model and hero, and for taking such great care of my mother for all these years, which you are still doing.
To My Mother and My Big Sister
Thank you both for loving me unconditionally, warts and all, and for your support for me throughout my life, and throughout this project.
To Sifu Ted Wong Kam Ming (1937-2010)
Thank you for sharing the teachings of Bruce Lee with me.  I will never forget the way you encouraged me to pursue my dreams, against all odds.

   The evil and cruel party that came to be known as “Jack the Ripper,” England’s first serial killer, terrorized the streets of Whitechapel in London’s East-end during the fall of 1888, now referred to as The Autumn of Terror.  The five “canonical” murders (those generally agreed upon by the majority of Ripper experts, known as “Ripperologists” as being committed by the infamous killer) took place during the exact period when legendary literary sleuth Sherlock Holmes would have been in his heyday as a thirty-five-year-old “private consulting detective” in London.  In the series of short stories and novelettes penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle during those years, Holmes was often called in to assist the (portrayed as mostly incompetent) London Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard in their more problematic investigations.  Which begs the question; why did Holmes never take on London’s -- and indeed the world’s -- most infamous unsolved mystery, which would have taken place right under his very nose in 1880’s London?  My answer; he did. And not only did he investigate it at the request of The Crown, but in my story, he also solved the case.  However, like many of the fictional detective’s most puzzling and intriguing cases, the results of this investigation led Holmes to make connections to persons and events whose revelation could result in explosive situations which might have had serious ramifications on British politics and society.  And so, in the same way a number of supposedly unreleased case outcomes mentioned through Watson’s narration in stories like The Problem of Thor Bridge, The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger and The Adventure of the Creeping Man, the results of the Ripper case have remained unpublished -- “entombed in a tin box” -- until such time that all concerned parties are long-since dead, or the implications of the investigation’s outcome could no longer be damaging or threatening to national security.  Thus, 125 years after the fact, the Ripper’s identity could finally be revealed in the year 2017.
   My story, Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror, is a fictionalized version of my own actual theory on the true identity of Jack the Ripper, which has never before been put forth, and is supported by the huge amount of irrefutable evidence I have amassed as you will see.  It is based on years of investigation, numerous trips to the actual crime scenes in London, as well as the application of Holmes’ methods in my own experience as a Private Detective, my avid readership of all the Holmes stories and my love for foreign languages, solving puzzles and word games.  I have used all of this, along with expert advice, to create what I believe to be a possible, plausible resolution to one of the world’s greatest unresolved mysteries.  Many of the people, incidents and evidence presented in this tale actually existed, and are intermingled with characters, colloquial dialect and events taken from Doyle’s writings in order to create and maintain an air of authenticity.  But reader beware -- lest you condemn me for not having done my research in my contemporary usage of slang such as “nark of the police,” “crib” (in reference to someone’s home or apartment), “smash-and-grab,” “What’s up” and other modern-sounding words and phrases in the 1800’s, let me assure you that all of these -- and many more -- were borrowed directly from the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own Sherlock Holmes works.  There may be two exceptions.  Let’s see if you can tell which ones they are.
   Also included in this novel is a short story-within-a-story called The Bogus Laundry Affair that was written from Holmes’ perspective, in the style of The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier.  The reader may choose to skip directly over it or read it entirely separately from the rest of the book, as doing so will have no bearing on the outcome of the rest of the bigger story -- it contains no spoilers.  ‎The only thing it has in common with Doyle’s original concept as introduced in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box is the name of the story, the mention of one DI Aldridge, and a generous sprinkling of Holmes- and Watson-isms as borrowed from a number of my favorite Sherlock Holmes tales as well as other writings of horror, mystery and imagination by Doyle. 
   It is with great honor that I am able to say that this book was written with the technical advice and inspiration of three men that I have held in the highest esteem for most of my adult life, and that I had the good fortune to have been able to meet through a wonderful series of events that began in February of 2015, when I was invited to a dinner at which Dr. Michael Baden, world-renowned Forensic Pathologist was present.  He was a guest of a very close friend, Sam Sanguedolce, who happened to be First Assistant District Attorney of Luzerne County, near my home in rural Northeast Pennsylvania.  Dr. Baden was in town to testify in the murder case of Hugo Selensky, a local man that, with an accomplice, had killed a couple in a very cruel manner, and had buried their corpses on his property.  Dr. Baden had been originally called in on the case at its inception in 2002, and was in town to testify for the prosecution about the cause and manner of death, as well as other details about their autopsies, and what was found in those examinations.  Through sheer luck, I found myself alone with Dr. Baden for the better part of two hours, as he had been barred from the courtroom during the testimony of another witness.   During that time, we established a friendship that continues to this day, and which led to my meeting Dr. Henry C. Lee, and in turn, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, both of whom are known for their expertise throughout the world, and were great contributors to this book regarding the medical details of the murders, as well as crime-scene analysis in my fictional recreations of the crimes based on the actual reports of police and medical examiners from London during the period of the Ripper killings.  Dr. Wecht helped me to recreate the murders in a manner consistent with the actual findings of the real medical examiners that worked on the case.  Dr. Lee helped me greatly with the development of the Leu character, and was particularly enlightening in giving me an understanding of the nature of bullet trajectory and ricochet properties that in turn would help me explain Dr. Watson’s “wandering war injury” that Holmes experts love to point out as an error in Doyle’s writings.  I hope to have resolved this issue once and for all, with the help of the world’s leading expert on the subject as a small tribute to the creator of the legends that are Holmes and Watson.  I also hope to have settled a similarly pesky revolver issue. 
   The first times I received phone calls from each of the three doctors will forever remain etched into my memory.  My heartfelt thanks go out to these three men, as well as Samuel Sanguedolce, without whom I’d have never had the opportunity to meet the Doctors.  My thanks also go out to Detective Michael Dessoye -- Chief of Detectives for the Office of the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania District Attorney, who also worked with Sam and Dr. Baden on the Selensky case, which was the model for some of the crimes I have dramatized here.  I also wish to thank my long-time dear friend Mr. Chris Short of Derby, England, whose London research on the International Men’s Educational Club was crucial to the development and direction of my actual theory of the true Ripper crime.
   Also of great assistance to me in the writing of this book were the remaining members of the Panel of Ten -- a group of men that I had enlisted to help me maintain accuracy in matters of historical detail, London police procedure, Toxicology and the study of the effects of certain poisons.  I chose a rather quirky method of inviting them to be a part of my project, by sending them weekly installments of the story for their approval, but rather than doing so as myself, all of my communication with them in that regard was done via e-mails written to them “from the desk of John H. Watson M.D. through the offices of Black Stallion Security and Investigations” -- my own firm (clue!).  Besides those already mentioned, the members of that panel include Kenneth Widman, Douglas Zahn, Gary Angove and Dr. Michael Rieders.  I must also include my thanks to my good friend Matt “Murdoc” Savory for his invaluable help with my Cockney rhyming slang and all things British. Thank you, men.
   In order to avoid confusing the reader by explaining in detail each archaic term, person or historical fact I refer to in the text of my story, I have opted to use footnotes to which the reader can refer for more information about those items at the back of the book.
   Lastly, I would like to point out that for dramatic purposes, the chapters are not necessarily in chronological order, and that those attributed to the actual writings of Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes and the actual Jack the Ripper will appear in a different typeface (known as “Baskerville Old Face” HA!) and use the British system of spelling and punctuation to separate them from other narration.  I ask the reader to take into account the dates that head each chapter, as I have remained as true to the actual story of Jack the Ripper as I have been able to do, with as much attention to historical detail as possible, while fictionally bringing the famous Baker Street detective into the picture to present my own actual theory of the killer's true identity and methods.  I hope that by bringing together my favorite real-life mystery and my favorite fictional sleuth, I may introduce one or the other to friends around the world, many of whom I have not yet met.
Forest City, PA. 26 April, 2015

The Old Huntsman

There’s a keen and grim old huntsman
        On a horse as white as snow ;
Sometimes he is very swift
        And sometimes he is slow.
But he never is at fault,
        For he always hunts at view,
And he rides without a halt
        After you.
The huntsman’s name is Death,
        His horse’s name is Time ;
He is coming, he is coming,
        As I sit and write this rhyme ;
Hark!  The evening chime is playing,
        O’er the long grey town in peals ;
Don’t you hear the death-hound baying
        At your heels?

                                From Songs of Action, A. Conan Doyle 1898


31 August, 1888.  Whitechapel Road.  London’s East End

    A costermonger’s cart1 rattles down the gas-lit cobblestone street, hoof beats echoing against the brick walls of the empty buildings as it passes.  Its driver, a medium-height, well-dressed man urges his pony onward with a long whip.  He slows to examine the various “unfortunates,”2 that are plying their trade along the road. He largely ignores their cries and propositions as he continues down the Whitechapel Road.

    The promenade of the Marriage Market3 is dark.  So very dark.  I can hardly negotiate these narrow passageways of Hinchinopolis with my chariot.  Look, there!  I say!  Is it another vision?  Pray, no, she is real.  And she is wearing The Crown and Veil.  It must be her!  At long last, I have found her - the Idolatress.  I feel The Change taking place in me.
    The man stops the cart on Whitechapel Road, and jumps down to the street, keeping a loose hold on the pony’s reins, and approaches the woman.  In one hand, he holds a black leather Gladstone bag.
    She is arrayed in Scarlet and Purple with Seven Jewels -- Seven Mountains… Seven Kings… Seven Heads with Ten Horns.  It is she!  The Whore of Babylon4!
    The woman, wearing a black straw bonnet and dressed in a heavily worn reddish brown Ulster coat with seven large brass buttons and a white scarf, cries out to the man, “Sir!  What a lovely gold chain and jewel you wear.  And such a beautiful pony!  I will gladly please a gentleman such as yourself.  Tuppence5 for an hour or sixpence for the night.”  He replies, in a velvety, Slavic-accented voice, “Oh, but I’ve gold and precious stones and pearls to offer you, Great Mother!  Ornaments befitting of Your Majesty.”  She takes an unstable two steps toward the cart, and stands unsteadily, but attentive.
    The man opens his black Gladstone bag to reveal a mound of beads, bangles, thick gold chains and necklaces, then snaps it shut and places it upon the seat beside his right hip.  “Come!  Let us ride upon my chariot to behold the glories of Jericho, your kingdom!”  He jumps back up to the driver’s seat of the cart, and the woman drunkenly staggers, giggling, approaching the vehicle.  “Oh, so it’s a Queen Mum you’re lookin’ for!”
    The man gallantly assists her aboard to the seat beside him and lightly whips the pony.  “Wot’s this beautiful cup for then, Love?” she asks, in her heavy Cockney accent.  The man does not answer, and she simply shrugs.  They drive off into the London fog toward Bucks Row.  He stops the cart in front of Essex Wharf, far from a dimly burning gaslight at the end of the road - the only illumination on the dark street.  Reaching for his bag, he pulls out a string of pearls, far too elaborate to be used as payment for the woman’s services. 
    “Turn around, My Queen.  Please hold the Golden Vessel while I fit you with this ornament.”  With a cluck of delight, she takes the cup in her left hand, which the man gently guides until it is resting upon her chest. 
    “Ooh!  Are we drinkin’ then?” she asks.  His hand gently brushes her right breast as he withdraws it, leaving her clutching it tightly in place against her ample bosom.  She then turns her back to him and lifts her hair and bonnet to reveal the bare nape of her neck.  With the strand of pearls in his left hand, he gently tosses them over the left side of her neck from behind.  The pearls clank against the gold metal goblet that she continues to hold between her breasts.  In his right hand, he now holds a sharp knife that was also in the bag, hidden beneath the mounds of costume jewelry that also concealed an empty phial and a syringe.  The end of the strand drops into her lap, and she reaches her right hand down to catch it and bring it around to the back for him to clasp it round her neck.  But before her hand can come up with the closure, he drops the strand and reaches around to pull the cup in tight against her chest with his left hand. He quickly brings the knife up around from the right with his other hand in a deadly embrace.  With a swift motion, the man slices her neck from below her left ear across to the center.  Warm jets of blood spurt from the slice in her neck and into the cup he holds below it. Although the knife does not completely penetrate the vein and artery, some of the crimson liquid spills out past the cup and splashes down to the floorboard of the cart.  Suddenly emerging from her drunken stupor, she spins and ducks out of his grip, then falls off the cart and lands forcefully on her back on the wet cobblestone road, knocking the wind out of her, and sending a shock of extreme pain shooting up her spine. 
    Ignoring the motion he sees under the tarpaulin that covers the bed of the cart, the man puts down the cup with care, then leaps off the cart and lands straddling her body with the knife held up, ready to be brought down like a dagger. Driven by desperation and the instinctive will to live, she attempts to ward off the knife he wields in his right hand by grabbing it with both of hers, her fingernails digging into the flesh of his wrist and her strength fading with each passing second.  In an attempt to force her to release his arm, he leans down and delivers three brutal blows to the right side of her jaw with his free left fist, smashing her head down against the cobblestones with savage force. The strikes knock several teeth out of her mouth, sending them cascading down to the wet ground.  He then grabs her across the jaw with a mighty squeeze and retracts the knife out of her hands to stab her, but, with basic animal instinct, she rolls over onto her stomach to avoid the blow.  Barely maintaining consciousness, she attempts to escape by crawling away, but succeeds only in reaching the gutter, her throat wounds spewing blood that quickly mixes with the draining rainwater and filth.  The man walks purposefully behind her and kneels upon her back, using his left hand to grab her hair, pulling her head up and backwards.  He reverses the grip on his knife and brings it around to continue the slash to her throat that he had begun on his cart.  This second, more severe cut, beginning an inch in front of the other, continues deeply slicing her throat across to a point three inches below her other ear.  The effect is a ghastly Death Grin that severs all of the tissues down to the vertebrae, very nearly decapitating her.  The carotid arteries as well as jugular veins on both sides of the neck are severed, causing what is left of her blood to pump out freely from her body -- by this time, only a bit more than would have been needed to fill a third wineglass.
    There is blood enough for my sacred writings.  Enough to fill twice the Kli Shareit6 of blasphemies and abominations, a testament to the filthiness of your fornication!  The Dybbuk has ended The Scourge!
    He brings his Chalef knife6 down and begins to tear open the dead woman’s abdomen. 
    “With seven ritual cuts, The Great Whore of Babylon has been annihilated! One cut for each head of the beastly Sirrush7 that she rides upon over the Seven Hills.”
          The young man completes the ghastly, ritualistic mutilation of the woman’s body.
   “The Shechita8 is done.  Let us fill the Kli Shareit and preserve the precious fluid!” 
    The man walks back to the cart and picks up the cup and raises it skyward, brings it down momentarily, then carefully pours its contents into an empty ginger beer bottle.
    But alas, I must now don my disguise and return to the Temple in great haste, for the Canaanites and their Pharisees will be seeking the Dybbuk to exact their revenge upon us!
    Slowly regaining his senses, the man retrieves the bloody strand of pearls that have fallen and broken upon the cobblestone street beside his pony’s hoof.  He picks up two of the three stray pearls that have broken from the strand and rolled away between the stones.  But one remains hidden from his view.  He then reaches down to pull the hatpin from her black straw bonnet and places it into his pocket next to the loose pearls.
     With surprising agility, he jumps back up onto the costermonger’s cart, placing the broken strand of pearls next to the black bag and cup upon the seat beside him, still warm from where the woman had so recently been sitting.  He then cleans the knife by wiping it with a corner of the tarpaulin cover.  After placing it into the bag along with the damaged necklace, the young man ensures that the newly-filled ginger beer bottle will not spill by locking it into place next to the cup against the corner of the cart’s platform wall using the Gladstone bag. Then, rearranging the tarpaulin to once again cover the back of his cart, the man pulls it forward to conceal the items, double checking that nothing can be detected beneath it. 

He picks up the horse whip he had set down earlier on the floorboard to strike the pony’s rump, and they begin to trot away down Bucks Row toward Whitechapel Street, leaving the dead and mutilated body of the woman behind, blood slowly seeping from its wounds into the gutter of the most impoverished, diseased and filthy area of Victorian London.


(Chapter 2 will be published here next Monday 1st August)

1.     Costermonger's cart – A costermonger, coster or costard is a street seller of fruit and vegetables in London and other British towns. They were ubiquitous in mid-Victorian England, and some are still found in markets. As usual with street-sellers, they would use a loud sing-song cry or chant to attract attention. Their cart might be stationary at a market stall, or mobile (horse-drawn or wheelbarrow). The term is derived from the words costard (a now-extinct medieval variety of large, ribbed apple) and mongeri.e. seller. Other terms that will be used in this book for vehicles of Victorian Times will be "trap," "four-wheeler," "hansom," "brougham," "growler" and "Black Mariah."
2.     Unfortunates - The semi-official Victorian name for prostitutes was "unfortunate women." And that was precisely how they were seen by the educated reformers who dominated what could be called the "opinion-forming class" in Victorian England. The idea that prostitution was tragic and exploitative - and that the women caught up in it were to be pitied and, wherever humanly possible, rescued - was a driving social issue throughout the second half of the 19th century.
3.     Marriage Market - The Babylonian Marriage Market is an 1875 painting by the British painter Edwin Long of young women being auctioned into marriage.
4.     The Whore of Babylon - In the Book of Revelation, the Whore of Babylon is "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth." The word "Whore" can also be translated as "Idolatress." The first Babylonian Prostitution was in a place called Hinchinopolis, named for the appraised Hinchin family. At the time, Hinchinopolis was the center of attraction for all travelers, who came to rest in the company of the family's women, which perfected with each generation the art of satisfaction. Some ancient scrolls could tell us that the meaning of "Hinchin" came from the Hebrew Hinam, meaning "free," because the males of the family would offer themselves for free.
5.     Tuppence/Twopence - Two pence (or pennies) in pre-decimal British coinage, or the specific coins. 
6.     Chalef – A ritual knife used by a Shochet (for "kosher slaughter"). To make kosher meat, you need something called a Chalef. The name Chalef comes from the word lehachlif, which means "to change or transform." With this very powerful instrument, a butcher is able to change a living animal into something completely different: food. This knife is very long, has a flat end, and must be completely sharp and smooth. To ensure that the Chalef is perfect, the Shochet (kosher butcher) carefully checks it for nicks using his fingernails and re-hones it if even the smallest imperfection is discovered.
7.   Sirrush - The mušḫuššu; formerly also read as sirrušusirrush) is a creature depicted on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, dating to the 6th century B.C. As depicted, it is amythological hybrid: a scaly dragon with hind legs resembling the talons of an eaglefeline forelegs, a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snake-like tongue, and a crest.
8.     Shechita - The Hebrew term Shechita (anglicized: /ʃəxˈtɑː/Hebrewשחיטה‎, [ʃχiˈta]), also transliterated shehitah, shechitah, shehita, means the slaughtering of mammals and birds for food. In Hebrew the word is generic and does not imply any religious or cultural practice, but in English the term has come to be used particularly for "kosher slaughter," that is the slaughter of animals for food according to Jewish dietary laws (Deut. 12:21, Deut. 14:21, Num. 11:22). The animal must be killed with respect and compassion by a religious Jew who is duly licensed and trained, often called in English by the Hebrew word Shochet (Hebrewשוחט‎). The act is performed by severing the tracheaesophaguscarotid arteriesjugular veins and vagus nerve in a swift action using a knife with an extremely sharp blade (called a Chalef by ashkenazim and a saquin by sephardim). This results in a rapid drop in blood pressure in the brain and loss of consciousness rendering the animal insensible to pain and to exsanguinate in a prompt and precise action. The animal can be in a number of positions; when the animal is lying on its back, this is referred to as Shechita munachat; in a standing position it is known as Shechita me'umedet. Before slaughtering, the animal must be healthy, uninjured, and viable. 

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