The Knitting Society
by J.T. Seate
Gumshoe Review Story
Date: 26 July 2013
Links: Author's Website /
This month's story takes us back to 1880s London, during the time that Jack the Ripper was terrorizing the area around Whitechapel. However, this doesn't deal with the Ripper but with another series of crimes. J.T. Seate sets a dark mood for his tale of crime.
The Knitting Society
by J.T. Seate
While Jack the Ripper disemboweled streetwalkers in Whitechapel, someone was also dispatching men as if running on a parallel track. Like The Ripper's victims, the males were found lying in pools of blood, their eyes dulled by death. Knife wounds to the lower torso had done the trick. Two days after the first, a second man had been mutilated in a more grizzly fashion, his genitals cut away and placed in his mouth. It didn't take a genius to grasp the similarity between these murders and those of The Ripper.|
Inspector Musgrave had seen most everything in his thirty years with Scotland Yard. He currently reigned as the oldest member of the inspector corps, but he bristled at the notion his most effective days were behind him. Chief Inspector Leach had placed Musgrave on the case. Normally, a full compliment of detectives would investigate the stabbings of prominent men, but The Yard was currently absorbed with The Ripper.
Musgrave canvassed the neighborhood for witnesses without success. Afterwards, he visited the two widows. Both belonged to a small group of fashionable wives who had dubbed themselves, The Knitting Society. They seemed rather blasť about their husband's demise. Musgrave expected them to manage grandly without their husbands, and believed their demeanor would soon lead to a resolution concerning the homicides.
He visited the other two members of The Knitting Society and then spoke with the husbands. It seemed these ostensibly respectable men had their own club, one harboring dubious intentions in London's East End. Musgrave staked out one of the knitting consortium's husbands, a Mr. Fife. When he emerged and hailed a hansom, Musgrave followed. He was glad to be alone on the case while so many chased The Ripper. He wanted his expertise to be valued, to demonstrate his age was no drawback, and to close the case with one last hurrah.
Fife's carriage barely came to a halt before he was afoot and striding toward a brothel. Men of means weren't easily dissuaded when it came to procuring that which they felt entitled. Musgrave waited for the wayward husband. When he emerged, Fife strolled along the cobblestones with Musgrave following. He'd gone no more than a block when a figure flew from a dark corner.
"No!" Musgrave bellowed as the shadowy figure raised a knife. Fife had time only to lift an arm in defense. Musgrave joined the fray and after a brief skirmish, he twisted the knife from the woman's hand. To his surprise, the face didn't belong to anyone he'd suspected. He bound her wrists and blew his whistle. When two Bobbies arrived, he instructed them to take her to The Yard's holding facility.
"You all right, Inspector?" a sergeant asked.
"Never better. Absolutely tip-top," Musgrave answered. "I haven't had a jolly good chase for some time. I'll be along shortly."
He intended to follow, but not until he stopped in a pub to sort it all out. He now believed The Knitting Society hired brothel chattel to murder their philandering spouses. While contemplating the case over a pint, a couple of drunken louts tossed unrefined words back and forth. One of them said to the other, "If I want to get away with somethin', mate, you'll be the first I'll put on the fookin' job."
The words hung in the air like stale smoke. Chief Inspector Leach liked to twist the tale of his oldest dog in the kennel now and then. Maybe he believed Musgrave the least likely to dig deeply for the bone. He'd been lost in the rapture of bringing the prominent Victorian women to account. They could have no more parlayed such a plan than they could have played the roles of crusty prostitutes. Musgrave's first assumptions had been too simple, too obvious. He felt sure Leach was behind these murders. He'd recently accused his wife of having an affair. She'd turned the proud, inflexible man into a cuckold. Musgrave would bet his pension Mrs. Leach's lover was one of the dead husbands.
Further digging confirmed his suspicions. One of the two victims had been subsidizing the estranged wife. Musgrave surmised several dead husbands would divert attention from his wife's lover. A presumption was not a certainty, however. The halls of justice seemed uninterested in the connection. Such an investigation would not have been politically astute. Musgrave's accusations were called preposterous.
Fife's attacker received a short sentence. Her attorney managed to provide an alibi for the nights of the murders and turn the incident with Fife into no more than an empty-headed woman's attempt to scare him into contemplation of his wayward behavior. The case remained unsolved, as did The Ripper murders. Musgrave retired the following year. He moved to the countryside, away from upper-end polite society as well as lower-end squalor. A month later, he picked up a newspaper possessing a shocking headline, leading him on one final trip to London and contact with a policeman he trusted.
Two more murders had been committed, each victim receiving a bullet through their skulls. Authorities were furiously working to keep the details of the chief inspector and one of The Knitting Society widow's deaths under wraps, the confidant explained. Having one of their own involved in a scandalous tryst didn't qualify as the best of times. It hit Musgrave like the light of clarity that shone upon him in the Whitechapel pub. Leech had his wife's benefactor killed and neutered, post mortem, for his indulgence. Then he'd parlayed with the man's widow.
Without comfort or finances, Mrs. Leach took her revenge. Unfortunately, she didn't possess the shrewd mind or the backing of a high-ranking officer to manage a cover-up. Musgrave thought about Chief Inspector Leach and The Ripper. Humanity reveled in macabre atrocities. They were the repositories for all that is taboo in the civilized world. Meanwhile, life continued in Whitechapel, but it remained a place where people made harrowing choices. For some, it proved to be their final choice.
About the author:
J.T. writes everything from humor to the erotic to the macabre, and is especially keen on transcending genre pigeonholing. Over two hundred stories appear in magazines, anthologies and webzines. See longer works at www.melange-books.com and www.museituppublishing.com for those who like tales intertwined with the paranormal. Homepage: www.troyseateauthor.webs.com. Also Amazon and B&N books.
The Knitting Society © J.T. Seate, July 2013
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