On the twenty-first of June, in the year one thousand eight hundred
and ninety-four Mr. Fanks, of New Scotland Yard, detective, was
walking down the Strand, between the hours of seven and eight in the
evening, in the character of Octavius Rixton, of the West End, idler.
It may be as well to repeat here, what is no doubt already known–that
this individual led a dual existence. He earned his money as a
detective, and spent it as a man about town. East of Trafalgar Square
he was called Fanks; westward he was known by his real name of Rixton.
But few people, were aware that the idler and the worker were one and
the same. Nevertheless of necessity four or five persons possessed
this knowledge, and of these one was Crate, a brother officer of
Fanks, who had worked with him in many cases, and who had a profound
respect for his capabilities. Fanks had obtained this ascendancy over
Crate’s mind by his skilful unravelling of the Chinese Jar mystery.
This especial evening Rixton had cast off the name, clothes, and
personality of Fanks; and in “propriâ personâ,” he was about to treat
himself to a melodrama at the Adelphi Theatre. As he was passing
through the vestibule, at a quarter to eight, a man came forward and
touched him on the arm. To the surprise of Rixton he recognised Crate.
“You mentioned that you were coming here this evening, Mr. Rixton,”
said this latter, who had been instructed to so address his chief on
particular occasions. “And I have been waiting for the last half hour
to see you.”
“What is the matter, Crate?”
The subordinate beckoned Rixton to a quiet corner, and in a low tone
said one word, which made him dismiss from his mind the idea of
attending the theatre on that evening. The whispered word was
“Where?” asked Fanks, assuming the detective on the instant.
“Down Tooley’s Alley.”
“Man or woman or child?”
“Man! I think a gentleman.”
“When was the crime committed?”
“Between six and seven this evening.”
“In a house or on the street?”
“In a house. The Red Star public-house.”
“I know it,” said Fanks, with a sharp nod, “a cut-throat place at the
bottom of Tooley’s Alley. The assassin chose an excellent locality.
Poison, steel, or bludgeon?”
“The first I fancy; there are no marks of violence on the body. But
you had better come and see for yourself.”
“I agree with you. Return to the Red Star, Crate, while I go to my
rooms to change my clothes. I am Rixton at present, and I don’t want
to mix up my two personalities. Expect me in half an hour.”
Crate departed with prompt obedience, and Rixton drove off in a swift
hansom to his chambers in Duke Street, St. James. In ten minutes he
had assumed his detective clothes and Fanks personality; in twenty he
was returning eastward; and at the expiration of half an hour he was
standing at the door of the house wherein the crime had been
committed. Such promptitude was characteristic of the man.
Tooley’s Alley is a narrow zig-zag street, which, beginning at a point
in Drury Lane, twists its way through a mass of malodorous houses
until blocked finally by the Red Star Hotel. It is a famous Rialto of
rogues and vagabonds, for here “they most do congregate;” and here
come the police, when any especial criminal is wanted by the law. An
evil district with an evil name; a plague spot, which cannot be
eradicated either by law or by religion. There are many such in
London, and of all Tooley’s Alley is the worst. It was plausible
enough that a gentleman should be trapped, robbed, and murdered in
this quarter; but it was more difficult to surmise what errand had
brought a gentleman into so dangerous a neighbourhood. A gentleman
done to death in Tooley’s Alley! Fanks scented a mystery.
The Red Star was a gorgeous gin-palace, all gas, and glare, and
glitter. It was licensed to Mrs. Boazoph, a widow, whose character was
more than suspected by the police; but who contrived by a circumspect
demeanour to keep on the right side of the law. By virtue of her
position, her supposed wealth, and above all by reason of her talents,
she was quite the queen of Tooley’s Alley. Why she should have been
permitted to hold her disreputable court in this hotbed of crime was
best known to the authorities; but hold it she did, and made money out
of her ragged subjects. In the neighbourhood she was popularly known
as Queen Beelzeebub.
Attracted by the news of the murder, a mob of raffish men and
slatternly women had collected round the Red Star, but the presence of
four policemen prevented them from entering the bar and drinking, as
they desired to do.
Fanks had no need to push through the crowd, for on recognising him
they fell to right and left to leave him a free passage. Under his
keen gaze a quiver of fear passed over many of the brutalised faces;
and here and there some especial rogue, scared by the memory of lately
committed crimes, shrank back into the shadows, lest this man, who
personified the law, should discover and punish. Fanks was the Nemesis
of Tooley’s Alley; the god they desired to propitiate, and he was at
once hated and feared by his debased worshippers.
After exchanging a few words with the guardian policemen, Fanks
entered the house, and was met in the passage by Crate and by Mrs.
Boazoph. This latter, who appeared to be between forty and fifty years
of age, was a slender and pallid-faced woman, with almost white hair
smoothed back from her high forehead. She spoke habitually with folded
hands and downcast eyes, and her voice was low and soft, with a
refined accent. One would have taken this demure figure, clad in a
plain dress of lustreless black, for an hospital nurse, or for a
housekeeper. Yet she was–as the police asserted–the most dangerous
woman in London, hand and glove with thieves and rogues: not for
nothing had she gained her reputation and queenly title.
“Well, Mrs. Boazoph,” said Fanks, abruptly, “this last scandal will add
largely to the excellent reputation already gained by your house.”
“No doubt of it, sir,” replied the landlady, without raising her eyes;
“it is most unfortunate.”
“And most unexpected?”
“Certainly most unexpected, sir.”
The detective looked at her sharply, and noticed that her fingers
played nervously with the stuff of her gown. Also he heard a tremor in
her voice as she answered. Now Mrs. Boazoph was not easily upset; yet,
as Fanks well saw, only her unusual self-control prevented her from
having an attack of hysteria. To many men the circumstance of the
crime having been committed in the house would have accounted for
this. Fanks was too well acquainted with Queen Beelzeebub to give her
the benefit of the doubt. She was disturbed by something more than the
mere fact of the murder.
“Do you know the man?” he asked, keeping his eyes fixed on her face.
“No!” retorted Mrs. Boazoph, with suspicious promptitude. “I never set
eyes on him until this evening.”
And with this hinted defiance she stared Fanks boldly in the face.
When she saw that he was watching her twitching fingers, they became
motionless on the instant. Only one conclusion could the detective
draw from this behaviour; she knew more than she would own to, and she
was afraid lest he should find it out. After another look, which
discovered nothing–for she was now on her guard–Fanks turned sharply
“Where is the body?”
“Upstairs, in one of the bedrooms.”
“Was the murder committed in one of the bedrooms?”
“No, Mr. Fanks. It was committed in the room at the end of this
“And why was the body removed out of that room?”
“I removed the body,” said Mrs. Boazoph, in a low voice.
“You had no right to do so,” rebuked Fanks, sharply. “It was your duty
to leave things as they were, when you discovered that a crime had
been committed, and to give immediate information to the police.”
“I did do so, sir. The police were in this house ten minutes after I
saw the dead body.”
“Nevertheless, you found time to remove it in that ten minutes.”
“I thought it best to do so,” said Mrs. Boazoph, obstinately.
“No doubt. I shall not forget your zeal,” was Fanks’ rejoinder.
The woman could not repress a shudder at the ironical tone of the
detective, and her pale face turned yet paler. However, she passed
discreetly over the remark and turned the conversation briskly.
“Shall I take you upstairs to see the body, sir?
“No; I shall first examine the room. Afterwards I shall hear your
story and inspect the corpse. Come with me, Crate.”
Still preserving an impenetrable countenance, Mrs. Boazoph preceded
the two men into the little room at the end of the passage. It was an
apartment of no great size, furnished in a scanty, almost in a
penurious fashion. A window draped with faded curtains of red rep
faced the entrance There was no fireplace, and the furniture consisted
of a mahogany horse-hair sofa placed against the right-hand wall
looking from the door, a round table covered with a stained red cloth,
which stood in the centre of the room, and on either side of this two
chairs. A crimson felting carpeted the floor, and a few racing
pictures, crudely coloured, adorned the salmon-tinted walls. Beyond
this the room contained nothing, save an iron gas-pipe suspended from
the roof, by which two jets flaring in pink globes lighted the
Fanks glanced slowly round, taking in every detail, and walked across
to the window. It was locked, the curtains were drawn, the blind was
down. As it was too dark to see the outlook, Fanks turned to Mrs.
Boazoph for information.
“What does this window look out on to?”
“A yard, sir.”
“Is there any outlet from the yard?”
“No, sir, excepting through the kitchen where the servants have been
all the evening.”
“When you entered the room and discovered the fact of the murder,
where was the body?”
“Huddled up on yonder sofa, sir.”
“Was the room in the same state as it is now?”
“In precisely the same state, Mr. Fanks.”
“Wait a moment,” interposed Crate; “you told me that you took some
glasses out of the room.”
Mrs. Boazoph darted a tigerish glance at the detective, which revealed
the hidden possibilities of her nature. However, she replied with all
“I quite forgot that, sir I did take two glasses off that table.”
Recalling Crate’s remark that the deceased had probably been poisoned,
Fanks was rendered angry and suspicious by this action; but as it was
mere folly to quarrel with so clever a woman as Mrs. Boazoph he made
light of the circumstance, and observed casually that no doubt the
glasses had been washed and put away.
“Yes, sir,” assented the landlady, “they were washed and put away by
my own hands.”
“I have always known you to be an extremely tidy woman,” said Fanks,
ironically. “Two glasses, you say? Then there were two gentlemen in
this room between six and seven?”
“There were two men in this room between six and seven,” replied Mrs.
Boazoph, making the correction with emphasis.
“Two men, you say? And they came to have a chat–by appointment?”
“I think so, sir. The white man came at six, and the black man arrived
an hour later.”
“Ho! ho!” said Fanks, rather taken by surprise; “so one of the men was
a negro. I see. And who lies dead upstairs?”
“The white man, sir.”
“And the negro assassin; what of him?”
“We have no proof that the negro committed the crime, Mr. Fanks,”
protested Mrs. Boazoph, forgetting her caution for the moment. “There
are no marks of violence on the body.”
“Of course not,” said Fanks, with grim humour. “No doubt the white man
died a convenient and natural death, while the negro, for no reason,
fled in alarm. I am obliged to you for the suggestion, Mrs. Boazoph.
Probably it is as you say.”
Not sufficiently clever to see the irony of this remark, Crate looked
surprised. But the woman was clearer sighted; and, seeing that she had
over-reached herself by saying too much, she relapsed into silence.
The detective, feeling that he had scored, smiled grimly, and went on
with his examination of the room.
“The body was on the sofa, you say?” he said after a pause.
“Yes; it was tumbled in a heap against the wall.”
“And the glasses were on the table?”
“On the table and on the tray.”
“Were there any signs of a struggle?”
“Not that I saw, Mr. Fanks.”
“Can you describe the appearance of the white man; no, stop, I’ll see
his body when I go upstairs. What of the black man?”
“He was a tall, burly, fat creature, sir, just like any other negro.”
“How was he dressed?”
“In a black opera hat, dark trousers, brown boots, and a long green
overcoat with brass buttons,” said Mrs. Boazoph, concisely.
“Rather a noticeable dress,” said Fanks, carelessly; “had you ever
seen the negro before?”
“Nor the white man?”
“I never saw white or black man in my life till this evening.”
By this time the patience of Mrs. Boazoph was nearly worn out, and her
self-control was gradually giving way. She evidently felt that she
could hold out no longer, for, after replying to the last question,
she left the room suddenly. But that Fanks interfered Crate would have
“Let her go,” said the former, “we can see her later on. In the
meantime,” he continued, pointing to the table, “what is all this?”
Crate bent forward, and on the dingy red tablecloth he saw a number of
tiny black grains scattered about.
“It is a powder of some sort,” he said; “I told you that I thought the
man had been poisoned.”
Even as Crate spoke the gaslight went out, leaving them in complete
“Ah!” said Fanks, rather startled by the unexpected incident, “Mrs.
Boazoph is fiddling with the meter.”
“What the deuce did she do that for?” asked Crate, as his superior
struck a match.
“Can’t you guess? She saw these black grains on the tablecloth, and
wants to get rid of them. That was why she left the room and turned
off the gas. She hopes that the darkness will drive us out. Then she
will explain the incident by a lie, and enter before us to relight the
“Well?” said Crate, stolidly.
“Well!” repeated Fanks, crossly. “I shall never make you understand
anything, Crate. Before lighting the gas she will pull off the
tablecloth and scatter the grains.”
“Do you think she’s in this, Mr. Fanks?”
“I can’t say–yet. But she knows something. You get a candle,
and–hang this match,” cried Fanks, “it has burnt my fingers.”
As he uttered the exclamation the match, still alight, dropped on the
table among the black grains to which allusion has been made. There
was a flicker, a sparkle of light, and when Fanks struck another match
the grains had disappeared.
“Gunpowder!” said the detective, in a puzzled tone; “now, what
possible connection can gunpowder have with this matter?”
To this there was no answer; and by the glimmer of the single match,
the two men looked blankly at one another.
Topping this discovery came the return of Mrs. Boazoph with a candle
and an apology. Her procedure was so exactly the same as that
suggested by Fanks that Crate could not forbear from paying the
tribute of an admiring chuckle to the perspicuity of his chief. Only
in her action with the tablecloth did Mrs. Boazoph vary from the
“My regrets and apologies, sir,” she said, addressing Fanks, with a
side glance at the table; “but one of the servants–an idle slut, whom
I have now discharged–turned off the gas at the meter by accident. I
hope that you were not alarmed by the sudden darkness. Permit me to
relight the burners.”
And with this neat speech she mounted a chair with the activity of a
girl. Having remedied the accident she stumbled–or seemed to
stumble–in descending, and caught at the table to save herself,
thereby dragging the cloth on to the floor. Then it was that Crate
chuckled; whereupon Mrs. Boazoph was on her feet at once, with a look
of startled suspicion. However, as she had accomplished her object,
she recovered her equanimity speedily and made another apology, with a
lie tacked on to it.
“My regrets for the second accident,” she remarked glibly, “but it is
due to overstrung nerves. Put it down to that gentleman, if you
please, and you will put it down to the right cause.”
“Pray do not mention it, Mrs. Boazoph,” said Fanks, significantly; “I
have already examined the cloth. And now, if you please, we will go
The woman drew back and bit her lip. She guessed that Fanks had seen
through her stratagem, and for the moment she was minded to excuse
herself. Fortunately her habitual caution saved her from a second
blunder; and she strove to conciliate Fanks by a piece of news.
“I trust that you will not think me presuming, sir,” she said, “but in
the hope that there might be some chance of life remaining in It, I
sent for a doctor. He is now upstairs with It.”
“Your kindness does you great credit,” said Fanks, seeing his way
clear to a thrust, “you could not have behaved better if you had known
Holding the candle before her face, Mrs. Boazoph drew back a step,
with one hand clutching the bosom of her dress. Her composure gave
“In one word, you suspect me,” she cried with a glitter in her eyes.
“In one word, I suspect nobody,” retorted Fanks. “I have not yet heard
all your story, remember.”
“You know all that I know,” said Mrs. Boazoph. “The man who came here
at six this evening–the man who lies dead upstairs, is a complete
stranger to me. I caught only a glimpse of him as he entered; I did
not speak to him. He asked for a private room in which to wait for a
friend. He was shown into this room, and waited. The negro arrived ten
minutes later. I saw him–I showed him into this room; but indeed, Mr.
Fanks, I never set eyes on him before. The pair–white and black–were
together till close on seven. They had something to drink, for which
the dead man paid. I did not enter the room; it was the barmaid who
served them with drink. I did not know when the negro went; but,
wanting the room for some other gentlemen, I knocked at the door at
seven o’clock to ask if they had finished their conversation. I
received no reply; I opened the door; I entered; I found the white man
dead, the negro absent. After removing the body upstairs and covering
it with a sheet, as any decent woman would, I sent for the police.
That is all; I swear that it is the truth. Say what you please; do
what you please; you cannot fasten this crime on to me.”
Fanks listened to this speech with great imperturbability, and made
but one comment thereon.
“I took you for a clever woman, Mrs. Boazoph,” he said, “evidently I
have been wrong. Will you be so kind as to light us upstairs.”
Mrs. Boazoph thrust the candle into his hands.
“I have seen _It_ once; I refuse to look upon it again.”
She passed out of the room shaking as with the ague. Fanks nodded in a
satisfied way, and beckoning to Crate, he went upstairs. A frightened
housemaid on the landing indicated the room of which they were in
search; and they entered it to come face to face with the doctor
summoned by the zealous landlady. He introduced himself as Dr.
Renshaw, and made this announcement with a bland smile and a
condescending bow. Fanks eyed his tall and burly figure; his
Napoleonic countenance; his smooth, brown beard and his perfect dress.
There was a look about the man which he did not like; and he
mistrusted the uneasy glance of the hard, grey eyes. The detective
relied largely on his instinct. In this case it warned him against the
false geniality of Dr. Renshaw.
“The representatives of the law, I believe,” said the medical man in a
deep and rolling voice. “I was about to take my departure; but if I
can be of service in the interests of justice, pray command me.”
“I suppose there is no doubt that our friend there is dead,” said
“Dead as Caesar, sir,” said the magnificent doctor, waving his arm.
“Caesar died by steel,” remarked Fanks significantly. “It appears that
this man died in an easier manner.”
“There is another parallel,” said the doctor, condescending to add to
the historical knowledge of the detective. “If we may believe Brutus,
the great Julius was slain as a traitor to the republic. This unknown
man,” added Renshaw, pointing to the body, “also died the death of a
“If, as you say, the dead man is unknown,” said Fanks quickly, “how
can you tell that he was a traitor?”
“By inference and deduction,” was the reply. “You can judge for
yourself. Far be it from me that I should set my opinion against that
of the law; but I have a theory. Would you care to hear it? If I may
venture on a jest,” said Renshaw with ponderous playfulness, “the
medical mouse may help the legal lion.”
“Let us hear your theory by all means,” said Fanks easily, “but first
permit me to speak with my assistant.”
The doctor bowed and passed over to the other side of the bed; while
Fanks went with Crate to the door. Here he hesitated, glanced at the
doctor, and finally led his subordinate into the passage.
“Crate!” he said in a rapid whisper, “I mistrust that man. He will
shortly leave this place. Follow him and find out where he lives. Then
set someone to watch the place, and return to me.”
“Do you think that he has anything to do with it?” asked Crate.
“I can’t say at present. I may to wrong about him and about Mrs.
Boazoph; all the same I mistrust the pair of them. Now off with you.”
When Crate departed to watch for the outcoming of the doctor, Fanks
re-entered the chamber of death. Renshaw still stood beside the bed,
and seemingly had not moved from that position. Nevertheless, a mat
placed midway between bed and door, was rucked up. By the merest
accident Fanks had previously noticed that it was lying flat. Thence
he deduced that Renshaw had crossed to the door. In plain words,
Renshaw had been listening. Fanks was confirmed in this opinion by the
complacent smile which played round the lips of the doctor.
“Now for your theory, Doctor,” said Fanks, noting all, but saying
“Certainly, sir. As a detective you know, of course, of the existence
of secret societies.”
“I do; and I know also that those who reveal the doings of such
societies are punished. Go on, Doctor.”
“First you must inspect the body,” replied Renshaw.
He drew down the sheet which concealed the face of the dead. In the
cruel glare of the gaslight, Fanks beheld a countenance discoloured
and distorted. The head was that of a young man with brown and curly
hair, well-marked eyebrows, and a moustache of the same hue as the
hair. The body was clothed in moleskin trousers, and a flannel shirt.
From the bedpost hung a rough, grey coat, and a cloth cap. A glance
assured Fanks that these clothes of a working man were perfectly new;
another glance confirmed his first belief that the dead man was a
gentleman. On looking intently into the face he started back in
surprise; but recovering himself, said nothing. If the doctor had
observed his action, he made no pointed remark thereon; but set it
down merely to a natural feeling of repulsion.
“I do not wonder that the state of the body revolts you, sir,” he
said. “The corpse is swollen and discoloured in a terrible manner. Of
course, I can say nothing authoritatively until the post mortem has
been made; but from all appearances I am inclined to ascribe the death
“Ah; then it is a case of murder?”
“So you say, sir; the secret society to which this man belongs, would
call it a punishment.”
“How do you know that this man belongs to a secret society. Do you
recognise the body?”
“No, sir. The man is nameless so far as I am concerned. There are no
marks on his linen or clothes; and there are no papers in his pockets
likely to identify him. Oh, believe me, sir, the society has done its
“You seem to be very confident about your secret society?”
The doctor bent over the body, and rolled up the shirt sleeve of the
left arm. Between elbow and shoulder there appeared a swollen mark in
the shape of a rude cross, surrounded by a wheel; violet in colour,
and slashed across with a knife. To this he pointed in silence.
“I see what you mean,” said Fanks, twisting his signet ring; always a
sign of perplexity with him. “The secret mark of the society has been
“Precisely. Now you can understand, sir, why I infer that this man was
a traitor. Evidently the negro–of whose presence Mrs. Boazoph
informed me–was the emissary of the society, and killed this traitor
by poison. Afterwards, as was natural, he obliterated the secret mark
by drawing his knife across it.”
“He did not do his work thoroughly then, Doctor. The secret mark is a
“The secret mark is more than a cross, sir,” replied the doctor, “else
you may be sure that the negro would have obliterated it more
The detective replaced the sheet over the face of the dead: and
prepared, as did the doctor, to leave the room. They turned down the
gas and departed; but while descending the stairs, Renshaw asked Fanks
“Are you satisfied that my explanation is a correct one?” he demanded.
“I am perfectly satisfied,” said Fanks, looking directly at the man.
Strange to say, this unhesitating acceptance appeared to render
Renshaw uneasy; and the flow of his magnificent speech broke up in
“I may be wrong,” he muttered. “We are all liable to error; but such
as it is, that is my opinion.”
“You would be willing to repeat that opinion at the inquest, Doctor?”
Renshaw drew back with a shudder.
“Is it necessary that I should go to the inquest?” he asked faintly.
“I think so,” replied Fanks significantly. “You were the first to see
the corpse. You will have to describe the state in which you found it.
Your address if you please?”
“Twenty-four, Great Auk Street,” said Renshaw, after some hesitation.
“I am staying there at present.”
“Yes! I–I–not practise in London. I do not practise at all, in fact.
I travel–I travel a great deal. In two weeks I go to India.”
“You must go first to the inquest,” responded Fanks dryly. “But if you
do not practise in London, how comes it that Mrs. Boazoph sent for
“She did not send for me,” explained the doctor, “but for my friend,
Dr. Turnor; he is absent on a holiday, and I am acting as his locum
tenens for a short period.”
“Thank you, Doctor; that is a thoroughly satisfactory explanation;
quite as satisfactory as your theory of the death. Good evening. I
should recommend a glass of brandy; you look as though you needed it.”
“Weak heart!” muttered Renshaw in explanation, and took his departure
with evident relief. But before he left the hotel, he acted on the
detective’s suggestion. Mrs. Boazoph gave him the brandy with her own
hands. The action afforded her an opportunity of exchanging a few
words with him. Fanks thwarted her intent by also entering the bar,
and asking for refreshment; whereupon, the doctor finished his liquor
Left alone with Fanks, the landlady drew a breath of relief, and
addressed herself to the detective.
“Do you wish to know anything else, sir,” she said coldly. “If not,
with your permission, I shall retire to bed.”
“I have learned all I wish to know at present, thank you, Mrs.
Boazoph. Go to bed by all means. I am sure that you need rest after
The landlady, looking worn out and haggard, retired, and Fanks went to
the door to wait for Crate’s return. In the meantime he made notes and
formed theories; these will be revealed hereafter, but in the meantime
the case was in too crude a state for him to come to the smallest
conclusion. However, he had already decided on the next step. In the
chamber of death he had made an important discovery which enabled him
to move in the matter.
In half an hour Crate returned with the information that Dr. Renshaw
had entered No. 24, Great Auk Street; and that he had set a detective
to watch the house. Fanks smiled on receiving this report.
“He is cleverer than I thought,” he murmured; and left Tooley’s Alley
“Well, Mr. Fanks, whom do you suspect?”
“No one at present, Crate.”
“Oh! and what do you do next?”
“Make certain of the dead man’s identity.”
Crate stopped in surprise.
“Do you know who he is, Mr. Fanks?”
“Yes! He is a friend of my own. Sir Gregory Fellenger, Baronet.”