The place that Holmes eventually insisted upon beginning the search for the woman who was the key to the whole mystery was a seedy establishment down one of the side streets in Soho. The place was reached through an alleyway, well concealed from the outside world, where a sign read “Spring Heeled Jack’s” in small, mean letters.
Upon ringing a bell we were admitted to a courtyard where ivy grew up and around the walls and victorian drainpipes with layers of paint flaked off. Here two burley bouncers eyed us unkindly and made us wait for a while until a ruddy faced businessman appeared from a stairway and hustled past us, followed by a woman who smiled and leered “goodbye baby,” in a heavy, husky foreign accent. I noticed, using all my powers of observation, that she was only wearing a towell.
“I would like to speak to the manager,” said Sherlock Holmes.
“Impossible,” said the burliest bouncer, flashing sharp pointed teeth.
“Tell him Sherlock Holmes is here, and John Watson,” my companion added insistently.
The bouncer looked doubtful, so Holmes sighed and produced a fifty which he slipped into the man’s top pocket.
“Holmes! Don’t use my real name here,” I whispered.
“Don’t worry. Currency is the only language they speak here. Ah, here we go. Let’s not keep our host waiting!”
We were ushered into a long corridor, where another woman appeared. She was perhaps mid 20s, possessing the dark hair, high arched eyebrows and long legged beauty that I had come to be used to in eastern european women, so that I thought at first she must be another “daughter of the night.” She had kept herself clean, only the dark semicircles beneath her piercing eyes betrayed the late-night nature of her profession. Other women I saw in rooms that lined the way, who gazed at us dead-eyed from doorways as we passed through, had obviously not been so lucky.
She’ll be just like them soon, I thought, unless somebody takes her out of this damned place.
London is often warmer than its neighbouring counties due to its filthy air, but even so it was winter, and she had dressed (if you could call it that) in a tiny mini dress that did nothing to cover her modesty, and less to protect her from the British climate.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hello. I was looking for… er…”
“Looking for me?”
She spoke good english, only a trace of a cockney accent that would have once been common in London town. There were all kinds of different tongues here now, and they were being used in all kinds of different ways.
As she spoke she hitched her dress up to the neat, smooth, fur-lined space between her legs, running a finger over it slowly downward.
“I’m afraid I’m here on business,” I said, rather stupidly. “Other business,” I added.
“Oh dear. That’s a shame. Come back and see me, then. I’ll be here.”
“What’s your name?”
“Lucy, I said, “I’ll come back. And you can tell me how you came to be here.”
“Oh, I’ll happily show you,” she leered.
She pulled down her top to reveal full, round, breasts and pink areola. At the centre of each was a perfect, pert pair of pierced button nipples.
“No time for that now,” said Holmes, grabbing me by the arm and dragging me bodily down the hallway.