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The Case of The Pimlico Poisoner
(A modern re-imagining)
with apologies to
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Judge With A Grudge
When I look back on the investigations that Doctor Watson and I conducted as Private Detectives working out of Baker Street in central London during the 1990s, I often wonder what became of the woman known as The Pimlico Poisoner.
To me she was plain Rose Otterbourne.
I have never revealed the full details of this case to my colleague John Watson. As it is usually he who records them in all their sordid details. For many reasons, I never felt able to speak of it until now. So I hope you will be contented with my clumsy account of it, as he is not here presently to set it down. The reasons for my doing so now may become clear later.
I had known Rose since she was a small-time figure in the underworld of the metropolis as little more than a street urchin turning tricks and denuding wealthy businessmen of their valuables. In this endeavour, indeed, she was quite skilled and soon became quite the high class courtesan, having successfully evaded unwanted attention from the London law up to this point. Indeed, as a criminologist myself I was rather impressed by her work, and even used her as a source on a couple of occasions. Why did I continue to let her off the hook, as it were? Perhaps I was prepared to tell myself what she was doing was simple wealth redistribution – she saw herself as a modern day Robin Hood figure, giving to the poor (herself). Or perhaps I was simply bewitched by her charm.
It was only when a bent copper by the name of Rackham found out what she was up to attempted to blackmail her that her career as a murderess began. Rackham bought it first, being found face down by his wife one morning in the family swimming pool. Nasty affair, that. Then a high-court Judge, who was a member of the same lodge of a certain fraternity as Rackham befell a similar fate.
I studied the crime scene myself. Lestrade had forwarded me a set of excellent photos, taken of course by my colleague Doctor Watson, who freelanced as a forensic pathologist in those days.
I was already aware of the Rackham case, of course. And had been turning over the name Otterbourne as as suspect in my head for some time. Perhaps I already knew she was the killer. And yet I could not quite bring myself to give her up, just yet. Not until such time as I was asked to intercede, anyway. Let the police solve it themselves and keep my name out of it. That was what they were always telling me to do. Yet Watson and I both knew that with Lestrade in charge it would be merely a matter of time before they would require my services again.
Yet was Otterbourne responsible for passing an extra-judicial sentence on Judge Buechler? There was the anecdotal evidence I already had, from my sources, that Buechler had been close to Rackham, and even that Buechler had declared that whoever had killed a police officer would be brought to justice.
Everyone knew that Rackham had been a corrupt cop. Probably no one would have even investigated Otterbourne if Buechler had not taken an interest.
And yet he had, and there was some evidence that he had been on to our suspect. Rose had gone to ground in recent weeks. I had been unable to get any work of her from any of my sources around 221B Baker Street.
Then there was the curious method of Buechler’s execution. Found beaten and bloodied in a locked room with a wound to the head. There was no mean of entrance or escape for the killer, other than a barred window that showed no signs of tampering, for Buechler’s wife had been home all evening and heard nobody come or go. On the expensive wallpaper of one wall, next to the corpse, someone had written a single word: Rache.
“It’s German,” my colleague from Scotland Yard observed: “It means revenge.”
“An ex-convict, who felt they were judged too harshly?”
“Seems likely,” Lestrade agreed. “But I’ve checked the record. Buechler never locked up any Germans. Nor, it seems, did any other judge round here that I can find going back a good few years. Law-abiding people, the Germans, by and large, so it seems.”
I examined the picture more closely. Suddenly I jumped up from where I was sitting besides the fire place.
“Where does the widow of the late Judge Buechler reside?”
“Not far from here, I think.” Lestrade looked flustered.
“We must go there at once. The felon who committed this crime was no German.”
“How can you tell?”
“Because they most assuredly had a sense of humour.”
The Late Judge’s home was at 32 Chalcott Crescent, in Paddington, only a short ride away. I hopped on to my bone shaker (much againt Lestrade’s protestations, as it was the middle of the night), and headed there with all speed…