More Lore from the Mythos II

Posted on October 14, 2020

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Once again, I made it into More Lore from the Mythos from Fractured Mind Pulbishing. When Lovecraft created his mythology his aim, much like Tolkien’s, was to create a rich tapestry that others could base their own tales in. 100 years later, his work is still going strong. There have been literally dozens of his stories made into movies. Just recently, Lovecraft Country on HBO has brought some focus to his work, and last year The Color Out of Space was remade, unfortunately Covid impacted its release.

Whereas last year I focused on a fly fishing tale, to add to my own canon, this year I chose a slightly different path, taking on Sherlock Holmes, as told by Lestrade, a nuance I have not yet seen.

When I was young, I spent two weeks in the hospital from a rather grievous injury. This was a time when friends of my parents I barely knew would stop by in a steady stream to visit with me and keep my hopes up. One of them, I’m ashamed to admit I don’t remember whom now, gave a book containing the complete stories of Sherlock Holmes, as they originally appeared in The Strand Magazine. I’ve been reading Holmes off and on ever since. In addition to the canon, now that the character is out of copyright, there are many rich and varied takes on him, Watson, and Lestrade. Including several recent television shows that were all quite good. I hope you enjoyed my twist on the tale

When I decided to tackle this world for this year’s Mythos and started doing some research, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how many things were contemporaneous with Holmes’s appearance in London in 1888. In addition to the Whitechapel Murders which include both the Ripper and Torso Murders (the latter we news to me although they actually spanned several decades and may have crossed the Atlantic from Paris to New York), there was also the Temple for the Order of the Golden Dawn, the Underground digs (the first stop of which really was Baker Street), and every other thing I’ve included in the story. Arthur Conan Doyle even stayed at Brown’s Hotel (and he did write a paper on gelsemium). All of the historical characters named were in the Order, including Anna Kingsford, who did claim she’d murdered two people psychically, which unfortunately overshadowed her achievements fighting against vivisection, her feminism, and her vegetarianism. Robert James Lees did try to report his visions, including the fact that one day he saw the man from them and followed him, but the police declined to follow up. There were also numerous reportings of the Black Man, whom I’ve transposed to the Inverse Man, because I liked it better, and because, well I’m a coward who did not want to face the repercussions of using that term (although I did have a fascinating conversation with Matt Ruff, the white author of Lovecraft Country about writing a “black” story). Robert Louis Stevenson was in the Order, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came out at the time. Wescott was the coroner and Temple member, something which created quite a scandal in its day.

The chess game, of course was “The Immortal Game,” played by Anderssen vs. Kieseritzky, in London in 1851, during – but not part of – the world’s first International Chess Championship at the Crystal Palace. If you want to follow it along I suggest looking up any of the fabulous online annotations and following along yourself, perhaps while holding a glass of Armagnac.

I’ve very much enjoyed the synchronicity of putting this story together. I’m quite proud of it. Researched and written in less than a week, it deserves to be much longer, and more accurately researched. Perhaps like other Holmes stories, this, too, will take on a life of its own.

Because the book contains other authors’ works, I will just include a teaser here, in the hope that it will entice you to get the book. A small reminder, if you read Kindle, and read the book on Kindle Unlimited, the authors make 4x what they do if you make a purchase. My story alone is a 32,000 word Novella, so I dare say it’s worth the price.

Without further ado, I leave you with the questions: Was Holmes the Ripper, and how does that relate to Cthulhu?

The Inverse Man

Jon Tobey

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Early in the morning on September 8, 1888 near the end of my shift, I stumbled upon one of my constables fighting an old crone dressed in rags. Only after I waded into the melee and helped the officer subdue the woman, taking a nasty crack on the chin in the meanwhile, did I notice the disemboweled body of a woman in a nearby doorway.

I grabbed the crone by the hair and was left with a wig in my hand and the infamous Sherlock Holmes in my grasp. Sherlock and I were no friends. As far as we were concerned at the station, he was a ponce, the “scientific methods” he outlined in his stories largely developed by us, not him. He took credit for our work in his sensational pieces in the Strand, mere marketing for his fledgling detective agency. So yes, let me put it to rest once and for all – I, Inspector G Lestrade (an unfortunate moniker that Holmes penned for me) from Scotland Yard, go on record that Sherlock Holmes was a real person. It was the bumbling Watson who was a fabrication, a foil to better reflect the “great detective’s” powers. Perhaps made into a caricature of the medical and soldiery professions due to Holmes’s own bitterness about the circumstances under which he left medical school, and that he was not cut out for the army.

Some would say I treat my associate, colleague, unfairly and that these words are sour grapes. But while I served my fellow man through the crown, Holmes served only himself. Habitually while demeaning his peers, for despite his great marketing talents, we in the Yard oft equaled and even surpassed his efforts. Many of my victories he took credit for, all the while disparaging me.

Not that he didn’t have skills at detection, but he was better at salesmanship. There had been much debate about Holmes and his cheeky stories at the Yard. He helped us but also derided us, and we took that not well. However, part of my duty was to monitor men such as the Holmes brothers, men who never seemed to fit within society, but also never got caught stepping over the line. There were rumours of narcotics, and potential homosexuality. In such cases, my superiors felt it better for the crown to have leverage than scandal. Which is why I have not told this story for nearly five decades. But now that my own light fades, and his has perhaps been permanently extinguished, I shall like to set the records straight and be damned those who sought to cover them up. Herein is one of those cases which long-dead men forbid me to claim as solved but I do take it, for this evil was never beaten and I fear is arising once again as Europe prepares for another bloody war. It serves nobody to keep this secret, and if you still doubt me after reading this tale, I still have the trophy to prove it.

All this is preamble to my mood that dawn, walking the beat all night, to find Holmes embroiled in this latest foul deed.

“Holmes, stop it, what are you doing here? This man is trying to do his job.”

“No, he was doing a poor parody of his job. I was doing his job.”

“It’s another murder, sir, the poor girl, butchered like a doe, and I come upon him red-handed at the work.”

It was indeed another poor unfortunate Whitechapel lass awash in her own blood and entrails. Whitechapel was an expression of everything that was wrong with our society, an expression of that which was innate in our fabric, in the fabric of man. The infections from other parts of London would visit here, pustules that would rise and burst, while passions spent they would return to office, home, and hearth. It was when they didn’t that I became involved. These murders were putting a spotlight on the poverty and pestilence resident here, and those in power wanted that shut down far more than they wanted to save a few fallen souls.

There was nothing to do about it. I had to take the officer’s word over the civilian’s. I had Holmes put in irons, and when reinforcements arrived, I had him shipped to the Yard.

2

As soon as we were done at the crime scene, I attended the autopsy. What gristly evil was this, to find that the killer had taken a trophy, part of the poor woman’s uterus?

Once I had done all I could, I dragged myself home. I had been up all night and not eaten since when? Lunch yesterday. Cold mutton and porter, yet I was not hungry. My stomach still roiled with what I had seen. My eyes felt like they had sand ground into them and I was not pleased to have to interview my sometimes colleague as the most likely candidate for the crime. Let him wait in gaol. He would keep until the morrow.

When the sergeant let me into the cell the next day, Holmes was bloody and bruised. He was still in his ridiculous get-up with the dress torn and covered in mud. There was blood on the bodice from his nose and mouth. I looked askance at the guard. “What transpired here?”

“I was instructed to interview the suspect.”

“By whom?”

“By Chief Constable Melville MacNaghten.”

“There will be no more of that, do you hear?” The sergeant looked glumly at me, like a dog who has been denied a bone, half-eaten. He thought to protest, perhaps, but I cut him off. “I will talk to the Chief Constable. You are not to touch this man again, understood?”

He mumbled something I did not catch. I closed on him. Up close I could see a bad two–day-old shave and smelled whiskey on his breath. “Get yourself cleaned up, Sergeant. And if you ever touch another one of my prisoners, regardless of who gives the order, it will be you tied to a chair and me providing the beating. Do, you, understand?”

I stayed close until he met my gaze. “Yessir.” He shot Holmes a dirty look.

“Don’t be too hard on him, Lestrade. Any street urchin could take the abuse he dealt on me. Really, Sergeant, when this is over, I will be more than happy to teach you the art of pugilism. Your punches are deplorable. You should really stop practicing on people in dresses.”

I’m sure I witnessed the man pop blood vessels holding in his retort. And I was also sure that my remonstrations would come to naught, and that Sherlock would rue those remarks. The Sergeant stormed off and I turned to Holmes.

“What were you doing there, Holmes? This could not look worse.”

“The same as you. Investigating a series of murders.”

“You will have to do better than that.” I pointed at his dishabille, in his dowager rags. “Dressed like you are coming from a Molly House. Do you know you could go to the gallows just for that, regardless of your culpability of this crime?”

“Do they fancy crones in such establishments? You have vastly more experience there than I.”

“Holmes, I warn you, watch your step. These are serious accusations against you. You would do well to prepare a defense.”

“Do you think it is myself that I’m worried about? All you are doing is giving me an alibi for the next murder.”

“How can you be so sure? This was only the second murder.”

“The second? Surely it is at least the tenth.” Holmes raised his hand and began ticking them off: Emma Elizabeth Smith, Annie Millwood, Ada Wilson, Martha Tabram. And then there are the Rainham, Tottenham Court Road, Bedford Square, Montrouge, mysteries, all predating this murder, all equally gruesome. This goes back to at least ’73. ”

“But those have different modi operandi, one of them was in Paris! We have discounted a connection between them.”

“And Mary Ann Nichols? That was just past a week gone. Just because you do not think the same person did them, does not mean they are not connected. There are similar atrocities happening in New York, Tokyo, and other metropolises.”

“You have a theory?”

“Several hypotheses. I lack the facts to formulate an actual theory yet. Keeping me here will not help that.”

“That is not my call. You may have powerful friends, but you also have made some powerful enemies.”

“No doubt. Let us hope that I get the chance to continue doing so. If you don’t get me out of here, he will kill again by the end of the month.”

“And how do you know this?”

“Use that bowl of jelly within your pate, man. Two murders, during the dark of the moon. The moon will be in its last quarter by the 30th.”

“Right now, Holmes, you are our best suspect. You were at the scene, and your – peccadillos – fit the profile of a man who harbors deep resentment against the fairer sex.”

I do not believe the look of shock and horror on Holmes’s face could be faked, despite his theatrical training at University. I believe I saw to the core of the man in those grey eyes. He had never considered such a concept. It clearly went against everything he ever thought of himself as a man. I felt compelled to follow up. “Perhaps, you do these things and do not even know it.”

His eyes snapped into focus and his hand reached up to his chin. “To be such a man, such a creature, to walk among us and decry these foul deeds, while unknownst to yourself you are the perpetrator. Do you think it is possible?”

“There is an Austrian doctor, one Sigmund Freud, who has been corresponding with me. He has some interesting and radical theories about the human mind. Theories which one may discount out of hand, but when things are so far out of normal human experience….”

“One turns to what must be possible, no matter how implausible,” he finished for me. “I have spent a lifetime mastering my mind. Knowing myself. Otherwise I could not do the work I do.”

“Just such a man as may delude himself through the construction of elaborate illusions, according to Dr. Freud. So delusional that he may sit next to you at dinner and discourse on many subjects with wit and charm, but never show a crack as to the true nature of the man within.”

“And you think me such?”

“Merely, I cannot risk it.”

Again, he switched back to the cold, analytical beast I knew so well. Ironically, this did not dissuade me from my suspicions, but rather lent them credence. “Already the crime scene will have been trampled by your brutes and any evidence lost. What a shame. The murderer handed us a great gift and you have squandered it. I do not expect him to do so again. I am left only with the glimpse I had before I was assaulted by that troglodyte.”

We locked eyes, and I turned to go. “One thing, Lestrade, which should’ve been obvious that I will point out now, to ponder as we await the next murder.” I stopped and looked at him. “Where is the blood?” He motioned at his dress, palms toward himself, moving from his bosom to his waist. “Should I not be covered in blood? Where is the weapon?”

I stopped and looked at him. It was insulting to think these things had escaped me. But with a criminal this diabolically clever, I also could not assume that, like a good stage conjuror, everything was as it appeared to be. I had hoped he might mention the missing organs, but he either did not know or had not fallen into this trap.

He continued. “Her throat was slashed. Have you ever seen an artery cut while the heart is still pumping? A heart filled to bursting with adrenaline? It shoots yards. I should be covered in blood.” Again the gesture to his dress. “And yet, the only blood here is mine, inflicted in this dungeon long after her exsanguination and butchery.”

“We are not unaware of these facts. We will continue our investigation until all possible explanations are exhausted. Only then, if we cannot prove your involvement, will you be free to go.”

“I suppose it would be mercenary and against my personal best interests to trade information for freedom. No, no, if I cannot be out there, you must be my eyes and ears.”

I suppose you will think less of me if I admit there was some small part of me that relished this man taken down to this level. A man who had repeatedly taken credit for the successes of the Yard, while also defaming us along the way. Ah, hubris, what great crashing falls you initiate.

“Do enlighten us with your great wisdom, Mr. Holmes.”

 “I will give you a piece to your puzzle, whether that piece frees or indicts me is no matter as long as the killer is stopped. The reason the killer would not be blood-drenched is he cut her throat from behind, then merely supported her as she bled out. The dissection could be done nearly bloodlessly. This would explain the left-to-right slashes of the throats on both victims and why there is no gore-soaked madman reported fleeing the crimes down the streets of Whitechapel.”

Now it was my chance to stroke my chin. “Such tidbits could as well come from the mouth and mind of the killer as from a consulting detective.”

“While I may take some solace that I will be in here during the next murder, and thus am as sane as I believe myself to be, it will not assuage the guilt of inaction. Do not rest on your theories of my guilt, but pursue all possible avenues to find this barbarian.”

At that moment, the sergeant returned. “You are wanted by the Chief Constable, Sir.”

I noted the disrespect in his tone. “Adieu, Mr. Holmes.” I nodded to Sherlock and turned to the guard, “What I said before, I meant. I’m inclined to let Mr. Holmes give you that lesson.” Sherlock grinned. The guard scowled, and I hurried off to see my superior.

His door was open, and the rancorous odor of his cheap cigar wafted out. I stopped on the threshold, nonetheless and rapped on the frame.

“Come in Lestrade.” I came and stood before his desk. “What have we learned?” I debriefed him on the autopsy.

“And our prisoner?”

“He, of course, maintains his innocence and pleads his case to be free and pursue his own investigations.”

“And what do you make of that?”

“Either he got the jump on us and is pursuing a theory which we have not stumbled upon, or…”

“Or?”

“Or he is a delusional monster, the type of man Dr. Freud posits could commit these crimes.”

MacNaghten held the cigar in one hand and tapped a letter opener on his blotter with the other. “It’s a conundrum. We’ve long had a file on him. He’s too peculiar. He doesn’t fit in anywhere, for that alone, I like him.”

“Being unconventional is not a crime in itself.” When the words came out of my mouth I realized that I was now arguing both sides of my own mental discord.

He used the letter opener to flip open the file in front of him. “Him and his brother both. Are you familiar?”

“I know he works for the Home Office.”

“And do you know their history?”

“Not completely, sir. I know a little of Holmes, the younger, because of our time together. I was surprised to find we had a file on him.”

“It goes back a ways. They come from money. His father was landed and held a small position in the cabinet. Both boys were, are, brilliant. They were tutored privately. By all indications the tutor, a Professor James Moriarty, had an affair with the mother, and when it came out, the mother committed suicide. The boys were shipped off to private school and the father retired to seclusion. He fell into poor health and died when the boys were in University. Mycroft in Law and Sherlock in pre-Med. After the father died, Mycroft graduated and Sherlock left school under undetermined circumstances. Mycroft spends his time either at work or in the Diogenes Club.”

I was aware of the Diogenes Club. It too was overly peculiar. Who would go to a public club not to talk to people? It made no sense. Odds were it was an establishment for homosexuals, but we could never penetrate it to prove it so.

“Two asexual, antisocial brothers, betrayed by their mother in adolescence. Either of them fit the profile.”

“Or both.”

“Yes, there is that. And now, there has been another murder, and Mycroft has pulled some strings and Sherlock is to go free.”

“Another Whitechapel murder since Anne Chapman two days ago?”

“Actually, it looks to be another torso murder. A woman’s right arm and shoulder were found on an embankment of the Thames near Pimlico.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. “Holmes predicted this.”

MacNaghten looked at me. “Did he?”

“Yes, he said being in gaol would be his alibi for the next murder.”

“It appears his reputation for prescience is well founded. Mycroft has leveraged this to get him released.”

I was lost in thought, staring over the Chief Constable’s head. “What is it, Lestrade?”

“Something Holmes said about just because there are multiple killers does not mean the murders are not related.”

“Do you think Mycroft…?”

“I do not know. I do not know what to think. I barely know the man, but until this, I had some small admiration for Sherlock.”

“It’s out of our hands now. Let him go. But have him followed.”

“And Mycroft?”

“Already on it.”