The Illumination of Evil: Chapter 2

A chapter from the serial novel "The Illumination of Evil" appears every Wednesday.

CH2 – The Criminal’s Wife

            The sun had been of two minds since morning, its disinclination to completely drive the dreariness from the day evident by the grasping fragments of gray unwilling to fade from the sky. By noon the definitive response had finally arrived in a wall of solid thunder caps, the sun all too readily declining into obscurity.
            It was into this gloominess that Theodore Fellows set foot upon Washington Street, the snap of the wind warning of the inevitable storm. Fellows forded the street in the direction of Gardner’s Bookstore and Emporium, his hand tightly clutching his bowler hat. Reaching the establishment, he viewed the flicker of a pipe within the frosted window, the imbiber an indistinguishable shadow in the glass. Fellows stopped before the window and thrust his hands into his pockets to wait.
            After a moment, the glow in the window elevated like a candle lifted from its perch and disappeared altogether as the figure moved on. The door to the Emporium swung open and the lean figure of Nicholas Griffon emerged, the remnants of a clove cigarette in his hand.
            “Good to see you, Fellows,” said Griffon, clutching his top hat against a sudden gust of wind.
            “Nicholas.” The two shook hands briefly.
            “Well then – shall we?”

            “By all means.” Fellows tugged his bowler to the brim of his eyebrows and returned his hands to his pockets as Griffon pulled on a pair of tight-fitting gloves. It was an interesting double act that emerged onto the street: the tall, bent-framed Griffon with his pronounced limp and scowling visage beside the square-shouldered, rotund Fellows with his reddened cheeks and short breaths. Both men were attired in the frock coats and ascot ties of a more formal time now passing by, and both displayed their attire with the rigid stateliness of gentlemen caring not for the critical eye of the new fashioner.
            “What is this diamond business all about then?” asked Fellows, a hint of curiosity in his voice. “Rumor has it you are mixed up in it to your ears. And some of the blue collars are not too pleased about your participation.”
            “Dogs will bark,” Griffon replied with a thin smile.
            “What is it about?” repeated Fellows.
            “What was it about, you mean,” corrected Griffon. “The recent diamond thief, Little Scotty.”
            “Yes, that is what the papers called her,” Fellows confirmed. A gust of wind wailed from a side street, and a stray driver’s cap flew past them with the owner quick on its heels.
            “She had stolen at least fourteen precious stones in the course of three months,” continued Fellows, “a plague to the Boston jewelers until recently captured in the act.”
            “I know all about it,” said Griffon, pausing before a side street to assess his surroundings before delving onto the road.
            “I thought as much, which was why I asked.”
            “It was a simple act. The young woman, attractive in manners and elegantly dressed so as to avoid suspicion, obtained exhibits of loose diamonds from clerks of the jewelers across the city. Wearing fashionable spectacles and feigning nearsightedness, she would lean in close to the tray to review the ware, and with a dart of her pretty little tongue – the tip covered in paste, that is – she had it. On occasion she would roll a cheap stone from her mouth if she deemed it appropriate. Simple, but ingenious.”
             “Yes, yes. The papers spelled it out all quite nicely,” said Fellows. “But how are you involved? Certainly not in the actual arrest, as that honored was reserved for Detective Weathers.”
            “Of Precinct Five, yes. Let us just say that I enlightened Detective Weathers of the facts of the matter. And from there, it was simply a waiting game. They wanted to catch her red-handed, so to speak.”
            Fellows peered up at Griffon. “You mean to say that you were the one that figured out how the robberies were done?”
            “Does that surprise you?” Griffon wove through a sudden throng of morning commuters exiting from a nearby trolley. “I knew about the residue found on a few of the trays,” he continued once they were clear, “and then it was simply a matter of how it was applied. I had some theories in mind, but it was not until I visited the jewelry stores across town and heard from one of the clerks about the recent visit of a near-sighted customer. A lovely young lady, mind you. Which worked to her disadvantage, as straying eyes were most certainly on her more often than not. The clerk had not brought her to my attention due to any suspicion  on his part, but because he lamented the fact that such a stylish woman would go through life barely able to perceive the lovely baubles of which she was adorned.”
            “And simply from that you knew you had your man – err, woman?”
            “Like anything, it was an exercise in probability,” said Griffon. “I revisited the clerks of the other jewelry stores and asked specifically about this woman – all of the establishments that had been robbed recalled such a character. At that point, I knew I was on to something – ah, we are nearly there.”
            They stopped at the corner of Shawmut Avenue and Dover Street. Before them, a string of three-story whitewashed apartment buildings stretched the length of Dover Street. The edifices appeared to be of relatively new construction, cheap and repetitive with identical two-pace walkways running up to the front door.
            “Are we waiting for something in particular?” asked Fellows as soon as it became evident that Griffon was not furthering their progress.
            “As a matter of fact, we are.”
            Fellows shook his head. “Care to enlighten me?”
            “A woman.”
“A woman?”
“Yes, a woman.”
After nearly a minute of silence, Fellows took another tact and rekindled the conversation about the diamond thief. “And so you simply told the police about your diamond thief theory, and they took it from there?”
            A cynical glance from Griffon was all the answer Fellows needed, but his tall companion added words as well. “It was not as simple as that. I had to… shall we say, prove to them that my theory was correct. And as you know, nothing succeeds like success.”
            “I see.”
            Griffon suddenly straightened, his cane rapping against the stone. “Ah, here we are.” He pointed toward the front door of the fourth building on the left, which had opened to reveal a woman bundled against the cold. She was carrying a heavily blanketed basinet. Locking the door behind her, she walked cautiously at first, her head swinging in both directions down the street. Griffon took Fellows by the shoulder and moved him behind the cover of a lamppost as the woman and her baby stepped onto the street. With a brisk step she headed in the opposite direction, the click of her heels discernible.
            “She seems on edge,” commented Fellows.
            “You would be too, if you were recently accosted in front of your own home. And if you were playing the part of such.”
            “Playing the part?”
Griffon raised his finger. “A moment.”
Fellows watched the dwindling figure with consternation. “So are we to follow her?”
            “Well then. Perhaps you could take this moment to explain to me the purpose of our sojourn and who the mystery woman is.”
            “Yes, yes.” Griffon did not offer anything further, but stared down the street with a sharp gaze.
            “Your note today stating that you had taken up The Slugger case was not entirely unexpected,” Fellows continued. “I have been saving up my holidays anticipating such an event would occur. And now that it has, and you have asked for my assistance, some insight into what exactly is going on would be useful.”
            “So it would.” There was another distracted pause.
            “I believe the coast is clear.” Griffon broke from Fellows in the direction of Dover Street, his long stride purposeful. “As you are aware,” began Griffon once Fellows had caught up to him, “there have been six attacks on lone women since June. The attacks have all been of the same nature: a blunt instrument to the head, occurring at night on the streets of Cambridge and Somerville. The attacker appears to be right-handed from the nature of the blows.”
            “The attacks have been solely on young domestics, I believe.”
            “All but one,” corrected Griffon. “In September, Theadore Andersson was arrested for the fifth attack – the sixth occurred while he was in prison awaiting trial.” Griffon reached into his pocket and pulled out a torn piece of paper. “As an editorial point in the Globe so blithely put it before the last attack: No slugging cases have been reported in Cambridge since Andersson was arrested, and “Jack the Slugger" isn't expected to appear again during the seven or eight years that he will be in prison.”
            “They thought they had their man,” commented Fellows.
            “Of course. Until Rosaleen Bell was brutally murdered on October 3rd,” said Griffon.
            Griffon opened the gate that the woman had just departed from and strode up the short walkway to the door. Fellows paused, and then hurried after Griffon, closing the gate behind him.
            “What are you doing?” Fellows looked over his shoulder at the light traffic on the street. No one seemed to be paying them special attention. “Did we not just see the lady of the house depart?”
            “That was what we were meant to see.” Griffon rapped his cane on the door.
            “Meant to see? What are you – ” The door groaned open a few inches revealing a pair of wide eyes from within.
            “Who v’is it?” asked a hushed female voice.
            “Mr. Griffon and Mr. Fellows,” Griffon responded.
            The door closed and the sound of a clasp being removed was followed by the door parting just enough for the two men to squeeze through. Fellows had to hold his breath as the brass buttons of his long coat caught on the edge of the door.
            Really,” he murmured in annoyance, flushing from the exertion of squeezing through the entrance. Griffon was in the process of removing his top hat and coat when Fellows finally discovered stable footing within the small abode. The woman closed the door behind Fellows so closely it nearly caught his coat tails.
            I do say,” Fellows muttered, but he held his tongue of further remonstrance at a sharp glance from Griffon.
            The front hall to the apartment was small with the impression of crowding in, not due to any excessive amount of furniture or trinkets, for the place was rather bare, but to the construction of the place itself – the walls seemed to bend inward, the ceiling slope downward, the floor up. Fellows blinked at the strange effect as he removed his coat and hat.
            Once their articles were properly dispatched of, the attention of the men turned to the woman before them. She seemed to be drifting away from them even as she stood there, as if an invisible sea were tugging her to some distant shore, but it was merely her propensity to avoid contact. In her middling twenties, there was a haggard look to her despite efforts to portray otherwise. Her Scandinavian-blonde hair was neatly combed and pulled back under a bonnet, her tall, lean figure draped in a light, ankle-length dress that appeared pressed and clean. Her face, bold with high cheekbones that angled towards a supple chin would have been remarked upon as statuesque and fair in most circumstances; but the mark of dark circles under her eyes and a large purple bruise on her cheek added a distinct negative in that regard.
            “Come this way,” she said, leading them at a hard left to the parlor. The room was diminutive, contrasting sharply with the tall features of the woman. Griffon took a seat beside the fireplace where an armful of ash glowed in farewell, and Fellows took the seat next to him, an old wooden rocker beside which lay a basinet with a sleeping infant.
            The woman took the seat opposite and rested trembling hands upon her knees. At her right, the portrait of a young Scandinavian man with a handlebar moustache and deep-set eyes stared outward from the wall upon which it hung. It was the only portrait of its kind in the room, and of unmistakably high quality. It was too big for the wall that it adorned, and hung like a sentry over the room. Fellows immediately recognized the man as that of Mr. Andersson from the newspapers.
            He bent closer to the portrait. “Quite a remarkable painting. E.G. Hmm. A local artist?”
            “No. V’it was done when we lived in Sweden.”
            “Ah. Quite good, quite good.”
            “Thank you for the invitation to meet, Mrs. Andersson,” said Griffon, a gleam of silver appearing under his palm as he extracted a thin flask from the recesses of his breast pocket.
            “V’it is I who am...ah…taksam...ah…thankful, yes?” the young woman replied, her eyes barely rising to meeting theirs. “And please, call me Alva.”
            “If you prefer.”
            Ja.” She watched Griffon set the flask at this side. “Is there anything you need?”
            “Not at all. We did not come to be waited on, though the offer is appreciated.”
            Fellows rubbed his parched throat and watched with a growing craving as Griffon took a small swig and set the flask back.
            “So, Alva – what is it that you need from us?”
            “If I may,” Fellows broke in, smoothing his ascot, “who was the woman that left before we got here? A sister, perhaps?”
            Alva looked from Fellows to Griffon in apparent confusion, and Fellows was prepared to elaborate on his question until Griffon responded. “My good friend here has not been made aware of our preparations.” He turned to Fellows. “That was Reluctance you saw emerging onto the street from here.”
            “Reluctance?” Fellows’s voice was perhaps a trifle too enthusiastic at the mention of their mutual friend and he abruptly continued to smooth his ascot with a critical eye. “Fine, fine. So, ah…what was she doing here? And was that a basinet she was carrying?”
            “We needed it to appear as if Mrs. Andersson had left the establishment,” said Griffon, smiling lightly.
            “Whatever for?”
            “Because they threatened to take my child!” cried Alva, covering her mouth with a trembling hand. “They are v’atching me… all the time. They already did this.” She touched the bruise on her cheek, which could not have been more than a few days old.
            “Brutal,” remarked Fellows. “So Reluctance was a diversion.”
            “A very nice woman,” rejoined Alva, her face brightening. “And a famous skådespelerska, no? Eh – on the stage? Reluctance Wilding, no? And she helped me… ah… pretty up, is it? Ja, pretty up before you arrived.”
            “Of course she did,” remarked Griffon under his breath. “Reluctance Wilding is her stage name,” he clarified. “But you should use her real name, Reluctance Lovelace.” The beginnings of a cough generated from the depths of his chest, but it remained nothing more than a rumble. After a second swig from his flask, Griffon bent forward on his cane.
            “So what is it we can do for you, Alva?”
            Alva looked up at Griffon with a steel-gray gaze. “Find this man, this Jack the Slugger.”
            “I assume to clear your husband’s name?”
            Alva’s face went blank for a moment and Fellows offered, “To prove his innocence."
            Ja. V’it is obvious that it is not him, no? He is locked up in your prison, and now this poor woman is killed? V’it cannot be my John.”
            Griffon leaned back. “Assuming the attacks are connected.”
            Exakt. That is v’at I need you to do. Prove that they are together…ah, connected.”
            “And that is all?”
            Her gaze fell to the infant in the basinet, and a watery gleam crossed her eyes. “Please. Find out who is threatening me. If you do, it will lead you to the real mordare –”
            “Killer. The real killer, yes.” Griffon created a steeple with his fingers and rested his chin upon it. “Tell me about this recent attack on you. The bruise.”
            Alva shivered involuntarily. “A few nights ago I…encountered, yes? A man and a woman at my front door. They must have been v’aiting for me.”
            “Did you recognize them?” asked Griffon.
            “And you can describe them if I were to ask?”
            “Start with the attack, if you please.”
            “Ah. The woman struck me on the back of the head with her fist, like so,” Alva clenched her fist and brought it down in a pounding fashion. “I was… shocked, yes? And then I was facing the man, and he struck me with the handle of his umbrella. They were well dressed, you see. Ah… finery, yes?”
            “I see. And the umbrella, that is how you received the bruise on your right cheek?”
            “Is there anywhere else you can go?” Fellows asked. “In the meantime, perhaps? Do you have family? Friends?”
            She shook her head. “No family. No close friends.”
            “But I see evidence that you have been packing,” said Griffon, indicating an open suitcase in the side room with rumpled clothes within. “Where would you go?”
            “There is a place in the country… with land. Our dream v’is to own a… a gård. Ah, a farm, yes?”
            “Where in the country, exactly?”
            “In Concord. But the house is… ah, it is…in poor condition, yes?” she made a sour face.
            “In disrepair."
            Ja. Very much so. Not safe v'or us, no. But we are going to rebuild it.” 
            Griffon bent forward. “So you have nowhere else to go currently. You must stay out of sight as much as possible until this is sorted out, do you understand?”
            “But I must v’ork. Without my husband’s wages…”
            “You have no other source of income?”
            Mrs. Andersson shook her head. “There are some paintings my husband did long ago that I could try to sell, if I knew how? He v’as a good painter once…but, non. V’e come to America with a hope… but there v’is no interest.” She shrugged with a dejected smile.
            “Do not fret about money,” Griffon said. “We will handle your necessities during the investigation.”
            Mrs. Andersson stared at Griffon, dumbfounded. “You would do that?”
            Griffon waved the comment away. “Of course. Now tell me, did these attackers say anything during the assault? Did they take anything from your person?”
            Alva's face paled as the memory returned. “Ja. They shouted revenge! But they took nothing.”
            “Revenge? What do you believe they were referring to?”
            “I do not know.” She pinched her nose. “If it concerns my husband, they have made a mis-take. He did not commit those crimes that he has been accused of.”
            Griffon rapped his fingers against his chin. “Did they say anything else to you? Anything at all?”
            Ja. The man… he bent forward and his mouth smelled of… of sprit?” She pointed to Griffon’s flask.
            “He told me to stay quiet. He said they v’ould return for me and my child if I talked to the police. If I tried to free my husband.”
            “Monstrous,” exclaimed Fellows, tugging on his ascot. “What sort of people accost a woman and then threaten her infant child?”
            “I cannot go to the police,” said Alva. “Newsmen have been to my house, but I have not answered the door. I have nowhere else to turn, Mr. Griffon.”
            “Who referred you to me, Alva?”
            Alva paused. “A former client of yours. I am aware of your previous… dealings, yes? Dealings with a prominent family.”
            “I see.” Griffon craned his head back against the chair and stared at the ceiling as if to find answers within the pitted boards above. He remained thus for several moments, the silence broken only by the clearing of Fellows’s throat.
            “We will help you,” Griffon said suddenly, snapping his attention back to Alva. “I had every intention of delving into the Slugger case even before you contacted me, but now that you have, a new element of consideration has readily presented itself. Most intriguing, I must say.”
            “I do not have much to offer…”
            “Money? As before, think nothing of it,” said Griffon, waving her to silence. “Now, I need you to describe to me in minute detail your two attackers.” Griffon dug into the details as Alva told him what she remembered. Throughout the course of the brief interview Fellows spent half of his efforts listening to Alva’s words and spent the other half studying the features of the newly arrived immigrant, the wife of an accused killer, the jobless mother of an infant that needed to be fed, an infant now with a threat against it from a man that used an umbrella handle as a weapon.
            “Now, your husband.”
            “Ja?” Alva dropped her gaze to her feet and smoothed her dress.
            “Where did you meet?”
            The question seemed to take Alva by surprise. “Meet?”
            “Yes. How did you first meet Mr. Andersson?”
            “A hospital in Gothenburg, where we are from. I v’as a… caregiver.”
            “A nurse?”
“Ja. And he was a patient.”
            “It was an institution?”
            “For the damaged mind.” She pointed at her head.
            Griffon remained silent for a moment. “Tell me about Mr. Andersson and why he was arrested for these crimes. I have read what the comma chasers have had to say, so you may keep those details brief.”
            “Ah… com-ma chasers?”
            “Excuse me. Newspaper editors.”
            Alva’s face darkened. “I ‘ave nothing to say about them! Those filthy newspaper men, treating my husband as they did.”
            Fellows frowned. “Keyhole journalism and editorializing, madam. A pity and disgrace. Of course, they have another name for it – investigative journalism.”
            “Just the brief details, Alva,” offered Griffon.
            Alva balled her hands into fists, but did not seem to take notice of this. The rest of her posture remained rigid as she spoke. “My husband was accused of attacking a young v’oman at his place of employment.”
            “The Natural History Museum?”
            Ja. He is…ah, vas a custodian, yes? A custodian there.” She slowly relaxed her grip on her dress, smoothing out the wrinkled bunches at her lap. “V’it is all detailed in the papers. And I know nothing more of the attack than their stories, though none of v’it is true, I am certain.”
            “That was his only place of employment?”
            “He v’orks some nights as well. For our savings.”
            “I see. As a custodian?”
            “Ja, at various places across the city,” said Alva, nodding. Her eyes appeared tired.
            “And is he in good health?”
            Alva glanced sharply at Griffon, the tiredness fleeing. “Why not just ask what is on your mind.”
            “Of course. The papers mentioned that your husband suffers from sudden memory loss. Three times in the last two years?”
            “Four, counting the last,” she stated.
            “Can you elaborate on these conditions?”
            Alva peered at Griffon with a nervous gaze before dropping her gaze to the floor. “I know no more about his condition than v’aht you have read. Except,” she raised her eyes fiercely to Griffon, “it v’as never by choice. He is sick. These….episodes, yes? They were not by choice… not by choice.” She shook her head and mumbled the words several times as if to convince herself of their truthfulness.
            “What else? Behaviorally?”
            Alva paused. “He is, how do you say? Meticulous? Ja, meticulous… ah, obsessive, yes? Everything is the same this, the same that.”
            “What do you mean?”
            “Look at his meals,” she said. “Always at the same time… Monday is carrot soup. Tuesday is potatoes and bread. Ja, it is how he is. And I am there to make sure everything is in its proper place, and that his meals are done. V’it is the least I can do for all he has done for this family.”
            “Hmm.” Griffon closed his eyes as if to think, but opened them abruptly. “Excellent. Thank you, Alva.” He stood abruptly, his cane rapping against the wooden floorboards.
            “That is all?”
            “For now, yes. But I would like to see your husband –”
            Alva grew pale. “Non! That is impossible. They will find out if you try to contact him in jail.”
            “Worry not, Alva. I have ways of being discreet. Mr. Fellows, shall we?”
            Fellows stood and the two men made their departure with a brief farewell. The spray of a light rain greeted them as they reached the road and Fellows welcomed the escape from the cramped apartment. “So what do you think? Is she hiding anything?”
            “Of course. But that is to be expected.”
            “Did she say that they have a place in Concord?”
            “It sounds like a rundown shack,” Griffon replied. “Nevertheless, she mentioned land as well. It seems they may have had some funds tucked away.”
            “Or a well-off uncle,” said Fellows. “One does not afford land in Concord on Mr. Andersson’s salary.”
            “Most likely not.”
“Do you trust her?”
            “I trust that we are doing the right thing by taking this case. But I plan on locating the institution she spoke of in Gothenburg. I would like to know more about Mr. Andersson’s history.”
            Fellows nodded. “And what of that unseemly bruise?”
            “She was facing her attacker, the contusion is on the right cheek. To create such a bruise one assumes it was with the primary hand, therefore the attacker with the umbrella is left-handed.”
            “And Jack the Slugger is right-handed.”
            “So the reports say.”
            “Interesting.” Fellows paused. “I am quite in the dark regarding Andersson’s arrest and this whole discussion involving his condition. Care to elaborate?”
            “Knowing that you are a man of books and not current events, I brought this especially for you.” Griffon extracted an article from his vest pocket and placed it into Fellows’s hands. A section was circled in ink.
            “Ah, yes. Let me see. Boston Globe, September 3rd.” Fellows brought the article to his eyes and read patches of it aloud, scanning the rest with his eyes.


Andersson is a Swede, about 30 years old, tall and powerful. He has been a janitor for about 11 months at the rooms where the assault was committed. As the place closed its doors before 6 o'clock each day it is his duty to see to it that every one is out… he came upon Evelyn Sharrow…he consented to allow her to
remain until he had finished the rest of  his work. When he came back he engaged her in conversation and asked her if she was a stranger In town. Suddenly when her back was turned he pounced upon her. She says he beat her and jumped upon her while she lay on the floor He then threw a coat over her head as it to smother her. She lay perfectly still and the man, evidently satisfied with what he had done, left her.

            “Dreadful imagery.” Fellows remarked.
            “Indeed. Go on.”
            “Of course,” said Fellows, continuing from where he left off.

As soon as she dared to do she rose from the floor… and  uttered scream after scream in the hope of bringing some one to help her out of the room, the door of which she found had been locked. As no one responded she pounded on the glass panels of the door with her bare bands and finally succeeded in bursting
them through and crawling out. She renewed her outcries when outside the room, and two persons who had been in another part of the building answered…. they advised her to go right to the police station and enter a complaint. The two persons were also strangers in the city, ,and later left town, so that the police have been unable to Interview them since. Instead of taking their counsel she
went to her hotel room, where she was staying, and didn't tell the police about it until a week later.

            “A week later?” murmured Fellows.
            “Yes. And now that Andersson is locked up for trial, where do you suppose she is?”
            Fellows looked up from the paper. “I could not dare to guess where, but I am willing to guess where she is not – here.”
            “Correct. She has left the city, and is not available to testify. But her account will hold in court, I assure you.”
            Fellows rubbed his chin. “You believe there are workings here. I can see it in your eyes.”
            “I think only that this case deserves further attention.” Griffon pointed back to the paper. “You asked about Andersson’s condition.”
            Fellows returned his gaze to the paper and scanned it briefly. “Ah, yes. Let’s see…”


Mrs. Andersson Says Her Husband Has Done So Three Times—His Mind a Blank on Those Occasions.

She stated that she married Andersson about three years ago, and that he has been a good husband, sober, industrious, and always thoughtful of her welfare, a man of thoroughly domestic tastes, nearly always at home, save when his work required him to be at the Natural History building…there have been attacks of despondency, during which on three occasions, he has disappeared from home for several days at a time. She says that on those three occasions he returned after a few days' absence and claimed that his mind was perfectly blank as to anything that had occurred between the time of his disappearance and his decision to return. On one occasion he was in New York city, and wrote her a letter In contrite spirit before returning.

            Fellows continued to read for another minute before returning the paper back to Griffon. “There is much of interest here.”
            “Indeed there is.”
            “Do you intend to interview Mr. Andersson?”
            “Yes. Primary data is of utmost importance.”
            Fellows twisted his mouth thoughtfully. “But discretion is critical. How do you plan to achieve an interview with Andersson without notice? I am afraid you cannot simply disguise Reluctance and send her into the prison unobserved.”
            Griffon’s eyes sparkled. “Reluctance? No.”
            “You, then?” Fellows asked in surprise. “You do not strike me as the costume type.”
            “My limp cannot be concealed,” said Griffon. “The art of camouflage and mimicry is wasted on me.”
            “Who then – ” Fellows stopped short as the answer struck him. “Surely you do not mean me – ”
            “Worry not,” said Griffon as he rapidly outpaced his companion, “I have no intention of any of us visiting Andersson in jail, at least not in the manner of disguise.”
            “That is reassuring.”
            “Come along, old friend,” said Griffon, quickening his pace at step. “Time waits for no man, and every passing moment is one moment closer to the attacker’s next move.” His cane rapped against the stone as he went. “And we will need to be ready for it.”


The ringing was coming from the counter.
Marty Peterson looked up wearily from his hand notebook. A small, dark-haired boy was at the counter, standing on tippy-toe. An assortment of nuts and bolts lay scattered over the counter, his intended purchase.
            Sighing, Marty slipped his notebook into his apron and made his way over to the counter. He had been alone in the old store, which was the way he liked it. It was why he took the early shift. But a customer was a customer, and needed to be served. He had known that when he applied for the job.
            Gathering up the handful of nuts and bolts, he paid no attention to the small boy. As he silently rung up the price, he sensed the child glancing at him. There’s nothing here for you to see, he thought bitterly to himself.
            “Will that be all?” The question was barely audible, and the boy looked up. “Huh?”
            “I said – ” Marty held his breath when his eyes caught the boy’s face. “Here.” Marty shoved the small brown paper bag holding the boy’s purchase into his hands. The boy looked up in confusion. He hadn’t paid for them yet.
            “Go ahead,” urged Marty, his face blushing. “Go!” His angry glare sent the Vietnamese boy on his way.
            Marty rubbed his forehead as a dull pain grew inside it. Slowly, it increased in potency until Marty was forced to sit down. All he could see was red, and with trembling fingers he reached into his back pocket for his cigarettes. Anger built as he patted for his lighter. Where had he put it? Tossing his pack onto the counter, he got up and stumbled towards aisle one.
            If only that boy hadn’t come in. Why was he here, when his home was halfway across the world? Did the kid come back to haunt him? Would he come back again?
            Marty grabbed a lighter off the shelf and ripped it out of the package. All he needed was a cigarette. Returning to the counter, he snatched up one and tried to light it.
            “C’mon,” he snapped furiously as the lighter failed to produce a spark. Finally, a strip of fire spurted up and he applied it to the end of his cigarette.
            The pain throbbed like a hammer, and Marty tried to relax as he sat down. Where was he? He looked around in confusion, but everything seemed to be spinning. Closing his eyes, he tried to avoid the pain.
            Like a great wave smashing down on him, the fears Marty had been hiding for years rushed over him. His body jerked as he heard the gunfire again.
            Where’s the enemy? It’s goddam jungle everywhere! Large, twisted trees and dark, evil undergrowth. What is that? Who’s out there? He continued his agonizing journey with beads of sweat running down his face. Is that breathing he hears? Where is it coming from? He cringed as pictures of horror and death flashed through his mind. Bloody bodies, torn apart by the deadly weapons of war. Old hatred curdled in his blood, as did old fears. In the distance, he could hear the screams of his companions. Somewhere, they were dying. He cried out for them to stop, it hurt too much. Their ghastly cries jarred his body.
            Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. Marty opened his eyes and found himself on his back. He had tipped over in his chair. A small stream of smoke issued from the cigarette where it had been dropped on the floor. Gathering his head in his knees, Marty felt the fear of the war slip away. It was replaced by a painful, tired vacancy.
Slowly, Marty began to cry.

The Illumination of Evil: Chapter 1

Introduction: One chapter from the novel The Illumination of Evil (a historical mystery in Boston) will be published weekly.

CH1 – A Beguiling Crime 

The muddy bicycle trail passed underfoot as the woman in the ghost-white evening gown strode along the misting gray of the Charles River. The shadows of dusk unfurled like a cloak to settle silently upon the shoulders of Cambridge, bringing forth the chill of night. Electric lights popped to life atop pencil-thin poles, speckling the encroaching darkness with a dim and wary glow. The woman did not pass a soul on the path of the riverbank, but walked purposely on, her slim silhouette no more than a shadow in the darkness.
Arriving at the stone and iron of Harvard Bridge, the traveler clutched her thick fur about her. The extensive crossing stretched over the dark waters of the Charles to the distant folds of West Chester Park, above which the scattered lights of Boston rose like the birth of a star from the dark earth. Her eyes darted to the gas lamps posted along the bridge, between which was plenty of room for deep shadows to linger.
The foot traffic was non-existent on the bridge, a sure sign of the community’s response to the recent attacks. Three on domestics in less than two months, followed by a public outcry for protection, and then a fourth domestic attacked, this time brutally lethal.
The woman took comfort in the fact that there seemed to be at least one clattering horse-and-carriage in view at all times, either coming or going. With firm resolve she stepped onto the bridge and was met by the snap of cold air and sea-salt. She walked at a rapid pace, the hem of her dress fluttering madly in the unfettered wind. Her eyes remained focused on the lights of the city, and in particular the endpoint of the bridge marked by a distant electric lamp in West Chester.
The shadows traced her steps in tendril-like fashion from the translucent glow of the bridge-lamp into the awaiting darkness. Pausing momentarily to listen to the silence, she hastened on as a chill took her. The road was deserted at the midway point, the wind a mere whisper. She paused. A scrape of boot-gravel against stone broke the otherwise oppressive silence. Her heart thundered painfully in her chest as her gaze locked on the angelic glow of the closest bridge-lamp, a mere fifteen paces away. It seemed like an eternity. Focused on the inviting light, she broke into a small run. At her reaction, a shadow rose like a midnight specter from the bridge rail beside her.

A gloved hand gripped her upper arm tightly, and instantly the woman snapped about in terror. The scream died on her lips as she viewed the lean, grayish features of the intruder in the thin moonlight; a furrowed brow looming over a sharp, thin nose, with eyes of intense gray – eyes that suddenly looked down at his hand, which had released her and slipped a watch from out of his pocket.
“Nicholas!” the woman cried, her voice twisted with anger and relief. Nick Griffon leaned upon his steel-tipped cane as he stared at the pocket-watch, his heavy overcoat blending into the darkness like a midnight shadow. “Eight in twenty-two minutes, Miss Reluctance.”
“You need your head examined!” Miss Reluctance Wilding shouted. Exhaling through gritted teeth, she adjusted her attire with a few quick tugs. “Standing out here in the shadows like some… like Jack the Slugger himself. You were supposed to meet me in West Chester!”
“My apologies,” said Griffon, snapping the watch closed and dropping it into his pocket. He slid his arm under hers, which accepted him reluctantly at first. They continued in the direction of Boston. Griffon’s free hand clutched his cane, clattering hard against the stone in time with his step.
Reluctance’s demeanor softened to a simmer after a minute of silence. “So is this another one of your tests, then?”
“An experiment. You see, it took you twenty-two minutes to walk to this exact location from your apartment in Porter Square. I followed you unnoticed throughout the course of your travel, and upon eight occasions – eight! – there was ample opportunity for me to accost you unnoticed.”
“You really let your imagination run riot, you know that?”
Griffon frowned. “This exercise has revealed to me the seriousness of the circumstances that exist regarding the current string of attacks around Cambridge. Even with the police beats and the vigilantes roaming about, I was easily able to manipulate the streets to my advantage.”
“Let us not forget that you are an expert at such exercises.”
“I would expect the same expertise from the attacker,” Griffon replied in kind. In a sudden change of subject, he looked Reluctance over in appraising fashion. “You certainly look the part tonight.”
“I will take that as a compliment.”
“Take it however you will.” He cast a sidelong glance his companion. “I realize that this business of stolen diamonds has been tiresome.”
Reluctance raised a brow. “Since when is look’n for a diamond thief tiresome? I find it exciting.”
“Since more important matters have come to light.”
“Like Jack the Slugger?”
“So what’s your angle, then?”
Griffon glanced at Reluctance from the corner of his eye. “Why must everything have an angle?”
“Spill it, Nick.”
“If – ah, when, that is – I solve the diamond case, the district will give me access to the current Slugger files.”
“How’d you manage that?”
“The brass-boys are stuck in the mud. Desperate, as it were. I offered them a bargain, and they were… receptive.”
“Yeah, receptive. Assistance from you is just what the blue-collars want.” She chuckled. “Well, you’ve already solved the diamond case. That’s what tonight’s all about.”
“Yes, we know that. But the brass must be convinced of it.”
“Detective Weathers, you mean.” Reluctance smirked knowingly. “But he’ll be convinced soon enough.” Her voice softened and a sliver of anticipation rose from beneath her whisper. “So you are officially moving to the Slugger case?”
Griffon frowned. “I have already begun, Rela.”
            Within fifteen minutes they had traversed West Chester Park and made their way to the nearest trolley. An open-air affair with more bells on it than the Notre Dame Cathedral, the car was crowded elbow-to-elbow with the Saturday evening crowd.
            Another ten minutes and several dozen clatters of the trolley-bell later they found themselves at their destination. Griffon stood from his seat, his cane rapping against the floor. Reluctance followed as he washed from the trolley with the crowd, his top hat bobbing a hand’s-length above the throng. The trolley jerked ahead and Griffon’s black chimneystack broke from the crowd at the edge of the street.
            “The jeweler’s shop,” he stated, pointing across the street to a non-descript first-floor establishment that shared space with the Grand Central Hotel. A sign in bold black lettering read Goldschimdt and Hoch: Jewelers. “Shall we?”
            Safely navigating through the dangers of the busy thoroughfare of Central Street on Saturday evening was not a simple affair, but it was completed without injury and they soon found themselves before the cramped entrance where a small wooden sign hung in welcome: Closed Until Further Notice. The window was heavily curtained and the lights from within burned low and dark, creating a sense of unease.
            “Inviting little spot, ain’t it?” Reluctance mused.
            “I am sure the robberies have caused the proprietors to take certain precautions.”
            “Yeah, like keeping all the customers away,” murmured Reluctance. “Just a moment.” She pulled a powder cloth from her bag and patted her cheeks lightly. Dropping the cloth back in, she extracted a small cylinder that held what appeared to be powdered lipstick and brought it to her mouth.
            “We are standing before the door, Reluctance.”
            “You don’t say.”
Griffon’s eyes crinkled impatiently. “Perhaps it would be more prudent – ”
“Don’t get your knickers in a knot.”
            Griffon leaned against his cane. “You could not have prettied-up before now?”
            Prettied-up? Really. It doesn’t have the same effect if it’s not fresh. You of anyone should know that.”
            “In what manner?”
            Reluctance finished without pursuing the matter further. She smacked her mouth together and pursed her lips.
            Griffon studied her face. “An issue with your maquillage?”
            “Let me worry about my part.”
            “As you say.”
            Thrusting the contents back into her bag, Reluctance produced a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. “For a close view of the goods,” she remarked with a smile, affixing the eyeglasses to her face.
            Griffon opened the door and they entered beneath the chime of a delicate bell, blinking at the sudden onslaught of luminosity. The fierce glow of the electric lights created a sunburst within the multitudes of precious surfaces that staggered the eyes. Peering over his shoulder to clear the glare from his eyes, Griffon noticed dark fabric affixed to the windows.
            “Why the phony view outside?” Reluctance whispered as her eyes blinked against the light. “It’s a regular diamond mine in here.”
            “As I was eluding to previously, they have been robbed four times this month, but cannot close down entirely due to their particular clientele. So for now, they remain open but are keeping the general public away.”
            “Sounds like a winning strategy,” Reluctance murmured doubtfully.
            The one-room affair hosted three rows of glass-and-rod cases replete with shimmering contents. The cases ran the length of the room and ended at a large table of dark mahogany strewn with books, papers, and jeweler tools. Huddled around the table, a group of four men bent their heads in discussion.
            “…the mystery is the tool used to snatch the stones. How was the culprit able to slip the diamonds off the tray in broad daylight? Some kind of cloth hidden by the palm?”
            “Impossible. We have trained our clerks to hand our customers this silver baton while they view the merchandise.” The jeweler raised a thin silver rod. “Inconvenient to be sure, but it keeps the customer’s hands occupied and in plain sight.”
            “So how then have the diamonds been stolen from the tray?” The question, originally meant for those huddled about, was silently passed to Griffon as he strode to the table.
            “That is what I am here to explain,” he said, removing his top hat with a slight bow. The men studied him with mixed reactions. Two of the men were officers, a flat-cap plainclothes detective and an official blue and brass. From them emitted two generous servings of skepticism. The remaining two men, who appeared more hopeful at Griffon’s arrival, appeared to be jewelers from the make of their formal attire. The jewelers were ancient – tall but stooped, with graying hair and wrinkled skin, but their eyes were bright and sharp, youthful in relation to their other attributes.  
            “Nicholas Griffon,” the plainclothes officer stated, the distaste on his tongue palpable.
            “Detective Weathers,” said Griffon with a curt nod, “and Officer O’Brien, if I am correct?”
            “Aye,” replied the uniformed officer, extending a broad hand backed by a skeptical eye.
            Reluctance stepped forward towards the elderly pair. “And you must be Mr. Goldschimdt and Mr. Hoch?”
            “Close. He is Mr. Hoch, and I am Mr. Goldschimdt,” corrected the man with the magnifying glass, smiling in a friendly manner. His accent revealed first generation German. “And if I am not mistaken...?"
            “You’re not, doll.”
            “Reluctance Wilding.” Goldschmidt’s voice held the precise amount of admiration and composure.
            The Reluctance Wilding,” said Reluctance with a beaming smile.
“From the Stuart Blackton films,” said Weathers dispassionately. “I heard you pal’d around with ol' Griffon here. For the life of me, I can’t figure why.”
            “The stage is all pomp and circumstance,” Reluctance replied. “I like to get my hands dirty from time to time.”
            “You are even more stunning in person, if I may be so bold,” said Goldschimdt, smoothing his moustache.
            “I’m a blue-blood, just like everyone else around here.”
            “You are not like everyone else, my lady,” said Goldschmidt. “Eine schöne Frau.”
            “So you’re the charmer of the group, huh?” said Reluctance, staring at Mr. Goldschmidt with a crooked smile. She frowned. “But there are these damned spectacles.” She took them off for a moment and squinted. “I need them if I’m to look at some gemstones tonight.”
             “They frame your face beautifully,” said Goldschmidt.
            Weathers cleared his throat. “You keep those things a pretty secret.”
            “Ain’t exactly something you want the adoring public to see,” said Reluctance. “I got an image to uphold, don’t I?”
            “Sure. But how do you get around the stage without them?”
            “Everything’s memorization in the business,” Reluctance replied off-handedly. “Why the third-degree, anyhow?”
            “Gentlemen, if you will,” interrupted Griffon, tapping his cane for attention. Weathers’ gaze lingered on Reluctance for a moment before joining the others.
“I believe I can explain the recent string of diamond robberies that have plagued this establishment as well as several neighboring competitors,” Griffon continued. “The answer lies in the residue at the scene of the crime.”
            “The residue left on the tray, you mean?” asked Weathers, flicking his hat impatiently.
            “Yes. Analysis revealed alum powder, corn starch, and flour.”
            “So you read the police report. Add water and you have bookbinders paste. Is that all you have to offer?”
            “Not quite. What is your current theory, Detective Weathers?”
            “It seems the going theory is that the thief dabbed the paste on the end of his fingers to assist in his theft of the small gems. The only problem is that for the last two weeks every customer has been required to hold the silver baton, as has been explained to us, and yet three days ago a diamond was lifted from a tray in this very store, leaving a slight dab of the residue behind.”
            Griffon turned to the jewelers. “How many clerks work for you?”
            “Let me stop you right there,” Weathers stated, cutting Griffon short. “We’ve already interviewed the lot.”
            “No leads?”
            “Not one.”
            Griffon leaned on his cane. “For one, it is obvious that we have a pennyweight thief on our hands, specifically a stone getter.”
            “Ah coud’a told ya that much,” officer O’Brien remarked, shaking his head. “I ‘ope yeh didn’t come all this way just to ‘ell us that?”
            “That would be disappointing, would it not?” said Griffon. “Especially for Miss Wilding, who I promised an interesting show of things.”
            Weathers scowled. “So you intend to show your unmatchable wits off to the lady, is that it?”
            “Why else would I bring her along?”
            “Yer someth’n. you know that?” Weathers growled.
            Griffon ignored the goad and turned to the group at large. “Gentlemen, if you would be so kind to listen to my thoughts on the matter?”
The four men huddled around Griffon as the conversation ensued, and Reluctance suddenly found herself squeezed out of the crowd. Clasping her hands behind her back, she strolled around the shop, peering at the items on display.
            “These are quite remarkable,” she declared, causing a halt in the men’s conversation. “Quite a marvelous display,” she added, peering at the jewelers. Mr. Hoch broke from the group and approached her with his best merchant smile. White-haired and kindly, his grandfatherly approach played well off of Goldschmidt’s more flattering style.
            “These are platinum, of course?” asked Reluctance.
            “Yes they are, Miss Wilding,” he responded, his voice rich with the wisdom of experience. “It may have been a late-comer to the field, but its late start has not been detrimental in the least. As yuo can see, it is crafted from the choicest metal.”
            “So it is.” She smiled demurely. “Quite a spectacular gleam to it.”
            “The Edwardian jewels in particular look stunning in the setting.” He smiled gently. “Would you care to see?”         
            Ignoring his offer with a smile of her own, Reluctance bent over the glass case at her side. A set of gold bangle-bracelets laced with diamonds rested below her upon a stage of lavender cloth. “These are quite attractive.”
            “Quite. There are only two in existence, and the other one is currently in the possession of the Duchess of Mecklenburg.” He said the last as if presenting a fact of the utmost importance.
            “You don’t say.” Reluctance looked up at Mr. Hoch. “It seems there is more Late Victorian here than Art Nouveau. You guys are a little behind the times, no?”
            “Ah.” Hoch looked at Reluctance with the patient tenderness of a mentor whose student had just claimed that the world was flat. “Art Nouveau…does not fit the style of Goldschmidt and Hoch.”
            “I suppose there’s something to be said about historic pieces,” she said. “But there is a sense of the latest fashions around, isn’t there. Look at these decorative pieces. Silver ribbons, stars, and there, a crescent moon. Not exactly Victorian.”
            “Well, even we must be cognizant to the tastes of our clientele,” Hoch conceded. “We do understand that time brings change, and not everything can remain the same.” He guided Reluctance through numerous treasures with a sense of pride that would challenge the proudest parents displaying their children at holiday. After receiving a long-winded history on the origin of a platinum garland of flowers, Reluctance halted the tour by claiming thirst. Her eyes darted to Griffon during her brief respite, and she watched with interest as he gestured with frustration at his audience. It appeared things were not going well with Detective Weathers. Sighing, she plunged back into the fray with Mr. Hoch.
            “It seems the gentlemen are still in the thick of it,” Hoch commented as he closed the glass lid over a diamond-studded choker. He dropped his voice to a whisper. “This police business must be a terrible bore for you.”
“How so?”
Hoch gave her his best grandfatherly smile. “It is clear that Mr. Griffon is trying to put on airs for you. To impress you by bringing you here tonight while he makes his mark with the Boston brass. But what man would not try to impress you, given the chance?” He smiled as if he had shared some kind of wonderfully secretive joke between the two of them. “But you have a plan as well. You are here to get yourself something pretty, am I right? Tell me what sets your heart ablaze, and I will find it for you. And then we’ll convince Mr. Griffon to buy it.” He laughed merrily as if her agreement was a foregone conclusion and led her away by the elbow.
            Standing before a display of dazzling gemstones, Reluctance’s face glowed in the white aura. Biting her lip, she pointed to a tray of loose diamonds and silver bands.
            “Wonderful choice,” said Hoch. “We call that the wedding tray,” he added with a wink.
            “Now don’t go gett’n any ideas,” Reluctance replied with a slight frown.
            “I am merely your servant, Miss Wilding,” said Hoch, his tone soft. He brought the tray out. “I can get you a lens if you would like,” he offered.
            “No, my eyes do not agree with it,” she said with some frustration. “I have to rely on these silly spectacles. But I may need you to raise that tray up some.” Her forehead crinkled in thought. “Hey, what about that silver baton you mentioned?”
            Hoch laughed as if his own child had asked permission to sleep under his roof. “Oh, I trust you, Miss Wilding. That is for the everyday customer.”
            Reluctance cocked an eyebrow. “Do ya now? Trust me, that is.”
            Hoch peered at Reluctance for a long moment and shrugged, the smile never leaving his face. “If you insist.” He handed her the silver rod, which Reluctance grasped with both hands.
“Can you bring the tray up? It’s my vision.” Her eyes opened wide and blinked behind the spectacles. She brought her face adjacent to the tray, which had been raised to her chin. The diamonds reflected off her spectacles like river stones in a bath of moonlight. “What a wonder,” she whispered with a hint of melancholy. “One could gaze into these for hours, don’t you think, Mr. Hoch?”
            “One could indeed, Miss Wilding.”
            The sound of raised voices broke their attention from the delights of the treasures. The men were in hot debate. Griffon stepped aside from the men and flicked his pocket-watch open with evident annoyance. “Miss Wilding has an engagement that I must escort her to promptly,” he said, his voice strained. “We should be going, I am afraid.”
            Hoch looked up hopefully. “Have you solved it, then?”
            Weathers’ barked a laugh. “We’re no closer than before our consulting detective arrived,” he said. “In fact, I’d say we’re some fifteen minutes behind.” Weathers turned to Reluctance. “Sorry, Miss Reluctance – that’s yer real name, ain’t it? I prefer to be genuine, and skip the stage names.”
            “Fine by me,” said Reluctance with a hint of reproach.
            “As I were say’n, it’s too bad you won’t get to witness your escort perform a miracle of sleuthing tonight. He so had his heart set on it. Didn’t you, old boy?”
            Griffon snapped his pocket-watch closed and turned for the door. “Shall we, Reluctance?”
            Mr. Goldschmidt, realizing a potential customer was about to walk out the door, appeared like a faithful hound at Reluctance’s side. “There is no need to rush off, Miss Wilding. And pay no heed to Detective Weathers. He has had a long day.”
            “It’s noth’n to me,” she said, dropping the silver baton in Goldschmidt’s hands.
“Is there anything that strikes your fancy, Miss Wilding?” he asked, the honey in his voice unable to hide his hint of desperation.
            She demurred with a shake of her head but countered her own response with a secretive smile at the two owners, glancing once at Griffon to indicate that her desired treasure was a secret from him.
            “So you did see something,” said Mr. Hoch in a confident whisper. “Shall we inform your companion?”
            She bit her lip in apparent indecision, her face blushing slightly.
            “It is a diamond she is interested, gentleman,” said Griffon, surprising the men with his sudden inclusion. “Something round and pretty, I would guess. Perfect for a ring.”
            “Perhaps you would like to prove him right?” Goldschmidt inquired hopefully of Reluctance.
            Weathers and O’Hara exchanged looks of amusement. “Griffon’s in the broth now,” O’Hara whispered with a chuckle, “didn’t think he’d get outta here without buying her a pretty trinket, did he?”
            “That’s what happens when you bring a dame to a diamond shop,” Weathers added, thrusting a toothpick into his mouth.
            Griffon placed his top hat firmly on his head and stepped towards the door. “Another time, gentlemen. I apologize that your call for my assistance has ended without an apparent resolution.”
            “And yet at least Miss Wilding could tell us what diamond she is interested in?” pressed Mr. Goldschmidt. “We would be more than happy to accommodate her in any possible.”
            “Fine, if you must. It is the marquise with the pink hue that has caught her eye,” Griffon answered.
            “The marquise? A splendid choice.” Mr. Hoch turned to Reluctance with a grandfatherly nod of approval. “But let the lady answer for herself. Is the gentleman right about which diamond you prefer, Miss Wilding?”
            Reluctance affirmed with a nod.
            “Ah, excellent!” said Goldschmidt. “I will fetch it this instant.”
            Griffon turned from the door. “If you insist.”
            “I will get the tray – ”
            “There is no need for that,” said Griffon.
            Mr. Goldschmidt stopped in mid-step. “But I thought you said you wanted to see it?”
            “Upon your insistence, yes, that is true.”
            “Ah. Then as I was saying, I will just get the tray ---”
            “What I mean to say is that the diamond is not on the tray,” said Griffon. The four men righted themselves in surprise. “It is in our possession, gentlemen.”
            “Excuse me?” Goldschmidt said.
“But that is impossible,” Hoch added, “It was on the tray.”
            “Impossible? No. We simply employed the same technique that the diamond thief has been making use of these last several weeks. Do you care to show them, Reluctance?”
             Reluctance smiled in response. The room grew silent as she slowly opened her mouth in a whispered ‘o’ and extended the tip of her tongue. A collective gasp rose and the men rushed as close as propriety allowed. Stuck fast to a rapidly drying paste on the tip of her tongue perched the marquise diamond, shimmering like a newfound star in the bright electric light.