DEATH AT THE CARTERS ARMS
by Janette Davies
“What’s goin’ on, Percy? Why’s Blackie’s not open?
“Dunno, Tom. Polly’s not ‘ere either.”
The two men stood in silence for a few moments and Percy scratched his head. “Might as well go to the Hogs Head if Blackie’s ain’t open.”
The friends walked along Osborne Street and turned into Brick Lane. Tom pushed open the door of the tavern and their nostrils were immediately filled with the familiar stench of Hogs Head beer mixed with sweat and the perfume of the two prostitutes who were touting for a glass of gin. Ted Smith was belting out “I’ll Be Your Sweetheart” on the piano in the corner and the landlord was slapping down tankards of foaming ale as fast as he could.
Martha, the tavern wench rushed over to them. “You heard about Polly? Dead! In the back of the cellar – her head caved in with the mallet Blackie taps the barrels with. That’s the third one round ‘ere, that is! First it was Ellie from the Flyin’ ‘Orse – her was found strangled her was, then it was that young Rosie from the Dun Cow – knife in the belly she got. I knew her’d come to a sticky end, little trollop I said to her..”
“Any chance of a couple of quarts of ale, Martha?”
The barmaid glared at the two men and flounced off to get the drinks.
“Whad’ya reckon, Percy? Anyway, where’s Blackie?”
Percy Grunge was sitting staring at the door. “Dunno about Blackie, but here come the Rozzers.”
Six large policemen ran into the middle of the room. “Where’s Dick Black? There’s a reward for any information, and a sound beating for anyone hiding him.” The sargeant slapped his truncheon across his open palm for emphasis and looked menacingly at the drinkers sprawled around the room. “You two,” pointing to the two prostitutes, “outside now.”
“Aw, leave ’em alone, they ain’t hurting nobody.” said Martha.
Before he had time to react, one of the prostitutes smiled, “Don’t fret yourself, Martha, he only wants a bit up the alleyway, don’t you, Sarge?”
“Or two for the price of one!” said the other.
All the men started laughing, and somebody shouted, “He’ll never find it in this fog, and the lamplighter ain’t bin round yet.”
One of the young policemen walked over to the barmaid and said, “Watch yourself, Martha, you could be next and if you hear anything about Blackie, let us know.”
Immediately the officers left, the noise level rose again and the few women in the establishment were murdering, “Come Into The Garden, Maud”.
Martha sidled up to the two friends, “Percy, d’you think that Sherlock Holmes will come and “investigate” all these murders?”
“Wouldn’t think nobs like him and that Doctor would venture into East London at this time of night do you, Martha, especially with the peasouper we’ve got now.”
Tom drained his tankard and handed it to Martha. “You be careful tonight, girl, there’s a killer on the loose. Are you ready Percy? I want to be up early tomorrow as I heard they’re taking on workers at Spitalfields.”
All the regulars had staggered off home and the landlord and Martha had cleaned up the bar.
“Fog’s not too bad now, Martha, and the lamps are all lit. Watch how you go, see you in the morning.”
She heard the loud clunk as the landlord bolted the door behind her, then jumped as someone called her name. “Over here, quick. It’s only me.”
“Blackie! What the…….”