John Thornton, Look Back at Me – pt 22

 

Chapter 22

     Constable Wilson and  the Threatening Notes

 

It was two days before John left for Brighton.  He kept in touch with Mason daily, but nothing new had surfaced except the note had an impression from the page written before it.  The labs had determined the letters to be  _ _ U _ T   MON_ _ _    BAR _ _ _ _ _ R (something scratched over)   _ _ N E.  Mason had everyone looking at it from the labs to the bobbies, and even John tried to decipher what had been written.  Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the MON was for MONDAY, but nothing else would come together, and Monday got them nowhere.

Knocking on Margaret’s door felt good to John.  He hadn’t seen her for two days.

“John, you’ve arrived just in time, look!”

He was handed a second note.  I AM WATCHING YOU, was all that it said.  “Where was this one found?”  John was upset and not hiding it.  He was going to explode on whoever was doing this to her.

“I just opened this envelope, and it was inside.  It came through the post today.”

“Let’s walk it across to Mason.  Bring the envelope, and we’ll give it to the lab.  At least this one was not inside the house.  That is some small relief.”

Margaret took John’s arm, and they walked over to the courthouse.

They found Mason down stairs, and all the questions began.  Mason took the paper to the lab immediately and wanted to know if there were any impressions on the paper.  A quick appraisal seemed to reveal the letter H.  The lab kept the note to go over it further.

Mason said that he still had the same men watching the house and her place of work.  Having come through the post, there wasn’t anything further that they could deduce.  Very discomfited, John walked Margaret to her home.

“Let’s go out back, so we can talk.”  John urged.

When they had walked past the carriage house, John asked her, “Margaret, how are you doing with all of this?  For some unexplainable reason, you seem to be doing better than myself.  I cannot even think anymore.”

“I’m really alright, John.  I’m tiring a little of the police being around all the time.  I do think it must be an admirer and more of a nuisance than anything.  This second note gives me the shivers though.  I don’t feel in danger, but, now, he says he’s watching me.”

“That could be true, or just words of annoyance as the first note could have also been.  I’ve tried to postpone my Brighton trip, but there are too many irons in the fire down there, so I must go, but I hate leaving you.  I will worry.  I will be thinking of you instead of why I am there.  The two other Masters that are available to do this sort of work are either laid up sick or out of town.  I would . . . though . . . absolutely refuse to go if I thought you were in any danger.  I wish I could take you with me, but I know you have the ball, now.

“John, do not worry.  I’ll be fine.  I’m spending a little more time with the professor rather than coming home.  Dixon hasn’t left my side, and Mr. Granger has come here to visit, which is lovely of him to do.  You have two keys, and I have the other one which I keep in my bodice all the time.  My handbag may be out of my sight at work, but my clothes aren’t.”  She laughed.  “Adrian has offered to sleep in the house, but I said no to that, knowing there are officers watching the house.

“How is Higgins doing with his promotion, by the way?”

“Well . . . he hasn’t made the big jump to new clothes, but he’s probably waiting for my big announcement after I get the deeds back.  He and Peggy should be at the Ball, too.  I hope he doesn’t relent.  I am going to tell him of my worry for you and insist he does go, just in case.  I should be going, but I will come by tomorrow before I leave.”

John and Margaret walked back to the house holding hands, saying nothing.  Touching her anywhere felt so intimate that John did not want it interrupted with talk.  He waved to the officer stationed out back, as he walked Margaret to her door and said goodbye.

John returned home and sat down to open his own mail.  He was sent a note, too.  YOU DON’T DESERVE HER.  John immediately hollered to Branson not to stable the horses and bounded down the back steps to go see Mason again.  The note went to the lab, while John and Mason talked about this new twist.  Someone was watching her, but John was not going to tell her about his note.

“Mason, in case you find anything under the microscopes, send for me. Otherwise, I am going home to pack.”

“Do you want us to put some men on your house?”

“No, I’ve got security around the mill.  I’m not worried.  See you tomorrow before I leave.”

John went home to his dinner, his favorite chair, and the brandy he needed help settle his nerves.  He pulled out a tattered piece of paper with the impressions from the first note and looked at it once more.  Nothing.  He paced the floor worrying about Margaret; he wanted to hit something.  John couldn’t stomach this feeling that he was not in control.

 

What if something happens to her?

 

Still seething with frustration, he thought about the worst that could happen.  Should it happen, he knew he would follow her to the grave.  He wasn’t going to live without her; there was no doubt in his mind that he’d go with her immediately.  Putting the worst case scenario aside, he tried to think about what type of fixation this man had for her.  They were not dealing with a normal person.  This person had mental problems, which made him unpredictable, and that’s what John feared.  This man knew that he had feelings for Margaret so he might know that he was going to be away.  It must be someone that he knows.  He decided to take the late train tomorrow evening and sleep the eight hours of the trip arriving in the morning.  He could cut off almost a half day that way.  Every protective, primitive instinct that John possessed was brought to bear on Margaret’s safety.

 

John went to the office the next morning and took a few hours to review all the documented Brighton studies he would carry.  Later he talked with Higgins about what had been transpiring for the past few days.

“Nicholas, if you don’t mind, could you stay on the mill property while I’m gone.  I will leave the house to you.  I just don’t know who we’re dealing with and since I’ve had a note, I don’t want someone sneaking in here and burning the house down while it’s empty.  Were you planning on going to the Ball?  If so, would you mind sitting with Margaret and Mr. Steen and the Professor?

“Of course, John.  I’ll be glad to stay there and go to the Ball.”

“I saw Cavanaugh yesterday, and he’ll have the deed ready when I get back, so prepare for our Marlborough Mills celebrations, and I mean that literally.  I want both Mills to have refreshments and small cakes.  Let’s plan it for next Monday, a week.”

“All right, John.”  Higgins smiled.  “And thank you once more from Peggy and I.  You’ve made a tremendous change in our lives.”

“I can’t imagine how my life would have been without you around this place, my friend.”

John had a bit of lunch at home before heading off.  Gathering his travel bag and satchel, he called for Branson to take him to the courthouse.  He spent most of the afternoon with Mason and Constable Wilson, who was most anxious to help.

“So, Constable Wilson, do you have any thoughts on this case.”

“Yes, sir.  I do,” the young Constable replied.

John continued, “Have you discussed them with the Chief, here?”

“Actually, not yet, sir.  I’ve been formulating the ideas like a detective would and, although, I see a lot of signs, I haven’t put them altogether to form any specific concept, as of yet.”

“Would you mind sharing them with the Chief and me?”  John said as he looked over to Mason, anticipating a very basic outline of things, here-to-for known.

“You really want to hear what I have come up with?”  Wilson asked in surprise.

“Have you discussed much of this with Mason?”

“Not much.  I know about the notes.  I know that there are impressions on the notes.  I know what her chore man thought he saw.  I know we have officers watching Mrs. Reed around the clock.  I think that is about it, isn’t Chief?”

“That’s probably pretty close.”

Wilson has had the notes and studied them once again, while John smiled at Mason, eager to hear the youngster’s report.

After a minute or two, Wilson looked up and said, “I’m ready, sir.”

“Go ahead then,” said John.

“We are certainly working with a mentally disturbed man with a fixation on Mrs. Reed.  He is aware that there is something between, you sir, and Mrs. Reed or knows that you are interested in her in more than a simple, friendly relationship.  He writes clearly and decisively, with little words.  He knows not to write too much because he could be giving something away and that shows either intelligence or a higher education.  He’s wealthy.  He is definitely watching her, and I think he is going to be someone known to all of us.  His time is probably his own if he can often watch, meaning he’s most likely not a laborer, merchant or shop owner, constricted by time schedules.  You are going to know him, Mr. Thornton.  He has most likely spoken with Mrs. Reed, either passing on the street as she walks to and from work or in her place of work itself because he’s been close enough to know he wants to have her.  You are probably looking for a man between the ages of 25 and 40.  He feels sexually powerful and wants to fulfill his desire with her, which may push him into brutality if she resists.  Mr. Thornton, he doesn’t like you butting in his way, but he is afraid of you, due to either your size or your importance.  He is probably a man who most women would not look at more than once, therefore the fierce, sexual desire.  He’s single.  I think the impressed words start with Court Monday.  How’s that?”

John and Mason were looking at him with their mouths gaping.

John said, “I am exceedingly amazed at your insight or whatever it is that drives your thinking.  You have a real gift there, Constable.  And you have apparently been studying detective material.  I think I can speak for Mason and myself when I say, we are quite taken aback.  Mason, bring this lad along quickly; let’s not waste his mind while it’s able to absorb so much.

“Very well, sir.”

“I would like to ask you how you arrived at some of your conclusions because you have gone far beyond our thoughts.  Why do you say he’s wealthy?”

“That was one of the easier ones.  There are two clues.  He is educated or intelligent, and I feel he is educated, meaning money, because of his clear printing.  The other is a little less obvious.  Having a note that made an impression on another paper above it indicates that he may have a tablet of paper.  There are few, if any, impoverished people that have tablets of paper.”

“Excellent theory,”  John said.  The age?”

“That’s just statistical.  If he is feeling sexually powerful, he’ll be within those ages.

“How about the theory that he is watching her and he’ll be known to us?”

“He’s not standing out as a stranger to anyone, while he watches her.”

“Why is he afraid of me?”

“I’m not sure if afraid is the correct word in this case.  He sees you standing between himself and Mrs. Reed.  He doesn’t know how to attack you physically or professionally, so he’s taken to words to torment you.  He would like to tear you down in Mrs. Reed’s eyes.  He thinks that would smooth the way for her affection for him.  He is delusional and mentally unstable.  It worries me that we have an educated mentally unstable man out there seeking sexual favors with Mrs. Reed.”

“I cannot argue with that or any of your logic.  You are astounding.  How do you come up with COURT as the first word?”

There aren’t too many words that will fit those letters.  There is COUNT, BLUNT and maybe a few others, but COURT MONDAY sounds like something someone may write down.  If I can add a little more?

“Please do.”

“First I would find out anything having to do with any court session on a Monday, who were the participants, judges, witnesses, etc.  Furthermore, I think this man is going to be caught by Mrs. Reed’s chore man.  Not literally, but he’ll spot that man again that was watching that day and tell someone.  I think her chore man needs to be inside the front of the house watching the courtyard all day until he’s caught.  COURTYARD also fits in with the word COURT.  And as for using a house key the first time, which we are not sure of, yet . . . but Mrs. Reed could have mistakenly left her key in the door when coming home.  If he’s been watching her, he could have spotted that and retrieved it without her knowledge of it even being lost.  And finally, and this is a real long shot, but I think he might be our kidnapper, although he has a new twist to his method.  We know what happened to last young lady with a note and I see nothing here with which to indicate the same won’t happen.  Sending you a note, sir, is the twist which indicates an escalation since he feels successful from the other time.  He’s almost playing a game, daring you to catch him.  With an attitude like that, nothing will stand in his way.”

Reeling from Constable Wilson’s words, John tried to compose himself.  He just shook his head wondering what they had with this perceptive young man.  “Mason, if what Wilson says turns out to be true, I want him sent to London for further training as a detective.  He thinks we’re going to need a detective agency in the future and I’m inclined to agree.  I would like him to head it up and work closely with you.  Once he’s trained, I’d like you to go for the same training.”

“Yes, Mr. Thornton.  Thank you, most kindly.  I will do exactly as you say.  We’ve been wondering how to work that training into the budget.”

“If the city does not have the money, I will go to the Merchant’s Chamber for it.  Worst case, I will pay for the two of you to train myself, if what he says is true.  I will see Margaret shortly and have Adrian brought into the house to watch the courtyard.  Wilson, I want you to work on how many professional jobs and or gentlemen out there who can fit into your analogy.”

“Yes, guv!  Thank you, sir.”

“Wilson, you are dismissed,” Mason said.  Wilson left the room.

“Mason, you have some wizard on your hands.  What do you think?”

“I’ve known he had great potential and I have given him a little more responsibility, like allowing him to go to London that day.  But what I just witnessed was beyond anything I have seen, ever.  It almost makes me feel small.”

“Mason, you are not alone.  He’s out shown us all.  I know you are a better man than this, but some bosses would feel threatened by such a brilliant worker.  Just drive him, challenge him, be his mentor, and certainly acknowledge him to the others.  Be proud to have him.”

“Have no worries there, Mr. Thornton.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have someone like yourself to bring me along and have confidence in me, driving me to do better.  I know what that means.  Someday, I may work for this young man, nothing is ever forever.”

“I knew you would see it like that, Mason.  I’m proud of you.”

John and the Chief sat down and began scrutinizing all that Wilson had said.  Plans were made.

“I am going over to Mrs. Reed’s home for a while and then I will leave on the train for Brighton.  I shall be gone . . .  four days instead of five, I hope.  I don’t know exactly when I will return on Friday night, but it will be very late.  Mason, she means a lot to me.  Take care of her for me.  One last thought and this may not be possible, so don’t hesitate if you need to take action, but if you find out who it is and can watch him until I return, I would like to be there when we catch him.”

“Yes, Mr. Thornton, I know she means a lot to you.  I think everyone knows that, and so does our bad guy.  We will do everything possible to watch her.  No shortcuts, nothing taken for granted, ever, and if we can wait, we will.  Have a good trip.”

“See you when I return, Mason.”  John shook Mason’s hand with both of his and said, “Good luck.  My future is in your hands now.”

Branson carried John around the block to park on Margaret’s side of the street.  John told him what time to return for his trip to the train station.

“Would you mind if I went around back and talked with Adrian?”

“Yes, that would be fine.  I will want to talk with Adrian, too.  Tether the horses and coach out front.  I want the coach easily seen here.”

John was welcomed into Margaret’s house, and he greeted the police officer.  “Officer, how long have you on duty in here this evening?”

“I only have but half an hour before the night shift comes to the back of the house.”

“I wish you to go out back and send Adrian in here, and then you’re excused for your last half hour because I will be here.”

“Right you are, sir.”

John asked if Dixon was here.  Margaret said not this evening.  “She’s been so wound up and sticking solidly by me that I insisted she gets out for several hours.  She left only moments ago.”

“I think we’re perfectly safe, even if our culprit saw Dixon leave.  We have Adrian and Branson in the back yard talking.  I need to speak with Adrian.  Peggy’s clever brother has offered us some insight into this madman, and we’re going to catch him soon.”

“Hello Adrian, how are you doing?”

“Fine, sir.  What can I do for you?”

“For the next week, I want you to sit in this front parlor and just watch the courtyard across the street for any signs of the same man you thought you might have seen that one day.  If you see him, you will point him out to the officer that is here.  He will leave through the back and go around the block, and contact the Chief.  He will point out to Mason, who you pointed out to him.  Are there any questions?”

“No, sir.  Clear as a bell.”

“Thank you, Adrian.  That’s all.”

John sat down heavily, rubbing his forehead, mentally exhausted.  His nerves were taut with fear.  John slid down, so his head rested on the back of the couch and propped his feet on a nearby chair.  “Margaret, will you come sit next to me?”

Margaret, worried by the look on his face, eagerly went to John.  As she sat, John took her hand and held it to his chest, without even turning to look at her.  Staring at nothing across the room, he said, “We’re going to get through this.  There are a lot of new plans in place, now.  I will worry about you, most certainly unnecessarily, but I can’t help it.  I will tell you now since we have a lot more in place to keep you surrounded, but I got a note yesterday too, in my post.  It said YOU DON’T DESERVE HER.”

“Oh John, are you worried at that?”

“I’m only worried about you.  Since my home will be empty, Higgins is going to stay there to keep an eye on it.  Let me tell you what young Wilson has come up with, you will be amazed.”

John told Margaret all that Wilson had said and his reasons for it.  Margaret could feel something forming in her mind.  Wheels were turning and clicking into place.  John noticed she was staring off into space, her mouth slightly agape.  He sat up to watch her.  He could tell what he said had meant something to her.  She was appraising all his words.  He didn’t disturb her.

Margaret, still staring said in a calm, low voice.  “I know who it is.  It all fits.”

“Who?  . . .  Who, Margaret?”