The dwelling was one of the many dilapidated ones in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways around the less salubrious parts of Shadwell. The crumbling brickwork, flaking paint and rotten window-frames spoke of neglect and probably absentee landlords. It was a step up from living on the street, but only a very small step. The air smelled of damp wood, faulty sewerage and desperation. It did not strike me as the sort of place anybody would choose to live, if they had the choice, but it did seem appropriate for petty thugs and criminals, such as the one that was my reason for being here tonight.
I made my way along the alleyway, thankful as always for my excellent night vision. Such light as there was from the lamps on the main street showed better sense than I and stayed well away. I noted the surroundings dispassionately, as one trained to observe, but no more than that. I wasn’t here to write a tourist brochure. No, I was here to ensure that my master’s little adventure would not excite any undue attention. It’s part of my job, and I like to think I do it well.
The numbers on the door were barely visible in the dim light, but I eventually located number 23B. Just as Ralph had said he left it, the door was slightly ajar, its handle broken and hanging uselessly by one screw. The scent of recently spilled blood seeped out and mingled with the miasma of dampness and decay that filled the alleyway. Making sure there was nobody to see me, I eased the door open and squeezed into the dingy room. There was nothing in there to surprise me; a few sticks of broken-down furniture, cheap cutlery and crockey, filthy and torn rugs and curtains. The only thing out of the ordinary was a torn sack, spilling what looked like cheap, and clearly stolen, silverware. There was also the body with some distinctive bite marks in its broken neck, which might have been considered as out of the ordinary, but that was, after all, why I was here.
Looking around, I spotted a couple of knives that were clearly intended for uses other than cooking or eating. “Hmm,” I muttered to myself, “such a shame when thieves fall out. It shouldn’t be too hard to make this look like a fight between a couple of petty crooks.” I selected a suitable knife and examined Ralph’s bite marks on the victim’s neck. A couple of practised stabs disguised those, and I made another in the heart, for good measure. The latter also helped to spill a little more blood around the scene, as the lack thereof would look a little suspicious, even to the densest of constables. After that, it was a matter of tipping over a few sticks of furniture and breaking a couple of plates and glasses and we had a nicely staged fight scene. I stepped back and examined my handiwork with a satisfied smile. I doubted that the police would pay much attention, if any, to the death of a petty thief, but I decided a little extra window-dressing might help divert their attentions in a more useful direction. Ralph had said he followed the thug back from the Dog and Duck public house in Cheap Street. That gave me an idea. I rummaged through my shoulder bag, in which I kept a range of, well, let’s call them props, for such occasions. I knew from experience that the denizens of the aforementioned tavern had a long-standing rivalry with a gang based out of Roswell Lane nearby. Somewhere at the bottom of my bag, I found a wooden tooth-pick, just what I needed. One of the Roswell Lane mob’s so-called enforcers was known for chewing on such things. I bit it a few times, then discarded it near the prone body of Ralph’s victim. “All part of the service, sir,” I said to my absent master, thinking he would be well pleased with my efforts. The alleyway was deserted when I peered out through the gap between the door and its frame, so I slipped out again and disappeared into the night.