Chandler Travis walked over the grey water of the Thames. Passing beneath the vast square structures that supported Tower Bridges immense deck. The sense of history palpable in every inch of its monumental stonework. Even though he knew that it’s structure was just a steel facade clad with a surface of stone he was still awed by the sheer scale of its engineering. Below him the surface of the river blurred as the early morning rain swept across the City.
Since his wife’s death he’d taken to walking to work. As the years passed he’d grown to love the feel of the city first thing in the morning and had never gone back to the bus or the underground. As a Detective he knew the City of London well and after his injuries had healed he couldn’t really imagine working anywhere else. At close to six feet tall with unnaturally boyish looks and a distinctive loping walk, Chandler had always struggled to be taken seriously in his early years on the force. Even in his mid 20’s he could never buy drinks or purchase fireworks without some kind of argument ensuing as he tried to convince them he wasn’t underage. The result of this was that he had to work twice as hard to get promotion than some of his less well preserved colleagues.
Though his body had recovered well, and the scarring was minimal, the doctors had told him he would never be psychologically fit to serve in the field again. They’d explained that in times of extreme trauma the brain and the senses it controls just shut down…a sort of mental failsafe. There was no lasting damage, but if he was put into a situation where he was exposed to the same level of trauma again it could pose a risk to the public and him.
A compromise had been reached. Paperwork had been shuffled, backs scratched and agreements signed. When budgets have to be appropriated and posts created there must be unique circumstances at work. You can’t just play the pity card and dump somebody into a department already fully staffed.
His great grandfather had been a reporter during the reign of Jack the Ripper. He’d inherited his father’s obsession with the case and joined the police straight out of university.
After reaching the rank of detective in the metropolitan police force he was considered to be on track for the post of Inspector. But the July 2007 terrorist attack on London made news around the world and changed his life forever.
The department had allowed him to give the odd talk on modern policing methods and how they might have been employed with greater success during the time of the Ripper. So during his convalescence it seemed a natural progression for him to become involved in the departments Black Museum.
As his mind and body healed he was able to fully immerse himself in every aspect of the case past and present. His colleagues knew of his obsession with Jack The Ripper, and as the months passed had moved away from the unwieldy term of Ripperologist and taken to calling him Jack in jest.
The force had allowed him to keep the rank of detective but in reality he was a kind of quasi curator and lecturer in charge of the day to day running of the museum, which included the tours and talks. He still had a desk to go to, but as time went by he found himself looking back into the past rather than into the future.
As he hurried through the glistening cobbled streets he found himself reflecting on the talk he was due to give later that day. How the past could educate today’s modern policing methods. It was a re-imagining of how the force might have tracked The Ripper with all of the technological advantages that were available to them. There wasn’t a year that went by without some new claim linked to DNA evidence purporting to have discovered the Ripper’s true identity. Usually this tied in neatly with a book launch.
Hidden behind the impressive façade New Scotland Yard, with its iconic rotating aluminium sign, the Black Museum housed a bizarre collection of unique items, including gruesome weapons of murder collected during the many cases solved and unsolved throughout the departments history.
He headed through the front entrance and downstairs to the museum known to all as room 101.
As usual WPC Jenny Sedgeway was in early. She possessed some kind of inbuilt radar and already had a cup of steaming coffee ready for him as he entered the room. Jenny was one of those people who always had a ready smile and a quip to hand no matter how dreary the day outside. She handed him the mug.
He took a grateful sip of the strong brew. “Morning, ready for battle?” Her eyes sparkled with humour. “Of course. How many are we expecting?” She scanned a sheaf of paper. Pursed her lips. “You have a small group of tourists and twenty trainees for the facial recognition lecture.” He nodded. The facial recognition part of the lecture was proving popular.
With the advent of more and more powerful computers the ability to produce 3D projections based on small amounts of data had grown exponentially. A multitude of different possibilities could be produced within seconds. The time when it took weeks for a skilled clay modeler to work up detail from a skull were long gone.
He took another sip of coffee. “ I guess there’s no point in putting it off any longer.” Jenny smiled, and handed him a computer tablet. “It’s linked to the projector you just have to hit run and the slides will pop up in sequence.” Chandler held the flat tablet like it was an unexploded bomb. “You make it sound so simple.” Jenny raised her eyes. “Just because the nineteenth century is your specialist subject doesn’t mean you have to live there. I swear you’d have a bakelite phone installed if you could have your way.” Chandler headed out the door. “ Yes, well sometimes the past can be an interesting place to live.” And with a wink he was gone.