Chandler looked out at the rows of intense faces staring back at him as he reached the end of his lecture. The usual mix of police cadets and Ripper fans crowded the lecture room. There was always a morbid fascination with the Ripper case. Maybe it was because it was an unsolved case, or maybe it was just the huge number of conspiracy theories that surrounded the mystery. Either way his talk, entitled: “The future of crime…learning from the past.” Always drew a good crowd.
Behind him on the computer projection screen a 3D facial modelling program cloaked a skull with cyber flesh. Chandler watched it finish before turning to the audience. “This reconstruction combined with advance DNA techniques enables us to close cases that were previously unsolved. Any questions?”
A bright-eyed cadet flung his hand skywards. Chandler nodded at him. “Do you think the police forces of today could have caught Jack The Ripper?” Chandler smiled; it was a perennial question and one he had learned to vary his answers to. Today he went with one of his favourites. “There’s still time.” He was glad it got a ripple of laughter.
Another hand shot up. “Who do you think it was?” Another regular. He paused. “Good question, never been asked that before.” Another ripple of laughter. He continued. “But seriously, I don’t think there is any conclusive proof that it was the work of one person…or even that it wasn’t Jill the Ripper.” A Japanese visitor gabbled excitedly. “How come police never catch Wipper with so many suspects?” Chandler resisted the opportunity to repeat Wipper back at him. “Maybe they did catch him, but didn’t know it.”
A tall American with a Texan accent butted in. “I heard he was some kind of Yankee Doctor.” Chandler nodded. He’d read the book about this story. “That was one of the theories...the Police followed a Dr. Tumblety to New York...but they didn’t have enough evidence to extradite him...” A fresh-faced cadet piped up. “I heard it was somebody so important they couldn’t arrest him.”
You set them up, I’ll knock them down, Chandler thought to himself as he answered. “The Duke of Clarence...it’s a popular misconception...he was at Balmoral when the murders took place.” A female cadet looked him in the eye. “You must have a theory, after all you’re writing a book on it. Who do you think did it? Chandler switched off the projector. “My family and I have spent the last century trying to answer that, and I’m not quite there yet.” The woman smiled sweetly, packed up her books. “So there’s still a chance it’s Jill The Ripper?” Chandler shrugged. “Anything’s possible.”
Duke and Chilly watched as the forensic team wrestled with the large copper bound wooden chest that had been roped to the back of the coach.
Their base of operations was an old refrigeration plant. Money was tight and the department had quite rightly decided that this was unlikely to be a homicide case. Duke had pulled some strings and stretched his discretionary budget by getting some keen criminology students to work on the case during their spring break. Two of the assistants lowered the chest to the floor. They prised open the lid and tilted it. Duke watched as the contents spilled out onto the floor around it...Jewelry, necklaces, fob watches, rings and pendants and some small silver framed pictures. He walked over to them. Looked into the chest.
At the bottom was a smaller wooden box. “What’s that?” The assistant, a mousey haired girl reached inside and carefully pulled the box out. She gently opened it. The lock fell away from the ancient wooden lid. Inside was a leather bundle secured with a piece of string. She untied the leather string binding it. Inside sat a leather-bound Diary, and a collection of old letters. Envelopes tied with ribbon. The mousey haired assistant looked up at Duke. “We’ll have to stabalise these before the atmosphere starts to rot them, but I’d say they’re from England.” Duke looked closer. “Is that copperplate writing?”
The girl nodded. “I’d say these are from the Victorian Era. Nineteenth century.” Duke looked at the envelopes. “How do you know that?”
The girl pointed to the small faded red stamps with the silhouette of a woman in the middle that sat on the edge of the envelope. “These are jubilee issue stamps. She tapped the silhouette in the middle of the stamp. “That’s queen victoria and the four and a half pence stamp was first printed in eighteen ninety-two.”
Duke looked at her. “I’m impressed.” The mousey haired girl blushed. “My dad was a philatelist…my mum came from England and he wanted to impress her so he learned all about her countries stamps.” Duke chuckled. “And did it work.” She nodded. They’re still together.”
Duke looked closer at the back of the envelope. “So we have a rough timeline?” The girl grinned. “The stamps were in circulation from eighteen-ninety two till the end of the century. Once we’ve been able to stabalise the paper the letter inside may contain a more accurate date.” Duke pointed at the faded writing on the back. “Does that say Dr.?” The girl produced a magnifying glass. “It looks like it. We’ll get a clearer view once the chemicals go to work.”
Duke rubbed his face. The coarse stubble that scratched at his hands reminded him he hadn’t shaved since in a while. “Good, let me know when you have something.” The girl carefully placed the envelopes and the diary in a plastic bag and sealed it. “How do you think they got here?” Duke shook his head. “Five women on a coach in the middle of a swamp, that’s a tough one.” The girl paused. “There was a huge storm wasn’t there…?”
Duke turned. Looked at the other assistants as they carefully carried the twisted corpses over to a workbench…pallbearers to the five mummified remains. “They called it the Evil Wind, swept across these parts 1st of October eighteen-ninety three.” The girl studied him. Saw something sad behind his dark open features. “You know a lot about storms.” Duke’s eyes grew distant. “Far more than I ever wanted to know.”