Ernie Bisquets is a London pickpocket, who put his hand in a pocket and pulled out a murder.
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Along Came A Fifer
A hoard of ivory chessmen discovered on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 still commands the attention of scholars and museum patrons in modern-day London, but the police are more concerned with the connection a newly discovered rook has with a body that just bobbed up in the Regents Canal.
Just when Ernie Bisquets, a reformed London pickpocket, was settling into his new life with the East London Adventurers Club, his daily routine is interrupted by the apparent suicide of an old school mate. What surprises him even more is the bequeath left to him by the deceased—an old nursery rhyme and one of the lost Lewis Chessmen. Intrigued over the connection, the group investigates the circumstances surrounding the death. They soon find it was murder, and that leads to the discovery of a lost hoard of these priceless artifacts hidden in a St. Ives bridge. What they don't realize is an unscrupulous antique dealer, who has been searching for this lost hoard for decades, is shadowing their every move.
To learn more about Michael and the Ernie Bisquets Mystery Series visit: East London Adventurers Club.
For all the curiosities that meet the eye in Camden Town, and I refer to that which captures the attention of the endless stream of visitors crowding the streets of that section of London, I feel confident to say you would be at a loss to find someone who could accurately describe the weather on the day of their visit. No matter what reason prompted the visit– the market stalls, the locals, or to take part in the darker pleasures that part of town has to proffer– the weather is seldom a consideration, nor a deterrent. You can ask, and you may get a thoughtful attempt at an accurate depiction of the meteorological conditions, but invariably the conversation will revert back to the sights that overwhelmed their other senses. And for those who had gathered that day on the bridge overlooking the lock on the Regent’s Canal, they will be going back with more of a story than Camden Town usually has to offer. Even those characters who were the typical point of interest had their attention captured by the body bobbing in the cold water of the lock below. Some wondered if it was a friend, others if it was a customer. Most were cinching up their collars on that wet spring morning, just trying to get a better look at that poor soul, speculating amongst themselves how he met his end.
The police had cleared the area of spectators along the walkway between the shops and the wrought iron railing separating it from the lock. The less curious went about their business, unaffected by the event, while others remained intrigued and joined the group assembling on the dining terrace above. It’s for certain a dead body isn’t good for any neighborhood, but if you happen to own the cafe above a crime scene, it’s standing room only. With camera-phones clicking away that poor chap’s end was quickly broadcasted around the globe, a far cry from the privacy and dignity afforded those meeting a similar end prior to the advent of the digital age.
The discovery was called into the Holmes Road station. Detective Inspector Thomas Byrne was first on the scene, followed by a number of constables. Within minutes of their arrival they were joined by a contingent of Special Constables from the adjacent stations to help control the scene. All was put in order straight away, so it was just a matter of the Medical Examiner now.
The lock was full when the body surfaced, having been in the midst of transferring a canal boat. Those aboard the boat were asked to remain below deck until the body was removed and it was determined if their presence would be required. Camden Lock is a double lock, so the rest of the canal traffic continued with use of the adjacent lock, but at a much slower and more inquisitive pace.
It was obvious from the bloated stomach and neck of the man bobbing in the water that he had been submerged for some time, with the build up of gasses in the body causing it to finally surface. This was the first thing Dobbs, the local FME, noticed when he made his way down to the waters edge.
Dr. Percival Dobbs was part of the Medical Examiners Group assigned to Camden Town. His training was complete, including the two-year probation required for the position. Most FMEs work on a part-time basis, but Dobbs was hoping for full-time status as he eagerly anticipated his renewable ten-year contract offer. He was an average student at King’s College, London, graduating in the upper middle half of his class. It wasn’t until he attended the Royal College of Surgeons that he began to excel. His fascination with the effects of external forces on the human body was, to some of his colleagues, a bit obsessive, if not disturbing. To Dr. Percival Dobbs it was all in the name of science, to the official police it was an invaluable resource.
Dobbs found the routine of hospital rotation so incredibly dreary that he slowly gravitated to forensics in the criminal environment. It was this calling that brought him to the ME Group, and now finds him at Camden Lock, assisting in the retrieval of the aforementioned body.
“What have we this time?” Dobbs called out as he approached the detective inspector.
“Not sure about this one,” replied Inspector Byrne, walking across the gates from the brick island that separated the two locks.
After the body surfaced it had floated into the upper corner, against the right side gate, where it remained. It was face up, pink, and grotesque in appearance. The fish had nibbled a bit at the ears and eyelids, only enhancing the overall grimness of his demise. He was fully clothed, though the expansion of his stomach had popped a few of the lower buttons of his plaid shirt. His neck was also boated, something to be expected when a body has been in the water for a few days, and he had dark brown hair with no trace of gray.
“Give a hand here,” said Dobbs to the inspector, pointing at the body with the biscuit he was eating. “Lets get him out and take a look.”