D. I. Hardwick was incandescent in rage. Somehow the press had gotten hold of the vampire angle. The tabloids were having a field-day with it, and the broadsheets were set on using the story to illustrate the shortcomings of Tory policing cuts. In his mind, however, he was becoming a laughing stock, and surely the soon to be scapegoat if this case didn’t get a break.
Later that afternoon, Constable Williams brought him a brown envelope which had arrived by post. In it was a handwritten note from a local author and historian.
“Dear Detective Inspector Hardwick,” the letter began. “I am sure that the recent events are pressing upon your time, but I would like to forward you some documents for consideration. The present spate of disappearances are not without precedence in the area. You will see in the attached photocopies of the Norfolk Chronicle from 1888 that in that year five young women disappeared in South Walsham and Ranworth under similar circumstances. It was only because of the notoriety of the Whitechapel Killings, that the Norfolk disappearances didn’t receive national attention. Document Two is a transcribed account of the disappearance of three young women who were in service in the Yarmouth Denes area near Yarmouth’s Naval Hospital in 1814. It has long been believed that they had run away with men from the fleet, but as you can see from the testimony of a neighbouring housekeeper that one the missing girls, Agatha Brown, was seen wandering down the road towards the white windmill in only her shift, immediately before her disappearance. I do trust these documents will provide you with some useful insights. Sincerely C. Kemp.”
“More dazed women wandering off into the dark. Just what I need,” Hardwick reflected. He read a few of the circled newspaper accounts, and they did come across as frighteningly similar to his own case. The 1814 document was harder to read owing to the handwriting, but it too seemed all too familiar.
There was another know on his door, and Sergeant Warby stuck his head around the door. “Sir, Mrs. Murphy says she can’t be certain, but the umbrella she thinks is the same one Dunn had when she saw her. Oh, we also had a call from the Southern Comfort folks over in Horning. They found a red woman’s shoe caught in their paddle-wheel. I sent Clover to fetch it.”
[To be continued]
[Thank you to my fellow blogger Crispina at Crimsonprose for graciously allowing me to include her in my tale.]