En Femme: A Copper’s Tail (Part Three)



The following are serial extracts from the soon-to-be-published memoirs of Donald Hicks a young detective with the Metropolitan police’s H Division who worked alongside others to investigate the Whitechapel murders of 1888; those carried out, it was believed, by the infamous Jack the Ripper.

The evening of 16th November 1888. The Astoria, Whitechapel.

Shortly after arriving at the Astoria we was accosted most rudely by a woman unsavoury yet of good means who professed to being the wife of Mr. Thomas Cream, the young surgeon I met earlier that day.  By all accounts, the woman had already been that whole day nanty narking with a group of her friends and by the time we arrived at six o’clock she looked to have drunk far more than she was capable of standing. In spite of myself, to her I did say that I thought she was royally powdered, to which she replied, “Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?” I said to her, “No,” and tempted though I was to come clean and reveal my identity, replied with the name I had been given back at Scotland Yard of “Tracy”.

Sensing that Mrs. Cream had absurdly earmarked me as a rival for her young husband’s attention I explained to her tactfully that I was, “Accompanying Mr. Cream for reasons I cannot divulge.” The woman then lunged forwards, grabbing me about my neck and told me I was, “Pig ugly,” to which I replied, “That maybe so, but having at last met you I now understand why Mr. Cream prefers me.” This seemed to begat further revulsion in the woman who shouted obscenities at us both and hit me about the face. Then as her good husband intervened did she throw a punch that boxer Thomas King would have been proud of and landed the poor man out cold.

Feeling duty-bound to assist someone hurt by violence I knelt next to Mr. Cream and promised him that for as long as he needed me I would stay. This seemed to greatly rouse his spirit and with that the bystanders did disperse listless and grouchy as well as Mrs. Cream who left quickly with a local dwarf known as El Destripador. Then the owner of the Astoria, Mr. Isaacs – a cross-eyed gargantuan Jew whom I had previously cautioned over the hurling of gratuitous vegetables and eggs — held out to me a small bowl of cold water that I may tend better to Mr. Cream’s injuries.

As I did so, I noticed Mr. Isaacs’s crooked gaze settle upon me as if there was something about my appearance that was familiar to the man. Since I was much in need of a shave and short on make-up I considered the grave possibility that he was moments away from guessing my true identity and ruining all to Hell. A tense moment befell me. Yet, it was quite a testament to the worth of my disguise that his attention did soon turn to other matters. Furthermore, because such issues had befallen us this night, and according to Mr. Isaacs we made a nice couple, he promised that all expenses would henceforth be paid for. Thus we was happy to enjoy a single evening full of wine and vaudeville, I being mindful of keeping up the ruse.


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