En Femme: A Copper’s Tail (Part Five)



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.

5th December 1888. The Astoria, Whitechapel. 

It was on this night when Mr. Cream and I was eating in silence two steak and kidney pies that the path of my undercover life veered considerably. In an effort to bring some manner of relief to our meetings I made extra of my appearance and purchased a new wig of French frizzes. This drew not a word from one previously so charming and Mr. Cream soon left the table to spend a penny. Then, when it seemed like the evening would be as tiresome as the last the ever-attentive Mr. Isaacs rushed up to me seizing his chance in the absence of the other and confessed that he had for some time seen me as his, “Apple-cheeked partner in ownership of the Astoria”, to help as it was the day-to-day running of the establishment.

Flattered by the proposal I agreed without hesitating and to keep up the ruse allowed the man to kiss me once upon my cheek to seal the deal. Here finally was an opportunity, a chance venture that would take me deeper into a world hitherto un-trod by the Met’s detectives. Mr. Isaacs added the conditions of the enterprise most straightforwardly: that I might come and go as I pleased during the day but was at night expected to walk up and down between the tables and fetch the patrons them drinks; that should it become quiet of custom I must dress down to my undergarments and sit on a chair turned backwards in the front window to entice passers-by in from the street; also on Tuesday evenings I must sing cockney songs while he and his friends play poker.  In return, I would receive half ownership and proceeds of the club, as well as new clothes, and hair and beauty treatments.

Feeling blessed, I agreed to Mr. Isaacs’s terms, finished my pie and with Mr. Cream still not returned from the lavvy left him to his own devices. While womanly ways were far from my nature, I was inclined to understand the benefits of a heedfulness to which I felt deserving and was certain Insp Abberline et al. would have taken similar action. In any case, my thought now was that Mr. Isaacs’s connections may better lead me to the whereabouts of the Ripper than those of Mr. Cream; indeed, he might well have been the Ripper himself and for this reason I was to keep my wits about me. As we left the public area and headed for the back rooms of the Astoria I observed the table where previously the young surgeon and I had first enjoyed the most amiable intercourse and now where lonely sat Mr. Cream’s pie awaiting the fellow’s return. 


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