(Continuing the notes of Inspector Token-Black of the Bristol Constabulary. Episode 1 No.21 in Hysterical Bristol Series. )
It is 1888, a time of crippling poverty and a serial life-saver is on the loose….
After a spate of incidents in September, things have settled down and so far this month there has been no reoccurrence of the despicably cruel activity of life-saving. However, I know this to be a false dawn. That’s because I am the one who organised it. I had noticed that Jack the Aider always conducted his nefarious acts under the cloak of darkness; so I cleverly set in motion a plan that artificially brought dawn forward by about eight hours. In selected Bristol streets I have deployed powerful lighting to alleviate any trace of darkness and I have instructed the Town Crier, a robust fellow with lungs like bellows called William Pathe, to introduce the news at midnight in those roads with impressions of a cockerel crowing at the break of dawn. He has done a convincing job and says that the experience has provided him with a capital idea if films are ever invented.
Unfortunately I will not be able to conduct this experiment for too much longer as it is playing havoc with the body-clocks of Bristolians living in the chosen streets; and thus having a detrimental impact upon the productivity and efficiency of the Bristol business and industrial economy. Already a new term has been coined for those whose body-clocks are at out of kilter with the majority. Due to the powerful beams of gas used to illuminate these streets, they are said to be suffering from ‘jet-lag’.
To keep readers abreast of investigations to date (October 3rd, 1888) in our attempts to track down this miscreant, we have placed all St. John’s Ambulance volunteers in the Bristol area under round the clock surveillance. This is not as costly as it might appear; because six of the twenty St. John’s Ambulance volunteers are policemen anyway; thus it has been cheaper to keep them under 24/7 observation because we have simply issued them with mirrors.
In a quite separate development, if this pun is excused, we acted upon rumours that a local photographer called Ron Hangle had captured on a photographic plate an image of the Prince of Wales loitering in the vicinity of the Clifton Suspension Bridge about the time that Jack the Aider saved his (or her) first victim there on September 1st. This could have caused great embarrassment to the monarchy if it fell into the public domain; thus I had no other alternative at my disposal than to organise a police raid on Ron Hangle’s flat in Redland and order all his plates to be destroyed. Ron Hangle has since made an official complaint to the Police Authority regarding my actions, stating that he has had to eat takeaways thereafter.
As head of the investigation into unmasking this Jack the Aider fiend I have been the recipient of many communications from the inhabitants of this shocked and concerned nation. The Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, was even moved to send a telegram. This was because he couldn’t do so from where he was sitting in 10 Downing Street. I also received this letter from a retired History Professor that makes interesting reading. It also makes a good hat or boat with a sail, if one is adept at origami. Here follows the most salient part of that letter:
‘It is my contention that history acts in a mysterious way to counterbalance events to maintain a sort of spiritual equilibrium. It is noticeable that the day after Jack the Ripper struck for the first time in London, Jack the Aider struck for the first time in Bristol. This provides another example of what I have called The Historical Counterbalancing Theory. Here are some examples of The Historical Counterbalancing Theory that I have painstakingly discovered in my research:
1. On the day King Alfred the Great burnt the cakes, customers of Saxon Dairies noticed that their bread was very doughy.
2. Just as King Harold lost his eye at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Mrs Muriel Lightbourne in nearby Brighton grew an extra eye in the back of her head. This greatly assisted her application to become a registered child-minder.
3. On the day the written word was invented in 1274 BC, Arnold Dyslexia was born in Watford.
4. As Robin Hood was stealing from the rich to give to the poor; the idea for an elitist school at Eton was formed which has since produced many Chancellors of the Exchequer who have reversed this process.
Next in Part 3 of Jack the Aider (to appear sometime in the 30s in the Hysterical Bristol Series). FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE BECOMES THE CHIEF SUSPECT.