Chapter 1: The Crime of the Century
"Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother forty whacks,
when she saw what she had done
she gave her father forty-one."
Andrew Borden lay on the sofa like he always did.
With one exception. His head had been bashed open with a hatchet. Not the forty-one times mentioned in the song. Only eleven. Those eleven were enough to do the job.
His wife, Abby, suffered a similar fate in an upstairs bedroom. She only suffered from eighteen blows, not the forty of the ditty. Those, too, were sufficient to do the job.
Mr. Borden’s youngest daughter was accused of the crime. It looked to all the world as if she did it. She had motive perhaps and opportunity aplenty.
Her name was Lizzie.
Chapter One – The Crime of the Century
Holmes had not had an interesting case in quite a few weeks. We’d had several lost spouses and one runaway bride but none of these were terribly interesting to Holmes. He solved them with his eyes closed, as it were. Or left them to me to solve. Usually people were found quite easily when they wanted to be found. And most did.
Holmes had turned to more dangerous pursuits though he tried to hide them from me since he knew I didn’t approve but he didn’t try very hard. He didn’t care what many people thought of him, only what I thought and he cared very little even for that.
I had just come in with the papers. Mrs. Hudson had given me the mail so I knew that Holmes was not in a good state. When he became bored and turned to his seven percent solution, he became defensive and paranoid with Mrs. Hudson and she simply avoided him at every turn.
“How bad is he?” I asked her as I took the letters.
“He hasn’t shot at the walls yet so I suppose that is something. He did accuse me of poisoning him and of being in collusion with Professor Moriarty.” She smiled and shrugged. “There is tea in the kitchen if you’d like some before you go up.”
Oh, it was bad if she wouldn’t even bring the tea up. I thanked her and declined the offer of tea though it would have been rather nice. I had been in my surgery all day and all I wanted was to get home to Mary. I had a message from Mrs. Hudson to stop if I had the time so I knew there was trouble.
I made my way up the steps and knocked as if I were a guest. I certainly didn’t want him to start shooting. It had happened before and I’d barely missed being a crime victim instead of a detective’s associate.
“It’s me, Holmes. I’ve come with the papers and the mail.”
I heard him grunt and I took that as permission to enter.
The great detective lay on the sofa in his dressing gown. His hair fell over his eyes and he smelled. His eyes were quite unfocused when he looked at me and I saw that damned syringe lying on the table beside him.
I sighed and crossed over to him. There was no need to chastise him. He wouldn’t listen, never had before. But he wasn’t alone. The whole world thought cocaine to be a miracle drug. I seemed to be the only one who saw it differently. It seemed to sap a little of Holmes away when he used it and left him hollow and fragile for days afterward. I couldn’t see that it was any better than the alcohol my brother drowned himself in.
“Holmes, you have a letter from America. From a George Robinson in Massachusetts. Shall I open it?”
Holmes waved his hand dismissively.
I opened the letter and began to read:
Dear Mr. Holmes,
We have not met before but I am acquainted with your work and a friend in London suggested I write to you. I am the former governor of Massachusetts and am now practicing law and I have a client who needs your help.
On August 4 of this year in Fall River, Massachusetts, a very prominent businessman and his wife were hacked to death with an axe. Their spinster daughter, Lizzie, was accused of the crime. I am a friend of Miss Borden’s primary attorney and he persuaded me to take her case.
Mr. Holmes, I admit that there is some rather convincing circumstantial evidence against my client but I simply cannot believe that this mild mannered, well brought up young woman would kill her father and step-mother in such a savage fashion.
We need your help. Miss Borden and her sister will gladly pay you well and pay all your expenses if you will but come to our aid.
Enclosed please find a copy of the Fall River Herald.
George Robinson, Esq.
The Fall River Herald
(August 4, 1892)
A Venerable Citizen and His Aged Wife
HACKED TO PIECES THEIR HOME.
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Borden Lose Their Lives
AT THE HANDS OF A DRUNKEN FARM HAND.
Police Searching Actively for the Fiendish Murderer.
The community was terribly shocked this morning to hear that an aged man and his wife had fallen victims to the thirst of a murderer, and that an atrocious deed had been committed, The news spread like wildfire and hundreds poured into Second street. The deed was committed at No. 62 Second street, where for years Andrew J. Borden and his wife had lived in happiness.
It is supposed that an axe was the instrument used, as the bodies of the victims are hacked almost beyond recognition. Since the discovery of the deed the street in front of the house has been blocked by an anxious throng, eagerly waiting for the news of the awful tragedy and vowing vengeance on the assassin.
"FATHER IS STABBED."
The first intimation the neighbors had of the awful crime was a groaning followed by a cry of "murder !" Mrs. Adelaide Churchill, who lives next door to the Bordens, ran over and heard Miss Borden cry: "Father is stabbed; run for the police !"
Mrs. Churchill hurried across the way to the livery stable to get the people there to summon the police John Cunningham who was passing, learned of the murder and telephoned to police headquarters and Officer Allen was sent to investigate the case.
Meanwhile the story spread rapidly and a crowd gathered quickly, A HERALD reporter entered the house, and a terrible sight met his view. On the lounge in the cosy sitting room on the first floor of the building lay Andrew J. Borden, dead. His face presented a sickening sight. Over the left temple a wound six by four had been made as it the head had been pounded with the dull edge of an axe. The left eye bad been dug out and a cut extended the length of the nose, The face was hacked to pieces and the blood had covered the man's shirt and soaked into his clothing. Everything about the room was in order, and there were no signs of a scuffle of any kind.
Upstairs in a neat chamber in the northwest corner of the house, another terrible sight met the view. On the floor between the bed and the dressing case lay Mrs. Borden, stretched full length, one arm extended and her face resting upon it. Over the left temple the skull was fractured and no less than seven wounds were found about the head. She had died evidently where she had been struck, for her life blood formed a ghastly clot on the carpet.
Dr. Bowen was the first physician to arrive, but life was extinct, and from the nature of the wounds it is probable that the suffering of both victims was very short. The police were promptly on hand and strangers were kept at a distance. Miss Borden was so overcome by the awful circumstances that she could not be seen, and kind friends led her away and cared for her.
A squad of police who had arrived conducted a careful hunt over the premises for trace of the assailant. No weapon was found and there was nothing about the house to indicate who the murderer might have been. A clue was obtained, however, a Portuguese whose name nobody around the house seem to know, has been employed on one of the Swansey farms owned by Mr. Borden. About 9 o'clock this man went to the house and asked to see Mr. Borden. He had a talk with his employer and asked for the wages due him.. Mr. Borden told the man he had no money with him, to call later. If anything more passed between the men it cannot be learned. At length the Portuguese departed and Mr. Borden soon afterward started down town. His first call was to Peter Leduc's barber shop, where he was shaved about 9:30 o'clock. He then dropped into the Union bank to transact some business and talked with Mr. Hart, treasurer of the savings bank, of which Mr. Borden was president. As nearly as can be learned after that he went straight home. H took of his coat and composed himself comfortably on the lounge to sleep. It is presumed, from the easy attitude in which his body lay, that he was asleep when the deadly blow was struck. It is thought that Mrs. Borden was in the room at the time, but was so overcome by the assault that she had no strength to make an outcry. In her bewilderment, she rushed upstairs and went to in to her room. She must have been followed up the stairs by the murderer, and as she was retreating into the furthest corner of the room, she was felled by the deadly axe.
MISS BORDEN ATTRACTED
The heavy fall and a subdued groaning attracted Miss Borden into the house. There the terrible sight which has been described met her gaze. She rushed to the staircase and called the servant, who was washing a window in her room on the third floor. So noiselessly had the deed been done hat neither of them was aware of the bloody work going on so near them.
To a police officer, Miss Borden said she was at work in the barn about 10 o'clock. On her return she found her father in the sitting room with a horrible gash in the side of his head. He appeared at the time as thought he had been bit while in a sitting posture. Giving the alarm, she rushed up stairs to find her mother, only to be more horrified to find that person lying between the dressing case and the bed sweltering in a pool of blood. It appeared as thought Mrs. Borden had seen the man enter, and the man, knowing his dastardly crime would be discovered, had followed her upstairs and finished his fiendish work. It was a well known fact that Mrs. Borden always left the room when her husband was talking business with anyone. A person knowing this fact could easily spring upon his victim without giving her a chance to make an outcry. Miss Borden had seen no person enter or leave the place. The man who had charge of her father's farm was held in the highest respect by Mr. Borden. His name was Alfred Johnson, and he trusted his employer so much that he left his bank book at Mr. Borden's house for safe keeping. The young lady had not the slightest suspicion of his being connected with the crime. As far as the Portuguese suspected of the crime was concerned, she knew nothing of him, as he might have been a man who was employed by the day in the busy season. What his motive could have been it is hard to tell, as Mr. Borden had always been kind to his help.
Another statement made by the police, and which, though. apparently light, would bear investigation, is the following: Some two weeks ago a man applied to Mr. Borden to the lease of a store on South Main street that was vacant. After a short time as Miss Borden was passing the room loud words were heard her father making the remark. I will not let it for that purpose." Quietness -was restored in a short while, and when the man departed her father said: When you come to town next time I will let you know." This was two weeks ago; but in the mean time the store has been let to another party, but why a person would commit such a brutal affair because of being refused the rental of a store is hard to see. Miss Borden thinks that the party wanted the store for the sale of liquor, and her father refused. It was dark at the time of his calling and she did not recognize his features.
WENT TO SWANSEY
At 12 :45 o'clock Marshal -Hilliard and Officers Doherty and Connors procured a carriage and drove over to the farm, hoping that the suspected man would return there in order to prove an alibi. The officers will arrive at the place some time before the man, as the distance is some ten miles, though it is hardly probable that he will return there. What makes it rather improbable that the man suspected is a Portuguese laborer is the statement of Charles Gifford of Swansey. Mr. Gifford says that the only Portuguese employed on the upper farm is Mr. Johnson, and he is confined to his bed by illness. Another man might be employed by Mr. Borden on the lower farm for a few days, but he does not believe it. An attempt was made to reach Swansey by telephone, but no answer was received.
A SIGNIFICANT INCIDENT.
Among the significant incidents revealed in the search through the premises was brought to light by John Donnelly, who with others searched through the barn to see if any trace of the fugitive could be found there. In the hay was seen the perfect outline of a man as it one had slept there overnight. Besides this, it was evident that the. sleeper was either restless or had been there before, because an imprint was found in another part of the hay that corresponded with the outlines at the first impression. Somebody may have been in the habit of going there for a nap, but the imprint was that of a person of about five feet six inches tall, and was shorter than Mr. Borden. This has given rise to the suspicion that the murderer may have slept about the place and waited for an opportunity to accomplish his deed.
Another sensational story is being told in connection with the murder. It appears that the members of the family have been ill for some days and the symptoms were very similar to those of poison. In the light of subsequent events this sickness has been recalled. It has been the custom of the family to receive its supply of milk from the Swansey farm every morning, and the can was left out of doors until the servant opened the house in the morning. Ample opportunity was afforded, therefore, for anybody who had a foul design to tamper with the milk, and this circumstance will be carefully investigated by the police.
Medical Examiner Dolan, who promptly responded to the call for his presence, made a careful examination of the victims and reached the conclusion that the wounds were inflicted by a heavy, sharp weapon like an axe or hatchet. He found the skull fractured in both instances and concluded that death was instantaneous.
As to the blow which killed Mrs. Borden he thought that it had been delivered by a tall man, who struck the woman from behind.
A BOGUS LETTER.
It is reported that Mrs. Borden received a letter this morning announcing the illness of a very dear friend and was preparing to go to see her. This letter has turned out to be a bogus one, evidently intended to draw her away from home. In this case it would look as if the assault had been carefully planned. A suspicious character was seen on Second street this morning who seemed to be on the lookout for somebody, and the police have a description of the man.
Marshal Hilliard, Officers Dowty and Connors went to Swansey this afternoon, but found the men at work on the upper farm who had been employed there of late. The lower farm will be visited at once. William Eddy has charge of this one.
At 2:15 o'clock a sturdy Portuguese named Antonio Auriel was arrested in a saloon on Columbia street and brought into the police station. The man protested his innocence and sent after Joseph Chaves, clerk for Talbot &Coo, who recognized the man, and he was immediately released.
Andrew J. Borden was born in this city 69 years ago. By perseverance and industry he accumulated a fortune. A short time since he boasted that he had yet to spend his first foolish dollar. Mr. Borden was married twice. His second wife was the daughter of Oliver Gray and was born on Rodman street. He had two children by his first wife, Emma and Elizabeth. The former is out of town on a visit and has not yet learned of the tragedy.
Mr. Borden was at the time of his death president of the Union saving's bank and director in the Durfee bank, Globe yarn, Merchants and Troy mill. He was interested in several big real estate deals, and was a very wealthy man.*
I looked up from my reading to see if he’d even listened.
“I have read of this case in the papers,” he commented.
Indeed, everyone had. The case had been so sensational that it had even made the papers here in London. It was a brutal and ugly crime, almost as famous as the Whitechapel Murders in 1888 had been.
“I don’t see as it needs my skills. I suspect they just want my name.”
I suspected the same thing, but it was a case and would get Holmes off of the sofa. Sometimes I did feel more his keeper than his associate. Whichever I was, I was also his friend and I felt compelled to help him.
“Shall I send a cable to Mr. Robinson?”
“I suppose so,” he answered almost petulantly. I knew this wasn’t the kind of challenge he was hoping for but it was still something and I was determined.
“Would you like Mrs. Hudson to bring some tea?”
I was sure he hadn’t eaten in days. I had been better able to watch these things when I lived at 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson tried but often Holmes was too much for her and she’d refuse to go upstairs when he was in one of his states. I couldn’t say that I blamed her.
He looked at me rather wildly for a moment then nodded. “Tea would be nice.”
I stepped outside the room and rang for her. She appeared at the bottom of the steps.
“Yes, Dr. Watson?”
“Can you make us some tea, please? I think I have him settling down a bit now.”
She nodded and was gone.
A few minutes later, she and the maid brought tea and toast up to the sitting room. Holmes was not to be seen. I hoped he had gone to clean up and dress.
“Just set it there and thank you so much, Mrs. Hudson. I don’t know what he would do without you.”
She smiled warmly. “I care for him, Dr. Watson, I do, but sometimes he is just too frightening.”
I smiled and nodded. She was right and I knew that when I lived here, things had been different.
Which reminded me that I needed to make arrangements for Mary to travel with us to America. I remembered that she had some friends in New York and this would be a good time for her to visit them. I certainly didn’t want to leave her behind in London while I traveled to America.
Holmes came into the room, dressed and shaved, looking more like himself all but the lingering wildness in his eyes. That would go away soon enough.
“Drink your tea and we will decide when to leave for America.” I pointed to his chair and actually poured some tea for him and a cup for myself.
“Very well. Perhaps there will be something of interest to me when we get there.”
*All misspellings and such are in the original text from The Fall River Herald.
Chapter 2: Crossing the Sea
Chapter Two – Crossing the Sea
I set about booking passage to America almost immediately.
We would sail on the Servia out of Liverpool for New York City on the sixteenth of January. Thanks to our employer, I purchased first class accommodations for the three of us. Though Holmes probably could have afforded it anyway, I certainly could not on my surgeon’s salary.
Maybe those few days at sea could be the honeymoon that Mary and I never had. I even got her a new fur stole to wear on the cold nights at sea. Holmes never seemed to like my wife very much but he was kind enough not to say negative things about her in my presence. He actually never seemed to care for any woman and sometimes I felt that he saw my love for my wife as a weakness. Or perhaps he simply wanted me to be at his own beck and call.
When I arrived at 221 B Baker Street on the day before we were to leave for Liverpool, Holmes was reading his paper.
“Why are you wasting my time on this trip?” He said as he looked at me when I came in.
“Because they are paying us to come?”
“I am not sure what the lawyer expects of us, but I will not lie to give him his due.”
“I am sure he doesn’t expect you to lie, Holmes. I think he feels that if you can find evidence that Miss Borden did not do these crimes, then he will be able to clear her easily and quickly.”
Holmes sighed. His melancholia had not passed as of yet though I’d not seen the syringe any more. That much was a relief to me.
We left London on the fifteenth. We went by train to Liverpool and stayed the night with an acquaintance of mine from the war. Holmes was still moody though he did make an effort to be polite to my fellow veteran. He even talked politely to Mary during dinner.
We were up very early in order to get our trunks checked in and to board the ship. It was a far cry from the naval ship I’d sailed home on from Afghanistan. The staterooms were fairly large and quite luxurious, much more luxurious than I’d have been able to afford otherwise. Our rooms were adjoining though I didn’t expect us to visit one another very often outside meals.
Mary and I were on deck at our departure, laughing and waving to the people on the dock even though there was no one we knew there to wave back. Mary stood so close that I could smell the floral perfume that she wore so well. It is a smell that takes me back to those days with my dear wife to this very day.
“Where do you suppose Mr. Holmes is?” She asked as we finally set sail.
“He is sulking in his stateroom, I suspect. Or reading the papers.” I thought a moment. “I do hope he left his violin at home.”
Mary laughed. “Is he really that bad?”
“He can actually play quite well but spends too much of his time playing seemingly random discordant notes. I suspect that he does this often just to anger me.”
She smiled. “I think he does many things to anger you, John.”
We dined with the captain that evening. Holmes even made an appearance though he ate little. He was polite to all and I was actually quite pleased with him.
The food was quite good and I ate more than I should have but then I usually did when there was a fine meal. The long hours I worked with no chance to even have a spot of tea assured that I had more than I should when I did have the time.
Mary was positively glowing. I’d never seen her so beautiful. For once, I did not concern myself with Sherlock Holmes. After dinner, Mary and I strolled on the deck and talked of what we would do when we got back to England.
“I should like a small house in the country,” Mary said as we stopped to look over the side of the ship.
“Then perhaps we should look into a country practice for me. I might like to be out of the hustle and bustle of London.”
“How would you feel about little Watsons running about?” Mary said in a rush. I almost didn’t understand her words.
When I did, my heart thudded wildly in my chest. I tried to speak but words failed me. She hugged me as we made our way back to our rooms. I poured myself a bit of Scotch and Mary a sherry and finally I sat down.
“When?” I finally managed to ask.
“I think August. Early in August.”
I was shocked to say the least. I had never even thought about having children. One would think that being a physician, I’d think that perhaps we’d have children but alas, I was a surgeon and thought more to fix broken people rather than about making new ones.
“You should have stayed in London,” I blurted out and immediately regretted it. We made our way back to our stateroom.
“John,” she whispered as she sat in my lap, “I am perfectly fine.” She put her arms around me and kissed me. I started to push her away. “It’s fine. I asked the midwife and she said it won’t harm me or the baby.”
“Do you mean the trip or…” I let my words drop off. Some things one did not talk about quite so openly even if one did those things in the night.
“Both, my dear husband,” she murmured as she kissed me.
Mary was a most demure woman. She was very proper and even a bit on the shy side. Except in the marriage bed. There, she was bold and demanding, what a man might expect of a courtesan. Instead of being put off by this, I was delighted to have such a wonderful wife.
She made her needs known to me in no uncertain terms and I did my very best to meet them.
Later as we lay naked in one another’s arm’s, she pushed the covers down and laid my hand on her belly. I could feel that it was rounder than it had been.
“He is beginning to stir now and again, John. He feels rather like a tiny goldfish flitting about in my tummy.”
I leaned down and kissed her tiny mounded stomach and it was quite a while before we went to sleep.
We arrived in New York in six days. I was sad to see the trip end. Mary and I had spent most every hour together and many of those, naked and in bed. I told her that I hated to see it end on the last day of the trip.
“We will have many more days like this, John, you’ll see.”
We packed our belongings and disembarked in New York City. Mary’s friend, Mrs. Turner, and her husband, were at the dock to meet us. Mrs. Turner had been a governess in London several years before and had married a visiting American and moved to New York City. She and Mary were thrilled to see one another again so I did not feel quite as bad about leaving her here to journey to Massachusetts and the murder of the century, as they were calling it.
Chapter 3: Meeting Miss Borden
Chapter Three – Meeting Miss Borden
After saying my goodbyes to my sweet Mary, Holmes and I boarded a train for Boston. There we would be met by Mr. Robinson, who would fill us in on the case and take us to Fall River and to Taunton, where Lizzie was being held in jail until her trial.
“Watson, I should like you to interview Miss Borden and her sister while I investigate the house and property. My skills are better used to investigate than to talk to old maids.”
I nodded. I had already figured he’d do this, mostly because of his distaste for the whole business. I had been looking forward to it but now, I only wanted to get back to my wife and go home. I had already decided to start looking for a country practice when we returned to England.
“Watson, you’re positively giddy. What has happened?”
I could not bring myself to tell him. “The sea air was good for me, I suppose.”
For once, I was glad that he wisely kept his mouth shut.
Robinson was the former governor of Massachusetts and he was a very confident man, a man used to power and to getting his own way. He met us with smiles and humility though I suspected that both were contrived on his part. This was no country lawyer needing the expertise of Sherlock Holmes to win his case. We were there simply to find what he wanted us to find, though I am sure he never understood what he was asking for when he asked for Sherlock Holmes.
I wondered how he would take it if Holmes found that Miss Borden was indeed the murderess. Would he refuse to defend her? Would he change his defense? Perhaps it didn’t matter to him at all. Time would answer those questions. They were not our domain. Finding out what happened was what Holmes had come for.
And he would do that. Of that I had no doubt whatsoever.
We went first to Fall River. After we’d rested, we’d go to Taunton, where Lizzie was being held awaiting her trial. Mr. Robinson had booked us into a decently clean hotel and we had adjoining rooms. He left us for the day to get settled in and to rest from our travels.
I unpacked my belongings and went to assist Holmes. He was sitting in a chair by the window. His bags were still sitting where the porter had put them. He was smoking a cigarette and looking outside.
“Well, what did you think of our Mr. Robinson, Watson?”
“I think he wants us to tell him something different from what he already knows.”
“And what is that?”
“I’m not sure yet. I read about the case in London but I … Holmes, you know I’m wrong almost as often as Lestrade is. Why ask me?”
“Because your mistakes often lead me to the right answers. You know that. Oh and congratulations.”
My jaw dropped.
“You and Mrs. Watson are expecting a baby?”
“She is a bit larger than the last time I saw her. A little fuller in the face. And she glows.”
“I didn’t know until we were onboard the ship. And I’m a doctor.”
“You were too close to see the signs, Watson. That is all. Now, tell me what you plan to talk to Miss Borden about.”
“I am not decided. I can’t think that asking her if she’s guilty is very polite.”
“Splitting one’s parents’ skulls open with an axe is not very polite either.” Holmes put out his cigarette and faced me. “Ask her to describe the basement to you. Ask her about her trip to the barn.”
I must have looked surprised.
“Humor me, Watson.”
We had dinner in a small restaurant in town and went back to our hotel. I had inquired of a barber and somewhere to have tea before bed. We bought the evening papers and retired to our rooms to read them.
I wrote to Mary before I went to bed. I missed her more than I expected I would. Much more.
We rose before the sun and had our tea. Holmes decided that he could shave himself better than a barber. He seldom went to the barbershop back in London either, but having someone do it for me was one of my few indulgences and I was loathe to give it up here so I had my shave before meeting my cab for the prison.
Holmes caught a cab to the Borden house. He would be going over the house and property to see what answers awaited there while I had a preliminary interview with Miss Lizzie Borden at the Taunton Jail.
I expected the place to be dark and depressing but it was not. Despite what I saw printed in some papers and have read since, Lizzie’s cell was much like a dormitory room at a boarding school. She had some furniture as well as a bed and some comforts from home. She seemed to be well supplied with magazines and papers as well as fresh flowers all around. The jailer told me that her supporters sent them every day.
The matron showed me around as if the jail were a fine hotel and indeed, Lizzie’s accommodations were quite fine for a person in jail on suspicion of such a terrible murder as that of the Bordens.
Lizzie herself was sitting in a rocking chair. She was a rather plain woman with a heavy jaw and eyes that seemed to almost bug out. She looked stubborn and immovable in her fine green dress. I had read that Miss Borden liked finery but was still shocked at her clothing. She looked dressed for a luncheon with the ladies rather than an interview with a detective conducted in a jail cell.
“Hello, Miss Borden. I am Dr. John Watson. I believe Mr. Robinson told you that I would be coming to speak with you today.”
She just stared at me for a moment that seemed to stretch out forever.
“How do you do, Mr. Watson?” She held out her hand for me to kiss. And I did, all the while wondering if that hand had wielded the hatchet that split her father’s eyeball in two. I decided not to correct her on my title. It wouldn’t do to aggravate her so early in our investigation.
Chapter 4: Lizzie and Her Lawyers
Chapter Four – Lizzie and her Lawyers
“I am well, Miss Borden. Though I am pleased to meet you, I daresay the circumstances could be better.”
She looked at me with a completely blank stare. Was she lacking in intelligence? Not from all the reports I’d read. Maybe it was just old news to her and didn’t shock her anymore. I found that unlikely also since her parents had only been dead since August.
“Oh,” she finally said and indicated that I should sit in the rocker that had obviously been provided for my visit.
I dutifully sat down and pulled my notes from my small case.
“May I ask you some questions?” I asked, realizing how rude it would be to begin interrogating her without asking.
“I thought Mr. Holmes was coming.”
“Holmes will meet with you on another day. He decided to visit your house today and walk around a bit.”
She looked as if she wanted to hit me for a moment. “Why is he looking at the house?”
“He felt like he could deduce more of what happened by taking a look around than just reading about it.”
“But my lawyers already know what happened.”
“They want to do their best for you.”
“I am tired of talking about it.”
This was not going well so far. Lizzie was very difficult to talk to. “Perhaps if I ask questions?”
“I was in London a few years ago.”
“Really? Did you find it to your liking?”
“It was rainy and gray but I enjoyed the museums.”
“Miss Borden, tell me about the day your father died.”
She clamped her jaws shut and sat there for what was beginning to look like forever. Suddenly she got a faraway look in those strange eyes and she began to talk as if she were seeing it as she spoke.
“I got up at nine or so. Hadn’t felt well the night before; I heard Father and Abby sick during the night too. I came down after they had eaten with my uncle John Morse, and I had some cookies. Father left for the bank and Abby made Maggie wash windows. I do wish I’d paid more attention that morning but I didn’t. I read a magazine, mended a sleeve, tried to iron my handkerchiefs but the fire was too low to get the irons hot. Abby went out to help someone. She said she had a note from a boy. Father came home and I went to the barn to hunt for some iron. I went upstairs and Father took a nap then I came down-” she stopped, almost as if rehearsed and dabbed at a tear. “Mr. Watson, I don’t know what I could have done different.”
This was a blend of all the different stories she had given at the inquest. She had answered the same question three or four different ways within the space of two days.
“I have some questions.”
She put her handkerchief away and seemed to compose herself. It was almost as if one part of the performance were done and now she would move on to the next.
“I don’t know how I can help, but I will try.”
“Tell me about the barn. What is in the barn?”
“Just old and unused things. That is why I went there for iron.”
“Did you find iron?”
“Yes, in the box upstairs. I didn’t want to come back to the house so I ate some pears that I’d picked up on the way out to there.”
“What did you want the iron for?”
“To make some sinkers. We were going fishing on Monday.”
“Does your house have a bathroom upstairs?”
“No. We used a chamber pot and went downstairs with our pots.”
“What else is down there?”
“A sink, boxes of broken things that Father saved, the woodpile, the laundry, the furnace, the coal bins…”
“Did you go down there that morning?”
“Right after I got up.”
“Was the outside door locked?”
“Oh yes, we keep all our doors locked. We were robbed several months before Father and Abby were killed.”
“Are you sure Miss Sullivan didn’t unlock it?”
“She got her water from the barn.”
“For washing windows?”
“Yes. Abby made her wash them that morning.”
“Where was she when your parents were killed?”
“She must have been washing windows when Abby died and I think she was asleep in her room when Father died.”
“Was it usual for the servant to nap during the day?”
“She said she’d been sick in the night like Father and Abby.”
“So you sent her to her room?”
Lizzie looked surprised at the question, but she recovered rather quickly. “She asked if she might lie down before dinner. I told her to go ahead.”
“I’m sure it is hard on you and your sister.”
“I am not fond of living in jail. But the food is from the hotel and I go out at least once a day.” I had meant hard for them to lose their father, but Lizzie’s answer was interesting nonetheless.
“Does your sister come often?”
“Nearly every day. I get other visitors too. The Reverend and my lawyers come often.”
“Do you like your lawyers?”
“Mr. Jennings was Father’s lawyer and he is like family. Mr. Robinson is very friendly.”
“I am going to leave you now, Miss Borden. I am going to have a meeting with your lawyers and then dinner with Mr. Holmes. I am sure that we shall meet again.”
I made my excuses and left, more perplexed than ever. Was she guilty? Was she insane? Was she rude and spoiled? I could not decide which she was. Or was she all three? Perhaps Holmes could sort it all out and boil it all down to the truth of what happened in that house in Fall River on the morning of August 4th.
I made my way back to the hotel in Fall River. The two towns were not so far apart that it took long to go from one to the other. Mr. Jennings was waiting there for me. He shook my hand and led me to the hotel dining room. Mr. Robinson waited there for us. We sat and ordered a drink and some food.
“So, Doctor Watson, what did you think of our Miss Borden?” Robinson asked.
I took a sip of my water, trying to stall for some time. I had no idea what to say to them.
“Quite an odd duck, isn’t she?” Robinson asked. “How do you think a jury will see her?’
“I am no expert on juries. Holmes and I help the police and seldom are involved in the court.”
“Do you think she will seem sympathetic?”
I had to tell the truth. “No, I do not. She seems rather -- I am not sure what to call it. – stubborn or even uninterested in the whole affair.”
“She is just tired of the same questions over and over,” Jennings said.
I looked him dead in the eye. “Are you sure?”
He was saved from answering me by the timely arrival of our food. I looked down and it was mutton, the last food served in the Borden house on that fateful day. I pushed the plate away. Suddenly I had no appetite.
Chapter 5: Down Time
Chapter Five – Down Time
After dining with Jennings and Robinson, I went back to the hotel and to my room. I pulled out the folders of information that we had compiled from newspapers before we came to Massachusetts.
Some papers vilified Lizzie while others made her sound like a saint. I wasn’t sure which was true, if not both. I needed more to go on than just a meeting with Miss Borden. Everyone could have a bad day, but from many accounts, this sullen woman was what Lizzie was nearly always like.
I wrote to Mary and told her of my day and how I found the peculiar Miss Borden, and then I lay down for a nap.
Someone knocking on the door woke me.
“Watson? Are you there?” It was Holmes. I looked at my watch. It was past five. I had been more tired than I thought to have slept so long. Perhaps the sea voyage and time difference were catching up with me. I went to the door and let him in.
“Sleeping? Did you talk to Miss Borden?” He bustled into the room.
I nodded, still not quite fully awake. “I certainly did and I talked with her lawyers as well. They seem awfully anxious for me to think well of her.”
Holmes was excited. I could see it in his eyes. I knew he assumed the case was simple and that he could solve it easily. But something happened that either made it harder to solve or he’d actually found the murderer.
“So how was your day?” I asked.
“Well, for a wealthy family, they certainly didn’t live like it. Or no one but Lizzie did. The house was a bit shabby and the neighborhood was not the best either. The old man’s clothes were old and worn as were the stepmother’s. Not all of either sisters’ clothing was there but from the ones that were, Emma was scarcely better dressed than her elders. But Lizzie, how was she dressed?”
“She had on a very pretty, new looking green gown, one that Mary would have said nice things about.”
“How did you find her?”
“Sullen and suspicious.”
He didn’t say much, just sat down and lit his pipe.
“Did you find anything at the house?”
“It was interesting. I have several theories. I need some more time before I decide how the murders were done.”
“How? Does that mean you already know who?”
“Not completely. The how may give us the who as well.”
“Miss Borden seemed disappointed that you did not come to see her,” I told him as I washed my face in the basin.
Holmes smiled. “I’d have been amazed if she had not.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Miss Borden’s room was bigger than her elder sister’s and much nicer. Though I did not see all her clothes, hers were fashionable and well made while her sister’s were dull and there were only a few of them. Miss Borden, it would seem, is quite impressed by the trappings of wealth and she longs to be popular, I believe.”
“I’m anxious to hear about the house.”
“So you shall, over dinner. First, I must do some experiments in my room. I will call for you when they are done.” With that, he let himself out and went to his own room.
I finished my toilet and dressed for dinner then wrote Mary another short letter. I missed her so and worried for her since she was so far away. I had never thought to be a father and now that it was imminent, I felt unreasonably cautious. I wished not for the first time that I’d never brought the letter to Holmes. I’d have been at home with my wife in our cozy little house in London on this cold winter night.
I knew that Holmes would have more questions about Miss Borden so I sat down to think about our interview. She had been nothing like I had supposed she would be. I had thought her to be a dainty spinster from the reports in the papers, but I’d found a rather unpleasant and unattractive woman. She seemed almost oblivious to the fact that she was accused of killing her father and stepmother in a most heinous way and that if found guilty, she would surely hang. She seemed more concerned with her own comfort and how pretty her dresses were than the fact she’d lost her father so recently.
I could easily understand how she had been branded by some newspapers as cold and heartless. I believed her to be more selfish and thoughtless. If she had killed her parents, the newspapers may have been closer to the truth.
I let myself into Holmes’ room through the door that connected our rooms. He was bent over a vial of something.
“Come in and sit. I will be finished with this in a moment.”
“What concoction are you making? It smells awful.”
“I am going to return to Borden house and make some tests.”
I knew he’d told me all he meant to for now. I’d have to wait him out. I was used to such. I was sure he already had an idea of how the Bordens were killed and perhaps even who did the killing. He usually knew these things fairly early in a case. I smiled when I thought of his meeting Miss Borden.
We went to dinner and Holmes asked more questions.
“Did she seem distraught in any way?”
“She seemed inconvenienced mostly, as if the whole thing were just a big bother.”
“I should like to meet Emma too, I think. Is the maid still about the area?”
“I believe so. Perhaps she has some information.”
He looked thoughtful. “Maybe but I am not sure that she would disclose it if she did. There are some who already accuse her though for what reason, I cannot fathom.”
“Why on earth would the Irish girl want to kill them?”
“She wouldn’t but who would? Miss Lizzie? Miss Emma? Some angry business associate of Mr. Borden? That is the puzzle. Then how? How did someone do this and not be noticed? The answer is there. I will find it, Watson.”
I knew he would too. I’ve only known him to ever be bested once so I was sure he would see this to the solution, no matter who was paying our bills.
Chapter 6: Miss Sullivan
Chapter Six – Miss Sullivan
I did not rest well. I missed my wife and this whole business was already testing my nerves, though we had only begun our investigation. Holmes was the true consulting detective and I was only his aid but I still had my own ideas already. I did not like Miss Lizzie Borden. A colder or more selfish woman I had seldom met. I only hoped that the other Miss Borden gave me a better feeling about the whole thing.
I met Holmes in the dining room for breakfast. Well, I ate breakfast while Holmes read the papers and sipped tea. He never seemed to need much food and seemed to need no food when he was on the hunt. I knew by his lack of appetite that his interest in this case had risen considerably.
“What is your plan for today, Holmes?”
“I plan on seeing Miss Borden and I plan on you seeing Miss Sullivan if possible.”
“What shall I ask her?”
“I want to know what happened the day of the murders. Just that.”
And so I set out to do just that. Miss Sullivan was now working as maid for the jailer of New Bedford and so I sent a telegram and set out, hoping that she would get it before I arrived. I took a coach and expected to arrive in the afternoon.
Mr. Jennings had made arrangements for me to interview Miss Sullivan at a local law office in New Bedford.
Miss Sullivan arrived at the appointed time. She was a rather pretty girl, taller than Miss Borden with strong attractive features and long dark hair. I found her much more pleasant than Miss Borden. Her Irish brogue was not so pronounced, as she had lived in the Americas for some years.
“Good day, Miss Sullivan. I am John Watson and my partner, Mr. Holmes, and I are investigating the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Borden.”
She smiled and shook my hand.
“They said you wanted to talk to me. I done told them all I remember.” She said the words but her demeanor was not one of irritation. She actually seemed rather eager to please.
“Miss Borden’s lawyers wanted some new ears to listen to your story and make sure that all is ready for the trial.”
“Do you know why Mrs. Borden picked that day for you to clean the windows?”
She looked startled by the question then she answered. “She said she was to have guests on the next Monday and she wanted everything tidied for them.”
“Did the Bordens have guests often?”
“Well, John Morse came sometimes to visit Mr. Borden and sometimes Miss Lizzie or Miss Emma had company.”
“But not Mrs. Borden?”
“Mrs. Borden mostly visited her sister. That was all.”
“Was her sister coming to stay?”
“No, sir. She only lived down the street.”
“Was Miss Emma home?”
“No. She was away.”
“Did she go away often?”
“Oh no. Miss Emma stayed home mostly. Miss Lizzie went out a lot but not Miss Emma.”
“Did you see anything strange that morning?”
“The day of murders? No, Mr. Watson. I did my windows after I cleaned up my kitchen and did my dishes. I had a headache and rested a bit ‘til Miss Lizzie yelled that I must come, that someone had killed Mr. Borden.”
“Was Miss Lizzie upset?”
“Oh yessir. She was. She wouldn’t let me look at him. She sent me for the doctor.”
“Did she cry?”
“I don’t think so, sir.”
“How did you like the Bordens?”
“I liked Miss Lizzie and Miss Emma. Miss Lizzie was good to me.”
“Did she call you Maggie?”
“She and Miss Emma both did.”
“Did you mind?”
“Oh, no. Maggie sounds ever so much nicer than Bridget, don’t you think? They call all us Irish girls Bridget.”
I smiled. I noted to myself that she was well dressed for a servant girl.
“Was Miss Lizzie ever angry with Mr. Borden?”
“She was when he killed her pigeons. Some of the neighbor boys were breaking into the barn for the pigeons Lizzie kept there and Mr. Borden killed them to keep the boys away.”
“Did she stay mad for long?”
“Miss Lizzie was always mad for a long time when she got mad.”
“Did he apologize to her?”
“No. Mr. Borden never apologized to nobody that I knowed about.”
“Did Miss Lizzie get along with her stepmother?”
“As far as I could see, she did.”
“Were they friendly?”
“They were – polite, Mr. Watson. Miss Emma had never cared for Mrs. Borden and I think that is why Miss Lizzie didn’t either.”
“No one argued on that day?”
“Not that I heard, but I was outside lots of the morning. They didn’t argue at breakfast then after that, Mr. Borden was gone. Lizzie said Mrs. Borden had a note and left too so there was no one home but Lizzie to be a arguing.”
“Did you see Mrs. Borden go out?”
“No sir but Miss Lizzie said she did.”
“You had no reason to doubt her?”
“No, Mr. Watson. Like I said, I liked Miss Lizzie and as far as I know, she never lied to me.”
“You never saw anyone at all come into the house?”
“No. Not while I was outdoors anyway. I let Mr. Borden in when he came back from his rounds.”
“Did he not have a key?”
“The door was locked on the inside. Them Bordens were funny about locking doors.”
“Really? How so?”
“They’d had some things go missing and so they locked their doors. Mr. and Mrs. Borden kept their bedroom door locked and the doors to the outside were almost always locked.”
“It would be hard for someone to just walk in?”
“Oh yes. I don’t see how they could.”
“But they did?”
“I – uh, yes, I suppose so.”
I thanked her for her time and left her. Miss Sullivan was certainly more pleasant than Miss Borden. There was no doubt of that. Was she telling the truth? I wasn’t sure what she was lying about but I was fairly sure that she was indeed lying.
Chapter 7: Holmes' Meeting with Lizzie
Chapter Seven – Holmes’ Meeting with Lizzie
Holmes was late getting back to the hotel so I waited for him. I wrote to Mary and read the local papers. There were still stories about the Borden murders and there were lines drawn: those who were supporters of Lizzie and those who were not. The stories about Miss Borden made her look as if she were either an angel flown down from heaven above to save the world or the daughter of the devil himself. I am not sure which side I fell on. I did not like her at all but she did not seem to be a cold blooded killer either.
Or did she?
Holmes and I had seen our fair share of monsters, many of whom looked much sweeter than Miss Borden. I decided to let Holmes decide, a task I was sure that he was more than able to do than I was.
Holmes looked tired but energized when he returned. I was sitting in the lobby, reading the evening paper when he arrived. He ordered tea brought to his rooms and motioned for me to follow. I folded my paper and gladly did as I was bid.
He took forever to put his coat and hat away and then he decided to change into this dressing gown and slippers. He packed his pipe with tobacco and sat to wait for the boy to bring our tea before lighting it. I didn’t ask him anything; I knew better. The anticipation was part of the show, and he did enjoy putting on a show for me.
Finally we were alone and there were no interruptions.
“So?” I leaned forward in my chair.
“What did you think of Miss Lizzie?”
“More important is how did you find Miss Sullivan?”
“She was engaging, polite and rather pretty. And she was lying. Not big lies, I think, but lies just the same.”
He nodded and puffed on his pipe. I wanted to wring his neck but knew that he’d talk when he was ready.
“Miss Borden was happy to meet me. I am, evidently, well known enough to impress even her.”
I waited for him to go on.
“She told me all about her trip to the continent several years ago and all about her stay in London. We let it rain too much for her but what can one do? She adored her papa and her stepmother and can’t imagine that anyone would ever hurt Papa. By omission, I assume she could imagine someone killing Mrs. Borden.”
“Did I think the Staunton jail was a fitting place for a lady of her station? Did I think her dress was as fashionable as the ladies in London wore? Was that Mr. Watson who spoke with her yesterday married?”
My jaw dropped at Miss Borden’s last question. Surely I had not shown any interest in her. Had I been a single man, the lively maidservant was much more my taste than the sour-faced spinster would ever be.
He continued. “She told me that she had no idea how anyone could have come into the house. She said that she was in the barn. She said that must have been when someone stole into the house and killed her father. She seemed to forget about Mrs. Borden all together.”
He drank deeply of his cooling tea. “Watson, she is a most unlikable woman but we must not let that convince us that she is guilty. We must follow the clues, not our feelings.”
I nodded. He was all too right. It would be so easy to condemn Miss Borden because of her unpleasant demeanor. That would be a huge mistake on our parts and might let the monster who’d killed these two elderly people so malevolently go free. We could not let that happen. We would press on, following Holmes’ scientific and deductive methods until they led us at last to the truth, whatever that might be.
“What did you find from your experiments from the house?” I asked, deciding that I’d feel better not talking about Miss Borden herself.
“I am not quite finished. I shall make another trip out to the house. I have more tests.”
That was all he’d say too. Holmes did not speculate often. He waited until he had evidence and then sprang his trap.
“Our employers contacted me after I met Miss Borden today. They’d like to dine with us at eight to discuss our progress in the case,” he said almost as an aside.
“We have no progress to report yet, do we?”
“Not really but I’d like to ask the lawyers a few questions too. Perhaps they see things in a different light than we do.”
That was not something that sounded like Holmes. He was going fishing but what for, I didn’t yet know. I actually figured that he already knew who killed Mr. and Mrs. Borden and probably the how and why but I also knew that I’d find out when he decided I needed to know. Sometimes by not telling me things, he kept my own observations untainted and free from opinion other than my own. In other words, I do think that I was of some use to Holmes in this case, as in all cases he undertakes.
We parted, me going to my own room to dress for dinner and Sherlock to his experiments, I suspected. We’d meet in time to dine with Robinson and Jennings. I was interested to see what they had to ask us and what they could tell us.
Chapter 8: Luncheon with Lawyers
Chapter Eight – Luncheon with Lawyers
The lawyers met us precisely at eight. They ordered drinks for themselves and me while Holmes took tea. A third lawyer joined us and was introduced as Mr. Adams.
“What have you found out, Mr. Holmes?” Robinson leaned forward, seemingly eager to hear Holmes’ report.
I had read about the former governor of Massachusetts and I knew that he was not the simple country lawyer that he seemed. He was a well educated man and a canny politician. I wasn’t exactly sure why he had decided to represent Miss Borden but here in America, money talked the same language as it did in the rest of the world and the Borden sisters had money.
Holmes drank his tea and said nothing for a moment, then he looked up at Mr. Jennings. “I would like to ask you some questions, Mr. Jennings. May I?”
Jennings blinked, perhaps surprised at Holmes’ obvious ignoring of the question. I think that Mr. Robinson was very accustomed to being listened to and given deference. He finally recovered and nodded his assent to Holmes and Jennings.
“Who do you believe killed the elder Bordens?”
I had to sip my drink so they wouldn’t see my smile. I loved the way Holmes went right to the heart of the matter.
Jennings really looked surprised then.
“I think someone who had a grudge against Andrew Borden did this,” he finally said.
I knew what was coming from Holmes and thought maybe poor Mr. Jennings deserved it. “That much is obvious to anyone, Mr. Jennings. I was looking for a more specific answer from you.”
“There was a young man seen simply walking about nearby.”
“Has he been found?”
“No, Mr. Holmes. Despite our best efforts, he has not.”
“Lizzie – Miss Borden said she heard her father arguing with someone earlier that week.”
“Has he been found?”
“Not yet though we are searching.”
“Did you know the Bordens, Mr. Jennings?”
“Yes, I knew Andrew for many years. I was their family attorney.”
“Tell me about both of them.”
“Mr. Borden has – had been my client for -”
“Did you like him?”
“Mr. Borden? He was a long -”
“But did you like him? Was a nice man? A friendly man? Loved in the community?”
“I’d have to say no.”
“To all of them?”
“To all of them. He was stingy and sour. Little pleased him and even with all his money, he made his family live in a rather primitive style without indoor facilities.”
“They still used chamber pots?”
“I gathered from my wandering about that they did not live in a very fashionable part of town for people who had so much money.”
“Can you imagine there were people in Fall River who’d like to see Mr. Borden dead?”
“Many did not like him but to see him die so horribly, I have trouble believing that.”
“And Mrs. Borden?”
“I did not know her well. She was always very quiet when I had dealings with Mr. Borden.”
“Did he deed her some land?”
“He did. About five years ago. It was the house that her sister half owned. The other owner wanted to sell their half and Mrs. Borden’s sister, Sarah, would have been put out of her home. Mr. Borden bought it and gave it to Mrs. Borden.”
“Was there trouble over this?”
“He told me that Lizzie asked if she and Emma might be deeded some property also. Mr. Borden gave them their grandfather’s house.”
“Did any of this cause problems between Miss Borden and her stepmother?”
“She says not but I suspect that she and Emma were afraid he was going to deed everything to Mrs. Borden and her sister.”
Jennings looked stricken and Mr. Robinson broke in. “Mr. Holmes, I am sure what Mr. Jennings means to say is that we are Miss Borden’s defense attorneys and we certainly did not spend the money to have you tell us you think Miss Borden did it.”
“I thought you sent for me to find out the truth, Mr. Robinson. If you want to be told what you want to hear, I have a colleague at Scotland Yard who might do better for you or perhaps one of your Pinkertons would do.”
Holmes rose from the table and nodded to me. “Watson, perhaps we should dine elsewhere.”
I rose to follow him.
Mr. Jennings put his hand on my arm. “Please, Dr. Watson, I have known the Borden sisters for many years and I cannot believe that Lizzie killed her father and Mrs. Borden in such an awful way. You must find out what happened, even if it’s just for my own satisfaction.”
I looked to Holmes for an answer and he gave a slight nod. I sat back down, followed by Holmes.
Holmes looked at the trio of lawyers and began to speak. “My dear sirs, I know that you want to hear that I have found evidence that someone broke into the Second Street house and killed the Bordens while Lizzie was in the barn but right now, I cannot do that. I cannot say who did the deed at this time. I am not finished with my examination of the scene or with the interviews.”
Jennings managed to look slightly embarrassed. Robinson and Adams were a bit more composed. We ordered dinner then and the conversation turned to other things. Holmes ate little and paid almost no attention to the polite chatter around the table. Being sociable was part of my job as his assistant. He had neither the talent nor the desire to carry on small talk with anyone, client or not.
We had roast beef and potatoes, along with some vegetables and a nice fish. We had apple pie for dessert and even Holmes ate a bite of it. The lawyers thanked us for meeting with them and left for their own homes, leaving Holmes and myself to make our way back to our hotel on our own.
We called for a carriage and once inside, Holmes asked to be taken to the Borden house. I was not shocked at much that Holmes did and this was no different. We rode in silence and sat in the carriage in front of the house for a bit. Holmes produced a key out of his pocket.
“Shall we?” he asked as he motioned toward the house.
I nodded and followed him to the front door of the death house.
Chapter 9: 92 Second Street
Chapter Nine – 92 Second Street
The house was dark. I lit a match until we found some candles and lamps to light our way.
“What are we doing here?”
“I wanted to bring you here, to let you get a feel for the place too.”
We walked first to the room where Mr. Borden was killed. The sofa was still there in its original place against the sitting room wall.
“Do you think he was asleep when he was killed?”
Holmes gave single nod. “There was not enough blood for him to have moved around much. From all reports, he did not struggle so he never saw it coming and was probably killed by the first blow.”
I shivered. We saw many brutal things but this one was different, maybe simply because of who stood accused of the crime.
We went to the room where Mrs. Borden was found.
“She was killed by the first blow too?”
Holmes nodded in the dim light. “She may have turned to look at her killer, according to one cut over her ear but the rest were from behind.”
“It would seem this killer had a lot of anger stored away,” I observed.
“So it would. But who? And why?”
“I believe that is what you are here for, Holmes.”
“I can find out how easily enough but the who and why are a bit harder.”
“Do you think the lawyers think she is innocent?”
“Jennings does. Robinson I am not sure about.”
“I’m not sure that it matters to Robinson.”
“Well, he is the politician, so he has his own motives for defending Miss Borden. He is a harder nut to crack than Mr. Jennings.” I knew Holmes well enough to know how much patience he actually had for men like Robinson though I could tell that he actually seemed to admire Jennings and his loyalty to the Borden family.
There were a few blood spots in the sitting room but not as much as one might expect. No one was living here now. Miss Emma was staying with friends most of the time while Lizzie was in jail. I was surprised that they had stayed in the house with the dead bodies of their parents after the murders, especially since no one had been arrested for the crimes.
We made our way up the stairs to the room where Mrs. Borden was found flat on her face on the floor beside the bed. Her braided hair had been left on the white counterpane like a bloody scalp from the American West. Perhaps the killer had chopped it off accidentally as he or she hacked Mrs. Borden’s head to bits.
“I really do not understand how Mrs. Borden could have been killed as early as she was and Mr. Borden two hours later without anyone at all seeing the murderer leave the house,” I observed as we went back down the steps, carrying lamps to light our way.
“We only have stomach contents to tell us that and I am not sure it is entirely reliable in this case,” Holmes answered. “Shall we go to the cellar?”
“Now?” I didn’t want to be here any longer. This house was a disturbing place. It felt unsettled, wrong somehow.
“While we are here.”
There was little use in arguing with Holmes. As usual, he would do as he saw fit and I would follow. So the cellar it was.
The cellar ran the length of the upstairs and was used for several things. There were both two coal bins and two rooms to store firewood in. There was the laundry where Bridget did the wash, a fruit cellar and the furnace was sort in the middle of the room against the wood filled rooms. Near the furnace was a basin that used warm water that was heated from its proximity to the furnace.
Holmes stood still in front of the small sink. He looked about the room as if calculating some formula that only he knew at this point in time. He reached into his coat and brought out a perfume sprayer or what appeared to be one. He sprayed the sink and all around it with one fluid then pulled out another atomizer and sprayed something else. The sink and the walls began to turn a pinkish color in the lamplight.
“What does it mean, Holmes?”
“Remember when I told you I was studying compounds to determine if there is blood on something? Well, this is what I invented and from the looks of it, we have a large amount of blood here.”
“But does that really mean anything?”
“It could. Or it could mean nothing.”
I wanted him to tell me more but since he volunteered no more than he did, I knew to ask would only aggravate him. I looked around the dark room, shining my lamp here and there. It looked like any cellar with discarded and unused items deposited in corners. How strange that a man with so much money would make his family use this privy in the basement or the actual yard as Mr. Borden was said to have done. It was no real wonder why Lizzie had been angry with him, if indeed she was.
I watched as Holmes looked under and behind things. Maybe he searched for the murder weapon. The police had a hatchet but there was no real evidence that it was the actual weapon. Holmes and even I had been less than impressed with the police searches. They seemed to be almost comical in their incompetence, so inept, in fact, that they made Lestrade look brilliant.
Finally he was satisfied and turned to me.
“Let us return to our hotel, Watson. I am tired and rather dusty.”
I agreed thoroughly. It was time to leave. Though I do not believe in ghosts, there certainly was an unpleasant feeling about this house.
We returned to our comfortable lodgings and to our own rooms. I wrote to Mary again and had a rather large glass of Scotch to calm my nerves before bed. I wondered as I drifted off to sleep just how the poor Bordens had died. It must have been terrible.
Chapter 10: Emma
Chapter Ten – Emma
Morning brought the post from New York and a letter from Mary.
My dearest John,
I miss you horribly but New York is a wondrous place. I just wish we were seeing it together instead of just me. Perhaps someday we can bring our son here to visit.
I am well. The morning sickness is not bad at all though I do tend to get weak if I don’t eat often enough. I swear that I can feel him growing already.
Your letters are fascinating though I am not sure that I’d like to meet Miss Borden. She sounds rather overbearing and not in a sometimes amusing way like Mr. Holmes. Do you think she killed her parents? How could anyone do such a thing?
I must go. It is time for dinner and I mustn’t keep my hosts waiting.
I love you and miss you so much.
I wanted to be with her so badly that it was nearly a physical pain. I laid her letter aside and ordered tea brought up with the morning papers. There was more of the same regarding Miss Borden and little else of interest to me.
I needed to speak with Miss Emma Borden now. Neither Holmes nor I had met her yet and even though she was not in Fall River when the murders occurred, she was no doubt the foremost expert on Lizzie Borden and the entire Borden household.
I had sent a note to her the day before and she agreed to speak with me at Mr. Jennings’ law offices. After breakfast, I made my way there to speak with her.
Miss Emma Borden was nine years older than Lizzie and looked even older than her early forties. She was actually much more pleasant than Miss Lizzie had been, which was quite a relief to me.
“Good morning, Dr. Watson. How may I help you? I am sure you know our tale almost as thoroughly as we do by now.”
“I have spoken with your sister and with Miss Sullivan. I simply wanted to ask you a few questions too.”
“You did not like your stepmother?” I decided to be blunt in my questioning.
“Not so very much, no. She always thought to be our mother and she simply was not. I remember our mother and did not ever want another after she was gone.”
“Was there trouble between your stepmother and your sister?”
“Nothing very recent. Lizzie and I both were angry when father bought that house for Mrs. Whitehead and gave his half to Mrs. Borden. This was about five years ago.”
“Was this why Lizzie stopped calling her Mother?”
“Lizzie will say no but I suspect that it really was the reason.”
“Why did your father wear Lizzie’s school ring?”
Emma sighed. “She gave it to him, put it on his finger and he simply never removed it. I cannot tell you why because only Lizzie and Father knew why.”
I wasn’t getting much from her. She was very protective of Lizzie; that much was obvious. I had read her inquest testimony and much of it seemed rehearsed, as if she were there simply to back up what Lizzie testified to.
Unfortunately Lizzie’s testimony was what got her indicted for the murders in the first place. She had given three different answers to the question of where she was when her father came home around 10:30 that fateful morning and there was still no clear answer in the record.
“Miss Borden, I have heard rumors that both you and Lizzie were angry with your father in the weeks before his death and that both of you were away from home because of that anger.”
Her face colored just enough to let me know that I had struck a nerve but I was right in thinking she’d never actually say such a thing.
“I know of no quarrel between Lizzie and Father.”
“Not even over the pigeons?”
“Pigeons?” She seemed surprised at the question. “Oh, you mean the birds Father killed in the barn? Why would Lizzie be angry?”
“I understood that they were her pets.”
“Nonsense! She fed them now and again but she did that to any creature that came into the yard.”
“Do you have any idea who killed your father and stepmother?”
“None, Dr. Watson. No idea at all.”
I thanked her for her time and let myself out of the room.
Emma Borden was certainly not like Lizzie. She was quiet and retiring, seemingly incapable of lying though I could see that perhaps she might get fierce in protecting Lizzie, who I’d been told that Emma considered more of a daughter than a sister. Had she been in Fall River at the time of the murders, she might have been the perfect suspect.
As I walked back to our hotel, I wondered where Holmes was and what he might be doing this day. I didn’t dare try to speculate, since it usually only got me into more trouble.
I ordered some lunch and read more of the morning papers while I waited to see what Holmes wished me to do next. Mr. Jennings was quoted as having brought in a famous detective from London to help find the killer and thus free poor, dear Lizzie from her unfortunate incarceration.
Some of the wealthy ladies of Fall River vowed to support Lizzie through thick and thin. I had to smile as I wondered if these were the same women who refused Lizzie admittance into their society since her father refused to play their games. How long would they stand with her when she wasn’t safely behind bars?
I was on my third cup of tea and contemplating something a little stronger when Holmes came dashing into the restaurant and rushed to my table.
“Watson! I have been looking for you.”
“Not very hard as I’ve been here for more than the past hour.”
“No matter. I have solved the case. I know who killed the Bordens and I am a long way toward figuring out why.”
Chapter 11: Tea and a Splinter
Chapter Eleven – Tea and a Splinter
My jaw dropped at Holmes’ statement.
“Whoever washed themselves in the basin in the cellar.”
I sagged. Of course he didn’t mean the name of the murderer. Why would I have thought that?
“I believe that whoever killed Mrs. Borden may have killed Mr. Borden because they figured out that he would find out what had happened.”
“Was it Lizzie?” I had to ask if he thought she did it.
“She cannot be ruled out yet. She is practically the only person with no alibi for the times of the murders.”
“Do you believe she could have done it?”
Holmes looked at me as if I were totally insane. “Anyone could have done it, Watson. Our job is to rule out those who did not and to deduce who did.”
Sometimes I simply wanted to pummel Holmes until he could not speak those words of his that made me so want to scream in frustration. This was one of those times.
“So what do we do now?”
“I think I must visit the house again but not just yet. What did you think of Miss Emma?”
“She was much nicer than Lizzie but I am not sure she is telling the whole truth either.”
“You think she is protecting Lizzie?”
“Yes, but I am not sure it’s from murder charges or if she is simply protecting her from the world in general.”
“I thought as much. I am not sure she’d believe that Lizzie did it even if she were guilty.”
He ordered a light lunch of tea and some American apple pie. I noticed that he had grown rather fond of it. At least he was eating, which was better than he usually did when on a case.
After his tea and pie, he rose. “I am going to visit Mr. Borden’s properties here in town, to walk his daily walk and then I am going to retire to my rooms for the day.”
He was up to something but he didn’t need me to know or help him so I knew I needed to find some other way to entertain myself this afternoon. I did something terribly creative and exciting. I went to my room and took a nap.
My nap was not the peaceful respite that I had hoped for. I dreamed of hatchets and someone chasing Mary and myself through the streets of London. I don’t know if the dreams had meaning. I rather doubt they do though Dr. Freud in Vienna might argue with me. I tend to think they might more likely be a bad bit of food or gas in one’s stomach.
I woke in a cold sweat and Holmes banging on the door between our rooms.
“Watson! Are you all right?”
I got up and opened the door. He took one look at my rumpled state. “Bad dream?”
I nodded and stepped back so he could come all the way into the room.
“I walked around town. It would seem that our Mr. Borden was not liked very much in this town. I am not sure any of his detractors would have killed him but I found not one soul who liked him. Not one. And not many more who liked Miss Borden either. Even thought the family was very well off, she was considered to be a bit beneath those who lived in the more fashionable part of town.”
He sat down at my table and pulled out bits of this and that from his pockets.
“What is that?”
“Things I found under the basin in the cellar, among other places.”
One thing that seemed odd was a sliver of wood about 3 inches long.
“What is that?” I pointed to it.
“I think that it might be a piece of the hatchet handle.”
“The one in evidence?”
“No. The one that killed the Bordens. I didn’t find it in the cellar. It was in the floor of Emma’s closet. It has blood on it.”
“But Emma was not at home,” I said.
“Don’t you think Emma might have helped Lizzie if she thought Lizzie had committed the crimes?”
“I’m certain that she would have. She had no love for Mrs. Borden and I got the idea she wasn’t all that happy with their father either.” I knew the sister I met would do anything for her younger sister.
“This still does not prove it was Lizzie but it comes closer than anything I’ve seen,” he said as he turned sliver of wood this way and that. “Perhaps Lizzie hid it before Emma got home. The room had been Lizzie’s before they traded, giving Lizzie the larger room.”
“Do you think her lawyers are going to be happy to hear of this?”
“I told them I didn’t come here to find what they asked me to find but rather the truth of the matter instead. They may have to simply be satisfied with that.”
“They can’t defend her with bold faced lies though.”
“It is not them I plan to show my evidence to. I plan to confront Miss Borden if I deem that she is the guilty party. I want to see her face and hear her denial, for she will deny it to the very end.”
“Do you think Miss Sullivan knows?”
“Of course she does. She is fond of Lizzie and Emma and I believe that they have given her money to keep silent. How else could she afford new and fairly expensive clothing all of a sudden?”
“Will you confront her?” I asked Holmes.
“I think not. She was doing as she was told. It can’t be very easy for a poor immigrant girl to make her way in the world alone. She will defend Lizzie to the end, as will Emma.”
“Then even if you find evidence suggesting her guilt, Miss Borden will go free?”
“Then I am ready to leave this one and go home. My wife has need of me and I have no love for this place. It seems oppressive by its very air.”
Holmes smiled. “I suspect that is the smoke from the factories. While we are used to smoke and fog in London, it is of a differing type than this. I believe Lizzie made a comment to you about how smoky and foggy London is.”
“Then I may count us lucky that she returned home when her visit was done.”
“Indeed you may.” Holmes gave me a gentle wave and was gone back to his own rooms.
Chapter 12: Celebrity
Chapter Twelve – Celebrity
Journalists from New York and many other places were in the restaurant the next morning when Holmes and I went down for breakfast and they rushed us as we entered the room. Holmes looked more panicked than anything else so I held my hand up for them to listen.
“Gentlemen, this is a surprise to us. You’ll have to give us a moment.”
That didn’t seem to calm them much and I knew they’d press close again in a moment. Everyone in England knew my companion and his fame had evidently spread to America as well. All the journalists began firing questions at once.
“Gentlemen! Perhaps we can prevail upon Mr. Jennings to find a place for us to chat with you all later today. I am sure you have many questions for Mr. Holmes and he is anxious to answer as many as he can. Right now, we’d love to eat our breakfast.”
They finally agreed and left us in peace, or what passed for peace as many of them took up the empty tables in the restaurant watched us eat and have our morning tea, no doubt writing articles about Hollmes for the early edition of their papers. I couldn’t imagine that our meat choices for breakfast would be all that entertaining but people were eager for any news to break the monotony of their everyday lives.
Lizzie Borden and Sherlock Holmes certainly were giving them that!
As soon as we had eaten, I wrote a quick note to Jennings and sent a boy to deliver it. We retired to our rooms to wait for his reply and to get away from the stares.
Holmes was not thrilled with the reporters.
“I wonder who leaked it,” I said to myself.
“I suspect Mr. Robinson did. I have no idea what he hoped to gain. Maybe he hoped to have me divert some of the attention from Miss Borden.”
“That sounds plausible. Now what do I tell them?”
“As little as possible and make them think you told them more.”
As much as I agreed with him, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work once I stood up in front of this group of potentially hostile reporters from all over the Eastern United States. I did know that it would be me who did the talking while Holmes watched carefully, noting every face and every word.
Mr. Robinson sent a note back. He’d arranged a conference for us to meet with the reporters at one that afternoon. He would introduce us and they would be allowed to ask questions for an hour. His plan seemed fine except for the fact that he seemed to think Holmes would talk to the press. I would let him know that it would be me when we arrived at the location, a local church. As a matter of fact, it was Lizzie’s church, the First Congregational, and the Reverend Buck would serve as host to both us and the press.
Holmes disappeared into his room and did not come out until our carriage came to fetch us at quarter past twelve. He looked very dapper when he opened the adjoining door in response to my knock.
“The carriage is downstairs. Shall we go?”
We did and Mr. Robinson and the Reverend Buck met us at the rear door of the church.
“Welcome, gentlemen!” Reverend Buck was a bit overly friendly but not terribly offensive at it. I suspect that is just the nature of most ministers.
They showed us how they’d set up the pulpit for us to speak from. Mr. Robinson said he and Buck would introduce us then Holmes would address the group.
“Mr. Robinson, Mr. Holmes does not desire to speak to the group at all, if possible. I will make opening remarks and answer their questions. Holmes will answer their questions if they are of such a technical nature that I cannot do so. Will that be satisfactory?”
Robinson looked more than a little put out, but he agreed. He shot Holmes a near venomous look. I smiled behind my handkerchief.
The reporters showed up at the appointed time and pushed and shoved until Reverend Buck stood and moved up to the podium.
“Gentlemen, please have a seat. There is room for all of you so you need not shove one another. I’d like to welcome you here today and introduce Mr. Robinson, one of Miss Borden’s legal counsel.”
Robinson stood and moved to the podium, almost shoving the minister out of his way.
“Mr. Jennings and I decided to bring in the most renowned investigator in the world to help us find the person who did these heinous crimes. I know that my client and Miss Emma will rest better knowing that the real blackguards who committed this crime are hung for their deeds. Gentlemen, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson from London.”
The reporters clapped as they jockeyed for position and shouted questions at us.
Sherlock and I stood and made our way to the dais. I held up my hand for silence and was finally rewarded with it several minutes later, when the clamor finally settled and the reporters actually took their seats.
I began to speak.
“Gentlemen, it is our honor to be here today. We’d like to thank Mr. Jennings and Mr. Robinson for bringing us here from England to take a look at this case. We followed the story in London too. We are still doing our investigation but I hope that we can satisfy you and your readers that we will do all in our power to bring the person who did these crimes to justice.”
“Mr. Holmes has asked me to field your questions for the both of us.”
They all sagged a bit.
“Mr. Holmes and I were invited here by Miss Borden’s lawyers in an effort to find out who killed the Bordens. We hope to do just that. So far, we are conducting interviews and investigating the scene of the crime. We are not finished and have not yet come to conclusion as to who the murderer is. Now I will take questions.”
The crowd broke out into a rowdy uproar again with each reporter trying to shout louder than the next one. I heard a shrill and very loud whistle of some sort and looked to see Holmes blowing on a small whistle that he’d obviously purchased for just such a purpose as this.
He moved slightly in front of me. “Gentlemen! Please give my colleague your respect and do as he asks. Or we shall simply leave without speaking any more about this incident.”
The crowd fell silent.
Holmes smiled and motioned for me to carry on.
Chapter 13: Media Madness
Chapter Thirteen – Media Madness
I stepped back to the podium. “Thank you, Mr. Holmes. Now, the young man on the second row with the glasses, what is your question?”
“Has Mr. Holmes found the murder weapon yet?”
“No, but according to the prosecution, the murder weapon is in police hands. Mr. Holmes has been searching for any evidence that would point to the killer, though.”
I looked toward the back and saw a very young man, so young that he looked like a schoolboy. “You, sir, on the back pew near the door.”
He stood and stared at me and Holmes for a second before he spoke. “Is it true that you only get paid if you find someone who will confess so Miss Borden will be freed?”
I almost laughed. The question both absurd and believable at the same time. I felt like Robinson expected us to bring some evil monster of a man before him who would confess to the killings. I was sure that this was not going to happen and becoming surer of that every day.
“We were asked to investigate. If that helps find the killer, then we will have done our jobs but we have not been told to specifically get a confession out of someone. I believe that is a job for the police.”
“Is it true that Miss Lizzie is paying Bridget Sullivan to lie for her?” The young man blurted out.
“You already asked your question, but I can say that we have no knowledge of such a thing.”
I knew I was making Robinson and crew look more than a little questionable but I had no appreciation for them manipulating us either. Perhaps Robinson would see that Holmes and I were not to be trifled with.
“Next. The gentleman in the green.”
“If you’ve met Lizzie, what did you think of her?”
“I found her to be very ladylike. I find it hard to believe that a woman such as Miss Borden could commit murder.”
“How long do you and Mr. Holmes expect to stay in Fall River?”
“Until we are no longer needed.”
“Where is Mrs. Watson?”
“She is visiting some friends in New York.”
“Will you be here for Miss Borden’s trial?”
“At this time, we plan to return to London as soon as our investigation is done.”
“Do you think Lizzie did it?” This one came from the reporter who’d asked the extra question the first time through.
Mr. Robinson rose and said, “I think that is all we have time for - ”
I cut in. “As I said before, we have not concluded our investigation yet. Mr. Holmes bases all his conclusions on evidence, not guesswork. Thank you all. Mr. Robinson is right though. That is all we have time for today.”
The reporters all shouted out questions at once but Holmes and I left the pulpit and left the church quickly. Our carriage took us back to our hotel, where we hurried to our rooms before the reporters descended on us there too.
As soon as we were in my room, Holmes turned to me. “You are aware how angry Mr. Robinson is at us?”
“Yes, I am but I grew weary of his manipulations. He thinks we came across the ocean to find what he tells us to find. I think he believes Lizzie to be the killer and I think he thought we’d tell him different, no matter what the facts are.”
Holmes nodded. “This is all true but none of it brings us closer to finding the truth. I think that the truth is in that house still if I can find it.”
“Is it really that important? No one else seems to be bothered in the least by facts.”
“It is important to me. I want to know what happened. I fear that we may not know the truth at all until the killer tells us the tale.”
“And how to you think you’re going to manage to bring that about?”
“When I find one thing that is irrefutable as evidence then I will confront the killer with it and offer that person a chance to tell me the truth.”
“And will you tell Lizzie’s lawyers?”
“I will tell them simply what they need to know. That and nothing more.”
I poured myself a glass of American whiskey from the decanter that I’d had sent to my room and sat down. I offered one to Holmes but he declined.
“So what is next? Where do we investigate?”
“The house. When the house gives up its secrets, then we will have our murderer.”
I drained the glass and poured another and yet one more. I was just drunk enough to say what I thought.
“You know what I think?” I rose, a bit unsteady but not staggering yet and pounded the table with my fist.
“What would that be?” He gave me that indulgent look that he saved for me when he was annoyed and for Lestrade all the time, that look that said Lastrade and I were blundering idiots.
“She did it. She took a hatchet and whacked her father and his fat wife to death then calmly called the maid and her neighbors and pretended that she had no idea what happened.”
“You could be right, my inebriated friend, but we have to be able to prove it. And that is what I intend to do.”
“You go do that. I think I might just - just take a nap. I don’t feel so well.”
Holmes laughed. “Get some rest, Watson. We may have to deal with the lawyers again soon and I have no patience for such things.”
“You think I do?”
“Let’s just say you have more than I do when it comes to dealing with human beings. I prefer facts all day to even one encounter with a flesh and blood person, yourself not included.”
“Go then and find some hard evidence. I’m going to sleep this off then write a letter to my dear wife, telling her how badly I miss her.”
I couldn’t be sure but I thought I saw a forlorn look cross Holmes’ face as he turned and left the room.
Chapter 14: Naps and Other Distractions
Chapter Fourteen – Naps and Other Distractions
I did sleep it off and slept a while longer. Holmes beating on my door woke me.
“Watson! Open up!”
I stumbled to the door and opened it.
“You’re still sleeping?”
“I was but you woke me. What is it?”
“I had a visit from Mr. Robinson when I went to the Borden house.”
“What did he want?”
“He was rather put out with us. He felt like we made him look bad.”
“I did make him look bad. What did you say to him?”
“I told him that I only sought the truth, nothing more and nothing less.”
I moved to let Holmes into the room.
“I’m sure he was impressed with that.”
Holmes laughed. “He threatened to send us home without payment.”
“He already paid us and he already paid for our passage home.” I had made sure of these details before I ever booked the trip in the first place.
Even though Holmes might be able to afford an extended leave from London, I could not. I barely made enough as it was. I was already worrying about how I would be able to provide for another family member. There were only so many hours in a day for practicing medicine and if one worked too much, he became sloppy and made mistakes, mistakes that could cost someone their life.
“Holmes, I think our coming here was a mistake. I cannot see how we can make anything better than it is and to be honest, I don’t think anyone would dare convict an old maid like Lizzie of anything.”
“I am sure you are right. People are hesitant to believe a woman could do something so horrible and to her parents, of all people, but you know, as well as I do, that people often do the absolute worst things to the people they actually love.”
I sighed. “I’ll call for some tea. You go do – something. I want to write Mary a letter and get it in the evening post.”
Holmes made that face that said he was glad he was above such things and waved his hand dismissively as he left the room.
Two hours later, I was a bit more fit for human company and I tapped on the adjoining suite.
He opened the door and the smell that greeted me from his room was horrendous.
“What on earth?” I backed up and fanned my face as if that would dispel the stench from hell.
“I was - in the middle of some scientific experimentation.”
“What sort? Murder by malodorous intent?”
“Actually, I was working on some new theories, trying to clear my mind so this case will come into focus for me.”
“After today, do you still think anything we say matters?”
“The press might like to hear my theories, don’t you think?”
“The press would eat up anything you say and you know it. So does Robinson. But I’ve never known you to do something just to spite someone. I don’t think now is the time to start.”
“You’re right. I suppose you want to go to dinner?”
“No, I think not. Perhaps I shall order some broth and make it an early night. The sooner we get this case done, the quicker I can get my wife and child to be back to London and back to the safety of home.”
He nodded and closed my door.
I went to back to bed and did not stir until six the next morning. I would have stayed abed longer but Holmes was at my door with a teapot and his pipe.
“Do you know what time it is?”
“I do and I wanted to talk to you.”
“If you’d killed your parents, who would you trust with that information?”
“No one, not even my brother.”
“What if your brother knew without being told? Would you allow him to help you?”
I thought about it.
My own brother was a bit of a sot and was not usually to be trusted with much of anything important. The question was would I protect my brother if he’d done some awful thing and I knew the answer to that question. I had helped protect him many times from creditors, angry husbands and worse.
“Of course Emma would protect her little sister. She’s been doing it all her life, since their mother died,” I answered Holmes. “Then is Emma the key? Will she tell us what happened?”
“No. She will never tell us anything at all. But her room might hold the key. It is where I found the sliver of bloody wood, after all. It might tell us the whole tale.” Holmes was pacing as we talked. He was getting excited.
“Then you are going to need to go over her room as thoroughly as possible to find something the police did not.”
“And to find something that Emma forgot to hide. I am fairly sure that Emma has hidden most or all of what she kept in her closet. Or perhaps Lizzie herself hid it. It was her room once, no?”
“So what do you think she may have kept?” My curiosity was rising too.
“I do not dare even speak what I think. I will let you know when I have evidence in my hand. Then and only then.”
I didn’t ask again. Sherlock Holmes believed in evidence, and no matter what else was involved, he would not muddy the truth with supposition and gossip. I knew that he already knew who killed the Bordens as well as how, perhaps even why but he would not utter a word until he had proof in his hand.
“Shall I go with you back to the house?” I wanted to know now, more than I’d ever thought I would. I think that Holmes somehow always managed to stir the innate curiosity in me.
“Perhaps that would be a good idea this time. I’ll come for you after we lunch with Miss Emma. I should like to simply watch her. It is already arranged. We are to meet here at the hotel restaurant at twelve thirty.”
I nodded and said a silent prayer for poor Emma. She was about to be a meal for one almost as diabolical at times as the person who had murdered her father and stepmother.
Chapter 15: Evidence
Chapter Fifteen – Evidence
Miss Emma cowered as Holmes watched her with his bird of prey look, as if he were just waiting for a time to swoop in and eat her up.
“Miss Borden, how often do you travel or visit friends?” I knew the answer but I wanted to make her squirm a little. She was, after all, protecting a murderer, or at least a woman I thought was probably the murderer.
“I seldom travel but this time, Lizzie and I both just had to get away from – well, I wanted to visit some friends I’d not seen in some time.”
She had not recovered well from that one at all. What were she and Lizzie running from?
“Why did you not return when Lizzie did?”
“I – I just didn’t. She wanted to get back and I - ”
“Did you leave so Lizzie could kill your stepmother and your father?” Holmes broke in on my probing.
Emma turned several colors, none of them flattering. “N-no,” she stammered as she reached for her fan. “I left because I had not been away for a long time and I was invited to visit friends.”
“Did you know she was going to do it?” Holmes was cold and calculating. I had no idea whether he was fishing or whether he chose to be cruel just for cruelty’s sake. I was not sure either justified his question.
Emma had recovered enough to surprise me with her reply. “She did not do it, Mr. Holmes. My sister would not hurt a fly!”
“Someone did! Someone came into your home in broad daylight and chopped your father’s and stepmother’s heads to a bloody pulp. Miss Sullivan was too horrified to stay there one more night, yet you and Lizzie didn’t seem to fear that the killer would come back. Why is that?”
Emma was clearly without an answer to that one. She opened her mouth and closed it again and just sat there. Finally she did speak. “I think I am finished speaking with you, Mr. Holmes. You are a mean man.”
Holmes watched her go and rubbed his hands together as if he felt some glee at his performance. “She is very sure that we will not find what is hidden. Or she actually has no idea that it’s there at all.”
“That’s it? You were a complete ass to that poor woman and that’s all you have to say?”
“Come along, Watson. It would seem that finally, the game is afoot.”
I was angry but I’d known him long enough to know that as horribly as he could behave at times, he was almost always right. I grabbed my coat and off we went to that horrible and depressing house on Second Street.
It was actually much better to be there in the light of day instead of by lamplight. Holmes didn’t bother with any preliminaries at all; he went straight to Emma’s little bedroom and stood in the middle of the room. He tapped his chin, in deep thought. I said nothing at all as I was still angry with him for his behavior to Miss Emma.
He lifted the mattress and looked beneath it, then seeing nothing of interest, he put it back and moved on to one thing then another until he’d done a preliminary search of the entire room. I knew he’d been here before and that he’d probably already searched this room from top to bottom but I was always intrigued by the things he could find that I simply did not see.
He got down on the floor and pulled out his infamous looking glass. He searched the floor from one wall to the other, never saying a word then he finally went into the closet.
“This is where I found the bloody splinter.”
“It was under an old blanket lying on the floor.”
“Just lying there?”
“No, it was hidden in another blanket but it was still not hidden very well.”
“What are you looking for now?”
Holmes looked up at me and shook his head. “I’ll tell you when I find it.”
He began to move everything off of the floor. There were shoes and from the look of them, there were more than one size of shoes. The others must belong to Lizzie. Well, this had once been Lizzie’s bedroom and families as stingy as hers was didn’t tend to throw things out though –
I suddenly remembered that Lizzie had testified that they burned old clothes rather than use them again as rags, so keeping old shoes was perhaps a stretch too.
Or maybe Lizzie had lied. And had lied from the beginning.
“Watson, help me here.”
I turned from my thoughts to help Holmes. The closet floor was now empty of everything. Holmes once again began to look at the naked floor with his glass, stopping now and then to pick something up or to look a little closer at something,
“What do you need me to do?”
“Go find me some sort of pry bar. There should be one in barn, if not the cellar.”
I dashed off on my errand, finding one in the barn. I grabbed a hammer too while I was there, figuring whatever Holmes managed to pry up that I would have to nail back in place.
He had his nose almost on the floor when I got back upstairs. He reached for the pry bar and began to pry a floor board up. It popped rather easily for such an old house. Holmes tossed it aside and removed something wrapped in an old, worn cloth. The cloth was rather large and had been pushed up under several boards so it took Holmes several seconds to dislodge it completely.
“There were some tiny bits of sawdust lodged in the boards that showed me they’d been moved recently,” he explained. “That was why I needed the glass.”
He did not open the old cloth up to see what was inside. He just placed it on the floor and looked at it. As a surgeon, I recognized the brownish stains. They were blood. The cloth was a blue patterned one that looked awfully similar to the cloth that had been discussed at the inquest, a blue print dress that Lizzie insisted she had not worn on the day of the murders.
Someone had, for when Holmes opened up the dress, a bloody hatchet head lay inside the folded material.
Sherlock Holmes had found his evidence.
Chapter 16: Holmes' Decision
Chapter Sixteen – Holmes’ Decision
I simply stared at the hatchet. Not only was it bloody, it was covered in what had to be brain matter too. Whoever had hid it had not even bothered to clean it. They’d just thrown it down on the dress and shoved them under the floorboards.
Holmes broke the silence.
“Contact the jailer. I wish to speak with Lizzie Borden and I want to speak to her without her lawyers present if she will agree. If they see what I have found, I am not sure either one can represent her faithfully.”
As a military surgeon in Afghanistan, I had seen some gory injuries, men with organs hanging out of them, men with limbs blown off or mangled beyond recognition but this was different. This had been done by the old maid that I’d talked to a few days ago, a seemingly gentle if not likable woman near to my own age. It had to be her. Who else could have done it?
I left Holmes in that house with his macabre prize and walked to the livery stable nearby and hired a horse to take me to the telegraph office where I sent a message to Taunton. I indicated in the message that it was an urgent matter and that I would be waiting for a reply. The reply came within half an hour and I went back to Second Street for Holmes.
On the way to see Miss Lizzie, I asked him what he planned to say to her.
“I plan to show her what I found and ask her to explain to me what happened in that house and why.”
“Will you give this evidence to her lawyers or to the prosecution?”
“That will depend entirely on Miss Borden.”
When we arrived at the jail, Holmes asked the jailer and his wife, who acted as Lizzie’s warden, to please remain out of earshot. They agreed though I suspected that they would attempt to hear what we said if possible.
“Has she agreed to speak with us?” Holmes asked the jailer.
We wasted no time then in going into Miss Borden’s cell.
Lizzie was locked in a cell but that was its only resemblance to a jail, as I mentioned before. Her bed had a nice duvet and there were cheerful curtains over her barred window. There were fresh flowers, clothing, books and magazines piled here and there in the small room. Clearly every effort had been made to make her comfortable and to make her feel more at home than any prisoner I had ever met before.
Two extra chairs had been provided for Holmes and myself.
“What brings you here?” Miss Borden asked without preliminary. “I agreed to meet you without the lawyers because I sometimes wonder if they truly understand me.” She was still playing her games, it would seem, by her lady of the manor act.
Holmes did not dally with preliminaries either. He took the wrapped packet from his jacket and opened the bloody dress up to reveal the hatchet. Lizzie’s eyes grew even bigger than they already were as she saw what he held in his hand.
“I found this in your sister’s closet, under the floor. It is obviously the murder weapon and it is wrapped in a dress that resembles one mentioned at the inquest.”
“I – why would Emma have them?”
Holmes almost laughed.
“Why indeed? I think you know the answer to that question.”
“Me?” She was trying to act as if she didn’t understand what we meant but she was failing miserably at it.
“Miss Borden, on August 4th, 1892, you killed your stepmother and your father. That much is fact. Why I am not sure of yet.”
She turned a most unpleasant color of red and, for a moment, I feared she would faint or worse, become apoplectic. She recovered and looked at Holmes with a hatred that would have scared me if she’d not already been in jail.
“I did not kill them, Mr. Holmes. I am a gentlewoman and could never do such a thing.”
“Then perhaps you have a theory?” Holmes’ voice was silky and smooth. This was the dangerous Holmes. Lizzie seemed to have no idea that right here and right now, she was facing her jury. Whatever Holmes decided about her story would determine her fate.
“Perhaps my father intended to give all his properties to his wife and turn his daughters out on the street.”
“How would anyone know this? Your father left no will.” Holmes spoke very quietly.
“Maybe someone heard the two of them several months before discussing this.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Borden?”
“Why would he turn his daughters out? He loved them, especially you. Isn’t that right?”
“He wouldn’t, but Mrs. Borden would. She never liked Emma and she didn’t like me either after I grew to adulthood. She was jealous because my father loved me more than he did her.”
“Why wait so long to kill them?”
“Perhaps John Morse was to be part of the plan too. Perhaps his coming to visit showed this person that now was the time to act.”
“So what was this person’s plan?”
“It was rather simple. Uncle John was always wandering about so he was no real worry. Father went to check on all his properties every single morning so there was plenty of time to dispose of Abby. All this person had to do was find a way to get Bridget out of the house.”
“How did she get Abby to ask Bridget to wash windows?”
“Oh, she didn’t. She told Maggie that Abby wanted the windows washed then watched and waited for Maggie to be out of sight and hearing. She changed her clothes, putting one dress over the top of the other one and putting a cap on her head.”
“How did she know Bridget wouldn’t come back?”
“She locked all the doors so Maggie couldn’t get back into the house.”
I watched Lizzie as she talked. She became more animated, her eyes flashing and a rather out of place smile on her face that might be construed as attractive if she’d been a more pleasant woman. Or if she’d not been discussing the brutal murder of her father and stepmother.
“Then what might have happened?” Holmes was still speaking in a voice meant to calm and assure, to keep her talking until she’d told her tale.
She looked him in the eye and then looked at the bloody dress laid out on her own little cot. She looked as if she might stop talking. But she didn’t.
Lizzie Borden began to explain how exactly she’d killed her stepmother and her father on that fateful August morning.
Chapter 17: Lizzie Speaks
Chapter Seventeen – Lizzie Speaks
“She might have gone to her room and looked under her mattress for a hatchet that she’d gotten out in the barn a few days before. She checked to see that it was sharp. It was as she’d sharpened it when she’d retrieved it. Then she would go to her wardrobe and choose an old worn out dress to put on over her good dress, which was pulled up so it wouldn’t get blood on the hem or anywhere else. She put a cap over her hair and left for the guest room, where she’d heard Abby a few seconds before.”
“What was Abby doing?”
“She was dusting and cleaning for company.”
“Who was coming?”
“No one. Abby had gotten a telegram a few days before but no one was coming.” She stopped speaking for a second and looked Holmes in the eye. “Abby needed to be in that room, and so she was.”
I felt a chill run down my spine.
“This person saw Abby go into the guest room and waited a few minutes then stepped in behind her. Abby must have heard the sound the hatchet made because she turned at the last second and the hatchet caught her above the ear. She fell and this person sat straddle of her and kept hitting her head, even when her braid was chopped off and flew onto the bed. She had to make sure the old woman was dead.
“She pulled the door closed as she left the room and went to the cellar, where she washed her hands and face and took off the bloody dress. She wrapped the hatchet in it and took it back up to the bedroom and put it in the closet.
“All she had to do was wait for Father and finish him too. She ironed and read some magazines and waited for Father to come home for dinner. Maggie finished with the windows and they talked a bit. Father came home and she talked with him a bit too”
She paused and stared off into space. I wondered if she was seeing what had happened on that day. I wondered if she even cared.
She turned to me and I saw a big tear running down her face. “She loved him, Mr. Watson. She had loved him all her life but she was never sure that he loved her back. He had never let the young men who wanted to court her do so. He always called them worthless cads who only wanted her for her fortune. He had killed her birds too, had wrung their necks simply because he could and he knew there was not a thing she could do about it.
“And now he was going to set her out on the street and give that awful cow of a woman her house and her land. He was going to leave her and dear Emma penniless. She couldn’t let him do that.
“The rancid grease she’d slipped into the mutton stew had made them all sick, even poor Maggie, so she sent Maggie upstairs to take a quick nap before time to make dinner. Maggie was glad of it too, thanking her for her kindness.
“Father lay down because he was still feeling poorly from the stew too. He went to sleep rather quickly but he’d been up sick in the night and was very tired. When she saw he was asleep, she slipped back up to the bedroom but she couldn’t stand the thought of putting that bloody wet dress back on so she went back down with the hatchet and she took Father’s coat down and put it on, tucking her clean dress up under it.
“She stood behind him and raised the hatchet and giving him a mighty blow that cut all the way through his cheek and his eye. Then she gave him a few more. She needed to make sure he was dead, just like her birds. He’d showed them to her, heads all bloody from where their necks had been wrung.”
She stopped again and began to rock slowly back and forth. I started to move, to try to give her some comfort or some help but Holmes stopped me with a look.
“She took off his coat and put it under his head. She went down to the cellar to clean up and then she put her bundle in Emma’s closet, under the floorboards where she’d hidden things when it was her room.
“She called Maggie, who got help and it was done. She was safe from being set out in the street. They could never hurt her again.”
“Miss Borden, do you think she did anything wrong?” Holmes asked her.
“Do I? Of course I do but what else could she do?”
“Does Emma know?”
“Of course not! Emma is a lady and she’d die if she heard something so awful.”
Holmes finally stood and picked up the evidence and bundled it back up. “What about Lizzie?”
“She will be fine. She has Father’s money and she has Emma. She’ll be fine.”
“Do you think she should go to jail?”
“Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew. She’s been in jail all her life anyway. Bars wouldn’t make much difference.”
Holmes held his hand out to her and kissed her hand then said, “Thank you for your time, Miss Borden. I do wish you the best. I think Dr. Watson and I shall be going home soon and may not see you again so I bid you goodbye.”
I was stunned but followed him from the cell with a mumbled goodbye to a woman who’d killed her parents with a hatchet and had felt not one single bit of remorse. I had no idea what he was thinking.
Maybe he was insane too.
Chapter 18: New York Interlude
Chapter Eighteen – New York Interlude
Holmes and I said little on our ride back to Fall River. What was there to say? Lizzie had indeed killed her parents and had done it with little remorse. She felt that what she did was perfectly reasonable and logical. Holmes actually had seemed to think so too, at least it seemed so in their last exchange.
Before we went into our hotel, I stopped him and asked, “What do we do now? Do we tell Robinson and the others?”
“I think we are bound to tell Mr. Robinson. He did hire us. I think we shall let him decide whether to tell Mr. Jennings or not. I suspect Robinson already knows anyway.”
“Did you ever doubt it?”
“Of course. I came here without an opinion. I hoped that she did not do it but as soon as I went to the house, I knew someone inside had done it. There were no traces of anyone else anywhere. I could find no evidence and no motive for the serving girl so that left Miss Borden.”
“Shall I arrange a meeting with Robinson?”
Holmes shook his head. “He’ll be around soon enough when he notices we’re not asking any more questions.”
“What shall we do?”
“Do you wish to go to New York for a day or two?”
“Yes, I’d love to go to New York and see Mary. Will you meet with Robinson alone while I’m gone?”
“I was thinking that I might go too. I may never come here again. Perhaps I shall find Mrs. Hudson a souvenir.”
The thought of Holmes playing tourist was more than I could take. I burst out laughing. Luckily, Holmes was rather thick skinned and did not take offense to my joking. We reserved our rooms for a few days and I contacted Mary by telegram, letting her and her hosts know that Holmes and I would be arriving within the day and would room in a hotel.
We left by train and arrived the next day in New York City.
Mary and the Turners met us at the train and we traveled to our hotel, a very nice one on Fifth Avenue. Mary would stay with me and Holmes would have an adjoining room. We would dine out on our first evening and do some sightseeing the next day.
When we got checked in and got to our room, Mary threw her arms around me.
“John, I’m so pleased that you decided to come for a few days. I have missed you more than I can tell you.”
I assured her that I had missed her more and we went on this way for quite some time before realizing that we were alone and dinner wasn’t for hours. We made the best of our time and were dressed in our best and ready for dinner when the Turners arrived to take us to Delmonico’s for dinner.
Dinner was elegant and delicious as we tried one of the namesake steaks, a Delmonico. Even Holmes ate fairly well. Since it was very cold, we decided to return to our hotel for the evening with plans to go out the next day.
“How much longer, John?”
“Hopefully, we only have a few more weeks. Miss Borden confessed to Holmes and myself. We have not yet told her lawyers but at the point we do, I think we will be done with our investigation and then we can return home and begin to search for that country home to raise our children in.”
“It sounds almost like a dream, doesn’t it?” She snuggled close to my side and we slept.
The next day we saw the sights, even the new luxury hotel that would be the ultra modern Waldorf–Astoria. It was getting close to completion as it was scheduled to open in March. It was going to be magnificent.
“We should come back here someday to celebrate our anniversary,” Mary whispered as we rode through the chilled city. Her fur seemed to be perfect for this trip. We even saw the Statue of Liberty as she beckoned those of all nations to embrace freedom. The statue was quite a beautiful sight, even if it was a gift from the French.
All too soon, it was time for Holmes and myself to return to Massachusetts and finish the job we had come to the Americas to do. We boarded a train and were back in Fall River fairly quickly.
Mr. Robinson met us at the train. He was rather red-faced as we disembarked.
“We didn’t pay you to vacation in New York, Holmes.”
“No, I paid for us to do that. Dr. Watson is a newlywed and was pining away for his lovely wife.”
“Does this mean you have concluded your investigation then?”
“It does indeed, Mr. Robinson, and if you’ll come around to my hotel room around four, I will tell you what we found out. You might want to leave your co-counsel at home this time.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that I should probably make my report to you alone, sir.”
Robinson still looked rather flustered but he agreed to meet us again later. We made our way to our rooms and got settled in and I had some tea brought up, along with some light fare to eat. I was ravenous for some reason. Perhaps it was the prospect of going home and finding a new home for Mary and our new family.
I made my way to Holmes’ rooms half an hour before the lawyer was due to arrive. I had decided to broach the subject of resigning as his associate when we got home. I couldn’t very well help him investigate from a country home, now could I?
“Holmes, Mary and I are thinking of moving to the country before the baby comes. We’d like to raise our child away from London. I’ll open a small practice and become a country doctor and we shall have some animals and a garden. You can even come visit us.”
Holmes looked at me as if I’d grown a third ear.
“You’ll be bored to death within the month!”
“I don’t think so. I think it’s a wonderful idea.”
“I won’t talk about it here. Wait until we get back to London.”
And that was it. Holmes was intractable when he made us his mind so I let it go.
Chapter 19: The Final Report
Chapter Nineteen – The Final Report
Robinson was knocking on Holmes’ door promptly at four. I let him in and offered him a drink. He took it.
“Now tell me what is going on. All this secrecy and such is not giving me a good feeling about things.”
Holmes was pacing and smoking. It looked as if I was going to be the one who told Mr. Robinson what his client had told us.
“Mr. Robinson, in the days preceding our trip to New York, we found some disturbing evidence. Actually, Mr. Holmes found it as he searched the house again and again. First, he found a rather large amount of blood in and around the sink in the cellar.”
“That’s nothing!” Robinson rose from his chair.
“You must let me talk. There is more, much more.”
“All right but do remember I did not send for you to help send Lizzie to the gallows.”
“You claimed you wanted the truth. I can assure that what we have found is the truth. If it were not, we would never have asked you to come here alone.”
“Very well then but get to the point!”
“There is much to tell. After Holmes found the blood, he found a bloody splinter in the floor of Emma’s closet. The splinter looked to be about the length of a hatchet handle. Not satisfied, he went to the house one last time and took me with him.
“Under the boards in the floor of Emma’s closet, we found a bloody dress and a bloody hatchet head. The dress fit the description of one Lizzie might have been wearing that day.”
He made to speak but I held my hand up and continued. “Let me finish. We went to see Lizzie and showed her the dress and the hatchet. She confessed. She said she killed Abby then Mr. Borden later. She said that she was afraid her father was going to leave everything he had to Mrs. Borden and leave her and Emma penniless and homeless.”
Robinson sank back into his seat. “Dear God, I thought she probably had done it but I still hoped not. I cannot tell Jennings this unless it is Lizzie’s wish. He believes her to be the innocent victim of a bumbling police force and corrupt officials.”
“She was perfectly calm and seemed without remorse. Holmes seemed to feel some sympathy for her but I must say that I did not.”
“So now what?” Robinson asked me.
“That is up to you. Holmes has done what you paid him for. He investigated and found the truth. It is simply that: the truth.”
“Were her sister or the maid involved in any way?”
“We do not think so. I’m not sure they know the truth even now. It is possible that Lizzie has confessed to Emma but if so, it was certainly not until recently. Lizzie buried those things under the floor boards on the day of the murders. The room was once hers, after all, and she knew the hiding places even better than Emma would have.”
“You and Mr. Holmes may leave whenever you’re ready. I think you have found all the information that there is to find. I thank you and I will caution you not to tell anyone else what you’ve found.”
“We do not discuss our findings with others,” Holmes said rather coolly to the defense lawyer.
“I’ll need the evidence.”
“I think not, Mr. Robinson. I think I shall hang onto it for a bit. It will be returned to Fall River eventually but I think I’ll take it with me to London for the time being.”
Robinson stood up and slammed his fist on the table. “Dammit, you work for me.”
Holmes whipped around from where he stood at the window. “We did what we said we would. I think the evidence is too volatile for you to have at this time. I assume you are planning to continue as Miss Borden’s attorney. The last thing you need is evidence of her guilt in your possession. I am doing you a favor.”
“Very well but I do expect to get this evidence back from you someday.”
“You have my word on it.”
He stood and left the room. I went to my own room and began to make arrangements to sail home. We could finally leave this strange, cold town and go to a place that we understood, warts and all.
And I would be with Mary again. That was particularly cause for rejoicing on my part.
Chapter 20: Home at Last
Chapter Twenty – Home At Last
We were home by the first of March.
Mary and I settled back into our routine though we did take the train out to the country to look at houses on my days off, when I had days off, a seldom occurrence. I was very busy in my surgery in those days, mainly because I wanted to make more money to afford that country home.
Mary was doing well but I had to caution her to rest more than she did. She insisted on keeping house and cooking with only a little help. We hired a neighbor girl but I think she actually spent more time talking to Mary than doing chores in the house.
Holmes busied himself with small cases for the most part, disappearing now and again to investigate a case not based in London. Sometimes I went with him but I tended not to want to leave Mary overnight.
Lizzie Borden’s trial opened on June 5, 1893 in New Bedford, Massachusetts and it still made the papers here in London. There was much speculation as to whether Miss Borden would testify on her own behalf. I doubted that she would.
The trial proved to be short in the extreme but it certainly did not lack sensational headlines and stories. Supposedly Mr. Moody for the prosecution was quite a showman as he wrapped Mr. Borden’s skull in one of Lizzie’s dresses and flung it out for a witness for the prosecution to test the ‘murder weapon’ in the actual wounds. Lizzie is said to have fainted. This was not the case. Lizzie had been escorted from the courtroom before her father’s skull was produced.
Lizzie’s supporters followed her every move and her cell was filled with flowers and cards from her supporters. I wondered what they’d do if they’d heard what she told Holmes and myself. I was sure Miss Borden was eating up all the attention she was getting. The odd thought even crossed my mind that perhaps this was why she did it. For the attention.
There were many strange testimonies at the trial. The lady warden at Fall River testified that she’d heard Lizzie and Emma quarrel and that Lizzie had accused Emma by saying, “You have given me away, haven’t you?” Later the woman said it didn’t happen but I wondered. Money can do many things to a person’s memory.
Eli Bence, a pharmacist, was supposed to testify that Lizzie tried to buy prussic acid from him to kill her parents. He had refused to sell her the dangerous chemical. The judges actually would not allow him to testify, citing that it had no bearing on the trial. I wondered why Lizzie had done this. Even she had to have known that she might have killed herself too if she used the dangerous gas. Arsenic would have a better poison, but perhaps Lizzie sought to throw suspicion away from what she really did by putting rancid grease in the stew, thus making her parents and Bridget sick.
The defense offered a varying tableau of people seeing other people who did not belong on Second Street and surrounding area that day from a pale young man, a tramp out in the country with a hatchet and other such things. They offered several witnesses who might have seen Lizzie go out to the barn at the time that her father was supposedly killed.
On the thirteenth day of the trial, the jury found Lizzie not guilty and that was that.
I wondered what Robinson had told Jennings. I had no doubt that Jennings thought Lizzie innocent.
I visited Holmes and asked him if he’d been following the trial.
“I have not but I’d wager they find her innocent.”
I told him they had already done so. “Holmes, you could have stopped this from happening.”
“Maybe I could have but I think that after the trial, Lizzie will have all the attention that she has so craved all these years and more. Without a murderer behind bars for the crime, many will think her guilty no matter what the courts say. The high and mighty of Fall River, who lent their support during her trial, will flee from her company now, not wishing to socialize with someone with such a spotted reputation.”
“Holmes, what did you do with the dress and the hatchet head?”
“They are sealed in a safe at my bank. After some time passes, I will send them to Mr. Jennings along with an explanation. I think he is the proper one to take care of them.”
“Do you think he will bring Lizzie’s guilt to light?”
Holmes shook his head. “No. He will protect her as he did in the past. But someone should know, someone other than just you, me and Robinson.”
I nodded, agreeing with him. I didn’t like Lizzie and her crimes were horrible, yet I still somehow saw her as a victim. It would appear that she had always wanted attention and to live like the other wealthy people in Fall River and both were denied her. Over time and possibly with the help of Emma, she came to blame Abby Borden for her problems. It only took the added fear of being set out in the street with no money or home that finally sent her over the edge.
Or perhaps that’s simply what she thought Holmes and I would believe.
Once the trial was over and the verdict in, Holmes and I never discussed it again.
As spring turned to summer, Mary was growing quite large with child and the heat was bothering her a great deal. Not wanting to spend the next month in the heat and filth of London, we rented a house in the country for the month of July and packed up.
It was a small stone cottage that was on the backside of a rather large estate that belonged to one of Mycroft Holmes’ acquaintances. There were a few farm animals penned up and the family dog even visited us from the mansion. Mary loved to sit outside in the evening and knit things for our child.
It wouldn’t be long until time for us to return to London and for our baby to be born.
Chapter 21: Sorrow Comes Calling
Chapter Twenty-one – Sorrow Comes Calling
We moved back to London at the first of August. I wanted Mary to have the baby in the city, where her doctor was. She was fine with this too as she wanted some time to get the nursery ready.
I paid a visit to 221B Baker Street to see how Holmes was doing. Mrs. Hudson smiled as I entered.
“How is he, Mrs. Hudson?”
“He is Sherlock, Dr. Watson. He has good days and he has the other days. I count us lucky when he has a week with more good days than bad.”
“Is he working?”
“He has had some people come to talk with him but he seldom leaves the house so I am not sure, but I think he has a few cases. Lestrade has been by several times this summer. How is your Mary? It’s about time, isn’t it?”
“Only a few more weeks.”
“So are you wanting a girl or a boy?”
“I have no preference but I think Mary would like a little girl to dress up all in baby finery and such.”
Mrs. Hudson sighed. “I do wish Mr. Hudson and I had had some children. But it was not to be. I guess I have Mr. Holmes to take care of instead. Now off with you. Go see him before I get maudlin and cry!” She shooed me up the stairs.
Holmes was at his chemicals. The room smelled to high heaven.
“What are you doing?”
“What?” I started for the door.
“They won’t explode unless the ingredients are combined.”
“Why are you making explosives?”
“There was a robbery and explosives were used. I am trying to determine what sort. I am working for Lestrade.”
“Working for Lestrade, you say?” I couldn’t help but smile. He never missed a chance to insult the policeman and here he was, working for him yet again.
Suddenly Mrs. Hudson ran into the room without knocking. She handed me a note. “It’s from the doctor. Mary has gone into labor and you are requested at home immediately!”
I hurried from the house and back to my own. I almost expected to be met by a smiling doctor with a new baby wrapped in his arms but such was not the case.
“John, there is something the matter. She is bleeding and I cannot make it stop. I’d like to move her to the hospital but I am not sure we can. I’ve sent for equipment and medicines but I -”
“You cannot let anything happen to my wife!” I roared at him. “She is my life!”
“Go see her, John. I will do what I can.” I had known him for several years and we were friends. Later I realized how hard this had to be for him but at that moment, all I knew was my own pain.
I went into the bedroom and she lay there as pale as death already. I knew then that the doctor was telling me the truth. I would lose my dear Mary, no matter what I did.
“Oh John, I’m so sorry!” She was crying. “I never thought – I didn’t want – John, I don’t want to leave you!”
“Shhh, it’s all right. You’ll be fine.” I knew I was lying as I said the words. So did she.
“John, I don’t have a lot of time. The baby, you must find someone to help raise her. Will you name her for my mother? Her name was Alice. Promise me!”
“I promise. Mary, you can’t leave me. I’ve just now found you!”
An hour later, Mary Alice Watson was born. I held her in my arms and showed her to her mother. Mary smiled at me. I could see she was fading away. She had lost too much blood.
“Oh John, she’s so beautiful. Take care of her and tell her that I love her more than anything but you. Please tell her that!”
I nodded, not able to speak.
“I love you, John. I – ”
And she was gone. Just like that, she was gone.
I looked down at my tiny daughter who looked just like her mother. “Hello, little Mary Alice. I’m so sorry that your mother will not be here to dress you in frills and to see you grow up, but I am here and I promise to love you with all my heart.”
When I rose from the chair to take Mary Alice to feed her and bathe her, Mrs. Hudson was in the other room. She came to me and put one hand on my shoulder. She didn’t say a word.
She ran a warm bath and went to the nursery to find a suitable gown for the baby. Mary had already stowed some baby bottles for she thought the new trend toward feeding babies a formula made from cows’ milk was a good idea as a standby. I was glad she had done this for we had something to feed my poor little daughter as she began to cry.
I wanted to be with the baby but I felt compelled to see to Mary.
Mrs. Hudson spoke. “John, do what you need to do. I can care for little Mary Alice for you until you return.”
And so I did.
I sent for the mortician and made funeral arrangements. I went with the mortician when he came to fetch Mary and was gone for quite some time before I even remembered Mary Alice at home.
When I returned, the baby was asleep in her crib and Mrs. Hudson sat in the chair beside her, asleep also. I put a blanket over Mrs. Hudson and went to clean up my own room. It had been done and the bed was made up in clean sheets. My pajamas had been laid out for me as well as my dressing gown.
The next few days will always be a blur in my memory.
My brother came but it was the presence of Holmes that I remember most. He never said anything but he was there, quietly smoking his pipe and watching. I was actually surprised to see him at all. He had never even liked Mary.
Chapter 22: At the End of the Day
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Chapter Twenty-Two – At the End of the Day
After Mary died, Mary Alice and I moved back into 221B Baker Street with Mrs. Hudson and Holmes. This time I had rooms downstairs for there was another family member with me this time and we each needed a room. Mrs. Hudson was thrilled to have a baby in the house and spent much of her time caring for my infant daughter. I welcomed her love and caring. We became an unconventional but very happy family for many years.
I kept my surgery but I began working with Holmes again too. I also began to write accounts of our adventures and I sold them to a magazine called The Strand. People read them and actually liked them enough to call for more. Much to Holmes’ dismay, I was happy to oblige them. The pay was not bad and I immensely enjoyed the writing of them.
My stories made Holmes more famous than he already was. People read of his exploits as far away as the United States, where he also became quite popular. I got letters from all over the world and I understand that people even sent letters to 221B Baker Street long after we all moved on to other places.
Some of the stories were based on truth and represented cases we had worked on and some were simply composites of several of our investigations. There were even a few so far fetched that they had to be made up from beginning to end. Holmes urged me every week to stop writing them but I ignored him.
There was one story I never wrote until now. That was the story of Miss Borden and the Fall River murders of her father and stepmother. That was the single most disturbing of all our cases and I never felt that we had done the right thing. Even now, I think Miss Borden should have paid for her crimes and I never really understood why Holmes felt she’d paid enough, and I never dared to ask him.
I often thought of Miss Borden through the years and was amazed that the interest in her case never did quite subside. Many books were written about it, ranging from the serious to the silly. I suppose it was because the crime was never solved or, at least, never solved publicly. Very few people knew the truth and it wasn’t my tale to tell so I simply never wrote it down until now.
A year or so after the trial, Holmes sent the evidence to Mr. Jennings in a box, along with a note explaining all the circumstances including Miss Borden’s confession. I read later that Jennings had placed the material in a locked crate and forbad even his children to open it after his death. He never contacted Holmes at all, before or after Holmes sent him the evidence. I often wonder if he, too, knew all along that she was guilty.
What happened to Holmes? He worked cases for many years with me at his side. He became almost as famous as the Queen herself, thanks in no small part to my stories. He never seemed to change much or to age very much either until one fine summer day, he told me that he was retiring and taking up beekeeping. I was surprised, to say the least.
I actually didn’t believe him but apparently he was telling me the truth. The last I heard from him in person was a letter telling me that he had married a young woman and they were doing some investigating on their own. I can never imagine Holmes with a wife.
A few years ago, his wife contacted me and told me that he had died peacefully in his sleep. She said he had spoken of me daily during the years she knew him and she wished that we’d met.
I invited her to dinner and I must say that Holmes married a delightful woman. She seemed to have been very fond of my old friend. She said that since she did not have children, Holmes had asked her to give his property to my Mary Alice and her children when she no longer needed it.
Her name was also Mary.
Many years have passed since that awful year, 1893.
I am an old man now with grandchildren and great grandchildren. I live in the country, in a little stone house on the back side of an estate. I have a few chickens and a cow that I get eggs and milk from. I am the sometime caretaker of the estate as well as a part time country doctor. I am content in my quiet life. There is little excitement or little to surprise me here but I have had enough of that for a lifetime.
I am happiest when Mary Alice visits. She is still the light of my life. She always brings the hustle and bustle of her own life with her. She tells me I should return to London with her and I always tell her I am fine right where I am.
And she still looks like her mother.
Here are some books and websites that gave me valuable information:
http://www.norwayheritage.com/ - Norway Heritage – Hands Across the Sea –I got much valuable information and listings of passenger ships for 1893.
http://lizzieandrewborden.com/ - The Lizzie Andrew Borden Virtual Museum and Library – A wonderful resource for information, original documents, photos and much, much more. I could not have written this story without this resource.
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/LizzieBorden/bordenhome.html - The Lizzie Borden Trial – Another great website for evidence and original documentation.
http://www.sherlockholmeswiki.com/ - The #1 Sherlock Holmes Fan Site – a wonderful site for all things Sherlock.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight – Victoria Lincoln – Not sure I agree with everything she says but she does bring up some interesting points.
Lizzie Didn’t Do It – Williams Masterson – Anothjer rather bizarre Lizzie book but again, he as some interesting points.
The Borden Tragedy – Rick Geary – A true crime graphic novel, an excellent little synopsis of the case in comic form.
I used Wiki and many historical sites online to find out about 1893 New York City and Fall River, Massachusetts.