"Bat, I Want You To Meet" by John F. McMullen
It was late morning of August 28, 1908, and I was sitting in my office at the New York Morning Telegraph talking with my office boy, Sam Taub, about my next column when NYPD Detective John McMullen walked in with a mini-posse behind him. He had told me that he was bringing someone to meet me but there were three of them and the tall one was wearing a funny hat and a strange kind of cape. I rose to greet them, "John".
"Bat, these gentlemen have come to visit us from London, England. May I present the noted detective, Sherlock Holmes and his friends, Dr. John Watson, and Dr. Artie Doyle". I noticed that the little English doctor seemed to cringe – he had probably never been called “Artie” before and certainly not by anyone with an Irish brogue. As I stuck out my hand to Holmes -- he was the one in the funny hat, Sam gasped "Wow! Sherlock Holmes! I've read all of the stories about you -- and this is Dr. Watson who wrote them". I shook Holmes' hand and moved on to the doctors while asking Sam to get more chairs so all could sit.
I knew about the stories and I wondered if they were as fanciful as the stories that had been written about me -- that I had shot 27 men when it was actually 1. "So what brings you to New York, gentlemen?"
Holmes answered "There have been stories, which I'm sure that you've heard or read, that some of the killings in New York in the last few years, were committed by the same 'Jack The Ripper' fellow who killed a bunch of women in Londen the end of the last century."
John said "I read of those killings, Weren't all the victims prostitutes?"
“Yes – and there have nasty rumors that the killer is actually a member of the royal family – a cousin – and this is, of course, confidential, gentlemen. Reports reached London that you have had some similar killings. So my brother, Mycroft, who works for the royals on special unusual projects, asked me to come over to see if there is any possibility that your killer is our Jack. If so, that would end the rumors.”
“Interesting. By the way, have you gentlemen eaten anything?”
Watson answered “Not since early this morning, Mr. Masterson.”
“It’s Bat – and you all join me for lunch. Sam, please run over to Delmonico’s and ask them to hold a table for six. You can join us too. We’ll be along shortly.”
We exchanged pleasantries for a while and then John filled in our guests on the four prostitutes that had been murdered in New York City within the last five years, all it turned out during periods of inactivity of the London Ripper. After John promised to gather the files for the visitors, we walked over to Delmonico’s for lunch.
Over lunch, the conversation shirted to some of open New York unsolved cases, including one that was particularly annoying to John. It seemed that over ten thousand dollars had been taken from the office of Trinity Church, the largest Episcopal Church in the city and, not only were there no leads in the case, high ranking members of the city administration were suggesting that the predominately Irish Catholic police force was not giving the case its full attention.
John maintained that this was far from the case -- “Only the rector and his wife have the combination to the safe and only they and a deacon have keys to the building. The Reverend’s wife locked the safe as usual on a Tuesday night and she and husband locked the building on the way out that night. When the deacon arrived the next morning and unlocked the building, he noticed that office door was open. Looking inside, he saw that the safe was open. He locked the building and ran next door to the rectory to alert the rector. When they all returned to the office, they ascertained that the safe was empty. The wife’s records – she is also the office manager –indicate that there was ten thousand seven hundred dollars in the safe. The three people with access to the building have outstanding reputations and we have absolutely no clues to the crime.”
John talked a little more about the political structure in the city and I, as a parishioner of Trinity chimed in a bit. Then the other John, Dr. Watson, spoke up, “Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is helpful in a case. Would you mind if Holmes took a look at the case?”
John responded immediately, “No, as a matter of fact, I’d be honored” and it was agreed that, on the next day, the famous Sherlock Holmes would be on the case.
Shortly, Sam and I excused ourselves – I had a column to write -- and began the walk back to the office. When Sam asked if I thought Holmes could solve the case. I replied “I doubt it. John is a good detective but it can’t hurt to have someone else take a look. Just John having to discuss the case may help him think of something.”
Other than Sam, I didn’t see any of the lunch group for over a week until John stopped in one morning very excited. “Bat, this Holmes is amazing. I was walking up Broadway last night when a disheveled bum sitting on the street across from Trinity Church got up and staggered toward me. As I moved away from him, he said ‘Detective McMullen” – it was Holmes. He is a master of disguise. I never would have recognized him.”
“What was he doing there?”
“I took him and the two doctors over the crime scene after lunch last week and introduced him to the rector, his wife, and the deacon. He looked around for a while and then we went off to look at the files for the floosie murders. We were pretty busy with those cases – I don’t think there is any connection with the so-called Ripper. I thought he had forgotten about my case until last night. He said that he just wanted to check out the nightly activity around the church.”
“Well, I don’t know what he was looking for but I guess it sounds fine, John. I just hope you get some break.”
Two mornings later, an excited John was back in my office. “Bat, I’ll be damned – He solved the case! It was the rector!”
“Yes. He had a fling with one of the women that he was supposed to be providing spiritual guidance to and she was blackmailing him. Holmes saw the rector steal out of the rectory the other night and followed him to an apartment up by the Bowery. He was able to get close to the door and heard them arguing. The rector was all upset that Sherlock Holmes was on the case and he wanted the money back. She told him to go to hell.
“Holmes reported to us the next morning and led us back to the woman’s apartment. When we arrested her, she still had the money in a church envelope. When we brought her in and explained the story to the Commissioner, he had us sit on the story until he met with the Mayor.
“The powers-that-be decided to stonewall the whole thing to protect the Church. We hauled the rector down on a pretense to the commissioner’s office and I thought that he was going to soil himself when he saw Florrie Uggans – that’s her name -- sitting in the office.
“They could both go to jail with him being publicly disgraced or he could give her a few hundred dollars to get on a train. The stolen money would be anonymously returned by a thief who had an attack of conscience and this would never be spoken off again – unless either of them crossed paths with the police in the future”
“I guess they took the deal”
“They certainly did. I put her on a train to Baltimore last night. You can never repeat this story, Bat.”
We had one more celebratory lunch at Delmonico’s before the English threesome got on the boat to return home. They had made sure that the Ripper was only a domestic problem and John’s case had been solved.
When John stopped back in the office, he was still raving about Holmes’ detective work. I smiled and stopped him “John, he is the face of the group —well-spoken, athletic, good-looking – but he’s not the brains. Didn’t you notice that, while he could relate what had happened, he showed little real knowledge of what normally passes for the interests of an intelligent person. I think he is a fine actor but really not too bright.”
For a moment, John looked like I had slapped him in the face by discrediting his new hero but then he became thoughtful “You know, I can see it now. You’re probably right. It’s that other guy, John Watson, who writes up his cases. He must be pretty smart.”
I smiled again “You were too bedazzled by Holmes and weren’t watching closely enough. Watson may be smart but he’s the note taker. The brains of the outfit – and I’m sure the one who solved this case – is the one that you were calling “Artie” – I found out that he uses a long Brit name – he gave me this fancy card with his address on it,‘in case I ever get to London’ -- Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle.”
Author’s note. John McMullen, one of the main characters, was my grandfather. Bat Masterson, frontier Marshall turned New York newspaper columnist, has fascinated me for years. Both knew Theodore Roosevelt. As a further coincidence, Sam Taub, the office boy mentioned in the story, later became a famous boxing announcer and hosted a radio show, which I was, at the age of 12, allowed to be in the room with him and his panel and spoke on the air.
Copyright John F. McMullen, 2018