The scarlet net


‘What do you think?’ Sergeant Stanley looked at him expectantly, smoothing his broad moustache with finger and thumb.

Gordon knew that action well. Despite his calm exterior, Stanley was excited by his own theory, keen for the chase. Gordon looked up to the map again. London, speared by a dozen brass pins, red cords looped between them, the capital caught in a scarlet net.

Stanley was viewed as the station’s eccentric, a bachelor at thirty five still living at home with a mother whose wits often wandered. Gordon had visited the small, sooty terraced house where they lived many times for suppers of pie and liqour. Under the flickering gas mantles, he’d viewed the study wall patchworked with newspaper cuttings and photographs Stanley had taken with his box Brownie, monochrome dismemberments brought to life in the musty cellar.

An odd fish, the other officers said. Rumoured to be a regular at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street. And the closest thing Gordon had to a friend.

Gordon sat back in his chair, resting his heels on his desk. ‘Tell me again, Sergeant.’




Pie and liquor – meat pie served with mashed potatoes and a green sauce made from parsley and jellied eels.

Lyons Corner House, Coventry Street – Lyons Corner Houses were a chain of teashops, now defunct. The Coventry Street one in Picadilly, London was a known meeting place for gay men in the days when homosexuality was still very much illegal.