Dancing Suite 3: Hopscotch and Bal Musette, 4/?
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Fandom: Murdoch Mysteries
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: William Murdoch/James Pendrick, Julia Ogden/Other Male Character
Characters: William Murdoch, James Pendrick, Julia Ogden, Dr. Roberts (Murdoch Mysteries), Marcel Guillaume, Alphonse Bertillon, George Crabtree, Prof. Harms (Murdoch Mysteries)
Additional Tags: Established Relationship, Period-Typical Homophobia, Period-Typical Sexism, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, A host of historical figures, Bicycles, Dubious Science, Spiritualism, Period-Typical Science, Period-Typical Medicine, Paris (City), Historically Accurate, Murder Mystery, Dancing, Poisoning
Series: Part 3 of The Dancing Suite
When faced with strange happenings and inexplicable poisonings, former Police Detective William Murdoch and all-around genius James Pendrick see their new Paris life turned upside down. They must turn to uncertain allies and use all resources at their disposable to solve this mystery before someone loses their life. Could this all be linked to the sudden arrival of long-lost friends in the City of Lights?
The crime scene had been vacated. Two soldiers still stood guard, but the gendarmes had taken the gathered evidence back to the station, along with the bicycles. Murdoch and Pendrick were stranded on the other side of La Chapelle. Walking back at a brisk pace would take some twenty minutes, but it afforded them a little time to discuss the events of the morning. A scant three hours before, they had been fumbling with a glass shard. Now, they were dealing with the most puzzling of deaths.
Pendrick, as usual, read Murdoch’s mind. “So, are we thinking this is murder? The old lady certainly believes so.”
“I’m inclined to as well. It’s too early to know for certain, of course. The only violence on the body looked to be self-inflicted, but two men stood for some time in full view of the scene, of that I’m certain. At a minimum, they are witnesses.” Murdoch described the path and shoe prints, the crushed grass beside the train wall. He stopped walking suddenly, turning to his partner: “I sense foul play, but I can’t say in what way.” This is what troubled him the most in the affair. The foreboding. The last time he’d sensed something of the sort, their world had soon been irretrievably turned over. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Pendrick chuckled: “And you hate it! We’ll get facts soon enough. Let’s make sure we go with Guillaume to visit the spiritist this afternoon. We’ll get autopsy results tomorrow perhaps. And I’ll add your details to the diagramme when we get back. See? Facts.”
Murdoch felt a smile move to his lips. Of course, Pendrick understood his dilemma. They knew each other so well. “If we have the time, let’s run chemical tests on the jar before we go. Hopefully, there’s residue.”
“Exactly. Facts.” With Pendrick’s hand on his shoulder urging him on, they began walking again. “The question is: are the body’s finger marks still legible? The man shredded his hands trying to climb the wall. I don’t think you saw, but there was flesh imbedded in the stone. It wasn’t just blood.” Pendrick raised a hand at Murdoch’s unasked question. “Yes, I took a sample. A rather large one.” Pendrick’s expression underscored how little he was exaggerating.
“Oh. Well, if the skin you found has a wide enough area, perhaps we could find finger marks ourselves.”
Pendrick’s eyebrows rose in emphasis: “We will.” So the sample was indeed large.
“We’ll have to.” Murdoch shook his head. “I don’t trust Headquarters to do a proper analysis if the fingers are too damaged. They don’t have the motivation. You know how Bertillon is. If it’s too difficult, he’ll tell them to drop it.”
As brilliant as the Signaletic Service system was, Murdoch did not entirely trust it. It left too much room for interpretation. And to prejudice. Back in Toronto, he’d quite successfully used Herschel's and Galton’s research, as well as Vucetich’s methods in dactyloscopy, to complement the Constabulary’s anthropometric files. Bertillon, on the other hand, was adamant that his identification system was infinitely more scientific and precise than ‘puny skin ridges’. He used them for identification if he had to, but remained dubious. He did not think them as foolproof as the more modern anthropologists believed, and as Murdoch knew from experience. The fact finger marks had almost entirely been studied by Germans and Englishmen – and, worse, by Americans and Argentinians! – had much to do with Bertillon’s reticence, not doubt. Not French enough. Adding the fact photographs and concrete measurements were easier to understand for France’s political leaders than epidermal ridges ever could had allowed Bertillon’s system to become fully institutionalized. And there lied Murdoch’s problem. For French-born citizens, measurements were fairly straightforward and often remained unannotated. But those with foreign origins, immigrants and descendants alike, were categorized by type in their files. Some files actually read ‘Gypsy measurements.’ As if all Italians and Germans looked alike. As if all those of the working classes bore the seeds of criminality. On the other hand, finger marks never could indicate race or creed.
“We’ll convince Bertillon to include them in the signaletic files soon enough. If not him, then Lépine. That’s why he signed off on us. Lépine may be the least humble man in the world, but he’s intelligent enough to recognize when he’s wrong.” Except that Police Prefect Louis Lépine was more interested in order than justice and the Bertillonnage system got convictions. Sadly, the Signaletic Service’s ample files also allowed for wide-scale control of those deemed undesirable. No doubt, soon, every resident of France would have a descriptive file if Lépine got his way*.
They were on rue Pajol, fast approaching the corner of rue Marc Séguin, when Pendrick blurted: “I hate we don’t have time to swing by home. Something tells me we’ll return late tonight. I’d rather get a couple more apples for when we miss dinner.” Even as he spoke, they walked past their street. “So, did it look to you like the man had vomited on his shirt? That’s what it looked like to me, but you were closer.”
“The yellow stains, yes. Perhaps bile? I’m guessing you did not find any puddles of that sort when you mapped out the scene.”
“Neither did I. It may not be significant, unless it’s indicative of poisoning. I’m more interested in figuring out why the man behaved the way he seemed in the last moments of his life. Toxins. Drugs. Something caused such a response.” Clicking his tongue, Murdoch discarded his current train of thought. “We shouldn’t speculate.”
The men shared a looked and Pendrick broke is a wide smile. “Facts! Only facts for us!”
They were still laughing when they entered the station’s stables.
* It did happen, in 1912. The system still exists today! I'm in it! But the files also include fingerprints.