Before I began accusing important people of a base deed, I sought to establish that there could be no other explanation for the letter’s disappearance. I guided Miss Franklin out of the arcade and towards the American arch by the Sydney Morning Herald building. I delicately put to her that she may have simply lost the letter. She assured me she had not. “I checked the letter just before I entered the carriage and placed it in my bag on the luggage rack. When I went to leave the carriage, it was gone.” She had not left the carriage at any time. She had, however, fallen asleep for 20 minutes or so. It seemed obvious that this was when the theft had occurred.
I asked why somebody would have stolen this letter. “To get at my beau’s family, sir,” she theorised. She said she could not inform the police for fear of exposing her lover, nor tell her lover lest he were to do something drastic out of despair. I had a strong feeling there was something she was not telling me, but she assured me there was no other soul in the universe to help her find the thief. My first port of call would be this doctor, Thompson. While his name seemed familiar, he was not of the celebrity of the other suspects, so I made him my first interview.
To my horror, it seemed he was practising in The Rocks. Early in the year an outbreak of bubonic plague had killed a hundred people here. I purchased some Eckersley’s Mentholine, which is renowned as a plague preventative, and walked briskly to the quarantined zone, where I sought him out. The whole place was being cleared. Even the wharves were being sprayed by boiling water. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this doctor Thompson was Sydney’s Chief Officer of Public Health! He did not take kindly to being dragged from his work. His whiskers bristled and he looked me up and down as if I was one of the rats whom he was claiming was responsible for carrying the disease in its fleas. He tapped out his pipe impatiently and waited for me to begin. I steeled myself and put it to him that he had travelled that morning from Newcastle on a train with Miss Franklin. He concurred.
I further suggested that he may have accidentally removed a letter from her bag, at which suggestion he flew into a rage and bade me farewell, muttering something about contacting his good friend The Master of Lunacy. I realised I had much to learn about the interrogation of suspects.