'The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible'.-Oscar Wilde
The analytical process of resolving a case is always attributed to the ratiocination of the established pattern, within the sequential order of the crime manifest and produced.
It is entirely determined by a logical method that dictates the dauntless resolution expressed, and the discovery of the pertinent answers that solve the ambiguous riddle of the murder.
Ergo, if a murder has a succession of continuous events that unfold, then it must have a decisive and reasonable illation to deduce consequently.
Thence, if there must exist a brazen murderer, there must exist indeed an ingenious sleuth to unmask the murderer's concealed identity, when the mystery can appear very irrefragable and impossible.
The narrative that I disclose is one that speaks volumes of the madness of a cause that although just is criminal in nature and disguised, in the form of an ancient vengeance resuscitated, by the disturbed scions, who clamour injustice forcefully.
Murder is never to be understood plausibly as a sensible action, instead an irrational deed perpetuated on another individual so horrifically.
In all my years of studying the criminal mind at length, never have I failed to decipher the actual cause of the crime, but this particular case that was called 'The enigma of the Somerset murderer', would indubitably challenge my vast experience and expertise, and take me to the remote place of the region of Somerset in England.
I was in London at the building of 23 Whitehall Place, when a correspondence from Somerset had arrived requesting my assistance, on a mysterious case of murders that were occurring in that area.
This case would be the first for me that was outside of the main metropolitan cities of Europe, and I was not certain of what I was to encounter.
The year was 1892, and I had solved a recent case of murders that required my involvement in Wales, when I was notified of this particular case.
For those who are not acquainted with my profession, I shall proceed to acknowledge my name and credentials willingly.
I am Jack Cauvain, a reputable chief inspector, who had been involved in the most mysterious and difficult cases in Great Britain and abroad.
Henceforth, I took the train to the shire of Somerset the following morning, and when I had reached the region, I arrived at the Shapwick railway station located on the Highbridge branch of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway.
What I saw upon my arrival was a small village on the Polden Hills that overlooked the impressive Somerset Moors, as the village was situated west of Glastonbury.
At the railway station I met a certain constable by the name of Harold Hitchcock, who proceeded to greet me and inform me of the unusual murders that were transpiring in the village and its circumference.
He had explained to me that he was a constable from Somerset and came, since there was no Police Station or Constabulary in the village.
He was extremely grateful and pleased that I had decided to come at once to Shapwick, to be in charge of the continual investigation.
After the exchange of cordialities, we spoke about the heinous murders that were occurring in the area, and I was taken to the crime scene that was the grounds of a civil parish.
Apparently, the nature of the murders was being linked to an anonymous murderer that was unidentified and furtive.
The details of the case were few and vague to say the least, when I had arrived. I could surmise that the murders had begun to unsettle the villagers, as the beadle who discovered the body had expressed that apprehension with his redounding gestures.
His name was Mr Milford. He had been the appointed beadle, and was in charge of keeping order at the civil parish. The murder was disturbing and pitiless in nature, as the victim was hanging from the tower of the main wing of the civil parish.
The obvious manner of the position that the victim was placed was a vivid representation of a callous murderer, whose aggressive behaviour demonstrated the supposed pattern of a possible maniacal killer.
The question was immediately, who was this perturbed individual, and whether or not the pattern of the murderer was comparative in disposition?
This case would involve more than the usual characteristics of a murder, instead, a series of historical events relived.
'What exactly have you discovered, from seeing the victim sir?' Officer Hitchcock asked.
'Let me say before I answer that question that I have seldom seen a murder of this nature committed, and it has caused me to be very pensive in my consideration. Now, as for your question Hitchcock, after observing the victim, the one thing that is visibly clear to me is the fact that the hanging of the body is a distinctive representation of the murder, and either the brash vanity of a man, or the deranged mind of a heartless fiend', I replied.
'How do we determine that, if there is little evidence of the criminal and until now, no reliable witnesses?'
'Although it may appear that we are at a mere disadvantage, there is some evidence to base the foundation of an effective investigation'.
'What do you mean? I have given you the added details of the previous crimes and evidence I have gathered from this murder'.
'Indeed, but there is evidence that at times is overlooked in a murder, and that are often the smallest clues that are particular to the case'.
'I am afraid that I don't understand!'
'It is simple old boy. First, look at the blood stains and the amount of the blood spilled on the ground, and on the victim is relatively fresh. Second, the slight markings of the footfalls are indicative of the attempt of the murderer to deceive us from determining the direction in which he abruptly absconded. It is apparent that even though he planned for an isolated location for the placement of the body, he was disturbed. Perhaps, he felt the threat of being identified. Third, the most important piece of evidence is the purple discolouration around the lips and the blisters around the mouth, within the deathlike pallor of the skin colour. In my studious inspection of the body, the victim was poisoned before he was hanged. Also, what can be considerable is that the killer most probably befriended the victim-for it is a good assumption to believe that this fiend is someone, who the villagers have entrusted their hospitality'.
'Poisoned to death! Are you certain? And is it, not possible that the killer was wearing a disguise? Surely, he would not be that daring to allow himself to be discovered so plainly', Hitchcock had remarked.
'Of course, but regrettably my certainty does not preclude with any basis of factual evidence. As for a disguise, that is a possibility we cannot discard so easily; but I have a strong premonition that the murderer is not the usual suspect, or is alone in these macabre crimes'.
'What do you base your criteria for admitting that?' He asked intrigued.
'The elemental thought process of an investigator. That is to say, from my ample experience of investigating murders of this nature'.
'Do you suppose the murderer's recourse of escape was into the nearby heath or swale?'
'I would imagine that the murderer would want us to believe that, but it is still too early to make that explicit conjecture. Let us not make him a genius based on his prowess'.
There was a cold draught blowing from the moorland from afar, as it brushed our faces and it was time for us to go. We left the crime scene, and headed towards the only morgue in the area. I had instructed Hitchcock to transfer the body to the morgue instead of the hospital, since I thought it best to maintain this procedure in privacy.
The morgue was located in Gloucestershire, which was a village a few kilometres from Shapwick. It was imperative that we knew more information pertaining to the murder, and that we could decipher the method implemented by the murderer. I had presumed that the victim was killed before, and then was hanged. It would seem logical that if he was hanged, someone would have heard his agony or plea for help. Therefore, I began to believe more that the victim was killed and hanged afterwards. There was another interesting piece of evidence, and that was a mysterious coin.
One of the villagers a Mr Bellingham had found a minted coin in one of the previous murders, near one of the thatched cottages in Shapwick. Since I was no genuine expert on coins, I would defer that task to a local expert then, who was a coin collector and connoisseur of arts, a Mr Dorian Creech. I was told by one of the villagers that there was an apothecary by the name of Mr Merrifield, who had a store nearby the village emporium. Perchance, he could answer some of my questions, regarding the death of Mr Mulligan.
When I spoke to Mr Merrifield, he could only give me supposed answers and nothing much in the way of valuable information. I did ask him before I left his store if he sold cyanide, and he told me he did, but he queried for the reason I asked. I said that I was investigating the murders in the area. I then asked him if cyanide would cause the absolute purple discolouration around the lips and the blisters around the mouth, within the deathlike pallor of the skin colour of a dead person. His answer was it would be enough to cause those symptoms upon death. He appeared to be somewhat informed of my activity in the village, since the last thing he said to me was that he welcomed me to Shapwick.
Once at the morgue in Gloucestershire, we met the pathologist who was in charge of the necropsy on the victim and we were informed of his violent death. My postulate on the death of the victim was immediately corroborated by the doctor. The victim who was identified as a Mr James Mulligan was a villager from Shapwick that had been poisoned before being hanged.
Apparently, he was a wealthy merchant and had transactions with other merchants outside of Shapwick. The absolute clarity of the discolouration of the purple around the lips and the blisters around the mouth, within the pallor of the skin colour was the unmissable confirmation of the death of Mr Mulligan. This had proven my sustentative hypothesis of the murder, and perchance it would offer intuitive insight for the preclusion of another murder.
When we had discovered the veritable reason for Mr Mulligan's death, we left the morgue and returned to Shapwick. But before we departed, I instructed Hitchcock to have the other bodies of the victims brought to the pathologist, so that they could be examined as well. I was keen on the theory that the murderer was poisoning his victims, before he hanged them. I sensed along the way to the village on our return that the murderer was devious and calculative in his actions, but the question that lingered in my thoughts was, were we dealing with more than a mere mind of a madman?
At Shapwick, we had convened at the local inn I was staying temporarily, during my stay in the village. It was highly irregular to lead an investigation from one of the rooms in an inn, but the setting of this case was unique in its composition. It required exigent improvisation, and thorough circumvention that would procure the ultimate goal, the capture of the murderer.
'If my suspicions of the implementation of poison being deployed as the prime method of killing, then based on the inference of the murderer's recent actions, the aporia would be reflective of the irresolvable presumption I had before', I suggested.
'I am afraid that I don't follow your logic!' Hitchcock responded.
'Simple Hitchcock, there is an absolute pattern I believe is being formed by these murders, and that is one that is measured, by rational planning and arrangement'.
'What is the next course to take?'
'If my premonition is correct, the murderer will strike again, and I hope this time, we are not too late to prevent him'.
'I do not know, but I assure you that we shall know soon!'
'Let us hope that for the villagers' sake, the murderer is still within the area sir'.
'Oh, my intuition is telling me that the killer is indeed nigh!'
That night we had several constables, from the shire patrolling the village and the other neighbouring villages, since the murders were occurring as well in those small villages. It was extremely difficult to predict the location of the next murder, except we knew that according to his predilection, he did not stray far from Somerset. We had remained in Shapwick, with the major concentration of the patrolling in this village and in Glastonbury, where other murders had occurred there. It was close to midnight, when the murderer committed another ruthless murder.
This time the crime scene was in Bridgwater, several kilometres from Shapwick, but within the shire of Somerset. The location of the murder was at the Castle House, a two-storey brick edifice that appeared to be an ornate gatehouse. The body of the victim was hanging from the upper part of one of the bays that formed the stairwells.
The scene was ghastly in nature, and the apodictic evidence presented no levity whatsoever in the matter. I quickly realised that we were confronting a murderer, whose reason for killing was due to an inflexible cause or inspiration. As with the prior murder the victim was hanged, and presented the same symptoms of the other victims poison. It was obvious that the killer used poison to kill his victims, but what was the eventual inducement for this usage?
I had noticed in the interstitial recesses of the wall of the building that there were stains of blood that seemed to be recent, and immediately I looked around the area, for any visible footprints of the criminal. And as with the other murders I had investigated, the escape route taken by the murderer was of several directions to select. The person who had discovered the body was a young man, who had been passing by that late hour, when he found the victim.
The testimony of the young man was vague and as with the previous witness inconclusive. Therefore, we could not rely on the accuracy of the witness, since there was no real hypotyosis to be made at that moment. There was nothing else we could deduce from the witness, and we let him return to his home. The murderer was exceedingly meticulous in his preparation, but the inimical inurement that resigned in his animalistic conduct compelled him to release, his inordinate and mercurial temperament.
I suddenly realised that his deliberation was imitable, and even though he hanged his victims after poisoning them, he fancied the gruesome method of inventive contrivance. It was of paramount importance that we had developed a foundation extricating the facts from mere conjectures, and to extrapolate from the circumstantial evidence retrieved. I had expounded this requisite to Hitchcock in the most feasible manner permitted.
'We are confronted with a murderer, whose machination knows no limit until now, and whose unfeeling mind seems to operate with a measured precision. Therefore, we must always apply the upper hand if possible in dealing with the details of the investigation and proceed, with the facts determined and never perfunctory'.
'How can we conclude, where the murderer will strike next, if we have attempted already to patrol all of the perimeters that are circumjacent to the area, and he remains evasive?' Hitchcock had queried.
'True, but the killer has chosen to remain within this area. Thus, what is elementary to my logic is that the murderer is targeting individuals, for some apparent reason unknown to me that is aligned to his necessity to murder. I am certain that this is the case, but we must investigate this contingency. I shall need for you to instruct one of the constables, who are assisting in the investigation to inspect if my theory is accurate or not', I stated.
'Of course, I shall do that forthwith! But if I may enquire sir, what are we to understand from that possibility?'
'It could contribute in resolving the aspect of the pattern of the objective of the culprit. Natheless, it is incumbent upon us to be mindful of each and every circumstance betided'.
Unfortunately, the identity of the victim was not known then, and we would have to wait afterwards. Meanwhile, we had returned to Shapwick and continued the investigation.
There at the village, we had received multiple reports from the constables. According to their reports, there were several witnesses, who reported seeing a selcouth individual of a tall stature carousing the night in the local taverns. I was eager to know more of his description, and other information provided that stated his approximate age. Supposedly judging from his appearance only, he was a middle-age man in his forties or so.
There was one other fascinating revelation disclosed by the witnesses, his proclivity for coins. Apparently, the man was a coin collector. Therewith, I thought of the minted coin that was found in the prior murder. Was this related or was this a mere coincidental fact? This would require more elaborate exploration and time as well.
The following morning there were tidings on the pathologist's report and what was discovered was precisely what I had cudgelled my mind before. The anterior victims were poisoned to death, before they were found horribly hung. Gradually, I was noticing with the tenable perusal of the reports, the convolution within this exclusory revelation.
I had informed Hitchcock and the other constables that we would concentrate our indagation, on the incontrovertible facts of the case. I had explained to Hitchcock that I wanted to talk to the coin collector in person.
We had visited the coin collector or antiquary Mr Dorian Creech, at his art studio in the centre of the village. When we arrived there, he was not present and subsequently, we were not able to speak to him in person. The only person who was there was a young lady, who I presumed was nothing more than an employee of the art studio. I revealed my identity to her, since I wanted to converse with Mr Creech alone, and in privacy. It was particularly regrettable that Mr Creech was absent, but when I asked about his residence I was given a piece of paper with his written address. I had explained to the young lady that I was interested in discussing his coin collection and expertise on the matter.
We had departed the art studio and headed towards the home of Mr Creech. The house was located about half a mile down a winding lane near Glastonbury, and it was a stately Tudor Manor House surrounded by thirty acres of fabulous gardens and grounds, amidst the rolling Somerset countryside with numerous cedar trees.
Once there, we were greeted at the front door, by a certain man who introduced himself as the butler. We identified ourselves as officials of the law and asked to speak to Mr Creech. Inside, we were escorted to the lounge and sat in the chesterfield armchairs that were furnished, along with the sofas. There were countless paintings of his within the manor, and they all seemed to be priceless. Soon, Mr Creech arrived and welcomed us to his manor.
'Good morning gentlemen, it is a pleasure to have you here. I have heard much about you Inspector Cauvain. Your fame is boundless and follows you wherever you go. I was told by my employee at the art studio that you were interested in discussing my coin collection and my expertise. Is that not so?'
'Good morning to you Mr Creech. Since you know my name, then I shall present to you Constable Hitchcock. Now that you are informed, we are interested in speaking to you, about a certain coin that has remained a mystery. You see, we were told that you are an expert on vintage coins of the past. Thus, we thought that you could assist us in our investigation. I am certain that you are aware of the ongoing murders that are happening in the area. Are you, not sir?' I said.
'Yes indeed, I am a doyen of art and culture. And as for your question, yes I am fully aware of the horrendous murders that are taking place in this region. Tragic as it may seem, what help can I be to you gentlemen?'
I showed him the coin that I had brought and gave it to him, 'Here is the coin, what can you tell us of the nature of the coin?'
His examination was diligent, as he observed the coin. It was then that he made his veridical conclusion, 'Have you ever heard of the 'Ancient Noble Order of the Gormogons?' It is an 18th-century society that was infamous and related to the Jacobites. Oddly as it may be, they left no records or achievements to indicate their meaningful purpose. Now, as for the minted coin it appears to have been made in the year of 1799, and the Latin inscription of 'GEORGIVS DUX CUMBRIA', means George King of Cumberland, which denotes the same George II, the Jacobite Duke of Cumberland. This is a very significant finding, if I may ask, where did you discover this coin?'
'It was discovered beside one of the victims'.
'That is such a terrible anomaly, but you don't mind if I keep the coin? I would like to study the coin more, since it is a rare piece of history nowadays'.
'Of course not, since you are the expert and not me. If you will excuse us, we must continue our investigation elsewhere'.
'I understand, and if you are in need of my service, then do not hesitate to find me'.
The manor from inside was commodious and elegant. It had a wood burner, library, distinct apartments, a bright chandelier, and ceiling windows that reflected a slight sheen of the sun. The manor was located on Church Road and Northbrook Road, and I noticed as we were departing the estate that the roads aforementioned formed a junction.
At first, this peculiarity was not detected by me, until we passed the junction, and this eeriness had prevailed over me suddenly. Hitchcock had sensed something queer in my eyes and asked me what was occupying my thoughts. I told Hitchcock to quickly stop the carriage where we got off, and walked slowly to the junction, where these two roads connected. One would not distinguish anything so indiscernible from afar with the trees and that was the junction was a useful convergence that permitted entrance and exit of the area to and fro.
I could visibly see then, the likelihood of the murderer using these roads and possible other junctions of this nature for the despicable murders. I told him straightaway of this impromptu supposition of mine, and the need to have the constables patrol the junctions of the nearby roads of the region. He concurred with my analysis, and when we returned to Shapwick, he instructed the constables to do exactly what I had requested.
As eventide was approaching one of the constables had discovered another dead body, by an abandoned old mill near the River Stour in Dourset that formed part of the Kingston Lacy Estate. When we arrived at the area, it was close to night-time, and we did not have much time to examine the body and the surroundings efficaciously. Therefore, our task was more difficult and significant, as the pending night was looming with complete uncertainty.
The body was in a profound state of decomposition and putrefaction, as we could only determine the gender of the victim. It was a man, perhaps in his mid-sixties, but that could not be so easily confirmed. I was instantly drawn to the fact that the victim did not show any visible signs of being poisoned, instead, the man was choked to death. That meant the pattern of the murders was not identical but of a variant in nature. Unlike the other victims found, his death resulted in the most peculiar fashion I imagined. He appeared to have been dead, since a couple of days. The question that I had was, not when was the murder committed, but were there more victims to be yet discovered within the area?
This murder was a new revelation, and it had made the killer even more unpredictable and noted. It meant also that the killer was extremely astute in his judgment, or someone was assisting him in these horrid murders. My inclination was the latter, and that someone else was indeed helping him with his murder spree. If there was one good thing that we could suspect from this murder afterwards, that was my theory on the roads about the junctions.
'The poor chap never had a chance, and this only complicates the case sir!' Hitchcock stated.
'Perhaps you are correct in that analogy Hitchcock, but if we determinate meticulously and with sound judgment, the roads exploited by the murderer, then we could devise an effective plan to capture the criminal,' I answered.
'Are you suggesting that we patrol more the area?'
'Precisely! However, we must search throughout the area, including the outskirts of the shire', I had interjected.
'That would include the expansive Exmoor, which is an area of the hilly open moorland in west Somerset and north Devon sir, where there is an ancient causeway nigh. The Crawford Bridge and the White Mill, the moss bog located in the basin of the River Brue and the Brue Basin Peat Moors; but some of those areas are rural and impassable'.
'Yes! We must be prudent in our accuracy, and we cannot afford to be erroneous in our assertion'.
'What if we are?'
I had sighed before I told him, 'Oh, if that is so, then we shall most definitely, discover another dead body!'
We had departed Dourset and returned to Shapwick, but along the way to our improvised reunion with the other constables we traversed in carriage, the wooden pathway at Shapwick Heath, where we found a young boy, no older than ten, who was lying on the ground.
Quickly, I had descended from the carriage and tended to the lad, who was visibly atwitter. I asked his name, and he told me that his name was Henry. I noticed that the boy had dyslexia, but what he would divulge to me in the form of information was of considerable importance.
According to the boy, a mysterious dark carriage passed by this area earlier and stopped, when the driver had spotted the lad. The driver was a common man, but the individual inside was a wealthy gent, who handed the boy a minted coin. The boy then showed me the coin, and when I saw the coin, I knew it was another of the minted coins that belonged to the murderer.
I asked the boy if he could describe the appearance of this man, and he was able to give me, not only his indubitable guise, but the description of the carriage he was in. I asked him concisely, if he was certain that what he was telling me was the absolute truth, and the boy confirmed what he had mentioned before. He was even good enough to tell me, in which direction he saw the carriage leave the road.
I knew that we had to investigate this averment of the boy, and thus, we took him with us. We followed the long narrow road he had indicated, and when we reached the end of the road, there was this capacious house that was a two-storey stone building with an asymmetrical frontage, and a glazed veranda supported on iron columns. It had a stable block, a dovecote, an impressive roof, a stone screen, and flanking walls that were constructed of fine masonry.
There was a carriage waiting in the rear garden as we passed, and the boy had promptly identified the carriage, as being the same dark and daunting carriage he had seen earlier. Then the question was who did this carriage and elegant house belong to? I was very eager to know, and Hitchcock was too, but we had to proceed with extreme caution and patience. We had to act fast, since it was getting darker by the night. Fortunately, we had lanterns with us, and that allowed us to guide us in the darkness.
When we had reached the front entrance to the house, we knocked on the front door of the house. We were greeted not by the butler this time, instead, by the proprietor of the house. The lad swiftly turned pale, as he recognised the man. Oddly enough, the man was the exact stranger, who had stopped and given him the minted coin.
His eerie look had unsettled the lad in an alarming apprehension, and his expressions were patently noticeable. He pointed out the man as he was standing in front of us and had whispered hurriedly that he was indeed the man, who he had encountered before. His indelible gestures and guise were not effaced from the mind of the lad.
'You are sure that this is the same man, you saw at the pathway at Shapwick Heath?' I asked the lad.
'Yes sir it is him, and the carriage as well, is the same carriage I saw at the heath!' He confessed.
'All right, then you wait here with the constable, whilst I speak to the gentleman'.
'Yes sir, I shall wait here until you return'.
I had approached the man and identified myself to him, 'Good night sir, we do not mean to disturb your night, and I am certain that you are busied with other endeavours, so I won't expend much of your time. I am Chief Inspector Jack Cauvain, and this is my assistant Constable Harold Hitchcock. Apparently, this young lad was found at the pathway at Shapwick Heath alone. Do you happen to know, who this young lad is, and where he lives?'
The proprietor stared at the young lad, and nodded his head in affirmation, 'I am afraid that I don't know the young lad, but I imagine he must be from the orphanage nearby of those poor children who are waifs and have special needs'.
'An orphanage you said sir? Will you be so kind to tell me, where this orphanage is located?' I asked.
'Oh, I believe it must be at the edge of the winding road ahead. I am afraid I cannot give you any more information except that!' He admitted.
'Then, I shall thank you for your noble assistance. Oh if I may ask, what is your name?'
We had departed the estate and returned to the centre of the village. It was too late in the night to search for the orphanage, or awaken the people in charge there. Thus, we took the young lad with us, and he stayed the night in one of the rooms of the local inn I was staying at.
The next morning, we had headed to the orphanage and were greeted by the caretaker of the place, who informed the matron of the orphanage of our presence. Naturally, I had notified her that I was a chief inspector, and Hitchcock was a constable accompanying me.
She was a kind and receptive elder woman, who was very relieved that we had found and returned the boy to the orphanage. I was a person wont to be current in my knowledge, but Hitchcock had explained to me that orphanages were still common in this area.
Nevertheless, it made little difference, and my incredulity was inane, since the orphanage was beneficial to the community.
After we had left the child, we headed towards the aforesaid roads of yesterday that formed the junction, where we found the lad the night before. There, we began to examine the area for any conspicuous tracks made by a carriage, and after several minutes of intense inspection, we located what appeared to be reasonable evidence to suggest that the junction was being traversed, by carriages and waggons too. I was more interested in determining the tracks of a carriage. I was sanguine enough to make a sound decision that would progress my plan.
'Forsooth, these marks are more of a carriage than a waggon!' I expressed.
'How do you know that to be a fact?' Hitchcock asked with attentiveness.
'Logic Hitchcock, any inquisitive mind would offer that conclusive indication. Look closely at the soil! Although it has hardened somewhat since the day before, the depth of the marks can be easily traced and distinguished. The marks of a wain would be more profound in composition than a normal carriage. Therefore, the imprints that we are observing in the soil are concurrent, with those made of a carriage'.
'Surely, you are not implying that this be the road that the murderer is using in his murders, based on this assumption of yours?'
'One of the roads-for my argument as well as my criteria is based on the evidence inferred, and the oversight of the murderer exposed. Don't you see? This sudden quirk in fate could be fundamental in exposing the murderer. Thereby, it would ultimately mean seizing him!'
'Then, we are closer to solving this case sir!' Hitchcock suspected.
'If we are correct, and my assessment of the situation is providential, then we shall not need to look far to find the killer, he will find us', I acknowledged.
'I pray for the sake of the villagers you are right in your analysis'.
That night, we concentrated once more on occluding the escape routes of the murderer, and the thought of blocking the roads was discarded after wise discretion. Our options were few, and our potential suspects also.
Naturally, Mr Tasker seemed to be the main suspect, but I was not exceedingly convinced in the end, even though there was tangible evidence to prove his involvement in the murders. Why would he be in possession of minted coins, and how did he obtain them?
There was also Mr Creech the coin collector, who despite the fact he had kindly assisted us in this investigation had perhaps a reason to be guileful and malevolent.
Thenceforth, I was determined to attempt to solve this case with assertive resolution, and that would imply imperative perception and command of the decisive developments. I had explained to Hitchcock briefly my factible premise, and he had agreed with my substantial proposition.
However, the following events that occurred were not only coincidental in nature, but they would exacerbate the complex situation of the case that was impending as well. I had thought of Mr Creech, and I had decided to pay him a visit that day, but we would soon discover upon our arrival that Mr Creech was murdered. Yes, it appeared the murderer had killed Mr Creech, the loquacious coin collector. The question was who and why?
After examining his dead body, I deduced with deliberation that he was killed by poison, before he was strangled to death, with a rope that was left behind, by the murderer without a doubt. I could only fathom what a singular encounter with death would implicate, at the hands of a murderous killer.
'It appears that we are late, the murderer has killed Mr Creech!' Hitchcock had uttered.
'Indeed so Hitchcock, but we must remain resolved. The murderer could be near, and we must be cautious', I said.
'Do you believe that the murderer is still here watching us now?'
'There is a cogent possibility that is occurring, but I doubt that'.
'Sir, come here at once! The butler is dead in the lounge!' Hitchcock had exclaimed.
The butler was dead, 'First Mr Creech and now the butler!'
There was a letter that was clenched in the right hand of Mr Creech that I quickly saw afterwards, 'Here there is a letter, and it seems to be written, by Mr Creech himself'.
Supposedly, the letter was addressed to me, and it was of urgent significance. The letter made mention of the Ancient Noble Order of the Gormogons and the nexus with the Jacobites.
There was a unique reference as well, to the mysterious minted coins. Mr Creech had come to the conclusion that the coins were linked to the murders, and that he knew that the elusive murderer was someone from the village of Shapwick.
Unfortunately, the letter was not finished, and only a scribble attempt of a name was legible. I was aware that the perceivable insinuation and disclosure of the killer's true identity was not sufficient enough to know who he was. The contents and the missing piece to solving the identity of the killer had intrigued me and caused me to ponder the limits of this captious individual.
This meant also that the killer was not totally unhinged, but displayed with this murder, an immeasurable intelligence that was subjective. However, within that instinctive rumination, there was a terrible reality that was sadistic and vindictive in the nature of the murderer.
I wondered in my mind, what if the murderer was not only here at the house of Mr Creech, but he had written this letter to mislead us as well?
It was a plausibility that I had to contemplate and accept; even though eventually my mind was telling me otherwise. Hitchcock had asked afterwards, about the next step taken, and I had answered him with the utmost candour.
'We must leave here with immediacy Hitchcock!'
'Go whither sir?' He asked.
'To the Tasker House!' I replied.
'Shall I inform the other constables?'
'There is no time for that, they are most likely nearby! We must leave at once, and if my theory is correct, then the killer knows Mr Tasker or is associated with him', I interposed.
'I shall prepare the carriage!'
We left the house of Mr Creech and headed towards the home of Mr Tasker-hoping that we would not find him dead. However, when we raught his estate, we saw that the carriage of Mr Tasker was gone.
We then knocked on the door and discovered that Mr Tasker was indeed gone. The butler had informed us that he had left the estate, for a private engagement he had, with an important business man. At first, when I queried of the name of the individual and the location, he did not know. The only thing he remembered of him was that he had a store and had seen him several times at the estate. I urged him to describe his appearance, and he told me that he was fairly tall and thin, but that his slenderness was deceptive.
According to the butler, the man was a former soldier. That description of the stranger although indefinite was adequate to make a general supposition. Sadly, I did not have time to dawdle in the minutiae of the description. The pressing issue of locating Mr Tasker had superseded that relevancy.
Before we left he mentioned that the young lad, who we came with us the previous night had returned, and Mr Tasker had taken him to the orphanage, before he was going to meet the stranger. When he told me that, I uttered the name of 'Henry', and he nodded his head in confirmation. It was a disturbing revelation, and one that I was not prepared to confront. But, it did offer me the answer to where to search. I thanked him for his essential information and headed towards the orphanage.
There at the orphanage, we would be startled to not find anyone, including the boy. I was puzzled by this circumstantial oddity, and I told Hitchcock that I had a strong foreboding that something of a malicious nature had occurred. I told him to survey the area in the rear, whilst I would enter through the front entrance. It was then as I entered through the front part of the building that I heard a loud thumping sound. I called on Hitchcock, and there was no actual response.
Thereafter, I knew that some terrible thing had happened to him. I approached the rear of the orphanage building, with judicious prudence and rationality.
Then I heard a sudden crepitation coming from the bog that was a close distance, behind the building. I dallied to the bog, till I perceived a stranger nearby. I approached even more with a heightened caution, as a slight anxiety had begun to increase within me. I could hear the sound of the wildlife of the bog, and in particular the barn owl. I sensed somehow that the stranger was the murderer. The question was who was the murderer?
Gradually, as I had walked through the bog attentively, I began to hear the sounds of a person. When I got closer to the mysterious noise, I saw the boy Henry, and he was bound to the trunk of a tree. I was not positive that this was not an intricate deception, thus I walked slowly and slowly towards the lad. I saw the dead body of Mr Tasker on the ground. He had been shot by a bullet, but the question was by whom?
At that precise moment, a gun was pointed at me from behind. It was the murderer, who stood behind me. It was another man that I had once met at the beginning of the investigation.
'Inspector Cauvain, it is good to see you again. And I must admit you are a worthy adversary. But tell me, did you ever suspect it was me?' The murderer asked.
'Mr Merrifield, you of all people were on my list of suspects. Of course at first I was not completely convinced, until I had perused the pathologist's report over and over', I said.
'By Jove, am I to believe you?' He asked with a circumspect mien.
'You may believe what you want, but the game is over, and your time is up!'
He had cocked the hammer back and was about to pull the trigger, as he laughed at me and said with defiance, 'It is you inspector, who are at a disadvantage and not me. Look around you, you have nowhere to escape, or do you have anyone to help you'.
The barn owl then made a sound that distracted him enough for the constables to arrest him. You see, the constables were in the area, and I had known that. In my plan devised the night before, I had instructed them to patrol the area, sensing that we would ultimately trap the fiend, like a hound traps a fox in the hunt. In this case the hunted was the murderer and not us as he had thought.
Finally, the extensive case known as the 'Enigma of the Somerset Murderer' was solved, and the elusive murderer was taken into custody. The murderer was Mr Merrifield the apothecary, who I had first met at the initial stage of my investigation. Hitchcock had been struck on the head by the gun of Mr Merrifield and left unconscious. I found him afterwards, by the rear of the orphanage.
The matron and the children of the orphanage had been bound inside of the orphanage, and were then rescued. The citizens of the nearby villages would no longer be gripped, with consistent fear and consternation that affrighted them. Mr Merrifield was taken to the gaol in Glastonbury, where he was to be held until his trial. I was considerably grateful for the collaboration of the constables and in particular, that of Constable Hitchcock, as I acknowledged that to him upon my departure. Before Mr Merrifield was taken from the bog, he had asked me how I knew he was the killer. Naturally, I proceeded to expound on my asseveration, and naturally he responded.
'It is always the preponderance of putative evidence that we tend to dismiss in the beginning, and that tends to evolve into a contradictive quandary. My theory was relatively tentative and inconsequential, until I started with sedulous care, to connect the collocation of the two pieces of evidence that made sense in the end, the poison and the minted coins. I understand the legal precept of being innocent until proven guilty, and thus, I was reluctant to continue with that investigable pattern of thought so hastily. I noticed from our meeting this compulsory need to make a pantomime of checking your watch, and that meant that you were very punctual and mindful of time, as the killer was in his murders. I would say he was very proficient except in one thing Mr Merrifield, his zealous passion was uncontrollable. There are developments in the evidence ascertained that may seem delusory or even illusory for that matter, such as your unforgettable exposition. You see, you had corroborated my theory with clarification that the marks that were found on the victims were caused, by the cyanide poison. Only a man of medicine would concur to those specific marks, without examining the body. This inimitable and perditious evidence against you was moderately formulating into a cohesive hypothesis of mine. The features of the description of the possible suspect perhaps were not satisfactory to be delineated by an artist, but I did cogitate in my mind that probability. Hitherto, from the omission of those facts, I controverted the results and accumulative effects that were accrued, with a methodical accuracy. Now what I did not know until recently was the nexus to the Jacobites. It wasn't until I read the letter that was written by Mr Creech, and with a muse I meditated the name scribbled. I had one of the constables do an effective investigation on your background, and I discovered something very odd and troubling; although it was not sufficient to arrest you. I discovered that you were a distant cousin of the historical Duke of Wharton, a Jacobite sympathiser and one-time president of one of the three Hell-Fire Clubs in London, who was executed. That fascinating fact I did not understand afore had a connection with the coins, and it soon became an explication that was more than a factual allegation. However from this extrasensory perception of mine, I was forced through an extraneous extrapolation and exertion to discover more about this immemorial society. What I did not perceive was that Mr Creech along with Mr Tasker had belonged to this secretive association of yours, and had together participated with you in the murders. Oh I know all about the Hundred of Whitley, and that it is one of the forty historical Hundreds in the ceremonial county of Somerset. I admire your colluctation, but that fight was long ago, when neither of us were born. One last thing, there are my detractors, who do nothing but have tracasseries and tendentious arguments about my tactics, but I don't believe you will be one of those who will be questioning my approach'.
'From the pleonasm of the supernumerary tales of heroes and villains inspector, there are some of us who are destined to be ignoble, with a tainted ignominy of the scoundrels that we must efface therewith. The honour of the Jacobites cannot be derogated, to the forgotten memories of the past. There is no deprecation on my guilt-for I killed the descendants of those, who were my sworn foes', he retorted his last vile confession, before the constables took him away.
I abated then any unnecessary dialectic between Mr Merrifield and I, and made one last important statement to Hitchcock, before we went on our separate ways, 'The consequential act of an impetuous propensity can instantaneously cause a symbiotic relationship between individuals, amidst a vast difference of opinions, even those who are parlous duplicitous in nature Hitchcock. The unrelenting tendencies of temptation are always irrepressible to the criminal, and thus it is de riguer that the sleuth be impeccable in his interrogation. I have learnt through my vital experience that the unpredictable progression of any investigation is not necessarily dependent on the intellect and wit merely, but on the introspective disposition of the investigators also, who must solve insurmountable cases yet irresoluble'.