Monday, May 16, 2011

Mystery Amidst the Clover


Since I am leaving for England tomorrow night I thought i'd better elave you with a nice long bit of reading material blogging-lovliness. Below is a mysterious mystery story that I wrote for my British Lit Class. Enjoy! 

Shots in the Dark,
Hannah Hoo

Mystery Amidst The Clover

By Hannah Musick

            “How do I look, George? Sufficiently grand?” Snidelock wiped a circle mist from the carriage window with his ruby sleeve and twisted the twirly ends of his polished mustache in the reflection, “I expect that after this case I’ll be promoted to Head Detective.”
            “Yessir, Detective.” If you were in a theatre performance, thought George. The entire force back at Scotland Yard found Snidelock a novelty, which was perhaps the desired effect. He always wore flamboyant suits in dark emerald, indigo, and amethyst. Silk ascots, feathered hats, and his elaborate mustache gave an eccentric entertainer’s flair to the Detective. George personally wouldn’t be caught dead in such getup, but the apparel only succeeded in adding a mysterious air to Snidelock. George would have much rather been paired with one of the more professional detectives on the force, but as he was just 17 and as an assistant he had no choice in the matter.
            “Well than, lets get on with it! We have a mystery to solve, my boy.” Detective Snidelock pounded the head of his cane, a bronze peacock with glinting gemstone eyes and a curved beak, against the roof of the carriage to signal the driver that we had arrived. The carriage slowed and then squelched to a halt on the muddy country road. Snidelock flung open the carriage door and leapt out onto the ground, his already muddy snakeskin boots becoming even muddier. George tucked his notebook into his coat and stepped down carefully. With instructions to return in an hour, George and Snidelock turned to their destination, the Clover Estate.
            Despite being only a carriage ride away from London, George felt as if the thick mist had followed them to the countryside. It was thick enough to slice with a butter knife and serve on toast with tea. Soon the carriage had disappeared and Snidelock plowed forward into the unknown. George quickly followed, not wanting to be lost in the middle of the chill forest.
            The Estate appeared in stages; first a coal wrought iron gate, then scarlet set of doors and the pale walls until George and Snidelock stood before a massive mansion with many curtained windows. There seemed not to be another living soul about so Snidelock stepped forward and, after adjusting his hat, knocked loudly on the door. The thumps echoed softer and softer until the door creaked open. A dusty butler peered around the door with a suspicious glint to his eye.
            “Aye, then? What is your business here?”
            “I am Detective Snidelock Tombs here to investigate a murder. This letter was delivered early this morning to Scotland Yard.” Snidelock snapped his fingers and George scrambled to pull out the letter and handed it to the Butler, who read It aloud:
Scotland Yard  - May 7th
          Please send help to The Clover Estate in Bath as soon as humanly possible. We may still be in grave danger. A tragic accident has occurred.
_Baroness Clover
            The butler grunted. “Delivered it myself.” He nodded towards George. “What about ‘im?”
            “I’m George sir. I’m Tomb’s assistant.”
            After a brief moment of hesitation, we were allowed entry. The inside of the manor was fine and furnished with expensive materials befitting such an old family as the Clovers. Smoky glass wall lanterns lit the adjoining corridors, crackling every once in awhile from impurities in the oil. The butler mutely led us up a carpeted staircase and through a maze of rooms. He paused, tapping lightly on an oaken door, and then swung it open to reveal a dark room.
            “Detective Tombs and his assistant to see you, Baroness. Detective, I present Baroness Lily. Lily Clover.”
            Without a parting word the butler disappeared and closed the door, rather loudly, behind us.
            “Oh, welcome to my home, Detective. Please, draw the curtains.”    
            Detective Snidelock strode to the vast plate window and threw open the dusty curtains. Baroness Clover, a fine lady enveloped in a widow’s mourning gown of crushed velvet, blinked at the startling light. Her beautiful face was papery with shock and her sparrow’s eyes had a haunted, darting manner as if she expected the killer to appear at any moment from behind the couch or slithering from under the oriental carpet.
            “I am so glad you have come. When I sent word for help to Scotland Yard last night, I didn’t expect such a quick response. You have exceeded my expectations, Detective Tombs.”
            Tombs pet his mustache. “Call me Snidelock, Baroness. Please, tell us about last night. George, take notes.”
            “Last evening I awoke to a piercing scream from the west wing of the house, maybe around 11:00. My husband is… was a very busy doctor and had been reading in the library when I went to bed, something to do with a medical case he had been working on. As I neared the library I heard a clatter and the sound of retreating footsteps, then a banging sound. When I opened the library door I saw no one but my husband, napping in his reading chair. It wasn’t until I stepped forward to wake him and ask about an intruder that I realized he was- was-,” here the Baroness took a moment to press her shaking hands to her face, trying to regain control of her emotions. With a deep breath, she continued, “Dead. He had been stabbed several times with a silver knife which the killer had dropped in flight. No one has touched the body or the library, anticipating your investigation.”
            “I see. Who else lives on this estate, Baroness?”
            “Well, lets see. There’s Wilkes Kingsly the Butler, the maid Alice, and our cook, Smithy. Since it was just the Baron and I we didn’t require much help. We didn’t entertain often due to my husband’s work.”
            George looked up from where he’d been scribbling. “Baroness, did your husband have any enemies?”
            Snidelock shot George an irritated glance. “I was getting to that, George. Let me ask the questions.” Turning to the Baroness he smiled and asked,” Enemies?”
            The Baroness looked momentarily confused. “No, not James. The Baron was a kind man and avoided conflict whenever possible. He was a very reclusive man, only leaving the house to treat special patients. In fac- oh! There was this one woman. Apparently she died during an operation and her husband blamed James for her loss. He sent a nasty letter threatening revenge but nothing came of it. I always thought it was the grief talking. Would you like to take the letter as evidence?”
            Snidelock stood. “No thank you, Baroness. Perhaps later if it pans out, but for now I wish to inspect the scene of the crime. If you will…?”
            “Of course. This way, please.”
            Baroness Clover led us through a hall to the next wing of the estate. Besides the swish of her grim skirts the house was deathly silent. We soon came to a looming set of doors, and she paused.
            “If- If you don’t mind I’ll stay here. The sight would not be well for my nerves. Please take all the time you need.”
            Snidelock pushed open the door with no hesitation. The library was enormous and lit here and there with a tinted lamp. Shelves of aged tomes were stacked from floor to ceiling, and a man was collapsed into the cushy chair in the corner. Snidelock strode forward with no apparent aversion to the corpse and inspected the scene. He leaned forward until his nose was almost touching the dead Baron’s and peered into the glassy eyes. “Very interesting,” he sniffed once then dropped to the hardwood floor and crawled around the ground on all fours, then over to the wall of bookshelves. As suddenly as he had fallen he sprang up with ludicrous energy and began pulling books from the shelves and throwing them about.
            Hearing the commotion, the Baroness peeked timidly around the door. “Is everything alright in there?”
            “Quite fine, Baroness. I’m simply deducting the movements of the killer. You never know when a hidden passageway will arise! I shall be finished in a moment.” With that Snidelock frowned at the exposed wall and abandoned his endeavors to study the weapon. He picked up the knife from the carpet and examined it closely. “George, take careful note of the knife. We might have to compare it to the estate’s silverware later.”
            “I already did, Sir. While you were…investigating the books.”
            “Fine then, take note of the body!” Tombs sniffed and started stabbing an invisible assailant from several angles.
            The assistant hesitantly approached the corpse. It really seemed as if the Baron were simply asleep. With his eyes open. And stab wounds. George scribbled his observations and tweaked his glasses. Six wounds, all to the chest. The Baron was wearing pajamas, a moth-eaten robe, and a red and white silk scarf was tied around his neck. No, not a red and white scarf; a blood stained white scarf. George slid his pencil under the cloth and pulled back to reveal a wide incision in the Baron’s neck, like that of a blunter or larger knife. He shuddered and stepped back, letting the scarf fall back into place.
            Snidelock was still searching the shelves for clues and tossing them willy-nilly over the floor. George noticed one book that stood out from the rest. It was mauve, crackly leather bound medical tome on the anatomy and inner workings of the heart. It was aged and had a deep tear in the leather that almost pierced the yellowed pages within.
            There was a sudden bang as Snidelock thumped his cane and called the Baroness into the library. “I have come to a conclusion, Baroness! Call for the butler as well!”
            When everyone was gathered, the baroness wincing at the sight of the late Baron, Snidelock cleared his throat and announced, “I have deduced that the killer was wielding a silver dinner knife. The Baron’s cause of death was stabbing.” He paused and smiled proudly.
            There was a short silence. “And?” meekly asked the Baroness.
            “And  I believe I have narrowed down the suspect list. The crook must have left the library through the yonder window, as you can see over there,” he gestured to a large latched window facing the servant’s buildings, “ …and thus the servant must be a worker on the grounds!”
            George frowned. “I don’t see how that would indicate tha-“
            “Oh, be quiet lad. Never question the sleuthing skills of a senior detective. Now, on to the servants quarters!”
            Snidelock flung open the window and hopped out onto the lawn, fully expecting everyone to do the same. One by one we stepped through the window and followed. As Snidelock was about to walk right into the servant’s quarters when a looming shape appeared at the door. An impressive butcher knife was held in his meaty hand and dripped scarlet onto his vast leather boots. The bald man glared at Snidelock with intensity and then swung the knife to point to Tomb’s chest. “You don’t belong here. Leave the estate immediately. Or else.”
            Snidelock giggled nervously and began to back away.
            “Smitty! That man’s a detective come to investigate the Baron’s murder,” exclaimed the Butler as he neared, helping the Baroness with a steady hand.
            “Aye, James. I didn’t know.” The burly man stepped aside and wiped the knife on his apron.
            “Well, then. Would you like to explain why you are threatening people with a massive bloodly knife, sir?” asked Snidelock with a new surge of bravado after he had realized there was no danger.
            “I was cutt’in the meat for tonight’s roast. I’m the estate’s chef, and a fine one too.”
            George scribbled in his notebook: “Possible suspect? More than capable of wielding knives. Motivation? Alibi?”
            “And where, pray tell, were you last night about 1:00 am?” asked Snidelock.
            “On my way back from town. I went shopping for supplies at yesterday’s market and went to the Three Blind Mice for a drink. Lost track of time and was late starting back. It was raining terrible it was, almost got ran over by a reckless carriage I did. Didn’t make it home until late and by then the house was all a fuss over the murder.”
            More scribbling: “Alibi: Grocery. Validate with Mice Bar if necessary. Motivation: Money, breakfast revenge. Very possible suspect.”
            “Mighty convenient, eh?”
            The Cook’s swarthy cheeks reddened. “The baron was mighty picky about his bangers, and tight with his pocketbook sometimes, but it’s a real shame, to die like that! I would never have murdered the Baron!”
            Tombs sniffed and turned to the Butler. “What about you, James? Where were you last night?”
            The Butler stiffened. “I was working.”
            “Working? On what?”
            “My duties. I didn’t have time to do it earlier this week so I was up late polishing the silver.”
            “How coincidental that you polished the silver the very same night your master was stabbed to death by a silver knife! Tell me, Butler, did that knife belong to the Clover Estate?”
            “Why, yes. Yes it did.”
            “Perhaps,” drawled Snidelock, “Perhaps you had a motive for murder, Butler. You were having an affair with Baroness Clover, weren’t you?”
            The Baroness stiffened, shocked. The Butler was pale as the mist that swirled at their feet, revealing the truth of the matter.
            “It was easy to see. A busy husband who cared more for medical anomalies than his lovely wife, you were driven into the arms of the Butler. Is this not so? Under no other circumstances would the help refer to their master on an intimate first name basis as when you introduced us to the Baroness.”
            “How di- Well, yes. It is true. The Baron and I were never close, in a way his death is a relief. I did care for him, but I never loved James the way I love Wilkes.”
            “That blows the case wide open, then!” exclaimed Snidelock. “It’s obvious who the killer is. Baron Clover’s murderer is-“
            Who do you, Reader, think murdered Baron Clover? The adulterous Baroness, neglected by her busy husband? Her lover, the butler, killing to rid himself of his ladylove’s rival? The bloody butcher with a fabulous collection of knives and anger at mistreatment? Or someone else? Turn the Page to find out the true killer’s identity…


            “Hold it right there, Detective! I know exactly who the killer is, and it isn’t anyone on this estate,” George interrupted, fixing Snidelock with a calm gaze.
            “Whatever do you mean, young man?” asked the widowed Baroness. “There are no other suspects. Are there?”
            “Lad, you don’t know what you’re speaking of. Now be quiet as I reveal the killer,” Snidelock looked apprehensive. Almost nervous.
            “Not any longer, Tombs. I know I’m right. You, Snidelock Tombs, are the murderer.”
            A shocked gasp rippled through the onlookers.
            “Are you mad, boy? I’m a detective! My occupation is fighting crime. I have no reason to commit murder.”
            “But you did, Detective. Murder fueled your life. You’ve investigated so many cases that you know how a killer thinks, how a killer acts. When your flamboyant ways and lack of solved cases became apparent, you had to impress Scotland Yard with a stroke of genius that would’ve bumped you up to Head Detective, maybe even Commissioner someday. So you planned it all out. A rich, respected family like the Clovers. A sudden murder. You must have been lurking around the area for weeks, planning every aspect of the case. The suspects, the victim, the timing, the weapon; everything. No doubt in your snooping and investigating you discovered the affair quite quickly. Last night you came here, to the Clover Estate, killed the Baron in the library, and fled back to London just in time to receive the call for help this morning.”
            Snidelock’s face had drained of color and his mustache quivered. “I grant the alibi might be plausible, but what evidence could you possibly have?”
            George opened his notebook with a grin. “I have been taking notes, you know. First of all, your boots.”
            Everyone turned to inspect Snidelock’s boots. “What about them?” sneered Snidelock.
            “When we left the carriage I noticed that they were already dirty with dried mud. It was only after I’d left the carriage that they were dirtied.”
            “Circumstantial evidence!” scoffed the detective.
            “Is it? Well, on to my next piece of evidence. When the Butler answered the door you informed him that we were here to investigate a murder. It wasn’t until later that we were enlightened as to what kind of an emergency the Baroness had called to Scotland Yard for help with. It might have been any kind of emergency, but you knew it was murder.”
            “That won’t convince anyone, you foolish boy!”
            “Won’t it? How about the body? From a quick observation the Baron was stabbed to death with a silver house knife. However, on closer inspection, I believe the actual cause of death was not from the knife. That was only done later to mask the true cause. The Baron was actually killed with a blow to the neck by a wide, sharp edged object. An object such as your personalized cane, there. If the coroner was to test the beak of the bronze peacock to the wound I think he would find they match perfectly. Not only that, but you disguised the wound with one of your own silk scarves, didn’t you?”
            George saw his answer is the perspiration dripping odd Snidelock’s brow and the rage in his eyes.
            “There was one thing I couldn’t figure out, though. Why use your cane when you had planned to murder with the knife all along? It doesn’t make sense. It wasn’t until you were knocking the books from the shelves, supposedly looking for a hidden passageway, that I realized the truth. You weren’t searching for anything, you were trying to hide evidence.
            When you attacked Baron Clover with the knife he wasn’t entirely helpless. He must have reflexively blocked that first blow with the medical journal he was reading and knocked the blade from your hand. He had just began to scream for help. You had to quiet him, so you struck with the only weapon you had handy: your peacock cane. The blow to the jugular was what really killed Baron Clover. The stab wounds were only to mislead everyone. The book, sliced from the blade, fell to the floor. Instead of draw attention by singling out the book, you simply mixed it in with the other books.”
            “Why you!” Snidelock lunged for George, his cane held high and fury burning in his wild eyes. Smitty caught the neck of Tomb’s ridiculous suit and held him back with a thick fist. George wrenched the cane from the detective’s grasp and tossed it lightly in the air.
            “Thank you, kind Sir. If you wouldn’t mind, could you keep an eye on him until backup can arrive? Scotland Yard should be very interested to hear of this case, I should think.”
            “I would have gotten away with it, I WOULD HAVE! I deserved that title, I’m a genius!” Tombs fumed.
            “I have to say that in a twisted way your plan was elementary, my dear Snidelock. But you can’t escape the hounds of justice forever.”

Farewell, America!

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