Jump to content

Blog Max_Writer

  • entries
    521
  • comments
    40
  • views
    1,219,828

The Murders in Midnight Part 2 - The Fate of the Marshal

Max_Writer

201 views

* * *

 

Jack West went to Judge Robert Harris’ house on Gravel Road behind the Pickler. Judge Harris answered the door and proved to be a stout man with a prodigious mustache.

 

“Hi there, judge,†West said.

 

“Good morning,†Judge Harris said. “I’m still eating breakfast. C’mon!â€

 

He led the man into the dining room where there was a table full of food. He was the only one eating there and sat down and told the man to eat his fill. There were all kinds of breakfast foods from pastries to kippers to eggs. Judge Harris seemed to love his food in a literal way, almost caressing the food he was eating as he was eating it. He took many different things on his plate and took his time eating them.

 

“So, Judge, you heard about the … uh … marshal kidnapping?†West asked.

 

“No, I haven’t even had breakfast yet,†Judge Harris said. “What happened?â€

 

“It was a ghost. Charles Pettigrew took him.â€

 

“There’s no such things as ghosts! That’s insane.â€

 

“Does sound insane.â€

 

“Uh-huh.â€

 

“But if I could ask you a few questions about that trial.â€

 

“All right. It was six years ago.â€

 

“Did they ever end up finding that murder weapon?â€

 

“Nope. Nope. Never found the murder weapon.â€

 

“No idea what it could have even been?â€

 

“Blunt object. We thought the poker from the fireplace set but it was there. Blunt object of some kind. Don’t know what it was. Too small to be a billy club but with a heavy end of some kind. I don’t know.â€

 

Judge Harris told him Pettigrew was found guilty of murder. He was the only one in the house at the time aside from Mrs. Pettigrew. Alice had been out in the apple orchard and Rupert Smith was in the graveyard. Neither of them had seen anyone leave the house. Mrs. Delacroix saw the murder and she fetched help.

 

“Was there anybody interested in Miss Pettigrew?†West asked.

 

“Huh-uh,†Judge Harris said. “She’s not ever been courted by anybody, far as I know.â€

 

“Anybody not like Mr. Pettigrew,†West said, taking a bite.

 

“What?†Judge Harris said, not hearing him.

 

West chewed quickly to ask the question again.

 

“Don’t talk with your mouth full, boy!†Judge Harris said, spitting food.

 

He picked up the pieces and ate them lovingly.

 

“Did Mr. Pettigrew have any enemies?†West finally asked again.

 

“Not that I know of,†Judge Harris said. “He was a crazy old coot though. Made all these weird inventions. Don’t even remember what they were. He and Mr. Learned were friends back in the day. Couple years. They had a falling out. Maybe he was his enemy.â€

 

“Mister Who?â€

 

“Learned. Baxter Learned. He lives over by the lake in the big house.â€

 

“Is that the Colonel.â€

 

“No, that’s not the Colonel.â€

 

“Well, thank you for your time.â€

 

“You’re welcome. Take some sausages with you.â€

 

* * *

 

Professor Stalloid and Wilder stayed after the rest of the whist club left. Mrs. Delacroix got them more cucumber sandwiches and prepared a pot of tea for all of them.

 

“I’m sure you’re not just here to play whist,†she said, looking at Wilder who had lost every hand that day. “What can I help you gentlemen with?â€

 

“Have you heard what happened to the marshal?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“No, I’ve been busy with whist club all morning.â€

 

“It appears he has been ghostnapped.â€

 

“Ghostnapped! What a way with words you have Professor Stalloid! Ghostnapped! I loved it!â€

 

“Patent pending. So, jokes aside though, yeah. The man that lives below the hospital says that he saw him─â€

 

“Oh, Willie Gillespie?â€

 

“─get carried away by Charles Pettigrew into a horseless hearse that rolled away.â€

 

“How strange. I’ve never known Willie Gillespie to lie. It does sound like a ghost. The man had a limp?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“Well, Charles Pettigrew did have a limp. One of his legs was bad. He had to wear a brace on it at all times. It was a very distinctive sound he made, a ka-chink, when he walked. But he was otherwise a very fine gentleman. Why would his ghost come back and kidnap the marshal?â€

 

“Did you know him well?â€

 

“I did not know him well. He was the mortician. He lived up at the house on the hill. He didn’t play whist, you see. He didn’t play whist. I did know Mrs. Pettigrew.â€

 

“Did his wife play whist?â€

 

“She used to play whist quite often. Mary was such a sweet lady.â€

 

“Did you know her well?â€

 

“Oh yes. They were a loving couple. They loved each other very much. They both worked together as morticians. It kept it in the family. They were bringing up Alice to be a mortician as well. They did a very good job. They took care of us whenever anyone died. Oh, they could make a body look like it had been alive, like they were just asleep. Why, I remember, old Mrs. Harrison. Why, she … she fell out of a three story window, right on her face. It was terrible. When they were done with her, you couldn’t even tell that she had been harmed. It looked like she was just napping. It was quite amazing. Quite amazing.â€

 

She looked out the window.

 

“It’s such a shame what happened,†she said after a moment. “Did you hear what happened to them?â€

 

“Yes,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Yes, Mr. Pettigrew just beat her to death apparently. I saw it! I saw it in the window. I saw it. I walked up and I saw two figures in the window. The curtains were pulled, but they were sheer, you see, so I could see the shadows from inside. Then one figure raised its hand and it had something long and it started … oh, it was quite awful. Quite awful. I ran for help and when we got back, we found blood and we found poor Mary, dead, right there by the window. And there was a trail of blood that led upstairs and we could hear the organ music as we came running up the hill. We could hear the organ music playing wildly, madly, from the organ loft in the very top of the house. And we ran - we ran up there. Oh my dear! I was shocked. I was shocked, I say. The men didn’t want me to see it but I had to look. I had to. I had to.

 

“And there he was, just playing away on the organ, his hands covered in blood. They say that there’s still bloodstains. I’ve not been back to that house. I would not darken that door again. Oh. Poor Alice. Bless her heart. She was out in the apple orchard. She didn’t even know what was going on and she was heartbroken when she found out and she was even more heartbroken when her father was hung. It was a terrible day. Two terrible days. The worst, terrible days this town has ever seen.â€

 

“Have you seen the marshal today?†Professor Stalloid asked.

 

“No, I haven’t,†she said. “Not since I gave him his medicine last night. I can show you how my medicine works, if you like!â€

 

“Where did you learn?â€

 

“Oh I picked it up here and there. Dr. Chin helped. He has this thing he calls acupuncture. It sounds kind of like what I do.â€

 

He got the impression that she really liked feet when she asked to see both of the men’s feet.

 

“Maybe later but we are on a case right now,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I will … decline at this time … but my …†Wilder said.

 

“Very well,†Mrs. Delacroix said. “But I can tell a lot about a man by his feet.â€

 

“My companion will … take you up upon it,†Wilder finished. “He is being modest.â€

 

It also came up that she couldn’t swim and was quite afraid of drowning.

 

* * *

 

West found Mr. Learned’s house. It was a big two-story building by a 20-foot cliff near the lake. All of the curtains were closed over all of the windows. He knocked on the front door. The man who answered had a thick shock of black hair, glasses, and a wild salt-and-pepper goatee and mustache. He took one look at West’s face.

 

“I don’t know you!†he said.

 

He slammed the door shut.

 

“Who is it?†the man shouted from inside. “Who are you?â€

 

“Name’s Jack West, I just had a few questions for you, Mr. Learned,†West said.

 

“What do you want to know?â€

 

“Well first off, why are you so paranoid?â€

 

“I have many reasons! You wouldn’t understand ‘em!â€

 

“All right. Did you hear about what happened to the marshal in town?â€

 

“No! I don’t leave the house!â€

 

“Apparently, he was kidnapped by … the ghost of Charles Pettigrew.â€

 

There was no answer.

 

“Apparently they left on a horseless carriage,†West said.

 

There was a wail from behind the door.

 

“I heard y’all used to be friends,†West said.

 

“We used to be!†the man called through the door. “We had a falling out over … you wouldn’t understand!â€

 

“Can you help me understand?â€

 

“No! You’ll never understand. It’s insane! It’s madness! Madness, I tell you! Madness!â€

 

“Well, I seen some strange things. Maybe I can understand.â€

 

“You can’t even begin to understand!â€

 

“Could you open the door?â€

 

“No! No. They might have sent you. I’m sure they did, as a matter of fact. They’re probably sneaking in the back door while you distract me here. Yes. That must be what’s going on! Go away! Go away!â€

 

“Uh … who is ‘they,’ by chance?â€

 

“You know who they are! You’re working for them!â€

 

“If I were working for ‘them,’ I would know. But since I’m not, who?â€

 

“No! Just go away!â€

 

“You have a nice day.â€

 

“You’re a liar!â€

 

* * *

 

Dr. Weisswald found West after she was done at the tailor shop. She was heading for the boarding house and he accompanied her there. They both had a nice lunch of ham sandwiches and fried potatoes with Alice Pettigrew. There had been a place left vacant at breakfast and there was a place left vacant at lunch.

 

“So, I recall, last night, you didn’t like … seeing living people hurt?†West said.

 

She told him she worked in the mortuary with her parents and, ever since she was small, she was used to dead bodies, so they didn’t make her squeamish like they might make other people. Even dead bodies that were badly hurt were not repugnant to her. She told him about Mrs. Harrison, whose face had been badly damaged. She had done some of the makeup on the old lady and her father had done some reconstructive work on her face so she would be presentable. She admitted she couldn’t stand to see a living person hurt though. If someone broke his arm in front of her or cut himself badly, it would put her off. She didn’t like the sight of blood or injury, except in the cases of corpses.

 

“The deputy pulled us over this morning and he wanted us to talk to Willie and Willie says he saw a hearse and also your father,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

Alice gasped.

 

“Really?†she said.

 

“Taking the marshal into the hearse,†Dr. Weisswald finished. “And driving away. Without horses.â€

 

“Without horses?â€

 

“That’s what Willie says.â€

 

“Willie? Willie Gillespie?â€

 

“Uh-huh.â€

 

“Oh. Well, maybe father’s finally come back. He always said he would. He’s a genius, you know, and he said he was going to come back after he died. So he must be back. I’m glad I’m saving him a place at the table so we’ll have some place for him to sit and eat.â€

 

She seemed quite pleased about the whole situation.

 

“So, what else did your dad make?†West asked.

 

“He was always studying,†Alice said. “He was always trying to learn new things and he said that he would come back. Well, he put together that pipe organ up in the organ loft.â€

 

“Did he read about how to make the pipe organ?â€

 

“Oh yes. He studied very hard before he built it. It’s quite ingeniously made and it’s beautiful, as you have seen. The hardwood. He also made the rain bath. There’s also a pump in the mortuary that can heat water as it pumps. It’s quite clever. There was a pair of glasses, more goggles, that you can wear that don’t impede your vision at all. They were quite ingenious. He made some other things that I didn’t see. I didn’t know everything he did. It was his little hobby. ‘Inventing,’ he always said. ‘I love inventing.’ So, the mortuary business enabled him to purchase items to make more interesting things.â€

 

“In what room did your father work?â€

 

“The balcony room. Where I live now. The things that were there, I didn’t understand them so I had them carted away and sold.â€

 

“Who did you sell the hearse to?†Dr. Weisswald asked her.

 

“I had Rupert Smith, he drove it to Riverside,†Alice said. “It’s about 20 miles up the road and he sold it to someone there.â€

 

“To the north?â€

 

“Yes. And he sold it to somebody there, I’m not sure who. But they paid a good, fair price for a used hearse, and they bought the horses too, because I didn’t really have a use for them. And then Rupert walked back and I gave him 10 percent of the money that we made. I thought that was fair. He helps out a lot around here. I wish I could give him more than I do but I don’t have much in the way of funds.â€

 

“I think that might be our next interview,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

* * *

 

Professor Stalloid returned to Aristotle Finch’s house.

 

“Yes, sir?†Finch said.

 

“Well, we looked over at Mrs. Delacroix’s,†Professor Stalloid said. “He wasn’t there.â€

 

“Well, I don’t know where he would be then. You told me he’d been kidnapped by a ghost. Well, what do you need, Mr. Stalloid?â€

 

“Do you remember anything peculiar about the case? About the prosecution of Charles Pettigrew?â€

 

“It was cut and dried, open and shut. No one else was in the house, no sign of anybody else in the house. His own daughter testified that she didn’t see anybody around the house. From her angle in the apple orchard, and the angle of Rupert Smith in the graveyard, they could see the entirety of the house. Nobody could have come or gone without them seeing.â€

 

“Except for them two.â€

 

“Well, yes, except for the two of them. But Alice wasn’t in the house and neither was Smith. They were both a decent distance, maybe a hundred feet, from the house, when the murder occurred. By both their testimony and by the testimony of Charles Pettigrew, who claimed he didn’t see anybody else in the house either. Though he did claim he didn’t kill his wife, but found her dead when he came into the room.â€

 

“Okay.â€

 

“The jury deemed that he was lying, obviously, and he was found guilty of murder. I mean, he was covered in blood. Blood was all over his hands. Unless the man purposely went to the already-dead body and covered himself in blood─â€

 

“You mean embraced his dead wife for the final time?â€

 

“I supposed, possibly, but he didn’t say he did that. He said he found her and then he ran up into the organ loft to play. He felt himself become unhinged, he said, and he had to - he had to play. It was a dirge, I suppose. Quite terrible from the sound of it. The music was quite terrifying. In fact, I thought I heard the music last night, in the middle of the night.â€

 

“I did too.â€

 

“Huh. Very strange. Must’ve been a dream.â€

 

Finch pulled at his collar as if it was too tight.

 

“I’m sure there’s some kind of logical explanation for the whole situation,†he said.

 

“So you’re saying there’s absolutely no way the undertaker and Alice couldn’t be in it together?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“We thought of that. Both were questioned and both their statements were corroborated by the other. But not to the point where it might be suspicious. I also questioned Charles Pettigrew more carefully and he confirmed both of their whereabouts as he had looked out the window and seen Rupert Smith in the graveyard moments before he found his dead wife, and he had sent his daughter, 10 minutes before, out in the orchard to get some green apples for that night.â€

 

Professor Stalloid thought the man was not pulling at his collar because of being nervous, but seemed more to be uncomfortable with having things tight around his neck. He might have had a phobia of being hung or being choked.

 

* * *

 

Dr. Weisswald, Wilder, and West came out of the boarding house after lunch and saw Professor Stalloid skipping up the road past them and towards the graveyard. Then they saw Deputy Flute running up the road after him, trying to catch up. He stopped and the man caught up with him. It took Deputy Flute a while to catch his breath.

 

“Charles Pettigrew said he was coming back from the dead, right?†he asked.

 

“Yeah, we know that,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Well, he’s got a mausoleum up here in the graveyard. I just thought of that while I was eating lunch. That little butter container made me think of that.â€

 

“Yes! I see! It opens up and the butter’s inside.â€

 

“Exactly! He’d be the butter.â€

 

“Yeah, he’d be the butter.â€

 

“So, the butter’s missing,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“There was no butter!†Deputy Flute said. “That’s what made me think of it!â€

 

“So, are you suggesting we see if the butter is missing?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“He’s the butter!†Deputy Flute said. “He better not be missing!â€

 

“Are you suggesting we see if the butter’s missing?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Well, if the butter’s missing … then he must not be a ghost,†Deputy Flute said. “He’s the walking dead!â€

 

“Do you give us the authority to see if the butter’s missing?â€

 

“Yes! That’s a good idea. That’s fine. Yeah, that’s why I came up here. Yeah. Yeah. That’s why I came up here. Yeah. But I can use your help.â€

 

They headed into the graveyard, which was well-tended. A small hut stood off to one side just outside the graveyard. They guessed that was where Rupert Smith lived. There were a few trees and some nice, tall bushes. The whole place was very orderly.

 

In the very center of the cemetery was a small mausoleum, just large enough to hold a coffin. On it was carved “Charles Pettigrew†and “I will come back.†They went over to look at it. It was very clean. The lid was a little bit off as if it had been recently moved.

 

“Okay, we’re going to open this, right?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Yeah,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“We’re gonna see if the butter’s in there?â€

 

“Yeah.â€

 

“Go ahead,†Deputy Flute said.

 

“Your analogies are terrible,†West said.

 

He was the one who went over and pushed on the lid. They managed to slide the cover a few feet and look in.

 

The body within had casts on his arms and legs. It was the marshal. He had a noose around his neck.

 

Professor Stalloid slapped Flute on the back.

 

“Looks like you’re the marshal,†he said.

 

Marshal Flute wailed.

 

“It appears we found the wrong kind of butter,†Wilder said.

 

There was an explosion from nearby and something blew a hole in the side of the mausoleum.

 

Jack West drew a pistol and spun around to face the noise. He saw a man ducking down behind another tombstone. Only the shotgun barrel stuck out.

 

“We’re with the marshal!†Professor Stalloid shouted.

 

Marshal Flute ducked behind the mausoleum followed by Professor Stalloid and Wilder. Dr. Weisswald ran towards another tombstone closer to the shooter and took cover behind it. West shot at the barrel. There was a crash as the bullet ricocheted off the shotgun barrel and the man behind the tombstone yelped in pain. The gun went flying over to land in the grass.

 

“Come out!†West shouted.

 

“Is that you, Smith?†Professor Stalloid called.

 

A head peeked over the edge of the tombstone. Dr. Weisswald and Professor Stalloid recognized Rupert Smith from his peeking through the window the night before.

 

“What?†he called. “You!â€

 

He stood up.

 

“Go ahead!†he called. “Just shoot me! I won’t have grave robbers on my watch!â€

 

“We’re with the marshal!†Professor Stalloid, still behind the mausoleum called.

 

“What?†Smith said. “I don’t see no marshal! Who said that? Are you some kind of ventriloquist?â€

 

Professor Stalloid pushed Marshal Flute up and into sight. Flute looked terrified and was not happy about the situation. He waved at Rupert Smith.

 

“That’s not the marshal!†Smith said. “That’s the deputy!â€

 

“He’s the marshal now!†Professor Stalloid called. “Look in the mausoleum.â€

 

Smith walked over as West holstered his pistol. The gravedigger looked into the mausoleum.

 

“That ain’t Charles Pettigrew,†he muttered.

 

“No, it is not,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“That is very perceptive,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“You are grave stealers!†Smith said.

 

“We found it like this,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“No, we just found it like this,†Marshal Flute echoed. “Somebody’s … I thought you put Charles Pettigrew in this grave!â€

 

“I did put Charles Pettigrew in this grave!†Smith said.

 

“Well, that ain’t Charles Pettigrew! Why isn’t he in the grave!?!â€

 

“The marshal wasn’t supposed to be in the grave either!â€

 

There was some confusion and Dr. Weisswald examined Marshal Baker’s body. West reloaded the bullet he’d fired and Wilder looked around for footprints. Dr. Weisswald found the body was stiff with rigor mortis, indicating it had been there between four and 48 hours. The face was blue and the tongue swollen and black, indicating he had been choked to death. His neck was not broken but was bruised by the rope.

 

“He wouldn’t like it in there,†Marshal Flute said. “He doesn’t like closed spaces.â€

 

“Well, hopefully he was dead before that happened then,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Okay, if you say so,†Marshal Flute said.

 

Dr. Weisswald took the marshal’s badge off and put it onto Flute’s vest. Professor Stalloid took the deputy badge off and put it on his own jacket. Flute took the deputy’s badge off Stalloid with shaking hands, not even looking at the man but just staring into space. Marshal Flute looked down at his marshal’s badge and signed.

 

“Okay,†he said quietly. “What should we do next?â€

 

He seemed completely out of his depth.

 

“I guess Rupert has a job to do,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Yep,†Rupert said.

 

He went to his shack, retrieving his shotgun, and returned with a shovel.

 

“I better go tell people what happened,†Marshal Flute said. “Oh my goodness.â€

 

He headed back to town.

 

Dr. Weisswald and the others searched the body but found nothing out of the ordinary. The body had marks around the mouth as if he had been gagged. The rope around his neck was cut a couple of feet from him.

 

Smith dug another grave nearby. They walked over to him.

 

“What?†he said.

 

“So you were friends with the … uh … Pettigrews?†West asked.

 

“I worked for ‘em.â€

 

“Was Charles a nice guy?â€

 

“Nice enough.â€

 

“Do you know if Charles had any … uh … enemies?â€

 

“Nope.â€

 

“So, did you grow up knowing Alice Pettigrew?†Professor Stalloid asked.

 

“Nope,†Smith said. “Well, as much as anybody else I knew. She was younger than me.â€

 

West turned to Dr. Weisswald.

 

“If I can use you and Mr. Doctor,†he said. “There’s a guy that doesn’t really want to talk to me much: Learned.â€

 

“Well, what’s his significance?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“He was friends with Charles but they had a falling out some years ago,†West said.

 

“Hey Smith, do you know anything about the falling out of Learned and Pettigrew,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Nope,†Smith said as he continued digging.

 

“Do you know anything about Learned as a person.â€

 

“He’s a very learned man. Literally and figuratively.â€

 

“That’s a very inefficient way of shoveling,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“You wanna do it?†Smith said.

 

“Well, I could show you some techniques,†she said.

 

He started digging differently.

 

“So, do you know who you sold all of Charles’ old stuff to?†West asked.

 

“Somebody up in Riverside,†Smith said. “There’s a mortician up there. I don’t remember his name. It was six years ago.â€

 

“But even all his books and …â€

 

“Didn’t have no books. Miss Pettigrew sent me with some glass jars and … all kinds of gewgaws. I took ‘em up there and sold ‘em to whoever’d buy ‘em.â€

 

“Do you remember who bought the hearse?†Dr. Weisswald asked.

 

“Whoever the mortician in Riverside is,†Smith said.

 

“Thank you, Smith,†West said.

 

They all left the man, following West. As they walked over to the large house near the short cliff, Professor Stalloid told West to stay away. He figured the man had scared him enough already. In the end, Professor Stalloid and Dr. Weisswald went to talk to the man.

 

“Do you want to say we’re here as part of an investigation or something?†Professor Stalloid asked Dr. Weisswald. “Say were here on the marshal’s duty? Are we pie salesmen? I could do the medicine routine. I could tell him I have all sorts of calming medicines.â€

 

“Yes, let’s go with that and, if all else fails, we’ll call the marshal,†she said.

 

Professor Stalloid knocked on the door.

 

“Who is it?†came from within.

 

“Hello, sir!†Professor Stalloid called. “I’m here as a salesman of pharmaceuticals for all your daily needs.â€

 

“That maimed man sent you, didn’t he!?!â€

 

“Who?â€

 

“The maimed man! The man with the terrible face!â€

 

“Maimed man?â€

 

“He’s come for me! He wants to kill me!â€

 

“Are you talking about the marshal? I know he broke his arms and legs. I already visited him.â€

 

“The marshal is missing! You’re a liar!â€

 

“Well, yeah, he is now.â€

 

“The maimed man sent you. He’s from them! Them!â€

 

“Who’s the maimed man?â€

 

“We found the marshal,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Who’s that with you?†Learned said. “I hear …â€

 

“Well this is my doctor-friend,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

The curtains over the windows in the door parted for a second and they caught just a glimpse of the wild eyes of Learned. Then they were closed again.

 

“She helps me administer the more … powerful … medicine,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“The maimed man sent you!†the voice called from inside the house. “You’ve been sent by them! The others! No! No!â€

 

“I deal─â€

 

“They’ll never take me!â€

 

“I deal in many … ah … tinctures and … ah … opiates to calm the nerves.â€

 

“You’re just here for the maimed man! He’s probably around the back of the house! He’s gonna kill me!â€

 

The man screamed in terror and they heard footsteps in hard wood running away.

 

“Well, I’ll be leaving,†Professor Stalloid called. “I’ll be in town for a little bit longer. See ya. If you change your mind.â€

 

The two left the house.

 

“Maybe we should go get the marshal,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

* * *

 

Wilder had stayed in the cemetery and looked around more carefully for tracks. He found some distinctive boot tracks, one of which obviously had a piece of metal or a mark that seemed to indicate some kind of brace. The tracks led back to the road where they disappeared. There were no signs of any kind of horse or buggy tracks there either. He only found their own tracks there.

 

* * *

 

Professor Stalloid and Dr. Weisswald found the marshal after only a short search.

 

“Yeah, whatta ya want?†Marshal Flute said. “Whatta ya need?â€

 

“We need to─†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“We’re just heading up there to deal with the body.â€

 

“We need to interrogate Learned and he won’t let us in.â€

 

“Learned? Mr. Learned? Why? Oh. He’s a strange duck. He doesn’t like people.â€

 

“Well, we think … we just have some questions for him.â€

 

“What’s he got to do with any of this?â€

 

“Well, he was Pettigrew’s friend. They had a falling out.â€

 

Marshal Flute sniffed ponderously.

 

“All right,†he said, pulling on his gun belt. “Let’s see what we can do.â€

 

He led them back to Learned’s house and banged on the door.

 

“Learned, this is the town marshal!†he called.

 

“You’re nothing but a damned deputy!†Learned’s voice came from inside.

 

“I’m the marshal now! Marshal’s dead. Let me in. We got questions for ya.â€

 

“No! You’re just sent by them!â€

 

The conversation went downhill from there and went the same way it had for them before. Learned accused him of working for the maimed man or for “them,†Flute denied it and tried to reason with the man, and eventually they heard Learned run away from the door. Marshal Flute scratched the back of his head.

 

“Looks like you’re gonna need a warrant,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Let’s go see the judge,†Marshal Flute said.

 

They went to the judge’s house and Judge Harris invited them in to eat as he was having lunch. The table was packed with all kinds of food and they sat down with him as he enjoyed his food.

 

Judge Harris questioned them intently about what they needed from Learned. As a retired judge, he told them he could write them a warrant though it would actually hold no legal status. In the end, he didn’t think their reasons were good enough for it. However, he told them Learned had always been very paranoid and a recluse ever since he’d moved to Midnight 20 years before. When Dr. Weisswald asked the man if Learned had his food delivered, he noted that he did. He suggested they talk to the grocer and see if that man could help them.

 

They talked to Bluto Popper, the grocer. He was a mountain of a man with muscles on his muscles. He told them he might be able to help them but he delivered the groceries on Monday, the next day.

 

“You’re not going to hurt him, right?†he asked.

 

He seemed nervous that they might hurt Learned.

 

“I’m a doctor,†Dr. Weisswald said. “I’d never hurt someone.â€

 

“All right, as long as you’re not going to hurt him,†Popper said.

 

“I’m a pharmacist,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Well, we’ll knock on the back door and I’ll try to convince him to talk to you,†Popper said. “Tomorrow. I usually go in the morning. Nine? Okay. You’re not going to hurt me either, right?â€

 

He looked really scared.

 

“No,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

She bought some hard tack and beef jerky at the grocery.

 

The two of them went to chat with Doctor Chin. He sat them down in a parlor in his hospital and made some Chinese tea and chatted. They learned he had lived in the town for some 15 years. He had been a doctor in China but when he came to America, they refused to accept his credentials and suggested jobs such as street sweeper or working in a Chinese laundry. He left San Francisco and, after searching for a place to practice for several months, ended up in Midnight. Dr. Weisswald said that was the same reason she didn’t have a practice, because she was a woman. He shook her hand. They were kindred spirits.

 

Dr. Chin knew about acupuncture and the like but used more tried and true western medicine. He was a wise and gentle man who did what he could to help the people of the town. He did not know Learned very well as the man had lived there since before he had arrived and he had never seen the man, even professionally, as he seemed terrified of people.

 

He was rather upset about the marshal being whisked out of his hospital in the middle of the night and murdered.

 

Professor Stalloid asked about all of the mental illnesses he was seeing around town. Dr. Chin had noticed though he would not call them mental illnesses.

 

“Mental peculiarities,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Everyone has their own particular way of viewing life,†Dr. Chin said. “Midnight is a place where people can come who don’t belong anywhere. And nobody cares, here. It is a very open community.â€

 

“Until you murder your wife.â€

 

“Well, you can’t break the law! But wearing a dress or a woman blacksmith. The blacksmith is a woman. That’s not normal. She’s a big, burly German lady. The grocer is a giant of a man who is terrified of hurting other people and being hurt in turn. Willie Gillespie is afraid of open spaces. The marshal was claustrophobic. He hated tight spaces. That was why he was in the largest room in the hospital. Chuckles is mute and what good is a clown who can’t tell jokes?â€

 

Professor Stalloid asked if Chuckles was physically mute or if it was a mental thing. Dr. Chin told him he was physically mute. He had no larynx and his tongue didn’t work correctly. However, he noted the man being dressed as a clown all the time might have been mental. He was simply more comfortable being called Chuckles and wearing makeup and brightly-colored clothes all the time. People in Midnight accepted that and didn’t judge him.

 

For 1875, that kind of acceptance was unknown.

 

Dr. Chin knew some stories about Chinese ghosts but he didn’t know what to think about the kidnapping and murder of the marshal.

 

* * *

 

During the day, Rupert Smith dug a grave. Men came up from town and moved the Marshal Baker’s body. Alice Pettigrew donate done of the old coffins in the attic and they interred the marshal in that and lowered him into the ground with a short service led by Marshal Flute.

 

“Uh … ashes to ashes and God bless us every one,†he said by way of a service.

 

* * *

 

The four of them all got together in the parlor before supper. Professor Stalloid looked for bloodstains near the front window but didn’t see any. He guessed they had replaced the carpets that were bloodstained. The comfortable parlor was otherwise typical. Alice came in at one point and brought them a tray with a pitcher of lemonade.

 

When Dr. Weisswald asked why Mrs. Delacroix had been there to see the incident, Professor Stalloid told her she was coming to talk to Mrs. Pettigrew about something. They shared what they had learned that day, as much as they could remember. Dr. Weisswald told them of going to Learned’s the next day with the grocer.

 

Professor Stalloid asked if they were going to keep watch on others they felt might be murdered. There was talk of going out in the middle of the night and compared who they might have to watch: the judge, the prosecutor, and Mrs. Delacroix. Professor Stalloid suggested maybe Learned.

 

“I’m thinking Delacroix is next though,†he said. “Because she’s the witness.â€

 

Professor Stalloid suggested napping and then heading down to guard the people before midnight. West said there were three targets and Dr. Weisswald thought they could get Marshal Flute to help them. She also suggested someone watch the organ.

 

They discussed who would watch where with Professor Stalloid volunteering to watch Mrs. Delacroix, West volunteering to watch Judge Harris, and Wilder volunteering to watch Finch. Some of them still had silver bullets. Dr. Weisswald said she’d stay at the Pettigrew house to watch the organ.

 

Dinner that night was very pleasant, interrupted only by the thump of the Colonel’s cannon from the town below, and they all napped until around 10:30 p.m. after that. After that, they headed to their various places.

 

* * *


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.