* * *
Jack West went to Judge Robert Harrisâ€™ house on Gravel Road behind the Pickler. Judge Harris answered the door and proved to be a stout man with a prodigious mustache.
â€œHi there, judge,â€ West said.
â€œGood morning,â€ Judge Harris said. â€œIâ€™m still eating breakfast. Câ€™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.
â€œSo, Judge, you heard about the â€¦ uh â€¦ marshal kidnapping?â€ West asked.
â€œNo, I havenâ€™t even had breakfast yet,â€ Judge Harris said. â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œIt was a ghost. Charles Pettigrew took him.â€
â€œThereâ€™s no such things as ghosts! Thatâ€™s insane.â€
â€œDoes sound insane.â€
â€œBut if I could ask you a few questions about that trial.â€
â€œAll right. It was six years ago.â€
â€œDid they ever end up finding that murder weapon?â€
â€œNope. Nope. Never found the murder weapon.â€
â€œNo idea what it could have even been?â€
â€œBlunt object. We thought the poker from the fireplace set but it was there. Blunt object of some kind. Donâ€™t know what it was. Too small to be a billy club but with a heavy end of some kind. I donâ€™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.
â€œWas there anybody interested in Miss Pettigrew?â€ West asked.
â€œHuh-uh,â€ Judge Harris said. â€œSheâ€™s not ever been courted by anybody, far as I know.â€
â€œAnybody not like Mr. Pettigrew,â€ West said, taking a bite.
â€œWhat?â€ Judge Harris said, not hearing him.
West chewed quickly to ask the question again.
â€œDonâ€™t talk with your mouth full, boy!â€ Judge Harris said, spitting food.
He picked up the pieces and ate them lovingly.
â€œDid Mr. Pettigrew have any enemies?â€ West finally asked again.
â€œNot that I know of,â€ Judge Harris said. â€œHe was a crazy old coot though. Made all these weird inventions. Donâ€™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€
â€œLearned. Baxter Learned. He lives over by the lake in the big house.â€
â€œIs that the Colonel.â€
â€œNo, thatâ€™s not the Colonel.â€
â€œWell, thank you for your time.â€
â€œYouâ€™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.
â€œIâ€™m sure youâ€™re not just here to play whist,â€ she said, looking at Wilder who had lost every hand that day. â€œWhat can I help you gentlemen with?â€
â€œHave you heard what happened to the marshal?â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œNo, Iâ€™ve been busy with whist club all morning.â€
â€œIt appears he has been ghostnapped.â€
â€œGhostnapped! What a way with words you have Professor Stalloid! Ghostnapped! I loved it!â€
â€œPatent pending. So, jokes aside though, yeah. The man that lives below the hospital says that he saw himâ”€â€
â€œOh, Willie Gillespie?â€
â€œâ”€get carried away by Charles Pettigrew into a horseless hearse that rolled away.â€
â€œHow strange. Iâ€™ve never known Willie Gillespie to lie. It does sound like a ghost. The man had a limp?â€
â€œWell, 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€
â€œDid you know him well?â€
â€œI did not know him well. He was the mortician. He lived up at the house on the hill. He didnâ€™t play whist, you see. He didnâ€™t play whist. I did know Mrs. Pettigrew.â€
â€œDid his wife play whist?â€
â€œShe used to play whist quite often. Mary was such a sweet lady.â€
â€œDid you know her well?â€
â€œOh 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 â€¦ she fell out of a three story window, right on her face. It was terrible. When they were done with her, you couldnâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s such a shame what happened,â€ she said after a moment. â€œDid you hear what happened to them?â€
â€œYes,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œYes, 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 â€¦ 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 didnâ€™t want me to see it but I had to look. I had to. I had to.
â€œAnd there he was, just playing away on the organ, his hands covered in blood. They say that thereâ€™s still bloodstains. Iâ€™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 didnâ€™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€
â€œHave you seen the marshal today?â€ Professor Stalloid asked.
â€œNo, I havenâ€™t,â€ she said. â€œNot since I gave him his medicine last night. I can show you how my medicine works, if you like!â€
â€œWhere did you learn?â€
â€œOh 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 menâ€™s feet.
â€œMaybe later but we are on a case right now,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œI will â€¦ decline at this time â€¦ but my â€¦â€ Wilder said.
â€œVery well,â€ Mrs. Delacroix said. â€œBut I can tell a lot about a man by his feet.â€
â€œMy companion will â€¦ take you up upon it,â€ Wilder finished. â€œHe is being modest.â€
It also came up that she couldnâ€™t swim and was quite afraid of drowning.
* * *
West found Mr. Learnedâ€™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 Westâ€™s face.
â€œI donâ€™t know you!â€ he said.
He slammed the door shut.
â€œWho is it?â€ the man shouted from inside. â€œWho are you?â€
â€œNameâ€™s Jack West, I just had a few questions for you, Mr. Learned,â€ West said.
â€œWhat do you want to know?â€
â€œWell first off, why are you so paranoid?â€
â€œI have many reasons! You wouldnâ€™t understand â€˜em!â€
â€œAll right. Did you hear about what happened to the marshal in town?â€
â€œNo! I donâ€™t leave the house!â€
â€œApparently, he was kidnapped by â€¦ the ghost of Charles Pettigrew.â€
There was no answer.
â€œApparently they left on a horseless carriage,â€ West said.
There was a wail from behind the door.
â€œI heard yâ€™all used to be friends,â€ West said.
â€œWe used to be!â€ the man called through the door. â€œWe had a falling out over â€¦ you wouldnâ€™t understand!â€
â€œCan you help me understand?â€
â€œNo! Youâ€™ll never understand. Itâ€™s insane! Itâ€™s madness! Madness, I tell you! Madness!â€
â€œWell, I seen some strange things. Maybe I can understand.â€
â€œYou canâ€™t even begin to understand!â€
â€œCould you open the door?â€
â€œNo! No. They might have sent you. Iâ€™m sure they did, as a matter of fact. Theyâ€™re probably sneaking in the back door while you distract me here. Yes. That must be whatâ€™s going on! Go away! Go away!â€
â€œUh â€¦ who is â€˜they,â€™ by chance?â€
â€œYou know who they are! Youâ€™re working for them!â€
â€œIf I were working for â€˜them,â€™ I would know. But since Iâ€™m not, who?â€
â€œNo! Just go away!â€
â€œYou have a nice day.â€
â€œYouâ€™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.
â€œSo, I recall, last night, you didnâ€™t like â€¦ seeing living people hurt?â€ 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 didnâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 didnâ€™t like the sight of blood or injury, except in the cases of corpses.
â€œThe 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,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œReally?â€ she said.
â€œTaking the marshal into the hearse,â€ Dr. Weisswald finished. â€œAnd driving away. Without horses.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what Willie says.â€
â€œWillie? Willie Gillespie?â€
â€œOh. Well, maybe fatherâ€™s finally come back. He always said he would. Heâ€™s a genius, you know, and he said he was going to come back after he died. So he must be back. Iâ€™m glad Iâ€™m saving him a place at the table so weâ€™ll have some place for him to sit and eat.â€
She seemed quite pleased about the whole situation.
â€œSo, what else did your dad make?â€ West asked.
â€œHe was always studying,â€ Alice said. â€œHe 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€
â€œDid he read about how to make the pipe organ?â€
â€œOh yes. He studied very hard before he built it. Itâ€™s quite ingeniously made and itâ€™s beautiful, as you have seen. The hardwood. He also made the rain bath. Thereâ€™s also a pump in the mortuary that can heat water as it pumps. Itâ€™s quite clever. There was a pair of glasses, more goggles, that you can wear that donâ€™t impede your vision at all. They were quite ingenious. He made some other things that I didnâ€™t see. I didnâ€™t know everything he did. It was his little hobby. â€˜Inventing,â€™ he always said. â€˜I love inventing.â€™ So, the mortuary business enabled him to purchase items to make more interesting things.â€
â€œIn what room did your father work?â€
â€œThe balcony room. Where I live now. The things that were there, I didnâ€™t understand them so I had them carted away and sold.â€
â€œWho did you sell the hearse to?â€ Dr. Weisswald asked her.
â€œI had Rupert Smith, he drove it to Riverside,â€ Alice said. â€œItâ€™s about 20 miles up the road and he sold it to someone there.â€
â€œTo the north?â€
â€œYes. And he sold it to somebody there, Iâ€™m not sure who. But they paid a good, fair price for a used hearse, and they bought the horses too, because I didnâ€™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 donâ€™t have much in the way of funds.â€
â€œI think that might be our next interview,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
* * *
Professor Stalloid returned to Aristotle Finchâ€™s house.
â€œYes, sir?â€ Finch said.
â€œWell, we looked over at Mrs. Delacroixâ€™s,â€ Professor Stalloid said. â€œHe wasnâ€™t there.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know where he would be then. You told me heâ€™d been kidnapped by a ghost. Well, what do you need, Mr. Stalloid?â€
â€œDo you remember anything peculiar about the case? About the prosecution of Charles Pettigrew?â€
â€œIt 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 didnâ€™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€
â€œExcept for them two.â€
â€œWell, yes, except for the two of them. But Alice wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™t see anybody else in the house either. Though he did claim he didnâ€™t kill his wife, but found her dead when he came into the room.â€
â€œThe 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 bloodâ”€â€
â€œYou mean embraced his dead wife for the final time?â€
â€œI supposed, possibly, but he didnâ€™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€
â€œI did too.â€
â€œHuh. Very strange. Mustâ€™ve been a dream.â€
Finch pulled at his collar as if it was too tight.
â€œIâ€™m sure thereâ€™s some kind of logical explanation for the whole situation,â€ he said.
â€œSo youâ€™re saying thereâ€™s absolutely no way the undertaker and Alice couldnâ€™t be in it together?â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œWe 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.
â€œCharles Pettigrew said he was coming back from the dead, right?â€ he asked.
â€œYeah, we know that,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œWell, heâ€™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€
â€œYes! I see! It opens up and the butterâ€™s inside.â€
â€œExactly! Heâ€™d be the butter.â€
â€œYeah, heâ€™d be the butter.â€
â€œSo, the butterâ€™s missing,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œThere was no butter!â€ Deputy Flute said. â€œThatâ€™s what made me think of it!â€
â€œSo, are you suggesting we see if the butter is missing?â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œHeâ€™s the butter!â€ Deputy Flute said. â€œHe better not be missing!â€
â€œAre you suggesting we see if the butterâ€™s missing?â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œWell, if the butterâ€™s missing â€¦ then he must not be a ghost,â€ Deputy Flute said. â€œHeâ€™s the walking dead!â€
â€œDo you give us the authority to see if the butterâ€™s missing?â€
â€œYes! Thatâ€™s a good idea. Thatâ€™s fine. Yeah, thatâ€™s why I came up here. Yeah. Yeah. Thatâ€™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 â€œCharles Pettigrewâ€ and â€œI will come back.â€ 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.
â€œOkay, weâ€™re going to open this, right?â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œYeah,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œWeâ€™re gonna see if the butterâ€™s in there?â€
â€œGo ahead,â€ Deputy Flute said.
â€œYour analogies are terrible,â€ 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.
â€œLooks like youâ€™re the marshal,â€ he said.
Marshal Flute wailed.
â€œIt appears we found the wrong kind of butter,â€ 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.
â€œWeâ€™re with the marshal!â€ 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.
â€œCome out!â€ West shouted.
â€œIs that you, Smith?â€ 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.
â€œWhat?â€ he called. â€œYou!â€
He stood up.
â€œGo ahead!â€ he called. â€œJust shoot me! I wonâ€™t have grave robbers on my watch!â€
â€œWeâ€™re with the marshal!â€ Professor Stalloid, still behind the mausoleum called.
â€œWhat?â€ Smith said. â€œI donâ€™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.
â€œThatâ€™s not the marshal!â€ Smith said. â€œThatâ€™s the deputy!â€
â€œHeâ€™s the marshal now!â€ Professor Stalloid called. â€œLook in the mausoleum.â€
Smith walked over as West holstered his pistol. The gravedigger looked into the mausoleum.
â€œThat ainâ€™t Charles Pettigrew,â€ he muttered.
â€œNo, it is not,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œThat is very perceptive,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œYou are grave stealers!â€ Smith said.
â€œWe found it like this,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œNo, we just found it like this,â€ Marshal Flute echoed. â€œSomebodyâ€™s â€¦ I thought you put Charles Pettigrew in this grave!â€
â€œI did put Charles Pettigrew in this grave!â€ Smith said.
â€œWell, that ainâ€™t Charles Pettigrew! Why isnâ€™t he in the grave!?!â€
â€œThe marshal wasnâ€™t supposed to be in the grave either!â€
There was some confusion and Dr. Weisswald examined Marshal Bakerâ€™s body. West reloaded the bullet heâ€™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.
â€œHe wouldnâ€™t like it in there,â€ Marshal Flute said. â€œHe doesnâ€™t like closed spaces.â€
â€œWell, hopefully he was dead before that happened then,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œOkay, if you say so,â€ Marshal Flute said.
Dr. Weisswald took the marshalâ€™s badge off and put it onto Fluteâ€™s vest. Professor Stalloid took the deputy badge off and put it on his own jacket. Flute took the deputyâ€™s badge off Stalloid with shaking hands, not even looking at the man but just staring into space. Marshal Flute looked down at his marshalâ€™s badge and signed.
â€œOkay,â€ he said quietly. â€œWhat should we do next?â€
He seemed completely out of his depth.
â€œI guess Rupert has a job to do,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œYep,â€ Rupert said.
He went to his shack, retrieving his shotgun, and returned with a shovel.
â€œI better go tell people what happened,â€ Marshal Flute said. â€œOh 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.
â€œWhat?â€ he said.
â€œSo you were friends with the â€¦ uh â€¦ Pettigrews?â€ West asked.
â€œI worked for â€˜em.â€
â€œWas Charles a nice guy?â€
â€œDo you know if Charles had any â€¦ uh â€¦ enemies?â€
â€œSo, did you grow up knowing Alice Pettigrew?â€ Professor Stalloid asked.
â€œNope,â€ Smith said. â€œWell, as much as anybody else I knew. She was younger than me.â€
West turned to Dr. Weisswald.
â€œIf I can use you and Mr. Doctor,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s a guy that doesnâ€™t really want to talk to me much: Learned.â€
â€œWell, whatâ€™s his significance?â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œHe was friends with Charles but they had a falling out some years ago,â€ West said.
â€œHey Smith, do you know anything about the falling out of Learned and Pettigrew,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œNope,â€ Smith said as he continued digging.
â€œDo you know anything about Learned as a person.â€
â€œHeâ€™s a very learned man. Literally and figuratively.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a very inefficient way of shoveling,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œYou wanna do it?â€ Smith said.
â€œWell, I could show you some techniques,â€ she said.
He started digging differently.
â€œSo, do you know who you sold all of Charlesâ€™ old stuff to?â€ West asked.
â€œSomebody up in Riverside,â€ Smith said. â€œThereâ€™s a mortician up there. I donâ€™t remember his name. It was six years ago.â€
â€œBut even all his books and â€¦â€
â€œDidnâ€™t have no books. Miss Pettigrew sent me with some glass jars and â€¦ all kinds of gewgaws. I took â€˜em up there and sold â€˜em to whoeverâ€™d buy â€˜em.â€
â€œDo you remember who bought the hearse?â€ Dr. Weisswald asked.
â€œWhoever the mortician in Riverside is,â€ Smith said.
â€œThank you, Smith,â€ 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.
â€œDo you want to say weâ€™re here as part of an investigation or something?â€ Professor Stalloid asked Dr. Weisswald. â€œSay were here on the marshalâ€™s duty? Are we pie salesmen? I could do the medicine routine. I could tell him I have all sorts of calming medicines.â€
â€œYes, letâ€™s go with that and, if all else fails, weâ€™ll call the marshal,â€ she said.
Professor Stalloid knocked on the door.
â€œWho is it?â€ came from within.
â€œHello, sir!â€ Professor Stalloid called. â€œIâ€™m here as a salesman of pharmaceuticals for all your daily needs.â€
â€œThat maimed man sent you, didnâ€™t he!?!â€
â€œThe maimed man! The man with the terrible face!â€
â€œHeâ€™s come for me! He wants to kill me!â€
â€œAre you talking about the marshal? I know he broke his arms and legs. I already visited him.â€
â€œThe marshal is missing! Youâ€™re a liar!â€
â€œWell, yeah, he is now.â€
â€œThe maimed man sent you. Heâ€™s from them! Them!â€
â€œWhoâ€™s the maimed man?â€
â€œWe found the marshal,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œWhoâ€™s that with you?â€ Learned said. â€œI hear â€¦â€
â€œWell this is my doctor-friend,â€ 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.
â€œShe helps me administer the more â€¦ powerful â€¦ medicine,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œThe maimed man sent you!â€ the voice called from inside the house. â€œYouâ€™ve been sent by them! The others! No! No!â€
â€œTheyâ€™ll never take me!â€
â€œI deal in many â€¦ ah â€¦ tinctures and â€¦ ah â€¦ opiates to calm the nerves.â€
â€œYouâ€™re just here for the maimed man! Heâ€™s probably around the back of the house! Heâ€™s gonna kill me!â€
The man screamed in terror and they heard footsteps in hard wood running away.
â€œWell, Iâ€™ll be leaving,â€ Professor Stalloid called. â€œIâ€™ll be in town for a little bit longer. See ya. If you change your mind.â€
The two left the house.
â€œMaybe we should go get the marshal,â€ 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.
â€œYeah, whatta ya want?â€ Marshal Flute said. â€œWhatta ya need?â€
â€œWe need toâ”€â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œWeâ€™re just heading up there to deal with the body.â€
â€œWe need to interrogate Learned and he wonâ€™t let us in.â€
â€œLearned? Mr. Learned? Why? Oh. Heâ€™s a strange duck. He doesnâ€™t like people.â€
â€œWell, we think â€¦ we just have some questions for him.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s he got to do with any of this?â€
â€œWell, he was Pettigrewâ€™s friend. They had a falling out.â€
Marshal Flute sniffed ponderously.
â€œAll right,â€ he said, pulling on his gun belt. â€œLetâ€™s see what we can do.â€
He led them back to Learnedâ€™s house and banged on the door.
â€œLearned, this is the town marshal!â€ he called.
â€œYouâ€™re nothing but a damned deputy!â€ Learnedâ€™s voice came from inside.
â€œIâ€™m the marshal now! Marshalâ€™s dead. Let me in. We got questions for ya.â€
â€œNo! Youâ€™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 â€œthem,â€ 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.
â€œLooks like youâ€™re gonna need a warrant,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œLetâ€™s go see the judge,â€ Marshal Flute said.
They went to the judgeâ€™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 didnâ€™t think their reasons were good enough for it. However, he told them Learned had always been very paranoid and a recluse ever since heâ€™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.
â€œYouâ€™re not going to hurt him, right?â€ he asked.
He seemed nervous that they might hurt Learned.
â€œIâ€™m a doctor,â€ Dr. Weisswald said. â€œIâ€™d never hurt someone.â€
â€œAll right, as long as youâ€™re not going to hurt him,â€ Popper said.
â€œIâ€™m a pharmacist,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œWell, weâ€™ll knock on the back door and Iâ€™ll try to convince him to talk to you,â€ Popper said. â€œTomorrow. I usually go in the morning. Nine? Okay. Youâ€™re not going to hurt me either, right?â€
He looked really scared.
â€œNo,â€ 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 didnâ€™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.
â€œMental peculiarities,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œEveryone has their own particular way of viewing life,â€ Dr. Chin said. â€œMidnight is a place where people can come who donâ€™t belong anywhere. And nobody cares, here. It is a very open community.â€
â€œUntil you murder your wife.â€
â€œWell, you canâ€™t break the law! But wearing a dress or a woman blacksmith. The blacksmith is a woman. Thatâ€™s not normal. Sheâ€™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 canâ€™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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t judge him.
For 1875, that kind of acceptance was unknown.
Dr. Chin knew some stories about Chinese ghosts but he didnâ€™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 Bakerâ€™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.
â€œUh â€¦ ashes to ashes and God bless us every one,â€ 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 didnâ€™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 Learnedâ€™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.
â€œIâ€™m thinking Delacroix is next though,â€ he said. â€œBecause sheâ€™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 sheâ€™d stay at the Pettigrew house to watch the organ.
Dinner that night was very pleasant, interrupted only by the thump of the Colonelâ€™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.
* * *