Worse Than Murder

There's a coming of age ritual where you stick your hand in a glove of these...

There’s a coming of age ritual where you stick your hand in a glove of these…

So this is a piece I wrote a while ago using an experimental style. It’s just a short story with maybe a darker undertone to it, though it’s really just a mystery. (There seems to be a theme these last few days XP). Anyway, yeah. I decided to post it before I decided that it wasn’t worth posting, so here you go. Enjoy. 🙂

A corpse oscillated slowly from side to side, suspended by a stout cord roped to a ceiling fan. Constables from Scotland Yard vacillated around, observing with great pompousness trite details while completely disregarding the salient female carcass that swung silently as a breeze from an open oriel caught on the muted clothing adorning the late Mrs. Parkins.

The suicidal scene – for such an explanation all evidence corroborated – had taken residence in a small flatlet on the top floor of a three-story boarding house. In a warped piece of irony, the wallpaper encapsulating this gloomy locality was garnished liberally with daisies in varied orientations. A drab dresser adorned the only bare wall in the room, which coincidentally, as if fate feared to soil the dull beauty elsewhere, was where the quietus had transpired. Lace curtains, which none dared draw back – possibly for fear of desecrating the dead – filtered the light that entered through the murky panes opposite the beforehand mentioned oriel. This all conspired in a collusion to render the men of Scotland Yard ill at ease.

A deviation from the gloom surrounding this locality came rushing in like the angry finger of a wild storm smashing in a window, and with it came Chief Inspector Carter Mendavelen. With the stereotype of a man possessing a mind elevated to greater heights than that his fellow beings, Carter was clothed with a cliché neglect for garments. His wild hair was made increasingly so by the gust of wind that accompanied his unethical entrance, and blue eyes equally stormy searched the room, taking in any detail, no matter how picayune.

“Sir,” the nearest constable began respectfully, as if placating his superior officer for the perpetration of an unknown crime.

“Yes?” Carter demanded, his countenance forbidding any faltering that his inferior was about to undertake.

“The crime scene sir, here it is.”

The detective gave a dismissing nod, and striding rapidly across the carpeted floor, he threw open the drapery and swung open the casement. Light rushed in like a rabid dog, permeating every corner and bringing illumination to the tiny particles of dust that drifted unprepossessingly in the air. The policemen shielded their eyes as the bright noonday sun sent its minions to irradiate everything before it, including the suspended object of interest. Carter stepped back and dipped his stubbled chin in his calloused hands as he studied the body. He looked up, however, as a bumbling specimen of law-enforcing humanity entered the room.

Every enlightened mind requires one less endowed which it can disabuse, and such was the bulbous Inspector George Howard to Carter. Why this was so is difficult to understand, for the two were as contrary as a fork and spoon, yet in nature’s incongruity, they meshed together as perfectly as a well made puzzle. Perhaps this bond was strengthened by yet another factor; the two were, after all, cousins.

“So Carter,” George said, as he sidled up beside his intellectually gifted relative. “What’s your theory about all this gibberish eh? What has the exceptional detective seen that the blinded populace of Scotland Yard missed this time?”

The austere detective snorted at this piece of glorification, but George knew he had pleased his co-worker.

“When one approaches a puzzle, it is important that he first does not engross himself in it with no knowledge of the entire picture. You see these men examining the room. They stare, focused on a single point. Look at Godfrey there, studying the cushion with such meticulous care. And for what purport? Does he have a reason for acting so? No. See now, stand here by me, examine this apartment, and tell me what you discern.”

George, almost gleefully – for being the younger of the two, he looked up to Carter unreservedly, and relished learning from his friend – stood where Carter indicated and gazed around.

“The apartment is small, tidy, and well kept,” George began, and his mentor nodded encouragingly. “This is the living and dining room in one. The wallpaper is old and in a fair amount of disrepair, yet the ten books on the mantlepiece above the fireplace are remarkably well kept. The floor is aged, as is the ceiling. The oriel does not close properly. Everything however is very clean. There is wallpaper on three walls, but on the wall there with the dresser and the – corpse, is it not? – is not papered.”

“What would you say should be the main focus of our attention?”

“Why the dead per–” George stopped himself short. Carter had always cautioned him against making rash conclusions, so he went over what he had gathered. This complete, he felt confident enough to say, “The reason and cause for death.”

“Very good George,” Carter said, patting his protégé on the back. “Now our victim was a librarian, as is evinced by her general tidiness and extra care for the books on her mantlepiece.” The detective approached the dresser. “See here George, she has here a golden pince-nez, indicating that she was studious, and either had a magnanimous patron, or was once a lady of fortune.

“Now we examine the body. Following our previous train of logic, we examine the hand to see if she perhaps once was married. There is no ring, meaning she is most likely a spinster, yet this cannot be proven, as sometimes the ring is removed. However, counting on the fact that she is most likely unmarried, we can imagine she had a rich benefactor.”

“Y–es,” George interrupted, for he was perplexed. “Yet I do not see how all this applies to our main points.”

“Good– very good,” Carter smiled. “You are cautious on the expense of your mental faculties. However, I will explain in a moment why these seemingly insignificant observations apply.”

“Do you mean you have already figured it out?” George was distraught.

“No, George,” the detective said reassuringly. “Nothing is ever completely figured out until there can be no question as to each link of the logical chain, and as of yet, there are many open links in my chain.

“Now, I was about to move on to the cause of death. It is somatic of course, as you cannot kill someone any other way. We examine now the body. At first glance it appears as if suicide was the intention. The rope from which poor Mrs. Parkins now hangs certainly looks as if she had purposefully tied it to the fan, and mounting her desk, hung herself. Yet first glances are not always what they seem.

“Look here at this dusty footprint on the desk. Made by a shoe no doubt, which the carcass is wearing, however, what do we know about Mrs. Parkins? She is a librarian, and thus exceptionally clean. Where would a source of dust like this come from? No. This is much too conspicuous. Now we examine the Lilliputian – meaning very small –” this being added at George’s questioning look. “Details.”

“Sir,” one of the constables said, coming up to Carter. “Me and the boys figure that, with your permission of course, we’ll go and leave you and Inspector Howard to your thoughts.”

The detective did not seem predisposed to answer, so George said with a small smile, “Certainly.”

“Here George,” Carter said, calling his cousin to join him where he crouched below the dangling corpse. “Look at this, four grains of wheat, just below her feet. Also,” he stood back up again. “Her clothes; they are rumpled, as if she was in a fight. I believe she was murdered. Now the question is why?”

George knew that the question was rhetorical, but he spoke anyway, “Yes, why?”

The instant he spoke the words, there was a sharp report and he jumped, but his companion did not seem in the least perturbed.

“The oriel,” he murmured, as he circled the late librarian, and looking towards that orifice, George realized that indeed, the window had slammed shut. This also brought to his conscious certain other realizations, such as the unremitting darkening of the flatlet as night’s relentless hand spread her dark veil over the land.

An hour elapsed as Carter examined their environment from every angle. In this time, relief that assumed the form of a full moon thought fit to cast shimmering white light through the same casement from which previously had come the glory of sunlight. This incessant white glow seemed to take form as it permeated the room seemingly hunting for something, finally coming to rest on the books that adorned the mantlepiece. George found himself staring dreamily at the cabalistic manuscripts that rested on the shelves, and thus was completely startled when Carter called him sharply.

“Yes, sir?”

“Look at these books. Tell me what you observe about them.”

George lumbered closer to the neatly arranged tomes and gave them a cursory inspection. Then, detecting nothing out of the ordinary, realized he would have to look deeper. In a moment he had it.

“These nine books are Shakespearean plays, but this one is on agriculture!” George exclaimed pointing to the fourth book from the left.

“Tell me, George,” Carter said composedly, drawing the volume from its resting place and thumbing through its contents. “Have you ever heard tell over a group known as the Farmers?”

“No.”

“They were a cultist group originally developed from a group of farmers and nature-lovers banding together against industrial technology. It appears that our dear Mrs. Parkins was involved in such a group.”

“So you are saying the Farmers killed her?” George asked, unsure as to the direction his cousin was heading.

“What I am saying is that we might have here something worse than murder.”

George was dumbfounded. Worse than murder? How was such a thing possible? Carter held the book up to him, and George stared on silently. The detective had his finger on the fourth word of the fourth sentence of the fourth paragraph of the fourth page.

“‘Field’,” George mused. “Why ‘field’? I assume the fours have some connection with the wheat, but why the word ‘field’?”

“Tell me George,” Carter said, as he replaced the book. “What place in London has a name that sounds like ‘a field’. Or rather, should I say, ‘an field’.”

“Enfield!” George said excitedly. “So that’s their meeting place? Enfield?”

“The chances of that certainly do seem to be in our favor,” the detective said, unwilling to commit.

“Well, what are we still here for?”

“What would we do if we did go to Enfield?” Carter asked with a humorous smile. “Accuse them without evidence? Come come George, you are better than that surely.”

The inspector seemed rather abashed at this, and he remained silent as his superior lit a fire in the fireplace. The fulvous flames flickered and flashed fractiously as the detective stirred the fuel on which the inferno fed, but the limited glow it gave was welcome. They both took adjoining seats on the couch facing that container of angered heat and were silent in each other’s company. In the moment of warmth aroused in both physical and psychogenic areas, the morbid situation was forgotten, but a creaking of the ceiling fan impertinently brought it forth again.

George glanced over his shoulder trepidatiously and squinted at the dangling corpse suspiciously, for darkness brought on many formerly unfelt fears, both mental and supernatural.

“Jumpy?” Carter joshed with a small smile.

“Just making sure the dead stay dead,” George grumbled back, then shared in the hearty laughter that followed.

A compressed squelch followed by a squeaking cut off both their laughter abruptly and they slowly turned to look at the corpse. It still hung in a similar manner, and after a split second’s silence, they both turned to each other and said in unison:

“Jumpy?”

This led to another raucous bout of laughter, broken only by a thump from directly behind them. The two whirled around in their seats and stared skeptically at what they had missed previously. The front door was swinging on its hinges, and sprawled between the doorjambs was the body of a police officer; the one Carter had referred to as Godfrey.

Both men simultaneously drew their weapons and advanced towards the carcass that had so tactlessly intruded on their solace. The detective knelt down by the body while George checked the stairs.

“I don’t see anybody here,” George whispered, peering into the darkness outside. A disgusting squish sound combined with a soft rolling from near his feet caught his attention. He looked down and then looked away quickly while Carter stood up hurriedly.

“God,” the detective ejaculated as he looked into the blackness as ineffectually as George had. “Who would have the audacity to behead a constable?”

“Frmhrrs?” George’s voice was muffled by the pudgy hand covering it, but Carter’s mind was traveling a similar enough route such that he understood what his companion meant. He gave a silent nod, then he dragged the corpse in and covered it and the severed appendage with a bed sheet. At the end of this process, both George and he had to sit in the couch for several moments to accrue their disseminated facilities.

Finally, George voluntarily shattered the silence by asking, “What did you mean by ‘worse than murder’?”

Carter was silent. He stirred the embers of the fast evanescing fire, then tossed in another piece of firewood. Slowly he eased himself back into his seat, and George knew that his cousin was preparing for an especial narrative.

“Among psychologists there has always been speculation as to whether the mind can be controlled. Hypnosis and other methods have been attempted. Such ideas tend to be especially prominent among cultist groups. Then there are others that play on the way a human mind works, brainwashing and harnessing the fight-or-flight response being such methods. Emotional control is also possible. By exploiting things such as religious beliefs, folklore, pain, fear and other culturally associated things, a state called ‘horror’ is created.

“In this state of mind, the subject is utterly under the control of terror and instinct. Depending on the level of horror created in the patient, any number of irrational decisions can be made. The type of control the person in power has is completely relative to the personality and experiences of the victim. If it is a timid person who is forced into this state, they will listen to what is known as the ‘guiding force’, or the voice of the evil fabricating this ‘horror’. If an especially courageous or lucid subject is brought under control, they will attempt to do the opposite, or fight back, and in this manner, can be manipulated.

“According to my hypothesis–”

The detective stopped as George slumped onto his shoulder, snoring loudly. He smiled, then, also feeling the need for rest, took a more recumbent position and gave into the pleas of an unnatural sleep.

When Carter awoke, it was with a considerable sense of unbalance, and he had to sit still for a moment. At the terminus of this period, when his vision finally ceased to swim, he found himself in a location disparate from where he recollected being. He was in what struck him as a basement of sorts, and George was missing. His first action was to reach for his gun, but it was also absent.

He then examined his surroundings on a closer scale than he had before. The walls were earthen, but lined with stout wooden beams. The floor however, was composed of multiple stones upon which his captors – for he no longer had any doubt he had been captured – had thus unkindly laid him. There was a ladder on one wall, and a torch, mounted on the opposite wall and out of his reach, was the only source of light. The creaking of the ladder as somebody descended caused Carter to face it, and he waited with no small amount of trepidation as to what was about to come next.

As the legs of the approaching man showed, Carter thought of a scheme. He dashed forward and grabbed the man’s legs in a valiant effort to pull him down. Unfortunately, the climbing person was obviously accustomed to such occurrences, for with a sharp kick that was deleterious to Carter’s health, he sent the detective staggering back.

Carter resolved not to try again, and instead studied the approaching man. However, all he could glean was that there was a distinctively sylvan air about him. The newcomer paused when he reached the bottom of the ladder, then he turned around, and Carter was shocked to see a hollow socket where his right eye should have been. Ten more men descended, and before the detective could do anything, they had seized him.

“What are you doing?” he grunted as he struggled.

The man missing an eye, obviously their leader, advanced slowly. “You are very smart Chief Inspector,” he said in a gravelly tone. “You found that Mrs. Perkins was in a cult, you figure out our meeting place, and finally, you know how she was killed do you not?”

“Horror; the state of horror,” Carter said clinically.

“Yes, very good, Carter. Yet, despite saying it, I know you do not believe there can be any way a person as strong as yourself can be controlled by me. Still, that is beside the point.

“You know where we live, you know what we do, and you have a case of circumstantial evidence against us. I don’t believe we should allow you to live anymore. Now that we have decided on that, the next best thing would be to choose the best method with which to kill you, and I think it only fair that you should die in the same way you deem impossible.

“Now,” the man began pacing. “You may be wondering what method we will use to put you into horror. Well, our favorite, and the only one we use is torture.”

“Where’s George?” Carter cut in. He had faced death before, and hearing his fate so casually outlined barely disrupted his sang-froid. However, the instant torture had been mentioned, his mind had flown to his missing companion.

“Your friend is still asleep where we gassed him,” the man chuckled. “No, you need not worry. I do not resort to torture of a person’s companions. Though, if any should interfere, as that officer, Godfrey, then they will be removed as efficiently as possible.”

“You monster,” Carter spat with unquestionable loathing in his voice.

“You will know me as more than that when I am finished.

“Tell me, good detective, have you ever heard of the bullet ant? No? Well, men say that its bite feels like that of a bullet wound. See here?” and he showed Carter a bottle filled with live ants. He signaled to his men, and despite Carter’s desperate resistance, they pried his mouth open. Painstakingly slowly, the torturer unscrewed the bottle and emptied the furious insects into another, larger canister. Then, drawing back the cuff of his hermetic robe, he reached in unhesitatingly and removed a struggling ant. Turning to Carter, he smiled savagely and placed the ant on the detective’s tongue.

The numerous agonies that followed  I shall not relate here, for they were too horrendous to be put on the pages of any story. Suffice to say, when they were done, Carter collapsed feeling as though he had been shot in the most exquisitely painful places imaginable.

“Now, good sir, here is what you are going to do. You will die anyway, so I am giving you an easy way out. Return to Mrs Parkin’s apartment, string yourself a noose beside her own, and hang yourself. Now, if you do not do exactly as I say, we will know, and you will die still, but from these little friends of ours.” And Carter shuddered as the torturer held up the ants, once again ensconced in the small bottle.

Stumbling to his feet, the unfortunate detective started towards the ladder only to be halted by his captor. From a copious pocket the man drew out ten grains of wheat, and handed them to Carter significantly. With vacant eyes, he ascended the ladder to do his master’s bidding.

***

When George awoke from his slumber, he was appalled to find his cousin’s body swinging gently besides the corpse of the librarian. For a moment, the inspector was too stunned to do anything, then his sharp eyes caught sight of three grains of wheat directly beneath the feet of his companion. Scrambling to the books, George drew out the third volume and thumbed to the third page. He scanned down through it until arriving at the word indicated by the three grains:

‘Run.’

Tours yruly

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