A Short Story by B. B. Wright
An Inspector Alexander Collier Mystery
Inspector Alexander Collier Mysteries will often provide a choice for the reader. If you want to obtain a greater understanding and/or a ‘feel’ for the period follow the embedded links (high-lighted and underlined) sometimes found in the text of the story. From time to time, I may return to a part of the story to add the link(s).
Atop the stone perimeter wall, hidden within the boughs of a leafy oak tree that overhung it, Werner Gruener peered through his binoculars at Lambert Manor. Slowly, he scanned the windows. In his tweed overcoat pocket was a copy of Psychic Glimpses by Elizabeth Stoddard (a.k.a ‘Queenie’). Chapters twenty-five and twenty-six had brought him there. He stopped. There was movement at a window. Adjusting his focus, he lingered and watched. A slow twitch at the corner of his mouth erupted into a smirk. He had come to the right place.
In a low hateful tone filled with loathsome fanaticism for the horde inside the manor, he murmured: “Humpty Dumpty stands on this wall; his goal about to bring a great fall; all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t stop Humpty from killing again.”
Barking dogs in the distance caused him to quickly scramble down from his perch. He twisted his ankle in the descent. Crouching low, he massaged his ankle as he hugged the outside wall and waited. The sounds of the dogs receded. He had not been discovered.
In her book, Queenie’s grasp of British history was naïve to say the least. But, that was of no matter to Werner. He was intrigued by the locations she had cited for her encounters with ghosts– Bryanston House, Shaftesbury Abbey, Hamworthy Rectory, Scaplen’s Court in Poole. He had ordered his coterie of likeminded souls to each of those sites to scratch out whatever information they could from the locals. His attention, though, was twigged by Lambert Manor. Unlike the others, she had devoted two meaty chapters to it that detailed her encounters with a cast of spectral characters from Elizabethan ladies to bewigged gallants. It had been the only one honored by several sketched images peppered throughout its chapters. Also, he had learned that she and her husband were members of the spiritualist group Druid Circle which met there every Sunday night.
But, ultimately, it had been her dreams that had given her away. Queenie’s several incursions into his dreams had left him an entry portal to her dreamscape. Though she had not invaded his mind recently, he had invaded hers and found dreams filled with images of Lambert Manor.
Under Queenie’s wing, the Meintner family was protected. If his ploy to gain access worked, only the time factor was troublesome. It would mean several months with close proximity to Queenie. He had no idea how it would affect her ability to invade his thoughts, awake or asleep. Though a potential pitfall, he was confident of his ability to outwit her. Still, he wondered whether he would need a different set of mental barriers. Soon, he decided, if all went well, he would know.
Hobbling alongside the wall toward the entrance to the estate, he stuffed the binoculars into a small knapsack he carried over his shoulder. He snickered hatefully. Having no further use for it, he pulled out her book, Psychic Glimpses, and tossed it into the deep ditch, parallel to him. He worried. London authorities had already found the body in the wardrobe steamer trunk. According to an article buried deep in the pages of The Echo the severely decomposed body had not yet been identified. There was no mention of the description of the sender in subsequent publications. No matter, he mused. He chastised himself for talking so long with Robert Shaw, the shipping agent at Bournemouth train station. I wonder if he knew. Thespians have a keen eye for such things.
Christmas was fast approaching. Werner hoped to find the household in a generous mood. He cocked his tweed cap slightly to the right and grasped the large brass ring and knocked it against the front door twice. He heard footsteps approaching from inside.
A rigidly straight, lean gentleman answered the door. He gave the impression that he was starched from top to bottom, including his personality. He peered down at Werner. “Goodness man, I haven’t got all day. What do you want?”
His haughtiness immediately captured Werner’s ire but he kept this festered boil hidden.
“Mah nam is Rabbie Mctavish. I’m haur about yer ad fur a grounds keeper.”
Werner had decided to murder all in this household when the time was ripe. He scrutinized this arrogant bastard. You’ll be the first, he thought.
Dismissing Werner with the flickering wave of his hand, he directed him to go round to the rear entrance and slammed the door shut.