The telephone rang. “Hello?” A strained voice said, “This is Gordon. We’ve got a murder over in Pillsburough. I’ll meet you at the Hasselton station to give you the rundown. Be there in ten minutes.” Sighing, Alex Kayn set down the phone and pushed his brown hair out of his eyes. Licking his dry lips, the detective stood and grabbed his coat on the way out the door. As an afterthought, he went back in for his coffee. Then he locked his office door, hailed a hansom, and set off for the train station.
The brown coat did little to keep out the harsh cold, and Alex shivered as he waited on the platform. Peering around, Alex tried to discern other figures in the fog. Alex glanced at his watch. What was taking him so long? Finally, a dark, wide figure emerged from the fog. As he approached, Alex spared his boss the walking and covered the distance in a few steps. Gripping the man’s hand, Alex greeted him. Gordon said, “I knew you’d be up, so I called you first. So this is your case for now. But as soon as Stafford’s up, he’s coming. Anyway—” he was interrupted by the arrival of the train. “We’ll talk about it on the way there.”
Alex sat back in his seat. Closing his eyes, he considered the information he’d been given. A dead man was found lying on the ground next to the Pillsburough train station. Pillsburough was a small town an hour away from Falton. The town consisted of one street of houses, a library, and a train station. On the other side of the tracks was an empty field stretching for miles in every direction. That was where the body had been found. This would be an interesting case.
“This is our stop,” Gordon Riling said. Standing and stretching, Alex picked up his coat and followed his boss. As they stepped onto the platform, they were greeted by Stafford Pallus, the junior detective. “Hello sir. Follow me.” Stafford led them to a body lying on the ground a few yards from the train station. “We’ve searched him, but he’s got no ID. Also, there are no signs of violence.” Alex ignored the younger man and walked toward the body. Stopping a few feet from the dead man, Alex knelt and set down his coat. The man was facedown on the ground, his brown hair dirty and twisted, and the ground beneath him covered in blood. Alex took a sip of his coffee and then began his investigation. Slowly, methodically, the detective explored every inch of the body. After going over it twice, inspecting every little detail, he stood. “Stafford’s good.” The junior smiled. “But he missed an important detail. The smile faded. “On the side of his shin, there’s a small gash. It may be a clue. I’m going to go take a walk. I need to think this over.” Stafford tried to protest, but Gordon hushed him. Alex turned and strolled away through the dead grass. His eyes took in everything, and it wasn’t long before he knelt. In front of him was a splotch of dried blood. Glancing back, Alex stood and kept walking. Then he saw another one, a little smaller. Alex passed the edge of the dead grass and glanced back. Gordon was talking to Stafford and gesturing wildly toward the body. Alex smiled, turned, and kept walking. Following a trail of blood splotches growing gradually smaller, Alex found himself in the middle of tall grass and sparse bushes. Crouching, Alex looked around. But there were no more clues. Alex sat down, losing his confidence. The detective leaned back on a rock and thought it over. The only thing he had discovered was that the man had a cut on his leg and ran from here to the lot, dripping blood. But even that could be wrong. Running his hand through his hair, Alex let his mind wander. Finally shaking his head, Alex stood up, using the rock as a crutch. But his hand slipped across the sharp edge of the rock and left a deep cut in his palm. The cut was already swelling with blood. Now, that was an idea. Walking to where the trail of blood ended, Alex visually scanned the area for knee high rocks. Right in front of him, a gray rock with a sharp edge faced the detective. Striding forward, Alex dropped to his knees and inspected the rock. Sure enough, on the far side of the rock was a small line of blood. Alex nodded. That was one piece in the puzzle. But there were many more he had to find.
Gordon Riling sat and waited on the chair the train conductor had brought him. It had been an hour since Kayn had disappeared into the brush, and Gordon was getting impatient. Meanwhile, Stafford was destroying any evidence there was on the body with his useless investigations. Heaving his bulk out of the chair, Gordon walked over to Stafford.
Alex Kayn picked his way through the sparse brush, surveying the area around him. He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but he knew he would find it. Looking back, he saw the tree that marked where the bloody rock was. As he turned back around, the detective saw something in the distance. That must be it. Breaking into a quick jog, Alex drew nearer and saw that it was a cottage. Pulling up at the door, Alex reached into his coat to check on his revolver. You couldn’t be too careful out here. As Alex opened the door, a tall, well-built man appeared. “So you finally decided to-- …oh, I’m sorry, but who are you?” he asked, astonished. “Oh,” said Alex. “I’m just wandering around here. I’m sorry I came in without knocking, I thought this was empty.” The man nodded. “That’s excusable. So, why would you be travelling around here?” Alex considered the question, then spoke, watching the man’s reaction. “I’m actually a detective. There was a dead body found in a lot near here, and I came out here to think.” The man gasped and dropped into his chair. Swallowing, the man turned away and pretended to be doing something at the table. “So I suppose you’re here to ask me questions?” he asked. Alex nodded. “Can I have your name, occupation, and how long you have been living here?” “My name’s Alcott, Hadwin Alcott. I…for the past twelve years that I’ve lived here, I’ve lived on the plants I can find and the game I shoot.” Alex nodded and began to pace. This was usual for him during investigations, not because he liked to pace while he thought, but because it gave him the chance to study his surroundings. The floor creaked beneath him and he looked down. A dim light was visible in the crack between two boards, and Alex was aware that he was walking over a hidden room. Looking up so he wouldn’t seem suspicious, Alex saw a picture on the table. Reaching over, he picked it up and Hadwin caught his breath. He must’ve forgotten something. “Could I see that right now?” he asked urgently. As Alex handed it over, he studied the picture. A much younger Hadwin stood next to a man Alex immediately recognized: Albert, brother to the Prince of Wales. Before Alex could see anything else, Hadwin grabbed the picture and stuffed it in a drawer. Glowering at Alex, he clenched his fists. “Well, I guess it’s time for me to go. You’ve been a great help,” Alex lied. As he walked out the door, he was aware of Hadwin gritting his teeth and breathing heavily.
Alex watched the new detective study the body. He wouldn’t find anything new, Alex knew that. But maybe he’d come up with a few good theories. Alex frowned and walked past Gordon, ignoring his boss. Once Alex arrived at the train station, he was directed toward the town’s library and a few minutes later, he arrived. Walking down the aisles, he searched for the right book. Sliding the book off the bookcase, Alex flipped through the pages until he came to the right spot. After a few moments, Alex replaced the book and walked away, a smile growing on his face.
When Alex returned, Stafford was gone, and Gordon filled him in. “He went to go look for a suspect,” he said bluntly. Alex chuckled. “Did you find anything out?” Gordon inquired. Alex nodded. “Of course. Let me start with some history. Our reigning monarchs have had two children, the Prince of Wales and his brother Albert Elrick. Nineteen years ago, Albert Elrick had a son, Terrance.” Gordon nodded. “Tragically, seven years after he was born, Terrance disappeared. It was said that he drowned on the sunken yacht, Beacon. However, no bodies were recovered.” Gordon sighed. “And what does this have to do with our dead man?” Alex nodded. “I’ll get to that. Albert Elrick had a friend, a war veteran, to whom he entrusted all his secrets. This man’s name was Hadwin Alcott. Twelve years ago, when Alcott moved to the wilderness and the Beacon sank, Terrance Elrick was entrusted to Alcott.”
“But why would they lie about Terrance and hide him from the public?” Gordon interrupted. Alex paused to sip his coffee. Gordon cleared his throat and Alex continued. “We’ll get to that. For the first few years, Terrance was content living out in the wilderness. But slowly, he began to miss his friends and family, and most of all, he began to hate Hadwin. Hadwin had him locked up in a hidden underground room most of his early life, but by the time he became a teenager, he began to try to escape. Last night, he escaped the cottage and fled Hadwin. Hadwin pursued him, but finally was too far behind and returned to his house. But as Terrance ran, he cut his leg on a rock, leaving a trail of blood. He made it this far before he fell and bled to death.” Gordon smiled. “There’s one small problem with your theory. Most people don’t bleed to death from simple cuts on their legs.”
Alex nodded. “True. Most people don’t. But the British Royal family has a strange tendency to bleed faster. Albert Elrick didn’t want people to know his son was a hemophiliac, so he hid him away. This is no crime scene, Riling. It is the scene of a death caused by Albert Elrick’s pride.”
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