Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Having thanked the butler Stanley and Hardman prepared to leave, saying that they would return if they had any further questions or if there were any news. By Gardner's face they saw that this was not a pleasant prospect for the butler. When the police officers were approaching the door, followed by the butler, they were intercepted by Kate Reed. The young maid asked if she could have a word, alone, with Stanley about a matter of his interest.
“Certainly, Miss. Was there anything you remembered?” saying this he got slightly away from Gardner to be able to talk without the interference of the butler.
“To be honest it was something you asked me before. The answer that I gave you was not entirely true. But I didn’t know how to answer you.”
“And you thought things better? Do you want to add something to what you have already said?”
“It is not that I had to think things over… I asked Miss Elaine what she thought and she said it was better to tell you what I know.”
“It really seems to me that Miss Trevelyan is right. In order for us to know what went on here today it is better for us to know everything that is possible. Even if it seems to you to be of no importance. What is it that you need to say?”
“You asked me if Mrs. Trevelyan had dismissed anybody in recent times, didn‘t you?”
“Yes, I did. Did you remember anyone? Mr. Gardner had just said that there was no one sent away recently.”
“Indeed there wasn’t… At least no one sent away by Mrs. Trevelyan. As for Mr. Trevelyan he dismissed a girl about six months ago. Jane Robbins. At the time we, downstairs, speculated the reason of why she was sent away. Of course that between us, servants, some things were known… Jane and Mr. Trevelyan … do you understand? Jane was quite pretty, an eye-catching and smiling girl. And the boss liked her. As much as is possible a gentleman to like a servant.”
Stanley knew what that meant. In their society, women, wives, were seen as fragile pieces, untouchable. But men had instincts and desires, as they always had. And these desires could be achieved in two ways, with prostitutes, which usually they did not do with fear of catching any venereal disease or, worse, being caught by police, who tried to control and extinguish prostitution. Or, those who had the chance took advantage of the servants of the house, usually pretty girls, many from the countryside in search of a better life, to meet their needs, the same needs which they denied having in order to pass an image of a good, perfect family leader. The maids had not the courage to deny their favours to their employers because, in a country with nearly one million domestic employees, those who wanted to maintain a job and escape the factories and prostitution had to make concessions.
“Thank you Miss. It may be that this information will be of some help. Thank your mistress for me, for allowing you to share this information with us.”
“What are you suggesting? It is more what natural that a person with the sense of justice of Miss Elaine wants the truth to emerge. I just didn’t tell you before because I owe too much to Miss Elaine and I like to always ask permission when things concern the family... and ask her personal opinion when things concern me.”
“Do not get upset with me Miss Reed.” Stanley was smiling at her after her explosion “I was telling the truth. I admire very much your mistress. Another person in her place would not want to mix in a police matter. And, another girl in her place, even before speaking with us, would need to request permission to their brother. But I believe that Mr. Trevelyan does not know that you came to talk with me, sent by his sister. And I even think that it was your mistress that told you that it was better if her brother know nothing about this conversation.” the way Kate blushed and lowered her eyes left no doubts that Stanley was right in his assumptions “I would like to confirm the name of the girl dismissed.” turning to Hardman, who, once again remained aside during the conversation “Take note Hardman.”
“Her name was Jane Robbins. She was a tall and thin girl, with black hair and black eyes. She had a beautiful, full mouth, and very white teeth. She was always smiling and playing.”
“Do you know what happened to her?”
“No. I believe she must have ended up in the East End area, or in another of the sort.” Kate shuddered at the mere mention of London’s well known prostitution area, feared by young women, whose future, sometimes uncertain, would lead them there.
“Thank you, Miss. Do not forget to thank your mistress. We go Hardman.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“In fact I would like you to give me an overview of everything that happened this afternoon, after Miss Elaine left. I would also like you to tell me who, from downstairs, had the afternoon off and if the victim had fired anyone, from the staff, recently.”
“Certainly sir.” the last word sounded almost as if it was spitted and Stanley realized that the butler had only used it because he could not say what he really wanted, for not being proper. “As for the afternoons off, today had the afternoon free Mrs. Trevelyan’s parlormaid, since she asked her to exchange her day off, and Mr. Trevelyan’s personal man servant. As for the afternoon events , there was nothing worth mentioning. Lady Trevelyan sent a note to Mrs. Martin, Mrs. King and Mrs. Chapman, who had confirmed their arrival for an afternoon tea, to cancel the arrangement, claiming that she did not feel well. She asked me to deliver the cards at the mentioned ladies’ homes and, later, called me to tell me that she was expecting a visit this afternoon. She explained me that it was a gentleman, the person she was expecting, who was to arrive around five o‘clock, and that I was to take him immediately to the sitting room where she was waiting. I should then serve tea, but the table should already be placed when he arrived, of course.”
“And that was what you did?”
“Of course it was, Inspector. I do not know which is the type of your relations, but here we have for an habit to respect and obey our bosses.”
Ignoring the butler’s last remark Stanley continued:
“And at what time did this man leave?”
“I cannot say. When I took him to the room Mrs. Helen told me to retire to the kitchen and not to return unless I was called. She told me to supervise the maids’ work since she had not much confidence in their work.”
“Had not trust in the work of the servants? But were there reasons not to trust them?”
“Inspector, I do not think you had, during your life, much opportunity to socialize with people with a life standard as the Trevelyan family” the disdain arose again to his eyes “but sometimes, both ladies and gentlemen, need some privacy, and any reason that gives them that privacy is acceptable.”
“I understand. And the man? Do you remember him? What he looked like?”
“Frankly I do not remember, Inspector. Not only because I try not to gaze at the family’s guests, for reasons of education and proper conduct” he raised his left eyebrow while looking at Stanley “but also because the man in question had nothing of striking for me to remember. I remember that was relatively high, but not as much as the sargeant. ” and looked at Hardman who, at 6‘4, was really difficult to match in height “He had brown hair and brown eyes ... I think. He was polite… educated.” Gardner said the last sentence as if it would summarize everything that was necessary to know about a man.
“Yes, in deed. He was polite enough to kill your mistress and to leave the house without being seen.”
Hearing Stanley’s last statement Gardner turned pale, as if the idea had not occurred to him before. In fact the butler thought that the only explanation was that a madman, without anyone having noticed, would have entered the room and killed Mrs. Trevelyan after the visitor left and of Gardner himself had gone to open the door to Miss Elaine, and it was that that he tried to convince Stanley, sometimes looking at Hardman in search of support.
“As you will, Mr. Gardner. If you really believe that… But it doesn’t make it any more true just saying it out loud and wishing it. And as for the rest? Was there anyone fired recently?”
“Mrs. Trevelyan did not dismiss anybody.” the answer was not convincing, nor was the look that accompanied it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

“Do you go every afternoon to your friend’s house? Is that not somewhat strange? I mean, do you never stay at home? Your friend never comes here, to your house?”
“You know, Inspector, since my parents died and I came to live with my brother and his wife, not only I became a burden on their lives, but also lost all and any freedom and privacy I could have had in my own home. The only thing that I still can do is to visit friends, but I have almost no friends here in the capital since I lived with my parents in Bath and was not a very sociable person. It was never easy for me to make friends, not only because I don’t particularly like the social life, but also because my character is not in line with trivialities and conversations of circumstance. That is why I use the only real friendship that I have to give me the luxury of leaving this house for a small period of time everyday, because, sometimes, I do feel like I don’t belong here.” after a slight pause the young girl concluded “As for Emma not coming here, that is due to personal reasons that only concern her and, obviously, I will refrain from mentioning.”
“Certainly Miss Elaine. Nor anything else was to be expected of a person of your position and education.”
Elaine looked, in a joking way to Stanley before saying to him:
“Is it just mu impression, Inspector, or you are not as a subservient a man as you would like to make us believe? Anyway, you can count on me for any help that I can give you. Now, if you don‘t mind, I will go to my room, try to have some rest, because I really don’t feel very well. In spite of the differences that me and my sister-in-law could have, Helen was my family, and I liked her.”
When Elaine left the room Stanley commented with Hardman:
“Do you know, Hardman, I believe that, not only Miss Elaine is not the sensitive person that her brother wanted to make us believe she was, but also is a person who can be of great use for us in the course of these investigations. Almost everyone with whom we spoke wanted to make us believe that they were trying to help us, but at the same time were looking at us in a very suspicious manner due to our social position… or rather lack of it, because these people do not believe that a policeman has even a place in society. Miss Elaine was the only one that was able to speak of that social difference without any caution. Therefore I believe that she was, of all of them, the most genuine and that if, there is in this house, someone who can help us, it is her. Miss Trevelyan is the kind of person who does not judge others by the family name, the bank account, or the social position.”
“But then, Inspector, why would Mr. Trevelyan say something like that of his sister? Do you believe that she pretends to be someone she is not when she is with him? Or maybe poor Mr. Trevelyan looks at his sister as if she was still a child?”
“I think Mr. Trevelyan knows exactly how his sister is. He only tried to make us believe in something that he knew was not true to try to avoid us to realise the kind of woman that Miss Elaine Trevelyan is.” heading for the door he added “Now it's time to talk to a person, whose version of the facts is essential, but which repulsion of police officers was perfectly dispensable. The illustrious Mr. Gardner.”
“The butler? Illustrious?”
Stanley did not bother to explain the irony of his words to an increasingly confused Hardman, who followed the inspector to the kitchen in search of Gardner. They found him speaking with Kate Reed, the maid of Elaine Trevelyan. Stanley had already seen the girl, a petite girl of nineteen years old, small and plump, maternal-looking, honest, sincere and that always had a prompt response. She had been one of the first to be questioned at her request, because she wanted to be free to attend to her Miss, as she called Elaine. Hardman, who had not seen her yet, became, as it was his habit around young pretty girls, silent and quiet, pressed to the corner of the room, looking at the girl from the corner of his eyes. When Gardner finished what he was doing he promptly went to Stanley:
“I believe you would like to question me?”
“Yes, I would , if you can spare us a little of your time.”
“Ask what you want!” the look was cold and the tone of voice was not too pleasant.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Elaine Trevelyan was seating in the living room, a room in warm shades, and was at the moment absorbed on the sight of the beautifully arranged gardens of the house. Stanley and Hardman stopped at the door to look at her. Elaine, with blond hair and eyes of a darker blue than those of her brother, was, really, a beautiful woman. Small and elegant, the strength shown in her face rejected the sensation of fragility that one might have of her at first sight. Stanley thought, instinctively, that Jack Trevelyan was mistaken to refer to his sister as a sensitive person. Maybe it was what he would like her to be, maybe even idealizing her so, but the stubbornness, obstinacy and personality shown by Elaine could be mistaken by many things, but certainly not sensibility. As if feeling observed, Elaine turned and faced the two police officers and, unlike Gardner, seemed not to see in them the inferior and despicable beings that the butler, obviously, consider them. In a fresh and paused voice, Elaine spoke to the two policemen:
“Good afternoon, officers.” looking to each one of them lowered her head in a sign of compliment “I apologize for not having gone to you when you arrived but I think you will understand that I was not at my best state. Anyway here I am. I hope I can help you.”
Without taking the trouble to rectify her as for his patent Stanley answered:
“Thank you, Miss. It is of a great kindness of your part, as well as your brother‘s, for you to answer some of our questions.”
“My brother …” whispered Elaine “yes, I think that you are right.” in a higher voice “I really was not expecting this reaction from Jack. He doesn’t …” she paused and blushed slightly “like police officers very much. Anyway that is not relevant now. In what can I help you?”
“Stanley... Inspector Stanley. And this is sergeant Hardman. Well Miss, we already know that you were not at home when everything happened, we would like only to know if your sister-in-law would have entrusted you with something, or told you anything about any visit that she would be expecting, or something of the sort…”
“Do you know what, Inspector… Despite living under the same roof, me and my sister-in-law were not in the habit of exchanging confidences. Our personalities were not very compatible. I mean, we never got on badly, but we were not close, do you understand? Helen was a person … different from everyone else. She was not exactly difficult, but did not try to make her company any easier on others. And then, I believe that she would consider me too young for her company and her confidence.”
“I understand. And was there anything strange that you noticed? Did your sister-in-law seem to you, in anyway, agitated or nervous? Was there anything that caught your attention?”
“Now that you mention it, Inspector, there was one thing that really caught my attention. But nothing of that kind, nothing that would change Helen liked that. In fact, maybe it was nothing at all.” noticing the anxious look, of both Stanley and Hardman, continued “It was just that when I went to say goodbye to her, before leaving, as was my habit, specially because I knew that after I left she felt more at ease” Elaine blushed slightly “Helen was reading a letter. She was so absorbed in her reading that at the beginning she did not even hear me. As it is natural I felt a bit curious” Stanley smiled at the euphemism of the expression, since he knew very well the depth of the feminine curiosity “so I glanced at the envelope, as it was on the table. And I thought that it was strange that she would be reading that letter, since I am sure that the envelope had not been delivered by mail in today‘s post. Of that I am sure, because I am in charge of attending to the mail.” as in a confidence, she added “At least it gives me something to distract me of my boring days”
“I see. I understand. But why did you find it strange that the letter was not delivered by post? It might have been delivered the day before and your sister-in-law could be reading it again.”
“It could, indeed, Inspector… Was it not the fact that, once Helen saw me looking at her and after having apologized to me for not having heard, explained to me that she had just received that letter and needed to finish it.”
“I understand.” Stanley remained silent for a moment before continuing “Miss Elaine, I would also like to know, if it is not too abusive of me, where were you this afternoon.”
Elaine opened her eyes a bit more and blushed before looking down and saying:
“Certainly I do not mind, Inspector Stanley. Like every afternoon I went to my best friend’s house, to spend the afternoon in her company. I don’t know if you know her, Miss Emma Carlisle? And, like all afternoons, I only returned in time to get ready for dinner.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Leaving the library, Jack Trevelyan went to Gardner to tell him to ask Miss Trevelyan if she would be so kind as to give a few minutes of her time to Inspector Stanley. All this was said loud and clear so that the inspector realized that it was a great concession on their part to make themselves available to him.
“Certainly, sir.”
The butler answered while looking at Stanley and, more particularly, at Hardman, with the disbelief that people used to have while looking at something that had the audacity to address them, even though being far below the social level. Indeed, Gardner thought it should be prohibited by law, that the agents of the authority, whichever their post, to address a gentleman. They were not accustomed to a life of sewage? So, they should keep themselves with the filthy ones and leave the good people of society alone.
While Gardner sent the maid to call Miss Elaine, Stanley and Hardman went to the room where the body was to talk to the doctor that was there trying to conclude the hour of death.
“Dr. Grossmith, have you news for us?”
“There is not much to say apart from what I have already told you, Inspector Stanley. The only thing that might not have been noticed on a first look, but that I would think is relevant is that I believe that Mrs. Trevelyan was drugged before they killed her, in an atempt to prevent her from having a reaction that would obstruct the crime. As for the rest, I believe it is quite obvious. Mrs. Trevelyan was sitting down, probably facing the aggressor, when he must have gotten up, under some pretext and, approaching behind the victim, gagged her, tied her hands and, later, strangled her with a strip of her own dress.”
“You say he tied her hands… But she is not tided up, is she?” While asking the question to the physician Stanley was trying to see if he was right, but was unable from the point where he stood.
“Actually no, Inspector, but because the victim was very white, and taking into account the force that, certainly, have had to be made in order to arrest her, her wrists have some marks. You can see it here, below, in the internal part of the wrist.” while speaking the physician pointed directly to the above-mentioned part where Stanley checked the existence of two red, thick marks, where two improvised handcuffs would have been.
“It is strange … For which reason would they have taken away the handcuffs while the gag was left behind? And with what were the handcuffs done?” Looking around, in the room “Is there anything in this room that could have made those marks?”
“This is the strangest thing … the marks left in the victim's wrists clearly indicate that a rope has been used. Not one of these fine strings that are sometimes used to hold objects, but a thick rope, maybe used to secure the animals. And obviously I could not find anything of the sort here ... not even, according to one of his agents who has been walking around, in the stables.” Explained Dr. Grossmith “It suggests that, whoever has done this, had everything planned and nothing was left to chance. The person is likely to have a logical reason even for the gag.”
“Logic?” - Stanley raised his eyebrow in a demonstration of incredulity.
“Certainly, Inspector. Maybe not logical for you or for me, but certainly logical for whom did this. My experience over the years, and in the several cases that I have followed, made me see that all the criminals, however insane their attitudes seem, always act in accordance with an instinctive logic. It is something irrational in the sense that they do not even consider to question their attitudes, because for them nothing is more natural than to act in accordance with their instinct. I cannot base my opinion on carried out studies since the human mind is, still, something of an enigma for the majority of us, doctors, but I really do believe that things really are like just as I told you.”
“Then, my dear doctor, how do you explain the necessity, of most criminals, especially murderers, to try to fabricate excuses and alibis in an attempt to escape the accusations that hang on their heads?”
“It is a curious question and it is relevant, Inspector... But I believe that also for that there is an explanation. In my point of view, what happens is that some people, usually those with some experience of life and some culture, have the wisdom to get to understand life in society and, if I am allowed to use the words, to filter out everything that is necessary to their survival. In other words, in spite of acting instinctively, they manage to separate the instinct of the reason when their survival depends on it. And our biggest mistake is believing that such people are crazy. We tend to undervalue them and have little faith in their intellectual abilities, and we just end up easy preys of our own prejudices.” with this opinion Dr. Grossmith got his thing to go away but, reaching the door, turned back and said “Believe me Stanley, you will not want to go in search for a crazy man, that in an access of rage decided to enter a home and to kill a fine lady. This” and pointed to the interior of the room “requires too much study and plan. Remember that. If you need me you know where to find me.” saying this, Grossmith turned back and left.
Stanley then turned to Harman, who had remained silent throughout the dialogue, and noticed the expression of his eyes. Harman, a twenty six-year-old young, quite tall sergeant, but with a face that did not show his actual age, had his great and kind blue eyes opened in an expression of fright and horror. It was obvious he could not believe it possible for someone other than a crazy man to have done all of this in an access of hatred. Stanley, however, has seen much in life to easily accept Dr. Grossmith’s opinion.
“Well, Hardman, it seems that it is time that we meet Miss Elaine. We don’t want to leave her waiting for us.”
“Certainly not, Sir.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“I was coming from a business trip, which forced me to stay in a town a few miles of the capital throughout the day. I was accompanied by Mr. Haley, who I do not believe you know.” and with this comment a slight air of disdain passed through his eyes “It is a quite sonant name of our society and plays, like myself, an important role in Parliament. Before returning I first took him to his home because, since there was no need to take two carriages, we decided that I would take mine and then I would take him home on the way back. You can ask him Inspector, even though I think that there is no need for our police officer to be walking around bothering honest citizens of our society. Surely you have to realize that this whole apparatus could only have been done by a madman.”
“I do not think there is a need for harassing anyone, sir. As I told you, these questions are only being made because we are trying to find something with which we can reach to any conclusions.”
“Yes, I understand Inspector ... but I hope that you also understand that the last thing that my family needs now is to be disturbed, either by the police or the reporters that always follow you, thirsty for blood and scandals. It seems that they have nothing else to do then to follow people looking for sordid affairs to sell to what they call means of information. But it is clear that you are not to blame.” his eyes, up to there a little cold and arrogant, almost gain a little of humility “I would like us to leave the questions for another day. It is not easy to come home and find our dear wife …” Jack Trevelyan, again, did not manage to finish his sentence, covering his face again in his hands.
“Certainly, sir. Now we would like, if you have nothing against it, to speak to your sister, Miss Elaine, who, as we know, lives with you since the death of your parents…”
“Yes, Elaine lives with us … with me. But I think she knows nothing about it. My sister goes out every afternoon to visit her friend, Miss Emma Carlisle, usually returning late. Therefore I think it is unnecessarily to speak with the poor girl. I know beforehand that she was not at home when everything happened.”
“Still, Mr. Trevelyan, maybe your sister has realized something before going out. It would be a great help if we were able talk to her.” the subservient smile and tone of voice had returned to Stanley’s usually serious face.
“So be it. If you really find it necessary.” Jack Trevelyan was trying to hide, with difficulty, the rage that he felt by that the insistence of this unknown man, of a very inferior class to his, and that, even so, was not restricting himself on imposing his will on him “But I warn you, do not upset my sister, and do not bother her unnecessarily, since Elaine is a very nervous and sensitive girl.”
“Of course, Mr. Trevelyan. It is very generous of you to agree that we may speak with Miss Elaine.” Stanley spoke humbly, but Hardman, who was at his side, could not fail to notice the sneering glow of his eyes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

While a doctor examined the corpse, the police inspector and sergeant responsible, having already questioned the whole household, were at the site of the crime in search of possible clues, when the butler, not without some reluctance, entered the room and in a low voice, as if afraid to upset someone, announced the arrival of the master of the house.
Jack Trevelyan, with the overcoat still dressed, was waiting for them in the library, walking in circles, when sergeant Hardman and the inspector Stanley entered.
“I believe you already know the reason for our presence in your house …” the question was raised by the inspector as an affirmation.
“Yes, Inspector... Uh …” in spite of not knowing the name he did not thought it relevant, and continued without waiting for an answer “Gardner, the butler, has told me... There is no doubt Inspector? It is true that someone… kill my darling Helen?”
Jack Trevelyan fell into the armchair in which he had been supported since hearing the voice of the inspector and held his head in his hands, being shaken by an attack of crying on hearing the confirmation from Stanley. The inspector waited for him to calm down, while trying to make his first impressions on the man in front of him.
Jack Trevelyan was a man, of about thirty-five years, tall and blond, originating from a family of goods, but without name, who gained fame as a lawyer, having been proposed and subsequently elected to a seat in Parliament. Stanley knew his reputation, like almost all of London society, either for his excessive ambition, which had taken him to occupy the post which he maintained, or by his marriage, much talked about at the time, with a young woman coming from an important but financially finished family of the ancient nobility.
Helen Trevelyan was the daughter of a Lord, with a title and no possessions. All this was already known to Stanley when he entered the Trevelyan household, but the inspector had not made such knowledge clear since entering the house. When Jack calmed down, which did not take long, Stanley continued:
“Excuse us for not leaving the interrogation for later, but taking into account the gravity of the situation, both for it’s brutality, and for your role in our society, I believe it to be better to end as quickly as possible with what we have to do here. The sooner we finish here the sooner we can start our search looking for the… person who did this.” the pause that the inspector did before choosing the word to describe the one who would have done such a thing, and the face that he did while pronouncing it, showed that, had he not have to think about it, Stanley would have chosen a more harsh word. “Therefore, Mr. Trevelyan, I would like to begin, for demand of the case, by asking you where you were this afternoon.”