Wednesday, 30 October 2019

The Casebook of Sheraton Howell: Part X The First Case III

The police had, of course, been called but no trace of the young woman could be found. It appeared that she had been ill for a number of weeks since arriving at the Gilliat’s several months previous, but had recovered enough for an evening’s walk. Clues were sparse as the girl knew no-one else and had largely not engaged with anyone other than the family since arriving.

Several weeks passed with no further developments up until the body of the family dog was found outside their summerhouse, an empty husk, bled dry from a viscous tear to the throat. We took this as a warning but could not see why, we were no closer to apprehending a suspect. It was, however, the poor animal’s corpse that was to lead us to our first real clue in the case. The police, though largely ineffectual in the case (as we had also been), had maintained a light presence in the vicinity of the residence as the family had political connections.

A young woman had been seen, apparently leaping down from the high boundary wall of the Gilliat property by a patrolling constable. He spotted the woman and called after her; she ignored him and he gave chase but she evaded him, evidently with some ease owing to her, and I quote ’bouncing around the alley like a great big bloody frog’. We were lead to believe that she was oddly adept at acrobatics and cleared a six foot high wall in a single leap. At the time we thought it preposterous. The constable had provided a reasonably good description of the woman, no doubt aided by the bright moon and clear skies we were experiencing (a rare occurrence I assure you). The woman appeared to be fair haired and unkempt, quite slight of build but certainly not short, apparently in her twenties. This on its own would have been of little use in our search were it not for an occurrence but an hour later. A constable some distance from the earlier scene had intervened in what he thought was a ‘bobtail heaving a cove’ (namely, a woman engaged in selling her services attempting to rob a ‘gentleman’). Now this is not an uncommon occurrence and it would never have come to our attention were it not for the fact that the constable had been hurled across the street by the woman with such force that his arm and several ribs had broken. He managed to regain sufficient composure to sound his whistle, bringing a nearby constable to his immediate aid. At this point the woman vanished into the night, apparently climbing directly up the side of a building to do so. Between them the constables provided a reasonable description and it was this that had caught Howell’s attention. The situation had clearly registered as unusual, even for policemen who had no doubt witnessed many peculiarities, so the description of her bounding ‘like Spring Heeled Jack himself’ in addition to a more general description, strongly suggested that this was the same woman confronted at the Gilliat’s home. One of the constables also stated that the woman had screamed something at him and although he did not understand it he believed it had been French that she had spoken.

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