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Friday, 11 October 2019

The Casebook of Sheraton Howell: Part XI The First Case IV

The incident was most definitely worth investigating and at four o’ clock in the morning, Howell and I found ourselves clambering over the same low rooftops that the woman had reportedly been on. A number of timber shingles appeared to have been recently disturbed and a small piece of cloth was still attached to a tile nail. We later determined this to be a blue taffeta, a not inexpensive fabric, which was at odds with the ragged description the constables reported. We were, however, once more at a loss and no further forward in locating the missing girl or finding the mystery spring heeled woman, who seemed to be heavily involved. What did we know of this woman? We knew that she had considerable athletic ability, may be French or at least a native French speaker and possibly wore a once expensive, yet now tattered, dress. This was hardly evidence likely to lead to an imminent arrest, but it was a start.

The Gilliat daughter had been very distraught at the disappearance of her cousin and the death of her dog had been a further blow to her condition. Mrs Gilliat’s nerves were frayed by the events and they required some reassurance from ourselves and the police. The Gilliats had been questioned about the woman in blue but they knew nothing of her. Howell and I agreed that we would spend a few evenings in surveillance of the property, hidden away in their summerhouse, which afforded good view across the length of their substantial garden, taking in both the rear doors and the gate into the street beyond. The police could not apparently afford the manpower to join the venture, but as we feared their presence may have restricted any potential activity, this did not trouble us. We did decide to arm ourselves for the occasion, however.

Monday, 7 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.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The Casebook of Sheraton Howell: Part IX The First Case II

Perhaps by working through the sequence of events that we experienced on that fateful ‘First Case’ (in terms of our involvement with the vampire) we might identify some connection or clue as to what was currently going on? I still shuddered thinking about that night when we first saw for ourselves that such creatures as vampires truly existed, beyond the wit of science or the grace of God. But, our failure to revisit the events of that night were, as Howell was intimating, very likely hindering our ability to draw any satisfactory conclusions from that night.

I brought out my notes and we sat around the fireplace as the chill of the night set in.
‘It started with a visit from the distraught Mrs Gilliat did it not?’ I asked, as I could see Howell was already racing ahead in his mind.

‘That is correct James’. Her poorly niece had failed to return from an evening constitutional and her chaperone had been found in a state of confusion, entirely unaware of the proceeding hour. ‘What does that tell us?’
‘Well, our new friends have informed us that some of these creatures have the power to confound the senses and minds of others. We might assume that the one we encountered in this case had just such an ability’.
‘My summation also, James. Let us start from the beginning and dissect the events of that case’.