Thursday, June 13, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 12

Episode 12 - "MacGreevey Digs Deeper"
by Camille LaGuire

Inspector Pfaffle was so relieved to hear the news: That pretty young Baroness of Beethingham had run off with her dancing instructor. It was a prank after all!  MacGreevey was right!

It had been hell for Pfaffle after that interview with her.  The chief superintendent, the superintendent and the chief inspector, in sequence, had all given MacGreevey a solid dressing down, and there was talk of dismissal.

Pfaffle was in a sweat about it, but MacG only seemed half interested.  He grunted his apologies and promises of more respectful behavior, and then hurried right down to the evidence room to sulk, leaving Pfaffle to fend for himself.

Ah, but then word came, just in time, that she had run off with that foreign fellow after all!  It was a prank, just like MacG had said!

Pfaffle went down to the evidence room to give the sergeant the good news, but the man was not there.

"He went up to Beethingham Hall a few hours ago," said the sergeant in charge of the evidence room.

"When will he be back?"

"He didn't say."

It was two hours before MacGreevey came back, all full of bulldog energy.  Perhaps someone had told him the good news already? Or perhaps he had just found someone to take it out on -- that always cheered him up.

"MacG!" said Pfaffle. "Did you hear?  You were right! It was all a prank after all.  She did it to cover the fact that she was running off with her dance instructor."

MacGreevey gave him a cold stare and said, "No it wasn't. Someone tried to kill her."

"But...." said Pfaffle in confusion.

"There's a mass of evidence of it," he added.  "There are peacock feathers and chestnut hair in the boot of her roadster.  Also, by the odometer and the amount of petrol used since the carman recorded it, that roadster went almost to Thronden and back before it went into the ditch near the railway station.  Someone stuck her in the boot of that car -- hardly something she'd do to herself -- and drove her to that spot on the tracks where she was meant to be run over, and then drove the car back to leave it in the ditch."

"But she was seen getting on that train. She bought a ticket."

"Someone wrapped from head to foot in a peacock cloak bought a ticket, head covered with her hat.  No one actually recognized her, did they?  It's easy enough to fake.  Leave the party wrapped in that cloak, wearing her hat.  Call out, make sure people notice.  Buy the ticket, get on the train early and make sure you're seen. Then take off the cloak and hat and stuff 'em in a bag, leave that shoe behind, and step off the train just before it leaves, dressed in your regular clothes."

"That means it was a woman!" said Pfaffle.  "Someone who could impersonate her--"

"Right, an impersonator, not a woman," said MacGreevey with satisfaction. "That's what put me onto it in the first place.  Her hair is chestnut, but I found a number of short black hairs in her hat.  It was a man who impersonated her."

"Are you sure?  Some women wear their hair quite short these days."

"But not slick with hair oil," said MacGreevey.  "No, it was a short slight man, with greasy black hair with a known talent for mimicking all sorts of folk, including women, and who had the grace to walk like a lady, even in borrowed heels....  It was her dance instructor."

"The foreigner!"

"Yes, Antonio Maurinos is the man who tried to kill Lady Pauline."

"But she's run off with him," gasped Pfaffle.

"No, I told you, that was just a joke they told at the party--"

"No, no, MacG!  She's run off with him since.  The housekeeper rang us up to tell us.  As soon as the girl was done talking to us, off she went to be with Maurinos."

MacGreevey took a sharp breath and then let out a string of oaths so harsh, that Pfaffle had never heard most of them before.

"He tried to kill her," hissed MacGreevey.  "And now he's got her alone, doesn't he?"

MacGreevey took two cars and a squad of constables to Maurinos' town house while Pfaffle went to give the bad news to the Chief Inspector.

Maurinos' house was empty, but they found a dark stain on the floor of the hall.

"Looks like blood, sir," said a constable.

MacGreevey agreed.  They were too late to save the young baroness.  He felt briefly guilty for not listening sooner, but she'd been safe enough when they left her.  She knew, better than anyone, that she was in danger, so running off like that was a fool thing to do.  MacGreevey's job was not to feel guilty, but to catch that foreign blighter who did the deed.

A city-wide dragnet quickly expanded to country-wide  They spoke to the man's clients and associates.  A search of police records found that the man was known to them.  And those records gave them the names of some of the man's aliases.  And that led them to discover that an Anton Nestlegraf had got on a boat to the continent that very afternoon.

It was simple enough to wire full information to the authorities in the landing city, with a listing of aliases, including a female one -- an Awarshi countess, Antonia Bishnovia.  Those authorities were highly competent and efficient, and eager to cooperate.

This fellow would have a nasty surprise waiting for him at the end of this little voyage.

NOTE: this story is in hiatus, due to lack of readership and lack of time. It may return to this blog in the fall, or I may simply publish it as an ebook. (You can influence the choice with a comment.)

Stay Tuned For Episode 13 - "Plink Disembarks"

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