Clockwork 1888 Date: Monday, October 22, to Thursday, October 25, 1888
It was three days by ship from London to Gibraltar. That gave them time to review the official, hand written, lengthy, monthly Governor’s reports to parliament. There were six events that seemed odd and the Fellowship wanted investigated.
On Friday, October 5, 1888, approximately 6 pm, one of the Governor’s house servants, Allende Picardo, was found dead. She had been going about chores when she was killed. One of the other servants found the body probably minutes after she had left the house. Theft is thought to be the motive as both her ring fingers were cut off. One finger was missing and the other was found nearby. The investigation is ongoing.
The body of a woman was found the morning of Oct. 9 on the cliffs. The woman was identified as Lizzie McReed. It was an apparent suicide on Monday night, Oct. 8, but no note has been found. Her husband (Malcolm McReed) was questioned and found to have no motive. Suicide has been noted as the cause of death.
Private George Eaton was reported missing on the morning of Oct. 10. It is presumed that he deserted his post on Tuesday, Oct. 9. This is, unfortunately, not an unknown occurrence, although not common either. Frequently, the deserter is later found in a nearby Spanish town, having fallen in love with and married a local girl. A search for the man will continue as time permits, and if found, he will be properly tried and punished.
On Saturday, Oct. 13, a local seamstress, Melinda Krupt, age 38, died of natural causes, collapsing on the main street of town. Deaths are infrequent on the Island, so Dr. Applegate performed an examination and he determined that she had died of a heart condition. And, on Monday, Oct 15, a recently married upper class couple and their two children were found dead in their home near the City gates. A faulty gas line is suspected of being the culprit although the gas technicians have not been able to locate a leak.
They arrived at the British holdings at Gibraltar early on Thursday morning, October 25. A pair of sailors met them on the dock and Fredryck presented their papers to the sailors. The credentials listed them as official investigators for the Queen’s security. The sailors introduced themselves as Port Department 1st boarding officer Charles Undery and 3rd boarding officer James Scott Noble. They said that they were instructed to show the group to the Governor’s home.
About ten minutes later they arrived at the house and were shown into a large room where they met the Gibraltar Governor, Sir Arthur Hardinge (Governor Nov. 2, 1886 to August 1890). He rose to greet them and proper introductions were made. Evgenia noticed that the governor was planning the itinerary for the Queen’s potential visit. They could tell that he was of the understanding that they’re to check out potential threats to her majesty.
“I’ve been ordered to give you my full cooperation,” he informed. But, they could tell that he wasn’t insulted by it in the least and he felt that any extra effort to protect the Queen was worthwhile. He was helpful in discussion about the recent various deaths and disappearance. “I don’t think any of the occurrences were more than they appear (a robbery gone badly, a suicide, a deserter, a heart failure, and a gas accident),” the Governor said. But they could tell that the number of odd deaths recently has the Governor a bit unnerved that they have occurred so closely in time. After the welcome and discussion, he introduced the port Captain, Commander William Henry Niles (RD, RNR).
“The Commander has been ordered to assist you in any reasonable manner,” the Governor informed. “I will act as liaison between you and our Governor,” the captain informed, “taking care of that which is in my power and bringing any requirements that need the Governor’s attention, to him.” The captain summoned the sailors that had met them at the docks. “These two sailors have been ordered to assist you in any reasonable manner and are at your disposal for the duration of your stay,” he informed. “They’ve been further ordered to not abandon you until you leave the island. They’ll leave you alone to check out crime scenes but they’re not to leave the general area.”
He noticed Fredryck’s sword and Priscilla’s rifle. “There are no written restrictions on weaponry or firearms,” he informed. “However, anyone seen openly brandishing a weapon might certainly be questioned and possibly detained by the constabularies which are not so informed of your visit. I’ll give you permits to carry firearms openly, if you see the need, but I do ask for your discretion. If we’re lucky, this is all for naught and I can continue my other duties without incident.”
“With that,” he said, “I leave you in the hands of officers Undery and Noble. They’re capable, intelligent and reasonable men.” The officers stepped up as the captain excused himself. “Let’s start with the murder here,” Dracona suggested. They made their way to speak with the Governor’s servants.
The young servant girl, Allende Picardo, was only 14 years old. She was found dead behind the Governors house at about 6pm on Friday, October 5. She was a simple house servant who performed cleaning duties. She came into town from La Lacienda daily and returned nightly to where she lived with her parents. She had no boyfriend or suitor and, although they didn’t like to speak ill of the dead, quite an ugly girl. She was found dead and crudely hidden behind some bushes and had been seen by other servants not long before her body was found.
There were absolutely no marks upon her body except that her two ring fingers were missing. Asking other servants revealed that she wore no rings. No one heard any noises, which seemed quite odd since the scene wasn’t far from the back of the house. Another girl was heading out to milk the Governor’s cow when she spotted the corpse.
Priscilla noted that the Governor has a cow despite the fact that grazing animals aren’t generally allowed on the island because the island can’t really support them. There are few to no sheep, cows, etc. but the English Governor has traditionally bucked this tradition by keeping a single cow for fresh milk.
While examining the area around the Governor’s home, they noticed some white horse hairs around a print with an unusual mark in the shoe. They were told that the horse is one of the ones that occasionally comes to the Governor’s manor and is left near the back entrance on those visits. Asking servants and household members about who comes to the back door told them that all manner of supplies are brought in through there: foodstuffs, wine, beer, etc. But, actual visitors only come through the front door.
A thorough search of the area by the local police did find the right finger within a stone throw of the body. The body had already been buried in a La Lacienda graveyard and it would be most distasteful to request an exhumation. But, the fort doctor, Dr. Applegate, did look at the body before it was buried. Having all they could garner here, they decided to head to the doctor’s office.
On the way to the doctor’s office, they asked around the local blacksmiths and found the one that has a supply of shoes with the same marking. The anvil has an odd crease in it that leaves the marks when he hammers them out. He usually adjusts around it, but on horse shoes, he just doesn’t bother. He can say that almost all his customers are from the merchant area on Main Street. When asked about white horses, he said that generally only the merchants and upper class have them but he doesn’t cater to any of the upper class.
Arriving at the doctor’s place, the doctor told them that the fingers were cut off rather cleanly with a sharp instrument, a scalpel, sharp knife or some other such object. He also noted that there were some brown facial hairs under the fingernails of the right hand. He saved the one finger they found and has it in his office in a bottle of formaldehyde. The finger in formaldehyde still had some of those hairs as well.
He ruled the death a murder during a robbery, gone bad, and the cause of death as shock. Evgenia noted that the fingers being cut off would have been extremely painful and, while the blood loss would not have been insignificant, it certainly wouldn’t have been likely to cause death, especially since the body was found soon after she had last been seen.
Fredryck noted that he’s heard of ways to kill a person very quickly and quietly. The killer could have used such methods on the girl. It was still a mystery though because there seemed no reason for the murder. With all the information possible on the case, short of exhuming the body, Dracona suggested investigating the next incident.
They went to visit Malcolm McReed, the husband of the Lizzie McReed who’d apparently committed suicide by throwing herself off the cliffs. No note was found and her husband had no motive for murder. They found the man at home with his two young children. They asked him if he noticed anything unusual with his wife in recent days.
He related that she was very upset the night before and wouldn’t tell him what was wrong. As far as he knew, she did only her normal activities that day, chores, children to her parents while she went shopping, baking for the week, chores, dinner, sewing. Priscilla noticed the two morose children, a 4 year old girl and 6 year old boy, who were incessantly crying or moping over the loss of their mother. When the girl saw Priscilla noticing her, she spoke quietly, “My mommy died. Do you think she went to heaven? I loved my mommy so much, why did she die?”
With nothing more to learn there, they headed for the scene of the apparent suicide. “Levanter,” Evgenia said. “That’s what they call the air current phenomenon where the warm air currents from the ocean strike the side of the rock much of the year. It rises up over the cliffs and hits the upper cold air currents causing a mist in the area and oppressive humidity on the island,” she informed.
The officers in tow, they talked with some of the people local to that area. They got rumors that over the years, various people have claimed to see small impish creatures flying on the currents. It was rumored that the creatures occasionally played pranks on people close to the cliffs. But, there were no rumors of any actual harm ever being done. Most folk put these down to pure superstition and myth.
Making their way to the area of the purported suicide, they left the officers at the carriage and went near the edge of the cliffs. For a long while they stood there, watching, listening and waiting. Priscilla heard what almost seemed a voice in the air, an almost laughter. Focusing she tried to pinpoint the source.
Where she thought the voice came from, Fredryck was able to see a shape. It was faint because it seemed as if the air itself was formed into a small winged creature of some sort. “There,” he pointed for the others to see. It seemed to giggle as it was raised by the air currents coming up the cliff face. “An air mephit,” Evgenia whispered as she recalled reading of such mythological creatures. “It’s like an imp but made of air, instead.”
“It seems to speak some broken form of the Queen’s English,” Priscilla informed. Through diplomatic discussions with the creature, they learned that it is an air mephit. It found the area long ago and settled here because it loves riding the air currents in from the ocean and the updrafts over the Rock. It does occasionally play pranks on people who get too close to “it’s” cliffs (blow up ones skirt, flip their brolly, lift the hat off their head), but it never harms anyone.
When they asked about the woman who threw herself from the cliff, it informed them that she was thrown. It saw one human – all humans look alike to it – throw another over the cliff. The one thrown was already not moving. The creature claimed to know something more but wanted something for the information.
The creature offered to trade its additional information for a promise that they try to bring it a fresh puffer fish bladder caught and harvested at midnight. The unusual request brought more questions so it explained that it could use it in an incantation to return to its own plane. It has been here a long time and it misses its home. They promised to try and acquire the puffer fish bladder.
“The one human dropped something,” it said as it dipped below the edge of the cliff. As it came back above the cliff level, it tossed a silver lighter near them. “This was dropped by the human that threw the other human over the cliff,” it informed. It was engraved with “EF” on the front and the mephit had stashed it in the cliff face. Thanking the mephit for its help, they walked back to the carriage.
“Did you find something,” Undery asked as they returned, examining the lighter. “A lighter,” Dracona informed, “possibly from the killer and engraved with ‘EF’.” “There are more than 20,000 residents on the island,” Noble replied, “and likely numerous people with those initials.”