IN THIS EPISODE: …The police try to figure out what the hell just happened…
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CHAPTER 45 – Aftermath
Inspector Harry Dennis, 1951 Fisher St.
Thursday: Second Day of the Full Moon
Inspector Harry Dennis rubbed his head and sighed; he noticed that Sergeant Hoey was doing the same.
“This is a right big mess, isn’t it, Inspector,” Hoey opined.
“Yes,” Dennis agreed. “We’ll have a devil of a time finding any more bodies in that wreck.” They’d uncovered two corpses to this point, both women, the coroner (who’d been none too pleased to be woken this early) had ventured, though it was difficult to be certain from such charred remains without further examination.
“Fireman First Class Sangster told me that anyone buried deeper in the ruins might have been entirely cremated by the heat,” Hoey offered.
“So he informed me, as well,” Dennis said. The presence of bodies was what had brought the detectives to the scene—that and the fact that the coroner said one of the bodies had her throat cut and the other was nearly decapitated. Gruesome business all around.
“Maybe the killer got caught in the fire,” Hoey suggested, mirroring Dennis’ thoughts. “Maybe this makes an end of it.”
“Perhaps,” Dennis replied. “We can hope so, anyway.”
But he remained unsure.
The Cushing girls had told him that the fire started in the waxworks—so far as they knew—and then spread to the rest of the building. They said that they’d been working after hours in their father’s so-called Chamber of Horrors when it happened, and that they’d had no chance to call for assistance after realizing the mansion was burning.
They thought (though they couldn’t be sure) that Mr. Duprix and his wife had been working in the waxworks at the time, and they assumed that the couple had perished in the blaze. The twins (though the girls looked nothing alike to Dennis) said they couldn’t know for sure, as the heat had been too intense to brave, and that’s when they started evacuating their exhibits from the basement.
One of the girls, the dark haired one, Opal, had even intimated that the Duprixes didn’t get along very well, that perhaps they’d had some kind of spat that led to the disaster.
“We’ll look into that, miss,” Dennis had assured her.
The only other person known to live in the establishment was a handyman by the name of Paul Shaw, but both girls seemed certain that he had been out last night.
“Odd that he hasn’t returned yet,” Dennis had noted.
“Yes, it is,” Opal and Topaz, the blonde daughter, had said simultaneously. Eerie that; must have been some kind of twin thing, psychic connection, and all that nonsense.
“I think he might have quit yesterday morning,” Opal said.
“So, he could be anywhere by now,” Topaz added.
“Don’t you worry about it,” Hoey had assured them. “We’ll find that handyman soon enough.”
But Dennis remained unsure whether the girls wanted the Duprixes’ employee to be found. In fact, he had a very strong feeling that the two of them—and perhaps their father as well, who claimed to have just returned from a trip to the continent—had omitted more than a few facts from their stories.
Oh, well. Time enough to question them again later. The police had arranged a hotel for the family to stay at today, so it would be easy enough to track them down.
“What do you think, sir?” Hoey asked, indicating the nearby smoldering heap. Several fire crews remained behind, still spraying it down with water, lest the blaze spring up again.
Dennis rubbed his weary eyes. “I think I could have used another cup of coffee this morning,” he replied.
“I could use one m’self, sir,” Hoey admitted. “I probably won’t, though. Volunteered for a second shift today, I did. I’ve a fancy to catch a bit of a nap in between, and coffee would keep me up, I’m afraid.”
“Well, we don’t want you napping on the job, do we?” Dennis said. And then: “Oh, God. Please tell me I am not seeing what I think I’m seeing.”
Hoey followed Dennis’ gaze to where a white Rolls-Royce Phantom had pulled up and parked nearby. A woman in a khaki shirt and jodhpurs hopped out, looking angry. She made straight for the detectives.
“I’m afraid your eyes remain undeluded, sir,” Hoey replied.
Dennis decided to go on the offensive. “Lady Ashton,” he said with the biggest smile he could manage, “nice to see you. What brings you out on such a fine morning?”
“Fine morning, indeed,” the blonde heiress huffed. “And I’m lucky to be out at all. Did you know that your fine constabulary had me locked up for most of the night?”
“I’d heard a rumor to that extent,” Dennis replied. (Secretly, he’d been pleased by the news.) “Something about illegal carrying of weapons in Hyde Park, I believe?”
“Illegal my eye!” she barked. “You know what I was doing there.”
“I know what you intended to do there, and, as you well know, I did not endorse nor in any way approve of such vigilantism.”
“But I was trying to catch the werewolf!”
“And did you, m’lady?” Hoey asked.
“Yes,” pressed Dennis, “did you catch said werewolf, or, indeed, anything at all during your unauthorized night patrol?”
Lady Ashton’s tanned face reddened. “You know that I did not.”
“And were there, in fact, any reports of ‘werewolf slayings’ anywhere in greater London last night, milady?” Dennis asked politely.
“That’s what I’m here to find out,” Lady Ashton said. “I’ve had reports that there was a wolf sighted in Olde Kennington Park early this morning.”
“Oh?” said Dennis, wondering what her sources might be, as he certainly hadn’t heard anything of the kind. “Sounds like pure fantasy to me.”
“Additionally,” she continued, “my sources say that not one, but two bodies were found in the wreckage of this smoldering heap that you and your compatriot seem to be guarding, and that at least one of those bodies had its throat torn out.”
Now how the devil did she get hold of that information?! Dennis wondered. He tried not to let his consternation show on his face.
Hoey didn’t do as good a job of hiding his surprise, though.
Lady Aston’s blue eyes narrowed. “So, it’s true!”
Dennis stiffened his upper lip. “While it may be true that two bodies were discovered in the wreckage here,” he said, “we are as yet unable to confirm what caused their deaths. Though you only have to look at the scene to realize that fire seems the likely suspect.” He would be damned if he gave her even an ounce of confirmation to spin further conspiracies on.
“I might have been here—I might have seen what happened—if your foolish force hadn’t locked me up!” she fumed.
“I doubt that, milady,” Dennis said. “It seems to me that you’d have been ‘patrolling’ Hyde Park until the first rays of dawn—or until you’d mistakenly shot some poor vagrant for a werewolf—if the loyal officers of the London constabulary hadn’t caught up with you. And I, for one, am glad they did, as all law-abiding citizens should be.”
Lady Ashton’s face reddened further; clearly, he’d gotten her goat this time, rather than the other way around.
“This isn’t over,” she said through clenched teeth. “You can’t stop me looking for him. The moon is only full for two more nights this month, but I’ll never give up hunting for the lunatic who killed my sister, not until I’ve caught him and put a silver bullet through his heart!”
“I’d have to advise against that, milady,” Dennis said, “as murder remains a capital crime of the highest order.”
Apoplectic, she spun on her heel and stomped back to her Rolls.
Sergeant Hoey leaned close to Inspector Dennis and whispered:
“If you ask me, she’s a bit of a lunatic herself!”
TO BE CONCLUDED…!
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