Extracts from the memoirs of Chief Superintendent Drake Verdier, (1848-13/09/1927).
The Unquiet Grave
Drake’s First Case
Just after I had been made an Inspector, I became entangled in a most unusual case at Nucaman Cemetery. There had been many small incidents at the cemetery, over the previous few months. The cemetery’s watch man had been assaulted at least three times, as well as him being attacked by dogs and also several tombs had been violated. The heinous incident, that resulted in my being called in, was when the gates of the Howard family’s tomb had been forced and a newly entombed body had been defiled. Christina Howard — the daughter in law of the young alderman Howard — had been entombed there only the previous day. The events at Nucaman Cemetery had become a priority investigation, after what had happened the previous night, at The Howard Tomb. The Howard family’s influence and prestige ensured that the constabulary’s finest officers were assigned, to the investigation.
I travelled to the cemetery with little hope, of solving the case — back then there was little hope of resolving cases, unless the person responsible confessed or was caught in the act. When I arrived on the scene, several of my subordinates were seated, in absolute silence, and looked rather pale. Not far away from them, there were the watchman and the caretaker, who were talking to a local clergyman. Just, as I went to enter the tomb, Constable Jenkins warned, “You dan’t wan t’ go int’ thar’.” I agree with him now, but back then I just gave him a look, that said you are on report. At my folly, he just shook his head. Only seconds after I had entered the tomb, I was back out side it once again and my breakfast joined those my colleagues had deposited earlier. It was the first time my stomach had had problems, retaining its contents, at a crime scene, since I first encounter a dead body.
After cleaning myself up, I joined my colleagues on the bench. Sitting there, we took it in turns to take medicinal quaffs from a hip flask, as they answered my questions. When I had recovered from the horrors, that lay within the tomb, I questioned the caretaker, watchman and priest — none of whom were able to add anything that might help with the investigation.
If it had not been for the manner of entry, to the tomb, I might have suspected that the perpetrators were animals. What had been done — which I do not care to remember, let alone commit to paper again — was not something that I could conceive, of even the most depraved, of men being capable of doing.
In the evening of that day the priest, Father O’Mally, and I called on Dean Bishop, at the University. It was Father O’Mally, who had insisted upon the visit, as they were both trustees of Nucaman Cemetery Trust. The Dean, Dean Bishop, was an ordained priest and Dean of the University’s Theology Faculty, despite which he was renown for his knowledge of folk lore and local legends. There was also another position he held, as I was later to learn, that of the Minster’s chief exorcist. Both Father O’Mally and the Dean were too popish for me, in Father O’Mally, I could tolerate it — he was after all a Catholic priest — but in Dean Bishop it was another matter, he was supposedly an Anglican Minister. During the course of my investigation in to the case, Father O’Mally and the Dean were both to propose re-consecrating the cemetery. This they wished to be done as a precaution against, the remote possibility that it might be, some fantastic creature was responsible for the defiling of the cadaver. The Dean had a reputation for being an expert on such nonsense. I nearly laughed, when Dean Bishop suggested that a Demon or ghoul might have been responsible for what had happened.
As I think back and recall my meeting with Dean Bishop, I am unable to remember anyone who could stay mad at him, whilst in his presence. When he was not around, many people showed a marked dislike of him, but in his presence, and for a while thereafter, people seemed to adore him. Personally, I found him to be generally likeable enough, though he did have the annoying habit of answering questions before you had even thought of asking them. Despite this, there was something about him, that made you have to like him. His ability, talent or peculiarity, of being able to answer questions before a person could think of them, is one that I can only recall being so noticeable in one other person. That other person was a young boy, but I will come to him later in my memoirs. It might have been his numerous eccentricities and his position, but despite generally finding him to be very pleasant company, I could never really feel comfortable in his presence.
Five nights after the defilement, another tomb was defiled, in that incident — that happened just a short walk away from Nucaman Cemetery — a tomb was desecrated and a body was taken. That body was not as fresh as the unfortunate Christina Howard had been, the body was that of a student who had been interned two days earlier. You might think it strange that both had died of the same cause — tuberculosis — it was not, for there was at that time a terrible epidemic of tuberculosis afflicting Bellhamcester. After that incident, I was to yet again meet with Father O’Mally, for it was at his church that the incident had happened. About a week later, Dean Bishop was to have his way — both the cemetery and churchyard were re-consecrated — this was entirely due to the intervention of the Bishop, Bishop of Bellhamcester. It was by eerie moon light, that the Dean performed the rites of re-consecration. Night time was, or so he claimed, the best time to perform such rites. His reason for it being the best time was — as best as I can recall it — that there might be at night, and only at night, a chance of his mythical monsters trying to intervene. Personally, I think it was that by doing the rite at night, it allowed him to put on a much more dramatic and pretentious display. There were others, who have made similar comments about him. Maybe, just maybe, there was some other reason, for him wanting to do the rites after dark, for if he was not careful, even in winter, he could
suffer terribly with sunburn. I think, that I can still count, on my fingers, the number of times I ever saw him outside, in broad daylight. The day after the re-consecration, several colleagues of mine were to warn me about Augustus, Dean Bishop. They had had dealings with him, two years earlier, when his fiancee had disappeared, under suspicious circumstances; she had been last seen at the Bishops’ family seat.
I was at Bellham Asylum, two days after the re-consecration, when there was another incident at the Cemetery. It had been a remote possibility, that one of the inmates might have been responsible, but I had had to check it out. From the Asylum to the cemetery was but a very short stroll, but by the time I arrived there the villain was long gone. Jenkins had a sore head, but on that night the malefactor did not get to dine. With Jenkins having encountered the villain, I hoped to have a good description of him, but that was not to be the case. The only thing that Jenkins could confirm, for me, was that the Dean’s creatures were not responsible. A man, not some hell spawned demon, was responsible, well that was lucky for me, I do not think arrest warrants are valid in hell. Maybe the doctor had something with his suggestion, that I ask the French for assistance — for such things happen more often, over there. Paris had a few years earlier been plagued by Bertrand the Ghoul. With ease, I discovered why, our ghoul had chosen that night, to visit the cemetery; it was because a tasty, young, fresh corpse had been laid to rest, in a tomb that day.
With the plague of Tuberculosis — that was ravaging Bellhamcester, at the time — I did not have long to wait for bait, for a trap. Two days later, Sarah Jane Mayler, aged nineteen, died, in the same manner as that which Christina Howard had. Her father had been a colleague of mine, several years earlier, so it was easy — but not as easy as I had hoped — to persuade him, to use her death, to set a trap.
Her funeral was a grand affair, not that I saw it. The second night after her death, the one after her entombment, was the night of the full moon. For many hours, that night, I lay in wait for the ghoul in abyssal darkness. By midnight I was ready to give up, go home and have a few warming drinks, but instead I gave it half an hour more. As I arose from the marble slab, there was noise out side, so no going home for me. Bert was forcing the gates of the tomb — Bert was what I had started calling the malefactor, after my meeting with the doctor, at the Asylum. Sinister hand held a whistle, that I had raised to my lips, ready to blow, and dexter was ready with barker, ready to bark. To one side of the entrance I positioned myself, with my back against the wall. The tomb’s door started to open, twilight rushed in and a shadow flowed across the tomb’s marble floor. A shape entered the tomb, I stepped behind it and blew my whistle. It was then that I found out, who Bert was and that I could not fire at Bert.
Poor Bert was someone whose son I had seen grow up, marry and have their spouse die on then, there was no way… BARK! BARK! My legs went out, from under me; the ground awaited me. Bark? A bark in the distance, barker falls from my hand. I slam down heavily on the marble flags, with a grunt! Grunt! Grunt again; a huge object landed, on me. Do not shoot someone, who has a cocked single-action pistol pointed at you, for they tend to go off.
To protect Bert’s family, and the feelings of most good folk, who knew the malefactor and enjoyed Bert’s company, the true identity of Bert has never been revealed. Well, I am not going to, other than to say, that Bert had always been a grand companion and was considered to be one of the most eligible marriage prospects, in the county. Thanks to Bert, to this very day, I walk with a limp. Had Bert not shot me, then Bert would most likely still be alive, the impact of the bullets, was what made the hammer drop.
The night after Bert’s demise, following her second funeral, Miss Mayler’s Body wandered off, under similar circumstances to those of the aforementioned one, that had gone missing, from Father O’Mally’s churchyard.