The Baron Relates a Key Tale of the Home’s Formative Years [Part Three]
The prevailing mood was sepulchral, and culminated in that evening, late in 1935, when The Violinist chose to seek the counsel of whatever heathen higher power he had invested his dubious faiths in, and was discovered, not having yet completed his final dance, by The Cap’n.
Panic quickly spread throughout The Home, exacerbated by hushed whispers of murder most foul amongst The Help (especially our newest housemaid, Voula, recently arrived from the Greek Isles, and a busybody of the most extreme stripe).
The Skipper, having only recently recovered from yet another bout with some mysterious tropical fever, was quick to act in a valiant effort to quell the flood of recriminations and half truths flooding our once proud Halls. The Skip, as you may well be aware (that is assuming, of course,that you are familiar with his well reviewed unauthorised biography, Chlorine & Cum: Legend of an Anglo-Indian on the High Seas, HWC Press, 1962), is an amateur sleuth of some repute, having dabbled for years in the field of amateur forensics and psychology, and has earned a reputation in some circles as a bloodhound of the first order; we of The Home are also quite proud to note that Skip has been a close personal friend of our dear Agatha Christie for many years, and has several rare, autographed Miss Marple manuscripts secreted in The Library.
“To even think that our venerable institution could be brought so low in such short order would once have beggared belief! What cruel, short work these freakish squatters are making of us!” The Skip fumed as we Headmasters made our way to The Drawing Room, where all and sundry had been gathered in an effort to get to the bottom of this newest, most heinous turn of events.
Attending were: the distraught Alumni (The Dame, The Skip, The Lord and Myself- The Doctor was on another hemlock binge, and had been confined to quarters at the time of the death; The Countess was yet to return from her extended sabbatical in The Americas, at this juncture, if memory serves), several of The Home’s distraught staff, The Cap’n, and the entire, sick bunch that comprised The Carnivale Bizarre.
The Skip strode, with all the swarthy authority he could muster, into the centre of the Drawing Room, spinning his favourite globe with a grave flourish.
It spun to a stop, his index finger resting somewhere near East Berlin.
Surveyingthe room distastefully, The Skip took in the contrite countenances of those gathered; not thirty minutes prior, he had applied all of his finest Skippery detecting skills to the scene of The Violinist’s final misfortune, and was satisfied that he had the cut of this despicable case’s jib.
“This is how we arrived at this sorry state of affairs, my friends and you hideous, unsettling interlopers! A mere half hour ago, it has been suggested”, and here, The Skip gave Voula a glare of some forceful reproach, “that The Violinist, a fine fellow, if a little quiet and meek of disposition (and surely the best The Carnivale had to offer, meagre praise though that suggestion may seem) was the victim of a cold blooded and indeed premeditated murder.”
The room gasped as one, the intake of breath audible as a clap of portentous thunder!
The Skipper continued:
“Although all evidence to the contrary might initially have suggested that the poor chap had seen fit to take his own life owing to a regretful series of carnal incidents between our very own Baron and his wife, the duplicitous, pious and verbose Tarot Reader…”
The Tarot Reader flew into a rage, spitting profanities in a garbled tongue; sensibly, The Dame struck her a glancing blow across the jaw with a handy marble bust of Lord Byron, rendering the harpy momentarily concussed, and subsequently stilling her venomous drifter’s tongue.
“…I am forced, sadly, to concede that the whisperings of our House Staff have indeed been proven accurate- murder most diabolical has occurred on these grounds this very day!”
The room gasped as one, again, and superfluously.
“But…how?!” intoned the Kewpie Doll, eyelashes fluttering violently.
The Skipper paused a moment, visibly gathering himself for the difficult nature of the information that was to follow; he may well have blinked back a tear, but his rigorous Naval schoolings could well prove me a liar.
“I am sorry to say that… one of The Home’s very own Alumni have proven to be co-conspirators in this sad case. Indeed, I myself would prefer to believe the subterfuges undertaken this day to be little more than the fabrications of some penny dreadful weaver of fictions, but I cannot, sadly, ignore the facts as they stand…”
“Get on with it then, man!” The Lord barked, ingesting another snifter of Port and once more checking the contents of his money clip.
“…*ahem*. Well, yes,” stammered The Skip, again a little awed and just slightly aroused by The Lord’s stately bearing. “Here, then, let me detail you, the full and unsettling particulars of this sorry tale of homicide!”
The Lord glowered threateningly at The Skip, The Drawing Room air thick with black tension.
The Skip continued quickly, now visibly flustered and perhaps even perspiring lightly.
“Right. Well! While I may have recently been laid up with another bout of my mysterious tropical flu, I have nonetheless been carefully observing the comings and goings of The Home, especially as they relate to our filthy Gypsy tenants. Now, while I know it for fact that The Baron has been taken to his cot with the Tarot Reader, owing to the blood curdling shrieks emanating from said quarters at all hours, I also happen to know for a fact that our friend, The Violinist, as wonderful a man as he was, may also have been indulging in…how did Bunnikins put it…? Extracurricular activities.”
The Skip barely paused, glancing nervously in The Lord’s direction.
“How do I know this?”
Here he dared pause, for dramatic effect, as Skippers are sometimes wont to do.
“For it was I who took that good fellow to my bed, subject as I am to the cravings and raw animal lusts that can only exist between two Gentlemen, and I must reveal here that we were, in fact, planning to elope and start life anew in a balmy destination I am not at liberty to divulge at this juncture!”
The room, as one, shrugged. The revelation of The Skipper’s peccadilloes were old news to all in attendance, bar, perhaps, The Skip himself.
“So who kill him then?” grunted The Strong Man, barely intelligible.
“Yes. Well, as I say, one of The Home’s very own Alumni have proven complicit in this sordid tale! It is my sad duty to reveal here, and regretfully, that your very own Ring Master was the target of this plot, and that our very own Dame was at the epicentre of this vast and complex conspiracy, its sole objective being the removal of, and I quote, ‘that insufferable bore’ from this mortal coil!“
The Dame shuffled vaguely contritely and lit a herbal cheroot of some considerable strength.
Urgently, The Skipper simpered:
“Now, I think we can all forgive The Dame her murderous machinations, considering the torments she has endured in the tortuous company of the Ring Master this eighteen months just passed, and especially considering that I have yet to reveal the architect of this sick plot!”
The Ringmaster looked flummoxed, and began to bluster unintelligibly, spittle flying about his pinkening visage; it was I who delivered a discreet elbow to his nethers, forcing him to take refuge on The Skip’s
“Indeed, with it now revealed, through detecting methods too complex to even begin to comprehensively detail to you here, that The Ring Master was in fact the plot’s target, it is only fair to tell you that it was that lord of illusions, that practitioner of the arts of misdirection, smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand, The Cap’n, perhaps better known as the The Gentleman Dreamweaver to some of you, who was contracted by our very own Dame to provide the complex makeup effects required to disguise the Ring Master as the sadly and mistakenly departed Violinist in order to protect The Home’s good name if ever she were to be implicated! Tragically…”
The Cap’n sprung unathletically to his feet and flung his cape about his person melodramatically as he began to sermonise and intone dark incantations!
“Balderdash! What tenuous, frivolous imaginings! Pabulum nil rostrum plar — “
The Lord, until now the very definition of calm, suddenly vaulted forward, bellowing a wild cry he could have only learned on one of his ‘Walkabouts’ with the colonial natives, snatching up The Skip’s ivory letter opener and thrusting it viciously at The Cap’n, who dropped his cane and reeled back in terror.
“Swine!” The Lord cried, “to think we took you in and tolerated your pretensions, your dark mutterings and your questionable taste in female company and your less than agreeable approach to personal hygiene!”
Justly chastened, The Cap’n conceded his compromised situation and returned to his chair, resigned to his fates.
The Skip continued, perhaps a little cattily:
“As I say, tragically, The Cap’n had other designs, as it has transpired! A jealous and unstable Gent, the villain in our very presence was in fact secretly in love with the unsuspecting Tarot Reader, who, it is whispered, had callously ignored his advances in favour of our very own Baron’s on occasions too numerous to mention; add to this The Cap’n’s festering and bitter professional rivalry with this very Home’s Alumni, again a thinly veiled and barely contained secret, and I think you will find that the plot was in fact to implicate The HWC itself in the heinous act of Gypsy murder, thus bringing shame, disrepute and possible legal ramifications down upon our unsuspecting heads!”
The Skip rapped the table conclusively, his sleuthing work done, as per his excellent reputation, and let out a long, whistling sigh of relief.
Recovering admirably, The Cap’n hauled himself once more to his feet, engaging his widely feared but little witnessed Hypno-Gaze!
Mesmerised, we were all struck dumb and forced to stand idly by as the following transpired!
In a booming baritone, that Master of the Black Arts intoned:
“So, Home for Wayward Children! At last you prove yourself to be my peers in the fields of intellectual deducings and similar! Mark this day on your calendars, as it will be many eons before such as you will best me in the ways of subterfuge and general pursuits of the brane again! Rest with your third eyes open, my nemeses, for, while I take my leave of you for now, be assured that i will strike when you find yourselves at your least prepared! Noctum illusi vanishi!“
And, with that final sulfuric incantation, The Cap’n dissolved in a billowing shroud of acrid purple smoke, taking The Carnies with him.
As I reflect on these fell events, so many years later, I am now privy to the knowledge that The Cap’n and The Carnies were next sighted deep in the forests of Romania, plying their trade amongst their own kind. They do so to this very day, to the best of my knowledge; we have since employed people whose very raison d’ettre is the monitoring of that Satanic caravan of misfits.
The Home is yet to suffer the vengeance of The Cap’n, at any rate, and perhaps never will.
And, to this day, the ghost of The Violinist, Banquo-like, haunts these grounds, unrevenged, forlorn and slumpen of shoulder: it is his stricken visage that has haunted my nightmares this very night.
If you will, Dear Reader, pray with me in the vain hope that he finds his peace sometime soon.
Perhaps, not so sadly, photographic evidence of this most distressing of periods is lost to time and the mysterious fires which tore through the Home’s Archives late one particularly vicious summer, not so long after yet another of The Dame’s former lady friends had somehow emancipated herself of the hospitality of the local Sanitarium.
As compensation, I present to you a few rare promotional images, only recently unearthed, and with which I have chosen to illustrate this memoir.
I trust this tale of true life horror has not weakened your interests in The Home too greatly, Dear Reader; I would be most gratified if you were to visit us again soon, as I have every intention of detailing to you in excruciating detail the humorous and oh so frighteningly true tale of “When The Skipper Inadvertently Revealed His Generative Organ to the Chimney Sweep’s Fey Young Assistant (A Cautionary Fable)”.
Until then, I remain, as always,The Baron.
Originally published at eldepositodelplatino.wordpress.com on March 15, 2007.