Friday, February 16, 2007


The Day's Progress - Friday Edition

A short day today, as I lost part of the morning to MonkeyBrain business, and have to knock off early to pick up Georgia from school before my folks arrive from out of town. But a decent day, for all of that. I didn't make my daily quota, but got close enough that I managed to end the week where I needed to be.

Today Blank and Miss Bonaventure investigated the unfortunate death of Xenophon Brade, which necessitated a quick stop on the Necropolis express.
They found the body of the late Xenophon Brade in a simple unvarnished wooden casket. A label at the casket’s head indicated that the body was bound for the Noncomformist section of the Brookwood Cemetery, rather than the more fashionable Anglican areas. That suggested something of the character of the man inside, whose background they would investigate after viewing his remains.

Also suggestive was the fact that the dead man rode to his reward in the second class section. Just as on the trains of living passengers that departed from nearby Waterloo with clockwork regularity, on the Necropolis line there were provisions for first, second, and third class travel, not only for the dead but for their mourners as well. No one, it seemed, accompanied the body of Brade to his final rest, his bank having followed the instructions in his last will and testament, paid for the travel and final accommodations. Here was a man who, on the face of it, had gathered few associations in life, and who now joined a select company in death—the victims of the newly-christened Jubilee Killer. But it occurred to Blank that Brade might well have had other acquaintances and friends, who had elected not to appear beside him at the time of his interment. This was another matter to investigate.

The conductor, who had escorted the pair to the second class compartment, raised an objection when Blank asked Miss Bonaventure to open the casket, but the judicious application of some subvocal harmonics and suggestive words had been sufficient to quiet the conductor’s complaints. Blank had not even been forced to draw one of his calling cards from his pocket.

So it was, then, that in short order the lid to the plain wooden box had been pried away, and the body within lay revealed. Laying on his back, he might just have been slumbering, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes heavy lidded, but for the fact that his skin was lifeless and gray. The dead man had an unruly shag of hair atop a long, high-cheekboned face, his nose patrician, and his finger at the ends of his long hands were thin and delicate. To all appearances he had been redressed in the same clothes in which he had died, following the post-mortem, there being new vents and cuts scissored into the fabric of his jacket, shirt, and trousers, then hastily restitched by the mortician while preparing him for the grave.

The body exposed, there remained the gruesome task of rolling it over, to expose the wound on the dead man’s back. Miss Bonaventure, wiping the palms of her hands on the fabric of her skirt, dusty from the exertion of prizing the coffin lid open, shook her head, resolute. “Don’t look at me,” she said, holding up her hands, protectively. “You want to see his back, you turn him over.”

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