Justice has a strange way of implementing itself. No matter how fast or how far the wrong doer runs away from his misdoings, law catches up and rebukes the guilty. It is not always the law established by men for this is perhaps the weakest of laws when it comes to castigating the sinner; many a men do get away from law made by men equally wrong! But there are certain forces in nature which help those in distress, those who have been wronged to avenge the injustice that was done onto them. Death is not always the ultimate punishment, but probably not in this case.
“It’s very strange. Well no matter. Mr. Matias will be here in a moment. I hope you understand the need for us to examine this case. Please compose yourself Ms. Judith.“
Inspector Simon Johnson was forty-two, well built and generally considered a very efficient man by the inhabitants of Derbyshire – a small town (but notable as it was a meeting point of several trading routes) in the county of Salsbury. He was in-charge of maintaining law and order of not only this town but also of several small villages which lay in and around the town.
Within the first ten years into his office, he had proved himself capable of not only apprehending criminals but also proficient in making sure (by whatever means possible) they never take to their old trade again. Understandably, the townsfolk were generally a happy lot, for they knew, not many a thief would dare to cross their path; as long as Johnson was in charge!
However, the point of attraction here is not the inspector, for he will most possibly remain in the sidetrack of this drama. The highlight of this whole episode was what lay in the middle of the bedroom, sprawled across the floor.
Lying on the floor just beside the cot was the body of a man of around thirty five years. One look at Jonathan Swanson’s eyes would reveal a kaleidoscope of emotions; but what would strike the observer mostly is the look of agony that he seemed to have suffered at the last few moments before death overtook him. His mouth was parted slightly, as if to confess some untold secret and his hair was slightly ruffled. But the weirdest thought that would occur to anyone seeing the corpse is that the man was not ready for any kind of natural death; yet there was no indication that he had suffered any kind of mortal wound, nor was there any trace of blood in that room.
Seated beside the body in a chair was a young woman, not more than twenty seven-twenty eight. She was rather stiff, seemingly lifeless. The wind seemed to have played some sort of a see-saw game with her hair and the appearance of wilderness was complete if one cared to look into her vacant gaze. The sort of a gape which transpires in most of us when we are not yet ready for some surprise but are already going through it; a kind of an intermediate state between shock and desperation.
One could feel an uneasy lull in the whole atmosphere. All was quiet except for the occasional cries of Lady Swanson and the sporadic burst of wind through the open window. Every movement seemed like a scuffle and even whispers seemed to reverberate within the walls.
A tall figure appeared in the scene. With a demure atmosphere around him one could easily pass him as a priest or a harmless denizen rather than a man whose whole life had been spent hunting down murderers and quacks. All one had to do was to take a closer look at his hawk like eyes and an understanding will dawn upon the casual observer as to what kind of gentlemen they were dealing with! Nothing escaped his peering eyes; they had this uncanny capability of exploring the depths of one’s thoughts and fears.
“Well inspector, could you please come to precise terms as to what this case is all about? I am terribly sorry Ms. Judith!” he said turning to look at the Lady. “It is rather unfortunate that I have to meet you in such circumstances.“
After a brief pause in which time the lady registered the presence of another man in the room and what he had just said, she managed to speak perhaps for the first time that evening.
“I am… I am not sure why! It was all so sudden, so abrupt… I am not sure what I am about to do now…“
The lady could hardly speak and was at the point of breaking down again. She hastily rose from her chair.
“Excuse me… I’ll be in the next room. If at all there is anything I can help you with inspector…” Her soft voice trailed away as she glimpsed at the man whom she had vowed to share her entire life with – a mere corpse. She left the room, sobbing.
“Poor dear; and at such a young age; I am terribly sorry for her. However, coming back to the case Johnson, could you furnish the details please?“
Any other person would have thought twice before addressing the inspector in such a brusque manner; not detective Tiburon Matias. He was a man well reputed not only amongst his peers but also amongst the low lives whose path he usually had the chance of crossing! And such encounters only increased one’s stature in the kind of business he was involved.
“It seems like a possible case of asphyxiation Mr. Matias, however the cause for the same is not very obvious and considering the reputation Mr. Swanson had amongst the people of this town I thought it would be better if you would have a look at it personally. I am quite baffled by all this, because I personally saw him yesterday night during the parade. He was very much in high spirits; certainly not a likely candidate to drop dead because of asphyxia!“
“There are certain facts which I myself am not very clear with.” the inspector continued. “Until around seven last night, he was with Ms. Judith. She informs me that he excused himself for a moment and went away; not quite like him to leave his lady in the middle of all that fun. She became concerned when he hadn’t returned even after an hour. She felt that he might have left for their house to take care of some urgent business and so decided to retire herself.“
“As suspected she found the front door open and the lights to the bedroom switched on. She seems to have shouted out to him from the bottom of the stairs and when she didn’t get any response, she decided to go upstairs. At this point of time, the maid and the mute servant had also returned from the parade. Seeing that the lights were on and hearing the Lady’s sobs they went up to investigate and found Mr. Swanson as you see him now.” Johnson motioned as he spoke.
“Maria, the maid, alerted the neighbors and one of them informed me of the situation.“
“Didn’t anyone call the doctor?“
“There was no need, sir, for one of the neighbors, Steve, is proficient with first aid and found that Mr. Swanson, here, had no pulse nor could he hear any heart beat by the time he came. Besides, Dr. William is out of town, attending a conference at Platonshire. In fact, it is because of this, that I am still not able to confirm you the exact cause for death. However, Steve informed me that the signs were that of asphyxia. It is but a matter of time before this is confirmed for I have sent a page to fetch the doctor and I believe he should be on his way back.“
“Hmmm… You have any reasons to suspect any foul play, Johnson?“
“Well sir. Mr. Swanson was a reputed man and his service to the country in the military is well known. Not that this fact eludes the possibility of any unclean business, but it does reduce suspicion because of any general hatred. I am also looking into legal affairs here, but as far as I know everything owned by him will be benefited to his wife.“
“Any reason to suspect the beneficiary?” asked the detective in a nonchalant voice.
“Well sir, no! She was, as I had mentioned, at the parade; there are witnesses to this, and besides I do not think we have a homicide at our hands. She is the only child of Lt. Scott Bradley and is quite affluent by herself; not that she has to dirty her hands with a murder to get more; and murdering her husband would have been the last thing on her mind considering the fact that they are known to be one happy couple!” Johnson replied taken a bit aback.
“Hmmm. Sounds fair enough! I’ll have a look around here. Please, do alert me once the doctor returns back. I want to know the exact cause. For now, you can leave me alone. And if you don’t mind please do send the servants upstairs.“
“Okay Mr. Matias. “