Friday, 19 April 2013

Something different or the Adventure of the Manticore part 1

As I said last week, this post is very off the beaten track from wargaming since I have decided that while this blog is mainly focused on the wargaming aspects of my hobbies it will have elements from the other aspects as well. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite literary characters, don't ask why for I'm not quiet sure myself. But he has always been a great interest for me, and since there are so many Sherlock Holmes stories these days that weren't written by the original  author I thought I might make contribution myself.
So here we go, the title is:

The adventure of the Manticore

Both myself and my friend Sherlock Holmes do not hold positive views on the supernatural or the mythical. And there have been several cases in which my friend has cleared up the false belief that a certain death or other crime was brought about by supernatural means. The two foremost of these would be the case of the hound of the Baskervilles which I believe I have put on record before, and that of the adventure of the Manticore.
This particular case occurred about a year after Holmes’s return when I was sharing rooms with my friend in Baker Street. I had been out for a long walk since Holmes had begun a chemical experiment, which I preferred to be out of the house for. When I arrived back I found my friend lying back upon the sofa and surrounded by wreaths of black foul smelling smoke, which swirled all about the room and seemed to strike out towards me as I entered it.
As I did so Holmes sat up and cried, “ah Watson, your timing is very unfortunate, for you have missed quite an interesting client and an even more interesting story”. At hearing this, I must admit I was greatly disappointed for as I have said many times before one of my greatest pleasures in life at that time was the following of Holmes’s cases. Seeing the look of disappointment on my face Holmes grinned and said, “do not fear Watson, the case is far from over as it now stands, in fact I expect that we should have another encounter with the rather unusual, Mr. Feldech, before much time has passed.” At this Holmes and I took up apposing arm chairs and Holmes began to narrate his encounter with the unusual and mysterious Mr. Feldech.
“Well I had just begun to strain my solution of carbon sodium, when a loud knock interrupted me.” Holmes paused and took a long draught of smoke before continuing, “I attempted as hastily as possible to clean away some of the papers from the visitors chair and to postpone my experiment. After which I called for the visitor to enter and the door swung open to reveal a truly unique specimen of humanity. He was about 6ft tall dressed in a recently cleaned long black coat, red waist coat and white shirt. He had a long triple scar that wheeled down from the centre of his brow down the side of his face to stop at the base of his neck. He had long dark hair tied back in a long plat which fell to his waist and was banded with six silver loops. He wore no gloves but the lack of tanning on his hands which was not present on his face, showed that was not his usual habit. His boots were black leather with silver toe caps which were frequently polished. His hands themselves were a most interesting study, he possessed large rough hands with thick fingers which bespoke manual labour at some point in his life, but, the interesting point was that the left one was burned up the right side from thumb to wrist as if by some acid or venom, but what sort I was surprised to find I could not identify. His complexion was tanned to excesses bespeaking time spent abroad and his eyes were an unusually bright shade of green.”
“Upon entering the room he sat down in the chair and looked me over as if he was not quite sure as to whether to confide his case in me or not. But after a few rather awkward minutes he eventually made up his mind: ‘Mr. Holmes’ he began, in a rather common accent despite his refined clothes, ‘I have come to consult you upon a matter of great importance to me, my household and my remaining family. Three lives have been lost already, and I fear for not only my own life but also the lives of those I care for.’ ‘Please Mr.  ?’ ‘Feldech’ ‘Mr. Feldech I should like the full account of these events in full with all details as precise as possible’ said I. ‘I will do my very best Mr. Holmes not miss anything that could possibly have any bearing upon the matter. Firstly you should know that I am an owner of a museum of unusual items from around the globe. Every one of these items I value very highly for I collected many myself from around the world and the others I got often at great price.’ ‘Wait a moment, I can tell from your accent that you were not born into a wealthy family but by your manner of dress I see that you have accumulated a great deal of money recently and I go on the assumption that it had something to do with the manual labour which I judge from your hands you at one time performed, but what was the source of your recent wealth?’ ‘Ah well, at the time of my birth my family were very poor but were in the process of returning to England after having lived in India for a long period of time, after arriving in England I managed to gather enough money to live on through factory work and when I reached the age of 16 I was fortunate enough to be taught in reading, writing and other basic forms of education by a generous employer since I had show some fine leadership skills. Through this basic education I eventually arose to a much higher position with a decent income and I chose to try my luck with gold mining in Australia where I eventually controlled and still do several acres of good mining land which I hired men to carry out labour on so as to make the most of it. And so after several years I at last returned to England and set myself up in a fine business and my family and I rose to a high position in the local area of the Dorset countryside.
“’After that I took to traveling and collecting exotic curios.’ ‘Thank you, pray continue’. ‘Well, I have recently taken possession of an item rumoured to be one of the stinging spines of a Manticore’’’.
“A Manticore?” I interrupted.
“A Manticore is a mythical creature from India”, replied Holmes, in a slightly impatient tone. “It is rumoured too poses the face of a man, three rows of teeth, the body of a tiger and a tail of poisonous spines, which can be fired a great distance at its victims, which it devours whole. Its call is also meant to sound like a great trumpet and that all wise creatures fly at the sound of it.” I must admit that upon hearing this description I was slightly disturbed by the image of the creature which formed in my mind.
“And now”, said Holmes interrupting my thoughts and breaking the image, “if you will allow me to continue Watson. At this statement from my client I was inclined to smile despite myself, and my visitor couldn’t help but notice it. ‘I see you are sceptical Mr. Holmes, I was also rather sceptical at first myself, but I was soon put right. There was a small sack of poison at the base of the spine. The poison within was completely unique. It burns the skin like acid and is deadly when ingested.’ He glanced down at his hand as he mentioned the venom's acidic qualities and gave a tense smile. ‘As you can see Mr. Holmes, I myself was the one to discover the venom's acidic qualities.’ He then reached into one of the inside pockets of his coat and produced a piece of paper and a letter. ‘This Mr. Holmes is a photograph of the spine and this is the letter I received two weeks ago regarding its sale’”.
Holmes then paused and drew from his own pocket two objects which I assumed were the self same letter and photograph. “Here Watson, have a look at this, it may interest you” said Holmes and handed me the photograph. It was of a long sharp spine, like that of the porcupine only much larger and at the bottom of it was a small sack which I assumed from the scale provided in the picture was about the size of the end of my thumb. This I assumed contained the venom which had left the burn upon the hand of Holmes’s recent visitor. Another feature of the spine that I found curious was that while the lower part was rather pale and slightly translucent the sharp end was tipped with a black liquid which I assumed was the venom.
“I must admit Watson, that my scepticism was set back a little by seeing this,” went on Holmes, “but the letter may also arouse your interest, here, read it.” I took the letter had unfolded it. It was written on rather thin paper which and been handled with very little care for it was crumpled and torn on one or two edges. It read as follows:
Dear Mr. Feldech,
I have been informed by a friend of mine that you are a collector of unusual and unique items and that you are prepared to pay handsome amounts in return for such items. I have recently come into possession of such an item; it is one of the stinging spines of a Manticore. There is photograph of it enclosed and hope it arouses your interests.
If it does so then you may contact me at the following address, and we will discuss payment and exchange. I do however have a request to make, if you do not choose to accept my offer you shall mention this to no one. And I also request that you come to the address provided alone.
You may contact me at 45th Coden Lane West London.
“I enquired from Mr. Feldech as to whether he accepted the offer”, continued Holmes. “’I saw no harm in the matter’ said he, ‘so a week and five days ago I took a cab to the address listed and found to my surprise that the place was a deserted builders yard. I walked slowly and cautiously into the approximate centre of the yard and stood there for several minutes before turning to go, thinking that the letter must have been a prank, then I heard the click of a revolver being cocked from behind me. ‘Do not move Mr. Feldech’. Came a voice from behind me which I assume belonged to the person who had just cocked the revolver. It was an English speaking person though his voice was tinged fairly strongly with an Indian accent. ‘Do not even turn around’ continued the unseen Indian man, ‘I mean you no harm, but I have my reasons for wanting to keep my identity to myself.
“’’Now walk slowly over to the far fence’. I did so Mr. Holmes in a very great state of confusion and unease as you can well imagine. ‘Now tell me if you are here to accept my offer or not’. I did so. ‘Good, turn your head slightly to the left, now, you see the table over there and the paper packet on it, now walk over to that table.’ During all of these movements Mr. Holmes I was straining my eyes to the very edge of my field of vision in an attempt to see the man who was holding me to his commands. I am afraid that I was disappointed; I only caught one slight glimpse of him. He seemed to clad all in long black flowing clothes. That was all I saw of him Mr. Holmes. ‘Now’, said he, ‘place the amount you are prepared to offer me in exchange for the ‘item’ upon the table and then pick up the paper packet’. I placed £1000 upon the table and lifted the packet off the table. ‘Good, now turn to face the exit of the yard and walk out, slowly’. I did so and as soon as I was outside the yard I walked hurriedly up the street and hailed a cab. When I returned to my house I and my friends and colleges began to run some tests on the spine. It now occupies pride of place at the centre of my museum. That Mr. Holmes was the end of that experience, but only the beginning of a series of far more distressing and unpleasant events’.
“At this my client placed his head in his hands and breathed in a slow steady manner as if endeavouring to clam himself. ‘I am sorry Mr. Holmes, I shall be alright,’ said he in a voice which had a faint under tone of grief. ‘It was but a week ago and five days after my purchasing of the Manticores’ spine that my Father was found dead upon the lawn of me and my families’ estate’. ‘The source of death?’ I enquired. ‘There was none found. And there were no marks around the estate lawn or gardens. But it was only three days after that, that my brother Robert was found sprawled dead at the foot of the grand staircase. There were no marks around or on the body and no one in the house saw or heard anything. And then finally just this morning my sister Jane was found dead in her bed where it seemed she had been lying all night.’ At this Mr. Feldech stopped again and went through the breathing motions I mentioned earlier before continuing. ‘But unlike both my father and brother she had several wounds upon her, one from it seemed the claws of some large cat, similar to the scar on my own face but smaller and far shallower. Also several things had been knocked over in the room and a note had fixed by a knife to the internal side of the door. It read: Release my dart, lest you suffer this fate.’
“’Was anything heard in the night’ I enquired.
“’Is there any way into the room besides the door?’”
“’Yes, the bedroom window, but my sisters’ room is three floors up and the shutters were bared’.
“’Pray tell me when exactly did your sister retire to bed?’
“’At her usual time of about 9:30’.
“’Why did your father go out upon the lawn and at what time?’
“’It was his usual habit Mr. Holmes, he went out every evening to watch the sun set. This time he went out at about 7:10’.
“’And the time of your brothers death?’
“About 6:30 he was coming down to dine since we always take dinner at about that time’.
“’I see. Hmm, well this case of yours Mr. Feldech is most certainly a dark one. Pray, who is in charge of the official investigation?’
“An inspector Bradstreet, of Scotland yard’.
“’Ah, good, good. Well I shall be in touch with you Mr. Feldech, if you will leave your address with me I shall be most pleased to call on you tomorrow morning to pursue this investigation, if it does not inconvenience you.’
“’Not at all Mr. Holmes. I am indeed most pleased that you have chosen to take up my case. But do you not wish to discuss payment first?’
“At this I smiled and said that we could discus that at a later date. Then he stood up left me his card upon the table and left the room. And I had only been sitting here about twenty minutes since then when you arrived back from your rather unfortunate walk”.
After listening to Holmes story I felt myself all a tingle inside with excitement and fascination. This did certainly seem to be a very interesting case indeed and I was still most disappointed not to have been here to hear Mr. Feldech’s tale. But I could tell that this case would not be over as quickly as some and that I would have ample experience before the end of this particular adventure.
“Well Watson, what do you make of it all?” enquired my companion.
“Well, Holmes, it would seem to me that this Manticore spine was of great value to someone and that they are determined to get it back and to make sure Mr. Feldech suffers most horribly for his possessing of it. But as to how these murders were carried out and left no trace in two cases and only a little in the other, I cannot guess” said I.
“Yes, it most certainly appears to be a very interesting case my dear Watson. But I do wish Mr. Feldech had come to see me sooner in the day so as to allow us to get out there in the same day. But we shall most certainly be with our client in Dorset tomorrow morning, but for now there are a few enquiries I can set afoot in the little light we have left in the day”.
And with that Holmes stood up and was out the door and down the stairs in an eye blink and I heard the front door close behind Holmes as he set off into the London streets.
To be continued.....
Well that's all from me, the story itself is almost done but I'm afraid the second part may not go up next week and in fact may be replaced by a post to do with some far more 'alien' creations.
Until next time. The Sarge at Arms.

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